If you had asked Scott Clary in 2007 if his five-year plan involved shipping off to distant island nations to pursue a career in game development, he probably would have looked at you like you were crazy.
A graduate of DigiPen’s Associate of Applied Arts in 3D Computer Animation degree that year, Clary was eager to break into the game industry, but he imagined that meant joining up with one of Seattle’s homegrown studios. He was right – for a couple years, anyway.
Clary’s first job after graduating was as a 3D modeler at Sony Online Entertainment’s Seattle office. The developer discovered him at DigiPen’s Career Day while they were scouting for artists with rigging experience. “If I didn’t get that job at Sony – if the art director wasn’t walking around our Career Fair that day – I may never have gotten noticed,” Clary says.
He started out with simpler tasks like character skin weighting before he discovered his true calling: building tools to help other artists manage their workflow.
“I was talking with one of the technical artists at SOE,” Clary says, “and I was telling him how I was always better at rigging, and he asked me ‘Have you ever thought about coding or scripting?’ I said I had, but I don’t know where to start. And later that day, he sent me an email saying ‘I need somebody to write this script for me.’ It was something that I now know he could have written in two seconds, but he ended up taking the whole day showing me how to do it.”
Over the course of Clary’s two years at SOE, he gradually transitioned into more of a technical role within his team. “I kept writing more tools, and then people started coming to me with requests, so I kind of worked myself in that direction – writing tools, speeding up my pipelines and helping out other people’s, and then I ended up becoming a go-to guy for general Maya problems. That’s how I became a tech artist.”
As his project at SOE wound down, Clary began looking for another full-time position as a technical artist. A friend alerted him to an opening at CCP, an Icelandic studio with offices in Atlanta. “I applied, and then the art manager for all of CCP’s studios contacted me and said ‘We’re interested, but the position available is in Reykjavik, Iceland, not Atlanta.’ I thought, ‘How many opportunities am I going to get to go to another country?’ So I took the job.”
Clary joined the team of developers working on EVE Online, an online multiplayer spacefaring game. “We were working on the expansion to add characters to EVE,” he says. “I was a tech artist on the character team. And it was great, because my job wasn’t ‘skinner,’ my job was to write tools. I was working under some brilliant guys.”
Clary says his proudest achievement at CCP was shipping a new, fully-3D version of EVE Online’s character creation system. “We completely redid the character creator,” he says. “You can’t play an MMO that has better looking characters with as much customization options that are as intuitive to use. It’s really cool. And I’m pretty happy I got to be a part of it.”
Unfortunately, while EVE players embraced the new character creator, other changes to the game were less popular. Eventually, in late 2011, the company decided to cut their losses by reverting to an earlier version of EVE – and cutting 20 percent of its workforce. Clary’s team was among those on the chopping block.
That left him at a crossroads: would he head back home to Seattle, or head off to new shores? “My thought when I got laid off was ‘if I can find a job somewhere else in the world, I’ll probably take it,’ because I don’t have anything tying my down,” he says. He began applying for jobs all over Europe: in Sweden, Amsterdam, the U.K., and Germany. This time, however, the job found him.
“Not long after I got laid off, one of my friends who left CCP a year ago to start his own company,” Clary says. “He told me that they had found funding and decided to open a studio in Malta.” And fortunately for Clary, the studio, named TRC Family Entertainment, was in need of a Lead Technical Artist. Clary jumped at the opportunity and moved to Malta in February of 2012 to begin working at the studio.
For Clary, it was a no-brainer. “I knew that if I come back home to the States, I’d probably never leave again,” Clary says. “I’m sure I’ll eventually end going back up back in Seattle because it’s like home to me … but I felt like I could keep adventuring for a little bit longer.”