Thursday, 18 February 2010

Computer Games Designer

When I started this project I was narrow minded and just wanted to be a Computer Games Designer. I am now more open minded but would still be happy with this job role, so here are some of the qualities I have found about it:

Computer Games Designer:
Job Description:
• devise what a game consists of and how it plays
• define all the elements from the setting and story to characters
• works out how to make the best game possible within timescale and budget constraints
• communicate the vision for the game to the development team
• train game testers
• create Concept Document/Initial Design Treatment - sell idea to other team members
• work to create an initial prototype
• create a Full Game Design Document - describe intended playing experience

Skills Needed:
• thorough knowledge of the game's target audience and market
• deep understanding of hardware capabilties
• understanding of game play theory
• storytelling and narrative development skills
• portfolio of work showing written game design proposals or completed projects
• direct experience of another aspect of game development and a working knowledge of others
• ability to communicate vision
• ability to work as part of a team and independently
• ability to accept feedback from others
• imagination and creativity
• reasonable fluency in range of 2D and 3D animation packages (Maya)

Designers need basic programming and 3D design skills.

Computer Animators have the ability to progress from junior to senior and eventually director. New entrants work with experienced colleagues and a degree is necessary.

From my research at, I found that the average salary for women is £33,260 a year, however only 10 percent of the overall game workforce is female, with only 6.9 percent of that being in the development of titles. So 0.069% are women that actually make or animate the games. I could use this to my advantage if women developers are rare, as I am willing to stand up to my male colleagues and they could also emply me on equality grounds.

My list of companies is also fast being filled up by the Computer Games that I like. One of my favourite series of games is God Of War, created by Sony Computer Entertainment America.

Making Of: ( Iwant their jobs!!)

Internship Research

I have also been looking into different Internships available to me and experiences that people have had.

