Getting a job in the game industry.
 
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    Getting a job in the game industry.

    Hi there,

    I was asked to share my experiences in the game industry regarding the process of being accepted and what tips I could offer to enhance your chances of getting in.

    I urge people to read the rest of this topical forum to get feedback from other experienced artist who work(ed) in the industry. They might agree, disagree or simply add more comments. Regardless, you will get a fuller picture.

    My credentials are 7 years in the game industry at Turbine Entertainment Software, in Westwood, Massachusetts. Turbine is known for making the 3rd Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG) in the US: Asheron's Call. Turbine then made an expansion pack for AC called Dark Majesty, and later released Asheron's Call 2.

    I started at the bottom, did pretty much everything and ended up Lead Production Designer (aka Lead Concept Artist.)

    Understand, therefore, that my experience is mainly based on this company.

    Prior to going into details, you must understand a few thing about the game industry in general :

    a) It is not a particularly stable industry
    b) You will not become a millionaire
    c) It is a job: it can be fun, it can be frustrating
    d) You will not own the work you did

    (but there are exceptions, of course.)

    ad a) There are a lot of startups that don't survive, mostly due to finances. Even famous big names don't always make it. When I joined Turbine, it was a startup and we got lucky. We did go through hard times where it was less than certain that we would have a job the following month. It turned out ok, but it might as easily not. If you want stability, check the history of the company before joining. As usual, joining a startup is a risk. However, it is usually easier to join a startup than to join an already established company.

    ad b) If you are joining the game industry to become rich, forget about it. Most likely you will be an employee with a salary, maybe bonuses. Unless you create the next Doom, you won't end up with 7 Ferraris. Salaries can be competitive and you get benefits, etc...besides, you're getting paid to create art, how cool is that? If you join, join because you love what you are doing.

    ad c) Ultimately, it's a J.O.B. You will probably have a boss and will have to work with other people on the same project(s). Ultimately, the people who pay for the project will have the final say. You might not like their choices, but that's tough luck: they have the dough, you don't. You will have to do boring stuff but you will also be working on cool projects. You WILL work overtime, aka Crunch Mode. Those are notorious in this industry, especially before deadlines, and you will probably not be paid for it (you're on a salary, remember? but you might get free pizzas and stuff.) Crunch mode gets the adrenaline rushing, the blood pumping and you'll learn a plethora of new swear words you never guess existed.

    ad d) You might be proud of that new monster, but it ain't yours no more. It's company propriety. Be aware that other artists might take it, rework it, rebuild it or it might just be dismissed, even though you think it's the best thing ever and no one understands you. You MUST learn to share your work, receive and give constructive criticism. Normally, you can use the work you've done in your portfolio and to promote yourself, but that's usually about it.

    Lots of people want to work in the game industry and since there's a lot of choice but relatively few companies, HR concentrates on the best and the rest, well, gets trashed. So, to put all the chances on your side, you must STAND OUT.

    Web site and Portfolio:

    Nowadays, Portfolio and Website are intermingled.
    You will need a web site. It's stupid and simple, but some people don't have it. Most recruiters usually don't want to deal with physical portfolios nowadays, unless you get an interview. In the meantime, have something to show online. It must look professional, that is: no dead links and no useless obstructing gizmos that will make the viewer cringe.

    Only show your BEST work. ONLY! It's hard, I know, for you shall probably dismiss 90% of your stuff, but what is important above all is QUALITY, not quantity (I won't say that enough.) Show a few pieces, maybe 5-10 to begin with, but they must be the best you have to offer. The first impression will either keep them looking, or lose them.

    If you want, put the rest under another non-portfolio related link (such as sketches, or 'old stuff). However, be aware that this way, they will see the best, but also "lesser quality" work. It's fair to say that your site is as good as your "worst" piece.

    Make sure your contact information is easily accessible. If you need to click more than 2-3 times to get to your email or phone, then you might as well not put it on your site at all. People won't click forever to try to reach you.

    The 7 seconds rule:
    Studies show that online, people have patience for roughly 7 seconds (ain't that sad?). Basically, if they have to wait more than 7 seconds to get somewhere, they'd rather cancel. If your images are so big that they take 30 seconds to load, people won't look at them. Make them smaller. That's why I don't encourage Flash or funky code stuff, unless you know what you're doing: if people need to download something to view your site, well, they might, they might NOT. Additionally, If all that Flash stuff takes forever to get somewhere, they might not want to wait that long, and you'll lose the opportunity to show your stuff.

