Introduction: Hi Reddit! I have had the pleasure of being able to work in the video game industry for the past 19 years; I've been working with an indie team over the last 1 1/2 years as creative director to build a pirate ship arena combat game called Unearned Bounty. Its currently on Kickstarter. If you would like to see my animation and illustration work please visit my artstation page. Artstation

Ask me anything! proof

Comments: 176 • Responses: 41  • Date: 

rpanimator33 karma

Well there are many facets of game development. I would say most fields in the game industry pay well enough to support a family. I would focus on doing the type of work you enjoy and cater it to the studios you would like to work for.

Here are some careers that loosely match different personality types

Producer - organized, go getter Artist - creative, productive Hr - caring, nuturing Animator - class clown , loves to work Programmer - number and logic oriented


A good place to start would be a great school that teaches the fundamentals of game art/design or a business school that is familiar with the gaming industry. If you can’t affairs to go to school just start googling the topics your interested in. There’s a ton of free knowledge out there!!

Hope you find the perfect job!

postblitz6 karma

Animator - class clown , loves to work

Smooth :D

Can you make a baloon animal?

rpanimator5 karma

Dude funny enough I totally can! I can make a wiener dog or a sword... LOL

_Stralor18 karma

A couple questions.

1) Who's the coolest pirate you ended up researching while coming up with concepts for this game?

2) Is Naughty Dog as crunch-heavy and brutal to work at as the rumors say? Tangentially, 3) is there any particular work that you did over there you're particularly proud of?

rpanimator33 karma

Well it’s hard to say which pirate was the coolest but I found a lot of inspiration in Steven silvers shape language and costuming ideas. Check out his work sometime he does a lot of really great pirate character designs!!

Yeah when we worked on projects (@sony sandiego) we worked with naughty dog and their hours are pretty tough. The work we all did on uncharted 4 was some of the best animation I’ve had the pleasure of being commissioned to produce. And even though the schedules are rough the product is of the highest caliber and something to be proud of. When you’re trying to make a game with hundreds of people and shooting for blockbuster movie quality the hours just sadly have to be put in to achieve that level of polish.

AMillionMonkeys16 karma

I don't pay much attention to what's cutting edge in AAA games these days, but I'm watching a play-through of The Last Of Us and the animation is really impressive to me. Particularly the meshing of and handing off between procedural, mo-capped, and hand made animation. I've written my share of state machines to handle simple walk/run/idle type stuff but this just blows my mind.
My question is: what does the person with the title "Animator" do, given how much of the character's movement is handled in code? How much of your time is spent working directly with coders?

rpanimator22 karma

I was specifically involved with the cinematic department. Being that cinematic are mainly movies that run in the game engine we don’t have too much collaboration with coders in our day to day work. However the game play animation team works heavily with designers , coders and the engine on the day to day.

In most games that naughty dog creates all of the motions start with a motion capture shoot. Then the animator adds all of the things that don’t get motion captured such as fingers and Tongue. Then the animator will do a whole round of cleanup on the Mocap. Many things don’t translate cleanly from the mocap shoot to the game character and they need to be adjusted to look correct. Usually the shoulders end up looking shrugged and legs won’t fully extend looking squatty and bowed.

Also there are many situations where the director will request a performance change in the fly that wasn’t shot in the motion capture. A lot of time this will need to be created entirely from scratch and this is a tough challenge because the level of realism the animator has to achieve is very high so the new performance will fit in with the realistic mocap surrounding it.

As far as game traversal goes I would say most animations are created in place and then the code drives those animated moves through the game.

vibrunazo15 karma

What engine and why?

rpanimator25 karma

Unity, the programmers that I work with felt more comfortable with C# and their ability to use Unity as a framework to extend the custom parts we needed.

dawsonsmythe15 karma

Hi Richard. Do you think AAA games are unsustainable with regards to hours, delivery dates, and crunch? Do you see a solution? Thanks!

