Category Archives: smArtist thoughts

I did an “Ask Me Anything” reddit post about getting into games!

Hi everybody! For those not familiar with reddit, it’s [essentially] a website where people post links, create discussions and comment on them. There are tens of thousands of small communities there, one of which is called “AMA” — short for “Ask Me Anything.” Sometimes they’ll have celebrities, or politicians, or people in interesting lines of work. People submit questions and the person answering them does their best to answer all they can. More often than not, it’s really interesting.

Well, I did one recently on what it takes to break into the game industry. I spent about 12 hours answering almost every single one of the 250+ questions asked. I’m going to take all that content and turn it into a big long Q&A or series of articles for my blog here, but I wanted to link to the original thread:

I AmA 10yr video game industry vet that likes helping people break into the industry. AMA!

Warning: The language can get very salty, which is wholly unsurprising to anyone that knows me. 🙂

Hope you guys enjoy!

Why you should blog what you know.

Artists: Having a great portfolio and blogging about what you know is gold. However, I’ve heard of people selling art critiques and trying to charge for basic information. I’ve always made everything I write 100% free, and here’s why: If your blog is for people that have the time to do what you’re teachingexplaining, it’s awesome for them and if the info is good, you’ll gain respect. However, you’re also showcasing your talent to people that don’t have the time to do it themselves, but instead have the money to pay *you* to do it.

Speaking as an art mercenary, this is the crucial principle: Don’t try to make money off the people that are trying to learn so they can make money. Try to make money from the people that have money.

User interface artist tip: Three tips for a better portfolio

Hello, UI artists! I’ve been going over a lot of UI artists’ portfolios — particularly contractors, hint hint — and I’ve noticed three things in particular that I love to see in a good UI artist portfolio.

  1. Wireframes. It helps me get a sense of your talent, planning and user experience sensibilities when I can see different treatment of UI layouts. Bonus points for explaining briefly and succinctly the requirements and constraints you were following when you created the wireframes.
  2. Multiple treatments on one idea. This helps me see your creative and overall user interface design process to see all the different angles from which you develop ideas. The closer to final these seem, the better. Coupling this with showing wireframes also shows how you weed out less effective ideas and know which ones to develop into a stage that’s closer to final.
  3. Who-did-what breakdowns. I usually see user interface artists skew in one of two directions. a) Someone that focuses on the UI design from the ground up and develops the wireframes then hands that off to a 2D artist to finish, or b) Someone who’s more of an illustrator that takes wireframes and beautifies them and takes them to final. There are certainly people that do both, but it’s not always obvious which is which when I’m looking at a portfolio. If you can clarify this simply and briefly, it makes it easier for me to understand what you did and what you do.

That’s a brief breakdown of what can turn a below-average or average user interface artist’s portfolio into one that’s much easier to view and understand. On a final note, presenting this information cleanly and efficiently is, in and of itself, an opportunity to demonstrate your ability. 🙂

What do you guys think?

Artist tip: First impressions matter. Buy a domain and email from there.

Something I see from a lot of artists (and even some studios) soliciting their services for artwork is people with MSN, Hotmail and Gmail addresses. There’s nothing wrong with that, per se. To be honest, my primary email address is still with Gmail, but only because I’ve been using it for seven and a half years and I use it everywhere. That being said, I’m gradually moving my professional correspondence to my company email address because it does make a difference.

As a first impression, it feels markedly more professional when your email comes from your own domain or website. If you’re a professional service provider, having this form of web-based “real estate” offers an air of legitimacy and seriousness. This is your career, you are organized, you have a website, and you have an email address coming from the website which represents you professionally. Really, only GOOD can come of this.

This goes triply for an art studio. If you’re a group of artists and expect to be taken seriously, having a Gmail or Hotmail email address is going to make you seem young, moderately unprofessional and “indie” in the bad way. I want to work with companies organized enough to have a solid web presence and a “storefront” of sorts. If you don’t have that, it makes me feel like you’re less serious professionally. It sounds a bit unfair, but it makes me less confident in your ability to provide a service for me and deliver on time. You really could be awesome, but first impressions do matter. Why risk it?

As far as good domain names to buy, here are some guidelines:

  1. Try your best to get a dot com. Second best is dot net. Avoid strange TLDs (top level domains) if you can, and also avoid subdomains. Bad example: “”
  2. If you don’t use your real name, pick something simple. If you say the name aloud, can people find it on the first try? Bad example: “!!11/”
  3. Avoid internet slang. Bad example: “”
  4. Avoid non-standard spelling. Bad example: “”
  5. No hyphens. Bad example: “”
  6. Avoid complicated words. Bad example: “”
  7. If it takes longer than three seconds to speak aloud or explain, it’s too long. Bad example: “It’s, but ‘incompetence’ is spelled ‘i-n-c-o-m-p-a to be funny and ‘development’ is spelled ‘D U H velopment’ because — hey, where are you going?”
  8. Don’t pick something offensive. If it has to do with drugs, sex, poop, or communicable diseases, reconsider your life. This is the first impression you’re making to a prospective client or employer. Do you want to be the guy with the gross or stupid name? Bad example: “”
  9. Short and simple is best. Examples of short, simple, REALLY good domain names: “,” “,” and “”

The verbal aspect of a good name is enormous, and I don’t think many people consider it. You want a name simple enough to stick in someone’s head in the shortest possible amount of time, with the least chance of misspelling.

Remember: YOU need to go out of your way to be memorable to people so they’ll come to you. It’s not up to other people to find you immediately special and earth-shatteringly compelling. Don’t assume they’ll want to remember or will try REALLY hard to track you down online, especially if you have a bad domain name or email address.

What do you guys and gals think? Anything you’d disagree with, or anything I’m missing? Feedback is welcome as always!

CrunchCast #15! Applying for jobs, schools, concept art and crazy talk!

This week’s CrunchCast is online and Chris Holden, Bryan McConnell and I discuss the ins and outs of applying for work in the games industry and why it can take so long, the quality of various art schools and what you can get out of attending, the importance of concept art as a secondary skill and then devolves into crazy conspiracy talk. Check it out below or at!

smArtist tip: Art directors don’t cut the checks.

Contract artist tip: Your client’s contact point for art management and direction is rarely the person that cuts checks. Their endgame is getting art done and in game, not closing the contract out and getting you paid. It’s not personal, it’s simply the role and it’s easy to forget that the contract ain’t over till the check clears. Get adminfinance’s contact info and deal with them directly if you can. And be nice! In my experience, admin and finance are often ignored, and a little kindness can go a long way.

Presenting the CrunchCast!

Hi, everybody! I wanted to pimp out a game development video podcast my good buddy Chris Holden has put together. I’ve been a guest on it several times now and I’ve had a blast with him talking game dev, portfolios, breaking into the industry, and so on. The language can get pretty salty. I present to you…


And here’s CrunchCast #13, the most recent episode:

I’ll be posting these weekly as they’re recorded. Hope you guys enjoy it! If you have any questions you’d like answered on the podcast, email!