Sorry for asking this, Am I too late to become a Technical Artist?


#1

Hello, First If there’s anything sounds non-sense or off-grammar, I apologize. English is not my primary language.
I can guess this kind of asking may have been written many times before so apologize again.

I want to be a Technical Artist. but the problem is, as you might imagined,
I have no experience in programming. I have totally no math knowledge. and the worst is I’m 24 already.
I always loved computer thingy and graphics but I didn’t choose the right path for me during my life.

so I wanna just study TA related stuff right now, but, Here is my concerns.
I have heard and seen many cases who got the 3D or 2D artist job in the industry after studying hard for like one or two years, from totally no experience when they start studying, and I got some Art backgrounds cus I had studied Fine Arts when I was teenager so that I can a bit sure I -at least- can get a art job in not-far-away-future if I try harder.

but, TA part is different to me. It seems like It requires much higher knowledge bases than Graphic only parts to at least do something or at least make something(not even fancy, just to make something).
Actually I’m studying python and I started learning Rigging, However I also have a thought ‘isn’t all this meaningless?’
cus I feel I’m late to get into this deep area. I have to study many things in few years that other average people have started studying more than 5 years ahead of me. some people even started in high school.
And then, If I study this, of course I may get a job ‘someday’ from ‘somewhere’ but, what if that job will only be something barely earns minimum wages or some?(cus of my low skill level) and what if that ‘someday’ comes when I am 40?
following one’s dream is nice but I know there’s something one just can’t.
like, one can’t become a pro figure skater when one’s already 50. It’s just too late.

I wanna hear opinions from you guys. is my dream a thing that one can make by trying hard?
can I get a decent Rigging job(Character TD) in just few years from no bases?
will I even get a chance to work on AAA companies if try hard? do you think one can overcome year gaps by just trying hard?

I am ready to study and practice hard, actually I’m studying like 12 hours every day already. I feel desperate.
but I just wanna hear if it is possible or not. cus I should consider the reality.
Thank you for reading this guys


#2

Hey Shrimpking,

I wanna start with a disclaimer, like you I’m not a Technical Artist, at least not yet, but inspiring to be.
My advantage you can say is that I already work in a AAA company, so I have insight what TA job is (at least in current studio) so I can point out some things.

As you might already know ( I assumed you googled TA descriptions and Job requirements) you need a solid background in either Art or Programming.
But again, it depends on the studio you are applying at, in some studios the TA is more focused on one aspect of TA (like optimization, shader creation, riggging, python scripts) it all depends on you finding the right studio for you.

I don’t think your age will be a disadvantage you(me as well) we are still young, we just have to work hard for it.
Regarding salary, it depends again on the studio and the country. In our industry you do this because you like it not to get rich, you might want to look into other jobs if that;'s what you are looking for tho.

Hope I answered all your questions, was a quick reply and hope it makes sense.


#3

You’re still young and learning programming and technical skills is just a good idea.

Also keep an eye on different and emerging industries. Tech artists are going to be useful in far more industries than just AAA games.

@Jeff_Hanna made an awesome point in the Slack channel yesterday, about how the TA field has grown and matured. This trend will continue!

About 10 years ago, when I held the first Technical Artist roundtables at Game Developers Conference - GDC I had no idea if anyone would show up. The first few years we always talked about what we should call ourselves, as no one would hire a ‘TA’. These days there is more demand than supply. I’ve hosted over 30 roundtables, started a yearly 1-day TA ‘Bootcamp’ (which will host #7 next March and has seen over 35 amazing TAs share knowledge and help others) and helped foster a worldwide TA community with some of the most dedicated and outstanding people I have ever known.

Today Microsoft posted a job listing to our TA community forums. Not for Microsoft Game Studios, but for the Windows team. Specifically to work on the Windows 10 Photos app.

10 years from game industry obscurity to necessary for the Windows team.


#4

I didn’t get into games until I was 25. It was another 3 years before I realized that not only did I want to be a Technical Artist, but also that I was a much better TA than level designer.

So no, you’re not to old.


#5

I got my first games job at 30, and I didn’t really work as a ‘technical artist’ (though the term wasn’t really around yet) until 35. Totally self-taught; I was a production artist first and a lot of us – most of us, I’d bet – started off as line artists and ended up as TAs because we saw things that needed doing and did them. If you can get a job as a working artist and you start fixing problems as you go, you’ll be just like the rest of us. It just takes time and work.

Its true things were a bit more fast and loose back then – but the moral of the story is “never too late.”

The AAA side of the business might take a bit longer. It’s hard to get a first job in AAA these days – its more likely that you’ll start with a smaller company. But the work is the work, and you may learn faster in a small shop where you don’t get put into a tiny narrow role.


