RVG Interviews Billy Allison.
Its a pleasure to share our next interview with Billy Allison, an animator and graphics specialist who has worked on many games you and i will be familiar with.
Below is a list of the games Billy has worked on.
Alien Breed 2: Assault (2010) (Animators)
Alien Breed 3: Descent (2010) (Animators)
Alien Breed: Evolution - Episode 1 (2009) (Animators)
Leisure Suit Larry: Box Office Bust (2009) (Lead Animator)
Breed (2004) (Animations)
Shadow Man: 2econd Coming (2002) (Animation & Cinematics)
Shadow Man (1999) (Character Animation)
Gender Wars (1996) (Introduction Graphics)
BC Racers (1995) (Cave Paintings That Move At The Start (Core))
Bubba 'N' Stix (1994) (Graphics)
Astérix and the Great Rescue (1993) (Additional Graphics)
Blob (1993) (Graphics)
Curse of Enchantia (1992) (Graphics - Sprites)
Hook (1992) (Graphics Conversion by)
What a great resume you have Billy, How did you find working on the Iconic Alien breed, did you feel under pressure working on a such a fantastic long standing franchise?
Thanks, The first time team17 interviewed me for a job, I think they were working on the original alien breed way back when, I was offered a job, but was also offered one at Core Design the day before I got my offer from team17 and had accepted, getting to work on the new version of it all these years later was such a thrill. I didn't feel under pressure about it, the thought did cross my mind that we might not capture the original feel though.
How do you feel in this day and age with the amount of Graphic Artists/Animators, they seem to be a dime a dozen, do you feel that your long standing experiences in graphics and Animation work have served you well in securing the job at hand?
Very good question, right now, I feel my long standing experiences in animation is the main cause of my issues with finding paid work, generally its quite good in that the length of time within animation and games means I got to know a lot of people, some of which remember my work and are willing to suggest me when their companies are looking for animators, unfortunately, as you say, with the massive growth of the schools dealing with this line of work, animators are a dime a dozen and why would a studio pay for an experienced person when they can find two recent graduates for a lot cheaper, false economy I know, and in the past I've had to go in a 'fix' things, but it happens.
Have you ever considered teaching your skills as a Lecturer at a college that covers computer art and design and computer animation in 2d Pixel plains?
I have considered teaching, there are a couple of reason why I haven't, I don't have a University degree, there wasn't such a thing as a degree in animation when I went to film school, and this apparently is more important than experience.
What was the most difficult task you found yourself involved with i.e., animating a character and creating cinematic’s for? And which game?
There has been many many challenges over the last 30 years, but the most 'difficult' although I wouldn't really call it that is one where the design goal posts would change and characters not designed to do certain tasks were suddenly required to do them, for example a character with short arms and a large head was suddenly required to hang and traverse a rope hand over hand style .. without looking toony, the character was never designed to be able to do this, and couldn't even touch the top of his head without arm stretching ... that was Leisure Suit Larry
Is there any other Animators, graphics designers you admire in the industry that you would either of liked to work with or enjoyed working with them and if so what project were you guys involved in?
There are Many I'd still like to work with and some that I loved working with, mostly not within games though. Joanna Quinn, is an old old animator friend of mine, but I've never had the chance to work with her, one day we'll work on something together. Jez Hall another old friend, I have worked with him in the past, but only briefly, he has such a lovely grasp of design and composition, one person I have worked with and would love to again is Simon Phipps, such a hard worker with quality work. I worked with Simon on Bubba n Stix (one of my most favourite game projects) and Shadowman 1 and 2.
A lot of Animators and designers ended up working on mobile gaming after the golden years, is this something you would consider doing? Or if you have worked within the mobile graphics recently, do you feel its lost its spark and reminiscence of the old painting and animating with a mouse?
I can see why many went into mobile gaming, it kind of brought back the old 'game play' over 'tech demo' and 'bedroom game dev' thing for a while, but then took it away again as it got all high tech again, I've done a couple mobile games and done several sprites for games that never got made, and enjoyed it a lot, small teams and fun making the games.
What was / is your favourite art package for creating animation and graphics back in the old days ?
Back in the Old days, it was definitely Deluxe Paint (v3 and v4 mainly) superb package, TVPaint is the closest I've found for the modern age.
