Interview

Jobs in Games: Big Pixel Studios' Lorchan Trapp on how to be an environment artist

Jobs in Games: Big Pixel Studios' Lorchan Trapp on how to be an environment artist

The games industry plays host to an excellent cast of colourful and diverse individuals, from artists and coders to narrative designers and studio heads.

The skills to pull off these roles, however, are complex and differing. With each position requiring mastery in its field. As such, seeing a game come together is a beautiful thing akin to a puzzle as an overall picture becomes whole.

To highlight some of the brilliant work that goes on behind the screen, and help others who may be keen to dive in, PocketGamer.biz has decided to reach out to the individuals who make up the games industry with our Jobs in Games series.

This time we spoke with Big Pixel Studios environment artist Lorchan Trapp.

PocketGamer.biz: Can you tell us about your current role and what it entails?

Lorchan Trapp: I am an environment artist at Big Pixel Studios, which basically means I work on building game levels and the assets that go into them. This involves modelling, texturing and working in the game engine.

How did you first get into games and how did you progress into the role?

As a kid I had a SNES and a Game Boy, which I obviously loved playing, but what really got me into games was when I got a Nintendo 64. My first game on it was The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, which blew me away. I hadn't played any games that looked so good or were so in-depth and it got me hooked.

My first job in games was at a company called Apache, which focused on developing real-time AR and VR experiences for specific clients.

I was pretty lucky in that they contacted me asking if I wanted to apply for a position as a 3D artist there. I learnt a lot there and was able to progress a lot as a 3D artist.

While at school it never really occurred to me. I loved games and played them all the time but had no knowledge of how they were made or what it would take to develop them myself.
Lorchan Trapp

Within the projects I was often responsible for building the environments and detailed prop assets so this become my speciality within the company. I was able to build a strong environment art portfolio with Apache which led me to current position at Big Pixel.

Is it something you ever imagined yourself doing?

While at school it never really occurred to me. I loved games and played them all the time but had no knowledge of how they were made or what it would take to develop them myself.

However once I got a bit of understanding and saw it as a possibility for me it became all I could imagine doing with myself.

What did you study (if anything) to get your role? What courses would you advise for aspiring professionals in the area?

After completing my A-Levels I wanted to do something creative, as I had always been interested in illustration and art but never studied it. While looking for an art foundation course I could apply to I found a BTEC course in Maya.

This led to me studying Photoshop and Maya for a year and finding I really enjoyed it. I then applied to the University of Hertfordshire for their 3D Games Art course where I got my degree.

To get into the art side of games you don't need any qualifications, it's entirely based on what you can actually do and what is demonstrated in your portfolio. Any studio will hire the applicant with the best portfolio, not who got a 1:1 at university.

That being said, University was a great place to learn and to meet other people trying to get into games too. Being self-taught can work really well but it's definitely easier to learn from people who already know.

What part of your role do you find most fulfilling?

Building something that I think looks awesome! The reason I got into games art was because I love the visual side of games; so some of my favourite parts of games is the visual spectacle that they can achieve. Anytime I can develop something that gets me that excited is just the best.

Do you think there are any misconceptions, public or professional, surrounding your area of expertise?

Publicly there isn't a lot of understanding about what being a games artist entails. When I told my girlfriend I was an environment artist, she thought I was being funny about saying that I'm a gardener.

People seem to assume there's a hidden 'make art button' in the software we use and don't understand that it actually takes a lot of time and skill to develop good art.
Lorchan Trapp

I don't think there are many huge misconceptions but maybe the usual ones when it comes to any kind of digital artwork. People seem to assume there's a hidden 'make art button' in the software we use and don't understand that it actually takes a lot of time and skill to develop good art.

Is there anything about the job/industry you wish you would have known when first joining?

The industry is a small place, but don't assume that because you've gone to uni that you'll be able to just break into it.

Unlike maybe some other jobs, simply having a qualification doesn't mean anything if you aren't able to demonstrate the skills in your portfolio.

What other advice do you have for someone looking for a job in this profession?

It's easy to feel like you just want any job in the industry, so the temptation is to make a very generalised portfolio.

However two half-done environments and a quickly made character won't get you a job. You need a goal of what you want to be within the industry and then work towards that.

People have been hired because of a single piece in their portfolio. You need to be specific in what you're working towards.


Staff Writer

Matthew Forde is a freelance writer from Yorkshire, who's work has been published for Tech Radar, Nintendo Life, Kotaku UK and more. He regularly attends Smash Bros. tournaments, while trying to keep up-to-date on everything pop culture related - particularly superheroes. You can find him on Twitter @Forde999.

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