rpanimator23 karma

Wow that’s a tough question and I think the situation varies from studio to studio. I have worked for servers studios that were great in terms of hours and really valued their teams work life balance, and I have worked for others that were not afraid to crunch for years on end and burn people out. I do think that AAA game development has a future and can be a great experience for all involved. In my opinion the solution lies in scheduling and pre planning. Games love to have the freedom to change design, scope and content on the fly but that is a slippery slope to long hours and burnout. I would say a studios strongest defense against burnout is a sold game plan where all content story and gameplay is decided upon before the production begins of course this is a best case scenario but I have seen company’s that work this way and they are very successful!

victimOfNirvana3 karma

Where would you say these scope changes come from? Chasing market trends?

rpanimator3 karma

Many places, sometimes its just people changing their minds on the team. Other times a studio will receive feedback from execs or investors and this causes big change as well. Also when there isnt a clear plan and design people can just kinda make stuff without a larger story and goal in mind.

flipdark9510 karma

I do 3D modelling in my spare time from work and my studies, so should I think about learning animation too? I have a lot of character models I'd really like to learn how to animate.

I figure that if I'm ever going to end up working in the game industry, should I start learning about animation?

These are just a few examples of my work.

Princess Allura from Voltron Legendary Defender.

Korra from Legend of Korra.

Ruby Rose from RWBY.

Custom gun for Fallout 4.

rpanimator11 karma

I think it’s a great asset to any studio to be familiar with the many different disciplines found in game development. However I would say most studios need very specialized people who are the best at what they do. My recommendation is to be the best in the world at what you enjoy doing. Then once you get your first job you can start to branch out your knowledge and learn from those people around you who are the best at what they do as well! So if modeling is what you love I would say become a world class modeled and put all of your focus on that for now. Best of luck and I hope you find that job you’re looking for!!!

SlyMurdoc9 karma

First, I love your Naughty Dog work and look forward to your new game. Do you fear for the future of gaming regarding lootboxes and microtransactions?

rpanimator13 karma

Good question! I don't mind loot boxes and micro-transactions when they are tied to a free game that is not pay to win. As long as the loot crates they are offering are mostly cosmetic and dont tip the game in favor of paid players, I think its actually great to have games that have no barrier to entry. Its great for players who dont have a lot of money to spend up front. The views I discussed above are extremely important to our team at Extrokold games. We want the game to be fun for everyone to play. Regardless of how much money a player spends or doesn't spend on the game.

rpanimator19 karma

Also, I think that mixing heavy use of microtransactions in a full priced game is bad. I feel that some games like League of legends, Atlas Reactor, and Gigantic can show a brighter use of lootboxes & microtransactions Path of Exile and Warframe as well. I think players and the industry will gravitate more towards fair free to play practices.

reasonableposter8 karma

How close is this to Side Meir's Pirates?

rpanimator14 karma

Unearned bounty is primarily an arena battle game. It’s designed to pick up, play quickly and have fun. It isn’t focused on the adventure side of the game like Sid Meyers pirates. So it’s really just about blasting your friends and trash talking with our silly pirate emojis!

sciencewarrior1 karma

Would "World of Tanks meets Pirates of the Caribbean" be a half-decent elevator pitch? BTW, I have to say I love the bright, colorful art.

rpanimator1 karma

Dude that’s a fantastic pitch! I love a good TV guide pitch! I’ll use this for sure! Maybe world of warships meets pirates of the Caribbean!

nopleaz7 karma

Very interested in the game development field, how different is it to work at an indie studio compared to a AAA studio such as Naughty Dog?

rpanimator11 karma

Small developers have a lot of room for creative decision making. You can really see your ideas directly affect the game you are making. Often times when a game is being made by 2 to 4 people you have to wear a lot of hats and take on responsibilities that you may or may not be comfortable with.

When working for AAA developers you usually serve a much more specific roll in a huge well oiled machine. You may not get to be involved in some of the top level decision making processes you would like to be but at the end of the day, most of the time you are going to contribute to a impressive collaborative work of art and game.

queefs-on-pelicans7 karma

Hi Richard. What is your opinion on pelicans? Have you ever thought about putting a pelican in one of your video games?

rpanimator14 karma

Love Pelicans! If our kickstarter is funded I will put a pelican in the game to keep our seagulls company!

queefs-on-pelicans2 karma

That is amazing! I plan on backing tomorrow when my paycheck comes in. I will be keeping an eye out for the pelicans when the game is launched!