    Keep the navigation clear, keep the site clean, keep it simple. Simpler is often better.

    Animation Tape

    A 30 seconds reel of great stuff will get you noticed. 3 minutes of crappy bouncing balls will get your tape in either a dusty drawer, or the trash (truly). You have no idea how many of those crappy 3 mn tapes we've received, and we review them for 30 seconds. If it hasn't caught our eyes by then, NEXT!

    Reviewing tapes and resume is not particularly fun, nor is it something that happens daily. Often, we have so much work that we check them only on a need-to-hire basis. However, if you're the next Michaelangelo, we will probably contact you just to get you before the other guy does.

    The Don't

    - Never, EVER present work that is not yours. First of all, that's stealing and is immoral, but understand that the industry is small, people talk. If you get caught, you will be grilled and won't get a job in a reputable company ever. It's not worth it. I've seen it happen twice already: one was blacklisted, the other fired.

    Don't do something you might regret.

    Interview:

    Be on time!
    Show confidence, look at people in the eye when you talk. Don't interrupt (sad habit these days). Smile, show interest, be energetic even if you're dead tired from having flown 28 hours from Saskatchewanopinguinolis-in-Antartica. Don't be afraid to ask questions and answer them truthfully. Don't discuss salary right away (if anything, wait till they start talking about it). The day after the interview, send an Email thanking them for their time. Follow up if you don't hear from them after a few weeks (that's how I got my job: I followed up and showed more interest than others. They picked me outta the pack. My portfolio at the time? my sketchbook! Looks like persistence did it for me). But persistence is not harassment, be careful or you might get the opposite effect.

    What to show:
    In an interview, you can bring your physical folio and maybe bring more work, the doodles, the sketches, the ones that show thinking processes. Often, people want to see how you think, from start to finish. For instance, the development of a monster from the original concepts all the way to the final rendering. Ask them what they want you to bring, they might want to see specific stuff.

    Recruiters?

    They're free for you and cheap for them (well, not really cheap for them). The way it works is if the recruiters get you a job somewhere, the company who hired you will pay them a full month of salary or more. Their effectiveness is based on the market's demand and your portfolio. Remember that there are many other people who use them, so you might just be part of that big pile of resumes they have to go through.

    In Conclusion

    Often, companies will require artist to know-it-all. That is, you must show that you can sketch, draw, model, texture-map and animate and sing the Blues (coz you're gonna sing the Blues, I can guarantee that, if nothing else!). You need to show a broad range of skills and you will probably be assigned to the one you're the best at. At Turbine, for instance, you must pretty much know it all. They can ask you to doodle something, then model it, texture map it and even, given your skill, animate it. More often than not, though, the tasks are separated.

    Other companies might be interested in just one of your skills, say Modeling. It's always a good idea to show more than expected/required.

    Generally, as far as artists go, I've found that most companies are looking for 3D artists, that is people who can model, texture-map and/or animate. 2D-only artists, such as concept artists position are rarer, but not unheard of. However, you must be gooooood. Generally, now with this "everything must be 3D" phase the industry 's going through, 2D artists are really hired as 3D artists-who-can-draw-when-needed. There are exceptions, as always.

    Check the Employment section of this site, Gamasutra and other game-related sites for more info how who's hiring. Oh yeah, chances are you will have to relocate. Most game companies require work on site. Remember, for every chance of an interview, you'll get 10 rejections or more. Don't give up! keep working hard!

    Well, I think that's it. I hope I wasn't too patronizing, that was not the intent. I hope it helped some people.

    Good luck

    C.

    Cyril Van Der Haegen - www.tegehel.org
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  3. #2
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    Good solid help. Thanks a bundle

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    Employment Advice

    Tegehel,

    Wow. I seriously appretiate you taking the time and posting your knowledge and advice. Life is stressfull right before graduation..everything is up in the air and scoring a job or not seems so foggy at this point.

    I'm going to print out your post and share it with other students in my animation class. I know everyone would love to hear comments coming from someone with experience such as yourself.

