CAREER CONVERSATIONS: DISCUSSION BETWEEN YA LIBRARIAN LLYR HELLER AND Video Gaming professionals: Sophie Brennan – Character TD, Tyler Sparks – Project Manager, Adam Noonchester – Lead Programmer, Haissam Badawi- Animator, Cody Cisneros - Animator, Angela Baker – Sr HR Generalist/Recruiter
JUNE 2018: CAPTIONED BY TOTAL RECALL, www.yourcaptioner.com
>> Hello everyone. Thank you for joining us today. My name is Llyr. I'm a librarian here at Teen Escape at the LA Library.
We have guests from Insomniac, a video game company a wide variety of jobs falling under that umbrella. I'm very excited for you all to be here. Thank you so much, and let's get started. So if you could each say your name, and a little bit about what you do, and how got to your current career.
>> My name is Sophie Brennan. I am a Character Technical Director at Insomniac Games. Previously, I was with another company called Ready Dawn doing the same kind of thing. I'm originally from Scotland. I moved here four years ago. I went to university to study animation specifically or computer arts, and ended up doing character technical direction, which is kind of a weird hybrid between art and programming and animation.
>> Hi. I'm Angela Baker. I'm the HR Generalist and Recruiter at Insomniac Games. I've been pretty much in the entertainment industry my entire career. I've been with Insomniac Games now for almost 12 years. So, everyone on this panel, I actually hired so that's encouraging. But I, you know, have my degree is in sociology. So it's sort of adjacent to what I do, but not entirely. It's good stuff.
>> Hello, hello. I'm Tyler Sparks. I'm a project manager with Insomniac. I've been in the industry for about 11 years now. I've been with Insomniac for two. Actually, I just hit my second anniversary we started at the same time. I've been doing production and management for 11 years. I started in QA that's like the very bottom rung. That's testing. Basically, testing video games in the basement of Activision. I just took every opportunity I could and clawed my way up the ranks until I am where I am now.
>> Testing... My name is Cody Cisneros. I'm an animator at Insomniac working on Spiderman with these guys. I'm originally from Wyoming— from the Midwest. So I kind of took a journey bouncing to Las Vegas where I went to school for animation. I worked for a few years, went back to school, studied more animation, and then eventually made my way out to Los Angeles where I've been working video games for about four years.
>> My name is Adam Noonchester. I'm a gameplay programmer at Insomniac Games. I've been here for about ten years. I went to school in computer science. I got my Master's in that, and then I worked in sort of what's called the serious games industry for a couple of years before starting at Insomniac.
>> My name is Haissam Badawi. I'm an animator. I went to like three universities and a million community college campuses to pull one program together. Combine that with some break dancing and lots of sword and stick fighting, and that's how I became an animator.
>> Thank you so much. One of the questions we often get asked, and especially I get a lot of feedback after people listen to the podcast, is what kind internships or specialized training is there? And are there opportunities for high school students and/or just college students and/or adults trying to figure out a second career?
>> Sure, I can hit that question. Yes, we offer internships. I think internships are the best way to sort of, as a student, get your foot in the door. It exposes you to development life. It gives you a taste of what you're going to be doing on a daily basis. I think it's a really great building block for someone to get some hands-on experience and to decide if this is the road they really want to take if this is really where their passion lies. For Insomniac, we hire we bring in interns. We hire interns for the summer. They're typically with us eight to twelve weeks. We hire them into specific departments. This year we have an intern at animation, gameplay programming, character art, you know, the list goes on and on. It's really a great way for students to get exposure to, you know, their chosen field and also network. That's another really important aspect of taking an internship is meeting people in your industry and making those connections. Because you never know when you're going to need to reach out to someone and say: "Hey, can you review my portfolio?" Or “Hey, I'm trying to decide between these two options. What do you think might be a good idea?" So it's really great to sort of have those relationships through an internship. But yes, internships all the way, hundred percent, can't get any better than an internship for the summer. Our internships you have is to be 18 years or older. Typically we take college students. We do have Master's students, PhD students, et cetera, but you do have to be at least 18 years or older.
>> I’d like to chime in a little bit on that actually. When I got started, there wasn't like schooling specifically for what I wanted to do which was production/project management. So I got in, in QA like I mentioned earlier. And something I honestly would recommend for just about any field to do briefly, to just get a sense of how the industry works because you see how a game works from all levels. You test it. You work. You know you work on every field basically. So you can understand how a game is put together. But now, there are college programs and a lot more opportunities for people. If you are looking for a ground floor thing, I would say QA is a good place to start.
