Oddworld’s Inhabitants: John Hood, Animator

Oddworld's Inhabitants: John Hood, Animator [Hosted by Oddworld.com]

Date: March - April 2004

Interviewer: Oddworld.com

Interviewee: John Hood

Oddworld’s Inhabitants are as diverse as the world they’ve worked together to create. Here’s where you’ll find interviews and other informative articles spotlighting the many creative folk that work at Oddworld Inhabitants. Be they headline players or behind-the-scenes heroes, the Inhabitants profiled here all share Oddworld’s ceaseless dedication to bringing you the best worlds and games that you’ve ever experienced.

John Hood, Animator

Q: What’s your background?

John Hood: I graduated with a Liberal Studies degree from the University of Central Florida. I began working as a graphic designer and sort of fell in to animation. After trying to start a software company making CD roms (they were big then), I began teaching at FullSail in Central Florida. I decided to make use of my knowledge and so I moved west to California and landed at Crystal Dynamics as a junior animator on Soul Reaver. From there, I went on to work for Microsoft on Age of Mythology. And now, I find myself at Oddworld Inhabitants.

Q: What is it exactly that an animator does, and what made you interested in that aspect of game development?

John Hood: An animator gives inert objects the illusion of life. In video games, animators work with groups of geometry and textures and manipulate them over time to look like living, breathing, attacking badguys. I have always been interested in stories and characters, especially strange alien creatures, of which there are plenty in video games.

Q: What is the easiest part of your job, and what is the hardest?

John Hood: The easiest part of the job is starting out a new character – you get to work out who it his, how heavy they are, how they walk, what kind of attitudes they have. The hardest part is tailoring your animation to fit the limits of a run-time environment – there’s always an extra action you’d like to add or extend that just won’t work interactively.

Q: What is a typical day like for you?

John Hood: Well, I get in around 10 o’clock, get some coffee and tell the modeling staff (Raj) something funny I saw on television (usually SouthPark). By the time lunch rolls around, something has broken, so I blame Raj. Around 3:00 clock, we get it fixed, and I wait for Raj to break something else. In the meantime, I animate characters. I usually have two types of days – one where nothing goes wrong, and one where everything goes wrong. When nothing goes wrong, I get work done and the schedule advances. When everything goes wrong, I’m usually fixing problems.

Q: Who (or what) inspires you? Why?

John Hood: Among my biggest inspirations are the great Disney animators who worked on so many movies when I was growing up – Glen Keane, Andreas Deja, James Baxter. I am also inspired to no end by the great fantasy artists – Frazetta, Berkey, Wrightson, Beksinski. I am also inspired by great directors – Fincher, Brad Bird, Ridley Scott.

Q: What do you like to do when you’re not at work?

John Hood: I enjoy painting and eating sushi. But not at the same time.

Q: What CD are you currently listening to?

John Hood: Crystal Method’s “Vegas”

Q: What’s in your game console or pc right now?

John Hood: “Rise of Nations”, “Battlefield: Vietnam”.

Q: What kind of a place is OWI? Do you have any wacky work stories that you could share.

John Hood: Oddworld is a very strange place, where the walls are curvy and plants grow everywhere. We often photoshop each other’s heads into pictures of people in compromising positions. We also tend to make up songs about game development (weÕve been talking about releasing an album.) My most memorable moment was when the programmers attacked the art staff with Nerf weapons.

Q: What is your favorite flavor of beef jerky? Why?

John Hood: I like teryaki. Its semi-sweet flavor recalls a simpler time, before the dark times …before the Empire.

Q: If you could change jobs with one of the other Inhabitants who would it be and why?

John Hood: I would probably change jobs with someone in our Production Design department. I think it would be very cool to just come up with wacky stuff all day and not have to worry about whether or not it actually works.

Q: What advice would you give someone trying to break into games? What type of education does someone need to do your job?

John Hood: The best advice I could give someone looking to be an animator is learn the aesthetic principals of animation. Read “The Illusion of Life”for an introduction to these ideas. There is no hard and fast education needed to be an animator, so try to find a school that emphasizes the principals of animation as opposed to button-pushing through software. Then, learn as much as you can.

Q: Who is your favorite Oddworld character to animate? Why?

John Hood: D. Caste Raider. I’ve always been good at animating large characters, and he is large and a bit dumb. He is a bit crude, so I get to animate him picking various orifices and other unrefined things. He isn’t as clever as characters like Stranger, who guard their emotions, so he has broad emotional reactions that are fun to do.