Live Story: Week 8 – Meet Matt

Next up in our Live Story series is an introduction to our 3d Animator & Artist, Matt Graham. Matt brings our characters and environments to life with his modeling, texturing, and rigging skills. His talents also include foam sword fighting and puppy wrangling.

Outhouse Games: Thanks, Matt for chatting with us today! So lets start at the beginning, when did you start working at Outhouse Games?

Matt Graham: I started at Outhouse on October 21st, 2015.

OG: Can you tell us about the experience of getting this job and what it is like to see the company grow?

MG: It was very rewarding to finally be hired by Outhouse. It took about 5 years from the time that I first started working and learning 3D to when I landed my first job. It took a lot of hard work so finally getting hired was very validating and exciting. It’s also very cool to see how the projects we are working on and the focus of the company has evolved over the last year. Being part of a company diving head first into a new field such as VR is great.

OG: What made you want to work in gaming?

MG: It was after I graduated college, I realized I had a degree in a field I was not so passionate about. I ended up working some jobs I hated, and some jobs that were just ok. I’ve always wanted to be one of those people that can say I love my job, I’m excited to go in, and I am NOT just working for the weekend. I have always played video games and like most people I had no idea what actually went into creating them. It was during this time period that I was asked if I could do anything, what would it be. Making games was the answer. So I took that first step and started pursuing 3D at a small school up in New York. It’s all about taking that first step and now a couple years later I’m making a living creating games.

OG: Can you tell us what a day in the life of a Animator/3D Artist is like?

MG: Being a generalist, I have a lot of different jobs when it comes to production and it all depends on what the project is. One day I could be modeling and texturing characters, environments or props. The next day I could be rigging up characters to they can be animated. Or I might be animating and bringing the characters we make to life. It’s fun to switch it up.

OG: What programs and tools do you use every day?

MG: I use MODO for modeling, rigging and animation, Photoshop for texturing, and ZBrush for digital sculpting.

OG: Can you tell us about your desk setup?

MG: Well my desk on any given day is a mess. But I have the basics. Dual monitors, mouse and keyboard, and a drawing tablet. I also have a small fan, very exciting stuff. And I sit on a big exercise ball so bouncing around throughout the day only adds to the excitement. I am also penned in with my dog so he doesn’t tear the office to the ground.

 

Matt on the left at his desk in our new office

Matt on the left at his desk in our new office


OG:
That is right! We hear you have an assistant around the office, care to share about that?

MG: Yes he isn’t very helpful though. He ends up just sleeping all day in the office or trying to sneak away to eat garbage. I think he might be let go soon… He’s a Welsh Corgi pupper named Bronson. He’s almost 3 months old. Some of his hobbies include chewing on furniture, chewing on hands and feet, and generally anything chewing related. I’ve always loved that breed. I have been saying I was going to get a corgi since I was in college, so I finally did it.

 

Bronson posing for his headshot

Bronson posing for his headshot

 

OG: What inspires you? Your job is very creative, how do you keep motivated and where do you find your inspiration?

MG: As an aspiring animator you can really find inspiration anywhere. A cool thing about getting into animation is you really start to be more observant of everything around you. You start to break down what the body does when it moves, how people and animals of different shapes and sizes move. Sometimes finding inspiration is as easy as seeing a really cool pose and wanting to build an animation around it. It’s also fun seeing how different poses or facial expressions convey so much information and character. What keeps me motivated is one day being able to work on the types of games that I like to play. I will be playing a game like Dark Souls 3 and I’ll see an awesome attack move from some badass enemy and it just adds so much to the experience. Even after graduating school I’ve continued to take classes like iAnimate, and right now I’m doing private tutoring. Plus, animation is just fun to do so it’s definitely not a chore to sit down and work on something new.

OG: What are you working on right now for our latest VR title?

MG: Right now we are working on getting a lot of the modeling and texturing for the games environment done. So right now I am working on finalizing room structures, making pillars and different structural props, and working on some of the more unique hero props.

OG: Can you tell us anything really fun or unique about our upcoming title?

MG: Without giving too much away, I am really excited about some of the characters we have in the works. I think we’ve come up with some really cool and twisted takes on some of the creatures of lore that a lot of people are already familiar with, but may not have seen like this. I think people are really going to dig what they see.

OG: What has been the most challenging part of your job now that you are creating things for a VR game?

MG: Too be honest, my part hasn’t changed much. Still pretty much the same workflow, just making it as efficient as possible. Reducing texture sizes and draw calls and making sure the geo isn’t crazy dense.

