Chris has had an extraordinary career in the animation and gaming industry spanning over two decades. From dreaming of becoming a comic book author, he went on to design graphics for television, including his ‘claim to shame’ the gold logo for classic show Noel’s House Party and creating animations for chart-topping computer games such as Call of Duty and Alien vs Predator. He is now passing on his wisdom and artist flair to wannabe games creators at LMA.

His aim is simple: to generate great animation with a team of like-minded people and have as much fun doing it as humanly possible. Here’s how…

What made you choose a career in gaming and animation?

I’ve always wanted to create characters. Originally I thought my future lay in the world of comic books, but when I was at university they got some PCs and I started experimenting with very early forms of 3D software. I started making things move and I just fell in love with it – it was there and then that I thought ‘yes that’s the route for me’.

After graduating, I started working in computer graphic production for television and spent a number of fun filled years creating graphics for a wide range of television productions. My love for character animation, moved me more and more towards the games industry though, so I returned to university to develop my animation skills.

I then started work in a production company producing FMV’s for games titles and later made the move into games production, where I was immediately hooked.

What do you love most about the industry?

The range of animation. The variety of characters (from humanoid to monstrous creatures). The challenges of producing high quality animations for a variety different platforms from handheld to consoles. The list could go on and on. It’s such an exciting industry where absolutely anything is possible – the imagination can run wild!

What has been the ‘WOW’ moment of your career so far?

There are so many to pick from, but here are two of my favourites:

When I was working at 422 Video Graphics we did a lot for the David Attenborough shows. One day he came in and I got to meet him. I’m a huge fan, so it was a great honour. He was lovely!

While working at Cool Bean in Sheffield, I had the privilege of creating animation for a potential series, which was similar to WWS wrestling, but with science fiction and fantasy characters. The man behind the characters was an amazing comic book artist and one of my personal heroes in the industry, Simon Bisley. It was an honour to animate characters designed by him. What made it even better was the fact he came in, walked up to me and said ‘I love the animation you’re doing mate’. I was literally on cloud nine!

Liverpool is ‘one to watch’ in the world of gaming – what is it about the city that continues to create such a buzz?

The gaming industry started in the UK and Liverpool was, and still is, a massive part of that.

As a city Liverpool has always had a flair for creativity. Whether it’s acting, music or art. It’s because of that reputation that lots of artists from music creators to animators gravitate towards it. A lot of people also come to Liverpool, fall in love with it and never leave – I should know, I’m one of them!

The city has a host of smaller studios enhancing its growing reputation for creating popular games, such as Firesprite who recently created Run Sackboy! Run! Ripstone Games who were involved in Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics, which is due for release in November and ‘Snooker 19’, which they teamed up with developer Lab42 and World Snooker to release. Cosmonaut Studios, a small independent development team based in Liverpool, is even the proud owner of a BAFTA for its amazing work. The list could go on and on…

 

What is the red hot trend in the gaming world at the moment?

That’s a very tricky question. It’s always changing.  A few weeks ago Fortnight was the game everybody was raving about. Now the release of the big console title Red Dead Redemption 2 is the one exciting everyone. Last year the mobile game Pokemon Go was the biggest craze hitting the headlines.

Trends are constantly evolving. New ideas are being developed all the time and you are always working on new projects, learning new techniques and experimenting with new software. You never get to sit still – which is what makes the industry so exciting!

What will the future of gaming look like?

That’s the question I put to my students all the time. Since I started in the industry, the power of technology has advanced so much – from simple block characters to near photorealistic characters. So what the next ten years will have in store is very exciting!

We’ll start to see movie quality graphics in games and how we play them will be very different too. The development of Virtual Reality VR will have a big role. The technology is just starting to find its feet, but with more development I predict we’ll be plugging ourselves into realistic virtual worlds sooner than you think. When that happens, the only limitation will be the imagination of the developers behind the games…

 

Why is LMA such a good place for gamers to train?

I’ve been here at LMA for over 6 years and it really is more like a family than a job. Everyone is so friendly and passionate about what they do – the team running it, my colleagues and the students.

LMA have the right attitude towards who to take on too. They want to get the right students in and train them in the right way.

I worked in the gaming industry for years and part of my role was to recruit new animators. I saw a lot of students’ showreels, from all over the country, and I was looking at them thinking – ‘you’re spending all this money and nobody is actually teaching you what you need to know to get into the industry’.

 

I want to make sure the students here are learning the right techniques. It’s not just about the art technique, it’s about being professional and making sure they’re punctual and doing the day-to-day boring stuff, and they’re doing it well. It’s a hugely competitive industry to break into and it’s that kind of thing which will help them stand out to potential employers.


What are the 3 best pieces of advice you’d give to wannabe animators and gamers? 

  • If you want to do it – go and do it! Don’t sit there and say, ‘oh I want to be a 3D animator’, or ‘I want to be a 3D modeller’, or ‘I want to design computer games’. Go and do it.
  • Take advantage of being a student! There has never been a better time to be studying gaming. A lot of the software – some major professional software – is free to students. Download it at home and go and make things – make mistakes, keep practising, get better.
  • Always go to a job interview with examples of your work. Go in and say ‘well, here’s a game that I’ve made’, or ‘here’s a character that I’ve animated’….that’s the kind of passion interviewers want.


And finally, what is your favourite game past or present, and why?

Star Wars Battlefront. Ever since watching Star Wars ‘A New Hope’ when I was five I’ve wanted to be a stormtrooper. The Battlefront series of games allows me to fulfil my lifelong childhood dream.