Indie-Pixel is Live!
Welcome to Indie-Pixel! My name is Kenny Lammers and this is my new website. I created it to further my reach into teaching and cataloguing what I work on throughout the years. With Indie-Pixel I wanted to focus on teaching Game Development with Unity 3D and
content creation with Maya, Houdini, Substance Designer and Substance Painter. My plan is to release free courses, through the Indie-Pixel YouTube channel, every week with one large paid course every month. So far so good! I have already posted a couple small free course on how to make a Top Down Camera with Editor Tools, as well as how to create a Re-usable UI System inside of Unity 3D. Both are pretty cool. You can also always get access to my free courses on Udemy, if you prefer to watch them there. Either way you will have access to all the Indie-Pixel courses and assets through this website, Udemy and YouTube.
So you might be asking who the hell am I to be teaching Unity and Game Development am. How does this guy get off thinking he can teach in the first place? Well let me give you a bit of background on me and my experience working in the game industry. Let me give you the entire story, if you have a few minutes.
As long as I can remember I was always interested in Engineering and Art mainly. I spent many hours learning to draw and sculpt, and build Radio Controlled Airplanes. Those were my hobbies as a kid and completely enjoyed all aspects of them. Drawing and sculpting satisfied my artistic drive and the radio controlled Airplanes satisfied my engineering side. I have always found that I am not a hardcore engineer or a hardcore artist. My drive has always centered around both and throughout the years I have focused on both, which is why I became a Technical Artist in the Games industry. But I am skipping ahead here.
After graduating from High School in 1997, I moved up to Seattle and began my “college” education at the Art Institute of Seattle. I was already very much into messing around with 3D as I had a cracked copy of 3D studio r1 on my pc since I was a junior. I love modeling and making CG scenes. Obviously this was right around the time that the CG industry was booming. Pixar was starting a new medium of animation and Steven Spielberg was making dinosaurs come to life! I was sold and decided this was what I wanted to do till the end of time! So I started taking the Computer Animation degree program at the Art Institute of Seattle.
At the time CG software was still expensive so almost all the students had to use the computer labs at school. Though I was fortunate enough to have a cracked copy of 3D studio, the Art Institute at the time was using Softimage. So I was learning both programs at the same time. Something I learned to be key during my years in the industry…Always learn the software. You’ll stay relevant.
When I graduated from the Art Institute I got my first gig at Surreal Software working on Drakken 2. It was a paid internship and all I did was weight characters in Softimage and let me tell you that was no walk in the park back in those days. We didn’t have all the fancy tools we have now. I literally had to set the weight values on a per vertex basis by hand. Sure you could rectangle select vertices, but still, it was laborious.
After about 4 or 5 months I was contacted by Microsoft for a potential 3D artist job working on this new console called Xbox. I had no idea that this would be the start of my career. I was so green I didn’t even know what to expect. After my crazy interview and portfolio review I got the job! I was so excited you have no idea. Right out of school I was working at Microsoft. You can imagine how thrilled my parents were, since it was kind of hit or miss if the Art thing was going to work out. And being an Artist at the time wasn’t really one of those things your parents would like to hear. Lol. But it all worked out.
While at Microsoft my first time I worked on NFL Fever, NHL Rivals, and Inside Drive doing mostly 3D modeling for props, characters and creating textures. It was fun and I couldn’t believe that was what I got paid to do. I practiced so much when I got home at night from work. I kept developing my drawing and painting skills and started really diving deep into Maya and learning the ins and outs of 3D. This lead me into my next chapter and how I started evolving into a Technical Artist.
But before I go too far, I got laid off. That’s right. At 23 years old I experienced my first layoff from a major corporation. You can only imagine how depressed, scared, and “Deer in the head lights” I was. I had no idea what was going to happen next. I was given a severance package from Microsoft and I said goodbye to my first job in the game industry. So you might be thinking “Vacation!”. Nope….a couple of friends who also got laid off, and I started working on a game for ourselves using the CryEngine. We worked on that game for about 6 months, before I spent all of my severance money I got from Microsoft. Stupid move, but it happened. I should have gotten another job and just saved the money, but oh well. I was 23 years old. That was kind of the last thing on my mind.
So there I was, broke, living off a credit card and no game to show for 6 months of work. I mean we had a small demo but nothing that we could really show off or even get close to shipping. Fortunately enough, I was called up by Activision and asked to move down to LA and work there. I was like hell yeah! And that was that…I found myself living in LA and working at Activision. How can this be! I mean, I always put most of my time into being a better artist but now I was at Activision! Cool!
