Thursday, March 29, 2012

GDC - Day 2

On the second day of spring break, GDC gave to me... A presentation on atmosphere. I went to the Bastion talk on games' usage of mood and experience. He provided us with a ton of references, both for movies and games alike, that had superb atmosphere. Through various images he screencaptured, he showed us the effectiveness of Bastion, Limbo, Canabalt, Dear Esther, Proteus, Thief ('98), Otogi, the Dark Crystal, and Casablanca. All great atmospheric considerations.

Afterwards, I hit up the career pavilion again and decided to try out the Microsoft booth. They had a university relations table that was different from other companies'. The HR person would look over our portfolio, ask us questions about ourselves and our interest in the company, and if they liked you enough, they would sign you up for a meeting with a Microsoft employee.

The person I spoke with asked specifically this: "Why are you interested in us?" I admit to responding slowly in deep thought, not out of ignorance, but from memory. My mind suddenly transported me to the early days of Halo, when my brother would host huge gaming parties with his friends in the basement. I always squeezed in and played when I could stay up that late. We had to hide the games before we could go to sleep, because our mother banned them from the house. She would throw them in the trash if she found them. 'Too violent! There's too much violence in those video games!' To be safe, we ended up - I'm pretty certain - with five copies of Halo in our basement, in case one was taken away. We also ended up with two XBoxes and an array of controllers. Good times.

At any rate, she signed me up for a meeting. While I waited for that time to roll around, I wandered over to the other side of the huge convention room, and found a racing simulator. One of those really fancy, awesome ones, with built-in bumps, acceleration sense, braking, turns, all that jazz. I was pretty good at it, after the first try of crashing my car. The second time, I kept going smooth and strong for a good while. When I had to leave, I aimed for a wall. Set the thing on fire! Pretty cool

Turns out, Microsoft had a racing game in their booth too. As I waited for the person I was supposed to meet, I played the game. It was simpler than the racing sim, but honestly more fun and a little easier to control. I didn't crash once. Aww yeah.

Eventually, the HR lady introduced me to Skip. He wasn't allowed to tell me much more about him than that, but he was a concept artist so I was crazy excited for him to see my work. We said hi, sat down, and I opened my portfolio. He started out by rotating a 15-minute hour glass and saying 'Okay. Tell me about you work. Go!"

like this, but without '' hovering over it

I went through each piece and described it in total detail. From my initial desire to the final product, and all the process in-between. I spoke about how I want to combine aesthetics and functionality. Rather than just throwing cool shit together in a mangled mess, I wanted to consciously consider the features of my design. For the spaceship, specifically, I had to consider where people go. Where do they eat, where do they sleep, where to they go to the bathroom and take showers? Where do they keep their food and belongings? Where can the emergency oxygen supply be so that it's protected but available throughout the ship? That sort of thing. 

With each word, he kept nodding and smiling. He'd often agree and further my definitions and ideas, and talk about how similar my process is to projects he's worked on. I also asked him about how to continue that first piece I spoke of in the previous GDC post. He gave his own advice, after a quick warning: anything he'd say would detract the piece from being my own. He was much more interested in seeing more of myself in this piece, not just what other people tell me to do. He said I was definitely on the right track, and should keep it up with full fervor.

Overall, he was very impressed. I'm so glad to have spoken with him. He gave me a great deal of motivation and positive feedback. The encouragement he provided will stay with me forever as I create my endeavors.

Afterwards, I decided to try the Kabam booth once more, seeing as their line was good and short. They had two people looking at portfolios. I spoke with one of the artists, and directly addressed the things that Skip told me to remember. Gradually, the art director (who had been looking through another person's portfolio) kept glancing over the shoulder of the artist talking with me. When her session was done, the art director wanted to look at my work as well. She was very nice - one of the first things she said is that she could tell what I was passionate about. Having seen so many student portfolios, she emphasized how apparent it is when an artist is just 'doing what they're given to do.' Seeing all my personal work really sparked interest the most. The Kabam ladies were awesome, and I'm so glad to have met them.

This post is already getting long, so I'll cut the rest of the night short. We went to the Ringling Alumni party in the International Hotel right by the convention center, then walked to the W again, where we randomly met three super cool guys from Naughty Dog. Total partiers, let me tell you. If any of you three happen to read this: keep calm and party on.

That just about summarizes this day. Day 3 coming up soon!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

GDC - Day 1

All right. Wednesday, the first day at the expo and career pavilion. We meandered around the expo to start with; we stopped by the Ringling booth, bothered the Wacom booth, and were halted by the Adult Swim Games booth. They had a Robot Unicorn Attack arcade machine!! We all played! They gave us T-shirts and bottle openers!!

Somehow, I lost the t-shirt a few days later. You have no idea how sad this made me.