    I think I have something to offer a company but time will tell I suppose. Turbine is on my list of companies I would like to work for...trying to narrow things down on the East coast if possible. I'm not trying to become rich...simply enjoy my job and continue to create for the rest of my life.

    Perhaps you will be looking at my reel or website(once it's up) in the future. And once again thankyou for posting =)

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    Those are some great pointers Tegehel. Hopefully they'll help me on my struggle.:chug:

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    Pretty straighfoward stuff.. but thanks for posting it.. it saves alot of typing for other people!


    Just to add.. If you don't have any experience and you are trying to break into the industry.. Try taking an internship non paid, or working on a Mod... those are your best 2 options.. If you show intensity, motivation, and drive on something you arent even being paid for.. they will see that.. they will see that hunger and want.. and they will want you... so put in the time...

    peace.

    -Deth Jester
    "Live each day like you will die tommorow, and dream like you will live forever..."
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    aah yes but

    Indeed Deth Jester, it is pretty straightforward stuff, except that not too many people are following it in my experience. Again, this experience is based on having seen oddles of resumes, tapes and portfolios regularly when I was working there. As a matter of fact, I will be so bold as to say that most people don't follow those basic rules, or perhaps it never occur to them to do so. I think it's a good reminder, but not a bible by any means.

    Another thing I could add is to use your connections: if you know someone who works in the game industry, a buddy for instance, contact them. They might help you too, or at least give you names of other people to contact.

    Go to E3 if you can (Electronic Entertainment Expo, in LA) .Spread your resume, show your folio. http://www.e3expo.com/

    Search for other game-related conventions and go. Talk to people, start a network.

    Deth Jester, your suggestions are very good indeed. Both Counterstrike and Day of Defeat (Mods for Half-life) creators ended up getting a job, or at least working directly with, the people at Valve software. And that's just to mention 2 mods of a particular kind, there are tons of others.

    Dedication and quality will get you somewhere, but be patient.

    One more thing: understand that devs (that's developers) are just people like you and me. They're not gods or to be feared. They started at the bottom, like everyone else. Therefore, you can expect cool dudes but also weird characters, like in real life. It all depends on how you connect.

    Update your online portfolio as often as you can. If someone checks it again, that person will hope or expect to see something new, and if anything, it will keep them coming to see what else will be there in the future.

    (more as the thoughts come)

    C.

    Cyril Van Der Haegen - www.tegehel.org
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  8. #7
    jaymz Guest
    Well said, Tegehel!!

    You've answered all the most commonly proposed questions by young artists interested in the gaming industry. I think your experience reflects what 95% of what other professionals have had to go through... Personally, I agree with just about 100% of what you've written...from salary to what is expected of you in the job.

    The next time I'm asked 'what do I need to do to get a job in the industry', I think I will just point them to your post.

    All the best,

    -James

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    Hey! If I get a praise from a concept artist at LucasArts, I must have written something right

    Thanks, James.

    How's LucasArts doing? Turbine finally announced Lord of the Rings Online and Dungeons and Dragons Online. I said that to prove a point : They will always release something cooler than you've been working on after you leave. It's sort of a standard thing.

    Grumble...but you know what? I don't care, because I got this:

    Getting a job in the game industry.

    GROOVY!

    C.

    Last edited by tegehel; June 17th, 2003 at 02:14 AM.
    Cyril Van Der Haegen - www.tegehel.org
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    Thanks tegehel. What would you say about going the freelance route? Is that harder to accomplish than getting a job in the industry?

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    that's a good question.

    Well, I am doing exactly that as we speak (going Freelance).

    Let me gather some thoughts about it and I'll post them here, or maybe, in a new thread. I am by no means the most experienced in Freelance at all, just a noob in fact, but you'll have the perspective of someone who's in the middle of trying to get there, literally.

    C.

    Cyril Van Der Haegen - www.tegehel.org
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    My experiences:

    I'm 20 year old and i work in a game industry (temporarily) as a concept artist only (but guess what... they want me to learn 3d modeling, texturing and animating as well )

    I started in a small amateur team, which was working on a mod project. That team was basically a group of friends, with a desire to make a game.

