People-Oriented Workspace: Manticore Games on Their Workflow

Chris Santeramo, Manticore's Senior Producer talks about creative processes at the company and explains what Manticore Games are looking for when hiring new talents.

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My name is Chris Santeramo and I am the Senior Producer for the art team at Manticore Games. I studied art at Pratt Institute and have a Bachelor's degree in Animation from Expression College. I was a Lead Animator on The Sims 3 & 4, and an Animation Director and Feature Producer on FarmVille 2: Tropic Escape. I have been at Manticore for about 1.5 years. Overall, I have been in software & game development for about 20 years.

Being a Part of the Manticore Team

Our art team consists of 28 people not counting various vendors and their teams. Speaking of the background of our artists, most of them are veteran game developers with some film experience mixed in. But we also cultivate new talent and have a robust intern program. Many of our new bright stars were once interns.

Believe it or not, despite the number of games on Core, we do adhere to a single art style. Because we are building an endless arcade of games, the style was designed to complement the widest range of game genres. As far as forming visions for art assets goes, we use Core as a game asset sandbox because we can share it with the team for hands-on experience. Some of our features were developed by artists prototyping in Core.

But the most commonly used methods are 2D & 3D concepting for anticipating technical challenges and deciding the best user experience. Within the realm of concept, we have 3 main stages: Thumbnails, Design, and Previs. Thumbnails are black and white, quick, rough drawings for establishing the widest range of possibilities. Next is the design stage, where we refine a few directions with color and more detail. Next is the previs stage which serves as an illustration of the final design. Lastly, we make an ortho- or model sheet with detailed callouts.

Hiring Process at Manticore

When it comes to hiring new people, there is one crucial aspect we look at which is the ability to problem-solve and unblock oneself. This does not mean we expect people to plunge into the fray alone but to come to the table with a solution-oriented mindset as opposed to sitting back and being told what to do.

Our onboarding process follows a template but is customized for every part of the team. In addition to setting up software, it is expected that new recruits take the time necessary to read documentation, join Slack channels and play with the product. We usually assign a task meant to take an artist through the various stages and gates of a typical task for their role but with less deadline pressure. In the beginning, it is more important to acclimate than to hit a date.

Life at Manticore

As we like to say at Manticore, we are doing the best work of our lives. Personal and family health is the number one value at Manticore and we encourage our teams to take their health seriously. To alleviate work stress we encourage communication to balance workloads while still setting ambitious yet realistic goals. Also, Manticore offers physical wellness and leisure activities like moving and stretching, cooking how-to's, magic show, reptile show and tell, to name a few.

Speaking of how the company has been doing during the pandemic, working remotely has been challenging. The team rally cry is to over-communicate — do not assume your colleague has the same information as you. We have set up a lot more Slack channels than ever, social time meetings, and everyone is still getting used to muting, unmuting, troubleshooting headphones and mics. There has not been a silver bullet solution for working remotely together but we are committed to improving tools and processes. If you have ideas, we would love to hear them.

Chris Santeramo, Senior Producer at Manticore Games

Interview conducted by Arti Sergeev

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