Principal Character Artist – The Initiative

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Job Description

The Initiative is looking for an experienced

Principal Character Artist

to join our team. In this role, you will partner with the Art Director and Lead Character Artist to establish high artistic standards and techniques in alignment with the game vision. You will also help drive our character creation process while defining and maintaining a high-quality bar in bringing a cast of characters to life.

At the core of The Initiative, we’re about craft, storytelling, and looking ahead to the next big thing. We seek to shape the future of narrative-driven games by leveraging the most innovative tech and talent this industry has to offer. We value original, perseverant thinkers & doers who can come together as a cohesive team, capable of creating genre-defining games by being stronger than the sum of its parts.

We welcome talent from a wide range of backgrounds both in and out of the games industry and we strive to create a respectful, inclusive environment where you can bring your best self and do your best work.

On Team Perfect Dark, the multi-studio development team reimagining the sci-fi action-adventure game Perfect Dark, we’re seeking collaborative problem solvers who are eager to work with this franchise. When you join Team Perfect Dark, you join a group of developers across internal and external studios who have contributed to some of the most celebrated, critically acclaimed properties recognized for their excellence and cutting-edge technology, visuals, gameplay, and narrative.

The Initiative, headquartered in Santa Monica and fully distributed, is a Microsoft Xbox Game Studio. This is a once-in-a-career opportunity to join a studio with a great work-life balance and a talented, inclusive team working on the rebirth of the beloved, critically acclaimed franchise, Perfect Dark.



  • Partner with the Art Director and Lead Character Artist to establish high artistic standards and techniques in alignment with the game vision
  • Collaborate with technical art and engineering teams to ensure characters are built to high technical standards
  • Create characters through the entire development pipeline, from high resolution sculpts to final game assets
  • Provide coaching, mentorship, and training to other character artists
  • Demonstrate a willingness to give and receive feedback, collaborate with others to share techniques, ideas, and contribute to a positive working environment that focuses on both implementation and experimentation


Required/Minimum Qualifications

  • Bachelor’s Degree or Certificate in Design, Fine Arts, Human Computer Interaction, Visual Communications or related art field AND 4+ years experience in art design or a related art field working on computer games or entertainment
  • OR equivalent experience.
  • 4+ years of experience as an artist specializing in creation of characters using Maya, Photoshop, Substance Painter, Zbrush or Mudbox

Additional Or Preferred Qualifications

  • Experience creating detailed and high-quality characters
  • Experience solving complex technical issues, including real-time rigging, skinning, rendering, surfacing, and budgets to ensure content is optimal for performance.
  • In-depth knowledge of material/shader development and experience with Substance Designer/Painter or equivalent software
  • Experience with art production, scan data, outsourcing, and AAA game development
  • Collaborative style with the skills and interest in mentoring, leading, and directing
  • Excellent understanding and demonstrated experience of anatomy, form, and silhouette
  • Proficient knowledge of character modeling and surfacing workflows

Submission / Portfolio requirements

  • Portfolio and / or reel demonstrating relevant artistic skills
  • Only digital / online artwork submissions will be accepted

Art IC5 – The typical base pay range for this role across the U.S. is USD $112,000 – $218,400 per year. There is a different range applicable to specific work locations, within the San Francisco Bay area and New York City metropolitan area, and the base pay range for this role in those locations is USD $145,800 – $238,600 per year.

Microsoft has different base pay ranges for different work locations within the United States, which allows us to pay employees competitively and consistently in different geographic markets (see below). The range above reflects the potential base pay across the U.S. for this role (except as noted below); the applicable base pay range will depend on what ultimately is determined to be the candidate’s primary work location. Individual base pay depends on various factors, in addition to primary work location, such as complexity and responsibility of role, job duties/requirements, and relevant experience and skills. Base pay ranges are reviewed and typically updated each year. Offers are made within the base pay range applicable at the time.

At Microsoft certain roles are eligible for additional rewards, including merit increases, annual bonus and stock. These awards are allocated based on individual performance. In addition, certain roles also have the opportunity to earn sales incentives based on revenue or utilization, depending on the terms of the plan and the employee’s role. Benefits/perks listed here may vary depending on the nature of employment with Microsoft and the country work location. U.S.-based employees have access to medical, dental, and vision insurance, a 401(k) plan and company match, short-term and long-term disability coverage, basic life insurance, and wellbeing benefits, among others. U.S.-based employees also receive, per calendar year, up to 10 scheduled paid holidays, and up to 80 hours Holistic Health Time Off. Additionally, hourly/non-exempt employees accrue up to 120 hours paid vacation time, and salaried/exempt employees have Discretionary Time Off (DTO).

Our Commitment to Pay Equity

We are committed to the principle of pay equity – paying employees equitably for substantially similar work. To learn more about pay equity and our other commitments to increase representation and strengthen our culture of inclusion, check out our annual Diversity & Inclusion Report. ( )

Understanding Roles at Microsoft

The top of this page displays the role for which the base pay ranges apply – Art IC5.

The way we define roles includes two things: discipline (the type of work) and career stage (scope and complexity). The career stage has two parts – the first identifies whether the role is a manager (M), an individual contributor (IC), an admin-technician-retail (ATR) job, or an intern. The second part identifies the relative seniority of the role – a higher number (or later letter alphabetically in the case of ATR) indicates greater scope and complexity.

Microsoft is an equal opportunity employer. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to age, ancestry, color, family or medical care leave, gender identity or expression, genetic information, marital status, medical condition, national origin, physical or mental disability, political affiliation, protected veteran status, race, religion, sex (including pregnancy), sexual orientation, or any other characteristic protected by applicable laws, regulations and ordinances. We also consider qualified applicants regardless of criminal histories, consistent with legal requirements. If you need assistance and/or a reasonable accommodation due to a disability during the application or the recruiting process, please send a request via the Accommodation request form.

Benefits/perks listed below may vary depending on the nature of your employment with Microsoft and the country where you work.


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