Industry Interview - Dave Fletcher: Sony Computer Entertainment ATG

Industry Interview - Dave Fletcher: Sony Computer Entertainment ATG

Industry Interview - Dave Fletcher: Sony Computer Entertainment ATG


In Brendan's never ending quest to help you uncover what the the judges are looking for in Constuct3D entries he caught up with Dave Fletcher from Sony Computer Entertainment's Advanced Technology Group. Dave is judging the Prop category in Construct3D.

Brendan: Props seem to be the least popular of modelling specialities, what words of wisdom do you have in defence of this neglected discipline. And how do you make awesome props like the ones you made in Killzone?

Dave: A large proportion of artists that we hire into junior roles start by producing props. The focused brief and fast iteration times of props allow new game artists to quickly learn new techniques and styles. They are the best way of proving your ability to follow guidelines, to adapt to different scenarios and that you can be trusted to tackle meatier and more technically risky parts of game development.  

Brendan: The industry is tough to break into. What advice would you give to students about getting into the industry (Sony)?

Dave:The quality of your work is vital. Produce a showreel or webpage showing many high quality assets and small set pieces (dioramas). Work in multiple styles and themes so that lead artists from varying projects can see how you might fit into working on their game. Do not include work that is of low quality hence produce many pieces and filter down. Apply to many studios and do not be disheartened by rejection. 

Teams only hire during certain phases of development and when budgets allow. You may have to reapply a year later when a new game is starting up. Do not be afraid to approach art directors via email even if they don't currently have adverts in magazines. You never know, they could be looking for new people and it only takes them ten seconds to follow a link, look at your webpage and decide if you're worth keeping in mind.


Brendan: Ok the question that needs to be asked and no doubt has been asked of you many times. What has been the biggest hightlight of your career?   

Dave: The travelling and visiting of all our studios. We have studios all around the world and I've visited all of them. Japan is incredible, so intense in their work practices. The Californian studios are amazing, so much great artwork and expertise. Then there are the smaller studios in far away places where everyone is so friendly and dedicated to making great games.  

Here's one story that stands out. Once when visiting Santa Monica Studio one of the artists I'd never met before said hello and introduced himself. He'd been at the same school as me in London but a few years behind me. Some of the first 3D computer generated images he'd seen had been produced by me and stuck to the classroom wall. He'd asked the teacher which university I'd gone to and gone there too. Ultimately he'd been hired to work on God of War and that's where I'd met him. It's nice to know little things can help bring a bit of inspiration to others too.  

Brendan: Do you have any tips for people pursuing a career as a technical artist?

Dave: Learn python. Try to have an A-Level, equivalent or higher qualification in maths. Be an artist by heart, never forget your creativity. Nurture it. You'll never be as technical as the game programmers but your artistic side will give you the edge. Be sociable and polite. You are the bridge between the (stereotyping here) temperamental artists and the reclusive programmers. Know how to work with both. Listen to problems. Be a tiny bit lazy. Always ask, how can I make this repetitive task easier. Learn. Technical artists are the people on the art team who understand how it all works behind the scenes and can step in and firefight when it stops working. Think. How can art problems be solved in new and better ways. Do you need an extra million polygons or is there a clever cheat that can be applied to the situation.


Brendan: Last question, as you are judging the Prop category of the Construct3D competition. Do you have any tips, suggestions and things you want/ don't want to see?

Dave: Every polygon and vertex should add something to your model. If it doesn't, you don't need it. Exaggerate everything. Straight edges are boring. Wonkify. Vertex budgets are guides not targets. There are no points for using every last vertex. Put detail where it's needed. Would a few extra verts make that curved edge a little more pleasant? More little items on your prop containing less detail will look better than fewer items with more detail. E.g. Adding half a dozen bolt heads made of just 6 polys each might help break up a flat surface. 

Let your textures tell a story. As you paint every scratch think how it got there and where on the model it would appear. Where does the rust and dirt collect? Do not create your specular maps as black and white conversions of your colour maps. Create them from the layers/masks in your colour map. Detail and texel consistency is key in both modelling and texturing. No one area of the prop should look higher resolution than any other area. Look at the real world like crazy. Try to understand exactly why things look like they do. Take photos of everything. Get really good reference. Concept your prop first. Show photos of objects that have inspired it. Problem solve and explore possibilities for the object in the concept artwork as it's quicker to do so there.

To find out how you can win a share in over $5,000 worth of prizes head to www.aie.edu.au/construct3D 

In case you missed it, Brendan also caught up with Chad Chatterton from Ubisoft Massive about what he wants to see in Environment entries.