INTERVIEW – In Conversation With Eriq Chang (The Art Of Sierra)

By Marty Mulrooney

"Art of Sierra" creative director Eriq Chang with "Conquests of Camelot" designer Christy Marx.

Independent studio Fable Foundry Publishing announced today the launch of The Art of Sierra, an oversized, hardcover coffee table art book dedicated to the computer game company famous for developing the “graphic adventure” game. Founded by Brandon Klassen and designed by Eriq Chang (who helped design AMO!) the book aims to give an unprecedented level of detail and insight into the visual history of  an adventure gaming giant. Alternative Magazine Online caught up with Eriq Chang on launch day to find out more about the project and Fable Foundry Publishing in an exclusive online interview… *Features Exclusive Artwork!*

0810_AOSlaunch_AMO2

A piece of AMO exclusive artwork, please click to enlarge!

Thank you for your time! Can you tell our readers about yourself and your background please?

Hey Marty! First of all, thank you so much for the exclusive! I love this site… in case it’s not already noticeable. This is good stuff!! VIP TREATMENT BABY!

My name is Eriq. I do art direction, design and illustration/campaign work for brands – big and small – with a focus on the entertainment and gaming industry. When I get the chance, I love doing sound and video work. But I really dig adventure games which is where my focus has been lately… drawing and creating lots of fun adventure game-y stuff.

Who are the team members of Fable Foundry Publishing? How did the studio begin?

Fable Foundry really started as a “wrapper” or incubator for many of my adventure-y type projects. Like any fantasy/sci-fi inspired artist, I’ve got a zillion crazy ideas coming out of my butt on any given day so it was only natural that I decide on a brand to sort of fold it all into. And, rather than use my studio name which I thought would confuse fans who followed my entertainment work, I thought I’d open Fable Foundry for all of those fun projects.

The name “Fable Foundry” came from several brainstorming sessions with my co-designer and friend Brandon Klassen with input from a small game development team we started in 2006 which included talented code master Bryce Covert and artists Johan Botes and Emily/JP Selwood – all very active developers in the adventure game community.

You could say Fable Foundry was the result of a team of people needing to express their frustration while working on a rare adventure game project that never saw the light of day. We all had so many ideas. I always went back to the need for a good logo and company name before we got serious about development. Don’t tell anyone but that’s probably why none of these projects got off the ground until recently – my stubborn need to have the perfect brand in place before anything else. Eep!

What are the benefits of being part of an independent studio?

It’s your show. And your show only. You call the shots. You control the camera. You tell the story.

Nothing beats having control. Just ask Janet!

Please tell us all about your current project, The Art Of Sierra…

The Art of Sierra is an event more than anything. It’s an opportunity for two obsessed Sierra fans to share their ultimate passion with the world. Both Brandon (Klassen) and I have been working for years on the look, the copy and the grand “vision” behind how this project would play out.

Initially, I had always wanted to do an online site. If you’ve followed my steps in the adventure gaming community, you might know how vocal I am about the artwork and the packaging for these games. I am a major supporter of the big picture – not just the game itself – but the entire experience of buying an adventure game; from the moment you see the initial ads to purchasing and ripping open the shiny new package. That’s a big part of what made these games so special to me. So much so that I purchased GraphicAdventure.com back in oh… 2003? I always had this idea I’d open a museum of sorts for Sierra and LucasArts classics.

There are a handful of great examples – Josh Lulewicz’s Vintage-Sierra.com and the LucasArts Game museum. I’ve always been a big fan of ATM’s Lucasfilm Game Oddities site. They’re all full of fascinating information that I just never had time to properly do on a site for myself – something I still wish to do today. So, ultimately, the idea of doing a book came about when Brandon commissioned me to work with AGDInteractive. It was a great way to combine all of these rare Sierra type odds and ends into a real, tangible product.

We really hit it off immediately. His ideas inspired me to really dig into an early book design exploration.

