Hi! Welcome to our page about a meaningful and expressive artist exercise that you can use when applying for a job as a game artist.
We have created this artist exercise for our recruiting of talented team members. We have learned a lot in talking to a wide range of applicants and wanted to make the participation in our recruiting process a time worth for all involved. By working on the art exercise, we wanted you to benefit from the result despite the outcome regarding the hiring. You can even use the result from the exercise to apply for other positions.
The art exercise is based on 3 areas, covering design skills, abstraction of ideas and work styles and technological excellence. The exercise is structured in different levels of deliveries which allow experts and newcomers to answer the questions on different levels.
A comment on entry-level skills and your development during your career
This art exercise will cover a lot of topics which might be overwhelming. The completeness is intentional to give you an overview of what is there. It’s clear to all parties involved in recruiting that you don’t have experience in or time to work on all aspects of the points mentioned in this document. Over time in your career, you’ll be able to answer more of the topics with ease. That’s okay and we all understand. There are no traps in this guide, really ;). In a typical application, you answer a set of questions. You pick the questions you want to answer and also explain why you didn’t answer others in a transparent way. A good team will be happy to support you along the way to mastery. So to know in which parts you need training is very valuable.
Because we have been asked this in particular, here’s a quantitative guide on how many questions you could answer. Please keep in mind that it’s very individual how many topics you have covered in the past; and this is fine. Just explain your journey:
- Graduates from an art school: 3 – 5 questions answered
- Artists with 3 years experience: 5 – 10 questions answered
- Long-time professional: most questions answered
1. Design skills
Game artists get in touch with a wide range of styles and genres (2D, 3D, illustrative, indie, photorealism, etc.) and art topics (key visuals, characters, environment, UI, UX, trailers, packaging, etc.) and therefore it is sometimes unclear for which part you are applying for as a game artist. A team with which you potentially would work with, would be interested in all you have done, because it shows them who you are, what you are passionate about and where your journey goes. It’s also very interesting to see your development in all those fields from a few years back until recently. So make sure to include different development stages. Because that’s in the end who you are: you develop your skills continuously. Further, smaller game teams are also interested in a more versatile skillset than larger studios which might have an interest in only a few of your skills.
- Try to organize your existing portfolio and structure it with headings based on the art field (styles, genres, topics)
- Show your personal journey in each field, like how your early character design looked and how it does look today. This helps to understand how you iterate in the mid- and long-term.
- Make sure, your portfolio is accessible and attributed. Have a webpage or PDF from which fragments can be copy-pasted easily and which help to have a discussion in a remote setting (copy fragments of your portfolio to refer to in an email; have captions for each illustration to give context what it was used for, what the art briefing was and what time scope was given). Keep the PDF size low enough to have it working on an email client on a mobile phone (where your future team mates open your email potentially). To safe space and bytes, link to external documents from the portfolio document.
- Try to focus on your artwork, your content and have a sleek, discreet and functional format for your CV and portfolio design. Common fonts like Helvetica Neue work better than the latest exotic medieval art font.
A. As a hands-on exercise, design an elephant with 3 trunks, with an 80ties pattern pullover in a futuristic hut in Antananarivo. Use the tools of your choice and explain in 3 sentences what the viewer sees when looking at your artwork. It should be something you can achieve in 2 hours or even less.
B. Imagine, the aforementioned elephant is part of a character customization editor in a game. Create a human user interface (HUD) with buttons to change the pullover pattern and other parts of the character. HUDs normally include buttons, slideres, camera controls, dialog frame and similar elements. Make sure you explain why you have designed it the way you have: why are the buttons organized this way? How can the players save their choice? etc.
2. Abstraction of ideas and work styles
Besides your own creative creation, it’s hugely important that you can work with work that others have been done. Standing on the shoulders of giants is also true for game art. If you are proficient in recalling design references, and if you know exactly how to express art style concepts in a search term for a search engine, then you’re a master. Ways to showcase that you are capable of this include:
- Collaboration: Show us how you worked in teams:
- Do you know agile development approaches such as Kanban, Scrum and XP? How did you participate and what were your roles? Which tools did you use? How did you plan and estimate your work?
- Coaching, guidance and documentation: have you onboarded mates onto new topics? How did you transfer your knowledge? What tools did you use? Where and how did you archive the knowledge for easy retrieval? Wiki, Confluence, Google Docs, Vimeo and Youtube are commonly used platforms.
