Christopher "Absinthe" Chamberlain is the lead artist for characters, animation, and FX for Champions Online.
"Meet the Team" InterviewEdit
Q: What do you do for Champions Online?
A: I have the best job in the world! I get to design the look of the characters you see in game, guide the overall vision of the game and set up the character creation structure.
Q: How long have you worked in gaming, and what did you do before Champions Online?
A: Almost 10 years now, starting at Atari. Before Champions Online I worked on City of Heroes, City of Villains, Vanguard and a plethora of games that never saw the light of day, including the Marvel MMO – twice!
Q: What is your typical workday like?
A: Just today I spent some time with the animators while we loaded up lots of martial arts reference material. We took foam swords and attacked each other and videotaped it – all while screaming maniacally, of course. Then I sat with our character concept artist and decided on the look for a villain group, and whether or not they should have these wicked spiked collars, bare chests and ginormous scars. Then I walked around to discuss the latest FX and see how one power has your character explode into a 30-foot radius (Rad!). Next, I went to a meeting and we talked about items and how they will be presented to the players. Finally at the end of the day, I got some time to work with our gnarly character creator and create some character screenshots for a magazine.
Q: What inspires you?
A: I get inspiration from many outlets. Originally I wanted to be a comic book artist, so I grew up emulating many of the greats before realizing that I actually wanted to be able to afford food, and not just look at it. So a lot of my inspiration comes from there – comics, that is, not food.
I'm a huge movie buff, and I'm inspired by everything from Metropolis to The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai to City of Lost Children and Pan's Labyrinth. That's right, I said Buckaroo Banzai – IT WAS AWESOME! Also, books give me a lot of inspiration; I read a lot of strange novels that depict some pretty odd visuals. It's cool because I can visualize the images in my head and not have it pre-structured for me.
Q: Who is your favorite Champions character?
A: I never actually played Champions as a kid, but I played tons of D&D and TOON.
The latter was quite horrible, but it was fun attacking people with Wile E. Coyote tactics. Still, I was familiar with the Champions RPG because friends played it, and of course, I've really gotten into it recently. I hate to be a bandwagoner, but Foxbat is rad. Wait until you see his henchmen!
Q: Can you give us a hint about what costume pieces will be available for player characters?
A: What won't be available for player characters? Seriously – we have so much stuff in there it's mind-boggling. By ship, I think we will have roughly four times the parts and twice as many attachment areas as City of Heroes did at launch. Not to mention the other really cool features like dragging a slider to make your avatar go from Ichabod Crane to the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man in a split second, and then define his muscle tone. It's ridiculous! (RIDICULOUSLY AWESOME!)
Q: What do you like to do in your free time?
A: I'm a geek who loves playing video games, although I've finally gotten off the sauce known as "playing MMOs until your eyes bleed." Still, I fit my MMO playtime in when I can. However, the awesomest daughter in the world keeps me busy. She likes to ride on my back slaying dragons (aka Mommy), much to her mommy's dismay, and she really has quite mastered the art of wielding dual light sabers at the tender age of 2.
I'm also really into Nerd Wars, or what normal humans may call Warmachine. It's really only one step away from LARPing. That thought alone keeps me awake most nights. But that's OK, because there are too many awesome things to do to waste time sleeping!
Q: Who are your favorite artists?
A: Frank Franzetta, J. Scott Campbell, DaVinci (cliché I know, but man, he had some wicked ideas), AC/DC, Malhavoc and Maynard from Tool.
Q: Cavemen vs. astronauts – who would win and why?
A: Cavemen, because Barney was a pimp and named his kid the best name ever!
Q: What is something interesting about you that players would be surprised to know?
A: I can hold entire conversations talking backwards.
Q: What advice do you have for someone who wants to be a game artist?
A: It really isn't rocket science. We are just a bunch of normal people with EXTRAORDINARY SUPER ABILITIES!
Seriously, though – do what makes sense. Look at the area of gaming you want to get into, whether it be animation, FX, environment, whatever, and make it, literally. For example, you get the Unreal editor free with a few of the EPIC games. Getting a job as an artist at a videogame company isn't just about being able to make a cool guy in ZBrush; you also have to be very proficient with the pipelines. If you can't get that awesome model from Zbrush into the game, it doesn't really do anyone much good.
If you want to be an environment artist, lay out a level. Texture it, light it, etc., and be able to show your avatar running around in it. If you want to be a character artist, create your awesome character and then get it running around in the game. I can't tell you how many people don't do that. They just send in screenshots of a guy they made in Zbrush. All that tells me is that you can paint and model, but nothing about the abilities that are applicable to creating a game. So your portfolio will get stuck in the pile with the 900 other people who have done the same thing.
I guarantee that if I see a demo of a guy running around in a level he created with his buddy, it will get my attention faster than another Mudbox head bust. Unless that headbust is of Angelina Jolie. (Shh! Don't tell my wife!)
Q: Is there anything else you would like to add?
A: Now I'm all paranoid – what else have you heard?