From Aspiring Game Artist to CEO of a Successful Outsourcing Studio - By Bryce Szandro.
5 min read

From Aspiring Game Artist to CEO of a Successful Outsourcing Studio - By Bryce Szandro.

Never in my life I've met someone with their feet on the ground like Bryce. Every time I speak to him it seems like I'm speaking with the sweetest and most understanding part of myself. Today, he will tell us his story.
From Aspiring Game Artist to CEO of a Successful Outsourcing Studio - By Bryce Szandro.

Over the years, many people have wondered how I ended up running a successful outsourcing business. In all honesty, it’s been a long journey, and I’m still currently walking the path.

If I could say what my starting point was, I was just 6 years old. My parents gifted me an Xbox for Christmas, and the first game I played was Brute force. Once I started playing, I knew this was what I wanted for a career, and who knew it would put me on the course for where I am today.

Flash forward to when I was 14 playing around in UDK (Unreal Development Kit), or basically, Unreal Engine 3. The 3D community wasn’t anywhere as big as it is today, I was playing around with pre-built Unreal Tournament models and maps, but I wanted to figure out how to build my own stuff.

I searched through the internet and stumbled upon the Polycount forums, a community of 3D and 2D artists making content for games. Little did I know at the time these guys would be my mentors and some of my closest longtime friends.

I would sit on Polycount google hangout calls every night after school and on weekends instead of doing my homework. I was obsessed with learning and improving my skills.

The guys on the group would give tutorials and feedback, and over time, I started to improve my skills, and games started to feel like a realistic career path.

I had many people tell me in school I was stupid or crazy for wanting to work in games. Teachers would discourage me and tell me to be realistic about my aspirations. It never stopped me, though, and I stayed the course and believed in myself to succeed.

This was everything I wanted at the time.

Once school was over, I was working in a call center for a telecommunications company. Every day was literally mental torture. I didn’t let it stop me though, this only compounded my drive to work in this amazing industry.

Eventually, I saved up enough money to travel to LA and attend the Zbrush summit to meet other artists and learn more skills. I then flew to Montreal to meet with industry friends. I got to meet many of the artists that I idolized at the time, and it was surreal.

Before leaving, I also had a job offer with an Arch viz firm in Melbourne, a 3-hour flight away from my hometown, Townsville, North Queensland. Essentially after that holiday, I kept my bags packed and moved straight onto Melbourne to get to work.

We were tasked with building interactive 3D home walkthroughs in VR for first homeowners. It allowed them to see what the final product of their dream homes was. It was a great opportunity for a young guy trying to get his foot in the door.

Additionally, I started to take on more and more freelance work. I was busy and tired. I knew I didn’t want to be in Arch Viz forever, as making games was always my goal. I was eventually making enough to supplement my current salary, plus, no local game studios were doing any work that interested me so I decided to move back home to pursue freelance full-time.

When I moved back, I just worked and worked, mainly for small indie studios and Outsourcing companies at the time. I slowly started to get a name for myself.

I started to attend conferences regularly in Australia and overseas. By doing this, I managed to get many high-paying clients and work opportunities by flying out and building relationships.

A year after I started freelancing, I met Andrew Price, aka the Blender Guru.

Andrew contacted me a couple of weeks after attending the CG Futures conference to work with him. I told him I didn’t want to be an employee but a contractor. I was adamant. I wanted to work for myself, pursue other freelance work, stay home in Townsville, and not move again to Brisbane.

He accepted my terms, and we worked together for 12 months. I learned a lot from Andrew, and I’d say he is someone I have a lot of respect and admiration for. I learned a lot about running a remote team from him and his team.

Andrew also taught me a lot about being successful in entrepreneurship. I would question decisions he made at the time, and only now do I understand why. I’m currently in a similar position to him now, so things make a lot more sense now looking back.

I would personally like to thank him for the opportunity to work for him if he ever reads this. You’ve taught me so much, even if you don’t know it.

While I worked with the team at Polligon, things started happening in the background at Next-Gen. I had bigger jobs coming in and started bringing on other artists to assist me. I needed to make sure I protected my income from Poliigon while getting my business off the group.

I started hiring friends to do the work. That’s when Next-Gen started to form. Eventually, we had our first AAA client, Take-Two.

We were tasked to work with Ghost Story Games, Ken Levine’s team, which created Bioshock. This was a huge break for us. We made it to AAA status, and I had to lead my team all the way from my bedroom in Australia.

Poliigon eventually shut down its modeling department and focused on just textures. Consequently, it meant our modeling team was made redundant. In a way, it came at the perfect time. I could focus on building Next-Gen full-time.

I started bringing in more work and more projects to help us grow and build revenue.

Today, I have built a company that hires over 14 staff internationally and in Australia. We are young, hungry, and ambitious, all of this in 4 years at 24 years old.

I had so many challenges over those years and still have many more things I want to accomplish. I feel privileged to work in this industry; it has given me so much.

This industry has allowed me to purchase my first home, travel overseas, and meet many exceptional developers, executives, and creatives.

Well, what's next for Next-Gen, then? I honestly wish I could share that with you all, but right now, all I can say is the future looks bright!

To conclude I want to thank a few people.

Firstly, Javier Benitez, you were an amazing team member, and it was a privilege to work with you. Also, thank you for having me share my life story with the game art world.

Secondly, my longtime friends Shawnell Priester, Ryan McMahon, and Anthony Brun, thanks for supporting me through this journey. Just look how far we’ve come!

Lastly, Bosko Ognjevic and Victor Ramos, you guys help me make the magic happen behind the scenes, and I know we’re going to do amazing things moving forward.

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