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Vol. 2, Issue 9
January 24, 1999
Under Cover :
Joachim


by Rowan "Sumaleth" Crawford

In the Under Cover article for Dhabih Eng in issue 2.4 of loonygames we mentioned Dhabih's Digital Art forum as being the in place to be if you're into digital art, beginner or advanced. As well as giving beginning artists a place to getting some feedback on their work-in-progress, and somewhere that professional artists can show some of their 'fun' stuff, the forum has proven to be excellent for at least one other thing.

Digging up old-school demoscene artists.

They're everywhere! And just when you think there can't be any more, up pops another one. And it's actually really fun finding out what these old-school artists early-to-mid 90's, whether they forged themselves a career in digital art, and if so, how far their art had progressed in the intervening years.

I remember that period well because that's when I started getting seriously interested in computer based 'graphics'. It was a lot different back then - technique was more important than the other aspects because, with only 16-32 colors available per image and a resolution of 320x200 or so, the viewer got to see every pixel on the screen and smooth shading was essentially impossible. Artists today have it so easy.

So it was all in the technique, and learning the technique came down to carefully studying the images of those artists that had worked out how to get the best out of the limitations. There were little breakthroughs now and again which would suddenly see a whole new 'look' spread throughout the scene, but generally technique came down to being able to manually create sharp, clean anti-aliasing, and large areas of smooth shading using just a small range of colors and one of several dithering approaches.

One image that that I remember studying a lot was the cover image to issue 6 (if I remember correctly) of the leading disk-magazine at the time, RAW. The image in question was a caricature of Rambo that made good use of a variety of shading and anti-aliasing techniques to overcome the lack of colors available. The image was by demoscene artist, Joachim.

And guess who surfaced recently on Dhabih's digital art forum? (No points for guessing correctly but hit yourself if you guess wrong.) Yes, Joachim! (Too easy.)

Joachim now works at Innerloop, a game company working on a variety of titles for Eidos and Sega. Since the end of his demoscene career, soon after the release of his traditionally animated masterwork, Ninja, he has concentrated predominantly on Disney-style art, largely discarding the style that he was known for in his earlier scene days. So when he said that he was going to bow to peer pressure and try something in "full color, full detail", just like the good old days, for this issue of loonygames, I was dying to see what he would come up with.

And does the cover kick ass or what?

We recently sat down (well, I was sitting and I assume he was too) and had a bit of a chat about the demoscene, making games, and digital art.

Sumaleth: OK, lets start off with the usual question; anything you say can and will be used against... Sorry, wrong file. Um.. what’s your real name?

Joachim: Joachim Barrum (donBarrum).

Sumaleth:: So you're one of those rare demosceners that actually used their 'real name' as a handle?

Joachim: Well, yes. I didn't know any cooler name than my own, and if I ever got famous I liked it to be by my own name.

Sumaleth:: How did you get into digital art? Did it begin with an introduction to the demoscene?

Joachim: Well, I had always done drawing on paper. But about 10 years ago a friend of mine forced me to draw on the Amiga instead of playing games, so we joined the demoscene. He was a swapper and he wanted me to do artwork for his utility disks. Later we started a demogroup which made me fall in love with computer as a drawing medium.


Sumaleth: Were you a DPaint or Brilliance user?

Joachim: Only DPaint. I loved Dpaint. You could do the same with mouse then as you can with tablet today, except for the resolution.

Sumaleth: You become known largely from your work for Melon Dezign, a group that made the point of focusing on the "design" of their demos rather than the routine-routine-routine approach generally in use. Were you a founding member or did you join later?

Joachim: No, I wasn't a founding member, actually the Danish Melon hated me! But the French guys, who were the real designers, liked my work. Though I had been more of the "artist" type than a designer, somehow Wlat (the designer) loved my design work. (Probably because it was funny.)

Sumaleth: How many demos did you work on with Melon? Do you have a favorite?

Joachim: I did 3 demos I think. I don't have any favorite any more, at least none of my own, but I respect the work I did on Ninja since I was sweating for 4 months.

Sumaleth: Were you still with Melon when you did the RAW cover?

Joachim: That was before, I think. I joined Melon rather late. (Probably the technique I did on the RAW cover made them want me?!?)

Sumaleth: The technique on the RAW cover reminded me a lot of Hof's style, do you think that was the case?

Joachim: Maybe, that's at least what I aimed for :). Or more like Uno, who had been everybody’s idol in the old days. I could work on small areas of a picture for months before I learned the technique. Sadly, it's not necessary anymore.

Sumaleth: The RAW cover was a copy of a Kruger caricature if I remember correctly. Did you do a lot of copying (which was pretty standard in those days) or did you generally prefer to do originals?

Joachim: I think that was my last copy! And I'm really happy I stopped, even though they looked better when I copied them. But copying didn't improve my actual drawing skills.

Sumaleth: So you got out of 'copying' a long time before it becoming fashionable to do 'no copies'.

Joachim: I guess I did - maybe that's why I didn't get as famous as many others. But I think the most important thing is to reach for new goals.

