Archive for the ‘Tips and Advice’ Category

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Illustration Progress

2013/09/23

I love looking at all kinds of art. Whether I’m in a museum or on a portfolio website or peek into someone’s sketchbook – looking at the art of others is the greatest source of inspiration and drives me to become a better artist myself. But what I love most is to actually see how a piece of art develops, from the first lines to basic colour shapes, all the way to the finished piece with whatever motif it may present.

Some artists are kind enough to let you participate in their creative process, via screencapture-videos or step-by-step images.

One of my favourite youtube channels featuring the process of artwork is TORVENIUS, who is a digital artist, well known for his surreal speed paintings. Definitely check out his channel, because his approach and technique are fascinating!

garrett_steps_by_janaschi-d5un974

Copyright by Jana Schirmer

 

If you like the whimsical art of Manga and Comics, check out Sakimichan’s Weblog. There you can find many of her famous paintings in a WIP-status!

ConceptCookie is not only a great website for art tutorials, but they also have a DeviantArt gallery, with very specific progress-shots, like of a stylized eye or a shiny gem. If you like material- and light studies, their gallery is for you.

Janaschi (Jana Schirmer) is certainly one of the most famous German artists, or rather, artists in general, of our time. Her recent portrait-series, where she paints the faces of colleagues and friends, has found many admirers, but what’s especially interesting is to see her individual approach in the progress-images she shared. Check them out in her DevianArt gallery.

Another great and interesting artist is lora-zombie, who already has a big fan community. She frequently shares photos of her atelier, for she is mostly an analogue painter. She also has shot some artsy videos of her painting progress, which you can find on her DeviantArt portfolio.

Last, but not least, I’d like to mention one of my favourite heros when it some to WIP pictures, algenpfleger. He even has a folder in his DeviantArt gallery specifically dedicated to tutorials and step-by-steps. Have a look at it here!

With a very recent illustration of mine I wanted to do something similiar and also show my painting steps. I ended up creating an animated gif of the various states of progress:

animation_fantasyforest

Step-by-step animation of “Fantasy Forest”.
Copyright by Marion Kapferer / CipSoft

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And here is the final illustration on DeviantArt!

Are you guys as intrigued by WIP-art as I am? I’d love to see some of your step-by-step work, so please send it to me!

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Texture style development fun

2012/04/29

Last year I’ve been working on a nice little browser game, which was released some time ago.
It’s called “The Big Catch”. I played it for a few hours, and have to say that it’s nice light entertainment, and can be real fun if you are into fishing and familiar with the routine.

For this purpose I created various low-poly 3D-game assets and environments, which you can see in the game. I modeled the objects and, with directions and help from the studio I did the freelancing for (http://www.polygonfabrik.de) I developed a comic-like, easy-on-the-eyes texture style for the environment.

Image

Creating a distinct texture/shader style for a game, a short movie or just a still rendering is one of the most interesting and exciting processes for an artist. I decided to write about it because that’s part of what I do on my current job.

There have been written countless books about the technical aspects of applying textures to objects, about shader programming and brush painting, and making photographs tileable. But before all that, there are various other steps to take until you can really get down to work.
It always helpful to ask yourself the following questions during the creative process:

  • How will the style of the textures complement and suit the content I’m trying to transmit?
    First and foremost (as an artist) you will always have the exciting task to deliver a message through visual information. So with every part of the production (if it is a movie or a game or something else entirely) you must always support the content of your product via the graphics. This is a very basic rule, but not always easily to be followed! Once you make it your priority, your product has great chance to become more appealing for the audience. Of course, this also goes for the textures, as they play a big part in the visual information the viewer is going to receive. An example: In The Darkness II, a very distinct cel-shading look has been used, which emulates the aesthetics of the graphic novel namesake. It supports the dark and twisted nature of the game.
  • How will the textures work as in-game/rendered shaders and how will they interact with the lighting?
    A texture always looks different in your 2D graphics program from the actual end product. Keep testing various looks in the engine/renderer. Depending on the shader and light setups, small changes in the texture can have huge effects on the outcome.
  • When the texture is applied, are the forms of the objects still readable in the composition?
    Very often, texture that is too detailed or busy makes an image harder to read instead of making it visually clearer. If possible, go back and forth between working on the lighting and the shading/texturing the get the best results. Especially with games, a readable environment is very important when the player has to navigate her/his way through it. Of course it depends on the style of the product, but generally, you can depend on this basic rule to make your image clearer: Color contrast and saturation are the highest up close. The further away and object is, the less contrasted and saturated it appears. Manipulate your textures if needed to make the composition clearer.
Image
  • What workflow must be developed in order to create the texture look I want?
    In a commercial production (as well as most student projects) you only have limited time to work on textures. Try to find a production routine! If the look has to be “hand-painted”, as it is so popular nowadays, try to think of alternatives: Does every bit of texture have to actually BE handpainted? Or are there faster ways to achieve that look (perhaps with filters, modifications of photos, etc.)? Also, an easy way to speed up your workflow is to simply create some Photoshop actions. (Have a look at this tutorial if you are unfamiliar with actions: http://www.lightstalking.com/photoshop-actions )
  • What kind of resources are available?
    The actual resources you have will have effect on the look of your product. Do you own a library with countless licensed high-res texture-photos? Do you have a great camera you can use for texture-photography? Do you have great painting skills, which could be of any use? What supplies are needed for creating an authentic non-digital watercolor-look? (Colors, Paper, Scanner, etc.) This also applies to human- and time-resources: Is there a programmer to help you with shader-development or can you do it on your own? How much time is scheduled in your project plan for the task of texture development and the texturing process?

Creating properly nice textures for your models can be time consuming, and sometimes there’s a lot of trial-and-error involved. But that’s also what makes it so much fun. In the end, the look of the textures and shaders and their interaction with the light setup will have significant impact on the whole aesthetic of your product.

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Prepare your Experience@Singapore

2011/08/23

I have been receiving a lot of E-Mails lately regarding Experience@Singapore. It seems that ContactSingapore chose another round of candidates for their programme just recently! Congratulations to everyone that was chosen, this is going to be one of the most exciting experiences of your life.

Of course now you wonder: How should I prepare for this whole thing? I made a FAQ-list for this that I will try to answer as detailed as possible. Please keep in mind that I have attended the programme last year and that the organisation can change details. If your are not sure that the information is up-to-date, don’t hestitate to write an email to ContactSingapore, they are very helpful with any questions you might have.

Experience@Singapore Digital Media Inofficial Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How do I get there?
A:  Flights to Singapore are provided by several airlines. I chose EMIRATES and booked my flight via swoodoo.com, which I can absolutely recommend. ContactSingapore is going to pay half of your flight-costs, keep that in mind when booking.

Q: What about the costs/money?
A: ContactSingapore is going to cover half of your costs for flight and accommodation, as well as a welcome-dinner and a farewell-dinner. You are going to receive the cover on your first day in cash (Singapore-Dollars). That means you don’t actually have to bring that much cash to exchange in the first place. How much exactly is, of course, up to your own estimation, it depends on how much you want to go shopping there and how long you would like to stay after the programme. Food and transportation is not expensive at all. Please get the most recent exchange-rate here: http://www.xe.com

Q: Do I need a visa?
A: No, you can enter Singapore without a visa. You are going to get a form in the plane which you have to fill out (length of stay, name etc…). You drop that off at the airport-customs and that’s that. But make sure to bring your passport! I recommend checking immediately if yours is still valid. If not, have it renewed as soon as possible.

Q: How/What was the hotel?
A: I don’t know for sure if you are going to stay at the same hotel we were, but if that’s the case, I can promise it’s wonderful. Check it out here: http://www.galleryhotel.com.sg/
You are going to share your room with one other candidate of the programe, which is really great. Because really, after a day in Singapore you can’t just go to sleep. You have to TALK IT OUT! 🙂
You don’t have to bring a hairdryer or towels or even shampoo, everything is available in the rooms. The staff is super-nice and helpful, too. And don’t forget to check out the pool.

