Roll Call Interview Series - Paul Abbott (Lead Artist)
Role: Lead Artist
Time at Roll7: Nearly a year
Favourite classic game: Commodore 64 games mainly – Ghostbusters, Jet Set Willy, Pitfall
Pets: A dog called Tootsie
So, you’re a Lead Artist here at Roll7 – could you tell me a bit about what it is that being a Lead Artist involves?
Hmm. I suppose the key part of my role is developing and maintaining a consistent visual language across all areas of the game we’re making – while at the same time defining the boundaries within which the art team can play and create. It’s really about judging the right balance of structure and creativity; for aproject to have a real sense of identity and style, the art team need clear direction – but equally, if you over-restrict creative types you’ll stifle what it is that makes their work great. In practical terms, honestly, no two days are the same. I have a lot of meetings, of course – with the art and design teams, coders, all sorts. But I also do quite a lot of art myself. I don’t think it’s fair to ask your team to do something if you don’t also take time to lead by example, too. Besides, I find I communicate best visually, so art is a pretty big element of how I get my ideas across to the team. I’ve seen quite a bit of the art that you and the team have been working on, and it’s pretty exciting stuff – how would you describe the style?
Well, without saying too much... I’d say it’s illustrative but bonkers. It’s a style that draws on a lot of visual subcultures, and it really has guts. I’m excited to be able to share it with the wider world!
Me too! It’s quite an upbeat, cartoony style – I know you’ve worked on games with a whole range of different styles in the past, some of them much darker and grittier. Does the style you’re working in change your creative process at all? No – it’s honestly no different, in terms of how I go about the process. Both cartoony and more realistic styles come with their own unique challenges, of course, but the creative process remains essentially the same. It’s about taking fundamental design principles and using them to create a visual language and style that suits the game you’re making, whatever that may be. I suppose the things that draw me to one project or another do vary, but the way I approach them is the same.
So what was it that drew you to this project?
Honestly? I liked the games that Roll7 make – but even more than that, I liked how the team came over. They have a good energy: something scrappy, fun - something like a punk rock band. I wanted to be a part of it.
Yeah, I know what you mean! More broadly – what made you decide to get into a career in games in the first place?
I’ve always found that the process of making games feels a lot like how I used to play when I was a kid. Not playing games, you understand (although that’s good too); making them. I used to spend hours as a child, building little vignettes for my citadel miniatures, sculpting with clay, drawing, things like that. My mum always said that she could never figure out what was going on inside my head, but it always came out in whatever I was making. I think that impulse to communicate creatively is what drew me to a career in games. What about art? What drew you to that as a career choice?
The art part was never a choice, to be honest: at the weekends, I relax by painting in my shed. I’ve always been like that – I couldn’t not do art.
Right, because you have your cool shed studio setup, right? How’s that as a place to work from? Is that invading gull still pestering you in there? You know, I didn’t mind the gull. He was quite pleasant. But, yes, the shed is a great place – it’s very elemental, as a workspace. Right now, for example, it’s raining, and I can hear the sound on the roof, see it through the windows; it’s protected and cosy, but it’s also very connected to the outside world. There’s an apple tree right outside, so if it’s sunny and I leave the door open, the branches almost come inside. I get songbirds coming in, too, sometimes – does that sound a bit Disney princess? Well, it’s true. I think it’s also a great space because it’s not just for work; my kids will come in here to play, and in summer on the weekends we might sit in here after a barbeque and just hang out. It’s also a great space to paint, as there’s plenty of room to leave things here to dry.
I’ll admit, that does sound pretty great. I think that ability to balance work and home life so elegantly is one of the things that makes remote work so enjoyable – has the lockdown made that more difficult for you? No, not really. Of course, my kids are around a lot more, which is a change - but I enjoy it. Before I was at Roll7, it used to be that I would get back from a holiday and feel like I didn’t want to go back to work because I would miss spending timewith my family – now I work from home, I don’t have that problem. So for me, having my family around and in and out of the shed while I work feels really natural, it feels like things should be.
I guess the other big change here is that we’ve got a much more flexible policy about working hours, now – has that altered the way you work at all?
It’s funny – I actually don’t think that I significantly different hours to what I was doing before, but somehow just having the option to work when I want feels really great. I think it’s the sense of having control over work rather than work controlling you; if I’m up early and I’m in the mood to start, I can just start, or if I want to take a long lunch as see my kids I can do that. It’s a nice feeling, having that freedom to choose.
I totally agree. Alright, I think I’ve probably kept you long enough – I’ll leave you to your work. Thanks for taking the time to chat – I appreciate it.
Thank you! The Roll7 Team
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