On Inside the Vault today, our subject is Tony Greco, one of our world artists. During development, Tony’s test cells are among the best to visit. He makes lots of cool unique items and you can find them all in his test areas — you know, the amazing stuff that you get as rewards for quests or after fighting a tough boss or [Fallout 3 stuffs we can't talk about], imagine all that awesome loot in one place. Hmmm….
What’s your job at Bethesda?
I’m a World Artist that mostly specializes in clutter meshes. It’s my job to make the game-spaces not look empty and to give you a reason to check out what’s on the kitchen table. It’s my job to make those sweet rolls look extra tasty. Mmm…sweet rolls.
What other games have you worked on?
Bethesda is my first and only industry job! I jumped in at the end of Oblivion when essentially nobody had the time to be bothered by the “new guy” that had no idea what was going on.
What is the best part about working as an artist? The worst part?
The best part about being an artist for Bethesda is when Monday morning comes along and it’s time to go to work…I don’t mind. I get up with some pep and don’t dread the day. Doing little art projects all the time keeps me busy, and yet it doesn’t get tedious. Everyday I’m doing something new and fresh (unlike character artists and set-piece makers that spend months on one thing.)
The worst part about my job? Well, I guess it’s the fact that I could care less about graphics in games. It’s the least essential part to what makes games entertaining and fun. It’s all about the conceptual construction, design integrity and the fundamentals (gameplay) to me. I’d rather play a text-only game that’s well put together, thoroughly conceived, fun and thoughtful.
How did you get into the industry? Do you have any tips for breaking in?
I got lucky. I fell in love with making graphics when I was six doing pixel by pixel art with MS Paint on my IBM. It was a perfect medley of art and technology that kept my left and right brain occupied. In high school, I got my hands on a old primitive 3D program and Photoshop and learned that by myself. I went to college and taught myself more and more and never stopped. Even though I didn’t have the aptitude for art (I’m more of a math and logic-type person), I just worked harder than most and used my logical sense to learn everything I could without the need of a teacher that was at my level. After graduating, it was time to find out whether I was good enough to get a job in the industry or whether I wasted my good years working way too hard for a goal that was just unrealistic. Six months passed and I applied to all kinds of companies… and I got no replies…not even a “no thanks” from anyone! I was desperate. I got to the point where I would have taken a job cleaning Tim Shafer’s personal toilet if it meant I would get my foot in the door! I was feeling down and was about to give-up — yet everyday I worked on my portfolio and kept applying for job after job. Then one day I checked the spam section of my email and noticed an email that seemed to not really belong amongst the hundreds I got that day. It just happened to be on the very top of the list. I tend not to read spam, but I just so happened to glance at it before instinctively pressing “delete all.” Lo and behold it was an email from Bethesda. I went from taking anything I can get to being handed a job with one of the companies I had on my wish list. I got lucky.
What would you say is your personal favorite game of all time?
The short answer is “Saboteur II: Avenging Angel” for the IBM PC, because the game’s front cover consists of a ninja doing a wheelie on a motorcycle while fending off panthers with his sword while a huge explosion erupts in the background. I’d give you guys a link to the picture, but I don’t want to get sued for causing people’s head to explode.
The long answer is that I really have no ‘favorite game.” It is still reserved for that one game that will impact me the way a fantastic Oscar winner movie or a extraordinary classic novel can. So, instead I’ll list my favorite games by genre:
FPS: Call of Duty 4. I’ve been hooked on the multiplayer for six months with no end in sight. It’s rewarding, tactical yet action packed, and they nearly perfected the balance between the camper and the aggressor. The maps are not too big, not too small, unbelievably complicated yet not overwhelming. Despite the ridiculous amount of stuff and nooks in the maps, 95% of them are very well balanced. Then there are the more obvious 10 or so smart little things that just break this game off from the rest.
Action: Adventure: Zelda: A Link to the Past. Nintendo perfected the adventure formula with this classic and not even they have been able to transcend it since. The puzzles and concepts were clever and actually fresh at the time, too.
Adventure: Gabriel Knight 1. The game had the best story, dialogue and characters, but Sam and Max and Neverhood are the games I had the most fun playing. And yet Kings Quest VI’s scope and execution is still to this day very impressive to me. It’s a toss up.
RPG: Charles Barkley: Shut and Jam Gaiden. No joke. I’d explain myself but I’m too busy skating around shooting my gunz. If you can’t slam with the best, jam with the rest.
Sports: Blades of Steel. This game is so hot it melts the 8- bit ice, your cartridge, and your face all at the same time. Sching! Belaze od Steerl!
Puzzle: Tetris Attack. A master’s puzzle-game despite its kiddy appearance. It will probably never be topped.
What games are you looking forward to?
Alan Wake conceptually hit a hype nerve with me when it was first teased. Hopefully, it will be as cranial and clever as I imagine. I am sort of looking forward to Resident Evil 5, Diablo 3 and Spore.
What makes you get out of bed in the morning?
I can honestly say that I don’t need one. I get up because I just want to. Life is OK with me! Does that mean I’ve reached nirvana? Pfft, that was easy.
Worst job you’ve ever had?
Working in a large factory was the worst. It does NOT get more depressing than that. Stay in school, kids.
Any other hobbies and interests? What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
I consider myself a hobbyist. I have to do something at all times and keep my brain active — be it by making art, music, playing tennis, chess or bowling, going to the gym, failing miserably at finishing a crossword (I’ve finished less than 10 in my life-time), hiking, going to museums and art galleries, or hanging out with my wonderful girlfriend that I don’t deserve.