Today we're sitting down with veteran developer and longtime CryEngineer Ryan Schake, known in the community as themodman101. You may remember Ryan from a previous feature, in which we interviewed him and his team about their project Dark Vale. Now we’re discussing Ryan’s new position at Naughty Dog and his thoughts on developing a career in game development.
How about we start things off with an introduction? Tell us a little about yourself and how you got started with CRYENGINE. How long have you been a CryEngineer?
Well my name is Ryan, I've been a generalist for around seven years now, and have worked on a number of film and game productions (not many of which I can talk about). I started working with CRYENGINE with the first Crysis, even before it was out, when Crytek released the demo. When they released the demo, you could also use Sandbox. That makes it around nine or ten years of using CRYENGINE.
I worked on a number of mod projects while I learned how to model and texture, and worked on my basic level design skills. I can’t remember exactly which ones anymore, but I worked on my own mini level/story project Vengeful Spirit. That was in addition to working on a medium/large scale STALKER-esque mod for Crysis.
What are you areas of expertise with CRYENGINE?
Well I specialize in environment art, which includes both design work and artistic direction. But I also have extensive experience with in-engine VFX, Tools, Flowgraph, and Trackview. I do not generally handle Audio, or character related stuff.
Congratulations on your new role at Naughty Dog. What sort of things do you do day-to-day? Do you get to practice any skills learned with CRYENGINE?
Well I am a texture artist, so I am generally given an asset, or a big level full of assets, and I build shaders and textures for them. This usually involves Substance, Zbrush, and Maya. They have a ton of proprietary stuff that I had to learn(none of which can I talk about). It’s an awesome place to work, and I work with some of the world’s most talented artists and technical artists. Much to learn!
Check out the Dark Vale Gameplay Teaser to revisit Ryan's expertise.
What led you to the game development industry and your current position?
Well it was a rather slow process. I grew up learning construction, in terms of engineering and architectural related stuff. I was definitely interested in making mods for games after Crysis came out but it didn't really hit me until I was about 18 and I said to myself, "You know what? I really want to work on games." Actually, for years I was preparing myself to apply at Crytek, but I never felt like I was good enough to do so. So I never did apply. Maybe sometime in the future!
I would say Crytek and Crysis are the reasons, inspiration really, for how I got to be where I am today.
What would you say to any aspiring developers reading this who are just starting out? Any advice or wisdom to offer?
Number one is patience, if you don't have it you won’t do well in this industry. In general being a developer involves a TON of iteration, and a lot of repetitive tasks. This doesn't mean you can’t be excited and energetic, just don't give up if your first, second, or third attempt at building something fails.
I generally redo things multiple times before I get it the way I want.
Persistence pays off, gauged by these results!
The second thing is to have an end goal. Where do you want to be in 10 years? Are you willing to dedicate yourself to learning things you will likely have to replace with new tools, techniques, and knowledge bases in a matter of years? This industry moves forward at a preposterous pace. And you need to keep up.
In the end you need to learn to love learning
What is your favorite installment of the Crysis series?
Difficult question, so I will answer as follows:
Crysis 1 with Crysis 3's Nanosuit - visually speaking!
You should check out Ryan's work on the Transient Light Studio's website and YouTube channel - they also have a bunch of neat tutorials on there. Want to contribute to the development of the engine? Find out how here.