Hey folks! I'm Viktor Antonov, you may know my previous works as City 17 creator in Half-Life 2 or Dishonored visual design director. Also I was co-author on Renaissance and The Prodigies movies. I recently joined an indie production company, Darewise Entertainment. The first project is called ROKH. It's a survival sandbox multiplayer game, deeply rooted in scientific and realistic anticipation. www.rokhthegame.com

Ask Me Anything!

PS: I've also recently joined Twitter: www.twitter.com/VAntonov72


Edit: Thanks for all your questions, it was my first reddit AMA and I had a great time talking to you for the past hours. See you soon!

Comments: 279 • Responses: 37  • Date: 

ImTalented220 karma

Do you think Half-Life 3 will ever be created?

VAntonov275 karma

Half-Life 2 was one of the most amazing project I’ve contributed to. It tooks 6 years of production! I would certainly hope that Half-Life 3 will be made, but I have no more information, since I haven’t worked with my friends from Valve in the last 10 years.

Noname_Maddox153 karma

HL2 is my personal favourite game ever made. It really was ground breaking. The havok physics engine and facial cgi was stunning, but it wasn't allowed to be just the star of the show. It was complemented with a great story and gameplay. I've never felt so alone in a game driving on the coastal highway past the abandoned houses.

Your work on the opening act really set the tone and feel for the rest of the game. All I can say is thank you.

I haven't played anything since that felt like we took a major step forward. So what do you think will be the next big step forward in gaming?

VAntonov79 karma

Thanks a lot, I'm so glad that this project is still appreciated 12 years down the road. For me all great games start with an amazing story, a good pre-production and a very motivated team. About the next big step forward in gaming, I can't really answer this. The future of the gaming industry has always been very hard to predict.

JohnCleeseDied78 karma

How much importance did the skybox have on City 17's appearance and feel?

There always seems to be a cloud in the sky and it gives me a nostalgic feel that I cannot pinpoint.

VAntonov150 karma

Enormous importance. I created a somewhat romantic atmosphere for a sci-fi world with horror elements. I tried to be as specific as measuring the sun angle of northern Europe, and the level of humidity, to recreate a very unique atmosphere.

Pyrrhic_Song70 karma

Were you inspired by any real locations for your work in Dishonored? It's a blast doing what you love, isn't it? ;)

VAntonov97 karma

Of course, it's a blend between London, Edinburgh, and adventure stories like Melville's Moby Dick. I'm confirming the blast ;)!

ILickWieners64 karma

Why does Father Grigori have Converses? It's very unrealistic. They wear out in about a year and that's just from walking around. He runs around fighting zombies.

VAntonov136 karma

Because if he wore traditional orthodox priest boots, he would have been zombie food very fast! :)

DancingBot46 karma

hi viktor, big fan of your work on both the games. What inspired you to opt for the unique design and look of Dishonored? How much of your work is influenced by game plot and mechanics? Also for someone just starting out in concept designing, any tips?

VAntonov72 karma

What inspired me for the Dishonored design was the fact that at the end of the 19th century, everything was handcrafted, as opposed to mass produced goods. Every object and prop had its own personality. Also because England has always been a mysterious island.

I consider game plot, game mechanics and art to be a part of the gamer's experience. So I can't separate them.

If you start concept design, the most important foundations are perspective, composition and volumes.

Foureth41 karma

What was your favorite part about working on dishonored?

VAntonov88 karma

Creating a brand new IP is a very rare opportunity for an artist. Since I love creating cities, Dunwall became a brand new place on map of fictional worlds.

Adflixit_34 karma

Did Valve have any clue City 17 is your hometown, and isn't it strange how suddenly did everything move from USA to the Eastern Europe? Also, if you were in charge for the combines idea, was it inspired by the Soviet government?

VAntonov63 karma

I wanted to take shooters out of hallways and bunkers, to take them into a strange and mysterious city setting. The combine design of course was inspired by brutalist, totalitarian architecture, such as the nazi and the communist ones. But here the invaders were from outer space.

fat_saint29 karma

Did you have to research on particular European cities for City 17? If so, any city/cities in particular? Can we expect similar art in ROKH?

VAntonov57 karma

Yes it was based on my childhood city Sofia in Bulgaria. It had mixed elements from Belgrade and St. Petersburg. I wanted to capture this specific atmosphere of Eastern and Northern Europe.

In order to recreate a similar depth for ROKH, I will try to come with an interesting backstory that involves history, technology and some classical sci-fi dreams & fantasies. I'll add also a sense of space adventure.


What is a project that you wish you could've worked on?

VAntonov74 karma


MrAnonymous_24 karma

Totally inspired by your work, your level design is phenomenal and is the reason I decided to work in the source engine making worlds / levels.

Can you do me a big honor and lett me know what you think of my recreation of the Half Life 2 train station?


It's nothing much as it was created a few years ago now, but I'd still be interested to know!

Thank's for doing an AMA and I hope you have an awesome day, Victor.

VAntonov30 karma

Thanks MrAnonymous_! It really reminds me working on the train station level in HL-2. You nailed the lighting temperature very nicely. Just need to add more wires and organic shapes.

Turbanator4456823 karma

Any tips for what to study in university for becoming a designer for video games?

VAntonov37 karma

I would recommend to get into the industry with a set of very specific skills. Either engineering or industrial design.

Maxidaz22 karma

Is there any hope for a Dishonored movie? Dishonored is one of the most visually captivating games Ive ever seen, and after six playthroughs of the game between the original and definitive edition, I can safely say I would throw my money at a film more than once. Also thanks for that game. I suppose you were probably a bug part of the way it looks.

VAntonov19 karma

Thanks, I had the luck to be one of co-creators of Dunwall, with the amazing Arkane team. I certainly hope so since we used a very cinematic approach for the world design.

Surfshack-Tito20 karma

Hi Viktor! I had a question regarding reusing things from HL2's old story. I noticed some striking similarities to some of HL2's older ideas in Dishonored, like the raised-rail trains that were previously seen in City 17's scrapped industrial district and those above-ground gate booths that were previously used by the combine for checkpoint doors. Is this purely coincidental? If not, is there a chance that we'll see more unused ideas from Half-Life 2 resurfacing in your future works?

VAntonov29 karma

I was happy to find out that many of my Arkane collaborators were fans of Half-Life 2 and they were interested in me designing more of the same still of mechanical devices. So it's not coincidental, and I'll consider using that same style for future projects.

CrispyColonel19 karma

Favorite food?

VAntonov37 karma

Japanese food, especially sashimi :) I got to love it since because I have spent about 10 years on the US West coast

Jipjup14 karma

Hi! The work you've done with Dishonored and HL2 is very amazing and hopefully your new game will be as amazing. With that being said, what is different with your game than others in the same genre(survival)?

VAntonov15 karma

We want to offer a real, deep and consistant fantasy. Everything in Rokh will be done so that the immersion is complete. We're developing some truely unique to the genre systems and cool mechanical design. All of that with deep gameplay mechanics and a strong backstory.

LaBubblegum13 karma

There's definitely a recognizable style to your designs across multiple games you have worked on, is that something you do intentionally? Are there specific shapes and designs you like to use a lot? What artists or works influenced your art? Sorry if I've asked too much; Half-Life 2 is my favorite game, and a huge part of why it was so impactful was the art and design, which was mysterious, but also somehow familiar.

VAntonov16 karma

My design style is very much based on a mood and an experience. My most important tools are lighting and space. And then comes textures and details. The best designs are based on primitives such as: - spheres - pyramids - cubes This comes from ancient egyptian/greek architecture. Anything we add to these primitive shapes is just to create extra excitement.

Artists who have inspired are Syd Mead, Hugh Ferriss and of course my dear teachers, Scott Robertson and Neville Page.

