Raymond Swanland Interview

Raymond Swanland Interview [Hosted by Into the Pixel]
Date: 2013
Interviewer: Into the Pixel
Interviewee: Raymond Swanland

Source: http://www.intothepixel.com/Raymond-Swanland-2013.asp

Into the Pixel: Tell us about the game and inspiration behind your art piece.

Raymond Swanland: “Junkyard,” also known as the Salvage General, is a character illustration from the new Command & Conquer game. The Command & Conquer franchise has been around since 1995, and is a fun mix of strategy, action, and big moments. In this new game, you take control of the entire battlefield as different General and Junkyard is one of those Generals.

I was excited to be asked to work on the new Command & Conquer by way of creating the General’s portraits. I had the good fortune to work with the Art Director, Chris Tamburrino, in the initial ideation and development of the first visual target. We set out to create dynamic personas for the Generals by giving them compelling features that would not only represent their faction but also their military specialty. Junkyard is a great example of how we worked to push beyond the typical stereotype of a General, in that he does not conform to a standard dress uniform or physical appearance. The Global Liberation Army (GLA) allows for a wider interpretation of what a General is, and it was really fun coming up with different personalities to represent that faction.

ITP: Are there any challenges that you can recollect or interesting tidbits about the piece you’d like to share?

Raymond Swanland: With this character his physical appearance grew out of our initial “blue sky” design explorations that I worked on with Chris. Months later, the perfect opportunity arose to expand on some of the original designs, and we saw the perfect opportunity to resurrect an early sketch that developed into Junkyard. He went from originally being a Central Asian tribesman to a warzone grease monkey, but his spirit remained the same in the process. It’s nice when first round, instinctive designs make their way into the final experience in some form.

ITP: Who/what influenced you to pursue art in games?

Raymond Swanland: As an artist, I’ve always had an interest in storytelling. Although I had played games such as Myst as a kid, I hadn’t really considered pursuing the art of storytelling in games until I accepted a job at the video game company, Oddworld Inhabitants, back in 1997. In the course of working there for eight years and wearing many different artistic hats, I came to realize the depth of world-building and storytelling that can be achieved through games. One of my Oddworld pieces actually made it into the Into the Pixel exhibition years ago. Ever since I moved on from Oddworld back in 2005, I’ve consistently maintained work in many aspects of the game industry to stay in touch with the type of storytelling that only games are capable of.

ITP: What is your favorite part of creating the art for games?

Raymond Swanland: As I’ve mentioned, storytelling and world-building are my absolute favorite parts of the artistic process that goes into games. I have a bit of an obsessive streak when it comes to the details in my art; I love to dive into all of the minutia. Knowing that players will be spending many hours interacting with and being represented by my designs means all those subtle details will add to their experience and will be totally worth it.

ITP: What game(s) are you playing at the moment?

Raymond Swanland: I’m so busy working on a number of different game properties that I rarely get to play many games these days. Yet, my game playing habits tend to go in cycles, and I can feel that may be coming around again soon. It feels like the next generation of games is right around the corner, and I’m excited to see what’s next.

ITP: What tips/advice do you have for aspiring game artists?

Raymond Swanland: For any artists looking to enter the game industry, I would say that they should round out their design skills across characters, environments, vehicles and so on. Games are a huge blank canvas to fill with art with each new project. The process is far more rewarding when you can attack it with a sense of confidence each time the next challenge pops up.

ITP: Is there an art site where fans can check out more of your work?

Raymond Swanland: My official page is raymondswanland.com, but the site I most regularly update is my fanpage on Facebook at Raymond Swanland (Official).