God of War: Ragnarok, by Santa Monica Studios, came out only a few days back on Sony's previous generation gaming console PlayStation (PS) 4, and its latest PS5. No sooner had it dropped, it voraciously raked in unbelievable rating points on IGN (10/10) and Metacritic (94), both of which are extremely difficult to come by.
It is therefore safe to say that every little detail in the game had met the expectations God of War fans, some of whom have been around since its inception in 2005 on the PS2. Before Ragnarok, God of War (GoW) 4 was the first time the GoW community saw Kratos (the protagonist) with a beard and a full-grown son (Atreus). In this one, the newly beard-wielding Greek God of War (Kratos) crosses over into an entirely different set of mythologies: The Norse mythology.
Bangladeshi Tanvir M N Islam, was one of the art directors of Ragnarok, having graduated from a character artist for God of War 4, which came out in 2018.
"The journey from character artist to AD was a simple one. I mainly work for an outsourcing company dedicated to game development and have to work on all sorts of games. Working on one game after another builds experience and performance. I've been in this industry for the past 22 years," said Tanvir.
Working on a game, on gaming
Tanvir's field of work is asset creation. He directs those working in his team on how to artistically represent the various assets (objects such as weapons or pick-ups) in a game.
"I was a creature artist before this. I model characters in 3D. So I direct how characters in the game are animated in 3D," he said.
Tanvir has to bear in mind all the minute details of human or animal anatomies, and apply them to make characters' movements look realistic.
"I need to collaborate with 2D art directors, fully understand how they envision a character and perfect their vision in the 3D realm," he said. "Suppose the artists draw a belt for the character on paper. It's us who have to make sure the belt interacts realistically around the character," he added.
For Ragnarok, Tanvir and his team had to work day in and day out from 2019, till its release this year. Many other outsourcers like Tanvir worked on other aspects of the game, but the next super-bulky sword you are going to pick as your favourite weapon in this game may have just been worked on by Tanvir. Kratos' glorious beard too was at some point set by him.
God of War is not the only video game Tanvir has worked on. He worked on Lord of the Rings Middle Earth: Shadow of War, Call of Duty: Black Ops - Cold War, Call of Duty: Black Ops III, Outriders, Marvel Avengers, Zombie Army 4: Dead War, Star Wars: Jedi - Fallen Order and many others.
Speaking of which, we asked Tanvir if he knew who Ghost is, in the Call of Duty franchise, because with the release of the new Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, a ton of speculation has been going around regarding who Ghost is in the game.
Sadly, Tanvir said, "I didn't really play the game. I would have to play the game to find out, no? I don't have the time to play video games," said the God of War Art Director.
Travelling the world for video games
Tanvir works at Keywords Studios, a gaming studio based in Ireland. Keywords Studios operates in 40 countries and is one big family in excess of 10,000 artists, of which three to four thousand are 3D artists. The studio outsources their work to different parts of the world; China, for example. In Canada, he still works for the same studio in Qubec, Canada, he used to in China.
He moved out with the branch of Keywords Studio that used to operate in China when they had to set up shop in Canada.
His work with video games began in 2016, when he moved to China. But his profession was not always designing characters for video games.
"I worked on VFX, animation, music videos for Click House Studio, a Danish company. They had an office in Bangladesh. I also worked as an animator at a television station for a whole year."
Between these, Tanvir opened up his own studio 'Incubator Effects'.
"I worked on a lot of projects there, where I was a generalist, meaning I used to do most of the work there. It was going good but then it occurred to me that I had to do something for myself.
I quit everything and began working on improving my own skills and repertoire. It paid off!"
One step back – two steps forward
As Tanvir took some time off to address his own drive of improving his portfolio, his decision paid off massively. He began receiving recognition he always dreamt of.
The Z Brush Central, for example, is the Mecca for 3D artists, specifically for digital sculptors, who work on the Z Brush tool. The Z Brush is the core software for designing 3D characters. It is the Photoshop equivalent for game modelling and hi-res sculpting. You will find no game that was not designed using it.
At Z Brush Central, top game animators and sculptors submit their work and the best of the best work amongst the submissions are featured. "I've been featured there two months in a row, when a lot of game modellers dream of being featured only once. I never had to look back again," he said.
Tanvir immediately got a job offer from China and off he went. "China was a different experience altogether. Here I learned and experimented a lot."
The end credit is all that matters
The biggest and most rewarding thing for a 3D artist is the recognition that comes in the form of a very long list of names at the end of a game, in the end credits.
"We wait in anticipation to find out if my name will appear in the end credits because we do not make it there on every game. We have to earn our place in the end credits. I luckily got credit in the first God of War game I worked on," he said.
"Back when I used to go to IDB to buy a game or watch a trailer, getting to work on those games, with its original creators, is something I always wanted to do in life," Tanvir concluded.