The following is about the EA Academy, found on

"Approaching Internships in the Game Industry
E.A. Academy
Where to Begin
An Ideal Internship
This past June I drove from Ohio to California, I had scored an internship with Electronic Arts. For three months, I worked on a new Playstation game, my first game development job. During the drive back, I had plenty of time to think over just how great my summer was. My childhood dream of entering the game industry had finally come true. It was confirmed; game programming is definitely my thing.
This is an article about internships in the game industry. It's for those of you who haven't had an internship yet and for those of you planning to hire interns.
First, I'll rattle on about the specifics of my summer, what was it like working at Electronic Arts and what the interns did. Then, for both prospective interns and companies I'll discuss Motivations, Where to Begin, Getting Hired, and outline an Ideal Internship.
E.A. Academy
The large Electronic Arts buildings in Redwood City really impressed my ex-girlfriend. I gave her a tour to show off the art on the walls, the video game machines, the nine foot tall Future Cop mech, the free espresso, the volleyball/tennis/basketball courts, the health center, and the sports bar. I then proceeded to drink on the job; it was the weekly T.G.I.F. party.
I worked, too. I programmed for Nascar Rumble, a game scheduled to be released this coming Spring. My code produces the graphics for some of the power-ups in the game. All it took was some creativity, programming, and comfort with 3D-vector math. OK, It wasn't really that easy. Although I enjoyed it, programming on a game is not the same as playing a game.
My first two weeks were spent programming an in game tool. During that time I had a crash course in the layout of the codebase for the game. Once I got approval to start working on the power up graphics, it took another two weeks until I had some initial prototype effects working. Throw in another month for the full development of my first 'real' effect, and the summer is already two-thirds over! The last month I spent cranking out another five effects.
Why did it take so long to be productive? It's called a learning curve; the beginning is difficult. I spent the majority of my time figuring out how to work in a strange codebase. There's no documentation, and good examples can be hard to come by (they are too specialized or optimized). But once I had working code that was familiar to me, I could modify it for many other uses.
I was not a lonely intern, however. There were 20 other interns working in art, programming, sound, and marketing positions. Other programmers worked on things like: developing a new display algorithm for a Playstation 2 game, animation control, special effects graphics, bug fixing, and tools. Artists produced textures and models to be used in games, as well as cleaned up and reformatted existing work.
We did more than just work, however. Once a week we gathered for lunch and a discussion about various positions in the entertainment industry. Speakers came to tell us about what it's like to be an artist, programmer, producer, marketer, and so on. We also had discussions with EA's COO John Ricotello, and the company's CEO, Larry Probst. We also held regular events such as game tournaments, baseball game outings, barbecues, and go-kart races.
At the end of our internship we reviewed our experience, were reviewed ourselves, and received some free games. The feedback from our managers was helpful; it let us know what we did well and what to improve. All the interns I heard from were pleased with the summer.
It isn't too difficult to understand why a student would like an internship. Most students take the summer off, and work of some sort is a good idea. The types of jobs one can get are slightly limited, however. There is only three months time before you know you will be leaving and you likely don't have much training. So, get a job at McDonalds, or at a restaurant bussing tables. Or, get an internship. There you get to sit at a desk, get paid more, and gain valuable experience.
Experience comes in a few flavors. First, you'll likely learn something useful about the type of work you're going to school for. Second, you'll be exposed to office life - the rituals, the restrictions, and the amount of time you do things other than 'work'. And third, you'll have work experience worth putting on a resume. If you decide to take a job in another city, you get bonus experience: that of living someplace new. And, as Reznor said, "There's nothing quite like the feel of something new."
But what of the other side, why should anyone hire an intern? Marc Wilhelm, art intern for Road Rash: Breakout, claims that "it lets companies recruit America's best and brightest and yank them right out of school before they get a taste for other companies." Which, in essence, is true. An internship is an excellent trial run for a potential future employee. During the internship the student can be assessed, trained, and motivated. By the end of the summer the company will feel familiar, and chances of return are high. As an employer this is an excellent way to attract fresh talent.
Students can get work done too, and they're cheap. Interns can work on real problems that might be mostly time consuming for fulltime employees. Although it may take the intern longer, it will still leave others to focus their time on harder and more critical issues."

I would ideally like to apply for the Framestore Intership over the summer

It is my ideal intersnhip as Framestore is a company I would love to work for, especially being located in London and being so well reknowned. My research on them is to follow.

