3DTotal: Hello Shawn, could you tell us a bit about yourself please and why you decided to go into 2D?
Shawn: Well, I started out in the early to mid 80’s working in advertising as a graphic designer and illustrator (I was also writing and pencilling comic books on the side at the time, but they were so awful that we need don’t talk about that). However, I was also doing a lot of illustrations for pen and paper role-playing companies. When I moved from Pittsburgh to Portland this work was noticed by what was then a small start-up computer games company in Eugene, Oregon – Dynamix. I think that was 1989. They offered me a job: to come and be the art director of something called a computer game. Since I had no idea that people played games on computers, had just moved to Portland and was in the process of setting up a design studio there, I turned them down. When they contacted me again a year later, I was a bit more in the know and decided to give it a shot.
    Anyway, while I work in 3D as well, my first love has always been illustration and concept art - so in many ways I still find myself gravitating towards that.  As an art director I typically did double duty as the sole concept artist as well, but even when games moved to 3D, it was still necessary to use 2D in the concept stages. I would meet with the designers to understand what they were trying to accomplish, break it down into a list of assets and sketch out characters, scenes, storyboards, backgrounds etc as a means of saying, “Here’s what you’re asking for.” Or sometimes, “I know what you’re asking for but here’s what you actually want.” Then of course these same images are used to explain to the art staff what we need out of the graphics. As for ‘deciding’ to go 2D, well when I started out there was (for all intents and purposes) no 3D to speak of. At least not as we think of it now in the games industry. So I didn’t have much of a choice!
3DTotal: Did you ever regret turning down the position that Dynamix offered you initially, or did the process of setting up a design studio prove to be an invaluable learning curve?
Shawn: I think it was the right decision to turn the job down the first time around. Setting up the studio afforded me a certain amount of exposure, good or bad, to aspects of the business world that I hadn’t really dealt with previously.

3DTotal: You’re currently an Art Producer for ArenaNet. How does this position compare to your previous rolls as Art Director for Dynamix and Big Sky Interactive?
Shawn: In many ways there’s a lot of cross-over. The position has also evolved a great deal over the past 5 years. Early on, I was doing a lot of the concept work and as such, I was sort of the conduit between the design and art departments. As we grew we brought on an entire staff of concept artists and my focus changed. Now I’m less involved in the exact look of each asset and more involved in how it relates to the needs of the overall game design (does it serve its intended purpose, schedules, milestones, outsourcing, keeping the design and art departments on the same page, lines of communication etc). Again, much of this is what I’ve always done as an art director, but with projects the size and complexity of Guild Wars it’s becoming increasingly difficult to be wearing so many hats.

3DTotal: You have recently done some work on the Guild Wars game - could you tell us a bit on your involvement in the game?
Shawn: Overall I’d say that the above answer pretty much covers it. My boilerplate answer to this question is typical: “I do all the stuff no one else wants to do.” While I try, from time-to-time, to do some concept work and creature and character modelling, I mostly spend my days in meetings, writing emails, updating spreadsheets and dealing with outsourcing what we can’t produce internally.

3DTotal: Do you think this is the direction that you wish your career to take, or would you still prefer to spend your hours, Stylus in hand, drawing?
Shawn: Oh I would certainly prefer spending more time with a stylus in my hand. I tell people that I basically fell into this position due to the fact that there was a need and no one else was filling it. As much as the artist in me loves the idea of art simply ‘happening’ as a result of an organic-like process of inspiration and collaboration, the truth is that’s just not the way games get made. Someone needs to be thinking in terms of how art, design and technology can support one another and how this translates into asset lists, milestones, budgets, dependencies and all of that fun stuff.

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