Inside the Vault: Obsidian’s Brian Menze

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As Feargus Urquhart mentioned in his Developer Diary, Brian Menze has done plenty of Vault Boy drawings in his day. Find out about some of his favorite creations for Fallout, as well as other games he’s worked on, in our latest Inside the Vault…

What’s your job at Obsidian?

I’m a senior conceptual artist. I also provide other 2D in-game assets as well. For example, in Fallout: New Vegas, I painted many of the billboards and posters and designed some logos found throughout the game.

What games have you worked on?

I’ve worked on 18 shipped titles in my career which include Fallout 2, Planescape: Torment, The Icewind Dale series, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II, Alpha Protocol and of course Fallout: New Vegas. I’ve worked on 3 scrapped titles as well.

What is the best part about your job? The worst part?

Without being too sappy, I love working with a team. The best part of my job is being surrounded by talented people working together to make great things happen. I played a lot of team sports as a kid, and always liked that as an artist, I can still work in a group environment. The worst part is the lack of a face-to-face connection to fans, or people who play the games we make. Comic creators have conventions where they can meet the people, athletes have the roar of the crowd, film-makers can sit in an auditorium and hear people’s reaction to a film. As a game maker I feel I have no way to directly connect with the people I do this job for.

Any fun facts you’d like to share about Obsidian?

For whatever reason, employees are asked to move offices quite often. There are few people here who haven’t been in the same room for much longer than 6 months.

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

I broke in 1993, when it was much easier to do. I literally responded to a flyer posted in my local comic book shop. As far as tips — one tip I firmly believe in is to get to know someone in the business. Almost every job I’ve ever had, including those that are not game related, I got from knowing someone already doing it.

Thus far, what’s been the highlight of your career?

Co-creating a character, with Chris Avellone, named Darth Nihilus for Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II. The character has an action figure, has appeared in many Star Wars related media, fans dress up as the character, and it was featured on the Howard Stern radio show for many weeks. That character was my 15 minutes of fame.

Do you remember what it was like the first time you took a stab at drawing Vault Boy?

Vaguely. It was the first assignment I was given when I joined Black Isle Studios, so I was just doing what I was told to do, while trying to fit in. Though, I do remember feeling very relieved that I was asked to do something I could easily do, which took some of the stress off.

What’s your favorite Vault Boy drawing you’ve done ?

Just one? I’ve drawn roughly 200 of them now, I have a lot of favorites – betrayer, married, virgin and gecko skinning to name a few.

What does your job entail during the months between concept phases? Do you work on future projects? In-game art assets?

I’m conceptualizing or providing 2D in-game assets on a project almost all the way through a project’s duration. Sometimes, I help with future projects or other projects currently in production, but that could happen at any time. If I’m running out of stuff to do I’m moved off quickly to another project full time.

What would you say is your personal favorite game of all time?

Purely for nostalgia’s sake — Defender, the arcade classic from Williams Electronics. I have many fond memories of my best childhood friend and I riding our bikes to our local 7-Eleven to sip slurpees while spending our allowances on that that game all summer long. I still suck at it though.

What games are you looking forward to?

Epic Mickey, NBA Jam, and Batman: Brave and the Bold.

What makes you get out of bed in the morning?

My cat Booger. Every morning at 6:30AM he starts meowing, wanting breakfast.

Worst job you’ve ever had?

I delivered pizza at night for a while in a town that was surrounded by a lot of agricultural country. The place I drove for didn’t have a limit on mileage so sometimes I drove up to 10 miles away, at night, with no street lights and many unpaved roads. I got lost so many times I can’t remember. I was eventually fired because I called in sick for almost two weeks straight, just because I didn’t want to go in, even to quit.

Any other hobbies and interests? What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

Comic Books are my big hobby. I read and collect a lot of them. Other than that, I follow baseball and soccer, spend a lot of time at Disneyland and love watching films made in the 40’s and 50’s.

Reader Comments

  1. when i first saw the trailer,gameplay and interviews for fallout new vegas i liked everything from the locations and the details and the fact that you can add scopes and extended clips as long as theres character creation it could be the type of game were i never get bored

  2. thanks for all your kickass work! the Fallout 2 Vault Boys are a lot of fun, they went wild and funny places that really drove home dark humor as a part of the Fallout core identity. In 2 the Vault Boy seemed to be doing even more bizarre and horrifying things to juxtapose his casual happy-go-lucky attitude, filling out that sense of “whatever was in Fallout is gonna be even weirder and more raw in 2!”

    and, while i’m sure you’re a nice guy… that pic is a little scary in a totally passive menace kind of way. it’s like the look of a guy you owe money to, right after he nicely offers you coffee but before he starts talking about your thumbs.

    it works for New Vegas.

  3. [emilio wrote on July 22nd, 2010

    and, while i’m sure you’re a nice guy… that pic is a little scary in a totally passive menace kind of way. it’s like the look of a guy you owe money to, right after he nicely offers you coffee but before he starts talking about your thumbs.

    it works for New Vegas. ]

    Ha ha :D When i first saw the Brian Menze’s picture i thought he looked pretty friendly but then when i came back to it a second time later all of a sudden it seemed..ANGRY. I told myself, “Oh no! I should have commented on the interview when it first came up on the blog!” :D

    Great interview i could relate with alot of the stuff especially the afternoons after high school at the arcade playing DEFENDER with my cousin. He always better with that stuff. Me i liked all the colors, pretty explosions and futuristic sci fi sounds all for a quarter for a brief moment in time.

    [I was eventually fired because I called in sick for almost two weeks straight, just because I didn’t want to go in, even to quit. ]

    Heh i did that once when working for a restaurant. Talk about a pain. Fortunately my fellow workers totally understood and even came over to my place to give me my check and my book of poetry i wrote on my spare time which i left at the restaurant.

    [I’ve worked on 18 shipped titles in my career which include Fallout 2, Planescape: Torment, The Icewind Dale series, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II, Alpha Protocol and of course Fallout: New Vegas. I’ve worked on 3 scrapped titles as well. ]

    Wow thats some old school hardcore game titles. I just discovered the ICEWIND DALE SERIES a few months ago and was quite happy to see how perfectly it stands up after all these years.

    [The worst part is the lack of a face-to-face connection to fans, or people who play the games we make. ]

    Best place to connect are places like the forums and checking out places where modders and fans post screenshots and art work of the games they play like Photobucket etc. Then theres always conventions and with comic book conventions becoming more intertwined with video games thats also another great place to meet fans.

  4. I wonder if they will have dynamic weather in the desert? like when at night, it rains, will there be small streams, flowwing into bigger ones, and in the day, will you be able to see the dried out remnants of those streams? will there also be life Near those streams, like patches of grass, or even trees, flowers, or radioactive ferns. I’m saying this because of a fan of the Fallout world, and an active RP’er, i would like to see LIFE after haveing played FO3 for ages…
    thank you, and peace

  5. I think it would be totally awesome if somebody working on new vegas would put a working chicken machine in the game ,you know the one that was in supermarkets in the 70s early 80s you put a quarter or caps in the machine, chicken spins and clucks and would give you random crap from bullets,to bobbi-pins ,so if you know anybody working on this game mention it to them ! thanks