Dev Profile: Art Director Geoff Coates
At Capcom Vancouver we’re proud of the games that we make and even more proud about the people we get to make them with. Today we’re taking a look at one of those people behind the games as we sit down with Dead Rising 4‘s Art Director Geoff Coates.
What does an Art Director do? Gets out of the way, mostly. Once we’re in production, I try to help clear the obstacles for the artists, and answer any visual questions that come up:
“What’s this area supposed to look like?” (Answer: It’s supposed to look like where a mad scientist spends his holidays. But make it…y’know…creepier looking.)
“What’s THAT supposed to be?” (Answer: It’s REALLY just supposed to be a box you can take cover behind…but make it look like half an old car. Oh, and make it blow-up-py.)
“What color is an ecto-plasma cannon, again?” (Answer: Uhhh…mauve?)
I try to help the artists do their best work. Before we get into production, I work with concept artists and a smaller group of leads (worlds, characters, etc.) to define the look of the game we’re going to make. Mostly, though, I just wave my hands at stuff and say art director-y things like “make it more onion-y”.
What’s your typical work week look like? 3 martini lunches, naps, and smoking. Wait, I think that’s Mad Men. In MY world, it can look like one big meeting, mostly. I mean, there’s more to it than that. But an Art Director’s main job is communicating, so there ARE a lot of meetings. We meet to discuss direction, solve problems, and determine what we need to focus on. Good communication on the dev team is the key to a good game. A lot of those meetings, though, can be pretty casual; there’s a lot of gathering around an artist’s desk to review a scene or a prop, to see how it’s working and what changes might need to be made.
The mornings are usually a lot quieter, so I spend that time gather reference for artists. After that it’s walkarounds: I go to each of the artists’ desks to see how things are progressing.
How did you get into the gaming industry? By accident, basically. In the mid 90’s I was working in the high-flying world of non-profit magazine design. I met an artist who was working for a game studio, and I went to visit her at her office. I couldn’t believe it! You could get PAID for playing and making games? I wanted in, and since it WAS the mid 90’s, I knew a little bit about computer graphics, and I could draw, I was in. It was a fluke, and I’ve been grateful for it ever since.
What part of your job gets you most excited? The beginning and end of a dev cycle: The beginning, because that’s when all the big ideas and possibilities are flying around, and the end, because it’s really fun to be a part of a team that comes together to make it all happen. A lot of great smaller ideas can come out of this stage as well. Oh, and drawing cartoons of coworkers. I like that part too.
What about Capcom Vancouver gets you most excited? That’s easy; it’s the games we make. I’ve been in the industry for a long time now, and I’ve learned that you can end up going years without working on a big title, or at least a fun one to make. Dead Rising 4 was both. It was really fun to go to a lot of events last summer in the U.S. and Europe, and see the reaction from fans. There are so many of them who love this franchise, and it was a real honor to get to work on it. Plus, come on: Zombies! I LOVE zombies!
What’s your favourite place in Vancouver? My apartment, with my wife and Meatball (our dog). Close second: JJ Bean on Main St.
What is your favourite video game? Well, because I’m so mind-bogglingly old, I’d have to say my all-time favorite is Grim Fandango. But after that? Gotta be Dead Rising 4. Or GTA5. Or possibly Red Dead Redemption. NO! SSX! AAGH! Why are you making me pick ONE??
What do you do outside of games? I draw comics of people who work in video games and try not to get beat up by people who work in video games who’ve seen my comics.
For more examples of Geoff's art visit his personal site.