In our Meet Your Mentor Series, we interview the mentors from our Trainee Programs about the learning opportunities at Sparx* and their advice to new artists.
In digital entertainment, Technical Artist (TA) is someone who can provide solutions to technical challenges in creative production. Any game artist is, therefore, a technical artist by definition because they are using tools to create artistic content. However, TAs are often the ones who develop and improve tools to help game artists optimize their workflow and focus better on the artistic creation aspect. In other words, they bridge the gap between technology and arts for most of the teams at the studio. Let’s meet Thao Duong – Senior Technical Artist at Sparx* to learn more about the role of this special position!
With a passion for computer science, Thao Duong decided to pursue a career in Software Engineering and developed his strengths as a programmer – the one who uses programming languages (C++, C#, Python) for software development. As Thao Duong personally loves playing games and wants to work on his favorite games, he has been working in the game industry for over 12 years.
1. What brought you to the role of a Technical Artist and to Sparx*?
I happened to learn about Sparx* and this Technical Artist position through one of my students while I was teaching at a center. My first impression of this position was the fascinating combination of technology and arts – exactly the two things I am interested in. I had experience in Information and Communications Technology (ICT) and Computer Graphics (CG), so Technical Artist was the best fit for me at Sparx*.
Back then, the studio was not recruiting for the position I wanted, so I applied for another position and stated my career aspiration in my cover letter. It was great that the studio arranged an interview for me immediately and I was offered the opportunity to try out the role of a Technical Artist.
2. Tell us about the game projects that you are most proud of during your time at Sparx*.
For me, every project was ‘lit’ so I can’t really pick the one that I am most proud of. But during my time at our studio, there have been two particularly memorable AAA game projects.
The first one is the game I worked on late last year. Its name has not been released yet. This project required using the developer’s proprietary game engine, so I had serious difficulties when implementing it for the Sparx*’s teams. My teammates and I spent more time than usual on ‘troubleshooting’ every difficult issue. Every time we were done with something, something else popped up. Our team had to keep in close touch with the client and other departments in the company to ensure a fast and efficient workflow. The most important thing was to stay calm to figure out the causes and come up with solutions because our problems would often appear randomly. After three months of the entire team working at full capacity, the project stabilized and no new problems occurred.
The second project is the horror game The Quarry, which has just been released in 2022. At first, the other Technical Artists and I had to process an enormous amount of data and materials, so it was quite stressful.
Our team’s greatest pride is that we have pulled through together and now we can see our names in the game’s credits. I am very excited when I play the games I have contributed to, as well as when our games are well received.
3. What will our Technical Artist Trainees learn and practice during Sparx*’s Training Program?
Technical Artists are those who leverage technology to solve problems and level up art projects. They can create complex effects and tools to speed up and optimize the production pipeline, conduct research to maximize product quality and many other relevant tasks.
To become a professional TA, you have to master the skills of logical thinking, critical thinking, communication, risk management and learn more about planning methods.
Therefore, in order to help our trainees develop a solid foundation, as mentors, we provide instructions for both artistic skills, ranging from modeling, characterizing, animation to cinematics and technical skills such as coding and using game engines. Throughout the program, our trainees will learn through real problems and gain their own experience from them. They will also be assigned tasks and problems to solve on their own. Then, their trainers will offer more efficient solutions and show them how to get there.
By the end of the program, they will be able to confidently create a small game scene using all the skills they have learned and practiced.
4. What do you expect from our Technical Artist Trainees?
Our TA Trainees are very hard-working and eager to learn. These are two important factors to help them perform well in the upcoming assessments. I hope the whole team will work together on real projects and create high-quality products that we can take pride in.
For me, the three most important things that new TAs should focus on are the willingness to resolve problems, constant learning, and not being afraid of challenges.
5. For those who are studying computer science or programming, what kinds of knowledge, skills and portfolios will help them successfully land a job at Sparx*?
The TA role requires both computer science knowledge and artistic skills, so you can pursue this career regardless of whether you come from a ‘tech’ or ‘art’ background. For example, those with a background in technology can learn modeling in Maya and creating effects in Unreal Engine, while artists can learn more about Python or Blueprint in Unreal Engine.
When interviewing our trainees, I often ask them, “Which career path do you want to pursue? What have you been doing to further your career?” Then, I will assess what they have been doing in preparation for a career in technical art as well as the relevant works they have created. From there, I will evaluate whether they will be suitable for the TA position at Sparx*, and whether they should start as a trainee, a junior, or a senior.
Once your portfolio can highlight your competency and your passion on your journey to become a professional TA, you are one step closer to this position at Sparx*!
Thao Duong and his team in the Technical Art Trainees’ Graduation Ceremony
BECOME AN TECHNICAL ART TRAINEE AT SPARX*
The Trainee Program supports young people to get closer to the opportunity to become AAA artists by equipping them with knowledge and getting used to their first real projects when being mentored by senior artists of the studio. As a Technical Artist, you will develop and improve tools to help game artists optimize their workflow and focus better on the artistic creation aspect.
What you need:
- Be interested in games & films, and technology
- Foundational knowledge of programming languages: C++, C#, Python
What is in it for you:
- Add multiple AAA Games, Hollywood block-buster movies, and award-winning TV Series to your portfolio every year;
- Join an elite, international team to work with and learn from industry experts;
- Collaborate with the world’s leading game developers and film studios;
- Develop your expertise with exposure to the latest platforms, tools, and technology;
- Develop an international career in top-tier digital production within an industry-leading company.
THERE ARE A FEW STEPS FROM YOUR APPLICATION TO JOIN THE SPARX* SIDE!
2. A portfolio showcasing your English communication skills and programming languages’ knowledge
Interview with the Sparx* Team