Hi there! I'm Jonah Lobe, and I've spent my entire career in fantasy. For seven years, I worked at Bethesda Game Studios as a Character Artist, meaning that it was my job to translate 2D drawings and sketches into 3D game-ready assets. My first project there was Oblivion: The Shivering Isles, followed by Fallout 3, where I created the Deathclaws, Feral Ghouls, Mirelurks, Radscorpions, Giant Ants and more. Skyrim came next - I made the Alduin, the Dragons, the Giants (who I based off my father, journalist Jim Lobe), the Mammoths, the Draugr, the Dragon Priests, the Spriggans, the Trolls and more. I also made items like the Dragonbone Armor, the Dragon Priest masks, the Wabbajack and the Nightingale Bow.

After working on a number of creatures for Fallout 4 (including the Deathclaws, the Mirelurks, the Molerats, the Bloodbugs and Supermutants) I left Bethesda and moved to New York City to be with my now-wife and tackle personal projects, most notable of which is a dark and gritty fantasy series code-named "The Alvani." The first book has been completed and has achieved representation at DeFiore & Co, who are currently in search of a publisher. As for my other projects, I've been delving into the world of pen and ink (you can find me on Instagram: @iamjonahlobe), hosting an Art & Fantasy Patreon, working on the "Alvani" saga's arc, and building a series of Concept Art master-classes that I plan to release on my website!

(For those interested in Fallout and Concept Art, check out my article on Kotaku entitled "The Life and Creativity of a Great Bethesda Artist," about Adam Adamowicz, the incredible Concept Artist who passed away in 2012.)

Proof: https://i.imgur.com/iumF39O.png

Comments: 464 • Responses: 111  • Date: 

cahaseler187 karma

Hi Jonah,

Thanks for joining us here, you've made some of the most iconic creatures in gaming!

What was your favorite creature to make? Any funny stories about the creation of the Deathclaw and Dragon?

JonahLobe294 karma

Thank you for having me! It was a pleasure to be involved in such wonderful titles. My favorite creature would have to be the Deathclaw from Fallout 4. I remember the Deathclaws in Fallout 1 and 2 (playing that game at my friends' house), and how terrifying they were... so when Fallout 3 came along, and I was assigned the Deathclaws (I think I begged to do them?), I knew this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do them justice. Little did I know it would be a twice-in-a-lifetime opportunity! The Fallout 4 Deathclaw, in my opinion, is far superior to the Fallout 3 version. Not only was I a more talented and experienced artist when I created it, but from a biological perspective, it's simply a more viable killer, with a stronger physique, shorter (less delicate) hands, a more narrow silhouette, and natural body armor... not to mention better coloring. I never wanted to lose touch completely with the Fallout 3 sketches done by Adam Adamowicz however! I loved the starved, loose-skinned cheetah-like creatures he created... so even when I gave the Fallout 4 one a ton of leather-like armor, I tried to keep it skinny. And as for funny stories, I'll keep it brief: I remember being in one of the glass fish-bowl meeting rooms at Bethesda and seeing Todd Howard walk down the hallway. We locked eyes, and then suddenly he started walking like a Deathclaw: on his toes, arms out, flicking his tongue (I decided that the Fallout 4 Deathclaw should have been bred with viper DNA mixed in, because WHY WOULDN'T I??). Great memory, great image.

GGAllinsMicroPenis22 karma

So you're the guy who Michael Bay-ified the Deathclaws in F4! That was actually literally my only quibble about any of the artwork or artstyle in Fallout 4, the rest of which I thought was complete genius. I just thought they were way more terrifying when they were skinny and pink, bro! That's the stuff of feverdream nightmares. (Obviously the new versions are scary and cool-looking, too).

I have some actual questions and it's about Adam A., and it's something I've been trying to ask Pete Hines for years on Twitter. What percentage would you say, best-guess obviously, of Fallout 3, Skyrim and Fallout 4 were directly Adam's work, or heavily inspired by/taken from Adam's work. And, is there a tribute to Adam anywhere in Fallout 4? Or maybe a Skyrim DLC or something? I though for sure they'd do one.

I really enjoy your work, Jonah, it's some of the most iconic artwork out there. You're a hero of mine and I didn't even know it.

(secret extra question: did you do any or see any pre-pre-pre production sketches for Starfield?)

JonahLobe64 karma

Ha, Michael Bay suckssssssss. (somewhere, in some future alternate universe, I just burned a major professional opportunity-bridge).

Adam Adamowicz made 100% of the Concept Art for Fallout 3! Then his great friend Ray Lederer was hired, and so Adam was responsible for about 56% of the Concept Art for Skyrim. Then we hired another artist, Ilya Nazarov, and Adam passed. So in the end, he only created I'd say about 20% of the artwork for Fallout 4... though his vision REALLY persisted and was echoed in the works of Ray and Ilya... so really difficult to quantify his ACTUAL influence!

Is there a specific homage somewhere in the game? I don't know; I don't think so. But we have Alduin's Wall up at Bethesda, with a plaque in his memory. And no one who worked with him has forgotten him.

fforw8 karma

Michael Bay suckssssssss... I just burned a major professional opportunity-bridge

Are you doing explosions and cleavage make-up, too?

JonahLobe21 karma

I’m actually a cleavage specialist 🤷🏼‍♂️

donnycigs12 karma

The first time a deathclaw jumped out at me I'm pretty sure it gave me heart palpitations. Scared the crap out of me.

JonahLobe29 karma

This pleases me.

DrDolphinrider114 karma

How would you hide a giraffe from the government?

JonahLobe201 karma

I would gift it with a life of wealth and privilege. I'd send that Giraffe (whose name is now Trevor) to an ivy-league school and then get it a job on Wall Street. The cops would never, ever bother that Giraffe... even if it turned out to a serial killer a la American Psycho. I think I just thought up the plot of Zootopia 3?

_duckswag104 karma

What was your favorite game you worked on and why?

JonahLobe311 karma

Great question! I would probably say that Skyrim was my favorite project. As much as I love the world of Fallout, there's something about fantasy that just gets me like nothing else. The idea of magic, the promise of adventure, demons, spirits, gods and swords of magic... fantasy is just so mythic, and it captures the imagination in ways that other genres just can't do (for me at least). Also, I'm a huge fan of a hand-made world. Forge-beaten swords, lumber mills, hand-stitched clothing, ancient armors of iron and silver... there's just so much room for storytelling on a personal level. An AK-47 is just a manufactured machine, identical one to the next, but a forged sword can tell us so much about the world itself, the talent of the blacksmith involved, the deity they may have worshipped or the wealth and status of the individual who commissioned its making. From a world-building perspective, that's just pure gold, you know?

silletta99 karma

Wow you’ve put my love for fantasy over sci-fi in a perfectly understandable chunk.

JonahLobe87 karma

I've had many years to think about the answer to that ;)

knobtremor63 karma

I want you to know that my Mother got cancer back in 2011. I moved home and took care of her on leave from work, when she got declared terminal.

It took 6 months for the cancer to win. In that time when I wasnt Caring or chatting with her, i played video games to escape the fear and horror I felt on a daily basis. The fear of losing my Mother.

What got me through that time was bethesda games. I played them to escape. Made me happy to still be alive.

The games you worked on likely saved my life, and made me able to make the last six months of my mothers life liveable, as her Son never lost hope in all the time he cared for her during those last months.

I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart. You and your former colleagues. I hope you never stop doing what you love. The games help some of us cope when life becomes to scary, too real, and we need to see life through a different lense to keep going.

You make that real for some of us. Thank you.

