Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Voodoo Extreme awards Titan Quest with Best Art Direction for 2006!


Today was a very interesting and exciting day for me. Voodoo Extreme awarded Titan Quest with "Best Art Direction for a Game for 2006". As the Art Director on Titan Quest, I feel particularly proud of this. TQ was a bit of a sleeper title here in the U.S. and didn't get nearly the marketing budget or time for polish like many of us hoped, but we worked extremely hard to ship a great looking game. This recognition is especially rewarding considering those facts. This recognition is also important to me because when I was an artist making art, I would have a specific piece of work that I could point to and feel very proud about. After slowly being sucked into a management position I struggled for a long time with not having the attention or the pat on the back for creating a cool model or slick texture work. Rarely do people come to you and say you are doing a great job managing or that your art direction is really solid. I really struggled with this when I was the Lead Artist on Asheron's Call 2. I enjoyed the creative control, but missed the praise when a piece of concept that I had created was modeled and textured by another artists. It's not that I'm fishing for compliments, but it's important to feel like what you are doing is appreciated. Asheron's Call 2 did receive quite a bit of positive feedback on it's art direction, which made me feel good, but no awards or recognition from the folks in the industry.

TQ was quite a challenge from the start. When I was hired at Iron Lore I took the position as a Senior Artist. I needed a break from managing and was a bit burnt out with the "Design by Committee" philosophy that had taken over the art department at Turbine when I was working on D&D Online. Not looking to get back into management, I was very excited about being an artist again. Looking forward to creating some great models and doing some texture work. After a few weeks at Iron Lore, it became crystal clear to me that the Art Director that Iron Lore had hired was more knowledgeable about feature film pipeline, but not so much about the how things are done in video games. Iron Lore soon realized, as many of the artists on the team did, that this AD was not the right person for the job. After this guy left the company, me being the most senior person in the Art Department, was asked to help out while a search for a new Art Director was underway. I had no problem with this because I was pretty much use to handling many of the day to day running of the department anyways. After a couple weeks of managing the department, the project manager asked me if I would be interested in the position. My initial feeling was no. I didn't want the responsibility, the headaches and have to deal with internal political struggles; but after getting that knee-jurk reaction out of the way and allowing the bitter flashbacks from my Turbine days to fade, I reconsidered.

The art team at Iron Lore was enthusiastic and very talented. Half of them were new to the industry and the other half had 3-4 year experience. This was a really great group of guys. I don't want to get into all of the details of the monumental task it was creating TQ, but with any new company with a big vision, the scale and scope of the project was similar to that of an MMO when it came to the number of assets that we were expected to create. My challenge, as the Art Director was to establish visual guidelines for the project, create the art pipeline, work with the programmers to get the necessary tools and make sure that the art styles of 12 different artists all gelled into a single cohesive vision all without a story for the game. Pretty standard. Not to mention that 4 months of preproduction time was wasted by the previous Art Director. On June of 2006, after 2 years in production, many long days and nights, and after way too much consumption of pizza, Titan Quest hit the shelves and quietly faded into the background due to the media coverage of the new consoles that were about to come out. Nonetheless, I was very proud of what we had accomplished and what I had accomplished. I have come to accept that I actually like being an Art Director and can appreciate the day to day rewards that comes with the job. There are some days that I still wouldn't mind slipping away into my cube for a full 8 hours without having to go to a meeting or to deal with a creative dispute between the designers and artists, but then again I would not have had the opportunity to shape this project the way I did. I would like to thank the folks over at Voodoo Extreme for not over looking TQ because it didn't have "in your face Normal Mapping" or some of the other "NEXTGEN" effects that are frequently over used. Anyways, thanks.


Snowfly said...

Hi Mike! glad to have come across your blog. I recently picked up Titan Quest and it reminded what that this is what working in game art is about.

I'm familiar with some of the artists work from online, and its a fun little game trying to figure out who worked on what...but it's pointless and nerdy. Everyone's styles just seems smooshed together into one!

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