As we continue towards this Fall, we wanted to spotlight various members of the Sunset Overdrive team with some questions you hopefully haven’t seen answered elsewhere. Get to know the Sunset Overdrive team. This week we talk to Lead Character Artist Gavin Goulden.
How has your past work experience influenced your work on Sunset Overdrive?
I’ve been given a lot of great opportunities in my career and try to apply lessons that I have learned from those past experiences to my current situation. In the past, I was the Lead Character Artist on Bioshock Infinite, this role prepared me for better team management, finishing a giant project as a lead, creating modular character systems, really learning about smarter design choices, and let me play a bigger role in the art direction of enemy characters, fashion sense, and overall consistency throughout the game. Before that, I played a big part in the character customization system for Dead Rising 2, which obviously I am still carrying with me today. I am a huge character customization nerd, it’s a thing I’ve always been interested in from a professional standpoint and as a gamer, I like dressing up my in game character as much as I like building the system for how to do it. I think that job really taught me a lot in how to build a working clothing system, and the expectations of variety in such an open world game. Plus, in general, my personal artistic “flavor” matches pretty closely to what the creative and art directors like, and wanted to push for in Sunset Overdrive, which makes it a dream project in many ways for me.
How would you describe the character’s style in Sunset Overdrive?
It’s the end of the world, and you can do whatever you want. The laws don’t apply to you anymore, the rules you had to follow are gone, and you can be who you want to be. You really have a new lease on life and have gone from a nobody in a dead end job to the protagonist of a video game. This gives us a lot of room to play with, and justify, fashion sense. We’ve grabbed a bunch of different references (anime, Tank Girl, Gorillaz, Iggy Pop, etc.) and have tried to tailor outfits that would loosely fit these archetypes that were once popular, and allow the players to mix and match. We also have many different costume elements that are just plain fun to have, wouldn’t make sense to be wearing walking down the streets of LA (well…it depends where you go, I guess) that mix well with the palette of normal fashion options. So, you can easily have a track jacket, fur vest, pair of jeans, cowboy boots, and a WW2 pilots helmet – they all mix and play well together.
How many different customization combination option do you gather are in Sunset Overdrive?
Well, I could look at my Excel sheet, do some quick math, and give you an exact answer – but – I’m just going to say the amount of possible combinations is easily in the thousands or more. We wanted to take the element of choice in a different direction with Sunset Overdrive. Rather than just slapping color changes onto an asset, we wanted to feel like you were opening your closet and picking out your favorite shirt. Each option is hand crafter and given purpose, and are specific. Though, that being said, there are many, MANY different pieces to pick and choose from to take you anywhere on the scale from boring business man to a super hero from space.
About how long does it take you to make a character from scratch?
Starting from scratch, most character artists are looking at about 2 – 3 weeks of work, give or take some time depending on how difficult the character is. This breaks down to about a few days of creating a base mesh, a week of sculpting, a few days of creating a low poly model and unwrapping, then creating textures. Once the model is finished, we hand it over to our rigging team and get the character moving in game. If there are any obvious issues we missed during it’s creation, the model gets kicked back and we do any necessary fixes. Generally, we are in constant communication with the department before and after us, though, to minimize bouncing models back and forth. Luckily, after a while you have a system in place where you can grab different elements of a model and reuse it in your new character. So, for example, there’s no point in recreating cargo shorts if you already have cargo pants. Not only does this save a ton of time during production, but it also helps keep our look and style consistent throughout the game, since many things will come from the same root.
What is your philosophy before creating a new vanity item?
Obviously, the first question we need to ask is “Will It Work”? New pieces need to fit in the system that we have set up before we can really dive into it. But that doesn’t sound fun. We need to always be player facing and questioning if this new piece of vanity will add to the experience of players, and that the new article of clothing will add to the enjoyment of the game. Rather than trying to create every possible type of shirt, we want to hit with heavier punches, and leave each item feeling totally different than the last. Looking at the vanity items we have as a whole, we need to ask “Would this be fun to wear?”
Can it be difficult to generate new ideas? How do you get over that?
Thankfully, I have a whole team of people that have great ideas. Jacinda (Chew, Art Director) is the driving force for our high level style, we have a team of concept artists that bring a lot of different outfit styles to the modelers, and my direct team are all very creative and can generate ideas for items that we need. Mostly, that takes care of a lot of the pressure, and it’s not hard to ask those around you “How can I make this better?” Left alone, though, I would always go back to our references – the main pieces that inspired our game. There are so many possible things to gather influence from, comic books, movies, runway fashion, music videos, etc. I am also becoming a bit a fashion nerd, not that I’m fashionable by any means, but I find myself looking at people on the street and seeing what they decided to wear that morning, how different materials give a desired effect, what works and what doesn’t, what is common and what isn’t, etc. When it comes to thinking of a new idea for clothing, we are literally surrounded by inspiration.
What is your favorite vanity item in the game? Would you ever wear it in public?
There are so many to choose from and, as the team lead, I see everything come through and get to play with different combinations on a daily basis. I want to break the rules and give you a top 3. The first one, of course, is the Luchador assets we have. Given the right combination you can become a high flying, suplex machine, running through Sunset City. Second is our Fizzie loadout (available to players in the Day One Edition of Sunset Overdrive) where you get to dress as Fizzie stage performer from Horror Night, you get an awesome garage jacket, Fizzie themed pants and a glorious Fizzie helmet. Finally, we have a “Wasteland” themed jacket that has you fully decked out for anything that comes your way – this piece is a big technical achievement for us as it involves so many parts giving secondary motion to the character – chains, straps, sleeping bags, backpacks, it’s basically the kitchen sink asset.
You can reskin any game with Sunset Overdrive art. What game is it?
My knee jerk reaction to any question like this is to just say Doom or Xcom because they’re my favorite games of all time. But, I can’t imagine Doom in a brightly colored world, where you slay demons while wearing a kangaroo head cod piece. I really like all types of games, but it’s tough because Sunset Overdrive is a very unique creature – not many things look like it, and the tone that we set, the attitude that we have, hasn’t really been done before. Thinking about it, I would say Fable. I’ve always really liked the game, and I think it would work well in a world like our own. Rather than chasing chickens through Albion, you would be chasing them through Sunset City.
Other interviews with Game Director Drew Murray, Creative Director Marcus Smith and Art Director Jacinda Chew.