Ollie Barder’s Mecha Collection

 on | featured inside epic

Despite the cluttered nature of my desk, I’ve always been able to work fine (a question I always get asked) and, no, they are not all Transformers either.

Unlike most collectors, I don’t buy everything; only designs from anime and games that interest me. So my collection is by no means random and I delight in surprising people by explaining the back-story to each of the toys on my desk. Though I spared Tim Sweeney that when he visited the studio, as he’s a nice chap after all.

I’ve always had a populated work desk, with my last job being no exception. As for my favourites, that’s a tough one. Dancougar and Final Dancougar are great, but the massive SDF-1 Macross toy is amazing. I also have a lot of love for my Tetsukyojin toy and Kaneda’s bike from Akira. Talking of big figures, the fullsize RX-78-2 Gundam in Japan would be nice to have too.

My current desk  only represents about 10% of my total collection, as I have a lot of toys carefully wrapped up in boxes. There’s also quite a turnover too, as I get newer toys and replace older ones (as I prefer accuracy over nostalgia).

In my spare time I run a mecha gaming site, called Mecha Damashii, and used to look after an original Virtual On cabinet. I also play a lot of mecha games, along with everything else out there obviously, and have won a fair few tournaments over the years as well.

My mecha gaming knowledge as also been helpful in my job, particularly during the two years when I was lead designer on Strike Suit Zero: a space combat game featuring transforming mecha. I came up with the core mechanics and overall design, as well as bringing Junji Okubo and the composer Paul Ruskay on board. However, I left a year before the game was released, so the final game wasn’t exactly what I’d intended. The balancing was off and the mecha had a time limited transformation, among other  things. That aside, all my mecha knowledge was very useful in making the game and hopefully one day I will be able to make another mecha game of my own.

In the meantime, enjoy the photos of my crazy desk and don’t mind me as I have more mecha toys to obtain and mecha games to play…

Ollie Barder – @Cacophanus
Senior Game Designer
People Can Fly

ollie_desk_1My entire desk of toys, plus stuff I need for work obviously…

ollie_desk_2The Swedish flag Optimus Prime is holding was a present from Arcade Berg, another designer at People Can Fly. The small Gundam at the front is the Hi-Nu Gundam from Beltorchika’s Children and one of all-time favourite mobile suit designs.

ollie_desk_3I tend to cluster the toys together, so I thought I should give a top down view. You can just about see the Metal Composite Unicorn Gundam in the centre.

ollie_desk_4I’m a big fan of Gurren Lagann, so you can see Simon in the Lagann and the final form of the mecha tucked away. I also love Aura Battler Dunbine and the alternate colour Billbine was a limited edition figure. Samus from the Metroid games also makes an appearance too.

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Interesting shot this, as it features the Layzner in the centre (a very influential series), as well as the Dougram (that inspired much of Battletech) and the mighty Crossbone Gundams at the rear. The White Dingo GM Sniper II is also from a Dreamcast game called Rise from the Ashes. The little ships either side of the Layzner are the OF-1 Daedalus from an excellent game called Image Fight, which in turn inspired the fantastic Radiant Silvergun.

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The shiny blue mecha at next to the monitor is Tetsujin 28-go, pretty much the granddaddy of all modern mecha. In front of that is MBV-04-G Temjin from the first Virtual On, with the Burglary Dog at its feet. I also have the regular coloured Billbine too.

ollie_desk_7

Link is at the front, as I adore the Zelda games , and both Getter Robo and Mazinger Z give him backup from the rear. This version of Mazinger Z is from the new series and it transforms into a giant fist. Overman King Gainer and Xan are also in the shot, as I think both the series and designs (by Akira Yasuda) are fascinating.

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The final top-down shot and you can see Sam from Vanquish, the mighty Final Dancougar as well as the YF-29 Durandal with super packs. The blue mecha in the top of the picture is the VF-1J Max Type with super packs from the original Macross. Max Jenius, its pilot, is also one of my favourite characters in all of Macross.

