Sony Santa Monica Unannounced Game's Lead Concept Designer Talks About His Work at God of War's Studio

By Giuseppe Nelva

July 3, 2014

A few days ago we featured the artwork of Jung Park, Lead concept designer of God of War Ascension currently working on the same role on the studio’s unannounced title. His job puts him in a crucial position in the process of defining the visual style of the upcoming game.

Park’s career began ten years ago at Midway, where he worked on Mortal Kombaand Stranglehold, then he moved on to NCSoft, where his art helped shape Aion, Guild Wars 2, Tabula Rasa and Lineage Forever. After that he landed at Sony Santa Monica, where he started climbing the ladder with Starhawk and God of War III, and then became Lead Concept Artist on God of War: Ascension. In the meanwhile he even found the time to work on the concepts of Adhesive Games’ Hawken.

In order to satisfy our curiosity about his work (and concept designers, like engineers, are often unsung heroes of the gaming industry) he accepted to answer a few questions, while he obviously can’t give any detail about the unannounced title he’s working on.

Giuseppe: A large percentage of your personal artwork seems to be science fiction-ish in nature. Is that a personal preference, or a choice dictated by work?

Jung Park: I’ve been working in the video game industry for more than 11 years, and I mostly worked on fantasy/Greek mythology games. Therefore, I try to work on different genres as much as possible when I do personal works, and Sci-fi is my favorite genre.

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G: What are your main sources of inspiration?

JP: My source of inspiration comes from everywhere. It could be a person, things I see on the street, and books I read. Stuff I know in my real life helps me to visualize more and better. Drawing a cool image is awesome, but it needs to lead people to see it as somehow believable, or they get confused.  It is really hard to make them understand your vision. 

G: How is working as a lead concept designer at Sony Santa Monica? Your work must have a great deal of influence in the visual direction of a game. How much freedom are you given when designing a new concept?

JP: I’ve been working at Sony Santa Monica Studio for almost seven years, and it has been a great ride. As a lead concept artist, I contribute a lot of visual direction of the game to my team. Of course I work really closely with directors to help them establish the look of the game.

I get to have a broad scope of freedom in the beginning of the pre-production phase. I do lots of blue sky/ high level concept, and my director always says “the sky is the limit!” But once we are in production, we don’t have much freedom because of the budget, time and purpose of its game play.

G: Could you describe the work done on a piece of concept art, from when it’s commissioned to the finished product?

JP: We start with brainstorming meetings with directors and producer. Once they pitch the idea to me, I begin researching and gatheromh references, and I try to come up with three to five sketches. When I have a strong feeling to go further after reviewing sketches with them, I take one of the sketches and begin to make it tighter and finish the painting. Once we are satisfied with the image, we send it out to level designers. They get to build level designs using my high vis concept art and 3D environment artists make the art sheet. And then we work closely with them to produce any call-outs or detail drawings for that specific area. It can take few weeks or even few months depending on how big the area is. And, once they finish modeling and texturing, I get the screen shot and do a final pass (minor change, lighting, color pop, etc).

Personally, I’m definitely intrigued by Park’s art, and I can’t want to see it applied to Sony Santa Monica’s next game. We might get to hear something more specific about it soon. In the meanwhile you can check  out Park’s artwork here, or on his personal portfolio site.

Note: the artwork showcased at the top of this interview belong to one of Jung Park’s personal projects, and it’s unrelated to Sony Santa Monica’s upcoming game.

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Giuseppe Nelva

Hailing from sunny (not as much as people think) Italy and long standing gamer since the age of Mattel Intellivision and Sinclair ZX Spectrum. Definitely a multi-platform gamer, he still holds the old dear PC nearest to his heart, while not disregarding any console on the market. RPGs (of any nationality) and MMORPGs are his daily bread, but he enjoys almost every other genre, prominently racing simulators, action and sandbox games. He is also one of the few surviving fans of the flight simulator genre on Earth.

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