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AMA #13: Tania Pavlisak, Freelance 3D Environmental Artist
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This is a transcript of an "Ask Me Anything" (AMA) session with Tania Pavlisak, hosted by the IGDA Student SIG. If you're interested in doing an AMA with students, you can sign up here.

Tania is a freelance environmental artist who also runs a VR company called Popoko. Before the games industry, she worked in the aerospace industry as a design engineer. Her current project as a freelancer is Undead Darlings.

Livio

This starts now!

@tania can you start with a brief intro about yourself

tania

Hello everyone~ I'm a 3D environmental artist and indie developer. I recently switch career from aerospace design engineer.. not sure how to break into the industry, experiment with doing freelancing to learn more about 3D game pipeline.. and still at it after 2 years πŸ˜ƒ

Livio

forgot to ping @here to notify the group that we're starting.

Rob (Younghand)

Hey @tania! Welcome. πŸ˜ƒ

Livio

How much overlap is there, if any, between the skills from your previous career, and what you're doing now?

Rob (Younghand)

What made you switch?

tania

In term of process, they are very similar, actually. Also for the modeling part.. We did airplane structure and interior modeling as part of the design team, and that carry over to environment art, especially for hard surface modeling

What made the switch.. I guess I always want to work in game since I was young... but growing up, I never considered game development as a career ^^ Not until I moved to Seattle and met other developers that I realized it was a possibility

[FFL] Acquilius

How'd you start out as an environment artist? Also I always wanted to know how people do tree leaves without "duplicating, and inverting geometry" πŸ˜…

tania

I took night classes on 3D game modeling .. Also tried both character and environmental art. I had more fun with creating environment

I guess trying different things and realize which part is more fun help a lot. Like right now, I still prefer doing hard surface than organic stuff

Also doing game jams and hackathons πŸ˜„ See what others are making.. Pick their brain, learn by watching

[FFL] Acquilius

What's the first thing you do before starting to model (apart from gathering references)? any tips for aspiring 3D environment artists?

tania

The design phase is really important. For my freelance work, we don't have art director.. So I constantly ask questions to the designer. What kind of world is in this game? What's the setting? What the characters like and dislike?

Ian P

How did you get into aerospace design initially??

tania

I took 3D drafting course at community college. Boeing was looking into CATIA modeler at the time since 787 was heavily designed in 3D. I took about 2 courses and got contracting job before even finishing the certificate program

It's kinda interesting that a lot of engineers were having problem moving from 2D drawing to 3D too.. it was a new process for a lot of people at that time

[FFL] Acquilius

What would your advice be for people who want to start getting into 3D environment art? is it necessary for them to know about 2D theory first, before venturing into 3D?

tania

I personally don't have much knowledge in 2D.. I did art class in high school. But I was familiar with using photoshop, and that help with texturing a lot

Knowing about creating modular asset is really important

That way you can reuse parts, create your own kit, and add them to your models as needed.

Each artist also has different preference, I guess. Some artists I know would do concept art before hand and build through there. For me, a collection of reference pictures are enough to get started in 3D blocking and modeling

Livio

How did you first get involved with that Undead Darlings project?

tania

I was checking facebook feed, and someone in a game group was looking for environmental artist for japanese-style levels. I actually did not have portfolio or anything at that time, but I reached out to that person anyway

At the time, I was doing weekly 3D challenge, and was working on Sherlock Holmes apartment project, built in 3ds Max and Unity. When he asked for sample, I just sent him my scene.. It wasn't even textured yet, but he liked the models

Livio

I saw some screenshots, and some of the scenes remind of the environments in Persona 4

[FFL] Acquilius

I know that this is a frequently asked question and probably common knowledge, but what's the preferred 3D modelling software?

tania

for software, pick the one you're the most comfortable with. I know in Seattle, most studios are using Maya nowadays. It was 3ds Max 5-6 years ago.. It really changes

but to be honest, most client just want the fbx and obj nowadays.. it doesn't really matter if it is build in Max, Maya, Blender, Modo, etc...

Livio

Last I checked, Autodesk has a 3-year free trial for students. If that's still around, take advantage of that while you still can.

Autodesk makes 3ds max and maya

Ian P

Yeah, its worth it to at least try stuff out

Livio

and even if you don't think it's worth the money afterwards, you can still tell employers that you have years worth of practice with those tools

tania

yes! For students still enrolled.. make use of your student discounts and perks, especially on tools

that was one of the main reason for me taking night classes while I was working.

I am actually jealous of today's students, haha. When I was in college, there were no student discount on anything. We had to buy our own Visual Studio, etc. Most people I knew had to pirate their software. Nowadays, a lot of software are free for students and faculty

Livio

You said you have your own little VR company on the side. Can you talk a little about what that's like?

tania

Sure. I started looking into VR about 2 years ago. It was exciting, since nobody know much about it. The tools were pretty easy to get into, hardware was definitely a lot cheaper than 10 years ago

A friend lent us his Vive sdk, and I used it to create Ludum Dare project in 2016. I barely code before but found VRTK for unity. That toolkit enabled me to test my ideas right away without much coding

So since then I have been experimenting with different design for VR. It's different than normal game design. Some mechanics don't translate well.. Like free flying, free movement, etc.

