1: Hello who are you and what are you known for?
My name is Jussi Kemppainen and I am probably best known for my TD work on the Angry Birds Toons TV show and othe [sic] Angry Birds related productions.
In Finland I am known from my music video / VFX / motion graphics work.
I also worked on much of the cutscene vfx for Quantum Break and am now game director in a PC/console game project in stealth mode in a new startup.
2: How did you get your break into games?
My First foray into games was being part of a small modding team. We set out to create a mod that necer [sic] came into fruition but actually gained some international press coverage. Shortly after that I was hired by Antti Ilvessuo to produce 3D art for early Redlynx games.
3: Can you tell us a little about Finland and the dev scene for anyone considering moving to the country?
The Finnish dev-scene is absolutely booming. Most major cities have plenty of startups big and small looking to hire people at a pretty stable rate. Big studios are also always hiring as soon as you are good at what you do. There are perhaps not an abundance of open positions, but for capable people, work is pretty easy to come by.
4: You have worked in a number of fields from being a visiting lecturer at a university, to doing animation and VFX. How do those artistic fields differ, both in the type of work and also the work environments?
I think the biggest difference between games and live action and animation are the people. Naturally there is a bunch of overlap in each of them as technically savvy storytellers like me can pretty easily move from project to another, but the groups of people and professions that are around you can change drastically. For example grip crews, or actors are not so familiar in game productions. And programmers are not all that common in movies and animation. So the vibe of the environments are incredibly different.
I personally like film productions the best. I think there is something about spending an intense month or two with the film crew in various locations with ecery [sic] day being completely different!
Perhaps my second favourite position is teaching. Being able to aid other people on their path into finding themselves is super rewarding! And there is pretty much no responsibility for you. You just need to enable your students as much as possible. I also love telling people how to do stuff so there is that..
5: You have been involved in a number of start ups. What advice would you give to someone starting up for the first time? Anythings you have learned, or wish you had done differently?
There is not much I would do different. I have been pretty lucky with my enterprises.
For tips, I have no knowledge of raising funds, but one thing that can easily kill a startup is wrong people. Some people’s personalities just do not mesh. These conflicts are super important to try to solve. Bad hires can also be a thing that can bring a small company down. Be prepared to let people go if they potentially danger the whole operation, and when doing that do everything as honest and above the board as possible. In Finland you do not want to be locked in a legal battle with some union for years from a bad firing. Any technicality may tip it in the favour of the other guy.
It is also super important to give space for people. If you try to control everything too tight and micromanage, the rest of the crew will work slower and you will just be super stressed. Find out how much responsibilities you can share. After doing that, communicate often and set clear ownership areas for everyone so people know who is in charge of what. A project can be pretty de-centralized and advance beautifully as long as goals and ownerships are clear. It will take a while to figure out how to direct each person, but generally tasking someone to create 5 grass textures, 4 dirt textures and a rock set is a duller and less inspiring task than telling someone to figure out the best way to create a terrain texture set for a forest and complete the final textures by the next milestone. Problemsoving tends to get people going and you can focus on other stuff.
6: Which title in recent history has really pushed new boundaries in gaming with their art and VFX and why?
I think that Naughty Dogs titles such as Last of Us and Uncharted 4 have been especially big leaps for me graphically. Physically based shaders and other new rendering advances finally made me not hate 3D graphics. Naturally Quantum Break was big for me as part of the team I got to see it earlier on and it was the first proper next gen title I saw running and I was just stunned. Coming from a mobile background triple A console games were a surprising place where I could utilize my full skillset built making movie vfx and simpler games. I love it!
7: What was the worst review or gamer post you read about one of your projects? How do you react to that?
This is hard as I am always my worst enemy. Someone totally ripping a project I habe [sic] been on just makes me go ”yep, that’s right”.
Maybe the worst is when something is especially frowned upon that you tried to alert everyone during production and were just hushed aside. It is so much easier to handle your own mistakes than those of others. There are people I would not work again for any amount just because of situations like that.
That is why I try to listen to peoples opinions maybe a bit too far. When someone has a complaint, they may be on to something you are blind to or unaware of.
8: What are the worst mistakes you see from interns or fresh hires? Advice on how best to mentor them?
Not communicating. Maybe the worst is someone who after finishing a task sits idly by waiting for orders, who fail to report where they are going at by the end of the day. Actual money is lost every time someone is waiting.
9: Having worked for a number of companies, what has been the best office layout for you?
I am a huge fan of open offices. Offices where people freely mingle and listen to the same music from a stereo set and shout at each other from the other ends of the room. Shame that these offices tend to be once in a million. Throw in enough introverts and the party dream dies! I have been lucky to have worked in just such a paradise for almost 10 years at one point. We were super lucky and life long friendships and relationships and kids were born.
10: Finally……Any advice for your last boss?
Not much, but I am eager always to get more advice from him!
Thanks Jussi, for a great insight to running your own company, VFX and the Finnish game dev scene!
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