>> When I was in university in Scotland, I took an internship between my third and fourth year. That was actually a really good opportunity for me because it was with a local company local mobile games company and they actually took me on to do art and character art and concept art which, you know, I had some kind skill in. But I quickly realized on the job was that I actually really didn't like that, and it definitely pushed me down the path I'm on right now. Because I knew that I couldn't be a concept artist or, you know, an illustrator at a professional level, so I just headed down another route which was a little bit more technical and involved a little bit more, you know, programming or scripting know how.
>> Llyr, I think you mentioned something about high school students as well as continuing adult education, can you just restate that part for me because that's the part I want to speak to.
>> Oh, sure. So, we love to hear internships about college students. We have a lot of high schoolers who want to get their foot in early while they're thinking about college and applying for college. And also, we have a lot of 20-year-old adults or even 30-year-olds where that first career they didn't really like. So they are kind of looking around for a second career.
>> So, in terms of the adults first, I did a lot of opportunity for different avenues of study. That's self-study. There's also a number of online options. There's local options. Brick and mortars. It's very important for them to look for if looking for what you want to learn, you're looking for a good teacher who is passionate about the student, but is also passionate about the subject, and really know what they're talking about. There are a lot of opportunities for people who are adults whatever ages they are. When you're an adult, you've already learned how to learn. You really know how to really go through and you really know how to help yourself learn. So it's really important. There's a lot of avenues for anybody's situation from whether you find that your financial situation is you don't have a lot of money to spend to where if you have a little bit of money to spend. Then the second thing for high school students and, for me, middle school students or junior high, you can always be studying a lot of again, you can go through books or online courses course of self-study. It's just really a matter of them deciding I want to give this a real shot. And then don't be discouraged initially. You have to give something a real chance to see if you'll actually like it or not. Because initially, you can't do it that well, but then,then you say I'm not good at this. Well, no one is good at it at first. That's all I have to say.
>> I just wanted to add on top of that, that a lot of the game development tools that exist, like the Unity game engine and the Unreal game engine, are free to download and free to use. And they have video tutorials and communities dedicated to helping people out. So it's fairly easy to jump in and start trying to learn a little bit about it if you're so inclined.
>> And, for those people who are interested in animation, like when me and Haissam were training, learning how to get into animation, there weren't a lot of characters available for free to use. Well, nowadays, there is so much available online. It's crazy. So really you just have to be willing to do it and that's really the best thing you can do to start the path of animation for games.
>> This is kind of on the other side of the spectrum, but there's actually a lot of for-profit schools out there that will actually take advantage of you. So you have to be very careful if you do want to pursue a school. You know, choose a school with a reputation that's known to actually have its students graduate and have its students actually get into the workforce. But also consider that a lot of those programs are accredited and known actually have very, very high price tags on them. And, well, you know, my field is very fulfilling. A lot of those schools, the price can be so high, it would take you a very, very long time to pay that back. And honestly, you know, going to college is great, but in this field, you don't actually need a degree. You know what I mean? You just need to show skill. You just need to show your portfolio. You just need to show you're good to work with that, you know, you've got a good attitude. Honestly, like, what school you came from, what degree you have, doesn't ever matter to me when I'm looking at resumes and stuff. I'm looking for at your portfolio. I'm looking at your reel. I'm looking at your skills.
So just beware that there's a lot of people trying to take advantage of, you know, this, this career. You know, people wanting to get into it. And, you know, be careful. But if you do choose to go to school, be careful that you choose a place that's accredited.
One last thing to add to that is getting a degree can actually be useful for international reasons. For example, I have a bachelor's degree. I would not be in The States without my Bachelor's Degree. It allowed me to get a visa, which allowed me to legally move and work here.
I feel like its important too, if you want to move internationally, which the games industry allows you to do quite easily. There's jobs all over the world. Having a degree is often a prerequisite for a lot of these visas. So that's one way to advocate degrees.
>> Thank you. That's great. Any questions from oh, and I did want to mention that LAPL has... I need to do a shout out for our databases. We have a lot of databases including Linda.com, which is a pricey database, and you can kind of, you know, get your feet wet, see what kind of programs you like to do.
>> I was just going to say we have a subscription to linda.com. So I mean it's certainly for, you know, professionals as well as people who are starting to, you know, dip their toes into the various, you know, creative spaces.
>> That’s great to hear. Any questions in the audience so far? Yes.
>> How large is coding? Does coding help with animation? Do they correlate or not? Cause I took a coding class to make things move, and I'm assuming in animation you make things move. So how
>> I may be equipped to talk this one as well as you guys.
>> You can certainly address this. Being an animator, you can talk about what you do and how much you code. And then Adam can jump in and certainly talk about the flip side of it. Yeah.
