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A Day in the Life of an Agency Intern, Part Three

By Carolyn Koh on December 05, 2008 | Interviews | Comments

A Day in the Life of an Agency Intern, Part Three
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Julia Brasil is the first winner of Sony Online Entertainment's Girls In Real Life scholarship which includes a period of internship at the game studio of her choice. Julia chose to intern at SoE Seattle to work on The Agency. In her last two weeks, she had progressed in level design to the 2nd phase concept art and the creation of unique objects in game. Still working on creating the nightclub Metamorphoza, Julia has been creating concept art of the space she has designed. At this stage, she takes screenshots of the space in progress and then paints over them using Photoshop.

In the beginning, there was concept art- art which Julia drew upon to create the initial space layout. Now, second phase concept art or "paint over" comes into play. Screenshots are fleshed out using the colors and themes of the original concept art and these will provide the environment artists the look to work towards.

"It's very different from what I've done previously. It took me four days just to do this one paint over," said Julia.

Then it took another four days to rework the room and re-do the items in the design that did not work for the nightclub. Objects that were too large, too small all had to be reworked.

"Doing the paint over with colors, mood and lighting showed me the stuff that didn't work," said Julia, "The spaces that were too big and empty I had to make smaller or fill up with furniture, the spaces that were too cramped of course had to be made larger or have furniture taken out. Sometimes both."

Another key feature of engineering spaces, especially like the levels that Julia is working on, is the top level- the one fantastic room that gets a lot of attention from the designers and artists. The home of the boss, so to say. This is the room that's at the end of the mission, the one you finally get a key into, and if you enter, stand stock still for a moment thinking "Wow..." and get smacked with a headshot from an NPC- then the designer and artists have succeeded.

The VIP room of Metamorphoza is the top level that players work to get into, and it must "pop" - have a "wow" factor when players first enter it. To that effect, Julia decided that since it was Bugsy's Bar in the VIP room, that she would create a sculpture of a large bug, with evil looking eyes and fangs.

"I thought it looked kinda cute! But Sherry Floyd, my mentor and producer, and some other members of the team didn't. They thought it was too nasty and gruesome for a luxurious, exclusive, hard-to-get-into bar," said Julia.

Julia ended up re-working the piece five times before restarting it from scratch. She was comforted to find that according to the other concept artists working on The Agency, this happens a lot with concept art.

"You make it, you love it, and others don't," said Julia, "Concept artists have to accept that. Many times, you are working to conform to a greater vision. Think of it as commissioned art."

The sculpture is a one-of-a-kind piece and the next thing Julia had to do was to create other graphic views of it so that it could be built out by an environment artist. That is to say, she created line drawings and various views- Left, right, front, back and from the top.

All of this effort has shown Julia that drawing and concept art is much more time consuming and stressful than she had imagined.

"You're making something out of thin air and you have to make it seem like it belongs cohesively within the environment."

Is training in traditional media required for computer art? I wanted to know.

"Definitely," said Julia, "Traditional media provides you vigorous training. If you know how to use traditional media, you'll understand the use of the software better. For example, if you know how oil feels and renders, you'll know how it will feel and render when you use the software brush."

Further, she tells us, there's no "Undo" button in traditional media, so a foundation in traditional art provides the game artist a solid base of artistic discipline.

What further tidbits did Julia have to share with us? I asked.

"Well, I broke Unreal again," confessed Julia. "In fact, I can't work right now, so this interview is at a good time while the engineer tries to fix my computer again. I've managed to stump the guys."

We've received a sneak peak at one of the levels in a previous Intern Blog, now we're getting a look at the top level of Metamarphoza. What other little tidbits might The Agency share with us through Julia? Here's hoping for more as she completes her internship soon. Just a reminder, don't stare too long at the bug sculpture when you finally get past the bouncer. You might get hit from behind.

Carolyn Koh / Carolyn has been writing for MMORPG.com since 2004 and about the MMO genre since 1999. These days she plays mobile RTS games more, but MMOs will always remain near and dear to her heart.