Who or what were some of your early creative inspirations?
The early years for me was comic books and movies! Both of those genres peaked for me in the early 90's (for better or for worse) when I was a young teenager. On the comic side it was Marvel and Image comics; I've still got a box of them somewhere in my office closet, pared down to mostly Jim Lee's X-Men and Todd McFarlane's Spawn. On the film side, I was essentially raised by Terminator 2 (nostalgia placing that movie at or near best film of all time in my book) and Jurassic Park. Jurassic Park especially kicked off my fascination with CG as a viable career choice, and actually caused me to look into how one went about doing that for a career. On the game side, I had the usual NES / SNES / Sega upbringing that most did, but again it was the early 90's that really had me looking at computer graphics as maybe something I could do when I "grew up." I'm probably not alone with any of these opinions, but the real game changers for me were Mortal Kombat, Wolfenstein, GoldenEye, and Doom in the 90's. Another one that doesn't get brought up as much but certainly had an impact on me for creating 3D experiences was The 7th Guest--I must have played that game all the way through at least 10 times.
When did you start working in 3D and What’s your favorite project so far?
My first 3D project was a simple environment and camera move, modeled and rendered in 3ds Max, while I was getting my first degree in Waco, Texas. I think it was a table with a soda can and box of cigarettes on it if I'm not mistaken...I might still have that burned to a cd in an old folder stashed somewhere. If I find it I don't think I'll ever show anybody, but it'd be fun to watch again after twenty years! After that I went to Ringling College and learned the entire 3D pipeline start to finish with a multitude of projects, then started working at EA after that. My favorite project might be a surprising one; I've worked on some big sports and FPS titles over the years, but I'd have to say for both my own development and the experience of working on a game from start to finish with a very tight knit team, DC Universe Online probably had the biggest impact on me personally. That project is what propelled my use of ZBrush from an ancillary tool to one of my main production tools, which it still is to this day. It also solidified in my head what it meant to be a part of a team, executing day in and day out, and what it really took to go from pre-production to a shipped product.
Is there a new project that you haven’t modeled yet but would like to?
Oddly enough (or maybe not) I've always been fascinated by cel shaded modeling and texturing to achieve an extremely stylized cartoon look, in games like Ni No Kuni and Guilty Gear, or even the suprising use (to me) of 3D in movies like The Triplets of Belleville. I've made absolutely no effort in attempting to model, texture, and develop shaders to achieve this look (outside of post-process effects like the new NPR rendering in ZBrush 2019), but it's always one of my favorite GDC topics to watch and see how they specifically modeled and textured to really capture that look effectively. If I had the time I'd certainly like to see if I could make something compelling with those techniques, but I wouldn't hold my breath--I'm afraid gritty realism is always going to be the path of least resistance to me haha!
Are there ways in which you think AR will help 3D creators express themselves?
Absolutely! I've had my fingers crossed for mass adoption of VR and AR for years now--a good portion of my GDC 2015 talk was about the eventual need for more and varied 3D industry jobs that the virtual space could eventually bring. AR specifically would include a whole host of mind-bending applications, many of which I'd imagine haven't even been thought of yet. Just like say building a car engine with AR support would lower the barrier to entry for learning and understanding complex systems, imagine a world where you had real time interactive feedback on proportion, anatomy, composition, reference, etc... while you drew in a sketchbook! I'm also particularly fascinated with the ability of AR to supplement pre-existing spaces like geography and ancient ruins--my dream is to someday take my AR glasses with me on vacation, and every site I visit enjoy a walk through and explanation of how the environment and structures have changed over thousands or millions of years, and being able to associate that with what I'm currently experiencing in that time and place. Super exciting stuff on the horizon!!