10 September 2009 11:50 GMT

Yes, it does take a while to get anywhere.

It's been almost a year since I left an update on what I've been doing here, and even longer since I left one on why. Not much has changed in terms of my current projects; the sketchbook outlines most of what I've been doing outside of work since The Enemy Within wrapped up a year ago. There's a lot of stuff I'd like to do more, faster, better.

I seem, however, to be over the hill now. I expect them to start counting down over the next year.

Learning individual programs is the easy part. I could get started with 3DS in two weeks if I wanted to, and become proficient in two more. I did it with Blender because I had to beat the mad rush of people having a crack at modelling to get my own Battlemechs into Mechwarrior 4. There was only one guy responsible for adding them to the game, so the better my models looked faster, the more likely I was to have them selected. I wound up with three, which

was pretty good for NBT-HC modellers.

That's something I've lacked over the past few years: motivation. First I started with Descent, and managed to work on a few really tasty level sets there. Back then, it seemed much easier to complete massive projects than it does today. When I look at it though, Descent levels were simple, as evidenced by the thousands in circulation even today, and even the likes of Obsidian shed half of its planned levels to get the thing done. So it was easier. But the real difference was in my interests at the time.

I enjoy competition. It can keep me amused for years.

Mechwarrior grabbed me, and kept me from losing my marbles during art school. I was making my way through the ranks of competitive groups toward the top of the game. It could have been something entirely different; it could have been competitive sport. Soccer, jujutsu, cycling. I'd have found something to keep my mind off art school, where very little of what I was learning seemed useful to me, and my perception of what I was going to do in the industry was inadequate to justify my role as an artist.

I was supposed to have a mission and a modus operandi, not just do whatever the art director told me to the best of my ability. I knew beforehand that I'd be working under someone for the next 10 years at least, so it confused me utterly to be expected to forge my own path as though I was a solo artist. For my final year project, I tried to design my own game as art director and every man in the development team. I stalled like a possum in the headlights.

It had been my mistake; I thought I was training to become

a technical artist, and took the wrong course.

So competitive gaming gave me somewhere to succeed while I tried to figure out where I was going as an artist. By the end of 2008, I'd picked up a permanent job with the adequate 3D ability I'd scraped together, I was back working with people who thought video game graphics were cool, rather than bewildering or part of some arcane industry they didn't identify with, Mechwarrior had dried up as a competitive environment, and Guild Wars was getting older and emptier by the month. The idea of being a video

game artist has started to seem more appealing than just playing them again. Aion is due to release in two weeks from now, yet I find myself increasingly ambivalent towards my guild there. Even during the open beta I find myself opting to continue the lizardfolk model I've been looking to finish. Aion itself looks beautiful, and the player-versus-player gameplay should be interesting for a few months at least, but I'd rather be drawing or building something than sitting in the game ticking over experience and better gear with my guild. It's been a very long time since I've felt like that. So, with any luck I should have some better art making it

out of my working folders and onto the gallery soon.

I'd love to have started earlier, but it takes getting somewhere in the first place to gain the drive to go further.