- How do you use Slack, Discord and similar tools to keep everyone in the team updated about your work? How do you catch up on what others do?
- Asset management: when working together, you often have to juggle a lot of different art assets and organize them in different stages from whiteboard sketches to final textures used in Unreal, Unity, Phaser, Godot or PlayCanvas. Outline how you used the following tools:
- Asset lists: in every stage you have a lot of different art assets (sketches, previews, design files, exported files). How do you keep track of them if there are more than a dozens? Spreadsheets such as Google Sheets and Perforce are great ways to deal with those. How did you use those tools? What’s your experience and what’s your judgement?
- How do you exchange them with your peers in the team? Subversion, Git, Mercurial, Unity Teams and Perforce are tools that teams use. How is your experience with them? Where do you see their strengths?
- Production pipelines:
- At the beginning of game creation, there’s exploration. Which methodologies have you used with your team mates to exchange ideas efficiently before even starting designing? Using Google Image search and compile mood-boards in Figma is a great way, for example. Do you know of other approaches?
- Towards the middle of game production, when a rich game world needs to be filled, production pipelines become important. Tools chains where tasks are semi-automated, are very valuable and keep the quality high. Have you worked with pipelines like render farms and build servers?
- How would you search for the following image? What are three search terms and queries you would use?
- Can you work with asset packs that you find on well-stocked content platforms such as Unity Asset Store and TurboSquid. Show how you have further developed an existing asset, including optimizations that might come in handy from a perspective of organisation of the file(s), the naming of objects, layers and textures and the sizes and poly counts.
C. As a hands-on exercise, outline a flow diagram of a process (with production phases, tools included, automation approaches, organizational requirements) suitable to produce 100 animations for 50 different characters in a timeframe X. Assume you’re a team of illustrators and animators of the size you feel appropriate for this task. Also assume a time window appropriate for the task. Based on your experience, just pick if the real-time in-game animations was for a 2D or 3D game and if it is for mobile or a PC game in HD.
D. You’re going to be an important, cooperative part of the team. It is why your ability to understand and support others is crucial. Please explain how you supported your team members individually in your last projects. This can include coaching, teaching, organizing brown-bag meetings, writing guides for workflows, etc.
3. Technological excellence
In game development, besides your creativity and talent in craftspersonship, you’re going to contribute your artwork with a team that transfers imaginative worlds into software. Therefore, the better you can show that you’re competent in using state of the art tools, the easier it is to work together. You don’t have to be a technical artist, but it helps to understand the context where your work will be embedded and what restrictions apply. Skills in this area include, but are not limited to:
- The obvious elements:
- You know how to use the Creative Suite, the de-facto standard in 2D design. As an extra, you’re proficient in open-source tools which are not always as easy to use, but more flexible in some regards. Those tools include GIMP and Inkscape.
- 3D is a broader fields where consolidation didn’t kick in yet. Important are Maya, Cinema4D and Blender. Additional tools include Modo, Z-Brush, 3ds Max.
- There are more tools for animations, trailer production, etc. including Mixamo, Premiere and AfterEffects.
- The less obvious:
- You are aware of automation: you have used “Actions” in Photoshop and are versed in naming layers and art boards properly for automated exports with “Generate Image Assets“. In Maya and Blender, scripting is precious.
- You precisely understand what pixel size, resolutions, a screen’s pixel density and DPIs are. They are not the same, but interconnected. You are going to have an easy time to understand why people use “@2x” in filenames. And your technical team mates will be feel addressed when working together on game assets.
- What is computational expensive in games? If you can answer this question with 5 factors and how to reduce the technical complexity of your artwork, then you’re a winner.
E. As a hands-on exercise, explain your thoughts on technology, if you would have to create the elephant from section 1 for a mobile game in a photorealistic way with realistic lighting.
We hope that providing this guide was helpful already to you, even if you are not applying at our game studio.
To further strengthen your portfolio, we encourage you to pick a few (or all, if you are already experienced) of the topics and questions above and update your portfolio accordingly. Also, you might want to complete some or all of the hands-on exercises A. – E.
In case, you’re curious in mixed-reality gaming and crafting the next generation of game experiences, we would be delighted if you drop a line. We can’t wait to discuss the questions outlined on this page.
Your team at Gbanga