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Interview

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Irth Online graphic designer Thomas Gale
By: Blair Morris | Game Data | 1:23pm, December 8, 2005
Codemasters Generic UK Eshop Pop up
When thinking in the sense the Magic Hat Software isn't some big budget developer, one of the more amazing things about Irth Online is its graphics. From character design design, to environmental and building art, Irth Online is one of the more visually appealing games out there now in the MMORPG genre. So how does a company not named Blizzard, Sony, or Square create such an amazing look? Talent.

Thomas Gale, one of Irth Online's talented artist, could be making a comfortable living with some of his talented work, but for now, you'll find him sketching away at some potentially new art within the game. Gale took some time out of his schedule to talk with OMGN about the art you'll find within Irth Online, along with discussing other topics.


OMGN: Where did the inspiration of the style of art and/or graphics come from for Irth Online?

Thomas Gale:
We are shooting for "realism". Of course it's difficult to make what is fantasy-based seem real but you know what I mean...therein lies the challenge.  We are intentionally avoiding the cartoony or stylized look that some other games have presented.  Our goal is to develop a world rich with a variety of mood and detail.  We want spooky areas and charming areas and so on.  Performance is always a practical challenge, but we are currently attacking that particular obstacle so players can behold the glory of their multi-layered chocolate cake and gobble it up too.  There are other standard practical shortcuts taken that we may overcome someday.  For example, currently the players "pop" onto a horse.  Eventually it would be cool to have animations where you see your character climbing into the saddle.


OMGN: The attention to detail in most of the art and graphics is so amazing in Irth Online, it's hard to believe this stemmed from a company that isn't named Blizzard, Sony, or Microsoft.  How much of a challenge was it to create something this visually appealing when you don't have someone dishing out thousands at your beckoning call?

Thomas Gale:
Huge.  It was and is an enormous challenge.  I like working for a very small company, but that means we must be extra clever in how we use our resources.  Who needs 5, 10, 30 or 50 artists?  Well OK, that might be nice I suppose, but it would also be a nightmare to manage and requires ungodly amounts of money.  A small industrious team with that special synergy can make nice things too if you give them some time.  We are dedicated for the long haul, with frequent and significant updates to our game (some may say surprisingly so for such a small developer team).  Buying and converting a decent amount of assets from a canceled game helped too. We owe a lot of thanks to the folks who worked on WISH.


OMGN: What's been one of the more rewarding parts of working on Irth Online as a member of the graphics team?

Thomas Gale:
I've worked on other genres in the game industry, but it's nice to come back to the fantasy RPG genre combined with the open-ended field of MMOs. That's ideal from my point of view.  Also it is particularly rewarding when I look at how my own work combines with someone else's and  I am pleasantly surprised by it. In other words, it's nice when the whole is greater than the sum of the parts and you get to see it in action.


OMGN: How much research, if any, went into the development and design of the Irth Online art?

Thomas Gale:
We did some light web photo image research to scrounge up inspiring visuals for the buildings.  These mostly included photos from ancient civilizations around the world.  This was done so we could all get on the same page visually for the look of the various cultures and the environment.  Reference books for historical structures, clothing and armor also lay about the workspace.


OMGN: Is there any certain section in the game that you're most pleased with in the outcome?

Thomas Gale:
I can't help but think about the game all the time, even when I'm trying to fall sleep.  There have been numerous reworks already to the existing artwork, so it is a blessing and curse that you have the option to go back and improve (unlike development for a standard release-in-a-box game).  All in all though constant evolution is a good thing and I think it helps make the "patch" genre so appealing and addictive. There's always something new.


OMGN: Did you guys throw in any "Easter-Eggs" or inside-jokes within any section of the game?

Thomas Gale:
Maybe a little.  More of these will emerge as we progress.  There are fun seasonal features such as a pumpkin hunt for Halloween, etc.


OMGN: How time consuming is it to work on a game like this, and what is it that keeps you going?

Thomas Gale:
Working on a game like this is pretty much all consuming. But that's not so terrible if you enjoy it, which I do.  Feedback and suggestions from players is really encouraging even when it is brutally critical. I particularly rise to the occasion when the criticism is extremely specific and an alternate solution is suggested.  Vague rants are for the very bored. We try to work in as many of the suggestions people post on the forum as possible.  I believe a long wish list means people are excited and want to contribute to making a great game.


OMGN: Any special things the graphic team is working on at the moment, or in the future you can give us a sneak peak at, or at least tell us about?

Thomas Gale:
Let's see.... in the short term more clothes and armor.  Variation and customization is the name of the game. A big focus currently is more performance improvements (which isn't glamorous, but may be the most exciting improvement to some).  And in the long term, I hope to make tons more crafting-related items, animations for NPCs (for example, the bar tender can be cleaning mugs or tapping the keg rather than just standing there, etc), more lairs for monsters, more landscape development, more animals and monsters, and more!  Shout out on the forums what you want the most and we can shift priorities to suit the taste of the majority.


***Click here to found out about your OMGN exclusive discount to Irth Online***
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Irth Online graphic designer Thomas Gale (December 8, 2005; 0 Comments)
When thinking in the sense the Magic Hat Software isn't some big budget developer, one of the more amazing things about Irth Online is its graphics. From character design design, to environmental and building art, Irth Online is one of the more...

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