Q. Outside of work, what are some of the hobbies and inspirations that coax you to the surface?
Breaking In gets verbose this week, giving the controls over to Seth Gibson for a spell. What can we say, he powerlifts and headbutts - we're not stepping into the roda
with him. But if you're interested in learning what it takes to be a Technical Artist at Bungie and what Seth does in his spare time, you're going to have step into the circle yourself. Keep your guard up and watch for the feints, there's plenty of technique on display.
Q. Who are you and what do you do?
A. I’m Seth and…wow, not sure what my job title officially is, so let’s just say Technical Artist ("Artist" jokingly, since I spend more time in Visual Studio or IDLE than I do in Maya).
Generally speaking, Tech Art sits between Art and Engineering. We do the sorts of tasks that might be a little more on the technical side from what the average artist does, but at the same time doesn’t require the support of a full on engineer. I do a lot of the lower level interfacing between Maya and our in-house tools, though every so often I get coaxed to the surface to do some artist-facing tools as well. For the job seekers out there, Technical Art is probably one of the easiest disciplines in games to find a job in. Well, let me rephrase, it’s probably one of the disciplines with a large number of open positions, industry wide.
A. Geez, where do I begin (and how do I find time for all these things). Probably my number one is weight lifting, and by that I mean I can almost tell you more about weight training than I can about my job, which probably means it’s time for a career change. I think the term I’ve heard used is “strength enthusiast”, or I guess superfan? I’m pretty sure I’ve cultivated the impression here that I live on protein powder and that the soundtrack to my life is fitness and nutrition podcasts (The Fitcast is my fav). It’s a balance thing though, you know? I mean I sit in front of a computer for 8-10 hours a day so by the end of the day I’m totally needing to move around and lift something heavier than my mouse or coffee mug. That and it gives your brain and nervous system something different to do for an hour or so, which can never be bad.
Outside of work and the gym, I train Capoeira, a Brazilian martial art, or I will again once I have a little more free time. I’m also a big music buff. I produce, I DJ at an industrial club night in Seattle, heck, sometimes I even just listen to music for fun. Every so often I can be caught making 3d art too, but that doesn’t go any further than this interview. I’m also a huge social networking addict, twitter is going to be my death or at least my incrimination.
So yes, I’m a powerlifting martial artist DJ who makes videogames for a living. Yeah, I don’t really believe it either.
Q. Long before you clean-and-jerked a loaded bar, swept the leg, or made your own live mixes, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A. A guy who works with robots or lasers! No seriously, when I was younger I did want to go into either mechanical or electrical engineering so I could build robots all day until I found out about lasers, and then I wanted to do anything with lasers. I’m not sure what "anything" actually was, I just knew I wanted to get paid to shine lasers on stuff, either destructively or not.
For some reason the idea of attaching lasers to robots as a career never really crossed my mind, although given the current state of technology I feel that I may have missed my calling. I suppose I’ll have to settle for it in the virtual sense (can I count cybernetically enhanced supersoldiers as robots at all, even tangentially?).
It’s funny, at twelve years of age I was neck deep in computer gaming and I was lucky enough to have parents that said things like, “Well, you can be whatever you want to be when you grow up” rather than “You’ll never make money playing those games!” Smart folks, Mom and Dad are…
Q. What did your High School Guidance Counselors urge you try and make money at?
A. So I went to this Math and Science focused school (Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences, and The Arts) where I think their plan for us was to all become doctors or research scientists, which some folks actually did (one of my graduating classmates went to CERN, sheesh, how do you top that?). I’m pretty sure I broke my AP Biology teacher’s heart when she found out I didn’t want to try and get into Med School.
I was actively pursuing art school (CalArts at the time) and was quite actively discouraged from pursuing art by my counselors. Even using some Future Crew demos to try and convince them of linear algebra and trigonometry’s applications in graphics didn’t sway support in my favor. I feel like I should actually take my high school up on their offers to present at career day to broaden some horizons and corrupt, err, pave the way for future students. Bungie is hiring, I hear.
Q. Yup. We sure are. If you do decide to present at career day, will you be able to tell the students that you earned a college degree?
A. For God’s Sake, I tried! Twice! Started at a small liberal arts college in Louisiana (Northwestern State U), then transferred to the UW, where I hung on for about three quarters then flunked out (handily I might add). At the time (early 90s) college wasn’t for me, truth be told I doubt it still is, so I wonder why I’m always talking about going back and finishing my degree. Back then there were none of these new-fangled gaming degrees, no tightening up of the graphics on level 3, and for the most part the only place one could get some time with computer animation software was an art school proper.
Of course, had I had the art chops to get into one of those schools I wouldn’t be a Technical Artists (that’s totally not true). I did get some formal training at a sadly now defunct 3D training center in Ballard called Mesmer Animation Labs, which was a) awesome and b) led me to Bungie in a somewhat roundabout way.
