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    Interview with James Green


    Toxin has done it again. This time it's an interview with James Green of Epic, who does character animation and modeling.

    GameSurge: "Treekiller" where did you get that name?

    James Green: I got it from the Wheel of Time series, by Robert Jordan. It was one of the names the Aeil (a desert race) had for the people that lived where trees were everywhere. They had hardly any trees, and would never dream of chopping them down, so they call the others the "Treekillers". I just like the irony of the name.

    GameSurge: Ok... well that shines new light on to your handle. :)

    GameSurge: How did you get into Epic?

    James Green: I was hired in August, I guess, after about a month of trying to get the job. I was recommended to Epic by a mutual friend, and then the process of sending samples and more samples started. I wasn't really ready to 'present' myself to a company yet, as my plans were to finish school first. But I could not pass up a chance to work for Epic, so I dropped everything else and started churning out animation samples.

    GameSurge: So you didn't work on Unreal?

    James Green: No. I was involved with an Unreal mod, Perilith, but that was about it. Like I said, I was still in school when Epic contacted me. Mark phoned me from Japan in fact.

    Gamesurge: Japan... wow must have been helluva phone bill :)

    Gamesurge: Ok, so did you work on anything before you joined Epic... I mean anything of note such as stuff featured in a magazine, up for downloads etc.?

    James Green: Well, the thing that the community knows me for is the Q2 PPM Perilith Knight, which I did in my spare time while I was studying animation.

    Gamesurge: So that was the thing that really got you the job?

    James Green: Not really....Epic wanted to see "real" animation. I got the feeling they weren't that impressed by the Perilith Knight, that's why I had to do a lot more work to convince them I had what they were looking for.

    Gamesurge: What models did you create for UT?

    James Green: I didn't create any of the player models. All the character modeling/animation was done before I came to Epic. I did the Relics, but that was it, and they didn't make it into UT anyway because of time restrictions. UT was mostly done from an art standpoint even back in September. All the rest of the time has been spent squashing bugs and adding features. I was not hired to do any work on UT; that was clear from the start. I am working on some player models right now, but where they end up is still being discussed.

    Gamesurge: If you weren't hired for UT, what were you hired for?

    James Green: The "next" project.

    Gamesurge: Can you shine a little bit of light on that?

    James Green: No, because it's up in the air. And if I knew, I couldn't tell you anyway. What I can say (because it's common knowledge) is that we are developing a skeletal animation system for our licensees to use, and I'm currently making some characters to test with that. They have about double the polycount of the current UT models.

    Gamesurge: So will the next project use a modified UT engine, or will you start with something new?

    James Green: We will be adding more features to the UT engine for our licensees, but most people here are anxious to move on to something brand new. The programmers can't wait to start on a new engine, and the artists want the tools that come with a new engine. No matter what we do, the characters will use skeletal animation, have very high polygon counts, and may support some form of Inverse Kinematics.

    Gamesurge: Paul Steed (of ID Software) was quoted saying that the UT models aren't that good (to be nice). Do you agree with him that the CURRENT models aren't too well designed? Personally I think that the Q3 models are very very nice looking.

    James Green: There is some improvement.

    Gamesurge: :)

    Gamesurge: What about the Q3A models?

    James Green: The Q3A models look pretty good, but I have a few problems with them. Well, the skins are nicely done, but are rather low resolution. And the tag system they used didn't seem to help the way the animation looks.

    Gamesurge: I actually thought animation was pretty good...

    James Green: I say that because the upper body cannot react to the lower body, the characters seem to lack weight and this is no fault of Steed's. It's just the system. If you go into the movement setup screen and look at the running and walking animations you will see what I mean.

    Gamesurge: In my opinion, models don't really mean much when you are playing a FPS... I can understand in a single player game they are important, but most people don't stop to appreciate how nice the polygons look on a guy who's blowing of their head.

    James Green: I agree, but, you can make a difference, if you exaggerate the right things. Comic book art is probably the closest thing. You want your characters and animations to be larger than life.

    Gamesurge: (quite literally for some female superheroes :)

    James Green: Heh...I didn't mean that. I don't like unrealistic female proportions. I think the female form, if done right, can look very sexy even if her breasts are smaller than her head. Imagine that!

    Gamesurge: Ok... well how are you planning to spend your Thanksgiving?

    James Green: Thanksgiving? I'm going over to Cliff's house.

    Gamesurge: What about your family?

    James Green: My family is all over. I will see them at Christmas, which is soon enough. Being Canadian, it's not our "real" Thanksgiving anyway.

