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Senior 3D Artist Kevin Pineda from the Studio Secret 6

This week interview is with Kevin Pineda, an amazing Hard Surface artist, who worked in numerous games such as Tomb Raider and Just Cause.

Who or what inspired you to get into 3D art?

Being someone who loved art from an early age and growing up to movies like Final Fantasy the Spirits Within and Linkin Park’s music video Pts.Of.Athrty, I was so amazed with the graphics at the time and it got me fascinated with how people managed to create realistic worlds with merely a mouse and a keyboard. Nowadays, it would be something like Love Death + Robots and anything made by Blur Studios.

So I eventually took up Multimedia Arts in 2008, and there I met my 3D mentor – the legendary Sir DK Crame, who inspired and amplified my love for the craft and pushed me to get into game development. He was such a charismatic and effective teacher who would take the time to give us valuable feedback on our 3d models while talking about his favorite Victoria Secret models. haha! He even went as far as writing my recommendation letters later on when applying for jobs, bless his heart. That’s why when he passed away a few years ago, I’m still reminded that his legacy lives on through our work as one of his last few batches of students.

What are you working on at the moment?

I’m currently working at Secret 6, surrounded by insanely talented and hardworking people on unannounced AAA titles so we can’t say for now but we’re super excited to spill the beans when the time comes!
Previously, we’ve had the honour of working on some of the biggest games like The Last of Us 2, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Just Cause 4, Rage 2, Uncharted Lost Legacy, Blood and Truth, and much more.

What are the best and worst parts of your job?

Hands down, the best part of my job is doing what I love every single day. While the worst part is sometimes doing it with a really tight deadline. But it’s part of the job and something you learn to deal with as you grow with the help of a little time management, planning, and mindfulness.

Probably some downsides of working on AAA titles are less time on personal works and the secrecy you have to put up with for months, sometimes years. But it’s so worth it when the game comes out and that delayed gratification is what keeps us going during tough times.

How your typical workflow looks like and which tools and software do you prefer to use?

It’s pretty standard as far as current-gen workflows go. I mainly use Maya and Substance Painter as a hard surface artist, there are occasional visits to Zbrush too. 

So we receive the brief and the concept art; we make an estimate for project timeline – how many mandays each phase would take; Blockout in Maya; High Poly; Low Poly; UV (mirror parts that has to be mirrored, cleanup the mesh normals in preparation for bake); Baking via Painter or Marmoset Toolbag (Gotta love their paint skew feature); Then straight to texturing in Painter as well; Then depending on the project, we set up the asset in the game engine too. It varies from project to project but this is what a typical workflow looks like.

What key piece of advice would you offer to a 3D artist aspiring to work in the games industry?

There are many fantastic artists more qualified to give advice but if there is one thing that we unanimously give is to build up your portfolio. Recruiting studios don’t really care much about your CV if you can do great 3D. 

Other things to take note is picking where you want to specialize. It’s better to be an expert in one or two things than be mediocre in everything. You can opt to be a character artist or you can focus on hard surface modelling. Once you have that down, Make sure to keep your portfolio to a minimum. Pick your best works and trim the fat. Be brutal with it, if it doesn’t show your best abilities, cut it out of the folio. Be mindful and intentional with your art, every part of the design should make sense, not as if it was just slapped on or just because it’s been done. The devil is in the details. When modelling from a reference, don’t model what it looks like in your head, model what it is. There is a certain art in gathering references.

If you’re shifting from a different career and want to break into the industry, start small. There’s a ton of resources available online. Blender is free, Maya has an educational version. Start one piece at a time and practice practice practice. The saying goes that the man who moves a mountain began with pebbles.

Stay hungry, stay humble, be flexible. Technology constantly changes, and even a seasoned veteran may need to unlearn old habits in an ever-changing workflow. Be open to constructive criticisms and seek out different perspectives, it’s so easy to fall in love with your work. Also, learn time management because remember those hectic thesis months? That’s daily work in a game studio and you won’t have forever to perfect your asset, you will have to sacrifice some parts to make the deadline so get the perfect balance by budgeting your time and polys on the highest-value tasks. Lastly, get inspired! Surround yourself with like-minded people, join communities, take part in art jams, and just immerse yourself in good art. There’s no shortage in outlets nowadays.

What’s your favourite game and why?

The Metal Gear series! At the time of each games’ release, they – meaning Hideo Kojima and friends – always manage to impress with some new, never before done feature. I remember expressing my frustration of being unable to finish a level to a friend and he said, “just swap out the controllers”. That really blew my mind. They keep pushing the capabilities of the platform to new levels and that kind of “extra”, that keen attention to detail, dedication to the craft, and willingness to delight is what other artists should espouse in their own works whatever medium it is.

Finally, what do you like to do in your spare time (if you have any)?

When I’m not doing 3D, I’m currently taking my Masters in Business Administration which eats up most if not all of the spare time. To keep sane, I try to sneak in a game or two and cultivate a couple of hobbies like trading stocks, collecting watches, trying out new food, etc. I also spend time with my family and most importantly, catch up on sleep.

Thank you Secret 6 as well Kevin for this insightful interview. Here is a link for his Artstation and Secret 6 website:

https://www.artstation.com/kepineds

https://secret6.com/

Games Art Tutor for the MA at Escape Studios. I have been teaching new creative talent for the past 10+ years, working worldwide at places including Alpha Channel and the University of Hertfordshire. I've also wrote numerous published books about Unreal Engine including; UDK Basics, Level Design and Documentation and UDK Games scenarios integration as well creating game assets for the next generation consoles such as the racing game ‘Pacer’.

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