Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Art of the Furon: An Interview with Artist Bryan Lee


Destroy All Humans is back.  Twelve years after Path of the Furon's release, the series returned via a remake of the 2005 game.  The remake has been a success, showing us that anal probing never goes out of style.  With Destroy All Humans in public eye, I figured it would be time to accomplish something I never did before: chronicle the series' history.  Destroy All Humans has an interesting yet untapped history.  While information on the first two games is plentiful, not much is known about the making of Big Willy Unleashed or Path of the Furon.  Through the power of e-mail, I reached out to Bryan Lee, whose first major industry job was working as a concept artist on Path of the Furon.

Bryan Lee was hired by Sandblast, then known as Cranky Pants Games, and tasked with creating artwork to flesh out the world of Path of the Furon, including designs for the Nexos, the civilians, and more.  Lee has fond memories of his time on the project, though working on the game showed him the good and bad sides of the gaming industry.  At the end of the day, he's proud of his work.  Like many others at Sandblast, Lee was laid off, but the boss of Sandblast helped him, and other employees find work.  Bryan Lee now lives in China with his fiancé and teaches art via an online program.

This is the first of what I hope becomes a recurring series where I interview those involved with the making of the Destroy All Humans games.  Whether they were programmers, designers, artists, or voice actors, my goal is to gain insight into the games came to be.  Destroy All Humans is one of my favorite franchises, and to be able to explore its history is an opportunity I wouldn't want to pass up.  I want to thank Bryan Lee for taking the time to answer these questions.  Without further ado, here's the interview.

1. What inspired you to become an artist?
I've always liked drawing.  "TMNT" and "Dragon Ball" is what got me started.  It wasn't until I got into middle school and high school that I took drawing more seriously.  Seeing art by Scott Campbell, Arthur Adams, Jim Lee, Joe Mad, JC Leyendecker, and Norman Rockwell (thank you "Hometown Buffet") really inspired me to get serious about art, which led me to teachers like Steve Huston, Mark Westmore, and Kevin Chen.

2. How did you get involved with Path of the Furon?
I was hired by Sandblast (at the time Cranky Pants Games), my last term at Art Center back in '06.  I remember flying to Washington for the interview and loving the studio and overall vibe of the place.

Artwork of Crypto using the Ion Detonator and Extract.

3. As a concept artist, what was the job like?  Did the artists frequently collaborate with the other staff at Sandblast?
The job was immensely fun!  I got to work with a lot of talented and dedicated people, and still miss all the epic Nerf wars.  Yeah, we had Nerf wars.  I feel the team worked well together and all kind of hung out.  We worked pretty well together even at things that were not work related.

I remember when we all got together to push each other's car up our parking lot hill in the snow so that everyone in the studio could go home.  Plus, there were some really fun team building exercises after a hard grind like whirly ball.  It involves bumper cars, scoops, a ball, and a basketball court.

4. What was the general mood at Sandblast while working on the game?
The mood was generally good from what I remember.  I'm sure there was drama here and there but what office doesn't?

5. Do you recall anything interesting that ended up on the cutting room floor?
There was a lot, but some stuff that never made it in the game I never really understood, like if humans can drive cars, why can't Crypto do the same when he possesses someone?  Our combat designer had really cool ideas for boss fights.  One of the issues was that you can beat the whole game by just shooting the disintegrator, making the other weapons feel like novelties and unnecessary.

I remember the combat designer wanted to go the Zelda route where each new weapon would be used on a boss, and a mission leading up to the boss fight would help the player familiarize themselves with said weapon.  Just like the "Zelda" games.  Sadly, that never really happened.

6. Any funny stories regarding glitches or bugs found?
Oh man.  The game was so much more fun with the glitches.  I remember one particular glitch where if you shot someone with the anal probe, wait for them to run, freeze time, and press the button to pop off their head, and then unfreeze time, we would see the civilian's head do like a "Tron" speed thing, that's the best way to explain it.  You know how a bike in "Tron" leaves a wall of color that eventually fades?  That's what would happen.

PK grab was so much more fun when it was overpowered, it was like playing "Katamari Damacy" but it killed the already finicky frame rate.  Honestly, there's too many.  I know the game did not do well, but I wonder if the glitchy version would have done a lot better.  I'd buy it.  I'd spend hours after work laughing my ass off at the glitches in the game and trying to duplicate them.  I remember somehow playing as Crypto's rocket pack and using the spaceship to blow up the whole level.  Seriously, the game was so much fun with glitches.

Concept art of Orthopox-14.

7. How long were you attached to the project?
I think I was on the game for about a year and some change?  When I was brought on, they were trying to figure out the look of the Nexo, which was fun to design.  I got to design the other Furons, a bunch of NPCs, bosses and even created the Furon alphabet.  I believe one of the artists wrote messages on anything that had Furon writing.  No idea what he wrote though.

8. There was a PS3 version planned that never released in America (e.d. It did release in Europe and Australia in early 2009).  Do you remember anything about that?
Yeah.  If I remember correctly, there were too many issues, it simply could not be released.  The game was made for the Xbox 360.  All the builds I played were on the Xbox 360, and I never got to see a PS3 build.  I know it was confusing for the fans, especially with the Wii version, "Big Willy Unleashed."  So sad because there was so much potential for "Path of the Furon."  I wonder what the game would be like if instead of making a separate Wii game, all the resources were directed at the Xbox 360 and PS3.

9. Was there ever talk of a "Destroy all Humans 4?"
There were definitely talks about it, and the concept team was excited about it because we were playing with the idea and what it would be like.  There was so much to work with from that decade.  We also discussed having the style be completely cartoony, since "Path of the Furon" was in the middle with cartoony or real (maybe leaning more towards cartoony I guess?).

I personally thought the references we could make in an 80s "Destroy All Humans" would be more well received and more relatable.  I always felt that some of the 70s references in "Path of the Furon" were a little esoteric and didn't know when it was supposed to be funny as there were only a couple of people laughing when the team would watch cut-scenes in meetings and the jokes/references had to be explained.

10. Looking back, what's your big takeaway from your time on the project?
I don't want to go on a rant.  I'll simply say it was an eye-opening experience, and I got to see the good and bad side of the industry.  Biggest take away is that artists have to stick together.

Concept art for alternate skins.

11. What did you end up doing after "Path of the Furon?"
We all got laid off.  Luckily, our boss asked game companies near us if they were hiring and a lot of us got scouted.  I worked in gaming for a few more years before branching off into some movie concept.  I was very fortunate to have tried my hand at many disciplines in concept, like toy design, story-boarding, amusement park design, movie poster design, basically anything that involved drawing and painting.  I found my passion in teaching and have been freelancing and teaching ever since.  Recently, I started an online art school in China with my fiancé.

All artwork shown was provided by Bryan Lee.

No comments:

Post a Comment