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UOForums Interviews TheGrimmOmen, again (September 9th, 2008)


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TheGrimmOmen, the evilist of all UO team members has graced (or is that cursed? :P) us with a fantastic interview.

 

Here's our interview with TheGrimmOmen

 

 

1) I've never really liked the way torpedo dragons (swamp dragons) look in 2d, but I do like how they look in KR. Any chance 2d Swampies could get a makeover?

 

I’ve never cared for the swampies look either, I mean, 6 legs? But in any case, there’s actually an old “rule of thumb” where changing artwork in UO is concerned and that is: “If it’s been in the game longer than 6 months, it’s (for the most part) too late to change it.” So given the high likelihood that hordes of angry villagers would most likely show up to have me drawn and quartered for changing their beloved swampies, no. By the way – have you seen the new swampies in UOKR? ;-)

2) Did you go to school to become an artist or are you self taught natural talent? And can you tell us about the process?

 

I’ve wanted to be an artist since I was very young (dinosaurs were totally my thing back then). Given that I grew up in very, very, rural Arkansas, I might as well have said that I wanted to be an astronaut! Wanting to be an artist in that neck of the woods was pretty much guaranteeing a life of frustration and disappointments! But regardless, art I loved and art I did – often to the detriment of my schoolwork. In junior high and high school I did a weekly comic for my friends – many of which included them in it! I also won a couple of awards in high school art contests, so I apparently had some skill . Come to think of it, I remember getting reprimanded by my art teacher regularly for doing fantasy and sci-fi art -- even got told that I would never be able to make a living do that sort of stuff. I still think of her every time I do concept art for creatures…

 

So art’s been my thing since… ever. Not surprisingly, I even went to school to be an artist. I first went to an unassuming community college that, as it turned out, gave me the best and most well rounded art education I’ve ever gotten. Add to that the fact that I could actually afford it, and it was the best education I’ve ever gotten from the finest teachers I’ve had the opportunity to learn from (Thanks Richard, Anzolette, and Thad!). When I lived in San Francisco, I attended the Academy of Art College for 1 year, which broke me, and quite frankly only 2 of the 5 classes I took I thought was worth the money and given how much tuition was, they had better ALL be stellar. From what I’ve heard though the Academy has improved a great deal since that time.

As far as the process goes for becoming a game artist, really it’s simple. It all boils down to A) How good your stuff is and
B)
how well you present and market yourself. Generally speaking, what I would suggest is start out by focusing your efforts. If you like modelling and texturing, focus on that, if it’s animation, focus on that. Get really, really friggin’ good at because the competition is very, very stiff. The one comment I’ve made to more new artists is that their demo reel was too broad in scope, and that they needed to focus on one thing and really make it awesome as opposed to trying to do a lot of things not quite as well. Although these days it’s a lot more common for artists to focus on individual disciplines than it was 5 years ago. So there’s the talent, but there’s also the marketing as well. Having connections really helps in getting “in”, but presentation and a well organized and readable resume is vital.

3) How long have you been in the business? Have you worked on other projects that players would know?

 

I’ve been making games for… good Lord, 9 years now. In game developer years that’s like… forever. But yea I imagine there are a few titles players might know. I worked on the Army Men games for the Playstation. I cranked out artwork for about 4 or 5 of those games. I did a little work for Sarge on the N64 (are you seeing a pattern here?), some texture work for Crusaders of Might and Magic, I was a senior environment artist for Sarge’s War for PS2 and Xbox (Although I was only around long enough to do the example level that all the other levels needed to match in quality), and I was also a senior environment artist for 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

 

4) Would it be possible to get a new fansite kit either with the current art available, and/or with any new art coming up projects in the works (as its released of course)?

 

You can request this through Jeremy and if we get enough requests we might be able to put stuff together, but as you might have heard from the Seattle Town Hall, we’re pretty busy right now. J

5) And of course the obligatory dev question... ceviche or sushi?

 

I like my fish dipped in a white corn meal batter and deep fried! Cevich or sushi? I mentioned I was a hillbilly, didn’t I? ;-)

6) Aside from the fact that none of the four PCs I play UO on can run KR with any semblance of stability, one of the main reasons I dont use it is the new inventory.

While I feel giving us the option to view containers in several ways is a huge plus, I wish the legacy view option actually looked like it does in the "2d" client. Any chance of making the legacy view in KR truly legacy?

I’ll look into this, although it’s really more of an engineering issue I suspect. As mentioned in the Town Hall, there are lots of improvements on the way, so hopefully we’ll have the time to make the UOSA inventory “Legacy view” more Legacy-y. There is a button on the inventory UI that allows you to see your backpack in “freeform” mode, but I can’t remember which one it was ATM.

7) How many folks presently work with you on graphics, and is that adequate for whatever goals you would like to reach in UO's art?

