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Under Cover - Dhabih Eng

By Rowan "Sumaleth" Crawford
Vol. 2, Issue 4 
December 1, 1999 


During the time he was at university he began to work with Evolve Software, an internet based game development company that began life by creating the Quake deathmatch mod, Pain Keep, and then went on to create the commercial (though, unofficial) Quake 2 mission pack, Zaero, and also an official mission pack for the groundbreaking action-strategy game, Battlezone.

Dhab worked on a range of tasks for Zaero originally, such as textures, skins, and monster concept art, but found it increasingly difficult to work on Zaero while also trying to keep up with the continually growing requirements of his schooling. "What's mine in the final product is actually quite little. Just a couple monster designs and a few textures."

click to enlarge!

A fan pic of Elexis from Ritual Entertainment's Sin. (158k).

Dhab's work for Evolve was cut completely when, at the end of his university course, another opportunity presented itself: a fulltime position at Valve Entertainment. Valve had loved the work he had done for Half-Life and had subsequently offered him fulltime work, an offer that didn't need to be asked twice, especially considering the incredible (and well deserved) public response that Half-Life received.

Dhabih has been working at Valve now for 9 months, tasked with creating "promotional artwork, logo treatments and things like that" for their near-complete (and highly anticipated) multiplayer game, Team Fortress 2.

"I'm having a real great time here; it's laid back, the people are friendly, and the kitchen is always stocked."

On the differences he's found between magazine artwork and game artwork;

"The approach is different in that, for [magazine] covers, there is a specific subject matter that needs to be shown, and most of the time there was a pretty clear idea in the magazine art directors mind what he want. In game design, there is more freedom to create things that you think would look cool (with the art direction in mind)."

click to enlarge!

Dhabih's first experiment with a new painting style. (68k).

Dhabih continues to create big, adventurous images, for both commercial (magazine) uses and just for the fun of it. Just recently, one of his oldest fan-pictures, an alien from Half-Life no less, was touched up and used for the cover of Game Developer Magazine, creating some sort of strangely unnatural cycle in the way his professional career has stemmed from what was originally a hobby, and then looped back on its self.

Dhab's web site, http://www.sijun.com has been a big draw card over the several years he's had it running, due originally to the artwork, tutorials and the short lived CelebMorf series (Warning: seriously freaky stuff!). But more recently the hits have been mounting up for the message boards he's been running for a few months, particularly the one devoted to digital art that draws a crowd of digital artists from all walks of life (at last count it had more than 240 registered users).

His approach to digital art recently went through a major rethink (a TechniqueMorf?); gone are the days of beginning an image with an outline, and in comes an approach based around shapes and forms;

"I used to start with line drawings colored in flatly, and then I shaded each individual area [..] this way had a more cartoony feel to it. Now I treat the screen as a canvas, like oil painting; putting in large shapes of color and light and then going through to better define shapes."

"I started this new way soon after starting at Valve after I ran across Craig Mullins' site."

Ahh, Mr. Mullins strikes again (remind me to get him onto a cover sometime!).

Future projects for Dhabih at Valve Software are currently under wraps but with the huge success of Half-Life it wouldn't take a genius to hope that a sequel will figure into it somewhere. And the future of his art?

"This is something that I've just recently started thinking about. The dust has kind of settled from all my excitement of getting a new job and graduating from school, and so I'm looking into new ways for me to improve my art, and also see what I can do with it in a non-work related form."

We can't wait.

- Rowan "Sumaleth" Crawford is loonygames' Supervising Art Director.


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