Card games are a hot topic right now with many card iterations of different properties releasing recently, including Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft and WWE SuperCard. Outcast Odyssey is a collectible card game coming soon to iOS and Android devices from Magic Pixel Games and Bandai Namco Games and with every card game, there comes a load of cards to see. That’s where talents like Warren Louw and Chuck Pires lend their skills to the new video game. The two comic artists are no stranger to the industry of drawing and creating for different projects and they share their experience in the comic and video game industry.
BuzzFocus: How did you get your start in art (best, biggest projects)?
Warren Louw: My first biggest breaks would have to be an ImagineFX cover and workshop in 2009 and doing a cover for DC Comics, Powergirl in 2010.
Chuck Pires: I was about 15 years old, I hadn’t been drawing too long. At school there was a group of us that drew and were pretty into video games, comics and anime. Hey it was the 90’s! All that stuff was still good back then! Anyway, my dad had seen me messing around with a few drawings and, him being a pretty skilled artist when he was in college, plopped his old collection of Frank Frazetta artbooks on my table. [He then said to me] “I’m glad, you’ve found a worthwhile hobby, but yer not gonna get any better looking at that stuff”. So that was pretty much it for me for the next year or so. I must have copied every pose or arm or leg that book had. Then, of course, I read the short biography they had at the beginning of the book, it said he’d been published at 15 or 16 years old. After that, the race was on. In my little brain I had to be published too.
After looking for art jobs online for a while I came across an ad for Hi-Fi colors, a comic coloring company looking for help. I was like yes! I had been messing with digital color for a few weeks so being 16, I naturally thought I was a god. Turned out, they weren’t looking for comic colorists so much as what they call “flatters”. Flatters lay all of the basic un-shaded colors down so that the colorists can easily select them and work more quickly. I took the job anyway and did my best at it for a few months, and even was used for personal projects for guys from the studio. It was paid published work and I was getting better at photoshop and coloring by doing it, so why not. Of course when the first comics I’d worked on came out, I rushed to see my name in print. I grabbed a book, popped it open only to realize most of the time flatters never get credited. So yeah, bummer city. I did flatting a while more after that but after I’d given my portfolio to the guys I was working for and not getting anywhere, I was looking for other opportunities. I was pretty bummed my little goal was squashed, but life goes on.
About a couple months after I’d stopped flatting I got a book in the mail from one of the guys I’d been doing work for, It was a personal project book that I unfortunately can’t remember the name of now, but right smack under his name was mine. That was pretty much when I decided, “yeah, this is what I’m gonna do with my life”.
After that, I spent a couple years buckling down and trying to improve my work. I took a couple classes at the community college and bought just about any issue of Spectrum I could find. When I was 18 or 19, Corvus Beli, the makers of Infinity, got a hold of me and wanted art done for their new rule book. I learned a lot about art and being a commercial artist on those books, and am still very grateful to those guys for giving me a shot!
BuzzFocus: Is this your first video game art project?
Warren: This would be my second video game art project. My first was working for the mobile gaming company, Phoenix Age Gaming on Castle Age and Underworld Empire.
Chuck: No, honestly, I couldn’t tell you what my first was. There was a time between Infinity rulebooks that I had to just take whatever work I could find. Not being a strictly comic artist and not being a cover illustrator kind of put me at odds with steady work, so when work came around I didn’t ask questions and just did what I could do. Most of the time when I do game work I’m being hired by someone who’s kind of outsourcing to me. A lot of them I haven’t signed NDA’s for the company.
BuzzFocus: What approach do you take differently with a project involving video games?
Warren: Well it totally depends on the briefing, but generally the level of detail and design is a lot more intense since there can be a lot of creative freedom. The level of incredible video game concept art these days can also be very influential.
Chuck: Well, the work itself is inherently different. Video games, you can add whatever crazy amount of detail you want, but it all has to work in 3D so it’s a very different beast from comics. Comics are all about readability and turn around. The work I’ve done in comics has gotten me to simplify and think about working more quickly. Meanwhile my work in games has helped me understand the medium more, and be more thoughtful of the work you’re doing.
BuzzFocus: What challenges or obstacles did you face working on this project that you didn’t expect?
Warren: I totally did not expect how much work there would be with so many separate layers within the card set for Maggie Darwin. Each of the animals, Maggie, and different depths of the background all had to be on separate layers. I had to make sure everything was balanced out in terms of their details, sizes and shapes to all fit together as the card filled up more and more. Often I had to rearrange the layout to also make sure the progression made sense. Constantly going back and forth like that was quite challenging.
