Video gamers are an exponentially increasing group of the global population. Huge venues see competitions in which gamers compete for major cash prizes of millions of dollars. The grassroots part of this equation is still those who game in their own homes and the commerce that is created by the hardware and software they consume is staggering. When Taiwanese multinational computer and electronics company ASUS wanted to present new hardware via “Republic Of Gamers” (ROG), VFX Artist James Chen was called on as lead to conceptualize and create the hero robot who would be the focus of this campaign. As a part of Hi-Organic Motiongraphics, Chen was the spark and the hub of this highly successful campaign for ASUS which has endured for four years now, an almost unprecedented amount of time for a production in the quickly changing and evolving world of gaming and graphics. The life of a VFX Artist is often one of solace and focus which can be difficult for some. It’s the type of career you undertake when you possess a certain natural talent but are also highly driven to create the images which you see in your own head in a way that the rest of the world can experience them. VFX Artist James Chen not only does this but relishes the opportunities when he is able to throw himself completely into the work and flex every bit of his creative muscle. Chen’s work on the ROG project afforded him the opportunity to embrace creative freedom and simultaneously be part of a team, proving that you can have it both ways.
The promo video created by Hi-Organic Motiongraphics tells the story of a robot (who possesses several ROG design elements) fighting back a magma monster. The monster is a metaphor for the overheating which can be problematic and troublesome in gaming. The environment in which this battle takes place resembles a computer motherboard and related components. The promo video’s original purpose was to promote the new ASUS ROG brand at COMPUTEX, an expo for 3C products. In a serendipitous moment, the video was released just as the film Pacific Rim was; both productions benefited from the public’s delight in the monster/robot melee fascination. The robot became a brand identity for ASUS ROG, vetting the exemplary work of Chen and Hi-Organic Motiongraphics.
Po-Wei Su enlisted James to be a part of Hi-Organic Motiongraphics stating, “I invited James due to his extraordinary sense and passion for mechanical design, which was prominently reflected on the ASUS ROG promo video project. He led the ASUS ROG project, making the characters/environment design and creation, storyboard, and lighting/FX support. It was key that James is a CG generalist before a concept designer with knowledge of the entire CG animation workflow. This meant that his designs not only expressed his outstanding ideas but also contained a sense of practicality. You can be sure that his design won’t make animators go crazy solving parts interference issues, which is not always the case. FX artists could find a reasonable place to apply their shiny energy particles with useful emitter objects already in place.”
ASUS had given Hi-Organic Motiongraphics a wide rein in their design and Po-Wei passed this on to the project’s lead. Chen used the opportunity to unleash his talent in mechanical design. Along with the team, James did extensive research into the current ROG product line’s design and incorporated these into the protagonist. The design was exciting but quite complex. James recalls, “When James and the team suggested a fighting robot theme, ASUS presented them with fan art from Europe of a robot which combined various ROG products. The request of ASUS for a hero robot which resembled parts of their products could not be achieved by simply putting random pieces together. James put a great deal of effort into integrating the design language of their product into the robot rather than haphazardly including bit parts form their product to it. Chen concedes that while the freedom was immense, so was the responsibility. He notes, “As the project lead, I provided storyboard and theme concepts for pitching and production as well as quality control. As main concept designer, I provided the protagonist robot and the environment design. I’m very pleased that these were applied to ASUS advertising material worldwide. As a CG artist, I co-worked with staff and provided the model, texture, and animation to the video. Finally, I did work as support FX and lighting artist.”
James worked with a team of eleven artists over a period spanning four months from the initial client inquiry, & 2.5 months for actual production. A perfectionist, he admits that he initially became sucked into the joy of designing the robot and storyboard. An epiphany during the Chinese New Year break reminded him that he works along a host of amazing artists and a true leader is one who utilizes the talents of those on his team. Chen reveals, “The experience as an artist gives you more knowledge about reality. For example, you won’t force your colleagues to achieve things that could not be made on time. In fact, it might result in a better alternative solution. Even if you really have to do things in a hardcore way to achieve artistic accomplishments, you’ll know a better way to convince your co-workers and help others find a way to do it instead of being forced, this could actually lead to better results. An old Chinese proverb says ‘if you don’t like something, don’t do it to others’; this actually quite useful when communicating with co-workers. What I learned from this project is to be humble and trust other artists when taking the lead position. The progress and result of co-creation should not be over worried; on the contrary, it should bring you pleasant surprises.” ASUS was very surprised by the video which they received as well as its immense popularity with the public. James Chen and ASUS both learned for this experience that when artists are allowed to play to their strengths, everyone receives a result even better than they could have imagined.