Are you are aware when you make games that this impacts other peoples lives this way? How does that make you feel?

JonahLobe63 karma

This is such a nice thing to say, and I'm very sorry for your loss. I can't fathom having to care for my dying parents, though it's obviously in the cards for almost all of us, and it could happen any day.

Honestly, it's in hearing stories like this that we, as creators, are reminded that what we do can actually matter (beyond allowing some people to have a good couple hours). There's a lot of bad shit in the world, and I don't think that spending our lives playing games to escape them is a necessarily very good thing... Except that there is a lot of REAL TRAGEDY AND HORROR in the world, and having a place to escape to is truly a beautiful thing. Mentally "leaving" this world and traveling someplace else can be vital to keeping ourselves moving and active and able to tackle those horrors with renewed strength, just as you were able to do with your Mother.

This is really why I love fantasy. We are all gifted with incredible imaginations, and indulging in those imaginations can actually help us cope with the real world so much better. I'm so glad that our games provided a refuge for you, and gave you the added strength to keep going in the midst of such awfulness. Much love my friend.

allgoodbrah63 karma

what do you think of the Thomas the train and Macho man mods people have made?

JonahLobe136 karma

Whoever made those mods are absolute geniuses and should be given vast sums of money simply for being brilliant and hilarious.

FoulCrypt57 karma

Hey Jonah,

How long did it take on average to create a creature such as the dragon or deathclaw?

JonahLobe124 karma

Great question! To sculpt/model/texture a small Molerat-sized creature would take between 2-3 weeks. To make a Dragon or a Deathclaw? 4-6 weeks, and the soul of one's firstborn child.

amusingmurff54 karma

Why did you decide to go with the less traditional (and actually my preferred) form for the Dragons of 4 limbs (batlike wings and hind legs) as opposed to the more traditional European type dragon with four legs and two wings? Was it design preference or some sort of mechanic limitation?

JonahLobe93 karma

I think it was both? More limbs means more computing power and more resources towards animation (and we only had like 8 animators or something at the beginning of Skyrim development).

Truly, though, I think it was a design choice. From an evolutionary perspective (which is the direction I usually approach things from), wings are basically arms with elongated fingers, and can help with walking as well as flying. And in terms of animation and reference, there are no six-limbed creatures in the world, so it's much easier to imagine and create Wyvern-like dragons as opposed to the traditional European versions. I'd love to tackle a six-limbed version one day, but making it look believable will definitely be more difficult...

DANIELG36020 karma

Was just going to ask this! I love the Skyrim dragons because that’s what I think they would look like. 4 limbs just looks better imo.

JonahLobe18 karma


0megaRidley45 karma

Hello Jonah, big fan of your work since the Fallout 3 days ! Your models are always some of my favorites in their respective games, and have been a major inspiration to me on my journey to becoming a 3D artist.

I actually wanted to ask some questions regarding the Fallout 4 Deathclaw, which might be my favorite model in all of gaming, it looks absolutely incredible !

  • Could you describe a little what the design process for that model was and how it came to be ? From the Fallout 3/New Vegas model to the Fallout 4 one, there's been a massive jump in terms of anatomy, posture, skin texture and fidelity. What creatures did you use as reference ? How long did it take overall ? Were there other people (ie:concept artists) involved or did you do it all by yourself ? What was Todd Howard's reaction when he saw the finished model ?

And an extra question because why not:

  • Is there a model in either Fallout or the Elder Scrolls that you're really proud of, but is often overlooked in favor of your more popular ones like the dragons, deathclaws or Giants ?

JonahLobe109 karma

Great question, and thanks for the kind words!

Well, I knew that I was destined to leave Bethesda before the shipping of Fallout 4, and so I tried to jam as much work as I could into those last few months. At that point, I'd made the Supermutants, the Bloodbugs, the Molerats, Preston Garvey's outfit, things like that... but there weren't yet any plans for ANYONE to do the Deathclaws. Design hadn't yet decided if they were going to be including Deathclaws in Fallout 4 at all, and when I found that out, I realized two things:

  1. There HAD to be Deathclaws. It was a Fallout game!

  2. If I left, and someone else made the Deathclaws, I would never forgive myself for passing up such a terrifying and massive opportunity.

So! I started working on the Deathclaw in ZBrush from home. I referenced my Fallout 3 versions, and mixed together: Jackson Chameleon Alligatorrrrsssss Rhinoceros Bull Viper (tongue) And, for the look in its eyes, I referenced lions. To me, the Deathclaw is not a rage beast - it's a practiced, cold-blooded predator that lives at the very top of the irradiated food chain. It should always look calm and in control!

And Todd? He loved it. I showed him when it was about 70% sculpted out, and he gave me the go-ahead to finish it. Two days later, he returned to my cube and let me know that they were restructuring the demo to include a final Power-Armor vs Deathclaw battle! And we all know how that went... ;)

0megaRidley38 karma

It's surprising to hear the Deathclaw was added so late in development, it's such an iconic creature from the series. Glad you got the opportunity to work on it on your own terms before leaving ! (and that Todd liked it too !)

Thank you very much for the detailed answer, and good luck on all your future projects !

JonahLobe34 karma

Thanks! It was actually still early in development - I moved over to Fallout 4 earlier than most, and was only on it for 9 months or so.

JonahLobe42 karma

Hi everyone-

I've been responding to messages for 4 hours now! Whew, my hands are tired. Thanks for all the great questions, and for reading all my answers, it was a pleasure getting to know you all. If you have any further questions, or if you want to see what I'm doing these days, find me on social media and say hello!

Have a wonderful day, you wonderful people.

aybayb25937 karma

In grade school I was tasked with researching an artist that impacted my life. At the time, I felt Fallout had been that thing so I researched the artists behind it and found Adam Adamowicz's story truly inspiring. Can you share maybe one of your favorite memories of working with Adam?

JonahLobe55 karma

Absolutely! (and I hope you read my article about him?) I don't have any massive individual stories I can remember, but I'll never forget how selfless he was. He never let you praise his work too much, and he was incredibly flexible when it came to his work. He could work for several days on an idea, only to have it shut down the following day by a designer. Whereas other artists would get pissy and defensive, he just cheerfully nodded and started creating something else. Such an amazing team player, and the very definition of a great Concept Artist!

Oh, and he loved beer. And wine. I think he drank a bottle of wine most nights, after coming home and going to the gym. He drank a bottle of wine and made art in his home. He was a machine!

aybayb25913 karma

Thank you so much for the response, and yes I actually used your Kotaku article on my Works Cited page way back when :) And thank you for making Bethesda games such a huge part of my inspiration and childhood.

JonahLobe5 karma

Wonderful! Thanks so much, I'm glad you read it and enjoyed it.

MoCJones35 karma

Name three developers who you would

Have a beer with

Get drunk with

Get absolutely hammered with

JonahLobe101 karma

I would have a beer with Harvey Smith at Arkane. That dude is just so fucking smart and thoughtful, to a degree you don't usually see in this world.

I would get drunk with Todd Howard, my former boss. He's a really funny guy and he cracks a lot of jokes. The conversation would be long and meandering and hilarious.

And I would get absolutely hammered with Sid Meier. Can you imagine the brilliant but half-formed concepts he'd start slurring at you at 3AM? He'd blow your mind but confuse the hell outta you at the same time.


OneTerriblePancake29 karma

Where does most of your inspiration come from? Movies? Other game series? Other artists?