Skillset Animator description

Animator - Computer Games
Animators in the games industry are responsible for the portrayal of movement and behaviour. Most often this is applied to give life to game characters and creatures, but sometimes animations are also applied to other elements such as objects, scenery, vegetation and environmental effects.
Specialist software packages are used to create the animations, which are used for both automated or ‘in game’ behaviours and predefined sequences or ‘cut scenes’.
Well animated characters bring a game to life – literally – giving players an increased sense of involvement and interaction. However, as with other game development disciplines, animators must portray movement and behaviour in an efficient and effective way which makes best use of the game engine’s technology, and maximises the opportunities for game play and interactivity.
Animators work for development studios, both publisher-owned and independent, and also for specialist outsourcing companies. Unlike other sectors, where work is often on a project-by-project basis, Animators in the games industry are usually permanently employed.
What is the job?
Game production is a collaborative process and Animators work as part of the art department team. Using the objects, models, and most importantly, characters created by 3D Artists, Animators define their movements and behaviours and apply them using the animation tools and techniques provided by the selected 3D animation software package.
Game animation can be a complex combination of many different types of movements, so the Animators must make extensive libraries of re-usable animations for each character.
They are also usually responsible for the technical processes of rigging and skinning of the characters, (which involves creating an underlying structure rather like the bones of a skeleton and attaching appropriate body parts to each bone).
This makes the animation process itself a lot more efficient.
Animation is painstaking work requiring patience and attention to detail. Animation for a game also requires working in a technically efficient manner, taking into account the constraints of the game engine.
For example, it is often necessary to restrict the number of key frames used or the number of characters that can appear on the screen at a time. Always keeping in mind how the animations and movements will appear when played within the context of the game, Animators must need to work closely with Programmers and Artists in order to create the best balance between smooth seamless movement and optimised performance on the target platform, keeping in mind how the animations will appear in the context of the game.
Typical career routes
Most Animators enter the industry having already achieved some proficiency in a computer animation package – either during a degree course or elsewhere. As well as this, a background in practical art is usually required, with life drawing skills considered particularly useful.
Some animators move into the game industry from other sectors such as film and television. However, it is important for such candidates to have a thorough grasp of the technical aspects of game animation, particularly the constraints associated with real-time rendering which game engines depend on.
Any animator considering a career in game production should understand the interactive nature of games and also have an overall grasp of all aspects of their discipline, including character modelling, rigging, skinning, kinematics, and basic cinematography.
They will also have to demonstrate proficiency in at least one animation package, such as 3D Studio Max, Character Studio or Maya.
Essential knowledge and skills
Animators must be able to work as part a team and also on their own initiative, taking responsibility for organising their work within the production schedule, managing files and meeting deadlines.
An understanding of the production process and the ability to communicate effectively with other disciplines is essential. Some knowledge of programming is desirable.
Game animation must be simple and expressive. The Animator should know how to reveal attitude, emotions and mood through a character’s movement and behaviour, creating memorable characters that will appeal to players.
Knowledge of the timing and appearance of human and animal movement and facial expressions is essential. The ability to lip sync is also important. Animation for games requires a combination of art, technical and organisational skills, including:
knowledge of traditional and computer 2D and 3D animation techniques;
creativity and imagination;
knowledge of full motion video (FMV);
spatial awareness and a feel for movement over time;
knowledge of constraints;
ability to work independently and as part of a team;
organisational skills and the ability to work to deadlines;
good communication and presentation skills;
knowledge of the requirements of the relevant Health and Safety legislation and procedures.
Training and qualifications
An animation-related degree is usually a prerequisite. This might be a general art course with a computer animation component, or a specialist animation course.
Animation degrees and courses are available at a wide range of institutions across the UK – it is important to check the content before embarking on what can be a lengthy period of training. An increasing number of institutions offer specialist computer animation training, eg the National Centre for Computer Animation in Bournemouth. Some courses also offer work experience placements.
Animators will be required to demonstrate their work through a portfolio and/or show reel. Reels should last about 2-3 minutes and detail the specific contribution the Animator made to the work. Recruiters look for a variety of genres and styles; walk and run cycles, as well as more fully developed sequences; and, perhaps most important, an ability to portray a character’s personality through movement and behaviour.

Online presence

I have been creating a presence online by producing Blogs for each of my projects at uni, as well as an overall one with my final portfolio pieces on there. Here are the links to my Blogs (especially those for my Industry Exercises and Digital Environments Projects)

This is my Portfolio page:

My youtube page:

My youtube page does have my first Showreel from the end of my first CVA year, this needs updating and I will do this at the end of this term as I feel confident about it and want to apply for work placements or apprenticeships over the summer. Showreels are very important as they will sell me to a potential employer before I even meet them.

Animator's Skills

What skills does an animator need?

After researching numerous websites and reading interviews, these are the skills that I believe are required in order to be a successful Animator:

• Be creative and artistic.
• Have good drawing skills in order to convey ideas.
• For 3D, IT skills are needed for Maya or other programs that are used. 2D animators also need to use computers to scan in their drawings.
• Pay attention to detail, especially if it is going to be blown up on the big screen.
• Be observant and understand how people move and express emotions.
• Have good communication and negotiation skills to express ideas and back them up.
• Be original and inventive.
• Have good organisational skills- must stick to timeframe given.
• Work well as part of a team and be able to take direction from senior animators, directors and clients.
• Be able to follow a brief yet also take initiative with it.
• Work well under pressure and keep to strict deadlines.
• Animators normally have a degree, and continue learning on the job with all the new software etc that comes out all the time.

