Goodbye, Paul Steed

There is truly terrible news to report today: world renowned game artist Paul Steed has died.

Paul was best known for his work on the Quake franchise, but he got his start in the industry as a concept artist at Origin. One of his first assignments was doing gameflow storyboards for Trade Commander, later Privateer. His impressive ability to draw beautiful women, which would later be one of his well-known trademarks, was already apparent in some of those sketches.

He quickly developed a preternatural talent for low-poly modeling, a burgeoning skill suddenly in demand in the early 1990s as gaming made the transition to 3D environments before home computers had the horsepower to render truly complex objects. Paul was the best in the industry, using his genuine artistic talent to manipulate simple shapes and low resolution textures into believable--and beautiful!--fighter planes, spaceships and skyscrapers.

His credits at Origin read like a list of games you should play: Privateer, Strike Commander, Tactical Operations, Wing Commander Armada, Wing Commander III, Wings of Glory, Bioforge and Wing Commander IV. Faced with the prospect of losing him to another company, Origin offered him a chance to pitch his own project. The result was a never-realized racing game concept called Cyclone Alley.

Paul went on to create many other famous worlds for Id Software and a host of other developers. He wrote books on 3D modeling and served as Creative Director for Microsoft, where he helped launch the Xbox 360, and Atari. He founded and worked for Exigent, a 3D art outsourcing company, for five years. In recent years he had returned to game development in Austin. Paul was also a veteran, serving six years in the United States Air Force before becoming a game artist.

I corresponded with Paul on occasion and can say that he was a genuinely good person and always willing to spare time to answer questions about the early days at Origin. The industry has lost a truly great developer and the world has lost an incredibly talented artist. Paul was an essential part of Origin during its greatest days and we fans are forever in his debt that he shared his talent to help build our universe.

Chris Roberts provided the following memories, which best sums up how truly important Paul's contributions at Origin were:

Here's a story from the beginning of Paul's career that illustrates the impact he made in the video games industry. We hired Paul at Origin just out of the Air Force to work on Strike Commander. We didn't have the budget to hire a "proper" artist but we liked Paul's attitude and saw talent when he came in for an interview so we invented an art design assistant position for him.

Strike Commander was my follow up to Wing Commander and we were pushing the boundaries of what you could do on PCs. We had gouraud shading and real 3D texture mapping before anyone else had tried it in games. Originally we didn't think we could make the planes look cool enough in real 3D so we were going to use sprites rendered out from 3DS Studio, which is how Wing Commander 1 & 2 were done. We had built a utility so we could model and texture low poly buildings and objects for the ground terrain (this was long before such niceties as API and SDKs in things like 3DS Max and Maya to be able to import meshes into your engine).

We gave it to Paul to build objects as an early test. He came into my office a few days later and said "I want to show you something" and then proceeded to show a beautifully built 3D fighter inside our engine. Because of Paul's work and talent we decided to junk the Wing Commander sprite rendering and everything went 3D, including the cockpits - many years before anyone else had done any of that in a game. That's a testimony to Paul's talent and vision in our industry.

I'll miss you greatly.

Pete Shelus:

I was fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to work with Paul Steed and the privilege to call him a friend. Some of my best memories of Paul are working with him on designs and ideas for Privateer 2, before our version of that project was cancelled at Origin. Like many great artists, Paul lived his life hard, created amazing works of art, and left us too soon. I will miss him.

STEED!

Pete Shelus
Lead Programmer - Wing Commander: Prophecy

If you would like to share your thoughts or memories about Paul with the community, please contact us.

--
Update published on . View all news from that day.

Wing Commander CIC - Visit the front page

Official news, fan projects and topics of particular interest to Wing Commander fans.

Starship Tactics Checks In With Demo Video
2015-06-29 -- Arraen is back to share the first gameplay video of his Wing Commander strategy mod, Starship Tactics. The clip shows off some Dorkir convoy raiding by a Confed corvette. This is actually a major role that the Ventures would have played during the war, although we so rarely get to see them engage in activity like this in the series.

Fantastic Bearcat Model Available For Download
2015-06-28 -- Last year Klavs released a pair of large Terran and Kilrathi model archives that included over a gigabyte of ships. Multiple fan projects have taken advantage of his generosity and are sporting some pretty slick looking craft these days. But he's continued to make new fighters!

SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket Explodes Before Orbit
2015-06-28 -- After half a dozen successful resupply missions, SpaceX launches to the International Space Station were almost becoming routine. Unfortunately, a Falcon 9 carrying a new payload to the ISS detonated on the way up this morning. The good news is that the mission was unmanned, but the loss is greater than simple supplies.

Academy Gauntlet Dissected
2015-06-27 -- WC Academy's 15-level gauntlet is a notorious time-sink. Each level consists of three enemy waves, and with each wave you face more and tougher opponents. Selecting the right ship and wingman can be as important as your own combat skills, so it helps to know what you'll come up against in the later levels.

New Border Worlds Eye Candy About To Head Home
2015-06-26 -- DefianceIndustries has shifted focus a bit from Nephilim designs to work on what the Border Worlds has to offer. While the UBW had quite an intense fan following in the years after Wing Commander 4's release, it's a little less common these days to see their craft in the mix. One of the major projects to incorporate a Border Worlds faction today is the Homeworld mod, which has been actively working with several independent and talented fans to help upgrade its assets.

Sins of a Solar Empire Mod Revises Ship Strategy
2015-06-25 -- M3RcAden has been a little quiet lately, but he's back with a status update on his WC mod for the Sins of a Solar Empire strategy game. Work slowed when he encountered issues creating ships, so he's started on a new method to get them into the game. A cruiser, light carrier and heavy carrier are already starting to shape up nicely.

Priv Retrospective Starts Exploring The Troy System
2015-06-24 -- RugePlus has kicked off a new "Let's Play" series covering Wing Commander Privateer. There have been quite a few people interested in profiling the main games in the franchise, but Priv has gotten much less attention. The mission structure of the core games makes for attractive bite-size episodes, and a free-form adventure can be harder to review.

Importing Ships to WC2 Engine About To Get Easier
2015-06-23 -- Wing Commander editing god HCl has been busy this year, but he hasn't forgotten about his efforts to import ships into the original game engines like WC2 or Academy. His latest project involves creating a kind of converter that will take regular 3D models and transform them into the array of sprites that the original WC games used to display and scale ships. The results are very promising and could open a whole new world of early WC modding!

Source Art For Two German WC Books Uncovered
2015-06-22 -- Wing Commander's always been extremely popular in Germany, and the official German translations of the WC novels were highly anticipated back in the year 2000. Their weird sci-fi covers were always a bit of a mystery though, which we mostly just calked up to some international licensing/contract issue. LOAF was recently able to track down the source of two odd pieces of art.

Incredible Tarsus Is Ready To Do Work
2015-06-21 -- We've got another gorgeous model from Klavs to kick off your week. There's a lot of mainline Confed and Kilrathi attack craft in his massive library, but this time Klavs took a civilian ship out for a spin. The Tarsus has a really iconic shape that just oozes character (and other fluids).

Follow or Contact Us

Forums: Recent Posts

Current Poll

Where to Buy

WCPedia: Recent Contributions

Site Staff