Gareth Jones and James Quick are part of a group of people at Halfbrick who weave little pieces of imagination and creativity into a game. Having both worked at Halfbrick for quite some years, Gareth and James are part of the Hydras – the Central Art Team – which oversees many art tasks for the company.
While Gareth joined Halfbrick after working at a number of studios in Australia the UK, James took a more interesting path. “I made my first iPhone game at home and showed it to some people here. They liked my style, and the rest is history,” he says.
In fact, without artists like James and Gareth, many of Halfbrick’s games would be missing their signature Halfbrick polish. A good example? Halfbrick’s free-to-play third-person racer, Star Skater.
Featuring a signature voxel art style, Star Skater is a new venture into unknown waters that couldn’t have been successfully crossed without the talents of people like James and Gareth.
In our latest Q&A, we speak with the multi-talented James and Gareth to get a glimpse into the character concepting process for Star Skater, and what it takes to create a world-class game.
Hello, Gareth and James! Thanks for speaking to us today. We hear Star Skater has been doing very well, and our fans can’t wait to hear from you guys. Can you tell us more about your contributions to Star Skater?
James: Hi guys! My role on the Star Skater team is to help create more characters and environments for the game. Creating great content for our awesome fans is part of my job!
Gareth: Hey everyone! I do quite a bit of art for Star Skater. This includes concepting and creating the art assets, producing the animations, setting up the character rigs, along with building the game in the game editor. Quite a fair bit, I would say!
What projects have you been involved with at Halfbrick, and which ones did you like the most?
James: I’ve been involved with a few projects – Fruit Ninja, Fish Out of Water, Hollywood Game Night, and Bears vs Art. My favourite, however, is definitely Bears vs. Art because I got to play a key role during the game’s development. Also, have you seen Rory the bear?
Gareth: I’ve worked on various projects since joining Halfbrick! Apart from Star Skater, I’ve also worked on Fruit Ninja, Jetpack Joyride, R&D projects, and other art-related tasks. I love all of them!
What’s a typical day like for you guys?
James: Good question! A typical day at Halfbrick starts out with the usual email checking, followed by something called a ‘stand-up’ meeting where we talk about what we are committing to for the day. Once that’s out of the way, the fun stuff begins, and I get to work on 3D and 2D art for the rest of the day.
At lunch time, I usually go to the local pool for a swim for some exercise with other Bricks, or play video games when I’m not training. Yes, we get to play a lot of games during the day for research and bug finding. That never gets old!
Gareth: A typical day would usually start off with checking emails and addressing any feedback related to various projects, and making sure working files are up to date.
After I’ve done that, I will then begin work on any special requests that have been sent to me. This could be anything from asset creation, to project planning, to R&D – depending on the schedule and specific requirements at the time. Occasionally there will also be a meeting or two. Boo!
How do your Star Skater ideas come to life and make it into the game?
James: We usually start with a notepad and pencil, just randomly sketching ideas we think would be fun for the player. Once we have settled on the ones we think will work best, we make them into digital concepts and present them to the rest of the team for approval.
We then start making a 3D model of the character using our concepts as a reference. Once the model is built, we paint a texture over it to give it colour and detail.
Finally, the magical step where the character comes to life! This is where we do something called rigging. We give the character a skeleton that moves its body parts with our animations, much like a puppet that has strings to make it move.
Gareth: It varies! Sometimes my ideas might come from just a simple sketch and remain that way. Others are specifically conceived. Once I’ve selected something, they are then modelled in one of the several 3D packages, then rigged and animated in Maya.
A good example is the many characters you see in Star Skater!
What do you find interesting about creating art for games?
James: The most interesting thing about my job is the strange things that I have learned about human nature. For instance, you would think that people would like a game if it is free, but surprisingly, a lot of people prefer to pay for something that they really like. Surprise!
Gareth: The games industry is always changing and interesting to work in. There are new platforms and tools popping up every day, so you are always learning and looking at things in a new and different way!
Thank you so much for taking the time to speak to us, guys. We really appreciate it!