Dev Jam – Art Team SpotlightJammatron
Hey there Robocrafters, it’s Hannah here! The whole team is hard at work implementing Tiers currently, so for this week’s Dev Jam we thought we’d do a spotlight on our Art Team. We’re currently made up of three artists: myself, Wu, and James.
Each of us sat down and wrote a little bit about what it’s like working at a small indie developer, our backgrounds, how we got into the industry, and why we do what we do. Lets begin with me first of all.
Hannah: Lead Artist
I’ve been at Freejam for over 2 and a half years now, and I literally get to do my dream job. I’ve always loved video games, they’ve been my biggest passion since I was a tiny child watching my Dad play Dungeon Keeper 2; so when I found out that making video games was actually a job that you can do, I pored over University courses to find the one that fit me best. After 3 years on a Game Art Design course, I started at Freejam, it was my first job in the Industry. I didn’t really know what to expect when I started here but it turns out I was pleasantly surprised; Freejam has a really nice vibe.
My specialisation is 3D Environment and Prop Art. The Lock-On Missile Launcher was the first piece of content I generated for Robocraft, and is still my favourite. The standard software I use is Maya for modelling, Photoshop for texturing, and Unity as our engine. However since we’re a small art team, I’ve also created large and small scale marketing assets, UI sprites, and also been involved in various design decisions.
As Lead Artist, I’m involved in all the artistic decisions made in the game as well as actually getting to do fun art (and the inevitable bug fixing that comes along with it). I’m also involved in planning meetings, reviewing my fellow artists’ work and co-coordinating with our Producers to figure out their schedules and workload. There really aren’t enough hours in the day…
Working in a small art team means you have to be a Jill of all trades; like me, you’ll likely be involved in all different art disciplines so it helps to have some understanding of each one, even if you have a speciality. One of the best pieces of advice I can give to an aspiring Artist, especially if you’re looking to work for a small scale indie, is nail your art fundamentals – composition, colour theory, anatomy, material definition, understanding of design principles, etc. They all transfer into every piece of work you do, whether that’s you generating a cool new weapon, putting together an environment, or designing a new UI screen. As an Artist, allow yourself to be inspired by your favourite games, movies, and other media! The artists who made them put in a huge amount of time and effort and also likely looked at reams and reams of real world reference to ground that cool thing they designed in reality; engine blocks, 1950’s bumper cars, the inside of a nuclear reactor, brutalist architecture, sports cars, natural rock formations, drones, etc. These are just a teeny tiny selection of things I’ve been inspired by while working at Freejam.
One of the best things about working on Robocraft is the creative freedom we’re given. We’re given a goal e.g. give the players better feedback during battle, and as artists we can set out to achieve that goal in any way we see fit. The recent Weapon Feedback update was a massive collaborative effort between the Art Team, the Coders we had assigned to support us, and Designers’ input. It was a really fun challenge, being able to sit down to play the game together and see what a difference our ideas made to the pace and feel of battling was really rewarding.
James: VFX Artist
I’ve been developing games since I was 9 years old when my dad taught me BASIC. I started designing and coding games in my spare time outside of school and eventually spent most of my lunchtimes developing games in the school IT rooms and doodling game designs on scraps of paper between classes.
I wanted to go into gameplay programming, so I applied to universities to do programming and got into a Computer Science course, where I learned how to code properly. Unfortunately, Computer Science wasn’t the kind of practical course I was looking for and I left after 2 years to work out what I wanted to do. Eventually I ended up deciding to go into cinema special effects, but after a year I remembered that my real love was games and I last-minute transferred directly into the second year of a Games Art course and learnt 3D art, shader programming, and modern graphics technology. I graduated in 2017 and later applied for a job at Freejam as a Visual Effects Artist.
While I’m primarily a VFX Artist, my background is in Technical Art, which involves programming material shaders, post-process and camera image effects, scripting, rigging character models and getting all the technical parts of a games art working, basically bridging the gap between art and code.
At FreeJam I’ve worked on many effects, but my favourite thing to work on was the Tech Point screen where I coded the materials and surface lighting, created the visual effects, and created the animation for the tech points.
Working in a small indie team is amazing because we have a tight-knit community of developers and this means everyone has to cover a wide skill set. It’s nice to have such a variety of challenges and no two days are ever the same. Keeping on top of many different art and code disciplines is important so that I can understand problems that come from both sides and communicate well between them.
Wu: UI Artist
At Freejam, I create new game UI for Robocraft including menus, buttons, and HUD. Recently I worked on the Weapon Feedback update and the upcoming Infinity update, which contains UI improvements for the entire game.
I have background knowledge in various area such as Architecture, 3D Art, Graphic Design, & VR. Previously, I worked as a Freelance Graphic Designer supporting independent businesses.
Working for a small indie developer is busy but nice. I enjoy collaborating with other artists and designers in the team to achieve a better user experience for players. It also allows me to explore freely and come up with ideas that will improve the visuals of Robocraft.
Robocraft has been out for 5 years and it’s still constantly evolving. Much of the existing UI might be accepted by current Robocraft players but I always have new ideas to improve the user’s experience, making it cleaner, clearer, and more enjoyable. I believe art in Robocraft should always remain progressive in order to attract new players and keep the community alive.
My main advice for working in the game industry is don’t restrict your art style because you are good at it. Be versatile and gain knowledge of different things. It helps a lot if you have knowledge of other art disciplines or even code/design; it will greatly improve the outcome of the collaboration with your colleagues.
Thanks for reading guys, we’ll keep you updated on what’s happening at Freejam!
Have fun <3