 

While I’m not at liberty to discuss our staffing, I can say that I’ve worked on teams from 2 artists to over a hundred, and I’ve rarely felt that we had enough artists to cover the workload! That said we have a great set of new artists for UO. Extremely talented men and women who are getting the hang of the UO process wonderfully.

8) Do you have a favorite avatar/icon that depicts GrimmOmen's persona?

 

Well, no, not really. But I think the one I think is closest is the avatar I use which is a picture of Ash from Army of Darkness in a shredded shirt holding the “boom stick” over his head. I love the Ash character. He’s as much an idiot as he is a hero, a buffoon as he is brilliant.

9) How difficult is it working with two different clients?

 

Well, back in the UOSE days when we were dealing with the (now) Legacy client and the 3D client, it was awful. The biggest problem is that when you put out an expansion pack like UOSA, you have to have enough new content to make the expansion pack fun, and a limited amount of time to do it in. Now add the fact that you have 2 clients to make assets for and you find yourself in trouble fast. One of the approaches to streamline this is by making creatures for the 3D client, then rendering out the animations for the 2D client from those same assets. UOSA was not the first to take this route – and actually I believe that everything post 3D client was handled in this way.

 

The Legacy/ UOKR (notice I did NOT use the “2D” label?) situation is very, very different. There are still some spots that make our work harder, but the difference is that the 2D/3D situation made be appreciate the Legacy client; the Legacy/UOKR situation makes me appreciate the UOKR client. There’s simply no competition.

10) Do you feel having two clients has hurt the development of UO?

 

In the 3D client days, absolutely! You can just look at the artwork in the 2D client since the addition of the 3D client. The streamlining approach that I mentioned in the above question turned out some seriously ugly stuff compared to what had come before. Anytime you have to pack in more work in the same amount of time, you’re going to see the difference, and the Legacy\3D client combo proves that. Back in the day, there was also a lowered expectation in the quality of artwork, so this helped to prolong a very bad practice that should have been corrected immediately.

 

This is why I’m loving this UOKR/Legacy situation, I mean, compare the art quality now with what we did in UOML. UOML was waaaay better than the stuff we did in UOSE, and UOKR blows that out of the water. What’s awesome for me is that we’re moving back into what UO used to be - in more ways than one! But in art especially. That’s what I’ve been working for since coming on to the team, so it’s been wonderful seeing this finally come to fruition. All the work that I and the other artists have put into UO is paying off, and you can see the difference.

11) "Concept art for creatures (when I'm lucky)"

If and when you get lucky, is there any particular creature that you would like to create and see in-game which currently does not exist?

 

I dunno, I think I’d really like to make something really, really nasty. Not necessarily big, but something that that gives you the same feeling when a Dark Father shows up. Something that just makes you want to hide. A champ spawn or something – with my name on it so I can live in my little piece of UO lore like Oaks, Sylvani, and Hans, and others have had. Something that eat archers for breakfast! ;-)






12) Are there any particular creatures currently in-game that you had a major hand in creating?

 

In being the character lead, there’s not much I didn’t have a major hand in creating. Pretty much everything post UOSE I had some hand in developing – even if it was just in art direction. In the UOSE/UOML years we had a brilliant concept artist named Brad Garnier. He was an unbelievable talent with creature design. The same situation existed with Danny Floyd and Dave Brown. It was a pleasure to work with so many talented concept artists. But as far as the concept artwork I did myself for creatures? Well, lessee... There’s the Reaper Form from UOML, I also did the concepts for the new Shadow Lords and Time Lords, in UOKR there’s the Red Daemons, the Blackgate Daemon, Daemon Elder, The Asian Dragon, the Fire Dragon, the Solens and the Terrathans, and the Frost Spider (I think). There is another I can’t talk about right now, and I did the concept art for 7 creatures in the UOSA lineup which, obviously, I can’t talk about either.

13) What is your favorite memory/story in regards to working on Ultima Online?

 

I don’t know that I can think of any one big story. Everyday is a good memory when you work on a good team. I know that there are a lot of people past and current that I enjoy working with a great deal. I think that UO has been fortunate that, even though team members have come and gone those who have come in to fill the shoes of those who left have been exceptional people in their own way. So it’s not like getting another Speedman, Tact, Jib, or Shepherd, you get new and different awesomeness in Supreem, Draconi, Leurocian, Billy and the rest of the team. And honestly, I’ve been very fortunate to have worked as many amazing people on UO as I have.

14) When you play UO (and I hope you do), what sort of character do you like to play?

 

Mage, and I do entirely PvM. Not that there’s anything wrong with PvP, I just suck at it in general.

15) Did you play UO before you started working on it?