    I also posted a lot of pictures on different web forums and portals, with no specaial reason or expectations. Then one day, i got an e-mail from a company, which found me interesting for their needs. I didn't expect anything at all, but i reply them anyway (firstly, i thought it was an amateur team with great ambitious, but it showed up, that it was a professional company with some experiences and finished projects). I have lucky. Slovenia (country where i live) is a small place, where people don't give much about your talent, but mostly about your education... but that company needed someone badly at that particular time, so they concacted me (they found my art work through previously mentioned forums and portals). I also have to passed some tests (because i was just one of ten potential artists) and i made it. So, now i'm working as a concept artist on this project of them, and it's just like "tegehel" described it on top of this topic. Its' fun, it's a hard work with lots of overtime working and nonsleeping nights... but it's an unforgetable experience, which gives me knowlidge for next projects in my life.

    I will work for that company until October, when i'll go to Art College and get an education, which i'll need in my life. After that, i hope i'll get another chance to work in game industry.

    I hope that i didn't make 2 much mistakes and that all u people who may read that, understand what i meant to say

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    nicely said, yo

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    Hm, interesting. I have some experiences in game development too...

    Tegehel, good stuff. I agree, game industry is a production, mostly theres no place for solo players or individuals who wants to become well-known all over the world. Your work is not your work and final product is a result of a team work.

    Ninja_Assn, are you working in Arxel Tribe? As I know, thats the only Slovenian game development team (with collaboration of some smaller teams).

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    Lightbulb Post Mortem and Gamasutra

    Tilt! I just thought of this (boy am I slow or what?)

    In your local area, there might be a gathering of developers, or game companies that might be able to help you guys.

    For instance, in Boston, there's something called Post-Mortem and it's exactly what I said: a (bi-?)monthly gathering of devs from the companies in and near Boston.

    Their website's Boston Post Mortem

    They have a listing of all the companies around (might not be up to date) Companies in the area

    So, with this knowledge, you can easily go to those meetings (opened to the public in Boston) and/or contact some of them and ask for advice. At the Post Mortem meeting, it's after hours in a relaxed atmosphere in a bar, so it's all cool,

    :beer:

    and remember that they're people like you and me, so present yourself and start talking (yeah, easy to say, I know)

    :chug:

    I must underline that if you choose to contact the company itself, you should not PESTER them! there's a lot of work - I should say overwork, overtime, etc...so keep that in mind. I'm sure that when not rushing or crunching, they'd be happy to help you. They might not hire you but they might point out tips and tricks or give you a name, or crit your folio, who knows.

    Basically, the idea is that if you can find something similar in your area, it will help a lot. Even if it's just one company, they might be able to help. Just look for it.

    Additionally, y'all know Gamasutra.com , right? the middle part has Jobs and Resumes.

    C.

    Cyril Van Der Haegen - www.tegehel.org
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    books

    I can't endorse them I haven't read them, but fyi.

    C.

    ERNEST ADAM'S NEW BOOK: BREAK INTO THE GAME INDUSTRY: HOW TO GET A JOB MAKING VIDEO GAMES

    Author, game designer and producer Ernest Adams takes you inside the game industry, then delivers an action plan for you to break in - even without any game industry experience. Get great career advice and learn the different jobs that are available. Whether you're a curious gamer, a student, or a career changer seeking immediate help, this handy guide provides the information and insider advice you need to land a job in the game industry.

    ---

    GAME CODING COMPLETE BY MIKE MCSHAFFRY

    MMC Founder, Robin McShaffry, is very proud of her husband, Mike's latest accomplishment. Mike's new book, Game Coding Complete has just been released. With dozens of tips and code illustrations, plus extensive narration of critical non-code issues, Game Coding Complete is the guide to orchestrating bug-free, high-quality game code that passes the muster of leading publishers such as Electronic Arts and Microsoft. The book covers all critical facets of programming, working with teams, selecting the right game architecture, testing and debugging, scheduling, and more. The book includes hundreds of insider tricks and techniques used by programmers who learned their craft on cutting edge titles. Foreword by game industry icon Warren Spector.

    Cyril Van Der Haegen - www.tegehel.org
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    Unhappy the downside of the game industry

    Read this thread for the honest truth about the not-so-fun part of the industry.

    http://www.conceptart.org/forums/sho...0&pagenumber=1

    Cyril Van Der Haegen - www.tegehel.org
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    wow

    man you just taught me everything ill need to know for the next 10 years. I thank you.

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    RECRUITERS??

    can you recommend resources for finding a good recruiter?

    i have the art, the experience and the business saavy to get in, but getting in past the pile of portfolios and websites has proven to be tricky...

    any help would be most appreciated.

    thanks.

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    I just ran across this thread and had to reply. You guys have definitely outllined verbally, years of experience and telling what it is like to work in the video game biz. It is totally accurate. Im working for the largest game company in the world so I know. I also have the privelidge of working for film, tv, comics, 2d animation , as well as advertising illustration. Im saying that because the game industry is like no other (in a negative way) and DEPENDING on your personality, and what you want out of a "job", should you get into the game buisness. My main problem I run into, is the fact that the company owns all your work, they own any ideas you come up with on company time ( and sometimes OFF company time), and, owns the original art. I worked for myself for years and years doing freelance, and I know others like myself that have a hell of a time adjusting to the corporate lifestyle. You are limited to freelance work you can preform outside of work, which sucks, and lose money and exposure because of it. I know a lot of others like myself that feel the same way, and even left the gaming industry because of it. I have been approached by a number game companies that really liked my work AND that I wanted to contribute to, and couldn't because of the contract Im under. It's a NO WORKING FOR OTHER GAME COMPANIES AND IF YOU CONTINUE TO WORK HARD AND BUILD AN INDIVIDUAL NAME AND REPUTATION FOR YOURSELF OUTSIDE OF THE TEAM "ATMOSPHERE', THEN WE WILL NOT TRUST YOU. WE WILL NOT, AND CAN NOT UNDERSTAND WHY YOU CAN'T JUST BE A ROBOT AND DO YOUR SHIT WORK LIKE ALL THE REST, INSTEAD OF TRYING TO CONSTANTLY BETTER YOURSELF AND YOUR FAMILY. I have lost MAJOR freelancing opportunities as well as thousands of dollars because of the professional limitations of the gaming industry. Im saying all of this to give you another view from the inside. Its not as rosy as it appears on the outside. Just keep that in mind if you are currently a freelancer, or like to call your own shots. You won't, and you can't once you sign on the dotted line. In general there are a few odd benefits like insurance, and "some" bonuses, but they generally aren't worth the headache. Especially if you are an established artist. Stay that way. dont let others in the gaming industry tell you, you will get rich. Chances are you won't, and you will give up your individuality trying. In games you will become a number, and you will become a robot. Don't get me wrong, I like games, and I like the company Im with, and I like "most" of my coworkers. In my companies favor I have to add that Ive also gotten some nice bonuses, but some really shitty ones too. I have to admit a bonus is a bonus any way you look at it, but as a salaried employee we count on the as part of our yearly earnings and the inconsitencies are crap. Its just that after having compared the video game industry to all the others Ive worked in over the years, it doesn't come close. Do yourself a favor before getting into this industry, do your research before jumping in the pool and dont sell your soul away before you read the fine print. There are definitely finer opportunities out there, AND ones with less headaches. That is of course, unless you like big brother watching you.

    Last edited by atlsouthpaw; September 17th, 2003 at 06:50 PM.
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    hm, just HOW does being a freelance artist work? how does someone become one? what does it involve doing?

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    Lightbulb Game Recruiters

    svahaa: Google it. Do a websearch for "game recruiter", and you'll get plenty of links, such as, for instance, www.gamerecruiter.com (heh well, it had to exist, right?), but there are plenty of others. Also, I'm sure you can get help at gamasutra.com somewhere. I mean, game recruiting is an industry. Since it is a billion dollar industry, recruiting for them is worth something. So, recruiters will advertise: you just need to do your part and do some research, but if you just Google it, you'll get a nice start.

    Another thing about the recruiters: Remember that it's a job. They get paid if they can place you somewhere. Think about that with all the ramifications that it implies.

    What do I mean? I mean that depending on the "morality" of the recruiter, they might (a) either spend time with you, do some good research and make sure you end up at a place that will work well for you, or (b) they won't care and will try to place you somewhere as quickly as possible to make quick buckos. The more they place people, the more money they make, so obviously, there's that factor too.

    ad (a): more time with you means less time with others, means less money for them. But reputation and client's happiness means you might come back and/or refer them.

    ad (b): time is money, people are exchange commodities (aside from soylent green I mean). The more placements, the more money they make.

