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Technical Artist (Games)

Industries:
Games
Personality type:
Technologist
Departments:
Art

The lowdown

  • Acting as a bridge between the Artists and Programmers working on a game
  • Ensuring art assets can be easily integrated into a game without sacrificing the artistic vision or exceeding the platform’s technical limits
  • Investigating new techniques, implementing them and training the team

Is this role right for me?

To do this role, you will need to:

  • be able to show technical proficiency in areas such as lighting and rendering, texturing, and graphics-related programming languages such as shaders
  • have extensive knowledge of art packages ranging from modelling to texturing and special effects
  • be able to customise art packages so that they are as streamlined as possible for specific projects
  • be able to work well as part of a team 
  • have good communication and people management skills, in order to train and mentor others
  • be able to work with minimum supervision
  • have excellent organisational skills
  • be able to think creatively to resolve technical challenges and limitations
  • have knowledge of console hardware architecture
  • be highly skilled in the use of 3D graphics software
  • be able to anticipate the needs of the artists so as to streamline their productivity
  • have knowledge of the requirements of the relevant health and safety legislation and procedures

What does a Technical Artist do?

The Technical Artist acts as a bridge between the Artists and Programmers working on a game. They ensure art assets can be easily integrated into a game without sacrificing either the overall artistic vision or exceeding the technical limits of the chosen platform.

The role is a relatively new one for the games industry, but is becoming increasingly important as consoles and PC hardware becomes more complex.

Despite their technical knowledge, the Technical Artist works part of the art team, working closely with the Lead Artist and the Creative Director, as well as the Lead Programmers.

Their main areas of responsibility include setting up and maintaining the art production workflow, and making decisions about which art packages and tools a studio should use.

They are also charged with investigating new techniques and implementing them. The job often includes a teaching element, with the Technical Artist sharing their knowledge via training and mentoring sessions with other Artists.

The Technical Artist is not typically directly involved in the creation of game art assets. Instead they act in more of an advisory position, setting up the systems of production as well as dealing with problems as they arise.

One large part of the job involves keeping up to date with changes in technology, both hardware and software, as well as new techniques. They are expected to be able to create custom tools to improve the efficiency of their team. This is usually carried out using the scripting languages included in the main modelling and animation packages.

They oversee work in response to feedback or debugging complex assets such as character skeleton rigs and skinning systems. They also research and oversee the implementation of rendering techniques such as normal and specular maps, particle systems and pixel shaders.

Will I need a qualification?

You will generally need at least a degree in a relevant visual art or technical subject, to be a Technical Artist. However, experience working on wide range of projects, both in terms of art tools and game hardware, is the most important requirement for the role.

If you are considering taking a games course in higher education, the following courses have been rigorously assessed by the games industry and awarded the Creative Skillset Tick for the high standard of education they provide and the degree to which they prepare you for a games career:

Games courses awarded the Creative Skillset Tick

You will also need to demonstrate a well-developed creative background and sensitivity to dealing with creative issues within technical constraints.

You will do much of the training for this role on the job, with regular conferences and technical training days. However, you will also be expected to carry out your own research and training.

What’s the best route in?

This is not an entry-level position. You will be expected to have between two to five years’ experience.

You could come from either an art or programming background. However, most tend to have been artists, who have specialised in a particular area of art production.

You will need to have detailed knowledge of at least one industry-standard art package, especially use of scripting languages, as well as an understanding of the limitations of console hardware.

An alternative entry route you could take is from a similar position in the film or special effects industries, with experience of high-end rendering techniques or complex animation.

You could apply to be a Games Trainee through Trainee Finder, which gives you hands-on experience in the industry and helps you build those all-important contacts that are essential when competing for a job:

More information about Trainee Finder

Interested? Find out more...

Websites

  • 3DWorld - the magazine for SFX, TV production and game development artists 
  • BECTU - the UK's media and entertainment trade union, covering broadcasting, film, independent production, theatre and the arts, leisure and digital media
  • Develop - the monthly magazine for European developers 
  • e-Skills UK - the Sector Skills Council for IT, Telecoms and Contact Centres
  • Edge - the UK's self-styled bible for UK gamers
  • Eurogamer - European-focused consumer website
  • Gamasutra - website founded in 1997 that focuses on all aspects of video game development
  • GameDev.net - online community for game developers of all levels
  • GamesIndustry.biz - covering breaking news from the game's business
  • IGDA - the International Game Developers Association, a global network of collaborative projects and communities comprising individuals from all fields of game development
  • IGN - internet media and services provider focused on the video game, entertainment men’s lifestyle markets
  • MCV - the weekly trade magazine of the UK games industry, 
  • TIGA - the Independent Games Developers Trade Association - non-profit trade association representing the UK's games industry
  • Ukie - the Association for UK Interactive Entertainment - champions the interests, needs and positive image of the video games and interactive entertainment industry whose companies make up its membership