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An Inside Look with Epic Games Senior Concept Artist James Hawkins

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The video game industry is a tricky business. With millions on the line and players anxiously waiting for the releasing of your game the video game industry can make or break you. James Hawkins, Epic Game’s Senior Concept Artist gave us his thoughts and opinions about the video game industry, Epic Games success, and Fortnite. James Hawkins has worked on Gears of War, Gears of War 2, Gears of War 3, Unreal Tournament, Paragon, and a little bit of Fortnite, as well for Epic Games, in particular.

In relation to unique aspects of the video game industry compared to others: “I think people don’t realize how hard work it is. I mean a lot of the guys they put in 60 hours a week. It is a ton of hard work. I think it is different to in that we will work for years on something and we still have no idea if it is going to be something that is successful. Everything’s a gamble. Epic has been really good and have had some really successful games, but I worked in another company a couple of years ago and we worked two years on a project and it got released and no one played it… I think people that work in the video game are a mixed bag of people. I am an artist and all us artist are like minded but we also work with people who are programmers and their minds work completely different. I guess the thing is we all just like video games and that is what brings us together.”

How he became a concept artist: “I got an art degree in college, and then I took a class after college where I learned how to use the computer programs for work. Then, I just worked really really hard. I went online and I started posting my artwork online and telling people I wanted to work in the gaming industry. There are websites you can go to and post concept art, and some guys saw some of my work and they hired me.”

Regarding Epic Games success: “They are trying to figure that out to. I think from what we understand Fortnite is very accessible, and you know a Mom can play with her daughter if she wants and that is really important. It is the kind of game  that the players get to dictate their game experience, it is not something we have pre-written there isn’t any story or anything that is written out for the player, the people get to get in their and make the game what they want. We have heard that it is a very social experience, so people just love getting in and playing with their friends and things like that. It is accessible in that it is not gritty and dark like Gears of Wars was, so I think more kids are playing it which has made it wildly popular. We got all these hip hop guys and stuff playing it now to and we didn’t know that would happen. It just has completely taken off. This is the first game where we have really had a media like Twitch, and Twitch is huge. We have never really had that platform and everyone watches Twitch. It is a perfect storm everything came together the way it should and it has taken off more than we would of ever imagined. So you know luck!”

Fortnite has also changed the video game industry completely. Being a free game to play Fortnite makes their sales off of skins and the PvE game mode called Save the World. James Hawkins said, “The difference with Fortnite is it is not an expensive game to make. You know we made Gears of War and it was a very expensive game to make and it took a long time. Fortnite in video game terms is fairly cheap to make, it is simple, and it is just fun. It has completely changed what video game companies are thinking about what they want to do next. I mean do they want to spend 5 years making God of War or do they want to make something that is fun and entertaining that they can get out their and people play right away. I think it has changed the bottom line how much games can actually make, and what other companies are thinking is considered successful.”

For those considering becoming a concept artist themself James Hawkins said, “There are websites like Ark Station, PolyCount, or Zebra Central, and start looking at what the really popular artist are doing and start trying to emulate them and do what they are doing. I think learning the computer programs first could help since to get good at a computer program could take a year of practice. I am still learning, and it is working consistently. It is like soccer or any sport or anything you gotta keep practicing to get better especially when you are young. Just practice, practice, practice.”

 

 

 

 

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An Inside Look with Epic Games Senior Concept Artist James Hawkins