[Prime] Uncomfortably Personal: Z Kadri

Posted: September 7, 2011 in Prime, Uncomfortably Personal

I’ve been wondering just makes a dev tick.  Is it insanity?  Beer?  Trolling the internet for poor souls to pick on?  All of the above?  I figured the best place to find out is to actually go to the dev themselves.  I slapped together a dozen questions and sent them off to Pitch Black Games and said “Fill in the Blanks.”  I may have said “Please”, but I’m not sure.  At any rate, I’m hoping to put up a new developer’s responses every week. I’ll be tagging them into the same category, so they’ll be in one place.  Hope this helps you get a good view of what makes these developers tick.  And now, Z Kadri!

Going Rancid: Who are you and what do you do at Pitch Black Games?

Zyad Kadri: I am Z Kadri and they call me the “Art Director” at Pitchblack Games. My main responsibilities include creating concept art along side the other concept artists, so I am in the trenches with the guys, and I also facilitate some of the aesthetic direction to the 3D artists in the studio. Personnel management and tasking is also shared amongst me and the Art Lead.

GR: What class will you be rolling at release, and what is your favorite archetype?

ZK: My favorite archetype to play has always been the paladin type character in fantasy, but in sci-fi, it would have to be the bounty-hunter freelance type. One principled and heroic and the other self-serving and cavalier. I’m not sure why that is.

GR: What other MMOs are you playing right now, or what was the last one you played (and what made you leave, if you can say)?

ZK: Actually I’m not actively persistently playing any MMO’s right now. The last one I played (and you’ll forgive me for no names out of professional courtesy) became so boring I reverted back to traditional word of mouth by the book role-playing games for a few years. I’m just not a grind after grind kind of guy.

GR: Do you do any console gaming?  If so, what genre soaks up most of your time? FPS?  Music? Racing games?  RPG?

ZK: I currently do some console gaming. I grew up playing the Atari 2600, Mattel’s Intellivision, and Colecovision.  Then I went through a huge Nintendo “Game & Watch” phase where I collected those little pets and kept them by my bedside and in my school bag where I’d trade “Game & Watches” with my friends at school. Good times. But since college I’ve been a PC gamer, very much a FPS and combat simulation and RTS genre fan right now.

GR: Fondly recall your first MMO experience.  What game was it and what happened?

ZK: My first MMO experience was Ultima Online! I remember during college my roommate and I fought for time on his “shared” computer. So you can imagine that between school, work, and his time online I struggled to get any UO time in. And I found it soooo hard to get any progress in that MMO because of the time sink it required that I just didn’t have. So I lasted nearly a year before I had to give it up. But I remember being amazed at the depth and the isometric “3d” aspect of it. Especially because I had enjoyed the Ultima I, II, & III trilogy on my Commodore 64 growing up.

GR: Tell us about your most memorable or epic gaming experience, MMO or not, and why it was so memorable.

ZK: Do arcade games count? The most memorable gaming experience would’ve been Tokyo in the 1980’s! Wow it was like everywhere you went there were video game arcades. The restaurant tables were Pac-Man and Donkey Kong, etc. I must have easily spent a $1000 dollars of my parent’s money on games there in a week. There was a time when my parents went on a date and left my brother and I at the hotel arcade for 3 hours. When we ran out of money the attendant would give us more. What a boon! That to me was an epic gaming experience.

GR: Tell us about your most memorable experience of being an utter noobie.  What did you learn?

ZK: Oh no, not the noob. Let me put it in a way best described by a professional colleague, “It was like playing the NPC as cannon fodder for the real player characters in the game.” I’m a FPS fan so every new one I play I go through it again and again: Doom, Unreal, Tron 2.0, Call of Duty, Crysis 2, and now Battlefield: BC2. What could be most memorable about that? Not sure, but watching replays are hilarious.

GR: How did you get into the game industry, and when did you know you wanted to actually stay and do this for a living?

ZK: Well I was approached by Warren of Pitchblack Games based on a personal comic book project I had illustrated years ago. Don’t ask me how, but through an unusual series of coincidences Warren got a hold of the original art work from my comic partner at the time and was impressed enough by the artwork to call me. At the time I was a freelance product designer and had been looking to get in the game industry as a character artist. So a few art tests later, I was steeped in ‘the game’. As we geared up for production at the company I was asked to direct the game art and here I am.

GR: What is your favorite part of working in the game industry?

ZK: My favorite part of working in the game industry is creating and designing creatures, characters, and props that have no real world engineering specifications. If that makes sense. I was an industrial designer for over 10 years and everything you design must actually be able to be engineered and manufactured or else it is just considered useless “Blue Sky” concepting. In the game industry “Blue Sky” is the limit, whatever you’re designing just needs to be something the commercial audience can relate to, much like cinema. Nothing but art fun, so to speak.

GR: In regards to your position, and comparing the current landscape of gamers to the ones of the past ten years, what trends do you hope to turn around/accelerate?

ZK: In regards to my position, hmm. I try to make “cool” but that’s ambiguous as well as subjective. One of the things I’d like to be a part of is accelerating the audience’s immersive experience in gaming. The better technology gets, the more I look forward to dialing the art into the senses. There’s a lot of R&D being done in different scientific and engineering disciplines that I hope will continue to revolutionize how computer graphics are “crunched in the machine”, and allow devs like us to intensify the density of art presented to the audience.  Whether you plop yourself in the barren Sahara or bustling Times Square, there is an infinite amount of stimulus to the senses. Even if nothing beats a real life experience, wouldn’t it be awesome to keep getting closer to that vicarious experience? Hmm.

GR: When you’re not making games, what do you spend your time on?

ZK: Spending time with my family.  Of course that’s the right answer. Right now I’m living in a fixer-upper so really it’s been painfully taking away my free time. Grrr. However, we have a horse, two dogs, two cats, fish, and chickens and ducks that we enjoy the company of, and did I mention trips? I love to take trips!

[Rancid: Special thanks to Z and Sanya for helping get this together.  Stay tuned for next week’s developer: Jeff Pinero.]

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