16 Year Vet, Lead Artist on System Shock, Kevin Manning!

1: OK who are you and what are you known for?
My name is Kevin Manning and I have had the pleasure of being involved with some amazing projects over the last AAEAAQAAAAAAAAiRAAAAJGVjOTgyZWYxLTM1ZGUtNGIzNS05YmViLTcyYjU1MDczOTA0ZQ16 years. Currently the Lead Artist on System Shock my past game credits include Lead character artist on Fallout : New Vegas, Character art on Alpha protocol, Red Faction Guerrilla, and Dungeon Siege 3; Cinematic Artist on Galactic Civilizations 3, Sunset Overdrive as well as a slew of commercial and game art contracts.
2: How did you get your break into games?
I wish I had a great story for this but it was pretty bland. The first REAL 3d job I got after school was at Luma Pictures as a generalist and while I loved working on features and  made some of my best friends there I always had an itch for games. After a couple years I started throwing out applications. Then one day I got a call from the team over at Volition. A flight, couple weeks and a big move to Illinois later and I joined the preproduction team on Red Faction Guerrilla. The rest is more or less history. Even though I take breaks to work on commercial or film projects, something always pulls me back to game development.
3: What are your thoughts about out-sourced art studios in eastern Europe, India and China and where do you see them in 10 years time?
To be honest, I have never worked with an art outsourcing studio. Instead, like my current job, I employ individual contractors. At the moment my team consists of a German, Romanian, a Couple in UK, a few US mid-westerners, and a lot of Californians. Anything beyond an 8hr time change gets a bit tough for me to manage and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. I can only say good things about my experience contracting and these days, with the tools at our disposal for communication, task tracking and video conferencing the idea of fully remote/virtual studios is not far from being common practice.
4: What are your thoughts on crowdsourced funding and what makes or breaks an attempt to go that route for funding?
Crowdfunding is something I am heavily involved in at the moment with System Shock and am not really sure I have formed an opinion on it quite yet. As with most things it has its pros and cons but as I said I am not well enough informed to really speak intelligently on the topic.. yet 🙂

5: What was the worst review or gamer post you read about one of your projects? How do you react to that?

Hahaha, Great question. So I have had the “pleasure” of working on mostly sequels and reboots and though most of them have done pretty well there are always negative reviews and the very vocal hardcore fans who think we could have done better. Honestly, there is really no easy way to negative criticism with a smile. All we can do is support each other. Game development takes a team of people working together, making decisions and compromises across all disciplines. If a team can put out a product that they all support and are proud of they have accomplished something pretty amazing. Yes there FNV_box_art_(US).jpgwill probably be some issues, nothing is perfect, and people will call them out. As every artist knows, it is impossible to make everyone happy the goal is to get the majority 🙂

6: What has been the biggest difficulty you have faced during a project? Publisher demands, team meetings, attempt at perfection, anything else?

You guys ask some hard questions. Well without getting myself into to much trouble 🙂 I would say the common thread is “time”. One thing that never seems to change in development is the need to deliver more in less time. I am pretty sure I am somewhere in the 100s when it comes to having to have “the talk” about quality vs time. “Hey guys In order to create 60 unique 3rd person player characters in 9 months, with a full animation libraries you will need to change your art style to something WAY more simple than your Uncharted reference board”. Scope planning is really hard to do. When you are scheduling 5 to 50 developers over a year or years and have unique feature sets that you don’t even know are possible… yeah you will have to face some harsh realities.

7: For freelance development, what is your suite of tools of choice?

Maya, Zbrush, photoshop and Substance Painter/Designer

8: As a artist, what are some of the silliest questions you get asked at a party? Do people think you just play games all day still?

Everyone thinks I draw. “So you draw characters moving on the screen?”. I am still amazed that a lot of people out there don’t understand the concept of 3d.

9: Worst design scenario you were involved in? What would you do different if you were in that situation now?

I had a client ask me to generate a bunch of “stylized characters” that looked like they had “less resolution” than the Sims characters. It was a marketing company trying to salvage a indy developers game. They wanted to make some advertisements for the game that looked better than game-play but didn’t build up expectations to high. After about 3 weeks of working on the project and getting no where we parted ways. If I could have done anything differently I would have gotten a full breakdown of the project before signing on. I was also never paid for more than a weeks
worth of work. Oh the joys of contract.

10: VR hardware and gaming, a fad or here to stay?

I am a fan of VR so I hope it is not a fad. I do however strongly believe it will not replace the current “sit on your butt and stare at a computer screen” standard. VR introduces so many interesting approaches to design, art and techthat I see it spiraling out into it’s own unique market.

Thanks! this was fun 🙂


Kevin, it was great that you were able to spare a moment to answer some questions for our community, thanks again!

If you would like to know more or to connect with Kevin check his profile out on Gamesmith.com. His art station  and personal website http://rebeldevelopment.com has a couple personal projects he has been working on for the last couple years but as he says, “System Shock is sucking up most of my time these days.”

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