Telling Some Tales: An Interview with a Former Telltales Artist

Facebook recently announced through a weird artsy video, that they’ve reached 1 billion users. In the video itself it tries be artsy on how “chairs are like Facebook” and how were all connected and what ever PR hubbla then can think of. Funny thing is we are all connected one way or another. See a couple of nights ago, I posted some random status about math and the idiots who can’t apply it, but one of the people who commented on it was a guy in my friends list who has commented on several of my posts before. Thing is I don’t remember how we “friended” each other. So I did a little profile snooping to see if we had anything in common, maybe a mutual friend or something. Turns out though we met through one of those Facebook games, namely Mafia Wars. What was even more interesting about our strange relation; well to me that is, was that he was a former Telltale Games employee. And I’ve always wanted to have some sorta friend in the gaming industry and there he was on my friends list this whole time occasionally riffing on me for things like being a closet brony( don’t judge me. Fluttershy 4lyf  yo). Well taking advantage of the situation I managed to get an interview with him on his experiences working in the game biz and here it is for your reading pleasure.

Ted: Well for the readers, can you tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do?
Fietzek: Well, hi there!
My name is Thorsten Fietzek, and I studied “Mediengestaltung für Bild und Ton” in Germany (which should translate into Audio and Visual Media design I think). In my case, this means video editing and post-production. Which is also what I like to do, since I did this as a hobby for a long time.
Sometimes, I do really short flicks and sometimes I work on my own adventure game. That is, if I don’t procrastinate too much.

Ted: Awesome, I’m guessing that game is a little side project of yours right?
Fietzek: Totally. But the idea for the story has been around for a long time, maybe 5 to 8 years or so.
First, I tried to make a short film out of it, which kind of failed since low budget and the fantasy genre usually don’t get along well in movies. I thought about a radio play, but I actually threw that aside once I saw what Dave Gilbert is doing with Wadjet Eye Games.
But yeah, I work on it if I find time and whenever I feel like it. There is no deadline (sadly).

Ted: Speaking of game companies, you worked at Telltale Games, known for great story driven games. What was it like working there?
Fietzek: In one word: Amazing.
I mean, I’m probably biased, but working at Telltale Games is still one of best things that happened to me. Also, it was my first up-close contact to the gaming industry. It was SO amazing to sit in the office, to do my work and hear people talk about Sam & Max, not because it was small talk between co-workers, but actually work related stuff.
I still have a lot of good friends there and I make a point of visiting San Francisco once a year to hang out with them. And bring them gummy bears.

Ted: I could go for some gummy bears right now. Anyway so wow you worked on Sam & Max? What else have you worked on and what exactly was it that you did at TTG?
Fietzek: So, in total, I worked on Sam & Max Season 3, Puzzle Agent, Back to the Future, and Jurassic Park. My job was called “Cinematic Artist”, but actually it felt a bit like what I did before.
As an example, whenever you see some cutscene (in a dialog or in a reaction to you taking stuff), this cutscene was made by one of the cinematic artists with the animations made from the animations department.
So, it was a bit like editing a video.

Ted: So were you more of a 3D modeler or more of a 3D animator on these projects?
Fietzek: Ah, no modeling at all.
What I did was basically composing all the assets from the different departments, making sure the pacing is good, and (especially in Sam & Max) the jokes read well and don’t get messed up, for example, because of a bad camera angle I chose.

Ted: I’m guessing calling you a cinematographer would be a better job title for you then?
Fietzek: Haha, it would maybe get rid of some confusion, yeah!

Ted: As you put it, working at TTG was amazing. What were the best parts about working there? Anything on the negative side about the place?
Fietzek: That’s something a lot of people ask me, mostly because I talk highly about TTG.
In the end, TTG is a company that wants to make sure it stays alive AND makes a healthy profit. So of course, some decisions were made I’m not completely a fan of (no details here though, sorry). However, like I said, I still visit the office once in a while, checking out new artwork nobody has seen yet, etc.
The best part about working there were the people though. They’re all nerds! They liked games, movies and Internet related stuff. I never had that to this extend before. So I felt right at home.

Ted: Well some people just can’t get over the fact that video games are a BUSINESS. But at least it’s good to know that even the people on the inside don’t agree with some of the things that top execs decide on. Well I’m currently trying to get a game design degree and hope in the near future to be lucky enough to work at company like Telltale Games. What advice can you give to person wanting to pursue a career in the gaming industry?
Fietzek: Oh that’s an easy one… I mean getting there is not easy, but the advice is rather straightforward.
The game design is a rather artistic industry. Sure, there are some ground rules, but kind of like movies, one can bend or break them. Because of that it doesn’t hurt at all to take in anything art or psychology related you could get your hands on. It can only help to widen your horizon.
Also you might want to check out Extra Credits (http://extra-credits.net/), even if they don’t hand out complete solutions of how things should work, it gives a lot of good points to think about when tackling game design. At worst, it’s an entertaining blog about game design
Last but not least: Get internships.
It is impressive how much connections you get from working at one single company! Plus, an internship might lead to a full time job later on. Who knows?

I’d like to give more advice, but in the end I’m not a game designer myself. I like to tell stories, but I don’t exactly “design” stuff around it. Those are only the things I’d consider “super awesome but easy points”.

Ted: Dude, I love Extra Credits! Well before we finish, mind telling people what you’re doing now and maybe a few closing words?
Fietzek: Right now I’m back in my old field, which is digital video editing. We do mostly corporate movies, though next year will be big as we are going to produce our second feature length film. So that is something to look forward to (at least, for me)!

I’m not good at closing words, so I’ll just say a simple:
Do what you want to do job-wise, otherwise you won’t have much fun 🙂

_________________________________________________

And well there you have it, my interview with the awesome Thorsten Fietzek. If you wanna check out his demo reel or maybe just a little more interested in what this guy is all about, check out his site (it’s still in the works with a few things on it) go here http://portfolio.tfietzek.net/ and give the guy some much needed love.

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