>> So the question was coding and animation.
>> Yes. Haissam feel free to jump in at any time. So, in my experience in animation, like any additional skill you have whether it's coding, rigging, character art, character design, it will always help almost all the time.
When I was in high school, I wasn't doing so good in like my geometry class or algebra classes. I bring it up because it's kind of related to coding, right. When I was lucky enough to have a teacher who pulled me to the side and was like: "Hey, man, you want to be an animator; right? Well, you're going to need to learn this stuff to be a good animator." It kind of like really spun me around. I really got my stuff together in my math class. Yeah, there's definitely math involved in animation.
And fast forward to today, I'm like really glad I paid attention more in those math classes now. Because I know you guys would all agree, if you can code or if you can script, you might be able to make tools that could make your job easier. At Insomniac, we're lucky because we have people that will do that for us. Animators can be spoiled in a lot of ways because we have a lot of tools already written for us. At the same time, I know there's people on our team that when they encounter problems are not afraid to go in there and write their own tools.
>> I don't think it's necessarily a must, but I mean it's not going to hurt. I mean, for example, I don't want anybody who's not really good at math to be discouraged necessarily. You know what I mean? But I definitely agree with Cody that it definitely helps you. And just being analytical, like I study material logic and formal logic, and just being able to analyze is very helpful.
That's a big part of animation is knowing how to speak to somebody who is coding and vice versa them to speak with you: "I need these to connect to these here."
If you find yourself not technical at all, I still think there's an avenue for you. I don't want to shut that down. I'm not saying that technical isn't important, I'm just saying there's still an avenue. Depending on who explains it, it can be a lot easier too.
>> So my job actually touches directly on this. Being a character TD is actually technical animator where, you know, I'm supposed to understand animation. I'm supposed to understand art. I'm supposed to understand our paint play and a workflow. I provide the tools for these guys actually. Our team writes tools. Speaking of animators, sometimes we write tools as well to character artists and make their jobs easier. But when it comes to animators, like I work with animators day in and day out, and there are a whole spectrum of people. There are people who are massively creative but, when it comes to technicalities, it's not their strong suit. But I think they have as much to bring as people who are also highly technical. The one bonus I would say is, though, whether or not you can actually code, being able to problem solve. Understanding the logic of things, especially, understanding how your piece, you know, fits into the puzzle of the game. That is incredibly important. Just understanding how your work affects the person before and after you in our pipeline, which is how we you know pass work from basically from department to department to get it to its final state.
I would say that understanding that is will help you a lot. But, in terms of actually coding and in terms of actually knowing your math, that's their bonuses but, you know, I think you can do just as well, you know, not being as confident in those skills.
>> Thank you. Any other questions so far? Okay.
My next question is can you talk about your jobs. Is it possible to do it freelance? As in, can you do it from home? Or do you have to be in an office? Or can you be in multiple offices?
>> I can go first. So project management is very hands-on with people. In general, you want to be interfacing with people you're managing directly. That being said, aspects of project management can be done remotely. So analytics, data gathering, predictions, velocity, and all that kind of tracking that you would do with whatever database was available, can be done remotely. I know some guys who do work from home, but in general, pretty much it has to be on site. But that's just project management. Most others have a different scenario.
>> So regarding programming, we do have some programmers that do work remotely, but it's uncommon. Making games is a very collaborative thing. So having someone in the office sitting next to the people, the animators or the designers that they are going to be working with is often times very, very valuable. In general, there's not a lot of opportunities for a gameplay programmer to work remotely.
>> Yeah, I definitely echo that. In animation actually two years ago, I spent a year where I just worked at home. I was working for a competitive gambling game that the company was based in Las Vegas. I was just doing animation from home and Skyping into the team pretty regularly. But, with that said, game development is so collaborative, like, you do get that urge to sit there and work with your team, for sure. I would make a strong effort to go back so I could sit in the office with the team just cause we were that much more efficient when we were together, you know.
>> If anyone wants to finish with the freelance versus non-freelance question, and then we will go into that question.
>> I would like to add one thing to the freelancing aspect thing. Actually, we do work with a lot of outsourcing partners and outsourcing firms. A lot of game companies do. It's a very widely used aspect of video games. I know friends who have worked at studios who outsource props or outsource concept art. Cause often these things can be expensive to keep in house all the time. So, I mean, it really depends on what your idea of freelance is. Like a lot of these companies work are reputable and work with huge clients, and it means you have a wide breadth of work.
But backing up what these guys said, there's a complete kind of detachedness to the work. You know, you probably won't experience the collaborative process, which it is actually one of the my favorite parts of making games is, you know, solving problems together. But that's not to say, if you want to make art and crank out art or especially if you want to start and build up a portfolio, there is there's definitely room for you. Like these other companies that do a lot of that kind of outsource work as well. And, in terms of freelance, technically, just so you're aware, a lot of companies you can't really freelance at least on games work profitable games work while working as a games developer. Usually, it's a stipulation in your contract that says, you know, you can't work on someone else's game and make profit. But that isn't to say you can't do your own stuff at home. A lot of times, companies will let you, you know, make your own products. It really depends on your contract and, you know, and how, you know, your employer feels about that stuff. But I just wanted to add that a lot of people do freelance as well. But often they freelance in other fields that are not related to games, which is kind of important, I guess.
>> It really depends on how you define freelance as well. If you mean freelance like I'm going to be full time at this company and I don't want to be there for ten years like most of us probably. Some people like myself, I like to be in a company and I want to be there long term. You know, as long as I'm happy there and things are going well, I want to be there long term. But, if you mean freelance in terms of being able to jump around and not be stuck to one company not for long but for projects, like: "Hey, I'm going to be here for one project." There's avenues for that especially here in Los Angeles. You can work on a project and be hired for that project and you can be in-house for that project, and once that project is done, you can move onto something else. Or, if there's another project opportunity for you there, they might ask you to stay, and you might want to stay or you may not want to. But it won't be, you know, you have that opportunity.
>> It is very common for people to jump between studios in the industry.
>> I think everyone would probably just say yes to that.
>> The only thing I would say shoot I keep forgetting when I first started in QA, I hated video games for a period of time because you play the same mission over and over again for like eight to twelve hours a day.
>> And, I mean, we're lucky to be in a field. I think, probably most of us if not all of us, like, we loved games before we came and worked in games. So, I mean, I myself, I only love them, even more, having had worked on them, you know.
>> I will say that playing a lot of games and having that appreciation for games is a big part of our job. That, you know, we'll call it competitive analysis. But, you know, we're working on a Spiderman game and a large part of that is for me was I need to go look at every Spiderman game that's been made. I need to go look at what they've done. I need to look at how they did poorly, what they did well.
Having knowledge of an experience, working on games that allows me to look at those past titles or our competitor in with an analytical eye, and draw either inspiration or lessons I can apply to my job.
>> I think, also, just to sort of address, you know, these are creative types. You know, even Adam I consider a creative type even though he is a programmer. These are individuals who feel incredibly passionate about what they do. And I don't know that you can love what you do and not sort of have it bleed out into, you know, a love for, you know, whatever you're doing. You said you're an actor. You probably love acting. You'd probably do it if maybe you didn't get paid to do it. So, you know, I think there's a certain level of love for what they do. And that sort of, you know, is outside the office as well as inside the office.
>> To add a couple things to that, though, I know developers who do not play games; and usually artists, I would say, they are not a big fan of games, but they love the art of animation or they love creating characters or worlds or illustration. And I, while I do think playing games certainly helps a ton if you're not a huge gamer, you know, but you love the craft, you love the making, then you're valuable too, you know. Just to touch upon, just briefly, playing games is not making games. So I love to play games. I play it to, I play games to decompress. It's my form of relaxation. But a lot of people think that playing a game is the same as making a game, and they are very, very two different beasts.
It's just because you play a lot of games, you know, you might have a good eye for what, like, a good design is or you know what feels right. You, but at the end of the day, if you're not making something, it's, it's worth squat really. We need to see actual pieces and products at the end of it. That's what our job is.
>> Another question that comes up often is for each of your positions, are these good jobs for extroverts, introverts, or can you be a mix? You said collaboration was key. So for someone who has anxiety or is uncomfortable with that, what kind of positions fit yours?
>> I can sort of address that because I do a lot of hiring. We have everything across the board. We have extreme introverts, and we have extreme extroverts. Then we have people happily in the middle. Like I've said, we have every shade in between. It really depends upon how you like to communicate. We ask people that on a pretty regular basis. We try to find out what their best mode of communication is and try to work with that. You know, there's a lot of small teamwork that happens. It could be just a couple of people maybe two or three people. Typically, you know, if you're a little bit more on the introverted side, you, you know, can work with that. If you're an extrovert, that's cool too. It's, you know, it's learning what works for you and making sure that your co-workers know what works for you. You know, if you're someone who prefers to communicate via email, maybe that's the road you take. If you're someone who feels more comfortable getting up and talking face to face with someone, that's a road to do too. So we just sort of try and make sure that communication is happening. That's the biggest thing is how do we communicate. Let's find that out, and then we'll find out what works best for the individual. You know, but like I said, yeah, we have the entire spectrum. So yeah, for sure.
>> Can I build on that? To sort of build on that, that's where PM project management comes in handy. Part of our job is to figure out how people communicate. It also helps to be a bit of an extrovert as a PM because you have to talk to everybody. You have to figure out what makes everybody tick and how they work best, you know. As Angela said, people work in a myriad of different ways. I've seen the most extreme introverted to the most extreme extroverted. Personally, I'm a bit of an extrovert introvert. Like I can work with people, but I prefer to be alone. So yeah, I mean, it takes all kinds.
>> Yeah, I think communication is really important for a person whether they're so if you're really introverted, I think it's good to try to move towards a middle. If you're really extroverted, I think it's also good to spend some time to try to be quiet every once in a while. Balance, trying to find a balance to where you're not overpowering if you're very extroverted. Like, you know, I'm just going to stay quiet for a moment and let this person talk. If you're an introvert, it's not a bad practice to try to communicate more. It will just help you also express what your needs might be in the workplace. It will help other people as well. I think in a collaborative environment, it's important to be able to communicate in some way. Just take into consideration that the other people, people have to deal with me and have to deal with you essentially is important. Respect other people that you're working with and vice versa that they respect you as well.
>> So as I'm a, I'm a lead of a group of gameplay programmers, and one of the big class of problems that I wind up having to solve a lot is communication issues where there have been some amount of miscommunication. And I do think that we do I do have people that kind of run the gamete between being fairly introverted. They would like to sit and just program by themselves to being more extroverted. But, in my group, at least, communication is key. And so I do think that if you're extremely introverted, you're going to have to figure out what kinds of communication you are comfortable with. You're going to have to, you're going to have to work on that.
>> Thank you. One of the questions that often comes up also is what does a day in the work life look like for everyone because you're all very different in terms of job titles. It would be interesting to hear what a day in the life seems like.
>> I mean, I can start. I mean, my day is my week is often crazy all over the place. Being in character technical direction, I’m kind of a support role but I'm also a production role. A lot of days I'll come in and check my emails first because usually if someone is wanting, you know, sent something to you the night before, the morning before we get in because we all have flexible hours we still have core hours. For example, I roll in at like 10 where other people come in at like 6. So usually I have a batch of emails to read through and get my baring where I am throughout the day. Then I have a set of tasks that I'll be working on. Assets that need to be created or tools that need to be supported. That I'll be kind of working on during the day. Between all that, they'll be cases where animators will, you know, maybe have a problem and I have to come over. You know, a technical problem and I'll have to come over and figure that out. Or, you know, they handmade their scene and I have to poke through it a bit and see what's broken or how they can fix it.
To also meetings, talking about scoping out future things. You know, any future problems coming up. Also talking about maybe, you know, new technology or new production techniques or something that we want to try out. So I would say a lot of people's days are like that, but specifically, because I'm in a half support role, I would say I think someone said a statistic once you know, something like 60 percent working and 40 percent support or something that like, as your project gets towards the end, as you're finishing off your project that certainly swings the other way and you're definitely most the time a support role more than creating content.
>> I’ll say that my job tends to change based on what part of the project that we're in. Games often times go through big phases. You'll have a pre-production phase. You'll have a production phase. Then you'll have like either a post-production or kind of like the bug fixing and wrap up phase. Right now, we're, we're kind of in the post-production phase. And so a lot of my day is similar to Sophie. Where I get in, in the morning, and check my emails to see if somebody is having some trouble, see if somebody is blocked. If there's something that either myself or somebody on my team needs to jump on right away. And then, I will once I'm caught up on emails will check we have software that our testers use to log new bugs that they have found over the previous day, and I will use that software and I'll sort of review all of the new issues that have come up in the game and try to prioritize what I'm going to work on, trying to fix what people on my team are going to try and work on fixing. And then for the rest of the day, it's usually a mix of programming at my desk. Trying to fix some of these issues or talking with designers, talking with animators, either helping them diagnosis a problem they're having or giving them advice on here's how you solve that problem. Yeah, that's my day right now at least.
>> So let's see when I come in to work, if I'm already deep into an animation sequence like I've already started, my day looks a lot different than if I'm at the beginning of like a new animation I'm going to do. So right now, I'm like polishing some sequences. So when I get into work, I do the same thing these guys do. I pull the latest build of the game. I'll grab a cup of coffee and go through my e mails. Then I will actually just look at my sequence start to finish, headphones on, pen and paper in front of me, and I'll just watch it once. Then everything that I see that looks awful, I will just write down. I don't like the shape the character's making here. Maybe there's a pop here. This area can be stronger. This camera looks weird. I'll just write down a hit list is what I call it. Then I just plug in and go.
