Breaking Into The Industry is a weekly interview series that speaks with video game professionals from all across EA. We hope that by sharing how some of the industry's biggest (and smallest) players got their start, you can learn how to do the same.
What’s your name and job title?
My name is Dino Ignacio and I am the User Interface (UI) Lead here at Visceral Games.
UI for web or console games?
UI for console games. I am attached to the Dead Space franchise for the most part.
What kind of work did you do on Dead Space 2?
I led the team that made the holograms that Isaac Clarke uses to interact with his environment. Everything from the weapon selector to the inventory system. All those holographic switches and screens. I also designed the menus, the title sequence, and the credits.
What goes into the creation of a menu or a title sequence like that?
The opening menu of Dead Space was a unique beast. We wanted to make the interface your gateway into the game, so we decided to give it elements of horror with futuristic cues. We wanted to create a visual space you could swim through, with gore as images and videos of people turning into necromorphs.
We didn’t have the time or budget to model and animate everything we wanted to, so we decided to go guerilla on it. We got approval to buy a slaughtered lamb and we cut it up on video. Then we edited all these videos and placed them in the opening menu of the game. Pretty creepy stuff.
Was there a particular piece you really liked?
I like the eye poke mini-game we did for Dead Space 2. It was a fun project. We basically had to create the UI for the part of the game where you perform eye surgery. We took close-up pictures of one of our senior engineers' eyes and used it as the basis for the carnage.
You currently lead a team, correct? How big is your team?
The UI team at its core is about two artists and two engineers. It can grow to about five artists and five engineers at the height of production.
And it seems like you have a strong design background. Are you equal part engineer as well?
No, I’m more of an artist. I leave the engineering to the smart people.
Do you get to do any of the artwork yourself?
I do most of the early concept and pre-production. I create mock-ups and animations to illustrate what we want to do. I then also create the key assets for the game and distribute production of the rest of the work.
What are some of the skills you need to be a successful UI Lead?
You need the ability to prototype ideas very quickly and communicate them with other teams. You need to be able to inspire the rest of the UI team and deliver along with them. Photoshop, Maya, After Effects, and Flash are important too. Being able to draw and illustrate and have a keen understanding of graphic design is key.
Do you have any advice for someone looking to take your career path?
Play lots of games, but also examine real world user interfaces: musical instruments, old machines, electronics… The key to doing a great job in UI is being inspired by the wide range of other interfaces out there. Don’t limit your field of view to just what is expected. Pick up a crab and see how it opens. That’s an interface too.
Has there been one type of interface that influenced you more than others?
Not exactly an interface, but… I’m a big, big fan of the title design work of Saul Bass. He did all those amazing movie titles for Hitchcock and Stanley Kubrick.
Is there any particular major you’d recommend to an aspiring UI Artist?
I believe UI Design is a major now, although it wasn’t during my time in school. If not that, you can do multimedia.
How long have you been with EA?
I was hired at the end of 2007. So it’s been almost four years.
Did you work on any games outside of Dead Space 2?
I worked on Dead Space and Dante’s Inferno as well.
What drove you to EA in the first place?
I must say I got lucky. Dead Space was looking for someone with a unique style to do their UI, and I happened to have a strong Motion Graphics background coming from CBS/GameSpot. They liked my stuff and I got the job. I’ve been here ever since.
One more thing: I noticed that you have your very own Wikipedia page. What’s that all about?
Are you asking what Wikipedia is?
I think it’s because I’ve been on the internet for a while. They used to make them for anyone who did even the smallest thing, and I did a lot of web work back in the late ‘90s.
I created a “proto-meme.” I made a site called “Bert is Evil,” which was basically a collection of photo-manipulated images of Bert from Sesame Street doing some evil things. I made it to make a few select friends laugh, but somehow it caught fire and won the 2nd Webby Awards in 2008.
Is there a specific video game job you'd like to know more about? Let us know in the comments! Plus, check out last week's interview with Senior Software Engineer, Louis Gascoigne, for more insight into the industry.