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2, Issue 5
December 6, 1999
Aim at Paul Steed '99
interview by Russell
Steed: the Man, the Myth, the Legend. We couldnt let issue
2.5 pass without taking another shot at our beloved modeler/animator/writer
from that little black cube down in Mesquite, home of id Software.
Stephanie Bobbi Bergman was lucky enough to interview
him last year (at QuakeCon ´98, no less), but this year
was my turn. I caught him on the phone (after 8 tries on 3 different
nights), and heres how it went:
Howre you doing?
me, whats the strangest thing that happened to you in the
thing thats happened to me in the last week? Um.
you on the spot, eh?
thing, uh, would be...Oh, okay, well its not really a strange
thing, its something I just had the urge to do. I was driving
to work the other day, I missed my exit, so, I kept going south.
I decided that I didnt feel like hitting the next exit,
or the next one. So I just kept driving for 300 miles, until I
hit the golf coast. I eventually drove to the end of Texas.
300 miles to the end of Texas, got out of my truck, walked around
on the beach, checked out the ocean. I kicked around some surf,
talked to some really cute girl in a really small bikini.
this burnout at work?
no. Its one of those minute crisis situations that I solved.
You know when you get in that kind of mode, well I dont
really feel like doing something, like playing hooky, basically.
So I drove to the coast, had a bite to eat, turned around and
came to work.
miles that must have been
650 miles on my truck in a matter of 10 or 11 hours.
yeah, thats pretty strange.
you could qualify that as strange.
I would. From past conversations with you, I know that you had
somewhat of a troubled youth in your family, in that you jumped
around about a half dozen states, and in and out of about 20 high
to like, 22 public schools before I graduated high school.
do you think that has affected the way you are today with people?
easier for me to meet people.
you think its made you more open to
made me more extraverted I guess, because, I really dont
care. Im probably going to be gone tomorrow, so what does
it matter what you think? <chuckles>
Heh. I read in a Kenneth Scott interview a little while back that
he was really into plastecine modeling when he was young. Hed
sit there and model, like comic book figures. What was your creative
outlet when you were a kid?
big into comics. And I drew. I got into art and I wanted to be
a comic book artist for a long time.
wanted to go to Kuberts School, was that it?
accepted to the Kubert School and I bailed on that. I wanted to
be a dietician for a while, but thats a whole other story.
So, I basically did the model thing, not plastecine models because
those were too expensive, but I built car models and I would build
them then blow them up with firecrackers so theyd look like
sounds like fun. How old were you when you applied to Kubert?
about 11 years ago.
how come you didnt go in if you were accepted?
was in Germany at the time
you were in the Air Force at the time?
was still in the Air Force right. I was going to go to Kubert
School, but then I wanted to be a dietician, because I didnt
want to do art for a living. Art was one of those things that,
no matter how crappy I felt about life, I figured if I did for
a living and I started hating it, then I wouldnt have that
outlet. You know what I mean? So I decided I didnt want
to be an artist for a living. I wanted to be something in the
medical field. I worked out, I was into bodybuilding, and I knew
a lot about nutrition because Im interested in it. So I
started studying to be a dietician and I volunteered at a hospital
back in Germany. And after about 3 months of volunteer work, I
decided I didnt want to be a dietician anymore, because,
it sucks. Theres a reason why 90 percent of all dieticians
are women. Its because you have to have that level of patience,
perseverance, understanding, compassion. And I would tell people,
Hey youre fat. Stop eating. And that wasnt
a very good approach as a dietician. It wasnt very, I guess,
understand that. And Ive heard a few people say that you
dont want to make your lifes work something you really,
really enjoy because youll end up hating it.