Interview: PCF Senior Concept Artist Maciej Wojtala

 on | featured gears of war

While browsing through some of the entries in the Epic Gamers Group at deviantArt, I stumbled over a thumbnail of concept art and the design looked very familiar. As soon as I clicked on the image, I saw that it was from an artist from our Poland studio, People Can Fly. The image was beautifully illustrated by PCF Senior Concept Artist, Maciej Wojtala and depicts a courthouse location for Gears of War: Judgment. The image was also published in Game Informer in July of last year.

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I just had to see more of Maciej’s work, and browsed through his deviantART gallery. From the dark and foreboding “Evil Fortress” to the beautiful and bright “Modern Villa,” Maciej’s work is stunning. I reached out to him for an interview and he humbly accepted. Of course, I reached out to him a week or so before Gears of War: Judgment went gold, so I had to wait awhile for the interview. It was worth the wait, and it is a must-read for artists looking to get into a career in concept art.

Flak: Where do you find inspiration?

Maciej WojtalaMaciej Wojtala: I feel there are a few ways to get inspired. One is purely visual, seeing something beautiful. Discovering new places, art, photography or maybe watching a good movie will help a lot! There are so many crazy and wonderful things in the world, you just have to find them and let them inspire you.

Strong inspiration can also come from a good story that needs visuals. Then you just have to gather visual reference and work with that. The story should guide you and keep you inspired through the process. On the other hand sometimes simply taking a break and looking at work of classical painters or online CG galleries and forums can give a great boost too.

F: How did you feel about having your art featured in Game Informer?

MW: It was awesome, it is such a terrific magazine! It surely feels great to be part of the the team developing the Gears of War universe. Ability to have input on that world is amazing. We often try different approaches, iterate. Seeing this process can be intriguing for anyone who wants to have better insight into the game. I am really glad some of the concepts were shown.

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F:  How long have you been illustrating?

MW: It is hard to answer this one. I had been drawing a lot since I was a kid. I also had always been drawn to visual arts, tried different hobbies that were actually close to illustration. Eventually I had discovered demoscene, which lead me to digital art and it seemed a lot of fun. More or less 10 years ago I realized it can be a full time job. I trained and freelanced for a few years but eventually joined the People Can Fly team in 2005 and became a full time concept artist.

F: What made you decide to start creating concept art for video games?

speed_paintings_by_m_wojtala-d5q0yesMW: I have always loved games! For a few years I was a gamer and proud of it. Concept art seemed to be a great job, combining the world of video games, art and design. Seemed demanding but rewarding. I was amazed when I started and I still am.

F: Who are some of your favorite artists?

MW: I really love the classical painters – Hudson River School, the Impressionists, Romantic Era Art painters and many more. However my love with art started with digital artists and their work – Craig Mullins, Ryan Church, Nicolas Bouvier, Feng Zhu, Massive Black crew!  Thanks !

F: What are the biggest challenges you face as a Concept Artist?

MW: Deadlines can be crazy sometimes. Nailing the visuals fast is the ultimate challenge. It can be tough, but it is an interesting part of the job too.

Thank you Maciej! Looking forward to seeing more of your work in the future!

Over-the-Top Mayhem With the Bulletstorm Blood Symphony Pack

 on | bulletstorm featured

The bloodbath continues! The Bulletstorm™ Blood Symphony Pack is now available worldwide on Xbox LIVE® Marketplace and PC for 800 MS Points or $9.99. The pack will also be available soon on PlayStation® Network. The Blood Symphony Pack introduces an all new Ultimate Echoes mode; a unique skill based challenge that builds upon the game’s original Echo Mode and requires players to complete specific goals in order to rack up even higher bonus points for more insanity. In addition, players will kill with skill on three new maps for the game’s Anarchy multiplayer mode, including the confines of the Mini City, the wrecked remains of the Ulysses, and the Rock Quarry, as well as two new Echo Mode maps featuring the Monorail Factory and Mean Street. As if that wasn’t enough, gamers can use the all new Obsidian and Royal leash variants to ensure they’re looking good while racking up the skillshots!