3DTotal : Hi Rodrigue, could you tell us a bit about you and your background? Rodrigue : Well, I’m 28 & I was born in the north of France. When I was 6 years old my parents moved to French Guyana, and then when I turned 18, I moved back to the East of France for my studies. Since 2004 I’ve been living in Montreal, Québec.
I’m currently working for EA Montreal doing next-gen characters on the game “Army of Two”.
3DTotal : Can you tell us how you started out in the games business? Rodrigue : After my art diploma, obtained in Emile Cohl art school in Lyon, I wanted to find a job where
I could do some character concept and learn new things. At that moment there were many video game companies in Lyon (France) so I started doing a lot of small jobs for a few of them. I did tons of characters concepts and some backgrounds researches on various demos and prototypes. I also did some illustrations for various magazines and I started to work on a personal comic book project.
Then I heardby one of my friends who were working for Widescreen Games Studio that they were looking for people. I was hired and I started working as concept artist. Then they taught me how to use Maya to create
low poly 3D characters and backgrounds for Playstation 2 games. I liked it and I did it for a few years. In 2004, I stumbled on a website mentioning that EA Montreal was hiring and doing interviews in Paris and in Lyon. I became very enthusiastic but at the same time scared that they wouldn’t hire me because of my very poor level in English at the time. I decided to give it a try anyway and surprisingly I was invited to join EA’s team. I’ve been working since August 2004 in Montréal for EA.
3DTotal : How did you find the transition of moving to a huge and renowned games company such as EA? Rodrigue : It’s was really challenging. I met a lot of talented people from all over the world, with a lot of experience in the video game industry or in the movie industry. They are used to seeing very good stuff and I had to give my best every day. Because of that I improved a lot. They gave us all the tools we needed to deliver the best quality we could. They know that unhappy people will not deliver good work, so they try to do their best to make us feel happy about what we are doing. The Studio itself is a really nice place to work. I wasn’t expecting things to happen so well! With the new project ‘Army of Two’, everyone in the team is able to bring ideas, concepts etc…and it’s really cool to deal with talented and open minded people. At the end, what was difficult for me was to leave all my friends and my family in France and to survive my first winter in Montreal (it’s mad). I don’t know
if it would be the same if I had moved to another EA
studio but I never regret my move to Montreal and
three years after it’s still fun to work there.
3DTotal : Apart from the obvious graphical differences, how would you compare working on next-gen games to working on games for the old systems? Rodrigue : For me it’s completely different. When I was doing 3d backgrounds for Playstation 2 games, I was in charge of everything; modeling, texturing, lighting, collision mesh and even sometimes some particle FX. The good thing about it is that I was able to do exactly what I had in mind and I had to learn all the different steps of
the creation process. Today the size, the detailing and the complex technology create the need for specialized people in each discipline. What is cool at EA Montreal is that we are still able to do various tasks so we don’t end up feeling stuck in one discipline. I very much enjoy the character part because I can do concept art, high-res modeling and texturing, low-res modeling/normal-map, texturing, shaders, and some rendering. It’s fun! The really big changes are with the HD stuff, the freedom given to the player in game and the number of programs we have to know. In the old games the player had a path to follow so we only modeled what he could see from this path using tons of tricks. Now, since the players can play the games the way they want and move the camera to look anywhere they wish, we have to model almost everything in the game. Because of the new HD technology, we can’t just “correct the textures” like we did on Playstation 2. We now have to put a lot of details in the diffuse, the normal map, the specular map, and the shaders with much precision. Regarding the softwares, before, if you knew 3dsmax (or Maya) and Photoshop it was enough. Now, to be efficient, you have to know how to use 3dsmax, Photoshop, ZBrush, unfold 3D, the new next-gen engine and all the companies’ internal software
3DTotal : And how has having all these extra elements effected the overall time
period it takes to produce the game? Rodrigue : It’s a bit longer because we have more contents to treat but the teams are bigger and with the new tools and new engines it all simplifies the work of the artists. The time lost before in the old games on the techniques is now used to create contents. Of course I can’t say for the game I’m working on but even if it’s a bit longer in the end it’s really worth it when you look at the final results.