Featured Artist: Phillip Gregg

by Nick Jones

NJ:  What made you interested in pursuing game development?

PG: I kinda feel bad for going with the cop-out answer, but I love video games. But it’s a little bit more than that. I think my idea of what, like, a story is and could be today, and what art is and could be today was shaped by video games because I’ve been playing video games since…almost as long as I can remember. It’s had an insane impact on my life and what I’m interested in and what I like to do.

I was originally going to try to go to [the United States] Air Force Academy, but I didn’t have the sports varsity requirement. My mother jokingly said “Hey, there’s a Catholic university with game design,” and I’m like, “You know what? That actually might be cool.” So, the more I looked into it, the more I was convinced that I should go here. I don’t think there’s really anything else I could see myself doing.

NJ: What is your favorite type or genre of video game?

PG: It’s a loaded question, and you know it. *Laughs* I think any person, any sane gamer will tell you the same thing. You don’t really have a favorite. I have several favorite games across many genres. For example, among my favorites are Halo, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, and The Witcher — that’s a shooter, and those are RPG (role-playing) games, respectively. It’s kind of like I go through phases of what I’m into at the time, and I’ll play a lot of those kinds of games for [a]while. Then, I’ll get bored of that kind of game, and then move on to another favorite kind of game ’cause maybe I saw something that reminded me of [the game].

NJ: What do you do as an environment designer, specifically?

PG: I make and design environments. To be clear, I’m not really an environment designer, yet. I am nowhere near that level of skill, but I am learning. But to answer your question, it’s exactly what it sounds like. You make the environment. For example, I am focusing primarily on hard surface modeling. That would mean I’m making buildings, furniture, and objects such as mugs, weapons, and anything that you can touch that’s not vegetation or a person — that’s what I would hypothetically be doing.  

Wagon1

NJ: Where do you see the future of video games?

PG: I see them getting better and better, but more and more expensive. I think the controversy we’re seeing from micro-transactions today is the least of our worries. The fact of the matter is [that] the price of video games has remained the same since Atari, [an arcade game company]. It hasn’t even been adjusted for inflation. The cost to make a game back then might be like in the tens of thousands or the hundreds of thousands [of dollars], right? The cost of making games today, for a standard Triple-A game, that’s in the millions. So, when people are upset about micro-transactions, it’s something people have to consider.

NJ: What other forms of media interest you?

PG: This might come as a surprise, but I read a lot. When I was in elementary school, I was kind of encouraged, there were kids in my class who could read insanely quickly, and I got jealous. So, I started reading more, and then I read faster. I started finding my niche in the kind of books I liked to read. There are a few genres I like to stick to, and I’ll kinda transition between them. I tend to go between sci-fi, fantasy, and action thrillers.

NJ: What is the most rewarding aspect of making video games?

PG: I guess it’s the before and after. For example, just in my 3D modeling class, when I started working on the wagon project — which took like three to four weeks [to finish] — it started out as some boxes and some round shapes, and [then] it turned into this huge thing. It’s very satisfying to see the progress you’ve made. You start out with this idea, and then it gets bigger and bigger. You get more people and start adding art. Then you start making environments; then you start consolidating aspects . . . making sure everything is perfect for launch. I can only imagine how gratifying that must feel when everything goes right.

NJ: What is the most challenging aspect of making video games?

PG: That is easily the time required. From what I have seen of video games and behind-the-scenes, and from what I have experienced, even from just my classes, it’s crunch time all [of] the time. To get an entire game done in three years must take an obscene amount of effort. So, [it is] definitely the time that you need to personally invest in it.

Wagon2

NJ: As a Catholic, how can one evangelize through gaming media?

PG: Well, that’s an interesting

, because in the vast majority of games [that] you see, there’s no mention of Christianity, either because it’s so far in the future that it’s almost irrelevant, or it’s in a completely different world where it doesn’t exist. What I think people need to focus on, instead of making explicitly Christian games because there have been no good [ones], is making games with people (characters) that are as virtuous as they can be with their settings and their background. A great example of this would be the Master Chief in Halo. He is a virtuous man because he never curses, saves everybody from the bad guy, has this deep-seated love for his home and his people, and he’ll do anything to protect that. I think if you really want to affect people and evangelize, you need to start with a good message [and] good morals.

NJ: Are there any projects or future developments you are working on that you would like to share?

PG: As a matter of fact, there is. I can’t talk too much about it, but Professor Steffen has been doing this thing called Game Design for Evangelism, and we’re making a vignette game that’s loosely based on the story of King David. We are always looking for artists if anybody wants to help out.

NJ: Do you have any closing statements?

PG: Yes. Literally everybody should play Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic because it’s the best game ever!

To help on the Game Design for Evangelism project, you can contact Professor Steffen through his email: msteffen@jpcatholic.com.