JonahLobe58 karma

Nope! Real life, almost always. Remember that movies/games/other art are merely other people's interpretations and re-imaginings of the real world. If we take too much inspiration from games or movies, then our imaginative ideas are like Xeroxing a Xerox - they're never going to be as good as the first Xerox, and at worst they'll appear extremely derivative. So is it a good idea to get inspiration from other forms of entertainment? Sure! But just remember that the best, most original sources of inspiration almost always come from the real world itself.

Also I love Nature Docs ;)

OneTerriblePancake12 karma

Ah I see. I should've worded the question a bit better but thanks for answering!

JonahLobe10 karma

You worded the question just fine! Happy to answer :)

FerousFolly27 karma

Hi Jonah, thanks for doing this AMA!

I was wondering how you and the dev team came up with the different levels of dragons and what influenced the ordering of them in the lore?

And probably more relevant to you: What was the hardest part of the dragons to model?

JonahLobe59 karma

Hi there, it's my pleasure!

I honestly think that the different levels of Dragons was pretty random. I wasn't given any guidance beyond "just create awesome + different variations on the current dragon!" So I did, by pushing/pulling the base mesh, adding a few extras here and there, and creating variant textures. They were categorized only later!

The hardest part of a dragon to model is probably the wings! It's hard to create a feeling of thinness, of flappy skin. Skyrim came out in 2011 - we didn't have flappy physics yet!!

Kids these days have only the Flappiest of Birds. Don't realize how easy they have it...

TheFattie24 karma

How would you describe Alduin?

How would you describe Alduin in a word?

JonahLobe56 karma

Insane. (who eats worlds? Why is that fun? What will he do when everyone's dead? He's not thinking ahead...)

joffnToff22 karma

Odd question, probably not worded right either but here goes: In your experience, have you seen or been involved in the dev side of a game where you are being constrained by out of game factors, such as a propsed release date, budget, management, social issues etc?

It would be very interesting to see if you have come across any of this and what it feels like on the side of the creator. I see a lot of complaints online - especially recently where it involves 'devs should have done this' 'Devs were lazy in this' where-as I cant help but think they want to make a completely full game but due to other factors they cannot.

JonahLobe96 karma

To anyone who thinks Game Devs are lazy:


92% of all game developers I know work their ass off. Game Development is not easy, nor is it quick. It's painstaking. And people don't seem to realize that Bethesda Game Studios (makers of Fallout and TES, specifically) is a relatively small company. The team who made Assassin's Creed, for instance, is four times larger than Bethesda's... and they don't have the huge landmass to deal with, the multi-class balancing of characters, hordes of monsters and dragons to animate, etc.

So yeah, I would say that team size is probably the largest restricting factor when it comes to game-making at Bethesda. The obvious jump-off answer from there would be "well they should just hire more people!" But hiring too many people too quickly is a really effective way of destroying team unity and cohesion, and a great way to invite corporate mis-management and such.

We had a great saying at Bethesda: "We can do ANYTHING. But we can't do EVERYTHING." There's only so much time and money and manpower to go around - we had to pick our battles. And you can't spend 8 years on a single game, just trying to get everything you want included and perfect.

They have a name for that kind of project... I believe it's Duke Nukem?

ghitzabomba5 karma

Close, but it's Mount&Blade: Bannerlord. It's been 7 years in development and still going.

JonahLobe9 karma

Nope, sorry, not even close! Duke Nukem Forever was in development for 15 years... and then burned out with a whimper.

arbalist1120 karma

what's your take on mods and the topic of paid mods?

how did u start out on your journey as a 3D artist x writer x dev?

would u recommend any resources or tips to people who follow your path?

JonahLobe39 karma

  1. I'm DEFINITELY a supporter of mods, and I think some are so massive and involved that their makers are quite entitled to ask for a little $! I think most people at Bethesda love mods and mod-makers - they're the ones who truly give Bethesda longevity.

  2. Mmm too big a question, I'll save that story for a question on it's own!

  3. My path is somewhat amorphous, but if you're looking to get into game design and game art, the number one piece of advice I would say is PRACTICE. There are tons of talented people in the world, and a great many of them are angling for awesome game development jobs. But if you're committed to your craft (and I suppose in my case that's art), then you should be spending the time to work on your strengths and shore up your weaknesses... and ALWAYS be looking to learn new things.

And when I say look to learn new things, I mean be open-minded about the entire world. Try new cuisines. Travel to new places. Listen to the viewpoints of others with whom you disagree. The greater your level of experience, the more complete your understanding will be of the REAL WORLD (not just your little view of it), and thus your ability to create worlds of your own will be that much more comprehensive, thoughtful and interesting.

That1Sniper20 karma

Hi Jonah, are you liking the path Bethesda is taking with Fallout 76 or do you think they should stick to the traditional RPG? Personally I'm more for the latter but I'd love to hear what a real BGS employee has to say about it :)

JonahLobe60 karma

I have complete faith in the team at Bethesda. They are incredibly hard-working, and actually quite a small team, and I think that for as long as there have been Bethesda games, there have been fans just WISHING for a multi-player Bethesda game.

Will there be issues? Certainly. Will it be preferable to a single-player experience? That depends on the individual. Do I want a multi-player Tamriel? Not especially, but that's just because I love the single-player experience, and how immersive it can be.

As individuals AND as companies, we'll never learn to conquer new ground unless we at least TRY. And that's what they're doing! I for one am excited :)

radicalspacecat20 karma

I wanted to play Skyrim for years but only was able to start playing this year and am obsessed with it and can’t stop playing. The ‘character’ designs are fantastic, I love the detail on the dragons and I really love your dragon priest mask designs!

My question is: did you have any specific inspirations for the designs for the dragon priest masks etc in Skyrim? Were you given a brief for what they should look like or did you do your own research etc and design them entirely yourself? Thanks!

JonahLobe40 karma

Hi, great question!

The Dragon Priest Masks were one of my favorite things in the entire game, and that's because the design was entirely my own. The Dragon Priest Masks were never actually even a part of the formal design docs, and there was never any concept art done for them. My friend Joel Burgess, who was a level designer, had the idea of different helmets or hats you could find in the world, and he wanted to make a little meta-quest for them in the game. He asked me if I was interested in instituting this little "rogue" game design, and I said I definitely was.

I loved the various masks you could find in Morrowind, so I decided I would go with masks. And for the actual art style, I referenced a Nigerian mask given to me by a family friend. It was built with awesome angles and shapes, and had these inscrutable slits for eyes. I fell in love with the design, and I decided that the Nords needed a little more African influence, so I created a mask based on this design. The popularity of its look just goes to show that people out there are hungering for more creativity and cultural fusion than they realize!

Another thing I thought about a lot was that I wanted people with both good and bad characters to be able to wear these masks. If you're good, then you can interpret the mask as stern and wise. If you're evil, the mask can appear cruel. I love that!

radicalspacecat12 karma

Thank you for the detailed response! It’s so interesting to see where the inspirations lie for game designs.

Edit: because I’m terrible at words.

JonahLobe27 karma

I bad am too at words.

AbhiroopS18 karma

Hey Jonah, What made you interested in what you do in the first place? And What are some of your favorite games from your childhood?

JonahLobe24 karma

I've always loved stories and the power of imagination (I was an only kid, a latchkey kid, and I spent a great deal of time alone). I drew a lot, and thought up characters.

And as for some of my favorite early games? Well, hard to say. My parents never bought me a game system, but we did have computers... and the games that left the greatest impact on me as a child were:

Wolfenstein 3D Altered Beast Prince of Persia Star Control 2 ...and then Doom, when it came out!

As for games I played as I grew older, I'll save that for another question ;)

The7even2wentyLegend12 karma


JonahLobe13 karma

That's all I need to hear to just start power-punchies enemies to death! Also, I love that that's like the only dialogue in the entire game, and there's barely any explanation for it.