OG: What is something that you have learned from working with VR?

MG: I’ve learned just how much putting yourself into a VR environment can really affect your sense of reality. It’s pretty crazy. For example, there is a VR experience on Oculus where a T-Rex comes walking down the hall and gets face to face with you. Of course I’m standing here and I’m telling myself, “of course there isn’t a T-Rex walking up on me”. But as he gets closer your brain starts to have a real reaction and a little bit of panic sets in. On a weird level your brain truly thinks you’re there, even when you consciously know you aren’t. It’s so weird but very cool.

OG: What do you like about working with VR?

MG: It is very cool knowing that all the stuff we are creating is going to end up being a world that people can experience. They are going to be standing and looking around in a structure that we made. And they are going to come face to face with monsters and creatures that we have brought to life. Not just seeing them on a screen, but stuck in a room with them.

OG: Any advice for someone wanting to get into the gaming industry and do a job like yours?

MG: I have two pieces of advice:

  1. If you are interested in 3D or games, it’s all about taking that first step and starting to pursue it. Whether that be downloading a student version of Maya and just getting into the program, watching tutorials online, or going back to school.  Once you get into it, keep working and keep improving. Don’t get to a level that you think is what will get you a job. Be constantly striving to improve your work, get feedback on your work from people better than you, and continually develop your artistic eye.
  2.  When trying to get that first job it is really helpful to know people in the industry. That doesn’t mean going to an event and right off the bat telling people you want a job and start handing out cards. Being able to approach someone, even in the industry, and just having a conversation is a great way to leave an impression. Being the person who came up and had a memorable and fun conversation about games you like or any other similar interests, will leave a better impression than the person who walked up, handed a card and basically asked for a job. Getting that first job takes time. Getting to know the people you potentially want to work with and showing you’re someone that they would want to work with goes a long way.

Connect with Matt

 

Live Story: Week 7 – Meet Chris

Next up in our Live Story series is an introduction to one of our co-founders, Chris Borden. We were able to steal him away for a quick interview during a busy week to learn more about what he does here at Outhouse.

Outhouse Games: You have a lot of responsibilities around the office with being both a co-founder and business manager. Tell us what your normal day is like.

Chris Borden: My normal days are anything but normal. I handle everything pertaining to the business outside of the actual production pipeline. My job is to ensure that everything is taken care of so that production can focus on, well, producing. I make sure the office stays clean and fully stocked with snacks. I e-mail clients to update them on the status of their projects, balance the checkbook, and pay the bills. I also do most of the IT work around the office, so if someone’s computer is giving them issues, I will take care of that as well. I guess I am the resident jack of all trades.

OG: What does the desk of the resident jack of all trades look like?

CB: So, in terms of my desk and setup, I would say it is a little lackluster compared to some of the artists and developers. I use an HP Pavilion laptop for everything I do. I also have an extra display so that I can run 2 monitors. My favorite part of my setup is my Ducky Shine Mechanical Keyboard. Other than that, I have a nice set of open ear headphones I use while integrating audio.

 

Chris’s desk featuring his Ducky Shine Mechanical Keyboard

 

OG: Your job makes you juggle a lot of different tasks. How do you keep it all straight?

CB: I wish I was a little better at this part of my job, but I promise I am working hard on it. I use Google Calendar for all of my appointments, and Evernote to keep track of any notes I take down during meetings with the rest of the team or clients. My accountant and I use Quickbooks to keep track of our financial information. Finally, I use Atlassian for our production planning and scheduling.

OG: This week was especially busy considering you were involved in two events here in the Central Florida area. Can you tell us more about these events?

CB: This has been quite a busy week. On Monday, I was invited to sit on a panel at the Trends in Tech event at Full Sail University. I had the opportunity to discuss my company’s involvement in virtual reality and how we are using it in our business. We think this medium of entertainment is the future. It was an amazing opportunity to speak about a subject I am quite passionate about, and I had a great time.

The second event was Tuesday night at Canvs in downtown Orlando. The Orlando Tech Association threw a party to celebrate all of the great things happening with tech companies here in Orlando, and we were invited to bring out a couple of our VR headsets and allow people at the event to experience virtual reality, some for their first time. It was a fantastic event. I got to chat with some wonderful tech-minded business men and women. We also had the chance to watch people try out this new amazing medium for their first time, and it was just so moving. I noticed one gentleman start crying during the experience and had to leave the room. I had a wonderful time meeting the Mayor of Orlando and some very cool entrepreneurs.

