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Interview with Rodrigue Pralier

By 3dtotal staff

Web: http://www.rodriguepralier.com (will open in new window)

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Date Added: 30th January 2014


When starting a new personal project it generally starts from a feeling. I rarely have something precise in mind and tend to just go with the flow. In the case of the old man blowing smoke, I knew I wanted to do an old rock-and-roll character with grey hair, a funny mouth shape and a very white and bright lighting. All the rest came naturally as I was sculpting and researching references.

I'm the kind of person that likes to dive straight in and try to figure out things as I do them, rather than simply wasting time procrastinating.


3dtotal: Can you tell us a little about the process you use to create game characters and are there any programs, plug-ins or render packages you would particularly recommend at the moment?

Rodrigue: To me, only the final result in the game counts, so I don't really mind which tools are used to get there.

Personally, I'm a big fan of ZBrush and 3ds Max to create my high-res mesh and UV work. I also use xNormal a lot for my projections (it's so fast!), and CrazyBump to help me with the texturing phase. For faces, I still use ZAppLink heavily and the rest is just experience learned through repeating certain processes. I try to go inside the engine as fast as possible so all the rest of the work is simply tweaking in Photoshop.

I'm actually very old-school (I'm one of those dinosaurs now!) and I don't really use anything fancy. I used to be up to date with all the new iterations of ZBrush but since I started focusing more on in-game work, I have to admit that I probably know only 30% of the latest version of ZBrush.


I was looking at some tools like Marvelous Designer, nDo, dDo, TurboSmooth Pro etc… and they all seem amazing, but I haven't really taken the time to learn how to use them properly.

With the advent of the new generations of consoles, I think we have to constantly redevelop and evolve our work to keep up with the demands of the players. For me, that's great because I might start to feel too comfortable in my work, and that's the worst thing that could happen to an artist.

3dtotal: On your site there is an impressive list of games that you have worked on including Mass Effect 2 and 3 and Medal of Honor. Can you tell us about your involvement with these games and what it is like working on huge mainstream titles?

Rodrigue: I arrived near the end of game-making process for Mass Effect 2 and so didn't contribute much towards the main game; however I did work heavily on all the Mass Effect 2 DLCs. I was lead character artist for Army of Two, and the character art director on the Army of Two sequel.

On Medal of Honor I was an environment artist and also worked on the marketing pieces.

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Mass Effect 3 is my most recent work, and the most exciting to date. I was lead character artist for this project and my main job was to keep improving the pipeline, propose ideas and new designs, all while trying to keep everything together, which was quite a challenge with a game with so many assets.

The art direction of Mass Effect is amazing and the people who created the brand really knew what they were doing. It was great to work with such amazing artists and visionaries. I was lucky enough to be able to bring new things to the characters to make them a bit more realistic and grounded (if that's even possible for a sci-fi game!)

I re-created most of the shaders for the game characters to improve the quality, changed things in the pipeline and managed to get the character team to deliver almost 3 times the amount of assets expected from us.

I also strove to improve communication within the different departments and worked on marketing products such as: cover art, litho, promo pictures, guns and props. I can't go into details for NDA reasons but it was both exciting and very demanding to work on such a big game. Also it's the first time that I was working on one of my all-time favorite games so it definitely motivated me to push as much as I could.


3dtotal: As someone who sits at a computer screen all day, I find it really important to make sure I get outside and make the most of time away from work. What do you like to do in your free time when you get a chance to refresh the batteries?

Rodrigue: I used to go to the gym a lot and do more activities but I had a bad back injury 4 years ago and since then I became a bit lazy! I still love to go outside though. I live near a small park and love to walk through it when times are difficult.

Once or twice a year I try to travel outside the country to refresh my eye and my mind. This summer I had a break of 6 weeks so I traveled back to France to see my family. I had almost no computer interaction and it felt amazing to recharge my batteries.

Otherwise I still love to read comics, collect toys (mostly Dragon Ball), watch TV shows, go out for a drink with my friends, play ping pong with my co-workers, eat healthily. For the most part, like my art, I try to go with the way I feel in the moment.

Related links

Find out more about Rodrigue on his website
Rodrigue works for Bioware
Rodrigue was lead character artist on Mass Effect 3
Digital Art Masters: Volume 8

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Readers Comments (Newest on Top)
MauricioPC on Thu, 30 January 2014 11:16am
Hey Rodrigue,

Thanks for sharing so much info about your history and life with 3D. I always find people tell only the good parts of how everything worked and you were sincere enough to talk about unemployment and the will to keep striving to get an opportunity.

Amazing work ... thanks!!
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