I just animate for the morning. Usually, by lunch time, my eyes are fried and I can't look at my scene anymore. Its break time and then I'll just kind of jump back into it. We move pretty quickly. I came pretty late on the project. I feel like I've been going like full speed for the last couple months, but I love it.
Well, that said, if I've hit a wall and having trouble moving forward and getting the quality I want, that's when I get my team involved. We actually sit with our leads on an almost daily basis just to get somebody else to look at our stuff so we can make sure we're moving forward. Just building performances and keeping the high quality and also keeping getting other brains in the shot, and making sure we got new ideas and it's not just coming from one brain that we're building up awesome experiences.
>> (Inaudible) okay. All right. So I'm not a content creator like these awesome people. So my day is completely different. I mean, you've got your standard run of the mill stuff. You've got e mail. I check my slack or whatever instant messaging platform you use. But for me every e mail, IM, post it note on my desk is a follow up item. So I maintain this personal scrum board. This is what makes project management fun at least for me. I'm kind of weird that's why I'm a project manager.
I'll have hundreds of things to do every day and they're all unique. Every day I walk into work, it's a completely different work day. It's always challenging. It's always diverse. Very often you have conflicting personalities. You have conflict resolution. You have trouble shooting, you know, seemingly impassable problems people cannot get around them, and you have to figure out how to get around them every day. You run up against these problems of like a fixed amount of time, a number of resources. Then we have this amount of stuff we have to do. How do we rearrange those to get those stuff done.
Like, you know, it's constantly troubleshooting. It's constantly thinking. I have to be very aware of how much glycogen I have left. My literal brain energy gets depleted. Like 10 11 half an hour later, I have to have my granola. I'm super awesome. But right after lunch, I go into a food coma and I have to chill for a bit and focus just on documentation. You know, it's a that's for me the awesome part of being a PM is that it's always different.
>> My typical work day starts in the evening. I generally e mail myself in the evening of where I left off. You know, when I was really young and I started off, well not young. I wasn't that young. I'm terrible—When I started off, I asked this programmer how do you leave because everything seems to have so much problem that it's broken. How do you walk away from it? I really just want to resolve the problem. It was really hard to learn how to leave. So how I learned to leave was writing myself notes of where I left off. If I have notes from leads, I will usually e mail myself their note again so it's right there in the beginning. So when I come in, in the morning, that's pretty much the first thing I look at. I check and see what was I working on yesterday to refresh with where I was at.
I'll talk about where I am in the bulk of production not the beginning or the end. So my day's pretty much because I'm I mostly work on the traversal of the characters in the game. Like, when you push the controls, how do they move? So I'm often trying to see how do we make this feel good for the player themselves.
Actually a long time ago what I make people do in meetings, I made them tap the table to see if that button press felt good with the motion. So I'm often holding the controller and pushing on the controller, even if I'm looking at the animation in Maya alone, I'm pushing the controller to see if I'm getting the energy I want. Am I feeling the transfer of energy from my thumb going into my character moving in the 3D
program? So I'll be doing that. I'll be working on an animation. I'll be trying to figure out how can we do this elegantly without making a hundred animations if it can just be ten. That's the fun part for me is the problem solving. I love that aspect of it.
I'll also be personally getting up and acting. So a lot of people in the area will be like laughing because I'll be up acting trying to feel something out. I'll be either doing a break dancing move to give me a position that I might be able to get normally. I'll be doing something to feel where's the pressure on my body. What's the muscle? Am I held up by structure? I.e. Is it my bone holding me up or is it my muscle? So I'll be analyzing that. Get up and down, writing down notes, going into Maya working that out, going into game working on the controller. Then, if it's not working at all, I'll be talking to other people. I'll be seeing if another department is involved in it not working.
That's kind of my day, going back and forth, of me jumping up and down, going in the computer playing the game, making sure it feels good, and then yeah having fun talking to the people I work with essentially. Typical day.
>> Can I maybe say this, everyone's responses here are people who are really, really comfortable with their skill set and their job. When you're starting out, when you're doing this, the biggest obstacles to you would be learning the software. Learning the core of whatever you're doing whether it's programming or animation or art, drawing. Whatever your core skill is that will be the thing that swallows you up and make you lay awake at night kind of thing if you're really in to it.
But I also then want to, you know, say there isn't room for that like these people here we all have years experience, and we're comfortable, and we're kind of deep in the process. But there's people who are juniors who, you know, less of their day is the communication or the back and forth. A lot of it is just plugging away and getting better at their chosen skill, and that's also really important that we have that too.
