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Tuesday, 16 April 2013

DD2000 - Future in Industry - Prep. Work

As I said in my last post I have joined, twitter, tumblr and the Polycount forums to try and interact more with people in the industry and even with people who have the same interests in 3D as me. I'm very glad that I did as it has given me a great insight into what people are modeling both professionally and causally and seeing what level everyone is at. It seems that there are 2 main groups, people with little skill who are however trying very hard and who are motivated to keep on improving and people who are very skilled and create very high poly models. The 2 groups or "classes" are very distinct and there is a very large gap between the 2, much like the social classes of old. There doesn't seem to be much of a middle ground, where I'd like to think I am now I suppose, then again it could also just be down to the presentation of work and whether it is presented professionally or casually.

Although there is a small class of people who I see very now and then posting on the Polycount forums and to me they are the ones who stand out and the ones who, were they all competing for a job, would come out on top. These people, are people who are creative. They don't model something that someone else concepted, which happens surprisingly a lot, and it really frustrates me when it happens. How can one call themselves a designer when they are modeling off someone else's designs? Then again I suppose it is important to remember that Polycount is a public forum for all to post on and that many of its users 3D model in their own time and also for fun or as a hobby.

Designing is something that I really like to look out for, I'm not impressed if someone makes a million poly door handle, nor would an employer I imagine. The most impressive work, is the most interesting and it's when someone comes up with their own design of something new and designing new things is definitely something I want to look out for.

That's not to say that many people on Polycount are unskilled by no means, however I can't help but find that employers are more interested in seeing something new modeled well as opposed to seeing something they've seen before modeled well, but possibly not as great as someone else has modeled it. If you're interested in seeing what people at Polycount get up to you can view some of their work in the links below.

The Polycount forum has also been a great source of first hand research as there are people who work within the industry and I get to hear straight from the horse's mouth, how they entered the industry. The forum post can be viewed here. It's a very interesting thread with different people coming together and saying how they got into the game's industry and how they landed their first job which is a great source of research but additionally very comforting having that knowledge now. What I took from everyone's experience was that it is important to work on your portfolio in your free time and constantly improve your skills as you work at a mundane job during to keep feeding yourself and paying bills and you will get to a point of being hired. Although this is from people or make switches from one university course to the next and possibly didn't have as strong a direction at the time, whereas I'm a little more direct and I am studying Game Design which is aimed at getting me a job so perhaps I'll have more luck and perhaps I will not. So where am I right now?

My Position

Currently, I feel that I am at a bit of a middle ground between starting 3D and producing professional 3D work, which I am quite happy about as it really was only up till the the end of summer last year (2012) that I fully decided that I wanted to specialise into 3D as I was quite equal with 3D and 2D art. I am fairly skilled in 3DS Max where I find that I very rarely run into problems or have to stop and think how I would go about modeling something, and I keep topology in mind whilst creating organic things for good practice. Although I still do have lots and lots to learn within 3DS Max with such things as the human anatomy as I struggled a little bit at producing my character models for XB2178 and did need some reference materials for it. Specifically I found the head and the feet surprisingly different as even with digital painting I never really drew faces or even feet and shoes and I feel that that difficulty or lack of education has transferred over to 3D as I did need to literally sit with a jpg of a low poly head model as I worked and replicated it. However once I had the base of it I was able to easily manipulate it, rescale it and make it lower poly to fit my style a bit more.

Texturing my 3D assets went very well as I am fairly competent with Photoshop and digital art as I stated before which I am very happy about as it means I may not necessarily need someone to texture my work for me, which could also be quite important if I were to be working within a small indie company.

A recent skill that I intend to carry on developing at least to some small point because I really enjoyed creating slight animations for a diorama for XB2178 as it really really brought the characters to life to the point when I was tempted to do some Sim style voice recordings. Although I seriously doubt that it would be something that I would go into in any real depth as it is hard and challenging, and whilst I do enjoy it, it isn't what I want to be doing with my life, and so my time would be better spent modeling something new rather than creating a whole Animtree.

