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Interview with Dan Paladin

By Tiffany Smith | Published Sep 22 2010 04:31 AM in Business

game behemoth work people way dan theater started battleblock
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About Dan Paladin

Dan Paladin is an Artist, Art Director and co-founder of The Behemoth. Dan and the rest of the Behemoth crew are responsible for bringing us award winning titles, Alien Hominid HD and Castle
Crashers, both available on XBLA. Currently, Dan is focusing his attention on the company's latest game, BattleBlock Theater.

About The Behemoth

The Behemoth is a video game development company located in San Diego California. The Behemoth was founded in 2003 by Artist, Dan Paladin and Programmer, Tom
Fulp.

About BattleBlock Theater

BattleBlock Theater is the 3rd game produced by The Behemoth. A mysterious character has kidnapped the player’s friends and the onus is on the
player to rescue them.

Interview with Dan Paladin

How old were you when you first started drawing?


I always enjoyed drawing as far back as I can remember. I really loved drawing creatures or monsters the most, or fake catalogs for crazy murder-tools like steamrollers with spikes attached to the
roller.




Can you tell us a little bit about how you got started in
the games industry?


I chose to do what I do because I wanted to make people happy. I originally started animating because I wanted to make films. I came to the conclusion that films could only really be experienced
one static way and I didn't like that. I wanted my work to be able to take on a new life every time someone sat down with it so I went towards games!




Who would win in a fight, a pig or a rooster?


I'd imagine that they both have a completely equal chance of winning if they choose the proper strategies.




You have a very unique style to your artwork, what has
been your biggest influence?


Thank you! The way I draw has come to be through a combination of impatience, my highschool art teacher, Mark Kistler, my parents, love for simplicity, and practice.




What tools do you use?


I'm currently using a wacom intuos4, and was previously using a wacom intuos3 6x8" tablet. I draw using macromedia flash MX. Nothing other than that.




I heard a rumor that you can walk on water, does that make
surfing easier?


I drown in water but I can climb rocks.




How do you approach creating a new character and what is
the process you follow?


I like to think of a character that has cool abilities and then I create a world around them. I never give all that much thought, especially in terms of a how-to way of explaining it. I enter a
bit of a trance when I am drawing, I turn my brain off, or I'm just totally unaware of what I'm actually doing. Sorry :(




What does your art pipeline look like, from creation to
game?


If it is the very beginning, it is usually a sketch, then a first pass animation that I usually throw out later, and then the final animation. If it is later in the game after I've established the
aesthetic it is generally just a single shot to the finished piece.




What advice would you give to aspiring game artists?


Practice! You can only go one way with practice and that way is up. Please don't shrug that advice off as practice is the only thing that is going to get you to being employable. Learning
something is extremely important but DOING is what you must do to get ahead. Hands-on experience as often as possible. Find games to modify with a couple other people as you will be emulating game
development directly.


If you aren't passionate about what you're going into, if you aren't thinking about that job often just because, then I'd recommend reconsidering what you are getting yourself into. Making games
is extremely fun IF you have the passion to be doing it. If you don't have that passion then it will be very difficult and you will be miserable.


Realize that the work you will be doing will probably be owned by a company. They are paying you for your time and in exchange they are owning your work. It sounds pretty depressing but it isn't
all that terrible; What does owning your work really do for you? Your name is still on it and you still get recognition for your work. If you are making something that will be seen by thousands and
make those thousands of people happy, it really did alright in the company's hands anyway. If you go into a creative job understanding this upfront, life will be much easier for you. I had made the
mistake of not realizing this out the gate and getting flustered because of it. Once I started working in a different mindset everything was great.


Stay positive! Always find a positive way out of problems, and always try to be positive about your projects. It will get you far.




When they allow human cloning (it can't be far off, can
it?) can I clone you and then keep your clone in my closet to churn out artwork on demand?


I am pretty sure my clone would be unhappy. It has to be happy in order to create something worthwhile, so it would be a waste. If you fed it peanutbutter bagels or something and let it go outside
sometimes it might work.




I heard that your company, The Behemoth has a very unique
work structure with flexible working hours and relaxed working conditions. Is this true and if so how does it work out?


It's true. The environment is extremely loose and creative. Anyone can speak up with ideas and be heard. The way we have things would make most managers cringe at the idea, I think. But people
that work here can worry more about what makes something cool than what time they came in. There are no set hours - which seems to end up creating a lot more voluntary overtime as a nice side
effect.


We meet every week and talk about our goals for that week, so we always know what everyone is up to while allowing room for a couple random idea days that take the projects much further.


Everyone at the behemoth has come from production backgrounds. Artists and programmers making an environment that they would have wanted for themselves at previous places. It works beautifully,
although any plan isn't without its quirks.




What do you look for in potential employees at
Behemoth?


Being able to wear more than 1 hat, and self motivation. We ask that you manage yourself and spot holes in the project on your own while being able to fill more than a single role.


It's hard to find the right people, but I think that is because a lot of people don't realize what they are truly capable of so they never seem to apply. If you would have asked me if I could have
done what I do before I did it I would probably be extremely skeptical about that.. but I've learned if you just take your workload one day at a time you will surprise yourself.




Can you tell us a little bit about your latest project,
Game 3?


The formerly known Game 3 is now known as BattleBlock Theater.


The spark started with the PDA mini-game from Alien Hominid. There was this little stick figure that would jump all over the place and go from one point to another. We found that lots of people
were having a BLAST with it. If someone in the group didn't make it through the level, they'd have to go through alone and everyone would tease that person as they made attempts to finish. It was
this atmosphere that really got people sucked into a world that was made of blocks. That cooperative-yet-competitive atmosphere is what we were going for when we started working on BattleBlock
Theater, and it has taken on a whole new universe of its own.


We couldn't just be like “hey here's some atmosphere” so we thought about many different themes and stories. We finally came up with one that is more elaborate than anything we've ever
done. It involves friendship, betrayal, a theater, gems, an island, a jail, and cats. All the best and worst things in life to make a perfect mix.


The gameplay itself has a lot of depth. Each action itself is simple but everything together can end up being complex. The game can always be easily understood because everything's root is simple
but the end result of things you can do gets sophisticated.




Interview originally conducted in April of 2010. Interview was delayed in posting by the ineptitude of a certain editor in chief who will go unnamed. Oh wait, there's only one.
/facepalm
- Gaiiden








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