Chuck: Well, honestly most of the challenge might have been self imposed haha. For Outcast Odyssey, they initially showed me one of the cards for the game and had told me, “Ok, so we need 4 variations of these cards, each looking more powerful than the last”. It’s an idea I love, there’s nothing cooler in video games to me than feeling that progression, getting that cool new sword or that gnarly new set of armor, so I was all on board for that. They’d showed me a few cards, they were all awesome looking cards, but the transformation from card to card was not as noticeable as I thought it could be. [The] attitude I had with pretty much all my cards, “Maybe I’m not the most amazing artist on this game, but I can have some different looking cards” haha.
BuzzFocus: What’s your favorite part about working with video games? Worst?
Warren: Well, I totally love working with my team and making sure we are all on the same page. Its a great feeling knowing that your client is really excited about the initial concepts and happy with the end results.
The worst would have to be a few of the struggles during the process in terms of the designs. This is where I can often frustrate the hell out of myself, until I create something that looks awesome to me.
Chuck: [Sometimes] I feel like working the way I do, I miss the most awesome parts of working on games. I work from home [and] have for years. A lot of people hear it and they’re like “omg that must be awesome!” Truth is: it is and isn’t. There’s for sure no “office drama”, but you also miss out on making work friends and seeing how the actual game progresses and forms. Plus, it’s also not like a common workplace in that everyone has an inherent common interest. There’s no “hey man, did you watch the (boring sports thing) last night?” or something like that.
In my opinion, that’s the best thing about working on video games, unless its YOUR game. For instance, we all met up at San Diego Comic Con and I had a blast talking to everyone who worked on it about the game. This is not just some cash grab game, Jonathan Durr made the prototype in his spare time and Magic Pixel and Namco Bandai have come together to make it happen because they believe in it. Those kind of stories and people are what’s great about working on games to me.
As far as the worst? I dunno, turn arounds? Haha I hate those.
BuzzFocus: Are there any big or jarring differences between working on comic and video game art?
Warren: Hmm… Well in the comic world, you need to stick with the current designs for the characters and world involved. In gaming, you generally create new characters for brand new games, or updated designs for characters in the sequels, so there’s a lot more room for creativity, even in terms of the environments depending on the game.
Chuck: Well in one single project I’ve gotten to do both so I have a fresh perspective on it. First and foremost, it really really depends on the people you’re working for. You can have a fantastic or horrible experience in either, depending on who your bosses are. Thankfully this project has been one of those rare fantastic ones, so it’s just been about getting the job done.
Comics and games both have their pro’s and con’s, it really just depends on the personality. I’ve seen some guys that you can just go, “hey! I need 40 different kinds of space containers for a space game set in space!” and they can whip it out before lunchtime. Those dudes belong in games. Likewise, if someone can draw 22 pages the same 4 people hiding in a house from zombies for 4 issues, THAT guy belongs in comics. It’s all about what you find interesting as an artist.
In a lot of ways Outcast Odyssey wasn’t a traditional kind of game, as far as creating the art was concerned. Usually games are all about character designs, environment designs and about 20 versions of everything. This game is the first in what (we hope) will be a series so there wasn’t that need for continuity or previous reference material. We pretty much designed a lot of the characters right on the cards as we were going, so it was a lot of fun!
BuzzFocus: Any future or current projects that you would like to announce or share?
Warren: I’m currently finishing up a bunch of super hero related artwork for an anatomy art book, 21 Draw, being funded through Indigogo. Its been a real fun project to work on which will also be featuring 100 amazing artists from the entertainment industry.
I will also be doing my own personal studies of which I will be getting my fans involved in, so make sure to follow me on my Facebook page for that – https://www.facebook.com/ArtofWarrenLouw
Chuck: For right now, I’m working on the Outcast Odyssey web comic to help promote the game. Outside of that, I don’t know if I’m allowed to talk about yet!
BuzzFocus: Is there any dream project or game that you would love to work on?
Warren: Wow… well I’ve been a huge fan of the characters from Soul Calibur, so working on such a project would be incredible! I think Im still a far way from being talented enough for something like that, so hopefully one day!
Chuck: I’ve been doing this kind of work since I was 15 so there’s been a bunch. If you would have asked me when I was 15, I would have said for Joe Madureira to crash through the walls of my high school in an awesome car and tell me, “I need your help finishing Battle Chasers!” haha. In my early 20’s, I had “a proper sequel” to Final Fantasy Tactics I’d been working on and designing for almost a year in my spare time. Nearing 30, I have more dream projects than ever! From Joe Abercrombie to call me up and say “I want you to adapt Half a King into a comic!” to about 3 different ideas for games I have a burning desire to make before I die. I figure I have a pretty good shot at least one of these crazy ideas to come to fruition.
BuzzFocus: Thank you for your time, gentlemen.
Warren and Chuck: Thank you.