The7even2wentyLegend8 karma

That and the evil laugh from the wizard was about it haha. Oh yeah, and “Power up!” The music in that game really got you pumped up too.

Btw, glad to see you finally doing this ;)

JonahLobe9 karma

It's fun!!

neonchickenwings17 karma

Hi Jonah, I think I went to school with your brother. I remeber him drawing dragons in middle school and mentioning many times that his older brother made the Skyrim dragons. I wont use his name online but did he attend sfs?

JonahLobe17 karma

Hahah yep!!! That’s my bro!!

LaoSh16 karma

You made the deathclaw? Can I invoice you for a new pair of pants? I forgot to wear my brown ones.

JonahLobe24 karma

All poopy-pant related inquiries should be forwarded to Zenimax, I'm broke, kthx

Babydrone16 karma

Hi Jonah! Thank you for all the amazing work you have done.

What was your reaction when you found out that the Giants (who were based off your father) were hitting players and npc's alike high into the sky with their clubs in Skyrim?

JonahLobe34 karma

I loved it. The entire team loved it! In our very first team-meeting after Skyrim shipped, we were discussing bugs that needed to be squashed. This one featured quite prominently, but then the entire team decided, because we were all laughing about it, that maybe this one bug should just remain in the game forever :)

MildlyExtraneous15 karma

Hey there! Are you sure there isn't any real meaning behind the bugs in jars in Skyrim?

JonahLobe19 karma

You really shouldn't let this BUG you my friend, I suggest you BOTTLE up that curiosity ;)

Dekish14 karma

How do you feel about people being sexually attracted to the deathclaws?

JonahLobe45 karma

Listen, when it comes to sex, I will never Yuck anyone else's Yum - it's a wide world full of strange experiences, and we are all special flowers with our own individual desires and wants. But I have to admit that I never saw this one coming.

But you know what's funny? I attribute people's affection for the Deathclaws to one. specific. element:

Their pink noses.

Think about it. Their entire bodies are covered in leather armor, scales, plates, and claws. And yet, they've got this soft underbelly, and the pinkness of their noses tell us as viewers that they are probably warm to the touch, and their snoot is soft and boopable.

And that which is boopable...

BlueHairedLatina14 karma

Hello, Jonah! What would you advise to someone who wishes to become an artist in the game developing world?

JonahLobe14 karma

Great question. My simple advice would be to start drawing as much as possible. It takes years to get good at something, and practicing is hard and demanding... but there simply is no other answer. You can play a lot of games, but knowing games doesn't get you any closer to being good at art. You can teach an artist to be a game developer, but you can't teach a game developer to be an artist!

I recommend drawing every day, and drawing from real-life reference a LOT. And then, when you've done enough real-world study, you can start inventing things from your imagination. That way, your knowledge of the real-world (and your improved hand-eye coordination) will allow you to work believable magic.

iC0nk3r13 karma

Did you sneak any easter eggs into your works that still haven't been discovered?

JonahLobe22 karma

Hmm I honestly can't remember! Beyond carving my name into the Dragon Bone Armor, I don't know that I planted any?

jsabbott13 karma

Has anyone ever told you that you're a solid wing man?

Not only did Skyrim give me hours upon hours of enjoyment, it was the first game my girlfriend (now wife) got hooked on because it was rich with the sort of imagery she absolutely loves. We spent a lot of time taking turns playing a character we made together early in our relationship.

Thanks for that.

JonahLobe30 karma

Nice!! That's exciting, I'm glad man. I'd love to think that, while you guys were making out on the couch between load-times, that I was above you in some ways, watching and smiling.


Wait, I didn't mean that.

Stairmasternem12 karma

Which Mirelurk design did you prefer - Fallout 3 or Fallout 4? I'm partial to the more inhuman design in Fallout 4 myself.

JonahLobe16 karma

Fascinating question! I preferred the ones in Fallout 4. I made the Fallout 3's Mirelurk to resemble an old rubber-costumed monster (that was sort of the prompt, to go along with the pulpy 1950s schtick), but I was never entirely happy with my result. The Fallout 4 ones are just far more realistic, far more original in shape (Ilya Nazarov did a fantastic job with the concept), and better over-all additions than in Fallout 3. They also had more personality, ie they were hungry and stupid-looking whereas the F3 versions didn't have much personality, IMHO.

Stairmasternem5 karma

Thanks for the reply! Yeah the Fallout 4 designs certainly were unique. I believe some people have said they appear to reference The Dark Crystal now that I think about it.

JonahLobe6 karma

Ooh I love that. Don't know if it's true, but I lovvveeeddd that movie as a child!

Stairmasternem4 karma


Here is the photo someone posted on reddit a while back of the creature in The Dark Crystal. The physiology is pretty close although the Mirelurk design is certainly more cleaned up and matching that Hermit Crab/ Softshell Crab look.

JonahLobe5 karma

Oh hell yeah! I forgot about those things. Yes, definitely an inspiration!!

Scarkan11 karma

Have you made mods of your own?

JonahLobe25 karma

Sort of? I made Arvak during a random week at Bethesda, but that got added to a DLC, so maybe it's not a mod anymore...?

But no, the answer is I have not. Mad respect for people who do!!

PencilMelody11 karma

For your book series, when did you first have the idea to write it and what was your inspiration for continuing? Excited for when it comes out! Also, what was the hiring process like when you started working at Bethesda? Thank you for your time!

JonahLobe13 karma

Hi Sariah! I first got the idea for my series a year or two into my time at Bethesda. I got the image of two protagonists in my head, and started imagineering from there. And with regards to CONTINUING, that's easy - I want to make an EPIC fantasy series! My main characters solve many of their problems in book 1, but they've got a lot more left, and a lot of growing up/leveling up to do. And isn't the point of a fantasy series to let the readers invest long-term in a character, and grow up with them, and see the wonders of an entire world? Plainly said, I just have so many ideas for their further adventures (and for the entire saga) and I have no desire to cut them off before they're done.

I'll answer the hiring question in another Q ;)

sassysassafrassass11 karma

Why are the Skyrim "dragons" called dragons? They're obviously Wyverns.

JonahLobe33 karma

You're obviously a Wyvern.

sassysassafrassass7 karma

But I have arms and no wings...

JonahLobe18 karma

You're not flapping hard enough!

Grace-I-Guess10 karma

Hey Jonah, really love your work.

What game gave you the hardest time and why? Also, what do you think of the deathclaw memes that have come out of recent years?

JonahLobe17 karma

The hardest I've ever had it was when I tried to develop an indie game a few years after leaving Bethesda. The game was called Fireborne. It never saw the light of day. Developing an indie game is hard, y'all!!!

And I love друг.

ArashiKaji10 karma

How did you end up working for Bethesda? Did you send them a portfolio of your character/monster creations?

JonahLobe38 karma

Great question!

I graduated college with a pretty solid art portfolio and a 5-minute long CG movie... but I couldn't land a job. I'd already applied to Bethesda - once, for a summer internship (which did not actually exist) and once more when I first got out of college. When I figured out that I didn't have what they wanted, I went to Siggraph, a CG convention, and asked potential hirers what it was that my portfolio DID NOT have. They explained to me that I needed to showcase a talent in a particular realm or pipeline - Character Art, in my case. I then spent the next 8 months (after college) working 8 hours a day, trouble-shooting 3DS Max and ZBrush (which I was just beginning to learn) on Forums etc, and teaching myself the skills necessary. I then applied AGAIN. Then I followed up with an email to Todd Howard two days later, on a Saturday... and he wrote back to tell me they wanted me to do an art test.

