In the end, learning at school and from internet is nice, but I think the most important thing for me is to be in the field and face actual production problems in a real environment.
Today I have the pleasure of having a few words with 3D artist extraordinaire Lucie Lescuyer. Lucie works as a game artist in Montreal, Canada. Apart from production work, she has also set up shop to sell some of her 3D assets on the Unity Asset Store. In addition, Lucie has started creating some Houdini tutorials for those who want to learn how to use Houdini in a gaming pipeline.
Recently, she participated in the Global Game Jam 2019 and along with a partner created a rather impressive game in such a short amount of time. Lucie shares a bit about that process along with some thoughts on the difficulty of running an online business and of course, Houdini, which she says you better start learning! So grab yourself your beverage of choice and enjoy!
990 Thank you you so much Lucie for agreeing to do this interview. First, tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from, where did you grow up?
Lucie Hello ! I’m Lucie Lescuyer and I’m from France. I grew up in a small city around Paris.
990 Do you come from an art background or do you come from a totally different industry?
Lucie I come from an art background, I’ve always been drawn to artistic stuff. When I was little I even wanted to be an illustator for child’s books! Since a young age I liked creating universes and stories from it.
990 Why did you decide to pursue a career in this field?
Lucie I didn’t feel like any other career would fit me as much as one in an artistic field, but I didn’t really know which path to pursue in art.
After the first year in my art school, we had the choice to go in one of the 3 main branches (2d animation, 3d animation, and game art). I always liked games and wanted to know how it was made, so I decided to choose the game art program. I ended up linking this field a lot!
990 Do you think school is still necessary these days?
Lucie That’s a difficult question, I would say yes and no. These days we have so much resources, online courses, forums where we can ask questions, that I think you can learn it all by yourself (if you are organized and know where you’re heading).
But being in school can be useful, if you don’t have the hardware at home, or you need discipline and contact with others. It can be also formative for teamwork, something that you can’t learn at home. In the end, learning at school and from internet is nice, but I think the most important thing for me is to be in the field and face actual production problems in a real environment.
990 Have you worked in other areas of the industry such as film, commercial, etc? If so, which do you enjoy the most and why?
Lucie No, I only worked in the gaming industry.
990 You have quite the skill set using Houdini, ZBrush, Substance tools, Unity, etc. Back in the day, most folks stuck to one application and did alright for themselves. Do you think that is still possible? Or do you think we have gotten to the point where that’s not sustainable anymore?
Lucie I think it would be rather difficult now to not adapt ourselves to new production pipelines since we strive for more and more quality with new consoles and technologies. I would say it’s best to learn as much as you can but you do not have to be an expert in each ones of those softwares.
Just having a basic knowledge can help, and if you ever really need it in a production, you’re not totally lost and you can learn it better while using it. Anyway, I think it’s always interesting to learn new softwares, you can find new ways to optimise your pipeline and automate process.
990 What drew you to Houdini?
Lucie I learned the existence of houdini while watching some GDC talks from Ubisoft and how they created their huge environments using it. When I saw what they could do with this software, it reminded me of substance designer and how it changed our vision on texture creation and I thought “WOW I really needed to try that!”.
990 Were nodes a stumbling block for you when first learning Houdini?
Lucie No, I would say they were comforting actually. As an artist, I understand more easily when there is a visual representation of what I’m doing.
990 What was the hardest concept for you to grasp in Houdini, if any?
Lucie The concept that was the most difficult for me to understand at first was how to procedurally model something. You can find a way to create almost any asset in a procedural way but the trick is to find what rules you will use to create it. Where will you choose to allow modification, how will you build it, all those things are very abstract when you begin.
990 Do you think someone new to Houdini needs to have prior scripting/programming knowledge to really leverage Houdini’s power and flexibility?
Lucie No, when I started learning Houdini I had very little programming knowledge, it can help you learn faster if you understand programmation logic, but since almost everything can be done with nodes it’s not needed.
You just need to adapt your way of thinking to think procedurally. Houdini actually helped me jump into programming.
990 Is there perhaps an area in Houdini you are not as familiar with or hope to dive deeper into to gain a better understanding?
Lucie Yes! I never did anything with simulation. I just tried it a little bit but never had a real opportunity to fully try it.
You just need to adapt your way of thinking to think procedurally. Houdini actually helped me jump into programming.
990 If someone is looking to learn Houdini coming from another package, what advice would you give them in order to learn Houdini? Is there a particular area they should first concentrate on first?
Lucie Houdini can do so many things, it can be difficult to find where to begin. They’ll probably have to ask themselves why they’re learning Houdini, which part of the software they need/what interest them and focus on this at first.
This software can be a bit overwhelming at some point but if you keep focusing at one thing at a time it will be easier.
