Studstill landed an internship at Black Ops Entertainment, an independent studio in Santa Monica founded by four MIT graduates. She recalls being the only woman around as she traveled to Edwards Air Force Base to take reference photos of aircraft for a flight simulator game under development.
After working six months without a salary, and depleting her savings, Studstill finally got a full-time assignment as an artist to help create 3-D renderings of the planes she had photographed for the PlayStation game "Agile Warrior F-111X."
"I had some familiarity with 3-D, and that really helped me. I at least knew how to boot up a program and get a model on screen," Studstill said.
Studstill worked her way up at the studio, as texture artist, modeler, lead artist and eventually to the position of art director.
Sony lured Studstill away in 1997 to help it repair a struggling game title, "Treasures of the Deep." Two years later, she was selected to join the executive team launching Sony's new development studio in Santa Monica.
It was a rare opportunity to build a creative environment from its foundation, though, as its art director, Studstill quickly learned the difficulties of recruiting talent to a studio that lacked a flagship game title.
Even harder was assembling a team of artists capable of matching game creator David Jaffe's vision for "God of War," an action-adventure game loosely based on Greek mythology in which the central character (Kratos) is a Spartan warrior who serves the Olympic gods.