#6

Hey, Thank you all for the insights guys! I appreciate it. and Thank you for the positive feedback.
also thank you for introducing me that information clesage!
Actually I was ready to hear that It’s definitely not the good time for getting into the completely new area to be honest.

And yes, I understand this industry is competitive as hell and jobs are usually unstable
what I meant by referring salary and AAA job was,
that I was worried about that maybe I will not get a meaningful professional result no matter how I love this area or I study hard because I started this too lately when other workers are a way ahead of me
but none of you guys said it is not possible, so I will just keep trying, so, well… maybe 10 years later then… maybe…
(groundless self-confidence is my only strength)

I hope someday I can post some work of mine that can get some interests from you guys. thank you


#7

I just want to add a comment here that a “AAA job” is by no means the only metric of success or a “meaningful” job. There is more niche work that can be (in my opinion) more fulfilling than working at a AAA studio, and I’m certain that there are indie shops that could give you a good salary. I’m 30 and just started last year as part-3D generalist and part TA at a biology/medicine-oriented educational animation studio. All that to say that sometimes the “road to success” is not towards the big job (AAA), but towards the unusual specialized job that fits your interests best.


#8

that means something. I won’t pursue only for getting an renowned big title
I think If I try hard to work for the big companies, I will be able to settle down at my own job that makes me want to work at, as anything that can give me a satisfaction will be my own AAA job. I can get your point. thank you


#9

I want to add something to this conversation, It will take you about a diploma and 1-2 years of work to become a good programmer that understand the TA role, I’m more of a Tools Engineer than a TA. There are rigging TA’s, VFX TA’s, Houdini TA’s the list goes on.

As long as you work hard, (and I mean learn new things constantly, show pride and passion in your work, get along with others and solve problems constantly) you will get a job and none of this “Minimum wage stuff” you will start at $45k a year and it will go up fast (If you’re a good at what you do), I was scouted directly out of school, and for every job that I’ve gotten I was approached by the company (There are always job postings for this industry / Engineering). Just like any job if you work hard and people see it you will be rewarded.

My suggestion is (You can learn programming by yourself, but not as well as if you were to study in school). If this is something you want I suggest you take a year diploma and work your ass off, and you will be successful.


#10

Thank you, I am seriously considering having a diploma in CS or CG major
However, If ever I have one, It would be better to get from a college located in somewhere overseas.
I’m living in a small country that people usually retire the game or VFX industry at their age of 40 even though they were working at the biggest companies here. (hopefully it’s not true, but I heard so. many times)
this is another reason why I’m so worried about my age.
and here is no short year diploma course. every college and institution offers 3-4 year course when it comes to CS or CG diploma. so It will be good to have a diploma from other countries where I can work a bit longer.
but for now, money issue hurts me. then I registered at 6 month interactive online course by TA workers from big companies like naughty dog or weta. I hope it will bring me light. and I am taking some well reviewed MOOC courses wishing It’s better to take than doing nothing, writing and practicing actual codes(it’s poorly simple tho) and rigs as well.
final thing to handle is having some group projects like I was in school. and that is, well… I don’t know. haha
I will just keep doing what I can do at my current state.


#11

What country? Somebody here might have some connections or local expertise to share.


#12

Hello, Theodox.
I’m living in Korea (No, Not the North)


#13

I’d only like to add: maybe studying everything required for a TA and then trying to get a TA job may be difficult and suboptimal. A common pattern is that many TAs start at a more specialized art or programming position and move to TA from there. There are certain advantages to that, but in particular, it allows you to start working freelance or at a small studio long before you’ve gathered all the broader knowledge and experience required to branch into TA.

Another issue, is that studying solo for a few years and then applying as a TA would leave a certain hole in your resume: no collaborative work experience; this is kind of a biggy, since almost any kind of TA is the equivalent of a “utility/support class” seen in games… Most of our work is about helping others by increasing their productivity with tools, finding optimal workflows for some department/s, solving tricky technical issues someone is having, or being a bridge between highly specialized artists and programmers.

You mentioned that you’re learning rigging. That’s a classic gateway drug to becoming a TA. It seems to be a strategically good place to start: even primitive coding comes in very handy in this line of work, you get to do lots of relatively simple scripting to improve your rigging, and there are many freelance/small_studio opportunities, even for not very skilled riggers.

My suggestion is: don’t panic, focus, and take it step by step. Learn rigging and the scripting required for it, start working freelance and making connections, and continue learning things towards your desired TA “specialization” on the side, be it rendering/shaders, pipeline, engine tools, animation tools, modelling tools, etc.