Game Artist for Not a Hero, Jake Hollands Interview with Timothy Courtney

Interview Published: 03/16/2016

Timothy Courtney interviews Jake Hollands, an indie game artist and graphic designer who was the lead artist for Not a Hero.

Timothy Courtney: Where did you grow up, and what impact do you think it had on how you see the world?

Jake Hollands: Liphook, a village in England. Being a nerdy room-dweller lead to a lot of time on consoles & pc's, which had a strong influence on my future.

What were some things you really liked to do as a child?

Play video games, draw things, take photos and photoshop them to death, cry, etc.

What is some of the earliest art you can remember making?

Drawing dragons, all of the time. I once drew a dragon across 16 pieces of A4 paper in the back of my parent's car while driving to Italy. When we got there I layed them out to find the dragon awfully proportioned.

Your art style seems clean, minimalist, bright, and abstract. How would you describe your approach and art style?

I think this is due to a graphic design background & the principles that come with it. I don't like to add something if it's not necessary to communicate the idea.

What kind of concepts and ideas do you keep in mind when choosing color in your art?

Be confident / experiment. Steal colour palettes to learn - visit a decent graphic design blog (It's Nice That, Cover Junkie) & copy a lovely palette. Learn from it. (I still do this)

What was the moment where you decided I'm going to make game art into a career?

Final year of uni - a guest lecturer pissed me off spouting mostly things about video games, and it sparked an urge to give it a shot. Less than a year later I was working with the lovely Roll7 & Devolver people, and meeting & hanging with Dennis Wedin & Mark Foster who really inspired me at the start of that journey!

What games did you like most growing up?

I mostly watched my brothers play games - I love the aesthetic in Wind Waker & Ocarina of Time, but hate playing them. Seriously, they're shit (#edgy). Atmospherically they're lovely. I mainly played PC & Nintendo games. Bubble Bobble, Super Metroid, THPS4, BF2142, & Diddy Kong Racing stand out in my memory, but I don't think that video games ever influenced my design.

Where do you want to go next as far as game art and game design goes?

I'll be leaving video games very soon to work in UX design as a front end dev/designer. I'm most interested in how designers can use code to create interaction - whether or not it's a game. I'm finding that working directly on 'games' by definition actually holds you back a lot on what you can do. I hope to continue making games, or at least those 'interactive experience' things in my spare time however.

You created much of the art and direction for Not a Hero, the first game to really make use of a 2.25D technology called ISO-Slant. How does your mindset and approach to the art differ, when creating art for ISO-Slant technology?

In terms of world design I approach just as I would most other - clean, clear, colourful (just with a 5th dimension mindset to keep it compatible with ISO-Slant™ Technology™). In terms of character design & animation it just means cuteness, violence & silly things.

Some people talk about pixel art like a lesser form, but it's an abstract and minimalist style. You used pixel art for Not a Hero... How do you feel about pixel art in general?

I learned to create pixel art in the week before my interview at Roll7 and got much better at it whilst working on Not a Hero, but don't plan to return to it - I think that outside of a nostalgic choice there should be a good reason to use it. It shouldn't be the go-to for all indies.
I couldn't see 'Papers, Please' or 'Hotline Miami' being so great in any other art style because they use the abstraction that pixel art lends to characters & actions very effectively.
Other than that, I feel that it has no advantage over other techniques, and I've it to be more (unnecessarily) complicated and time consuming than other techniques. Jagged edges make typography look nasty, and since everything has sharp edges it makes the screen busy and hard to lead the eye. I believe that pixel art is a hinderance to design and mostly continues to exist only because audiences are still holding onto nostalgia.

Making all the art for a game can be daunting. What's your work style like? How do you break down tasks and how much of a procrastinator are you?

Looking back at Not a Hero, my work style/work-life balance was just the worst. I'd flop out of bed around 10/11am, sit at my computer working until 3/4am, and perhaps remember to eat. Rinse & repeat 5 days a week with a bit on the weekend sometimes too. It's unhealthy & despite the long hours it's unproductive too. I'm working 9-5 now & it's just lovely.

You were learning to code and working on your own indie game called Hero Time. Are you still working on that? Do you have plans for that still?

I dropped Hero Time since I didn't have time to work on it alongside full-time uni & Not a Hero. Started learning C# and Javascript now so Hero Time's GML would be a step backwards. There's nothing left to learn from that project & I'd much rather move onto newer & more exciting things.

Aside from art and games, what are you into?

I've recently started getting into astronomy / astrophotography, which is a crap thing to be into while living in London where the stars are behind a blanket of muddy orange. Apart from that, I rarely ski & windsurf but enjoy both those things very much. Art is my main hobby outside of 'full-time art' though - I'm always learning a new technique or discipline in my spare time.

What is the greatest thing Bunnylord ever taught you?

If you want the job done

    KILL EVERYONE.

               ❤

he gives shit advice.

We both have a background in web design and photography. They're both technical and creative, just like game development. How has that background carried over into your work now in games?

Having a technical mind as a game artist is very handy as it helps to communicate with other designers and developers - you better understand how your decisions will impact their work & the game. I'd say these skills definitely carried over in that respect.

How were you involved with OlliOlli and OlliOlli2? Did you create the art for those games as well?

Not at all involved in 001. Interviewed & pitched for 002 but got hired for NAH! [Not a Hero]

Being a fan of Elon Musk, what do you hope for the long-term future of spaceX?

Suspense, drama, & eventually success. It's hard to imagine how inspirational being a multi-planetary species could be for future generations - looking up at a light in the sky and KNOWING that there's a civilisation developing on it must be amazing. Imagine all the shitty internet memes Mars culture could produce.

What tips can you give to someone who wants to be a game artist?

In my very specific and indie experience, learn a bit of code and you'll be more desirable in small teams. Practise a variety of techniques - 3D, vector, pixel art, digital painting. Work hard and be persistent. Love what you do, and get involved in the indie community & local meetups.

How can people follow you and your work?

jhollands.co.uk @jhollands_

💘 Interview by Timothy Courtney

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