Are you an art person or a science person? Can’t decide? Maybe it’s because you’re both! Many of today’s jobs require a broad range of competencies in both logic and creativity to produce something truly groundbreaking. In video games, no job embodies this exciting trend as well as Technical Art, a role which allows ones to work on both art and code at the same time. What’s this job like and how do you become an expert at it? We talk to our Senior Technical Artist Usama for some interesting insights.
What is technical art?
In the skill spectrum that ranges from Art to Programming, technical art is right in the middle. You can call us artists who can code or programmers with an artistic flare. Or you can say that a technical artist is the bridge between the art and tech departments. We make systems and tools that assist artists and help keep the things they make within technical limitations for a smooth gaming experience.
We make systems and tools that assist artists and help keep the things they make within technical limitations for a smooth gaming experience.
Describe your journey of discovering technical art & choosing it as a career. What inspired you to start?
During my bachelor’s in Computer Science, I loved visual projects involving computer vision and did a lot of image processing and manipulation. Then, I got into Computer Graphics and merged my two skills to start a few Augmented Reality (AR) projects. I loved the idea of manipulating pixels with mathematics and code. At that time, I had an opportunity to work on visual effects at DreamWorks Animation and I created some tools and systems following artistic requirements from art directors. Because I came from a technical background, being surrounded by talented artists helped me develop an artistic eye for film. It was here that I learnt how to balance art direction and technical limitations. As I continued to improve in this field, I soon noticed that games are really at the forefront of cutting edge real-time visual art. The game industry became a very natural direction for me to work towards.
As there’s a huge tech and skillset overlap between the movie and video game industry, I jumped into game development and joined Ubisoft Singapore as a Senior Technical Artist. I love what I do here because it satisfies both the artist and programmer in me. I strongly recommend this job to anyone else who loves the same things!
I love what I do here because it satisfies both the artist and programmer in me. I strongly recommend this job to anyone else who loves the same things!
What does a technical artist do day to day?
Technical artists have a diverse set of responsibilities because of rapidly changing technology and the wide spectrum of tasks they can do with their wide skillset. However, there are some core tasks that all of us are required to excel at. Firstly, we assist other types of artists with creating art and keeping the art within technical limitations set by the game. The artists we help include modelers, shader artists, level designers and many more.
A technical artist also monitors the performance of the assets within the engine and sets the standards for workflow. Recently, we’ve also begun to automate these workflows and generate procedural assets. Both these tasks require an artistic eye and technical knowledge, so they are perfect for us! We may also help artists solve complex visual asset problems, and that’s always pretty fun and fulfilling.
Usama on a panel about innovation and AI at Ubisoft Singapore.
What are some of your biggest challenges in daily work?
The best thing about working with artists is seeing their drive to create the most amazing art and push boundaries. But we also have technical constraints for the best performance, and some of these art assets need to be tweaked to fit those constraints. It’s an engaging challenge and a real test of creativity to achieve visual awesomeness while still making sure that everything works, but it’s also why our contribution really makes an impact on the final product.
It’s an engaging challenge and a real test of creativity to achieve visual awesomeness while still making sure that everything works, but it’s also why our contribution really makes an impact on the final product.
What are the hard and soft skills needed to get and do well in job in technical art?
A good technical artist understands art and animation pipelines and is familiar with the technical constraints of different consoles and gaming platforms. They can also pick up proprietary software tools quickly.
It’s a bonus if you know about art optimization, modeling and texturing. And you really need to enjoy and excel at technical tasks. Unlike a pure programming role, some knowledge of C, C++, Python and scripting is beneficial but not a necessity. You will excel if you are detail-oriented and a great communicator who’s able to work efficiently and autonomously.
Why is Ubisoft Singapore a great place to be for a technical artist?
Ubisoft Singapore is on a mission to be a leader in cutting edge tech in the game development industry. We’ve got a vibrant working environment that encourages innovation and initiative. Technical artists are highly valued here and we constantly have opportunities to learn new things and stay ahead of the game. After working here for two years, I can definitely say that Ubisoft Singapore’s got so many incredibly creative and smart people. They’re maybe even some of the best people I’ve ever worked with. The culture here makes things fun and challenging.
After working here for two years, I can definitely say that Ubisoft Singapore’s got so many incredibly creative and smart people. They’re maybe even some of the best people I’ve ever worked with. The culture here makes things fun and challenging.
What do you love the most about the studio life / culture here? (e.g. diversity, fun work life, training opportunities)
Ubisoft Singapore takes work life balance very seriously and I really appreciate this. We also have cool studio events and team lunches quite often to keep everyone connected and engaged. People are quite approachable and it’s normal to walk up to someone anytime to pick their brain on an issue. It’s an awesome atmosphere of collaboration, sharing and geekiness.
Any words of advice for people hoping to join a technical art role in Ubisoft Singapore?
This role requires you to solve technically complex problems from time to time, so you should love a challenge! You may also be responsible for visual outputs like creating new shaders and building procedural geometry, so an artistic eye would be very helpful.
We’re really looking for those who enjoy communicating with the artists, identifying their problems and taking the initiative to help them out. If you’re passionate about working on both art and code, being a Technical Artist at Ubisoft Singapore is the best place to fulfill this calling. Are you the right fit? Check out our job openings here.