Monthly Archives: October 2007

How Artists Can Double Their Chances of Getting a Job

I get emails from 3D modelers, animators and other artists now and then. Based on my very scientific research (that would be bunch of emails) I could estimate that 50% of the emails I get have no sample links. Some send me extremely long emails explaining their history since they were born. Some send me spam-like messages that are generated to some list (from where I’ve never signed, and cannot unsubscribe).

Don’t get me wrong – I like to get emails from artists. That’s not the problem. The problem is that some artists could improve the way they approach me. The minimum information that I want to hear is say in one sentence why you are contacting me and give link to your portfolio.

Here is an example of a great email (I have put numbers 1-8 and used bold font to highlight the important points. I will explain these below the email):

Subject: [1] a 3D artist available for building environment for your Edoiki game
Message:
Hi [2] Juuso,

I’m 3D artist and I can [3] building this world for [4] your Edoiki game.
My portfolio is available at [5] www.myportfolio.com.

I [6] have done art for games such as Great Game II, Big Game Expansion pack and The GameGame VII. My full resume/CV can be seen at [7] www.myportfolio.com/resume.

Regards,

Mr. Joe Artist [8]

There are several great points in this email (please notice that this is my personal opinion – and perhaps some other producer would prefer different type of approach), and I’ll be going through all of them here.

#1 – Relevant email subject
It’s very good if you can specify what your email is about. Saying “3d modeler” is fine, but I personally like when it’s right to the point. I haven’t heard anybody losing a job because of a poor email subject, but it costs nothing to make a good title. It also shows (in my opinion) that you aren’t just throwing the email but are actually interested about the job.

#2 – Name (extra points when spelt correctly…)
Saying “Hi” is okay, but saying “Hi Juuso” shows that you actually have got enough time to check out who I am – and it has a personal tone. I haven’t skipped any 3D modeler position because somebody has said just “hi” or “hi Jusso” instead of “Hi Juuso”, but I’m sure you get the point: you can get small advantage compared to other applicants if you make your email personal.

#3 – Job position and what you can do in one sentence (very important)
You could say the job position in the email subject, but you can alternatively (or in addition) mention it in the email as well. This line tells me right away what you are applying for. If you say “I can do 3D stuff”, it leaves lots of questions open. Does this mean you can animate 3D guys as well? What about texturing? If you say “I can build the world/environment”, I get the picture that you can do static 3D models and texture them as well. If you say “I can create 3D characters, texture and animate them” – I can also get a clear picture about what you do.

Notice that there’s a grammar error (word “building” instead of “build”): to me that doesn’t matter. A guy who makes great art doesn’t need to use perfect English. Naturally it’s nice if you check the email grammar, but if there’s one or two spelling errors – to me that doesn’t matter. And if it matters in the place where you are applying (if the management pays more attention to artist’s grammar than his work), then perhaps the company isn’t a right place for you at all.

Mentioning the reason you are emailing is probably the second most important element in the email (in addition to point #5): tell how you can help me. That’s what I want to hear.

#4 – Project name
If you are applying for a position in a small studio this is most likely optional (for example: I don’t mind if you don’t mention this), but in bigger studios this might be mandatory. Basically if you say the name of the project, the email recipient can know what you are talking about – and this might make the email a bit more personalized (as it shows that you have had enough time to check out the project, and not just randomly throw emails everywhere).

#5 – Link to your portfolio (the most important element)
This is perhaps the most important element in your email. If you are an artist, then give me a link to a website where I can browse your work. If you give me an email where you say you are a 3D modeler (but don’t give a portfolio link), you can rest assured that my next email will be “could you please give me a link to your portfolio?”. To save everybody’s time and effort, make sure you attach a link to your portfolio in the email.

#6 – Give couple of highlights from your past experience (optional)
It’s okay (but not necessary, since your portfolio will show what you can do) to mention some projects where you’ve worked. Make sure you don’t write a long history, just name 2 or 3 game projects where you worked. I personally don’t mind if you don’t tell me this (the shother the email the better) since I can see pretty fast from your portfolio what kind of skills you have.

#7 – Link to CV (optional)
Again optional: include a link to your CV in the email. I probably don’t even check out those because (again) I can see your skills by checking out your portfolio. I think that if the portfolio is good, then CV is not needed. If the portfolio is bad, then CV won’t save you. Again, this is just my thinking, and some people want to see the CV. A pretty good thing could be to add a big CV link button in your portfolio. That way people who check out your portfolio site, can also check out your CV if needed.

#8 – Keep the email short (very important)
Make sure your email isn’t longer than couple of paragraphs or so. The most important thing is to say what you are good at (at the email title) and give link to your portfolio.

