Q & A with Isaac Oster
3D Concept Art presents a Q & A with Isaac Oster, a very talented artist specializing in Characters and Technical art. He has been around for about eight (8) years working in game development. He has worked with companies like Certain Affinity, Portalarium, Bioware, and Liquid Development on several high profile AAA game projects. These include Halo 2, Star Wars: The Old Republic and Batman: Arkham Origins, and several unannounced projects still in development.
He also works as a freelance artist, produces on-line tutorials, and teaches courses at The Art Institute of Austin.
With a pleasure, 3dconceptart presents Isaac Oster.
| 3D Concept Art: Tell us about you and how did you become interested in 3D modeling and to work in the game industry?
| Isaac Oster: → I started by studying fine art and a little 3D in college and got a degree in Computer Animation from the University of Central Florida around 2001. I spent a few years after school building websites, making realistic product renders for industrial designers, and creating 3D animations for medical device startups. I started to get a little bored with it and decided to look into going back to school to learn how to build games.
Around 2006, I was accepted at FIEA (http://www.fiea.ucf.edu/), which is a graduate level game development program at the University of Central Florida. They run a tight ship, and after a great educational experience I landed an internship at EA Tiburon. I was hired on as a tech artist for Nascar and Tiger Woods. I was able to leverage that experience into a full-time job on the environment art team at Bioware, located in Austin, Tx, where I moved at the start of 2008. I worked at Bioware for a little more than four years, helping build Star Wars: The Old Republic. After a couple of years, I was able to transition over to the character art team, which had been a long-term professional aspiration. Once SWTOR shipped, the team was downsized and I was laid off. I eventually was hired for a full-time contract at Portalarium, where I worked on Shroud of the Avatar. Shroud is a great project, and is still in development, but after around 9 months I heard about a new opportunity. Another local studio, Certain Affinity, was looking for a contract character artist. I researched the company and learned that they had worked on some major games, such as Halo and Call of Duty. I was extremely fortunate to have been hired on to work on the multiplayer maps and Forge mode for Halo 2, part of the Master Chief Collection. I was luckier still to be brought on as a full-time employee at Certain Affinity, where I work now. In addition to working on Halo, I am also contributing to several upcoming, still to be announced projects. Certain Affinity is a great studio. The whole team is amazing, and I’m grateful to be a part of it.
| 3CA: You have been part of several big AAA Game titles. How do you describe the pressure and the skills needed to pull off the big amount of assets needed and to keep the overall high standard for games like Halo and Batman Arkham: Origins?
| I.O: → I work with great art directors, character art leads, concept artists, and producers. As a result, the workloads were well managed. In the skills department, it’s kind of an arms race. Regardless of the project or the tools available, the goal is always the best-looking art in the least amount of time. I’ve been very fortunate to work at studios with flexible production pipelines, where new tools and workflows are actively researched, learned, and implemented. Incredible new tools are constantly being delivered, including Quixel Suite, Substance Designer, Marvelous Designer, and Fusion 360, to name a few. One of my highest priorities as an artist is to stay as close to the cutting edge as I can. It’s a real challenge, given how much is out there, but you can’t stay still.
| 3CA: Where do you get inspiration from and who are your role models?
| I.O: → If I’m looking for a new personal project, I’ll usually head over to art station or deviant art to try to find a concept that catches my eye. I try to work on a range of projects. If I just finished a hard surface model, I’ll try to find a concept with a little more of an organic theme. There are a couple reasons for this. I get bored pretty easily, and I want to have as much range as possible in my portfolio. Over the years, I developed some instinctive habits around curating a portfolio with the broadest possible appeal. Studios can be picky about what they’re looking for in a portfolio. If they don’t see exactly what they want, even if you might be a capable artist, there’s a chance they’ll pass.
| I.O: → As far as role models, I guess I have several groups – my parents are both extremely dedicated and hard working, and through watching them I learned how much focus and work it takes to build a career. I also get a lot of motivation from my students. I teach a couple of classes at the Art Institute of Austin and get to work with a lot of talented, motivated students. They keep me engaged with learning and exploring new tools and techniques. I also work with world-class artists like Michael Pavlovich, Tony Reynolds, and Michael Pedro, just to name a few. It’s easy to stay motivated when you rub elbows with that much energy and talent.
| 3CA: What do you think is the hardest part when working with high poly models and remesh/retopologize them to low poly models and keep the essence of a character or asset and hit the tris count?
| I.O: → Probably the most difficult thing about retopology is that it’s as important as it is tedious. Unfortunately, if you need clean bakes and good deformations, you have to do it by hand. Once in a while I can get away with decimating a mesh, or using zremesher. I think the main concern with keeping the essence of the high poly model is usually just a matter of polycount, but often times you can correct for a lower polycount with the texturing. Assuming you have a decent texture budget, of course. Poly counts are very hard to nail down and depend heavily on the target platform and format of the game. For instance, a single player FPS is going to have a much higher budget than an MMO. The good news is with the new generation of consoles, even the relatively limited budgets available in MMO environments still allow for great art. The next generation of consoles are a huge step up over the previous generation. I am positive we’re going to see some absolutely astonishing art in the next few years.
| 3CA: Any good pieces of advice for artists and students who want to get into the business as a 3D Artist in fields like environment, prop and different types of assets modeling, also going for a career in the game industry?
| Isaac Oster: → I probably shouldn’t give away all my secrets, but there is a new tool recently released that is unreasonably great for hard surface modeling. It’s called Fusion 360. It’s a CAD tool, and I think this turns artists off, but it’s really easy to learn – far easier than zbrush. It’s free for hobbyists, so there’s no reason not to try it out.
I have a fairly in-depth introduction tutorial series that is also free, located on my site here: Fusion 360 Tutorial series . Fusion is a great tool for building prop and environment assets and is a great tool for someone looking to quickly build a high-quality portfolio or props, weapons, or vehicles.
Having great high poly models isn’t going to be enough to get a job, though – you have to convert it to a game resolution model, bake out procedural texture maps, then create your material textures. I have a tutorial series covering this process, which is available for purchase here: Gumroad Tutorial
3D Concept Art Community thanks Isaac Oster for sharing his knowledge about the game industry and what you need to understand for getting there. Also for sharing his road into the field. Keep in mind if you want to get into the game industry, learn to bake and do it good!