How to Get Started in Game Art and Animation
Written by: Reese Coulter
Edited by: Mary Joaquin
Summertime may be about staying in but it doesn't have to mean being out of the loop. Come learn more about the games industry with our summer events!
Last July 2nd, we welcomed Edwin Vargas Cortes and Erwan Davisseau for our How to Get Started in Game Art and Animation panel. Before we hear their insights, let’s first get to know our speakers.
Edwin Vargas Cortés is the Senior Tech Artist at Teravision Games and is the CEO of Include Technologies as well as the founder of 12 Hit Combo!
He has 15 years of experience in the video game industry, specifically with “...developing and designing environment art, vfx, shaders and materials for video games and apps on all types of platforms…”
Erwan Davisseau is a professor at UQAT Montréal and a former Lead Artist for Ubisoft, where he worked on games such as Enter the Matrix, Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell, and Far Cry.
His field of research concerns “...video game semiotics and how 3D environments communicate to the player how to play without the need of overlaid information like HUD”.
Without any more delay, continue reading for some professional insight into the video game art and animation industry.
Our moderator, Raphy Andaya, is our Tech SIG leader!
Raphy Andaya: Beginners in the games industry can find it confusing. Could you talk about the struggles you had when you started out?
Both Edwin and Erwan brought up the difficulties that came from the nonexistence of the Internet at the time, how they overcame that and how they found their way into the video game industry.
Edwin Vargas Cortes: There was a scarcity of resources to learn. The first thing was that: the difficulty of accessing knowledge. Most of the time I was self-taught. Then the Internet came around, and that changed everything.
Another super important struggle was trying to find a niche and trying to specialize in one thing. You can be good in several areas, but you cannot be excellent in all of them. For me, it was trying to find what I was more passionate about. It turns out there is one kind of artist that is a jack of all trades—a technical artist.
Erwan Davisseau: Someone asked me a question I asked myself before. I answered him—this guy was working at Ubisoft—he told me, 'If you want to come to Paris, and show me what you do, I will give you some advice'.
Erwan then discussed the difference in the manpower and time it took to create a game. Back then, it had been around twenty or forty people and maybe nine months or a year. Now, at Ubisoft at least, there are around one thousand people working on a game for three or four years at a time. He emphasizes, “...If you are not able to play along with people for that amount of time, it’s a big problem…"
There is a lot of specialization now… If you go to a small company, they’re going to ask you to do a lot of stuff. If you go to a big company, make sure you look at what they are looking for.
Edwin: If you’re doing sci-fi, don’t go into studios doing fantasy games, for example. Try to tailor the things that you do—your portfolio—to the needs of the company and the projects and products they produce.
Erwan: The thing is, they want to be sure you are at a certain level. Like, you can do environments, you can do characters. Usually, it’s environments. You have to be realistic about that. 80% and more are environment artists. You have to show that you can either create characters or environments.
Raphy: A common misconception among many is that you get to do the job that you want. What are your misconceptions about your fields in the gaming industry?
Edwin: You’re definitely not going to have the job that you want right away. First, you’re going to have to learn things. Starting with learning how to use a source control software, learning naming conventions, just on the operative side of things. In regards to money, you’re going to be at the entry level, so don’t expect to be making big figures.
Erwan: I would say that there is no bad way to enter the industry. The biggest problem—the hardest problem—is to get in. When you have an opportunity, don’t say no, ever.