David Luong is a senior cinematic artist at Blizzard Entertainment and currently working on Overwatch episodic animations.
David is also owner of an art gallery in Santa Ana, California called Photonic Playground, featuring top digital artists in the LA and OC area. He also teaches an eight-week online workshop through CGMA called “Intro to Digital Matte Painting”.
At Nordic Game 2016 next week, David Luong will take the stage with his talk “The Evolution of Matte Painting: Supporting the Story”
NG: What was the first game that really made you aware of games?
DL: It was at a young age… probably watching my brothers and sisters play on the Atari back in the early 80’s when I started to grasp the fun and entertainment value of games. Super old games like Pong, Pacman, and Mario Bros. Our household soon graduated to the Nintendo Entertainment System and that’s where things really took off in my gaming awareness. Metroid, The Legend of Zelda, Super Mario Bros, Contra, Ghosts N Goblins, Dragon Quest, Final Fantasy… those were only a few of the games that I was quite fond of playing and watching my friends and family play. We would be playing games and watching others play before dinner-time, after dinner-time (after we did our homework of course!) and then on the weekends, it would be watching and playing video games with friends at their houses.
There was also a healthy mix of random outdoor playing of course, but the majority of the time, it would lead back to video games in the living room somewhere… even at the local 7-11 where there were arcade machines for games like Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat.
NG: Which game has made you most frustrated or angry?
DL: As a kid, I remember myself finishing so many of the NES games that I grew up with. I probably took months to finish them, but I remember playing them as if it were easy to do. Kid Icarus, Dragon Quest, The Legend of Zelda, Contra… all of these games take a lot of time and skill to play. I tried picking up these games today through the Wii and Wii U virtual arcade, and got my butt kicked. How in the hell did I finish the first few levels of these games as a kid? I would die over and over, just trying to get the right jump timing, or the right timing to attack a boss. These games back then were very challenging, as well as time consuming, which I had lots of back in the day.
For more contemporary games, the ones that made me more frustrated or angry at times, are the competitive ones that my company, Blizzard Entertainment, produces… not because they’re bad, but because in essence the competitiveness of the games make you want to do your best and win! And if you don’t, you can tend to get a little frustrated or angry at yourself that you didn’t. Heroes of the Storm and StarCraft II can really get on my nerves if I fail, due to many factors, but I usually get over it pretty quickly and queue up for the next game.
Check out the Overwatch cinematic “Alive”:
NG: Which game have you spent the most time on?
DL: I think most time spent may be between two games: EverQuest and World of Warcraft. For sure before WoW, it was EverQuest… having poured over 350 days played on all of the characters across all servers in the world of “Norrath”. I made a lot of friends on there, and had some great memories with IRL (in real life) and virtual friends, some of whom I still keep in contact with to this day 17 years after playing the game.
Once Blizzard’s WoW hit, my heart went to that after, playing probably a little under or close to the same amount of time as EQ. Mind you, days played = straight days played without any breaks if added up. So imagine, a whole year playing a game, without sleeping, eating or going to the bathroom! That’s how much I played those games.
NG: What game, genre or game mechanic would you like to see brought back the most?
DL: I really enjoyed the PVP mechanics in EverQuest. No other game has duplicated that same intensity and level of fear of dying to a PKer (player killer) that EverQuest instilled. I started playing EQ on the Rallos Zek server with my friends who bought me the game for my birthday. After level five, I was flagged to be killable by another player, no matter who they were, even your friends! You learned quickly who your real friends were in the game. I luckily played with RL friends who I could trust, and slowly I would allow others I played with virtually to gain my trust too. Sometimes, you would be grouping with a so called “friend” and they would kill you mid-fight, just to loot an item on your corpse, your coin, and then finish off the monster you were fighting and steal that loot as well! The joy was in the hunting and defeating those cowards in your later encounters, and also the “smack talk”! Oh man, there were some epic smack talking cross zones to lure those cowards into fighting you back for honor and glory.
NG: What is the best detail you ever noticed in a game?
DL: I was playing Portal 2 a few years back, and as I was randomly exploring and teleporting around with my portal gun, I came upon a small hole in the wall. This lead to an abandoned old living quarters of someone who has passed on… they were living inside the air conditioning ducts and tight spaces between! As I’m going in deeper to this hide out, there were details about their past living here, trash strewn around, a tally of the days they’ve been hiding out, and of course, propaganda and posters about how “The Cake is a Lie”! I loved being able to stumble upon something like this, and how I thought the game designer boldly put it in there even knowing most player won’t find something like this while playing the game. I’m happy I got to see it!
NG: Which game would do well in another media form?
DL: I think Alien Isolation in full VR or similar type of scary game where the details, atmosphere, and mood is quite realistic. Even just playing that game on the PlayStation 4 in the dark, with surround sound speakers made for some scary immersive moments. That was one of the best games I’ve played recently and it replicated “Sevastapol Station” and the Alien world ships very well. Being able to look 360 (degrees) around, and hide from the “Alien” or other threats in VR would be awesome to do. I know some have hacked it to work on the Oculus Rift before, but I mean playing it in the full experience being able to duck, hide and use the VR controllers with it.
Ready to be amazed? David Luong – game artist extraordinaire – another great reason to join us for Nordic Game 2016, 18-20 May in Malmö, Sweden. Register today!