Sumaleth: Ninja was certainly a big surprise to those of us who had started to get into your previous style. How did the jump to traditional animation come about?

Joachim: Well, I had always loved [traditional] animation. Ninja was a LOT of work! That was the first time that I had to animate characters in different perspectives.

Sumaleth: It was unique too, I don't think I've ever seen another demo, on any system, like that.

Joachim: No, that's actually what we hoped to see more of when we did the demo but everybody just continued that design fancy stuff which probably made me quit the scene.

Sumaleth: Did your work on Ninja lead directly to your job at Funcom?

Joachim: No, I did Ninja right after I started in Funcom, which was almost 8 years ago. I was still a scene-member at that time.

Sumaleth: Had you long aimed to get into the game industry?

Joachim: Actually, no. I [accompanied] a friend to an interview at Funcom, but it looked so cool - everybody just played games, ate chocolate, etc - that I got tempted :). So I asked for an interview as well and they hired me the next day. I quit school.

[Food interval. Joachim had sandwiches and I went for some 97% fat-free crackers.]

Sumaleth: What was the first game you worked on?

Joachim: The first game I worked on was We're Back on the Sega Genesis (based on a movie from Steven Spielberg).

Sumaleth: What games did you do after that?

Joachim: Ehhm let's see.. many got canned, but the ones we finished were: We're Back, Days Before Christmas, Pocahontas, and Dragon Heart (which sucked big time by the way).


Sumaleth: What happened next?

Joachim: Myself and 11 others at Funcom left to make our own company called Dimaga. But, unfortunately the game dream never came through because no one would buy our game. It was too old fashioned (3D games were beginning).

Sumaleth: How much of the game did you make?

Joachim: Actually almost everything. All the animation was done and a lot of the backgrounds. But of course there was a lot of gameplay tweaking left to be done.

Sumaleth: Is that where the blue girl with the tubular hair comes from (there's lots of pictures of her on your page)?

Joachim: No, that was our first concept at Innerloop. We wanted do do some sort of modern version of Space Harrier but with bigger gameplay. But, as it happens in the game business, the ideas never became a concrete game.

Sumaleth: Ah, so Innerloop happened when Dimaga didn't work out?

Joachim: Yes, Innerloop is a merging of two different teams that broke away from Funcom. So, now we work for Eidos doing one game, and for Sega with another.

Sumaleth: Things have been going well for Innerloop then?

Joachim: Actually, it's going very well.

Sumaleth: What have you worked on at Innerloop and what is your current project?

Joachim: Well, after the lady-alien-game thing we decided to follow the 1st person military shooter wave :).

Sumaleth: Well, why not, everyone else is :).

Joachim: Yes, and it sells too :). But our game has many very original aspects in it. We are also doing an Extreme sports game which I'm doing animations for.

Sumaleth: You're actually doing some 3D modeling and animation for the Military game too aren't you? Do you enjoy doing 3D animation as much as 2D?

Joachim: Probably more so. I love doing 3D animation - it's actually easier to focus on the movement more than when drawing lines. I love doing 3D objects and textures too, especially characters since it's great fun drawing draperies, faces, and muscles. Also, the creativity of making original characters with personality is always a great challenge.

Sumaleth: Is the 1st person game (working title is "Project IGI") more like Quake or Rogue Spear? Or somewhere between?

Joachim: More like Rouge Spear I believe. (There are no aliens) Or, maybe GoldenEye?

Sumaleth: Is it action or strategy based gameplay primarily?

Joachim: More strategy but I think there's a bit of both.

Sumaleth: Lets go back to 2D art now; with the loonygames cover this week you've returned to the finely-rendered artwork style that you left behind all those years ago, did you find it fun?

Joachim: Yes! (Since you and many others said you were disappointed that I've stopped detailing my pictures I thought I would do it for the challenge :)

Sumaleth: Now that you've tried it again do you think you might do more work in this style?

Joachim: Well, I think people expect me to :). Actually, it's really fun and as long as there is motive I'd like to continue doing detailed pictures for a while.

Sumaleth: How did you approach drawing the cover? Was it all done in Photoshop?

Joachim: Yes. Originally I started doing a "fantasy" dragon drawing on paper which I started to brush in PShop, but I have always found dragons extremely boring to draw so I thought I wanted something more refined. Then I came to think of the only thing I remember from Origin's games (since I'm not an RPG fan) - those three magicians, or whatever they were, which I found pretty cool.

Sumaleth: Who are your favorite artists? Are you still influenced by other people’s art these days or have you found your own style?

Joachim: I'm very influenced by other artists in the way of inspiration but, actually, I have no favorite artist. At least not that live today. But if have to say someone, then maybe Moebius, because of his imagination, and Michelangelo, because of the heavy lines in his humans.

Sumaleth: Thanks! You can find a ton of Joachim's work at Joachim's Place (check out that crazy disco action), including drawings, screensnaps from games he's worked on, and some 3D game animation, and to find out more about Innerloop and the games they are working on, follow through here.

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


 

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