Joining us from the Great Clam of Ouidah comes Fabrice. Lathed from a solid billet of manganese and appearing on alternating weekends as the troposphere over Brno and the benthic zone of the Weddell Sea, Fabrice's avowed goals are to lead the animation team, to ensure our animations are of the maximum possible much of bigness of good and cool, and to make mild a rugged people and through soft degrees subdue them to the useful and the good. Sorry, that was Ulysses. Although, come to think of it, Fabrice isn't doing too badly at that either.
He is a veritable human phenakistoscope, a zoopraxiscope in mortal form. If an article or item can be animated, he will animate it, and even if it can't, he'll have found the best keyframes. Standing sixteen hands high from the ground to the withers, Fabrice can, like, totally, fly. Furthermore, he got frames like the Bible got psalms.
Things You Were Too Afraid To Ask...
Every once in a while, we interrogate one of our own and put their answers up for all the world to see. Read on to find out more about what Fabrice does, how he ended up at Splash Damage, and more.
What do you do at Splash Damage?
I'm the Lead Animator at Splash Damage, which basically means I make sure the animation team delivers all the needed animation assets on time and up to the expected quality. This includes overseeing the actual creation of animations and also their implementation in the game. I spend about 50% of my time doing animation myself, while the rest is dedicated to management tasks.
Why did you want to work in the games industry and how did you get started? Do you have any tips for people wanting to break in?
After I graduated from Les Gobelins, an animation school in Paris, I had two options: working on an animated TV series for kids or join the video games industry. I had been into video games since being a teenager and I wanted to work on products that I myself would buy - designed for a mature audience and something I could really identify with. I didn’t hesitate long. Back then, companies were hiring a lot, and even though I had no prior experience in 3D animation, I got hired by Kalisto. I remember doing a test for them in 2D... with pencil and paper. :)
I have two very basic pieces of advice for aspiring animators:
First, In general, companies look for specialized knowledge. It's crucial for them to understand right away who you are and what you have to offer. So unless you're a genius (which can of course happen), avoid saying things like "I'm a character artist but I also write C++ applications." I guess with time you'll develop your other skills but for the first two or three years it's better to build on your main field of expertise.
Second, bring forward your personality. Obviously if you're an animator or a character artist, you'll have to demonstrate some technical talent, but it's also important to showcase what makes you different from the next applicant. I see too many portfolios from students who have learned online and their work looks exactly the same. It’s a shame.
What other games have you worked on? Which one did you enjoy the most?
The most famous game I've worked on is probably Splinter Cell: Double Agent, but one of my very first jobs was on Nightmare Creatures II for the original PlayStation. It was a sort of horror hack'n'slash game, set in Paris and London in the 1930s. I've got really good memories of that production, it was far too easy compared to the things we do these days, but the art direction was great and for the first time I felt like I was part of a team and I was learning a lot. I even got to do some voices (well, noises really) for some of the enemies and creatures which was a lot of fun. I was the voice of that guy with a large chainsaw who runs at you screaming - what a great feeling!
How did you end up at Splash Damage?
Honestly, I didn't know much about Splash Damage before applying. I heard about the company from a friend of mine who knew the art director. Then I read about all the awards they'd got and I was genuinely impressed. I absolutely wanted to spend some time in the UK, preferably in London, and conveniently enough, this opportunity came up just as I was looking to change company.
What is it like to work at Splash Damage?
It's a medium sized company so it's easier for you to have a say on any matter. People are very open-minded and everybody's ready to listen to everybody else's feedback. That's something I really appreciate. The frequent play testing sessions we have here are a perfect example of that.
The second thing I love about Splash is that the team we've gathered here is really impressive in terms of experience and skills, and that really motivates you to give your best. It's especially exciting because the company is now at a point where it's moving from making PC games to also making console games. We know we have to overcome some difficult issues but we’re very confident and full of positive energy.
What are the best and worst parts of your job?
The best part is when things get implemented in game and I can see the result of my work. I enjoy controlling the character and see how it uses my animations and how they blend. Sometimes things can look quite different once they’re in the game and you get the chance to take a fresh look at them. I also like when I can iterate on an animation, go back to the game and see the changes right away.
The worst part is when I have to chop up an animation into smaller pieces to get it to work in the game, but I guess... c’est la vie!
What was your first gaming experience?
I have memories of playing a shoot 'em up on a Coleco Vision when I was really young. But my first serious gaming experience was Space Harrier on the Sega Master System. I spent hours on that. I must have been 11. Later on, I started playing a lot of arcade games, like R-Type, Golden Axe, Final Fight, Toki, and later Street Fighter II.
What types of games do you like, and what's your favorite game of all time?
I like action games. I was a decent Quake III Arena player a few years ago; I was playing that a lot on LAN and on the internet - Capture The Flag mostly. I was also a big fan of the first Quake, QuakeWorld and Unreal Tournament. I love Capcom games, like the Resident Evil series, Devil May Cry, and Onimusha, and I also like the Silent Hill series, Metal Gear Solid, and Shadow of the Colossus.
In general, I can enjoy a game if it has great art, even if the gameplay isn’t quite there. I played tons of games on the Amiga and I remember being blown away by the graphics in Psygnosis' Shadow Of The Beast, the Bitmap Brothers games and so many others.
What's the meaning behind your nickname?
Nothing original, I'm afraid. When I first got an email address I wanted to use "fab" as my user name and it was taken, of course. Turns out "faab" was, too, and so I started using "faaab".
What do you enjoy doing when you're not at work?
I like to "work" on my own creations. I draw, I do some character modelling, and some animations of course. When doing this at home, I get to take care of the creation of a character from concept to animation and rendering, which I absolutely love.
If you have any questions you'd like to ask Fabrice, feel free to post them in the comments below. Our forum-trained tapirs will try to answer as many of them as possible.