VFX Serbia is introducing Paolo Daolio, art director from Silent Bay Studios, Italy.
– What was your first job out of college?
Well, my journey at the University was a bit complicated mainly because in that period I was attracted more by computers and videogames rather than books and study! That meant I began to work during my study instead of waiting for the graduation; it took me 10 years to complete my exams, but at the end I got 2 graduations (both in Computer Science) and the work of my life.
So, my first job was at Trecision, a small video game company located near my city, Genoa. I was hired as animator and I helped them with the PC adventure game called “Nightlong: Union City Conspiracy”; the publisher was the well known Team17. It was a great experience and even if we were in a quite small team, I had the possibility to work with talented people like Tiziano Sardone (now Lead Programmer at Ubisoft Studios (Milan) and Christian Cantamessa, Creator and Lead designer of Red Dead Redemption – Rockstar, now freelancer).
– How did you get into the game design industry and what was the first game you worked on?
Consider that we were in the fabulous 1990, years in which computer graphics meant pixels, painter, anti aliasing and nothing more. I still remember the first time I saw 3D Studio (DOS version) … a friend of mine showed to me how create a red sphere: I was petrified. BHAM!!! That sphere was enough for me and in a few weeks, thanks to my family, I got 3DStudio and a new computer: an Intel 486 (my old Intel 386 wasn’t enough because it hadn’t a Math co-processor and 3D Studio needed it!).
During my study, I was also lucky to meet a nice group of guys involved in computer science and in the 1994, we set up the demo group called JapoTek. We created real time demos and took part to various demo parties scattered around the Europe; it was exactly in that period that I understood my destiny: create video games!
– Can you tell us about Silent Bay Studios?
Silent Bay Studios was founder in 2004/2005, thanks to me and my other 3 workmates; the curious name originates from the location in which we started our adventure, really close to the amazing beach called Silent Bay, indeed.
We decided to work on 3D Web games and it was a winning choice: in the period we began, almost all the web games were made in Flash and when we published our first 3D games made in Shockwave technology, all the games portals run immediately to contact us, asking for 3D games. We did a little miracle, publishing 3D games in very short time, respecting deadlines and keeping low the size of the products: one of the our first 3D game, called Oversize and published by Shockwave.com, was about 1,2 megabyte! Our production raises up during the years, passing from 12 games per year to 50+ games per year; at the moment, I don’t know the exact number of games we did since the beginning, but I’m pretty sure that this number is more than 300. We never had a marketing department and the customers call us just because they see some our games on the internet; that’s amazing and we’re really proud about that: the quality of our games does matter.
Now, new technologies are coming up with Unity3D and the astonishing arise of the smartphone games market are granting us years of new challenges and hard work, not bad indeed!
– Your studio developed several games for Disney/Pixar, how would you describe working with such a big client?
Thanks to our customers (game portals) but also to the quality of our products, Disney contacted us long time ago and even if I can’t reveal for which brand we worked (’cause of legal stuff), I can surely speak about how is to work with this “titan” !
The first project we did for Disney was challenging. I mean, after the first initial excitement we realized who we’re working for … and it was panic!! I remember days and days on design document and long discussion about features, copyright stuff and providing assets issues. The most incredible thing, imho, is that Disney ask you for a game on a brand (typically connected to a coming soon movie), but first they reveal you nothing about the movie and second they don’t give you assets cause risk of piracy. That sounds odd the first time my account manager told me, but in the end I understood their hard position and we solved everything thanks to our artists.
After the first product, they’re so happy about us for the quality of the game we produced and for the respecting of the scheduling that the reinforcement of our relationship was natural; then we made (and currently we’re making) several web games for them obtaining always very good results.
About Pixar … well … the dream of every artist on the planet earth is to work with them in some way … and we did! It happened that an email labeled @pixar.com arrived to our mail server and there was a party! Moreover, we had the possibility to speak with them in phone conference to discuss about design and it was great! Unforgettable!
– Tell us about Rail Rush.
Rail Rush is our baby or better, our first-born!
It is our first smartphone game and it was born the 12th of September 2012, on the AppStore; in addition to the iOS version, we released at the same time the Android version and the web one. It was a tough work, mainly because we dealt with the mobile world for the first time in our life and on all the devices (iOS and Android).
To make a mobile game is a tough task because the game never dies and your judges are the players of all the world, from east to west. That’s why we already did several updates and we’re currently planning the next ones now.
– What was the greatest obstacle you faced while making this game? What are you most proud of about the game?
As I said before, our great obstacle was technological matter; it was our first game we had to face a lot of problems with the code, optimization of 3D assets and interfaces; moreover, from a design point of view, it was a stressful journey always fighting against what we would liked to add in the game and what time and costs allowed us.
We’re really proud about the reviews! People liked and currently like it and our rating is almost 5 stars, even if we have thousands of reviews. I think we successfully accomplished our main purpose: make the game fast to play and easy to enjoy. This is Rail Rush.
– During your career, you advanced from character animator to creative director. How did this change affect your work in video games?
It was a big change, indeed, because I passed from making animations to lead the creative team. First of all, the day by day is really changed because now I’ve to control and check the quality of almost all the work, instead of doing work. Apart from the QA job, now my work day focuses on keeping high the quality of our products, respecting the time and costs of course, otherwise it would be too easy.
I lost the possibility to make art, but I’ve the possibility to study the market from the top and try to guide my guys in best way, in order to satisfy the final user needs, that evolve constantly.
– What skills are most important for a video game designer?
A million dollars question!
Imho, there are two valuable things to keep in mind if you want to face the video games world better: the first one is that a good designer must let go of the bone! To defend your work against every critics is not a good idea; a good game designer has to manage suggestions and feedback with calm and wisdom, even if blood is boiling in his veins. Then, since the market is evolving everyday it’s a must to take care about that and try to follow the raise of new devices, new OS and, mainly, new user habits.
– Can you tell us more about gaming industry in Italy?
Game industry in Italy is a bit strange because though it’s clear that there aren’t big companies and the crisis is strangling us, I guess there are a lot of micro teams under the ash; I feel there are the willpower and talent to reach nice results and thanks to the new markets, something could happen in the near future. I’m confident about that!
– What would be your advice for the young artists who would like to join the gaming industry?
I’m not a guru at all, but I can suggest a simple thing: if you want to deal with video game job, try to consider it a real job and not a nice monthly trip! To create a little video game or a big one is the same, you need art and programming skills, but you also need the most important skills: organization, administrative awareness and financial competence! Without that, one day, putting the hand into your drawer, you’ll discover that it’s empty and your dream is over.