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LGCF: Crytek Digs Inside the ‘Artist’ Title

LGCF: Crytek Digs Inside the ‘Artist’ Title

October 3, 2006 | By Jill Duffy

“If you want to work in this industry and you want to work on really cool projects, you have to work like crazy,” says Michael Khaimzon of game artists working on next-generation titles.

Khaimzon, who works at Crytek, is art director for Crysis and Far Cry. In a question/answer format, he spoke about issues that affect game artists in a lecture at the Game Career Fair, taking place at Café Royal in central London as part of London Games Week. The Career Fair comprises a job fair and a series of talks from game industry professionals on getting into the industry, including Khaimzon’s talk titled, “Becoming an Artist.”

Khaimzon names “concept art” as the number one thing all game artists should know when applying for a job as well as while working in it.

“If you’re working for money, if this is your goal, you’re working in the wrong industry. There is no better feeling as an artist than going to E3 and having everyone see your art work and think it’s very good. That is something money can’t buy,” he says. “If you do want money [as a game artist], the best job is as a concept artist.”

When asked how far a career-oriented concept artist might go, Khaimzon alluded to management positions: “It depends how much you want to work and how much you want to help other people work.”

He showed some photographs of a jungle vegetation in Tahiti to illustrate what kind of research an artist working on a graphically rich title like Far Cry might do. One attendee asked about the models that might result from these photograph references: Should job candidates show many models or only two or three very polished models to demonstrate their skills?

Khaimzon says he prefers to finished, polished models because it allows the hiring company to see the full extent of the candidate’s potential, being open-minded and being able to work without boundaries.

Khaimzon started as graphic designer in advertising, which he says might not seem like a good background for game development, “but it teaches you how to think and figure out what works together. It’s something you can apply to game development,” he says. Through a good amount of luck, he was hired by Crytek more than five years ago, and was able to develop the game-specific skills there.

“It’s not about how well you can move polygons,” he says of an artist’s skills and speed of output. “In our team, we don’t have a strict pipeline. We allow every artist to be what he wants to be,” allowing for choice among texturing, model-building, environment creation, and so on.

As for warnings about the industry, Khaimzon half-jokingly cautions, “Never work on a project where you have to work on aliens.” He also mentions that although his studio uses 3DS Max, two artists at Crytek work on Softimage, and he’s not really sure how they’re able to still work successfully across two major programs.

“[Going through] the creative process is one of the most painful things that can happen to you in the industry. If concept artists or 3D artists come up with ideas and other don’t like them, they then have to come up with ways to change it”; artists who are asked to participate in the creative process are also being asked to devise creative solutions to the criticisms they face. What’s difficult is trying to figure out what the designers and leads want, to see their vision too, rather than just one’s own creative vision. “To me, the most important thing is the result,” says Khaimzon.

Modesty, he says, is one of the most important assets a game artist can have. “It’s important that you don’t talk all the time about how good you are. Just work.”

His other words of wisdom for future game artists? “Number one: study how to draw.” He includes in this recommendation sketching, concept art, anatomy, and graphic design.

The London Career Fair continues through Wednesday. Visit the official website for more information on the job fair and lectures.

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