Meet Bryan; if you’ve seen only a glimpse of the games we make at Norsfell, it’s pretty likely you’ve seen his work. Bryan is our 3D artist and the one responsible for turning sketches and concept designs into objects for our virtual worlds we can place the player in. In this post, he shares more about working with other artists, getting started in the games industry and his secrets to success.
Bryan’s initial academic interest in architecture led to his eventual decision to register in 3D Video Game Art at Haute École Albert Jacquard, only deciding to enroll two months before starting the program! He always liked playing video games, and was amazed to learn that specialized programs existed, not to mention the valuable classes and lessons that applied directly to game development. “School teaches you how to learn quickly and get the basics. Once you know these basics really well, your lifetime job is to learn and build on top of that.” Bryan says, “Be curious; it will lead you to new techniques and more knowledge.”
All that knowledge certainly helps when working on our team at Norsfell, as Bryan credits a fundamental understanding in game development as being an important part of teamwork in a game studio. For example, knowing basics in Unreal: “Even if it isn’t my domain, knowing a bit about how the development part works helps me give our devs better work,” he says, “It adds more fluidity to the game development and means that we can better talk about how the different elements will fit together.”
Another key part of working in an art department in a small studio like Norsfell is working with others on the same piece of the puzzle. “Communication is the number one thing,” Bryan advises, “I need to understand how they think, what they can do, what is possible, what is time consuming. And when people know you better, they know what you can do in return.” Frequent conversations are important when it comes to turning concept art into a 3D object, as information can be missing about angles, movement or the in-game purpose. Character modelling, for example, means that physics and motion must be accounted for as well. “Everything you do as a 3D artist will pass through a series of questions”, he explains, which is why clear and open communication with game designers is necessary for his role too. “Sometimes you don’t get a list of requirements, and then it’s important to ask questions to make sure it fits the game.”
Challenges in 3D art often take the form of such open-ended designs. As long as the mechanical and visual requirements are met, there is “lots of liberty as to what the concept feels and looks like, and where to add more detail. You can open your mind and really get creative, get specific.” Bryan explains that this is often the point in the game development process where game worlds and characters start to feel real: “What’s so enjoyable about it is being able to put story on something that doesn’t move or talk yet via the details. When you’re creating something in 3D, you’re the one giving it life.”
Bryan’s advice to those interested in pursuing 3D art and game development is pretty straightforward: “Everything is way easier if you have passion. All your school and training time, all thoses hours spent on learning and practicing new things won’t feel like labour, it will be fun to do.” He also recommends learning about games, even if you aren’t a big gamer yourself. “Knowing video games will help you understand art and do your work well. It’s important to know something about the basics of video games – the biggest titles in the last 10 years – without needing to play all of them.” Watching streamers and game clips can help an artist get a good sense of various ‘styles’ of video games, so that you can understand references to these classics.
What does he like best about Norsfell? The sense of community that comes with working closely together. “Everyone takes care of each other… you know the people beside you really well, and creating bonds helps the communication to open up a lot. We’re happy for each other to succeed.” While working at a small company is rewarding for the relationships it builds, it also means that individuals might take on a wide breadth of tasks and end up growing in new ways. “I have a lot to do as the only 3D artist, but it is very valuable because I am learning so many things so quickly,” he adds, “It’s a magical place to work.”
One of Bryan’s former teachers gave him a piece of advice that he’s never forgotten and uses in his work to this day. “Be lazy. It’s kind of silly and it took me some time to understand it, but it means that it’s good to take the time to think about what the shortest and easiest route to getting to your end goal is, without compromising the art.” He credits this problem-solving technique as being the best way to work independently and efficiently, especially when on a small team. “That’s the best thing you can do if you want to be a good 3D artist,” he smiles, “get good at being lazy.”