Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Unsolicited Industry Advice, Part 2

Continuing the discussion from earlier in March:
  • What I look for in a Portfolio-- Games Concept Design and Development.  In 8 to 12 images I need to know what you love, and how you bring it to life. I need to answer if you're a Specialist or a Jack; Bluesky, Production, or Illustration. Then I know where you fit in a production pipeline and if you fulfill the job requirements. 
Never put anything in your portfolio that you don't like doing. If you have less than 8 pieces that fit that definition, then only show those. Any of these profiles are broad with a lot of work in the pipeline. Drawing, modeling, texturing, painting, etc. Work in the genres that fit you, learn about the others. On the side, get in gear and do more personal work so you can show more of what you're proud of.

If I'm given a blog and a portfolio link, I will always go to the blog first. It's easier to update, shows sketchbook, and how you solve problems. It shows if you're still engaged in learning and studying. It shows what you spend your free time on - aka what you love. If I like what I see, then I go to the portfolio.

Blue Sky Portfolio:
1.  Bluesky Images- Defining a look/ feel with the right thematic and tone through broad stroke exploration. Show one problem solved in radically different ways.  2.Primary Images- the lay of the land. Establish artset, sell thematic, and scope. Primary image defines a world apart from other properties and informs initial environment work. Show iteration along art direction.  3. Mood Images- narrative. Sell mood, tone, personality. Personal/epic Moments, lighting, and color keys.

Show a breadth in your portfolio. Example: If everything is epic, then nothing is. Shapeshifting and photobashing are valuable tools but cannot be your crutch. The point is to be fast and loose, get the ideas out and pitch-able.These are meant for internal use, but really good ones can be player facing for promotional material if taken further.

Character and Creature Production Portfolio:
1. Character Promo image in color- the selling image to get AD approval and team alignment. Solves Character role and design needs.  2. Character orthogonal views (front/back and side, whatever is needed to properly describe)- so we know how to build it and solve any development problems. 3. In-game view angle- how the player is going to experience it. 4. Call outs- anything that needs to be described with more detail, or will be a separate model, such as weapons. 5. Texture swatches- just a few to represent how materials should be rendered in game and describe any unusual materials. 6. Gesture studies, and expression if required. 7. Iteration studies- these should not just be costume variants. They should show radically different ways of solving the character.

This spread should leave no questions on who the Character is, and how to build it. Everyone in the production pipeline should not need to come to you for follow up information. It is a complete package. Bonus Points: Demonstrate ways to be more efficient with characters in their rigs, textures, or geo.
Notes:  Games are all about being over the top. If it isn't memorable, its garbage. You don't need to render the hell out of everything. Usually the promo image is the one to spend the time on for sell factor.

Environment Production Portfolio:
1. Promo image in color- the selling image to get AD approval and team alignment. Solves for Design mechanics. 2. Various Views- game view angle, Level layout, Interior/ exterior.  3. Mood/ Weather shifts- Lighting, time of day, weather, mood variants. 4. Call outs- anything that needs to be described with more detail. Usually a "hero" asset, and population assets. 5. Texture Swatches- Material keys. 6. Iteration studies.

This spread should leave no questions on what the environment is, and what elements are needed to pull it off. (In a Holodeck, build an environment kit, culture kit, Modular kit, or whatever the game/genre calls for).  A good environment can be expanded and extrapolated upon or scoped way down and still preserve Look/Feel.
Notes:  Some gameplay mechanics will be in every property you work on. Its your job to solve it in new and interesting ways. Creates for example: if I get a spread of creates that are interesting and memorable but still cheap breakables that I have never seen before, then you're on my favorite persons list. Again, you don't need to render the hell out of everything, solve what you can with tight comps.

Promo/ Illustration Portfolio:
1. Character Promo- Internal/external promotional marketing material. Pin-ups or teasers. Full color, high degree of polish/rendering and establish narrative. Maintains style guide and branding. 2. Game Promo/ Property Promo- Internal/external promotional marketing material. Defines style guide and branding.  3. Event/ Narrative Promo. Illustrates poignant moments to interact with audience.
Notes:  Don't disregard your backgrounds. They have just as much to say as characters. Don't use the same lighting set up in every image, and have breadth in your pallets. Really learning material rendering and material interaction with lighting will carry a huge weight. There is a big difference between bad anatomy and stylized anatomy. Again, everything is over the top in games, so make your illustrations dynamic and compelling. Push further, break stuff, then scale back.

Notes on what you bring to the Table:  
Bring your sketchbook to interviews. Leave the portfolio on the web.

I don't look for degrees. I only look at the work, your experience level, if you're someone fantastic to work with. I think that being a gamer is important because that is the client you are solving for. We can draw all damn day long, but if it doesn't solve for the problems of production, and an amazing game experience, then it doesn't matter.

Hope that stuff helps. Other topics to cover in the future:  Nature of the Industry, Work/Life balance, Average Day, Personal Projects.

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