Friday, May 3, 2013

Developer interview: Jessica 'Nytrinhia/Yoko' Weaver - art director

1. What's your name, how long have you been involved in TPP, what role do you have, and what does it involve?
Well my handle is Nytrinhia, but most people call me Nyt or Yoko. A half-hearted google search would find you my real name, but it's also so common of a real name that you likely won't find much beyond my DeviantArt gallery.

I've been involved in The Phoenix Project since oh... around the end of December 2012. So from the time I write this answer, about 2 months worth of time. Quite a newbie compared to some... most of the other Leads, and some of the people I manage in my team.

I'm the Art Director, which means I'm responsible for the way the game looks from the concept art to the UI to the finished product. It's a big responsibility that basically means it's on my head if anything is off about the look. I report directly to our Creative Director, Jim. I specifically manage the team, make artwork/art assets, help make sure the rest of the team has the art assets they need and keep my team motivated and inspired.

2. What other MMOs/games have you played in the past? What drew you to them? What makes a game enjoyable to you?
Uh... well let's see... There was Maple Story, Dofus, Angel Sanctuary and then I went through a dry spell where I didn't play MMOs period because they all ran into the same basic problem. It became about the grinding, or you got to a point where you had to team up with people or you couldn't do higher-level things or dungeons. Any friends I played MMOs with, soon quit and I was left soloing most of my time, so I turned to solo games.

Then I was introduced to Allods Online, which I still play and is fun because I'm a laid back kind of person who takes their time getting levels when I'm playing by myself. Soon after CoH went F2P, and my wallet rejoiced. And then it cried because I subsequently fell to effective marketing strategy and subscribed. Champions Online has been my weak tea substitute since the closing of CoH's doors. I have since dabbled in The Secret world, Planetside2, APB, EVE Online, Mabinogi, Sanctum, Team Fortress 2... and that may be it... The majority of them I've played about an hour or two for research.

As for what draws me to a game, most likely accessibility. If I can get to it from my meager budget, I will likely play it at least once for at least an hour or two. Art plays a big role in my ability to... "stand" a game. I haven't even made an account for minecraft because the 8-bit block style drives me crazy. I love and appreciate what some people can do with it, but it's a personal quirk I can't get over. Allods has me for as long as I can progress solo because their art concepts are unique and gorgeously applied. Who wouldn't want to be a cyborg zombie mummy? Or a female orc that doesn't look like they should belong on the cover of a fantasy version of Sports Illustrated. Either way, I will play anything at least once if I can have access to it, but the quality of the game itself overall is what keeps me there.

Since I am not huge on the MMO scene, here's a list of some of the things I play/have played: LoZ, LoZ II, OoT, MM, TP, SS (Can you tell what company and franchise I'm a fan of yet?), Diddy Kong Racing, Mariokart (64 and Wii versions), a plethora of NES games (That still work along with the floor mat and zapper), 007: Golden Eye, those Wii family games (Wii Sports, WiiMusic, WiiSports Resort), Kirby Yarn, Blockscape, Everquest, Dragonquest, Borderlands, Hydrophobia: Prophecy, Portal, Portal 2, Audiosurf, Dota2 (still have no idea what I'm doing), Faerie Solitaire, Flock!, Mirror's Edge, Offspring Fling, PixelJunk's Eden, Q.U.B.E., The Stanley Parable, Torchlight, and World of Goo.

Games that have been sitting in my queue and waiting for me to play them: Borderlands 2 (waiting for me to finish the first one and to buy the second, likely to be a Black Friday purchase >.>), BioShock and Bioshock2 (I am a bit of a scardey cat, I will admit that), Half-Life, Krater, Mass Effect, Mass Effect 2, Prince of Persia (the whole franchise that you can get through Steam), APB Reloaded, Prototype, Team Fortress Classic, Phantasy Star Online annnnd I'm sure there's other things in my list of things I want/need to play for either research purposes or selfish play.

3. What server did you play on in COH? How long did you play for?
Protector. That's where my friends were playing so that's where I went. I was playing for about a year and about half, if not the majority of my social circle is made up of the people I met there on the Protector Server.

4. How did you get your role – did you volunteer, were you seconded and did you expect to end up with such a senior role? Do you have any experience/qualifications that make you perfect for this role?

I volunteered when a call went out that we were in need of a vicious overl- I mean a Character Art Lead. There wasn't much of seconding because I wasn't well known around the forums and no one knew much of me. I was more of a lurker until I busted out a full round of general critiques. And then my name wasn't exactly pulling the support HAHAHA! But I was interviewed by our illustrious cat herder and deemed appropriate for the job; and after some calming discussions with individuals over sore egos or hurt feelers and antennae, things settled right quick. I suppose it's lucky for me that I draw as well as I can point out errors.

And I've been functioning in that capacity up until our Art Director had to leave the project for personal reasons. I was then asked by the other company officers to step up into the roll. I was sad our Art Director left, but things must truck on and in my opinion, making this game a reality is more important than being sad over something I couldn't change.

