Devoted Studios Blog


Portfolio Review with Horia Dociu. Devoted SpeakEasy E11 Highlights

5 days |


Portfolio Review with Horia Dociu. Devoted SpeakEasy E11 Highlights

Have you ever tried to look at your portfolio as an Art Director and find out the way they assess it? In the last SpeakEasy episode, we prepared a bunch of portfolios by notable artists. We reviewed them with one of the most charismatic Art Directors Horia Dociu, who has worked with such studios as 343 Industries, ArenaNet, and SuckerPunch. Watch this episode in order to get some precious insights and use them when you prepare your profile for studios, and read this article to get inspired by amazing artworks from the episode.

Kekai Kotaki is a Concept Artist and Illustrator from Hawaii who has worked as a Lead Concept Artist on Guild Wars 2, and has made stops at places such as Bungie and Monolith, working on titles like Destiny and Mordor Shadow of War.

Horia: The thing with Kekai is he is a consistent artist you know exactly what you’re getting from him in the result and you know it’s gonna be brilliant. For example, the monster from his portfolio is done at a high level and it fits commercially many projects, like Fantasy Sonic style. It just shows that every time he will prepare concepts that hit the goal.

From his portfolio, we can find out that Kekai loves this kind of Dark Fantasy or sci-fi stuff – there’s this kind of visual poetry in it. I think that the portfolio shows that you don’t hire this guy if you don’t want Kekai-type stuff, something that screams badass like this. You are not going to hire him to do cute icons for the Hello Kitty game, right?

One of his artworks depicts a knight using a magic mace and throwing ghost hammers, and there’re wolfmen with axes in it. And when I see it I immediately realize that these pieces do what the art in Guild Wars 2, for example, was intended to do with a viewer, all those Paladins, and the Guardians. There’s clear communication of emotion coming from his works, they are not just drawings of people standing in armor, but they tell us about the spirit and the badassness of the characters. I mean the poses are there that help us to see the story, and we can distinguish good guys’ and bad guys’ vibes.

And what is more important, is that his concepts will give a clear understanding and inspire the whole team working on a project – the animation, lighting, effects, and even game design. At the end of the day we want players to feel that excitement, passion, energy, and so sticking to a guy like this you know it’s going to happen. It can be not a perfect production concept, but it’s a hugely inspirational piece that gives energy and information to the whole entire team.

Levi Hopkins is a Concept Artist from Seattle. Levi has over 18 years of experience in the industry in various roles: Principal Concept Artist, Art Director, Prototype Team Lead, Environment Team Lead, and 3D Artist.

Horia: Levi is another freak of nature from Arena Net, he actually started in 3D modeling and over the years he has learned all sorts of new tools and rendering engines, and now he is building these gorgeous scenes that look like stills from a movie.

He uses his 3D superpowers to create really artsy scenes, and when you look at them, you think “Oh, wow, that would look amazing in the game”.  That’s the best thing in using tools and technology and mastering texture software, render software, 3D stuff, sculpting, etc. –  to be able to tell these things that would give goosebumps to the viewer. When I look at his picture, I know what the sea mist smells like, and I hear its sounds. I mean, it feels like I walked into this place, I’m there. And when I look at it as an Art Director, I say that we need to get this across to the player, this just feels amazing.

And again, with these artworks, sound and lighting teams, texture artists know what they need to create.

Carlyn Lim is a ​​character-creature concept artist for games and films. She has worked for Arena Net, EA Games, Riot Games, etc.

Horia: If you meet Carlyn in real life, she’s this sort of petite girl, kind of quiet. And then you find out she creates these badass fantastic monsters. They’re elegant, ornate, and beautiful, and all her work has this really strong identity. You’re not going to hire her to make a Sci-Fi gun unless it’s a Haunted Gun for a fantasy setting. All these creatures and monsters are just so beefy and ballsy and special. It’s not the giant scorpion monster, which already sounds cool, but it’s a kind of scorpion I’ve never seen before.

She’s got this very creative poetic lens and yet she’s making these things even though they’re not photo-realistically drawn like Levi’s stuff.

Yet there’s enough uh obvious care about the references for anatomy architecture. If you look at her Mummy Cat, you know what that dead stretch skin looks like and you’re seeing its spine through it. So there’re enough references that she’s tacking on there to take something completely dreamlike and make it a palpable believable thing.

She’s got this consistency that is fresh and cool and you want to hire her on your team if you want to create something completely different and unique.

John Powell is a Concept Artist, Lead Artist at Sucker Punch Productions.

Horia: John Powell is somebody who’s really really able to work on every different kind of thing. When the artists we mentioned earlier have a very distinguishing style and would make a perfect match with a certain kind of project, John could fit anything. He is sort of the Swiss army knife who produces stuff of high quality.

