Kwalee Quiz – Jay Lytwynenko

Its time for another Kwalee Quiz! Artist, Jay Lytwynenko, gives advice to students and talks about the retro games she loved as a child.

What is your first gaming memory?

The first thing I played was Through the Trapdoor on the Commodore 64. It came out in 1986, but I played it later on, when I was only 4 years old! I remember playing it with my brother. Through the Trapdoor was one to behold. It was pixel perfect! Then we moved on to the Atari system playing Paperboy and Gauntlet; retro, old-school games.  We played Winter Games for the Atari too. It had a skiing mode where you had to dodge through flags. We used to compete for the top score, which was as close as I came to multiplayer in those days!

What made you want to work in the video game industry?

My career has always been driven by animation. I wanted to work in film because of the cartoons that I watched when I was growing up. My dad was a sign writer, skilled with calligraphy and other techniques. I suppose I got my gift from him! After my animation degree it was harder to find a job in this industry than I originally thought. I’ve always been a gamer and admired the industry so I made a natural move into game development.

What did you study at university?

I studied for a BA in Animation at the North East Wales Institute (now Glyndŵr University). I studied there for 3 years and graduated with a 2:1. Afterwards, I moved to Aberdeen in Scotland to do an MA in Games Art & Animation at the University of Abertay in Dundee, but they offered me a place on a more prestigious course and paid for my tuition for the MProf in Games Development. This taught me all of the skills needed to make it in the games industry, including having to make 3 games in one year. It was very stressful but it was a valuable experience!

Jay and her tablet

What advice would you give to someone who wants to become an artist in the video game industry?

Draw! A lot! Even if you are just a school kid who dreams of being an artist. I wanted to be a vet originally because whenever I told people I wanted to be an artist, or create cartoons, I would get “the look.” People didn’t think I was being realistic. I decided to prove those people wrong. If you are determined enough and talented enough you can achieve whatever you want. Practice makes perfect. Human anatomy and modelling are both really important, but be diverse in everything that you do. I can’t stress that enough!

What is your favourite video game and why?

The Legend of Zelda series! Some people don’t like its repetitive stories and mechanics, but I believe that great games have good mechanics that are used successfully. If a feature works well, why replace it with something different? Build upon it. Players love the Zelda mechanics in the same way that others love the Super Mario series. Both are iconic and extremely successful. That says a lot seeing as Zelda started out the year after i was born! Maybe its fate that i am such a big fan. I can scare people with my obsession!

What is your gaming pet peeve?

Art that is not of a high quality. I hate it when you can tell that a game has been rushed. If you aim for high quality in development you get much better results. A lot of people play a game and comment on the graphics because they are the first thing you notice. A game has to play well, but it also needs to look good. If you ship a game with fun mechanics but that looks rushed it is likely to fail. Kill bad graphics with fire!

How did you come to work at Kwalee?

I was finishing my MA and also working on some contract and freelance work for a few mobile developers. I was looking for full time work and saw an article about Kwalee and David Darling on GamesIndustry.biz. While up late one night, at about 3am I think, I decided to apply for a job!. I didn’t think it would go anywhere but I was invited for an interview and, to my surprise, got the job!

Jay's desk

Jay's desk is messy, but functional!

What is your favourite thing about working at Kwalee?

Not the ping pong table! The people are fantastic. We have a great team with a mixture of skills including some industry legends and some graduates. People have different experiences to bring to the creative process. We have a nice sized team too. The idea of a massive team seems bewildering, but our’s is a lot smaller. Everybody knows each other and we all make the tea occasionally! Its nice to walk through the office and have a chat with your boss about something silly…like cheese. Its great!

Who do you think will be the first to beat David Darling in Kwalee Table Tennis?

Me! I’m the dark horse! I’ve been secretly training after office hours.