Anyway. We explored the expo for a bit, looking for the career pavilion, but apparently this year it was being held in West hall. We were not aware of this.

But regardless. To the career pavilion we went! I visited the Funzio booth, the Riot booth, the Kabam booth, and Valve's mini booth. There wasn't anyone at Funzio who could look at my portfolio then - same for the Kabam booth - but Riot was AWESOME. I spoke with two character artists, both who were very informative and friendly. They loved my work (especially Odysseus! He was very popular) but of course they wanted to see more characters for Riot specifically. I told them about an idea I had for a character skin/revision of one of their existing Champions. They said they'd love to see that, too! I mentioned a Ringling alumnus who currently worked at Riot, and they recognized him. They took all three of my different business cards.

The Valve booth had a programmer there to look at our work initially, and put our names into their schedule for one-on-one 15 minute sessions. As I was waiting in line for that, I met a writer, and also spoke with two programmers in the waiting area, and a music/sound composer. All very cool! It's amazing how well we could all relate, even though our fields were vastly different. We all needed to make considerations about functionality and aesthetics, we all needed knowledge of the human psyche, and we all loved Skyrim. Boo-yah.

The actual Valve session went very well. The artist I talked with was extraordinarily knowledgeable about aesthetics and design. He especially loved that I could take something from concept all the way to a fully textured, rigged, and animated 3D model. Valve employees need to have a very wide range of skills, so this part of my portfolio intrigued him the most. He knew I was still a student - especially after he saw my badge (argh) - but said if I kept going, Valve may be a real possibility for me in the future. Going up against seasoned professionals is tough, though. I need to get experience under my belt first.

He gave me a good piece of advice. As I'm creating something, anything, I should show it to people before I get in too deep, and ask them "What do you see?" Their impression will let me know whether or not my ideas are communicating. I'll have to keep this in mind.

After lunch, I gave the Blizzard booth a visit upon noticing an opportunistically short line. Luckily enough, Ben Thompson was there doing portfolio reviews. He reviewed my portfolio last year - he'd be a great person to talk to and see if I made any progress. At first, he didn't recognize me... Not until I mentioned our very specific conversation over Wayne Barlowe's creature designs and alien concepts. Once I said that, he remembered me right away. He looked over my portfolio and told me he was much more impressed this year. He could tell that I was pursuing what I loved doing, not just what I was told to do, and said it showed in the quality and passion of the work itself. In particular, he liked the first image best - this guy:

I told him it was still a work in progress. In fact, I've been stuck on this image for over a year. He gave me a TON of great advice for this picture. He gave me the names of some illustrators I should look at,  gave me notes on composition, and told me how to play with the god-rays to make this piece shine. He drew on sticky notes and let me keep them.

To finish the day off, we went to the Awards Ceremony. It was hilarious and a lot of fun. I remember last year's being a bit more loose, but regardless, I'm so glad Portal 2 got the awards it did. I also wrote down all the indie games from the nominations that I wanted to play! So many.. @_@

We decided to get a fancy dinner from the Cheesecake Factory after that. I got extremely tired, unfortunately, especially after seeing the dauntingly huge size of the salad I ordered. Disgustingly large. The day ended on an exhausted note and I did not get much sleep.


Sunday, March 18, 2012

GDC - Night 0, Day 0

We arrived in San Francisco late [read: early], right after midnight on Tuesday morning. Our taxi to the hotel was more soothing than the entire plane trip. We stayed at the Galleria Park Hotel; I was honestly afraid it would be a shady, gross place for the price I paid (last year's hotel was... interesting). But surprisingly enough, it was absolutely delightful. And I'm not kidding!
(not my photo, but you get the gist)

We relaxed for most of the day aside from getting our badges. We got together with friend later that night and ate in California Pizza kitchen. For two or three hours, if I recall correctly. The waiter forgot to split the checks... That lasted quite a while.

Regardless! Afterwards I was talked into visiting the W, a club/bar/lounge, where I met awesome people. The place was packed! Everyone I spoke with had something intriguing to say. I wish it wasn't so loud in there so I could've heard them better... And not lost my voice :|

That was.. well, our first day there. But the next day is much more interesting. I promise!


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Update soon

I'll have an official feedback post from GDC here soon enough - all three days, plus a little on the side. Look out for it!

To summarize its entirety... Well, that may take a while, and I should be paying attention to my liberal arts class right now. Just know that it went ~swimmingly~!

To hold you over until then, here's a quick doodle of a gatorwolf.


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Hello to one and all but hopefully at least some,

Right now we are at GDC in San Francisco, ready for the fray ahead. Our first day consisted mostly of relaxation in preparations for today. We went to the W last night and spoke with a lot of amazing people already; I can tell this is going to be a great conference. If you're going, good luck and have fun!

For newcomers to this site, my portfolio is listed above in the tabs ^ and below, right here: