What course did you study?
I studied Diploma in 3D Animation, and was in the first batch of students of the Bachelor of Creative Technologies (Game Art).
What have you been up to since you graduated?
After the graduation, the first thing I did was to set up my own game dev studio Lighstromo with one of the programmers from the programming stream. We had a short, yet pretty successful run (about 3 years), and created games for clients like Pak'N'Save and Maritime Museum. Currently, I am the solo developer on this project, and I have two mobile games in the making (more apps than games, but hopefully still fun). About a year after graduation, I also started working at Animation College, where I helped develop some of their gaming courses, and was teaching the 3D pipeline. In October 2019, I left my teaching position to fulfill my dream of working at a big game development studio and joined the Grinding Gear Games' 3D rigging team, which has been a wonderful experience so far.
What advice do you have for students currently studying at Media Design School?
Keep going, research and explore as many things related to your craft as you can. Even now, the learning never stops. Currently, I am taking an online course for Python, as I want to be able to develop my own tools for rigging and animation at work. Be kind to your peers and teachers, because the industry in New Zealand is very small, and you really don't want to be the person no one likes working with.
What inspires you the most?
Hearing stories of success of my friends. Knowing that they are working on their own projects. Sometimes, when I feel that I'm lacking motivation, I just have to talk to a couple of friends who are always busy chipping away on their solo projects, and that makes me want to continue working on my own games.
Is there a piece of design work or a film out there that you wish you'd created yourself? Which one and why?
This War of Mine and The Wolf Among Us. I know those two games are very different in styles and gameplay, but they represent my interest in gaming - storytelling and elaborate game systems. I wish one day I can build a top-down survival rpg with a captivating story line.
What were some of the initial challenges that you faced?
Of course, getting the first job was hard. But my work for Lighstromo actually opened up a lot of opportunities. People like seeing finished projects on your CV, and they are interested in artists who can do both art and code. In my case, having the project manager experience also helped a lot, as it shows you can be responsible not only for your work, but for the work of others on the team. And I couldn't have gotten anywhere without help from my friends.
Were there any lecturers at Media Design School who stood out to you as influential or inspirational?
All of them? Mike Porter, who was our programme leader at that point, became a close friend after the graduation, and James Manning has always been my role model for research and being an awesome human being in general. David March was always pushing me to create better Zbrush sculpts. Leon taught me the basics of MEL/Python and 3D modelling. Simon ruined my self-esteem, but made me a better artist (he made us draw 300 pictures in one night!). Roger taught me how to observe. I love all of them. Say hi to Tece, Ivan and Jordan for me, as their trio are simply the best :)
Was there a memory that stood out for you during your time at Media Design School?
There are a lot of wonderful memories. I remember my orientation day. Me, a freshly arrived student from Russia, and a lot of people I didn't know who would later become my very close friends. I didn't feel scared, I felt at home. I felt like my journey into the unknown was about to begin. It was a wonderful feeling, and a wonderful time.
View videos of her latest work for Path of Exile: