“It was a constant deluge of amazing ideas”. Environment Artist Eric Kozlowsky talks about his work on Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze
This is the English version of our Q&A. The Russian version can be found here.
As it often happens with films, we often remember directors and producers, but pay no attention to numerous artists and designers who make brilliant games possible. We at NintendoNews.ru believe that every talented creator has a story to tell. Today we speak with Eric Kozlowsky, who worked as an Environment Artist on the fantastic Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze for Wii U.
His other notable works include Mass Effect: Andromeda, Uncharted: 3 Drake’s Deception and Brütal Legend.
Good day, Eric! You’ve worked on a number of great titles, including Donkey Kong: Country Tropical Freeze for Wii U. That game got a lot of praise in Nintendo community. What do you remember about working on it the most?
I think what I remember most is the creative freedom and overall passion all of the other artists had for the game. It was a constant deluge of amazing ideas. I have very fond memories of working on a lot of the Autumn Heights levels. I got to create quite a few of them!
Was there anything special about working on a game for Wii U, or was it business as usual?
From my position at the studio there wasn’t anything about the Wii U that affected my workflow, it was pretty much business as usual for the artists on the team.
What do you think about the console at all?
I think the Wii U is a way underrated console! There are so many amazing games that were made for it. I’m really glad that many of them are getting ported to the Switch, DKCTF included!
Do you have an attachment to the games you work on, or do you simply move on?
I’ll always have some sort of attachment to the games I work on, good or bad. You cannot work on a game for any extended period of time and not feel something after you’re done.
What separates Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze from the other games you worked on?
I mean, just the fact that I was working on a game that stars Nintendo’s first character (before Mario even had a name). That alone separates it from other games I’ve worked on. I’m a huge Nintendo fan so it was an incredible honor to be part of the legacy of that character. I cherish it.
Were there particular challenges?
Since DKCR came before Tropical Freeze I had to learn the art style of that game so I could apply it to my work. We also had to make sure that the game always ran at 60fps! There were no compromises there, so we had to adjust and make sure our art didn’t bog the system down.
You worked on the games of completely different genres. How different are a platformer and a third person shooter for an Environment Artist?
It’s different in a lot of ways, for one the amount of detail is different. You put emphasis on different things. There is also a level of abstraction. You have to make sure that bottomless pits work with the environment and the background. There are also some liberating aspects too! Knowing exactly where the player will be looking (because there is no camera control) means you can compose some really cool scenes tailored specifically to a part of the level and know that the player will see it as intended.
Right now you are working on a Switch game. How different is this console compared to the others? Anything peculiar about it? [the game for Switch is listed in the artist’s portfolio — ed. note]
Right now I am not working on the Switch as I’m not longer with Retro Studios/Nintendo. I would like to someday though. It’s an amazing system!
Now, games. Is gaming more of a work, or is it a hobby as well? Do you play in your spare time?
It’s a bit of both. Somedays it can be incredibly hard work, others I have to pinch myself because it’s the best job in the world. I still go home at night and work on my own game related personal artwork, so it’s a hobby as well. I do still game. Not as much as I’d like. I have to be selective about the games I play because there isn’t enough time. A lot of games that look amazing I have to just let slip by. Maybe someday if I ever retire!
What’s your favourite console?
It’s a toss up. I’d have to say the Super Nintendo and the original PlayStation with the SNES edging it out by a little bit. I’m a big JRPG fan so those two systems were kings for those games.
Take a gander at Eric’s other work in his portfolio.
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