OG: Seeing VR and technology having a direct impact on someone is pretty amazing. There is a lot of exciting and inspiring things going on in the industry. What inspires you?

CB: I have always been kind of an inventor. I really enjoy the process of making, building, and creating things. I love trying things no one else has ever done and making things work. Exceeding everyone’s expectations of what’s possible is a great feeling!

 

Chris testing out the Oculus technology

Chris testing out the Oculus technology


OG:
What made you want to get into VR gaming?

CB: I have been fascinated by the tech since I was younger and had the opportunity to try a Virtual Boy. I am a big gadget person anyways, so mixing new cool technology with video games is right up my alley.

OG: What has been the biggest challenge with starting a new game, especially it being in VR?

CB: I think it was deciding just what kind of game to design. When I look at this new medium of entertainment, all I see is possibilities.

OG: VR is really starting to take off. What is the most exciting thing about going into VR?

CB: Being here at the beginning. Helping to answer some of those really difficult questions that are inevitable with a new medium like this.

OG: Can you tell me something really cool or unique about the newest game we are developing?

CB: So every good roguelike needs really cool enemies and ours is full of unique monsters. We did a ton of research on Ancient Egyptian mythology for inspiration. We wanted to take what has been written about these creatures on the walls of tombs and in historical documents and bring them to life with a dark twist.

OG: What is your favorite piece of technology that you’ve gotten your hands on lately?

CB: I just got my Raspberry Pi 3 in the mail the other day. This is my first one, and I am very excited to see what I can do with it.

OG: What has your team done so far that has really impressed you?

CB: Everything my team does really impresses me. When my day gets really stressful ,I will just walk around the office and look over people’s shoulders to watch them work. It’s Awesome!

OG: Any words of advice for someone wanting to get started in the gaming industry or VR?

CB: Get Started. Build Something. This is hard work, so work hard!


Connect with Chris

Live Story: Week 6 – Meet Phil

Our Live Story series continues with another introduction to one of our invaluable team members. This week, Phil Bias chatted with us about his evolving role from co-founder, developer, and now producer on our newest VR title.

Outhouse Games: Can you tell us about your role in the development of our upcoming game?

Phil Bias: I’m in charge of the production, so a producer if you will.

OG: The title “producer” is used in all kinds of jobs. What does the day-to-day of a game producer look like, especially with a new game in development.

PB: I organize everyone’s talents so that they can best help build the game. I also keep the constant vision of what the game is currently and what it will be.

OG: What programs do you find yourself using everyday?

PB: In producer mode, I mainly use Jira, Confluence, with a bit of Photoshop. In developer mode I use Unity and Sublime Text all the way!

OG: As one of the co-founders, you can speak to the major shift from mobile gaming to VR. Why VR?

PB: I’ve been wanting to play VR games since I was a little kid and now that VR is finally here I can make those games myself!

OG: What part of VR is exciting to you? You have a lot of new equipment to work with and new technology. Tell us about what you are working with and why you enjoy it.

PB: Using VR with Oculus Touch or HTC Vive controllers is the most amazing experience. Being able to interact with the virtual world has a huge impact on the immersion in the game. It always amazes me how quickly I get lost in the game and story. It makes it so hard to play traditional console or computer games at this point; they all feel like they are missing something now.

Phil working on one of our previous projects

Phil working on one of our previous projects


OG:
With so much content soon to be coming onto the VR market, what makes what we at Outhouse create different than others?

PB: We are working really hard to create a game that lets the player solve problems in their own way. If the player wants to burn down a locked door in order to get through instead of finding the key, they should be able to. We are also spending a lot of time working on the music and sound effects to help aid the overall immersion of the game.

OG: What has been the best part of the experience moving into VR so far?

PB: There are a lot of questions that have no answers. You have to figure a lot of things out for yourself. It’s a lot of fun jumping in and start seeing what works and what doesn’t.

OG: Can you tell us anything really fun or unique about our upcoming title?

PB: In our game you can play it any way you like, you are not locked into a player class. If you want to be a melee character, pick up a sword and start swinging. If you want to play as a magic user, grab that wand and start throwing fireballs.

OG: How do you stay up to date with the industry? Do you read certain sites or articles, or use anything to keep you current on the VR tech and industry?

PB: I read a bunch of different VR related subreddits and blogs as well as play every game I get my hands on.

OG: As producer, you are basically the leader of your team. What have they done so far that has really impressed you?