    Gamesurge: But anyway, when do you guys plan on going back to work? I heard most companies have a few weeks (read: months) off after they finish a great game.

    James Green: Back to work? We never left! :-) It's not like everyone just wants to go on vacation. We *like* what we do. I haven't been doing anything on UT anyway, so there's no real change to my schedule. Only the programmers have been worked to death leading up to going gold, which was about 3 weeks ago now.

    Gamesurge: Do you play any games (beside UT) during your free time?

    James Green: I used to play a lot of Total Annihilation, and TFC. I played the Asheron's call beta, and liked it enough to know *not* to buy it, because then there would be less new player models. ;-)

    Gamesurge: What about Plugin Player Models?

    James Green: We will support custom player models for UT. They work currently, but there are problems when it comes to automatically downloading them. These issues will be fixed in a patch shortly.

    Gamesurge: So I can make my own "nude raider" skin and upload it as my modeL? :)

    James Green: Yes, you will be able to add custom skins, and models. For viewable weapons, a single triangle is placed in the character's hand, and it is animated like a "fake" weapon. Then during the game, the engine places the correct weapon where that triangle is. Same as Q3 I believe. This is much easier than the Q2 way of doing it.

    Gamesurge: What is your fav. Map? Weapon?

    James Green: Favorite weapon is the Flack Cannon, and map is....hmmm....Codex. It's one of Cliff's maps.

    Gamesurge: What is your stance on software piracy?

    James Green: Piracy to make a profit is very bad. Piracy so you can get a game for free is bad. Piracy so you can get a game there's no way you could afford is not good.

    James Green: You can't stop piracy, just discourage it.

    Gamesurge: What steps have you taken to try and discourage software piracy in UT?

    James Green: We use Safedisk, which requires the CD to be in the drive to play the game. There's no way to keep your game from being warezed (as far as I can tell) so you have to try and get the public to *want* to support you and buy your game. At least we did not end up using a Key system. I don't like CD Keys because a lot of people have trouble playing because some key generator gave someone else their key. And that really sucks when you just bought a game, and can't play because someone who doesn't deserve your spot has taken it.

    Gamesurge: Yep, I really hate that. I remember it happened to my friend.

    Gamesurge: What do you thinking ID was thinking when they "accidentally" announced Q3A? Just about the same day as UT hit the stores.

    James Green: First, about id. I think they just wanted to say they were done, and nothing more. They don't seem "afraid" of us, so why would they try and steal our thunder?

    Gamesurge: I think GT wants to sell as much UT as possible... how does that make you feel?
    Gamesurge: How do you feel about UT actually costing less than OpFor, and OpFor is an ADD-ON?

    James Green: I think UT is going for so cheap because of the price wars. It's MSRP is $54.99. We get the same amount for each box no matter what, same for GT. It's the retailer that takes the hit (CompUSA, Best Buy, etc.) So we don't care what they sell it for....lower price sells more copies. GT has put a LOT of money into promotion and advertising. It's a hot game this holiday, because of the marketing behind it. For other reasons too, of course.

    Gamesurge: When you guys do a new engine, what type of game will go with it?

    James Green: It will be first person, but not sure what type still. We will develop an engine that will be of use to many people. A lot of companies have licensed the Unreal Engine, and we want to give them something even better for the next generation.

    Gamesurge: What about hardware?

    James Green: We are taking into account the next generation of hardware. We are developing for a game that is at least 2 years off.

    Gamesurge: But what about people like me who can't afford to buy the latest video/sound/whatever card the second it hits the stores.

    James Green: We will probably have something like a GeForce as a minimum spec card. In 2 years, if you don't have at least that, well...I don't know what to say.

    Gamesurge: What about Alice?

    James Green: Looks cool. It's nice to be able to use a next-gen engine (Q3) which is why we are moving in that direction. We are not just going to upgrade the Unreal engine again...fresh start.

    Gamesurge: If anyone of our readers want to join Epic .... what do they have to do?

    James Green: I would say go to our jobs section of the website (http://www.epicgames.com/jobs.html). If there are any new openings, we will post them there.

    James Green: I'm sending you a little bonus. Not sure if I can show the models yet, but that's just my concept sketch.

    Gamesurge: Wow!!! Amazing! You drew that?!

    James Green: Yea, I do it all. Drawing/modeling/animation.

    Gamesurge: Alright, thanks A LOT for spending your time this interview and answering all of my questions :) As always I wish you and Epic luck in the future!

    James Green: Sure, no problem. Anytime.


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