Q. How exactly did that somewhat roundabout way lead to Bungie?
A. Someone at Bungie had put a hit out on me and…no the real story goes (deep breath): When I was at the aforementioned Mesmer Animation Labs round about 2001 (it may have been 2000), one of my teachers introduced me to a guy named David Hunt because we were both into CG and Capoeira (the aforementioned Brazilian martial art, great combination, I know, and yes, I LOVE the word aforementioned). Anyway we hit it off and became really good friends, and are to this day. Dave was working for a company called Amaze Entertainment at the time and got me an interview there.
So we worked there together for two years, and in fact he’s one of the two people I should probably blame for heading me down the dark Technical Art Path, I don’t remember much about it, it involved some frantic hand waving, a Game Developer article about Insomniac’s character rigging tools, and…I’ve probably said too much already.
Fast forward to early 2007, I had been down in the bay for a couple years, of course Dave and I kept in touch and he mentioned at some point that I should meet the Technical Art crew at Bungie just for kicks (at the time I think it was like two people). So I ended up having lunch with my future boss where I found out that they were indeed looking for a Maya Technical Artist. The rest is…well you know.
So long story short, get in touch with lots of people, stay in touch with the cool ones, cuz if nothing else you’ll make some good friends out of it. And not to sound like a broken record, but it’s a small industry, you’ll probably end up working with them again at some point (or you’ll all get fed up and start your own studio together). I’m not saying contacts alone are going to get you a job, they’ll get you invited to the meet, but ultimately it’s up to you to lift the bar.
As an aside, I had actually applied to Bungie many years prior, so this was actually my second contact with Bungie. In other words, don’t stop at one application! But don’t spam either.
Q. After you met the team and scored an interview, what did you bring with you to make sure you aced the exam?
A. Oh man, I totally came for war. Screw bears, we’re talking loaded for T-Rex (or Devilsaur for all the WoW fans out there, yes, I was once one of the faithful, I’ll admit it). I had a folder full of resumes just in case, I had backed up my website onto my laptop in case there was no internet, had both live and pre-recorded demos of tools and art, all of which was backed up onto both USB drives and CDs. In my defense though, I had been on an “interview tour” of sorts the few months leading up to my Bungie interview so I already had an idea of what I was going to bring. All that preparation and my laptop adapter started to go out the Wednesday before I flew up to Seattle for my interview. The best laid plans right?
I figured maybe preparation was worth a few points up front, being that I was too broke to be able to offer bribes worth anything and didn’t really have the foresight to take hostages. You know, it wasn’t so much that I felt like I was or wasn’t going to do well at the interview, at the end of the day I just wanted to be able to say I came prepared and left it all on the field. I think with anything like this, that’s really all you can do.
Q. What still stands out about the interview process for you?
A. I’m actually going to break tradition here and say that my Bungie interview actually wasn't
the most brutal interview of my career, but it was unique in its own way in that the first guy on my interview loop was the aforementioned (sheesh, there’s that word again) Dave Hunt, so it was sorta this full circle thing (it was kinda funny to see that cycle repeat when we interviewed Javier a little while later, this seriously is a small, incestuous industry).
That said, there are two other things that really stuck in my mind about the interview. One was that it really felt like people weren’t testing so much as they really wanted to know what you thought about a particular subject, so less of a right or wrong and more breadth and depth of knowledge type stuff, which always makes for a fun interview. The second was leaving the interview and thinking, “Wow, I haven’t been asked questions like that in years…Dear god I hope everyday at Bungie isn’t like this.” (For the record, it actually is, which probably explains my inability to form a cohesive sentence or stay with one thought for very long.)
Q. In one cohesive sentence, explain what it’s like to work at Bungie.
A. Borrowing some words of wisdom from one of my personal powerlifting heroes, Dave Tate: “It’s a Blast or Dust world, we choose Blast.”
Q. Any advice for aspiring applicants looking to leave their current job in the dust and choose the Blast world with Bungie?
A. Be good at what you do and be able to do what you say you can, because if it’s on your resume, you will
get asked about it. Seriously, don’t think that all those obscure points on your resume won’t get attention, because I guarantee you someone here knows as much as or more about them than you do and they’ll want to talk to you about them (unless they’re made up and you were hoping no one would ask, in which case you’ll just get called on it. Don’t be that guy).
I don’t mean to be singing the Doomsong or anything, but keep in mind that you’re going up against the best in the industry, not just the interviewers, but the other candidates for the position. If that idea lights a fire under your ass, then Bring It…you’ll probably do just fine. And again, if it doesn’t happen the first time, back up, take the opportunity to improve yourself, and next time come loaded for large prehistoric reptile.
Big thanks are due to Seth for taking some time away from his training schedule and loaded workday to do some powerlifting for Breaking In. If you're looking to break into Bungie yourself, we hope you've paid close attention to his tips and insight. And as aforementioned by the man himself, we are, in fact, hiring. If you think you have what it takes to explain the stuff on your resume, go up against the best in the industry, and lift a loaded bar on your way to setting new records with Bungie, it's time for you to check out our Jobs Page