Graduate Megan Shepherd on working with one of the world’s biggest video game publishers
Ubisoft Leamington is part of French video game publisher Ubisoft Entertainment SA, one of the biggest and best known games developers across the world. Ubisoft employs more than 21,000 people at over 45 international development studios. Its video game franchises include Assassin's Creed, Far Cry, For Honor, Just Dance, Prince of Persia, Rabbids, Rayman, Tom Clancy's, and Watch Dogs.
In her new role at Ubisoft, Megan is working on the recently announced Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora, due to be released on 7 December 2023 for PS5, Xbox Series X|S, PC, and Amazon Luna. Based on the world of the Avatar films, including the highest-grossing film of all time, this first-person action-adventure is one of 2023’s most highly-anticipated games.
Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora – Official World Premiere Trailer | Ubisoft Forward
With a passion for video games and games development, Megan Shepherd graduated from Arts University Plymouth in 2018 with a First Class degree in BA (Hons) Game Arts (now BA (Hons) Animation & Games). During her studies she specialised by working as a level artist for 3D game worlds, initially focused on creating real-time 3D environments for Unreal Engine.
As part of her degree Megan participated in the Euranim video-mapping project, taking part in collaborative video-mapping workshops at Howest University College in Kortrijk, Belgium. Working alongside other students from Arts University Plymouth, Megan worked to project animations across the city of Lille, France, in the Video Mapping Festival #1, which attracted around 80-thousand visitors to the city. Following on from this, Megan was also part of the team from the arts university who projected work onto the buildings of Plymouth’s historic Royal William Yard as part of the Illuminate festival.
For her final major project at Arts University Plymouth, Megan created ‘The Hollow’, a fully-immersive 3D level environment utilising assets created in ZBrush, Autodesk 3ds Max, and SpeedTree, then textured using Photoshop, Substance Painter and Substance Designer. Before joining Arts University Plymouth, Megan completed a Foundation Diploma in Art & Design at The Henley College.
Prior to joining Ubisoft Leamington, Megan held roles working as a Games Tester helping games to achieve Xbox certification, and as Lead Game Artist (2D/3D) at Black Cat Entertainment. She also completed a placement at Industrial Light & Magic, learning about the pipeline for the VFX industry at the world’s leading visual effects company.
We sat down with Megan to find out more about her role at one of the world’s biggest video game publishers, how Arts University Plymouth gave her the confidence to talk to new people and try new things, and why opportunities for international collaboration during her degree gave her the experience to succeed in the games industry.
As an Art Technician, we work closely with the props artists, level artists, technical artists, and environment artists with optimisation of the assets within the game. We fix the bugs raised by QA and game testers and validate levels and landmarks within our game. We ensure that LODs are working correctly, fix broken meshes, collisions and textures and correct Room Data so the lighting and audio teams work is not affected when a character walks through a scene. Alongside my main role I also run the Art Social Club, I am part of the Charity Committee and I am also on the Creativity & Innovation team. I promote these within the studio and help to arrange events including our summer and winter game jams in Leamington and Newcastle.
Tom Clancy's The Division 2. Image copyright: Ubisoft
The best advice I can offer you is to take every opportunity you can whilst you’re studying. I basically pestered my course leader, Martial Bugliolo, to let me go on all the trips. Ask him, I imagine I was annoyingly enthusiastic! It was 100% worth it. I was able to experience things such as Euranim and Illuminate, made games across Europe and collaborated with people in various other specialisms. Secondly, try to go to FMX and EGX if you can. Meet people, learn about their journeys and get them to look at your portfolio.
Third is to keep trying and never give up. It can be tough to get into the industry, it can be overwhelming and take time. It took me three years of working on indie games in my own time with a startup to get the experience I needed. I also completed a placement at Industrial Light & Magic. All of these helped me get to where I am today.
Finally, keep updating your portfolio after you graduate. You need to keep fresh. If you learn software like Blender for 3D or Procreate for 2D, all those skills are transferable. Show your strongest work, stuff that makes you proud.
Starlink: Battle for Atlas. Image copyright: Ubisoft
All of the trips around Europe as part of my course. I got to visit Stuttgart, Germany for FMX, Kortrijk and Lille for Euranim, and of course helping each year with the Illuminate Festival in Plymouth. I was very shy and quite anxious when I first started, but Arts University Plymouth built my confidence up to talk to people and gave me the courage to try new things.
I am currently working on an incredible title but I can’t let you know the name of it yet! In future I hope to continue my work within AAA games, helping to produce impressive titles.
BA (Hons) Animation & Games at Arts University Plymouth is a future-facing degree that equips students with the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed in industry roles across the fields of film, television, video games, online content, VFX, motion graphics and VR.
In Arts University Plymouth’s state-of-the-art multimedia studio environment, students can explore a full range of drawing, modelling, editing, rendering, and scripting techniques, gaining access to unrivalled opportunities to take a multi-faceted view of the animation and games world.
With estimates that there will be over three billion active gamers worldwide in 2023 and that the world market for gaming will be worth over £438 billion by 2030 and the world market for animation worth over £422 billion by the same year, there’s never been a better time to study BA (Hons) Animation & Games. To find out more, visit the next Undergraduate and Postgraduate Open Day on Saturday 24 June or get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange a conversation with one of our expert academics about how to get started.