I think I screamed with happiness? Can't remember, I blacked out.

BlackAccipiter9 karma

Hello Mr.Lobe! My name is Luna (that's not my real name, I just don't love to use my real name in internet) I have several questions for you...

  1. Me as a Graphic Design student at final year, I think your job hard as a Graphic designer. Do you think about your job is hard? Do you love your job?

    1. Your work on TES V SKYRIM is great! Alduin's Design most great dragon design l've seen. Do you think Alduin is most hard to make Main Dragon Character ever? If it's hard, Why?
    2. I know Todd Howard love to give some ideas or advice to his workers. (I heard this from a video about him) Did he (Todd himself) give some ideas or advice to you?

Final question, What is your favorite BGS game? (I know this is so easy to answer :D)

Have a great day! I hope to see your work on more BGS games!

JonahLobe14 karma

Hi Luna, nice to meet you!

  1. My job(s) are definitely very hard! I also love my job(s). I love that they allow me to learn new things and grow my understanding of art and the world.

  2. Alduin loves you too!! And yes, he was super hard to make. He was so incredibly detailed; I imagined him flying through space, so I referenced iron meteorites, and doing all the little holes and dents was so difficult that I got a severe wrist-injury while working on him!

  3. Definitely Todd gave me good advice, but probably the best advice I learned from him was to respect my co-workers and to always be optimistic. As the leader of a team, part of his job that no one thinks about is to keep morale UP. He did a great job of making us feel good about ourselves as a team.

And my favorite BGS game is probably Skyrim, but my original was Morrowind!

Luffyyyy8 karma

What made you start art, game developing and writing? And what did you study in University? (if thats relevant at all)

JonahLobe14 karma

I started making art as a kid, and just kept up with it over the years. I went to college and was a Studio Art major (though I enjoyed a great number of other subjects) but I never wanted to be a painter or an "artist," because I felt that this would be a rather masturbatory way to spend my life; I am a privileged white kid from the east coast with very few life problems... what the hell was I going to "express" with my stupid art? And who would be interested??

So instead, I went in a much more fantastical direction. One summer, I devoured a book, "The Making of Jurassic Park," and decided that I wanted to spend my life making monsters for movies or games. My senior year of college, I took a 3d modeling/animation class, and got totally hooked. I ended up spending almost all year making a silly 5-minute long CG movie about cute aliens who meet to play dice in the Temple of Hatshepsut and end up waking up a mummy. When my roommate's father (who was a writer) watched it at the senior show, he told me "You have a gift for storytelling. Don't spend your life bringing other people's dreams to life; bring your own dreams to life."

I thought that was good advice, though at the time I just thought "please dude, I just want a JOB." And yet, about a year into my time at Bethesda, I started dreaming up a fantasy world of my own. Then I started writing a screenplay based in that world. Then I wrote another draft, and another...

And then I left Bethesda and moved to NYC to make it into a full book (which is the one currently looking for a publisher). So yeah - one thing just kind of led into another!

not-a-bear-in-a-wig7 karma

Jonah, huge fan of the work you and the studio do. My question is, you said you take 2d material and translate it into 3d for the game. How much input do you have with the team that does the initial 2d sketches and drawings, and how much wiggle room do you have to deviate from said sketches?

JonahLobe13 karma

Great question!

When translating from 2D to 3D, I was usually supplied by the Concept Artist with somewhere between 2 and 30 drawings/sketches/illustrations. The Art Director would then inform me what their favorite drawings/elements were. From there, I did two things:

  1. I asked the Art Director which parts of the Concept Art did they love the most and were essential? Their answer then provided me with a solid understanding of what NOT to mess with going forward.

  2. I asked the Concept Artist what their primary real-world references were when they first designed the creature. Almost always, their answers were weird and unexpected, and these weird and unexpected things would provide me with source material to look at while I built the new thing.

Guided by the loose sketches and the primary desires of the Art Director, I was then able to both respect their visions AND play around in the open space between them. Inspired, in sometimes unexpected ways, by the source art, I would begin to create elements that were entirely my own. At other studios, they might not have appreciated that, but at Bethesda I felt respected and I felt I had plenty of trust to improvise. With that said, I always wanted people to give me their honest opinions and suggestions, even if it hurt. Sticking to only our own visions is a very bad idea, because then ego gets involved and we forget that our ideas aren't the best. This is a persistent issue in the Game Development world, where literally all your peers are World Builders too!

Savior_of_Bruma7 karma

Since the giants in Skyrim is based off your father, what does he think about them?

JonahLobe11 karma

He doesn't know what to think, mostly, because he's barely played those games, but I just found out that he bragged about me to his IT guy recently, so I guess he's pretty happy about being a Giant!

NeatoBurrito147 karma

Any general tips for things like premises and worldbuilding? I'm currently wanting to write a graphic novel but I have no premise and I have never done major worldbuilding before. Thanks!

JonahLobe14 karma

Great question. I would start with defining some of the rules that govern this world, and immediately figure out how that would effect the people of that world. Every sci-fi (and most fantasy novels) engage with this: Altered Carbon: People can extend their life on and on, which has turned the world into a place ruled by the incredibly wealthy, who are essentially immortal. Blade Runner: Humans have developed a new kind of human... so what does it even mean to BE human at all? Star Wars: The Force is power, pure and simple... how will you choose to use that power, for Good or Evil?

midnight-maelstrom7 karma

Did you know that your deathclaw stars in a surprising amount of porn?

JonahLobe7 karma

Indeed I do know this. I have mixed feelings about my baby doing this kind of work. I'm glad he's earned a living, sure, but...

Maelis7 karma

Hi Jonah! Big fan of your work. Are there any models or concepts that you created that never made it into the finished game? Or prototypes that got totally reworked?

JonahLobe12 karma

Definitely, for Fallout 4. I sculpted a creature and called him the May-Pole, and he was a giant (read: 300 foot) Glowing One who looked like he was a melting elemental of agony. My idea was like Shadow of the Colossus, except instead of great mystical beasts of legend, it would be a walking reminder of the horrors of nuclear devastation; and because he was a Glowing One, he would be followed everywhere by hordes of mindless, constantly-regenerating Feral Ghouls. My visual inspiration was "Walking Man" by the sculptor Giacometti.

But this was a passion project, and casually adding a 300-foot wandering Glowing One threatened to add just a few more problems to the game (let's be honest, there were a 1000 ways that its inclusion would have broken the game), so it never made the cut. Oh well! We don't get everything ;)

Maybe one day I'll post pics of him to my online portfolio. He's probably the most horrifying thing I've ever made...

MyHonkyFriend5 karma

oh man post that please

JonahLobe6 karma

I will soon! Be sure to follow me on the social medias to find it ;)

Annepackrat6 karma

Who would win in a fight between a 100 deathclaws, 20 Skyrim dragons and Chuck Norris?

JonahLobe11 karma


Yeah I said it.

Come at me, Chuck.

(This is Chuck Norris. I just killed Jonah and am currently wearing his skin.)

EpicNate3146 karma

Hey Jonah!

Awhile back I notice you sort of subtly “signed” the Skyrim Dragon Plate armor with your name in daedric. I’m curious if you’ve done that with any other models in game we’ve yet to find?

JonahLobe6 karma

Haha it's hilarious because I forgot about that completely until one of my Twitter followers pointed it out! No, I think that was my one really noticeable easter egg ;) I THINK...

Cheeez-Please6 karma

When did you decide being an artist/developer was for you? And when did you actually start making way to becoming one?

