“What is it about animation, graphics, illustrations, that create meaning? And this is an important question to ask and answer because the more we understand how the brain creates meaning, the better we can communicate, and, I also think, the better we can think and collaborate together.” —Tom Wujec
Aoba Suzukaze is a new graduate who begins working as a 3D modeller at Eagle Jump, a video game developer company she has long admired for having created her favourite game. As she spends time at the company and learns the basics behind 3D modelling, she also becomes acquainted with her fellow co-workers in the character design department, as well as those from other sections of the company. An adaptation of the Manga Time Kirara Carat four-panel manga of the same name, New Game! focuses on Aoba’s life as a new 3D modeller, illustrating fictionalised aspects of game production and the work culture surrounding Eagle Jump. Intended to portray the life of a newly-minted graphics artist in a laid-back, humourous manner, New Game! does capitalise on its surroundings to present situations and jokes that are surprisingly consistent with what working for a 3D visualisation company is like.
Despite being an adaptation of a Manga Time Kirara manga, New Game! has perlexingly been the subject of no small discussion, with some viewers drawing some rather unusual conclusions about New Game!. The largest misconception at present seems to be that New Game! glorifies overwork, arguing that the anime is “disturbing” or “very painful” for its portrayal of Aoba and her coworker’s habits. For instance, Aoba’s senior, Kō Yagami, is the lead character designer and spends enough time at the office to sleep there overnight, an action that purportedly destroys any social life she might otherwise have. This is making a very subjective leap in one’s assessment: in fact, Kō is simply a highly capable artist who very much loves her work, and as such, makes a conscious choice to stay at the office. This is not something that is enforced by the company and as such, there is no evidence to show that Eagle Jump is demanding its employees to push themselves for the company’s benefit at their own expense. Similarly, Aoba’s drive to improve her skill as a 3D modeller speaks nothing of what the company’s policy is: she’s clearly motivated by her own love for games and a desire to contribute to the development of a new game. In short, New Game! presents nothing that suggests that overwork at an unreasonable personal expense is a beautiful thing, nor does it promote unhealthy work conditions. This is because as a work of fiction, New Game! is intended to portray a fictional outlook on what life as a 3D modeller is like, by showing how Aoba striving to fulfil her lifelong dream of contributing to the development of a game at a company whose staff each have their own unique attributes.
Screenshots and Commentary
- As of August 5, Google automatically migrated all of my Picasa albums to an archive as they finalise the roll-out of a new service called Google Photos. What this means is that I won’t be able to use Picasa as an image host anymore, since there are no more options to embed images at all, although thankfully, the archived photos will still remain accessible (otherwise, almost all of my posts would lose their images). I’ve transitioned to Flickr as my image host now, and so far, it seems to be a reasonably smooth experience.
- Aoba Suzukaze is New Game!‘s protagonist. Voiced by Yūki Takada, she’s a 3D modeller who has long aspired to work with Eagle Jump, and despite being a high school graduate, her small size leads her to be mistaken for a middle-school student. Her appearance brings to mind attributes from K-On!‘s Azusa Nakano, Non Non Biyori‘s Renge Miyauchi and traces of GochiUsa‘s Chino Kafuu.
- Kō Yagami is the first of the staff that Aoba runs into; while a fairly strict character designer with high standards, her habits leave something to be desired. Aoba is somewhat embarrassed to learn that Kō sleeps sans any sort of pants or shorts, but overcomes this quite quickly when learning that Kō designed the characters to the games that she loves.
- Coffee is said to be the lifeblood of game developers. I’ve also heard that there is a very specific amount of beer or alcohol that supposedly bolsters performance, but I’m not particularly big on either, since both drinks detrimentally affect my performance: the former makes me jumpy and the latter gives me a headache.
- Anime tend to depict workplaces as being full of colourful individuals, each with distinct character and mannerisms: here, Hajime Shinoda is swinging a prop lightsaber around. A motion designer, she captures the motions best by experimenting to see what’s natural, and I remark that last year, I won a toy lightsaber at the Stampede. The lightsaber is actually still at my old office space on campus, and I’ll need to clear that out on short order.
- Aoba is introduced to Autodesk Maya (“Saya” in New Game! to avoid any copyright infringements), and initially, she’s overwhelmed by how complex Maya is. One of the best-known 3D modelling tools around, Maya has a very steep learning curve and is quite difficult to learn. With that in mind, I’ve heard some discussions where some folks claim that Maya causes random file corruptions or do not save properly. I’ve worked with 3D modellers who know Maya very well, and they’ve never had any issues with saving. Conversely, strange normal behaviours and some exports creating meshes that are not water-tight are quite common.
- I myself have a minimal amount of experience in Maya, enough to extrude surfaces, apply textures and construct simple structures, a consequence of there being a lack of 3D modellers to help me build assets for my thesis work: every asset in my thesis, I built using Maya after learning it out of necessity. Here, Kō speaks with Rin Tōyama, an art director heading the department creating background assets, about getting Aoba an ID card so that she can enter and exit the office.
- I’ll introduce the remaining characters: to the far left is Hifumi Takimoto, a skilled but shy artist who prefers using IM for communications, and to the far right is Yun Iijima, a character designer responsible for designing monsters. Kō and Hajime have been introduced, so I’m going to do my best to remember everyone’s names in time for the finale review.
