Sat 24th Sep 2011, by Paul Hellard | Peoplestudios
CGSociety :: Artist Profile
Some people fall into fulltime positions in great companies, others jump from freelance appointments, happy to build on experience with different crowds every few months. EgoSoft GmbH found Alex Preuss and the company and artist have been collaborating for years now, working on a SciFi Fantasy game franchise that fits his passion for fantastical vistas.
In 1990 a young Alex Preuss took an apprenticeship as a mechanist at the ‘Aachener Maschienenbau GmbH’ (AMBA) company, a large German industrial engineering firm. Throughout his life, Alex’s father convinced him to finish projects he started. Even though he wanted to move into the arts so badly, he didn’t quit and he stayed for some years, gathering a pretty good wage. Alex still keeps this advice in his more contemporary game projects.
With this wage, he bought himself an AMIGA 2000 and the painting software D-Paint 2, and he began creating a lot of images in 320 x 240 pixel resolution.
"A friend showed my work to the CEO of Egosoft GmbH, Bernd Lehahn," explains Alex Preuss, "and after the first meeting I had my first job working on a game." Straight after he finished with his apprenticeship as a mechanist at AMBA, Alex was hired by Egosoft to work on an new point and click adventure called ‘Imperium Romanum’ and soon after became the lead artist of the company.
"The old X games are best known for their great playground, for their complexity and above all that you have the freedom to do whatever you want,"e says Preuss. "X-Rebirth is the next instalment and a reboot of the series. We have put a lot of new great features, ideas, and effort into this new game."
"When I rejoined Egosoft back in 2008, my first months on this project were focused on concepts. Christian Vogel; my precursor as lead in the company had huge visual plans for this project and we both sat down and started to block out shapes and forms. We tried to find a good workflow to achieve all the great stuff we wanted to have in the end. Unfortunately he left the company in early 2010 and from this point it was a hard task to bring all this together. The X-Rebirth project at that point, was a long way from being finished."
Preuss needed a short time to get back to his origins as a lead artist, because too much had changed since he'd left the game industry in 2002. "The tools had become more complex, the possibilities what you are able to do with our new game engine are far beyond what they were when I last worked in the industry," he says.
X-Rebirth is in general a space simulation where you play a young and ambitious hero with a very special and unique spaceship. The challenge is to survive in a vast, dangerous, but living and breathing universe. The basic rules are trade, fight, build and think.
As the player of X-Rebirth, you have the freedom to do almost everything in this game, like traveling to every point in the universe, to dogfight with enemies, strategic battles with armadas of capital ships, build your own ships, stations and economy, or trade with aliens for goods and weapons, and a lot more.
Alexander Preuss is well known for ‘The broken Armistice over Abalakin’ which he created for CGSociety’s Grand Space Opera CGChallenge in 2005. “This was my favorite project,’ he says. ‘It was more or less the first project I created without huge problems. This was a long time ago of course. It was great fun to read every day the great feedback in the CGTalk forum. The follow up image was The Return to Abalakin, where I wanted to show how such a giant construction would look from the inside and how civilisations could live there.” Preuss has not only won 3D First Prize in CGChallenges in the past, but also has work in Ballistic Publishing's EXPOSE 3, EXPOSE 4 and EXPOSE 8, d'artiste: Matte Painting 2, Elemental 2 and Elemental 3.
Preuss worked in many companies in his native Germany in his time venturing outside of the EgoSoft Game Studio. He was an illustrator at Centipede Press and Subterranean Press and was Art Director at Image Arts GmbH. However his heart was drawn back into the EgoSoft world.
At the very beginning of his career, Alex was almost only focused on 3D works, and sometimes 3D with no post processing afterwards. He learned very quickly that to generate what was in his mind took a little more than soley 3D so he began mixing things up, creating Photoshop textures and environments.
The immersive powers of 2D illustrations and concept art brought on new work for Preuss, and almost all of it in Photoshop, albeit with some elements of 3D, using ZBrush and 3ds Max with mental ray.
Choosing the right colors to achieve the right mood are the fundamentals of every work, and Alex uses both pro tools and the odd free web app to find the right hue for a job. "What I do very often in the creation process of a image is a levels tuning in Photoshop on the current painted layer, to bring the image slowly into the right direction. I continue this step then several times until I have a nice basis for the final touch. At the end I love to place a photo filter on top to tint the work slightly into a specific mood.
"This is just one way and there are several other good ways to bring work into the right mood. And there are some tools which are free to use and also very helpful to find harmonic color settings, such as ColorBlender, which can help you to find a nice palette just on the basis of one single color.
"Shadow and light is what gives depth to an work and makes it more intense for the viewer. I play a lot with light and shadows in my works, almost tending to get a bit too dark in most of them, but I love what light is able to do with a work. Having good lights and shadows can push an illustration or rendering even further.
Painting or 3D modeling tools available at the very beginning of Alex's career were apps like Deluxe Paint or Turbo Silver, where you needed days to render a simple scene or painted works on a pixel basis. That was of course fun and the results where quite impressive, well at least for these times. "My main goals for the future are to focus a bit more on concept art and especially even traditional art, an area where an artist can create something clearly unique in that medium," he says.