A couple of weeks ago I sent Mark Hamer this tweet never expecting anything…
But to my surprise I then received this…
@16bitsgames anytime! send me a message with details— Mark Hamer (@m_hamer) 8. Januar 2013
So I couldn’t be happier to present to you with our Exclusive Interview with Mark Hamer, read and enjoy!
Can you tell us who you are and what you do for a living?
My name is Mark Hamer and I’m currently an Art Director at Double Fine Productions.
- When you were young what got you into Art?
I got into art initially through animation. Growing up I loved Disney films and Warner Brothers cartoons. I also liked comics, and later Mad Magazine, and spent a lot of time drawing characters from my favorite movies and stories. The other kids in school labeled me a “good drawer” and I would draw characters for them on request. It got me attention, and became my thing and that’s probably why I stuck with it.
- Was it your dream (and plan) to eventually work in the gaming industry?
No, not really. Ha ha. I studied animation in school, and dreamed of working in film or tv. Even though I had been a rabid gamer as a kid(Donkey Kong, Super Mario Bros), I never really thought about working in the video game industry. When I graduated my first job happened to be working on Gameboy games at a small, local developer. It was super low res, sprite-based animation, but I was working and it was pretty exciting at the time. From there I went to Atari, then LucasArts and eventually Double Fine. Now many years later I’m working with 2d sprite-based animation again for Middle Manager of Justice! I guess everything goes in cycles.
- You’ve been at DoubleFine for many years, I’ve heard its a brilliant place to work. What’s a typical day at the office like?
Yeah I’ve been at Double Fine for 11 years, so it must be fun! It’s a great place for an artist or creative person, you get tons of input into the work you do and really feel an ownership of the final product. Which is not always the case at other companies. We’ve evolved over the years from working on one long project, to working on multiple short projects at once, but the same creative spirit remains and it’s great. In fact these shorter projects give us more opportunity to be creative and to try new things.
A typical day usually starts off with a team standup, where everyone talks about what they’re working on. This is just to identify dependencies and make sure everyone’s on the same page. There may be 1 or 2 other short meetings during the day, usually impromptu brainstorming as needed, but mostly it’s just cranking out the work. Art and animation are sent out for feedback and everyone chimes in. Feedback at a place like Double Fine is great because you’ve got such a talented, creative group of people and it just pushes you to be your best.
- Being the Art Director at DoubleFine I expect you must be best friends with Ron Gilbert, is that true?
Well, I’m not the Art Director at Double Fine, I’m one of a couple working on various projects. But I have worked with Ron a couple times since he’s been here, including doing some concept art for the Cave in its early stages. After working with Tim for so many years, it was interesting to work on a project with a different creative lead. I know Tim pretty well and have a good idea of what he wants creatively, so I had to adjust my process working with Ron. I ended up thinking in new ways and producing some concept art unlike anything else I’ve done at Double Fine. I’m really proud of the concept work I did for the Cave, and the game turned out amazing!
- DoubleFine have a unique way of portraying their characters, is this on purpose or are your artists telepathically linked?
Characters are what Double Fine is all about and we put a lot of love into them. Our games are story and character based, so our character designs come out of what feels right for the story. There’s also a lot of humor in our games, thanks to Tim, so that plays a big role in design. The unique Double Fine aesthetic started with Psychonauts and has carried through over the years. Our characters are our own and we don’t want them to look or feel like anything else. During the design stage Tim always pushes the artists to go one step further and to think outside the norm. Those crazy ideas that you think up and say “no way!” are usually the ones that stick. It also helps that everyone at Double Fine gets along really well creatively, so we probably are telepathically linked in that way.
- Recently DoubleFine released Middle Manager of Justice for iOS, it’s a brilliant game! Where did the idea come from?
I’m glad you liked Middle Manager of Justice! The idea originally came out of Amnesia Fortnight, and is the brainchild of project lead Kee Chi. Kee is a big comic book and superhero fan, and that love of the source material really comes through in the finished game. It’s been a great experience working on this project, with such a small team it’s been the most creative freedom I’ve ever had working on a game. We really tried to push ourselves to not do the expected things with the material, and to give the player the most entertaining experience possible. We wanted to put our own, Double Fine stamp on the world of superheroes and I feel like we succeeded.
I should mention that we’ve been very lucky to have Steven Dengler and Dracogen as our amazing partner in making this game. He funded the project and gave us complete creative freedom. We couldn’t have done it without him!
- When looking through your résumé you’ve worked on some titles which many people still love today, but what was your favourite?
