Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Road to Art Awesome: Neko Team Style

Recruiting artists is hard. Recruiting unpaid artists is harder. I’m a senior at DigiPen institute of Technology. I’ve worked as an art director on two different games before this one. This is the first time I’ll actually be really getting credit for it: Five credit hours, fifteen glorious hours a week expected. I have, of course, been pouring in more than that.
 I joined Neko team in May. During spring semester, Rachel Rutherford introduced me to Caleb Fisher, The producer on Neko Team. He was the producer on bLight. I was impressed with his professionalism and how far along their game was. I gave some feedback on their art and liked how they handled everything. He met up with three programmers (Fernando Silva, Travis Hince and Edgars Sturmanis) from Y-Soul. I know I had to follow that power of tech. Caleb interviewed me and, honestly, it was harder hitting than most job interviews I’ve had (for jobs like drafting for electrical engineers and homebuilders). He asked Rachel how she thought we would do together, talked to his team, and then brought me on board. 
I was given free rein to find the art team. All of my artists were interviewed by both of us.
I took a couple of classes that summer with my good friend Megan Noble ( She had bad luck with a game team in the past school year. Art assets just chucked away. Not an uncommon tale at DigiPen. I kept at her with tales of how awesome my devs are and how much potential this game has. If there was a bet to take, this team was it. It was the beginning of June when she saw the truth of it. You would have to ask her what made her decide this insanity was going to work. 
Towards the end of June I “acquired” Amanda Lien ( We had tagged emails back and forth; she was interested, just busy with life -- a common theme with most artists I spoke to. Summer is a hard time to recruit artists. Amanda was very enthusiastic. I wanted her because strong ability to conceptualize is important and I knew that was her drive. I had recruited her for Desk Wars as a concept artist. (She was one of five artists I picked up for that team.) I knew she could deliver and knew I liked working with her.

We didn’t have an animator. I kept talking to people and keeping my ear to the ground. Eventually, I got directed to Sarah “Chip” Nixon ( an artist who really, really wanted a game team to animate for. She joined us at the beginning of August. Chip meshes well with our team. She’s “only” a junior, but we help her with her classes by sharing our own experience of having been there, and she animates for us! In the summer before she had any Maya classes, we started teaching her how to animate in Maya, so she would be ready for us. 
Ryan “the Sandman” Sand ( ) is a rockstar all-rounder. He decided to specialize in environment and that’s what he spent his summer focusing on. I knew I had the character people I needed, but you need so many environment assets for a game. Ryan had a team he had already agreed to. He liked the people he was working with and didn’t want to break that obligation. However, they weren’t working over summer and we charging through it. They were being flakey with him. He joined us at the end of August. He’s been my DM since freshmen year (we’re currently playing Pathfinder), so I knew I liked being around him. I also knew he could slam out assets. He did an obscene amount of work for a game that didn’t do his effort justice. Every time I came over to D&D, I would drop a line or two in about how awesome my team is. And that paid off.
One of the first people I had tried to grab was Jengy “The beast” Gomez ( I was very impressed with the work (quality and quantity) she did on her last game. She was very positive and energetic every time I talked to her. She had turned me down because she wanted to do an independent study and pursue another project. Thankfully for me, the teachers wanted her to be on a team project. She got in touch with me at the beginning of the semester and I pumped my fist. She brings a lot to my team.

It’s the end of week 7. We have 15 weeks in a semester and a long way to go with Neko Team. It’s going to be a fun journey.

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