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A picture of Derek Chatwood

Derek Chatwood

Game designer, illustrator

in designer, game, illustrator, windows

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm Derek Chatwood, and I'm a game designer and illustrator. I've been a game designer for almost fifteen years, at studios including Warner Brothers, Asobo Studio, and currently Airtight Games. Illustration has always been an underlying passion, and helps me maintain a creative edge and expression. I try to do at least one new illustration per week - you can see those pile up on my Flickr page.

Plus occasionally I get to spawn minor internet memes.

What hardware do you use?

Game Design: generic purpose-built PC rig with 2TB hard drive, 16 gigs RAM, NVidia GeForce, dual Dell 24 inch LCD widescreen monitors. It's actually pretty middle-of-the-road, but since I develop for Xbox 360 and PS4, I don't need a super high-end beast to run the game and tools. At least that's what the bosses tell me.

Illustration: My artwork is a combination of traditional media and digital. I usually draw on Strathmore 400 series Bristol, vellum stock for the slight tooth to it. This bristol is very thick, almost card stock, which lets me work safely in most drawing mediums without concern for tearing or bruising. Additionally when I sit in pubs and sketch (which is unsurprisingly often), I know from experience it has excellent spill resistance. I use mechanical pencils for drawing, the always difficult-to-find .3mm lead size. lately my favorite is the Pentel Graph Gear, it has a nicely weighted base and soft grip, just feels solid. I use Micron Pigma pens - I burn through them so fast they're much more cost effective than expensive rapidographs. Since I tend to work small the .005 is my favorite, it's like drawing with human hair. I also use an aluminum clipboard case, they're crazy useful. Solid with a protective flap, and with storage for extra paper.

For the digital bits I have a Maingear Potenza, Intel i5 3.5GHz, 16 gigs Corsair Vengeance DDR3 RAM, AMD Radeon 7750, 32 gig SSD cache drive, 2TB Seagate Barracuda, Dell 24 inch LCD widescreen monitor. Wacom Intuos4 medium-sized tablet. I scan the line art with a basic Canon Canoscan LiDE 110. It's a dirt-cheap scanner, small footprint, but for line art it's fine. I have to clean up the line or convert to vector digitally anyway.

And what software?

Game Design: For initial design documentation and mock-ups all the usual, 3DMax, SketchUp, Photoshop CS6, MS Excel, etc. For version control everyone's sort of hate-it-but-can't-live-without-it choice Perforce P4V. For the game itself, there's almost always a proprietary "world building" tool, depending on the game engine used.

Currently I work with the Unreal Engine, one of the most popular for making games these days. The Unreal Development Kit (UDK) is the full suite of tools used, but my piece is primarily UnrealEd. It's essentially the one-stop-shop for building the 3D environments, populating them with all the objects and AI and triggers that a game uses to function, and scripting all those things to do what I want when I want. The thing I really love about these tools is: they're free. It's how I learned to make games in the first place, using the free Quake 3 tool GtkRadiant. Many game engine tools are given away free (or free with the game), including Valve's Source Engine. These are the exact same tools used by developers to make our games, for free or the cost of a game. Great way to build endless pre-skilled work force.

Illustration: Photoshop CS6, in combination with the Wacom tablet. I use an adorable and free image viewing/editing/organizing tool called XnView, which is an awesome small and fast swiss army knife. I also still have my copy of Photoshop 5.5 running on a thumbdrive on my keychain, as well as sitting on Dropbox, along with XnView. I can basically fire up image/art editing tools wherever I am in the world. Drunk with power.

What would be your dream setup?

Well, it's a silly dream, but I would love a dual monitor setup with one of the monitors the Wacom Cintiq 22HD. It's ridiculous overkill, but whoo boy, so awesome. I would also kill for a .3mm mechanical pencil with an extendable eraser (you know, you twist and it seems endless.) For some reason this is a nigh-impossible dream at the .3mm size.

That's it. My dreams are simple. Other than the Cintiq thing.