Winning an internship through Ubisoft Toronto NEXT helped Brian get his foot in the door of the video game industry. Now, as a veteran concept artist here, his work has contributed to Far Cry: Primal, Starlink: Battle for Atlas, and more. Brian reflects on his career journey, shares his top tips for incoming NEXT participants and even divulges a little on what he’s working on for a certain special remake 👀💚
Hey Brian! What do you do as a Concept Artist? And how long have you been with Ubisoft Toronto?
As a concept artist I am tasked with designing the visual aspects of the game. Everything from the characters to props and even as large and expansive as the environments. My role requires me to have a keen eye and ensure that all elements fit together in a cohesive vision that gives the game its “look”. My favorite thing about my role is the amount of influence I have over how it’s perceived by the public. First impressions matter. If the art looks cool, then people might think the game is cool, which may drive them to find out more or pick up the game.
Although I’ve been here at Ubisoft Toronto for eight years, I still get excited about the work I do here. I had always wanted to reach for a triple A studio where I could learn and showcase my creativity. When I graduated from art school, Ubisoft had recently been established in the city of Toronto. I guess it was meant to be!
What did you do before working at Ubisoft Toronto? How did you break into the video game industry?
Being the stud that I am haha, I made it straight through from art school and into a paid apprenticeship here at Ubisoft Toronto through the NEXT competition. This thankfully led to a full-time position right after! But before that, I was a produce clerk at Sobeys. Some say it’s a big jump but I like the think I’ve been keeping it fresh for as long as I’ve been working.
Can you describe a project you’ve worked on that you’re proudest of?
I think I’m most proud of Far Cry: Primal. I was able to expand my designing skills to all aspects of the game, from painting environments to creepy props like the Udam Scarecrows. I have long since been a generalist because I enjoy dabbling with as many different things as possible. It keeps things interesting.
You’ve worked on several projects such as Far Cry 6 and Starlink: Battle for Atlas. Can you tell us about a key task/strategy that you’ve worked on for a project and how you approached it?
I designed all the Warden Spire puzzles in Starlink which I felt were pretty unique and fun. The idea was to design structures you’d come across on the various planets throughout the game. You’d have to solve the logic puzzles with the correct elemental weapons in order to open the lock which gave you a reward. It was as if I had become a concept artist and game designer all at once. A super interesting task indeed!
What are some tips you’d give to someone hoping to land a similar role to yours?
Everyone’s journey is different. It doesn’t matter which path you take — school or self-taught — good art is all that matters for your portfolio and chances of getting in. Practice intentionally, never give up on your goals. Don’t rely on AI to get into a studio. Instead improving as an artist means putting in the practice to refine your skills.
What are you currently working on for the Splinter Cell remake?
Although I can’t really share my work for Splinter Cell, something I will say is that we are really focusing on light and shadow to sell the beautiful emphasis on chiaroscuro (a technique characterized by strong contrasts between light and dark to add depth and ambiance). It’s super moody stuff and resonates with the themes at the heart of the franchise.
Do you have any special memories from playing the previous Splinter Cell games? What do you think makes the franchise so unique?
To me, the original Splinter Cell trilogy was the most unique stealth experience of its time. Everything from the gameplay to the vibe and atmosphere was one of a kind. I think the remake’s focus on Splinter Cell’s signature stealth and the attention to details in the franchise has me really excited. I’m not just saying that to build hype. I truly believe it has lots of potential and can’t wait for players to experience it.
What about working on the Splinter Cell remake has you fired up/excited?
Helping to design a game I loved and played as kid is a strange feeling, but I think what fires me up the most is imagining the possible dramatic scenarios we can place Sam in with better tech and tools. I hope the players find it as heart racing to sneak through the shadows as I did.
How has NEXT impacted your career? And what were your key takeaways from the experience?
The NEXT competition gave me my first job within the video game industry. It was the most ideal scenario that could have happened. When I reminisce about it, I feel grateful and fortunate to have had this opportunity via NEXT. Even though I started as an intern, I was immediately placed on a project with some real heavy hitters of the industry, but that didn’t prevent them from treating me like just another teammate. I was surprised by how welcome I felt at the studio and everyone here had a good sense of groundedness, for which I am truly appreciative.
What are some tips you’d give to students interested in participating in NEXT?
Don’t hold back on your art! I would urge you to create something from the heart that you are truly passionate about. However, also be smart and consider the type of work Ubisoft wants to see. For more information you can always look at our IPs as a guideline to help you draw ideas and a framework for your craft.
What were the most challenging and most enjoyable aspects of the competition?
Calling all Ontario post-secondary students and recent grads! Learn how you can kickstart your career with a paid internship at Ubisoft Toronto. Are you NEXT?
Can you describe the Concept Artist community within Ubisoft?
The community of concept artists here at UbiTO has always been a healthy group of people who you can learn from and have fun with. I’ve had the pleasure of working with some of the most talented individuals I have ever met. Learning from each other but also making some very good friends and memories during my time here.
How has hybrid & flexible work impacted your work/team’s experience?
Personally, I like the freedom of work from home. Not only does it allow me to better manage my time, but it also reduced the commuting stress of living in a busy city. It’s also given me more time to do things that I love — creating something new, skateboard, sleep.
What’s one game that’s left a lasting impact on you?
Golden Sun was a small little game made for the Game Boy Advance many years ago. It made me realize that a great experience can come in something small and doesn’t always need to be grandiose.
If life were a video game, what cheat code would you want?
This might sound a bit cheesy. But in actuality, I wouldn’t want a cheat code. If things came easy to me, it would mean a lot less… instead I would want to go about life as intended.
People of Ubisoft Toronto is a series featuring studio members from a variety of projects and backgrounds as they share their experiences at our studio, perspective of the video game industry and, perhaps, even a sneak peek of what they’re working on!
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