Oddworld’s Inhabitants: Rich McKain, Animator

Oddworld's Inhabitants: Rich McKain, Animator [Hosted by Oddworld.com]

Date: September 2003

Interviewer: Oddworld.com

Interviewee: Rich McKain

Oddworld’s Inhabitants are as diverse as the world they’ve worked together to create. Here’s where you’ll find interviews and other informative articles spotlighting the many creative folk that work at Oddworld Inhabitants. Be they headline players or behind-the-scenes heroes, the Inhabitants profiled here all share Oddworld’s ceaseless dedication to bringing you the best worlds and games that you’ve ever experienced.

Rich McKain, Animator img_main_rm

Q: What’s your background?

Rich McKain: I grew up and went to school in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. After high school I attended a tech school during the day learning multimedia and 3D animation while taking drawing and classical animation classes at night. (Although I still suck at doing anything with a pencil.) After I got out of school I spent 6 months working on my demo reel and sending out close to a hundred resumes and reels before getting my first job offer. I spent a year and half in Utah working on a PS1 game, then a year in San Francisco working on a Star Wars PS2 game, before finally settling here at Oddworld.

Q: Who are your biggest influences? Why?

Rich McKain: I get most of my influences from movies; both live action and animated. I’m heavily influenced by the classic Disney movies along with the all of the Pixar movies. Two of the greatest animators to study are Glen Keane and Eric Goldberg.

Q: Why did you decide to go into the video game industry? Why Oddworld?

Rich McKain: What I love about movies is how they can make you look at the world in a slightly different way. Arguably, games aren’t quite there yet. But it’s very exciting to be here and watch them approach that level of audience participation.

Q: What do you like to do when you’re not at work?

Rich McKain: I love sports and being active. For me the best way to mentally relax is to do something physical. Hockey, mountain biking, and surfing are my favorites. I also like home renovation. It’s nice to build something tangible with your hands after pushing around a mouse all day.

Q: What CD are you currently listening too? What books are you reading?

Rich McKain: I’ve always been a huge Pearl Jam fan; I’m still in the grunge rock of the 90’s mentality when it comes to music. As for books, I’ve been reading Mark Twain after listening to some of his short stories on cd during a recent road trip. Currently I’m fighting through Hemingway’s Dangerous Summer.

Q: What kind of a place is Oddworld?

Rich McKain: Oddworld has a very open and collaborative environment. It’s full of very smart and creative people that push themselves to do the very best. Plus they suck at pool (yeah I’m talking to you Mark!) and foosball (I’m talking to you Charles!), which makes me feel like a big man.

Q: What is a typical day like for you?

Rich McKain: Most days I arrive around 10 a.m. write a few emails and check the latest headlines. From there I’ll have a quick meeting with the acting director for the next sequence I’ll be animating. (Usually that is the production designer who storyboarded the sequence.) We’ll go over what the camera should be doing, what the character should be doing, and what the shot is really about. Before I sit down to work on the shot I like to go into our dvd library and watch sequences in a couple of movies that are similar to what is wanted in our sequence. After getting as much reference as possible, I’ll finally sit down and animate a shot. Most days are 10 a.m.- 7 p.m. with a lunch and an afternoon cookie break. (They have the best cookies on the planet around the corner.) But like always, when it gets down to crunch time, long days are inevitable …

Q: What do you like best about coming to work? What’s the worst part?

Rich McKain: The characters that Oddworld has to animate with are fantastic. They are dark, edgy, and often have a great story to tell. They are so much fun to work with. The only time I don’t like being here is when I can’t seem to find the right thing for the character to do at that moment. It’s frustrating not being able to convey an emotion that the director is looking for. Usually that happens when I haven’t done enough research beforehand.

Q: If you could change jobs with one of the other Inhabitants who would it be and why?

Rich McKain: Without a doubt I am very envious of the guys in production design. They have mad drawing and painting skills. They get to look at crazy and ridiculous reference material that they incorporate into their designs. (Like how a picture of a real life cat that had a parallel port implanted into its head by scientists was used as reference for Munch and the port that was implanted in his head.) Plus their work is so good it heavily influences the rest of the team.

Q: What at Oddworld are you most proud of?

Rich McKain: We just finished the opening CG-FMV movie for our next game. The CG team pitched the idea and heavily influenced the formation of it throughout production. The studio let us run wild with it for a very long time, so much so that it was like working on our own short film. I’m very grateful for that and as a result feel very close to it.

Q: Many fans are still upset with Oddworld’s decision to develop for the Xbox exclusively. Any comments?

Rich McKain: Looking at it from the CG-FMV point of view, we aren’t concerned with what platform we are on. Since we are essentially creating a movie file, we are only worried about how much it will be compressed in order to playback on the console. But then again there is a legitimate argument that there shouldn’t be a large discrepancy between the CG movies and the gameplay. You don’t want it to be too obvious when you switch from a pre-rendered movie to real-time. So it makes sense to develop the game for the best hardware available.

Q: What advice would you give someone trying to break into games? What type of education does someone need to do your job?

Rich McKain: Have as many qualified people critique your work as possible. Students, teachers, and especially people in the industry. After I got out of school the hardest part for me was getting constructive criticism from people in the biz. Coming out of school I knew my stuff probably wasn’t good enough to get a job, but I didn’t really know why. Having somebody sit down with you and go through your work shot by shot, telling you that they like this for this reason but that you should change this because of this reason, is the best lesson you could ever get.

Q: Who is your favorite Oddworld character? Why?

Rich McKain: Definitely Abe. He’s the underdog. The reluctant hero. He’s kind of slow and dim-witted, which makes him fun to animate. He’d make a great character in a full-length feature movie.

Q: Can you tell us anything about the new game or what you are working on right now?

Rich McKain: What I can tell you is that we just finished the opening movie for the next game. Currently we are ramping up to do a very revealing movie that will occur part way through the game. But we are most looking forward to a huge sequence of events that will happen when you finally finish the game. Man, those production guys must be crazy. How are we supposed to make the É.