If you have ever played subspace, it had some cool "elimination" modes/matches that were really fun. I hope to see similar in your game.

rpanimator1 karma

So cool! I will look forward to animating the floppy neck under their bills!!!

Californib6 karma

Hi Richard. I have to admit, I've never heard of you or any of the games that you've worked on.

Why should I play Bounty? What makes it interesting?

rpanimator12 karma

Hi Californib,

First of all I love vehicular battle games, some of my favorites being, the old school twisted metal series and Mario Kart battle mode.

I feel like Unearned Bounty does a good job of capturing that same excitement and fun that I found in those games. We really wanted to get people into the game and have them start shooting right away. Unearned bounty is easy to pick up but hard to master.

I also think Unearned Bounty does a great job of expanding on those titles by adding in MOBA type elements to the game play. Each boat has an active and a passive ability that keep the game fresh and new because you need to know how to fight against all of our unique boats.

Take all of this and wrap it up with a graphic style similar to The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker and I think its something people will keep coming back to play over and over.

Hope that helps!


i_am_the_devil_5 karma

How many hookers can you fit in a Datsun?

rpanimator10 karma

No idea!

Valtorix285 karma

Why do you think it is so hard to get (break) into the industry nowadays, compared to, say, 15 years or so ago?

rpanimator6 karma

Competition and education. 15 years ago the computers that were required for development were over 10,000 dollars to purchase. There were no online schools offering degrees in animation, 3d modeling and game design. In today’s day and age you can learn to be a developer on you tube for free! There are thousands of art schools and online workshops that offer world class knowledge and information. People have access to professional critique and mentor ship opportunities for not much money at the touch of a button. When I was starting out no one in my town even knew what animation was let alone how to create it. I’d say do what you love and do it better than anyone else and that alone will make you stand out!

iamjackswastedlife__4 karma

How will Unearned Bounty fair against similar games like Sea of thieves and Skull and bones?

rpanimator6 karma

Sea of Thieves, while in the pirate theme is different genre wise / being more akin to Guns of Icrus. We hope as a free to play game that takes a more Arcade approach we'll have more staying power compared to Skull and Bones Our primary game mode is free for all and has midmatch upgrades, having a different appeal than "I have a bigger boat"

Rushinq3 karma

If you want some feedback on your game, for what its worth...

When you turn left and right the camera shouldn't move with it as all it does is force the player to correct it over and over.

I'd probably add some sort of short speed boost as default because from the 10 minutes I played the demo I felt bored immediately with the movement.

Who's the target audience for this game btw?

rpanimator1 karma

Very interesting I’ll relay that to the team! And I agree I would love the match to start with a bit more speed.

Ershany3 karma

Hi Richard, as an aspiring graphics programmer who really adores your games and really likes Naughty Dog.

Do you have any advice to increase my chances of landing a job when I finish University in 2 years?

I am currently working on my own graphics engine and improving my maths skills, but I would appreciate any advice!

Also your game looks really cool, I hope it goes well!

rpanimator5 karma

Hey thanks for all of the compliments I really appreciate it!

Here’s my advice for landing a gig after school. Use every assignment as an opportunity to create something that will be showable to a potential employer. Don’t just do the assigned busy work and throw the project away at the end. If it could be better , finish it and polish it to the furthest level you know how! Think to yourself, how can I take this assignment and turn it into something I can show to someone.

Next tip, decide which studio you want to work for and cater everything you do towards that studio. For instance if you want to work on halo and you notice that there is something missing in their graphics engine, design something they could fill that gap. That will make you look instantly useful to the team you’re intending to join!

If your goal is to work for Disney don’t design a brutal death system to show. Concentrate on making things that a studio focused on family values would want to see.

Last tip - network in person and attend game jam competitions. Most teams will love an extra graphics programmer on their team and they may even have a job opportunity for you after you prove your awesomeness on the project.

I hope that all makes sense! And I wish you the best of luck!!!

pbrand3 karma

Hi Mr. Pince,

Considering you've got experience with online networked games (and presumably have hired people responsible for that), would you say that a games programmer should spend time learning networking? I hear it's a complex mess. Would it bump up a paygrade or increase job desirability?

rpanimator5 karma

Network programming is one of the most difficult parts for games programming along with Shader development.

