Silvio Aebischer Interview [2005]

Silvio Aebischer Interview [Hosted by KCPR]

Date: 06/04/2005

Interviewer: UnforgivingEdges

Interviewee: Silvio Aebischer

Author of the transcript: UnforgivingEdges


UnforgivingEdges: First of all, you’re from Switzerland, right?

Silvio Aebischer: Yeah, I’m from Switzerland.

UnforgivingEdges: Are you a hockey fan at all?

Silvio Aebischer: As a kid I never played, but I like to watch games, definitely.

UnforgivingEdges: I’m a huge hockey fan, and I’m bummed that the season was canceled, so I had to ask you that when I came in because I know you have the same name as David Aebischer.

Silvio Aebischer: Yeah, actually, we’re remote family.

UnforgivingEdges: Really? Wow.

Silvio Aebischer: My mom was related to…with his father. Actually my mom and his father knew him really well and it was like family.

UnforgivingEdges: That’s interesting. I was wondering about that. I was going to ask you ‘are you related’, you know? As a joke.

Silvio Aebischer: Yeah, actually it is. It’s really strange. My dad actually still talks to his dad, too.

UnforgivingEdges: Have you ever met him?

Silvio Aebischer: No, never, unfortunately.

UnforgivingEdges: So, you’re the production designer here at Oddworld Inhabitants, right?

Silvio Aebischer: Yeah. Yeah, that’s what I do. I do production design here at Oddworld. Everything from the little characters to the logos, just all this kind of stuff.

UnforgivingEdges: How long have you been in San Luis Obispo?

Silvio Aebischer: In San Luis Obispo, it’s been 7 years. Before that I was in Michigan for 3 working on cars, designing cars, conceptual cars and interiors, things like that.

UnforgivingEdges: How did you make that transition from designing cars to coming here and designing all this wacky sort of odd stuff?

Silvio Aebischer: Well, actually, I went to a school in Switzerland that taught design and drawing and industrial design and things like that. It’s actually called Art Center. It’s down in Pasadena, L.A. [Los Angeles, California] And they used to have a sister school in Switzerland. And that’s where I went to, and that’s where I met a guy who eventually worked at Oddworld, and by staying in touch with him, I eventually ended up here. Actually we were roommates and we remembered having good times, drawing crazy things during our school time.

UnforgivingEdges: What are sort of the dynamics of this job that you never would have thought of in designing cars? What’s some of the stuff that you had to adapt to when you were here?

Silvio Aebischer: I think the most drastic change was the painting. It’s not so much about function and engineering and…here, it’s really about how cool the drawing looks. I wasn’t a painter when I got here. I barely was able to design characters. I mean, I did it on my own. I sketched a bunch of crazy things just for fun, but I wasn’t really good at it. What ended up taking me here, and I think what they liked, was the background in the sort of engineering and the functionality in design, and that brings a nice realism to Oddworld, like making our things look partially functional, like especially the machines and architecture, those kinds of things.

UnforgivingEdges: Right, Kristin was showing me the sketches of the things from Munch’s Oddysee, the vehicles and stuff that you had done, the drawings and everything. Did you take anything from designing cars, like ideas and stuff?

Silvio Aebischer: Oh yeah, definitely. It’s more the process of thinking about it, like having to deal with ‘Oh, where does the engine go? Transmission? Fuel?’ I like thinking about all those things, how they actually be put together, not just making a cool box, but there’s no room for anybody to sit in or access the pilot’s seat. So when I usually do those vehicles and things like that, I make little cross-sections of ‘ok, just for fun, where would the engine go? Would that be a reasonable size?’ Things like that. Just structurally too. It needs to look pretty solid and convincing; that way we’ll buy it more because the designs are usually kind of weird shaped and disproportioned. So if we can bring in some “engineering” qualities to these strange designs, I think they just help. And that’s actually a lot of fun. I enjoy doing that a lot. Mechanical things.

UnforgivingEdges: That’s sort of your thing, you’re really interested in mechanical things?

Silvio Aebischer: Yeah, I think maybe it’s my Swiss background. Or really being brought up there. Apparently there’s a lot of engineers, I don’t know. So maybe I inherited that somehow, and I find that actually quite fun.

UnforgivingEdges: So, San Luis Obispo, it’s a nice town. What did you think when you first came here?

Silvio Aebischer: I thought it was actually really beautiful. I was in Michigan, in Grand Rapids, so it was very different. The look was very different. The houses were smaller and all these things. But, having the ocean nearby and the mountains…Michigan was fairly flat where I was. I thought it was beautiful and very inspiring. I think it lends itself pretty well as a creative environment. I mean, you go up on Bishop’s Peak and at the top there are these enormous boulders and trees growing around them and that stuff is totally things that inspire the Oddworld universe. It’s really nature that inspires a lot of things that we take and twist, but if you actually go out there, sometimes there’s things that are so unexpected. Like for example Bishop’s Peak, they kind of look out of place when you’re up there. But those kinds of things are great.

UnforgivingEdges: The real trick is getting up there to begin with. That’s a long hike.

Silvio Aebischer: (laughs) Yeah, it’s good fun though.

UnforgivingEdges: Do you live in San Luis Obispo?

Silvio Aebischer: Yeah, yeah, I live down on Broad Street. I got really lucky; I can actually walk to work.

UnforgivingEdges: Yeah, I was reading the interview on the Oddworld website with you a long time ago, and you said it’s great that you can walk 3 blocks to work.

Silvio Aebischer: (laughs)

UnforgivingEdges: Do you have a favorite place around here to eat or hangout?

Silvio Aebischer: Eat? Sushi is always nice. McClintock’s sometimes is fun in the back by the creek. I mean there’s actually a lot of fun places to go. One of my favorite places, not necessarily to eat, is like Linea’s or Rudolph’s. Or over lunch during the week actually Monterey Café is really good because…just be out in the sun for a little bit, I mean for half an hour just sit out there. I mean the best part is basically walking people walk by. Because of what I do here, designing characters and also their behavior, not just their look, but sort of the ground animations of how they’re going to be behaving and walking. It’s pretty fun sitting out there and watching people go by looking at their postures and some people drag their feet, some people, you know…different ways they behave, and then you accentuate that or you make it tenfold and you turn that into a character here at Oddworld. Like, ‘wow, this guy, it’s just so weird how he’s hunched over, and his hat is bobbing left and right. That would work really well for this kind of character that we’re doing here’, so, it’s actually quite fun.

UnforgivingEdges: Talking about the games a little bit. First of all, you’re developing games for a living, you’re production designing. Do you play video games? I mean, obviously you’re really busy here, this is a really busy place. Do you ever find times to play video games yourself?

Silvio Aebischer: Well, my wife actually doesn’t let me too much (laughs). Sometimes. I did finally buy a PC and played Half-Life, which was great, I just loved it. I played Halo 1 and 2. I played actually our game quite a bit too, but I never finished it I have to say. It’s pretty horrible. I think it’s the, you know, it’s a hard kid, like Munch and Stranger’s Wrath was hard labor. So you kinda wanna almost take a break. I mean I’ve seen the whole process, but I’ve truly never played the entire game from start to finish.

UnforgivingEdges: Yeah, a lot of my friends are playing Half-Life all the time. They’re always on the computer playing. In the future, do you see your style and things that you develop and sketch out, do you sort of see it evolving, and if so, where do you see yourself going?

Silvio Aebischer: Just from sketch style and artistically, we’re moving into…I don’t know, can we divulge where we’re heading. The flavor? (consults marketing director) Okay, I just have to make sure…Artistically it is going almost more into a real world environment where now characters are a little bit more human. Kristin, stop me if I’m giving something away that we shouldn’t (laughs). So that’s actually pretty exciting. The stuff we’ve been doing previously is very Oddworld, it has a signature look; kind of quirky, weird, not necessarily beautiful, but they might be cute or likable. Now where the next game is going, it’s evolving definitely into a little harder look, more realistic in a lot of ways actually. Anatomy is more, is going into more directions of what we know, what we see in real life, so that’s actually good, I enjoy that because it gives me some fresh air into the whole process of designing stuff.

UnforgivingEdges: Alright Silvio, thank you very much.

Silvio Aebischer: You’re welcome.

UnforgivingEdges: Thank you. This is amazing, I’m so glad I got the opportunity to come in and get a tour and interview with you. I’m a huge fan of the Oddworld games, so when I found out they were in San Luis Obispo, I was just so excited.

Silvio Aebischer: (laughs) Well, it was great having you.