My skills/strengths:
Continual improvement makes me more confident to create animations that will impress potential employers, especially with a T shape of skills such as modelling or special effects that I have been learning more of this term.

Is key to creating animations as many people create one scene from concept to life, for example this term we have been creating a Digital Environment as a team. Initally, we had some problems with ideas and a little disruption between the group due to this. However, when we settled on an idea we have become a strong unit and managed to achieve a successful result so far. Our tutor even commented that we were working well as a team and we have a consistent style throughout our work.

I have never missed a deadline until last Christmas, which was due to severe illness. I promptly finished my projects and handed them in the first day of this term. I will work consistently every day if necessary to meet a deadline. Although I do not always set myself a timeline online (which I should due), I always have goals of what I want to achieve in a day or on a weekly basis. Chaos near the end of a project is normal in a computer game or film development environment where deadlines are crucial for example to hit Christmas markets and could result in a fan backlash if it is late.

I am a huge computer game and animated film fan and read the websites and magazines regularly to gain an insight into the Industry, even regarding those that would not interest me on a personal level. I am very passionate about the subject matter, and for example have worked at both Gamestation and the Disney Store to learn even more about the end result of the Industry I long to work in.

Friday, 5 February 2010

The Mill

I have also set up a work placement at The Mill in London. I am very excited to be starting as a runner there and hope to make many new contacts for the future. The Mill is a wolrd reknowned company so I cannot wait to work for a large company. Chase was very small and had a few people working there on a needed basis, so I feel that The Mill will provide me with a completely different side of the industry,

From their website:

'The Mill has two Baselight data grading suites, two Spirit datacines to transfer film to data at standard and hi-definition; a CGI department with up to 20 workstations running a variety of software solutions and a large renderfarm with more than 140 licences; 14 Flame/Inferno visual effects suites running on SGI Onyx and Octane, each with their own Flint or Combustion support.
We also have two Smoke editing systems and a support room containing eight workstations running Photoshop, After Effects and Commotion. The Mill’s basement houses a large Machine Control Room with Digibeta, Beta SP, D1 and Hi-Def machines.'

'In 2007, industry magazine ‘Shots’ named The Mill 'the most-awarded VFX company in the world' and in March this year, The Mill was awarded the BTAA (British Television Advertising Awards) Fellowship award for 'outstanding contribution to the production of commercials'.The Mill has built relationships with the industry’s finest directors including Chris Cunningham, Frank Budgen, Fredrik Bond, Ringan Ledwidge and Michel Gondry. Data Grading suites have been installed in the London and NY offices bringing movie best practise to our clients and making The Mill the only facility ‘data’ grading for commercials.
The Mill remains at the forefront of creativity and technology and continues to push the boundaries of possibility within commercials production.'

Chase Imagination

One company I found whilst searching through the internet is Chase Imagination. The company provides different types of animation from 2D manga to 3D and After Effects. I went on a work placement there during December and really enjoyed my time there.

The photo above shows some of the clients that Chase have worked for, yet during my time there we were working on the new Wesley Snipes film called Gallowwalker. I was scanning in some of the drawings and also animated a water droplet.
I had not done 2D animation for a long time and really enjoyed doing so again. The experience has also made me think twice about the type of company I want to work for in the future as I had been thinking about games companies with quite a narrow mind. I am now open to working for film and using different methods rather than just Maya.
Chase Imagination demo reel:


Uncharted 2 is one of my favourite games of all time, I love the level of detail that went into the game and the variety of set pieces. The trailer shows the game to be just like a film, which is true of the game as it has an in depth storyline and uses slow motion and camera shots to highlight key moments. This sort of game is what I would love to achieve in my career, especially as I am a fan of third person action adventures.