First of all, I would like to say, that there is a large difference between researching a career, and experiencing it first hand. This alone makes a question like this nearly impossible. I know what I enjoy doing, but have had a very narrow experience and find it kind of difficult even articulating what I have enjoyed most, but in short, it has been making my games look pretty. Were I to make that my career path, the closest job that encompasses that in the gaming industry is as a Tech Artist.
so what does a tech artist do?
“Technical Artists help Artists and Designers get their content into the game with the least pain possible, and help Engineers and Artists communicate fluidly.
Technical Artists must know what a healthy art pipeline “looks like” and must help make sure that content creators have the tools & support necessary to do their jobs.” –Polycount wiki
A local Tech Artist would be Chris Webb, who is currently working as a Programmer at Defiant Development. I was reading through his twitter feed and found out about Godrays, which I thought were sun shafts because of the free unity camera effects asset package that includes them in it.
Tech Artists will normally work in a specific subset, which can vary widely through companies, the most common task being to write tools for the artists in that company. These will usually involve Rigging, Shaders and Visual Effects.
The two that I have been interested in recently were creating my own 3D trail renderer and a shader that mixed a toon shade effect with a crosshatch effect, to override the regular shadows in Unity.
Learning how to effectively program well-optimized shaders that can make objects look amazing would be very useful, especially if I can reduce the cost of them enough to be used on mobile platforms. This means learning how to move away from bodging together code, which I am awful for and focussing on planning and documentation. I could figure out great places to start by reading through blogs of other Tech Artists and even asking them or finding out about the things that interest them.
I could instead end up working for a smaller company, where the skills that are required in me are more general, like becoming a programmer for Halfbrick or Lightmare. Halfbrick tends to work on mobile and console games and have recently been creating them using Unity as their engine, which I have a bit of experience in already. Halfbrick offers internships for programmers, offering a friendly place to start, the people who built Halfbrick also studied at SAE. Lightmare has also been looking for interns lately, but I have heard that they can be a slightly less friendly environment.
Getting a job in a smaller studio like these would be a great place to find out what it is really like to work in the industry and help me to find my focus, which would help me decide where I would end up if I choose to work in the larger industry, or at least give me experience if I wanted to create my own studio or work in someone else’s start-up.
Without being known in the community, though, I would find it difficult to get a job in any of these places. I have recently joined a couple of meetup groups and facebook pages, specifically Game Development Brisbane and Brisbane Unity Developers. I also began following IGDA Brisbane and plan on attending these events (with my professional face on, of course) and do my best to keep active on twitter.