Games are all about storytelling, and stories come to life through make-believe worlds that blend fantasy with reality through virtual environments !
Chandangir Gosawi, our next pathbreaker, Environmental Artist at Sumo Video Games, creates props and environments for world class AAA games.
Chandangir talks to Shyam Krishnamurthy from The Interview Portal about being a fanboy of Sonic since childhood and the opportunity to work on a Sonic game which was a dream come true.
For students, a career in gaming is as tough as it gets , but if you believe you have it in you to make a mark in this creative field, dive right in without any hesitation !
Chandangir, Your background?
I was born and raised in Akola, Maharashtra. My father is a retired government servant who worked for the Irrigation department and my mom is a house wife who did a great job to raise 4 children and make them educated and civilized. I studied at my high school from B.R. High school Akola. I also studied Animation from Akola and Vadodara Gujarat. I have always been a guy who loves to play outdoor games like cricket and football. Besides this I have always been a die hard fan of video games, movies, cartoons and anime.
What did you do for graduation/post graduation?
I have never graduated from any college. I am a 12th pass guy who has always been interested in creative things like drawing and painting. So when I came to know that you get paid to make video games and cartoon films I decided that this is what I want to do for the rest of my life.
What were the drivers that led you to such an offbeat, unconventional and cool career?
I was influenced to join the video games industry by a small guy with a red cap who jumps over obstacles and enemies to save his princess. Yes, I am talking about Mario ! And after this I never looked back and I still play video games which keep inspiring me.
When I was learning about video game art in Vadodara Gujarat I saw a documentary about Mr. John Lasseter who is one of the founding members of Pixar Animation Studios. I was inspired by how much he loved his craft and how hard he fought to be where he is today. There are many great artists around the world who inspire me to learn and grow more. For example, Mr. Ram Mohan, who was one of the directors of Ramayana: The Legend of Prince Rama and many other animated movies. He is a big inspiration . These people and many others inspired me to work on video games.
In the beginning of my career, I was working as a graphic designer for a Canada based studio which has one of its offices in Vadodara Gujarat. It was then when I came to know that there is this guy who has worked as a VFX Art director on many Indian movies like “Waah Life Ho To Aisi” and many more. This person opened an institute to teach his craft to his students. I immediately decided to join his institute and learn art. This was the biggest turning point of my life.
How did you plan the steps to get into the career you wanted? Or how did you make a transition to a new career? Tell us about your career path
Video games fascinate people of every age; but not many of us know how much effort and hard work goes in making a video game. Though I was working in the educational animation sector in the beginning, after working for 4 years in that industry, I decided to move to the gaming industry. The work pipeline, approach and thought process in the gaming sector is different from that in the educational animation sector. When working in the educational animation sector, I was always determined to achieve visual quality. But gaming on the other hand, is a completely different story. In gaming, one has to take care of visual quality, game mesh, game textures because these things ultimately have an impact on how the game will run on your PC, console or mobile device.
My first job was as a Graphic designer which required basic knowledge of Adobe Photoshop.
My next job was at Topper as a 3D artist creating 3D models, textures and animations for educational videos. When I got promoted as a Lead 3D artist, my responsibilities were to lead junior artists in their day to day tasks, give finishing touches to their work as well as keep working on tasks that are assigned to me.
At Lakshya Digital, I joined as a Junior 3D artist as I was changing industries from education to video games. My job was to learn the process of video game art creation and create small props. After 6 months, I got promoted as 3D Artist though my job profile was the same. The only thing that changes is you have to start taking artistic decisions on your own.
After working in Lakshya for 2 years, I joined Sumo Video Games as an Environment artist. Here my job is to create props and environments for world class AAA games (generally refer to games that boast a large budget for both production and marketing).
How did you get your first break?
My first break was at Topper Education Pvt. Ltd. They develop animated videos and video games for school and college students. I was hired as a 3D artist. The team I was part of had expert people in the educational animation sector. They took me in and taught me efficient ways to achieve quality that was required for the role of a 3D artist. After i worked there for 2 years as a 3D artist, my boss asked me to lead a small team of new 3D artists. I took the promotion and did my duties as a lead 3D artist for the next 2 years. This experience gave me a chance to learn how to lead new people in existing and new projects.
But my first real break was at Lakshya Digital where I switched from education to the gaming sector.
To understand the challenges in the gaming and animation sector, young people first have to understand that the workflow for every creative job like animation, graphic design or video games has a very different approach from one another. So, if you are learning animation from some institute or doing graduation like BSc (Animation) or BFA from a reputed collage, you have to focus on your passion and have to work towards it.