Working on Curse of Enchantia, what freedom if any was you given in creating the artwork and animations for the game?
With CoE I did have a load of freedom, often the puzzles were worked out first, then I would do the sprites for the characters/animation, usually designed off the top of my head, no time for lengthy concept art, then had to make sure they would fit in memory, there were whole sections that never made it in, like a roller skating frankenstein, that shattered into loads of tiny versions of him if you 'killed' him, I did the sprites etc, it just never made it to the game.
How did the idea of Blob come about and who design his look?
Jon Hilliard came to Core design with the game bascially done with 'programmer art' I simply beefed up and added some bits to what he'd done. just gave it a little more anatomy if that makes sense.
Do you have any concept art/graphics from you early days in the gaming business that you can share?
I have some, mainly Bubba n Stix stuff.
Bubba 'N' Stix Sketch
Bubba 'N' Stix Sketch
Bubba 'N' Stix Screenshot from the Amiga version.
Billy kindly shared lots of images.. These can be seen HERE
I grew up watching the Flintstones on TV everyday and so I absolutely love the look of BC Racers, and it's a lot of fun to play! What part of the game did you work on and what did you think of the finished product?
I basically only worked on the Intro and outro stuff, we had got 'full motion video' working on the megaCD so we did a cartoon intro, I really enjoyed it.
How did you first get involved with the video game industry?
It was a long time ago, I had just finished working on the children's shows Spider in the Bath and Fiddely Foodle Bird, and was looking for work and someone suggested video games, thats when I had my first interview at Team17, back in the early 90s, but as I said in my first answer, I had a firm offer from Core Design and took it ... seems so long ago now and everything is so different.
Are you a gamer yourself (retro or modern)? If so, what would you say is your most favourite system?
I don't play as often as I used to, but my games tended to be the lucasarts point n click adventures, especially 'day of the tentacle' and 'Indiana Jones the fate of atlantis' so i guess my system would be the PC (it was Amiga though in the past)
Core Design are now an iconic software house, what was it like working for them?
Back in the day I remember thoroughly enjoying my time there, I worked there for just over 3 years and worked on several projects, we were like a bunch of kids having fun, there were tough times too, crunch time was a killer but the comradery during those times were great.
How much of Bubba 'N' Stix did you create? Was it as fun to create as some of your colleagues at the time have mentioned?
As I've already said, it was my favourite game that I worked on, it was a very small team and we bounced ideas off each other a lot, After Simon and I spent several evenings trying to make something from a suggestion Jeremy made, we did loads of drawings etc eventually we got some building blocks of an idea and Simon went and started designing the levels and game play along with input from myself and John and Mark the coders, then Simon and I went ahead and started on the graphics while the coders wrote the mechanics for the puzzles, we designed and created art for several more levels than actually went in the game, but again couldn't squeeze them in. I also drew the line art for the box artwork, I drew the comic strip in the manual and the intro/outro for the cd32 version and drew various images for the bubbalicious advert campaign.
This is a sketch of the team that worked on Bubba 'N' Stix.
What was the inspiration for the game?
Quite simply (and this is why i like the old days) Jeremy said, I want a game about a man with a stick, he was after something more hard edged at the time I think, with more of a staff and more along the lines of switchblade or wolfchild or something, but Simon and I had other ideas, we were big fans of Ren and Stimpy and wanted to do something cartoony and we ran with it, and Jeremy let us, not sure that kind of thing happens so much these days.
What game are you most proud of for being part of the team and why?
Has to be Bubba n Stix, the small team, Simon Phipps, Mark Watson, John Kirkland and myself got on well, we had fun and I believe we made an enjoyable game even though we didn't have a whole suited heriarchy aboves us cracking the whip, we actually enjoyed the work, and then the Music and sfx by Martin Iveson was so good too!
What did you work on in Astérix and the Great Rescue?
I actually did very little on that, I help convert some sprites for gamegear use.
Shadow Man was one of my favourite N64 games, what version did you work on and was there an major difference that caused you headaches?
I worked on all versions, and for me, there were no differences, from what I remember, all versions used the same animation data, the differences were mainly memory stuff, texture space and the like, something the coders loved working on ;)
Billy's Website: http://blimation.com/showreel
A huge thanks to Billy for taking part in this interview.
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