3DTotal: You have worked as a Concept Artist in the games arena for some time now, but for anyone unsure about this role could you explain what the job entails and the challenges it presents? Daryl: Sure – basically the role of a Concept Artist is creating visuals that support the vision of the game. Working with the Art Director and game designers we design the look and feel of everything in the game, including environments, characters, props and so on. This might entail creating ‘mood’ pieces to establish the look and feel of an area of the game, or doing technical drawings of how a machine might operate. We try to answer as best we can the question: “What does this thing look like?”. The biggest challenge is learning to be flexible to tackle all sorts of artistic challenges, and to execute on them quickly. Since we are at the beginning of the production pipeline, other departments can’t start their work until we provide them with concept art, so at the start of a project there is a lot of pressure to get to final designs ASAP. As the project goes on, my role shifts to providing support to the artists working on assets for the game, by providing feedback and paintovers when necessary. I am pretty busy throughout the entire production.
3DTotal: Can you explain what you mean by “paintovers”, and do you ever contribute towards the 3D aspects in the way of texture maps? Daryl: Sure – a paintover is basically taking a shot or render of an existing asset, and then bringing it into Photoshop and painting over the top of it. It’s a good way to give visual direction and set targets for the artist. Then I’d hand it back to the artist and they try and match what I’ve done in 3D. I usually don’t get involved in actually producing 3D assets, or texture painting, since we have a big team here. I will use 3D sometimes in producing concept art though, such as blocking out a scene in Maya, and then over in Photoshop.
3DTotal: You are currently working on a next-gen Turok title, and as many people know, Turok the character first appeared in comic form during the fifties. What do you think are the pitfalls of taking a comic book story into the realm of video games as well as doing sequels? Daryl: Well, appeasing the fans of the original comics is a big one. The game has to capture something of the essence of what made the original idea cool in the first place. If you fail in this, you risk a lot of people saying, “Wait a minute – this doesn’t feel like Turok at all”, and you then lose some of your core audience.It’s a real balancing act though, since there are a lot of things in the original comics that modern audiences would find cheesy and quaint. So like I said, it’s about hitting that core. The other big thing is storytelling. In comics, the story and script are set from the beginning. In a video game you sort of have to let the player create the story as they play. That’s not to say the game doesn’t have a story, but each player will go through and play the game differently, each creating their own little mini-stories as they go. So there is less to worry about in a comic book; in a game you have a thousand moving parts that all need to be coordinated properly for the experience to pay off.
3DTotal: Turok on the N64 was a big hit and conveyed a very visceral and violent environment which appealed to many players and suited the storyline. These are aspects that can easily be replicated on
a current console, but what do you feel are the additional capabilities of the next-gen machines that can add to the sequel and specifically the gameplay in a way that advances the series beyond what earlier versions could achieve? Daryl: Well, I don’t know all the technical things associated with next-gen hardware, but in a general sense I notice when I play the game that it is a lot deeper than previous Turok games. For example,
our AI is really robust, which is something I think being on next-gen hardware really helps with. This level of AI really draws the player into the game and increases the re-playability. Another cool thing is that
some of our dinos are huge! We now have the texture budgets and polygon counts to make these
gigantic creatures, and that creates this whole other level of gameplay where taking down these huge creatures is just really satisfying.
3DTotal: Do you feel that having a keen interest in playing computer games is a benefit in your job, or is it irrelevant? Daryl: It definitely helps, I think. Just being aware of the current state of art in computer entertainment is really important. It helps you spot trends and can give you a good idea of what is possible from a
technical standpoint, which can translate into more robust concepts. It’s also helpful to have this vast database in my head of videogames I’ve played in the past – I can recall moments in past games that I thought worked really well and use them as a base for developing new ideas.