Despite a difficult period of unemployment after graduation, Rodrigue landed a dream job creating characters for Bioware 3 years ago and has been lucky enough to work on big name titles like Medal of Honor and the Mass Effect series.
3dtotal: Hi Rod, thanks for taking the time to chat to us. Can you tell us a little about yourself and your route into the games industry? Did you always know that you wanted to be a 3D artist or was it something that you stumbled into?
I actually never thought that I would one day be working on video games in 3D.
After finishing a science-orientated high school, I went to an art school because my goal at that time was to make comic books. As a kid I was very shy and spent a lot of time reading comics illustrated by John Byrne, Arthur Adams, Neal Adams, Alan Davis, Jim Lee and many more. I was fascinated by them and wanted to make a career with my drawings.
With time I realized that I was more interested in drawing characters than environments, and in art school I was exposed to so many new and inspiring forms of art (to me) that I started to realize that I didn't want to focus on one thing alone.
When I graduated, I was unemployed for almost a year and a half, trying to get a job in comics or illustration. I spent my time doing small odd jobs here and there to pay the bills.
I finally got a good comic project, but hit a wall with someone from a big publishing company in France who suddenly disliked my work after learning that my inking was done digitally. I was so mad at the time to be confronted by people so narrow-minded and against change that I decided I wouldn't want to waste my life working for such a backward industry. Admittedly, I was young and overreacted to the situation, but ultimately it's what made me continue looking for new job opportunities.
The funny thing is that after months with nothing, I was contacted by a job agency to go for an interview for a night security guard position in a small factory. And I almost went… On the day of the interview however, I changed my mind and decided to push for something more art-orientated.
Luckily enough, the next week I found my first job in a small video game company. It was a turning point in my life; not only was I working with friends but I was able to do character concepts, 3D environments, VFX and animation. We were all shouldering the workload of 3 people, but I loved it. I was always learning new things, and trying to achieve better and faster ways to do my work. It was stressful and intense but definitely worth it.
Unfortunately at the same time a lot of video game companies were closing and when I heard that EA was coming to town to find new talent for a studio in Montreal I gave it a shot. My English was terrible and I knew nothing about Montreal but I wanted to continue working in video games and it sounded like the best way to do it at the time. To my surprise I was hired, and so moved to Canada to continue my video game adventures.
I have been part of EA's Bioware
Montreal studio since I left France 3 years ago. I can say that after nearly 10 years in the industry, the time spent so far at Bioware Montreal has been the best of my career. I'm surrounded by amazingly friendly, passionate and dedicated people and am given the opportunity to do what I love most: create characters.
3dtotal: Some of our readers will be familiar with the fantastic tutorial series you created for us recently about modeling an elderly man. Do you find it easy to describe your creative process and plan the creation of an image or games character, or do you find that the process you use differs from image to image?
To me, every picture is a new process and every new character is a new challenge. To this day, I am always a bit stressed at the beginning of a new project.
I always found the first 3 or 4 hours of a new project terribly hard and so used to get really stressed when starting new projects. I actually refused a lot of live demo opportunities because they were only 1 or 2 hours long and I was worried that the audience would think I was a fraud! Since then, I have come to realize that I will always end up with something workable, so those first few hours are a little less stressful now.
At work I don't really have time to think about my process as we have tight deadlines and a lot to do so I just 'do' my work and focus on the technical constraints and checking the piece will work within them. Nowadays I spend more time on the technical side of things: shading, rigging, skinning, rendering tech, pipeline and so on.
In my personal work, I get bored of my creative processes pretty quickly, so I like to test new and different things with any fresh piece I make. Because the constraints are so tough at work, I tend to create more high-res characters that allow me to confront different problems and consider how I might apply them to games.
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