Developer Interview Series: Michael Gonzales

It’s been awhile since our last blog entry, and the reason is that we’ve been hard at work finishing up our newest game, which you’ll all be able to enjoy very soon! To continue our Developer Interview series, we’ll be getting to know another Boomzap artist – the guy behind the look and feel of the Awakening series.
Michael Anthony Gonzales is from Manila, Philippines, and in the middle of balancing his busy Boomzap schedule, he took some time off to answer our questions.

What do you do for Boomzap?
I’m a lead artist at Boomzap. I do anything that’s art-related, from visualizing concepts, creating assets, making effects, producing art pipelines, hiring artists – and training them, too.

Since when have you been drawing? Did you go to art school or take formal lessons?
I’ve been drawing since I was a child. My specialty traditional mediums were chalk pastel and colored pencils. Then I went on to take advertising arts in college and graduated with honors. Most of the stuff I know is self-taught and learned through years of practice and study. I am taking culinary arts now, so that could count as another formal art study.

What is your typical work day like?
Right after reading my e-mail, I check on other artists’ task progress. I always put some music on while I’m working, and I make sure I take a break for my exercise regimen. I rarely take long lunches because I often eat while reading and/or discussing work-related matters.

What kind of gear do you use?
For digital painting, I use a Cintiq when on my desktop PC and a Bamboo Pen & Touch when on my Mac. Depends on my mood, I do pencil sketches once in awhile, but mostly it’s all digital because the important thing is speed.

Which Boomzap projects have you worked on?
I first worked on a casual MMO game (Puzzles in Paradise) which got cancelled, so I moved on to Orchard. Following that, I juggled work between Awakening: The Dreamless Castle, Passport to Paradise, and concepts for Pirates Plundarr. After that, I worked on Antique Road Trip U.S.A. and the prototype of Death at Fairing Point, and then of course Awakening: Moonfell Wood – plus a bit of Antique Road Trip’s sequel. Right now, I’m currently working on the next game in the Awakening series.

So, in short, I’ve worked on all Boomzap games ever since I joined.

Which character in Awakening did you enjoy creating most?
Well, I really enjoyed drawing the evil goblin king (which you’ll encounter someday). But since we can’t really talk about that character yet, I guess I’ll have to say Sophia. I also created the goblins in Dreamless Castle and Moonfell Wood as well as other characters like the Fairy Queen, but my favorite is still Sophia.

Was she inspired by someone you know, or a famous person perhaps?
Not really, I prefer to create characters straight out of my imagination, with no specific references from the real world. Though of course, using references is always a good idea.

How about locations? Which scene from the Awakening games is your favorite?
I enjoy making the characters more than the locations, but if I had to choose one, that would be the second area in Moonfell Wood – wherein it was dusk by the lake, with the leaf-like boat. I did enjoy adding effects to that particular scene, especially the water.

Do you have a particular art style? What do you consider the biggest influences that shaped your personal style?
I’m strongly influenced by the works of great artists whom I try to learn from and emulate, and I study how they create those. On that note, I don’t really have just one specific art style. I often try out different styles that interest me, thus I get to develop a lot of rendering techniques. Trying out these different styles and approaches, in return, increases my work speed.

What are the neatest art tricks you’ve learned over the years?
Not sure how to answer this, since art “tricks” depend on the circumstances where they need to be used. It’s better to develop a strong art foundation and judgement. Practice a lot, and sooner or later, the “tricks” will come out naturally. And that is no trick.

What games are you playing now?
Sometimes, I play Rockband 3 and Sports Active 2, though that’s more of a fitness / exercise program in PS3. I don’t get to play a lot of games since I prefer to watch DVDs or play musical instruments in my free time, aside from attending culinary studies.

What did you learn at culinary school today?
I made tomato rice pilaf and creamed spinach.