Last week we (digitally) attended Spilprisen 2020, which translates closely to Danish Game Awards. The event pays tribute to the best, most creative and innovative games that have been developed in Denmark.
As we were nominated for Best Live Game, we were also asked to nominate a talented employee who had been in the industry for less than 2 years. These nominees were for the Spilprisen “Talent Of The Year” category, where eight talented developers were chosen to win the award, based on having the most compelling nomination from their respective studio.
We were proud to nominate Manne Westermark, who joined IO Interactive as an Environment Art Intern in September 2019. He is now a full-time employee with us and has an exciting future ahead.
We asked him a couple of questions after the event to serve as inspiration and for us to share more about his path into the industry and his role at IOI.
Manne Westermark, Junior Environment Artist
How did you start on your Environment Art journey?
My journey to get into the games industry started around the 7th grade, when my brother bought a Wacom tablet. I started to learn some Photoshop and to draw digitally. I have always liked to draw and what really caught my eyes back then was concept art. I found these really cool concepts in the loading screens of environments in a game called Guild Wars that i played a lot when i was younger, and i really wanted to be able to create something similar. At this time, I think it was more of a hobby than something I actually thought I was going to be able to do for a living. I sent in an application to study Game Art at a higher vocational school in Malmö called The Game Assembly 1 year after i graduated High School. I didn’t get in.
Instead, I started to study Interaction Design in Malmö. I ended up finishing the 3 years of studies but i was not sure it really was what I wanted to do. I sent in a new application to The Game Assembly right after, and managed to get in. At this point, I was a bit confused since I had already studied something quite different for 3 years but I decided to give it a try and I’m really happy I did! That was when I started to learn 3D and what an Environment Artist was. My focus shifted quite quickly from concept art to environment art because it had all the things I liked from drawing, like composition, texturing and lighting. Being able to actually see everything in 3D also really appealed to me.
What are your hobbies and passions?
My spare time has looked very different over the years and it feels like I’m finding new interests all the time. Growing up in northern Sweden, I developed a liking towards skiing and hiking. I also spent many years practicing juggling and acrobatics, but that has unfortunately taken the back seat these days. Two main interests I have that always stuck with me are playing games and drawing. I have played games my whole life and still do, only a lot less now since it is a bit hard to find the time.
Meeting and and choosing IOI
How did you meet us the first time and what made you be interested in IOI?
The first time i had contact with IOI was at an event held by my school where a lot of game companies were invited, and we had the opportunity to meet and talk to them. I got a really good impression from IOI because they were so friendly and easy to talk to. They really showed their interest in who I was, and it felt like that was as important to them as my ability to do the job. They were also really fun to talk to.
What made you choose IOI for your internship?
Hitman to me is a really interesting game in terms of environment art, since it has a lot of different and unique locations. I also liked the size of the studio because it was somewhere in the middle of many other studios. Not too big and not too small. I also saw that they had worked on some other titles like Mini Ninjas with a drastically different art style, and that variation appealed to me.
How has your experience as an Intern been at IOI?
My time here at IOI has been very good. Every task I have been given felt like an important part to the production, and I felt like a real part of the team the entire time. I was really surprised how much responsibility the studio, team and my mentor trusted me with even from the beginning. I feel like I am getting more and more impactful tasks daily and I learn new things every day.
Recognition and plans for the future
How did you feel about being our pick for Talent of The Year at Spilprisen 2020?
When I got picked for Talent of The Year at Spilprisen 2020 I was very surprised! I felt very honoured and really felt like a part of the IOI family. The written nomination really took me by surprise as well because I think it fits so well with the person I want to be as an artist, and I hope that I can keep that up in the future.
What are your professional development plans? How do you want to develop as an Environment Artist?
Going forward as a Junior Environment Artist I want to learn a lot more, and I think IOI is a really good place to do that. I’m very interested in growing my skills in building realistic and natural environments. I think my favorite areas right now are composition and creating the more natural parts of the environments like ground, vegetation, rocks, terrain and so on. I also have a big interest in texturing, and I hope to learn a lot more there as well.
What are you looking forward to the most in your Junior Environment Artist role and future at IOI?
What I am looking forward to the most right now is to finish the first real game I have been a part of, and seeing it released. I cannot wait to see what that will be like!
Meet us & read more
We would have liked to congratulate him in person during one of our famous Friday Townhall meetings, but the current working from home situation is still not allowing us to do that. Instead, we created a live streaming party internally where we all watched the ceremony and shared our warm congratulations, then sent him our award.
We welcome more talent like Manne to join our studio, and be up for being shaped into true superstars. Our next stop is at The Game Assembly’s digital Meet&Greet, where we will meet more students, and decide who will join our journey next.