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Breaking In - Eric Cassels

A lot of gamers talk about consuming the story of a video game in terms of “levels” that they complete. With the development of Destiny, the art teams at Bungie are designing worlds for you to explore.{{more}} Their goal is to make these places look as good (if not better) than the concept art that you may have already seen. It’s a lofty goal, but we have guys like this to help us vault it.

Who are you, and what do you do at Bungie? 

Eric: Hi my name is Eric Cassels and I’m an Environment Artist at Bungie.  My job here is to take amazing concepts created by our very talented artists and translate it into playable spaces.  I work with a number of software packages to author models and textures and then use our editor to compose scenes.

These environments are looking as good as the art that inspired them. Before we delve into your creative process, tell us about the man who works on a team that takes and ideas and turns them into worlds.

Eric: I have too many hobbies to list them all, seriously!  If I had to pick one it would probably be 3D printing, this has been my main source of distraction for the past year or so.  Printing models and listening to the strange robotic carnival music that the printer makes.

Have you always wanted to create in three dimensions? If we were conducting this interview a decade or two ago, what would you have told us you wanted to do with your life?

Eric: The same as every other kid: "I will do what my dad does!"  When I was old enough to realize math was not my specialty and nuclear engineering requires some basic understanding of the subject, I moved on to art!  I think it was in early High school that I really began looking into options in various art fields.

Were you able to narrow those fields down in school, or did you learn skills that you could throw at anything?

Eric: I studied Media Arts and Game art and Design at The Art Institute of Seattle with a focus on environment art and hard surface modeling.  The most important skills I learned in school, other than art related trades, were networking with others and being able to seek out information and continue to learn new things on my own.

So what was the field that you started to, uhhhhhh, plow?

Eric: Before Bungie I worked as the senior environment artist at Flying Lab Software in Seattle, (now Cryptic Studios), where I worked on environment art, concepts, prototypes, and a whole host of other tasks.  It was an amazing, one-of-a-kind experience. I was able to explore many different art styles and learn a great deal about everything that goes into creating game content.  Prior to the games industry, I worked on cars for quite a few years mainly on mechanical and electrical systems and also did a lot of custom fiberglass work.  Being around technical things regularly gave me a broader visual understanding of how real world things are assembled and function, knowledge I still use today!

How did you take all that learning from Flying Lab and turn it into a ticket to ride the Bungie Interview loop?

Eric: I put together a portfolio of my best work and sent it off to Bungie with fingers crossed!  I had a few friends that  were currently working at Bungie who were kind enough to assist me in getting my portfolio viewed. A short while later, it was a success and I had an interview.

Were we successful in making you break a sweat?

Eric: The interview process was actually a lot of fun and pretty mellow. Rob Adams grilled me decently with technical questions - by far the hardest part of the day!

Now that you're here, what’s the best part of a day?

Eric: Cool people!   There is an ever-growing pool of amazing talent and truly inspiring people working here and it has been an incredible experience so far.

Describe just one of those days for us.

Eric: I arrive at work in the morning and walk up what seems like four hundred stairs. I stop by the kitchen for some snackins and head to my desk.  While I wait for software to load, I check my mail and crank away at my tasks until lunch time. Most of the time lunch is whatever can be grabbed quickly enough to get back to the office to cram in a round of Company of Heroes before its back to work!  Afternoons are usually a mix of work, meetings, and playtests.  I wrap things up in the evening by checking in files and sending mail.

Aside from creating a workplace where you can actually play your favorite games on your lunch break, what do we do to keep you a happy environment artist?

Eric: Seeing the game take shape and just being a part of such a massively epic project like this is truly rewarding.  And free shirts.  :)

We’ll keep you warm with delicious swag for as long you can keep those artistic chops sharp. How do you earn your keep with new skills?

Eric: I work on small art projects at home fairly regularly to expand my skill set and broaden my knowledge base.  I browse polycount regularly to keep up to date with the latest tech.

The world is full of artists who would love to create spaces where gamers can kick alien ass. Tell them something to set them on that path.

Eric: My best advice if you are just starting out is to focus on one specific field whether it is environment art, concept art, animation, etc.  and put all of your efforts towards that field and a future job.  Keep an open mind, general information never hurts.  If you are passionate about making games and put the effort in to make it in this industry it is a very rewarding field to be in.

Eric has a world to create, so we’ll return him to it. His is just one job that will make Destiny a place you want to visit again and again. He is aided by that “ever-growing” team that creates the art he uses as his blueprint, writes the code that powers the construction site, and engineers the way we’ll all move in when the work is done. If you’d like to see yourself working on a team like that, check out the Breaking In archive and see if one of our people reminds you of yourself.
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