Meet the Artist: Mayan Escalante (Electronic Arts)

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  05 May 2005
Does being able to draw or conceptualize work benefit you in 3D Modeling?

I keep encountering people that can't or don't like drawing in the game industry that model or I'm wondering if I'm wasting my time learning form by illustration?

But with normal mapping and Zbrush and Claytools coming around, somehow I feel you can't push aside traditional skills.
  05 May 2005
Hey Mayan. Might as well throw in my questions.

I'm hesitant at approaching this question, at the risk of sounding offensive. But have you been getting sick of working on Medal of Honor titles at all? I mean, don't get me wrong, they pack some very impressive visuals, and are a blast to play, but it feels like it's getting to the rehash stage. This might not affect the artists behind it much, I'm just curious if the work for these titles has been continually refreshing for you, or if it has become tedious. Again, not trying to be offensive and damn EA or anything, just curious about how "fresh" the work has been for you.

Having limited experience with creating models for games and realtime environments, I'm not too clear on how the difficulty and workload for creating game models would compare to high-poly modeling for films and whatnot. In one sense, as you are working with far fewer polygons, one might expect the work to be easier. But of course, in dealing with such a small number of polys, you would have to be much more careful in your placement of polys, and how you lay out your geometry, whereas in high-poly modeling you don't need to worry about all of that quite as much. How would you say that they compare? And on that same note, is this changing much for you now that normal mapping is starting to become commonplace (so there may be a need to build an initial high-poly model to get the normal maps to transfer to a low-poly model)? (Is Zbrush in your pipeline?)

It has often been said that one should never get a job based around their hobbies. And for a lot of us, games have been our biggest hobby. Some of us practically live in video games. With you currently working in game development, can you stand to play games much on the side? Or do you just get sick of seeing games? I'm sure that you're work is different enough from the games themselves that it wouldn't drive you away from games in your spare time as bad as being one of the testers might, but you never know...
  05 May 2005
Hey Mayan,

thanks for taking your time to answer questions~

One questions I have is,, How much time do they give you at EA to complete one character?
from modeling to texture?


  05 May 2005
I'd like to do some more sci-fi related stuff ala Doom3, HL2.

I try to keep my self fresh by doing side projects not necessarily related to games. I've done illustration, gallery stuff, comics, t-shirt design, trade work, anything really. It's fun for me.

When I do have free time I pretty much spend it with my family. I also try to surf or skate as much as possible. It's important to step away from work when you can.

I got into the industry on a 2d portfolio. I have been fortunate to learn maya from some very talented people I have worked with (thanks Matt, Ken, Justin, Eoin, etc.). Forums and books have been a big part as well. The main thing that has helped me is the traditional skills. The best way to get your feet wet is to jump in head first.

Very soon.

Right now head modeling, body and gear, and UV's. I hope to do a texturing one soon.
all three should be here:
The length of each should be available when they are released. They're a couple hours each.

Timing has a lot to do with it. Most importantly good work in a well presented format.

I wouldn't focus on the title of the course. Do the classes fit what you want to achieve?

It really depends on the character and the circumstances. It could literally range from 3 days to 3 weeks.

I've been on large and small. Each has there ups and downs. Communication is the biggest difference.

Try the game review sites like gamespot and gamespy. Alot of good stuf has been on G4 lately.

For me Maya. EA varies.

That's a long list. In short, strong anatomy, design, value, color, composition. Only show your best work. Don't put filler. One bad peice can bring down a portfolio.


Seeing work from other artists, not just games, keeps me motivated.

Very soon.

There's alot of games I haven't played either.

I have seen that done but the final product does have to go through the preffered app. Most companies have propriety tools that you would miss out on. Also stuff doesn't always import cleanly so you have to be aware of that.


Strong 2D skills definately help. In my personal opinion I think more emphasis should be placed on traditional skills. Like I've said previously, 3D apps are just a medium to translate those skills to. That being said everyone has there strengths. I know plenty of artist that do phenominal 3D work that don't do much 2D at all. I don't think it plays a factor in hiring. If the works good it's good.

Every artist plays a big part in the final look. With so many people working on the art it's hard not to impart your own twist to things. I think doing so makes things turn out better.

He's probably going to hate me for this but Eoin Colgan would be a good person to ask.

Every developer uses different apps. I think Z brush is going to play a huge role in next gen.

Thanks Eric, I'm just at Gnomon now. Nice to here from you.

