Virtuos Insider: Reflecting on a year of progress and milestones
Representatives from four Virtuos studios share favorite memories and upcoming plans.
This article is part of Virtuos Insider, a series of interviews where Virtuosi shares about their careers and experiences in the company and video game industry at large. In this installment, we chat with representatives from four studios about their favorite memories, and how much their teams have grown since their studios joined Virtuos over a year ago.
As Virtuos charts its course through innovation and expansion, we proudly celebrate the one-year milestone of four Virtuos studios this year. We spoke with the studios’ representatives to learn about their growth over the past year and their 2024 plans:
- Le Thi Chau Minh, Art and Resource Manager at Glass Egg – a Virtuos Studio (Glass Egg joined Virtuos on 19 May 2022)
- Marianne Calva, Senior Producer at Virtuos Labs – Montpellier (The studio was launched on 26 Oct 2022)
- Mike Samsonov, Studio Technical Director at Virtuos Kuala Lumpur (The studio was launched on 12 Aug 2022)
- Valdimir Loban, General Manager of Volmi – a Virtuos Studio ( Volmi joined Virtuos on 26 Jan 2022)
Please introduce yourself and share a fun fact about your studio!
Minh Le: I’m the Art and Resource Manager at Glass Egg. I have been working at the studio since 2005, starting out as a junior 2D Artist. One fun fact about Glass Egg is that many of our longest-serving employees have been with the studio even before Virtuos was founded.
Marianne: I’m a Senior Producer and the Associate Studio Manager of Virtuos Labs – Montpellier. I joined Virtuos a few months before the opening of the Montpellier studio and was working at Virtuos Lyon. The experience was very useful as I was able to bring over everything I learned about the different internal processes as a producer. But most of all, I already knew many Virtuosi when I moved over to Montpellier, and that was priceless. Our core team of three members shared a small office initially, and when we had our very first coffee machine, it felt like proof to us that “okay, now it’s going to be for real!”
Mike: I am a Studio Technical Director at Virtuos Kuala Lumpur, and was stationed at Black Shamrock – a Virtuos Studio prior to this. I have worked in three Virtuos studios so far; each place is unique by local fusion, yet unified by the same ideals at Virtuos. Virtuos Kuala Lumpur is in a nice area surrounded by many IT companies, which helps to foster local tech meetups and nurture the tech community. On my second day in the studio, I attended an Unreal meet-up where many interesting people (including Epic Games employees) did a presentation on Unreal Engine. It was a really enriching experience for me.
Vladimir: I’m the General Manager of Volmi. Founded in 2016, our journey began with humble beginnings, focusing on creating art for hidden object games. We’ve evolved and honed our expertise over the years, and today, we stand as specialists in crafting exceptional content for AAA games.
Looking back on your studio’s first year with Virtuos, what has been the most memorable for you?
Marianne: The first weekend when all three Virtuos studios in France met up was a huge thing for us in Montpellier. It was the first time most of us were meeting members from other studios in person, and the event reinforced the feeling of belonging to a much larger group.
Minh Le: The most memorable moment for me was attending the global town hall meeting for the first time. Hearing about the growth of Virtuos, which I had just become a part of, I felt a great sense of pride and excitement to learn and discover many new things in this new journey.
Vladmir: What stood out to me was the unwavering support from Virtuos since day one of our integration period. To successfully complete initial projects, collaboration is key, and Virtuos formed a working group that provided invaluable assistance in navigating new processes and systems. This ensured a smooth transition into the next phase of game development, and also highlighted our collective ability to deliver high-quality content for AAA games.
Mike: Personally, the people in our studio are the most memorable to me. Everyone is so smart and talented. Given that Malaysia is a melting pot of cultures, everyone is exposed to both western and eastern cultures, and hence, there is a great mix of ideas and diversity. Some of them are like unprocessed diamonds, and with small polishing – they shine!
Could you elaborate on your studio’s expertise?
Marianne: Virtuos Labs – Montpellier focuses mainly on engineering solutions and building new features and tools for proprietary engines. We are also expanding our R&D team, which is dedicated to providing solutions to increase Virtuos teams’ productivity. Some of these solutions may also be proposed to our clients upon completion.
Mike: Virtuos Kuala Lumpur was established as a world-building studio that houses concept artists, environment and character artists, technical artists, and level designers. As we shifted into a full-fledged co-development studio since our official launch, our expanding engineering and design departments have allowed us to work on larger projects. Our current focus is on Unreal Engine 5 (UE5) projects, and we are developing expertise in all areas related to game development using UE5.
Vladimir: Since joining Virtuos, our studio has achieved significant growth in AAA expertise. We successfully launched a mobile game department, and were also involved in opening an engineering studio in Warsaw. These strategic moves underscore our commitment to innovation and excellence in crafting exceptional gaming experiences across platforms.
Minh Le: Glass Egg has always had expertise in art production. And since we joined Virtuos , I’ve witnessed a positive jump in our team’s capability after being exposed to group knowledge-sharing and partnership opportunities. Through sharing sessions with our colleagues worldwide, we have enhanced our art and technical skills, while gaining valuable communication and organizational skills by collaborating with other studios. I look forward to many more opportunities to grow together and contribute to Virtuos’ advancement in the future.
For Mike and Marianne, how has your experience been with building teams from scratch?
