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Life as a videogame artist with Tor Frick

By 3dtotal staff

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Date Added: 30th June 2015

Machinegames technical art director Tor Frick lines up his best tips for working and surviving in the videogame industry...



Pace yourself

A large dose of caffeine and a good fast song is how I begin my working day; then I just focus on working on something that requires little thought so I get into the groove early, and get a good pace going. If I start the day trying to solve problems or trying to get my head around something complex, I don't feel like I hit the ground running.


Stay in the zone

Nothing takes me out of the zone more than software running slow and not responding instantly to what I'm doing, so I try to keep my hardware as new and fast as possible. I also tend to build things quite cheaply resource-wise, just to save time and performance when modeling – it's a good habit to have.


Choose your software

The Foundry's MODO is a fantastic tool for making hard-surface modeling for games, and has been my go-to program for 8 years.


As a game developer, I often have to create lots of really fast but simple assets, where the actual creation of the assets takes a relatively short time compared to managing everything else (creating texture files, setting up and baking out different kind of texture maps, exporting things and finding filepaths).

I try to use as many quick solutions as possible to avoid losing time over things like this, like having my scenes automatically set up with all baking settings already tuned, so when I get to baking it's just a one-click solution. In Photoshop, I also use a lot of actions bound to hotkeys, to quickly export and import things, and set them up to standard templates without having to do it manually every time.


Additionally, it's no big secret, but if you use MODO you should really check out Seneca Menard's scripts. It's really worth digging deep into them to integrate into your workflow.


Keeping ahead of the curve

When I see something that really blows my mind, I often try to dissect it, recreate it myself and adapt it to my own workflow. I then keep iterating on it until I feel I have a good grasp on it. When possible, I try to squeeze it into the everyday tasks at work, but most of the time it takes the shape of spare time projects.

I often have more than one thing going at any one time, so if I get stuck on one of them or suffer some inspirational block, I swap over to another task/area, and just keep working until I get my inspiration back. Most of the limitation of the pace I can keep is due to focus – if I switch between things whenever I feel my focus drifting I feel like I can keep the pace up better.


Handling pressure

Don't lose sight of the bigger picture. It's often easy as an artist to get very attached to a small part of the whole, and then lose track of what's important when you are on a strict deadline. What really helps me is to take a step back and try to see the bigger picture, and then re-prioritize what I have to do. Often, it's not what you want to do, but it helps to get there faster.

I have a tendency to never really unwind, instead I just switch my focus to something else. If I do a lot of technical stuff at work, I tend to do more artistic exploration in my spare time, and vice versa. It helps me take my mind off work while still being able to be creative.


Related links

Head over to Tor's website for a closer look at his work
Tor Frick was in issue 117 of 3dcreative magazine
Also a MODO user? Check out these MODO eBooks

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Readers Comments (Newest on Top)
J Finn on Sat, 04 July 2015 8:03pm
Hitting the ground running, I never really understood that until reading it now since I pretty much did that today but not yesterday. I mean if you can get going then taking on challenges afterwards is much easier, you're in a mode for it. Good article
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