When we talk to our community about why they love games, they often spice that conversation with a question like “Who is your favorite video game villain?” The fact that a target in a game can evoke such an emotional response is the product of many design disciplines. One of them is Animation. Bringing those antagonists to life and capturing the imaginations of the players who make them dead is the job of (among others) this guy…
Who are you, and what do you do at Bungie?
My name is Veara Suon and I’m a gameplay animator at Bungie. I pretty much create animations for those baddies you all love to fight, as well as for the player who is fighting them.
That’s an important gig – certainly essential to our experience. What’s your most important consideration when you’re animating heroes and villains?
Response is key. We try not to hold the player back when it’s not necessary. It’s important to us that we communicate to the player exactly what is going on visually without taking them out of it. At the same time, we want it to feel as good as it looks.
It sounds like you’re a man who values “immersion,” and gamers like me thank you for it. What do you immerse yourself in when you are not delivering action to gamers through the visual arts?
Sports are my life outside of this industry. It’s a nice change of scenery not sitting in front of the computer all day.
Do you play sports? Watch them? Bet on them? Imagine running a dream team in them?
I grew playing football and basketball so it’s something I’ve always became attached to. And of course watching it is just as fun, especially when having certain players on your fantasy team.
What were you doing before your career led you here? How did those experiences prepare you for this job?
I used to work in the world of Rapture (Bioshock) and a world taken over by aliens (Xcom). I was even in a world as a firefighter (Real Heroes). Now I’m in a whole new world again.
Did you used to dream about creating worlds like those when you were younger? What did you want to be when you grew up?
An NBA or NFL player as a kid, but then a 3d animation movie (Monsters, Inc.) came out. It struck a chord in me and I knew exactly what I wanted to be when I was in middle school: an animator.
Middle School leads to High School, and High School usually leads to an institution of higher learning on a more focused path. Where did you learn to become an animator?
I went to an art school that pretty much taught me the basics and some programs. I figured that wasn’t enough so I tried out an online animation school that gave me a better insight that focused more on animation. They harped on the 12 basic animation principles and it is still engrained into my mind.
It’s nice to know that you are a man of principle. How did you bring those virtues to our attention?
I was fortunate enough to have known the Animation Lead here. As a student, I used to contact inspiring animators asking for advice on what to expect from the industry as well as advice on my current skillset if they had time to check out my reel. Sometime later, I found that one of the animators became the lead animator here at Bungie. Around the time I was shopping around for other opportunities, I shot him an email to see what he thought of my reel to see if I had a shot to work alongside one of my inspirations.
That’s a question that can only be answered in a Bungie Interview loop! Can you prepare future challengers for that experience?
I was surprised that there were actual test questions. All of my previous interviews were more about getting to know me, because once you get to the interview you’re usually pretty much in. The only way you cannot get the job is if you’re not a fit with the team - it’s all about your personality at that point. But nope, not at Bungie. I got caught off-guard answering questions to see if I knew my stuff or not.
We do want people who know their stuff. I guess we are funny like that. Now that we know that you know yours, what would you say is the best part of the experience of working here?
We all strive to make the best possible game we can that people will enjoy. The mindset here is all about being the best, so when I do my task I try my best.
Now you know why we scrutinized you carefully in that interview. Fortunately, not every day at Bungie is an inquisition. For instance, what is your favorite thing that we do to keep you in the right frame of mind to do your best work?
Everything! Honestly they just take real good care of you. I can’t choose just one. Swag is always a plus.
Aside from wearing fashionably rare t-shirts, what might you expect from a day in the life of a Bungie animator?
I come to work, eat my breakfast. Get the latest update of our game. Check out the news a bit to see what’s going on outside in the real world. Check out the task I have to do for the day or the week. Ask questions to those who can answer them so I make it crystal clear I know what I am doing. After that, setup a plan on how I will achieve this task and then execute it. Test it out in game. Start all over again.
What is your favorite accomplishment as a member of the Bungie team? Describe that one moment in which someone appreciated your work, and assured you that you belonged here…
I think it’s more of a team accomplishment as we all put an effort into making these characters come alive. I am fortunate enough to be able to touch almost all of the characters and be involved in developing them for players to enjoy.
Those players can be pretty demanding. Their praise is never guaranteed. Do you think you can stay on the bleeding edge of your craft so that we can keep surprising them?
Studying animation is pretty much studying life. Anything and everything can benefit you in this art form. Observing those around you as long as you don’t get caught, experiencing moments in life will also give you more tools to work with. There are plenty of books or even blogs that have a wealth of information. The animation community is huge and helpful.
You are a leader of that community now, and you have a chance to pay forward some of the help that you got from the people who inspired you. What would you say to a student of animation if they asked you for advice?
This industry is not all fun and games. You must have a passion for it if you want to survive because when things get tough it’s that passion that keeps you in for the long run.
Thanks for sharing, Veara. You have some baddies to bring to life, so we’ll conclude this kinder, gentler interview with one final question: Experience, Work Ethic, or Talent? Rank them in order of importance to your role.
Talent, experience, then work ethic.
Like we said, Animation is just one of the design disciplines that provoke you to fall in love with the villains you fight. If you dream of being an Animator, Veara has left some good footsteps to follow. If you think your skills lie elsewhere, but you would like to work with him, check out our Breaking In archive to learn about the variety of coworkers who complete him.