Career Advice - Working as a Game Environment Artist with Jonathan Hars
Want a successful career working as a Game Environment Artist? Jonathan Hars is a 28 years-old Environment Artist at CyberConnect2 in Japan, and he sits down with us to share his journey and advice to aspiring artists looking for an exciting and challenging career like his own.
What's your current role and what does it involve?
I started working in the video game industry a year and a half ago, after studying game art at New3dge. I am currently working as a Environment Artist, at first, mainly working on small assets, building up to larger assets. A few month ago, I was given the responsibility of creating a full Environment for the project I am currently working on.
My work now involves creating the level blocking and layout. It also involves taking into consideration the gameplay and the camera, for example, not putting assets in the scene that would make it difficult to see or follow the action. I also have to constantly think about the LOD of the assets in the scene, as well as making sure texture sizes aren't so big that it makes the scene too heavy.
Where do you work, and what type of projects are they involved with?
I am working in the main office of CyberConnect in Fukuoka Japan. In this studio, we are working on Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot, the game based on the manga Kimetsu No Yaiba (Demon slayer), and also Fuga: Melodies of Steel.
When did you first realise you wanted to work in this industry?
I realised this early on in my childhood. Aunts, Uncles and Cousins were playing games around me and I discovered a lot of different games like Zelda, Mario, Diablo and Grand Turismo.
The first time I became interested in the idea of actually making games, was when I was playing Zelda a lot. I thought the character design was amazing and wanted to know how it was done. I was absolutely sure I needed to get into game art when I got the Dreamcast console, playing games like Jet Set Radio and Crazy Taxi.
Describe the journey you took into your current role?
I received a French Scholarship and was able to get into an art school called Lycée Corvisart Tolbiac in Paris. The school mainly teaches Graphic Design and Printing. I mainly studied Screen Printing at the time.
After this, I went to « L’initiative » a graphic art school in Paris, and for three years studied Graphic Design and Art History. At that point I didn't think I had the necessary skills to start at a video game school however, during an Internship I saw an ad for New3dge, where I studied for the next five years.
At New3dge I learned everything I needed, to start my journey in the Video Game Industry. I started with drawing lessons and introductions to 3d Software like 3DsMax and Zbrush. When it came time to choose a specialisation, naturally I chose to explore Game Art.
After graduation, the game project I co-created with Jérémy Bergot (a Character Artist also working at CC2) Michel Lozes and David Quoniam, brought us to the attention of CC2 CEO Hiroshi Matsuyama. I had several job interviews with CC2, and moved to Japan a few month later.
Day in the life
Describe a typical day for you and your team?
There is nothing really fancy honestly! I wake up, I have a coffee while browsing the video games news, I go to work by foot and start working at 11 am (because of COVID). I do a full day of work, trying my best not to make mistakes and learning as much as I can.
Then, I take my lunch break and eat with the international Japanese staff to practice my Japanese. After work, I usually call my family and friends, play games, have dinner, and start again!
What third-party and proprietary tools do you use on a daily basis?
Nothing fancy, we have licenses for our preferred 3D software and work freely with what we need. Substance painter, Photoshop and Unreal Engine are the main tools that I use in my day to day work.
Which departments and key people do you work closely with?
Right now I mostly work with other Environment Artists. As they have more experience than I do, I try to learn as much as possible from them!
I also sometimes talk with Developers and Game Designers, when I have some questions about some aspects of the game.
One thing you’d never change about your job?
The only thing that I don't think can change, is the passion I have for what I do. Without it, I don't think my work would be as good as it is, and I definitely wouldn't be as happy.
But one thing you wouldn’t mind seeing changed is?
I wouldn’t mind moving away from Environment Art, and being able to explore different aspects of Game Development. I’m really interested in Game Design and Level Design - I want to learn every possible step of game creation.
Is formal education essential for someone aspiring to do your job?
Yes and no. I’m still young so I’m not the right person to answer, but I think that formal education is important for a few reasons. For example, if you are absolutely sure that making games for a living is what you want to do, then you need to learn more than just the 3D tools. Learning about the history of architecture for example, can help you create realistic and accurate environment art. Also, having a basic knowledge in science to understand how lights work, can help an Artist to create the best assets to work in a certain lighting environment.
What tasks would you typically ask a junior artist to handle?
I am a junior artist, so I would say that you will be asked to create one simple but well executed asset, from concept to the engine. If you can create a clean model, with the right amount of detail, good UVs, and well executed texture, you are on your way!
If you could give one piece of advice to artists starting out, what would it be?
I think that looking at other artists work and learning from them is great. Making sure to not copy too much, and express your own artistic sentiment is even more important.
If you could go back in time to when you first started out, what advice would you give yourself?
I would say to work more on personal projects and finish them. The most important thing would be to stay humble - never think that you are better than someone; you have to learn from everyone.
You can find more of Jonathan's work on Artstation.