Interview Romain Barilliot (aka Skacky)
Can you introduce yourself?
My name is Romain Barrilliot, known as Skacky on the Internet. I am one of the Level Designers working on E.Y.E: Divine Cybermancy. I currently live in Montpellier, in France and I have more or less to use distance work (our studio is at Paris). But as a counterpart, I have a hot and sunny weather.
I also work on the translation and a little bit on the storyline.
Can you describe your work?
My role is to create the levels for the game. Before putting the first brush or the first model, I imagine a scenario, an initial synopsis, a theme, characters... and I weave ideas around it. Afterward, I send this to the big-bosses for their approval and then the real work begins.
Sometimes I also begin to create a prototype level (like a structure) and then I imagine a scenario around it. I don't really have a specific method.
And then, after this first phase, I spend months and even years putting corridors, rooms, canyons or everything you can imagine with what the Environment Artists create; I don't create textures nor models, I "just" coherently assemble this mess.
After that, I work on the ambiance, I create NPCs' paths, I work on the lighting, etc... I don't really work on scripting levels though. When I speak of scripting I mean speaking NPC positioning, objectives and dialogs (which are done in the editor, they're basically entities linking to scripts).
Once playable, fully compiled and scripted, we intensively test the levels to find bugs and add stuff if we have new ideas.
What are your inspirations?
Lots. And to be honest I don't know where to begin. Well, usually I really love everything that's imposing, crushing and huge. The bigger the better.
I dig Cyberpunk, especially Japanese Cyberpunk for its aesthetics with some references like Tsutomu Nihei's works (BLAME!, Biomega...), Ghost In The Shell, Gunnm or Akira. I like the American Cyberpunk ideology as well, particularly the dystopian futures imagined by William Gibson or Bruce Sterling... and even Half-Life 2 itself! Maybe some people will think I'm being a bit of a brown-nose here, but this game is not far away from being perfect in terms of universe research (it however isn't that great gameplay-wise, his older brother being more polished). It could have been even better if VALVe kept the first aspect of the game; brooding, dirty and ominous as hell.
Don't we forget H.P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allan Poe in a completely different genre.
On the movies this time, Alien, Aliens and Blade Runner are obviously my main inspiration sources. However, movies like Eraserhead, Dark City or Lost Highway influence me as well.
I'm not a big fan of the Middle-Age. Steampunk, on the other hand, and the Victorian era have a special place in my heart, especially when dystopian Cyberpunk elements are added.
Games I take inspiration of are obviously System Shock 2 and Deus Ex, but also Unreal, Thief: The Dark Project, Bioshock, Half-Life, StarCraft, Mass Effect, Machinarium or Quake, this one being my favorite game.
Hans Ruedi Giger, Zdzislaw Besksinski and John Atkinson Grimshaw are fascinating artists. I really dig Seldon Hunt's works too (he mainly designs album covers). I am also a huge fan of Viktor Antonov and Dhabih Eng (both are Concept-Artists who worked on Half-Life 2).
Let's talk about music, because it plays a major part during the level creation process, at least for me. I usually launch a playlist related to the level; The Terminator and Blade Runner original soundtracks for the level Electric Sheep for example, or Aliens score for a level that appears later during the campaign.
I usually listen to long instrumental tracks and very little fast music.