Here’s even better email that I would love to see:

Subject: [1] 3D artist available for building environment for your Edoiki game
Message:
Hi [2] Juuso,

I’m an environmental artist and I can [3] create 3D objects and texture them for your [4] Edoiki game levels. My portfolio and CV are available at [5] www.myportfolio.com.

Regards,

Mr. Joe Artist [8]

Very short and simple – and has 100% of the information I need.

What Kind of Game Are You Making?

As many of the blog readers probably know, our team is working on an eastern themed tactical multiplayer game Edoiki. The core of the game could be described as “simple & fun tactical multiplayer game in an eastern world” – and that’s it.

And now I’d like to hear what projects are going on at the other side of the fence.

What about you? What kind of game are you making?

Is it a single-player or multiplayer game? What genre? (Strategy game? First person shooter? Some kind of casual game – if that can be called a genre?) Do you have screenshots to share?

Something To Remember When Dealing With Clients

Don’t mess up the week numbers like I recently did.

I have a short contract work project for one client and I realized that this week is 44, not 42 like I was assuming – and I was under a deadline that I couldn’t make. It wouldn’t have been no wonder if the client would have asked me to “left the building” (so to speak) because of this mistake I did… but luckily they were extremely understanding.

I can imagine that this type of behavior won’t work 90% of the time. If you agree on some certain date, then make sure you understand that it’s important for the client. If necessary, put the client’s request to be highest priority. Certainly don’t rely on your memory (98% time I don’t rely on my memory, but for some strange reason this case fit in those 2%).

If you have a deadline when you are supposed to show milestone progress to the publisher, make certain you are showing the results you promised.

The Soft Way To Get People On Your Side

I’ve recently got a chance to deal softly with people.

We got new neighbors. The new residents over my “office” (that would be corner in our apartment) were walking in such manner that we could hear their footsteps. At daytime that’s no big deal, but at nights it can be pretty annoying.

For some people, a pretty typical way to deal in this type of situation is to swear a lot and hit the ceiling with something.

That probably makes things worse, and we decided to deal with them differently.

We decided to wrote a note where we didn’t accuse them for causing the noise, and explained what was the problem. We explained that because of the old building, it would be nice if they would try to avoid stepping heavily (especially at the nighttime). This is so important that I repeat: we didn’t blame them for causing the noise (I thought they simply might not realize they were causing it).

After delivering the letter we haven’t heard those noises any more – so it looks like our friendly note had some kind of impact.

I’m not suggesting that this approach would always work, but often when you don’t blame and explain your point-of-view, you can get people on your side much easier than by trying to force them to understand.

Some Good Casual Games For the Weekend

It sure is easy to find casual games to play – the net is filled with different them. There are simulation casual games, hidden object casual games, puzzle games… you name it.

I digged some good casual games to play in the weekend.

You can get any game for $6.99 by joining the game club. There are some conditions that come with the game club, so check it out if you are interested in getting discount.

Here’s the list:

Journey to the Center of the Earth

Gorgeous exploration game that takes you to the center of the Earth.

The Scruffs

Find out what shocking family secret Grandpa Scruff has been hiding.

Safecracker

Fine game with several puzzles to crack!

Kudos Rock Legend

Ever wanted to become a rock star?

Hidden Expedition: Everest

Explore mysteries of the world as you find hidden clues.

Enjoy the games!

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What Children Are Learning From Video Games?

I received a question about the effects of video games to children. I want to make very clear that my opinion does not base on academic research (or any facts for that matter) and is purely my opinion so take take this as a grain of salt.

Question:

What are the positive and negative effects of video games on kids

Answer:
I wanted to approach this question by thinking how kids generally might experience video games. I created two brief lists:

Positive effects
Here are some good sides about playing video games. Naturally some of these elements might apply also for older players.

  • Learn English – Video games can be especially good for those who don’t speak English as their native language. I have learned a lot about English language by playing different adventure games in the past.
  • Fun – Video games can be really fun, and can bring joy in life.
  • Social skills – While some parents might think that kids won’t learn social skills, I believe it can be quite different. Gathering friends or playing online with other people can sometimes be a fine way to get some social skills (and by all means I don’t think computer games should replace other type of socializing).
  • Math, physics (and other sciences) – Sometimes games can teach player math or physics (as an example, bridge building game comes to my mind).
  • Alphabetics and other “stuff you learn at school” – Some games can teach alphabetics, drawing skills and other stuff kids learn at schools. Games won’t replace teachers yet, but perhaps we’ll see that day in the future…
  • Problem solving skills – Many video games require some sort of problem solving skills (yes, some rely on guns, but there’s also different type of games that require puzzles to be solved).
  • Creativity – Many games challenge players to come up with creative ideas and strategies.