This leads me into my evolution to becoming a Technical Artist. After leaving Microsoft, I began to become a bit more interested in scripting for Maya. At the time, MEL was a huge plus to have on your resume and to a certain extent it still is, but python is the more impressive skill set these days. Anyways, by learning just a little MEL I found that I was able to bridge a gap between Artists and Programmers. I could write tools the expedited the creation of Art, and Tools that would automatically set up properties for exporting content to games. This was huge to me, and I started to feel like I should have gotten into programming instead of art, even though my main role was to be an artist. This wouldn’t last long though. As I became more and more proficient at scripting and programming I was put onto more and more technically challenging tasks. I eventually became one of the original developers working on the Scanning studio for Activision. We worked with and developed the early scanning techniques that all the Activision studios use now. And these weren’t table top scanners like we have today. These were full on lasers and structured light scanners that were huge!
Anyways, we used them on many projects bust most notable Call of Duty 3 and Casino Royale. I had a good time at Activision, even though it was tough and challenging, I can’t say that it was terrible. I learned so much there and had some awesome mentors that took me on some awesome adventures, to Rome and London. I eventually left Activision and moved back up to Seattle to work for Surreal Software again, and then finally back at Microsoft. I worked on Alan Wake, Crackdown 2, Kinectimals, mad a bunch of prototypes, worked on Star Wars Kinect, and many other titles. Some I have credits for and some I don’t. It’s how it goes.
This is where I really began to become a programmer and it was all because of Unity 3D. This little engine that was coming out, that was about to change the industry again. At the time we were still using big goliath game engines that were created by programmers slaving away for years on rendering techniques, AI, gameplay, and anything else that you could put on the back of a game cartridge to sell more units. Back in those days you were assign to a game because of the engine you knew. Now it’s whether you know Unity or Unreal and that’s pretty much it. Back in those days we had to ramp newcomers up for months on these proprietary engines and the tools were rough to work with. Each engine had its own export format which meant you needed an exporter for Maya or max for that specific engine. Very painful! But we worked with it. We knew no better.
Anyways, this is where I began to become very familiar with Unity and it started to teach me C# in a fun way, rather than through making Windows applications. I could learn to become a programmer through learning an engine. This was a weird concept and it worked! I became more and more of a programmer and it helped me become more and more comfortable writing my own shaders, programming tools, designing controllers and gameplay. It launched me into another level of my career and it fit my half artist, half engineer personality. So much so I gained enough self-confidence to leave my awesome job and awesome salary at Microsoft to become self-employed, stressed out, and poor sometimes….lol. Why would anyone do that?
Well, I had to see for myself. Had to see what it was like waking up whenever, not having to sit in traffic every morning and night, not having 3 managers, and being able to create stuff I wanted to create. It’s a dream, and I still chase it every day.
So I quit, and started up my own company called Creative TD. I started doing work with Microsoft on Kinect Star Wars making pod racer models. I then did some work with IGT making prototypes for their games, and any other gigs. I started to get a better understanding of what it was like to be self-employed and it wasn’t what I would call fun…lol. It’s a ton of work, takes up all of your time, especially in the beginning, and you have to pay crazy taxes. I also forgot at the time I had to get my own Health Care and Retirement plans. So much to do and I hadn’t really done these things before and I really didn’t research it before I quit. Lol…But I made it through.
I eventually joined forces with a College buddy of mine and we started a company called Ozone Interactive and a website called GameTutor.com. Both were very successful working with many clients, such as Amazon, Microsoft, Eline Media, BioLucid, and many others.
GameTutor was fun as I created all the course content recorded all the courses and got to experience what it was like teaching. I also started teaching at Digipen and at UW in Bothell. All were fun experiences, and led me to become very interested in teaching and learning as a career. This was a very new concept for around 2013-2014. Online education was beginning to trump (hah, I said trump!) normal classroom education as peoples skillsets needed to be updated rapidly and the time required to take a classroom course, plus the cost, wasn’t really feasible. We can’t wait 5 to 6 months anymore to learn new skillsets. This happens on a daily basis now and we have the medium to deliver that pace using the internet. Pretty cool!
With that in mind I eventually left Ozone Interactive and started working on Indie-Pixel, my new venture. Its going pretty well so far. I don’t have a ton of content created just yet but there is a lot in the works. I really am trying to create training material that covers a gap in the online world. We find that a lot of training covers either very basic or very advanced topics. Where’s the training that takes you from Beginner to Intermediate and beyond. Where’s the training that teaches you how to become a Technical Artist? Its not really out there. You still have to take it upon yourself to become an Artist who is more technical or a dev who wants to be more artistic. Plus it is very possible to create a living for yourself by making your own games, by yourself or with just a few of your buddies. This means we all wear many hats or I should say, have to know how to do a lot of different types of skills. This is why becoming a technical artist is so awesome! You can program and make art. While either of the 2 might not be the best code or art, it allows you to make both and in today’s industry you don’t necessarily need the best graphics or the most efficient game ai to make money making games. This is what I am teaching, I want to show everyone that it is possible to add art to your skillset if you are a programmer, or add programming to your skillset if you are an artist. It’s the next evolution in a game developer’s career and should be considered.
Anyways, that’s a little about me. There is so much more info I can write about but I’ll save those for another time. I have lots of game developer stories…J Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy the course! Please do reach out if you have any feedback or just random thoughts you would like to share. Thanks so much!