As for my qualifications... I work for private clients designing and/or illustrating characters. Essentially I'm a freelance artist and I draw a comic for a private client/writer which can be found if you look half-heartedly enough. I have an unfinished degree in Illustration; 5 years years of my life were spent working for that non-degree which is a long story which I'm sure you're wondering about which can be boiled down to health issues, most of which are being taken care of. What I lack in hard industry experience I make up in ingenuity, creativity and a sense of humor. I have a critical eye, and like I tell my artists, I leave my personal feelings at the door when it comes to art, and we ought to be able to speak our minds to facilitate great design and make a game that people will enjoy.

5. Describe an average day working on TPP for you.

Well I log in, and the next few hours are devoted to playing catch up. If I'm lucky I then proceed to light socializing among the different team members while working on projects, meetings or other needed things.
If I'm unlucky then some disaster has arisen while I was offline or right before I was online or shortly after I log in, and that has to be dealt with. That can take anywhere from a couple hours to all day or several days.

Essentially depending on how imminent the destruction of Earth is, it can push aside any and all work I have, setting me back a day or so on progress.

If there's a meeting that day, I generally spend all day working on prepping for that meeting so it goes as smoothly (and quickly) as possible. Because of the different timezones to account for, we start late and end later so the more efficiently I cat herd, the more likely it is we'll end before the earliest timezone hits 2am.

6. What's the best thing about working on TPP? What about the worst?
I can honestly say that the best thing about working with TPP is the art team. I am probably working with the most lighthearted and fun people I have had the pleasure of arting with. We have a lot to overcome and work around, and they've all risen to the challenge, are doing their best and are so willing to learn and improve themselves. I couldn't have picked a better art team to work with.

As for the worst... probably the communication. Trying to find solutions across departments when there are no hard copies of things, no body language, voice tones or facial expressions to pair with the words cause a lot of communication problems and slight issues with making sure everyone is on the same page. And doing all that and putting in the extra effort to try and find solutions and ways around these problems takes time away from production.

It also doesn't help that time is further limited by the fact that we're all doing this without pay, meaning we have to have part-time or full-time jobs somewhere else. It's something we're slowly overcoming, but it's still frustrating to deal with in the mean time.

7. What are you most excited about in creating this game? What makes you most nervous?
I am most excited for the Avatar Creator in this game. I have a lot of big ideas and things to bring to the table, but... with that, depending on the funding we get and what the Tech team tells us we can or can't do, a lot of it can end up getting nixed.

8. What's the first thing you'll do once the game goes live and you've logged in to the city?
I'll likely stand in a newbie spawn point and help people out with any questions they have. Chill. I have and will have worked hard to get to that point, so I'm gonna sit back and enjoy the fruits of the labor with a quart of Edys Rocky Road Slow Churned ice cream and no intention of doing anything extravagant. After all we have to keep working after launch. Might as well enjoy the moment before the rest of the work hits us in the face.

9. Why should people be excited about TPP? Why should they trust TPP over any other MMO?
The Phoenix Project isn't just another independent project. It's an independent project founded on the ashes of a great game that was snuffed out not because it wasn't turning a profit, but because it wasn't included in the company's direction.

Or so we're told. It's a classic case of ignoring the players and catering to the stock holders or board of directors who know very little about what the game really was. The success of The Phoenix Project isn't just another MMO added to the board of hundreds of others. This will be a game founded on the principles of what made City of Heroes great and taking it to the next level. This is a game about evolving and improving the MMO, not going with the status quo. The people building this game aren't doing this because it puts bread on the table or it'll turn a multi-million dollar profit.

Though I'm sure about 99.9% of us are hoping that when this launches we can quit our day jobs and get a steady paycheck working strictly for Missing Worlds Media. We're doing this because we are seriously and deeply invested in making a great game.

We're invested in making a home for gamers where all of us won't have to be afraid of corporate decisions that'll arbitrarily decide the game's lifespan, the livelihood of the studio and designers that made it, and the investments of the people who play it, are not necessary any more. People should be excited about it, because it's something worth being excited about. If The Phoenix Project becomes a success not only will we achieve re-establishing our home, but it will become a symbol of what people can become capable of in the face of hardship and imminent destruction. We show that there is life after death and fire can rise from ashes.

As for why people should trust us... I'm not going to tell people that they -should- trust us, only that they can. We're hard-working people. The majority of the people on this team I haven't met prior to this project, but we've chosen to put aside a lot of things and make sacrifices on a professional and personal level to work on this game. We're not just catering to the player base; a half a year ago we were part of the player base.

10. Give me one random, or interesting fact about yourself.
Unlike the great majority of artists I've met who have great tragedies surrounding their epic quests to arthood and their parents condescending stares and outright verbal (and sometimes physical) disapproval, my parents encouraged me to go into the field of art, despite my wanting to go into architecture. when you first started playing.

No comments:

Post a Comment