First up, what's your name and current/previous roles
Kieran Goodson, Junior Environment Artist at Rebellion on Sniper Elite franchise
What is your video game history/background and all time favourite game?
Originally from Cambridge, I was born and raised into game culture with two older brothers. I grew up being third in line for playtime and I spent the rest of my childhood just watching them play on the PC, N64 and the PS2 back in the day. I was far too young to be playing the likes of GTA and Manhunt but it was nicely balanced out by titles such as Tony Hawk's Underground, Crash Bandicoot, FIFA Street, Stuntman Ignition and the better LEGO titles when the characters didn’t talk.
Around 2008 I bought myself an Xbox 360 and spent much of my adolescence on that thing, dodging red rings, shite internet and pissed off parents who would storm into the room and pull the plug at what they claimed was 2am. I got pretty good at turning the TV really quick and pretending I was asleep. Call of Duty, Battlefield, Assassins Creed, FIFA. Pretty mainstream but some unforgettable memories made during that era.
In 2013 I started an instagram account where I wrote mini stories and news updates on everything game related like my very own IGN and I gained 1000 followers in a short space of time (which was a pretty big deal back then). That was fun and I always knew I wanted to be involved in games. Aged 18 I’d built my own PC and started to take the prospect of working in games more seriously as I thrived at Sixth Form in Media Studies and in Computing.
In 2015 I took the BSc Games Technology course at Coventry University and got a first class degree 3 years later. With no jobs falling at my feet as an optimistic and naive graduate, I decided to teach myself environment art for games. I was learning through YouTube, forums and discord communities set up by game art devs. I spent the year unemployed working on my portfolio until I hit the quality bar level.
After interviewing at a few studios I was picked up by Rebellion in 2019 as a Junior and the rest, as they say, is history. There can never be just one. I’m a sucker for story and nothing shook me up more than The Last of Us way back when. Assassins Creed (Ezio trilogy), Battlefield Bad Co 2, GTA San Andreas and Tony Hawks Underground can't go without mentioning.
What training or qualifications did you need to get where you are now?
As mentioned before, I went to uni for Games Technology but unfortunately can't correlate that to getting a job in the industry. I'd graduated with a first class degree and a custom website with my uni work on but it was both irrelevant and far below the standard needed to get a look in. I first set out to become a level designer but after working in Unreal Engine for a bit, I found that the environment building far more enjoyable so that's what I pursued.
I wrote about my journey from university to Rebellion here:
To clarify, you do not NEED a degree to get a job in games. If your work is good enough, you’ll be seen to. If you can sit in a room for 8 hours a day and go through the process of teaching yourself with online resources than you are sorted. Do that. But that’s not to say that uni is useless. Apart from the general life experience of moving away from home, attempting to cook, paying rent, wasting your loan and making new friends, you’ll learn how to socialise in real life, work as a team and hopefully, at the very least, how to structure a CV and covering letter. If your course is worth its salt, you’ll be at up to scratch on the fundamentals of the job but as with everything, getting good at it comes with time, practice and patience.
Getting hands on and making stuff in your own time is the best way to stand out. You’ve got to go the extra mile. Uni is a great place to get stuck into industry software for free and to network with potential future colleagues so take advantage of that. Game jams, a placement year or an internship is a golden ticket to some of that “experience” that job applications are always going on about.
A degree can also help when looking to work abroad and obtaining visas so if that’s something that interests you, it might be worth looking into.
What do you enjoy most about working in the games industry
The best part about working in the games industry, and more specifically, environment art is that it’s a culmination of all my interests rolled into one. Gameplay, story, cinematics, art, geography, history, the lot. It’s like being a kid playing with a LEGO set except you know how to make any custom LEGO piece you want, you know how to compose a kick-ass looking scene and you know how it supports the wider story.
Then you get a Beck (Senior Level Designer at Rebellion) come along and ruin your fun telling you that your stuff “isn’t metric” or “doesn’t work for the gameplay” or whatever.
Just kidding, Beck is a blast and that’s another thing that is dope about the industry - constant collaboration. Working closely with other artists, concepters, designers, programmers and testers is great because there’s always a sense of camaraderie. Everyone is invested in the success of the game you are making and you’re always seeing cool new stuff being brought into the game week by week.
Hell we’re seeing cool new stuff all the time just by being in this industry and seeing what other studios are releasing and getting up to. Everyone inspires everyone. I feel very fortunate to be where I am and it’s funny because I’m as much of a game fan as the players we’re making games for are.
What has been your favourite contribution to a game or project?
I’m lucky to be working alongside some deeply talented artists and designers on a level that I know will be well received by the fans as it’s pretty iconic.
It’s been really fun and interesting planning out and recreating various environments so I hope by the end the fans are head-to-toe immersed in the world and spot the pop-culture references.
How do you find review embargo day on a project you have worked on? Nerves or excitement?
I’m still new so I’m yet to experience it. But I’m imagining myself with a heavy mixture of both.
Do you like to watch people stream/make videos on your projects? What do you tend to look for?
Again as I’m still new, I haven’t experienced anyone play through stuff I’ve made but regardless, it’s always cool to see people playing the games that everyone around me has produced.
I remember distinctly the release week for ZA4 and there was a busy but quiet atmosphere in the studio that day. As reviews started to come in more and more excitement was generated and it was great to be around.
If applicable, have you ever snuck an Easter egg or hidden message into a project you've worked on? Was it ever found?
I’m all for easter eggs as long as the hard work is done. Work before play! But I think if done well then you can add a layer of environmental richness with references and easter eggs.
Even if they are missed by 9/10 people, it only takes one to notice and that’s a gratifying job well done in my eyes.
What advice would you give anyone looking to get into the games industry?
It’s as simple as working hard at creating a portfolio of work that matches the standard of the studio you are applying for. At entry level, it’s often a numbers game. Apply to lots of places and then reasses your applications. Where can you improve your CV? Where can you shorten a covering letter? What skills can I exercise a bit more in my portfolio?
Get your name out there and be involved in meetups, in communities and in forums. It only takes one person to see your work and before you know it, you’ve got an interview lined up.
How has the current 2020 COVID-19 situation affected your work in the industry
Working from home has been a really easy transition for me and Rebellion has been brilliant at supporting me in doing so. I was in the middle of moving home smack bang in the middle of lockdown but once I did it was smooth sailing.
I’ve got temporary 4G wifi until the internet providers can install broadband lines but that’s my only qualm. Artists in general are fairly autonomous creatures once let loose as we tend to shine most at “show-and-tell-time”. We’re usually alright to work on our own for the most part but checking in regularly with the team is both important and healthy so I enjoy doing so over zoom and mattermost.
I’m never afraid to ask stupid questions so I ping my team all the time about issues I might be having or how to solve problems - I’m willing to risk looking like the fool if it means I can grow at a faster rate.
Kieran Goodson is a Junior Environment Artist at Rebellion on the Sniper Elite franchise
Art Portfolio: https://www.artstation.com/kierangoodson