Yeah. And the thing is, professionals; dieticians and psychologists,
they become that because its something theyre trying
to overcome with themselves, so they help understand it by studying
it. So anyway, I took some classes after that. Somehow I ended
up doing computer games for a living, I dont understand
how that quite worked out.
happens I guess. Some of us try really hard to get into computer
know people got paid to do this.
you go. Tell me about some of the comic book artists you really
liked when you were young.
collecting comics in ´79 or ´78, and I did it for
the collecting aspect of it, because I had like 100 issue run
of Incredible Hulk. So I would go to flea markets and try and
find these things. This one kid on my bus one time, said, hey
I got this box of comics Ill sell you, because I always
talked about comics and I was cool and I wanted to be a comic
book artist, so I go really and Im looking through
it and he had X-Men #94, and all these early X-Men issues that
were worth a lot of money, so I bought that. Then I started looking
at guys like John Burns. But early on, my favorite artists were
John Byrne, Michael Golden. I like John Buscema, I like Barry
Windsor Smith. And then I picked up one of the early Frank Miller
Daredevils, and I was just completely enraptured by Frank Millers
work. There was something just so dead-on. Something about that
work that just grabbed me. And Ive been a Frank Miller fan
ever since and my comic art kind of reflects it.
he does good stuff. He worked on Spiderman, Ronin, Dark Knight...
first work for Marvel was Spiderman, then he did a couple annuals
with Dr. Strange. But then he kind of hacked out with city stuff.
I like the high-contrast black and white stuff, you know the Ronin
stuff was cool, the Dark Knight stuff, but my favorite thing of
his was Electra Lives. It was a one shot graphic novel.
And he did it with his girlfriend Lynn Varley. Shes a colorist
and a real good artist. With the two of them together, and they
did amazing work. That was kind of like the quintessential Frank
Miller because that was when he made the transition from the traditional
comic style to more of the Japanese well he did it in Ronin,
but here he made the whole Japanese style of dividing a page into
grids and doing sequential art in the grid. He perfected that
whole thing with Electra Lives. Its a really good book.
You should get it and read it.
you can lend it to me sometime.
send it in the mail tomorrow.
your sketchbook, what comic book character do you draw the most?
drawing so much. When I did draw, it was mainly guys like Daredevil,
or mostly [other characters] Frank Miller had done, I guess.
of the sketches that really struck me is a picture of Wilson Fisk.
Fisk yes, from Daredevil.
struck me as a really cool picture, because hes got the
cigar and he has smoke curling around his face. Which made me
think, would you take a comic book character and draw him completely
originally, or were you mostly into recapturing something you
that particular instance, I was copying Miller. But what I would
do too, is Id study stuff like that and then go and do,
What would it look like from the other side? So it
was more, I really tried to understand a process. I mean I was
so into Millers work. And I was like, how does he
arrive at this conclusion with this panel arrangement and this
particular composition? You know Ive never taken any
art classes, which kind of sucks because I have to learn as I
go about color theory and everything else like that. So thats
why a lot of my early stuff is black and white because I just
didnt know about color.
know I bet a lot of people are like that.
I mean, the thing is, look at people who are good at what they
do. A lot of them are self-taught because theyre really
motivated. Me, I got really bored of college pretty fast, because
nobody took me seriously. It was just a bunch of losers out there.
They would look at me like, what are you crazy? Youre
trying. So it just turned me off of the whole learning thing.
looking at another sketch you did here, and its called,
Tanya Kidnapped. And I think of all the pictures that
you sent me, that one struck me the most. If theres a picture
worth a thousand words, than theres ten thousand coming
out of this. What was that done for?
Back in 94, I was Project Director at Origin, and they knew
I was going to quit and they said, look, whats it
going to take to keep you here? And I said, get me
my own project, and Ill stay. I want a team of people to
do a project like I think it should be done. And they go,
okay. So they gave me a bunch of guys. So basically
I sat down, and I closed the door to my office and I go, alright,
Im going to write down all the things off the top of my
head that I like: I like motorcycles; I like rock and roll; I
like women; I like violence; I like science fiction. So I took
all that and rolled it into this game I called Cyclone Alley.
