A year at Preloaded, training through Creative Skillset

By Jess Magnus, How we did it

Over the last year I have been interning at Preloaded as a Trainee 3D Artist. I joined the company on the 15th of September 2014 under the Trainee Finder Scheme, a system set up by Creative Skillset to encourage companies to employ recent graduates and train them up to prepare them for the games industry.

When I joined Preloaded, I felt like a fish out of water. Having never been in a full working studio environment there were many areas that were new to me, as well as with there being so many branches of work all happening at once, it all felt very hectic. There was lots to learn, and fast! Adjusting to the Studio’s flow and working order came quickly, having a great team that were able to adjust to a ‘newbie’ made the whole experience much easier. Things settled down and even though I still felt unsure of myself I started to pick up new skills quickly and began to feel more confident in my own abilities.

During the first few months I was integrated into various studio projects and my skills as a 3D artist were put to the test by the different requirements of each project. There were obvious areas that I had a limited knowledge of at that time, therefore the studio outlined a training program for me that would develop my existing skills and build new ones.

My training program covered a variety of areas, the main ones being:

  • Rigging in Maya: Which involved being taught the in-house Rigging tools
  • Animation: Both within Maya and Unity
  • Workflow: This ranged from project organisation, Unity workflow, project set up, and small things like exporting and saving work

The end goal of this training was to combine my developed skills into a final project. The idea for this project was based on concept art from the studio’s Lead Artist Chris Cox, which depicted a stylised interpretation of Little Red Riding Hood.

(Chris Cox, @paperCaves, www.papercaves.co.uk)

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Each new skill I learnt meant I was able to help with more projects in the studio as well as within my own work. Other aspects of training cropped up along the way and I ended up playing a large part in one of the Studio’s games TyrAnt. Myself and the team’s Technical Artist Jamie ended up working together to form a pipeline for asset creation. The new tool we created (explained in full in the TyrAnt Blog Post), played a significant role in the project’s progress, turning a relatively large task into a small one. It was great to feel that I had an influence on the studio’s working order and at this point I began to feel that I actually knew what I was doing.

The fantastic thing about working in the Preloaded studio is the variation within their games. No game has a similar style to another, they are unique in themselves and therefore each require a different approach when it comes to the art work. First and foremost this is the greatest lesson I have learnt here – adaptability. You need to adjust quickly and fully take on what is needed for a project and how best to achieve that style at speed. This has been the biggest adjustment for me, but it’s been a fantastic learning curve.

For example many of the Studio’s games involve the use of Vertex Colouring for the texturing of assets. I had rarely used this method before I came to Preloaded, therefore only had a small amount of knowledge on its use. Having been able to spend so much time working with the tools and style I now feel that this is one of my best skills. I love the style and the approach and I am drawn to use this style even now within my own work. Without the time at Preloaded I would never have been so exposed to such varying styles.

Over the last few weeks I have been combining all those different elements of my training and culminating them into the final project – putting to the test my expanded knowledge of Rigging and Animation, the general Unity workflow and working with the art style that I have picked up along the way. It felt like a daunting task to have so much control over a project, but it was fantastic to see the different skills of the last year combine into one fully fledged game.

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The project itself became Red Hood, a 3D 3rd Person open world game. I worked with the team’s Technical Artist to create a polished, high performance game for mobile. We drew on his knowledge of shaders and Image FX and my experience of 3D, rigging and animation to make a beautiful, efficient and structurally sound game. We wanted to test different forms of tech and visuals to achieve the best results. The game ended up consisting of optimised Mobile Bloom, Dynamic Shadows, and fog in a large open world environment, with my character and animations.

The project was an incredibly worthwhile experience. Being able to test out my own skills as well as that of the studio’s opened up a lot of ideas and avenues for the studio itself, and made me determined to continue my own learning. I found holes in my own knowledge and even some bugs within the studio’s own tools! I learnt a great deal during this time and I realised how much this last year has actually taught me. I have changed immensely from my first day, but its clear that there is still so much to learn. During my time at Preloaded I have always felt like a member of the team, never a trainee, and have really enjoyed working with everyone. There are different areas of my experience that have surprised me, such as how complicated agile workflow can actually be, but there are certainly moments that I will never forget.

It is crazy to think it has been a year already but its with great pleasure that I can say I am no longer a trainee! As of the 16th of Sept I am officially a Games Artist at Preloaded.

Jess is a Game Artist at Preloaded, her work consists primarily of 3D art. A lover all of things 3D she loves to adapt to new styles and techniques to create unique and detailed 3D worlds.

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