By Rowan "Sumaleth" Crawford
ave you ever wondered what your life would be like right now if everything had fallen just right? Kenneth Scott, the man in the loonygames hotseat this week, can probably tell you exactly what it's like!
In little over a year, Kenneth has gone from web page author (Skinforge), through to working at ION Storm on John Romero's first post-id Software game, Daikatana, before winding up at id Software themselves! By anyone’s standards, Ken has had a hell of a year.
We've been poking and prodding away at this interview for almost a year now, following the twists and turns of Ken's career as he went from "who?" to "him!" It's been a Cinderella story in the most poetic sense, although members of the skinning community have seen this coming all along. Actually, the real question is; why did it take so long?
So, who is he, where did he come from, and more importantly, what does he want with us? Let’s find out...
Ken, you're from Canada originally (now living in Dallas Texas); where in Canada exactly?
How are you finding Dallas compared to Canada? I imagine there'd be quite a difference between those two environments?
I used to blow glass, but was still ill prepared for this kind of heat... Or to be at the mercy of the Fahrenheit system...
I managed to start my professional game development career with a cold, having seriously mismanaged my thermostat the night before.
Canadian catches a cold in Texas. Dumb(tm).
So that we can place the rest of the questions in context; how old are you?
Twenty eight. Pisces Aquarius/Scorpio Moon rising. :)
You actually believe in star signs?
Nope. Fortune Cookies.
Man who find wisdom in cookie needs to find what time Judge Judy is on (!). Alright, lets dig into your past a little; have you ever done any formal art training? Where at, and how much do you think it influenced your skills today?
I'm a rather unglamorous Art College dropout (ACAD). I did develop a good community of friends; I think that was the most valuable thing I walked away with.
Can you trace your interest in the 'art' side of life right back to childhood?
I was a hard bitten plastercine fanatic at a very young age. I would often set the token Legos and action figures aside and build my own characters, collaging different found elements into them.
You have worked on at least one game previous to Daikatana, the DOOM2 licensed 'HACX' by Banjo Software (check the Banjo page, in the 'games' area), how did you come to work on that game?
Doom had swallowed me whole. I had ran across a few quality Doom levels (Odyssey, Eternal Doom, and Addictive DM) and was bitten hard. I had begun making DM levels, and eventually started plugging graphics into them. I began releasing my work on CDROM.COM to a relatively good response.
My father (a Doomer from Victoria, BC) had stumbled across Banjo first and emailed me the URL. They were looking for artist familiar with Doom editing, and I seemed to fit the bill.
A funny/ironic Story: As an April Fools joke, I emailed John Herndon (Banjo Owner/Project Manager) telling him I had just received a message from John Romero inviting me to work at ION Storm.
Were you happy with how HACX came out? I never managed to get the demo working, but the screenshots certainly looked good.
There is a lot of work in HACX I'm very proud of, and very fond of my time on it.
Have you worked on any other games?
Our weblord at ION, Noel Stephens, was coding a Pac-Man clone prompted by a bet he and John Romero made, and I had volunteered to do the graphics for it. It had to be put aside as both our workloads accelerated, but it was looking fantastic!
Do you practice any form of art that isn't 'computer based' in nature? (and writing words at the urinal doesn't count..)
Haven't had time lately (whine). My first love is oil painting, but I pretty much did everything when I was freelancing. I kept myself fed (most of the time) painting murals, signs, portraits, t-shirts, designing menu's and logo's, sculpting, and making jewelry.
I had a band briefly.....
Who were your artistic influences as you were growing up?
The Muppets. My parents. Battle of the Planets (Gatchaman). The Micronauts (toys AND comic book). Frank Frazetta, Richard Corben, too many comic illustrators to name.
The SkinForge web page is where you made your mark on the Quake scene, producing some of the best Quakeworld skins around. You even managed to pick up the 'Best Individual Skin of 1997' award in the Quake Womans Forum poll with your 'Doom Guy' skin (knocking the king himself, Adrian Carmack, into second place). Were you pretty chuffed by that result?
I think it reflects more on the strong interest and respect Doom still musters. I do get bleary-eyed thinking about that game sometimes...
On the other hand, in the same vote you placed a puzzling 4th in 'Best Skin Artist of 1997', and in the 'QuakeSpy' skin competition you placed 3rd. What is your reaction to results like that? Do you come up with theories about the placings?
I had found out a few days before the QSPY announcement that ION wanted me, so I was a hard person to depress at that point. :) I had the respect and friendship of my community (Skinfolk) and that was good enough.
At some point you do have to resolve yourself to the understanding that not everyone is going to love what you do, regardless of how hard you work. I can't let my mood or self respect be governed by something so nebulous as 'taste'.
You have been quite a supporter of the online 'skinning' community, and even today your page features one of the most comprehensive lists of skinning links, so what got you involved?
Just a need for community. I think good art makes good art, and it is therefore helpful to see and experience other peoples work.
When creating a piece of game artwork, how much of your thinking leans towards making what -you- like, and how much towards what you think will appeal to a greater portion of the intended audience?
I usually go with what makes me happy. One of the fun things about Quake3 Arena is that I can do enough different versions of a skin to make everyone happy. Everybody dance!!
Looking through the history of your skins on SkinForge, it's fascinating to see the process of your style developing with each new skin. Were you aware, as you were doing skin after skin, that you were making significant steps in your art and developing such a strong, unique style?
Not sure. I know the last few months I've been trying to stretch myself creatively, pushing into pure representation. There is something very 'real' about the last few months work.
Credits: Illustration © 1999 Rowan Crawford. All other artwork © 1999 their individual authors. This interview is © 1999 Rowan Crawford & Kenneth Scott. All other content is © 1999 loonyboi productions. Unauthorized reproduction is strictly prohibited, so don't try it...or we'll erase you.