Technical Artists are key players in any game development studio. With a strong eye for art quality and knowledge of real-time engine requirements, they are the connective tissue, using their knowledge of art and engineering to bring games to life. They provide support in building key technologies that enable artists and designers to quickly implement content into our games. Bridging art and engineering effectively, requires superior communication skills to facilitate problem solving between departments while adding new ideas, new techniques and working with the latest technologies to create world-class games.
In this Developer Q&A we’re interviewing Rendering and Performance Technical Artist, Artemiy Bulgakov, about his journey as a Technical Artist.
Describe your role at Sledgehammer Games.
As a Rendering and Performance Technical Artist I profile, debug and analyze existing performance bottlenecks as well as predict any potential issues we may encounter. Once those issues are identified I provide solutions as well as implement content adjustments, delegate tasks to other team members and discuss potential ways of approaching these problems in conjunction with other departments like Environment Art, Design, VFX and Lighting. Besides these main tasks I work on addressing rendering bugs, rig environmental assets for ambient motion and maintain documentation pages.
How is Technical Art an essential role in game development?
Technical Artists are unseen wizards that support every team in production. While my job is mainly revolving around performance which is essential for both Single player and Multiplayer modes to provide best experience for the players, there are many other Tech Art disciplines that provide essential work on every project as well.
What's your favorite thing about being a Technical Artist?
Being able to work with every department from Engineering to Art Direction. Having a new problem to solve every day. Each week brings us a challenge we haven't encountered before and Tech Art is always one of the first people to dive deep into the unknown. Most of the time the issues are new and are not documented so it takes creative approach and a lot of reaching out between different studios to find stakeholders or a trail of breadcrumbs that leads us to a solution. Having my hands touching every major aspect of the game from environments and VFX to shaders and AI is exciting!
How does someone pursue a career in Technical Art?
Tech Art is an incredibly broad discipline and typically no Tech Artist serves the same function. My first advise would be exploring what Tech Art disciplines exist. The main ones would be Performance, Rigging, Tools, Destruction and VFX/Lighting. While many Tech Artists can intersect between disciplines I would recommend to pick one discipline and put most of the time into it. Tech Artists often times spread thin around multiple departments so having to split between two disciplines may be overwhelming and may lead to lack of depth in each individual area.
Was there something that inspired you to pursue this career?
I've tried several job paths through internships and summer jobs. From being a fitter and a welder making mid-sized river vessels to interning as a financial analyst. This helped me get an understanding of what I like to do in life. While changing careers and experimenting one thing remained a constant: Video Games. Modding was one of the first journeys into the game development world. I was always interested in video games and have played a lot of Call of Duty growing up as well as a lot of single player RPG games. I realized that it's possible to expand games with the most-simple tools and so I started adding custom factions, traders and quests into the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. games. Following that I started making my own personal expansion to Skyrim and Fallout New Vegas with new locations, custom weapons, quests and stories. It was satisfying to let other people play my mods and expansions and things sort of snowballed from there.
What do you do to challenge yourself to continue to grow in your field? How do you stay on top of your game?
I like to watch and attend GDC talks as it lets me stay in touch with some of the new techniques used in other video games. Besides reading up on the new tech I make personal 3D models and participate in ArtStation challenges once in a while. This helps me keep other 3D skills relevant as well as provides a nice distraction from the typical work duties. Most of these projects are done on a whim after being inspired by a movie, a song or another media.
Ringling College of Art and Design has a reputation for developing great talent in gaming. Can you speak to your experience there?
Ringling has an incredible Game Art program and highly qualified professors who hail from all corners of the game industry and other creative media. Vast majority of Ringling students are working on high profile titles in major studios as well as tech companies and media conglomerates. Ringling's program is incredibly demanding and graduating from the school carries a degree of recognition in the industry. There are many Ringling graduates at SHG with whom I work daily.
Early Original Concept Art By Artemiy Bulgakov
As you've leveled up in your career, are there any words of wisdom you'd like to share with newcomers?
Take everything one step at a time but don't be afraid to take more responsibility if you enjoy challenge and creative problem-solving. With that said, try not to get overwhelmed and continue to learn new things as you progress. Every day we develop new features which need exploration, documentation and support while old tools get deprecated, and stop being supported. So be ready to step out of your comfort zone and be ready that each next day will lead to a new challenge which may have to be solved without your favorite tool.
Do you have to be passionate about your project in order to do it well? Are you passionate about what you’re working on now?
I believe a degree of passion is always required regardless of discipline be that for the project itself, video games as a medium or the industry as a whole. Get inspired by different things that will drive you at work. I am particularly happy with my position as I greatly care about the project I'm currently working on. Even though I can get tired by the end of the day it's ultimately incredibly fulfilling to work on something you care about!