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Next-Gen Hard Surface Interview with Tad Langehaug
Posted by EmotionalRobot on Aug 29th, 2010
Next-Gen Hard Surface has had the honor of interviewing Tad Langenhaug from Emotional Robots Inc., creators of upcoming title Warm Gun. He provides some insight into the indie game scene and provides us with advice regarding hard surface modeling.
Tell us a little about yourself. Who are you, and what do you do?
Well, My name is Tad and I currently work for a company called Emotional Robots Inc. (ERI)
I'm Lead environment artist working on our current project "Warm Gun", a Post Apocalyptic, Wild West , Steam Punk first person shooter. I have been with the team for almost two years now, making models, textures and concepts.
How long have you been modeling?
I started to get into 3d modeling when I was about 16, which means I have been modeling for about 6 years.
What did you do before you started working at Emotional Robots?
Before I started working at Emotional Robots I was involved in various mods and community projects. I also worked at the fabulous retail chain known as Target.
What programs do you use for modeling and texturing?
I use 3ds max for most of my modeling and Photoshop for my texture work. Zbrush is a nice piece of software I use to model with as well. Usually I'll just add some high resolution detail with it but it serves all kinds of other purposes whether it be retopologizing or fixing seems in my textures.
What are your ambitions?
I would love to be an art director or lead artist at an independent studio. I want to be able to work in a small creative environment and develop games the whole team is passionate about with as little corporate politics as possible. I'm currently lead artist at ERI, this is the type of setting I could see myself in for a long time.
Tell us a little about Emotional Robots ?
ERI is an independent video game company. The company is focused on making next generation games for PC and Consol DLC. The studios first title "Warm Gun" is in full production now and will be ready for retail Q2 2011.
How long has Emotional Robots existed?
Emotional Robots was founded in 2008 and started out as a one man operation. Over the past two years it has grown into a fully fledged development house with over fifteen full time developers.
How many 3D Artist work at Emotional Robots?
Currently we have about eight full time 3D artist . This number fluctuates due to the nature of virtual teams, our roster has seen many changes over the past two years. It's like being in the minor leagues in baseball, sometimes you get called up to the big show. Most members who have moved on have left for big name companies like Ubi Soft, Microsoft and ID to name a few.
How does the pipeline look at Emotional Robots? Everything from concept to a game-ready model.
We generally start with a concept artist giving us a piece of art to go from. Sometimes that's not always the case and the modelers will either have to gather reference material themselves or doodle up some ideas. Once we have established an Idea of how we want the model to look we can start the creation process. We usually create a high polygon asset to bake normals and ambient occlusion from and then we derive our low polygon model from that. After that we unwrap and texture the model then export it to the Unreal Developers Kit (UDK). Every artist is responsible for making sure their asset makes it into the engine in a game ready state.
Do you have any dedicated Hard Surface Artists at Emotional Robots?
We do not have any dedicated hard surface modelers. Because we're a smaller studio our artists are required to perform all modeling and texturing tasks themselves.
What makes Emotional Robots stand out from other developers?
We have a very simple strategy. We find extremely talented and mature people who love games (and hard work), and mold them into strapping next-generation developers. Every member of our team is hand-picked from the crowd and quickly placed into our game development pipeline, where they learn to grow inside a professional, yet very friendly atmosphere.
Our work environment is structured but casual, and democratic where appropriate; everyone is welcome to give input in the design process. All of our positions require a love of games, a strong work ethic and communication skills, especially giving and receiving constructive criticism. Most members of the team work remotely, so solid documentation skills and clear communication through technical devices such as Skype is a must.
We're always looking for new talent to join our ranks, please visit our Jobs page. All artists and designers must have a portfolio with their resume to be considered.
What do you feel the biggest problem as well as the best thing with being a small independent game studio is?
The biggest problem is getting your project noticed and making things work with such few resources
The best thing is that we have complete creative control over everything that we do.
If you would compare the pipeline between ERI and a big company like Ubisoft. What do you think the biggest differences are?
The biggest difference is probably that our artists at ERI take on a broader range of tasks. I think this true for most small studios. We don't have specific artists for textures or high resolution modelers. Every artist on the team is responsible for a plethora of different tasks. That also means that our pipeline is a little less structured which can be challenging but its the best the best way to distribute resources especially when a lot of our artists are working remotely
Is there something you think artists should keep in mind when working on Hard Surface models?
The greatest thing an artist needs to do is see the big picture. How is this object going to be used in game? How are these details going to translate into texture space? Will any of this be mirrored or reused? Particularly when you're modeling for environments you have to think about how stuff can be duplicated and reused without looking like it's been reused. Every piece needs to be modular and or tileable. I see a lot of people making beautiful high polygon models and 90% of their work will end up being wasted. If for example you are modeling a building you can't make a high polygon building and bake it onto a low polygon one, there just isn't enough texture space to warrant that. You would want to individually model the door, the cornice, a section of wall, etc. and make them tileable where possible. One of the reasons why our modelers need texture skills is that it makes for a more fluid work flow.
What would you like to tell 3D Artists that are trying to get a job in the games industry?
The best thing you can do is get involved in a project and be willing to contribute and learn. Especially if you are enrolled in a game design school, seek information and projects beyond the confines of your school. Find a project where you can meet each others needs and don't be afraid to work hard even if you're not getting reimbursed right away; it will be an investment in your skills and portfolio.
Thank you Tad Langenhaug and Emotional Robots Inc. for letting NGHS interview you!
We wish you the best of luck with Warm Gun and any future projects!