Whether this is an interior for a tent that looks like a big palace you can imagine the smells inside and the muffled sounds coming from outside with tons of historic references. Or a cinematic keyframe artwork telling you a story of characters who escape from something. Or it could be these 2D cutscenes that are inspired by traditional Japanese art and then they turn into animated illustrations. It can also be a prop for a boat, or a character concept.

He could become a precious asset to almost any team or project and become a universal warrior that deals with any kind of task.

So when you collect your portfolio, try to think, first of all, about what kind of artist you are, and what style characterizes you the most. You can create boots and have a collection of boot concepts, but with every detail polished to perfection. And it could work with some project that needs a person who is professional in boots.

And after you gather all those artworks just think about projects and studios that work in your style, require a person with your skills, and could hire you.


Devoted SpeakEasy #11: Portfolio Review with Horia Dociu

4 weeks |


Game Art Behind-the-Scenes: How Art Directors Estimate Artists’ Portfolios with Horia Dociu | Devoted SpeakEasy E11 

This episode is an absolute must-watch for those who are looking for a job for exciting and huge projects. You will find out what happens to your portfolio after you send it out to prospective employer— how it is estimated by the studio and Art Director.

Together with Horia Dociu and Ninel Anderson we reviewed the portfolios of some amazing artists such as Kekai Kotaki, Levi Hopkins, Carlyn Lim, John Powell, and others. Have a look behind the scenes of the candidate review process and get some precious piece of advice how to improve your own profile.

Timecodes for your quick navigation:

( 00:00 ) — Intro
( 00:28 )  — Horia’s tips for designing a portfolio

( 2:23 )  — Kekai Kotaki’s art and portfolio analysis

( 7:30 )  — Kekai Kotaki’s personal artworks

( 9:53 )  — Levi Hopkins and his gorgeous environments

( 13:40 ) —  Carlyn Lim and her epic monsters
( 20:03 ) —  John Powell — a “Swiss knife” of the CGI industry
( 23:22 )  — David Heidhoff and his universal art skills
( 24:26 )  — Concept art pieces and illustrations of Naomi Baker

( 27:29 ) —  Putting your own touch to portfolio pieces
( 32:00 )  — Attention to details when designing your portfolio


Watch the full episode at the link:


Devoted SpeakEasy #10: A Creature Is a Feature

4 weeks |


Art Director’s Tips for Creature Designing. SpeakEasy E10 with Horia Dociu

How to create realistic creatures that immediately grab the attention of your players? How does the color palette build the whole atmosphere in the scene? Why is the balanced approach to the idea-generation process so important? And what approach do we call balanced?

If any of these questions seem relevant to you, we know someone who has the answers. That is why we invited Horia Dociu to our Devoted Speakeasy podcast and had an informative and inspiring conversation. Horia’s advice is priceless, as his track record includes such projects as HALO, Ghost of Tsushima, inFAMOUS, and Guild Wars 2. 


( 0:00 ) —  Intro

( 0:42 ) — Horia Dociu’s core principles in creating art

( 2:32 ) — Why monsters and creatures are game features 

( 3:28 ) — How tone forms our game experience

( 4:49 ) — How to make creatures believable and understandable for the audience

( 6:16 ) — Why it’s essential to design functional models at first

( 7 :34 ) — All you have to know about theme ideation and creating mood boards

( 9:33 ) — An effective approach to design concepts 

( 11:16 ) — How to make models tell stories

( 12:49 ) — How colors convey the mood in Last of Us, Fall Guys, and Mario Kart

( 15:26 ) — Stylization dilemma: keeping a balance between cartoony and photoreal styles

( 17:14 ) — How to nurture original ideas

( 20:29 ) — Creativity vs keeping deadlines: what is more important?

( 25:44 ) — How to achieve solidarity between different departments

( 29:04 ) — Ways of testing theories for artists 


Watch the full episode at the link:


Devoted SpeakEasy #9: How to Build an Art Career In Games

4 weeks |


How to Build A Career in Gamedev: Tips from an Art Director. SpeakEasy E09 with Horia Dociu

Is it the best time to become an artist now? What steps should you take today to become an Art Director at Pixar in the future? What does the artist’s lifestyle look like? And how to tolerate negative feedback? Find out with Horia Dociu, our beloved guest on the Devoted SpeakEasy podcast.


Horia Dociu is an Artist, Cinematic Director, and Art Director who worked with ArenaNet, Sucker Punch, Valve Software, and other industry-recognized studios. Don’t miss the opportunity to get a piece of advice from him. Besides, he has a very charismatic personality, so we can guarantee that you really enjoy this interview.