Last year I applied to Oculus Launchpad program and got selected. I didn't win the scholarship, but it was an intense 3-month program to create working polished prototype. If they're having it again, I suggest to give it a try if you're interested in VR

A lot of the participants were students too. Some of them get jobs in industry afterward, like for Unity

Ian P

You mentioned earlier that you did 3d modeing challenges. did you have somewhere you found the challenges, or did you come up with them on your own?

tania

I usually came up on my own. Pick a theme and work on it for a week (or more if you really like that theme). There are also other places that provide these theme.. I think there's a subreddit on it

Also have a goal, something you want to learn when doing it. For me, I was trying to figure out my speed in churning assets when doing so. First week was horrible. The next week was slightly better.

Places like Polycount is great for posting your work too. The weekly challenge helps me to get into a habit of making something. Because the trick to 3d modeling is to keep doing it ^^

Livio

^ that's pretty good, I always hear artists talk about how many students don't think to work on their ability to churn out a lot of work fast, but that's a pretty important skill. There are quite a few tweaks that you can make to your art style to make it easier to churn out a high volume of art.

tania

Same with coding, I guess. If you only do it once, you'll forget the process by next month. But if you do it over and over, the method sticks with you better

Livio

Do have plans to ship anything of your own? Like an indie project of some kind?

Or do you mostly stick to contracting for other people's projects

tania

I'm hoping to publish something this year.. either a small VR app for Oculus or Vive.. or put art assets on Unity store.. Or maybe both, haha

One thing I forgot to mention about working in VR, or any projects... Learn to fail a lot.. fail fast.. and figure out how to bounce from it

Rob (Younghand)

^ Definitely words of wisdom

Livio

do you have any stories of failure Tania πŸ˜ƒ

tania

As an engineer, I was afraid of making mistakes.. since it can be costly. To be honest, that fear held me back from doing what I wanted to do for a while. But after I started doing experiment projects and failed a lot, I built a treshold for mistakes ^^

The me from 5-6 years ago would not contact that guy on facebook about the job.

But the me from 2 years ago was like.. eff it, worse thing that can happen was not hearing anything.. But I made that first step, and well.. here I am πŸ˜ƒ

Rob (Younghand)

Yeah, I'm slowly getting to that point myself.

First step is usually the toughest

Livio

Almost out of time, any last questions?

Thanks a lot for taking the time to talk to us today, @tania!

Ian P

Yeah, thanks a ton for coming and talking with us!

Livio

Feel free to share stuff from time to time on this discord. πŸ˜ƒ

Rob (Younghand)

@tania Thanks for coming by and giving us some insight into your process and work! It was a blast πŸ˜ƒ

tania

Thank you~ Good luck. It is exciting time now to be in game development πŸ˜ƒ

Ask Me Anything: Transcripts & Recordings

Item Name Posted By Date Posted
AMA #22: Adolfo Aguirre, PR & Publishing Manager a Link  more ] L. De La Cruz 4/24/2018
AMA #19: Anna Brandberg, UI/UX Designer at EA Link  more ] L. De La Cruz 4/21/2018
AMA #18: Fernando Reyes Medina, 343 Industries Link  more ] L. De La Cruz 4/9/2018
AMA #17: Brandon Huffman, Founder at Odin Law Link  more ] L. De La Cruz 4/9/2018
AMA #16: Chris Christodoulou, Composer Link  more ] L. De La Cruz 4/9/2018
AMA #15: Joakim "konjak" Sandberg, Indie Developer Link  more ] L. De La Cruz 4/8/2018
AMA #14: Raphael Azcueta, Creator of LUNARSIGNALS Link  more ] L. De La Cruz 4/10/2018
AMA #13: Tania Pavlisak, Freelance Artist Link  more ] L. De La Cruz 4/8/2018
AMA #12: Cassie Murphy, Artist at Valve Link  more ] L. De La Cruz 4/10/2018
AMA #11: Tom Hunt, Indie Programmer Link  more ] L. De La Cruz 4/8/2018
AMA #10: Terence Tolman, Concept Artist Link  more ] L. De La Cruz 4/9/2018
AMA #8: Kaylin Norman-Slack, Developer & Composer Link  more ] L. De La Cruz 4/10/2018
AMA #7: Sophia Baldonado, Software Dev at Pluto Link  more ] L. De La Cruz 4/8/2018
AMA #6: Keegan O'Rourke, Strange Loop Games Link  more ] L. De La Cruz 4/8/2018
AMA #5: Victor Brodin, Lead VR Developer at Invrse Link  more ] L. De La Cruz 4/8/2018
AMA #4: Jing Dai, Founder at Immersive Square Link  more ] L. De La Cruz 4/8/2018
AMA #3: Christina, Customer Support at Twitch Link  more ] L. De La Cruz 4/8/2018
AMA #2: Eric Cagle, Game Designer Link  more ] L. De La Cruz 4/8/2018
AMA #1: Samantha Rose, Game Developer Link  more ] L. De La Cruz 4/8/2018
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