halo concept art

Champaign/Urbana News Gazette
Article on Shikai Wang, 24 Feb 2000

Transcribed by fozzy
Originally posted at the Core

Pictures from the article:

This artist's definitely GOT GAME:
UI grad's job is designing computer games

By Becka Rich

CHICAGO-Computer-games conceptual artist Shikai Wang usually arrives at work at 10 a.m. at Bungie Software in downtown Chicago.

He meets briefly with the project lead - the person who keeps this game-making team on track - and then with the games engineers about an explosion.

Wang has drawn the explosion in a tow dimensional format. The engineers explain that they can program a sphere in three dimensions to make the explosion more realistic. They collaborate, discussing the size, color, and speed of the sphere before going off in separate directions.

Later, the project team might meet again to discuss a character in a game in progress. "We gather around and critique a character and figure out what's best for the game, technically," Wang said. "What's suitable as a style, and what's just cool."

After that the 23-year-old Wang plays games at his desk - for research purposes, of course. At about 10 at night, depending on how close the launch date is for the game in progress, Wang heads home in the city. If he's working closer to the game's launch date, Wang might catch some ZZZZ's at the office, where his employer provides beds and showers.

That's a description of a typical workday for Wang at Bungie, a computer game company with 50 employees in Chicago and San Jose, Calif. Some of the 9-year-old company's more well-known games are "Myth" and "Marathon."

Wang, a 1998 graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana, is responsible for coming up with concepts for characters, environments and objects for games as well as generally helping out with the art work.

A game production team, like the one Wang works for, typically has from 10 to 15 people, depending on the amount of work necessary for the game. A game usually takes an average of two years to develop, depending on its complexity.

The team positions usually include the project lead, who keeps production on schedule and on budget and who monitors the storyline; artists who create the graphics you see on screen; and a level designer who combines the work of everyone to design the different game levels and play.

"For example, instead of a pixel jumping up and down, the artists can add in an animated 2-D polygon of a character jumping up and down," Wang said. "The programmers make the game possible, and the artists make the game look good."

So if you don't mind the odd hours and lack of sleep, how do you go about getting a job at a computer games company such as Bungie?

"Since the gaming industry is very young, there aren't any set rules or credentials you must have," Wang said. "If you have the talent and brains, it'll definately show when you try for a position."

"Demonstratable talent is everything," agreed Bungie spokesman Doug Zartman. "A few of our guys haven't graduated from college, having dropped out to become game programmers - not that I recommend this - and a couple of our artists had little digital experience before coming here."

Wang has a degree in industrial design. Some other Bungie employees graduated from art school. Some might have studied computer science. And one of Bungie's level designers has degrees in philosophy and physics.

At Volition, a computer games company in Champaign, all 44 employees have college degrees.

The company occasionally hires high school students to test its games, sometimes over the summer, said Phillip Holt, director of production development.

Volition mad the computer games "Decent 1," "Decent 2," and "FreeSpace" and now is developing "Summoner" and "Decent 4."

The starting salary at a computer games company ranges from $25,000 to $45,000, depending on the position. It's a wide open field, with the industry earning $7.4 billion a year, $1 billion more than the movie industry.

For more information on job possibilities at Volition and Bungie, check their web sites at http://www.bungie.com/corporate/jobs.shtml and www.volition-inc.com.

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