1. Hi Alessandro, why don’t you introduce yourself.
My name is Alessandro Bragalini and I’m a 35. I work as art director, concept artist and illustrator at Forge Reply.
Since I was young I had a visceral love for design while dreaming of becoming a cartoonist.
I attended high school and then I studied at the Art School of the Sforzesco Castle in Milan, trying to refine my qualities in telling stories through images.
It was somehow satisfying to work with Dark Horse (Fear Agent), Image Comics (Tales of the Starlight drive) and other Italian minor publishing companies, until I decided to throw myself into gaming.
I became Art Director of Forge 11 and later Forge Reply when the development team became part of the Reply group.
2. Tell us how you become an art director at Foge Reply.
I was kind of tired of working as cartoonist.
I had just visited New York to show my work to Marvel who seemed to have faith in my abilities but eventually they didn’t like and understand fully my work and I was not ready to deal with that.
I knew I needed to find something different, that push me further, for myself and also for my family who always supported me.
It was a coincidence that when I went back home, one day, while having a dinner, a friend of mine who happend to be a graphic designer told me that there was a new startup named Forge 11 who was looking for video game creatives.
I knew relatively little about concept art, but I was always convinced of my skills, and I knew two very important things.
The first was that I’d always had a huge passion for video games as well as comics, but I never considered, that it could become my job. Secondly, the idea of testing my potential really excited me.
I introduced myself with confidence and willingness to face any kind of new challenge.
I wanted that job so bad, that during my interview I produced a lot of in a very short time and got the job, I was the first hired at Forge 11. From there on many things happened.
3. What project do you create at Forge?
At the beginning we produced games for mobile as Vikings can fly, Aloha from Hawaii an entertainment products in 2D. As the team’s experience grew, the company’s ambitions grew with them as well.
It was with Joe Dever’s Lone Wolf that Reply made a substantial leap of quality, and has certainly represented the project I’m most proud of. Joe Dever’s Lone Wolf was conceived as a mobile game, but after the release for iOS and Android we had the opportunity to bring it to PCs and consoles, accumulating further experience. And then came Theseus, a game designed for VR.
4. Theseus is one of your last project, what was your rule?
During the pre-production I worked as a concept artist and art director along with other two concept artists.
At this stage we have worked defining the mood and appearance of the global game. In particular, I was involved in the design of the main character and the art direction. In production, however, I was mainly concerned with the artistic direction of the game.
Together with the designers I tried to turn the concept into something playable and with the 3D artists and programmers, turning it into something aesthetically coherent. Theseus was the most difficult and challenging work I’ve ever done, a 3D game (coming from previous two-dimensional experiences) and I also largely cared for the story, which has been written by others.
5. In 2014 you won the Golden Dragon Prize with Joe Dever’s Lone Wolf as Best Video Game. Would you tell us about this project?
Lone Wolf was based on a popular IP during the 80’s, and it was a big challenge for us. Refreshing a product with its faithful niche of audience without distorting it and creating something new, fresh and suitable for new generations of players for mobile devices was not an easy task.
Creative director Fabio Pagetti decided not to distort the original product and take advantage of the devices to create a kind of book that could be read and played as a classic RPG like Final Fantasy, creating a sort of game book 2.0.
A challenge that many believe was successful.
As far as I was concerned, it was a pleasure to work for it, because it was an important project, a 2D/3D hybrid, which allowed me to understand many things at work. Joe Dever and Samuele Perseo took care of the writing and development.
Then there was the 2D dipartment, who created the environments and illustrations, based on the subject for the book.
The 3D dipartment made 3D dimensional spaces, characters for the combat phase, animations, and so on. I was also the art director of this project, and I had to supervise all the process.
It was interesting because we were working on a single project but well-defined by dipartment, and this allowed us to work faster, unlike the 3D game Theseus, where interactions, attempts and prototypes are more frequent.
Personally I really love this project because since then I see myself as a real art director.
Doing all the illustrations made me fill really proud of myself.
At the end I had the chance to meet Joe Dever, a man who made me dream with his book games when I was a child, and it was a pleasure to work with.
I was really sorry when he left us in November last year.
6. How about your first work Star Kirby, where the idea came from?
After eight years on video games, where a successful collaboration is 90% of the work, I wanted to stay a little by myself.
I need to disconnect from the world, go somewhere else and express myself in a more comic style, reconcile myself with the past and my first love. And I wanted to do it without the help of anyone, without collaborating, without any support, I wanted to prove that I had the potential as an author and not just as a designer. That’s how Star Kirby was born, a comic having reminiscences from the 80s without being subjugated, that wants to tell some story but in small steps.
A comic for those who, like me, want to open their eyes to a futuristic world, with action, some smile and emotions that leads back to each episode. My goal was to accomplish something that entertained you and at the same time, made you think about it.
7. What was the workflow?
It was traumatic to make a comic after 8 years without creating even one. The risk of doing nothing was very high, so I decided to realize it as a storyboards.
I thought of Star Kirby as a series of episodes of a cartoon, which I would, page by page, show frames. Star Kirby has a horizontal drawing board construction that fits the screen and has a single image (not always, but often).
For this reason, thanks to Alberto Barbati, a programmer friend of mine and other tow musicians, Antonio Cappiello and Roberto Brogi, I decided to turn Star Kirby into an app for iPad, creating a real cardboard tag opening Animated, with Filmation productions style and 80s retro-culture. Star Kirby for me is a cartoon of the ’80s but made with the taste of today.
8. Who are the artists that inspired you?
It is hard to answer to this question, because every new project has in own style, from cartoon, to realistic, etc.
Let’s say if I have to consider my two styles, I would say Bernie Wrightson, Bill Sienkiewiz, Yoji Shinkawa, Frazetta, who were essential for working to my “Lone Wolf”. But also Adam Hughes, Ivo Milazzo, Stuart Immonen and Alex Raymond have inspired me.
As a concept art I would like to mention, among many others, Sparth, Craig Mullins, Piotr Jablonski and Marko Djurgevic.
The list of all the artists I tried to steal something is huge, I’ve always had a great passion for any style of design, as far as I really do not consider myself a great experimenter.
Fortunately, one of the best aspects of video games is that there is always the possibility to have a new style for each project, and this is an exciting aspect of this work.
9. How much is important the software in your work?
I am so lazy in trying new drawing software. I mainly use photoshop and I never thought to change it.
I think the way of using the software is important if it fit you. I don’t think there is a software or definitive tool to use it. depend on what you need.
10. Do you have any projects for the future?
My goal right now is to keep working on Star Kirby, make it a bigger product, make clear that beyond those first short stories there is much more. Make you understand why I love it so much.
I hope people have the will, patience and pleasure to follow what I do.