TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOURSELF
Well, I was born in Stockholm Sweden to Swedish parents. We moved to the northwest after my father was hired by boeing straight out of his navy career. Grew up in a neighborhood full of kids, we played “neighborhood” games whatever chance we got, hide and seek, kick the can, tag etc…We also got together and would draw, all of us would. Actually Tom Wanerstrand was part of that group of kids and he's in the industry as well. I always loved art and games but I didn't know making games was something a person could do so I followed my passion for art and got a BFA in illustration from Cornish College of the Arts. My first real art gig in the industry was for The Unspeakable Oath from Pagan Publishing, followed by work for White Wolf's Vampire and them Wizards of the Coast, wait, reverse those last two.
I'm married, have kids and still live in the Northwest. I spend a lot of time doing art, making games, writing, making music and biking. I like cats. I believe G.W. Bush and R. Cheney should be in prison. I think the banks should be taken down for their criminal activity and those who destroyed the economy due to sociopathic behavior should spend the rest of their lives making big rocks into small rocks.
I have never and will never try Jenkem.
These days I have teamed up with Brian Snoddy and we make games as a team. He is a fantastic guy, talented and creative. Deadfellas is or latest.
HOW DID YOU GET INTO GAMING?
Well I always loved board games as a kid, but as for hobby gaming:I noticed the ads for Microgames in the back of Anolog magazine for years. My mom and dad read it every month. That was Steve Jackson's first company I think. I always wondered what they were. Then a friend told me about Dungeons and Dragons, a local teacher offered a summer class in D&D and I signed up. This was just after the Monster Manual and right before Dungeon Master's Guide. I was hooked. I found a store in Seattle that migrated to several locations over the years, it was called American Eagles. Those in Seattle will remember it if they are old enough. And in Bellevue…The Triple Alliance opened. They stocked not only AD&D but every other RPG game out at the time as well as Microgames and miniatures. I finally got to buy those games I saw in the magazines as well as Task Force Games, SSI, Dwarfstar and many others. I knew it's what I wanted to do and started making my own games. I actually called Task Force games and they were interested, but when I found out it was a $400 flat fee for all rights I decided against entering the industry just yet. My friends and I made games for each other and had a blast doing it. I should really throw in a shout out to Jennell Jaquays who's work really influenced me back then. Her work for Judges Guild was a real inspiration.
But to answer your real question, while I was in school they asked “What do you want to do in art?” I said make games and they gave me a dog in the headlights stare and replied “There is no such job” I decided to show them and swore I would be published before I graduated. I was and now the “no such job” is a multibillion dollar industry.
WHAT IS IT YOU FIND SO APPEALING ABOUT GAMING?
The ability to create worlds and situations beyond what we experience is the driving force. It's about making dreams and nightmares come true in a relatively safe environment. It's about making the worlds one to live in, or at least vacation in.
SHARE A FAVOURITE GAMING MOMENT WITH US
There are two answers to this. My first is everyone who has ever come up to me and said “Thank you, your work helped me through a difficult time.” How do I even respond to this? I make games because it's my love, I never thought I would actually really help people. What an amazing thing to find out.
As for my favorite in game moment it was Red Alert 2 on the PC. My friend had crushed me. I mean I lost everything but 1 infantry unit. We had crates turned on and it was a pretty big map. My friend decided to do some building while I ran and found a crate that had a construction base unit (total luck!). I quickly and quietly rebuilt while he searched for me. Turns out it was next to a huge tiberium deposit and I managed to build a defense force large enough to take out his first wave of searchers and launch a sneak attack at his rear. By the time he knew I was a threat again, I overran his base and won. Most people would have given up, that's the reason I don't. You don't get the legendary wins if you give up at the first sign of defeat.
WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY PLAYING?
Deadfellas, Wow (again after a year off), Skyrim, Dead Island (best zombie game in my opinion) Dungeon Defenders, Majesty 2, MineCraft, Legend of Grimrock…I loved Dungeon Master on the Atari ST, Royal Envoy 2, Plants VS Zombies (for the Third time), Mostly PC games at this point. Though I love making physical games and Brian and I are working on a several card and board games so we play those a lot.
CAN YOU TELL US WHAT YOUR FAVOURITE GAMES ARE?
