WarCry Interviews Diablo II Artist Ben Boos

John Funk | 16 Sep 2008 16:04
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WarCry Interview With Ben Boos

WC: Could you please introduce yourself for the WarCry community?

Greetings! My name is Ben Boos. I'm an author and illustrator with a past in game development. I spent nearly 8 years in the trenches at Blizzard North during a fabulous time of that company's history. Then I took the adventure a step further: I leaped and pursued a crazy dream.

For the last several years I've been pouring my heart into the crafting of a book that I hope gamers will like. It's called SWORDS: An Artist's Devotion, published by Candlewick Press. My crazy dream has now come true; thoughts have turned into things, and now the book has released! I can't tell you what I'm going through. WooooHooo! It's a very scary, exciting time. So hello everyone! Sorry I'm freaking out; it's awesome to be here!

WC: How long have you been drawing "seriously," so to speak?

I can remember drawing in high school while wishfully thinking about making a living as an artist. Hah. That lifestyle felt very unobtainable, frankly, but I was stubborn. I still wasn't truly serious about my art until later into my college years. An art director for a local corporation offered me 50 bucks an hour to illustrate various mundane things. There was as much work as I could tackle too, and I remember losing lots of sleep during that time. Soon, I was doing so well at this new gig, I left school behind me, without a second thought. Yeah, I took drawing seriously then.

WC: When did you first get into the video game industry, and how did it happen?

Well, I was doing great with the freelance work, making money for the first time, but it was seriously BORING. UGH! It sucked away at my SOUL!!! So I dreamed and dreamed about a remedy. Ahah! I wanted to draw monsters, and weapons, and treasure! For a living!? But I had no idea how to do that! My answer: I defaulted to instinct, and painted like mad. I spent about a month putting together some fantasy artwork, with the intent that I was going to make games at any cost. Diablo had recently entered my radar, and had grabbed my attention. The music, the genre... Ah, that game fit with what I wanted to do. Thus, I knew what I had to do.

Move ahead in time, to a nervous moment at the 1997 Game Developer's Convention, where I met Max Schaefer at the Blizzard North booth. I stumbled on my words, and shakily handed him my stack of prints to look at. Quiet pause, as he shuffles through my stack of work..... Ahah! He loved what he saw, and I lucked out. I was invited into the fold to become a member of the Blizzard North family.

WC: What games did you work on while in the industry, and in what role (or roles)?

I worked on Diablo 2, Diablo 2 Expansion (Lord of Destruction), and an early version of Diablo 3. During those years, I created quite a variety of work, and had the chance to go artistically wild. It was an absolute blast. I enjoyed sketching monsters; creating environments; designing weapons; painting user interface art or some box art... I wore several hats, and jumped here and there as needed.

WC: What were some of the reasons you left videogames, and do you have any plans to someday return?

I was accustomed to a struggle with pixels and technical limits, so when I started to think of making a book, it really appealed to me as a break from games. It seemed like an interesting way to express myself, where I could lose myself in my work without straining consciously against technical limits. Making a book was also refreshing, since I could work at home in my own studio, at my own pace, doing what I felt most inspired to do on that day (or night).

As for my returning to game development, yes, I expect to remain involved with the industry. I have a few ambitions in the hopper about such things. I actually feel like I never left the industry, because I found myself thinking in terms of game design the whole time I worked on the book. When you love games, it's hard to stop your brain from "working" on them, I suppose.

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categories: 3d, fantasy