990 I see you keep busy selling assets on the Unity Store and Gumroad as Lumo-Art 3D. Tell us a bit about that business venture.
Lucie I created this store back then when I started working. It was kinda tough to find a job in the gaming industry so I thought instead of waiting for job answers, why not try to sell assets? I really like doing this. It gives you artistic freedom, but also good challenges and you learn a lot of things on the way.
990 Running a business is tough. There is so much behind the scenes work that goes on. Are you looking to grow Lumo-Art 3D or is it more passive income for the time being?
Lucie For now it’s only a “side job” for me. I always wanted to deliver more asset packs, more support but along a day job it’s a little bit difficult. For now I can’t work on it as much as I want, but I want to be able to run it full time one day.
990 I guess many people think you become instantly wealthy selling assets online. Wish it was that easy! From your experience, if someone wanted to sell some products online, do you have any tips or suggestions for them?
Lucie Running an online store is very difficult, there is already a lot of websites and stores, and some of them are very succesfull. When I started there wasn’t a lot of people selling assets, so it wasn’t as discouraging as it could be today. If you find something what you want to sell that fills a missing spot on the market, go for it ! I would also say it’s okay if your assets don’t sell at first, it can be hard to start a store from scratch. It can take a bit of time before you will start selling.
990 The models you have up on Sketchfab.com are great! Love what you did with the water ripples. I thought it was an animated texture but it’s geometry correct?
Lucie Thank you! Since you can’t do/upload any custom shaders in sketchfab I tried to emulate the shader I made in Unity in a previous cartoon scene. I like the technical restrictions in Sketchab, you always need to find new ways to cheat with minimum tools.
990 You recently participated in the Global Game Jam and created a rather eloborate game with a curious mouse. Can you give us a few words on that experience?
Lucie Recently, me and Alexandre Stroukoff (@Astrkl) decided to join the Global Game Jam event (If you are not familiar with Game Jam : it is usually a time constraint challenge where you need to create a game)! I did all the artistic and tech part, Alexandre did the programing and tech part too. It was very challenging since we had only 48 hours and quite a big scope since we decided to make a 3D game.
For the art side I had to find a way to quickly create all the assets : I used only vertex color to give lighting and color information on the mesh, it allowed me to create a lot of variation. We also had to create simple shader with Amplify Studio, integrate VFX and SFX to give more feedback to the player, create all the UI, etc. You really have to think about everything in such a short time! If you are more interested in the process I made a short thread on Twitter describing it a bit more here.
990 Is there a methodology you have for deciding if you are going to invest time in learning something new? After all, in this field you have to keep learning and evolving if you want to stay relevant.
Lucie Not really, if I hear about a software that might bring something useful to my pipeline I’ll look into it. Thats how I learned Houdini. Also if it’s a software that’s becoming more popular and companies start to use it, I will look into it as well since it’s important to be updated on knowledge.
990 Where do you find inspiration?
Lucie I like to follow a lot of artists on twitter/artstation, I like looking at what others people create and sometimes it gives me ideas on what to create next. I also like cozy places, usually when I create a 3D scene, I always make it in an environment where I feel comfortable.
990 Where do you see the industry going in the next few years?
Lucie Things are going to fast it’s difficult to predict what will happen. I would say with the rise of procedural techniques, we will maybe see games with worlds even bigger and bigger… That means more procedural tools!
990 Are you using any of the new fancy third party render engine such as Octane or Redshift with Houdini? Or are you outputting straight out of the game engines?
Lucie I don’t do any renders, I always work directly in engine. I like the challenge of making stuff look good in real time.
These days we have so much resources, online courses, forums where we can ask questions, that I think you can learn it all by yourself (if you are organized and know where you’re heading).
990 Any plans for more Houdini tutorial content in the future? I see you have one up on Gumroad using Houdini Engine. Maybe creating some of the procedural models for Unity? 😉
Lucie I’m already working on a new tutorial ! I posted a few things about it on my twitter account. The tutorial will be on how to create a simple procedural House in Houdini, and how to implement it in Unity using the Houdini Engine.
990 If you can go back and give your younger self some advice, what would that be?
Lucie Learn Houdini as soon as you can, hahaha!
990 Any last piece of life or career advice you can give to those just starting out?
Lucie Be curious, try to jump on new technology to stand out, but more importantly, do what you like.
990 Can you give us a quick Houdini tip?
Lucie Read the documentation! I know it might sound obvious, but there is so much content you can’t learn simply by watching tutorials.
Sometimes I would just open the documentation page for a node and discover other creative uses. Also don’t complexify stuff with vex when you can do it simply with nodes, and the other way around!
Thank you Lucie for your time! Make sure you follow Lucie on Twitter, and ArtStation. Also, check out her UnityAsset Store products at Lumo-Art 3D and her Houdini tutorial on building procedural fences for use in Unity over on Gumroad.