    Remember, they are humans. Meaning that some do care, some don't. They're doing a ?...right, a job. Now, I had some great experiences with some really nice people, so I am not saying that they're crooks or anything, I'm saying that you should ALSO do your own research. They will usually propose a few options, and it's up to you to check them out before accepting anything, interviews or other. I.e.: is it a startup, do they have a budget, are they famous, have they any prior experience, does John Romero work there, etc...

    Again, you don't pay the recruiters, they get paid when they place you in a company. They usually get a month or more of what you'd get as a monthly salary, or something like that.

    I have noticed that some will "abandon" you if you don't show enough interest after a while. I mean, if nothing they present interests you and you don't show some feedback, they'll drop you and go to the next in line. It's normal, in my opinion since, again, it's a job and they need to make some revenues for themselves, so they can't "waste" time too long. However, some of them will continue to contact you regularly to see how things go (which is nice), but also, I suspect, to make sure they don't lose you as a potential client. So, as you see, there's both side of the coin.

    Recruiters will help, but they can only help so much. YOU have to be able to sell yourself with a neat portfolio. If your portfolio's weak, they might advise you in this issue, but YOU are the only one who can sell your skills to the company. Recruiters are just the middle wo/man (with all the connections).

    They are useful, in my experience.

    I also heard this: Some companies will only hire through game recruiters, however, some companies will "automatically" dismiss portfolio that come from certain recruiters. Now, this is a rumor I heard and I don't have proofs, so please take it with a grain of salt the size of Andre the Giant (may he R.I.P.). I assume it is because they kept sending stuff that wasn't working with the style of the house, or something similar. It probably wasn't (too) political...well...I just assume.

    Ok, well, can't thing of anything else right now, but Use them if you can, it's help, and for you, it's free.

    C.

    PS: Curious to know if anyone had BAD experience with recruiters. Feel free to post.

    Cyril Van Der Haegen - www.tegehel.org
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    atlsouthpaw is right. It is his/her own experience, of course, but s/he's been there, obviously.

    My take is slightly different: Try it to see if you like it or not. It's fun when you're young, don't need sleep and can drink gallons of Mountain Dew. For the older ones (like myself), it become less and less fun over time, and more and more of a (thankless) job. That is also why I became a freelance...one reason, anyway.

    But, if your call is gaming, I say go for it. Just remember what you read here. I think it can be a very good experience. Can be.

    Caveat Emptor,

    C.

    Cyril Van Der Haegen - www.tegehel.org
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    Tehehel makes some valid points that are right on target. I guess I sound jaded and I probably am, but these are the experiences I have had. Not all of them good, not all of them bad. I really like my work and the company is really good to me. To clarify, I am 34/m. I have been in the art biz a long time, and agree that it is definitely for a younger workforce. Longevity is generally short in the video game biz 1, because people get burnt out from the crazy hours and crunches and constantly having to give up time with their family and wife (or husband as the case may be) to be at the office. I know a lot of people who are having relationship problems because of this industry. 2, the older more veteran/experienced artists get tired of being told what to do by early 20 something's fresh and green out of school that lack the experience IN THE TRENCHES, that the veterans have. Alas, it doesn't seem ot matter. 3 The game industry is VERY incestuous. Usually the open jobs are given to friends of friends or in a lot of cases direct family. Talent is importaint, but knowing the right people is generally the way new hires are chosen. People who are interested in this industry should keep that very importaint fact in mind and use it. If you can overcome these obstacles, or they dont play a part in your life then games would be perfect for you. Tegehel said it best - Try it to see if you like it or not. It's fun when you're young, don't need sleep and can drink gallons of Mountain Dew.

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    jobs

    http://www.gignews.com/
    http://www.gignews.com/jobs/

    http://www.gamasutra.com/
    http://www.gamasutra.com/php-bin/jobs_display.php3

    (forgot to post those in some message above)

    There are many more sites, but that's a start to show you that there always are openings somewhere, if you're willing to move.

    C.

    Cyril Van Der Haegen - www.tegehel.org
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    ...tegehel, thank you for posting this. Much appreciated, sound advice....

