Interview with EA Motive’s Teo Yong Jin: How a Concept Artist Plays a Big Role in AAA Game Development

By Febrianto Nur Anwari

Learn from EA Motive’s senior concept artist Teo Yong Jin from his experience while involved in Star Wars Battlefront II project.

In this article, Teo Yong Jin shares his experience as a senior concept artist in EA Motive and how he brings Star Wars Battlefront II to life.

A concept artist plays a big role in the early game development process. They are responsible for creating a graphic concept of the game, ranging from the characters to the environments.

So that is what Teo Yong Jin does in his everyday work in EA Motive. Jin is a senior concept artist in a Canadian-based studio that was first founded by former Assassin’s Creed creator, Jade Raymond.

Jin graduated with a Film and Animation degree from Multimedia University Malaysia back in 2002. Since that, he has been dedicating his life to the game industry by joining some game companies, ranging from an indie studio in Malaysia, Ubisoft to EA Motive now.

Recently, he was involved in Star Wars Battlefront II project, a game that was developed by EA Motive with Criterion Games and EA DICE.

In this article, Gameprime.org got a chance to talk with Jin. Jin talked a lot about how his career began, what is he doing every day in EA Motive, and shares some insight about how to be a good concept artist, especially when you involved in an AAA game title that has a huge fan base around the world.

Please share a little bit about the beginning of your journey as a game developer, especially as a concept artist?

My journey as a game developer started in Malaysia circa 2001 when I interned with GamebrainsSdnBhd, a local games development company.  It was a big first step for me because I had always wanted to get into the industry, but being in Malaysia back then, we didn’t have many options. Naturally, I jumped on the opportunity and never looked back.

In retrospect, the experience with the team was invaluable because no one really knew how best to make games. We felt like pioneers, making mistakes, but learning from them as we went. It was really a trial by fire. It was both exhilarating and humbling at the same time – we got to push and expand our skills, but at the same time learned from the feedback on what we got right or wrong.

What is your first project in EA Motive? And what is your role at that time?

My first project with EA Motive was Star Wars Battlefront II. I was hired as a Senior Concept Artist and also contributed to building the Motive Studio. Prior to that, I had worked for Ubisoft and a few Indie studios.

Teo Yong Jin Interview

Inferno Squad in Star Wars Battlefront II

In Star Wars Battlefront II, what is your role? What kind of job that you have done in this project?

My role in Star Wars Battlefront II was to help conceptualize the main characters for the single-player campaign, which is notably members of the Inferno Squad. They were the members of IdenVersio’s special forces team, namely Hask, Del, etc. I was also highly involved in environment concept, storyboarding and cinematic paint overs. You can find some sample of Battlefront II‘s work here.

Our Concept Artists team in the studio is highly polyvalent and we usually work together on multiple things; learning from and teaching one another. I can’t share much more at this point of time but do stay tuned for more news from Motive.

You can find some sample of my other works online https://www.artstation.com/jin_teo.

Teo yong jin concept artist interview

In your opinion, as an artist (or concept artist), what is the most important skill that an artist should have?

Communication and I cannot stress this enough. We don’t work as an island in the project, so to produce concept art that is valuable to the team, you will need to be able to clearly articulate your ideas, but also take others’ ideas into account when you are constructing your concept.

What is your biggest inspiration when starting to create something?

Life in general! I really love lurking on photography blogs, listening to podcasts, and consuming a lot of articles regarding topics that interest me. I also draw a lot of inspiration from my childhood experience, which is what makes my outlook on life different and inspires me to explore and share it with others.

How does it feel to work on an AAA game project with so many people involved? What is the lesson that you’ve learned from this?

It was a real privilege to have been part of Star Wars Battlefront II. It is surreal to realize that I had the opportunity to work on an IP as big and influential as Star Wars with some of the most experienced talent in the industry.

One of the greatest joys in game development for me is to see our ideas slowly take shape; from an idea to concept, from concept to an art asset, and finally a full-fledged game. One thing I’ve learned from this is to never stop learning. There is just so much to absorb in the industry that it is really easy to be overwhelmed and feel like an imposter sometimes.

As a concept artist, can you share some tips and trick about how to make a memorable character, especially in a game?

There is not one trick that works for everything, but I find that making the effort to understand the character in their own world and work out your visual language from there helps.

You need to allow the character to stand out from the pack but yet adhere to the artistic language of the world that you are creating.

During your career, what is the most memorable project for you? Why?

That would probably be Assassin’s Creed III. During this project, I had the privilege to assist in the art direction for the naval portion of the game. That whole section was conceptualized and created in the Singapore branch of the studio. It was a very challenging mandate, but in hindsight, I learned a lot from there. I believe we managed to create something that still resonates to this day.

Do you have any advice for our readers who want to be a great game artist, especially for those who want to involved in AAA game project?

Don’t just settle with being an artist. Be a game developer that uses visual art as your tool. Diversify your portfolio so it includes a nice range of environment, props, level, and character art.

The last question, what is your favorite and memorable game? Why?

My favorite game currently is The Binding of Isaac. It’s my lonely island game because there are no two runs that are the same with every playthrough.

The game that inspired me to really go head first into game making was the intro cinematics for Soul Blade. I know it’s weird to be inspired by cinematics, but I saw the potential of how a game could evolve, and that was what motivated me to be a part of this ever-evolving industry.

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Thanks for the time Jin!

Edited by Devi




About Writer

Febrianto is the Senior Editor of Duniaku.net and the Lead Editor of Gameprime.org. He started his career in game industry as a game journalist since 2008, and was one of the initial members of Duniaku.net since 2011. His biggest interest is local game developer scene. Currently, his mission is to spread the news about Indonesia’s game industry to both local and international game and creative industry’s enthusiast.