Joining us from a chest borne aloft by nine chanting cowled monks comes Paul. Created from humans in a geodesic dome near Newcastle, Paul rejoices in cycling, painting and building model kits. He plays guitar, and would procure and play a Koto if one was to be had, and we were not already using it to as a Koto Hero II peripheral. Faced with a vicious University of Abertay Dundee, he wrassled it to the ground and forced it to yield a BA in Computer Arts. After a victorious victory prance, he worked for Visual Science and Liquid Development on various titles including Dungeons & Dragons Online.
His favourite fabric is Giant Ground Sloth and his favourite animal is the Denim. I may have noted that down wrong. He's so fond of the Denim, if he could, he'd wear a whole suit made of Denim fur. He's a great fan of Parentheses. This came as something of a disappointment to us, as we'd actually advertised for enthusiasts of the Pirenne Thesis. Ah well, swings and roundabouts. He's like that, and that's the way it is.
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 Paul does, how he ended up at Splash Damage, and more.
What do you do at Splash Damage?
I'm an environment artist, but have been known to be a jack-of-all-trades. For instance, since I joined SD I've been quite heavily heavily involved with performance optimisation and tool workflow.
Why did you want to work in the games industry and how did you get started?
Well, I'd been doing game art ever since Quake and Warcraft 2 came out, and over the years moved on to Quake 2, Quake 3 and then Doom 3. It only seemed sensible to try and get paid to do the stuff I was spending most of my time doing anyway :)
The whole obsession started once I realised I could get my own custom graphics, player models and textures into various games, and although I wasn't very good when I started out, it was fun just seeing the stuff I'd made running around in a game. I don't think game art is truly "finished" until it's displayed in motion in a game.
Why did you join Splash Damage?
As mentioned, I've always been a fan of the Quake series, and really enjoyed playing Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory, so with Splash Damage working closely with id software on a multiplayer title in the Quake universe, why would I choose anywhere else? I think I produce my best work when it's going into a game I know I will really enjoy playing, so there's all the more reason to make it awesome!
What are the best and worst parts of your job?
The best is creating something from the very start - a full scene, a new prop, a new weapon or character. Something which I can take from start to finish, and create a great looking game asset. The worst part is probably the optimisation stage... making sure everything fits into the available memory, and the game runs smoothly. It's a technical job, no artistic skill required, but someone's got to do it!
What was your first gaming experience?
Urrrhhh... such a long time ago, it's hard to remember. The first game I really played was Grand Prix Circuit at a relative's house. I had never seen a computer before, so this was all new to me, but I loved it. Eventually we got a PC our house, but we didn't have a television at all, so that's probably why I got into games so early. Mainly I started out on the free demos that games magazines had just started putting on their cover CDs, and I think that's where I got hooked on the original Warcraft and then Quake.
What types of games do you like, and what's your favorite game of all time?
Heh, that’s quite a lot to list. I've always liked strategy games (Civilization, turn-based war sims) and RTS games like Warcraft and Command & Conquer. There have been a lot of RPG games I enjoyed too, from the Elder Scrolls series (including Arena and Daggerfall) to more recent things like Deus Ex. FPS games have always been highest on my list of favourite games, though. I spent far too long playing Quake2, Quake3 and all the available mods.
I don't know if I could pick an all-time favourite. I have favourites in each category, really. Warcraft 3 is amazing, Deus Ex and Morrowind are fun, deep RPGs, and Quake 3, Unreal Tournament and ET:QW are mind-blowingly good shooters.
You moderate over at the polycount.com forums, a big site for game artists; coming from that community yourself, do you have any tips for people wanting to break into the gaming industry?
The game industry can be a tough one to get into. There are a lot of people who want to make games, but not everyone has the motivation to really push themselves as far as they need to go. You have to work really hard and practice all the time if you want to be good enough. If you enjoy doing it, though, it won't feel like hard work, and you'll just see your art getting better and better with each new model or texture you create.
One thing that a lot of aspiring game artists seem to overlook is that fine art or "traditional" art can really help your progress. If you can draw a good human figure, then you'll have a much better chance of being able to model and texture a good character. If you know the fundamentals of art, you can apply them to game-related work, and in general you'll understand a lot more of the technical side of things like how and why light bounces off objects, how anatomy is structured, what colour and value contrasts can make or break a scene.
So yeah, take up life drawing classes if you can, buy some paints and learn to paint landscapes, get some clay and make a sculpture. It's fun, and is actually very relevant to game art!
How active do you remain in the art community now that you work at Splash Damage?
I have always been very active around art forums and game community websites, and I thought that working on games full time would stop me from contributing to the online community, but actually it's worked out pretty well. I have a lot more knowledge of behind-the-scenes game engine technology now, which means I can help out people who run into problems when making models, textures or levels.
I've started writing more custom tools and scripts for 3D modelling applications, and releasing these for free online, to try and make life easier for other people who run into the same problems I do with various pieces of software. I also write more tutorials now, because game art has become more and more complex each year, and the knowledge required to put together a functioning game asset has to increase almost exponentially. Anything to make life easier for myself, and people like me :)
What do you enjoy doing when you're not at work?
Playing guitar, recording music and formulating really terrible jokes. I also try to spend a fair bit of my time helping out the modding community, since that's where I got my start in the industry, and it only seems fair to offer advice and guidance to new modders in the same way that the pros helped me back in the day.
If you have any questions you'd like to ask Paul, feel free to post them in the comments below. Our forum-trained tapirs will try to answer as many of them as possible.