Earlier this week, I was able to sit down with concept artist and production designer Silvio Aebischer and talk about some of his work.
Born in Switzerland, he studied Industrial and Automotive Design at Art Center Europe before moving to the United States. He worked on car designs first, but eventually found his way to California to work on video games. Since then, he’s worked on many projects, most notably as a production designer for two Oddworld games (Stranger’s Wrath and Muche’s Oddysee) and as a concept artist for SEGA on Iron Man 2.
As a kid, Aebischer was fascinated with how the world worked. He created things, building with his hands to understand how they worked and drawing out new ideas on paper. When it was time for him to attend college, he heard about a school that taught industrial design.
“I didn’t even know what it was,” he said. “I visited, and suddenly I realized that everything we touch, everything we have… everything you see that we own in our house, somebody had to draw it up. And they’re not all engineers, either.”
From there, he was hooked.
He started off by designing products for a toy company, before moving to the Michigan to design concept cars and work on seats for Johnson Controls. He jokes that he was hired because he was European, and understood European design.
During his time in Michigan, he was contacted by Oddworld Inhabitants, a independent game studio originally based in San Luis Obispo. One of the first things he did when he was contacted, he said, was to go out, buy a Playstation 1, and play the game Oddworld had already produced: Abe’s Oddysee.
He was intrigued by the story and message found in the Oddworld games, discussing topics such as the consumerism and environmental preservation.
“It was deeper than just smashing things around and shooting stuff up, ” he said. “Back then, it was just really driving games, sports games, and shoot-em-ups. So, story-driven stuff was very rare.”
He was also interested in working for Oddworld because of its European-comic inspired art. Rather than Marvel or DC, Aebsicher grew up with bande dessiné, or Franco-Belgian comics, some of the most popular examples including the Adventures of Tintin, Asterix, and Lucky Luke.
For Oddworld Inhabitants, Aebsicher worked on as a production designer for both Oddworld: Munch’s Oddysee and Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath — both well-received games, with Munch’s Oddysee given a 7.4 and Stranger’s Wrath an 8.8 from IGN. In Stranger’s Wrath specifically, IGN compliments the graphics, saying:
“…Stranger is probably one of the prettiest, and most refined games on the Xbox, period. The jungles and forests are lush, the cutscenes are incredibly polished, smooth and attractive, and the high framerate keeps everything quick.”
During the course of production, Aebischer worked closely with the team to develop the tone and general feel of each of the games. His favorite part of the process, he explained, was being in the middle of all these conflicting story directions, and making them all work together. He worked on and developed many of the environmental, industrial, and character designs for both Oddworld games.
After Oddworld, Aebsicher worked with SEGA out of San Francsico from his home in San Luis Obispo. He worked on many of the mechanical designs found in Iron Man 2, the video game produced in conjunction with the film of the same name. He said he even got the chance to work in Los Angeles for a bit, getting a taste of some of secrets of Hollywood life.
Currently, Aebischer works for as a Designer for Rocket Communications and as a self-employed concept artist for PixelPencil out of his home in San Luis Obispo.