Ryan Lastimosa terrorizes the art room here at Respawn when he isn’t training for triathlons, raising money for good causes and saving kittens from burning buildings. Sure, maybe he hasn’t saved a kitten from a burning building but he would if the opportunity presented itself.
Abbie: What made you interested in art as a career?
Ryan: Robotech & Transformers, that’s where it all started.
Abbie: You wanted to draw robots?
Ryan: Who doesn’t want to draw robots?
Abbie: And how did you get started doing art professionally?
Ryan: One of my instructors at art school pulled me aside in the hall one day and told me about a gig. It was a year and half before graduation. Someone was looking for entry level artists (at the time I was focused on compositing and concept art but I also did 3D modeling on the side) and he gave me their contact info. It turns out the job was for X-Men 2 and 2 Fast 2 Furious, so I went in for the interview, did a test and a year before I graduated I was already working in the industry. My last two quarters were all online classes because I was on location with my first film job. It was hilarious.
Abbie: And how did you end up in games?
Ryan: I was working in the film industry and I was teaching Intro to 3D Modeling, Advanced Hard Surface and Organic Modeling, and Compositing at the same time. While I was in class one of my students pulled out Call of Duty 2. We all bought it and installed it at the lab at the school. We were playing multiplayer and that’s when I decided I was in the wrong industry, I needed to get into video games.
Abbie: What was it about the game?
Ryan: All the fun we had playing it. Film was fun, it’s awesome, but you can’t blow up what you’re viewing on the screen. You can’t interact with it. You sit there and watch it. It’s cool for getting a story told. But in a videogame, you can interact with story . You can shoot the villain yourself.
Abbie: What were the key differences between doing art for film and art for games?
Ryan: Output and resolution. In film you view things from a limited or restricted view, but the resolution is higher. With games you have to consider that you’re modeling something from every possible angle and it has to look good from each one, whereas in film you’re just making facades. In film the output is different. You have to be very conservative with your resolution and use every inch and pixel to your advantage in games.
Abbie: Do you specialize in any artistic area?
Ryan: Here at Respawn we wear a lot of hats. We’re a small highly skilled team so we have to have a lot of responsibilities, which is what I like. I prefer having a lot of responsibility and working with a small team. But everybody specializes in their own craft. We have character guys, we have guys that specialize in props and textures, I’m a high resolution digital armorer.
Abbie: What do you do outside of work?
Ryan: Beat you up.
Abbie: True, not actually a lie. (Ryan teaches me & other Respawn-ers self-defense)
Ryan: Actually you beat me up more than I beat you up.
Abbie: That’s just because I have less control than you. How did you get interested in martial arts?
Ryan: I’ve been doing martial arts on and off since I was a kid. Bruce Lee got me interested ever since I saw Enter the Dragon. I started with a little Okinawan karate, then Wing Chun and Muay Thai. I did a bit of Judo and wrestled in high school. I started training with Roy Harris at Harris International in San Diego. He specializes in Jeet Kune Do, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Filipino Kali. I trained with him for a few years and that’s where I established my base in the martial arts. He taught me how to use a knife and how to fight on the ground. I did a few competitions in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. I did pretty well, but I didn’t continue because I ended up going to college and training conflicted with that. I took up training again with Dan Inosanto over here in Marina del Rey. Have you seen Game of Death? If you watch the Game of Death with Bruce Lee, there’s a Filipino guy with a red headband and sticks, that’s Dan Inosanto, I was training with him for about a year and then I kind of took a break and started doing triathlons.
Ryan: It was a perfect mix of life changing events that went down. It was primarily in 2010. I used to suffer from obstructive sleep apnea. At the time I weighed 210 pounds and the apnea I had was really severe. My friends and I used to joke about how much I snored and they’d film me and stuff and I thought it was funny. Then my wife told me I had a serious problem and so I went and got a sleep study done. When she checked my chart she didn’t take it very well. It was very serious. The amount of oxygen I was in-taking at night was about 60% whereas most people normally get 90-95%. I was in the red zone for a stroke or a heart attack. And I didn’t even know. That was one of the things that said “Hey, you need to change your lifestyle.” I bought a bike. I hated running. I couldn’t swim. So I started cycling. I didn’t even think of doing a triathlon yet, I just bought a bike ‘cause I needed some fitness. I realized I was pretty fast and I liked cycling. When I was a kid I could never afford a bike, I borrowed my step dad’s or someone else’s…now I had my own bike. I took pride in that. I dropped 15 pounds before I had an operation at the end of 2009 where basically they go in and they cut out a huge chunk of your palate and take out your tonsils. So I don’t have a uvula.