I had never collected the artwork myself. What I did collect was the packaging – the physical games. I have a really silly adventure game collection – it’s just massive. I never planned for it to get so big. It’s another one of these things that just happened – almost as if in preparation for the making of this project. We’ve photographed and used almost everything in the collection. And I plan to share it with the world. I love sending people games they’ve never played, magazines they might not have seen… there’s just so much to share. In addition, I also had three copies (I swear) of each gaming publication from the early 80’s to about 1998. That, in itself, could be another archival project. I could probably write a book about Origin, Microprose, and Westwood! I just had SO many magazines. So we took those, spliced them into folders, and started archiving every graphic adventure game article, ad, and mention from Sierra and LucasArts. The Sierra ones, of course, were most fascinating – especially the old Compute! ads – Sierra loved advertising new adventures on the very back page of Compute! which I always looked forward to. I still have every one.

I could ramble on for days. Really, these details are all part of “The Art of Sierra” project. It’s a big promotion full of stories, fascinating interviews, and artwork leading up to the release of this beautiful hardbound book. There’s a lot we’re not allowed to talk about just yet but rest assured this will be THE art book for the ages. There just hasn’t ever been an “art of” book by any PC developer or about any “group” of games produced with the kind of love and attention to detail as the “Art of Sierra” – there are so many people involved in this project with so many unique viewpoints about what made this such a special company. No compromises have been made in regards to content.

Another piece of AMO exclusive artwork, please click to enlarge!

“This image (above) is special in a few ways – two “WerePups” sit on my desk. They’re created by my good artist friend Asia Eriksen  – I had just returned from a signing on the east coast when I shot this and they were fresh out of my bag. Big hit at the show. And behind them on top of a pile of LucasArts catalogues sits a signed copy of “Conquests of the Longbow” by Christy Marx. I love looking at that every day because it reminds me that good stories are what people remember. I think she’s great and she’s helped us quite a bit on the project.

Art of Sierra wouldn’t be complete without mentioning my friends at AGD – our Quest for Glory II VGA poster hangs proudly to the side next to “THE WALL” as Brandon and I like to call it. This and the back wall are covered in layouts for the book. In this photo I’m studying a Space Quest layout – you can see the “Two Guys from Andromeda” in front. And, if you look closely, you just might spot the many faces of “Mr. Laffer” hanging proudly to the side. Lots of inspiring things to keep the rain at bay!”

What made Sierra Entertainment such a special gaming company?

The attention to detail. The CEO. The designers. The artists. The single vision for a total family gaming experience was what made Sierra special. No company and no CEO has ever put the kind of love and energy into their promotions as Sierra did. Even to this day. Just pop open an old Sierra/InterAction magazine(Sierra actually released a beautifully illustrated quarterly magazine dedicated to the games) and you’ll see the love and care put into the development – start to finish. I always looked forward to opening each issue to read CEO Ken Williams’ wonderfully heartfelt, forward-thinking views on the gaming industry. There was always a feeling of technology driving things forward without compromising the ‘experience’ of the adventure. “No compromises”… I learned very early on that good art stays true to the storyteller’s vision.

Apparently, that stuck with me through the years as we have been quite unwavering in our vision for this particular story. 😉

Really there are so many examples of why Sierra was a special story. I imagine a lot of it had to do with the time itself – one can never really understand, fully, the effect nostalgia has on the way we view the things we love. It was JUST special. I believe a lot of it had to do with how connected you felt to the company and the games. In that sense, Sierra pioneered the art of promotion before things like the internet and YouTube became available. They made you feel like you were part of the excitement during development with innovative publications, contests and things like studio tours.

How will The Art Of Sierra differ from other art books on the market?

This is an art-of book about an entire two decades worth of games from a single company. A collection of art from games that have won hundreds of industry awards and accolades. More importantly, it’s the story of how adventure games were born. It’s not just an art book but a look at the art of building a successful storytelling company. This is the company that started it all!

