Meet Jason - Technical Artist
You’ve been at Relic quite a while, for 13 years! What do you do, and what brought you here?
I started back in 2005, I was taking a fine arts degree and applied for an internship here. I landed on a project that was early in development, which ended up being The Outfit for Xbox 360. After my three month internship was done, I must have done something right because they let me stay! I started out as an FX artist under the mentorship of Cynthia Lew. She taught me a ton, and was super patient with all of my crazy inquisitive questions.
After a few years of FX, I realized my talent wasn’t so much in making art, but in helping people apply their art to many different assets quickly, which helped me transition to where I am now as a Technical Artist. So my day-to-day for the past few years has been helping to create production pipelines and structures that help people work more efficiently, as we grow and evolve as a studio.
I’m sure a lot has changed since you started, new people and new projects. I’m curious what elements of Relic still remind you of your early time here?
Well I was a high school teacher before working on games, and Relic has been the studio I've always been at. One thing I've noticed is that no matter if you’ve been here for 13 years or just a few weeks, you always have a say in how our games are made. Our success has always come from the people here, working on the thing that they love.
There are so many examples of an individual’s passion being shown off in our games. I remember still, when I first started, there was a colleague Nick who worked over the weekend just to make airplane wings break off as they smashed into buildings, or the tanks roll-out of the building that constructed it. He wanted to see that in the game and made it happen. So many little details like that have made it into our games because someone was able to take ownership and make them happen. Although our processes may have changed in the 13 years since, I'm glad we can still 'make things happen'.
I feel like we can’t talk about much more before we need to address your love of cardio. You’re a man who likes to run, a lot. Why?
There are different kinds of runners. Some runners like to be by themselves, and I’m not like that. I like to run with people, I see it as a social activity. Most people think they won’t want to talk while running, but once it becomes part of your habit, you get into a rhythm and start to have intimate conversations with people. I get to talk with so many people who may or may not be my age group, or may or may not know about video games, so it’s a chance to get to know lots of people.
I run a lot with people at work, and I find that when you’re running a lot of the stresses of our projects go away. People are focused on their running, their feet and their body, and just taking in what they’re seeing. Then at that point they start to talk about so many things - about what they love and enjoy, in and outside of work. You get to know your colleagues better then you can in the office, where you generally talk about work. I read once, and I’m not sure if this is true, but I read that running long distances is equivalent to having a glass of wine, so I kind of treat it like that.
Have you taken part in any marathons outside of Vancouver?
Oh yeah, I’ve done the New York, and London marathons. There’s been a few, for sure.
Beyond just running, you’re also a main fixture in one of Vancouver’s most notorious activities; the Grouse Grind (The Grouse Grind is a 2.9 km trail up Vancouver’s local Grouse Mountain. It’s referred to as “Mother Nature’s Stairmaster”, and it can be the absolute worst if you’re unprepared). What about the Grind do you find so appealing?
Well, running can be very difficult if you want to achieve specific goals. Running 5K faster can be difficult for some people, but you can feel changes right away after a few runs. The Grind is more subtle. I could spend a year just trying to be two seconds faster. It’s quite challenging, but the challenge allows you to mix it up and tackle it how you want to.
Let’s talk numbers. What are your current records for most times up in a day? In a year?
I think it’s six in a day, and around 130 in a year, but I’d have to double check on that.
You’ve help shepherd many Relicans up there with you, myself included a couple years ago. What’s your main tip for people climbing up the side of a mountain for the first time?
Definitely that it’s not a race. Go your own pace, and try to enjoy it. I think a lot of people go into something like that as if it's a competition, and that it's this one moment that will define them. Expectations for yourself are great, but it’s important to recognize that everyone’s different. If you want to do it in an hour, do it in an hour. If you want to take two hours and have lunch halfway, which I’ve done with people, do that too.
Deep question time! Do you find that activities like running, or the Grouse Grind, can teach you anything about making games?
Oh yeah, totally. I love going up the Grouse Grind and thinking about making games, which sounds weird. What ends up happening is, when you make games, you try to not do the same thing twice. When a game is shipped, it’s shipped, and you try new things to make the next experience better. Something like the Grind is similar. I want to know, can I plan my footsteps in a way that are a little more efficient, or there's a path I've never seen before and attempt something new. You try to improve every time, and that drive to improve never really ends, which I like. That same thing exists in making games as well.
One more for you. What’s something you’re looking forward to this summer that doesn’t require inhuman stamina?
Honestly, I love just sitting out on the patio with my dogs on my chest. Have some carrots for them to eat, a book for me to read. We have these ugly green umbrellas on our patio, and I love looking up at the ugly green next to the blue of the sky in the summer, it’s pretty relaxing.