Robh Ruppel – Google SketchUp in Game Design

Robh-spotlightRobh Ruppel – Google SketchUp in Game Design


This week,  SketchUpArtists wanted to do a special on someone who has delighted many with his artwork and excelled in his career. So we are honored to present in our spotlight section this week, Robh Ruppel (apparently a big fan of SketchUpArtists) who works in Art Direction and Visual Development at Naughty Dog, a premier video game development studio located in Santa Monica, California. Robh is a highly skilled, 2D/3D professional with many years experience in using digital and traditional media. Robh worked as Art Director and Production Designer for Disney Feature Animation for nearly 12 years. He has extensive knowledge in the digital/traditional arts includes visual development, layout design, character design, set design, game production art, product design and landscape painting. He also works as one of the many talented instructors at Gnomon School of Visual Effects. It would take us too long elaborate on all of Rob’s achievements but we would like to mention a few of his biggest credits/projects:

Robh collected the coveted ‘Game of the Year’ Interactive Game Award for Uncharted 2: Among Thieves at the Moscone Center in San Francisco early in 2010, on behalf of his team who worked on the game and as Art Director working at Naughty Dog.


Uncharted 2 - The Game (Uncharted 3 now released)

The most interesting fact and actually the thing that caught our eye initially was the fact that Robh uses Google SketchUp extensively in his work. We talked to Robh about his work and his reason for choosing SketchUp as his primary modeling tool. This is what Robh told us….

I am trained as an industrial designer. In school I learned the real value of working in 3D. One of my instructors had us make simple sketch models from paper, foam and cardboard. The benefit was seeing or designing the main masses and experimenting quickly with different  proportions , radius’s and curves.  Just as in a 2D sketch you can try out several solutions,’ sketching’ in 3D was a way to design the form. I love drawing but I could see that design needed to be thought of in the round, as it were. So when one of my roommates in college had an early version of CAD,  I
got to play around with it and thought, “this would be so great to block out complex designs and perspectives”. Computers and software weren’t nearly as available as today so it was awhile before it became a main stream design tool. I heard an interview with Ron Cobb talking about his first experiences with 3 D and he had similar things to say.
It was a great way to work out a perspective on something and then move around to find the best view.
I started experimenting with 3D using programs like Bryce and moving up into Maya and Lightwave. The latter two being exceptional packages but also more than was needed for simply sketching out ideas in 3D.

The first time I saw SketchUp was at Ravensoft. I was visiting and they were showing me some of the things they were building for the game using SketchUp.  I also teach at the Art Center and my students were starting to use it for their block ins.  Leave it to students to discover what’s simple and useful. So I downloaded it and began yet another learning curve with yet another program. I quickly discovered how simple and powerful it was. It’s not going to replace the high end packages anytime soon but it has lots of hidden power and features and extremely simple to model and design forms in. My favorite program by far for what I’m doing.

What I do is use it to block out scenes and develop shape vernacular in my job. On Uncharted 2 I used it extensively to plan out designs. For me it’s a fast way to solve the problems the game designers are going to encounter because as great as drawing is, you can totally cheat it. If you build out a design in 3D you have those real dimensions as limitations so it’s a great way to start making useful decisions and designing shapes that can used by the designers in game right away.

Here below are some publicly unseen unique SketchUp sample scenes that were used in the early development stages in the making of Uncharted 2.


SketchUp in The Making of Uncharted 2


SketchUp in The Making of Uncharted 2


SketchUp in The Making of Uncharted 2


SketchUp in The Making of Uncharted 2


SketchUp in The Making of Uncharted 2


SketchUp in The Making of Uncharted 2


SketchUp in The Making of Uncharted 2


SketchUp in The Making of Uncharted 2


SketchUp in The Making of Uncharted 2


SketchUp in The Making of Uncharted 2


SketchUp in The Making of Uncharted 2


SketchUp in The Making of Uncharted 2


SketchUp in The Making of Uncharted 2


SketchUp in The Making of Uncharted 2

Uncharted 2 – The Game
And here are a few stills from the game itself.


Uncharted 2 Among Thieves - Screen Capture from the Game


Uncharted 2 Among Thieves - Screen Capture from the Game


Uncharted 2 Among Thieves - Screen Capture from the Game

SketchUpArtists managed to grab a quick interview with Robh as well.

Could you tell us a bit about  the work you are doing at the moment ?
I’m currently Art Director at Naughty Dog.

Why the choice of SketchUp as your primary modeling application?
So simple and so fast.

