Luis Martins (Paprium/Ubisoft) – Interview

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What on earth is going on with Paprium?? The eagerly awaited 16-bit side-scrolling beat em up has been sidelined for what seems any eternity. Head graphic artist Luis Martins kindly agreed to answer some of our Adrian’s questions. Our friends over at RVG also did this interview with him in June which you may want to check out. As well as Paprium, Luis is currently kicking ass with the new Tomb Raider games as well as doing the outstanding box art for Tanglewood. He also worked on the the fabled Chrono Resurrection. Here he is to tell us more…

You are the co-creator of the awesome looking Mega Drive exclusive Paprium. What inspired you and Fonzie to start this project and what were your initial plans for this ground-breaking game?

I might be considered as such, but initially WM President at the time (Tulio Adriano) was the one who wanted to do a beat ’em up. He had discussed this with Fonzie (Gwenaël Godde) the first time they met in person in 2009, on a train in Los Angeles. They shared ideas back when they had the WM offices. Eventually Fonzie put together a first draft document. From there I eventually contacted WM (Tulio) since I was impressed with their work on Pier Solar and asked him if he was interested in my help for something. That’s when Tulio proposed that I work on their “Beat Em Up” concept. I fitted right in since cyberpunk and anime from the 80’s 90’s were one of my favorite genres. That’s how it all started for me and how I got involved with the project. Four years in development and the trailer was released. By that time I had worked in art direction, game, character and background designs. Built the characters’ pixel art templates and all kinds of other visual retouches.

What exactly does Paprium mean?

Paprium is the name of the City where it all takes place.

The artwork for Paprium looks incredible! How did you manage to get characters and background art to look so stunning and what inspired you when designing this world?

Most of the character designs inspiration came from watching all kinds of cyberpunk anime and from playing tons of great beat em ups from the 90’s. Backgrounds were mostly done by Fonzie, Tim Jonsson (Bushiden) who also worked on some character animations. I mainly did concepts, sketches and gave artistic feedback for them.

Side-scrolling beat-em-ups are having a small resurgence after many years in the wilderness (with the new Streets of Rage 4 title a prime example). Have you always been a fan of this type of game and did any previous games help inspire your work on Paprium?

I would say that what inspired me was that it has always been one of my  favorite genre of games.  And I always wanted to create a beat em up so the timing was perfect.

Watermelon Games recently held a Paprium party in Paris and since then some grainy footage of the game has appeared online. Did you attend the party and can you reveal how accurate the footage is to the finished game?

I did not attend the party even though I was invited by Fonzie. It was bad timing for me. The previous version of the game I played over two years ago had enemies on screen, backgrounds, interactive objects, animated title screen, story intro, selection screen, the whole thing, it was WIP with some bugs, but played fine. I’m not sure what issues have appeared during the development afterwards but very little communication from WM came forward.  A very frustrating situation for myself, others who worked on the game and the backers. I heard that the issue at the party (missing enemy characters) where blamed on an issue with the chip, but that’s all I’ve heard.  Technical issue aside, what was shown looked promising.

I am one of the many backers who has purchased the game. Do you know why there have been so many delays for the project and do you have any ideas when Paprium will be released?

Unfortunately I haven’t been in the loop on whats going on production wise for the past two years.  So I’m not sure whats really going on, I’m not very happy about it, so I hope WM get their things in order.

I am genuinely very excited about Paprium, and it seems clear that this game will push the Mega Drive to its limits. How do you reflect back on your involvement in Paprium and do you believe it will be able to live up to its huge hype?

Everything and everyone that made this game possible deserves the game to play, look and sound as good as it was made to be. It is entirely the responsibility of WM and Fonzie to not let any of these people down and make sure the game lives up to its potential.

What are your earliest memories of gaming and art and when did you realize these two amazing worlds could be combined?

Like most kids in the 80’s I grew up with Japanese anime, American cartoons, comic books and video games. My first console was the Sega Master System, while most of my friends had a Nintendo, great times. Watching Saturday morning cartoons, buying comic books and wanting to create amazing worlds and characters was something that had my young imagination thriving.  So I learned a lot by myself, practiced daily until I eventually became a artist and game developer.

How did you get the opportunity to enter the video game industry and what was the first game you ever worked on?

While being a student at a local art/cartoon school, a teacher who was working in gaming as a concept artist called me one day and asked if I was interested in being a game tester. Of course I said yes, it was a great opportunity to see how the gaming industry was. The first game I worked on was Boxing Fever for the GBA, from there I showcased my portfolio and was offered a contract as a concept artist. I was 21.

