Sophie Knowles, 3D artist at Playdeo, talks about being a jack of all trades artist, her addiction to learning and a new-found love of game engines
What is your job role and how would you describe your typical day at work?
I’m a 3D generalist, which is somewhat of a jack of all trades artist. I do modelling, texturing, rigging and animation. So any day I could be doing any one of those things.
Currently at Playdeo I’m the only artist on the team, this gives me lots of space to be creative but also it’s a fair amount of responsibility. I’m quite good at getting on with self directed work but I make sure to get enough feedback from the rest of the team that I’m not running off in the wrong direction!
What qualifications and/or experience do you need to land this job?
I have a masters degree in animation which helped me to get the skills to do this job, but I don’t think that a university degree is completely necessary. When I graduated I really struggled to land a studio job, so I started taking short freelance gigs, which turned into long freelance gigs, until I got my first studio job last year. Every game required me to do something a little different, which is how I became a 3D generalist rather than something more specific. I also am addicted to learning new skills and software, I get a bit bored if I spend too much time doing any one thing.
I’ve always worked in small teams where I work directly with designers and programmers. It’s important to be able to well work with people who might not have as much of an understanding of art as I do. Working collaboratively with people from other disciplines is really rewarding.
If you were interviewing someone for your team, what would you look for?
I would be looking for someone who has a solid knowledge of the fundamentals of the 3D art pipeline. All generalists have things that they are better at, I’m probably better at animation than anything else, although what I enjoy doing the most is character modelling. The balance of skills needed will really depend on what the team needs for the game.
The key thing is having a good portfolio that demonstrates clearly all your skills. Still images are fine to show modelling and texturing work, a showreel is good for rigging and animation. You want a portfolio that is quality rather than quantity, if your showreel is only 30 seconds of really great animation then that’s fine, don’t pad it out for the sake of it being longer.
It’s not necessary but it helps to have some knowledge of the rest of the game-making process. At the start of my career I really avoided working in game engines at all, now I have the most fun inside the game making sure things look exactly how I want them.
What opportunities are there for career progression?
Generalists are most suited to small teams where everyone wears many hats, so you see generalists in indie development mostly. If you’re more interested in working for a large triple-A studio then it’s better to concentrate on a specific skill. There’s no traditional career progression (junior, lead etc) that I’ve seen for generalists, but don’t let that put you off! If you love doing a whole load of arty things and can’t think of one to stick to then being a generalist is a wonderful and very useful job.