A portrait of the sixteen million dollar man was Marlon’s first piece of art. He was four years old back then and it would take several more years until Pong would release, the game that got the ball rolling.
So you are old enough to have played the original Pong?
Yeah, one of my friends had an Atari and we played the game for many more hours than I dare to admit. The simple shapes and lack of colors did not really trigger me art-wise, that all happened later when I got Zelda on my Gameboy.
What was it about Zelda?
It was just so amazing for me to be transported to this new world in my mind through simple pixels and a very rudimentary story. I could not get enough of it, so I think I completed the game three or four times. I started drawing detailed pieces of art reflecting my experiences in the game. Also Zelda set the tone for what would become my favorite game genre, the RPG.
What makes RPGs special for you?
For me RPGs are the best genre to experience new worlds and new ideas. I feel that other genres focus more on mechanics, while RPGs focus more on world building and story. Games like Final Fantasy VII and XI, and Zelda – Link’s Awakening really made me lose track of time and reality while playing and they got me interested to learn more about game development.
So you immediately built a portfolio and applied for a job right?
No, that all came much later. Working in the game industry felt a bit like the impossible dream and at that time, I was still studying economics.
That couldn’t be further removed from games, how did you manage to turn that around?
In my spare time, I started to experiment with 3D. I still loved nothing more than to draw, but I felt that drawing was not really a skill that allowed me to experiment for the purpose of game development. I joined specialized 3D forums to read about techniques and to connect with other people. On these forums, I discovered the amazing world of game concept art, and that is when everything connected for me. Over time, many of the people on the 3D forum became friends, and once I started to put up my pieces of concept art, they helped me to land my first job at a game studio.
What do you feel is your biggest challenge in your work?
I strife to keep usability in mind whenever I concept something. My 3D background helps me a lot to understand how my concept will translate to a model. I always try to make sure I design something that can be modeled and animated without introducing problems for my 3D colleagues. For example, I would never design a set of shoulder pads with big spikes that will clip into the head of a game character when animated.
But, big spikes are cool!
I agree, but it is not really my concept style. For me usability also extends to the actual world in which I concept something. Those shoulder pads with spikes also do not work because a character would not be able to function in everyday life when wearing those pads. In the end my concepts al have to feel realistic within the boundaries of the world I am working on.
What do you feel is the most exciting part of your work?
I love the moment when I can share my work with colleagues and I notice that my concept reflects the images they had in their head. Much of my concept work is done as a result of brainstorm meetings, so my concept needs to reflect the input and not just be my personal take on something. It is very rewarding to see a piece of concept art end up as a wall paper on a colleague’s computer screen.
How did you end up at Vanguard Games?
I worked for several Dutch game developers in the past, and at one point I discovered the beautiful concept art that got released for Vanguard Games’ Greed Corp. The dieselpunk-inspired world felt very fresh to me, because it avoids fantasy and science fiction cliche’s. When a position opened up for a concept artist, I immediately applied, and I could not be happier to work here now.