GW: Hey Paul, thanks for taking the time to do the interview with us prior to the upcoming Workshop Live Event. Could you please explain what you do and how you got started in the industry?
PR: Thanks for having me! I'm crazy-excited about it. Originally I had inclinations to get into comics (still do, I guess), but after high school I got whooshed into the world of game production design by my friend and long-time mentor Jim Daly. He's a lead concept artist at High Moon Studios now and I'm a senior concept guy over at Vigil Games in Austin. Dang, makes me sound old...
GW: I recently spoke to Chris Lichtner from Blizzard, and like other previous co-workers of yours, when I brought up your name the first thing he mentioned was the sheer number of concepts you pump out in a single day! Where do the ideas come from? How do you keep it fresh?
PR: I'm a big fan of Chris. Dude has the kind of skills and work ethic that just inspires you to do better, be better. Working with people you look up to is huge in keeping you on your toes. My boss is Joe Madureira who, like Chris, is one of the heavier hitters out there. Not to mention my fellow Vigil artists are all badasses. You can't slouch in an environment like that. It's one of the many reasons I think I'd be a lousy freelancer; I need to be around people that drive up my game. I thrive off seeing what they do, challenging them and being challenged by them. More often, freshness comes more from what's going on externally than internally.
GW: You have a huge list of musical influences on your site. Is it part of the key to your creativity? In an industry where cubicles seem to pop-up everyday, how relevant is music and environment to your workflow?
PR: Input affects output, certainly. My normal internal BPM is an even 145, but I crank that up as high as 200 when I'm in the zone, and phase in/out of that with more textural, droney, ambient stuff. My office mates call this my "whale music." I'd blast the stuff all day if I didn't think they'd strangle me. (This is where I get to geek out and say that I DJ. www.audiognomes.com)
GW: What is a typical day like in your job? What kind of deadlines are you working with? What areas of design are you responsible for?
PR: Vigil, probably more than any studio I've worked for, is one that likes to see many visual options explored, and to gradually narrow them down and tweak them to perfection. This applies to everything in a game: characters, environments, props. I do a little of all these, and have done so on both projects in development here. Management gives you a chunk of time to work within, provides feedback...there's a lot of people steering it, but early on there's more wiggle room for us concept artist to offer suggestions. That's probably the most rewarding part of the job, when you can push something through.
GW: You have worked for some of the biggest powerhouses in games and shared the studio with many of the artist that seem to be guiding the direction of games. What keeps you in Texas? What are some of the challenges or changes you have seen over the years in games?
PR: Austin is like Madison, but bigger. And hotter. My wife Wendy works in graphic design and Austin's good for that. Games are sort of growing up, getting bigger -- bigger teams with longer production cycles. You can easily get lost in it, becoming almost numeric at times. Managerial roles seem to be this bittersweet thing where you get tons more involvement/say, but wind up producing less work; so many other things demand your time. I'm not sure that would ever sit well with me, so right now I'm somewhere in the middle. Keeping art fun and personal is the biggest challenge, for sure, and not losing sight of why I got into this.
GW: Are you able to share what you are currently working on now?
PR: Yes! At this precise moment I'm doing ambient creatures for Warhammer 40K Online, and whatever else they throw at me. I may soon get bounced back onto a sequel to Darksiders, the project I was hired for in 2006, but right now it's a limbo point in between universes. I stay busy with personal art, too. Did Dominance War this year. Maxin' out my bandwidth on my website/blog lately...gotta crunch down those .jpgs!
GW: What do you have in store for the upcoming Workshop Live attendees?
PR: 'Thumb War' is my analysis of the importance and practice of thumbnailing -- that critical early step in designing anything -- which I'd say comprises 80% of my professional work. Without giving too much away, I'm hoping people will get into the spirit of the demo and participate. Like, imagine if Bill Cosby from Picture Pages was a short, angry drill sergeant...
To see more of Paul Richards' work, go to: www.autodestruct.com