Say Hello to Reid Johnson
What do you do at Undead Labs?
I am the Animation Director at the Lab. I do my share of animating, but I also manage and direct the animators on staff, manage schedules, and identify the needs of the team, such as tools, rigs, and staffing. I work with animation contractors and motion capture studios as well.
What made you get into the game industry?
The joy of playing games, combined with a desire to become an animator, made the game industry a perfect fit for me. I always liked playing video games as kid. Along with being fun, I appreciated the art and animation in games. As I got older, into high school and college, games became too expensive and time consuming. I was too busy trying to figure out how I could turn my passion for art into a career. I had always wanted to be an animator, but back in the mid 80’s, there wasn’t a lot of opportunity to learn, or work in animation. Pursuing a career in graphic design was more realistic. After earning a degree in that field– computers and animation software became more available, and affordable. I started teaching myself animation just for fun. At that time a lot of game companies started popping up in the Seattle area. I happened to be in the right place at the right time and landed a job in animation at Microsoft. As a kid, I never dreamed I could combine my two passions, video games and animation, and actually get paid for it!
How did you end up at Undead Labs?
I was working at Zipper Interactive on MAG and the SOCOM series. I met a lot of really great people there. A few of those people eventually left Zipper and went to Undead Labs as a startup. That put the studio on my radar. I was starting to look for new opportunities myself. We used a lot of motion capture at Zipper and I was looking to get back into hand keying animation. I kept in touch with my friends at the Lab, and read the old Lab blog regularly. The more I read, the more excited I became about the team and the game they were building. When I heard they were looking for an animator, I jumped at the chance and was fortunate enough to get hired. I have been here for almost 8 years now!
What is your favorite part about working at Undead Labs?
The people here are great. Everyone is talented, passionate about making great games, and easy to work with. While no company is perfect, the team is what makes this the best job I have ever had.
Any interesting facts about you (outside of work) you’d like to share?
I love music. I started learning the drums a little late in life. I was never very good, but my friends and I started a cover band. We played at bars, parties, and a few weddings. It was really fun! I played with them for about 10 years, then I quit to spend more time with my kids. I probably haven’t played for about 12 years. Recently, a couple of guitar playing neighbors invited me over to play drums. Who knows, maybe we will evolve into a band! I am excited to start playing again.
From everyone at Undead Labs, thank you for your hard work Reid!
Social Media Q&A
How many zombies would rob zombie rob if Rob zombie could rob zombies…? -Jeremy Schwalbach
31 of course.
How long have you been with Undead Labs? -Michael Zentner
It will be 8 years in June! I hope to be here for many more years.
Is state of Decay 2 taking place during the events of SoD1 but from the other side of that wall? -Scott Benson
State of Decay 2 takes place 15 months later, outside the wall, but not in the city you see in the background at the end of SoD1.
Your thoughts on more in depth base building in sod2? -Austin L S Wright
More in depth base building would be great.
Being involved in animation, were there specific visuals in specific games or other media that inspire(d) you in your line of work? Some flashy games like Bayonetta and DMC may be fairly common, but anything less mainstream that you considered a gem among the rough in those regards? -Justin Arroyo
Yeah, definitely inspired by old Looney Tunes cartoons. and Samurai Jack. More recently Pocoyo, a show for kids, but I love the minimal-snappy style. There are so many games that inspire me. Banjo Kazooie, Jak and Daxter, The Mark of Kri, Any from the Uncharted, and Assassins Creed series…
Will we get a bostaff in the game like Morgen have in the Walking dead? -AllHailTheNuke
Morgen is one of my favorite characters in Walking Dead. A bostaff would be fun to animate and play in game for sure!
How many secret jokes did you hide in the code and not tell your boss and how swift and severe would the repercussions be if discovered? -VulGar
I don’t write code, I create animation… but I have made games in the past where I’ve hidden humorous animation on a character that will only be seen very rarely, and only in certain circumstances. I haven’t done that in a long time.
Where did you get your start in Game Dev? -Ryan_scray
I taught myself animation, then did a lot of short term freelance work for Microsoft. Some of the games I remember working on were: Microsoft Baseball, Microsoft Ants, Microsoft Cart Precision Racing, and Flight Sim. I eventually took a larger contract on Microsofts NFL Fever 2000 title. I was eventually offered a full time job at Sucker Punch Productions where I worked on Rocket Robot on Wheels, and the first Sly Cooper title.