JonahLobe9 karma

I always knew I was going to be an artist, I just didn't know which direction to go in. I think that when I saw Jurassic Park, that's when I decided I wanted to be involved professionally in the world of entertainment. And then, when I visited Pixar right after college, I realized that a movie job would probably stick me in a cube for the first three years, working on photorealistic grass dynamics. So I ditched my Pixar dream and decided to start at a game studio, ANYWHERE, because I was sure to get more responsibility at one of those places.

I think I first STARTED heading in this specific game development direction at the end of college. I was already learning CG, but only then did I start learning the SPECIFIC pipelines I would need to know to become a Character Artist!

OneWhoLived6 karma

Whats the one question that you wish someone asks, but nobody has asked so far?

Also, how's life, mate?

JonahLobe12 karma

Everyone always asks, "WHAT is друг? They never ask HOW is друг?"

And life's great, my friend. I mean, we live in troubled times, and the world is looking worse and worse, and maybe there's no hope... but I'm healthy, I'm eating well, and the new season of Game of Thrones is right around the corner!

agentsongbird6 karma

Hey, Jonah! Crunch has come up again in games journalism recently. Do you have any thoughts or contributions you want to make to the discussion? What has been your experience? Do you have practices in place in order to maintain a healthy work-life balance?

JonahLobe15 karma

A healthy work-life balance is essential, and I absolutely hate that Rockstar is bragging about how their team is crunching so ridiculously hard. If this was any other industry, we'd call that exploitation; in game design it's considered normal.

Listen, sometimes you need to hit a deadline, which means working super hard. But to have that expected of you? That just means that the producers were unrealistic and bad, and did a poor job of managing the time and efforts of the developers!

Penguinrob6 karma

I mean, don't you think it would be more honest to say you updated"deathclaws to a modern form? Because both 2d and 3d images of them existed becore you got started on fallout 3, and you could be misleading people that would give you credit for the concept, instead of the guy who actually designed deathclaws in fallout 1. You ought to make that clearer.

JonahLobe4 karma

Sure, I updated them. But the fact is I barely referenced the original designs, because they weren’t executed very well AND they were based on the Tarrasques, so were themselves visually derivative. It’s important to pay homage and respect to the original Deathclaws of course - and I’ve studied those originals a ton, including hunting down high-rez images of the original physical maquette - but there’s honestly not that much to reference... and to me, the designs of Adam Adamowicz were vastly superior. I can understand that some purists might be offended by that, but hey- I call it like I see if! But yes, you are correct Penguin, technically I updated them. My bad.

Zosymandias5 karma

Can we see some more of your mask collection that was in the background? Please tell me you have them all.

JonahLobe7 karma

Alas, I do not. I have only four, with another small ceramic one and an even smaller silver one on my keychain ;)

antiguy15 karma

You might not be the right person to ask this question, but why on earth did you make the FO4 Deathclaws stand still and roar when they see you instead of the stealthy approach they used in the last Bethesda Fallout? To me that really kills the fearsome appeal they had in FO3 where they'd silently sneak up on you and slash your face off like the predators they're supposed to be, which made for some really memorable moments (Old Olney Sewers, *shiver*).

It always felt weird to me how the roles of the ghouls and deathclaws were reversed in FO4, where the ghouls were now the ones that silently crept out of the walls and beat your face in and the deathclaws were the ones who roared to make sure you see them before attacking. Was this an intentional design choice on your part?

JonahLobe10 karma

Hi there! I'm afraid the answer is not mine to give: I was only involved in their looks, not the design choices taken. I agree that roaring Deathclaws is not ideal - they are alpha predators, after all, and a lion does not roar before taking down a Wildabeest.

Wymsycal5 karma

Any specific reason you turned to pen-and-paper instead of video games? With your pedigree it sounds like it should be possible to design and get influence on big budget games for big money? Do I overestimate what artists get paid, or is creativity limited, or something else?

JonahLobe9 karma

Well, no one's going to just hand me a job at a big budget company, at least not out of the blue. There's also very few game development companies here in NYC, where we live and where my wife has a fantastic job that she loves.

But the real answer is that I'm not as interested in games as I used to be. I want to explore what it means to be an artist and a human. Working the same job at Bethesda was wonderful, but at a certain point I just stopped growing in certain directions, and I realized that I was missing out. I wanted to learn digital painting, and drawing, and writing, because life is short and there are too many things I want to do. I've been doing pen-and-paper a lot this year because I've just wanted to get good with a pen for as long as I can remember, and I'm realizing that tackling black-and-white images is teaching me all kinds of artistic lessons that I would never, ever learn in the game industry (like composition, visual balance, controlling the eye of the viewer, etc).

I might get back into games one day - I still love them - but for the moment I'm quite content to not deal with squashing bugs and working with a million computer programs and being just a cog in a machine. Now, though it's a somewhat less glamorous period, I'm feeling so much more spiritually fulfilled, and I just love acquiring knowledge... I'm a much more powerful artist and person since I left!

I should add also that the death of Adam Adamowicz reminded me that life is very short, and that we should do the things we dream of doing TODAY, IMMEDIATELY. I wanted to write a book series, and I wanted to master illustration, and I could not do these things at a game studio!

Da_Bobo5 karma

I'm a big fan of your art! What was your favorite thing to design/draw?

JonahLobe11 karma

Usually my favorite piece of art is my latest! It's always a bit difficult to look back at things you've done and NOT want to change at least SOMETHING about them.

But in general, what's my favorite thing to draw? Monsttteerrrrssss

theqmann5 karma

Have you ever tried the modder's tools for any of the games you've worked on? How do they compare to the in-house development tools?

I've done a fair bit of Fallout/Skyrim modding and love some of the community tools like xEdit. I've always wondered if they hold a candle to the pro tools, or if the pro tools are actually clunky behind the scenes.

JonahLobe3 karma

I have not really used these tools, but I can assure you that the professional tools are extremely clunky!! You would laugh if you got a look at them.

StealthBlade985 karma

Hi Jonah loved the designs of the deathclaw and dragons you made on fallout and skyrim you have an amazing talent.

I was wondering what your thoughts about creation club and what you think could be done to improve the service?

Also I want to know what you would like to see in The Elder Scrolls VI? Was there things you would have loved to see put in Elder Scrolls Skyrim but you didn't have enough time?

Whats your thoughts about Fallout 76 and do you think it's going to limit the role-playing experience with no unique human NPC's?

JonahLobe12 karma

You know, I actually know very little about Creation Club, I'm sorry!

I'd love to see a whole different world in ESVI. I'd love to go to Hammerfell, and get a more Morrocan-Persian-Egyptian vibe from Tamriel. Imagine pyramids and desert crypts and mummies and huge irridescent beatles and gold filagree and blowing silks and all that!! Plus, imagine what desert-dragons would look like, OooOoOoOoOo

IndividualBit35 karma

love your work. can you perhaps tell another todd story please?

JonahLobe13 karma

After Fallout 3 shipped, we had a team meeting. Todd made us feel very good about ourselves and the project, but I was still new to Bethesda and was feeling only half-good about F3. I expressed my concern and my higher expectations for our next game by writing about it anonymously on a card, and Todd read these question/concern cards at the Team Meeting.

When he read my response, Todd got rather angry and stated that the team had worked very hard and that this card was inconsiderate of the hard-work of the team. I felt extremely embarrassed by that moment, because I had pissed off Todd and a bunch of other people too. So I raised my hand and stood up and took credit for the card - I didn't want people to think that there were anonymous haters in their midst. I clarified the meaning of the card: "I didn't mean to say we did a bad job, only that we did an imperfect job, and that we should not forget that we need to keep striving to do better. I only gave this criticism because everyone here is so amazing. Bethesda Softworks is the BEST, in my opinion, and so I expected the best. So please understand that this card was written poorly, and I respect and admire everyone here."

