1.19.2015

An Epic Life at Epic Games

By Min Oh

Introduction

Hi, my name is Min Oh. I’m a 3d artist focusing on game environment art and I like every element of computer generated art. I’m originally from South Korea and have been in the States since 2010.

Earlier this year, I made a 3d environment set called ‘Sting like a Bee’. A Scene inspired by my longtime favorite boxer Manny Pacquiao and David O. Russell’s movie The Fighter. I submitted this work to CG Student Awards 2014 and as a result I won the Next-Gen Gaming Category, was commended for Student of the Year and got the opportunity to have an internship at Epic Games.

min_1

On top of everything, I would like to thank to CGSA who gave me the valuable life experience. It’s hard to even get a chance for this internship and this opportunity means a lot to me.
Thank you, CGSA!

Everything Epic

After I heard from Alwyn Hunt, co-founder of CGSA,  that I was going to do an internship at Epic Games in North Carolina, I had to plan a big move from Los Angeles, California. The move was from one end of the west coast to the other end of the east coast. The transition was difficult, but it was a small price for the opportunity to work at Epic Games, a company that created many of the games I grew up playing. Also to make the process less painful, they helped me to coordinate the trip and moving. In the end, the move was smooth and exciting building my anticipation for the internship.
The first day I tried to act cool, but it didn’t last that long. I was too happy to not show my excitement.

The strange U shaped building has no sign telling you that it is the Epic Games building. But as you get close to the building, you start to see the Marcus statue from Gears of War and Malcolm from Unreal Tournament through the glass wall. Passing through the main entrance, there is a hallway that has the history of all the games Epic made. From Jazz Jack Rabbit (this was the game that I played when I was kid, and I had no idea that I’m going to work for this company that made it!) to Gears of War.

After you pass the history of games wall, there is the cafeteria which is known as the ‘Arena’ at Epic. It is full of foods, snack and drinks so that employees never need to leave the building while they are working. Oddly and interestingly, there’s a rock climbing wall on the side of the Arena and a big slide from second floor to the Arena. I think this gives the office a more relaxing atmosphere, and makes the employees feel more at home. The facility also includes a gym, yoga room, pool table, ping pong table and game room full of console machines from old school Atari 2600 to new generation Xboxes and PlayStations.

Once I began to be introduced as an art intern, I was able to meet many artists and programmers. The employees at Epic are very nice and once you get to know them, you discover their amazing passion for what they do. It’s that passion that allows them to make such amazing games.

A Day in an Unreal World

Currently, I am working on the team for Unreal Engine’s new Marketplace. The Marketplace is a store where any UE4 subscriber can sell their assets for game developers using the engine. The assets can be anything including characters, environment, weapons, 2d sprites, materials, audio and game system as Blueprints (the node programming system in UE4).
Since I was new to UE4, I found many of the features attractive and powerful. For instance, the same art asset can look better and more physically accurate in UE4 compared to other game engines in the market. Its Interface is intuitive and easy to get used to. Artists can simply set up their art for advanced stuffs. Blueprints help non-programmers like game designers and artists to get their code working without actually writing code. UE4 makes sense as an everyday tool for game developers.

As you may know already, Epic Games started making a new version of their well-known historical franchise game, Unreal Tournament (UT). What’s special about this project is that it’s not being made by internal Epic Games developers only; UT is doing what it has called community based production which means that any of UT fans out there can participate and contribute to this project. It can be any type of game element. If you are capable of creating professional quality content, that’s great but even if you can’t, that’s totally fine too. There are a number of talented fans on the UT forum that can help you figure things out and in addition, Epic Games will help and guide you. It’s just like a project that bunch of close friends who have same interests get together and make something cool. Since this is a community-based project, even if I’m not officially on the project internally, I can still participate in it and it makes my night.

I don’t have much experience yet but, I now have some experience working in a professional environment. Every company has a unique culture that makes that company either strong or weak. Epic Games has one of the best atmospheres to work in that I could have hoped for. All the amenities that Epic Games provides are not just for show, they are there to allow the employees to focus on their work.  I don’t have to worry about anything else other than work while I’m here. Sometimes it’s hard to find the time or place that I can focus on work, but this place is just like an amusement park to the passionate developer.

Also besides that, the company does many social events so that employees can interact with other teams that they don’t usually work with. Even if the company is expanding its size, they do a good job on keeping all employees feel like we are in the same family.

Just a Few Side Things

Twitch, Communication

Epic Games keeps a number of channels open to communicate with fans and developers. Online video streaming on Twitch is one of them. Regularly they stream two to three times a week about UT and UE4. In the UE4 twitch stream, they talk about new engine features, discuss engine roadmaps, and go over community stuff like highlighting interesting projects made in UE4. It’s not just one sided broadcasting - anyone can participate and communicate with them. During the twitch stream, you can join the channel and shout out questions and opinions.
There’s also Trello board that shows the UE4 roadmap. If a feature gets a lot of votes, that can be added to the track for early development. They have confidence that everything can be done but try to prioritize the needs over the wants.

On the UT Twitch stream, they talk about what’s going on with the UT development process like level design, weapon creation, competitive players and proto game systems. UT is at the pre-alpha stage now. the game’s production is just starting and the Twitch stream reveals the progress each week.

Also UT has other community events. For example, they invited community members to the Epic HQ here in Cary, NC to play the game together and share ideas and thoughts. I learned that making games isn’t done only by the developers, but also it’s created by fans who love it. I like the way Epic Games tries to open the communication channels to interact with fans and developers.

Epic Friday / Game On / Movie night

Epic Games has internal events that boost creativity. Epic Friday allows employees to work on anything that is not an official project or officially part of someone’s everyday responsibilities. For example, a 3d modeler can work on a 3d animation project or an artist can work on game design project etc. I have seen different types of art and features for the engine that were presented during the Epic Friday. It was inspiring and refreshing to me.

At the end of the day, we are a game company; they emphasize that if you don’t have fun, what’s the point of it. Game On is a time to enjoy the fun of playing games, and we can play any game. When I started focusing on getting on the right track of my career, I never had time to play any games. So Game On is a good refreshment time for me to remind myself why I wanted to make games.

Also there’s movie day/night that once in the while, a good movie will come out and we get to go see the movie. Conveniently, a movie theater is just on the next block of the office building. What a perfect location for game company!

I think all these events are not just about having fun but giving the employees inspiration and the opportunity to enjoy making games.

My future status / Thanks

Initially I came here to have a two to three month internship experience but now they extended my internship for another six months. I am more than happy to be here at my dream place and will continue to find a way to participate and contribute to the company. I hope soon enough I can tell you that my name is on the credits of an Epic game. Hopefully that inspires another kid to dream about making games, just like I did when I was a kid.

Thanks again to CGSA for this amazing opportunity.

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