Which basically was a racing game like Road Rash, except youre
on these Hover Bikes and you can do 360 loops inside these tubes
and youre in this space station in outer space. That was
the general premise. Its a good storyline where youre
this hero. One of the stories was, you were racing and youre
doing really good, and the whole time you get these emails or
voice mails, which is how the game system runs, and some of them
are cutscenes, and one of them was your girlfriend saying, hey
meet me here. Lo and behold you finish the race and you
get to this place and shes been kidnapped and these guys
are pressuring you to race for them, or throw some races or fix
some races or whatever. Theyre mafia in space. So that was
Guido. Guido kidnaps Tanya, and if you win the race, well there
was a whole intricate story. What I wanted to convey was Guido
was just this sleazy guy and you need to save her.
Tanya is just gorgeous in that picture.
I like Tanya. It was one of my favorite pictures. You know what
I like about that picture is the hands. You always try to improve
certain things in your drawing.
know what else that really comes out in your pictures is eyes
and lips. You can really tell
a lot of time on that.
the first picture I saw of yours, you know what, was one of your
pictures for your tattoo. I had to look at the face three times
because I thought it was a photo picture and I thought, holy
god thats really good. And that comes out in all your
pictures. Because theyre all really cool that way. And youve
done a lot of sketches from Playboy too.
Yeah yeah yeah. I like the newstand editions.
of different sketches, a lot of different poses.
a difference. I dont like Hustler kind of stuff. Back when
they started strip clubs, I wouldnt go to all nude places
because it was kind of like somebody pointing a flashlight in
your face. You know I mean? Dont point that thing at me.
It takes away the whole mystery of the thing. I think of women
too much as like an art form. In todays society they use
the female form for everything. Theres a reason for that,
because its just so appealing. On a really basic level,
the female form is a provocative thing.
youre a fellow philogyner so you know what I mean.
know you kind remind me of that guy from the movie Skin Deep with
yeah. The glowing condoms in the dark.
exactly. He had a big problem with women.
dont really have a problem.
his case it was a problem.
that whole sex-addiction thing, which Ive never understood.
Because everyone is addicted to sex. Jesus. Its a problem.
Why is it a problem?
this guys normal. Whats the movie about? Anyway lets
move on here or well never get through. You first gaming
job was at Origin. How humbling was it when you first got there
and you saw the talent that was around you.
Christ I was depressed for days. Weeks. I was just devastated
because I was so sure of myself, and so full of myself in the
way I drew and the things I drew, and the things I thought about
were so unique. I thought, geez, because I never met anybody who
enjoyed those kinds of things, I guess. And man I go there, and
man, it was like everyone there just completely kicked my ass.
It was very humbling. But it was cool too. Because I love to be
you got to work with these guys.
start as an artist, I started as a gopher there. And basically,
I became an artist by going in and trying to learn this stuff.
And I tried to learn 3D first, and what I realized is that there
weren't very many people that learned to do 3D. So it was kind
of like, why isnt anyone learning 3D? It was just a little
studying and stuff. Evidently it was pretty intimidating.
soon you were in a field by yourself.
were other guys there that did 3D, but they did all the high-poly
cinematic stuff. What I ended up specializing in, for no other
reason than no one else wanted to do it, was the low-poly stuff.
This was back in 92. I did all the planes and stuff in Strike
Commander. So, I just got in there and showed them my drawings
and stuff, and came the big day and I wanted to apply to the art
department. I brought my stuff in and the guys were cool and stuff,
and I had already talked to them because they saw me coming in
there at night and they asked me, why you going in the art
room and I said, I want to learn, Id like to
do this too and theyre like ok you go ahead
kid. So, I applied. I finally got my stuff together. I got
my 3D stuff, my 2D stuff, I did like some ePaint drawings. And
they looked at them and everything and I was pretty proud of them.
It wasnt as good as they did and they knew it, but they
saw something there so they go, yeah you know, your stuff
is pretty good. But are you cool? And I said, what
do you mean? And then they proceed to ask me all these questions
about like what movies I liked and what artists I liked, and a
little bit about my background
whats your inspiration.
Whats my motivation and everything else. And I was really
impressed by that. Because it was like, you got the ability
but thats not really whats important. Whats
important are you going to fit in with the rest of us? And
I think thats something thats lost in the industry
today. People dont focus on the team mechanics enough. They
just focus on the corporate aspect of it.
got no heart.
