Thursday, December 19, 2013

From Gamer to Game Artist: Turning a Hobby into a Career

Recently, I attended a games development workshop and learnt more about careers in the gaming industry.  So when I was given the opportunity to interview NYP graduates who are game artists, I jumped at the chance.

Tan Shi Han, Tan Li Xiong, and Greyson He Shuguo graduated in 2008 with Diplomas in Digital Media Design (Animation).  They are now working in Ubisoft Singapore.

One of the exciting projects they all worked on is the Assassin’s Creed game series.  I managed to interview Li Xiong, who worked on Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. Here’s what he had to say:
(From left) Tan Shi Han, Tan Li Xiong and Greyson He Shuguo
1. What did Shi Han, Greyson and you do after you graduated from NYP? 
After our national service, we enrolled in an advanced diploma course in DigiPen’s Institute of Technology. In that course, we learnt the various aspects of the game production pipeline. There were projects within the course that required a group of game artists, programmers and designers to work together to make a playable game. The three of us worked together as a team during our studies, got to know each other better, and applied for jobs at Ubisoft together.

2. What is your role as a game artist?
The role of a game artist involves the creation of assets used in the game, be it technical or artistic.  For example, we could be creating ships and the ocean in the game.

3. Which part of the game in Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag were you involved in?
I was involved in creating the details and features of ships. The responsibility of the team in Singapore is to ensure the look of the ships match the visual quality of the Assassin’s Creed franchise and the smooth gameplay of the ships.

4. Can you tell me more about your working life? 
The working experience so far is very fun and educational. I’m working in the industry that makes games and I like playing games myself, so it's like having the best of both worlds. Being involved in the creation of a product that many people enjoy playing has been an interesting and fulfilling experience. In addition, it’s a big responsibility for me because a lot of fans are looking forward to playing the game. Our working hours are also flexible.

5. How did you get ideas to make the game better? 
Our team will test the game and look for areas where we can improve  the game quality. While we were working on Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, we also had veterans who worked on the previous versions of the game on board. They are most knowledgeable about how Assassin’s Creed should be played. They gave us advice that was extremely useful to improving the core of the gameplay.

6. Tell me about an unforgettable experience in your career
The most unforgettable experience is seeing the game we made on the shelves of local shops. Although the game has been available for a while now, seeing the actual physical copies of the game in the shops makes me feel honoured and proud to be part of the team that brought this experience to the gamers out there.

7. What are your current career goals?
My current goal is to create characters for games. I want to be a character artist in future. The character is what the player sees and identifies with most often.

8. Do you think having a polytechnic education is enough to pursue a career?
It does provide me with a start.  However, I think it is up to each individual to improve to the best of his or her ability. I believe having a mindset of constantly improving and seeking out new knowledge is crucial to pursuing the careers we want.

9. How has NYP helped you to realise your dreams of becoming a game artist? 
I feel the course I attended at NYP offers a sneak peek of what it is like working in the industry, and this gave me some experience. Some of the fundamentals I learnt, like lighting and drawing, greatly helped me to get where I am today. Ultimately, no matter how much education or experience a school can offer, I feel it is up to each individual to take up the responsibility to learn independently, utilizing what is taught in school and available online, to push himself to be the best he can be.

10. Any words for your juniors who want to become game artists?
Work hard and be committed. I feel that the competition for jobs nowadays is extremely fierce. But on the bright side, there are lots of ways to improve yourself. People are sharing information on their workflow and practices in forums and blogs, so you can always learn from this.

Looking back at my days in polytechnic, I feel that the biggest gift is the friends I got to know. Shi Han and Greyson share my passion and drive to improve. They are also passionate about their work and what they want to achieve. We discuss and share our experiences and also push each other along the way. They are also my best critics.

Keep reminding yourself why you choose your vocation in the beginning and keep moving forward.
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By interacting with Li Xiong, I can truly feel the passion he has for game production.

I wish him all the best in becoming a character artist in the near future!

By Kiong Xiang Yi, Year 3, Diploma in Digital and Precision Engineering
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Xiang Yi likes reading and travelling.  He is new to writing articles. He believes in the saying, "if you are determined to learn, no one can stop you". His dream is to travel around the world and explore it, make new friends and try new things. Being involved in SEG Club and other CCAs, he knows that going through challenging experiences can make him a stronger person and help him take on more challenges in the future.

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