1) Could you please introduce yourself?
My name is Danilo Athayde, a 3D artist from Brazil. I'm currently working as a Senior Character Artist at Naughty Dog, Sony Interactive Entertainment where I`ve helped to ship games like The Last of Us Part II (2020) and Uncharted the Lost Legacy (2017).
2) Why the US and why Naughty Dog?
Some of the best video games studios are located in the US. And I`ve always considered Naughty Dog to be one of the best, if not the best studio, when we talk about characters. I remember back in 2013, when I first saw The Last of Us and the work the Character team did, I got so impressed. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to work in my favorite studio.
3) How hard was it to get a position at Naughty Dog? What does ND really look for in candidates when hiring?
I`ve never tried to get a position specifically at Naughty Dog to be honest. What I`ve been trying since 2010 (when I first started my 3d studies), was to improve my portfolio and become a better artist. Being hired at Naughty Dog was a consequence. It was a hard process, since I needed to do an art test, like everyone who is hired at ND, and I knew all the time that there were a lot of good artists doing the test as well. But I did a good job and got the position. I was a Brazilian artist, without a work Visa, and could barely speak english at that time. So I'm pretty sure that what ND consider to hire someone, is mostly the portfolio and what you`re capable of. And, of course, if you`re an easy person to deal with.
4) Could you please walk us through the process of getting an American work visa as a foreigner and citizen of Brazil?
I came to the US with the O-1 Visa at that time. To get this Visa, you basically have to prove that you have special abilities, like they used to call. ND`s attorney did the whole process for me, and all I needed to do was provide material showing my work being featured on media, magazines, forums and Websites. Having a record of all your accomplishments as an artist is crucial to get this type of Visa.
5) Steps of getting into a AAA company? How many interview stages and art tests are there?
I did a few interviews for other big game companies before getting into ND. As I said, there's always a lot of people trying these positions in big companies, and it's more than normal to not be approved in some of those interviews/art tests. It doesn't mean you`re not good enough, it just means someone, in that particular moment, did better than you. Just keep trying. Improve your portfolio. Apply. Eventually get an interview/art test. Do your best. repeat, until you get a position.
6) What are your daily responsibilities?
My responsibilities are to deliver high quality characters. Being experienced with the whole process of creating a game character is very important. So yeah, my main responsibility is to make sure the characters I'm responsible for look good, and are functional within the game.
7) Do you still practice your skills at home in order to be better at work? And how do you dedicate and organize time for both, especially during a crunch time?
To be honest, I`ve been doing this less than I would like to in the last few years. But I still do. Doing personal works is extremely important if you want to improve as an artist. Working in a AAA studio is cool and you learn a lot of things, but if you want to do art, you need to do your own stuff. It's very hard to do it consistently, but every artist needs to find their own time to do that. There is time for that, it's just a matter of priority.
8) How do you stay motivated and inspired and avoid being burned out?
I had some moments when I felt very demotivated and burned out. When it happens, I take some time off, and go after what inspired me when I first started doing 3d art. Finding a balance between work and personal life is very important. you do your best when you`re healthy, mentally and physically.
9) Specialization or a generalist route as a 3D artist? What's valued more?
I would say specialist with some knowledge in the other areas of 3d. As a character artist, for example, it`s very important to know the basics of rigging and animation. But you don`t need to be a master in every department. Actually, it`s very hard to be really good in a lot of things at the same time. So yeah, take your time mastering one thing, but don`t completely forget about the others.
10) What advice would you give to people who are starting out and want to work in the game industry one day?
Keep going. Keep studying. Keep improving. You need to do it consistently through the years. It's easier to do that when you have people with the same goals and similar mindset around you. That`s it. Get surrounded by similar mindsets, keep going.