With such astounding effects, visual standards, and innovative mechanics, it’s easy to forget the people behind it all. In every game, every film, every short you’ve watched online or at home, someone has created it, drawn it, animated it, implemented it, checked, and re-checked it!
We’d like to introduce you to some of the faces behind the magic we create in our new series, “Day in the Life”. Over these articles, you’ll get to meet some of our stellar team across the Magic Media group and discover what they do on a day-to-day basis. Learn about what their work is typically like, what they do, and how they do it!
First on the block is Starloop Studios’ Iontxu Ocasar, Lead VFX Technical Artist.
What is a Lead VFX Technical Artist?
As Iontxu explains, a VFX Artist bring the noise and the colour into a game. Anything that isn’t an environment, character, or object, they’re likely to have a hand in. Every explosion, gunshot, sparkle, and campfire, it’s down to these specialists. They’re the ones who implement realistic effects, and imagine and create the ones that aren’t real at all!
A Technical VFX Artist enables non-technical artists to do their work to the highest standard possible. They work with the game’s engine and make sure that any effects needed can be created. And if not, they seek a solution. They’re a bridge between the art and the programming side of development!
Now, as a Lead VFX Technical Artist, Iontxu is a bit of a Renaissance man. This means that he serves the roles of VFX Artist and Technical Artist. But in addition, he’s there to provide help, guidance, and supervision to any other artist who needs it. And, as a senior, he’s helping organize and distribute the workload and workforce across a project.
What’s a Typical Day Like?
For Magic Media and Starloop Studios, the projects are as diverse and varied as our team. From working on different platforms like mobile, PlayStation, and Xbox, to any type of project, such as co-development, full-cycle development, or porting.
For Iontxu, he could be working on any element of a game’s design. From initial core conceptualization and creating and integrating VFX, to working with UI, gameplay, and environmental elements.
In any given day, Iontxu works mostly with Unity and Unreal game engines. Though, any good VFX artist needs to be proficient in multiple tools. These include 3ds Max, Maya, Photoshop, After Effects, Substance Designer, Houdini, and EmberGen. New tools are always being developed, however, and its an artist’s job to keep up with tools and trends.
And, as artists, he and his team are directly in the middle of most processes. This means they get to interact and work with almost every part of the team. Designers, engineers, 2D and 3D artists – it’s a collection of talent and expertise.
Any normal working day has its own challenges, and we wanted to know how a VFX Artist would tackle the problems that might come up.
While Iontxu wished there was an easy catch-all answer for any challenges and problems, he admits that it’s contextual. Every problem, creative or technical, needs to be addressed as its own task. He explains that every project, every game, is a different world with its own rules and required approaches. His team always pushes to think outside the box and try to remain flexible While it may be a simple fix sometimes, it never helps to enter the problem-solving stage with a rigid way of thinking.
Iontxu emphasizes the importance of communication. Like any process in game development, true quality and efficiency is in a realm of smooth communication. And so, VFX Artists begin with a discussion with the designers. This is all about what they want to achieve and how the artists can communicate that to the player. The importance of aligning the teams is known to all in the industry, lest you fall into the Diablo Ballista trap!
Once that is established, it’s up to the artists to discover the right style to match the game’s aesthetic. References and any existing art or assets are invaluable for the VFX team at this stage. This stage involves research and finding the best approach.
Throughout creation, there are always considerations for the game’s performance. Polycount limits, overall texture sizes, the target platform – all are kept in mind by the VFX team. After this, we integrate the effect into the game. Integration of the VFX is done with the tech artists and developers. This is all about working together to get the effect into the game and making it work.
After all of this, the VFX is refined and iterated by the lead artist and creative director and game director. The effect will never be ‘finished’ as there’s always a push for perfection. Instead, once the team leaders are happy with the effect and its quality, it can be delivered!
All of this is done while reporting to the producers. Iontxu refers to them as the problem solvers, the ones who can handle any tricky situation.
We hope you enjoyed this look into a day in the life of our team. If you’d like to discover more of our services, you can find our versatile range here. If you’re interested in a career in game development, VFX, or cybersecurity, check out our careers page. Finally, if you’d like to collaborate with Magic Media, we’d love to hear from you.