Serbian native and radiating force majeure Ljubica Jovanovic lights up the Icelandic lava fields during a holiday break from her day-to-day as Technical Artist at Klang Games. Here, on the blackened shore of Dimmuborgir, Jovanovic finds inspiration for imagined exoplanets and her own personal new world order.
Are you planning any trips this summer?
Yes, I have the privilege to once again visit the most miraculous place in the world, Iceland, with the charming company of my boyfriend.
What inspired you to work in the gaming industry?
I come from a family of architects. At a very young age, I was introduced to both Andrea Palladio and Mies van der Rohe, and I was fascinated by the wonders of the ancient world. It was almost logical that I would become an architect as well. But architecture was missing a plot: You’re supposed to make buildings without any traps or danger inside! Archaeology will only get you so far. You can only recreate a building the same way it was built thousands of years ago. Even if I could have designed it better, no creative additions were allowed.
Discovering the Tomb Raider games set my imagination on fire. I realized there are actual people who do this for a living, who modify archaeological locations into fantastic places of danger and beauty, in which a brave and brilliant woman solves riddles, kills monsters, and finds treasures. I wanted to do that!
No, it never happened. I graduated in 2008, “the year of the crisis.” Due to a general lack of work in Serbia, where I’m from, I worked as an architect on various buildings as well as with historians and archaeologists on reconstructing ancient Roman castra and medieval and Neolithic cities. I was very good at it, and my work was sincerely respected by senior polymaths. I loved it, and I was learning a lot, but a part of me knew I that something was missing: video games.
When I finally got my first video game job, as a 3D generalist, it was … quite different from what I expected. Although I was doing very similar things – creating 3D models and putting them into Unity – suddenly, I felt like a worthless nobody. I was being told that anyone could do what I was doing. Later, I realized that these naysayers were guys who had heard that video games make more money than Hollywood movies, and they wanted some of that money. It was difficult, but somehow I endured. I was constantly learning on my own. But I was never happy, never felt respected as a person, and my work was usually evaluated by my looks.
How do you feel about working in an industry that is still very male-dominated?
Berlin is way better than the Balkans, but still, it isn’t perfect. Sometimes, I like to compare it to an RPG setting from one of my favorite games: In the beginning, you are a low-level nobody and you walk into the majestic scene where a giant is fighting a dragon on a shore while thunders break the sky. But you don’t retreat, you continue playing the game. You level up so much that you end up not just killing the giant, but also slaying the dragon.
To quote my favorite architect, Zaha Hadid: “Men don’t listen to me, so I have to give them hell!”
How did you end up at Klang?
After working in a few horror-story gaming studios and even being a co-founder of my own studio, I decided I had had enough of video games and wanted to go back to architecture. I visited my sister, who is an architect here in Berlin, and I ended up presenting a game I was secretly working on alone at Femisphere, an event organized by Berlin’s wonderful indie game developers. There, I felt like I really belonged, and like I wanted to give video games another chance. One of the participants showed me an enchanting poster of a game by “a bunch of Icelanders who worked on Eve Online, who now have a studio in Berlin and are working on some space-colonizing game.” That poster was love at first sight! And now I’m here.
Tell me a bit about your role and responsibilities at Klang.
I’m a technical artist: a bridge between the artists and the engineers. It’s a two-faced role.
One part of it consists of being responsible for the assets coming from the Art Team that go into the game, which means that I annoy the artists with limitations and optimizations.
My other responsibility is prototyping all sorts of game-related objects, from how characters will look while crying rivers of tears to how to make machines look dirty or broken.
What excites you most about Seed?
I can’t say because it would be a spoiler. Apart from the secret stuff, I’m really hyped about our rich industry, machinery, and building systems, and the way it will influence politics. I really can’t say more!
What are your favorite games of all-time?
My first love was Lara Croft. All-time favorites are Mass Effect, Dragon Age, The Witcher, GTA, Saints Row, and Postal 2.
If the world were to end, would you want to migrate to a new planet?
I think Alpha Centauri would be a nice choice to start off with. Having two suns would heavily influence culture and mythology.
What would you want to change in the new world?
So many things. For starters, the hunters and warriors should not ask for taxes from the farmers. I would like to go for a Star-Trek-esque utopian model, but a bit more technocratic: with more social democracy and human rights, a strong emphasis on education, craftmanship, engineering, arts and culture, and no military.
I guess architecture would change completely. Our current layouts are mostly based on ancient Roman military camps. Depending on the degree of individuality, if every house would have its own power generator and water purifying systems, cities would look entirely different.
If you want to make your mark on Klang, visit our Careers page and see if there's a position for you: www.klang-games.com/careers