    Mollyx

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    atsouthpaw is *partially* right.

    Having worked for large game companies it's true that they own your soul, but even some big companies will allow you to freelance as long as it doesn't violate a non-compete.

    For example Disney interactive was very cool (on e of the VERY few ways they were cool, but that's neither here nor there) About letting us freelance. Will Rosas (now art director at Pandemic did illos for the NY Times, Thom Ang (now Art Director at EA) did all of the 'pack in' painted cards that came in the X-Files boxed VHS sets, and Brian Horton (now an Art Director at the Collective) did comic books on the side (and still does in his current position.

    I've been in the games industry for 9 years and I would never work anywhere that did not allow me to do freelance illustration, comics, videos/film, etc. The company that I'm at now as the AD for the whole company, I allow all of my artists to do freelance as LONG as it is NOT games-related, and as long as it does not have any impact on the work I am paying them for. One of our artists is finishing the second issue of his comic, I'm in the midst of a graphic novel project... it keeps you creative, to my thinking.

    There are more than a few companies out there that will accomodate you in that, but if you are desperate to get into the industry, I wouldn't make it a sticking point in your first job.

    Most of the other advice was pretty spot on. Once you come to grips that this is not fine art, it's commerce, it becomes much easier to keep your sanity. If you are thinking every piece you create is an 'expression of your soul' and must not be altered in any way and MUST be used and not discarded... well, you'll be insane within 6 months.

    Having work in film, comics, print, the music biz and rock videos I'll say this is the place where I want to be. i don't see ever NOT being in games. I love the pace (insane as it is sometimes) I love the collaborative energy, and i love the fact that technology is ALWAYS changing so I can't get set in my ways and I'm always challenged.

    Not easy and it IS work, but damn, there are much much much worse ways to pay your bills.

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    tegehel i would like to say thank you very much for this information. You mentioned the post mortem website and i have been looking through it, but i am curious to know who is allowed to attend there meetings. i ask this b/c i am a student in the boston area, and i would really enjoy going to a couple of these if at all possible.

    -Jesse

    "it isn't about how you draw, but how you feel about what you're drawing..."

    Portfolio - Blog

    Current Activities: [Sketchbook]

    Currently Playing: [Skyrim]

    Currently Reading: [WWZ]
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    Excellent thread

    Great thread folks,

    On the subject of freelancing heres my thoughts but first some background info.

    I've freelanced for 4 years then I was employed for 8 years and now I'm freelancing again.

    The way I freelance is through contacts, trade journals and calling people who have done productions that I like and have seen on the market.

    It's actually quite easy, the hard part for me is my temper when stupid clients dont pay their bills.

    You hear of something that needs to be done through a friend. Like "did you hear the Peter Jacksson is going to do King Kong!" Your thinking wow! Cooool! So you look up Jacksson's production company on the net, find the job email address, build an awesome online portfolio and send them a message. Even more impressive is actually sending them a real, kickass portfolio.

    But all this sounds just like finding a regular job you say?

    Well see, it is. But here's the trick.

    They dont pay you a salary, you send them an invoice and you pay yourself your own salary. And you can buy cool stuff and travel and work your own hours, and you are your own boss.

    The difference for me is that when I'm employed I actually sit and draw 90% of the time and sit in meetings 10% of the time.

    When I'm freelancing I'm looking for new assignments and clients, negoiate rates and contracts and sit in meetings 50% of the time and actually sit and draw 50% but that's getting better and better over the years. I am also 34/m by the way.

    If anyone needs more detailed info plz drop a line here and I continue rating.

    :-)
    Leo

    Portfolio at www.fabpics.com/leo

    www.fabpics.com

    "To achive the impossible you have to attempt the absurd."
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    Freelancing

    Here's a more detailed account of freelancing as an artist.

    The basic evalutaion steps for me to start freelancing were:
    The market
    Supply and demand (lots of people being fired now)
    My contacts and experience from the business
    What do I want?
    Societies rules of business

    First of all I had a low period for 6 months, mostly working on my portfolio and looking for a job, but nobody was hiring and everybody was asking if I freelanced. My answer was no.

    Then the unemployment agency here in Sweden offered me a six month grant to start my own company and start freelancing.

