Sunday, September 30, 2007

Students - A story of Failure and Success in the eyes of the game industry

Stubborn student just wasted his money.

I was recently invited to attend an Industry Night event at a local 'art and digital media' institution here in Vancouver. The pre-graduation event was designed to give the students one-on-one contact with various individuals who were not only HR, but actual artists from various animation, and videogame companies. Being I work in gaming and have friends who teach at this school, I took part in giving students feedback on their demoreels, as well it gave them the opportunity to hand out their resumes and DVD's in hopes of getting a job.

While the majority of students demonstrated the competent skills to be whatever it is they planned on being in the workforce (environment artists, 2D and 3D animators, etc) there was one particular student who caught my attention, who I dub Student X. And it wasn't because his demo blew my mind.

You see, the Industry Night was set up in a way that required students to play their DVD demos at their respective computer workstations. Each student dressed appropriately as if going to an interview would ideally be standing by their workstation waiting for the 'industry people' to come around and introduce themselves. It was like a recruiting fair, but in reverse. As I went around the room, I couldn't help but notice a demoreel playing at an empty computer with no student in sight. I asked another student whose reel I was watching, and he directed my attention to the back of the room, to a young man sitting at a computer, surfing the internet, under-dressed, who seemed totally uninterested in being there. Now, if it had been any other demoreel, I probably wouldn't be blogging about this, but the fact that the demoreel was shit, and no student bothered to stand by it (literally), to claim it as their own, I found amusing.

It was a 3D character modeling reel, and though I'm not a modeler, I know what sucks when I see it. I also work with modelers on occasion, so I know what's good, and what stinks. This particular demoreel was bad. It had character rotations that were absurdly too fast, it defeated the purpose of having a character rotation in the first place. The models also had extremely dense wireframes for being game models... it's like the student went over kill with the 'smooth poly tool' in the 3d application. As well anatomically, the models were just not as correct as they should be. If a studio got this in the mail, they would most likely stop it immediately, toss it in the trash, and burn it.

How could such mistakes get final approval from the instructors? Damn it, he even had a stack of DVD's ready to mail out! Well, I posed exactly that question to the students, and they had no answer for me. My assumption is that Student X is one of those people who doesn't take instruction well, who is resistant to making changes and is set in their own ways. Basically, hard-headed. Every school has them, every class has one. Peeps just don't care, and think getting a job in the industry is an easy task. Well, I can say with certainty this child will not be getting a job as a 3d modeler any time soon. That type of attitude doesn't fly, in any job.

Some advice for Modeling Reels

Show off your models!

-Wireframes are extremely important, they show exactly what matters most... poly count, and modeling skill. Is it clean, or is it a mess? Can't hide that with texture maps. Give enough time to the wireframe so the viewer can see it in detail.

-Anatomy! Learn it, and learn it well, to be a character modeler especially with Humans and other creatures.

-Lighting should complement your models. Don't make anything too dark or too bright, and don't rush lighting. Presentation is key!

-Rotations should give the viewer ample time to appreciate your work. Don't hide your mistakes by rotating the character at rapid speeds. That will just make the viewer vomit.

-Show your references, for characters and environments.

Game Design grads share their experience making student project

Not too long ago I gave the folks at Game Career Guide, a mention about one of our assistant producers who attended the Art Institute of Vancouver, and produced a student made game called Introspect, an FPS Unreal Mod that requires players to paint a color on objects to manipulate them in various ways in the environment. The peeps at GCG were interested in the game, and thus a story was published on the site called Tight Conditions: The Development Constraints of an Indie Project.

In it, the creators detail their production process. Definitely give it a read for some pointers if you're in a Game Design program, check out Introspect's site, and maybe play the game too.

There you have it, Failure (top)and Success (bottom).

Student Demoreel Plug

Here's a pretty solid demoreel for an environment artist. The quality may be slightly dark on this youtube vid, but I had a chance to see the DVD quality reel, and it's quite good. Though, this reel could have used a little more time on the wireframes.

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