Focus on Thomas, a 1styear Game Art student who is doing a work placement at Ubisoft

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Thomas is a 1st-year Game Art student. He’s learning how to create video game graphics. And to get a taste of his future career, he’s also doing a work placement at Ubisoft.

ISART Blog: Hi, Thomas. To start with, what made you want to study Game Art?

I chose this course at ISART Digital because I wanted a career in video games, which are my main interest. I like games, I like drawing and this course seemed to me to be the best way to combine the two. The level of teaching is excellent and the atmosphere is every bit as good! I see the art and the graphics of video games as essential elements that the gameplay can draw on and above all, as a way to inspire emotions in the player.

The course consists of training us to work later as video game ‘graphic designers’. We also study environmental design, character design, but also the professions of UI (interface) artists, 3D modelers, concept artists and plenty of other subjects. Basically, everything relating to graphics in video games. Our classes thus include: perspective, anatomy, how to create different worlds (scenery, characters), 3D and the corresponding software programmes (Photoshop, Illustrator, Zbrush, Maya, Flash…) We also work on projects shared with the Game Design students and these allow us to start developing games and get some initial experience of our future jobs.

IB: Which games do you find awe-inspiring in terms of their graphics? Did they make you want to do this job?

There are lots of them… If I had to name a recent game, I would say: Journey, Far Cry 3, Rayman Origin and Uncharted 2 and 3, which are like a feast for the eyes. There are also some less technically impressive games which have a strong artistic feel such as Guild Wars 2, DarkSiders 2, World Of Warcraft, Hotline Miami, Limbo… And of course, the unbeatable Shenmue, Shadow of the Colossus, the Final Fantasy series, Okami, Jet Set Radio, l’Amerzone, Giant Citizen Kabuto… I’ll stop there, or I could go on forever!

As for whether they made me want to do this job, of course 🙂

IB: You are currently doing a work placement at Ubisoft. Is that one of the studios you dreamed of joining?

I’ve now been working at Ubisoft for a year. And I have to say, it’s still a pleasure to go there. I was quite intimidated at first. Doing a work placement in such an important company in this field at the age of 22 was quite awe-inspiring. But the day-to-day routine there is so pleasant and I’m learning so much that I soon started to enjoy myself!

I have always enjoyed Ubisoft’s games, ever since they started out with the PS1 and Rayman, obviously, then of course Prince of Persia, Rainbow Six, Splinter Cell, XIII, Beyond Good & Evil etc. It’s one of the biggest companies in this field, making really high quality games. These games are the ones I played as a child and the reason why I love video games. So yes, I dreamed of joining them 🙂

It’s a big company and everything was very well organized when I arrived. I got introduced to everyone, my work was explained to me, then I settled in at my desk which was ready and waiting for me. It’s a very dynamic company and the team I work with is made up of some interesting, competent and really cool people. I was made to feel part of the team and it’s always a pleasure to meet new people, talk things over with them, and, of course, work together.

IB: What is your job? And what are your responsibilities?

I’m in the Editorial department and I’m part of the online team which works for the Online Content Director. The Editorial is the means by which the management communicates their wishes to the production teams working on all Ubisoft projects. My job is to come up with ideas on how to improve the user interface for games which are already being produced. Alongside the Line Designers who work with me, we spot problems with the ergonomics, design and accessibility of each interface and we try to find solutions as a team, our goal being to improve the quality of the game as much as possible. Then I also make UI (user interface) proposals on Photoshop so we can put together an effective, well-argumented document. Once it’s been validated by the editorial team and the relevant Creative Director, we send it to the production teams.

IB: Which projects have you worked on / are you working on?

I have worked on Mighty Quest for Epic Loot, Shootmania Storm, Might & Magic Heroes Online and more recently, Might & Magic Duel of Champions. They are all free-to-play games, mostly in beta. Ubisoft really believes in this kind of experience and is investing in it more and more.

IB: Are your education and the experience you have gained in this company complementary?

Absolutely. My understanding of Photoshop is a real plus, as well as what I learned at school and also my own knowledge of video games. Since I’m in the Editorial team rather than in production, I have a global view of the company, the different jobs here, the different stages of production as well as the design of our games and all the issues relating to the systems and the structure they rely on. Being in the editorial team really allows me to get a high-level view of our projects. It’s a wonderful opportunity for me to start out in the video game industry and I’m lucky to be getting this experience and knowledge. Plus, the work I’m doing here is linked to game design, so I feel lucky I can also learn about that and build on what I already know. I think it’s important to understand others’ work so you can work with them. And knowing about many different aspects of a job is a real advantage.

IB: Is it hard to juggle with work and classes on alternate weeks?

Um… honestly, yes, but there’s no such word as can’t; you just have to hang in there. Our schedule is pretty tiring. Working while you are at school is tough, especially where homework is concerned. But with a little determination, some coffee and a good playlist, you can do it. The teachers are, I think, aware that it’s difficult and I’m sure they take this into account in the workload.

IB: What advice would you give students who want to study Game Art?

Well, if they want to work in this industry, if they’re looking for a good course in drawing and if they love video games, they’ve come to the right place! In terms of advice, I would say… ‘playing is the key’ but also ‘there’s nothing more serious than games’.

IB: What do you plan to do after you graduate?

If I have the time and the money, I’d like to go to an English-speaking country for a while so I can be fully qualified to work in the industry. And of course, I’d love to keep working for Ubisoft if I can. I have to say that I secretly dream of moving to Canada, working in video games then going to see an ice hockey match at night. Yeah, that would be nice….