PB: When everyone is working together to gray box an idea it’s incredible to see how quickly an idea or concept can be created and tweaked to find a fun game idea.

OG: Any words of advice for someone wanting to get started in the gaming industry or VR?

PB: Play everything. There hasn’t been a single game or experience I’ve played that hasn’t shown me something to think about or completely stay away from.

Live Story: Week 5 – Meet Bethany

A story can never be complete without knowing who the characters are. This week in our Live Story, we are going to introduce you to one of our leading ladies, Bethany Borden. We had the opportunity to sit down with Bethany this week to learn more about her and her job here at Outhouse Games.

Outhouse Games: Can you tell us about your setup when designing and composing the sounds and music for our games?

Bethany Borden: I typically have my laptop, an additional monitor, good studio headphones, and the internet in my office. My keyboard serves as my midi controller when I’m there. When working from home, I have a more elaborate setup, with a large monitor, two speakers, a microphone, a 25 key midi controller, and my instruments. However, we are moving to a new, bigger office this month, so I’m excited to have everything consolidated in one place.

OG: What about your process of actually creating your music and sounds, do you have a routine or different programs you utilize to help you get your work done?

BB: Everyday, I write a to do list with things from biggest priority to least priority. I jump back and forth from social media, writing music, and researching 3D audio most days. When I write music, I use Noteflight and Logic Pro. I utilize audioblocks.com and Pond5.com to find most sound effects.

Bethany's Studio

Bethany’s Studio

OG: In order to create you must have some kind of inspiration to do so. For you, where does your inspiration come from?

BB: I love to use words to inspire the music I write. The words help me decide things like the tempo (how fast or slow the music is), what instruments to use, and the style to write it in. For instance, our game experience is starting in an ancient pyramid. It’s huge, I’m alone, it’s poorly lit. I’m exploring at first. While I’m exploring, I’m overwhelmed with how big and old the place is. What would i hear? Maybe some leftover whisperings in the air from long ago. Maybe a very small bit of wind getting in. I’d hear my own footsteps and breathing. I may hear drips. Also, I want a very low hum or drone all the time to give it the dark slightly creepy feel and to create some grounding.

OG: Thinking about all the different kinds of sounds in a game environment seems like a difficult task in itself, how is it different now that you are working in a VR environment?

BB: When you are playing games on a console or PC, you’re hearing the sound from outside of the game. Some games, like Amnesia, have done a really good job using sound to scare you psychologically, because the breathing and sound effects trick you into thinking you’re there in the game. This is essential in VR games to make the immersion feel believable.  You will have headphones on while playing, so now we can manipulate the sound spatially, meaning we can make you believe you are hearing it from different places. This convinces you that you are there and you become fully immersed. Sound is 50% of the experience in VR.

OG: That is a big undertaking to feel responsible for so much of the experience the player will go through. I’m sure you have had to change and learn new things in order to transfer your skills over to a VR game.

BB: I’m lucky to be musically trained, where Chris our co-founder is a programmer who understands audio. We are working together to implement sound into this game in the most believable way possible. We need to consider the sizes of room in order to place the right amount of reverb on the sound, so it sounds like you are there. We need to consider that sounds will be happening in other rooms, and we need the player to believe they are hearing it through the walls, floor, and ceilings. We need the player’s own sounds to sound like they are coming from him/her, such as breathing, heartbeat, gasps, etc. We are designing it so all the sound effects, ambience, and character sounds will be placed in spatial audio, but the music is going to be coming in “outside of the game” to create the soundtrack. We’d like it to be noticeable when it needs to be, but otherwise blends into the experience to make it seem almost like you’re in a movie. We want people to feel, see, and hear this game.

OG: Sounds like the game is going to have some pretty amazing music and sounds that really transport our players into the game. You must be excited to have your work out there for so many people to experience and enjoy.

BB: Yes, and this game has led to some amazing collaborations. I will be collaborating with another musician and composer for the music. Thad Anderson, the Assistant Professor of Music at UCF, coordinates the percussion studies program and teaches Music Composition and Technology courses. We both started attending UCF in 1999 and were in the Marching Knights and studied Music Education together. I will be composing music for the game and Thad with his percussionists will play and record it at UCF. In addition to that, we will  be having the music performed live at a Salon concert in September, which is an annual event where local composers have pieces performed.

OG: This all sounds so exciting! Thank you, Bethany, for talking with us and can’t wait to see and hear your work on our upcoming game!


Connect with Bethany