“I’m a charismatic egomaniac that asks too many questions.”
Hey Neil! Thanks for chatting with me today.
What is your current job title? And where do you work?
“Art director at Dead Art Games, I plan all the events we have going on and I work at a coffee shop as a day job.”
Prior to Dead Art Games have you created any other game titles?
“The projects I can talk about range from large student projects such as Bloom by USC (university of southern california) The Calm Before by DSGA (Denius-Sams Gaming Academy) and Precious Defender. Outside of student projects I’ve worked on projects with Vectorform, Asset Health, and CoherentRX.”
That’s pretty cool. You are currently working Clique, which will not be your first game, but would you consider it your first commercial release?
“Yes, Clique would be the first large game for major release that I’ve worked on.”
An ambitious first project and it will hold a special place in your heart. Can you describe your responsibilities as Art Director at Dead Art Games? (please note, I will leave the document open for a few days so you can continue to edit your responses)
“My responsibilities cover a bit of everything I plan all of the team’s meetings set up events handle all of the art we have in the game and most of the promotional stuff. As well as looking for funding.”
Like other independent creators, your responsibilities seems to go way beyond Art Director. How do you manage your time to work on your game while still holding another job?
“Yes, it’s rough sometimes, I don’t really sleep much. After work, my work day typically starts with me checking my email and changing things on my to-do list based on anything new/important that comes up. Everyday is really different, some days I have to just reply to emails all day, and some I work on art for 12 hours or spend the day making sure my team has everything they need. I also host a networking event that I call Dead Art Beer Night to help build a better dev community in Michigan as well as being a guest at a few local colleges every now and then, the schedule can get kinda crazy sometimes.”
This is a lot. Did you grow up in Michigan? If so, where?
“Yes, I grew up in Detroit been here most of my life.”
When did you decide to pursue games as a potential career?
“I’ve always wanted to make games, it’s been so long I don’t even remember a time when I did not want to make games. It’s the best way to express yourself and give people new experiences.”
You listed a few academic experiences, what sort of schooling do you have? USC has a great program. Do you have an undergraduate degree?
“I went to International Academy of Design and Technology where I received my BFA one of those for profit school. I really didn’t like how they did things but the art teachers and staff were amazing and really set me on the right path. After that I was lucky enough to be asked to help a few USC students on their project Bloom which was amazing, and that lead to me going to Denius-Sams Gaming Academy.”
Interesting, would you recommend the International Academy to someone else given how they set you on the right path?
“I don’t recommend any for-profit schools. With the internet you really don’t need a school to learn how to make games.”
How did you get connected with the USC students to work on their project?
“They just found some of my work online and asked me if I could help them out. I didn’t really have much going on at the time so it gave me an excuse to make some cool stuff.”
So you went and got your BFA with the hopes of going into games? Or did you want to do illustration?
“Oh, always with the hopes of making games. That was my end goal.”
“The thing that I’m most proud of right now is how much support the studio has been getting for Clique, there has been so much support and it’s bringing more people to the conversation of diversity in games. People from all backgrounds have sent us the nicest emails. I’ve never received emails like that and it really shows how we are trying to changes things.”
I really admire what you are doing with Clique. You are filling a gap in content. It just goes to show you that if you put something out there, there is most likely an audience for it that you may not know about.
“Yea, we knew there were a lot of people out there like us and who would love this game. Hopefully more people want to make games like this because of what we are trying to do.”
Let’s shift gears a bit. What is your favorite game development tool or plugin? What can’t you live without when you are creating?
“I really love Unity3D and the changes they are making, it’s easier to use for people just starting and I can’t live without 3D Studio Max. I’m a 3D artist first, so that program is my pen and paper.”
“When I start a new idea I start small, a simple story and a mechanic then you add to it. Games are art and I start with simple lines and add detail as I go.”
What is the one thing you wish gamers knew about game development?
“I really wish people knew how hard it is. It really takes a lot to make a game and run a team. I takes even more out of you mentally. People also don’t realize how non-diverse the games industry really is.”
How do you like to spend your free time?
“I spend my free time going to the movies, playing games when I can, doing 3D non game Art, helping art/game students and hosting events to make a better community in Detroit.”
“I’m always on Polycount to see what people are up to, what new software people are using and what people think of different art styles. That site always inspires me. There are many like it, it’s just the one I like the most.”
What trait or skill is most important in your area of expertise?
“I think that the most important skill I have is knowing what I can’t do. My friend Dan, who is working on Clique with me is way better at some things that I suck at. You save a lot of time when you know what you’re not the best at, find the right person that can help you.”
What development practice do you think developers don’t do enough?
“I hate the idea of thinking of the biggest game you can and cutting away the fat. I understand that idea and where it came from, when you had to pitch your game to get it made. I know a lot of old school devs that live by that idea but it’s just not for me. When I start a new idea I start small, a simple story and a mechanic then you add to it. Games are art and I start with simple lines and add detail as I go.”
If you could go back and do something differently in your career thus far, what would you change? And if you were to give someone pursuing your career what advice would you give them?
“If I could go back, there are a few opportunities that I might have just passed on and I don’t think I would have ever went to school for Game Design/Art.”
“I always tell people who are trying to get into games to find the thing that you’re best at. Whatever it maybe, and have that be your main skill. Become a master at that so you’ll always have that to draw from as you take the time to build up other skills and talents. And know more then one thing, you can’t just be a modeler that can model but can’t texture, or unwrap. You have to be an artist that can work in a few different programs and match other people’s art styles.”
If people want to find you, where can they contact you? Email? Twitter? Instagram?
“People can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you had to describe yourself in one sentence, what would you say? What is your tagline?
“I’m a charismatic egomaniac that asks too many questions.”
Thanks for your time today, Neil. I can’t wait to see how Clique turns out. Ahem… free d/l code… ahem!!
“Thanks man and yea for sure. [Smiles]”