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Phillip Klevestav

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You know him in the videogame art community as PhillipK, the one writing all those amazing tutorials as of late. I wanted to talk with him about who he is, why he's writing these tutorials (really, what's in it for him?) and where he's headed in the future. And if his desk setup (pictured above) is any indication, he's a very modest artist.


First off, who are you?

My name is Philip Klevestav and I live in Stockholm, Sweden.

I've been working in the games industry for a bit over five years so far, starting off at a company called Grin as a Level Designer. I soon moved over to focus more on art though. After a bit more than four years at Grin I did some work for Unknown Worlds on Natural Selection 2 for a short period of time to later move over to Starbreeze where I currently work.

Before I started working professionally in the industry I used to be pretty active in the modding community for a few years, mostly focusing on the Half-Life games.

[caption id="attachment_3469" align="alignnone" width="630" caption="Klevestav's modular rock tutorial"][/caption]


What is your art background? Both traditional education, online, or otherwise.

I never really had any focus on art during my education and I left school after graduating senior high school. I simply learned most stuff by trial and error as well as being lucky enough to join mod teams with exceptionally talented people. The same thing goes for work, I have a lot of people to thank for taking the time to teach me.

A long time ago I used to create maps for Counter-Strike, Day of Defeat, Quake and the likes. I think at that point the level designer was also often creating all the art him/herself and I believe I'm trying to keep that mindset even today. It doesn't mean you have to do everything yourself, but I feel the more I understand and learn from the various departments of game development, the more I can focus on creating optimized content faster.


Lets get right to it. Why are you cooking up these tutorials? What's the motivation behind them?

Well, I did use to release quite a lot of texture sets a long, long time ago, usually for Half-Life, to be used in any mods or levels. I really enjoyed to see what people could come up with using the textures. I also learned a lot myself from doing this, now it's pretty fun to look at all those old textures, you can actually see at which points I learned various techniques to make better textures.

I think it's the same thing when creating these tutorials now. While writing them I sometimes have to really try and remember how I solved any similar problems at work, this is a great way to keep myself from forgetting work flows among other things.

Of course it's really nice to get such nice comments from people as well, and I received a lot of great feedback on the tutorials so far, for example explaining certain parts better. Also it's great to feel a bit more involved with the game dev community again. If my tutorials can help even one aspiring artist or someone who already do work in the industry it's a success for me.


While videogame art communities like Polycount have certainly appreciated your efforts, have you thought much about writing tutorials for specific engines? It would sort of be like giving back to where you came from, the mod scene.

Yes I have been thinking about doing something with the UDK, however I'm pretty new to the whole thing actually so I feel I'd really need to dig into the editor there a lot more before writing anything specific. I've been meaning to create something bigger in UDK for a while, whenever I can find the time for that. Otherwise there's Cryengine, but my knowledge there is even more limited. I've actually only been working with inhouse tech professionally so far, so I'm afraid it'd be a while before I dare writing anything engine specific for one of the major ones out there now.


Most would agree that there is an abundance of poor tutorials out there. Either steps are missing, the presentation is to poor to follow, or the information is simply not thought out. What do you think it is about your tutorials that people are grasping on to so well?

I'm actually very surprised that my tutorials seem pretty easy to follow. I usually just start with some nonsense sentences and iterates from that coming up with things as I go. I guess one thing I've seen in a lot of tutorials is that they tend to focus too much on very specific details or programs. I've tried to keep my tutorials pretty general, as in you don't have to use the exact same programs as I do (even if I sometimes mention more program specific features).

Since all my tutorials are written and no videos are used I really tried to keep all images as easy to understand as possible, almost like you should only have to look through the images and still get a pretty good idea of the whole tutorial.

[caption id="attachment_3471" align="alignnone" width="630" caption="Klevestav's modular panels"][/caption]


How are you deciding which tutorials to work on? Is there a community 'out-cry' for certain information they just aren't getting?

I started off by posting a couple of tutorials that I felt I hadn't seen a lot on the web so far, how I work with modular meshes. When posting those tutorials I got a few requests right there and I mentioned my plans on creating a set of material tutorials where I also got great tips on what I could do. I still really appreciate to hear if people have requests for anything specific, doesn't have to be any general topics I've covered before.



What's next for your series?

I haven't thought that far actually. I still have a few material tutorials I'd like to do. Among those, one or a couple of more metal ones (maybe something more rusted) and more nature-like materials such as mud/dirt and gravel/pebbles. But I'm really up for any requests on that as well!


[caption id="attachment_3477" align="alignnone" width="630" caption="The beginning's of one of Klevestav's side projects"][/caption]



Tutorials are a very black & white way of educating an audience. So whether you consider yourself it or not, you've become an bit of an educator here lately. Out side of tutorials, articles written about a certain topic in the realm of our job are equally useful to anyone reading them. Removing the step-by-step approach and talking more about specific ways of working, thinking or executing on ideas can be very useful to both 'juniors' and veterans. I can find that experience of writing an article about a given topic to be an educating one for myself as well. Have you ever thought about taking this approach to educating others?

Great question, I totally agree with you. I have actually been trying to keep my tutorials too step-by-step, even though the last few material tutorials probably are more towards that. The tutorial I wrote on modular sets I feel I went into a lot more general workflow ideas and small tricks here and there, rather than totally focusing on it being a specific guide.

But yes, it'd be great to write something more article-like on a wider subject. I think that's when you can go really in depth on ideas you have while it can be harder to do so while always having to explain your thoughts with pictures/videos. I really enjoy reading such articles myself as well, even if you don't always learn something directly applicable on your daily work, there can be a lot of valuable information there that can help you later on.



Besides writing these tutorials, what else do you get up to in the realm of videogame art?

When not working I've been trying to get myself to finish a couple of smaller scenes. Sadly I'm really horrible at finishing stuff I start on my free time. With the tutorials going lately I've had most of my other stuff on hold as well. I feel there are still a few I'd like to do. I think it's really important that I feel motivated when working on any scenes, otherwise it'd be a waste of time and the end result would be bad anyway.

[caption id="attachment_3472" align="alignnone" width="630" caption="A side project of Klevestav's"][/caption]

That's a very good point you've made: Motivation. Often times we can be working on projects at home/outside of work that we're only doing because, whether its peer or self pressure or otherwise, we feel we need to finish. Generally the results are poorer this way than if its something you're inspired by and truly motivated to work on. I loved that this came from an interview with someone writing tutorials. It's apparent that what you do motivates you enough to educate others on it to the levels that you've done so.

Thanks for your time Philip and keep up the great work.

Thank you for the interview and a great site, I hope to keep being more and more active in the forum.


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