Q: What kind of vaccination is recommended?
A: Whenever you travel to a foreign continent it’s useful to check out the recommended vaccinations:
Check it out here: http://www.netdoctor.co.uk/travel/asia/singapore.shtml

Q: Do I have to bring anything special?
A: Here’s a list of things I never regretted bringing with me:

  • Passport copies
  • mosquito repellent
  • sun protection cream
  • first-aid kit
  • Diary/notebook
  • Netbook for blogging
  • photocamera
  • printed out flight info, ContactSingapore Info-Sheet, list of participants
  • credit card

List of things I regretted ever buying and bringing:

  • Electric socket adapter
Q: Should I bring my portfolio?
A:  Yes. If you have the time and money, invest in a print-portfolio, if not, bring digital examples of your work or a showreel. You will get the chance to show your work to the professionals who can give you very valueable constructive criticism. Don’t forget to bring contact-cards and your CV, too!
Q: Can I stay in Singapore after the programme is over?
A: Definitely. I still regret not staying longer. If I had the chance, I’d at least stay another week, to visit Malaysia and get the full experience. You can book your room at the gallery hotel or stay in one of the youth hostels.
Q: It’s pretty warm there, right?
A: Yup. It’s warm. And moist. And tropical. BUT inside every building they have the airconditioning going like crazy. Don’t forget a jacket or shawl to wear inside, or you have a high chance to get a cold. Also, concerning clothes: One day you are going to visit  Temples and perhaps a Mosque, make sure to dress appropriately for that.
Q: Is bringing a laptop a must?
A: No, not at all. I brought a small netbook because I planned on blogging anyway.
Q: Do we have to write a diary/blog?
A: No, you don’t have to. Last year I was the only one who did it, and I did it more for personal reasons. But you can give ContactSingapore the link to your blog, if you write one. They are very grateful for everybody who does it. There is even a small competition: One for picture-taking and one for blogging. Last year I won the blogging competition (because I was the only one, haha) and my dear friend Martin won the photo-competition with his amazing pictures. 🙂
Q: Do you have  a bit of free time for shopping and hanging around?
A: Yes you do. Although not A LOT. Sometimes we had like 30 minutes to stroll around the area we were visiting. But in the evening we ALWAYS went out to eat and have cocktails together, which is free time. But I highly recommend staying longer after the programme, since the schedule is really really tight.
Q: Do you have to dress properly for the interviews with the companies?
A: You are going to have company-presentations, not interviews per se. Sometimes you will have the chance to show your portfolio, but there isn’t an interview-situation, because you don’t really have the time. This week in Singapore gives you the opportunity to get to know some companies, the lifestyle, the working-morals, simply an overview on the worklife in Singapore. You won’t actually get hired from the spot.
As for the clothes: Be casual. It’s really warm and you have to run around the city all day, so leave the high-heels and Blazers at home. Of course it’s up to you to make an impression. I’d go with casual but semi-professional attire (nothing tooooo short or deep decolleté).
Q: Do you receive an kind of job-offer after the programme?
A: You never know, but since you don’t actually APPLY to the companies you visit, I’d say no. You will trade contact cards with influental people, get to know them personally and you can use that in your application later, which is definitely a big plus. But don’t stress yourself over any job-related things. Get to know the companies, fall in love with Singapore and apply as soon as you are back home. 🙂
Q: What companies are we going to visit?
A: You will get the information soon from ContactSingapore! It’s recommended to research the companies beforehand, so you know if they have any open positions and what exactly they do.
One last word on the companies: Don’t be afraid of them! 🙂 They are all very very nice people who act very casual with you and are happy to answer your questions. In fact, we had a nice chat with the guys from LucasArts over a cup of coffee. 🙂
If you have any other questions, please just drop me an email: mail@marionkapferer.de
I will try to answer everything, since I know how exciting this whole phase is. I was so nervous, I could barely sleep, when I first got the notice that I was a candidate.
I wish everybody who is in this year’s programme all the best and a lot of fun. I’d be happy to hear about your experience, maybe you will make a blog yourselves?
Best regards,
Marion
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New Portfolio Website

2011/08/09

There’s no use in giving yourself very good advice without following it, right? : )

So here it is: My re-designed portfolio website: http://www.marionkapferer.de

It’s pretty different from my previous portfolio (although I really liked the layout of that one…), but I kept the general theme of the teal crystal ball. (Those spheres that keep reappearing are a reference to “Maerlyn’s Rainbow“, for those who are interested in my nerdy tendencies.)

There are a few points, or, you might even call them “guidelines”, I considered making my new website. They generally apply to any portfolio, some more, some less. Feel free to review them as a checklist when making your own portfolio site.

