Friday, 24 May 2013

End of Year 2 Review

It feels like it was yesterday I was writing my end of year 1 blog. God, these 2 years have gone quickly.

So what’s changed for me over the last year:

Generally throughout my first year I was being semi unproductive and just plain lazy at times regarding work. But now I have completely stopped that. Im glad I have too.

Changing this mindset was my main goal to accomplish this year, as I believe without the correct mindset and work ethic you will not get a job in this industry or anything like it. So making sure I changed it was vital, and it was done with a lot of focus, willpower and determination. It wasn’t a walk in the park mind you though, quite a few times (epically before Christmas) I slipped backed into my old habits of having 2/3 solid days of doing no work at all, I even stupidly had a week off from doing work to binge on the whole 7 series of Dexter (which I do highly recommend on another note).

I certainly felt the extra pressure of catching up on all that undone work though, not good.  But recently with the added bit of added pressure and motivation from the group project, my holiday and the end of the year 2. I was putting in roughly 55-60 hour weeks. I was mentally exhausted in the last few days but in a strange well it felt pretty good – knowing that ive just ploughed through a lot of work. That long stint of just doing nothing but work has just put it into perspective of how much I need to do to get a good grade, but It also how much and hard I can push myself. After that whole ordeal, its shown me how well I can cope with pressure as well, which is a great skillet to have in any intense job.

At the start of the year I felt my digital painting wasn’t up to scratch, especially after seeing the quality of work some other students are pumping out. It was, and still is something I want to improve on. In the second year visual design focuses much more on digital painting than the first year, so I had a lot of opportunities to practice. Improving in painting is just like drawing, the more you do it the better you get at it. Throughout the year I picked up better painting techniques from talking to other students and watching online tutorials and put these into practice. Below you can hopefully see an improvement. The first painting was from the start of the year, the second from the end of the year.

Abbey park Final

Moonshine Character Final

Ive always said in this blog that I have a passion for character art and I want to be a character artist. But with the recent completion of the group project I found working on environments and props to be a lovely experience. So much so that im changing my mind of what I want to specialise in on my FMP and what sort of job role I want to go into. It’s a bit late having this change of mind but with more job opportunities and less competition as a environment artist than a character artist and having this recent passion boost for environment art it might be the right decision. Ill use this summer to firmly decide on what I want to do.

Now that ive finished year 2 and have a long 5 month break ahead until year 3 starts, I have a lot of time on my hands. So apart from catching up on the big games ive missed out in the last 4 months or so, I want to do work. Drawing is still my weakest skill so I plan to do a lot of sketching so I don’t get rusty over the summer months. But im still looking to continue to carry on the group project with a few more members as we really want to win this competition. The exposure we are currently getting is great, so its something worth perusing. Especially so as it will massively help to get into the industry as having that on my portfolio will make me stand out from the rest of the crowd. It is also a chance to work on more environment pieces so I can get a better understanding on what path I want to take for my FMP.

Well I guess that’s it for another year, ill probably keep updating this blog over the summer, but not as much. See you in year 3.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Life Changing or Career Building?

I know what technical skills are, but I didn't have the foggiest what soft skills are until a quick Google search (where would we be without Google?). Its describe as ‘Soft skills is a sociological term relating to a person's "EQ" (Emotional Intelligence Quotient), the cluster of personality traits, social graces, communication, language, personal habits, friendliness, and optimism that characterize relationships with other people’. So basically it’s their mind set/personality, cool, let’s begin then.

This sums up soft skills nicely

These soft skills in my eyes are more important than hardskills. Having the drive, motivation and determination to go out there and push yourself time and time again even when you’re making little to no process is what will make you excel. I touched on the subject in a previous blog, basically saying with the right mind set you can pretty much do whatever you want.

These sorts of soft skills are vital in the games industry, even if you have a job in it. As you always need to be on top of your game and constantly striving to be a better artist. So if that means working on personal projects outside of work while you’re crunching 50+ hours a week in work, then so be it, because if you don’t, someone else will and they'll take your job.

I always thought I had good soft skills (especially self-motivation) before taking this course. But looking back from where I am now, I realise that I really didn't. I used to spend around 2 months (while working part time mind you) to fully create a character which wasn't even rigged, and that was down to having little drive/self-motivation. I’d get home from a 4/5 hour shift at work and be like ‘ummm ill start my character tomorrow/next week, it wont matter if i put it off’, and I used to think I had the drive to get into the industry, how wrong I was. Now after 2 years of solid grafting, especially this last year I have gained the drive/self-motivation I desperately needed and required to get anywhere close to a job in the industry.    

Learning how to learn effectively is more beneficial to the student than learning technical skills. As new bits of software get released or workflow techniques change, so the students are going to have to relearn/change their way of thinking to keep up with the evolution of technology  Without having these soft skills its going to take them a lot longer to grasp new technical skills than someone who has these soft skills.

This doesn't mean we shouldn't teach technical skills at all. Technical skills for an artist are very important, without them how can they produce the things we see in modern games?  It’s a fine balance to teach both skillets. I believe this course does a very good job in balancing these 2 out. Its hammered into you from day one that you need to graft to get anywhere on this course, let alone find a job. What stuck in my head and got put into perspective was being told at the induction that ‘50% of students will drop the first year, and another 50% in the second’. That’s not really down to peoples lack of technical skills, it’s their lack of soft skills – no drive to put in the required effort.  

The reason why most people fail this course....

This course does a great job in harnessing the students creativity. In year one it puts you on a tight rope and won’t let you wonder much from the set path, as this year is all about learning the tools of the trade. Then as you progress into the second year that ‘rope’ gets a lot looser, allowing more creative freedom. Then in the third year you get complete freedom. But we are guided and nudge into sensible directions with our creativity. This is what makes us Skillset accredited and highly valuable to employers.