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Vol. 2, Issue 3
November 22, 1999
Under Cover :
Francis Tsai

by Rowan "Sumaleth" Crawford

uestion: What does this issue of loonygames have in common with Presto Studio's recently completed game, Star Trek: Hidden Evil?

The answer is, as you may already have guessed, Francis Tsai, concept artist on the aforementioned game and this week's loonygames cover artist.

OK, I'll admit it, there's actually no "subtle link" between Francis Tsai and this weeks feature article - RadPipe's interview with Barrett "Bear" Alexander, CEO of Rogue Entertainment - but you have to admit, Francis draws a damn cool bear!

Francis started his career on a chemically orientated path, picking up a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry at the College of Natural Sciences (University of Texas, Austin) with some side interest in fine arts and the Japanese language. His intention initially was to move from there into pre-med, but well before he finished the course he realized that a future in either field - science or medicine - was not one that particularly interested him any more. "It was obvious to me that I was not med school material, and the prospect of spending the rest of my life in a lab was making me queasy," he explained.

His life long interest in art was looking to be a more suitable path, but he still stuck around to finish the science course before moving on. "When I approached the assistant dean of the architecture school with my intent to change majors, he advised me to finish my degree and apply to the graduate school in a year. Initially, I was crushed, but in the end it proved to be very good advice."

click to enlarge!

One of Francis' pencil drawings (72k).

With the science degree in his hand, he moved onto a more art-orientated degree, and within three years had acquired himself a Master of Architecture (now that is a cool degree!) with "extensive course work in the School of Fine Arts." So two degrees and 8 years of tertiary education but the future was still uncertain.

Francis found that the things he most enjoyed ("sketching, rendering, science fiction, computer modeling, etc") were of little use in the work environment he found himself in, and the skills that were needed weren't ones that he possessed. "I found that although I was working in a design profession, I seemed to spend a lot of time memorizing codes, schmoozing clients and dealing with bureaucrats. The architecture profession was very different from architecture the academic pursuit."

A growing dissatisfaction with work lead to a growing interest in other fields, such as multimedia, virtual reality, games, film design and visual effects, and he also began to again draw the sort of images that he liked to draw - science fiction and fantasy images - something he'd done very little of in past years. Next came a deeper exploration into the various facets of computer art, such as (2D) Photoshop, web page design, and more recently, 3D.

And then, as if by magic (wait for it), word comes by way of the SIGGRAPH mailing list that a local game developer, Presto Studios, the company behind The Journeyman Project and other similar titles, were having a tour of their residence. Francis and his wife, Linda (a talented architect in her own right), took the tour and, at his wife's urging, Francis spoke to them after the tour and gave then the link to his web site. One interview later and Francis was finally working in a profession that he really enjoyed.

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Credits: Cover illustration © 1999 Francis Tsai. Under Cover is © 1999 Rowan Crawford. All other content is © 1999 loonyboi productions. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited, you cartoonish villian, you.