  • A black background makes the colors of the artwork pop more and look best. White and shades of grey also work, but others, like crimson or dark blue may have unplanned effects on paintings or renderings.
  • An easy navigation without sub-pages to click on will save my potential employer time. Time he or she could use to reply positively to my application. ; )
  • Clearly marked links make navigating easier. I know, I know, rollovers are SO 2002, but I like them. I guess I’m old…
  • Keeping the “About” page as professional as possible and as personal as required. I didn’t add a photo this time, since I also want to apply in countries where adding a photo DISQUALIFIES you as a candidate. Be careful!
  • I put a very short version of my CV with the most relevant information on the “About” page, giving a futher link to my (also re-designed) full CV in german and english. This way, potential employers can see instantly if I fit their job-requirements (years of experience, programs I work with, games I’ve worked on, my age, my education, previous employers, degree. ) and can download the PDF if needed.
  • On the “Contact” page, I didn’t put every last link and username on every forum on the internet I troll am active on. I only linked the ones, that are relevant for getting me a job, or, at least, giving a positive image of myself. ; ) Don’t link to your facebook if you tend to post drunk-as-hell-statuses every now and then.
  • I made a copyright statement on the frontpage: This of course won’t actually protect your work from somebody who plans to steal it, but at least it makes clear that you are aware of your rights and will not tolerate any stealing.
  • As for the portfolio-page itself: I made bigger thumbnails than before, but not GIANT ones. In some cases I wanted to put some text on them, so I made sure there’s enough space for that.
  • Some “Project Pages” show a lot of pictures (when the project is more relevant or bigger), some only show one (when it’s just one illustration, for example).
  • I only put a very small selection of my work online. Over the last few days, I did many reviews on my selected images, deleting more and more, to make sure I only have things in my portfolio that represent my skills and that I can stand looking at.
  • I didn’t put all my 3D-Work online yet, simply because I still have to chose the renderings. But for every 3D-Asset I’m going to do: A full shaded, lit rendering/ a wireframe / concept art  (if there is one)/animation video (if there is one). ALWAYS show wireframes. <– Mantra
  • Overall I tried to keep it very simple, clear and easily accessable. I like pages that are a bit playful or even extravagant flash-pages, if they are done right. But since my page has the purpose of landing me a job in the near future (knock-on-wood), I decided on a simple look and feel.
If you want, you can post your own portfolio-site in a comment to this post, I’m really interested in seeing how other artists did their websites. : )
Thanks for reading!
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PERSIST.

2011/07/18

It’s not always easy.

We all know that feeling: Everything you do seems to be exceptionally hard. You animate a sequence again and again, you do that rendering over and over and can’t get to make it look right. You stay up until 3 a.m., trying to make the perspective in that drawing look acceptable and go to bed frustrated and exhausted. That’s also the time when everything slows down: minutes turn into hours and after what seems like a fifteen hour day, you just didn’t get ANYTHING done. It’s the time when you check your email every few minutes, when you go through all those art galleries and designer blogs and tutorial websites that you bookmarked, seeking for inspiration. Which, of course, frustrates you even more, because all you accomplish is losing time and getting even less work done.
Those phases come, and all creatives know them.

I wanted to share with you a special letter.
I found this blogpost by Austin Madison, an animator working at Pixar, where he shows a hand-written document (and how rare is that, anyway!) that he did for “The Animator Letters Project“. (Please check it out, it’s fantastic.)

He writes about exactly this problem, that I wanted to do a post about for weeks now. He puts so eloquently in two pages what would probably take me fivethousand words to say, so I just want to share that with you.

Whether you are in one of those phases or not, please read it and remember it when you need to be reminded that it’s all worth it. : )

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Portfolio Do’s and Don’ts

2011/06/22

Today I read a gamasutra article by Rachel Nador that has so many good and valid points, I just have to post it in here. Rachel is a freelance 3D artist with tons of experience, and has reviewed many portfolios. Some of the information she gives is common sense, some of it really can’t be internalized without some application experience.

