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.

This Thud Is Slightly Sleeker
2014-09-29 -- ScoobyDoo has mocked up a new Thunderbolt VII variant based on the concept art for Wing Commander 3. The Heart of the Tiger's famous development wall featured a host of Confed ships that generally appeared more squat with certain rounded features similar to the ships of WC2. Scooby's design builds on that idea and adds some forward stabilizers/pylons as well as his nifty transparent radome assembly.

Full Afterburners, Go, Go, Go!
2014-09-28 -- Klavs has helped amp up the VK Day festivities with a glorious new Excalibur render. He's taken the famous FLEE image and recreated it from a new perspective. His version has a few additional details that are really nice - you can clearly see the WC3 style flight suit in the cockpit, and a "300" is prominent on the fighter's nose.

Local Newspaper Highlights Wing Commander's Musical History
2014-09-27 -- The Austin Chronicle has printed a preview of tomorrow's Austin Civic Orchestra concert featuring Wing Commander. The article notes that the music was originally created locally by George Oldziey at Origin, and this year's successful Kickstarter campaign gets a nod too. It also points to this really fun writeup from 1995 that talks about WC3's soundtrack and the burgeoning field of video game music.

Chris Roberts' Crowdfunding Success Officially Recognized
2014-09-26 -- Roberts Space Industries has chalked up another achievement. They've been included in the 2015 Guinness Book as the most crowd funded project in history. They earned the spot with $40 million, but the latest tally is actually $54 million with no end in sight!

Wing Commander in Concert This Weekend!
2014-09-25 -- Here's a reminder that George Oldziey's Wing Commander suite will be performed this weekend by the Austin Civic Orchestra. The show will be Sunday, September 28, 2014 at 3:00 PM at the Anderson High School Performing Arts Center. Austinites are really lucky to be so close to this!

Happy VK Day!
2014-09-24 -- On September 24, 2669, Colonel Christopher Blair launched his successful Temblor Bomb strike on Kilrah. Its resulting blast wave took out the Emperor and Prince Thrakhath's enormous invasion fleet massing in orbit. The crown prince himself was also bested in combat just prior to Blair's descent to the planet's surface.

Fans Continue to Push 3D Printing Envelope
2014-09-23 -- The Arrow kit build we showed off last week isn't the only new 3D printing project in the works. poopnoodle got these miniature Hellcats printed from Sculpteo based on Klavs' designs. Although the color models are really popular, artistic fans get a kick out of the blank canvas versions.

Playstation TV to Support Wing Commander IV
2014-09-22 -- There'll soon be a new way to play Wing Commander in your living room! Sony has announced that nearly 700 games will be available for the Playstation TV device when it launches in North America on October 14, 2014. The $99 set top box will be similar to the Apple TV or Amazon Fire TV.

GameStar Wades Into Piranha Controversy
2014-09-21 -- Whistler tipped us off about another new development related to Piranha Games. GameStar.de was able to get a response from EA Germany that disputes PGI's recent claim to have the license to make a Wing Commander game.

Gorgeous Image Caps Big Week For Space Exploration
2014-09-21 -- In case other headlines got in the way, it's been a fun week for people looking up. To start with, here's a gorgeous shot of the SpaceX Dragon launch this morning. It's the craft's fourth unmanned supply mission to the International Space Station, and it comes on the heels of some exciting milestones for commercial spaceflight.

Follow or Contact Us

Forums: Recent Posts

Current Poll

Where to Buy

WCPedia: Recent Contributions

Site Staff