Thats what it is. Its heart. And the guys at Origin
had lots of heart.
artwork did you admire the most there?
were plenty of people. The main guy was this guy named Dennis
Loubet He was the first artist hired at Origin, basically. The
guy was just one of those really gifted artists who didnt
shy away from the technical. Because at Origin there was a clear
division between 2D and 3D artists. It was like this elitism.
I come to find out that the 3D artists are all that, because they
were doing 3D and they were doing the cinematics and everything
else, and the 2D guys are like, theyre just 2D guys. We
can do both, they can only do one. So Dennis Loubet was the first
guy I saw that was really a nice mix of both.
there like a lot of this segregation between different art groups?
is, because you have to understand that its really competitive.
It even happens now. I take for granted sometimes. Thats
why I like teaching this stuff, because I want to break down the
walls of this thing being intimidating. Its just a computer
program. You have to conquer it like you have to conquer everything
else. You have to set your mind to it. Its really how dedicated
you are to making it work.
lets move on here. How did you get your job at id?
working at a company called Virgin. And a head hunter called me
and said, hey. Theres a little company in Texas that
needs an artist and I was wondering if youre interested.
I said, whats the name of the company? Because
I was an art director there and I kind of had it made. Anyways,
he goes, Its a company called, id, and I hung
up on the guy. So he called me back and said, Im serious
and I thought yeah right. Who would ever leave id? Why would id
need somebody? Anyway we got to talking, and I only had my original
demo tape that I had made all my copies from and I didnt
have a copy, and I said, screw this, the only company Id
leave for is id and I was a big fan. So I sent it to him
and the guy called me back the next day and said, you know
they got the tape but they never really looked at it because they
made this other guy an offer. And I thought, oh shit there
goes my tape.
I figured I gambled and lost, whatever. And the guy goes, dont
get too discouraged because the guy might turn them down. And
Im like, what fucking moron is going to turn id down? And
sure enough he calls me back the next day and says hey they
want you to do a phone interview with Kevin Cloud because the
other guy turned them down. And I thought youre bullshitting
you know who it was?
wont tell me. Because I want to buy him a Volkswagen or
something. I want to give him something to show my appreciation.
So anyway the guy turned them down for the dumbest reason. He
should be kicking himself every day for the rest of his life.
you know what the reason was?
yeah I know what the reason is. I think, a little bit of money,
a little bit of fear that his creative input wouldnt be
appreciated or some crap like that. But anyways he messed up.
But I think the reason why I was selected was since I was the
last applicant, my thing was on top of the stack. And Kevin was
so desperate to get somebody in for Quake II, he was like, God
we just gotta get somebody. Ok this Steed guy, ok lets give
him a call. So I talked to them and the phone interview
went pretty well. They flew me down and pretty much made me an
offer on the spot.
your daily routine like?
try to get up about 9:00 or 10:00. In to work before noon. I dont
try to get in early like some of the others that get in by 8:00.
I work out about 3:00. Do some dinner. Come back to work and usually
get home around midnight or 1:00am.
about your favorite websites?
really been hitting any lately. I do the usual. I go surfing across
the usual. I do Blues,
the typical stuff. I just dont have time. I havent
hit a website in a long time. If Im in a mood to be pissed
off, I go to sCarys
msgboard and get my dose of frustration over the really insightful
things I read up there.
he really needs to implement some kind of password authentication.
what, he does. Im not really for the whole censorship issue,
but in some situations I think its okay. Which is a contradiction
of course, but I wont tell anyone.
the funniest guy at id?
guy at id is Adrian Carmack.
without a doubt, no question, the funniest guy at id. Hes
seems so introverted.
few drinks in him, and hes like Chris Fucking Rock, the
guy will just have you rolling. Its amazing. Its shocking.
He could do stand-up.
cool. Why were the hip hop and ballet animations created? Was
that an experiment?
was just me tweaking stuff. That was mo-cap. Motion capture data.
