Brad Stokan is the lead character artist for Champions Online.
"Meet the Team" InterviewEdit
Q: What do you do on Champions Online?
A: I have the second best job in the world! I’m the Lead Character Artist on Champions, which means I help to create our amazingly customizable and always visually stimulating characters. Being a character artist at Cryptic is fantastic; we have a lot of creative freedom and the best tools and support I have seen in the industry.
Q: How long have you worked in gaming, and what did you do before Champions Online?
A: I’ve worked in games now for almost five years. Before Champions and Cryptic, I worked at Sigil Games and then Sony Online on the fantasy MMO Vanguard: Saga of Heroes. Working on Vanguard was challenging but invaluable as a learning experience. I got a great education in game design and development and learned a lot from the talented artists with whom I was priveledged to work. Also, working at Sigil allowed me great latitude to grow as an artist and as a person.
I should mention that until college I was convinced that working in games was not even a real job! I mean I knew something was going on over there in California and Japan, but I certainly didn’t know how I was gonna get in. Luckily, I’d been creating art and playing games for years and years, even working on mods and side projects as a hobby. I foolishly almost pursued another so-called “real job” as a biomedical engineer, but at the last moment decided to follow my love of art and interactive entertainment. I discovered that working in games is not only possible but creatively fulfilling and challenging. But the best part is that it offers the chance to meet and work with passionate, intelligent people between whom spontaneous fist fights occasionally erupt.
Q: What are you most looking forward to in Champions Online?
A: I am stoked for the Nemesis system. I think it’s going to be one of the coolest features in a superhero game to date. As every hero worth their salt knows, a protagonist deserves a fitting arch enemy to drag their good name through the dirt and expose their true character through conflict. And who better to create that dastardly devil than you, the player?
: Who is your favorite Champions Online character?
A: I dig Defender. I can really relate to a charming, wealthy playboy who crafts his own suit of power armor. I had plans to create my own suit, but got hung up on the “wealthy” part.
Q: What is an interesting fact about you that players would be surprised to know?
A: When concept art is in short supply, I can exercise my right to pose for reference. Also, I have an amazing singing voice. Reading these words does not do it justice.
Q: What was your first favorite video game?
A: It’s a toss up between Mega Man 2 and Ninja Gaiden. My eight year old brain was staggered by the precise controls, notorious challenge, razor sharp visuals, and amazing music. Plus, Ninja Gaiden’s then-revolutionary cinematic cut scenes just exploded with style. The funny thing is, not only are these games just as good today as they were then, they are better than a lot of games coming out now. You can’t help but love them.
Q: What is your secret superpower?
A: I have a secret man-crush on Kurt Russell. Does that count? Seriously, though, I can walk in my sleep.
Q: Which is cooler: monkeys, robots, pirates, or ninjas?
A: The word “ninjas” just eviscerated the other words in that question.
Q: What advice do you have for someone who wants to break into the gaming industry?
A: I’ll speak purely about character art and directly from experience. First, learn good low-poly modeling techniques. Learn your edge loops, learn polygon density distribution and how to skin your model to a skeleton. Also, don’t lean too heavily on Zbrush. Game engines still require characters of low to mid range poly count and reasonable texture sizes. There are so many candidates who show off nice sculpts but completely ignore the fundamentals. Know that everything looks awesome in Zbrush. Show that you can make art that looks good while observing realistic limitations. Enter online competitions. This will put you on a deadline just like in the real world, and it will force you to get your work out there.
Finally, put something you’ve made into a game engine. There are plenty of engines and editors freely available for mods and personal learning. Getting your characters into one of these engines will show your passion for games and prove that you can work within the constraints and learn the tools. If you can show that you’ve done this, you will jump right off the resume page and grab attention.
Q: Is there anything you would like to add?
A: Yes. Play Champions, because we need to eat. Also, never give up your dream of working in games, kid!