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Into The Pixel 2011: Orcs Must Die! Artwork By Chris Moffitt, Brad Crow, Nathan Stefan, and Bart Tiongson

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Posted June 8, 2011 - By Kevin Kelly


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This week at E3 2011, Into The Pixel is exhibiting all of the winners for the Into The Pixel 2011 exhibition. Chris Moffitt, Brad Crow, Nathan Stefan, and Bart Tiongson are artists working on Orcs Must Die! at Robot Entertainment. Check out their piece entitled "Dead Walking" above (you can see a high resolution version by clicking on the artwork), and then head on beyond the break for our full interview with the artists.

"Into the Pixel showcases the incredible creativity, skill and artistic talent that pervades in the video game industry. You really see that there are great artists working across every genre of video games, and at every stage of the production process.” according to Glenn Phillips, Senior Project Specialist & Consulting Curator, Department of Architecture and Contemporary Art, at the Getty Research Institute.

The entire 2011 Into the Pixel collection will be unveiled and presented at the annual E3 Expo at the Los Angeles Convention Center from June 7-9, or you can visit our Into the Pixel 2011 gallery and check out all of the art for yourself, and see all of the winners right here.

Tell us about your background. Where did you study? What have you worked on before?

We have all worked with one another anywhere between 5-11 years. We’ve worked at Robot Entertainment for a little over two years, but previously we all worked together at Ensemble Studios.

Bart Tiongson: My background is in Classical Animation, and I studied at Sheridan College in Canada. 

Chris Moffitt:  received my art degree in computer animation at the Art Institute of Dallas. I’ve worked on different game titles such as Terminator 3: The Redemption, Halo Wars and Age of Empires Online. I was also a character modeler on the feature film, The Ant Bully.

Nathan Stefan: My college education included one year Graphic Design, one year in Illustration, three years in classical animation and one year in computer animation. My previous work included some Saturday morning cartoon work (doing  backgrounds and posing the characters for animation). Games I have worked on are Age of Mythology and its expansion pack Titans, Age of Empires 3, Halo Wars, Age of Empires Online and now Orcs Must Die!

Brad Crow: I went to school for computer animation at the Art Institute of Dallas, and I was the first artist hired at Ensemble Studios. I worked on Halo Wars and every game from the Age of Empires series as a Modeler, Lead Artist, and Animator. I’m currently an Art Director at Robot Entertainment and have done a lot of work with the environments for Orcs Must Die!

David Kubalak- I went to school for Graphic Design in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. Before I got into art direction, I really enjoyed drawing, painting, and building characters in 3d. Over the past 16 years in the industry I’ve worked on over a dozen games across a variety of different genres Starting with a role playing game back in 1995, Anvil of Dawn, and most recently games from the Age of Empires series, Halo Wars and now Orcs Must Die!

What tools do you use to create your art?

We use a variety of tools from the traditional ones such as markers and pencils, to the ones found on the computer such as Photoshop, After Effects, 3ds max 2011, and Zbrush 4.

What inspired this particular piece?

David Kubalak: We got to a stage in the project where a lot of the art was really starting to come together. Not only did Chris Moffitt do a great job on the characters… but the environments, props, as well as the special effects started to come together and really define our world. We wanted to take all of those ingredients and put some visuals together to represent the game. This visual in particular captured the overwhelming odds that the player is constantly faced with when defending these fortresses for the never-ending onslaught of orcs.

Chris Moffitt: One of the things we ended up needing for PAX East was a 15 x 5 foot banner that would hang above the escalators. Bart Tiongson found inspiration from a comic book cover, he took that as a starting point and made it his own.

Bart Tiongson: When doing the various thumbnails I was really inspired by this cool graphic image for the comic The Walking Dead.  It had an army of zombies surrounding a little kid with a gun.  That kid was doomed… or at least it felt that way!  Our game has tons of moments where you become engulfed by the army of Orcs and you feel hopeless and desperate.  I tried to capture that same tone and feeling of despair with the initial thumbnails for this image.  We even named the piece Dead Walking to pay a little bit of an homage to the comic book artwork.

Brad Crow: Once Bart finished the concept, I started building the scene with in-game assets from the various artists throughout the department. It was important to have a variety of orcs in there, so I generated a dozen or so poses with orc model variations and started placing them throughout the scene. I went back and forth with the group on some tweaks to the characters posing, positioning, and the scenes lighting and then started the process of the final render which was an image that was over 18,000 pixel wide!

Nate Stefan: Once Brad had finished putting the whole scene together from Bart’s concepts and generated a massive render there was still some work that needed to be done.  I brought the render into Photoshop CS5 and cleaned up any artifacts or clipping that I could find. I added the rift effect behind the Warmage and then painted the highlights on which ever characters I thought might be affected. The image was looking a little monochromatic so I added a red rim light which would also help the overall image work with our Orcs Must Die! logo. After a couple of rounds of feedback I believe we ended up with a really cool image.

What advice would you give to students who want to become video game artists?

Bart Tiongson: My advice would be to learn your craft and stay motivated.  Once you feel like you’ve learned all that you need to know to be as you can get, go out and find more information from another source.  You can always learn more.  And never lose your passion, because if ever you do then it’s time to find a new job. 

Chris Moffitt: My advice would be to never stop growing as an artist, continue to push yourself by drawing and sculpting things from life and never be afraid to try new tools. There are so many techniques, tutorials and resources out there to help speed up your workflow.

Nate Stefan: I would advise three things practice, practice, practice. There are a ton of resources online to learn from and lot of people out there willing to help you to get better, take advantage of it. I also would recommend getting some training at a good school, it’s a great experience and a lot of my closest friends are people I met in school. 

David Kubalak: Students should look around on some of the great art forums and vast amounts of information that is out there. A lot of professional artists frequent the forums, and offer up some great feedback, especially to people that frequently post. Not only does it give people the chance to get critiques and information from people already in the industry, it also allows them to network and make contacts with people in different companies. There are also a lot of DVD’s and classes out there that can also be very useful and informative. 

What are you working on next?

Chris Moffitt: What’s next for Robot is top secret but I have some personal projects that are ongoing and you can check them out at Muppet Works.

Bart Tiongson: We’ve got some really cool stuff happening at the studio, I wish that we could talk about it now, but like Chris said… we just can’t yet.  You’ll have to stay tuned…  as for my personal stuff, I’m constantly drawing and scribbling. Stop by my blog Rice and Eggs and say ‘sup! 

David Kubalak: Most of the studio is focused on wrapping up Orcs Must Die! for our summer release! We take a lot of pride in this game, and want to make sure it’s as awesome and engaging as it can possibly be. We have a couple of small teams working in the early stages of our next two games, but we don't have anything new to announce at this time… but hopefully soon.

Into The Pixel 2011: Orcs Must Die! Artwork By Chris Moffitt, Brad Crow, Nathan Stefan, and Bart Tiongson
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