No one told me about this. Because of that, I initially worked in the education animation sector for 4 years and when I wanted to switch my job to video games, I was sending my portfolio which was not at all relevant to the video games industry. Then one day I called one of the gaming studios that I had applied for and asked them about my application for the 3D artist position in their studio. At that time, the guy who reviewed my profile gave me a reality check. He told me that I was not at all ready to join the video games industry because I lacked the knowledge of creating art for video games. Although what he said to me in that call felt heartbreaking, it worked for me as a wake up call. From that day I started studying video game art on my own, from resources available online, like YouTube videos and discussions on video games forums. Soon I got the understanding of what is required for video game art. Luckily at the same time, Lakshya Digital was hiring for Junior 3D Artists and I decided to apply for it. I got a 3D art test from them and I poured in whatever knowledge I gained from last few months of online studies into that test and got selected.
The bottom line is to decide where your interest lies and start studying and making a portfolio based on that.
What were some of the challenges you faced? How did you address them?
Challenge 1: The first and biggest challenge that I faced was the changes I needed to make to how I work in day to day life as the work I did at Topper was way too different from what the gaming sector needed. It took me a few days to set my workflow but eventually I got the hang of it.
Challenge 2: Though Topper was a small studio with not more than 40 people working daily, my first gaming job was for Lakshya Digital Pvt. Ltd. which had more than 120 artists in the Pune studio and more than 300 artists in the Gurgaon studio when I joined. I was overwhelmed by the number of extraordinary artists working there. So adapting to the existing flow of work and keeping pace with them was very challenging.
I have also faced challenges on account of not having graduated. The biggest challenge was in working for foreign countries like UK or Canada as those studios will always prefer a graduate.
Where do you work now? What problems do you solve?
I am currently working as an environment artist for Sumo Video Games. I have worked on many AAA quality video games in Sumo. My day to day job requires me to make props like guns, vegetation, cloths including many big and small props. Besides this, I also work in Unreal and Unity engine to create environments needed for games. I acquired these skills through many years of self study and gathering knowledge from fellow artists and online learning portals.
Any video game we play, whether on a mobile device or on a PC or on consoles like Playstation or XBox, those are always efforts of a team of multi-talented people who have expertise in their crafts. To give you an example, we were working on Team Sonic Racing (TSR) at Sumo (Pune) and there is this level in TSR called Planet Wisp which is the introductory level for beginners.
So in order to bring Planet Wisp from idea to actual game level, first we had to create concept art to get a visual idea of how the level should look like. Once the concept team was done with there work, its upto the environment team to take it forward from there. We create the props that are required to fill the area with proper sillhouttes and color schemes. This process is generally done with modelling packages like Maya, Max or Blender and texturing is done with texturing packages like Photoshop or Substance Painter. Once the model and textures are done, we take all the models to the game engine where the real magic happens. In the game engine, we make levels based on the data provided by the level designers who have already blocked out the entire level and finally the environment team will make the level look WOW. To know more about this process you can visit below link :
Also if you want to see few of my work examples visit below links :
Sea of thieves https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i8KVJGJQBPU
Team Sonic Racing https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X5SGsMVTmNU
Crackdown 3 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DiEWC1m80Dk
In Sumo, everything is very well organized when it comes to work on world class projects. There are always multiple projects running at the same time and artists from India and the UK have to coordinate work as both teams are working on the same projects at the same time. So we have these daily scrum meetings (daily team meetups) where every artist has to tell what he or she did yesterday and what are they going to achieve at the end of today and if there are some blockers that are blocking their current task. This process makes things smooth and keeps everything in check.
What is it you love about this job?
The best thing about working in a video game studio is you get to play a lot of video games and to test a lot of video games. Besides this, the art that we create for video games is a very fun process in itself. Sometimes it’s even more enjoyable than playing video games.
How does your work benefit society?
Video games have always been a great source of entertainment for all age groups. Some studies also suggest that people who play games have better mental strength and problem solving skills. When Covid hit the world in 2019 people around the world had to stay at home as lockdown was in effect. In these dark times video games were a source of entertainment which was badly needed. If you are a gamer who likes to play multiplayer games like Call of Duty, PUBG, Apex Legends it also develops teamwork and communication skills that are needed to achieve what is required for a positive result.
Tell us an example of a specific memorable work you did that is very close to you!
Every video game that I have worked on is very close to my heart but if I had to choose one then I would definitely choose Team Sonic Racing which was released in May 2019. This project was very close to my heart because I have been a fanboy of Sonic since childhood and to work on a Sonic game was a dream come true.
Your advice to students based on your experience?
The best advice that I can give to anyone who wants to work in Video game industry one day is :
1) Always follow what software and techniques are getting used in industry in current times. Because software and techniques are changing rapidly these days.
2) Decide what type of video game artist you want to be. There are Character artists, Environment artists, Vegetation artists, Material artists, Coders, Level Designers and Producers. Once you have decided what type of art you want to work in, start working on a portfolio which shows off your eye for details of art and love for art.
My plans for the future are to keep evolving as a better artist and also keep working in Video games and discover new things to do in Video game art.