My Life as a 3D Animator and Modeler

I currently work as a 3d animator and modeler on a indie video international game development team by the name of  “Remix Games”. I was recruited over a year ago, when the team consisted of 4 individuals and was essentially in its infancy as a portfolio building project. Since then the team has grown to having 12 individuals, 6 of which put in close to 20-30 hours a week into development in order to produce the game “Alpha Project: Line of Fire”, a first person shooter that we have hopes to achieve AAA quality made with Unity3d.

Some of members who have joined were people we already knew prior to being a part of the team, others were guys who applied for a position and went through an interview process and then an art or coding test (depending on the role they applied for). However, we weren’t able to do a traditional interview in the sense that we had them come into an office and sit down to find out if they were right for the job. We had to conduct the interview using the same tool that we use to communicate while developing, Skype.

3D gun speedart and development – Building our video game!

3D Gun Development | Gun Modeling

Building a Strong Communication Backbone

Skype is our communication backbone, without it development wouldn’t be possible. Every day, I don’t get up and go through the 9-5 routine for work. Instead I get up, boot up the computer, make some coffee, and come back with everything I need to work already started up.  There is no set time that everyone has to be signed on unless it’s decided prior that everyone needs to be on at a certain time for a particular reason. The team is  scattered across the globe. We have guys on East and West coasts of the United States as well as the Midwest. Our GUI artist is located in the UK. Two of our coders and our concept artist lives in the Netherlands, and our lead 3d artist is moving (back) to Germany. We have only 1 main rule in terms of “coming to work”, you join in the Skype chat everyday to at least provide an update on your work or provide a reason why you won’t be able to work/talk for that day or in the upcoming days.

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The international game development team is made up of guys ranging between the ages of 17-23 with the exception of 1 person who is in his late 20s. I’d also like to say that before you dismiss the team for being comprised of such young individuals  I’d like to point out that some of the youngest guys have produced work better than what I’ve seen some of my fellow college graduates produce. Some of the young guys have industry veterans mentoring them who provide help and criticism regarding their work.

We all have school, some of us have other jobs, and we all have social lives (or try to). This means we can’t be very strict when it comes to “being at work” simply because there’s not really a way to enforce it nor is there a time when we are all awake. However when it comes to needing to talk about development or test features  it means that many of us end up working late into the night or early in the morning. I have found myself working from 2 pm till 6 am since I needed to talk to our coders and finish up some 3d models asap. Needless to say, communication can be quite a difficult issue to deal with. On numerous occasions our coders have had difficulty finding the right English word or phrase to describe an issue there are having since their native language is Dutch.

A prototype development shot to show you our progress!

Game Development Process

In addition, like in any workplace, we knock heads from time to time in regards to what IS getting done in contrast to what NEEDS to get done. Although I am not the project manager, more often than not I’ll find myself trying to defuse or moderate a situation in order to keep things civil. Of course I’m not the only one who has to fill this role, the entire team understands that although we technically have a “project manager”, we all have to manage the project as well as ourselves in order to efficient. And believe me, it can be extremely difficult to get a young individual to practice good time management (it took me 3 years of college to finally discipline myself to choose to get work done rather than be tempted to launch up a game or browse the internet).

Imagine yourself being in your late teens/early twenties and in order to get work done you have to sit at a computer for hours on end. Needless to say it can be extremely easy to get distracted. There is no ”boss” sitting in the next room who can possibly pop in to check on you and if you don’t want a team member hassling you to get work done, the Skype “invisible” or “offline” status is literally 2 clicks away. The point I’m trying to make is that self disciple is essential in order to be productive.

Growing Your Network and Problem Solving

Now if you’ve browsed forums or read blogs on the internet (and I’m assuming you have since you’ve read this far) you’re bound to come across people with different opinions arguing. Conflict is inevitable and essential. It’s how you come up with a better solution to a problem.

So having a very diverse team is a curse and a blessing. I’ve heard what I believe to be the stupidest ideas from a person and within a 5 minute time-span that same person will have transformed it into fantastic idea having heard input from everyone. We are friends more than coworkers, so although we respect each other, we also tend to make fun each other and sometimes this will lead to someone crossing the line with a cultural, racial, or sexual comment. The one thing the team has learned from this is to ‘let it go’. The person saying it didn’t intentionally offend you. Give a valid (sometimes explicit) retort and tell them what they said was inappropriate. Then proceed to carry on with working because more often than not the person who said the offensive thing got the message. So far there hasn’t been a situation where  team member is mad at another team member for more than a day because we clear the air asap.

When working with such a diverse international game development group you have to have a sense of humor about your own culture because it’s inevitable to have a few jokes thrown your way about it. For myself, I didn’t realize that there were so many ‘Murican jokes but the team’s coders and GUI artist have (gladly) brought me up to speed. If anything, making jokes about a team member means that you feel comfortable enough to poke fun at them. It’s just not something worth getting mad over. Although the chat is often filled with jokes when we taking a break from work, it isn’t all just senseless dribble. Religion, politics, family situations, and educational plans are often discussed and its quite interesting to have such  variety of cultures contribute to these types of conversations.

It is these conversations that truly made me realize that although people can be quite different, we surprisingly can have very similar values and beliefs regardless of where we are from. I can’t think of much better way to experience other cultures around the world other than spending the money in order to travel to those countries and experience it firsthand.

Organization of Files and Sharing Them

Probably one of the most stressful downfalls of not being in the same building is how we have to manage our actual project files. We have a premium Dropbox account that everyone has their computers synced to. Typically we don’t have an issue with the DB but when something does go wrong it can be quite stressful. Dropbox loves to constantly create conflicted files which can ultimately lead to the project crashing for everyone and can be a real big mess to clean up since everyone has to delete the conflicted files or else they will just keep getting re-added. Thankfully the DB also creates a backup of the project whenever something gets changed. However, this also means quite a bit of work can be lost if a restoration has to be done. The team has looked at alternatives to using Dropbox, however since we really don’t have the finances DB is pretty much our only feasible route.

More game development images for you!

Our Game Development - What a long process!

Working on with this group of individuals has been something quite extraordinary. Never would have I thought I’d be working with people on the other side of the world every day, much less consider them some of greatest friends I have had to this day. I do hope our game turns out to successful since there are plans to open up an actual studio in Europe where we can all actually work together in person. That would be a dream come true but for now I am quite happy with how things are.

Yes on occasion there are issues and conflicts regarding work ethics and lack of communication, but it’s to be expected. However, the experience I’ve gained, not only within the realm of 3d modeling and animation, but also with various cultures is something I find to be invaluable. If you ever get the chance to work on this type of team, I highly recommend pursing it.

Don’t Be Shy, Follow Us Our Progress

 If you want to join the team and learn about Alpha Project: Line of Fire, by following us on Facebook!

About The Author: I may look like death from staring at my computer screen for hours and hours on end, but at least I'm being productive. I do consider myself as a mastermind of 3D animation and modeling, in training!

  • 3DevelopMYST

    You’re awesome.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Allen-Gingrich/1435959906 Allen Gingrich

    Enjoyed this, Mike!

  • John Anderson

    I thank you for posting this in your blog. I am some one who is starting an indie game development team on a low budget and no studio of my own wondering how can I manage a team without a studio. With this post you have simply giving the vision on how this international game development team works on their project. Once again I thank you for showing how it all works as a international development team. You and Remix are pretty awesome and I support your work.

  • http://ideasandpixels.com/ Matt Valvano

    Mike this post was very informative! We actually use a lot of the same project solutions in our everyday web development practices.

    Great Post.

  • Alyssa

    Way awesome!