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Gods and Heroes: Rome Rising Interviews: Dev Profile: Mike Hines, Art Director

By  on August 17, 2006

We chat with the Art Director of Gods and Heroes

Garrett Fuller has started a series of developer profile interviews. Each Thursday, we'll bring you a new one. Here is our second, with the Art Director of Gods and Heroes Mike Hines. The aim is to provide people with the human face of gaming, what they do and how they got there.

MMORPG.com:Tell us a little bit about your life growing up. Where did you live, what did you do, did you go to school?
Mike Hines:

I was actually born in Frankfort, Kentucky. It’s true, people make it out of there. I went to Murray State University, where I got a BFA in Drawing, with about as many hours in every other studio course I could manage. I also attended Lyme Academy of Fine Arts in Old Lyme, Connecticut, which is a GREAT fine arts school.

From when I graduated college (1995) until I started in the game industry (1998), I was a portrait painter and coffee shop manager (art co-op), and did some other random jobs.

I’ve bounced around the country for my jobs – KY, CO, NC, WA, CO, and here in San Francisco.

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MMORPG.com:At what age did you start playing games in general? Did you play any sports? What were your favorite games as a child?
Mike Hines:

I remember playing my Atari 2600 constantly, and playing pong on my grandfather’s commodore 64, along with pretty much every game released until I was about 13 or 14. My favorite games as a child were probably Zelda and Space Quest… I liked them all though. Later on it was Doom, Descent, Quake, and Tribes (which in my opinion is the most under-appreciated and one of the most innovative FPS games of all time).

I love playing volleyball, hockey, and soccer. Strangely I don’t like watching sports at all though.

MMORPG.com:Various influences can have a major part in games. What influences outside of game-play bring life to your work? Any ideas that you get from Books, Movies, Comics, Real-Life Stories, Art would be great here.
Mike Hines:

Tons.

I love to read, although I don’t get to enough these days. I find that reading does incredible things for my visual imagination, as I’m sure it does for most people. I always experience vivid imagery while reading, and remember it like a movie. Sci-fi and Fantasy (generally my reading junk-food) provide a massive library of visual images for the games I’ve worked on.

I always have been an art history fan. My personal art interests are pretty classical/traditional. I love late 19th and early 20th century painting/drawing. The post-impressionists, symbolists, pre-raphaelites, luminists, futurists, and a number of others. Much of this work has actually influenced Gods and Heroes, my current project, as well as my personal art.

MMORPG.com:At what age did you start playing video games? Can you tell us what your first video game experience was?
Mike Hines:

I remember chopper command, space invaders, and pitfall on our Atari, and then it’s a long blur after that ;)

MMORPG.com:What was the first game you worked on? What others games have you been involved with?
Mike Hines:

The first game I worked on was more of a demo, and I can’t actually remember what we were calling the game – it was for Headspin, Inc., which was a great little game company in Chapel Hill, NC. I worked as an art lead on realMyst and Uru at Cyan, Inc. in Spokane, WA, which was like a CG artist dream-job. I worked on a couple of games for Jaleco, Inc. in Boulder, CO… Goblin Commander and Lost Continents. Goblin Commander was a fun console title, and Lost Continents was a great MMO that never quite made it to the market.

MMORPG.com:What is your job at Perpetual Entertainment? How did you get your foot in the door?
Mike Hines:

I’m the Art Director on the Gods & Heroes: Rome Rising title. I was the first artist hired here to head up the project, and had worked previously with two of the Engineers on Lost Continents. I think they mainly hired me because I promised to buy doughnuts though.

MMORPG.com:Take us through a typical day of work at Perpetual, what is it like when you show up at the office?
Mike Hines:

Well, assuming I actually went home ;) – I generally make sure to get coffee, and then start in as early as possible on the never-ending list of things to solve, improve, or work on. It’s a pretty incredibly huge game, a large team, and a constant challenge. I have an unending stream of visual calls to make, technical issues to resolve, and planning to do every day. I also try to get as much concepting and feedback done as possible each day. Then there are logistics like management, scheduling and meetings to deal with. I love my job because it’s a great mixture of challenges. Of course, sleep would be nice occasionally.

MMORPG.com:Are there any friends or family who had a major impact on your career or chasing dreams that you’d like to talk about?
Mike Hines:

My mom and dad have always been incredibly supportive, and always pushed me to pursue what I love to do. My girlfriend is amazingly tolerant of my schedule, and also very supportive. And of course there are all of the people who taunted me for going to art school because they said I’d never make a living at it :)

MMORPG.com:What are your hopes for the video games of the future, any thoughts on where the industry may be going?
Mike Hines:

I think the game industry is finally getting its creative wings in the visual department. For most of it’s past, it has been an industry dominated by the select few who had the technical skills to navigate the hurdles and create products. There wasn’t a lot of room for a rich artistic element to flourish because the people focused on that weren’t able to get their imagination past the technical complexities… and/or the people creating the games came from the technical side and had minimal experience on the art side. Obviously there have been some great exceptions to this, but it feels like what the industry has been like as a whole.

Now it feels like we are moving more into the realm of movies, and getting more tools and pipelines that allow artists to freely create. The technology has also advanced to the point that it can support a much wider breadth of artistic vision.

Of course, that’s my art answer. Overall I think (and hope) that games will be come more eclectic in subject and nature, tell better stories, have more interaction, and develop more interesting design mechanics. I think we’re still learning how to use the on-line elements of games, and I’m excited to see the paths that people take with future on-line games.

MMORPG.com:Is there anything you would like to write to the readers of MMORPG.com that we have not spoken about?
Mike Hines:

Gods & Heroes will rock. Seriously. It’s unique, gorgeous (not tooting my own horn – lots of great people made it happen), and I think people are going to love it.

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