When I first started my first job, I can't believe I actually got hired because I literally knew nothing. In terms of like rigging, I didn't know how to skin. Like for an animator, I didn't know how to create a walk cycle. I must have talked a good talk because they brought me on. Luckily, they trained me for six months which is incredibly unusual. But they sat down and trained me for six months because we had scope to do, and they taught me how to do my specific job. I had enough initiative and understanding that they knew that I could be taught, you know what I mean?
But I would say that nowadays it's a lot harder to jump into the industry, you know, not knowing much. I mean, there's a lot of content to learn. There's a lot of tutorials and courses and you'll see a breadth of work out there, but it's mostly of professionals. Honestly, a lot of time that's what you're up against and it's really scary and intimidate. It certainly almost scared me out of the industry because I was like how can I ever be on the same level as these people?
The most important thing, especially, when you're starting out is, just create a lot of stuff. You will make a lot of failures. A lot of it will look terrible, and you will want to throw it in the bin, and you will want to scream at a wall. It's going to be tough, but you have to be creating all the time. You have to be making mistakes fast so you can recover and learn from them.
When you're on the job, a lot of times there isn't as much room to make mistakes anymore; you know what I mean? So a lot of the people we bring on, especially, at our level are already pretty comfortable at least with their core skills. That's why we're talking a lot about communication or specifically the specifics of our job that can be quite advanced as opposed to I know how to animate, or I know how I can make a character look like they're thinking. I know how to make a character move forward, code, things like that.
>> Anyone else?
>> Oh, sure. Because I am in a support function of the company, my day looks nothing like any of these guys. Maybe Tyler, Tyler and I probably a little bit closer in our roles. I get into the studio and I make sure nothing's happened. That's quite frankly a huge part of my job is to make sure that our employees are healthy, and happy, and safe, and are getting the support. And "by support" I mean questions answered. I mean making sure that they're talking to the right people.
I answer everything from: "Hey, I got this explanation of benefits because I went to the dentist and I don't know what that means." To: "Hey, I'm ready to hire this individual. Let's talk about start dates and how do we get them in." "Oh, and by the way this candidate lives in New York City so we're going to have to relocate them. So okay. We're going to do that." To: "Hey, I'm having this problem with a coworker. I'm not sure how to address it, cannot program. I cannot, I'm just not creative in any regard period. That being said, I get to work with these incredibly talented individuals who are so creative and so, think outside the box. That to me, it's a very sort of inspirational experience because they're just...they're so interesting and just a really pleasure to work with. I enjoy, you know, I get a kick out of coming into the office every day and seeing what's going to happen today. It never fails to disappoint or, is that right, never fails to disappoint. Anyway, it's a great experience. Like I said, I've been with the studio a very long time. I think that states something about our studio as well. You know, we have an incredible group of individuals. I think we're very lucky to do what we do where we do it.
>> Anyone else for that question? Did you get to answer it? Okay. Great. So we're about five minutes from being done. Any other questions? Question, go ahead.
>> Excellent question. How long does an average game take to be created?
>> Yeah, so I'm sorry. So I'm not going to give specifics about our project, don't worry. I mean, that's pretty much what I do is manage the schedules from start to finish. I've been on projects I've created a VR product in four months. I was on Call of Duty title that took us four years. What's up?
>> I like Call of Duty.
>> I made Call of Duty for ten years. It's a pretty awesome franchise. So it really depends. It depends on the scope. It depends on, you know, the breadth of features if you're doing an open world game versus a linear story based game, narrative driven game kind of thing. They all have their own challenges. I couldn't give you a specific answer unless you had a targeted example of video game.
>> I will say that like a modern consul game is going to take two to four years probably to make.
>> Triple it.
>> You know, sorry. I think it depends upon how many people you've got working on it. If it's a one man show, it's a little different than if you've got two thousand people working on it. Again, it's a huge spectrum. But yeah.
>> Super quick lightening round question for those thinking or wanting to go into video games. What platform should they kind of look into and maybe with linda.com etc.?
>> Platforms as in?
>> Like training platforms or what specific technology do you use?
>> Oh, okay. As a character TD, we primarily still use Maya. We also, I think, use Motion Builder. Our character artists use whatever program they're comfortable with. Since the character models can be exported and imported into Maya usually some sort of standardized form at. Some people use 2DS max. Some people use Moodle. Some people use Maya. There's a range. We also use from the character side of things, we use Z brush to sculpt high definition characters, and also I think substance designer to make our texturing and surfacing. Marvelous designer as well to simulate and create our cloth and garments and our characters.
