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#MEETIRONGALAXY – Jimmy Wasion, Technical Artist

04/13/2022   •   Written By Keenan Morales

At Iron Galaxy, our artists bring our ideas to life so you can experience them in games. We’re putting them to the question so you can get a sense of what it’s like to create art that becomes interactive. Today, we’re talking to Jimmy Wasion, one of our Chicago teammates. Jimmy started with us in April 2021, making him one of our newer artists at the studio. Let’s learn about how Jimmy found his way into making games.

Iron Galaxy: Who are you and what would you say you do here at Iron Galaxy?

Jimmy Wasion: Hey, I’m Jimmy and I’m a lead Technical Artist here, working on Rumbleverse. I’ve been around since April ’21. One of the main functions of the tech art team is to be a bridge between the 3D artwork and the game itself, making sure it looks and moves the way it’s intended, which means a lot of rigging and tool development.

IG: Thanks for the quick job breakdown, Jimmy. What is the most challenging aspect of your job?

JW: Making sure we’re prioritizing the right things. There’s a constant flow of new artwork to implement in this game, and the wish list of new tools and system improvements never ends. We have to keep up with the artwork, but at the same time make improvements to our tools and workflow to be more efficient keeping up with the artwork.

IG: With that balancing act of priorities, what’s one skill you learned growing up that you use the most in your role?

JW: I had a lot of practice with creative problem-solving as a Lego devotee when I was a kid. I was pretty proud of my creations, and a lot of my later original models had a sculptural quality to them. There’s a blend of creative and technical skill working with Lego that I believe helped lead me toward this career, which requires exactly that combination of skills.

IG: Legos built a great bridge that we’re glad you crossed. What has been your proudest moment as a member of the Iron Galaxy team?

JW: Seeing Rumbleverse being foisted onto the consciousness of the game world in December with such overwhelmingly positive reception! It’s so gratifying to see all our work coming to life and enjoyed in the wild, and I can’t wait for it to be available to the public later in the year!

IG: We can’t wait for people to play the game again soon. If you could give someone who wanted to follow in your career footsteps one piece of advice, what would it be?

JW: Be open to move your career in a direction that’s a little bit outside of your comfort zone but could enrich your experience, and get a head start learning skills and tools that might be required for such a move. You might find you enjoy the new skills better than the ones you’ve been practicing up until now. And if you don’t, then you still learned something new and that never hurts! I was a 3D Generalist for the longest time doing a little bit of everything when I suddenly had a new opportunity where I ended up writing tools in Python code most of the time. I didn’t know much Python at that point, but after taking a crash course I thrived in that position.

IG: Great advice with a practical example to follow. What is the best thing about working at a gaming company?

JW: I get to be an important part of a team that creates this fantastic world that countless people will get to immerse themselves in and enjoy, which in turn creates this larger community with shared experiences. I love seeing the creative work progress with each artist’s unique contribution and being able to offer my own talents in that process.

IG: What is your favorite perk associated with your job?

JW: I’m a big fan of the company culture in general here, which makes for a great work environment (even if it’s virtual in these WFH days). The work-life balance is very much respected here, which is frequently hard to come by in this industry, but it’s very important for me, especially with the arrival of my first baby a few weeks ago.

IG: Congratulations on the newborn! How does a Technical Artist thrive on a team?

JW: A TA’s work often supports the work of many other artists, so forgive the platitude, but communication is key! A TA needs to seek a good understanding of the work that is required and how it’s prioritized. They should understand their current responsibilities well, so nothing gets missed and work isn’t doubled. They should be methodical in their work, testing thoroughly with a good eye for detail. It’s usually better to catch errors and anticipate problems early, and then either resolve them right away or form a plan to deal with them, especially if other teams will be impacted. Finally, as just about any artist, I believe they are well served by a confident humility – confident in their own skill set and artistic judgment, but humble enough to realize they’re not immune to mistakes and they’re not the only subjective opinion that matters.

IG: Sounds like detailed and helpful TA advice. How collaborative are you with different teams across Iron Galaxy?

JW: As I’ve mentioned previously, Tech Art often works as a bridge between artwork and the game, so my team and I have to coordinate and collaborate with several other teams. Our rigging and skinning work makes artwork functional in the game, whether it comes from the character team or from the environment team in the form of interactive props and weapons. The tools we create support artists’ workflow and help the art comply with the system. On the flip side, we also interface with the systems team as we develop game features that may impact the artwork. In the end, we’re all one big team, and it’s always been a positive experience working with each part of it.

IG: What’s the best part about achieving a result with efficiency?

JW: Good art always takes time, but in a game, the art always needs to adapt to certain technical constraints and requirements. Getting art to comply can often result in a lot of repetitive busywork. But if we have systems and tools set up to automate some of that or give the artist tools to comply during the creative process, the team can focus less on tedious technical stuff and more on making better art and a better game, and that’s rewarding for everyone.

Besides that, it’s just fun to figure out how to do something more efficiently than before – whether it’s learning a tool you weren’t familiar with or tailoring a brand-new tool to your game’s workflow. When you write code or upgrade the workflow to make your life or your teammate’s lives easier, it’s very satisfying.

IG: We heard that you had an adventurous vacation recently. What beauties of Iceland deserve to be captured in a game?