Just a way to fit our characters. During [my seminar at] QuakeCon,
I dropped my computer, it was hosed. So that whole last minute
solution of switching out computers with Paul Jacquays threw me
off. And I forgot my glasses so I couldnt even see the thing
they had set up. It was basically a desperation move. Get some
humor in there, because when I give talks I always try to get
people laughing a little bit and loosen them up, and then theyre
more tolerant of you if you dont really deliver on something
that or you serve booze.
booze helps too. I give out free stuff.
you did that all with motion capture. You did that yourself right?
You put on the ping pong balls and stuff.
particular, for the ballet and that, no I didnt. But just
recently I did and I got some movies of that. It was pretty cool
because its what I used to choose my powers. The first time
I did it I went to this place and I was watching this guy do it.
And I was thinking, I can do that. Its not too bad. Im
in pretty good shape. I thought, screw this, next time Ill
do it myself. So I did. Then I did it again but you know what,
next time, if I do it again, Ill definitely pay somebody.
Its just not worth the pain. Because it gets pretty painful
sometimes. And youre so conscious of your time, because
the longer it takes in the studio, thats pretty expensive
stuff. In the end I think its worth it. I just got some
data back from Locomotion, the guys who did it, the stuff turned
out really good.
either really expensive to pay somebody to do it or you build
your own studio.
you build your own studio but you still have to pay somebody to
maintain it. The good thing about me doing my own motions, is
the fact that Im the animator and I know exactly what I
want. Because youre always trying to pantomime your stuff
to the guy.
much sketch work do you in preparation for modeling a character?
if Im going off my own sketch than its usually pretty
rough. Like that one sketch I sent you, the Barbara-Fett, thats
pretty detailed for me these days. Normally I just scribble stuff
down for sets of mass, or what Ill do is Ill sketch
it out to the point to where I can scan it in I normally
build from a front view and a side view. If its not too
complex, like just a normal I just built a PMS model, built
it yesterday, I just did that from tweaking models that I already
built. But I really dont do that much. I like to build other
peoples sketches, to be honest. Because it gives me new
ideas. I feel like Ive tapped myself out sometimes for original
ideas because Ive done it so many times. I like taking Adrians
or Kenneths sketch, scan it in. Because theyre really
good artists. Real artists. Their sketches just amaze me with
about the Mynx model? Actually, heres a question that Mynx
(the original Dear Mynx) gave me: What will the gestures be for
the Mynx model?
really do the taunts like in Quake II. But Ill do something
special for her. Ive got the whole little special animation.
When I went to the House of Moves, I got some motion capture for
it, I hired this girl to do some stuff for me, and one of the
things she did was she did this kiss thing that Im going
to use for my logo model that I built. Basically Im going
to have Mynx making out with one of the other characters as part
of the Bloopers. Because Im doing a blooper thing for the
credits. And I did all these blooper when I did my first
mo-cap, I wanted to get this blooper mo-cap for the characters.
Youll like it, Im basically going to display the credits
you going to be doing the cinematics again?
storyboarded out and art directed the cinematics with Digital
Anvil as we speak. There will be cinematics, it wont be
as story-driven as Quake II was, but it will be better quality
and it will be higher res, and it will have true-color high-res
versions as well as the standard knockdown version. But Graeme
Devine did 7th Guest, with full-motion, hes done a lot of
work with compression so itll look a lot better than Quake
II looked. Plus the fact Im not doing it on the weekends.
Let somebody else do it.
you did a lot of the Quake II cinematics on a 486.
was 486/66 with 64 megs of ram.
more question. Whats after Quake III Arena?
I have no idea. Im going to go to Australia for a while.
I want to go to surf school in Hawaii. I want to pick up snowboarding.
Yeah I like to go skiing. But I got rid of the skis this year
for snowboarding because they have much cooler clothes. And I
was a big skateboarder. I want to learn how to surf, I want to
go skydiving, you know, the whole mid-life crisis thing I guess.
cool. Thanks Paul Steed.
Russell "RadPipe" Lauzon is currently exhausting all
his free time researching Beer Goggles.
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