 

Nope. I Played several of the latter Ultimas, but didn’t start playing UO until after UOSE when I was brought up for an Art Director role. At that point, actually, none of the artists were playing UO. But taking on the role of an Art Director for UO I figured that since I’m going to be calling the shots, I better know what I’m talking about! I then turned around and gave the artists a week to play UO on the company dime. It was one of the best decisions I ever made. It seemed like it was once we were all playing did the development for UO become a lot more personal. It was a fantastic thing to see happen with the other artists as well. We even had a guild for the artists for a time. This is why I highly recommend that new artists coming to the game actually play it as well.

16) Some parts of KR look good, and some just don't. The scales are wildly out of whack between items, most stuff is too fuzzy to correctly identify, and the color palettes blend a bit too much, making it hard to play without eyestrain. Honestly, the 2D client has a much "crisper" look, and it shouldn't even be close since it's a much lower resolution.

How much is on the schedule to be redone completely?

 

I obviously can’t speak much in regards to our internal schedule, but I’ve heard that feedback from players and it’s definitely on our list of to-dos.

"Provide the occasional technical assistance to other teams within EA"

 

17) Could you elaborate on this? As in, what other teams do you help and how?

Are they strictly other UO teams, or other games?

 

I can’t elaborate on which teams, but I’ve provided other teams with pipeline suggestions and a tool or two to help them get started in production.

18) Grimm, Will the male paperdolls in KR ever get a makeover? I loathe them so much... I'm a female and I play a Male character often... I like looking at him in 2d he is buff and goodlooking.... has sort of a "Harrison Ford" type look if Harrison were a Drow... but in KR he looks like he's had one six pack too many and has developed some sort of nasty dunlap disease... he also looks like he's trying to find the local can... and his face.... No way near handsome..... I've tried all the faces you can get from the "bodysculpter" but they are not handsome either.... of course NOTHING looks good on that body... It's really quite ugly. (sorry just my opinion)...

 

The original direction we were trying to take is an “every man” approach. As it turns out, we missed the mark we were aiming for. I think that a re-do of the male paperdoll is in order, but I’m not sure when we’re going to be able to tackle it. Right now I have my head down in the immediate UOSA tasks and can’t see very far into the future.

19) Anyway as for other issues a lot of things in KR seem to have bad problems such as treasure chests.... they look like a swayback nag.... any chance that the art in KR will get updated?

 

To some degree, yes, but to what degree, I have no idea. As I mentioned in the last question, it’s still a little early to know what all is going to be done for UOKR.

 

20) Many Japanese shards have beautiful additions to places like West Brit Bank.... any chance we could get some attention like that on the US shards??? We would love to have some unique beautiful designs and themed areas on our shards as well.

I think that would be awesome as well. I think as our team expands, opportunities like that will become available.

21) And finally..... Any proposed updates to the house design menu?? House deco and design are my main love in UO... On that same note.... any chance that we could have a design challenge to add 2 or 3 new Keep/Castle designs to the game that owners of Keeps and Castles could choose from so while they still could not custom their building they could at least change it up a bit? I would love the opportunity to redesign a castle.

 

LOL – Well, this is really more of a design department question but since none of them are here to defend themselves, I guess I could totally commit them to the task, couldn’t I??? . I therefore PROMISE that design… will evaluate your request. Nuts. I chickened out there, didn’t I? ;-)

 

 

Thanks Grimm for a great interview

Thanks to Jeremy for sending it back to us

And thanks to our posters for submitting questions for the interview.

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17) Could you elaborate on this? As in, what other teams do you help and how?

Are they strictly other UO teams, or other games?

 

I can’t elaborate on which teams, but I’ve provided other teams with pipeline suggestions and a tool or two to help them get started in production.

 

Damn, Grimm is a Legendary Dodger/Deflector.

 

I had a feeling he wouldn't be able to answer though, I'll take my interpretation of his answer and keep it to myself.

 

Great interview and excellent questions from the other posters!

 

Thanks Grimm for the answers and your time!

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It's great to see the same dedication Grimm started with in coming into UO design continue as we get ready for SA *smiles* I remember well the open communication both Grimm and CatHat showed to players when design for ML came out, a few really good and very important changes were made. It really showed the players this is OUR game, the devs and the community.

*hugs Grimm*

Great interview!

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21) And finally..... Any proposed updates to the house design menu?? House deco and design are my main love in UO... On that same note.... any chance that we could have a design challenge to add 2 or 3 new Keep/Castle designs to the game that owners of Keeps and Castles could choose from so while they still could not custom their building they could at least change it up a bit? I would love the opportunity to redesign a castle.

 

LOL – Well, this is really more of a design department question but since none of them are here to defend themselves, I guess I could totally commit them to the task, couldn’t I??? . I therefore PROMISE that design… will evaluate your request. Nuts. I chickened out there, didn’t I? ;-)

I would totally keep my castle, lag and all, if we could change them up a bit!

 

Heck, I'd be happy if they were smaller, and more easily accesible, with the same amount of storage ;)

 

Thanks for the interview, was good reading! =)

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