Interview with Nicholas Ng Hanyang, Concept Artist
We’ve been finishing up the ICO and so it’s been a while since we published our last interview, with Community Manager Tenzin Chiodak. But now we’re back at it, and continue our interview series with our other Concept Artist & Illustrator (we’ve spoken to Dendy Dhamier before), Nic Ng Hanyang!
We’ll work until our minds explode and we have no more ideas — then show each other our work to get the ideas flowing again. Nic Ng Hanyang
Hey Nic, it’s great to talk to you today. What were you doing just before we started our Skype call?
I was working on the stone quarry building for the Ernacks, for them to gather rocks and stuff. I’ve been coming up with ideas and I think the devs gave me some feedback. For instance, Horea [Trinca, Game Designer and Graphic Designer] wants to see more of the buildings and want to see how the ground will look like before the building is built on top of it. So I was now doing some raw version, like sketches, of the building and the ground.
And you use Photoshop for that?
Yeah. Photoshop mostly.
Great. Well, let’s get this thing going! Could you briefly introduce yourself? Who are you, what do you do?
I’m Nicholas Ng Hanyang, but just call me Nic. I am a Concept Artist for entertainment businesses, based in Malaysia. I studied at the FZD [School of Design] in Singapore, together with Dendy [Lead Concept Artist] for about a year.
The course was one year, I actually started in Malaysia, studying 3D animation for four years and then one of my friends introduced me to Feng Zhu, the owner of the school. He works for Star Wars and such, a lot of big companies that are quite well known, you can look him up. He has free online tutorials on YouTube as well. So when I saw those, I thought “these are so cool”! At that time I didn’t know that much about digital art; I just knew 3D. So I convinced my parents that I wanted to take another diploma and the next thing I knew, I was in Singapore.
Since you went to school with Dendy in Singapore, is that how you came to hear about the Hash Rush project? Through him?
Yes, I was working on another game at the time, also an indie game, me and Dendy were pretty close back in the FZD days, and we still are. So one day he was like “hey do you want to work on Hash Rush?”. I was like “yeah sure!”, because it was fun working with him back at FZD, and I missed those times.
Ah so you’ve worked together before! And both of you are concept artists right? What are your main responsibilities in the Hash Rush team?
Our main responsibility is to visualise the design of any task that we are given. Let’s say Nathan [Ziedonis, Creative Director] wants a stone quarry building. It’s pretty difficult to describe what exactly this building is, so our job is to make it visually possible and show to people how it could look like. But I’m never good at explaining what I do, I just tell people “I draw”, ha.
Who from the team do you work with most, on a day-to-day basis?
I work with a bunch of people, but recently I started working a lot with Craig [Ritchie, Director of Marketing]. I helped him design the new Hash Rush logo, and also the Rush Coin token, we redid that.
So I can imagine that’s quite different from doing concept art?
Yeah, definitely, that’s like graphic design. But in this day and age, it’s still art-based, so we can’t say no. It’s still the same category.
And is it more difficult?
To me, I’d say yes. It’s much less lenient. You can’t mess up a font or a wording. You have to make it really neat, clear, nice. For concept art you can just sketch out an idea and if it looks nice, people understand what you try to convey; “Oh yeah, that’s building, that’s a character”. Plus for this kind of work I have to use Illustrator, and I’m less good at Illustrator [than Photoshop] so…
Well in my opinion it still looks really good. Anyway, what is your daily routine?
I work from home. I wake up in the morning, do my morning routine, and jump straight into work depending on the tasks at hand. I sometimes do research (if it’s a new task), and if not I jump back in, based on the feedback I get from the day before. In the morning, when it’s still early in the morning, I just sketch a lot. Just to get some momentum going; it’s like coffee.
Ah so you also work from home, just like most of the Hash Rush team members. I do too from time to time, but don’t you find it easy to get distracted?
All of us we really try not to do it, but it’s inevitable. I tend to turn on — I really like watching stuff — so I turn on some documentaries or gameplays that are like 2 or 3 hours. Something super long, so there’s some noise in the background I just listen to it, and that allows me to just concentrate on my work.
Dendy introduced you to Hash Rush, and of course you work a lot with him now. So is each of you responsible for a specific part of the work? Or is there a different way you divide the work with Dendy? Or is it just like ‘first-come first-serve’?