Todd nodded and said "Now that's the way to act!" I realized then that half the job of a Director is to keep up the morale and spirits of a team, and that my anonymous question card, though it did not intend to, had had the opposite effect. To this day, though it earned me a little more anger, I'm glad I stood up and did not hide behind anonymity. And his praise of my corrected behavior made me feel as if I could face Todd man-to-man. It was a tremendously humbling and fantastic learning experience.

abdullahsaurus5 karma

What is one thing you hope to see in ES:VI considering that you'd write this as a fan of these series and not as an employee?

Also, love your work and am glad you're enjoying life :)

JonahLobe6 karma

Thanks dude! I'd love to visit Hammerfell, home of the Redguards. Who doesn't want a Persian/Morrocan/Egyptian Tamriel??

Sebastian831004 karma

What is your advice on getting a job at a Game Company? I'm interested in writing and directing video games! Also thanks for making some of games that were my childhood. The first time I saw a Deathclaw, I was terrified. Also one more question what work did you do on the Shivering Isles?

JonahLobe6 karma

If you're interested in writing and directing video games, my advice to you is to start writing a LOT, and to start learning basic computer programming. Also, if you can make mods and weave your stories in as best as you can, that will help. Basically, you need to start learning HOW to do this job well by diving in and practicing! Remember that no one will hire you because "you have a good idea." You have to prove that you can make many different good ideas and actually institute them in some way into a game engine.

And as for Shivering Isles, I made Sheogorath's Gate, the Scalons, the Skinned Hounds, the Madness Armor, and a few other things that I can't quite remember haha!

MyHonkyFriend4 karma

Have you ever wanted to make something that has been cut from release? Or simply is not feasible due to technology limitations?

JonahLobe4 karma

Definitely! The May-Pole, from Fallout 4... but I talked about this in another answer, so I'll just bid you g'day ;)

MyHonkyFriend4 karma

I appreciate you still answering mine and taking the time to do this AMA! thank you!

JonahLobe6 karma

My pleasure! Good luck hunting down that answer.

PJayBlazkowich4 karma

Hello there. I have a question: how many times did it takes to make a Fallout Deathclaw?

JonahLobe6 karma

One does not simply make a Fallout Deathclaw. It is a journey of one and yet also many steps. Deathclaws are like the wind, or an idea, or like the sound of the ocean-tide breaking on the rocks below. Deathclaws are life. Deathclaws are the path.

Seriously though, it takes many weeks to make a Deathclaw!

Scribblebonx4 karma

What’s the closest you’ve ever come to pooping your pants?

JonahLobe11 karma

You know, I wrote out a whole involved and very shitty story here, and then deleted it because the internet is forever.

I plead the fifth.

sammeadows4 karma

So why the artistic decision to create Wyverns over traditional dragons?

JonahLobe7 karma

I think I answered this in another question ;)

comiconomist4 karma

Bethesda seems to have a great track record retaining staff: AFAIK a lot of their team from Oblivion are still there. Am I correct and if so, what makes it such a great place to work at?

JonahLobe10 karma

Bethesda has seen a lot of financial success. Their employees make a little less than the industry average, but the trade-off is stability and a good 401k/medical plan. It's very, very rare to have stability in this industry (which is a real shame), and this stability makes Bethesda a very reliable, albeit slow-moving company. Note that this blade cuts both ways, as this calmer environment can stymie some younger folks who dream big (if sometimes unrealistically).

Ultimately, the parent company, Zenimax, is helmed by a very shrewd and well-connected man named Robert Altman, who's married to Linda Carter, aka the original Wonder Woman. He just knows how to grow a business!

AnUb1sKiNg4 karma

Where did you get your inspiration for your designs?

JonahLobe5 karma

Literally all over! Nature docs especially 😉

No_Im_Random_Coffee3 karma

Hi Jonah, what was your first job in your field of work?

JonahLobe4 karma

Character Artist at Bethesda! I know, I was very, very lucky.

JonahLobe4 karma

Character Artist at Bethesda Softworks! I know, I'm a very lucky little boy...

FunGuyFr0mYuggoth3 karma

Do you have any background or experience in biology of any kind? I can't help but look at your creatures and start considering how deliberate and well thought out most of their anatomies are.

I'm not sure if the addition to the question will get my comment removed, but whatever. I've gotta express my appreciation for your FO4 Mirelurk and Radscorpion designs in particular, which have become my favorite FO wildlife for opposite reasons. Radscorpions remind me of old documentaries about the giant prehistoric scorpions that crawled out of the oceans and started walking about on land, and invoke a very primordial feeling in me. Mirelurks in comparison look like something from the future, that you could conceive of building cities of their own some day with their upright posture, social structure, and many potential manipulators. There's just such a great dichotomy between the two major arthropod species of the game.

JonahLobe4 karma

Thank you so much! I really appreciate the feedback, though I did not design the Radscorpions in F4, only F3 (I left by the time the F4 versions were made).

While I don't have any formal background in biology, I'm a huge biology nerd and a massive animal enthusiast. There's no creature I've made that wasn't influenced in some studied way by the animal kingdom. When I made those giant insects, I looked at the real-life versions a LOT, and tried to notice those small details that don't immediately pop out. Of course, there's always plenty of creative license to take, but to me, if the anatomy of a thing doesn't really work, then the design is flawed and I have a hard time continuing the design. So with the Fallout 4 Mirelurks, I spent a lot of time looking at horseshoe crabs, other crabs, lobsters, etc. The time taken to get the details similar to reality... it's always worth it! Pays off in the end, I think.

Thanks for taking the time to notice! I'm glad someone did ;)

FireSword0013 karma

I would like to ask what's the difference between you ( as an artist working for a company) and a freelancer who does art, what i mean by creating the art it self, what are the things that are harder to accomplish when you are in a project than as if you were working alone. (assuming you both can make great artworks or models of a creature)

JonahLobe6 karma

Well, I'm a freelancer now, I haven't worked at a company in many years! It's much nicer to have peers to critique your work and offer suggestions and workarounds for problems, when you're at a game company. Everything is harder when you work freelance!

Ouroboros6123 karma

What's your all-time favorite video games, if you exclude the ones you have worked on yourself?

JonahLobe5 karma

Hmmmm! X-Com 2 Half-Life Team Fortress 2 Counter-Strike System Shock 2

So hard to choose!!!

Wise-Monster-3 karma

Hi Jonah glad u did this AMA! I love your style.

I was wondering what was your favorite comic/graphic novel/illustrated book growing up and how did it influence your work if it had any influence at all?


JonahLobe8 karma

Hi Wise, nice to see you again!

Hmm probably my favorite graphic novel(s) growing up was Elfquest. It was so beautiful, and poetic, and not afraid of openness and emotion and sexuality. It had two moons, like Tamriel! I just loved the world and the characters so much - the main tribe of elves rode wolves, wtf is not to love there??

Written and illustrated by a woman, I think Elfquest influenced my work tremendously, especially in something like Skyrim. It helped me remember that just jamming on the "masculine/badass/bloody" aspects of horror, fantasy or creature design tends to often result in designs and worlds that were devoid of magic and mystery and EMOTION. It's the sort of the reason I never got into series' like "Gears of War," which - though I played it for many hours one day with my friend Christina and had an absolute BLAST - never really pulled me in. There was simply no reason for me WANTING to exist in that world, and the only "fun" I was going to have was chain-sawing a monster in half.

