Developer Spotlight: Melissa Altobello, Environment Art Lead
Can you give us a quick introduction about who you are and what you do at Crystal Dynamics?
Hi there, I'm Melissa Altobello and I'm currently an Environment Art Lead at Crystal! My incredibly talented teams and I get to work with gameplay, cinematics, and we dabble in menu art from time to time.
What games have you worked on both at Crystal Dynamics and other companies, and what was your role on those projects?
Since working at Crystal I've gotten to work on Marvel's Avengers, primarily on our post-launch content as Environment Art Lead! Before my time here, I worked as a Senior Environment Artist on Ghost of Tsushima, and before that I worked on Uncharted 2, Uncharted 3, Uncharted 4, and The Last of Us as a Materials Artist.
What led you to working in the video games industry?
I love working in games, but this wasn't what I sought out to do many years ago...unless you count that time when I was 15 and applied to Blizzard when a friend suggested I draw well enough to make games. My original "career intent" was to work in film, and I often fantasized about working on Harry Potter one day. When I graduated from Gnomon the first thing that came my way was some work for Battle: Los Angeles. It was short pre-production work that was exciting and terrifying. While I was jamming away, trying to fulfill my filmic dreams I got a call about doing an art test for Naughty Dog. That test changed everything, and while I knew nothing about making video games, they took a chance on this eager youngster, and I never looked back.
What's your earliest gaming memory?
I can't recall if my earliest gaming memory involves playing World Games on an Apple II GS or rocking out on Advanced Dungeons and Dragons huddled around an Atari wondering why the dragon looked like a seahorse, but both are memories that I look back on fondly.
What do you wish everyone knew about game development?
Hmm...is it wrong to say, "that it's hard"? Lol. This has literally been my mantra for years, and whenever we are stuck and need to just take a breath, I utter "making games is hard" to those around me. It is really hard, but fun, and of course, incredibly rewarding. When everything comes together and you're in a room with a handful of other developers and you solve a giant problem it's like watching fireworks go off.
What is your favorite thing about working at Crystal Dynamics?
My favorite thing about working at Crystal is the people. I swear I'm not copying someone else's test on this. The people I've met here are awesome and were incredibly welcoming from the very beginning. I was at least moderately nervous when I set foot in the door at Crystal Northwest knowing I was one of only a handful of artists there. It wasn't long though before I was playing games at lunch and chatting with my new pals over bagels or ice cream at one of our social events. Even though we are all working from home now, we still get to jump into social calls on zoom and catch up on the latest with each other!
Can you give our community a hint at something fun you're currently working on?
Hmmm, how to give a hint about what I'm working on without getting slapped on the wrist...well, I will say this, I think the world will love it. Does that count?
If you could give a prospective Crystal Dynamics employee one bit of advice, what would it be?
Just get here already! Ok, but seriously, apply, be yourself, be honest, and ask all the questions! We're ready for you just as you are, so show us that!
Who are your heroes?
It's probably weird to say that this is a hard question, probably the hardest on the list. For me, it's more of an abstract concept, that maybe we all have inside ourselves. If you got out of bed on a day where you felt the weight of the world on your chest...you're a hero to me. If you ever put someone else's needs above your own, that's a heroic moment. Did you lift someone up when they were down, cuddle a scared animal, spend an afternoon picking up trash, work at the food bank, say I love you first, smile at a stranger, cheer someone on, save a kid from monsters under the bed, do something even though it was scary...then you're all heroes to me.
Anything you want to say to our community?
You're all awesome. Seeing people enjoy our products is why we are here. Watching some of our players doing combos with our heroes that I wouldn't have even thought to do is legitimately thrilling. But I'd mainly just want to say thank you to everyone who ever picked up one of our games and gave it a shot, even if you didn't love it. The one thing none of us can get more of is time, and it means a lot when someone spends some of that time engaging with something we've made.