A Metal Gear art test has recently surfaced online and it gives us a good look at what it would take to be a professional animator in the gaming industry. Naughty Dog animator Jonathan Cooper recently shared some work that he put together when he was applying for the now-defunct Kojima LA Studio. This art test isn’t pretty, but it (and the subsequent explanation) gives us a good idea of the kind of work involved in applying to work with the big boys.
We're talking about art tests. Here's my pre-ND anim test for the now-defunct Kojima LA studio, and my thoughts on it as an example. IMO tests are an essential part of hiring for high quality positions, and serve to standardise the field. However they should be succinct. pic.twitter.com/kuiwlC6uMt
— Jonathan Cooper (@GameAnim) April 18, 2019
The tweet chain opens with a 30-second video showing a rough model of Solid Snake scaling along a cliff. Eventually, ol’ Snakey Pants unleashes his inner luchador and executes a moonsault on an unfortunate guard. Our stealthy infiltrator concludes the video by opening a door and heading inside.
As simple as this 30-second animation may seem, it actually took Mr. Cooper several days of work to put this whole thing together. He broke down the time involved in making his Metal Gear art test further along in the tweet chain:
The brief was to get Snake from the start position to through the door, while taking out the guard. Time and direction was open-ended. I’d say the scope was too large – it took me 20hrs in total, and the quality suffered to get it finished in my spare time.
4hrs:Rigging characters. Scene setup in 3DS Max.
4hrs:Walkcycle for Snake and Guard loop.
2hrs:First pass of Snake’s complete trajectory path and overall scene timing.
9hrs:Full pass on Snake.
1hr:Final polish and velocity/momentum cleanup.
TOTAL: 20 hrs
While game development may seem easy to the layperson, the reality of what’s involved presents a Herculean task for even what appears to be a relatively simple scene. Bear in mind, the Metal Gear art test didn’t have proper models, lighting, scenery, or sound effects done at a production quality; this single scene would have taken hundreds of man hours across multiple disciplines to get it ready for the game.