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Aspiring Game Industry Artist; where do I begin?

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First of all, thanks for taking the time to read this post. I am aware that similar topics are posted all the time, and while aware of this, and having read various threads on this forum as well as many others, I must admit that there is a certain intangible assurance of receiving direct replies to you and your own personal inquiries/problems/etc.
also, I tend to be very passionate and as a result can be verbose, so bless you for your patience and understanding if you read this whole thing and take the time to reply in kind.

so, lets begin;

I am 23 years old now, I have always loved and been inspired by games and cannot see myself being satisfied or happy doing anything else for a living. this has always been on my radar growing up, but i never took it seriously; or the implications of adulthood and how important it is to actually choose, commit to, and pursue a specific career path until adulthood hit me. Most all my other hobbies and passions have somewhat dissipated, but my love for games and the inspiration they bring has never gone away, so now I really know that this is what I want to do. Thus begins the daunting quest for knowledge and skillset to land my dream career...

It actually started in late 2009-2010, where I attended DigiPen (due to family disagreements and finances, I had to leave after the first semester.. this was dream shattering to me and I've been in a sort of emotional and creative stasis since then, it has been hard to find motivation or feel like I still have any chance of achieving my dreams)
One of the problems i encountered there was not feeling as though my time and especially money would be worthwhile, even as accredited as DigiPen is; I wasn't sure their BA in game design or their BFA in production animation was going to place me exactly where i wanted ( i would prefer to do game environment, character design/modeling/again, anything you see visually in the finished product. I know i am nowhere near good enough to be a concept artist so that's not exactly on my radar)

I spent the last few years confused and hopeless. but now I have decided to go for it with everything I have left in me. unfortunately, i'm going to have to be working full time retail just to pay rent, which is going to mean less time to pursue this career I really want.

-I cannot reasonably afford school anymore, and I know the portfolio is the most important part of breaking into this industry anyways...

so, where do i begin? as far as 2d art goes, I'm pretty capable in photoshop and I create character concepts for fun in my spare time that I could really imagine being good enough to go into a game, if only I could learn to take it to that next level.

again, i am not on the level of your accomplished concept artist, and i have a natural inclination and affinity for characters, particularly in a colorful anime style. I believe, however, that the illustrations i am currently capable of are solid enough to be translated to 3d. i guess what I'm saying is that as far as the production pipeline aspect goes, i know my place. I wont be a lead concept artist, but I am a pretty good artist in my preferred style and i certainly believe I'm capable of creating 3d models and levels, environments, characters, etc.

The only thing holding me back is, well... everything. lol. I need to learn all these technical programs that i will need to land a job doing what i want to do, so I need to know what those are, and the best way of doing it.

so far I know of the following game related programs:

-3ds Max

now, I don't know how to use any of these. aside from photoshop, that is. and even to that end, I only know it to the level of sort of a passionate hobbyist. I can get my waya round it and put out images that I'm personally satisfied with, at any rate. as far as workflow is concerned, i have often heard that if the job gets done, that is what is important at the end of the day, right?

So, which of these programs should i be learning first? where do i even begin? when and how should I be approaching building my portfolio? I know i wont be on the level i need to be for a few solid years of learning on my own.

I have blender and have been reading lots about it on the wiki, and trying to follow step by step from the very basics. I wonder if I am wasting my time with blender though, and should just start with 3ds max, maya, unity, etc?
I really don't know. that's why I'm here, talking my head off in hopes that you guys can point me in the right direction.

I have also spent the also spent the last few days looking around for forums/community sites related to the industry that seem the most popular and best to me and have found:

For community:

-this site!! (gamedev.net)
-CG society

For tutorials and hands on learning:


Are these good,great, not so great? I know I'm going to need as much help as i can get and i figure the more people and connections I can make the better, because I'm not going to have that degree or internship quite as readily available as if I had been able to stay in DigiPen and progress through their system.


again, the end goal for me is to make it into the industry as an artist; that is, I have always been inspired by and more interested in pursuing the aesthetic side of game development. You know, the things you see and interact with directly on screen. While I admire and certainly respect the work that goes on underneath this, I don't believe that is the line of work for me.
So, it's taken me quite a few years to truly be able to isolate a specific role of intertest for me, but there it is; I want to do things like build environments, characters, character models, etc.

now, this isn't to say that I wouldn't like to learn the necessary coding or programming skills to be able to make my own game concepts start to finish, but one thing I have heard repeatedly from experienced professionals is that it's important to have a focus for yourself in the industry, a specific role you could see yourself playing, so, that is my main goal.

I am scared that if I don't act now, one day soon I will wake up and I'll realize I'm 30, and working some job I despise, and my opportunity to make games for a living, the job I've dreamed about since a kid, has passed me by.
I don't want that to happen. I will try my hardest to make this a reality. what I seek now is guidance to help get me there. I want to make the most of the time and effort I'm going to be putting in to teach myself all this complicated stuff!

if i think of anything else i have to say, as I'm sure I've forgotten things, I'll be sure to let you guys know.

till then thank you so much for reading and bearing with me smile.png

-Dan Edited by DokujiSoul

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So to summarize your long post...

I started at DigiPen, and dropped out after one semester.
Figure out why you dropped out, fix it, and get back in school.