Abbie: Open your mouth. Oh my, you totally don’t have a uvula.
Ryan: It was crazy. It sucked. It was so painful. I’ve been punched in the face, in the balls, I’ve been choked, arm locked…
Abbie: Just in the office…
Ryan: Ha, yeah, just in the office. And I’ve been jumped multiple times. I think I have a good pain threshold but this was different. It was like someone took a weed whacker to the back of my throat. It looked like a grenade went off back there. My doctor gave me painkillers and I was on them for a while but I hated the feeling they gave me. It put me into a vegetable state where I just wanted to get out and be active. It gave me a hint of how it is to be paralyzed and I thought, some people live their life like this, they can’t go out and walk around and while I was thinking about this I had to go in for an emergency operation because I popped a suture, a day before Christmas. So that Christmas I was again going through recovery. I have an uncle with Parkinson’s Disease and it sucks because he’s one of my uncles who was really active and now he’s confined to a wheelchair. All he wants to do is get out and do stuff but he can’t. So he and I, me drugged up on painkillers and him on his medication, at Christmas while my whole family was partying, we were watching TV and the Hawaii Ironman World Championships come on. I thought “These guys are crazy.” and my uncle says “That looks like fun.” I sat there and took it all in and thought to myself “He’s not going to be able to do any of this stuff, ever and when I recover I have the possibility of doing something like this. I can walk and run and ride a bike and I can learn how to swim.”
Abbie:So when are you running your first Ironman?
Ryan: I’m in the lottery for the World Championship in Kona this year. They only allow 1,800 people into the race. There are thousands of people in the lottery and there are only about 400 spots available. The other spots are people that qualified at other Ironman distance races or are professionals. My first Ironman is in June and that’s Ironman Coeur d’Alene. It’s going to be fun. I’m doing it for my uncle and cousin. Just the fact that I can do it is the reason I should do it. This is the best shape I’ve been in in my life so before I have kids, I need to get my licks in.
Abbie: So, I know you also play games in your spare time. What are your favorite games?
Ryan: The first one that pops into my head is Final Fantasy 3.
Ryan: I didn’t expect the level of depth in a game like that. I mean, the game dealt with the apocalypse, love triangles, treasure hunting adventures, suicide and it totally blew me away. I was so into it that when I beat the game I wanted to play through it again and I wasn’t even into RPGs at all. I was in to Street Fighter and Herzog Zwei, gun games and violence, but Final Fantasy got me into gaming as an art form. It had amazing music, the characters, you had an emotional connection them, the story was awesome. It formed a lot of my ideas on gaming, even now. That was the game that really influenced me. Coming from a history of loving shooters and fighting games, Final Fantasy 3 was a breath of fresh air. Other than that: Street Fighter, Call of Duty, Ace Combat, the Battlefield series. Those are games that come to mind. God of War also.
Abbie: And now you get to work with a bunch of guys who worked on God of War!
Ryan: They love hearing my impressions of the characters. Like Kevin. Kevin modeled Hermes so I always chime in on stuff with my Hermes voice and he pretends to like it but I know he really doesn’t.
Abbie: Do you have any advice for people interested in video game art?
Ryan: They have to have a passion for it. They have to love it and they have to be motivated. Those are like the three things. Passion, love and motivation. You have to love the craft. You have to love playing video games. You have to have an eye for things but you have to be motivated to know there is work involved and you have to get that work done. So starting off, I’d say for kids in High School: Draw. Draw as much as you possibly can. Do your homework but draw, paint and sculpt. Sculpting is awesome, it gives you an understanding of volume. It’s basically what I do daily in a 3D space. Modeling and sculpting. Play as many games as you can, figure out what makes a game good, what makes a game bad, why you like certain games and why you hate certain games. The more you play the more you’ll know how to make something better.
Abbie: Anything else?
Ryan: When I was teaching, the first lecture I would give to my students was to talk to them about the industry and how fun it is to work in film (at the time I was in film) and how fun it is to be in a studio environment. There is also a lot of pressure and it’s very team orientated. That’s one thing I really stressed. I made sure they were aware of their classmates and that later on in their careers they’re going to run into these people again, so everyone you run into, treat them well. That will get you somewhere. The quote I always used (from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe) was: “You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.” But you can’t forget, like any other industry, games can be cutthroat. Developing is fun and having fun doing it is what we do. That’s the secret to this team. We have fun and get stuff done at the same time. I hope that means a lot.