By Rowan "Sumaleth" Crawford
The step from your QuakeWorld skin style to your first (and only) Quake 2 skin was a huge one, the 'Protofiend' skin being one of the most admired skins around, what led you to develop this newer style?
Tools. My previous work was done in an eight year old copy of Corel Photopaint. With Adobe Photoshop I was given a lot of new toys to play with.
This "new" style is seen throughout Daikatana (and is already showing up in the Quake3 Arena screenshots), so lets come forward in time a bit. Did the ION job come about due to your work on the SkinForge site?
Was it a hard decision to move to Dallas and work for ION, or was it a dream come true?
The decision was easy, but it was quite a radical and terrifying change. Leaving all my friends and family to move to a different country... Apprehension doesn't describe it.
Did you get much input into the game design at ION Storm?
I got a lot of leeway on my end of things, but it's John's baby.
What was a typical workday like at ION Storm?
In at nine thirty/ten. Push pixels until midnight/two o'clock. Go home. Weekends were often the same story, though I usually come in much later.
While at Ion you developed a bit of a fetish for cryptic .plan updates, particularly of the quote/poem variety. Were you making statements that some people would understand, or do you just love quotes?
I wandered into a lot of stupid territory with my .plan, it was mostly a fun/irreverent outlet.
Got a fave quote?
"I wasn't kissing her, I was whispering in her mouth."
Lets get into the technical side of your artwork now, starting with software. What software do you use to do the skins and textures? And what have you used in the past?
Previous to ION I was using an eight-year-old copy of Corel Photopaint and a mouse. Now I use a Wacom Tablet, Adobe Photoshop (both 4.0 and 5.0), Lightwave 3D, and UView to apply creature textures.
Was the HACX title image done in Photoshop or Photopaint?
Oil Paint :). It was needed rather quickly, so I pounded it out in oils and took it to a place to be scanned to disk. Most of the time was spent in resizing and touch up, as the Paint program I was using didn't do anti-aliasing (Corel Photopaint 3.0/1992).
Do you work like a "pixeler" (ie. someone who works at the pixel level, plotting each pixel carefully and methodically), or more like a 'freehand' style with a graphics tablet?
I do both, I'll lay in broad areas of 'paint', and then go down to the pixel to give sharp edges and detail.
With game graphics shifting now from 8bit up to 24bit textures, do you think the days of 'pixeling' are over?
No, but I think it may be impractical (time wise) for higher resolution images. Still, I can't imagine being able to create articulate surfaces without it.
The strength of 24bit may be more in the area of 'photorealism' rather than the stylized approach to game art that has reigned supreme since the days of Bob Stevenson. In fact, virtually all of the notable game artists of the past to this point, such as Dan Malone, Rico Holmes, Bob Stevenson, the id duo of Adrian and Kevin, and including yourself, have each had a 'stylized' approach to game graphics. Do you think this sort of 'gamey' stylizing will continue to lead the way in the future, or can you see a time when game art will be more photorealistic, and even (*cough*) digitised?
I think the strength of 24 bit is simply the wider range of colors and shades. I DO have an interest in making things as real as possible, but not at the expense of visual dynamics.
How do you see your own style progressing in the future? Do you prefer photorealism, or artwork with a touch of styling about it?
I don't think they need be binary opposites. There are plenty of illustrators who deeply understand/create light and volume, but also have a strong sense of dynamic. Lately I've taken to researching interesting surfaces and light phenomenon, and working from reference photo's. :b
Are you a bilinear filtering on or off kinda guy?
I remember reading once that you had won various awards for your art over the years, could you give us a little insight into what those awards were for?
Three years ago (96) I won the quarterly 'Illustrator oft he Future' contest, boasting entries from all over the world. In 97 I was nominated for an Aurora for my cover work for Onspec Magazine.
As your work started to become known, and your name with it, were you approached by other game companies trying to poach you away from ION?
Oh man, yes! The cool thing about that is, I managed to develop some fairly good friendships with folks in other companies. A lot of good, friendly people in this industry.
When a large portion of the Daikatana team left to form their own company, Bloodshot Entertainment (now Third Law Entertainment), were there ever any thoughts that you might tag along?
I owe those guys a lot and grew very close to a lot of them before they left. I think I would definitely have entertained the idea had I not _this_ option. Sverre Kvernmo is really the person responsible for my first break in this industry (along with Cleaner and Squirrel) and the first voice I heard from ION about working there. Andy Chang really opened up my eyes to a lot of more creative uses of Photoshop. It's a good team, and a miss them a great deal.
I think the beer is on me.
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.