- I’ve never engaged any of my coworkers or fellow researchers in sword fights before, but I do recall reading a job posting where nerf gun skills were an asset for a developer position. Smaller companies seem to be more relaxed and informal, and some major tech companies encourage a light-hearted environment in order to maximise the employee’s productivity. Besides notions of glorifying overwork and undue stress floating about New Game! (which have been addressed in the paragraphs above), I’ve also seen two other misconceptions in New Game! that I’ll clarify.
- The first of these deals with the computers that are used in New Game!. Aoba’s development rig can be seen here, and at least one individual has been under the impression that these are Dell Inspirons, an entry to mid-level family of computers intended for light to moderate computing. Said individual claims it’s a bug, wondering why graphics artists would use these machines, but they are forgetting that the computer case and the hardware inside are independent of one another.
- At a company such as Eagle Jump, computers would be equipped with reasonably powerful quad-core processors and a good GPU (at least a GTX 970 or better) so that the 3D modellers can work reasonably well. As such, it’s quite inappropriate to presume that Aoba and the others are using computers ill-suited for their work. The other aspect that is a misconception is that 3D modellers can dress however they please, despite Aoba’s preference for wearing a business suit to work.
- That 3D modellers observe a more casual dress code is not true: company policy varies from company to company. So, some organisations ask their employees to observe a business casual or business formal dress code, while others may be more lenient and allow their employees to wear smart casual. It has nothing to do with the department one works in, but everything to do with the company’s dress code.
- My conference in Cancún led me to understand that while I have a low tolerance for beer, I can manage cocktails better. Consumed slowly, I only become mildly drowsy with drinks such as the daiquiri, whereas with beer, I immediately pick up a raging headache. Aoba is below the legal drinking age, being “only” eighteen, and in reality, with some exceptions, would not be hired straight from high school. A 3D modeller would have at least a Bachelor’s degree or diploma in a related field, accompanied by some familiarity with Autodesk Maya or an equivalent set of 3D modelling applications.
- With that being said, New Game!, being a Manga Time Kirara work, is allowed some creative liberties (I accept and expect their works to favour humour over realism). However, it is quite surprising how seriously some folks have taken New Game!, imagining that it to be a proper portrayal of the real world and wondering why the details in New Game! do not line up with reality as per expectations.
- Where I currently work, hours are reasonably flexible. On most days, I arrive at around 08:30 (09:30 if I’m coming from the gym), and leave at around 17:00-18:00 depending on how much there is to do. Conversely, Aoba is terrified at the prospect of being late, and her expression here is comedy gold. In general, I also take mass transit to work, and for the most part, it’s quite convenient. I’m sure my opinions will change once the Real Canadian Winter™ sets in.
- En route to work, Aoba trips on the pavement, resulting in a stance similar to one seen in GochiUsa‘s second season. Only marginally late, Kō lets Aoba know that such occurrences are usually discouraged, but she’d be let off the hook this time. To avoid being late for work, I try to sleep early such that I’m somewhat well-rested in the mornings at the minimum. Conversely, because I tend to sleep before 23:00 on most days and wake up between 06:00 and 07:00, I’ve fallen quite far behind on my shows.
- Here, Aoba jots down pointers from Kō on 3D modelling after being given her first assignment, to build an NPC for one of the villages. Despite getting her sphere pasted (for the longest time, I saw numerous pasted_sphere nodes in my Maya projects), Aoba resolves to do her best and learn to build more natural, fluid-looking characters. Kō’s remarks that Aoba will need to improve her asset turnover, though humourous, is reality: once one becomes familiar with the basics, it is expected that they can build more high quality assets in a shorter period of time.
- For instance, it took me a month to figure out the logic for a molecular pathway in my thesis, but once this was done, I was turning out pathways every other week, enough to build a small library of interactions that highlight the versatility of my system. Back in New Game!, Aoba hears from Rin that her original submission was satisfactory, but Kō’s standards means that there’s always room to surpass satisfactory; folks can feel if something is poor, acceptable or excellent quite readily, hence the drive for excellence.
- All told, I think that New Game! is harmless entertainment meant to combine the lightheartedness of an anime with some elements from the game developer’s workplace. It’s quite difficult to imagine (or demonstrate) that the authors intend New Game! to serve as a commentary on the game development industry, so I’ll definitely be continuing with this anime, keeping an eye open for the fun things that the show chooses to illustrate. As for future posts, I’m actually not too sure what I’ll be writing about, but I’m considering another Alien: Isolation post in light of how often I’ve gotten my face kicked in by the legendary Face-huggers.
Insofar, I’m enjoying New Game! for its depiction of the graphics development aspects of game development. The anime simplifies a great deal of the realities of games development and primarily aims to act as a very gentle satire of the industry in general. New Game! comes out at a very curious time: I’ve now been working full-time for a month now, and there is a surprising amount of content that I immediately relate to. I’m rather curious to see how New Game! steps through the developer cycle. In my experience, the art assets always are the keystone for development, since games make extensive use of them, so I definitely appreciate the value that 3D artists bring to a development team. New Game! has not presented itself as a social commentary, nor is it propaganda, and as such, what I look forwards to most is watching how Aoba becomes more at home with using Autodesk Maya and grows accustomed to the somewhat unorthodox life at Eagle Jump.