Is there still a market for a book such as this in 2010?

Why not? Stories never die. I think good stories and good art are timeless. Very few art books cover this type of art and specific genre today. And that makes this book even more special. You will not find another book with the kinds of art and stories as this one. It’s a historical piece as well as a timeless collection of beautiful art.

How cooperative have ex-Sierra employees been when conducting your research for this book?

The reception from both fans as well as ex-employees and artists/designers has always run the gamut. We’ll dive into these details during the promotion over the next few months. You will hear some fascinating stories. We have so many people we want to spotlight.

This project is about preserving – sharing the artwork and stories. And that hasn’t ALWAYS been the goal for every collector or Sierra employee this past 7 years. But we are not bitter! Nor are we impatient. Some of the most memorable stories over the years have come from working closely with collectors and Sierra artists – we all share the same passion right? Seven years of collaborating with wonderful people has paid off in spades – we have more material for some games than can fit into THREE books! The most important thing is that we’ve been able to reach the most important people – the designers and artists. And we’ve made some incredible friends.

The journey continues, however – and we’re still hunting. Anyone can check out the site for more information on how to contribute.

What games can fans expect to see covered in The Art Of Sierra?

Almost every game will be covered in detail – some more than others. We have an incredible amount of material for all of the adventures. Expect to see quite a bit of unreleased art from King’s Quest, Space Quest, and Leisure Suit Larry as well as the adventures from Dynamix. There’s just so much to see… you’ll see!

An image from one of the "exclusive hidden galleries" on Facebook. Only fans who have joined Art Of Sierra's fan page as well as Eriq's fan page can access them!

How much previously unseen artwork will feature in the book? Is it going to contain a lot of new content?

Definitely. And there will also be a good amount of focus on the packaging and game contents as well – things that I personally love… all presented in a modern “staged exhibit” fashion if you will. A lot of designer and artist commentary will be included – elements that really make these historical visuals all the more exciting to revisit. I mean, if I can still get excited by the work here I know fans will go nuts over it… I’ve been cropping King’s Quest layouts, filtering Pharkas frame-shots, and scanning Space Quest storyboards for over seven years now!

Where does ArtOfSierra.com come into all this?

The website will serve as the “portal” to the many interviews and goodies leading up to the release of the book. Currently, of course, it houses the digital press and media junkets that are integral to the publishing process. But expect things to really open up as the promotion unwinds. The website plays a big part. Turn up your speakers and clear some space for some wonderful artwork and videos.

Do you think this will be remembered as the definitive book on Sierra?

I hope so! I can’t imagine this will ever happen again. Unless it’s in some alternate reality. That I’d love to be a part of too. But as an observer. With a Janeway Borg/Klingon invisibility cloak. Spending seven years on anything is a long time.

What is next for Fable Foundry after this project?

It’s too early to spill the beans completely about our other projects but if you’re a Nightmare on Elm Street fan or horror collector, be sure to check out Fable Foundry’s first line of super cute handmade “WerePups” – handmade baby werewolf collectibles by artist and good friend Asia Eriksen. And, of course, the Nightmare Gloves by Anders which I’m heavily involved in. Our first graphic adventure title “Lady of the Manor” is early in the story/puzzle development stage – a rather comedic tale set against a not-so-funny murder mystery… think Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride for visual style.

If you’re a fan of this project, you’ll automatically be notified of Fable Foundry’s upcoming events so be sure to register on the site.

How else can fans stay updated about the project?

Stay tuned and be sure to “friend” us on Facebook. Both the project fan page as well as each of our individual team member pages has some hidden production footage within. We will be announcing publishing details and release dates over the next two months so you’ll want to keep your eyes peeled. I should also mention some very special contests and giveaways are on the horizon – including a chance to meet your favourite Sierra game designers and artists!

Thank you for your time! We need some AMO t-shirts by the way!

Of course! As long as I have full control over the design. 😉

Related Links:

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Alternative Musings, Books, Games

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s