    Based on those to facts seriously considered starting to freelance again (considering my previous experience of 4 years as a freelancer).

    My next step was to apply for the grant and at the same time apply for all trhe permits at the local goverment office. You need certain permits so you can pay in your own employment, pension and sales tax.

    Once all those permits were applied for it would take another 6 weeks until all the paper work was filed and done.

    If you are starting a completely new company you must all register the name and perhaps register the site.

    My next step was to find some nice studio space, set up the client contact list (who do I want to work with?) and start calling around for an interview.

    The next step is to do all the interviews. I like to book as many interviews as I can during 1 week. For me that was about 3-4 interviews a day for 5 days.

    Then you wait by the phone.

    Get a mobile phone, a PO Box adress and a web browser based email service (I use namesecure.com)

    Once all the tax permits arrive I went to the bank and opened a business account and got a mastercard coupled to the account. (not credit card!!! you dont want credit, If you dont have the money then dont spend the money on credit. take irt from me, I learnt the hard way. Play it safe with the money).

    Then the phone started ringing from possible clients that I had been to interviews with.

    Most of the time it's the producer who calls. They ask if you have the time to do an assigment and I always say yes even if I dont have the time. I make the time working like hell around the clock because I know there will be dry spells when I'm going to need that money just to eat.

    Anyway based on what they need (how many drawings, what style, when do they need it) I give them my rates. Usually the longer the assignment (the more work I get) the cheaper the rate, short jobs are expencive, especially commercials (I do alot of commercial storyboards). But I never charge less than 5000 USD per month. I they dont have the budget for it then I decline the assignment.

    Once the estimate is settled and signed by the client I meet with the director. This holds true for commercials, featuress and computer games. In computer games I meet with the creative director.

    Usually the director has seen my portfolio at the interview or they have seen my online portfolio (www.fabpics.com/leo) so they know that my style suits their production. On very big jobs,6 months or more, I someetimes do style tests to get the job and to compete with my competitors.

    Once the money, the deadline and the details of the production are clear I get busy.

    I'm also very picky about the terms of payment. When do they pay? What copyrights are involved?

    Usually when the jobs done you send them an invoice on the agreed upon sum from the estimate you gave the producer and they have 20 days to pay you.

    Sometimes clients dont pay in time and you have to send them reminders and so on, but usually everybody plays nice.

    A word on "spec" work (speculation work). This means that there is no money or very little money to pay for your services. I don't do these type of jobs because I have no way to check up on the development of the production. The terms of spec is that if they make money you are to be paided your full fee. That has never ever happened. IT*S BS. dont do it. You are just ruining your own market by dumping your rates and the next time that same client calls and you use your regular rates they get pissed because its much more expensive than last time. They dont understand that you did them a favour last time by agreeing on doing spec.

    Once you have made some money and bought some nicee copic pens to the studio it's time to do the bookkeeping. I do the accounting about twice a month and I employ an accountant to help me with all the fine details like tax declaration forms and so on.

    The absolutely last thing you want in this life is tax debts that haunt you. So pay your taxes like a good citizen.

    There you have it. Doesn't have much to do with drawing or being creative.
    But the beneefits are large. You are your boss, have your own studio, you caan buy lots of cool stuff and travel on various productions and everything is tax deductable.
    You xcan buy all the copic pens and super sculpty in the world and have the fattest mac. Just as long as you pull in that cash.

    I didn't have an investment in the begining. Just a pencil and paper, a swell portfolio and then I got a few storyboards on a few commercials and a couple of features and away I went! :-)

    Questions? Ask away!

    Cheers,
    Leo

    www.fabpics.com

    "To achive the impossible you have to attempt the absurd."
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    rantz: I stand corrected

    Molly: thanks

    J.Mac: Everyone can go. Just find out where it's going to be and go, and start talking to people, you'll get a lot of info. Sometimes, it can be a little intimidating, but don't worry: remember, they're all regular people, and they all were newbies once

    Leopoldo: thanks for posting that info. It's great to read from another Freelance. I will post my own experience too, but I'm too new in the business right now to say anything worthy, methink.

    Last edited by tegehel; December 3rd, 2003 at 04:17 PM.
    Cyril Van Der Haegen - www.tegehel.org
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