Developer Interview Series: Karen Manalastas

Not too long ago, we started a Developer Interview series on this blog, featuring the people of Boomzap (see past interviews here and here). Since then, Boomzap has tripled in size, and we figured it was about time to continue the series so you can get to know the other faces behind our games!

Picking up where we left off, next up in today’s developer spotlight is Karen Manalastas, an artist from the Philippines.


What do you do for Boomzap?
I’m a lead artist and currently the key artist for the Dana Knightstone franchise. Being a key/lead isn’t just about supervising other artists in the team. We all do the same work – create assets, add effects, make revisions – but if someone in the team has a question about art or visual design, they ask me. I also help to create user interfaces and define art styles, and help in supervising artist applicants in taking skill tests.

What were you doing before you joined Boomzap?
I was a graphic designer for an advertising agency, making visual merchandise for supermarkets. I decided to leave that company because Boomzap’s virtual office environment was ideal for me. I live far away from the city, so commuting everyday was tiring and expensive.

When did you start working as an artist? Did you take formal art lessons?
I’ve been a freelance artist since I was 15 years old. My sister used to work for an advertising firm, so whenever their company needed extra artists, they hired me as a part-time graphic artist. I went on to study art in college, and graduated at the University of Santo Tomas with Advertising as my major.

What is your typical work day like?
Every morning, I log on at around 10am (I usually wake up at that time, thanks to Boomzap and work from home). I chat with our designer Iris Lim about tasks that need to be changed or completed, and after that we discuss with each artist about what they need to do. We then proceed to paint happily all day, until late at night. We’re all night owls in our team!

What’s it like working from home?
I actually like working in Laguna (around 2.5 hours from Manila) rather than in the city. It’s more peaceful and my everyday life is pretty simple. There are no public vehicles blowing their horns nor busy construction sites around. There’s less people and the air is fresh.

What’s your work setup at home?
For more than a year I was actually working from my bed since I didn’t have a good table. It kinda made my back hurt at first, but then I got used to it. My home setup is better now since I bought myself a decent table and chair, but I still don’t use it as often – it feels strange after getting used to working while lying on my belly.

Is it difficult to work while other family members are around?
My little niece and nephew are often running around me while I’m working. They are really noisy but the good thing about working from home is that you get to spend more time with people you love. It’s chaotic but it’s something I really cherish in my current work.

My mom is really supportive of what I do. Since she’s a housewife, she sees my work all the time. I ask her opinion about whether my graphics are clear enough, or if she understands what’s going on in the scene. My mom is in the same age range as most of our players, so her feedback is really important to me. And it’s always nice when your family appreciates what you create.

What kind of gear do you use?
I mainly use Adobe Photoshop CS3 and a Wacom Intuos4 Tablet to paint. I also use other software such as Adobe Illustrator and a 3D rendering program. We use 3D to create basic structures for the Knightstone franchise, mainly because it’s faster and more accurate in terms of perspective. Our franchise is all about details and perspective, and since we don’t have much time and we are a small art team, 3D is very beneficial to us.

Which Boomzap projects have you worked on?
I’ve worked on Awakening: The Dreamless Castle, Antique Road Trip 1 and 2, and Death at Fairing Point.

How did you find the experience?
Awakening: The Dreamless Castle was the first game I worked on at Boomzap – actually, my first time to ever work on a game in my life. My painting skills were not too great (you can ask Chris about that, haha!). I was a newbie and it was such a wonderful experience learning about digital painting and using technology to create assets.

For Death at Fairing Point, it was my first time to lead a team (previously, I was mentored by Michael Gonzales, the lead artist of Awakening). This time, it was a new and fun experience because the Knightstone team was composed of people from different countries speaking different languages. It was a challenge, but since everyone was very hardworking, talented and sweet, I could not have been happier.

What chapter from Death at Fairing Point did you enjoy designing most?
Chapter 6, France. It is, I believe, the prettiest chapter in the game. We also enjoyed it very much because everyone was familiar with each one’s working style. We worked very efficiently and at full speed during that time. No one was a newbie anymore, everyone was in sync with each other, and we were all happy with the results.

Do you have a particular art style?
My art style is actually based on the Awakening look. But then it evolves with every game I get myself into, depending on the requirement of each project. It is basically realism that looks painterly, plus applying a mix of 3D, matte painting and other techniques to make it look somehow unique.

What are the neatest art tricks you’ve learned over the years?
Neatest tricks… hmm. There are so many things that I’ve learned, it’s hard to actually define one. Maybe the neatest trick I’ve learned is to be patient and be constantly needing to improve and learn. People always say they’ll work hard because they want to learn. But wanting is just one thing. Needing is about being more passionate and serious about it.

What games are you playing now?
I play other casual games during my free time to see what’s out there. I also play sandbox games like Grand Theft Auto, World of Warcraft, and Red Dead Redemption, and also any other games with blood and gore in them (I am not always sweet with rainbows and unicorns all the time).