Interview with Emmanuel Vasquez Jr
Senior UI Artist at Gameloft
Can you introduce yourself in a few lines, what do you do and where do you work, where are you from originally?
Hey folks! I’m Emmanuel Vasquez Jr., and I’m a visual artist and also an animator. I was born and raised in the Philippines and have worked for different studios worldwide for more than a decade. I have now settled in sunny Brisbane, Australia with my family, and I’m currently working as a Senior UI Artist for Gameloft Australia.
How did you start in the industry?
Back in the Philippines, I grew up watching my father illustrate and paint in different mediums as an Art Director for advertising agencies back in the day. At an early age, I’d always doodle beside him whenever he was sketching or storyboarding, and that made me get into visual art and into anything that involved using creativity.
Although I had a lot of passion for the visual arts, I took up and finished a Civil Engineering degree. I can’t really remember the exact reason why I chose it. But the chances are it’s because I’m always up for a challenge (little did I know that this challenge involved a whole lot of math! Like a LOT!).
After getting an engineering job it didn’t take long for me to realize that it wasn’t for me. There was just this thirst for doing creative things, and there was this longing to just sit down, draw and get immersed in these realms and worlds that have been in my mind for so long. Determined to get a job in the visual art/creative industry, I brushed up on my illustration skills and created a decent portfolio. I was lucky that a local studio that did illustrations and animations took a chance on me. Having clients essentially based overseas, that studio and the talented people there helped me grow my skills as a visual artist and as an animator. After working there, I went overseas to broaden my knowledge and to take on new challenges.
I first travelled to Singapore, and that is where I started to create game art and 2D/3D animation for independent local game studios. I then got hired by Gameloft who had plans of setting up a game development office there. That office sadly did not materialize but they offered me a 3D Character Animator job at their newly established New Zealand studio, and to be part of a team that would go on to create successful games for the company. Whilst doing 3D character animations at Gameloft New Zealand my Art Director asked me if I could help out with UI art since he needed someone who can do both 2d art and 2d animation. I really loved the game UI creation process and how it made a huge impact on a game’s success, so I decided to focus more on UI rather than 3D character animation from thereon. I realized that my skills in visual art and animation are the perfect combination in creating engaging UIs.
From New Zealand, I went to Abu Dhabi to work for Ubisoft as the sole UI artist for a UI-heavy mobile game. It was Ubisoft Abu Dhabi’s first game and one of the early mobile games Ubisoft did so when the game got released and topped the charts for its genre I considered it a good accomplishment. Although I had a great time working there, I figured that it was time to settle down as my family was growing and Australia was our country of choice. Gameloft had just opened the studio here at that time, and it was awesome that I got hired to be a part of the studio’s initial game project. We’ve released three games in total,and the latest one, The Oregon Trail, was released recently.
What are your responsibilities at Gameloft, Australia?
I am responsible for doing UI art/animation from concepts up until the final art creation. I do this in collaboration with the UI team, Game Design team and my Art Director. Part of my job is also communicating with code teams to ensure that the desired UI gets into the game as per the desired results. I also contribute to UX design flows together with the other designers, and from time to time, I am called upon to help out with marketing assets/materials.
What is the favorite part of your job and what is the hardest part of your job?
I really enjoy the conceptual phase of creating a game’s UI art. It’s during this time that you can explore different facets of visual and motion design; you can go crazy with the concepts and it’s always liberating to just be creative with what the UI can be. What I consider the hardest part of the job is when changes have to be made to the design because it just does not work when players use it. You and everyone in your design team might have thought it was the best design ever, and changing it due to the design not being user friendly is a tough pill to swallow. Having said that, it might be the hardest part of the job, but solving the design issue and pulling it off as a team is always a rewarding moment, and I have witnessed teams gel more because of situations like these!
Where do you get your motivation and inspiration?
I get motivated whenever I see art references of the project I’m working on, may it be visual or motion designs. It starts that creative spark in my mind. But getting motivated is not enough for me to create designs. I also need to be inspired. I get inspired by simply going outdoors for a walk, for a run or a bike ride. Being outside, feeling alive and experiencing nature touches me on the inside, and those activities help me get inspired.
What do you do when you get creatively blocked or you are having an uninspired day?
I usually take a break and walk away from my workstation. Our studio has a cool rooftop balcony, so I sometimes take my cup of coffee up there and take some fresh air in. If taking a break doesn’t work, I tend to draw on paper and just draw anything that comes to mind. That usually works as the creative gears start to kick in.
Of all the projects you/your company have produced, which one are you proud most?
Of all the projects I’ve worked on in the company I’m most proud to be a part of our recent release which is The Oregon Trail for Apple Arcade. The work the team did on this game was nothing short of amazing, and I firmly believe that it has stayed true to the original’s spirit whilst having a modern take on art and game design. Having started the project just a few months before COVID hit, we had to navigate through several unknowns during production due to the pandemic (like setting up to work remotely, among others). I’m glad that we were able to pull together as a team and ship the game on schedule.
Do you have any good habit/productivity hack/best practice to share that helps you boost your day to day productivity?
There will be times during the game development process when you’ll feel down, maybe because of too much pressure or because you just feel uninspired (like any other industry out there). I find that taking even a quick break from what you are doing to remind yourself why you started doing it in the first place is a way to get out of that rut. As I’ve mentioned earlier, I tend to draw anything that comes to mind whenever my creativity is blocked to get myself going again. Just do those “little things” to get yourself motivated, and before you know it, you’re ready to tackle the “big things” in your task list.
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