We interviewed Bardel Entertainment‘s Asset Technical Director Leonardo Georg on what its like to be a technical artist, and how he got there in the first place.

What initially drew you towards working on 3D projects?

Video games, in general. My first console was the SNES with a Mario World and a Megaman X cartridge and it was beautiful. Consoles grew up, so did I, and at some point I started wondering how they were made. Now I’m here! But to highlight a moment that made me say “Holy !@*%, I want to make games” would have to be the first time I finished Megaman X5. Glorious game, I tell ya.

What is your favourite & least favourite part of the 3D pipeline?

My favourite part is high-res sculpting. Even if I’m not a Character Artist, I find it to be the most relaxing part of it all and I always do it for my personal projects whenever I can. My least favourite part has to be the retopo process. Don’t get me wrong, I do it all the time and learned to love it, what I don’t like is dealing with bad retopos. Most of the time, if it isn’t “bang on”, the model deforms funny after rigging, which to me is enough reason to redo the low poly from the ground up or at least do some heavy editing. It’s the easiest part to get wrong in the entire pipeline, I believe.

Tell me about your rigging skills, why are you drawn towards this?

Making things move is super cool. Coming up with smart solutions to problems that processes create is also another interesting point. Rigging keeps you on your feet, most of the time. Let’s say we have a character that is a robot that always has some part of him moving, like an engine part or something like that. How do you rig it so the animator only has to tweak a few custom attributes and the skeleton does the job for him? Stuff like that is pretty interesting to deal with, and makes you think about what Maya can and can’t do for you while coming up with solutions that build on that.

property of Akimbo Creations

Property of Akimbo Creations

For example, the other day I had to come up with a solution to a PhysX problem. One of our models had too many influences on the skinned mesh that had the PhysX on it, which prevented it from working in engine. The problem was caused by Maya somewhere in the skinning process and it went unnoticed up until that point. The easiest solution would be to write a python script to iterate through all the verts of the skinned mesh and make sure all of them are within the accepted parameters. The problem with that solution was the studio didn’t have “full Maya” licenses for everyone, meaning some people only had access to scripts writen in MEL (Maya Embedded Language). I could’ve just said “Eh, they’ll deal with it” and written the script in python, but instead I used MEL for the entirety of the script to ensure compatibility with all versions of Maya being used in the studio.

Tell me about your tyranid rig. What was the hardest part of the project?

Well, that was my first “major” rig A.K.A. with controllers, custom attributes (like the tail movement) and some mechanics here and there to make the whole thing come together. It was hard to grasp the right concepts of rigging because I was previously exposed to the wrong ones. It felt like I was re-learning the whole thing.

Model credit to Julio Nicoletti

What is your favourite scripting language? Why?

Do I have to choose? It’s like asking “what is your favourite ice cream?”. Too hard to pick just one, so I would say C++, C# and Python.

What types of games are you drawn to? Why?

Maybe it was because I grew up with it, but the Megaman games are my bread and butter, especially Megaman X5. I’ve played that game for god knows how many hours and I can still go back to it. That game is the perfect example of good story telling, good level and character design, good soundtracks not to mention the sweet, sweet gameplay mechanics. Give me a sidescroller like that and I’ll be a happy guy.

What is the hardest part about making games, especially from a technical perspective?

The technical perspective is very tricky in the sense of “getting things right”. First off, what is “right”? Depends on what the product is. Then how do we get “there”? What even is “there”? How do we make it efficient possible so it’ll run on as many specs as possible?

Every step of the way, there’s that little voice inside my head saying “This is stupid. What you’re doing is stupid. You had to press that same button twice. Why are you having to press it twice? Fix that.”. Not to mention how some people come with inefficiencies of their own, so a Technical Artist has to be there to support that aspect of the production as well.

Do you have any advice for aspiring artist looking to join this industry?

Do it because you love it. Never say to yourself “I know all there is to know about this”, you’ll be sadly mistaken. See everyone (colleagues, co-workers, friends working in and outside the industry) as someone that knows something you don’t. Respect goes a long way.

What is your proudest professional moment?

Not sure if it qualifies as “professional”, but coding and drawing my own little game (Happy Leaper) for my demo reel with all it’s little intricacies made me feel really good. I had to learn a lot (emphasis on “a lot”) to get it to where it is. That project gave me footing to many other projects I’m working on presently and some planned for the future.

Want to see more of Leo’s stuff?  Check out his demo reel here, or his website