Roll Call Interview Series - Dickie Monday (Technical Artist)
Name: Dickie Monday
Role: Technical Artist
Time at Roll7: 1 year and 3 months
Favourite classic game: Sly Racoon
Pets: No - been dreaming about getting a dog but sadly allergies put a stop to it
Heya Dickie! Can you tell me a bit about being a tech artist?
Hi! Yeah, so, specifically my job here at Roll7 mostly involves writing shaders and handling the process of taking traditional/2D art and working out how we can make interesting in-game . But the role of a tech artist more generally is pretty varied; I guess the way I’d describe it is that in general a tech artist is there to respond to that aren’t just fixable with a plug-in - it’s definitely a job where you need to know how to think on your feet, how to problem-solve, and honestly just how to use google to piece together a solution sometimes.There’s a lot of tech artists right now who are making amazing advancements in what can be spat out of a graphics card and discovering how to execute awesome new illustrative styles.
Oh, that’s cool! So how did you get into it?
Tech art? Well, the same way I think a lot of people probably do; if you work on a team with lots of artists and nobody specifically doing tech art, then eventually the person who get most frustrated by not having the tools they need will become a tech artist by osmosis.
Dickie's Tech Art Wizardry on John Wick Hex
Ha! That makes a lot of sense, actually. So I guess the question then is - what made you want to get into games in the first place?
Ah, so - at 16 I’d finished my GCSE’s, and I did pretty well but the idea of going on to do A levels and uni like everyone else felt like… I don’t know, this sort of dull future with no choices looming up in front of me. So I had a bit of a Peter Pan moment, and I decided to do a course on video games. I wasn’t intending to go into a career in it - it was just the most fun option and it felt more like a choice than my other options. As part of the course, our teacher made us apply for universities - we didn’t have to go, just apply, but I’m really grateful for that as it did lead to me going to uni in the end, which I wouldn’t have done otherwise!
You kind of fell into it, then? Would you have any advice for somebody who does know they want to get into games, or into tech art in particular?
Sure! One thing I learned at uni is that a good portfolio is way more important than a good grade. I’d recommend going to uni, but don’t sweat it if your grade isn’t perfect - it’s more important to build up your knowledge and a body of work you can show to future employers. But if you’re already good at self learning, just start making cool stuff which inspires you. You can learn everything I know with Youtube and stack overflow. Also, get on twitter! That’s how I got hired for Roll7 - it was a single GIF I’d posted of a shader I was working on that got me noticed.
I remember that GIF! And here at Roll7, you’ve gone on to develop the amazing NoComply renderer - could you talk a bit about that?
Yeah - the nocomply renderer really unlocks a whole other level of creativity for the art team. It lets us create these very specific visual styles, which are quite illustrative and use a lot of edge detection and line rendering. It works well with the more outlandish or cartoony elements of our games - sometimes you have to do some weird things with the physics to make the style gel, but that makes sense, right? If you go for a cartoony style, you need physics to match. This’ll make a lot more sense when we’re ready show these games off!
I understand… some of that. I think I have a much better grasp of some of the art you’ve been doing in your spare time, though - I’ve loved seeing your embroidery in the #crafts slack channel!
I’ve been enjoying that a lot, actually. This is my first role doing pure tech art, and it’s a lot more… not difficult, exactly, but more brain-intensive to do programming all day than it is to make 3d art . So unwinding and listening to a podcast and doing some art where it’s creative but also repetitive enough that it doesn’t take all my focus is really nice.
Yes, I totally get you - and one of the nice things about Roll7 is having all those slack channels where we can have those sort of water-cooler chat moments and see stuff like people’s pets or their gardens or their crafts. Definitely makes remote work more sociable! I know you’ve worked with us before and during Covid, and I know you’ve previously worked abroad, but you’re now in the UK again - how has that been?
Ah, yeah - so, before I was at Roll7, I was really a bit of a digital nomad; travelling around the EU from Airbnb to Airbnb. It was fun, but in a lot of ways I’m glad not to be doing it any more - apart from anything else travelling and working like that you get plagued with bad wifi issues, lagged out important video calls, and big data costs. Then I was living in the city, and being surrounded by concrete and totally cut off from nature was tough, especially during lockdown - the one saving grace, for me, was learning to skate! It gave me something to do, and opened up more of the city than just walking around the block.
So many people here skate - I feel like I might need to take it up! Ok, one last question - you always have amazing hair - what’s your secret?
Haha - uh, I’ve got to say, Lush is the way forward for great hair. They make some really nice stuff.
Ok, noted. Thank you so much for your time!
The Roll7 Team