Why the artist behind 'Pacific Rim's' mechs settled down at id Software

Before recently becoming an art director at id Software, Hugo Martin was a concept artist with no reservations about moving from assignment to assignment.

His portfolio is huge, providing early concept art across a broad spectrum of entertainment mediums; from television, to movies to games, and everything in between. He's held down contract gigs at studios like Naughty Dog, doing concept art on Jak X Team Racing and Uncharted, he's worked in IP development with Wizards of the Coast, and worked as a freelancer for over three years — a period that brought him in touch with director Guillermo del Toro, who enlisted him to design the fighting mech suits of Pacific Rim.

It was a career he loved, moving from studio to studio, helping manifest ideas into their very first aesthetic renderings. He served as the midwife to entire worlds, and built a body of work that any artist could be proud of.

"I kind of feel like Caine, from Kung Fu," Martin laughed, speaking to Polygon during QuakeCon 2013. "I roll into town for three-month contracts, I make friends, and then at the end I leave and it's a little bit sad."

It's not just the friendships that Martin leaves behind; it's the universes that his concepts help define. For Pacific Rim, he worked incredibly close with del Toro and his core creative team, spending months meticulously detailing every inch of the film's mechanized "Jaegers." His work directly contributed to what turned up on the screen - but his contract with the studio is up, meaning he probably won't continue to define that world when and if Pacific Rim 2 rolls around.

It's that very reason that Martin decided to settle down with id Software.

"It feels good to be able to work on a variety of things," Martin said. "Like, I do like it. It was literally, in the span of a year, I might work on a very animated-looking stylized Pixar video game, a hardcore sci-fi Pacific Rim, this interactive iPad app, all kinds of different things and styles, and I hang my hat on that, that I can do those kinds of things.

"The thing that bugged me is, just from a career standpoint, I want to be involved with the project all the way through. Instead of just being a hired gun, where it's like, 'Thanks for the work, I'll see you later,' and you're just kind of like, 'Uh, OK! Remember me when you have the interviews! I did that thing, remember!' Also, from a pure business standpoint; hanging on with a project, building a team and then reaping the benefits from that afterwards. I remember when I worked on Uncharted for a couple of months, I moved on; it would have been nice to stick around to watch and be a part of all the success of Uncharted."

Martin began doing concepts for id on a freelance basis, but sought a permanent position at the company before his contract expired. It's partially because of his desire to put down roots at a company, to see a project through to the end - but he wouldn't have made that jump if he hadn't found the leaders of id Software so easy to work with.

"I liked working with them so much," Martin said. "Their philosophy — they're extremely collaborative, always letting the best idea win. That's basically the motto of the studio, which is awesome. And they mean it! And I saw it, freelancing with them. I thought, these guys are very good, I really like working with them. They're very open, very creative."

He asked if the studio could find a full-time, permanent position with them, and they did; Martin is now operating as an art director for the studio. It's a somewhat strange time for him to take on the role — if Doom 4 is the project he's working on (which, based on id's singular focus on the title, seems inevitable), it's a bit late in production to bring in someone with such a background in concept art, a practice so closely tied with preproduction.

Martin didn't discuss exactly what it was he's currently working on, but emphasized he's working less as a conceptualizer, and more as a facilitator.

"I can't speak specifically about what we're doing," Martin said. "I think it's basically about moving in a positive direction, and that's it. Working with the leaders; they have a plan in place, and I hope to facilitate that plan. Obviously, I'm contributing to it, Marty [Stratton, id Software executive producer] and I have a very close relationship. It's also, I guess, sharing my experiences with people. Both from an artistic and design standpoint but also a personal one. Just helping and pushing it in the direction they want to push in."

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