Ad&d 2nd edition, Awful Green Things From Outer Space, Old MTG, Deus Ex, Doom 2, Wow, Gothic 3 (After the patches), Dead Island, Cryptomaina (coming out from Fun to 11 next year), Pinochle, Talisman, Action Quake 2 (I made a lot of maps for that one), Fallout 3, Skyrim, System Shock 2, Final Fantasy 7, Ogre, Max Paine 2, The Fantasy Quest (For the solo play), Age of Heroes (a miniatures system my friends and I made up and played for years, unreleased to the public) Balderdash, Trivial Pursuit, F.E.A.R. 1 & 2, Farcry 1, Crysis, Mario Party (most of them), Age of Empires 2, I know I'm leaving some out…
WHAT WAS THE LAST GAME YOU PLAYED?
World of Warcraft, just before this interview. They did a fantastic job on that game and look, 8 years later it still holds up. I admire Blizzard and the people there.
WHICH PRODUCTS HAVE YOU HAD YOUR WORK PUBLISHED IN?
This is a hard question in a good way. I have worked on so many games that I don't remember them all. There used to be a really good complete summery on Wikipedia, but some ass hat had it taken down for reasons I will never understand. To name a few Magic: The Gathering, Vampire: The Masquerade…(already I'm working with more colons than a proctologist) Rage, the card game, The Hills Rise Wild, Clout: Fantasy, Call of Cthulhu through Pagan Publishing, Deadfellas, Talislanta (A truly amazing RPG), Shadow Fist (My second Favorite CCG and still in Print, if you haven't tried it…do, Zev is a great guy and deserves support.) Those are the highlights.
As I mentioned earlier, I swore I would get published before graduating. I was a fan of Talislanta at the time and had checked a local game store (Games and Gizmos) about the status of the game. They told me that a new publisher was working on it, a small company called Wizards of the Coast, and they gave me the companies contact information. I put it in my wallet and forgot about it, mostly. Then when I was trying to get published I remembered them and called their office. I spoke with Lisa Stevens and sent in a portfolio, most of my work was horror oriented and Lisa said she liked my work but it was wrong for the brand. She did however recommend me to Richard Thomas, the art Director at White Wolf. Anyway, I was a pest and wouldn’t leave them alone, I said I would do one illustration on spec, if they didn’t like it I would leave them alone. Lisa agreed and gave me 1 week to do the painting, I did two over the next two days. Lisa liked them, Steve Sechi, the creator of Talislanta liked them and I got the gig. They also said if I wanted to be more involved all I had to do was hang out and attend their meetings, which I did. Soon I was art director (and I rejected the art I did for Talislanta as not being quite right for the brand) I started hiring other artists, meeting some heroes and having fun. It was a lot of work for no pay but I got published.
Around this time the rest of WotC was having secret meetings I was not invited to, not until they trusted me. Those meeting were about Magic: The Gathering. When I finally got to play the game I told them to put all my pay towards stock because I knew this game would change everything.
Initially the their plan had been to buy second or third rights to already published artwork, book covers etc…I thought we could do better and get our own look so I made a deal where the company would pay $50 in cash, $50 in stock and a very small royalty.
The first art ever done for the game was Iron Root Treefolk as I was trying to get the dimensions right for the cards and needed a test piece.
I would call artists and make the offer, 99% said yes I would give them a name and as little description as I could. I believed that the more freedom the artist had the more diversity we would get in building this new world. This was really before the web or e-mail being popular so most of it was done on phone and the original art was mailed to me. I would scan it and color correct it and place it in the borders I had designed. It took a very long time but was one of the most exciting times of my life, watching something I believed in come together.
One of the reasons I had so many pieces in the early game was not because of the pay but because I had to pick up the ball if another artist dropped it. So I ended up doing a bunch of rushed last minute illustrations that I’m not very proud of. That was the down side. That’s eventually what burned me out on illustration for many years. Still, what a ride.
ARE YOU WORKING ON ANY GAMING-RELATED PROJECTS AT THE MOMENT?
That's all I work on. Deadfellas just came out from Exile Games, Cryptomania is about to hit and I have 3 other games that I developed with the multitalented Brian Snoddy. Check my face book page for updates. I also do freelance work and consulting so there are other projects in development but I can't talk about them…noncompetes… they get my soul if I say anything.
DO YOU HAVE ANY WEBPAGES OR SOCIAL NETWORK ACCOUNTS WHERE FANS CAN FIND YOU?
I'm on face book under my name and I have a blog that I update whenever I feel like it at http://stumptales.blogspot.
com/ It's mostly for my creative writing endeavors. Or as some say, advertising my insanity.
Oh and you can see our animated shorts on YouTube at DeadfellasTAS. (TAS is Short for The Animated Shorts)
This was a pretty hasty overview, I will be happy to answer more specific questions on my face book page if anyone has them.