Mike: We are one of the few companies in Malaysia that hire programmers for game development. Within the first month of our launch, we received over 300 CVs, and I had to read them all. I specifically asked the recruiting department to give me unfiltered access to all CVs so that I could understand each person and help determine the ones most suited for the roles we are hiring for. We primarily look for game development skills, motivation, learning speed, critical thinking, and gaming experience, those are minimum requirements. All other traits and features are a plus.
“One year on, we look to continue expanding our engineering, design, and technical art departments to build up a full-fledged studio capable of producing games end to end while working with clients on co-development projects.”
Marianne: When it comes to hiring, we have always paid great attention to two criteria.
“Firstly, developers must have an extremely high interest in technology. As they will be engine programmers, they must have a stronger interest in technology rather than gameplay.”
Secondly, we prioritize soft skills. Every employee should be a good team player, with a strong positive and open mind. This is non-negotiable to us, and this has helped build strong rapport and spirit in general at the studio. Due to our studio’s specialization, we only have engineers and producers in the team, and many of our junior developers started here as interns! We’re happy to have several very good schools around Montpellier, and look forward to future partnerships to inspire more students to join the games industry.
For Minh Le and Vladimir, what has your team’s experience been collaborating with other Virtuos studios on projects?
Vladimir: Our team’s collaboration with other Virtuos studios has been both diverse and rewarding. We supported our European game studios with art capabilities, contributing our creative expertise to enhance their projects, and also played a crucial role in onboarding new teams from our sister studios for certain projects. This dynamic collaboration not only demonstrated our adaptability but also the strength of the Virtuos network, which has an environment where expertise seamlessly converges for the success of each project.
Minh Le: Currently, we are actively collaborating with our sister studios on five to six projects, and everything is going well so far. We have learned plenty about how to effectively communicate, project manage, and problem solve. We have also learned so much about art direction. While we can’t share any project titles we are working on currently, we’re excited to see them go live upon release.
What key industry insight has stood out to you the most in 2023, and what is one trend to look out for in 2024?
Vladimir: In 2023, the most prominent industry trend that captured our attention was the breakthrough in AI-supported art creation. Looking ahead, I anticipate the continued evolution and more extensive integration of AI into video game creation pipelines. The potential for even greater efficiency and creativity in our field is exciting.
Marianne: This year, we can see Unreal Engine confirming its dominant position faster than expected. It is exerting its stronghold not only for large projects, but also in smaller-scale endeavors, marking it a noteworthy trend. On the consumer side, the recent popularity of the latest version of Steam Deck will be the perfect gift for Christmas!
Mike: Apart from the remarkable growth in areas such as neural networks and generative content tools.
“I am pleased to see how the games industry is collaborating more with the film industry this year. The usage of powerful engines like UE5 has allowed developers to blur the edges between gameplay and cinematics.”
This is one of my childhood dreams that gameplay looks exactly like marketing trailer or disk’s cover for the game, and we now have the technologies to support it. I believe we will continue to see more of this next year. Game design should keep up with technology; we should see bigger and more complex game worlds that can reach people through different channels.
Minh Le: Gaming has grown exponentially in recent years from a pastime into a global cultural phenomenon. It is no longer seen as just a form of entertainment, but also a driving force behind technological innovation and a channel for social interaction worldwide. What impressed me the most was Nanite’s fascinating performance in UE5. The demo by Epic Games was fascinating and looked like the first big blockbuster to revolutionize gaming. This proved the capabilities of UE5 and will help both AAA and indie developers to optimize and enhance graphical output with Nanite, Lumen, and other features easily. It is dramatically faster across all levels of graphics quality and hardware, which makes its development something to look forward to.
Lastly, what are some upcoming plans for your studio next year?
Minh Le: We plan to expand our teams, such as the vehicle department, to align with the development of our sister studios. We look forward to welcoming more high-level talent in the next year, and partnering with many more universities to provide passionate students with educational support.
Marianne: Last year, when we presented our brand-new studio to students from the University of Montpellier, we said, “we have currently eight members, and we plan to be a team of 30 next year.” Reviewing our presentation this year, we have reached our goal! Our plan is to keep growing and attracting new talent passionate about technology and the games industry. Internally, we also want to reinforce R&D to disseminate our solutions to more projects at Virtuos and to our clients. We look forward to showcasing our solutions when it’s ready!
Vladimir: As we move into the next year, our studio is dedicated to two key pillars. Firstly, we are committed to the continuous growth of our art and engineering capacities. We aim to grow to not only meet, but exceed client expectations, ensuring that we provide top-notch service and contribute to the success of every project.
“Secondly, we are enthusiastic about investing more time and energy into educational programs, particularly with students. We believe in nurturing the next generation of talent, sharing our knowledge and expertise to contribute to the growth of the industry as a whole.”
These initiatives reflect our commitment to excellence, innovation, and long-term sustainability in our dynamic field.
Mike: We look forward to continue collaborating with our partners and sister studios to make better games, but also with universities and colleges to inspire and empower students interested in the games industry. We have exciting large projects on the horizon, and we expect more to come next year.
Thank you, Vladimir, Marianne, Mike, and Minh Le, for sharing your insights with us. As we head into 2024, we look forward to a year of continued innovation and success in making games better together!