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Arnaud Contri / Norsfell


Arnaud Contri

Co-Founder/Art Director at Norsfell

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What is your expertise?

My main background is in illustration, then I explored pretty much all of the aspects of video game production. Starting as a small team, I had to produce very different types of assets such as particle systems and shaders. Today, it gives me the ability to better adjust the art direction to technical limitations. I also have to share the artistic and creative vision with my team to keep them aware of all challenges and get their feedback.

Why did you start a company?

After almost ten years in the video game industry, you learn a lot about many aspects of game production. And eventually, you wish to create your own games with your own methods and philosophy. Starting a company is the best way to achieve that.

What differentiate your company from others?

We researched a specific illustrative style that defines our visual identity and created a new game genre that brings people together. We also refined our own creative methods to involve the whole team in the process.

" YOU WISH TO CREATE YOUR OWN GAMES WITH YOUR OWN METHODS AND PHILOSOPHY "
Talk to me about your installations

We started in a co-working space, then changed for remote work due to Covid. We aspire to return to a studio in the near future once the situation will allow it, hence why we just signed a brand new lease to have our own office.

What are the qualities to be a good owner?

We do our best to inspire our team with effective work practices, friendly communications and interesting projects. We also want them to feel involved in the success of their creations. The more people feel satisfied with their work, the more they'll be proactive and proud of what they accomplish.

What would be a viable business model?

We’ve tried various business models since the beginning of the company, from F2P to premium games. They each have their own advantages and disadvantages, so it’s more a matter of choosing the right one for the right game.

Why did you start a company?

After almost ten years in the video game industry, you learn a lot about many aspects of game production. And eventually, you wish to create your own games with your own methods and philosophy. Starting a company is the best way to achieve that.

How do you keep yourself updated with all the new technologies?

Conferences and trainings are for sure very important. You need to be interested by what is being developed. It’s a very fast-growing industry and you don’t want to be outdated.

What’s your best investment so far?

Our current project was our best investment, because of all the risks and efforts we put into (including switching to a different game engine) and the partners we signed agreements with (Gearbox and Sony). Making video game projects as a small team is always a gamble, but we always try to put all the chances on our side.

`` WORK BALANCE IS REALLY IMPORTANT TO US ``
How many years did it take you to build a solid foundation?

It took 5 years to have an effective workflow and a solid core team.

What’s the hardest decision you’ve had to take as a company owner?

Making a move from mobile to PC games was very risky and uncertain for us. We sacrificed years of expertise and tools we developed, then spent months adapting to the PC game environment to build a new art pipeline.

How would you describe the industry today?

Very accessible for beginners and indies because of the low barrier of entry to powerful tools. But also very competitive due to large companies often redefining new standards and the sheer number of games coming out each year.

What do you think is lacking in this field in general?

Lack of experience of challenges and pragmatism. When you start, you think you can easily achieve ambitious goals then you realize reality requires more time to master good practices.

How do you deal with problematic employees?

Discussing with them about the issues, giving them a chance to improve their behavior. Annual evaluations are also a way to compare the changes and notice improvements.

Where do you see your company in 5 years from now?

Building on the success of previous projects, pushing the quality of our games further and keeping our studio as a fantastic place for creation.

What do you think is the most complicated when setting up a company?

In the game industry, people often start companies because they want to make their own games. The challenge is that, not only do you have to learn to do this, you also have to learn what running a business entails. This includes hiring the right people, choosing the appropriate tools, fundraising and of course, a lot of administrative work.

How do you deal with difficult clients?

We are lucky to not have to deal with difficult clients since we decided to work on our own projects. If I try to remember my worst interaction with clients in the past, I’d say you have to clearly define the contract with boundaries to protect you from any kind of disagreement.

What’s your suggestions to students who want to break up in the industry?

Learn the basics of your future position, train yourself with personal projects, participate in challenges to know your strengths. And make a good portfolio.

What motivates you to wake up every morning?

Making the best video game I can with my team. Also discovering new visual effects, polishing old content and improving my workflow.

What inspires you the most?

Talented artists who produce new creative ideas and aesthetics. Also non-artists who show their determination to achieve technologic feats and push us to challenge ourselves.

Describe one of your days

As an art director, I have to sync with other leads to know what the weekly objectives are. Then I make sure artists have everything they need to work and I start working on my own tasks. It can be making research or documentation, producing visual content, solving technical issues or improving old content.

How many hours do you work per week?

Work balance is really important to us, that’s why we stick to the 40h/week rule for our employees. Of course when you’re a co-founder, there’s always work to be done.

How would you describe your management style?

I try to give the most information and tools to people to make them autonomous. I let people work with their own workflow and only give them pieces of advice if I see some weaknesses or mistakes. I believe that people work better with their own rules, so I try to keep more of an advisor position so as to not constrain their creativity.

How do you manage your balanced work-personal life ?

My work is clearly separated from my personal life with classic office hours, so it’s pretty straightforward.

You’re working on your own IP. How did it start? Where did you get the inspiration for your idea?

You pick an idea you like more than others, and you challenge this idea with other people to test its viability from a technological and market perspective. Inspiration for an artist comes from exploring the world and other creations. As a curious person, I feed my brain with many pictures, readings and researches. You can find inspiration for a game in any kind of thing, from a movie you saw to a holiday in an exotic place.

What’s the biggest challenge when working with your partners?

Trying to understand their point of views and share the same vision on projects and workflows.

How did you get funded? How did you find your business partners?

We raised funding from an incubator, then more from work-for-hire, governmental creative funds, industry contests as well as partnerships. My business partners are ancient teammates, we used to work together on several projects in the industry before deciding to begin our own company.

`` YOU'LL HAVE TO DEAL WITH MANY CHANGES AND CHALLENGES ALONG YOUR ADVENTURE ``
What would be your suggestion to artists who want to work for your company?

Start to build a good portfolio to show your strengths. Train yourself on personal projects that look like what you’ll be asked for in the industry. Companies need guarantees of your skills and knowledge. The portfolio is the best way to convince a recruiter.

How do you promote your company?

Our two community managers take care of social media and produce content to show our creation. We also participate in video games conventions, give talks and interact a lot with our Discord community.

What’s your best advice for someone who wants to start their own company?

Find the right people to work with, it seems obvious, but you'll have to deal with many changes and challenges along your adventure. People can be very motivated at first, but months of struggling can affect their mood and engagement. Also don’t give up even after a huge defeat. you often need to fail to better understand the right way of doing things. Success can take many years to build, but it’s worth the effort.

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Marieve Pilon
marieve [at] 3dqub.ca

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info3dqub [at] gmail.com

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