Interview with Dajana Janović, Technical Artist of Playrix Croatia

A small guide on getting technical in the world of video games

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Every once in a while, a new name from the Balkan region pops up and reminds everyone that this part of Europe has a lot to offer when it comes to game development. Croteam has been a household name in PC gaming for a while now, we had Gamepires taking us to glory days of Twisted Metal wih their own Gas Guzzlers Extreme. Today we have someone new from that area. Playrix Croatia might be a new player in the field but they already have a lot of super-secret projects that they can’t talk about just yet (otherwise they wouldn’t be called secrets, right?). We’re going to talk with one of the cogs from that machine, find out what is it that a technical artist does from 9 to 5, and is it true that pandas are just regular bears in disguise, doing it solely for tax evasion purposes? Ok, maybe not that last one.

So what are the common tasks and responsibilities of a technical artist in Croatia?

It’s commonly said that Technical Artist creates a bridge between art and programming departments in a game dev studio. That’s true, but it’s more like a lot of small bridges!
To put it simply, TA’s job is to prepare and optimize pieces of art so that the game engine can understand it – and to help predict issues and solve ones when they appear.
Along the way, TA also helps to adjust and optimize the art pipeline.
The main goal is to push possibilities of what we can do visually without sacrificing a game performance and to make sure that the workflow of preparing art assets is efficient and optimized. 

It’s my duty to understand all game building processes and programs we use to create a game. I communicate daily between the departments, working closely with the Art Director and Art and Programming Leads so I can stay on top of things and help everyone to plan and execute game art:  pain-free and without sacrificing quality.
In everyday occurrences that could mean that art department comes up with a completely new vision, they want one thing to glow..and other things to move, or something to change color on a click…and it’s my job to research the best way of doing it, to make sure every bit of art is in correct dimensions, named correctly and finally delivered to programmers.
Job is different every day, one day it’s something like writing documents and categorizing a bunch of art assets…and other days it’s researching how to solve complex issues with animation, for example. One thing is sure, it’s never boring.

2. Recently you’ve become a part of the Playrix Croatia team, any new projects and upcoming games that you’re excited to talk about?

Yes! We are all very happy to be part of the Playrix. We have a strong team of professionals and a lot of creative power and now is the perfect time to put all of it in gear and watch it flourish. We are currently working on something really cool and fun, but for the time being it’s still a secret. Keep an eye on Playrix Croatia social media sites for any news.

3. What work-related programs do you use on a daily basis?

I mainly use Adobe Photoshop and I need to understand it really well. I also use other Adobe programs such as Adobe Animate, Google’s tools, Asana, Slack…
I also use Sticky Notes like crazy.  I need to multitask a lot, so I always have both monitors filled and I always joke how I miss the third one I had back in the office.

4. What advice would you give to your younger self looking to get started in the industry?

To myself specifically, I would say to stop being afraid of failure. Once you learn to expect mistakes and failures, you become better at overcoming them and better at what you do.
I tell everyone who asks me – if you really like doing something, let it embrace you completely. Don’t just tip your toe in and ponder about the water being cold! Take a dip!
Practice drawing, practice coding…Watch other people do it, read about it…explore it completely. Most importantly – don’t stay in your comfort zone, take a step by step out of it!
Communicate with others, learn to listen, and learn how to voice yourself. The stronger you are, the freer you’ll be in every aspect. 

5. Do you think there are any misconceptions, public or professional, surrounding your area of expertise?

I simply think that not many people know about it at all, haha!
The Technical Art role is still a pretty new one in the industry and it’s a difficult one to define precisely because it varies from studio to studio, from game to game.
There are a lot of people working on a lot of technical aspects of creating a game, and a Technical Artist needs to understand all of the processes involved.
Some TA’s write scripts and specialized tools to make workflow faster, others work with optimizing visual effects and some are specialized in solving problems with 3D rigs…
It’s all about defining what processes can be improved and how to improve them.
In my career, I’ve worked on different types and styles of games and every project had its own problems to solve or ways to achieve the best results. There isn’t a “How to be Technical Artist” guidebook, you simply need to be involved in all the little nooks and crannies of a game development process and you learn as you go. 

6. How did the current COVID-19 pandemic impact your work?I imagine there’s been a lot of new challenges and restrictions that you had to adjust to?

Yeah, the world has been a wild place. The whole studio works from home currently and to be honest, I think work didn’t change that much. We, fortunately, can both communicate and create from home…so we’re pretty lucky to be able to continue our work without any delays.
I think working from home impacts everyone differently, some people maybe live with small children who need attention, others could be alone and kinda lonely. But we make sure to help one another in every way imaginable. I personally miss talking face to face and drawing ideas on the big whiteboard, but I’m enjoying the comfort of my home and online meetings as well! 

To keep up to date with Dajana and the rest of the team, make sure to visit their official and Facebook page.

I play video games from time to time and sometimes they manage to elicit a reaction from me that I can't help but write about them.

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