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Friday, April 1, 2011

An Interview with Artist Rebecca: Mafia Wars Developer

Kicking off our new Mafia Wars Fan Page Exclusive Developer Diary is an interview with Senior Artist, Rebecca. Rebecca has a love of the natural world and a fascination with its intricacies has always been integral in Rebecca's work. Her career as a professional illustrator has honed her abilities to capture nature's light, shape and forms; whether it be in expansive vistas or the delicate minutia of an insect's wing. Rebecca's love of the Natural Sciences led her to a career first in traditional Scientific Illustration and later, as technologies evolved, to high end 3D computer art and animation and a successful career as a computer illustrator and animator.

Hi, Rebecca! Tell us about what you do at Zynga.

I am Senior Artist for the Mafia Wars team, designing and creating the art assets for Mafia Wars. At times I'm also "borrowed" for whatever project needs some art TLC, especially Special Forces. I tend to run around with a fire extinguisher, lending a helping hand wherever there's chaos.

Chaos? At Zynga? Never! So, what does all that really mean?

I create all of those spiffy weapons, loot, and other neat toys of destruction that you see in your inventories, jobs, and other delightful distractions.

Do you have a favorite piece (or pieces) that you’ve done for Mafia Wars or any other Zynga game?

Well, that’s a tricky one… For Mafia Wars, I guess I would have to say the white tigers! C’mon, who WOULDN’T want to have a pair of giant furry bodyguards? Who’s going to argue with you when you’ve got a tiger sitting at your feet, and one with its head on your shoulder, STARING at the guy talking?
One of the fun things about Mafia Wars is that I’m essentially making collections for “me”! Shiny polished weapons of all kinds…. Sparkling jewels and cool nurnies…. Killer pets (no pun intended)… Who wouldn’t enjoy creating that sort of stuff all day?

When you were growing up, what did you want to become in life?

Believe it or not, a SCIENTIST! I loved all aspects of nature, from bugs 'n critters to astronomy and physics. To me, my chemistry and physics classes were ways to play and make magic happen in "real life". When I found out that illustration would let me be a part of those worlds, to be the "behind the scene" person at museums, I was hooked.

Do you have a tattoo? Where is it located, and what does it stand for?

LOL -- nope. I can't think of any particular image that I would LIKE well enough to want to wear it for decades at a time... Now, if I could have something that lasted, say, 6 months or a year and then either have it renewed or change it for something completely different.... THEN maybe. ;)

If you could go back in time and meet yourself as a 12 year old kid, what advice would you give him/her?

Explore more. ...I was terribly shy, and spent most of my growing up trying to figure out what I was "supposed" to do instead of actually "doing".

And what about advice for aspiring artists?

Get a good solid background in traditional REALISTIC art. Learn to draw, to see light and shadow, to see the big shapes that make up things. Observe animals of all kinds, and learn the STRUCTURE beneath the surface. When you’re learning to animate, start with stick figures. Yep, little skinny guys created from lines. If you do that, you’re focusing on movement, structure. If the stick guy is believable, then you have a base to start on. If he doesn’t move right, then no amount of perfect drawing over him will ever make him “real.” When I get my students (I also teach traditional art) to focus on learning to “see”, then it’s like the flood gates open.

Do you have any pets?

LOL Hooboy, what HAVEN’T I had is a better question… But right now, my focus is on our dogs. Nice alien dogs… There’s Bugg, our Mafia mascot. She’s a 6 lb Chiworgiesomthingorother who wears a diaper. I found her at the Animal Shelter with a crushed pelvis and decided she deserved a chance. She healed, but nerve damage is still there, hence the diaper. She was small as a Bug, cute as a bug… and SQUASHED like a bug… hence Bugg. She’s a nutcase, never standing still (just ask anyone who’s tried to take a picture of her), but absolutely silent. Yup, an alien lives under my desk. Then there’s Uuki, my giant hairless Peruvian version of Anubis –who is a 45 lb Velocipuppy. (That’s what you get when you cross a velociraptor with a puppy, for the slow ones in the group.) She’s another alien -- feels like a porpoise, runs like the wind, and blows bubbles in water. Aside from her nekedness, she has an unusual custom… Ok, most young dogs like to destroy their toys… but how many of them then KEEP all the little pieces as NEW toys in themselves? For example, she’s had a toy “hand” for months, 1” big, that she thinks is special. But her absolute favorites are the dismembered squeakers from inside the destroyed toys. I don’t know if it’s the taste, or the texture, but she ADORES her mangled squeakers. She will stare at you, chewing on dog-bubble-gum, then SPIT the squeaker into your hand so you can toss it up for her to catch again. Yup, aliens.

Which song best fits you and why?

Can't do that -- my musical interests range from music of the early 1900's to Coldplay, to Metallica, to Country and beyond. Right now, though, I am thoroughly enjoying the "Last Samurai" soundtrack because it lets my mind wander into the worlds it creates in my mind.

What color best describes your life and why?

Fern green. That color to me is a symbol of birth, life, renewal.

What’s the thing you enjoy most about working at Zynga?

PEOPLE CAN BRING THEIR DOGS TO WORK!!! Ok, so I’m an animal nut already, but when I can walk down the hallway and meet OTHER nuts, that’s just plain cool.
And, I like the nuts here. Zynga’s got some VERY talented and creative people – and there’s no attitudes. I can bounce ideas off my engineers, and they offer ideas in return – no tech / art barrier here. People at Zynga have really wide experiences, and they’re all creative. And, if I get an inspiration, I can pop a note directly to Mark (Pincus), and he takes it seriously! How many companies can you actually have meaningful conversations with the CEO?

What’s the thing you enjoy most about working on Mafia Wars?

There’s a huge variety of things to play with. It’s always changing, and we’re always looking for other fun things to do in the game, and I get to populate the world with loads and loads of cool nurnies.

Thank you Rebecca for letting us get to know you better. We look forward to seeing all of your wonderful work in the Mafia Wars and other Zynga games!

SOURCE: FaceBook