DingleBerriesk13 karma

OK this is a little bit odd question, but what is your favorite game of all time? Personally I loved half-life! :D

VAntonov27 karma

It's hard for me to name a favorite game, since I've been developing games for the past 20 years. But the games that inspired me the most are Fallout, Half-Life, and Oddworld

DerpPieQt12 karma

What was your favorite thing you contributed to Half-Life 2?

VAntonov14 karma

Designing City 17 train station and the Citadel! :)

duke8272200912 karma

Thanks for doing this AMA.

I just recently completed Half Life 2 and it's episodes. I have to say getting out of the train station and entering into City 17 was amazing. From touring through a few European cities a few years ago, I definitely felt a resemblance in City 17.

My questions are: Do you think Father Grigori survived after you leave Ravenholm? I kind of wanted to stay and help him, but I was terrified of Ravenholm and got out of there as quickly possible.

Also, what video games are you playing right now?

VAntonov28 karma

Trust me Father Grigori is still alive, he lives in the North West of the US, google Daniel Dociu and you'll see what I mean ;). A video game I just finished is PlayDead's Inside which was really nice.

SixCrazyMexicans11 karma

Hey Victor! What do you think is the hardest part about getting into the video game industry? And also, could you shed some light on what you will work on for this upcoming game? The trailer seemed somewhat confusing but the text underneath explained a lot of the basic aspects of the game

VAntonov11 karma

The most important part of getting into the gaming industry is to have a very specific skill before you become a game developer. It could be engineering, concept art or animation. And this skill will allow you to build on and expand your career as a developer. About ROKH, I will create an exciting/realistic sci-fi world: the backstory, cities and technology (vehicles...)

chocolatinedu7511 karma

I would like to thank you for your work on HL2 because that game is a cherished memory for me.

Do you have any big ideas or themes you've thought about that you haven't been able to incorporate into your work or as part of a project yet?

VAntonov14 karma

I appreciate that you remember Half-Life 2. I was lucky enough to work on the following themes: science-fiction, steam punk, urban fiction, post-apocalyptic... I would love to work on a western like world someday.

McGherkinburger10 karma

How closely do you work with writers, and what's the best way for people to become game writers? Spec work? Concepts? Pitches?

VAntonov15 karma

I always worked extremely closely with writers. This is crucial for all art directors & designers because game development is a very iterative process and most elements are constantly changing. Story and concept design are never finalized before the end of the game.

The concept is the most important part in terms of game writing.

Ribbonz310 karma

Hello Viktor!

First things first, Is it true that in Bulgaria people shake their heads to mean yes and nod to say no?

Secondly, do you prefer to make games specially geared towards PC or are you happy to make games that cross to consoles also?

VAntonov13 karma

Haha good question: yes it's true, I think they do the same in India! About your second question: I started creating games for PC because PCs at that time had the best graphic capacity. Nowadays, the boundary between PC capacity and consoles capacity is much smaller.

ikenteven9 karma

How did you manage to break into the gaming industry? What advice would you give to an aspiring visual design director?

VAntonov13 karma

I was formed and started my career as a transportation designer. Then I worked in advertisement, but both of those industries were very established and didn't offer me much choice for creative risk taking. As a designer, I was very lucky to find a brand new industry that could use my skills. At this time, the video game industry did not have clearly define positions and an artist could create entire worlds. So I joined the gaming industry relatively early: my first game was Redneck Rampage, a crazy funny experience in which I was able to create a big part of the art & world, before moving to more "serious" projects.

If you want to become visual design director, I would recommend you to use some papers and pencils and always start with traditional art skills.

Noname_Maddox9 karma

Favourite video game character?

VAntonov16 karma

I'm nostalgic of two characters: Oddworld's Abe and the giant Alligator in Resident Evil 2 ;) Just kidding, since I've worked on FP franchises, I never got to see the characters, so i've not really a favorite one.

SpyderCompany7 karma

Hello Viktor!