(Now, don't get me wrong: I was raised on Doom, and I think the NEW DOOM, which is ALL ABOUT ripping Demons in half, is an absolute goddamn masterpiece. And Gears of War is a fantastic series. It just didn't reel me in for anything other than the pure kinetic fun of it.)

Giving the "badass" button a break, and letting in that which is beautiful, emotional, and open... that's an invitation to magic. The Spriggans are an example of this, as are the Mammoth and Giants. I wanted to help forge a world of wonder and beauty... and Elfquest helped me realize that.

Also, I love Johnny the Homicidal Maniac, because it's Jhonen Vasquez's first big work and I read it in my freshman year of high school and I was just READY for something cool and different.

trashmemes223 karma

Whats your opinion of fallout 76?

JonahLobe13 karma

Haven't played! But my former teammates worked on it so I support it unconditionally, like supporting a nephew you barely know but whose parents you adore. Also, my monsters got ported over, so YAYYYYY!

LoneWolfNBR3 karma

Hi Jonah, I was wondering what got you into being a video game artist and if you had any advice for people that want to try getting into art?

JonahLobe5 karma

I've answered already, but my short answers are: 1. I love movies and fantasy and I wanted to create characters of my own that people would get to know and remember forever. 2. If you want to try getting into art, literally just buy a sketchbook and start drawing. Don't feel bad about yourself if your art sucks - it WILL suck at the beginning (and for a lot of the middle too). Just keep practicing! It's like if you wanted to get into soccer: buy a ball and start kicking. That's it, to begin with!

michvd6039993 karma

What's a game you had a part in that not many know exist?

JonahLobe3 karma

Good question! The remake of System Shock (the original). I’ve made a number of key assets there! (I loved that franchise!)

sealteamricksD993 karma

thanks for the nightmares!

JonahLobe5 karma

Don't look behind you. Don't ever look behind you, that's when it gets you.

McJumbos3 karma

Do you remember your first day at Bethesda Game Studios? How did it go? And, what was the first thing they had you work on?

JonahLobe6 karma

Hell yeah I remember it! It was overwhelming, but it went well. And I made friends, so that's good!

The first thing I worked on? Hmmm I can't remember the EXACT thing, but the first BIG thing I worked was the 3-Faced Gate to the Shivering Isles!

TouchdownTedd3 karma

Hi Jonah,

Thanks for creating the the creatures that I have spent thousands of hours battling and teaching my kids to battle. I have a couple questions for you.

1) When you created the creatures like the draugr and dragons, did you do any research that influenced your design?

2) With Fallout 4, what was the toughest creature to get the way you wanted it?

Thanks for the gaming memories!!

JonahLobe6 karma

My pleasure Tedd! 1. I definitely researched a ton. For the Draugr, I looked at a bunch of mummies, but especially Otzi the iceman (you can google!). For the Dragons, I researched lots of different lizards, birds, and bats! In fact, I have never ever made a creature and NOT used a ton of real-life reference! 2. Probably the Mirelurk King! I veered heavily off-script for the design - much to the chagrin of the Art Director, I think - and created something that I'm still only moderately happy with. It's got a lot of cool details, and it's horrible in an HP Lovecraft kind of way... but still... meh...

glassdoe3 karma

Hi Jonah!! I just wanted to start with what a huge fan of your work I am. The deathclaws are my all time favorite creature design in any game and congrats on the new exciting projects.

How much creative freedom did you have with the models? Were you able to deviate from the concept art as much as you liked it were there set perimeters you had to follow?

JonahLobe5 karma

Thanks so much Glass! The Deathclaws love you too :)

I actually answered this question already, but essentially I was allowed to deviate quite a bit, so long as I stayed true to the essential identity of the thing and kept the elements that the Art Director liked most from the original concept art.

jgriff75462 karma

What's your process for translating them into 3d models? Like where do you usually start and stuff like that.

JonahLobe2 karma

My workflow has changed a bit over the years, and yours might vary quite a bit from mine - that's okay!

Generally these days I'll jump right into ZBrush and start with ZSpherese. Then, once I finish the hi-poly sculpt, I'll build a low-poly model for it in a program like Topogun. Then I UV map in 3ds Max, project the normals, and start texturing in Substance Painter!

bsween132 karma

Hi Mr. Lobe!! Super cool that you're doing this, your creations have given millions of people memories (some good, some horrifying!) that will last a lifetime!!

What was the thought process behind creating the Feral Ghouls? I always thought they were much more interesting than the modern zombie we think of today.

Also, which game that you've worked on is your favorite to play? Thanks!!

JonahLobe3 karma

So I only made the Fallout 3 Feral Ghouls, but I'm still quite proud of them.

I think what sets them apart was that they are disgusting, horrifying, and pitiful. The Concept Art done by Adam Adamowicz was disturbing, but mostly because they looked crazed and unhappy and in pain. I tried to translate that over to my own designs. I made them with huge bulging eyes that were lidless, and I imagined that they weren't crazy because of radiation (or not completely), but because their eyelids had fallen off years and years before, and they'd spent decades of their life simply unable to sleep. I gave them large heads and skinny, deformed bodies, to make them more pitiful (as opposed to hunter-killer-esque), and I requested that the animator add in an idle animation for them where they get brief seizures - you can see that animation sometimes if you're watching them and they're unaware of you!

Also, I don't think I've played one of my own games in many, many years! I guess probably Fallout 4, because I only had to work on half of it, and the second half of development was done without me. So it still had surprises!

But probably my favorite will always be Skyrim ;)

GHRobson2 karma

I don’t expect you to be able to talk specifics. But did you do anything for Starfield before you left?

JonahLobe3 karma

I did not. In fact, I don't know anything about it! My Bethesda friends have been abnormally tight-lipped ;)

TheBurningGinger2 karma

What is a good way to get a job in game development?

JonahLobe3 karma

Tailor your portfolio to reflect a mastery of the EXACT position you're applying for. You can't just get in because you've got a really great set of ideas, you need to prove that you know your role and are ready to work with a team.

TheBurningGinger2 karma

What about going in for a programming job specifically what's a good way to land a job with a computer science degree?

JonahLobe2 karma

You know, I could make up an answer for this, but the honest answer is, I don't know! I'm sorry, it's not my specialty.

iceytonez2 karma

Hi Jonah! Could you shed some light on how concept artists know when a design is getting a little too much special detail or if there's something lacking?

JonahLobe6 karma

I think the most important factor in a concept's design is: is this thing impactful, and original, and affecting (read: cool). If the design is not immediately impactful - especially on an emotional level - then the amount of detail added means nothing. And you know there's something lacking when you look at an image and feel NOTHING. That's when you have to start taking chances, and adding in unexpected elements to spice up the soup!!

StrickenCross882 karma

Were there any creatures you designed for Fallout/Elder Scrolls that you loved, but didn't make the cut? If so, what was it for, and why was it scrapped?

JonahLobe2 karma

Actually answered this one already, if you can find that ;)

ScumBunnyEx1 karma

Hi Jonah, thanks for helping to make two of my favorite games!

I recently noticed Skyrim's werewolf and Fallout 4's deathclaw seems to stand and move in very similar ways. Is there any relation between the two creatures' model and animations, or is it just a coincidence?

JonahLobe3 karma

Pure coincidence! The Werewolf was made by my good friend Dennis Mejillones. However, I loved the long-armed look of it, so I imagine that influenced my approach to the F4 Deathclaw's look!

KingOfParsnips1 karma

Hi Jonah, I am someone looking to get into the games industry, what's a good way to try and get started in the industry?


JonahLobe3 karma

I answered this elsewhere, thanks!