An industry veteran with numerous Triple-A titles already to his credit, Kuprejanov spent 23 years at Rockstar Games with a focus on level design and building. But all that while, he marvelled over the work of the artists all around him, never once dreaming he’d ever learn the skills to step into their shoes.
That is, until he discovered Toronto Film School Online.
“I remember walking around the studios, always seeing the artists working on this stuff, and just being blown away. What I saw on their screens was an alien language to me,” he said.
“But now that I’ve gone through just one term (at TFSO), I can look at them now and go, ‘Oh, I know what that is now!’ It’s amazing to have that skill…I was terrified at first, but by the end of the term, I was really satisfied with what I was able to accomplish.”
For his term-long Texturing I project, Kuprejanov was tasked with adding textures to a blank-slate 3D model of a ‘Little Robot Granny’ – which, in simple terms, meant laying ‘graphical skins’ atop the model to give it surface detail, colour and texture.
More than satisfactory, Kuprejanov’s work on the project was deemed “impeccable” by Roxanne Resh, who awarded him a 100 per cent grade for his efforts – the first perfect score ever bestowed in the history of the Texturing I course she helped develop.
“I’ve had really nice projects before, but nothing as impressive as Sergei came up with. On all counts, it was fantastic – all the wear and the cracking and everything is just so subtly and beautifully done,” Resh said, praising the little details of Kuprejanov’s finished product, from the granny’s burnt-out eye, down to her powder-blue flowered shirt.
“You look at this character, and you really want to know what happened to her. What was her life like? Where did she get those scratches? Why is her leg not working? And this is the experience you should have looking at textures, with a lot of things really capturing your attention.”
What was perhaps most surprising to Resh about the high quality of Kuprejanov’s work was that, despite his impressive resume – which includes lead design and director credits on blockbuster games such as Red Dead Redemption II, Grand Theft Auto V and Max Payne 3 – he had never once touched texturing before.
“It’s true he had worked on very big Triple-A games, but not in any artistic capacity at all” she said. “In fact, he considers himself not artistic at all, but more technical, which I can kind of see, because his work is very into the nitty gritty.”
For Kuprejanov, the entire experience of going back to school to study Video Game Animation online has allowed him the opportunity to not only brush up on the skills he’s lacking, but also to rediscover the inner child who spent hours upon hours doodling Spiderman and completing little art projects on his Commodore 64.
“I kinda wanted to get back to my roots and reignite the passion I originally had for getting into video games in the first place, and you know what? It really has,” he said.
“I think the course is really challenging, but it teaches you a lot. And it’s really geared towards the video game industry, which is great.”
While Kuprejanov said he doesn’t see a huge artistic shift in his career path after graduation, he’s confident the animation, texturing and modelling skills he’s learning at Toronto Film School Online will help him moving forward – be it with grey-boxing or liaising with artists about the assets required for any given game.
“My passion is still towards working with narrative directors and working out the story missions, and designing and implementing them, so ultimately, I probably won’t be doing the nitty gritty art stuff,” he said.
“But at least now I can take it to where you can visualize what the theme is, what the vibe is and all that beyond the gameplay, which is really nice…so when I hand it back to the artists, they have a way better idea of what we’re thinking.”
Regardless of what path Kuprejanov decides to take, Resh said she’ll be watching on for more great things certain to come.
“What contributes to his success, particularly with this project, is just his tenacity and curiosity,” she said. “He takes everything to a whole new level.”