I've never typed so much in my life.
See you tommorow.
  05 May 2005
thanks mayan

The Game Art Degree has : games animation, drawing, character animation, intermediate and advanced 3D modelling, texturing and lighting. and things are modelled with 3D Max, I kinda like it, but what I fear is that I discover a better course after I start this course but I'll dig some more info

however, do you get the games you work on free from EA? j/k... but do you?

This message DOES reflect the opinions of the extraterrestrials
  05 May 2005
Originally Posted by Mayan: Squibbit:
I'd like to do some more sci-fi related stuff ala Doom3, HL2.

I try to keep my self fresh by doing side projects not necessarily related to games. I've done illustration, gallery stuff, comics, t-shirt design, trade work, anything really. It's fun for me.

When I do have free time I pretty much spend it with my family. I also try to surf or skate as much as possible. It's important to step away from work when you can.

good to hear u got varied and fun hobbies, i hope u get the
time for all that ... about the sci-fi related stuff , i got another question:
how did you like the Fallout series ?
  05 May 2005
hi mayan, great work btw, its nice how you are able to do concept as well, its one thing character modelers/artists dont touch much of in production, usually.

I also work for ea's art department (new employee)
a few questions came to mind regarding low and high poly modeling:

1-do you ever model hipoly? and if so does it help you to understand modeling and form alot better than if you were to just stick to lowpoly? ive heard that its more valuable for someone in production to be able to recreate a model at any level of detail or downres if they have to, so create say 1 film quality model and represent it decently for a game engine.

2-Since everything is moving to highrer resolution meshes and much more hyper realistic looking characters . did you ever have any difficulty adapting your skillset to a different workflow? for example now we are expected to use more zbrush..

i myself do mostly highpoly work so modeling in lowpoly there are things to keep in mind that i didnt really think about before like you said keeping your lines (edgeloops) evenly spaced.
  05 May 2005
I try to look at the forums as much as possible. So do alot of people I work with. It's inspiring to see what other people are creating. It's also interensting to see how people solve things.

It's not really a daily thing. It really depends on the circumstances. On avereage I'd say about 1 to 2 weeks. That includes modeling, UV's, texturing, and binding.

Where ever that place is sign me up.

That would be a shame. Let's hope not.

The best thing to do would be to post some work in this forum.

I'm responsible for every part of the pipeline, including texturing. I think it's extremely paramont to have those skills in games. Every part of the pipeline effects another in some way. If you have a good idea of how you are going to texture something it can effect how you model it or lay out the UV's. The same goes for binding. This ultimately saves a lot of time in the long run.

I'm not feeling so hot right know. I'll knock out some more tommorow.

  05 May 2005
i'm a chinese student,i love you work very much,but i have no professional training chance in this field, i study by myself.
i am very wonder what excerise you do when you in school?
thanks very much.
forgive my poor english.
  05 May 2005
Hi Mayan,

Love your work ! .. I'm interested in purchasing your DVDs but wanted to know how much do you think i would be able to follow them in recreating the same models in Max. I've been using max for a year and a bit now but afraid how difficult it would be to follow a person doing things in Maya, having no experience in the package myself.

  05 May 2005
Hi Mayan-

I definitely plan on checking out your Gnomon DVDs, sounds like you really put a lot of hard work into them-

I'm not sure if you will go over this in the DVDs but have you began using displacement and normal mapping in games using Zbrush? What are good resources you have found in learning this new way of creating detail and implementing it into animation and games? What do you think of the Unreal3 engine and the new LoD coming up??

Thanks for taking to time during your break to answer questions!
The Seer is the soul of the artist,
Revealing the Mystery as form
-Alex Grey
  05 May 2005
Sorry about the limited responses last night. I think I got food poisoning yesterday. Knocked me out until this afternoon. Bad stuff.

I don't really have any input into the games we make, but yeah, I do have ideas of things I'd like to make. As far as games being more of a crossover between games and film I'm not a big fan. I play games to play games, not watch them. The whole point of playing games to me is to feel apart of the world your playing in. Whenever there are cut scenes or cinematics you're taken out of the game. Don't get me wrong they definately have there place as long as they add to the experience without totally leaving you out of the mix. I just finished God of War and I think they pulled this off well. Everyone likes the reward of a nice cinematic after finishing a long level. There is definately a balance. I'm a fan of "shoot em' games" with linear game play and there is definately a large market for people like me that don't have a lot of time to play games. The challenge is to make these games engaging and fun to play.

