Inside the Vault: Gary Noonan

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Today’s Inside the Vault features Gary Noonan, one of our character artists. He does mostly animation, anything from creatures to weapons. However, he’s been here so long he’s done other work including creating character art, building levels, and cranking out sound effects.

What’s your job at Bethesda?
Character Animator. Among other things that involve being a Character Art shock trooper.

What other games have you worked on?
If Bethesda made it since ’96, I probably have a credit on it. From Battlespire to Fallout 3, I have been a 401k slaving fool.

What was the best part about working as an artist? The worst part?
The best part is the creative process. Seeing an idea emerge from a thought, to a concept drawing, to a mesh, and finally putting it into motion. Having a part in the entire process by sharing your thoughts and ideas is something that really gets you amped up to see a character through to the finish. It makes one pretty passionate and sometimes, downright defensive when issues are brought up concerning it. We are gods of the digital age. Having a god complex over the 3D life giving process is definitely a worthwhile perk.

The worst part? Definitely seeing your work get changed or sometimes even cut. Drastic times call for drastic measures and there is no one singled out aspect of a game that is immune. It’s a part of development though, and sometimes the chips will fall where they may. You just hope it is never in your court.

How did you get into the industry? Do you have any tips for breaking in?

Getting into the industry: Hack 101

By Gary Noonan

My story is FAR from what most developers would share. In the beginning, I guess around ’91, I was a grease monkey. In short, I worked with cars in a body shop. Most of my formal training and certification was in the automotive industry. Painting, body work, restorations, customizations, you name it. I decided to take a break and I tried my hand in school at classic animation. Old school. We are talking Oxberry and acetates (you old folks will know what I am talking about). School was a drag. I didn’t feel challenged and it was actually quite boring. So, I dropped out.

I ended up in a graphics studio that was short lived since it was sold out, but I got some valuable knowledge from it. Then I did some freelance work for a while but it simply wasn’t how I wanted to make a living. So, I went back to the car gig. After about a year I tried my hand at computer graphics and computer science at school in MD. Drag drag drag drag drag…. after maintaining a 3.96 gpa and feeling like I had learned nothing after a few years, I threw in the towel. Another waste. Back to cars.

From there, in ’96, I had a friend I attended school with that worked at Bethesda and he nudged me into sending some work his way. As hesitant as I was, I did, knowing that my previous graphics gigs were less than exciting. So, I was interviewed by Bethesda and started a few weeks later. Even with a weird track record like mine, having dropped out of 2 schools and hopping all over the Mid-Atlantic with no degree to show for it. What suckers…and somehow, 11 years later, I am still here. (I save the cars for a hobby now *wink*)

I am the worst person to give tips for getting into the industry since I rode the short bus in. A solid portfolio will present your talent more than a framed piece of paper ever will. So whether you are schooling for experience, self learning, or just simply already kick ass talented, just keep up the drive and make sure you enjoy the ride. If you don’t enjoy the ride, you won’t like the destination. Put your work together and show it. No sense in talking and dreaming about it, just do it.

What would you say is your personal favorite game of all time?
REALLY going out on a limb here, but I gotta say pinball. Sorry, pinball is electronic and has buttons/triggers, so it’s like a controller, and therefore, I claim it a videogame. Adams Family Pinball RULES!!

But ok, if you wanna get anal, Chrono Trigger. I still have the SNES cart complete with good-as-new packaging. It’s a prized possession that I like to go back and play every few years.

What games are you looking forward to?
Army of Two has had my attention for a while. Trying to stay under the radar on it so nothing is spoiled for me though.

What makes you get out of bed in the morning?
The thought of being able to close out another spoiled layer on my plate at work. I at least forget the thought of it over some eggs, bacon, and coffee but I am reminded again by the time I am sitting in bumper to bumper traffic.

Worst job you’ve ever had?
Fleet vehicle detailer. Dirtiest of the dirty. Mike Rowe from Dirty Jobs should do a segment on this. I had this job many years ago during a summer in high school. Me and a crew of guys would drive a van with a trailer in-tow that had a large water tank and compressor. We would get contracts to pressure wash fleet vehicles for the US Post Office to 18 wheeled transports all the way down to private company vehicles. In 90f heat around extremely filthy vehicles for hours on end for minimum wage, I can at least say that I worked the grind and there was never a silver spoon in my mouth.

Any other hobbies and interests? What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
Mostly cars. Rally and autoX are an integrated part of my life. Whether its a race or a show, I do what I can to attend. I find hours of enjoyment with my WRX and my VX (VehiCROSS). I spend WAY too much money on my cars. I could always find a cheaper project, but where’s the fun in that.

Other than spending time in the garage, I settle down for the occasional video game or movie. Being a big audio/visual buff as well, its always fun to blow even more money on tweaking and adding to the existing entertainment system equipment to get the best out of a game or movie too.

Home improvement has decreased somewhat recently due to winter, but I do enjoy working around the house. I bought a place a couple years back and have been doing some fine tuning to it. Paint, flooring, tiling, etc. Definitely keeps one busy. And strangely, I love doing home improvement work. Heck, if I ever leave this industry behind, maybe I can become Gary the Handyman!! Sure ma’am, I will have a new belt drive in that clothes dryer in no time! No more squeaking!!

Reader Comments

  1. This is my favorite one so far! I know it’s horrible, but it makes me feel better about quitting school. LOL

    “A solid portfolio will present your talent more than a framed piece of paper ever will.”

    Just makes me feel sooo much better about employment in general.

  2. Noonan – man, I know ur work from the beginning…. and all those years watching this evolution of machines succeeding… ahhh…
    Greetings from Srebrenica, Bosnia

  3. Great interview :D

    One funny thing I noticed about these “Inside the Vault” about breaking into the industry, everyone has thought that they’re were the wrong person to ask, since they considered their way untraditional.

    Do you have any normal people Bethesda? :P

  4. Trust me, when it comes to the “How to Break In” topic, my best advice would be…. DON’T.

    For many reasons, but the best one of all would be, better job security for me. :p

  5. Ouch almost missed this interview of one my favorite Devs in Bethesda who always has time for the fans at the Official Forums when MORROWIND came out. Unfortunately with OBLIVION the walls had to come up due to all the trolls.

    [ (I save the cars for a hobby now *wink*)]

    Ha ha :)

    [In 90f heat around extremely filthy vehicles for hours on end for minimum wage, I can at least say that I worked the grind and there was never a silver spoon in my mouth.]

    Cool.

    [Mostly cars. Rally and autoX are an integrated part of my life. Whether its a race or a show, I do what I can to attend. I find hours of enjoyment with my WRX and my VX (VehiCROSS). I spend WAY too much money on my cars. I could always find a cheaper project, but where’s the fun in that.]

    The passion of a fanatic! Truly thou art blessed among men :D

    [Heck, if I ever leave this industry behind, maybe I can become Gary the Handyman!! Sure ma’am, I will have a new belt drive in that clothes dryer in no time! No more squeaking!!]

    The mind of an Artist transforming the world in infinite ways into an extension of himself.

    Thanks for the revealing interview Mr.Noonan truly Bethesda would not be the same without one such as you :)