Yoji Shinkawa, Sparth, Craig Mullins
Software used: Photoshop,
Painter, Maya, 3ds max
Average time per image: 3-4 hours
Xavier Marquis is a games concept artist at Guerrilla Games, an Amsterdam-based company famous for Killzone, a sci-fi game series for Sony on both the PS2 and PSP. The next title is now being developed for PS3. Much of Xavier’s personal artwork has obvious Japanese influences and is filled with rich textures and intriguing characters. His Killzone concept work and art for other games shares this richness and the definite sense that there’s a story involved.
Self-taught in 3D and design, Xavier has no formal art training. “I’ve never had the chance to receive serious graphical instruction,” he says, and goes on to explain that this has led him to experiment every day to develop and learn something new.
Nowadays, Xavier specialises in character creation. “I focus on vehicles, environments and other items, but characters are always my centre of attention,” he says. “I also feel an attraction for the ‘epic’ side of things – not so much a fascination for weapons or military themes, but instead a clear interest in historical events and places. Also strong, violent and dangerous situations that push people into becoming extraordinary.”Solid inspiration
One of Xavier’s favourite artists is Yoji Shinkawa (see page 114), of Metal Gear Solid fame. “I always come back to his books, like a sort of bible of inspiration,” Xavier explains. “Yoji is a genius and adheres to my main philosophy regarding design: good design should be a ‘cliché +1’.” He explains: “Design should be understandable, so the challenge is to find a good cliché, a common reference, and add one new idea to make it unique. I prefer developing only one strong idea per creation. Yoji knows how to do this, creating something totally new and amazing, but with around 90 per cent of his design based on common references.”
Xavier worked in web design, before moving into games in 2002. “During this period I worked as a 3D environment artist for a motorbike game, but this experience had no real impact on my technique,” he says. “Only at Guerrilla Games have I been able to develop my knowledge and passion as a concept designer.” Hired as a marketing artist, Xavier had to work hard to join the Killzone concept design team. Team work
Working for a company, he is quick to explain, differs greatly from working on personal projects. “When you’re developing personal artwork, you don’t have to have a precise vision in mind – everything can change and it’s only your time and your patience that are affected. In a company it’s totally different, you almost have to be able to schedule your creativity,” he says. “The latest tendency in the concept design world is to create a concept ‘in media res’– basically this means that the artwork requires a strong composition; mood and lighting that immediately catches the viewer’s attention and resembles the potential end result as closely as possible.”
Of course, when you’re working as part of a team, you also have to convince everyone else involved of your ideas – from fellow artists to programmers and those holding the purse strings. “The main challenge is to create something unexpected and surprise people,” says Xavier. “I feel extremely happy when I can see my concepts recognised and identified by people working around me.”
Xavier’s favourite software is Photoshop, using custom brushes. He also uses 3ds max and Maya to create the correct perspective when painting environments, and his work is now almost exclusively digital. “In the past I always made an early sketch in black ink, then scanned it and coloured it using layers in Photoshop,” he explains. “Nowadays, I mainly paint directly into the computer and use as few layers as possible.”
The pressure of work at Guerrilla Games means Xavier now finds it hard to put in the hours for personal work, but he doesn’t seem to mind that much. “It’s a shame, but since I’ve become a concept designer I work full time on my job,” he says. “Wherever I am, I’m always thinking about my professional projects. When I was a 3D modeller, I worked on my personal projects every evening, because my day job didn’t involve me in the creative process. Now as a concept designer, I find my personal artistic goals are so close to my professional goals that I prefer to focus all my energy into the work projects.”