As a practitioner, I enjoy structure; I tend to want to look ahead at a larger picture or have some overarching threads within my work. Ultimately, I’d like to become a character artist for games, so I’ve been thinking about what kinds of major areas I should investigate and tailor my work towards. I’ve decided upon two: a study of stylization within character design, and looking forwards to my final (semester 3) project and the skills needed to complete it.
I’d consider myself still quite new to 3D art, although I do have a background in traditional sculpting and costume/prop construction. I’m very proud of the 3D pieces I’ve completed so far – mainly jewelry and accessories 3D printed for cosplay – but I believe that they are as polished as they are for two reasons that I won’t be able to carry over to this course: I was able to spend copious, unlimited time on them, and therefore was able to delve very deeply into (only) the specific skills that I needed to complete them. My current skillset is quite narrow – I’ve never done a full character sculpt, never touched Unreal/Substance Painter/Marvelous Designer/more than the surface of Maya, and am only gently familiar with the game-ready pipeline (retopology? rigging? UVs? high-poly-low-poly workflow? No clue!). I do pick up programs and skills quite readily – I often joke that my computer science degree was mainly useful in making me an expert on how to google a problem – but I’ll certainly have my work cut out for me with projects set on such a rapid timeframe. Speaking of, it’s going to be a big hurdle for my usual slow, methodical, perfectionist way of sculpting to have weekly projects, but I do think it’s exactly what I need to become successful.
Getting a Game Art Job
Looking forward to this course, it’s important to have an idea of where I’m heading. I started researching what my endgame skillset should look like for someone new the games industry. I discovered this GamesIndustry.biz article entitled ‘How to get a job in game art‘, quoting a dozen industry professionals about their best advice to entry-level practitioners.
Apart from basic technical and artistic skills, the article mentions a major sought-after trait in a character artist: the ability to adapt to many different styles according to the defining style of the studio. It emphasizes the importance of having an individual style for portfolio pieces, but often an artist entering a new company will need to match their artwork to a coherent look. This is something I plan to explore this semester, as I’ve generally focused on realistic and non-stylized pieces in the past. Many of the games I’m drawn to use stylized, cartoony, or pixellated characters, and generally artwork that makes unique use of color and lighting.
The consensus also seems to be to focus in on a specific niche rather than being a true generalist (excepting small-team indie work). I’m sure that I’d like to be a character artist, but I haven’t yet settled into exactly what specific area I’d like to become an expert in. I’m currently finding that anatomy and figure sculpting isn’t as interesting to me as clothing, armor, and prop design, which makes sense from my background in costuming. That said, there are huge realms that I haven’t yet explored and I’m hoping that this year will help me find my preferred space.
Final Project Musings
For my final project, I’d like to create a character-focused scene that covers as many 3D-skill bases as I can. My current (very early) plan is to digitally create my DnD character and her environment (a grandmotherly necromancer stepping out from an idyllic cottage, gently bandaging her decrepit-skeleton-familiar who was damaged in battle). This gives me an opportunity to create a character (including proportions, likeness, hair, clothing, texturing, and posing), a creature (skeletal and musculature anatomy study), simple architecture and prop modeling, environment design, the high-poly-low-poly pipeline, the basics of working within a game engine, and presentation of a scene. As my focus is on characters, I intend to keep most of the detail there, but I would like to have a fundamental understanding of environment and lighting. I’m still debating about the overarching style – currently, I tend towards high-detail semi-realism with painterly textures and dreamlike colors – but hopefully my exploration this semester will help me solidify the overall intended look.
Dealessandri, M. (2021). How to get a job in game art. [Online]. GamesIndustry.biz. Available at: https://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2020-02-26-how-to-get-a-job-in-game-art [Accessed: 30 September 2021].