Negative effects:
Video games aren’t just for fun. There can be some negative effects that should be taken into consideration.

  • Sleep rhythm – I would assume that kids that play all nights might be pretty tired during the days. Parents should watch out how many hours kids stare that computer screen.
  • Money spent on games – Not necessarily a bad thing to spend some money on games, but hopefully kids doesn’t put all their allowances in games.
  • Lack of fresh air – Kids gotta play outdoors. Video console Wii might make bring boxing or golf in the house, but it won’t beat getting fresh air.
  • Game violence – Some games are violent and not suitable for kids. Similar to movies, I don’t think everything is suitable for kids.

I believe balance is needed here: in reasonable portions, video games can do a world good to kids. Excessive playing on the other hand can have negative impact.

How to Minimize the Pain When Firing People

Firing people might be of the toughest things game producers may face. Luckily I haven’t faced that situation for some time, but the recent discussion regarding how to deal with a slacker got me thinking about the firing.

Strangely, I believe one of the most important elements in the process is this: if you need fire somebody, don’t delay the firing. Postponing the decision and hoping to things to work out is not always the best solution. In fact, not firing somebody can have several nasty effects:

  • The guy who should be fired (and is not) will cost money (his salary needs to be paid).
  • The guy might slow down the project (if he is not suitable person for the project) as he still needs management.
  • The guy might harm the working environment (if he has negative attitude it can be bad for the morale)

Sometimes people still want to avoid firing, and reason this by saying “that they want to minimize the pain”. There’s just one problem with this approach: firing won’t get any easier in the future.

My reasoning is that people shouldn’t hire and fire people without good reasons. I believe that postponing the “inevitable” is not a good strategy. If you need to do something, then just do it. If you need to fire somebody, then fire him. Minimize the pain by not postponing the firing process.

When Was the Last Time You Cleaned Your Computer?

I cleaned my computer today. It took me less than an hour to go through programs, documents, desktop and couple of other places. It was pretty amazing how much useless trash I found (and I think I’m one of those guys who keep their computer clean…)

When I started the cleaning, there was about 17 GB free space. After the cleaning, there’s now 27 GB free space. I just went through stuff and deleted programs and folders I don’t need. (I must also mention that I don’t have MP3′s or collection of warez games or movies in my computer). Man there was lots of folders and programs that weren’t deleted even after uninstallation (tip for anybody distributing games: it’s a good practice to ensure that your game uninstaller actually uninstalls everything…)

I remember when I was using 386 that had 20 megabyte hard drive. Today I could free 10 GB space pretty easily. What happened? Are we really wasting so much space for nothing useful?

When was the last time you cleaned your computer? Found anything mysterious?

How Perfect AI Should Behave?

I’ve been thinking what “perfect AI” could mean in games. I started thinking AI in terms of “how naturally it behaves compared to what humans would do”. I started thinking that there would be one crucial element that AI would need to have: the ability to make mistakes.

Making mistakes is natural to humans, but I believe making accidental mistakes isn’t typical to computer AI. When computers make mistakes in games, they are more often because of “lack of better move” rather than “humanly mistake”. Computer opponents in games are programmed to do wise moves, not to make mistakes.

So how would perfect AI play? I believe it would be a really tough opponent, but sometimes it could make small (even stupid) mistakes. Perhaps in FPS game the computer could make a stupid jump and end up in a lake (instead of the other side of the broken bridge). Or perhaps the computer could accidentally build wrong type structures in his base, and would need to re-build some of them. Or perhaps the computer could forget to heal some unit.

The problem with this type of behavior is that it would probably make AI look poor. I believe that players would think that the computer is crappy since it makes stupid mistakes. No matter how I turn this issue up-side down, it seems that it’s not possible to have a “perfect” AI.

Perfection would require imperfection. We humans make mistakes, so for a perfectly human AI, the computer would need to make mistakes. This imperfection – ability to make mistakes – might not look like “perfect AI”.

So, how could AI even be perfect after all?

What Game Development Tools Are You Using?

I’ve been using Blitz3D for games development for about half a decade already, and I honestly think it’s a great tool, especially for beginners. It cannot do everything in the world, but those who want quickly do 3D games (with Basic like syntax) – it’s a good tool. (Bad news is that Blitz3D doesn’t support object oriented programming, so that might scare away some people)

But enough of the tools I use: what tools are you using for game development? What language? C++ or C#? Perhaps Java? Have you picked a ready-made engine, or do you perhaps use some open-source graphics engine with additional networking and other tools?

Let’s hear it people. What game development tools are you using – and why you’ve chosen the tools you currently use?