2017 has professionally been the best year I’ve had since I started working. I started the year out at Bluepoint Games where I worked with an incredibly talented and ‘smallish’ AAA team. We put a lot of work into the upcoming Shadow of The Colossus remake, and I think anyone who gets the game will really enjoy it. Working on a game like that is an environment artist’s dream and being able to add my own twist to an existing design was a lot of fun and creatively fulfilling. I was also paid well for my time, and I used that to invest in my Oculus Rift Headset, a new Wacom Tablet, and an extra 16GB of Ram. All have been very needed purchases.
When I returned home there was a bit of an adjustment period both personally and professionally. I saw Kelsey roughly once a month while I was in Texas. When I returned home and started to settle back in, Kelsey and I had to re-adjust to sharing a living space again. Our house is significantly larger than our apartment was, but the space isn’t so grand that I can set my stuff in another room or two of the house and not have to split space. Both of us had to adjust. Time wise, I had to slip back into a schedule that allowed me to teach, work out, and freelance. My gym was a half hour walk from my house, or a ten minute bus ride. However, too many bus rides made membership there expensive, so I had to balance bus rides with walking. Balancing my time between teaching, freelancing, and keeping fit became a struggle that took a few weeks to settle down.
Once I was settled, contracts were slow. I’m not the most active on forums, but when I’m freelancing full time I’m active enough that it usually doesn’t take long for me to get work. This fall was different. I had a few recruiters reach out with some full time prospects that I turned away for various reasons, and I had two potential remote contracts fall through due to either a mismatch in style or potential scheduling conflicts due to my teaching schedule. They would have been huge gets for me too, and one project in particular looked to be really exciting. It took until November for me to start finding remote contract footing.
Slipping back into teaching at Drexel was easy. For the fall I taught GMAP 260, a relatively introductory game course I had taught before, and GMAP 421. I should have spent more time prepping for GMAP 421. The first 5 weeks of my teaching contract for the fall was incredibly stressful. I spent more time working on that class than doing much of anything else. GMAP 421 is a class that, at least as I taught it, made great use of my environment art skillset and knowledge. However, I had to make the class from scratch as I went. I didn’t know what level of knowledge the students had when it came to 3D Modeling, Texturing, or Unity when I started. It turned out the answer was “barely any” for anything that wasn’t modeling. It was one of my favorite classes to teach, but it also was very stressful and showcases that, quite frankly, Drexel could use my skills to teach more classes at a higher level than is currently being done when it comes to game art.
I write out goals for every year during the holidays, usually around Thanksgiving. As I review my 2017 Professional Goals, I see a lot of successes with a few minor failures.
- I DID NOT continue to freelance while in Texas. I think NOT doing this was the correct call as my time was better spent working on Shadow.
- I DID NOT continue to write for GameTextures while in Texas. This is something I should have forced myself to do. Happily, the GameTextures team happens to be very understanding, and one of their team members picked up some of my slack.
- I DID NOT complete any significant personal projects in 2017. I’ve had one on-going since February, but scheduling realities and burnout factored in heavily to not getting this project done. It’s still in progress though!
- I DID pay off all of my student loans. This wasn’t an initial goal, but I was convinced to do it and I do like the extra cash flow.
- I DID recover and grow financially from the house purchase. I was able to re-coup and surpass where my savings were before the house was purchased.
- I DID make new connections in Austin.
- Fun fact: I estimate I worked a total of 1604 hours and 15 minutes. That’s billable hours, my actual butt in seat time more than likely exceeds 1700 hours.
Personally, 2017 was successful as well.
- Two Big goals to start 2017 were finally realized at the end of the year. Both are in progress as they take some time.
- My mental health has improved in 2017. I was in therapy for the majority of 2016 and that year has helped me notice negative trends in my mind. 2017 built on that.
- Unfortunately, my Meditation tailed off at the end of 2017 after I got back home. One of the cornerstones of 2018 will be to get back to meditating. I found it very helpful.
- I made more personal connections in Austin and in Philly.
- I DID NOT get my Passport….
- Fitness wise, it was hard to judge for a while. All things considered, I’m happy enough. I also discovered that I respond well to total body workouts 3x a week, at least as far as building strength is concerned.
I entered 2017 with a great contract in front of me, a new home, and a positive attitude. I left 2017 feeling even more secure in my personal life as I grow in my relationship with Kelsey and start to expand my friend network here in Philadelphia. Professionally, 2017 was very good to me. I did learn some lessons that I hope to take into any future on-site contracts that will make them even better.
Stay tuned for a 2018 Goals post.
Quarterly Report Part 2
If you remember, dear reader, I split up my 2017 quarterlies into halves. it made more sense for me to write from a Bluepoint and post Bluepoint perspective. This short summary will serve to describe my business from September to December. I spent the majority of my time teaching, but I did pickup a few contracts along the way.
My general goal to end the year was to teach and take some small contracts. This is exactly what happened. My writing for GameTextures got really involved at the end of the year and if you head over to the new home of the GameTextures Blog you can see why. Look specifically for the Art Stories and Paragon Blogs to see the current direction the team and I are taking the blog in.
- Hours worked (total time working): 470.37
- Billable Hours: 374.8
- Average Efficiency: 84.15%
My last paycheck from Bluepoint was in September. It wasn’t a full check, but I had planned for that to be the case. It was a long dry spell until October however, when I started to get paid again from Drexel as well as resuming work at the GameTextures blog. October was the best month from this time frame. November was on the drier side, but December picked up as I had a few different small contracts going as well as the remainder of my teaching earnings.
Year over year for September to December, I did not match last year. I didn’t have quite the contracting momentum as I was away from the east coast, and I did slow it down when I returned. I had a year over year loss of 28.5% during this time frame. When paired with my excellent first part of the year, that loss is mitigated.
I plan to do a longer form 2018 blog where I’ll be addressing some of the changes in the market for someone such as myself. I expect that in a few more years, my personal life will be significantly different and those changes have to inform choices I make today. As a teaser, I see 2018 as a year of opportunity and choice with no wrong answers, but nothing that screams that there is a right one either. I will have to rely on my gut, contacts, and people skills to steer myself towards greater prosperity.