From VFX Apprentice to Riot Games - How This VFX Artist Fast Tracked Their CareerNov 29, 2023
Min Hyune Bae was with VFXA for two months before landing a job with Riot Games, here's how he did it.
So I'm super excited about this interview with Min Hyune Bae currently working as a VFX artist at Riot Games. He's an alumni of ours at VFX Apprentice. He started with us just two months before getting his internship application off to Riot and then later getting accepted. That's pretty insane! It's a pretty remarkable story of how quickly he was able to get from no experience in the VFX space to a job working at one of the largest game studios in the world.
Jason Keyser: So, I wanted to talk with you about your journey through learning effects and getting your first job. You got a job at a certain studio called Riot Games? Yeah, it's a little indie studio you may have heard of.
Min Hyune Bae: Yeah, small indie studio, of course!
JK: We just want to talk about that journey, what it was like in the early days of your learning and what it was like interviewing and getting the internship.
MHB: Yeah. Mm hmm. I interned last year, 2022, during the summer.
JK: Nice, and now you're going to start full time?
MHB: Yep. I start on the 21st.
Jason: That's exciting! So you were a student with us here at VFX Apprentice. So tell us a little bit about yourself, how you first got interested in effects and where it went from there.
Min: So I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Digital Media with a focus in game design and I just graduated around three months ago. During my junior year, I was actually a programmer at the time, and I was focusing on my coursework and really wasn't feeling programing that much anymore. So one summer I just looked online and I found a short course for Unity VFX and I was like, You know what I’m just gonna do it! And I did it. And honestly, that was, that was it. That was the first piece of my portfolio.
Min: But it wasn't until around November of that year where I listened in on a GDC talk that you gave with Hadijah Chamberlain about the artistic principles of VFX, that I was like, yo, this is really cool. And to this day after that talk, I still think that VFX is the coolest art form in the world and I'm really happy I picked it up.
JK: That's so cool to hear. I did not know that part of your story. That's cool. So I'm guessing you found VFX Apprentice through that video?
MHB: I looked up more courses and I found this course while you were teaching it, and I was like, Yeah, I'm definitely going to give this a shot. So I picked it up and that winter break, I dove into it.
JK: Awesome. So you started on winter break. Is that the same time you applied for the internship? Like, you just started doing the course that winter? Or was it another year that you applied to the internship?
MHB: It was that winter.
JK: Oh, my gosh! I did not know that either! Well, you already had an engineering background at that point. So you were familiar with game engines and then you're like, “hey, this effects thing is pretty fun.” Did you have any artistic background leading up to that point?
MHB: Not that much, no.
JK: Okay. So you must have been working your tail off to get a good enough portfolio to get the Riot Games internship? Like what? What was that like? That timeframe?
MHB: So I actually called upon the Principals a lot during when I was creating my portfolio and I centered my coursework around the Principals. So while doing the coursework for VFX Apprentice, I tried to incorporate elements from my effects and tie them back to each of the principals, make sure each of the principals is represented in some way.
JK: And these principals are just so for people who aren't familiar that are watching this. What principals are those specifically?
MHB: They are:
- Gameplay is king
- Area of Effect
- Focal point
- Threat level
JK: Awesome. There you go. They don't have to watch the talk now.
MHB: No, no! Please watch the talk! Coming from a game design background, that's what really spoke to me honestly, because throughout my coursework, I didn't feel like I had a clear way to express my game design knowledge and through the principles of VFX, this can be a medium for what I'm learning.
JK: Yeah, it's very closely tied to game design and it kind of sits at the intersection of, design, art, programing, all of it. So you applied to the internship, which for anyone who's not familiar, Riot Games usually opens up their internships for summer in the late fall through the winter and it closes, I think, in January. So you were like, okay, holiday break. And then sometime in January. I'm guessing you submitted your portfolio, right?
MHB: Yep, little funny story. My friends actually got me into League Legends and we used to play a lot in college and that winter break, I was like, All right, guys, I'm going for something big here, so I'm sorry if I can't play much.
JK: That’s hilarious, So you got the internship working on League of Legends?
MHB: Yeah, I worked on the new champion K’sante at the time.
JK: Oh, cool. You worked on K’sante. That's amazing. So you're on the Champions team working with the people over there. What was that like? What was the internship like? How long did it last? Did they bring you over to LA? Like, were you there in person? What was all that about?
MHB: It was amazing. I would still describe it as one of the best experiences of my life. I remember going on. I worked there (remotely) from May all the way until August. And they really give a lot of autonomy to interns. And I really felt like I had creative control over what I was assigned. So my first effect that I made for League of Legends was K’sante’s Basic Attack (seen above) and his Empowered Auto and that was a period where my mentor and the rest of Champion's team gave me feedback on the effect. And I trusted it, applied it, and I kept iterating towards what the final version is in the game right now.
MHB: That was just the start of it. I got to work on other awesome abilities, like his All Out W was me. His Recall I did as well. I'm really happy with that one. And I also, whenever you Taunt as K’sante, I made a little sunlight shine down on him (seen above) and my friend actually pointed that out when we played and I was like, I put that on right there.
JK: I bet they were like, totally like, head over heels like, “Wait, what just happened? Our friend is now making the thing that we play!” It's such a brain flip.
MHB: Yeah! It really is. Whenever I play league now and I go up against K’sante, I'm like, “I can't believe I'm getting destroyed by my own VFX!”
JK: That's so funny. You know, I talk with students a lot about the differences between playing games and making games. What would you say as someone who's done both? I mean, you're a gamer and you've also like worked on the development as well. Like has that changed your perspective at all and what are some of the big differences or what are maybe some of the similarities?
MHB: Making games is a collaborative effort, which some games can be as well. In order to make games, you need to think about the player and the person that you're making the game for. What can you do to make their experience as fun, entertaining and clear as possible? And it's the reason why I fell in love with VFX because it communicates gameplay elements. I'm helping to give the player a positive experience when they're playing video games, and that's not something you really do whenever you play video games. Whenever you create games, you're working collaboratively to give the player the best experience possible.
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