There's a huge breadth of programs to learn. If you are interested in character art or animation, usually Maya is a good place to start. It offers, I think, definitely, if you're at school and you have a school email, it offers basically a version of Maya for as long as you're at school, as long as you have a registered email address. There's also the LT version, which is missing some features but is cheaper and you can do subscription and stuff. They make it a lot easier these days to get a hold of these programs than they did before.
But I would also mention, do not neglect your constructional skills, drawing, life drawing, observational drawing, studying especially if you're artistic color studies. From my side of things, scripting I use Python primarily. That's mainly what character TD's use. I think there is some people who use C++ or some plug ins, but I'm not really familiar with that stuff.
Maya is a good place to start especially for character TD's and arts.
>> On game play programming, we primarily use C++. Though in the studio we do have, I write Python scripts every once in a while. We use Pearl, Java script, and Flash but it's primarily C++. If you're interested in going into game programming, a traditional computer science degree is fantastic, or there are some good game programming schools out there as well. Other tools that we make fairly heavy use of are Excel, Microsoft Word. We use source control software like perforce and git. And then just general computer skills.
>> Just a couple quick things, if you're interested in project management or production, there is no book on how to manage projects. I mean, I'm sure there actually are, but I never read one and it was mostly figuring stuff out on the fly.
The one thing I would recommend is every day looking to improve yourself and your craft. That's just reading a lot of books. I mean, I've got a short list of a dozen that I could rattle off, but it's more about being able to take a close look at yourself, examine what works and what doesn't, and how you can build upon that to become a better person and a better professional at the same time.
>> If you guys are interested in getting into animation, there's a book called the Animator's Survival Kit. I wouldn't be surprised if there's a copy in this library. That book is priceless. It's that and then Eric Goldberg, phenomenal animator, he has another animation book. Do you know what that one is called? I think it's called Animator's Tool Kit or something. But grab a book I mean, if all you have is a blank notebook, just start drawing in the corners of your notebook and start there. Work your way up to a 3D package like Maya or something. But the end of the day for animation, the principles function the same in both 2D and 3D. So just start, you know, that's the best thing you can do.
>> Okay. If we're moving off of software, I would say the things you need the things that are helpful as an animator are visualization skills. So I highly recommend reading classic literature and not having images in those books so that you can develop your own images in your head. So learning visualization, which is a whole other I could go on and on about what visualization is, but it's about being able to see the image in your mind or wherever it is, and being able to put that image down. So you're not searching for it. It actually exists somewhere there that you see it, and then you put it down afterward. Whether you do that with a drawing or a pose in Maya, it doesn't really matter.
The next thing is optimization visualization is real better. I recommend reading some, like, Treasure Island an unabridged, unedited version, and see the images that come to your head, and learn how to use that. The next thing would be analysis, which is you moving around and analyzing what's going on. Then the last thing I would say is observation, which is where you're looking at others.
There's a whole myriad of things I could go through, I'm just giving you three just to be concise.
>> I literally just spaced. There are books on project management: There's Waterfall, Kanban and Scrum, and Lean, which are the primary methodologies that we use. Those are technologies used in software and hardware development. None of them work out of the box perfectly on video games, but aspects come into play. Waterfall is an inescapable reality of video games. Then we use a lot of Agile and I prefer Scrum personally. There's a book by Jeff Sutherland on scrum, but that's a great place to start on that. I don't know why I forgot about that.
>> Do you want to talk about
>> I mean, no. There, I mean, no. I software is like super boring and like no. There's nothing exciting about the software I use. So, no. Yeah. I wish I could say it was, but that's the one boring part of my job is the software.
>> One thing I will touch upon briefly that was mentioned earlier, there's a lot of game engines out there that you can download for free. Is Epix engine free?
>> Unreal is free. I'd recommend Construct or Game Maker if you're just starting out.
>> Making of games say, rather than like say a course or skill or like art or animation or programming, there's tools out there that are free...tons of tutorials online, free tutorials, blogs. There's tons of information out there. Unfortunately, a lot of it is not very well constructed in terms of like getting from A to B. Like, you'll learn how to do a very specific thing in this very specific software, but there is, if you have a question, you type it into Google, there's probably an answer. Whether it's a good answer the first time or not, you'll have to find out on your own.
The information out there these days is incredible. There's a million ways to get started. It just comes down to however you feel comfortable approaching it, I guess.
>> Well, thank you all so much for joining us today. We really appreciate everything you've taught us. A round of applause for Insomniac Games.
And so please keep an eye out for the podcast. It will be on under our teen website. I will send you the link once it's up. Thank you all so much for joining us today.
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