Tanglewood is another Mega Drive homebrew game you’ve been involved in. What was your exact role for this game and why do you think original games on old consoles is a growing trend?

First I must give high props to Matt Phillips for his amazing achievement with Tanglewood. This guy works around the clock and communicates frequently with his community to ensure the game is delivered as soon as possible. I contacted Matt and asked if he would be interested I help him out with something and he suggested I make his game cover/promo art. The piece was a success for Tanglewood and that’s what matters.

Chrono Resurrection looked amazing! As a massive fan of Chrono Trigger, I am gutted the game was never allowed to be finished. How did this project first get off the ground and was there ever any early discussions with Square Enix about the rights of the game?

This one is a long story to put in such a short answer. But basically I was working in the same game company as Nathan Lazur, a friend and programmer. He had started a early demo and wanted to recreate some of the best scenes from Chrono Trigger using his proprietary N64 engine. While showing me the demo I was like, “is that Chrono Trigger?” He saw my enthusiasm and asked me if I wanted to help him out. From there I started directing it and creating art.

Here is the small studio we worked on Chrono Resurrection Demo back in 2004.

How far was Chrono Resurrection to completion and what was your exact role on this game?

The goal was for us to recreate some of the most memorable scenes from the actual game but in 3D. We were able to recreate the whole intro cinematic, title screen, main menu, Chrono’s house with room and kitchen,  Zeenon bridge with boss fight, Magus Lair with Magus Boss fight, and the End of Time location. Chrono, Chrono’s mom, Chrono’s cat, Frog, Gaspar, Zeenbor, Magus, Imps and Skeleton enemies where also all modeled and animated.

Can you explain how you felt when Chrono Resurrection was cancelled and do you personally feel aggrieved with the decision?

We were obviously really disappointed at first, we thought it was a joke. But quickly realized it wasn’t. Indeed, Square Enix’s lawyers sent us a cease and desist. If you’re curious about the whole story and development on Chrono Resurrection see this link – https://www.chronocompendium.com/Stories/28

Do you think we will ever get to see a new Chrono Trigger game, and would you be interested to work on?

I previously worked for Square Enix/Eidos in Montreal and working on a game like Chrono Trigger would have been a great opportunity then. But now I’m working at Ubisoft, so that’s out of the equation.

Speaking of Ubisoft, you’ve have worked on so many iconic games and characters, none more so than Lara Croft! What was your role when working on the recent Tomb Raider games and how did you aim to capture the mood of the game with your stellar artwork?

Yes I worked on the Tomb Raider reboot, Rise of the Tomb Raider and over a year in Shadow of the Tomb Raider. It’s one of the franchises that I am most proud of having worked on, It was hard work but a blast. My role was senior lighting artist which consists of proposing, creating, guiding the player through amazing design and crafted environments by my fellow environment artists. Lighting and post processes are like the cherry on top,  it’s what gives us feelings of amazement while interacting with these atmospheres’ rich environments.

What would you say are the most important skills needed to succeed in the games industry working in the art department?

Perseverance, consistency, wanting to continuously improve, taking in constructive critique from those who have experience and a friendly positive attitude. This whilst building up your portfolio, studying in a specific gaming field and during the many years of gaming development in your career. It’s important to stay focused to always improve. It’s very difficult since everything goes so fast these days, you have to put away some of your home comforts to really succeed eventually. This is where consistency comes into play and the hardest thing to achieve day after day.

Out all of the games you have worked on, which one are you most proud of and why?

I would say the Tomb Raider franchise. Simply because it was a new reboot and we could not fail.  Everyone was proud, worked really hard, the team was great and we wanted to create the best experience possible. I think we achieved it.

What projects and games are you currently working on?

Currently I am working on For Honor from Ubisoft and perhaps a few other personal retro games that I can talk about at the moment. You can have a look at some of my current and past works here: https://www.artstation.com/luis_martins

If you could be transported into any one of your video games, and live there for a day, which game would you choose and why?

There are too many games to mention, but since I really like exploration and adventure, Uncharted would fit the bill for now.

If you could share a few drinks with any video game character, who would you choose and why?

Solid Snake, the poor old man needs a hug (ain’t that the truth! -Ed). He’s been through hell trying to save the world from Nuclear chaos and ended up being recycled into a Pachinko machine…. Why Konami, why ?

Adrian

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