Added Parts 8 and 9!
mtmckinley's forum posts
Year -0 (continued)So, while it was exciting to think that I could possibly have my first CG job before I even started college, it was not to be. I ended up working at a movie theater for most of my college career. I quit that because of the higher pay I could get at a call center... ugh! I did eventually get the job, but not until I was mostly through school. Soo...
MY FIRST INDUSTRY JOB!!!!11!!
I was 20 years old, had just quit a telemarketing job (after less than a month of working there), and thought I would email that old job possibility to see if they might change their mind and hire me.
Turns out they did! They emailed me back and said to come on in next Monday. I was sooo lucky!
Year 1 begins! February 2000WALRUS CORP.
My first job was with Walrus Corp. Walrus was a small start-up started by two brothers, Walter and Russell (I see what you did there. ). They had a few investors and hired me and one other artist to help them develop their software.
It wasn't a game company, but they were developing software for creating 3D websites. It was interesting. Each website that used their technology would have a navigable 3D environment that could display web pages, have 3D avatars selling things, dance club chat rooms, and so on. Kind of archaic now, looking back. It was kind of a very primitive version of what we have now in Sony's HOME, except it'd be all over the internet and not just in one application. My job was to test the software and create demonstration "rooms" to show off the software at work. I created a 3D theater (where people could buy movies), an office space (for giving online tours and for company PR), and lots of different themed "chat rooms" (I remember doing a Doom inspired room, an Incan cave, a dance club, etc.) I remember one was even using Dawn soap products in a fancy bathroom as a way of selling the products.
I was still in school at the time, so I worked part-time through the week and came in on Saturdays. It was educational to be sure, but wasn't exactly what I wanted to do eventually. For example, we weren't using Max or Maya or anything. It was the Walrus Editor that we used to create these rooms and they could only create simple shapes. So while I was learning a lot about working on a team and on a real project, I didn't learn much about real 3D software like Maya or creating anything related to games or films (at this point, I was still planning on getting into movies).
When I first started, we worked in an extremely small office. Which was ok, since we only had 5 people all together. However, after about 4 months of steadily learning how to use the Walrus tech and creating demo rooms of increasing complexity, there was a sudden (well, sudden to me anyway) falling out between the two brothers. Suddenly, Walter was kicking Russel out! It was a big to-do with armed escorts and all that jazz.
I was shocked, but still had a job and still had investors, so we kept going. We eventually got a nice office space in downtown Phoenix, Arizona. It was a huge office! And we still had just the 5 people... kinda funny. But we eventually hired on a couple more guys and kept going.
This job lasted until the beginning of January 2001. The studio ran out of funding and we eventually all got let go. We never did fill that office space up.
NextSo... What now?
Year -0 (continued)When I was a senior in highschool, and was preparing for college, my heart was still set on somehow learning this computer graphics stuff. I managed to convince my parents that I needed a computer for college and it'd be a big help to get it early so that I could get the hang of it. I got this HUGE CRT 21" screen monitor that must have weighed 100 pounds and my first PC, which might've been something like a Pentium 2 400 mhz or something with a whopping 256 mb of RAM! All for the low low price of around $4k. Yeah, that was nuts.
Anyway, I started doing research... not into colleges or anything like that, but into finding 3D graphics programs! I finally managed to find a free demo version of a program called Bryce3D.
Here's what the interface looked like: http://www.your3dsource.com/bryce-3d-screenshot.jpeg
It was primarily known for being good at generating height maps and landscapes. I started fiddling with it and started playing with creating shapes and shaders. Nothing complicated in the slightest. I'm talking about merely plopping down cubes, tori, spheres, etc. and making simple scenes with them. I couldn't save my files and when I rendered an image, it would render the image through a scan line and at the last second add a huge watermark all over the image. I got around this by taking a quick screen shot of the rendered image just before it hit 100% and saving my own jpg images that way.
Long story short, and to kinda get this narrative back on track, after a couple months of dabbling with Bryce3D, I made a few (very) simple scenes that I was proud of and made a rudimentary website where I posted them up.
Don't ask me how, but somehow, someone found them, noticed that I had mentioned that I was going to be moving to Arizona for college, and contacted me about the possibility of a job.
So, right out of the gate, I was getting interest and I was on cloud 9! Turns out that he was a headhunter and there was a small startup software company in Arizona that was looking for cheap talent. It wasn't games, but it was working with 3D, so I was excited!
IntroI recently read a blog by a designer who worked at Bioware for 10 years. He left that studio and wrote a blog post detailing his time through each of those years he worked there. I found it very interesting and, while I can't claim to be equally as interesting, I thought I might write some posts about my career to accomplish a couple of goals:
1) Just to remember. I haven't really thought about those times much and it'll be nice to have a written "diary" of those times to remind me in the future.
2) In the hopes that others may find my story half as interesting as I found the story I read.
I don't know how frequent I'll be updating my posts, but I'm hoping at least once a week, but maybe I'll get on a tare and it'll be every other day or something. I dunno. I hope you guys find them interesting!
Year -0I suppose I should start at the beginning and detail my experiences even getting started in the game industry. I know lots of people out there are students and enthusiasts who are still looking to get their foot in the door, so to speak.
I knew I wanted to be an artist at an early age. I remember writing and drawing my own comics and giving them to my friends in grade school. I had a dozen or so different comic book super heroes and another dozen villains I would circulate. Some of my favorites had names like Bullet Clip, Infinite, The Protectorate, and Blaster.
I remember a conversation with my dad when he asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up and I enthusiastically informed him that I would be pursuing a career in comic books as an illustrator! He warned me that that would be pretty difficult, but he was encouraging about it.
Then it happened. When I was 12 or 13 years old, Jurassic Park came out and I, like many others my age, was completely blown away! My mind was completely blown by the sheer amazement of what I was seeing on the screen and the unbelievable realism that these computer graphics were bringing to the table.
Afterward, with my limited means (no computer or internet), I searched for every scrap of info I could on how those dinosaurs came to be! I resolved then and there that I would switch my focus from comic book illustrations to computer graphics!
I knew what I wanted to be, but had no idea how to do it.