Thanks. I'm a big fan of the sound design as well. One of the funnest parts of the project was being able to fire a lot of the weapons myself.

Wow, heavy question. I really didn't think 30 was old. Maybe because it's coming up for me. Most of the people I work with are around the same age. Alot have families and such. Those I work with have always been supportive and understanding when I've needed to take time off for my family. I think the big issue industry wide is the balance between work time and family time. This is definately not a 9-5 industry. There has to be some changes or not only will we lose the experienced artist but we will also turn away new talent.

I hope not. But I also don't think the new guy should be undercompensated either. Compensation should match the artist talent and contribution.

I don't think it's absolutely necessary but it doesn't hurt. What is important is a strong understanding of the basics. Anatomy, form, composition, value, etc. There are plenty of artist that can't draw but produce amazing work in other meidums.

Absoletely. Modeling is also a benefit to my drawing as well. Being able to see and solve things in 3D helps me understand things better in 2D.

See my response to ynvamsi above. I don't think it's a waste of time at all. It will make you a stronger 3D artist though. The thing to be carefull of is getting distracted. For example if you want to be a character modeler study more life drawing and painting rather than editorial illustration.

There's still some great questions from you all that I want to get to so I will continue to respond to everyone that has posted this week.
  05 May 2005
Hi Mayan - I'm really looking forward to your low poly Gnomon titles. I see they've slipped to May 16th - is that a fabrication hick-up?
  05 May 2005
I think there is a breaking point of repitition for any franchise game. It's no easy task to keep things fresh. I willl be working on some non MOH stuff at EA soon. Unfortunately that's all I can say. As the far as the character art is concerned we have definately made some huge leaps in the quality of the characters with each new title. It may not seem apparent to the consumer but underneath any repitition the game may have I'm proud of the work I've done so far. I will be posting some of it soon both here and on my website once the game is released so keep an out for it.

Dealing with the restrictions of the hardware while trying to create everything the character needs is the biggest challenge. Yes, you are right about needing to be much more deliberate in how you arrange your topology. I also feel that low poly modeling is an important step in creating high poly models. The foundation that you build upon should be the most important step. If you can create clean topology at the lower level the details should fall into place. This is something I see overlooked alot in newer artists that go straight into high poly modeling. We're experimenting with Zbrush as part of the pipeline now but it is still necessary to generate a clean low poly model to apply your maps to. The good thing is is that the poly counts for the low poly will be higher in next gen.

I still love games. I wouldn't consider myself as a hardcore gamer but I do try to play as much as time permits. I aslo enjoy having a life outside of creating art and work. I have a physical list of games I want to play before there completely outdated. There was a lot of good stuff that came out this year both mainstream and independent.

It really depends on the complexity of the character. A safe average would be 1-2 weeks, although I've seen complete characters done in 3 days!

Sounds cool. Remember to focus on the traditional skills as well. the grass is always going to be greener on the other side. Make the most out of wherever you decide to go.

Yes, a certain amount of free games is one of the perks. We also have a store on site where we get a discount.

I never played them. A friend at work makes reference to them quite often. Maybe one day I'll get a chance.

I'm geting more into high poly recently. I still think it is important to have a solid low poly model to generate the high poly from. I find it is easier to understand form when you are not distracted by the details. One of the things you learn in figure drawing is to block in the major shapes and the gesture first. When you can do this efficiently the rest should fall into place. I just read recently in one of the posts that refers to Stahlberg's female model before the smooth is only 3500 polys. if you have seen any of his low res stuff it holds up on it's own.

I replied to similar questions about this and I really feel it's just another tool. Adapting is a lot less scary then it sounds.

Absolutely amazing work by the way. What's with you VFS guys being so good? I have to put up with another one at work every day.

I was in the illustration program at Art Center. I spent most of my time drawing and painting.

All the tools I use in maya have a similar counterpart in Max. A lot of the focus in the video is on technique and theory relevant to games. I think just seeing someones workflow is valuable no matter what program you use. I try to cover as many different elements as possible so you can see how different techniques can be applied.

I don't cover Zbrush in these. There are definately some other great DVD's through that you might find helpfull on Zbrush.

I think the stuff there doing with the Unreal engine is amazing. It is really a promising direction for games.

I'm not sure why, sorry.

Must rest now.
  05 May 2005
I want to thank every one that posted this week. You all asked some excellent questions and I hope I was able to adress them well enough. This has been a great experience.

See you around the forums.
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