Copyright 2008

[ May 9th 2008 ]

Eidos has released a fantastic interview with Tomb Raider Underworld conceptual artist Joel Boucquemont, who answers questions on the science behind developing video-games with an onus on Lara's latest adventure.

How long have you been working as a concept artist?

I have been playing at concept artist since 95 but really it became a full time job 6 years ago. Prior to that the teams and projects were a lot smaller so an artist would multitask a lot more.

What route did you take to get into the games industry in terms of education and professional experience?

First I went through the equivalent of a master of fine art in a serious French school that was visionary enough to acquire computers for graphics when that was still a heresy (it was in 86 and the school is called Ecole Emile Cohl for those interested). I highly recommend the school.

After that I lived for a while as a bohemian illustrator until I found an ad in a Boston newspaper for an artist job in the game industry. I have been in since and I donít regret it.

Whatís it like working on a game as popular and established as Tomb Raider?

Actually I remember back in the days (when I was working on NASCAR and Indy-car sims) being fairly jealous of the people who worked on Tomb Raider which came out that year. It was a lot cooler than what we were doing in my opinion. And here we are 10-ish years later. Funny how it works sometimes, isnít it?

The result is that now my mother has something to brag about and show her friends. She doesnít quite understand what I am doing but even she knows Lara Croft (Laraís big in France!). My friends too think of me as less of a bum now. Ha-ha. Seriously, itís rather nice to work on a project that has worldwide recognition. Especially after years of working on obscure or canceled games.

Describe your average day working on Tomb Raider.

I get in, drink coffee, get cranking, watch the Daily Show on the net, drink coffee, get cranking, chat Öet

How closely do you work with the dev team, and which members do you work with?

Obviously very closely with the Art Director. But there is also a fair amount of interaction with the World Builders, Effect Artists and even Sound Artists because, in the end, it all goes into the mix to create a rich experience for the player.

Can you describe the process for getting the vision for a level or character in the game designer's head onto a piece of paper? When you have completed the art what happens then?

First you talk with the Art Director to try getting all the infos needed for the piece. Size, mood intended, level of detail expected...etc. Then half way through the picture we meet again for an evaluation of the direction taken. From that I bring it to the next level where we decide whether itís finished or not.

After that I start on a new one just like in Chaplinís ďModern TimesĒ. As for the picture itself, it sails to its new home and become the reference for the person building the world intended. If the picture sucks they are the one who really suffer;)

How long does an average piece take to complete?

These days it ranges from a couple of days to a week for an environment piece loaded with details; Depending on the scope, level of complexity and food poisoning.

Where do you get your inspiration?

From the subject matter, the net, and my troubled past ..Ahem. No, really it comes from everyone and everything around.

What is the favorite piece of concept art youíve worked on?

Canít call favorites.

Whatís your all time favorite piece of TR concept art?

Same as above.

How do you research your art? Do you visit locations?

Ha-ha thatís a good one! I wish they sent me to the Yucatan, China or even the moon. Perhaps you could say a word for me? They actually have sent a couple of colleagues out to get some great reference material and that helped tremendously.

How many concept artists have been working on Underworld?

I believe 6 of us have been at it in different capacities and different times.

Have you always been a fan of Lara?

I think she is a cool character but more importantly I think it is one of the rare games out there making people travel to exotic semi real locations. Itís cheaper than a plane ticket and we try very hard to make it as immersive as we can. Hope yíall enjoy it.

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