You should learn about topics that interest you most. There are definitely a spot for networking developers, but it is often a more senior role.

The paygrade and increased opportunities do exist, often times this and backend server/database programming can translate to other industries as well.

Supmyguy3 karma

What was your most difficult/time consuming project?

rpanimator5 karma

I would have to say killzone 3. It was a really fun project that turned into a fantastic game but it was chalked full of overtime hours and weekend work. The maya scenes were extremely heavy with character and environments which sometimes made saving or opening your scene take hover 30 mins. It was truly one of those projects where I was extremely thankful for the amazing people I had the chance to work with. When a project is riddled with last min changes and an increasing scope and a diminishing timeline those people sitting next to you make the long nights and tedious troubleshooting worth it in the end.

RandomGuyinACorner1 karma

Where they huge levels in ONE Maya scene or did the Maya scene reference other scenes into it? I get annoyed when it takes more than 5 minutes to open I can't imagine 30 hahaha.

rpanimator1 karma

Over 15 character references in 1 scene, along with 2 or 3 vehicles and a ref of an enviroment with millions of polygons. Oh and tons of mocap animation and layers!

wildmangoose3 karma

What type of game modes are you planning to include in Unearned Bounty? Will there be a territory or objective-control focused game mode?

rpanimator4 karma

Right now we have free for all "Infamy" mode where you steal more or less points based on your standing after each kill. We plan on having a team based death match as well as a team based territory control mode in the near future. Work has been done to make extending out many more modes in the future. Something like a Coop vs bots, hoarde mode would be fun.

Zorotek3 karma

How soon do you think high fidelity mocap devices will be common in game studios?

rpanimator5 karma

There are a wide range of mocap systems out there and I would say to some extent most studios have some sort of solution for mocap. I know of some small developers even using their Kinect to do a poor mans mocap shoot in a very small space. High fidelity solutions are usually extremely expensive and space consuming so usually those only exist at large studios. For studios that can’t afford to purchase their own system they usually can afford to shoot their scenes on a stage that they rent out for a short period of time.

veltriben3 karma

Hi, thanks for doing this AMA! I was wondering how you became a video game animator and if you had any recommendations or insights for people interested in 3d animation?

rpanimator8 karma

Sure thing! I would say there are a lot of great ways to quickly become a great animator.

There are so many amazing schools online that can teach you animation in small period of time. I would check out : animation mentor , animschool, and ianimate. Those are all run by industry professionals and will yield you Hugh end results with not too much money invested.

Next tip I would say is don’t ignore the fundamentals. Learn those simple animation lessons and don’t try to skip ahead to really complex scenes until you have mastered the basics.

Attend ctn and comic con and network like crazy

I hope that helps!!!

AustinnnnH2 karma

Hey Richard! Excluding games you've worked on, what games do you still go crazy about in terms of art inspiration?

Also, you're really talented! Hats off to you and your team, definitely going to check out your project.

rpanimator2 karma

Horizon zero dawn had me sitting in awe in front of my tv. The level of technical and artistic achievement in the game is just off the charts. Plus giant metal dinosaur robots in ancient times with indigenous people who kill the dinosaurs with spears. But then it’s in the future!?! What a twist! Please just take my money lol

bigboiKING2 karma

Currently looking for a good school to transfer to study game design. Im already proficient in some things. What school did you goto and do you have any recommendations? Im interested in University of Utah.

rpanimator3 karma

I graduated from Laguna college of art and design in Laguna beach and they have fantastic game design and art programs. As far as design goes I am an animator so I’m not sure which school is best for that. I have overheard that digipen and scad have great programs.

shoeinthefastlane2 karma

What's your favorite drawing? What's one that was the biggest challenge?

rpanimator2 karma

I think your asking which of my own drawings is my favorite and I would say the pirate and parrot character design. I drew that after taking a character design workshop with Steven silver.

The biggest challenge I have have to face was leaning how to simplify the human form in an appealing way. This takes a working knowledge of human anatomy to draw from and skew towards the chapter you are trying to create.

