What course did you study at Escape Studios?
I'm currently studying a Masters in Game Art.
How did studying at Escape Studios help you into the world of games?
Well, not only did we learn the software needed to work in the industry, but we also learned why we use them the way we do, and I think that’s incredibly important. Learning software is all well and good, but because the industry changes so much, you really need to understand why you are doing the things you are doing, so you can quickly adapt to new processes as they are introduced.
Secondly, having the time to work on projects for your portfolio is essential. On a typical day at Escape we learn new processes and programs in the morning, and then use the rest of the day to implement what we have learned in class in our own projects. Not only does this solidify what you have learned in class even more, but it also creates pieces of work that you can show in a portfolio at the end. This is really valuable.
What are you working on at the moment?
I am currently working as an Environment Artist at RARE (part of Microsoft Studios), creating assets for the pirate adventure game, Sea of Thieves.
I was first introduced to RARE when working on my 4th major project at Escape Studios. This was a collaborative project where I teamed up with two of my classmates to create a game environment for high end PC and console. For this project we were tasked with creating a game environment for RARE. RARE are one of the most influential game companies in the business, so to have them set out a brief, and guides us along the way is amazing.
RARE's concept team drew up some amazing concept sketches, and we had to recreate the environment in Unreal Engine, using the skills we had learnt in the past three projects. This project was very stylised, which is a slight change from what I have worked on for the last few projects, but is still incredibly interesting and challenging.
What is it like to work as an Environment Artist at Rare Ltd?
Rare are a huge name in the industry with a huge pedigree of games that I grew up playing – Like GoldenEye 007 and Donkey Kong. Being a part of this team, and working with all the talented people here is incredible. I genuinely look forward to work on a Monday.
We are currently working on Sea of Thieves, a shared world adventure game where you team up with friends and rule the high seas. It’s a really interesting project to work on for a number of reasons. The art style has this beautiful painterly quality and as an artist it is an absolute dream to make. Secondly, the approach to the project is really interesting. The game is in Technical Alpha at the moment, meaning we have can send out test builds to the public very quickly. That allows us to adapt to player feedback, and mold the game to the way it is played. So the whole development process is really fluid and dynamic, which is really cool. Lastly the company is just an amazing place to work. The talent at Rare is incredible, and there’s always something fun happening, whether it’s video game nights, family fun days or just the bi-weekly ice-cream truck!
How do you think your Masters with Escape Studios prepared you for this role?
My time at Escape definitely prepared me for my role. At Escape we learned all the necessary software – Maya, Zbrush, Photoshop, Substance Painter – All stuff I use on a daily basis.
What advice would you give to someone that is looking to follow a similar career path?
Work hard but enjoy it! It is a tough industry to break into, and it does involve a lot of hard work, but it is definitely worth it when you get there. And at the end of the day, even the hard work is fun and rewarding. Whenever I get stressed I remind myself “Well, you are making art for video games, life could definitely be a lot harder”. Oh, and never stop learning. There’s no shame in not knowing something, so ask your tutor, classmates or colleagues whenever you are stuck. Even when you think you’re a pro I guarantee there is more to learn.
Is there anything else that you think is interesting that we might want to know about?
Probably time for some shameless self-promotion. Keep your eyes peeled for Sea of Thieves, coming out Early 2018. It is a really cool game that is so much fun. I am so grateful to have been given the opportunity to work on it.
I also have a portfolio with personal work on http://www.george-okeeffe.com/
What's your favourite game and why?
I don’t think I can pick just one! I am a huge fan of big Triple-A games in particular, even though I also love Indies. I think Grand Theft Auto V is one of the most impressive games I have ever played, because of the sear scope of activities and the size of the world. I have always loved the Uncharted series, as well as the rebooted Tomb Raider games. I am currently playing through The Witcher 3, and even though I’m not very far into the game, I can tell it’s going to be one of my favourites too!
What lessons have you learnt during your time studying and your time working in game art?
As cliché as it sounds, practice makes perfect. Not everything you do is going to be mind-blowing, particularly at first, but as long as you learned something in the process it is valuable. You can then carry those skills on to the next project and use them to make something closer to mind-blowing.
If you had to sum up your time at Escape Studios in one word, what would it be and why?
Comprehensive – The course goes through everything a game artist needs to know from start to finish. We started out by creating a mobile game environment, where we learned the basics of creating a game for mobile, and worked our way up to creating next generation game environments on par with our favourite games.