Joe Cross' artistic influence is everywhere in Dead Space 3, and you don't have to look any further than his concept art to prove it. Working with Visceral Games, Cross coordinated with art directors and environment leads to paint the frozen landscapes and corridors, vehicles and characters that would set the visual tone for the recently released game.
Cross shared some of that artwork with Polygon recently and told us about his journey from art school to working remotely to his current position in an office working on a highly anticipated upcoming title.
Originally from the Bay Area, Cross graduated from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, where he received a BFA in traditional illustration. He moved to Portland in 2002 and spent time working at Nike and teaching illustration at the Art Institute of Portland. He got his start in the video game industry working on Dead Space 2 though a friend of his who had written a draft of the space horror story. At Portland's Cinco Design, he also worked on Need For Speed titles, among others.
He continued working with Visceral on the third installment of the Dead Space series. But Cross didn't do his work from the developer's Redwood City, California studios, which he only visited "a handful of times." He created his art remotely, he told Polygon in a recent email. It was a process that forced him to become "pretty close to nocturnal" between carving out time for his family.
Cross enjoyed the autonomy that remote work offered him because it allowed a certain amount of freedom. Developers would tell him what they needed, and he'd produce the art.
"In general the amount autonomy for concept art depends on the needs of client and specifics of the task," Cross wrote. "It varies from 'Hey we need a crate,' to 'Hey we've got this room that serves this purpose and we're not sure how it should look.' Most of all, people are just looking for good ideas and elegant solutions to visual problems, and if you can provide that everyone is happy."
Though he enjoyed working remotely, eventually he began to grow restless. He loved the work but wanted something more than the environment he'd been working in.
"After a couple years of it I started to really crave the idea of working in a studio with other talented artists and creative people. It became a grass is greener thing," he wrote.
Joe Cross found that opportunity recently. He still works as a concept artist, but he's no longer working with Visceral. Cross is a senior concept artist at Bungie, working on Destiny.
"After a couple years of it I started to really crave the idea of working in a studio with other talented artists and creative people."
"Bungie turned out to be the answer, it's an amazing place to work both in terms of the environment and the people," he wrote. "It's really been a dream come true and I still have a hard time accepting that I'm contributing to this amazing project with a team of concept artists that are second to none."
You can see glimpses of his latest work in the double-sided posters that you'll get for pre-ordering Destiny at certain retail outlets and in a vehicle speeding across a desert in Destiny's recently revealed concept art. And when Bungie's "always connected" shooter is released, you'll see even more of his work in the game itself.
"I'm also doing a lot of the in game graphic design for Destiny," he wrote. "Graphic design is a passion of mine and an aspect of art that is under-valued or under-utilized in video games."