Art Attack Friday: Dan Paladin

As professionally savvy as I try to be when journalistically roaming the showroom floors of many a game convention, I’ll admit I have yet to tame the wide-eyed, stars-a-flutter gaming fangirl that frolics in meadows of 1-up mushrooms and Chocobo greens at my inner core. While this syndrome provokes me at times to inappropriately beg for photo opportunities with all spectrums of game-related folk, sometimes I’ll get the lucky end of the stick and these well-renowned folk will want to be friends with me.

Such is the case with the one and only Dan Paladin, the artist most well-known for his work with The Behemoth in games such as Alien Hominid and Castle Crashers. While our friendship got to a rough start, (Dan threatening to beat me with his Wacom tablet if I didn’t stop drooling profusely over his Castle Crasher figurines displayed at PAX 2007), he joined the robo-team at E for All we solidified our camaraderie over inappropriate ASCII drawings and repeated sessions of Rock Band

And thus for Art Attack Friday I present an exclusive (and somewhat silly) interview with my friend Dan Paladin. Hit the jump to peer into the depths of an indie artist, a steak lover, and a magnet to all pterodactyl wallets near and far. 

Destructoid: Salutations DAN PALADIN! You have been chosen to participate in an engaging conversation at the Internet Web site DESTRUCTOID.COM. Please commence your interview in the NORTH CORRIDOR by introducing yourself, MR. PALADIN.

Dan Paladin: I am DAN PALADIN. I work at The Behemoth doing character animation and art and backgrounds and such. I have worked IN the GAME INDUSTRY for about 6.5 years, on 3D and 2D titles. I am 28-years-old and I like steak and hard liquor and burning people in TF2.

I’m going to kick this interview off with a tasty groove, following in the beloved footsteps of the one and only Oricst. What, pray tell, is in your CD player right now?

Nothing, but the last thing in my playlist was Lenny Dee. He is DEE LICIOUS.

And what, pray tell, are you playing right now?

I am playing Team Fortress 2 and Pacman Championship. I am cool.

Somebody told me you were something like a phenomenon. When did it occur to you that you were destined for the likes of designing some of the most fun and stylistically unique games on the block?

Oh!! Well thanks to them. I uh … I pretty much just stumbled upon it. Alien Hominid was a flash game I made with Tom Fulp while I was working in the art trenches of Presto Studios, and the whole idea of The Behemoth was most definitely not mine. It was all John Baez who wanted to start it up with that title.

Your games consistently maintain a particular twisted charm to their form, a certain je ne sais quois. Dit-moi monsieur, what bizarre and ungodly rituals are required to concoct such classics as Dad n’ Me and Chainsaw the Children? How do these creative processes differ from games like Alien Hominid and Castle Crashers? How many wolves have to die before Dan Paladin chokes a bitch?

These questions are always a little difficult because of how they come about and are the least obvious to Tom and I as we create them. We just kind of spontaneously brainstorm as we go, and the initial ideas are just random things thrown in the air.

For instance, I liked games where you can platform and shoot so I drew the alien and the FBI, and then we brainstormed what kind of things he can do and just kept going. For Dad ‘n’ Me one of us said  “Hey I like beat ’em ups, let’s bring those purple turd guys back from Chainsaw the Children.” As we started Dad ‘n’ Me, it was the dad beating up the kids, but since they were not very similar sizes at all it felt awkward, so I shrunk him way down so we dubbed him the Chainsaw Dad’s son.

It’s a very iterative process, and still remains iterative on projects like Castle Crashers. We keep it organic. The only really big difference regarding approach between the little fun flash projects and console stuff would be scope and team size, as well as getting enough content together to make people feel like they made a good investment I’d say.

Any plans on swinging some of those classic Newground titles you’ve done over to the console kingdom?

We’ve had a lot of requests for the Dad ‘n Me guys to be put on the console but I don’t know if we’ll ever actively pursue it. As fun as it is beating up a bunch of defenseless kids in a game, and as much as people seemed to enjoy it, I just don’t think it’s going to happen. Just going with my gut feeling on that one.

I heard 2D games are the new Hudson Hawk. It’s safe to say that you’re exceptional work and success in 2D graphics has definitely aided the upsurge of 2D games as of late.  What do you think this says about the future of 2D games in a next-gen world?

I think 2D having a bigger spot again is awesome. There was never anything wrong with 2D to have disappeared how it did for a while there, and I think it’ll just provide us gamers with a much bigger array of things to play for the future of today, I say.

I must admit, 2D looks pretty damn fine on schoolyard beat ’em ups and historically accurate medieval action games. Are there any other types of games (*cough* side-scrolling adventure *cough*) you’d like to try to make that you have not already?

Thanks! Dear Tiffany, I have lots of other ideas for games I would like to make. Whether they see the light of day or I get the chance to attack all of them is another story … we have other ideas lined up and ready for deployment at all times since we brainstorm in the downtime. As long as we make enough to stay afloat we will be making all kinds of different games!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Signed, Dan

Also, the other guys have many ideas they would like to make. We have bundles.

Congratulations DAN PALADIN!  You’ve managed to wrangle yourself the game artist’s dream job of drawing entire games with an iron fist. Aside from forcing you to commit auto-seppuku and stealing your fine collection of imported sneakers, how can aspiring game artists be just like you? Any encouraging words of advice?

In order to do what I do, I rely on other people who are great at what at they do. Without Tom Fulp my art would just be animation loops sitting in a file that you can’t control. Without John Baez our company would have never left the ground or been approved for consoles. Without Josh and Brandon and Emil and Mike and everyone else we would have no tools or engine or anyone preparing us for tradeshows, etc. You have to surround yourself with the right people is what I am saying. 

But I never really had that plan when I went into it. Like I hinted before, I just kind of go on autopilot and follow my instincts. I had to do the grunt work for a few years before I caught my lucky break, and before that I had to practice for years before I was employable. Never burn bridges as it is bad practice, and find ways to improve whether it is learning from other artists or trying to outdo yourself. Sometimes people ask how I am able to do the workload and it is really just because I take it one day at a time. I can only do so much in one day, so I don’t stress it.

Games aside, you have quite the fruitful basket of other artistic work that you’ve made in the past. What’s your favorite piece that you’ve created, and does it involve blenders and/or cheese graters? Or slaves?

Like a lot of artists, I tend to dislike my older work, or make excuses for it because I can see and smell my learning curve all over it. But one thing that doesn’t seem to do that would be some of the music I’ve created. I like how the “Watermelon” song is standing the test of time. I should have hated it by now! I do like a lot of my older sketches from high school, thumbing through the things and seeing all the stuff i have forgotten about. There are a lot of meat grinders and blenders.

Thank you for being historically accurate, as per usual Dan.  There is only one question that I have left for you, which I really think the gaming industry as a whole should consider more intently.  Dan, How am I not myself?

How am I not myself?

How am I not myself?

How … am I not myself?


You are welcome Tiffany, and thank you for not trying to destroy my soul like a lot of other interviewers that I dodged.