( 0:00 ) — Intro

( 0:44 ) — Horia Dociu’s legacy

( 1:46 ) — Why it’s an excellent time to be an artist

( 3:57 ) — What portfolio should you have to be hired at the Call of Duty team

( 5:23 ) — What you should do to become a Pixar movie director in 20 years

( 7:27 ) — Changing your plan from “becoming famous” to “becoming great at”

( 8:55 ) — Is studying at college a must for artists? 

( 11:27 ) — How to put goals according to the OKR system

( 14:20 ) — How to change your lifestyle to become a better artist

( 17:27 ) — A piece of advice from Milton Kahl, a legendary animator from Disney studio

( 18:41 ) — How to make use of feedback 

( 22:30 ) — How to align your strong skills with your ambitions 



Watch the full episode at the link: 


Devoted SpeakEasy #8: Backstage of Fall Guys Art Process

4 weeks |


Fall Guys: Creating a Hit That Makes Millions – Alexander McKinney-Raphelt. SpeakEasy E08

Welcome to behind-the-scenes of Fall Guys! Together with Alexander McKinney-Raphelt, an Art Director at Epic Games you will discover all the secrets of one of the most profitable video games of the past decade. 


Ninel (Gryuner) Anderson invited Alexander to our SpeakEasy podcast and asked him about the idea generation and design processes in the Fall Guys creation; his management experience and requirements for artists; and the importance of video games in the modern world. Don’t miss this amazing interview.


( 0:00 ) — Intro

( 0:52 ) — Meeting Alexander McKinney-Raphelt

( 3:23 ) — How the Fall Guys video game was created

( 9:20 ) — Who has designed Fall Guys — artists or game designers? 

( 11:44 ) — About characters’ customization in Fall Guys

( 16:17 ) — How to motivate Fall Guys players

( 18:34 ) — About the teams that worked on Fall Guys customized characters

( 20:00 ) — How Fall Guys community suggested ideas

( 23:31 ) — Art manager and art director — what is the difference

( 26:04 ) — How to measure the creative side of artists

( 29:44 ) — Alexander’s requirements for artists

( 31:42 ) — Guest’’s managing experience in InnoGames

( 35:36 ) — How Alexander has built a rolling system in the game production

( 37:49 ) — Working on a game based on Star Wars

( 41:21 ) — The importance of video games for humanity 


Watch the full episode at the link:


Devoted SpeakEasy #7: Spellbreak. x2 in Size and 4 Platforms Simultaneous Release Amidst Pandemic

4 weeks |


Spellbreak: x2 in Size and 4 Platforms Simultaneous Release Amidst Pandemic. Devoted SpeakEasy E07 with Cardell Kerr

How to manage a team and release a game successfully during a pandemic? What are the secrets of Spellbreak success? How to empower the hiring process and create an effective team? What skills should you look for and develop among your team members?


Watch this interview with Cardell Kerr, the Executive Producer of Proletariat find out the answers to these and many more questions.  


( 00:00 ) — Intro

( 00:54 ) — Transitioning Proletariat to x2 in size distributed team 

( 03:50 ) — Using the system of emails with military precision

( 04:35 ) — Tips for organizing remote meetings efficiently: Google Meets, Discord, Slack tips

( 06:03 ) Asking for feedback 

( 08:40 ) — Ways to reduce stress and inspire team

( 10:27 ) — Scaling team through pandemic: the challenges and celebrations

( 13:14 ) — The trick to make hiring more efficient

( 14:36 ) — Key job skills to look for and develop with your team members

( 18:30 ) — Cardell’s way to train producers to address risks

( 22:45 ) — Understanding the ‘Why’ within a team

( 25:27 ) — Working with cross-functional teams

( 27:38 ) — Problems and challenges of fast team growth


Watch the full episode at the link:


Devoted SpeakEasy #6: Character Customization That Sells

4 weeks |


Character Customization That Sells with Tramell Isaac. Devoted Speakeasy E06 by Ninel Anderson

This episode’s guest is Tramell Isaac, the Vice President of Art at IllFonic, Art Director of the Fallout series, Planetside, Planetside 2, Predator: Hunting Ground, Duke Nukem Forever, and Lawbreakers. We promise that this interview is as impressive as Trammel’s track record!


Watch this episode to find out about how great projects start, how to make your content sellable, and why the players like customized assets so much. Improve your knowledge of the game art industry with Devoted SpeakEasy. 


