Concept Artist

Mike May

This is the 7th studio I’ve worked at, and it’s my favorite for so many reasons. I am lucky to be surrounded by incredibly talented people, and every day they inspire me and help me achieve my best possible work.

What do you do at ZOS?

I am a Concept Artist, and I design content that aids immersion in the world and offer Marketing support. Specifically, with the help of my Art Lead and Director, I design lots of different stuff: Furniture, costumes, traps, puzzles, ships, events, mounts, tapestries, icons, logos, tattoos, fixtures, creatures, etc.

How did you come to work for the studio?

ESO’s Creative Director, Rich Lambert, remembered my artwork from when we worked together at a different studio. When the ZOS studio was just forming, he was one of the core few, and he contacted me to see if I would be interested in being part of the new project.

I was happy with my job as a Character Artist; but becoming a Concept Artist was a major goal for me, and you cannot find cooler stuff to draw than what ZOS calls for!

What does an average day look like for you?

I usually get in a little early to touch up and finish work I want done. I’ll then meet with my Lead and Producer to discuss current, finished, and upcoming work, and talk to my Lead about specifics for an assignment, work out time estimates, and decide on prioritization. Just before lunch, the Art Director and Lead will stop by to give direction on what current pieces I’m working on or decide whether it’s finished to their satisfaction. The afternoon is typically just work. I gather reference, do sketches, or continue to render a piece, depending on what stage of the process I am in.

What is working at ZOS like?

I absolutely love it. This is the 7th studio I’ve worked at during my career, and it’s my favorite for so many reasons. I am lucky to be surrounded by incredibly talented people, and every day they inspire me and help me achieve my best possible work. The studio atmosphere is professional, but it’s also relaxed and fun. They plan everything incredibly well, and I have gained several great friends while working here.

Have you always wanted your current role?

Absolutely. It’s a friggin’ dream. Nearly every assignment I get, I say to myself or out loud, “Oh man, that’s cool.”

How have you moved around within the studio during your time here?

I was hired on as a Concept Artist when the studio was very new. I was the first non-Lead Artist hired at the studio, so I’ve been here a while (10 ½ years as of this point). Since I started so early on, several departments had yet to be formed, so when the time came to implement UI, I was asked to be the UI Artist. For 4 ½ years I worked in UI, from establishing the look of the icons, the layout, map design and implementation. With the addition of a UI Lead, each of those systems evolved, specifically the layout, and the maps changed significantly from when I played a part. Though I still did a lot of icon work, I was doing as much math as art (placing maps in the game), and so I asked to be put back into a more creative role.

Ultimately, I was welcomed back into the arms of the Concept department (which also had changed significantly). The look of the game itself had evolved, and so I was the new guy in a team formed in my absence. I have been working as a Concept Artist ever since for the last 4 years.

What is your proudest achievement while working for ZOS?

This might sound odd, but I think my proudest achievement is when I learned to not hold past work too sacred, no matter how pleased I was with it or how many hours I put in at the time. Successful development studios are constantly refreshing content.

I am very proud, however, that the Crown Crate cards I designed are both a hit at ZOS, and prominently implemented in The Elder Scrolls: Legends… even fanned-out in the mobile app icon!

What games do you most enjoy / are currently playing?

I love FPS, story, horror, puzzle, and party games.

I’ve recently rekindled my love for FPS games. I’ve been playing games like Quake since they first came out. Hell, I worked on what was supposed to be the first Unreal expansion pack before Unreal was even released! I’ve put untold hours into Quake, but I am currently playing PUBG… and realizing that while I’m still clever, my reflexes are becoming questionable. Currently I’m less than 200 hours in, but I’m still pretty useless in most fights!

How do you manage a good work / life balance?

I think, as for anyone, this is a constant effort. I’m very fortunate to work at a place that REALLY plans time out well. I rarely have to put in typical work hours here, so I have a great amount of time to make my home life what I want it to be. I’m drawing as much as I can at home, but I’m also making a big effort to spend time with my family and still exercise and eat well. I take some pride in offering advice to young/new artists trying to improve their skills and situations, too.

Mike May's Department


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