It’s a great feeling to work on something that people still enjoy years later. My favorite project is probably Grim Fandango. It’s a funny game, the idea is inspired and it’s amazing to look at even after all these years. I also have very fond memories of the production – it was my first big game at LucasArts, my first time working with Tim, and my first real experience working with the amazing artists at LEC at the time. That experience inspired me to study fine arts and to focus my career on art rather than animation.
- When designing a character what comes first in your eyes? Do you find someone with a voice or just start doodling?
Usually a character has to feel right for the story and also has to feel “Double Finey” – a conscious attempt to push the limits and be creative. This goes back to Double Fine’s unique way of portraying things. As to process, I usually start out doodling, but in a specific direction and with a vague idea in mind. I keep lots of reference and inspiration available to help the process and to inspire me. It also helps to bounce ideas off other artists and get their take on it. I have a pretty good idea of what Tim likes and know that if I can make him or my coworkers laugh with an idea then it’s probably a good one.
- Outside of the gaming world what other hobbies do you get up? I’ve heard you fly kites…
Ah, I see you’ve been reading my website! Yes, I do fly an occasional kite, especially now that I have a daughter to fly them with. My hobby is painting, which I do whenever time and energy permit. I’ve had a few solo shows and have been involved in some group shows from time to time. I’m going to be in a Hanna Barbera themed group show in a few months, so keep a look out for that! I also dabble in comics, and have a comic called Polaroids on the Double Fine website. It’s been on hiatus for a while, but may start up again very soon!
- Are you a console gamer? Or a PC gamer? And what game are you currently playing?
I mainly check out games for reference at work, to see what other companies are doing and what art styles are out there. I’m a big fan of games with a unique look(Little Big Planet, Limbo, Journey, etc.), and love to see something new. I also like games with a good story(not surprisingly) and am a fan of Telltale Games in San Rafael, home to many other LucasArts alums.
At home I’m a console gamer, playing games mostly these days with my daughter. For that reason I end up playing adventure games and family friendly titles mostly. She is a big fan of the Lego adventure games from Traveller’s Tales, so right now we’re playing through the Harry Potter Lego game. I gotta say those games are really fun!
- I have to ask even though you may not be allowed to say, but what’s next?
Good question! Yeah, I can’t really tell you what’s next, because I don’t know! Ha ha. Like I said Double Fine has grown and evolved quite a bit over the years. All I can tell you is to expect the unexpected and stay tuned!
- Who is your most memorable character you’d helped design?
I love to design characters and really enjoy the pre-production phase on projects. The design phase of Brutal Legend was especially fun – with so many characters to design we spent tons of time just sitting in a room brainstorming crazy characters. That was my first real experience as a concept artist and the sky was really the limit! I designed the Alice Cooper babies and their creepy baby carriages for that, plus some other demonic characters that were a lot of fun. Middle manager of justice has been the biggest project for me in terms of character design, I got to design all the characters to match the world and am really happy with how they turned out.
- Would you like to see a new Grim Fandango?
Sure, I would love to see another Grim Fandango! The world of Grim Fandango is so rich, there’s tons of material for a sequel. There also seem to be a lot of fans out there that would like to see it too. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.
- Would you like to be part of making a new Grim Fandango?
Yes, if a new Grim Fandango is made I would hope to be part of the production.
Time to End…
- If people want to stay uptodate or learn even more about you they can check your website out, are there any other ways?
Yes, my website is www.markhamer.com and people can also follow me on tumblr at <ahref=”http: markhamer.tumblr.com=”" “=”">http://markhamer.tumblr.com/ for more up to date information and announcements.
-Is there anything you’d like to say? Anything you’d like to plug?
Thanks to everyone for playing our games and keep on supporting independent developers like Double Fine! Here’s a link if you’d like to check out Middle Manager of Justice:
We want to thank Mark for taking the time to answer some questions, if you ever want to pass our name to Tim or Ron than please do…
———————-Competition is now Closed… Follow us on Twitter so you don’t miss our next one!———————-
Competition Time! To celebrate our interview we’ve got a copy of The Cave for PC (via Steam) to give away. To enter you must…
- Firstly let us us know your SuperHero name in a comment below, I’ve heard a middle manager is hiring…
- Follow us on twitter <ahref=”http: www.twitter.com=”" <span=”" class=”hiddenSpellError” pre=”">16bitsgames”>@16bitsgames and tweet the following message (extra entry if you’ve left comment below) -
I’m not scared of no Cave!!! So I’ve entered @16bitsgames comp to enter one! Details here – http://www.16bits.co.uk/int-mark-hamer/ #TheCave
The competition will end on the 15th Feb ( Next Friday) at 9pm GMT so get your entry in early! And remember to give Middle Manager of Justice ago, it’s a great game full of gameplay which will make you smile…… which reminds I need to put my Super Heroes to work…. Where’s that whip???