(00:00) — Intro

(0:58) — Game production steps from the very first day

(3:06) — Character customization tips and tricks

(4:02) — Building unique distinguish character factions 

(7:31) — Creating valuable and sellable content 

(9:03) — How to find out what your users want to buy

(13:17) — Involving community into building content 

(15:26) — Budgeting character customization

(21:45) — Career choices and recommendations

(27:00) — What makes a great artist

(29:07) — DO’s and DON’T’s in becoming a Lead Artist

(33:42) — Lead artist: creating content VS management



Watch the full episode at the link: 


Devoted SpeakEasy #5: Raise Money in Gaming

4 weeks |


14 Things to Know to Raise VC Money in Gaming. Devoted Speakeasy E05 by Ninel Anderson 

This episode hosts amazing thinkers who analyze gaming trends and distribute venture capital among the products with high potential for success. In this podcast, you’ll meet Sam Englebardt and Richard Kim, Partners at Galaxy Interactive, as well as William Rhys Dekle, Partner at Strategic Alternatives.


Together with our amazing host Ninel (Gryuner) Anderson they discussed modern trends and game industry changes in the after-pandemic times, and shed some light on the decision-making process of how the projects are chosen to be invested in. Must-watch for game producers who want to raise VC money.


( 00:00 ) — Intro

( 01:50 ) — 5 things investors are looking for in a pitch

( 03:53 ) — How do investors do their due diligence on content?

( 07:43 ) — The Pitch Process, and case studies from Galaxy’s portfolio

( 20:53 ) — Cold calling investors vs. warm intro?

( 22:42 ) — Is building a “Founder Brand” a necessity?

( 23:10 ) — How to research investors?

( 27:25 ) — Are consultants helpful in raising money?

( 29:17 ) — Supporting each other is key!

( 30:27 ) — What is the difference between a lead investor and a follower?

( 31:10 ) — How do you price your business?

( 36:05 ) — Do your math! Is VC actually a good solution for you? What other options do you have?

( 37:29 ) — Overall time, from starting pitching, to term sheet draft, to the final version. When would you actually receive the money in your account?

( 38:55 ) — What’s the usual time between the rounds? What should the founder be doing in between rounds?

( 42:52 ) — How has the process changed with the advent of the pandemic?


Watch the full episode at the link:


Devoted SpeakEasy #4: Building Compelling Worlds

4 weeks |


Building Compelling Game Worlds: Destiny and Halo with Christopher Barrett. Devoted SpeakEasy E04

Even if you haven’t met Christopher Barrett before this episode, you definitely know the projects he created! He was the Art Director on Halo 2 and Halo 3, the Artist on Halo, the Art and Game Director of Destiny 2, and the Art Director of Destiny. 


Sounds impressive? Then hurry up to watch his interview and find out how to build the world your players will be excited to explore. The other important issues we discussed in this episode are “How to find inspiration”, “How to manage a big team of artists”, and “How to be the Art Director and the Game Director simultaneously”.



( 00:00 ) — Intro

( 2:18 )  — Building worlds you want to explore

( 5:15 )  — Using the concept of “postcards” to tease an idea of a place you want to visit 

( 9:15 )  — Drawing inspiration from beloved fiction from childhood

( 12:20 )  — How to communicate personal achievement through the visual language of gear rarity

( 17:50 )  — The importance of building upon existing, recognizable tropes

( 24:15 )  — The challenge of helping artists in a big team find the common language

( 30:40 )  — The nuances between an Art Director and Game Director in leading a team

( 37:50 )  — Being a social media ambassador for Destiny through its ups and downs


Watch the full episode at the link:


Devoted SpeakEasy #3: Character World, Design Kits in LoL, GoW

4 weeks |


Bigger than Games: Character World, Design Kits in LoL, GoW with E.Gonzalez. Devoted Speakeasy E03

Lead Art Director for Catalyst Black Eduardo Gonzalez joined us for a new Devoted SpeakEasy podcast episode. Previously he was a concept artist for God of War, Socom, and Kill Zone. He also contributed to Visual Development and World Building at Riot Games. 

In this episode, we discussed how he built his career at Riot Games and the specifics of building a team of artists worldwide. Watch this episode to get some insights into how to create games with unique identities and provide them with catchy storytelling.


( 00:00 ) — Intro

( 1:00 )  — Riot: how it all started 

( 5:08 )  — Co-Founding World Building Team with the knowledge that the IP will transcend the game

( 11:40 )  — Shape language and symbolism of specific champions in League of Legends

( 17:28 )  — Subcultures within characters to give depth and possibility without touching the game

( 20:40 )  — How does the collaboration between different roles work in champion design?

( 29:00 )  — Surfacing “hooks” or “clues” that will give games their identity

( 35:15 )  — Estimating time spent on assets as a trial and error process

( 40:00 )  — A glimpse into early visual development for God of War

( 45:40 )  — What are the secret ingredients to a successful new IP?


Watch the full episode at the link: