Interview No. 118
Interview By: @The-Great-One
Today's guest you might know through his latest game Relive Your Life. However he has done more before this including participating in the Tournament of Flash Artists, which has evolved on Newgrounds as the Newgrounds Annual Tournament of Animation (NATA). Has done works on Internet Allstars 2011, has competed in the Power of Three contest with his work on Primary, This is just a small sample of his talents... I urge you to please welcome, @FrozenFire.
Q: How did you find Newgrounds and why did you join?
A: My brother showed me Newgrounds when I was around 10 years old (~2001). All I did on Newgrounds was navigate myself to the adult section and play dress-up games. I was one horny little bastard. I was more of a regular at Albino Blacksheep at that age, though. I know now that there's some bad blood there, but I was young and reckless!
I joined a few years later, once I realized that all of my favorite movies and games started here on good ol' NG.
Q: When and how did you become interested in animation?
A: One flash sparked my interest in animation. It was a short "How To" video by Edd Gould (RIP Buddy) in which he explained the program he used to make his cartoons. A friend and I sold a bunch of our games so we could collectively pay for Flash MX and make toons together. I still remember keeping all of my "brilliant" ideas written down in a journal. I even doodled a bunch of FrozenFire logo designs in there.
Can't remember the exact year but I was fairly young.
Q: What age were you when you became interested in video games?
A: I've always been a big fan of video games. My friends and I would play together for hours on Bomberman 64 and Jet Force Gemini.
The Power of Three event sparked my desire to get more involved in making games. My senior year of highschool was all about game design. I published Primary, Manhattan Project, and even studied game design at Vancouver Film School for a few days. VFS had some really good courses on story/character development, and we fooled around with the Unreal engine. I still have my notes from that trip.
Q: When and how did you learn about David Cage? What inspiration do you get from him?
A: For those who don't know, David Cage is the head honcho at Quantic Dream. Quantic puts out some of the best storytelling games.
I used to get Game Informer magazines in the mail every month. One of them had screenshots from this game, Heavy Rain. The graphics looked terrific and the main hook they advertised was that the game would not have a "Game Over" screen. Essentially the game would mutate as you failed/succeeded. I thought that was brilliant! That was the main inspiration for Relive Your Life.
I think that my focus on games in the future will be about storytelling thanks to David Cage.
Q: What made you decide to attend Texas A&M University?
A: Short answer: The in-state tuition was a huge draw for me.
I applied to quite a few schools, and I graduated pretty high in my class so thankfully I never got a rejection letter. I really want to live up north so schools like Drexel and DePaul were my picks but I'd be living in debt right now had I followed through. Texas A&M has a great Visualization program that has classes for Art/Animation/Game Design/Graphic Design. The major touches on physical artwork, 3D animation, 2D animation, and requires some computer science courses as well. Quite a few graduates go on to work at Dreamworks or Pixar.
I met El-Cid (Rodrigo Huerta) at the Pico Day meetup and we talked quite a bit about his journey from A&M to Dreamworks. I even had a class with his sister at the time... small world.
Q: What are the Milano Toons?
A: The Milano Crew was one of those Newgrounds flash portal clans that would hang out in forums together and make silly collaborations about whatever they wanted. They called them, "The Milano Toons." When I was but a young noob, I barked a rather malicious review to a Milano Toon which was under judgement in the portal. After a bit of snooping I realized that this group was actually kind of fun. I was a young talentless animator, so having a group of people willing to work with me and give pointers encouraged me to improve.
Q: Most of your works both in games and animation would be through collaboration. What is it about collaborations that can be beneficial to new artists or programmers?
A: Collaboration is the best way to learn. Normally, I analyze my partner's work closely and understand their progress that way. Also, you'll have a formidable challenge in this line of work if you can't cooperate with people. Employers find collaborative traits extremely attractive.
I've rarely worked with the same person twice, whether it be a programmer/voice actor/etc. Not that I found any of my partners unbearable to work with, but I like working with new people. I've built up quite a repertoire of work-related friends this way. Newgrounds really does have a community, and I love that about this place. I want to work with as many great people as I can!
Q: The Newgrounds Annual Tournament of Animation is coming up. You have participated in past Tournament of Flash Artists competitions with your works Father-Son Chat and Pulp. What is it like to compete in one of these tournaments and are you excited for the upcoming NATA?
A: The TOFA I participated in was hosted by Albino Blacksheep. Newgrounds wasn't doing a competition like this at the time. I was in the semi-finals when I eventually was defeated in a match-up with Jimmy Egeland. He's a talented writer so I think it was well-deserved.
It was a fun experience, and I love the talent it brings out each year! I don't think I will be doing one anytime soon unfortunately, as I need to focus on my own projects.
Q: When AlmightyHans was here, we talked about a collaboration he was a part of entitled Africa Dudes. You and a group of animators would do something similar. My question is this... what can you tell me about Eskimos?
A: Eskimos was something RedHarvest iced up in response to Africa Dudes. It's the same formula, but a different setting. I didn't take it too seriously, but it was a reason for me to try voice acting again. I always feel like I could be a voice actor and then I try and realize I'm still terrible at it.
I'll figure it out eventually.
Q: Internet Allstars 2011 is an anti-meme flash in a way, by using a meme to destroy memes. What is your take on the different Internet memes out there and will we be seeing future Internet Allstars movies?
A: I feel like memes could be good if they weren't abused. This Harlem Shake nonsense is getting out of control. Truth be told, I didn't even know what My Little Pony was until I started working on this project.
Mick Lauer and I just wanted to team up on something together. I let him come up with the ideas and just animated it. He's been ridiculously busy lately, so I don't think there will be another one. Overall though, it started our friendship. For me, that's the most important part.
Q: I'm gonna be blunt with this one. What the fuck is Derpasaurus Rex? When will there be more episodes of this?
A: Derpasaurus Rex! Oh my goodness is he fantastic.
Basically anytime anyone around me does something stupid I'd just say, "Derp." Eventually it evolved, similarly to the word "bro", into many different variations. (One being Derpasaurus Rex)
It sparked a character idea that is essentially a well-meaning, hyperactive dinosaur that isn't quite all there. He doesn't fit the scene. His color scheme is different... Rex just doesn't belong in that environment. Noah Scammon (Lefthandedsock) plans on continuing with the series so you might see more!
Q: You would participate in Newgrounds Power of Three with an entry entitled Primary. For those who don't know, could you tell us what the Power of Three is and how you came to be a member of your team?
A: Tom started the Power of Three tournament in 2009 with the purpose of getting people to collaborate and expand their comfort zones. A programmer, an artist, and a musician would team up to create a game revolving around the number three.
Dave Fulton (Jacksmack) put an ad about needing an artist and I sent him a few animation samples I'd done recently. He seemed pleased, and shot me a positive response a few minutes later. Selcuk Bor (MaestroRage) was our musician, and BOY he did a fantastic job. Selcuk and I had a lot of hilarious conversations during that project.
Q: Who came up with the idea for Primary? What elements were put into the game over time?
A: Jacksmack had the initial idea for a platforming puzzle game where you change colors to physically touch certain platforms. I don't think he imagined it being as complex as it is now. I was definitely a key player when it came to some key elements! (Try imagining that game WITHOUT checkpoints. You are welcome.)
Dave and I disagreed quite a bit, but I definitely considered him to be my superior. He'd usually make me re-do anything I made at least twice. In retrospect, the project came out much better because he was a hardass and I thank him for that. It was an amazing learning experience and it started a chain of events for my life in game design.
Q: One of your more twisted games would have to be Lil' Einstein's Manhattan Project. Where did you get the idea for this game and what was the process in making it?
A: Andrew Virostek was my programmer for this game. He approached me in the wake of Primary's success and just said, "Use me as your programming slave, and I will make anything you want." He promised not to question me and would just do what I say.
I didn't want a partner like that. So to get him out of his shell, I actually made him a list of short game ideas and told him to pick what one he thought would be fun. My history class had just gotten to Hiroshima so I thought I'd be offensive and make light of a horrible situation. I wasn't very subtle about it either.
Andrew's best friend is Jon Sandness, who worked with me later on Symphonic Tower Defense.
Andrew's brother Donald is working on a project with me currently too, so it really was a chain reaction.
Q: Who is John Moody?
A: John Moody is a tall, goofball friend of mine who worked alongside me for the prototype of Relive Your Life. That version of the game was never published because of some serious bug issues. His wacky sense of humor really helped shape the game though. We would back and forth ideas about what would make people laugh. I remember him cracking up for like five minutes over the thought of someone spanking a butt at mach speeds.
The published version was done solo, with the exception of Arin Hanson's voice talent. I rewrote a majority of the script, re-animated all the scenes, and doubled the amount of content.
Q: You got to celebrate Pico Day at the Newgrounds Office and you got a chance to meet Arin Hanson. How did you two come to make Relive Your Life?
A: Yes! I met Arin and we talked for a bit. Freaking ridiculously nice guy. I was actually about 90% done with Relive Your Life when I was at Pico Day, because the game was made as a college assignment and it was due the day I got back. I finished putting it together on the plane ride to Texas.
At the beginning of that month, I messaged Arin out of the blue and asked him, "Hey we are both going to be at Pico Day! Would you like to work with me on something?" I warned him it was a lot of voice work, but he didn't skip a beat to say yes. He was in the middle of a move too, so that just speaks wonders for his character.
Q: You have attended a few meet-ups in your time. Are meet-ups simple fun or are they a chance to learn more from others?
A: Pico Day was amazing. I wanted to talk to everyone! I was a little nervous but I think I played it off pretty well. I feel like I both gave and took a lot of advice from talking to people. Motivation seemed to be a main issue among everyone attending, which is understandable considering the standards are constantly being risen by amazing talent.
When Harry Partridge showed up a few people said, "I both hate and respect you!" because Starbarians had just been released.
Plus, Tom Fulp.
I mean, come on what else do you need?
Q: What advice would you have to give to those looking to get into animation or game making?
A: There's a short video floating around the internet about the "Superpower" of programming. When I initially started getting into game design, it was substantially harder to understand how code and art worked together to create a game. So naturally I read books and took courses on computer science following Primary's release. That was probably the smartest decision I ever made.
Learn how to code. It's a skill that is simply necessary for all game design and animation fields. Plus it is a lot of fun!
Q: What can we expect from FrozenFire in the future?
A: Relive Your Life XL! Two programmer friends of mine want to start a small game studio up in Pennsylvania and I'll be the key artist on the team once I graduate. We already have a few games in the works, but the one I'm most excited about it is the HUGE adaptation of Relive Your Life. Just RIDICULOUS amounts of content will be going into that project. There's also an iPhone game I'm working on called Statiq. It's a puzzle game that has some familiarity to Primary. Very saturated colors, which seems to be a common thing in my work.
I graduate from college in a year, so after that I'll be moving to PA as a co-founder of Predical Studios. Hopefully you'll be hearing that name a lot more in the future!
FrozenFire is a very talented animator and artist. His collaborations show no bounds as he has been able to work with some of Newgrounds greatest over the years. I can safely say that we have simply gotten just a small taste of what FrozenFire can do and I imagine that we have yet to truly see his greatest work. Who knows? Perhaps a Pico Day in the future will change all of that.