While our team are working hard preparing our upcoming expansion, we've had a moment to interview Natanel, one of our visual effects artists, to get some insights into his work!

Hi Natanel! Thanks for the interview! Could you please introduce yourself and let us know about your history with art?

Hi! I'm Natanel. I've been doing VFX specifically for just over 5 years now and have been a VFX Artist at Grinding Gear Games for almost 2 years.

I'm originally from London, where my game art was more hobbyist than professional, and mainly limited to basic 3D generalist work or graphic design. However I was intent on getting my way into the bigger world of our game industry somehow, so I came to New Zealand and enrolled in Media Design School's game art course.

Early on during my time in New Zealand I did some more freelance work and slowly found myself being pulled into Technical Art after discovering the magic of UDK (Unreal Development Kit) and eventually Unreal 4 when it released a few years ago. It's during this time I slowly specialised into VFX; and after graduating from Media Design School landed myself a job at Gameloft NZ - which unfortunately shut down about a year later.

When did you start playing Path of Exile?

I discovered Path of Exile via an early look on the game by TotalBiscuit on Youtube, pretty early on when it was near the end of it's closed beta. I remember being desperate to try the game out and entered a fanart contest a community member was holding to win a key. I did an illustration of Merveil, and shortly after won myself a beta key! I've been playing the game on and off ever since.

How did you end up working at Grinding Gear Games?

Shortly after the closure of Gameloft NZ I attended a meeting at the New Zealand Game Developers Conference where Chris announced that the studio was looking for an additional VFX artist in addition to other jobs.

I introduced myself to our Art Director Erik and after a short conversation, an art test and some emailing back and forth I landed myself a job here as a VFX artist.

Could you please tell us about your current role at Grinding Gear Games and what an average work day is like for you?

My VFX artist role here involves the creation of various types of visual effects, including the creation of microtransactions, player and boss skills and adding various FX-based accents and little touches to uniques and environments. Anything magical and shiney that sparkles or explodes has likely been touched by one of us VFX artists!

On an average day I could be working on things such as creating the visuals to go alongside a new player skill, creating an epic boss death effect or designing the visuals for a new skill microtransaction.

My work is best viewed in motion, so here are a couple of examples in GIF form!

Are there any unexpected challenges you've faced while working on visual effects for Path of Exile?

As an artist I'm always trying to push myself and my work further every day; always thinking out of the box and how I can push the tools I have available to create unique and interesting visual effects. Because we use proprietary software when creating our effects, the most common challenge I face is being limited by the tools we have available. Luckily all it takes is a short conversation with our graphics programmers to help us implement some cool new shader magic to complete the effect!

Are you able to give us an overview of what it takes to create a visual effect for Path of Exile?

A VFX Artist is basically a specialised Technical Artist, and the skills we use are a mash-up of multiple specialised roles. For example, as a VFX Artist I apply my Technical Art knowledge to utilise shaders and textures, my animation knowledge and Animation Principles when animating particles and meshes as well as my traditional artistic knowledge such as composition, balance and colour theory to paint textures and create an effect that maintains clarity and purpose.

Here is a little breakdown of an effect created using a typical workflow and how I use these principles when putting together effects for the game:

I start with an idea in the form of a brief or concept, in this example the Ice Gore Herald crash. Then start by putting together textures or meshes and animating anything that needs it (pictured above: the animation curves and the wireframe for the meshes).

pictured above: mesh and particle textures

Once exported into the game engine, particle systems are added and animated using various animation principles such as anticipation and timing (pictured above: the initial iteration of the effect with only meshes, textures and some animation applied).

The effect will go through various iterations, including texture changes and the layering of additional meshes or particle systems before it reaches its desired result, in the case of this effect, pictured below in its final iteration.

What is your favourite thing you've worked on for the game so far?

This is a tough one! I've created many effects I thoroughly enjoyed making. But if I have to choose just one, I would say the experience of creating the Lunaris and Solaris sets of effects was one of the most enjoyable. I got to work on some unique skills such as Lunaris and Solaris' transformations into their celestial forms, and Solaris' solar flare attack. The set itself took many months and many iterations to get there, but it was a fun journey that culminated in seeing my work shown off in The Fall of Oriath E3 2017 demo.

Do you have any advice for aspiring visual effects artists?

The work of a VFX Artist involves tapping into many different skillsets that come from different specialisations like animation, tech art and general 3D modelling. To make it short and sweet, here are some quick notes of advice I could give:

  • Don't neglect your traditional background as an artist. Your knowledge of composition, lighting, colour, hue and value are just as vital in VFX as it is with any artistic specialisation.
  • Teach yourself or get an education in 3D art for games, we use common tools and software (Autodesk Maya/3DS Max, Adobe Photoshop, game engines) to model meshes, animate rigs and paint textures.
  • Look into free VFX resources, there are plenty of Youtube tutorials and free downloadable content (from the Unreal 4 or Unity marketplace for example) that you could use to reverse engineer existing visual effects and learn how to use those techniques to create your own.

What can the community look forward to in terms of things you're working on at the moment?

I can't give anything specific away, but some cool new stuff that I had a blast creating will be in the next league and next mystery box set! Look out for some new back-based cosmetic items modelled after a popular microtransaction from a while ago ;)
Posted by
Grinding Gear Games

Thanks Natanel for the insights :) always interesting to read stuff like that.

edit 2: that skill looks like we going Rocky Balboa mode in 3.1 ^^ and tornado perhaps druid from d2 :)?

edit 3: Can we get confirmation that new Stash Tab in 3.1 is Map Stash Tab ^^?
IGN : FireHC
Last edited by Achilion on Nov 7, 2017, 7:43:57 PM
cute designer
New skill HYPE! Thunderbolt or Storm bolt? :)
nice! Really looking forward to the next mystery boxes! LOUIE!!!!!!!
The LORD will march forth like a mighty Warrior, He will come out like a warrior, full of fury. He will shout his battle cry and crush all his enemies.
Last edited by mezion7 on Nov 7, 2017, 7:42:41 PM
Also, that's new skill animation for Haduhen
Love these staff interviews!
IGN: StriderX (Delve)
ooooooo more back attachments are always good.

I know you guys are busy but plz have a design buddy work on my div card if possible :) tyty
✦✦✦✦✦✦✦✦✦✦✦✦✦✦✦✦✦✦✦✦✦✦✦ IGN: Ahfack
#1 DMG Steel Ring & Elder Amulets!
✦✦✦✦✦✦✦✦Div Card: Harmony of Souls✦✦✦✦✦✦✦✦
Last edited by Ahfack on Nov 7, 2017, 7:37:23 PM
Good stuff
Tell us why fiery effects wreck AMD GPUs.
Perception is reality.

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