I've loved your work on both games, I feel that atmosphere is one of the most overlooked values in a game, but adds immensely to its value and quality. Over the years some of my favorite games have been those who have an amazing ability to immerse me into the world, regardless how "flashy" the graphics may be, and games such as Half-Life 2 and Dishonored have forced me to replay them many times to enjoy their settings again.

That being said, another huge intrigue of mine is the influence of literature/poetry to the artistic development of games! I noticed in an earlier comment you mentioned using Melville for inspiration in making Dishonored. Have you personally had any major contributions to your creativity/concepts from literature? Or let us know any other games you've enjoyed that have strong literary ties!

Thank you again for all your work, as well as for doing this AMA, and I'm very excited to see what works will come from you and Darewise!

VAntonov7 karma

Thanks for this great question! My most important tools are story and references. Such as history, literature and architecture. One of my main sources of inspiration is fantastic realism. I owe a lot to E.T.A. Hoffmann, but also Edgar Allan Poe and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. If you are not familiar with them, I hope you'll find the time to discover them.

two_off6 karma

Does the game have incentives to actually work together with everyone rather than build your group up a bit and then kill every other player that's lower level?

VAntonov9 karma

Gankers were directly identified as a threat for ROKH global experience. First of all we're balancing the gameplay in a way that PvP only strategy will never be rewarded enough. Also, you'll be able to remove PvP on specific servers (privatly hosted or official).

jawa216995 karma

What was your inspiration for city 17?

VAntonov11 karma

I let you check my answer to fat_saint above :)

willyoubethere5 karma

What were your thoughts when you realized that the source code of half life 2 has been stolen and leaked on the internet?

VAntonov11 karma

It would have been a pity if the hacker would have spoiled everybody, I would have love that all the fans get a first hand experience. This leak could have jeopardize the fans' expectations.

ConstableGrey4 karma

How do you find a balance between your artistic vision for a game versus the time/budget constraints? How do you work with the rest of the team to find that balance?

VAntonov6 karma

It does not matter if you work on high-budget AAA projects, or on indie productions, the most important thing is the story, the pre-production. And that's what drives the team dynamic. Think of it as a rockband. As long as you have good team energy, fans will appreciate it.

jcjacquez4 karma

As a kid, did you ever dream of being in the video game industry? What is the easiest job to get into said industry? Thanks fam

VAntonov11 karma

As a kid not really because it was mostly the arcade industry. But I also wanted to create sci-fi worlds, and the game industry happened to the best vehicle for this.

notaguyinahat3 karma

Hi. What prompted the move to your new indie project? I'm sure the Arkane team is still hard at work, and it's not like they won't have use for your talents in the future. Why is your new project so compelling to you that you would leave a steady job?

VAntonov8 karma

The Arkane team are dear friends of mine. But the most important thing about entertainment design is the player/viewer experience. The format could be blockbusters or indie-minded productions, and I have always loved alternate between both.

srpiniata3 karma

Are you related to the airplane manufacturer even a little?, or is your last name just that common in that part of the world?.

VAntonov8 karma

Not related to the Antonov airplanes, although that many of my Russian friends assume I'm Russian, I'm actually Bulgarian. :)

hardtalk3703 karma

What are you working on now with the indie production house? :)

VAntonov5 karma

Darewise is an executive production house, and our mission is to create amazing new IPs and develop them in cross-media (TV, movies, web...). Right now, I joined the team to take ROKH to the next level, but also to contribute to future projects.

wonderifthisistaken2 karma

Did you have anything to do with Ravenholm?

Man that shit haunts me.

VAntonov6 karma

Yes of course, I was the project's art director!

Xanthirius-5 karma

Are you going to put it into an infinite pre-alpha stage, only to rip off customers and then run out of money like every other game in that genre?

VAntonov9 karma

Darewise and I would love to create one of the best and realistic space experience. This means a very stable experience from day one. This could mean a smaller scope of game but we will ensure that it's very enjoyable and fun.