Andrew Davis of Rockstar Games on his Personal Experience

Tuesday February 12, 2013

Andrew Davis talks about his personal progress in the games industry.

I remember when I first heard about Rockstar Games, it was after picking up a copy of the video game title GTA2 better known as Grand Theft Auto 2. I have a lot of fond memories of this title and the rest of the franchise so I was looking forward to hearing what Andrew Davis had to say.

Andrew started his guest lecture by talking briefly about what he was going to discuss over the next 2 hours. He began with a slide showing his progression in the games industry from 1991 where he worked towards a degree in Architecture up to his current position with Rockstar games. After expressing a lot of admiration and satisfaction with his current employment also quoted that the company itself; which is a global company is “One great big family”. Andrew proceeded to explain how he moved from different job roles in the games industry throughout his 8 years of experience, a notable one in particular being his Magenta Studios in Liverpool. Whilst here Andrew worked on games for younger audiences and expressed how this is a typical situation in the games industry as it is unlikely that you will be working on games you actually don’t want to play.

From this Andrew proceeded to talk about game the games he does like to play, games like Playdeads Limbo and the brilliant Uncharted from developers Naughtydog. From this he began to explain his job role, Technical Artist at Rockstar Games, a job which he described as being very focused around “Problem Solving”. He brought up a slide which had a screenshot from a games development company recruitment page which showed the demand for Technical Artists which is particularly high due to the complexity of the role. IT was from this that he showed us a list of what his job requires on a daily basis;

  • Morning – Email/Sync/Task list
  • Lunch – Gaming/Personal projects
  • Afternoon – Core work.
  • Evening – Report/Crunch

This was particularly interesting for me as an FdSc Games Technology student as it really gave me an insight into what I could potentially be expected to do when I finally make the transition into the video games industry. Andrew then discussed further about his job role and brought up a slide which fully detailed the software which can be expected of those looking to get into being a Technical Artist like himself. Most of the software on display is taught at Confetti Media and I was very humbled by that fact, knowing that the skills I am working with and developing are all on Industry grade software.

This brought Andrew onto his next topic of discussion which was how Scripting or Computer coding is part of his job role, he stressed which languages are particularly sort after in the Industry being MEL which is the Maya modelling software script and MAXscript which is the 3DS Max script. As well as these an understanding of C# and C++ are both very sort after skills. Following this Andrew went on to talk about the kind of software he creates using script, these came in the form of Tools which aid the development of the video game title. Andrew explained that the role of a Technical Artist is the essentially “Speed-up” the existing Art work-flow this ultimately results in saving both time and money for the company. He explained how the general rule of thumb for deciding on which work-flows need sped up is to take a step back and think “Do we need to do this?”.

It was at this point that I really felt like I was beginning to understand the complexity of Andrew Davis’ job role, hearing in detail about the requirements of what is expected of him was almost daunting. However he assured us that the position itself is one which not as overwhelming as it looks, he did this by explaining how the job can be split between specifics. What he meant by this is that some technical artist will be more focused on the rigging of a character model whereas other might be more focused on handling bugs in the engine. It was at this point that Andrew stressed the advantages of having a good grip on mathematics if you are considering a future working as a technical artist, specifically mentioning formulas like Pythagoras Theorem. It was here that Andrew played a video which showed an example of his hard work which was an animation of Lego pieces; which have been made in 3D software, flying onscreen and assembling by themselves to create a large vehicle. Following this Andrew touched on the last commercial project he worked on which was a video game title called Max Payne 3, he mentioned how enthusiastic employers are about keeping current working projects discrete and that usually contracts are put in place to maintain a code of silence regarding the project outside of the workplace.

After hearing about what a Technical Artist like Andrew Davis does in his day to day routine as well as exactly what is expected of him from an employer I can safely say that I feel a lot more in touch with the games industry workplace. Not to mention the fact that Andrew himself was an absolute gentleman, if I can one day find myself working with inspiring individuals like him in the games industry then I will know that I am truly “Living the dream”.

Confetti Industry Week Guest Post By
Sam Johnston, 
FdSc Games Technology Student