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Under Cover - Francis Tsai

By Rowan "Sumaleth" Crawford
Vol. 2, Issue 3 
November 22, 1999 


After initially working on one of the Journeyman Project games, Francis moved on to became one of the conceptual artists on Star Trek: Hidden Evil, a pre-rendered (with real-time characters) third person adventure game set around the Star Trek: Insurrection movie storyline (although the game doesn't follow the movie's plot). Being a conceptual artist on the project also meant that he got to work on other areas of the game.

"I was involved in the design of all aspects of the game beginning shortly after an initial storyline had been proposed. I participated in story and gameplay meetings and produced design work based on ideas we came up with in those meetings. During production, I worked with Victor Navone, our creative director to oversee the actual modeling and animation of all the assets."

Being a Star Trek game, the assets mentioned were to be either based on canonical Star Trek elements, or elements that were to become canonical elements. I asked Francis what it was like working on a franchise as massive (and potentially finicky) as the Star Trek one:

click to enlarge!

A example of Francis' character conceptualising (52k).

"Very exciting. Paramount and Activision were both very helpful in terms of providing us with a wealth of reference material and original sketches and designs from the movie. Paramount is very selective about how their property is treated. Luckily, almost all of us on the team are pretty hard core Star Trek fans, in particular our writer Eric Dallaire. We started out with a pretty good story concept, and with all the reference material we had, it really was a labor of love."

And, since this Q&A format is working out pretty well, I asked Francis what his favorite book and favorite movie of all time are:

"Right now, my all time favorite SF book is Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson. On the surface it's cyberpunk, but the book is about so many things besides that, and on so many different levels. Neuromancer would probably be a close second."

"Favorite movie at the moment - I'd have to say The Matrix. I really enjoy seeing a science fiction movie that doesn't make me wince with embarrassment at any point in the film. Blade Runner is a very close second."

And Favorite games?

"I actually don't play a whole lot of games. The games that do come to mind are Starcraft, Half-Life/Team Fortress, Grim Fandango and Myst/Riven."

Francis' art "style" is really unique - I've certainly never seen anything like it before - so I asked where the style came from, whether it developed of its own accord or whether it came from any particular influences; "I'm not sure where my "style" comes from. I never really set out to create a totally new drawing style. I think it's really a matter of having a wide variety of influences, and trying to incorporate those bits and pieces of each that really spoke to me. I haven't really seen other artists who draw exactly like me, but I'm sure there are others around who are at least similar."


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Credits: 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.