I wouldn’t say we have divided the work, we kind of do what we want to do. We get the task and we’ll both do the same task so that we first both get a different take. If we’re halfway done, before we let anyone see, we both share our pictures and then we’ll get ideas from each other. It’s like, we’ll work until our minds explode and we have no more ideas, and then we’ll show each other the stuff we’ve been working on, and that gets the ideas flowing again.
Cool, that seems like a good workflow you guys have! But not all tasks are done by the both of you, I guess?
Yeah not all of them. Some of them like key arts, Dendy will take care of because he’s much faster. I like to do initial stage stuff, like sketching rough ideas really fast and then sometimes Dendy will get to work on it with more iterations on the basis of what I did. So it really depends.
I see. But when it comes to something you both work on, how do you make sure that you both have the same things in mind? So not to work in an entirely different direction?
For me, communication is key. We have to keep talking, we’ll work for a certain amount of time and then talk about it. I’ll ask him “What do you think of this?” and he’ll give me feedback, and the other way around.
There’s work time and talk time, but they’re both work time, if that makes sense.
Of course we saw the article on Rick Everrusty, who went from just an idea to the leader of the Ravagers. I suppose you and Dendy worked on this together? How long does it take to create such a character?
Rick already had a base idea to work from before I came on board. So we had a meeting saying like “there’s should be some changes”, so I did a new take on Rick. Literally, whole new sketches and stuff. I showed them to Nathan and the others, he’s like “that’s great”. Dendy then changed my style to fit the Hash Rush world — I didn’t even think about that when I was doing that because I was just sketching — so he took care of that from that point onwards and I went on to other tasks.
For Rick, it took about a week or so, with the two of us. Obviously it requires a lot of going back and forth, and feedback and stuff, and it includes that.
Wow, that’s a lot of work for one character! And you never get bored working on same concept?
No, it’s not boring at all, it’s always super fun.
I’m glad to hear that. Just to show your work off to others, do you have some examples of earlier projects you worked on? What is the biggest project you worked on?
I did post some of my work on my personal website, I’ll share that with you. One example is an indie game as well, it’s called Cohorts: Veil of Entropy. I was basically the artist for almost everything. When I came on board, they didn’t have a UI and such, it was lacking design, so I designed the whole UI and some of the characters. It’s a very old school style, tabletop kind of game, bit like Civilization, those kinds of games.
Hm, that must be quite different from Hash Rush. So what do you like most about Hash Rush and working on the game? And what are you most proud of so far?
Well, working with friendly people — everyone is really friendly, that’s like super fun and creating a world from scratch is also very amazing. So far, I’m pretty proud of the art I did for the banners, for the conferences. It’s so cool to see something that I made into a reality, that’s pretty cool. That’s so far what I’m most proud of, but I’m sure that down the line when I’ll see my designs in the game, then I’ll be even more proud.
Do you have a faction that you like most and why?
I really like the Elves. I think it’s cool because they’re dark — I can’t say too much because we’re still designing them, so I don’t want to give any spoilers. But compared to the Ernacks and Rick’s Ravagers, they’re the meanest ones. That’s all I can say.
You spoke about gaming tutorials earlier, so I guess you’re a gamer yourself? What is your current favourite platform and game?
Yes of course, I’m a total nerd haha. My favourite game of all time is the Fallout series. I really like a long long game, like sandbox games where you can explore all nooks and crannies. I typically game on PS4, just because I grew up with it, no specific reason.
My favourite game is probably Divinity Original Sin 2. Oh my gosh, that game is so addictive. It’s on the PC, the story itself — oh man, I put 70 hours in and I’m not even halfway there. You should definitely check it out.
Awesome, will do! Well, we’ve come to the end of this interview, thank you so much Nic! Is there anything else you want to share with the Hash Rush community?
If the readers are interested in my personal work, they can drop by my portfolio or if they want to see my sketches, take a look at my instagram. I’m currently doing Inktober, where artists draw for fun using traditional mediums. Definitely check it out!
That’s the end of our interview with Nic. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be interviewing members of the Tractor, Set, Go! team, so stay tuned for more on that!