What differentiates Akil Dawkins from other PC game designers is discretion. Rather than following the latest trends, he takes on projects that he can immerse himself in throughout the entire design process.
“I don’t try to keep up with design trends in the video game industry,” said Dawkins, lead game artist at Stardock Entertainment, a PC software company in Plymouth, Michigan. “A lot of visual styles come and go, but I always try to make assets that are fun for me to create and work well for the projects’ visual styles and time constraints.
“I have to be inspired by the project. That’s the most important part. There’s no way I could spend three years doing artwork for a type of game I had no interest in.”
Since he was hired at Stardock in 2005, Dawkins has worked on “Galactic Civilizations 2,” “Galactic Civilizations 2: Dark Avatar,” “Galactic Civilizations 2: Twilight of the Arnor” and “Elemental: War of Magic” (to be released later in 2010). Two of his games were among the Metacritic.com list of Top 10 PC Games.
As a lead game artist, Dawkins is responsible for setting up the company’s game pipeline and scheduling of 3D assets.
“My job involves a lot of trouble shooting, problem solving and decision making,” explained Dawkins. “There are usually four other game artists working on a project, and I’m the one who makes sure that nothing breaks down on the art side. I spend about 60 percent of my time actually making the assets and 40 percent dealing with other issues. Right now most of my artwork tends to be character modeling and texturing.”
Dawkins considers his break into the video game industry to be his greatest professional accomplishment (so far).
“Getting into games can be tough without any experience, and it took a lot of work and self teaching to get a video game portfolio together to make the transition,” Dawkins said.
Prior to his career at Stardock, the designer worked at Bluewater in Southfield for over a year. His projects were mostly technical—modeling car parts and making shaders in Maya. Before that he worked at J.W. Thompson as a design intern doing “a lot of spray mounting” and Adobe Illustrator cleanup work. These experiences taught him about the exactness of design, craftsmanship and the creative process involved in a team environment; but it was the exposure to multiple software programs and facets of 3D modeling he received as a student that have made his career shine.
“CCS’ well-rounded curriculum enabled me to improve my technique across several 3D areas,” said Dawkins. “I’ve had to do vehicle renderings, character animation, video game textures, motion desktops and motion graphics. If my education would have been more narrowly focused, I wouldn’t have been able to do all of the different types of projects I’ve taken on. It’s this diverse skill set that makes me valuable
- Stardock Entertainment
- Lead game artist