Check out Steve silvers work I bet he will inspire you!

Thanks for your question!

r_antrobus2 karma

Hello Richard. I have a few questions I would like to ask you.

  1. Will I be able to customize the look of my ships and my ship's crew in this game?

  2. Do you like chocolate milk?

  3. I noticed that you were the animation director for the Ghostbusters game. How did the animation process work for that title? Did you have reference footage to animate to of the original actors doing their lines?

Thanks in advance.

rpanimator2 karma

Unearned Bounty has a flag system to change various colors on the ship. In the future I'd like to add in more detailed skins and cosmetics. As far as crew goes, our current plans is for having more emotes and voice acting to go along with it as part of taunts towards other players. The ghost busters game was a really great collaboration. The animators got to create all of their shots from scratch and imagine the acting, dialogue, and camera work with only very rough thumbnails to work from. After the animation was created we were all tasked with implementing our cut scenes into the engine and see the results in real time. Sadly I never got to work directly will bill Murray but his lines in the game were often hilarious to work with.

watchalookin2 karma

Hey, big fan of Uncharted series (especially 4) here! How did you get into this and where did you start?

rpanimator2 karma

Getting into video game animation has been a long interesting road for me.

I have been drawing since I was old enough to hold a pencil. I have always scribbled down ideas for games, characters and companies. For some odd reason I’ve just always had ideas pour out of my head and I’ve always taken the opportunity to visualize them in one way or another.

In high school I enrolled in the advanced placement art program which helped me further develop my skills as an artist. The program helped be build a professional portfolio and qualify for some small art scholarships.

I got a very lucky break in high school when I applied to their mentor ship program. This was a class where you met with a career councilor and told them what you wanted to do for your future career, they in turn would try to find working professionals to pair you up with. I grew up in a semi small town called San Marcos which is in the suburbs of San Diego California. So needless to say when I told the councilor I wanted to be an animator she really had no contacts at all for that kind of profession.

The only opportunity she had was an internship with a local stained glass artist. That really wasn’t what I was looking for but I figured I would still get to be creative and it’s the best she’s got so I would take it. Turns out I really enjoyed working with stained glass and I got to draw a lot of interesting designs and characters that were then turned into windows and displayed in public. This was my first taste of something I created being displayed publicly. I loved the feeling, it inspired me to create more.

Towards the end of my internship my boss told me that he thought my drawings were great and that he knew the owner of a small video game company in Mira Mesa California. He asked me if I would like to show my portfolio and apply for a job. I couldn’t have been more excited for that opportunity. So I called the studio went down for an interview and they liked my portfolio work and I was hired in the spot! I felt so lucky that I graduated high school on a Friday and started my first day at killer game on the following Monday!

Working with a smaller developer had a lot of advantages and my superiors there taught me the ropes of 3ds max and game development. From there the company split into 2 and I followed the company sol works to Carlsbad California. We worked on some really fun titles there and and I got the opportunity to be an animator both hand key and motion capture. I fell in love with the medium and the process.

After about 5 years at solworks they closed their doors and I decided to go back to animation college to up my game. I always wanted to work on games like gears of war and tomb raider and I knew I needed more knowledge to work with those studios.

So I attended Laguna college of art and design for 4 years and earned my bachelors degree in animation.

After that i worked at Omation on the movie the barnyard. I worked there for a time and then got the chance to be an animation director on the ghostbusters video game for Nintendo wii. After that gig was over I headed to Lumenas studios in Utah and worked on another cartoon feature called the legend of Santa clause.

Then after that I got a call from a good friend who asked me if id like to come work on a really cool game that was pushing feature film quality with their animation. I decided to take him up on it and I ended up back in San Diego working at Somy on uncharted 2. This was such a great feeling because I felt like everything I worked for all of those years finally came true. Shortly after at Sony I worked on infamous 2, sly Cooper, uncharted 3 and 4 and of course the last of us.

Since then I have been doing a lot of artwork and animation for some other great studios and I can’t wait to see what’s next!

