Following the success of your game: Evoland, was this your first successful game creation venture? Or were there others?Actually I think this is the real first successful game I'm proud to say "Hey check it out, I worked on that one!!" because it was an amazing experience for me, working with a really small team, passionate about game development, from the very beginning to the end of the project. Everything went great, it took us only 4 months to get the job done and apparently people like what we did: that's what I call a success!
I also worked for Ubisoft for 3 years as a concept artist on several projects (mostly scrapped), but I have to say, it was a disaster working for a big company, even though I was happy as hell when they first called me to join the team. It almost ruined the vision I had of games development... I mean, you are not really "useful" (for lack of a better word), you only have to do what the big boss likes and you can't even express yourself entirely as an artist. In fact, you are a small cog in the machine.
What made you decide to go beyond Evoland's initial contest entry for Ludum Dare into a fully commercialized game title?
Well, as I said, Shiro Games is a real young game company, and considering the success Nicolas (the developer who did the very first concept for the ludum dare competition) had with Evoland and the enthusiasm of so many players, we decided to make a full game out of it. It was also a great occasion to bond with the team, see what we can achieve together, how much we can commit ourselves in a concrete project.
Creating Evoland must have taken a lot of time, energy, effort and possibly money (blood, sweat and tears). How did you manage to keep yourself motivated especially during the 30 hour crunch that it took for you to complete Evoland for the contest, and before you released the game in Steam as well as through your website?
I asked Nicolas (the creator of Evoland) about that, he said "Drugs" aha.
But then he told me that :
"In order to successfully complete the Ludum Dare you need a lot of concentration. But doing the same thing such as programming can quickly turn into a loss of focus.
So every time I feel like I'm not advancing quick enough, I'm switching tasks: adding more gfxs, or working on sound, then returning to programming afterwards.
The fact that you have to complete the whole game by yourself in Ludum Dare allows that.
As for the complete version of Evoland, we used short iterations and focused on advancing the game as we did it.
This helped us keep the momentum but it was sometimes a bit hard to get the whole picture of the game."
The most important for me was the fact that each of us are passionate about creating games and also all that support of our community players on the facebook page (and later on Greenlight) helped a lot to keep us motivated through 4 months of development.
When you first started working in games, what was your job title? Can you tell me what your career path has been so far?
I first started working in the games industry during my last year in Art School, it was a small project and I worked on it as a freelance concept artist. It was very nice to work from home (very comfortable with flexible hours), and after that, I kept looking for freelance jobs only but it was hard to find good and regular clients.
Then I started to apply to various companies and Ubisoft called me back (!!), I was really happy to begin my real career as a concept artist in such a big videogame company! I worked there for 3 years, and I decided to leave in order to work as a freelancer again. It was a lot easier than before because when it says "Ubisoft" on your resume, a lot of people take you seriously.
And here I am, art director in a small company, and I love it!
What is your educational background? Are you more a 2D or 3D artist?
I went to an art school in France for three years (2004 - 2007) where I learned the basics of 3D modeling and animation. It was a good opportunity for me because I was more of a 2D artist but I had the feeling that 3D was going to be mandatory for any job in the artistic field!
And now I feel like "yay I made the right choice" because it happened to be a significant bonus on my resume for the job application as a concept artist. My former art director really appreciated the fact that I was able to understand technical constraints, or simply speak with the 3D artists/animators for a better workflow.
Your portfolio is amazing. It shows a wide range of conceptual character, illustration and graphic design. What is your design development process? Do you design your characters based on a story or does your story create the characters for you?
Thank you for the compliment! You have no idea how I feel every time people say they like my work that much, it's always a pleasure!
Most of the time, when I'm trying to draw something for me or at work, it just pops right out of my head. I don't think about something in particular, I just let my mind do the work for the early brush strokes (basic shapes etc). Then, when I feel like I'm getting somewhere, I do some research on the internet in order to be more accurate on the details (textures, shading, color palette).
I usually set the story of a character while drawing it, that way the tiniest details bring me new ideas for its background. For example : "Oh I'm going to dye her hair red, her mother might have been a witch and cursed her with her own blood" and so on, and so on (obviously, this is when I draw for me).
I like that because I am not initially constrained by a pre-defined story or the look of the character.
Art is a very competitive field especially in gaming. What kind of advice can you offer to many budding and aspiring artists who would like to enter the video game industry (such as myself)?
Actually, what makes you essential on a videogame project is your ability to be creative. You also have to show that you are strongly motivated and willing to learn constantly from others, especially if you're working in a small team. And of course your knowledge of videogames!
What are things that you feel are important for Artists to present or demonstrate in their portfolios when they apply for jobs in the video game industry? For example: Presentation of certain skills, concept design, resume highlights, etc.
This is a tough one.
"A great portfolio" is somehow a subjective statement, one guy will love it, and his workmate will say "meh", sadly.
If it were for me, I would say that I like when your portfolio shows works related to the job you're applying to. I've seen too many "character designers" when the application says "environment designer" for example, even if it's not a loss, I mean I usually bookmark every portfolio I find interesting for later use.
So, in my opinion, if you want to work as a character designer (i.e.) show people that THIS IS YOUR THING, because this is ALL you're going to do during the entire production. Remember that a recruiter will only take a peek at what he is ACTUALLY looking for, then he will close the email or website and might never open it again. You also have to show that you know what you're talking about, and you won't be taken seriously if your portfolio is too light.
As I like to say, for me, a great portfolio is like a reversed iceberg: 90% of what I'm looking for, and 10% of other stuff to show what you can do.
Even the most passionate artist will suffer from periods of burn out and art blocks. What keeps you driven throughout your artistic career (not necessarily in gaming)?
Whenever I have one of those art blocks, I like to look at other artists' illustrations, it's so motivating because I can't help telling myself that these guys had doubts too, they had bad-drawings days too, but they all got through that and here they are, blowing our minds and melting our eyes!
I love drawing, I love being creative, I love bringing ideas to life and sharing them with other people, I need all that. That's why I don't get stuck for too long when it happens to me.
What is your goal in your artistic career? Or have you already achieved it?
I have to say that I am really thriving since I work at Shiro Games as an art director, because this is something I always wanted to do since I was a child: creating games and having my word to say in the development process. Honestly, I don't know if I'll be able to find another job that brings me so much every day.
Thank you again ~Kurunya for allowing me the honor to interview you and taking the time to answer my interview questions despite your busy schedule. I look forward in supporting yours and Shiro Games future endeavors~