I cannot afford school, so that is out.
That is disappointing.

In the US there are so many grants and scholarships available that most dedicated students are able to afford an education at smaller state schools. Check that option out. I've known quite a few people who said they couldn't afford school, even a few who were single parents, who later went through a 2-year or 4-year program successfully.

not interested in animation any more, not interested in art any more.
So what are you interested in? Fixing cars? Illustrating children's books?

Figure out your passion.

have to work to pay rent.
That is real life. No sympathy there. Many people, including myself, worked full-time while paying for their own housing and tuition. Grow up.

So, it's taken me quite a few years to truly be able to isolate a specific role of intertest for me, but there it is; I want to do things like build environments, characters, character models, etc.
Most companies are only interested in hiring passionate people. There are many applicants who are completely thrilled to work as artists or animators or modelers. It is their passion.

It doesn't sound like you share that passion.

You need to find your passion.

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sad.png I'm not sure that was warranted at all, given that you're clearly misinterpreting what I'm saying...
I had to drop out due to personal, family and financial issues. the funding and circumstances that allowed it initially soon deteriorated. I put forth a lot of effort and did all the work, i didn't just stop going because i lost passion or interest.
it isn't really easy or practical to accumulate 100k in debt to go to school, when I have heard from countless sources that the school and degree is hardly important and that the skillset and portfolio is the key.

i didnt say i "wasn't interested in animation or art"... in fact quite the opposite, the entire thesis of this post was that I still am very passionately interested, and am now realizing I am going to have to do this a different way than I thought..
If you don't care to read my post entirely or understand it, thats fine, but why bother responding to something you aren't reading?

my passion is games. I want to create them. I want to have a part in it. I specifically have said that the visual aspect interests me the most. this is my passion.
I was not asking for sympathy from you or anyone else, just stating that is my circumstance. you really don't need to be so rude with tactless comments about my maturity level :/

I was hoping for a much more thoughtful and kind welcome here sad.png Edited by DokujiSoul

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As I said, I can be verbose because I have a lot to say, because this is personal and passionate to me...
the meat and potatoes of what I'm asking for with this thread is:

which programs should a complete beginner like myself be learning and in what order? where/how to go about it in the best way?

all the rest was just an intro/backstory of myself because i find perspective is important when giving and receiving advice.. Edited by DokujiSoul

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That looks VERY different from what was posted in the first topic.

which programs should a complete beginner like myself be learning and in what order? where/how to go about it in the best way? ... I want to do things like build environments, characters, character models, etc.

Both Maya and 3D Studio Max. Most studios use Maya, some cannot afford it and use Max. There is a free student/learning edition.

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^^ well, i havent changed in the 30 minutes or so since then, so lets chalk it up to my verbosity and a miscommunication? the whole reason I am reaching out and networking is because I am passionate about this and I am set on pursuing it. the setbacks I have had in the past certainly broke my spirits, but I keep coming back to the same place, and this is only further assurance to myself that this is the career that I want and need to pursue. I cannot see myself being happy any other way.

so, as I mentioned, I had heard that blender was a good "starter" program, but you would recommend I forgo it and start out with 3ds and maya?

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Reading over your post I think we can distill it to:

the end goal for me is to make it into the industry as an artist [...] I want to do things like build environments, characters, character models, etc.

There ya go. Clear goals will help define a clearer learning path. It's important to define clear goals so you can figure out how to get from where you are to where you want to be. Spend some time trying to learn the industry as best you can. You could also trying breaking into a related industry and do some CAD design or something and then crossover.

I'd start with Maya or Blender and start making stuff. You can get a 36 month student license for Autodesk software:

Can you afford $45 a month? If so you might be interested in http://www.digitaltutors.com/

Lots of training videos covering all the technology you'd need. You would probably benefit from some traditional art courses as well.

There is also http://www.learning-maya.com/ and youtube and probably a dozen other good places you could find with a Google search.

It's better to be really good at a few tools than meh at a bunch of tools. Don't overload yourself with a bunch of extra stuff just yet.

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^^ thanks for the reply.

As stated, i have blender because it was free and easy to obtain, as well as the fact that I had heard it was a good program to learn with before stepping up to 3ds max and maya?

I think a goal of mine, portfolio-wise, is to have a set of character models and environments that I've built, that can be playtested to show characters and run/jump cycles, animations of that nature in real time. I would think that this is a pretty good approach because it shows exactly what I can do for the very specific medium of game art.

I know I'm getting ahead of myself with that perhaps, but that's just an idea that I have in my head for the focus/direction I'm thinking of taking.
is this sound advice or no? I cannot afford much in the way of subscriptions like that at the moment, but in a few months I should be a little more stable with finances so my options will increase then.

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If you're good with 2D artwork in Photoshop, start building a portfolio. Find a small project and contribute some artwork to it. Add it to your portfolio. Do it a couple of times then start looking for some freelance work. Keep working, build your portfolio, increase your experience, increase your rates, and use that to fund the next tool you need.


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You don't have to use a paid service, it's just one of many options. Blender vs Maya vs 3Ds Max I think comes down to personal preference. Blender is free though and quite powerful. I think you'd be happy with it. Check out Sintel for a movie done in Blender, it's impressive. Start with making one solid model. Go for quality over quantity. Then go from there.

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