Comic book legend Todd McFarlane, best known for creating Spawn, has teamed up with bestselling author R.A. Salvatore and MLB Hall of Famer Curt Schilling for a new series of videogames set in the fantasy world of Amalur. The first title, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, is an action role-playing game for PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. McFarlane, who serves as executive art director at 38 Studios, talks about his first full-fledged adventure into the virtual world of gaming in this exclusive interview.
You’ve worked on Spawn games before. What were you able to draw upon from past experiences and apply to this new endeavor?
I wouldn’t say there was a straight line between it, because in the past, the games I was involved in were the opposite. People were coming to me licensing my characters and then going off, developing, and getting the casual sign-off from me from time to time. I wasn’t really in the eye of the storm of the development process. Given that these games were being developed over the course of the last 10 to15 years, even in that short period of time, the technology has ramped up significantly. Even if you learn something, technology tells you that you have to relearn it every time they allow you to do something smarter and better. When I jumped on with Curt at 38 Studios and then started working with Big Huge Games on Reckoning, it’s more of, “What’s the current status of videogames?” “What are we capable of doing?” “How much time do we have?” “What’s the budget?” and then trying to build the plan around that.
Can you talk a little bit about how you worked creatively with Curt and Bob (R.A.) to build this game?
It’s interesting because sometimes people will ask the question of, “How much conflict was there given that Curt put together a heck of a team of developers?” and then early on brought in some of what he calls, “the visionaries.” Although we all are very self-confident and all have huge egos, we didn’t really get into any knockdown, drag-out fights because we understood, like a good sports team, we were each playing a different position. Everybody did a pretty good job of handing off the baton, if you will, to the next guy, and the next guy, and the next guy. Then you have the big, unsung heroes, which are the IT/tech guys who just had to make sure that it all coordinates and works at every level, every time, no matter what it is you’re doing that any of us have come up with.
Where are some of the places you drew inspiration from for what we visually see in this game?
We looked at movies and TV shows, even paintings that you’ve seen throughout time. We looked at a lot of historical information when we were creating each one of the different areas. Then, obviously, looking at what had either pre-existed or existed either in the RPG space and/or videogame space as a whole. Nobody creates in a vacuum, and I can’t really say that anybody creates anything wholly original. You do tweaks on things that exist. We agreed that we thought there were a lot of games out there that had a brownish or bluish look. We wanted to have a little bit wider, as a matter of fact a lot wider palette, in terms of the colors that were going to be in this world that you were going to move around, for a couple of different reasons.
What were some of the reasons for the colors we see in the game?
One, it allows clarity to the eye, which is more of a boring art theory, and allows us to do some things slightly different with lighting. The colors are changing, in some instances, fairly dramatically. If you go from a desert scene to a dark, dingy cave, then those are going to be big extremes. There will be a lot more visual sense that you’re spanning a bigger area, because it’s tough to get those experiences if you’re in one place. If you’re in New York City, you don’t usually turn around and see a field of poppies; you have to go a long ways from the heart of Manhattan to see a field of poppies. If you can change the settings, the colors, and the environments, then the travel and the world will seem a lot bigger for the gamer.