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.