Here are 15 points that should be like a pattern to go by for your portfolio. I have added some personal comments beneath each point:

1. No Focus/ “Generalist” Reel. If you can actually be a generalist, that’s great. But that means you have to prove you are good at multiple things. Most student reels I see that are “generalist” in reality contain an unfocused body of work and just prove that they are bad at multiple things. Have a focus to your portfolio. Make that clear– if you want to do game environments, have a portfolio full of game environments. State this on your resume, on your web site, whatever– and then follow through.

You have to understand that for the development of a game, there are many specialized people working together in a team to create the best product possible. Generalists are more often needed in the area of advertisement or very small companies.

2. Too Redundant. I don’t want to see the same work in different places on your web site or many times over on your reel. I don’t need eight different slow pans over the same simple model. If I see work repeated, I assume it’s time to stop watching/browsing because you have no new content to show me. I also don’t want to see out of date work. It’s better to leave the viewer wanting more than to let them know where your skill set ends. I also feel this way about most “in progress” work I see– if it’s weaker than the finished pieces, leave it out. And even if it’s not weaker… just finish it!

Pretty self-explanatory. Often students feel pressed to have a longer showreel and therefore show stuff twice or even three times. If you feel like doing that – just don’t. A shorter showreel is better anyway.

3. Too Low Resolution/ Too Low Poly. Nobody is hiring anyone to make games for the original PlayStation. Even companies that require low-poly work are impressed by higher resolution work. Models should always be clean and efficient. But when I see students claiming their work is “low poly”, it’s often visibly faceted with blurry textures– and that impresses no one.

In fact if you want to apply for a modeler-job you should be able to model in any resolution. At the moment I’m working on environments for a facebook game and at this I have to model VERY low-poly. Make sure you do understand the process of creating game environments and characters – your boss will tell you how many polys the model should have.

4. Caring Too Much about the Stupid Stuff. Students often spend way too much time on the things that don’t matter: music, titles, branding, fancy flash stuff, or “trying to tell a story” with their reel. Nobody cares about the music on an artist’s reel: often reels are watched on mute. In a reel or web site, I feel like simple presentation is the best– let the viewer focus on your work, not fancy fonts, flashy animated intros, logos, etc. If your reel is so polished that you have time to spend on all that stuff, great. But for most 3d artists, myself included, the time is better spent on actual portfolio content.

Can’t agree more. Your showreel is a showreel and not a fancy product advertisement. Your work alone should be good enough to stand for its own without a lot of flashy stuff supporting it.

5. No Porn Elves. Porn Elves are what I call the grotesquely modeled mostly or completely nude women with pointy ears. Somehow students think these badly-executed creations are fine as long as they have pointy ears, wings, etc. With nudity, please err on the side of realistic life drawing and not some twelve year old boy’s fantasy. If you have nudity in you portfolio, it better be well-executed and should not make me question your ability to work with men and women in a professional setting.

Please don’t do porn elves. Just don’t.
No just kidding, the choice of the motif you create actually is entirely up to you. And I don’t completely agree with the reasons Rachel states, NOT to do porn elves. The real reason is this: The people that have to review your portfolio literally see ARMIES of porn-elves every single day. They are bored. They sigh every time they see them. Just picture it. What you want to do is to surprise them! They expect you to send them porn elves, that’s why you shouldn’t do it.  Create something nobody else ever has thought of!

6. Don’t Prove You Can’t Draw. I used to think I could draw. Then I worked with professional concept artists in California who work for both the game and movie industries. Those people are amazing. I realized that while I might impress my friends, my high school art teacher, and my mom, I am not a concept artist. I do not have any concept art in my portfolio. If you’re not really, really good, neither should you.

Same with anything else. If you can’t do a proper lighting setup for the life of yours, don’t do it. Because if you are not applying for a job as a lighting-artist, you actually don’t have to be capable of working with digital lights. Makes sense, right? Plus, just because you can’t draw or do the lighting in a scene doesn’t mean you aren’t very good in modeling or texturing. Show off your real skills!

7. Have Substantial Content. As I mentioned earlier, portfolios should contain a related body of work. I see so many student portfolios consist of one environment, one car model, and a character… not enough of anything to get a job. I personally feel that any portfolio should contain three realistic pieces. I can’t emphasize enough the use of photos as reference and as texture source too. Many jobs want you to model realistically. Also, if you can model something complex that is photo-realistic, chances are you could model from concept art.

While this has a valid point, it isn’t true for everyone. It really depends on what you apply for. If the company you apply at does social media 2D sidescroll car racing games, it’s actually a good idea to include mostly 2D low-poly cars rendered in a 2D-look. You know what I mean? But it won’t hurt to show a range of skills.

8. Stylization as a Crutch. If I see a portfolio full of nothing but weird creatures, I wonder if the artist could model anything realistically or from concept. Creatures are fine, great even, as long as you have enough realistic content in your portfolio to prove that you can model anything that’s thrown at you.

Your portfolio should contain both stylized and realistic work, but again it really depends on the company and their type of games you want to apply to work at.

9. Wear and Decay. If you’re trying to get a job in games or movies, wear and decay are very important.. I see a lot of students who want to be environment artists with scenes that look like architectural renderings (which is fine– if you want to go into architecture.) A good, old, realistic environment though has hardly any true hard edges, straight lines, or flat colored surfaces, or crazy amounts of reflectivity. A sidewalk, for example, isn’t just the color of cement. It might have patches of tar, uneven grooves, cracks, chewed gum, bird crap, cigarette buts, age/water discoloration patches, and edges/curbs often crumble or wear down. You should have textures on everything in a scene and use both textures and geometry to break up the hard edges that don’t usually exist in real life.

Very true for environment artists. This also includes a very important hint for your everyday life: Learn to observe the things that are going on around you. Watch closely what materials and textures in the real world look like, and include that observation in your work.

10. Show Wireframes. I would never hire anyone without seeing wire frame versions of their models. Models that are clean and efficiently built means that someone more senior won’t have to spend tons of time cleaning up your work.

Do it! 

11. Detracting From Your Work. The main offenders of this are crazy roller-coaster cameras, bad/too dramatic lighting, and low-resolution textures. An animated camera should be barely noticeable, not a version of Disney’s Space Mountain. Lighting should emphasize how great your model is, not make the viewer squint and wonder what they are seeing. And I’d rather see no texture than a bad one that obscures the detail in the geometry with badly laid out UVs or giant pixels. Also, object-specific textures are much better than generic procedural shaders.

A piece of good advice that my teacher gave me: Don’t do camera movements. At ALL. It needs years of experience to handle a camera, even in a digital environment. 

12. Licensed Properties. I don’t want to see licensed property in your portfolio unless someone has paid you to work on that game/movie. It makes me wonder if the model really belongs to you, and if you would respect any licensing/legal issues of my company.

I don’t really see anything wrong with creating “fan art” for a franchise you are a fan of. Your application to Lucas Arts should most definitely include STAR WARS related work. But of course you have to be careful with that, especially if you are going to send your reel do many different companies.

13. Other People’s Work. One of my biggest pet peeve’s is reviewing a student’s portfolio, noting the highlights to myself– and then seeing them credited to someone else at the end. Yes, professionals often use pieces they collaborated on in their reels but if your work wasn’t the most noticeable part of the scene, don’t include it. Often including another person’s work in your portfolio either detracts from it because it’s worse (thereby lowering the overall presentation of your portfolio) or emphasizes that your own work is comparatively weak. So act with caution here.

This is probably one of the most important points. I know a lot of students who tend to do this, simply because they don’t have enough content for a showreel yet. So they include shots where they didn’t do major parts of the work. This is fine, as long as you state very clearly what you did and didn’t.

14. Including the Results of a Tutorial. We all do tutorials. The point is to obtain skills and apply them to your own projects. If you’re too lazy to do that, I don’t want you working with me.

Use what you learned in a tutorial in another concept or with another idea of your own. That way you learn AND have something for your portfolio.

15. A Word About Web Sites. Web sites are probably the best way to show your work. They are easy to view and accessible by many people at once. Make sure yours is simple to navigate. Don’t’ bury your content many pages deep, don’t make me watch a slide show, and don’t make me download some weird plug-in. Keep your work your work and your blog someplace else, because you only risk offending someone. Finally, if you have animation on there, make sure it’s big enough that the viewer can see what’s going on.

Rachels own website is a very good example for a portfolio. But more often than not, 3D-artists are also perfectionists and want their website to look fancy with a pretty individual design. (At least I do.) Make sure it’s accessable and easy to navigate.

Although the whole article has some kind of negative connotation on it, don’t lose hope for your own portfolio. Even if it isn’t that KILLER showreel yet, remember, you probably have everything you need to improve your skills. Show the work you are proud of with confidence. There is always something that can be done better, right? I hope this article helps!

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Making Games Talents Day – Munich 2011

2011/02/20

Today my friends and I attended the Making Games Talents Day in Munich. We took this amazing chance because it’s very rare that such an event would take place so close to our university. The event was held by the national magazine “Making Games”. The companies that attended were:

After a quick introduction of the developer-studios, there was a discussion and Q&A on how to apply properly, when looking for a job in the games industry. It was very interesting. Although I had heard most of the tips before, I think it’s very important to hear as much on that from as many different companies as possible, right? Here’s the concentrated information I got on the topic APPLICATION today:

A correct self-estimation is essential when you prepare your application to a company. Do you see yourself in an internship- or permanent position? How much experience in the industry do you already have on your resume? Is it enough to work as a senior in a team or are you just starting off as a junior? Be very precise with that in your application. If the company doesn’t agree with your self-estimation, that’s not a big deal, they are going to tell you that. Just be sure that you evaluate your own skill and experience and base your application on that estimation.

Secondly, don’t underrate the importance of the cover letter and resume. Although many companies put their focus on work samples, they also have a look at your application letter for many reasons: They want to know if you can communicate clearly and state your motivations for working in their team. The resume is important to get a quick overview over your education and experience, as well as language- or any other skills that might be important for the position you are applying for.

The third one is an easy deal: Before preparing an application for a company, get every bit of information about what they actually want you to send, that you can get. Most companies have detailed info on that on their websites, but don’t be afraid to call or ask about that via e-mail beforehand. Studios and their HR-Managers will appreciate this.
A neat and, most of all, complete application, shows that you care about the company’s requirements, help them save time and know how to present yourself.
What also belongs into this category is to make sure you apply in the right language. Is it an international team that only accepts applications in English? If your mother’s language is different from the one you apply in, let a native read it through.

In some cases, annual reports as well as marks you got during your apprenticeship or studies, really matter. Most of the time they don’t (for example, for graphics artists or testers) but if you want to get into PR, Management or Marketing, your marks can say a lot about your work. So make sure to send everything that could be of importance to get a better view on your skills with your application, or bring it to the interview.

In case your written application was successful and you are invited to an interview, the following is very essential: Know your company. You want to work there? Play their games, check their website, read their blog and forums, know what the company does and what you are going to do there once they employ you. You don’t have to be a hardcore-gamer or know the CEO’s blood type, but it makes sense to have your basics down.

Another question that arises quite often is: Do game developer studios prefer generalists or specialists? There is no single answer to this, because it really depends on the company you apply to, the position you want and the project the team is working on. It’s actually the company’s task to decide whether or not they need your set of skills right now. Just make sure you are very clear on what you are able to do and express your will to develop in a direction that will help the project/game become a success (if so).

One thing I actually heard for the first time was about a problem many applicants appearantly have: They are not entirely sure about game-industry-specific terms and the labelling of job positions. I might do an extra entry in this blog about that topic, if needed, where I can get this basic information down.

How about work samples? In any application for a job in a game studio, the work samples are the most important part. When you chose these samples (may it be Concept Artwork, 3D-Screenshots or Source Code), keep in mind: People who look at your application have a job to do, probably as the lead of a department. To save their time, chose only the best examples of your work, and less is more. If they want to see more, just attach an URL to an online portfolio with all your best work. Keep that website up-to-date!

Lastly, I’ll give you a simple piece of common sense: Ask yourself: Where am I going to apply at? The content of the application has to be adequate for the philosophy and work of the company. You like to draw aliens and weapons? Maybe CRYTEK is the studio of your choice. Can’t live without creating cute little characters and assets in a comic style? Maybe ZYNGA, who released FarmVille, would be best for you. It makes sense that a well-thought-through application gives you a better chance for success than one that may be good, but not aimed correctly, doesn’t it?

I hope you found one or another valuable information for your future applications in this entry! Please don’t hesitate to contact me if there are any questions. All those facts are directly from professionals in the game industry, it’s definitely not something I made up myself, so I’d like to credit the people who held their presentations today for their information and knowledge.