JW: Yeah, Iceland was incredible when my wife and I visited this past October. We found traveling the ring road that, for a small country, it has so many different types of landscapes and features. It’s very difficult to capture the natural beauty of a waterfall in a video game, but Iceland has so many of all sizes, each nestled in its own unique surrounding, that any Iceland-based game would be incomplete without them. I would add some coastal mountains here, some spellbinding rock formations there, rivers cutting through deep canyons and vast valleys, basalt cliffs, lava fields, charming villages nestled in fjords, mammoth glaciers spilling into land and sea, maybe even some whales gracefully breeching the water… yeah, it’d have to be a pretty big game.

IG: What is something you feel everyone must do once in their life?

JW: I think at least once in every person’s life, if they’re at all capable, they should travel to another country that’s completely different from their own – not just a comfy tourist resort, but living among locals, experiencing a new culture, and adapting a little bit to their lifestyle without judgment. It’s always a good idea to research what you’re getting into, and in that process, you’ll probably learn things about your destination that will enrich the experience even more once you’re there. I feel like I’ve had a taste of this kind of adventure, but I’d like to do much more.

IG: What is something you have always wanted to create?

JW: As another throwback to my childhood Lego fanaticism, I always thought it would be so cool to design and build some giant Lego architecture or sculpture. As a kid imagining myself as an adult, I always envisioned living in a house with a vast Lego workshop and miscellaneous creations all over the house… It didn’t quite pan out that way, but I’m at peace with it.

IG: Hopefully we can catch that creation in another Iron Galaxy Lego competition then! If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would you choose?

JW: Latin American empanadas. I don’t think I could pick a specific variety, but you can stuff those things with all kinds of deliciousness! My wife and her Colombian family turned me on to these delicacies, and I’ll take them any way you want to serve them – baked or fried, savory or sweet. Well, thanks, now I’m hungry…

IG: Sounds like empanadas might be on the menu today. What is your favorite travel destination that you have visited?

JW: So far, my favorite would have to be Costa Rica, where my wife and I went on our honeymoon almost four years ago. There’s such a variety of gorgeous places to see within a relatively small area – volcanoes, beaches, rainforest – all with their own ecosystems with different types of wildlife. They have really nice accommodation options, even on a budget, and of course, great food – empanadas included! We definitely intend to return one day!

IG: What is one place that you hope to see one day?

JW: I have such a long list, but if I can only say one, I’ll go with New Zealand. I’ve always been drawn in by the beautiful landscapes and the unique experiences and wildlife they have to offer… and you can’t forget about Hobbiton.

IG: A LOTR fan’s dream vacation. What is one genre of games that you think is underrated?

JW: There aren’t enough different couch co-op games to go around. I usually don’t care too much about playing games online. If I can just relax and play through a game with my wife, I’m happy.

IG: Name a scene from a movie that makes you cry every time…

JW: It’s been some time since I’ve watched the Lord of the Rings trilogy, but there are a few moments in there when I have to choke back the tears a little. One moment that gets me is the end of Return of the King (or one of the many endings), where King Aragorn honors the hobbits… “My friends, you bow to no one.”

IG: That certainly was a “precious” moment. What movie have you seen the most times?

JW: I think it would have to be a Christmas movie, because there’s no other kind of movie I’ve watched as a matter of tradition, especially as a kid. I would guess A Christmas Story tops my view count ranking, with Home Alonepossibly coming in second.

IG: Either way, you are at great risk of shooting your eye out. What has been your favorite series binge?

JW: I caught Battlestar Galactica a few years after it ended (the 2004 incarnation), and I wouldn’t have wanted to watch any other way but a binge. Everything about the show was intense and gripping – great characters, space opera battles, an immersive score and exceptional VFX for a TV show in its time.

IG: What was your favorite movie that bombed?

JW: It wasn’t a huge failure, but apparently the movie Hugo just barely broke even. It was Scorsese’s 2011 undertaking of a family-friendly movie filmed and released in 3D’s heyday. It’s sort of a warm and melancholy love note to cinema, beautifully shot. I still have a 3D TV, so every now and then I bust out my 3D glasses and pop in the Blu-ray.

IG: What is one superpower that you would like to have?

JW: I’d love the ability to go without sleep for as long as I want without any side effects, but still being able to sleep on demand. I’d have so much extra time to do things I’d love to but don’t have time for, and yet I could still get that refreshed, rested feeling from a good night’s sleep anytime I want.

IG: You get one wish. You can’t wish for more wishes. What do you wish for?

JW: If that’s the entirety of the terms and conditions for my one wish, I’d wish for the ability to wish for more wishes. Sounds like a loophole worth exploiting. Why not wish for the terms themselves to change? Reform the wish system from the inside!

IG: You’re a genius. What fictional universe would you choose over our own? What if there was no coming back?

JW: You’d think it’d make sense to choose some magical or fantastical universe, but they always come with pretty terrible baggage like supervillains or hostile aliens (or both). Hostile humans are enough for me in this universe, thankyouverymuch. I’d probably choose the world of some old sitcom like Cheersor Full House (RIP, Bob Saget), where all the conflicts are fairly minor and pretty much get resolved the same day. Seems like a more friendly kind of universe to raise a family in.

Beautiful sights and clever responses shared in this interview Jimmy. Thanks for educating us on the life of a traveled Technical Artist. We’ll be keeping an eye out for your Hobbit sitcom pitch soon.

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