Goodbye, Paul Steed (August 12, 2012)

Bandit LOAF

Long Live the Confederation!
There is truly terrible news to report today: world renowned game artist Paul Steed has died.

Paul in 2008, Paul's Origin games.

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.
Several of Paul's Privateer storyboards.

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.

Concept sketches for 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.

The portrait for Super Wing Commander's Hunter, by Sam Yeates, was based on Paul Steed in 1994.

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 it's greatest days and we fans are forever in his debt that he shared his talent to help build our universe.

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

Original update published on August 12, 2012
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Ye Olde Pimp Dragon

Paul Steed is one of those names I remember back in the early internet days, when .plan files were the best way to keep up with game developers. Every so often I would wonder what he was up to. Sorry to hear of his passing.


Vice Admiral
Very sad news - we've often marveled at the Priv artwork, and just look how heavily Steed-inspired many of the backdrops were. RIP.


Unknown Enemy
It's... just so remarkable, that one day we're reading about a long-forgotten project by Paul Steed - and the next day, this. The words memento mori come to mind. Not knowing how he died, I can only hope that he was, in his own way, prepared for it (as far as anyone can be). I wish his family all the best at a very difficult time.


Alex Von T.
I didn't know Paul Steed, but his work clearly influenced a great deal of the games that I love to play. He will be sorely missed!


Frog Blast the Vent Core!
Paul Steed,

You created worlds all of us continue to enjoy. Thank you for your hard work and allowing us to enjoy your talents.

Fair winds and following seas.