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Interview with Paul Nelson

By Richard Tilbury

Web: http://www.paul-nelson.com/ (will open in new window)
Email: moc.liamg@6sitag

(16710 Views) | 1 Comments
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Date Added: 4th June 2013

What game genres interest you from an artistic point of view and what titles would you like to have been involved with if you'd had the opportunity?

I've always been a fan of the traditional adventure games. I tend to lean toward something that has an engaging story. I used to love all the point and click adventures from LucasArts games like Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, Monkey Island and Grim Fandango. Artistically they were great, the stories were brilliantly written and, most of all, they were funny.

Obviously with all the new technology that we have today, the so-called "adventure" game has taken huge leaps forward. I think there are two titles that I would love to have had the opportunity to work on in the last couple of years, and those would have to be Heavy Rain and Uncharted. Those guys have done a fantastic job and have done things that I didn't think were possible with the current generation of consoles.

What is your usual approach to character modeling when you receive a design?

This depends on the design and whether you receive concepts or not. Most of the time I never receive concepts, so I block out the model in Maya or whatever modeling software I've chosen to use.

Lately I have found myself purely sculpting in ZBrush using the DynaMesh feature, which has completely changed the way I work. At this stage I very rarely worry about the edge loops working for animation, as long as I have a nice clean topology for sculpting in ZBrush. I always start with a default head, especially when producing characters for a game, as I create a default set of blend shapes that can be used for each character. It's a great time-saver, plus it's a great first pass to start with and once you've adapted the head to a new character you can always make them more bespoke later.

After the blocking out is done I will take those meshes through to ZBrush and sculpt all the details and refine the silhouette of the mesh. At this stage it's always good to get the art director's feedback, or if it's a personal project, take the time to look over it and make any final tweaks to make sure you're happy. After this I will decimate the meshes, take them through to a package like 3D-Coat and then retopologize. There's no right or wrong way of modeling unless you're building a mesh for animation; just make sure to keep the topology clean.

It sounds as though the concept phase of character design has evolved into part of the 3D process now, due to the speed and efficiency of ZBrush. Would you say this is becoming more common now or do you think it is particular to certain projects?

Most definitely. With the advent of software such as ZBrush and Mudbox it's becoming more common practice. We now have the ability to work more efficiently and faster than ever, and it gives clients the ability to look at something very quickly in 3D. Not everything that is visualized in 2D translates well into 3D, so I think it's becoming an integral part of the process.

How do you go about texturing the skin on your characters?

It depends on the character's design really. Most of the time it would be hand-painted if in a cartoon style, or for a more realistic approach I would tend to use a lot of photographic references. I use Photoshop a lot, but over the last 2 years I've made the transition to using Mari and I find myself using Photoshop less and less for texturing and more for concepting.

How does Mari compare to Photoshop?

I can't really compare them as they are different, and I tend to use them for different things. But since the release of Mari 2.0 the work flow has become very similar with the introduction of the new layer system. For me they work hand in hand, but it's the ability to be able to paint directly on to a high resolution mesh that gives it the Mari upper hand, especially when it comes to texture painting.

What tips would you give to someone wishing to break into the industry as a character artist?

To be honest this is something that I have been asked a lot over the years. I always had an interest in becoming a character artist when joining the games industry, but I soon came to realize that just focusing on being a character artist was limiting me when it came to getting a job. For me, getting a foot in the door was a lot more important.

I started as a generalist and I got to work on a bit of everything from concept and prop modeling to environments and creature modeling, and I learnt so much. All the stuff I learnt I put to good use when it came to my own character modeling.

The great thing is, once you're in the industry you have opportunities to show what you are interested in and you get to move around. I showed that I had an interest in character modeling and once I got the opportunity I took it.

I think what I am trying to say is don't limit yourself to one area. Try different things, learn a lot and you will make yourself a lot more employable and hopefully you will get that character role you've always wanted.

Thanks for taking the time to talk to us!

Thank you guys, it was a pleasure. Hopefully this has given you a small insight into my path into 3D and what working in the industry entails.

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Readers Comments (Newest on Top)
Nour Elislam on Sun, 09 June 2013 12:11pm
this is wonderfull !!!
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