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Who's this Klanger? An Interview with Joe Callum Hurley, Concept Artist

March 13, 2020

As Junior concept artist, Joe designs a variety of 2D concept art for SEED, from industrial machines to exotic creatures. With a background in illustration and visual development for games, Joe also works closely with other members of the art team to help explore the universe of SEED and make it as beautiful as it can be.

So Joe what inspired you to become a concept artist? 

Like a lot of concept artists, I always loved to draw and come up with characters and monsters as a kid. 


Seeing artists online using Photoshop to work was really a turning point, just seeing people make art using a computer and a graphics tablet really blew my mind.


I actually reached out to someone at Blizzard asking how you get good enough to work on games and his response was to just keep drawing, so I did!

What brought you to the gaming industry?


I always wanted to work on games as they are so diverse. I mostly do stylized art which is more suited to games and animation than movies or something like that, but having played games since I was young, I always felt at home working on them.


How did you come to Klang?


I was familiar with SEED for a while before seeing the position online. I was kind of stalking Klang along with a few other interesting looking companies in Berlin. The art style of SEED was definitely a draw for me as I really enjoy stylised work, but as I learnt more about the game’s scope, I knew I had to work here.


Tell us a bit more about your role at Klang.


I work closely with game designers and other members of the art team designing game assets and making concept art that helps develop the visual elements of SEED. 


I do a lot of rough sketches and lots of iterations on pretty much everything I do, from science machines to environments and creatures.


It often involves designing in game assets for 3D artists but also lots of narrative and theme exploration pieces, for example seeing how combat could look in SEED or how disease can be visually represented. There is always something new to work on and get stuck into in such a vast game.


Why two-dimensional? Not three?


Hmm good question. Nowadays it is kind of expected that concept artists are proficient in both and can at least do blockouts in 3D. I use both, but mostly 2D as it is great for quick iterations and sketching. I love working in stylized and graphic shapes and for me 2D feels more natural for this kind of aesthetic and workflow.


What are you currently working on? Are there any specific goals, challenges, learning processes or results?


Recently I’ve been working with our tech artists on concepts for the different terrain we want to have in SEED. It can be challenging finding a balance between something players are familiar with, while also pushing the boundaries to new exciting places, especially with environment design.


What are you most interested in working on the visuals of SEED? 


SEED as a whole is awesome to work on because it's such a huge project. There are so many different elements that require cool visuals. 


So far I’ve had a great time designing plants and small creatures for one of our terrains. It's great applying real world knowledge of how different species of plants interact and trying to introduce these into an alien world. David Attenborough’s documentaries have been a huge help with these.


What was your first project as a Concept Artist?


Hmm, it was a puzzle game that a company had made for Steam, but the game was unfinished and all the visuals were placeholders, so I designed all their characters and environments and did a lot of work on making the enemies and different puzzle elements look good. I don’t think anyone played it though.


How do you deepen your skills? Where do you find inspiration for your work?


I study a lot from masters like Sargent and Zorn as even though my work isn’t really that influenced by theirs, you can learn a lot from the way they handle light and form. I also try and paint from life as much as I can. I’m always inspired by artists online doing awesome stuff but it can also be dangerous to take too much influence from others, so I try to balance this out with looking at nature and classical painting.


Do you work on any side-projects?


Yeah! I’m working on a bunch of little things all the time. At the moment, I’m working on some ideas for a kids book and some concept art for a few game ideas I have, but they are all very early stages still. It's more for fun than anything else.


What's your favourite game? 


That's a tough one. My favourite game I’ve worked on is SEED by far, but I have to give it to Card Shark on Playstation 1.


What were the first impressions you had of SEED?


I was really impressed by what I saw of SEED. I was really excited by the mix of elements like survival and exploration in an MMO. Combining these with things like politics and trade between players really caught my attention.


What do you like to explore most on Avesta?


The biomes and ecosystems are really interesting, but as the game grows, I am more and more interested in the smaller things like how Seedlings interact and the relationships that can form between them.


Could you give an example of how such a relationship between Seedlings could form? 


I think life on Avesta can/will be challenging, so while there is a lot to overcome and survive, there will also be opportunities for strong friendships to form between both Seedlings and players. Eating together by a campfire is a great place for Seedlings to bond, just like on Earth.


How much will biomes, ecosystems and social relationships be interdependent gameplay factors?


Hopefully they will eventually all affect each other. I can’t imagine it being easy for seedlings to bond while their environments are stressful or hazardous or if there are food shortages. Seeing how all these different elements impact life on Avesta will be really interesting to watch.


Do you (potentially) see this world you experience in the game related to your own daily life? In what ways could strong parallelisms occur? 


I think SEED has the potential for many parallels to occur. Simulating the future of humanity will definitely be fascinating to spectate and be a part of.

Check out Joe´s own portfolio here to explore his artwork!

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