I work very well within a team as I am a very friendly person who's always happy to meet new people and indeed me and a group of friends have gotten together on occasions to work together on projects outside of uni. We have gotten together and formed a little indie company called Nice Face Games working on a project called Convicts which was great fun. More recently we got together and did our own little Game Jam as a little test run almost and tried to create a game and it had huuge problems and we did come across some difficulties as working within a team which we now know to work on for next time. For instance our 2D artist couldn't quite read my unwraps from time to time which I now know is something I should work on. The aim was to create a dinosaur game where you had to generate speed before you could attack and jump and you had to eat insects in order to grow up into a bigger dinosaur and with that you could then jump higher and eat bigger things. Obviously the first thing is that we were aiming way way too high, as it required us to have 3 custom dinosaur models with rigging and animation, both of which I had never fully used and understood so it was quite difficult and we only ended up with 1 playable character. So in addition to aiming too high I learnt then that I shouldn't attempt anything new at a Game Jam, and whilst you do learn lots from it, it's not usually something as big as rigging or AI scripting etc.

The result of our Game Jam
I was very glad we did a little private Game Jam though as is meant that we had a good practise run and we didn't embarrass ourselves in front of any indie devs who may have actually made something good whereas ours barely functioned.

Lastly I am also very confident in created my own complex materials for my 3D models by using photoshop to generate Specular Maps and using nDO2 to generate normal maps.

Job Research

3D modeling is a fairly flexible job in that you are able to work within a studio as a full time employee, however you can also be a freelance 3D modeler and indeed I have found many talented 3D modelers such as the lovely Polygoblin and Daniel Dexter-Taylor, both of which are also very active on twitter and are a great help if you have any trouble.

From looking at several freelance websites it is apparent that they all do their own texturing with a few exceptions which to me make a lot of sense as sometimes an unwrap might not make a lot of sense but it will to the person who created it.

Alternatively I could also work full time within a studio and be creating models for a certain game and do nothing but that line of work. Which could possibly become quite dull and boring however it would still mean a steady pay which would be comforting as coming out as a freelance 3D artist whilst there already are plenty who are much more talented than me could be quite scary.

Interestingly enough there are plenty of 3D jobs out there although they do seem to be mostly from employers I've never heard of and could very well lead to creating 3D models for an educational game that I wouldn't really want to be doing.

Lastly however is an interesting look at 3D modeling jobs in the past and how they've changed, which can be seen here. It's quite comforting to see that there are many jobs out there and that the pay is slowly rising, (from 2011 at least).

Additionally I have thought about starting an Indie company  with some friends and creating games that we would enjoy making and the most exciting thing is that it could actually be quite possible as we all have a range of skill sets. My role within the company would be to create 3D models and possibly more specifically character models and animations as I am becoming more and more interested in creating living, breathing characters.

Course we would require funding for licenses and creating the game itself or else make the money ourselves, to which there are a number of ways to do such a thing. I know that Invest N.I for instance can over support to starting businesses and can even receive a £1000 grant to which I'm sure England has it's own counter-part. Additionally there is also the Indie Fund, which backs certain Indie games that it deems would be able to pay the money back once the game has been released which would be very helpful. Additionally there is also the rise of crowd funding projects such as Kickstarter, or even done privately as Chris Roberts has done through his own website which he has done for his space sim game Star Citizen which looks very impressive and was able to raise over $8 million which really is great and really shows what people can do if they really want to see something be created. It also guarantees sales for such a product as the consumers have already bought it and no doubt people who haven't backed it can still buy the game once it is released.

Also what is quite inspirational and comforting is to look at something some of our tutors have been making in their free time which really does look great, Ether One. And what's very comforting is that I've seen some very very early stuff for their game and it really really has come a long way. Like miles away! Which is as I said inspirational, as they no doubt have learnt a lot from this experience and they have become better game designers because of it. Also as they don't have a publisher breathing down their neck they are able to take their time and really really work on something until it's perfect, and if it's not, they'll go back and reiterate on things they've already done.

