Interested in Exploring a Career in Environmental Game Art? Raven Software’s Grace Magnant Is Your Guide
The junior environment artist has benefited from being both a mentor and a mentee, and here she shares some of the key lessons she’s learned along her career path
Junior Environment Artist Grace Magnant is a living example of how to “pay it forward.” While majoring in Game Art and Animation at Champlain College, Magnant was part of a mentorship program with members of the Raven Software design team. Shortly after graduation, she joined Raven full time and now – nearly two years later – she has been able to go back and mentor other up-and-coming game artists.
Magnant got her start on Call of Duty: Warzone – the “Caldera” map was her first project – and she continues to build the kind of worlds that inspired her when she first got into gaming and realized that creating breathtaking scenery could be a full-time career.
Ever the mentor, Magnant shares some tips for those looking to put their own stamp on the game industry…
If someone is interested in a career in gaming, the first thing they should do is…
Research what type of development you’d like to do specifically. Would you like to create worlds or characters? Explore art - would you like to focus on how a player moves through a space or how affective an item is? Explore design - would you like to program how the player interacts with a space? Explore engineering - would you like to help manage a group of people that have these skills to get the project moving in a positive pace? Explore production - once you have your path set, start small and learn the tools. You aren’t going to make the next blockbuster game on the first try, but the important part is to get experience and to try! Try seeking out a local “game jam”: an organized event where participants try to make a game from scratch, usually running from 24-72 hours. It’ll give you a chance to experience what it’s like collaborating on a team and using tools.
What is something you know now about the gaming industry that you wish you knew at the start?
Think about what type of game development you would like to get into and understand that specific industry. This doesn’t only apply to if you want to be a designer, engineer, producer, or artist. Consider team size and project scope. If you are looking to get into AAA where budgets are backed by big publishers and massive teams, make sure you focus on specializing. If you are looking to go towards indie it would be more useful being a jack-of-all-trades.
Each person’s path to game development is different. The industry is both large and small at the same time, and there are many ways for you to make your way into the industry. Take the opportunities that you can, once you have your foot in the door the industry will open up for you.
What skills do you think are essential for being a successful junior environment artist?
Team work and communication. Ask questions and look to your team to help you grow and be willing to answer questions when people come to you. In AAA settings, you need to be able to work well with the people around you. Understand that in a junior position, you won’t know every answer and that’s a part of the process! You must learn to walk before you can run.
Beyond that, I’d say that there are basic skills that every environment artist learns:
Reference – always have multiple references for what you are building.
Modularity – where can you save yourself time?
Storytelling – how can you make this environment feel lived in and believable?
Building efficiently – will your asset cause strain on the engine?
World and trim textures - bring more detail through your assets through materials.
Decals – adding further material touches that bring your scene to life.
What are some common misconceptions you find when talking to people about your job?
Often people like the idea of making videogames with the mindset that we are playing the game all day. They are disappointed when I describe that the game isn’t done when we start making it. We are building the game not playing games all day.
What are some sites or resources you use to stay abreast of developments in your craft?
I’d say find peers within the industry that are sharing new developments and new interests in the game development. When a new game releases, research their development and how they might have approached this process. (You can watch GDC talks on Youtube - look at breakdowns on Polycount and 80.lv) Get multiple sources! Find many ways to approach an issue if possible.
There are many places to look for resources. From online sites (such as mentioned above!) to willing industry professionals. Local or online classes can be really helpful to learn new tools (such as stg.cgmasteracademy.com).
Where might prospective candidates network with/meet people in your field within the games industry?
GDC is a good place to meet people and learn new things, and looking around for difference larger events to meet people in industry. If there are any portfolio reviews or industry professionals that are open to conversation online, reach out to them! Make sure they are open to that type of conversation by asking politely and respectfully, and being understanding if they don’t reply or have the time. Game Jams are a great place to connect with peers as well.
Explore the future of entertainment, see how your heroes game, and land inside tips on breaking into the industry. Brought to you by the Activision Blizzard team and community.
🎮 Interested in a career at Activision Blizzard? You can start right here.
🪖Keep the intel drops coming by checking out the official Call of Duty blog