Video game artist Mike Kime knows a thing or two about painting in broad strokes. His website showcases a variety of two- and three-dimensional art alongside a resume that includes his current position at Epic Games as well as co-founding Flashbang Studios, creators of casual games like Glow Worm. This year, he's made waves by merging two very different worlds--the cartoony characters of Street Fighter with the realistic grittiness of today's most popular games. With the debut of his latest art pieces and the upcoming release of Super Street Fighter IV, we talked to Mike about his work and how he's made some of gaming's most outlandish characters look real.
Kime's first work, which came to light during a forum art competition on GameArtisans, was making a realistic version of Guile and his unnatural flat-top haircut. Kime's version of Street Fighter's American hero gained acclaim from sites like Kotaku, as well the Unity Blog-the official blog of Street Fighter publisher Capcom often read by key Street Fighter developers. More recently, he created a life-like version of M. Bison that still manages to keep the evil leader sinister.
Seth Killian, Capcom community manager, Street Fighter champion, and the namesake of Street Fighter IV's final boss, found Kime's artwork and brought it to his company's attention via the Unity blog.
"Plenty of games do a nice job with realism, but Street Fighter has always had a very strong sense of style that's a clear departure from the grittiness of the real world." Killian said. "That's part of what makes Mike's work compelling-it's a very different direction than we've ever gone with these characters."
This was a passion project for Kime, all due to his admiration of the arcade series. "Street Fighter II was a game that I not only loved and played avidly," Kime said, "it made me want to create characters."
While both characters were modeled outside of gaming engines, Kime noted many of his artistic methods are common to creating in-game assets. Kime explained his process to us: "In order to help achieve the look I was going for I used camera-based rim lighting on the clothing to help give it a soft look. I also used reflective materials on the metal bits and a gloss map to vary the wetness on the skin. These techniques [also] help the look of characters in the latest generation of games."
Ultimately his fan artwork, while widely praised, will remain just that for the time being. Even though the process of putting Guile and Bison into a current gaming engine wouldn't take too much work given the common development, Kime realizes the legal limitations, saying "Since I obviously can't make them for a real game I don't want to take it too far."
With Capcom among his many fans, we hope it can go a little further. Check out Kime's website for his latest work and be sure to check out the February issue of GamePro for an even deeper look into his art, including an annotated look at the design decisions that made Guile real.