This turned into more of a biography but I hope that helps to show the crazy path I took to get to where I am today.

watchalookin1 karma

Fantastic man, that was interesting. Thanks for sharing! Although it looks prohibitive for someone like me starting out an amateur game developer.

rpanimator1 karma

I would say if it’s your dream jump in and make it happen! I’ve watched a lot of people who thought it was impossible succeed in just a couple of years!

rainbow-6-seige1 karma

Hello SUPER big fan of your work, Infamous 2 was the first video game i ever bought myself, i would spend hours parkouring and jumping off buildings. I loved being the hero and running around the city helping people, then switching to my other save and killing everyone in my sight. I played this game for years after beating it.

Maybe im just asking this because "the good ol days" But i think that that games now just try to waste your time with collectables and I get bored once ive beaten the game. Of course there are other lasting single player games, (skyrim, gta)

I want to ask why do you think single player games nowadays dont have that same ability to give enjoyment after you have beaten the games?

rpanimator1 karma

Hi there,

Thanks for your question and all of the awesome compliments!

To get to your question, I do think there are a bunch of single player games that offer a really great experience after the story play though. Far cry 4 is one that I played for almost a year after beating the story. There is something really alive and believable about their world. It’s so great when you are driving around and you are just excited to see what random world event happens. Another one that falls into this category is horizon zero dawn. The world they created is just so lush with life and story it’s hard to experience it all in one play through.

So onto games that don’t seem to offer a lot of replay value. I think here are many many reasons a game might not meet the audiences expectation. Sometimes games can go through half of their production cycle in one form and then get totally scrapped and changed even up to the last second. This creates a mad scramble to get a game shipped and content can suffer big time. This leads to the game just feeling anemic and stale.

Also I think a lot of times scope can get in the way. A studio dreams up a game that is way to big for them to possibly create and half way through hey realize they need to cut content. This too can make a game feel really empty.

I would also say shifting budgets and timelines can be another culprit. A lot of studios encounter a cut in funding or a switching of publishers or investors and this can just bring a game to its knees in terms of production and morale. It’s difficult to recover from and even when the product is finished it can end up feeling like a shadow of what was originally intended.

There are of course a million more reasons but these are some of the big ones. Hope that answers your question.

ColorColourCoulor1 karma

What's your favorite color?

rpanimator1 karma

Blue , no yeloooooowwwwwww.

(Monty python)

Silvere011 karma

What are(were) your downtimes during projects?

Did you ever neee to resort to other Jobs / freelance smaller stuff inbetween?

Were you ever laid off unexpectedly?

rpanimator1 karma

Yes layoffs happen in this industry. But really that’s the case in any industry. Not every company lasts forever. I’ve always looked at the time between jobs as the push I need to look for my next big opportunity.

I did find myself out for work for almost nine months at one point. But other than that I feel very lucky that I’ve been able to jump from job to job seamlessly. I thank my amazing friends and colleagues for that. It’s really important to make and maintain friendships in life and in any industry. Almost every job I’ve ever had I got from a friends recommendation.

rpanimator1 karma

11 second club is a great place to see inspiring work from students and professionals. It’s a great place to see where you stand in the grand scheme of things.

jwall2471 karma

What did you have to do to in order to get to Sr. Video animator?

rpanimator2 karma

Usually the sr. Role is achieved by working in the gaming industry for a minimum of 5 years and up. Usually takes longer. I’ve been working for 19. I think it took me 7 years to get the title. It’s also a sign of your ability to create your own work without having to be heavily directed.

rpanimator1 karma

Haha no doubt!!!

rpanimator1 karma

We have thousands of followers on twitter and we do quite a bit of Gorilla marketing. We are planning some other publicity in the coming weeks that can hopefully start to tip the tides.

johnlanz10 karma

I'm not against a low poly games but you worked on a AAA company that's creates 1 of my favorites game of all time so you already have the idea. Was it really hard to create a game that has an AAA label? I'm just disappointed because at your level you should be creating a realistic waters/ocean, islands, realistic pirate ships, etc that is close to an AAA game. Was that really hard?

rpanimator1 karma

Yes. The water took us a really long time. The big difference is on AAA titles we had teams of over 750 people. Doing something like an ocean simulation would most likely involve a team of 20 or more talented professionals. Unearned bounty was made by around 7 people start to finish.