How did you come to work on EverQuest and EverQuest II?
Oh, a great question with a long answer! A long time ago in a land far, far away (Tacoma, Washington), I applied to be part of the Customer Service team for SOE (Sony Online Entertainment) and was hired for work on the newly opened EverQuest Online Adventures. I worked on that scrappy team for a few years until I was brought into the Community Relations team as an EQII contact as well as their art support. After a few years on that team, I was alerted that EverQuest II was interested in bringing in art apprentices to learn their tools and system. I immediately jumped at the chance and after a whirlwind training session, I started making basic weapons and cloaks.
How long have you been working on EQ and EQII?
On EverQuest II itself, I’ve been working for a little over 15 years. That doesn’t count the few years I worked in Customer Service for EQOA, on the Community Relations team (oh, so many FanFaire events!). That too doesn’t count the art support given to EverQuest itself which has been over the past 5 years. It’s been quite an adventure with many more adventures on the horizon and beyond!
What was the first project you worked on for EQ and EQII?
I truly am unsure what my very first project was in those early days. But I want to say it was probably a cloak. With learning the whole system of implementing items starting with a cloak meant just adding texture to a base square (half on the front of the cloak, the other half on the inside of the cloak) that then that completed texture set could be applied to a cloak model. Being in the apprenticeship program at the time, I was still learning the tools for making base geometry and getting those things into the game for player consumption. I’d been an avid user of digital art tools such as Photoshop for quite a while up to that point, but digital geometry tools such as Maya were a new kind of mad alchemy that took me quite a bit to wrap my head around. For Everquest, I believe my first projects were armor retextures. Back then, I had no idea how to get assets into the system on such a different game, so a project like that would be something I could complete and then give to the EverQuest art team to then implement.
What is your favorite project that you’ve worked on for EQ and EQII?
That is a very tough question to answer! That old phrase of “you can’t have a favorite child” really rings with me, since I’ve loved so many of the things I’ve produced over the years. I’ve created some fantastic clockwork creatures, made possibly hundreds of armor sets and quite easily thousands of weapons. With that said though, I do take a little extra pride in a weird sea dragon I’d made a while ago. It was a long necked, two-legged monstrosity with a great frill down its snake-like body. On its head was a kind of angler fish lure that could shine light in the darkness of the deep and a huge mouth bristling with sharp teeth. Finally seeing that self-made abomination actually moving around in-game was an extra special moment.
How did you break into the game industry?
Simply put, it was pure luck on my part and keeping my ears open. In those early days, I was a grocery store worker and had been for about eleven years and I was really itching for a new adventure. The moment I heard there was a possible opening in Customer Service for a video game company, let alone one that I knew through playing years of EverQuest, I applied for the position and made the big move from Tacoma, Washington down to San Diego.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to break into the game industry?
Good question! Through my own personal experience, I’d say work on your skills and get to know folks in the industry. This helps in two ways… for one, you get better at your own skills so you can hopefully pull ahead of the pack seeking jobs in the same field. Secondly, knowing folks in the field and in the industry helps to then know what tools those teams work with and when openings might become available. So many game companies use their own preferred tools to get the work done. In the case of art positions, there’s a wildly differing set of tools. From Maya to 3DS Max and Blender to make geometry as well as different texturing programs such as Photoshop and Zbrush, there’s many ways to get things done.
What or who is your favorite item or NPC in EQ or EQII?
It’s impossible for me to choose, really. My brain can never pick favorites since there are so many to choose from. Every time I can make a new set of wild armor with crazy sigils and effects to every 25-30 weapons set that push my imagination to new limits is always my favorite. At the time being too, I get to generate this for two wonderful games, so my imagination muscles have been given quite a workout! I’m still so very honored to be part of a lineage of great art folks that have made some really wonderful NPCs, monsters and items over the past two decades.
What’s the most rewarding project you’ve worked on?
Truly, every time I make a set of armor with wild attachments and effects, or another set of fantastic weaponry, it is *always* rewarding. Some tasks are simply more complicated and require more finesse than others, sometimes to the point I wonder if I can even complete it. I regularly push my ideas to the limit of what the engine or what our texture shaders can handle. Too, there’s projects I’ve had to step back and reassess because my imagination was bigger than reality, so some strategic changes were needed to allow the task to get done. Tackling and completing huge tasks and hearing “WOW” from the design staff always makes the work worthwhile. If these folks that have worked for more than a decade love the look of something I made, the players will probably go wild over it!
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you got started?
I consider my adventure through all this to be a learning process, so I’d have to say nothing much. Most certainly there were some growing pains. I have had to learn how to best texture things for the best effect with our shader tools (I’m still learning even now) and how best use the geometry I have available without making something so detailed it gets lost in the noise. It’s all part of the journey.
What’s the first thing that got you interested in working in the game industry?
Even back in grade school, I was always the kid pouring my imagination into the margins of my mostly finished homework. There were always swords to design, monsters to pull from my pens and drawing books to fill with adventure. To possibility have a means to make those things real in any way, to bring that into even a digital reality? What a wild concept to my young brain. When I was older and had started playing EverQuest, I had a wonderful opportunity to visit the SOE offices and have the curtain of game design pulled back. Well, there was no going back after that point.
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