What was your first job in the gaming industry?
I worked at Tripwire Interactive on Red Orchestra: Ostfront 41 - 45 as a prop modeler.
Did you find it difficult to get your first job given that you had no prior experience?
I had quite a hard time finding a job. There were no internships that I could find offered for video games, the college had no relationships with any game studios, and every place I applied to never even responded. It seemed all my friends were in the same situation. It was like this for over a year after I graduated; every studio seemed to only wanted people with experience.
Finally one of my friends found out a new studio was hiring a bunch of entry level people. This was Tripwire near Atlanta, Georgia. The guys that formed Tripwire won the Make Something Unreal contest and used the winning to start up their own studio. Being a new start up studio, I guess they could only afford people fresh out of college, which worked out for me just fine.
What sort of training or education did you complete in advance of applying for your first position?
Before getting into games, I took 2 years of Graphic Design and Web Development classes. I then worked for the State Government making websites and eventually some independent Web Development firms. While this was fun, I still wanted to get into games but very few colleges at the time actually had a major anywhere close to what would be considered a game degree.
I decided to go to the Art Institute of Pittsburgh for their Media Arts and Animation degree. It covered everything from traditional animation to 3d modeling for movies and games to compositing and film. It seemed like it covered all basics of the industrial arts with the ability to focus on a skill later on, which of course I focused on games. It was a hard program and very demanding, but I did manage to graduate at the top of my class with honors. So I had hoped that would have helped me in my search for a job.
After graduating, I decided to keep my skills fresh and up to date while looking for a job, so I started working on a mod for Command and Conquer Generals: Zero Hour. Working on this mod helped provide additional models for my portfolio. I brought on other friends and people trying to get a job in the games industry who were interested in working on something. Even after the team and I started getting game jobs, we decided to keep working on the mod in our spare time because we enjoyed it. Over 7 years after starting it, we finally finished the mod. In case anyone is interested in playing it: http://www.moddb.com/mods/vietnam-glory-obscured
What is your job today?
I'm currently a Senior World Artist at Carbine Studios working on Wildstar, an MMO. Previously I worked at Bioware Mythic on Warhammer Online, where I started out as prop modeler but found my way into World Art, which I found I enjoyed more than modeling. There is nothing like creating an entire world for players to run around in and explore.
For someone interested in starting a career making games today what is the main piece of advice you would offer them?
Colleges with game degrees have a lot more contacts and relationships with studios these days than they did 8-10 years ago. Take advantage of the resources and any internship programs they have available.
When assembling a portfolio, focus on showing one type of discipline. If you are wanting to do character modeling, your portfolio should show just characters. If you want to do concept art of landscapes, your portfolio should be full of concept art of landscapes; it needs to be clear what you want to do.