Of your professional and personal work, could you tell us which piece of work you are most proud of and why?
Uncharted 2 certainly has garnered a lot of awards and accolades.

What other software, hardware and techniques do you use?
A lot of Photoshop. SketchUp is my design tool but Photoshop is where I paint everything.

If you could give one piece of advice to professionals in our industry
what would it be?

Don’t be afraid of working hard. Their are NO short cuts to mastering something.

For new artists coming into this industry what advice would you give them?
Probably the same advise.

What projects are you working on now?

Who has influenced your rendering style the most?
Nature. I’am constantly trying to reach the same level of sophistication I see with my eyes.

What work do you find the most rewarding to do?
When I finish a piece and I say to myself, “how did I do that?”

Finally here is a sample of Robh’s amazing work……Makes you wonder “how did he do that?”.


Robh Ruppel - The Works


Robh Ruppel - The Works


Robh Ruppel - The Works


Robh Ruppel - The Works


Robh Ruppel - The Works


Robh Ruppel - The Works


Gate and Tower Design - Uncharted 2


Robh Ruppel - The Works


Robh Ruppel - The Works


Robh Ruppel - The Works


Robh Ruppel - The Works


Robh Ruppel - The Works


Robh Ruppel - The Works


Robh Ruppel - The Works


Robh Ruppel - The Works


Robh Ruppel - The Works


Robh Ruppel - The Works


Robh Ruppel - The Works


Robh Ruppel - The Works


Robh Ruppel - The Works


Robh Ruppel - The Works


Robh Ruppel - The Works


Robh Ruppel - The Works

And a final tip Robh would like to share –

The best part about SketchUp Pro is I can save out all my designs as an .obj file and the modelers, designers and other 3D artists can use it directly. I get the benefit of modeling quickly and trying out several different shapes and proportions and then being able to pass that along to the rest of the team. I could build it all in Maya but I can work and model so much faster in SketchUp.


Related Links:

Robh Ruppel
Naughty Dog
The Art of Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
Uncharted 2 wins like everything at Interactive Achievement Awards
Uncharted 2 Takes Game Developers Choice Awards By Storm
GCSociety – Uncharted 2 Feature
Making of Steampunk Village – Tutorial
Making of Space Opera – Tutorial
Uncharted3 Drake’s Deception (Release date end of 2011)

13 Responses to “Robh Ruppel – Google SketchUp in Game Design”

  1. Coen Naninck on June 30th, 2010 2:00 pm

    Wow.. fantastic work and interview!

  2. majid on July 12th, 2010 4:53 pm

    amazing and verrry artistic job, thanx for interviw

  3. Liam Keating on September 5th, 2010 2:22 am

    Wow great work its a real inspiration to see sketchup used in this way.

  4. gopal shah on September 22nd, 2010 2:44 am

    great article!

  5. Ken Nguyen on October 25th, 2010 6:24 am

    Very awesome and inspiring works, Mr. Ruppel. It’s nice to see that Sketchup is getting very popular with Artists in film and game industries.



  6. Paul Hellard on February 18th, 2011 1:07 am
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  8. 66 on February 18th, 2011 1:32 pm

    great job!
    waiting for more interview like this :-)
    also tutorial in this field…

  9. Olav Schneider on February 25th, 2011 5:44 pm

    How interesting, I was always amazed why Sketchup wasn’t used in the gaming industry, and here they do it.
    I’ve been building architectural concept designs with Sketchup for the last 4 years.
    Before I used 3D Max and AutoCAD, since I use Sketchup I can whip out building design concepts at the speed of thought, literally.
    To me Sketchup has replaced pen and paper, once you go deeper into Sketchup you will experience a creative boost.
    On a later project I used Unity in conjunction with Sketchup, what a great set of tools.

  10. Sid Porobic (SEPO) on May 27th, 2011 12:59 pm

    Fantastic work …just amazing

  11. Lista de referencia de programas y recursos sobre programación de videojuegos para principiantes | on October 27th, 2011 9:02 am

    […] Bocetos: Papel, lápiz, rotuladores, paint,, Photoshop, Gimp (gratis), Google sketchUp (3D). […]

  12. Robh Ruppel – Google SketchUp in Game Design :: SketchUp 3D Rendering Tutorials by SketchUpArtists | inno3dweb 신규 사이트 on March 21st, 2013 11:47 pm

    […] This entry was posted in 02.3D_Tools, Game by inno3dweb. Bookmark the permalink. […]

  13. tyrone white on February 4th, 2015 1:05 am

    mad work mate

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