Robh Ruppel – Google SketchUp in Game Design
Robh 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:
- Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception – Art Director (New Release) see more here.
- Uncharted 2: Among Thieves – Art Director (most critically acclaimed game of 2009 and as of February 2010, the game has sold over 3.5 million copies worldwide, becoming the fastest selling first-party title on any PlayStation platform).
- “Meet the Robinsons” – Art Director
- “Brother Bear” – Art Director
- “Treasure Planet” – Additional Visual Development
- “Atlantis: The Lost Empire” – Character Designer
- “Tarzan” – Additional Background Artist
- “Mulan” Visual Development
- “Emperors New Groove” – Layout Stylist
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.
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.
Uncharted 2 – The Game
And here are a few stills from the game itself.
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?”.
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.
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)