Get My Job: Spotlight on Game Development
In this Nexus series, Get My Job, we interview alumni and faculty from one of the University’s 160-plus undergraduate and graduate professional programs. The latest installment features bachelor of architecture graduate Eli Tuttle.
Alumnus Eli Tuttle took an untraditional route to become a senior environment artist for Sledgehammer Games. Using his bachelor of architecture degree (a relative rarity in the game development field), Tuttle applied the skills learned in school to create multiplayer maps for the blockbuster Call of Duty series, including the WWII, Modern Warfare and Cold War titles.
“Architecture gave me a great base for design, critical thinking, understanding how people use space and putting myself in other people’s shoes,” the 2006 grad shares. “This has helped me so much in my game development career.”
Carentan, a multiplayer map in Call of Duty: WWII, features much of Eli Tuttle’s work.
Can you describe your path from Jefferson to Sledgehammer Games?
After graduating, I joined a small biotech startup that tried to use 3-D space/game engines to create a new tool that could give researchers more ways to organize and study data. After funding ran out, I moved back into traditional architecture and did drafting and modeling/rendering for a while.
When the recession hit, I found myself the low man on the team and was laid off. This sudden life change led me to attend grad school for game design in San Francisco. I did odd contract jobs for indie games, commercials and TV work, and I eventually secured a full-time job at a small mobile game company. While at grad school, I had a teacher who worked as a senior artist at Sledgehammer Games. We kept in touch over the years, and one day, the company had an opening that I applied for. They liked my work, and I started as an associate. After five years, I climbed to the senior position.
Much of what architecture teaches is 100% transferable: How do players ‘inhabit’ a game space? What does it tell them about the world they’re in? How’s the design and art done so they know where to go and what’s important?
What’s a typical workday like these days?
My main duties focus on modeling and texturing sections of the game map. This varies during different milestones. Early in the map work, it’s more about general themes and callouts, outsourcing specific assets and figuring out what textures and models we need for the theme.
At the end of a map, the work centers on fine-tuning anything visually confusing and polishing. For example, I ensure things aren’t sticking through walls, the colors are right and players can move around easily.
Currently, I work primarily as a pod lead. I make sure the other artists on a map have enough direction, communicate with other departments (lighting, visual effects, level design, outsourcing, dynamics and animation), disseminate feedback from the art director and check that outsourced assets are on track. I’m the point of contact for all fires that must be addressed.
The 2006 grad worked on the Call of Duty: WWII Headquarters, a social space in the game.
What do you love most about your work?
Creating space. Much of what architecture teaches is 100% transferable: How do players “inhabit” a game space? What does it tell them about the world they’re in? How’s the design and art done so they know where to go and what’s important. What do scale, proportion, rhythm and repetition tell them about the environment? What journey do they experience through this all?
Then, layered on top of that, I decide what narratives to craft about a space. Is it brand new or 100 or 10,000 years old? What does that look like? What cultures influenced the design, and how advanced were they? This all plays off our history, which I love to explore and build into the visuals. What happened before “you” came to this place?
Your roughest critiques can be more educational and beneficial than your ‘good ones.’
What did you enjoy the most about your time at Jefferson?
I loved my time in the studio. The comradery, friendships, learning, antics and growth there were fantastic. I didn’t realize how special it was until I didn’t have it during grad school. Another favorite time was my studies in Rome and travels that summer.
What advice would you give to current and prospective architecture students?
Your roughest critiques can be more educational and beneficial than your “good ones.” Outside of school, your art director, project manager and creative director won’t hold back during reviews and deadlines. I’ve seen people crumble because they didn’t experience a real critique during college. Embrace critiques and always look for areas to improve. They make you a better designer and more prepared for the workforce.