Interview: BioWare's Lead Concept Artist Arnie JorgensenStar Wars Celebration V allowed us to talk with multiple members of the LucasArts and Bioware teams; many of which, such as Clint Young and Hall Hood, joined us for their first official Darth Hater interview. Now we add to that list with BioWare's Lead Concept Artist Arnie Jorgensen. Read on to learn about concept art, as well as the loot and levels in Star Wars: The Old Republic.
Can you give some background on what you do and your involvement on the team?
Arnie: I'm the Lead Concept Artist, and overall, my task is vetting all the art. First at the concept level and then at the higher level to make sure it looks like it is all continued within the same universe we established. And it all looks like it is concepted and built by -- as much as possible -- one artist. It all looks uniform, and I do all of this before it is looked at by Jeff Dobson (Art Director). So I'm kind of in charge of gathering all of this stuff; making sure it is up to what we are hoping to do before final approval by the Art Director.
How much involvement does LucasArts have in the day to day development of art production?
Arnie: We work in what is called "milestones," where we have six weeks for each milestone. Every three weeks, we gather all the art we're working on, concept or otherwise, and we present it to Lucas for approval.
So far, Lucas is great to work with. I worked with them for a decade now, so I'm probably just getting good at it... I hope. I know what they are looking for, and what they will not like or nix. Sometimes we push the envelope on things where I go, "ooh, Lucas might not like this so much," but you know what? Lucas so far has been great with every game I worked on with them. They are pretty easygoing guys and we sometimes make small changes for them, but by and large, they really let us go creatively. In fact, sometimes Lucas even pushed us by saying "hey, you guys need to go further with that stuff. You're getting a little conservative here." So it is a good relationship.
That is good to hear because some of the community, for whatever reason, may feel that you might be limited by LucasArts' involvement.
Arnie: It is not that way; I haven't seen it that way at all. Sometimes they have their thing where they say, "that wouldn't happen in this time frame; you guys can't do this." Fair enough -- they have their IP to maintain. As far as visually, I haven't noticed Lucas doing anything negative. They push us even further sometimes, and I enjoy working with them.
You guys can really create this time period, and maintain the legacy from KoTOR into SWTOR. How important has it been for you guys to make sure that legacy is not tarnished?
Arnie: It is extremely important to us for one reason -- we weren't on the original KoTOR team. Now we have people like Drew Karpyshyn and those guys that were, but we really feel that we have to pick up the mantle and take over where they left off. I wouldn't call it pressure, but there is a lot to live up to. And there are BioWare standards beyond that where we really don't want to be the ones to drop the ball -- we're doing everything in our power not to. We're really making this game for KoTOR fans, so someone who really enjoyed KoTOR will enjoy the heck out of this game as well.
We saw Clint do a mock up piece today. How typical is that of the amount of time that goes into a piece like that?
Arnie: I think the level of what Clint did was exactly the level of a color mock-up we would do maybe when laying out all the planets. That is why I made the joke about "two greens, two this" because he was doing a green one at the time. But it isn't indicative of what we go into beyond that phase. When we're doing color mock-ups, what Clint did today is spot on and what we expect. Beyond that, no... we go into far greater detail than what he did. This was really a concept to show basically this is what this planet is about. It is green, it has volcanic eruptions... we got it, move on to the next planet. When we get into more depth on this particular planet, then we really explore a lot more than that, and the concept wouldn't take only an hour: it could take two to three days to do one concept.
Is the concept art Clint created today indicative of something you will use in the game?
Arnie: Absolutely. We'll use every concept that is approved. If he did that concept for us as a company, and we built off that, then we'd leverage for anything we wanted to. We'd give it to the environment guys to look at for look and feel, but it wouldn't be something that is buildable. On our concept team, a lot of it is serious development-type stuff that needs to be buildable; you couldn't really hand that concept that Clint did to someone to actually build.
So this is great for high concept, and that is what we love and Clint is amazing at it. But beyond that, we'd have to go into much greater and greater depth with even more detail. That is why sometimes it takes days and days per concept.
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