Breaking In slides into the back seat this week to make room for a new twist on our interview series. Broken In
shifts the focus away from the newer additions to the studio and instead looks for some insight from our squad of industry veterans. Up first, Shi Kai Wang, one of the artists responsible for the sweet styling of the Halo series. If you're a fan of the art of Halo, or you're just looking for some insight on how to break into the industry and turn your toe hold in to a firm grip, scroll down for the question and answer, straight from the artist himself.
Q. Who are you and what do you do for Bungie?
A. I’m Shi Kai (Shiek) Wang, and I’m a Tom Foolery Expert here at Bungie. That’s like a 3d Art Lead elsewhere.
Q. How long have you been at this whole “video games” thing? Had you been "gainfully" employed prior?
A. I’ve been at it since summer of freshmen college. So that was 1995, and it’s 2009 So that’s a good fourteen years. There was a break in between the previous company Mobeus Designs and Bungie where I was employed as a sandwich artiste for the healthier fast food choice of Subway.
Q. What makes working for Bungie different from fresh eateries and what sets it apart from the other gigs you’ve had?
A. You can only get free sandwiches here when you crunch, while Subway gave you free 6” every three hours. Bungie pays better though and invests in you way more than Subway. So, I say it’s about fairly equal. Oh I guess the family mentality of Bungie is pretty nice too.
Q. During your long and illustrious tenure with Bungie, what is the one moment you feel defines the experience? What have you seen change since you’ve come on board?
A. When we were thinking of moving to Seattle for the Microsoft acquisition, Jason Jones sat everyone down individually and did a one to one to talk to us about what concerns we had and how he could help to make the transition easier. He had to do this to convince us that ultimately it was for the best of the studio. Even when everyone hated the idea, Jason knew it was the right thing to do, and we all know how that decision panned out. That sort of care taking and consideration was to me what defines Bungie.
To this day, even if our studio’s about five times bigger, we still keep the same policies, and it trickles down from on top. You can’t beat that anywhere else. You gotta take care of your peeps before you can tackle a AAA game. Granted there were a lot of growing pains, but what’s funny is that the biggest change is keeping the same studio mentality like back when we were in Chicago, and trying to expand it to a bigger studio.
Here’s another one: the 2000 E3 where we first showed the demo of Halo to everyone in the closed theater. There were lines around the theater to who knows where. The buzz and hype was great, but it was when I was in the pisser and the guy next to me was talking to his friend that I realized the extent of the hype: “Man, did you see that Halo trailer? It was -blam!- awesome!” If you can’t wait till AFTER you pee to tell your buddy about something, then it’s definitely something worth paying attention to. To be a part of something so great that people respect and enjoy is just a small benefit of being in a studio that’s so great.
And of course for something more recent, our departure from our publisher Microsoft. I can’t get to how it all happened but the whole idea and being an independent studio again was something that we all longed for and finally got back. That whole scenario was very indicative of what Bungie is all about.
Q. How do you maintain the same level of drive and passion you had when you first enlisted? Anything you wish you could have done differently looking back?
A. I think being surrounded by top talent makes that easy. You won’t be in Bungie unless you’re good. And you can’t be good if you rest on your laurels, and people around here will remind you of that. We’re constantly hiring new young talent and critiquing each other. That drives us to be better and keeps us grounded. You’re not gonna find big talkers here who can’t walk the walk.
The only thing I would say that I’d do differently is I wish I was more conscious about my work habits, maintaining better posture and taking more frequent breaks. Now that I’m in my early 30’s, all those late nights and mornings are catching up to me.
Q. If you could issue one ominous warning to upstarts looking to weasel their way into the industry and ultimately usurp you from your decadent seat of power, what would it be?
A. Don’t be slimy, use your real talent and skills and let that speak for itself. People can see through the BS, just believe in what you can do. If you don’t believe in yourself yet, keep working on it till you do.
There will and can only ever be ONE Tom Foolery Expert, so good luck.
Q. Experience, Work Ethic, or Talent? If you had to choose in some kind of bizarre, meaningless hypothetical scenario, which quality would you go with and why is it integral? Does it differ by discipline?
A. Talent. This is such a visual industry that I think talent will showcase a lot quicker and better, it’s got the most potential. Once you got that going for you, you can learn all the others. You can’t TRAIN talent. Of course, this is by discipline; I can’t imagine talent would work as well for say, a test lead.
Mad props to Shiek for taking some time out to talk to us this week. Whether you're looking for inspiration or insight, we hope you've enjoyed our brief question and answer session. And though Bungie doesn't have a 3rd Art Lead or a Tom Foolery Expert position up on the Jobs
page right now, there are plenty of other positions available for those who think they have the talent, work ethic, and experience to make a go of it. Turns out, we're hiring