Few things have revolutionised game design like the Steam Workshop. With its release, anyone with a basic level of artistic talent can create and publish items for in-game use. With successful members of the workshop scene making over USD$500,000 per year, game design can now potentially become a lucrative career for anyone with a copy of Adobe Photoshop.
At the forefront of this design movement is Luke Millanta, an Australian freelance software developer and graphic designer. Since discovering the Steam Workshop in April 2014, Millanta has used his entrepreneurial talent to partner with a number of professional electronic sports teams, including Fnatic
and Orange Esports
, to develop a variety of team-branded Counter Strike: Global Offensive weapon finishes. His designs are now some of the highest rated on the Steam Workshop.
Surprisingly though, before partnering with Fnatic in July 2013, Millanta had never worked in a graphic design role, nor ever thought of himself as a person possessing any kind of artistic talent. Having dropped out of high school at the end of 2007, Millanta was employed as an Assistant IT Coordinator at his former high school, the Central Coast Adventist School, from February 2008 until April 2009. From August 2009 until May 2011, Millanta worked in an IT support role at the New South Wales Department of Education and Training.
In June 2011, Millanta was recruited by the Defence Signals Directorate (DSD), an Australian intelligence agency responsible for signals intelligence and information security. Over the course of his employment, Millanta operated in a number of different positions across the DSD and even received a letter of commendation from the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security for his work on a “high importance project”. After leaving the DSD in October 2012, Millanta was briefly employed by Kaplan, TAL, and the University of Newcastle, before deciding that having a boss was not for him. He has not had one since.
Now, making an attractive living as a freelancer, Millanta has touched the lives of thousands of videogaming enthusiasts and has made himself an icon for a new breed of videogame developers.
I sat down with Millanta over a coffee at Circular Quay, in Sydney’s Central Business District, and asked him a few questions about his work, his future, and his thoughts on the Steam Workshop.
You recently created a collection of weapon finishes for the eSports event coordinator, Multiplay. Is there any difference between working for a professional eSports team and an eSports event management company?
: Working with a team requires a lot more patience. When dealing with a company such as Multiplay, there may only be one or two people giving you feedback. With a team, there are sometimes up to 10 or 12 people giving you feedback. When you have this many people involving themselves in the process, it can become a little bit difficult to meet everyone’s expectations.
: Of the thousands of gamers that have reviewed your weapon finishes, 97% of them have delivered positive ratings. Did you ever think you would have such a high level of success?
: As I said before, I partnered with the teams to limit the risk of failure. It seems to have paid off. That said, I did not expect 97% of the ratings to be positive. I was expecting more haters; it is the internet after all! I am extremely happy with how everything has worked out and would like to thank everyone that gave such great reviews!
: What advice would you give to a new designer looking to make it on the Steam Workshop?
: Do something different, do something interesting. If you can’t find a hook – like partnering with a professional team – try to find a way to stand out from the crowd. If you are just designing weapon finishes and publishing them in the hope of getting lucky, the odds are against you.
: Could you ever see yourself working for a professional gaming team or event coordinator?
: I could definitely see myself working for a gaming team such as Fnatic or Natus Vincere. I would want a job where I could travel to events and see them live. I mean, what’s the point of working for a gaming organisation if you aren’t going to attend events? I could also see myself working for the ESL as a project manager or commentary panel member. I think that could be a lot of fun.
: Would you ever consider working for an Australian team?
: No, professional gaming is not big enough in Australia and I feel that working for an Australian team would be quite career limiting – I would feel like I was locking myself away from the rest of the world. While I love the pro-gaming scene and hope that it grows in Australia, there is very little hope for an Australia video gaming team trying to make a huge impact on the world. I would rather work for a European team and be based in Australia.
: Finally, you are currently working with current Counter Strike world champions, Fnatic, on a number of projects. With the current cheating scandal floating above all professional gaming teams, and with a high level of suspicion surrounding a number of Fnatic players, what are your thoughts on the matter?
: Fnatic is an excellent organisation with a number of world championship teams. I am honoured to have the opportunity to work with them. I do not believe that the two players receiving so much public hate, JW or Flusha, are cheating. They have never done anything to warrant such abuse or suspicion. I simply believe that there are good players and brilliant players. JW and Flusha simply fall into the latter category. That said, anyone caught cheating should be banned, as has happened in the past. There is no room for cheating in any sport, including this one.
Eamon "Tapples" Tapples is a videogame enthusiast, Steam Workshop contributor and budding freelance writer. He hopes to turn writing and videogame journalism into a full-time career. Eamon's favourite games are Counter Strike: Global Offensive and League of Legends and he competitively dabbles in both games.