What will I do after uni?

I have had a couple of ideas for what I would like to do after uni, initially it was just to pretty much work on a game on my own whilst working on some dead end job to get by whilst outsourcing things that I couldn't do like music.

However that was in first year and I've matured and learnt a lot from then, mostly that you can't do everything yourself and that even after uni I will still have lots to learn such as efficient pipeline's and how to work efficiently within a team. I'm not so big headed possibly either, I have some ideas of games and I will always have them and think about them and how they could be improved. Although I am much more content with other people's ideas and working with them and improving upon them and altering so it's more of a group idea than a single individual's idea. All of which has made me liken the thought of working within a studio after uni, as I would be able to contribute to something I could get behind and still be proud of my work for it, to be able to step back and say, see that 3D thing in that game, I made that. Especially as it would mean I would be able to learn from more experienced people and I would be able to improve my skills and learn from others.

Alternatively I could go on and do an MA in Game Design in Preston with some friends and we could each specialise into the areas we're interested in and futher improve our skills. My tutor Pete Bottomley seriously recommends it as well as you do learn 5x more things than you do from the 3 years of Games Design.

Furthermore it could give us the education and the skills to set up an Indie company and create our own games, which is what we all would like to do. The year together would not only allow us to further develop into our skill sets and become better at what we do but also it could improve how well we worked together and give us a year to think how we should go about setting up our company, how it would work out etc.

On top of this as well I would obviously still need a job to pay for food and so I have thought about how I could still possibly work within a studio and work for our Indie company. However that would mean no free time essentially as Indie work would become my free time so we shall have to see how I feel about that at a later date.

What are employers looking for?

From looking at a lot of different job applications to places such as Red 5 Studios, creators of Firefall, a lot of them ask for 3D modelers who are capable of modeling high-poly and being able to create a normal bake from it for a lower poly model. Unless it is a mobile game developing studio low poly modelling is a must as well in addition to the standard most be efficient and helpful whilst working within a team and giving aid and expertise where you can.

Rather irritatingly however quite a few studios asked hat you had at least 2 years of industry experience which I can't help but find a bit unfair, as so many studios are asking for this it really is hard for someone to get into the industry.

Rather interestingly quite a few smaller studios also asked that you were capable of 2D artwork and that you would be able to create your own textures for your 3D model if need be. Which I can thankfully say I am quite confident in my 2D skills and very happy with that requirement.

An interesting thing I observed was the mixture in software studios were asking for, some were fine with 3DS Max, whilst others asked for Maya, and some were fine with either one of which. The same could be said with Mudbox and Zbrush, although less studios were asking for experience in either of the 2, although I would be happy learning Mudbox regardless. On the use of different programs such as Maya, although I am not familiar with it, both Maya and 3DS Max have been becoming more and more similar with each update and I am sure it wouldn't be too difficult to get used to a different UI on another program and be able to work after some time.

Portfolio-wise employers were looking out for a variety of different pieces ranging from simple props to character design and models to environmental pieces, with smaller studios asking for people to be more multi-talented.and to be able to fill multiple roles.

What skills do I need to develop and how will I develop them?

I need to improve my skills within 3D modeling as I have found that from time to time I will have to pause and think how I could do a certain action or else I would plough on and have to go back and edit my model slightly before proceeding.

I have next to no experience with Mudbox or Zbrush and I feel that it is something I should seriously invest time into which I fully intend to do over summer as it is a very handy tool even for painting textures straight onto the model and creating organic models with.

Additionally I would like to create more interesting designs and try to be more creative whilst modeling so I can create more interesting objects that will truly be unique, as opposed to having to give credit to someone else for creating the design.

I also could do with creating an online portfolio that I can update and that people can view on my very own website. With this people will be able to see my work very easily and it will also look very professional and it would also help get my name out there in addition to using tumblr and twitter and even deviantart to get my work out there and to get noticed.

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