share this

Share This Search
View full story newgundfinal1157951robertmullermedium3.jpg

Story: Jan 09, 2015

Time-lapse video shows completion of major construction on n...

View details 35th Annual Scholastic Art & Writing Exhibition

CIA Exhibition: Jan 15, 2015

35th Annual Scholastic Art & Writing Exhibition

View full story croppedmadesurrealfinalleahandericfinalbestrobertmuller.jpg

Story: Jan 08, 2015

Recognition, milestones were highlights of 2014 for CIA

View details CIA Freshman Mail Art at MOCA

Events: Jan 19, 2015 @ Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland in Cleveland, OH

CIA Freshman Mail Art at MOCA

View Link

Social: 2 days ago via Facebook

This weekend, enjoy a winter wonderland and some very cool student work from Associate Professor Kevin Kautenburger’s fall semester course, Community Works: Env...

View full story dscabingtonarms5382-2medium.jpg

Story: Dec 23, 2014

Printmaking project links students with seniors and their st...

View details 69th Annual Student Independent Exhibition

CIA Exhibition: Feb 13, 2015

69th Annual Student Independent Exhibition

View full story unknown.png

Story: Nov 03, 2014

CIA video shows off new Uptown Residence Hall

View details CIA Campus Connection: Presidents' Day

Events: Feb 16, 2015

CIA Campus Connection: Presidents' Day

View full story bestregmidwest.jpg

Story: Aug 18, 2014

CIA again named to "Best in the Midwest" list

News . Feature Stories . Serious gaming: Biomed grad illustrates new Android game


July 19, 2013

Serious gaming: Biomed grad illustrates new Android game

Pirate-themed game released for the Android platform in July.

Serious gaming: Biomed grad illustrates new Android game

By Carolyn Jack

The launch of something called the Age of Pirates sounds as if it ought to involve a champagne bottle and an18th-century sailing ship.

Well, don’t rule out the bottle, but these particular pirates are setting out in a cell phone. That makes for tight quarters, yet the 64-x-64-pixel screen space they occupy encompasses a complete Caribbean-themed world crafted by the imagination and hands of 2013 Cleveland Institute of Art graduate Derrick Nau.

Creating the initial 153 digital illustrations for Trese Brothers’ new Android-platform Age of Pirates game, which was released July 11, offered Nau a perfect opportunity to use the expert skills he developed as a biomedical-art major at CIA – not to mention the amusement and the challenge he’s looked for in everything he’s done, from academic study to playing drums in a metal band.

“I’ve always been into games and stuff. I guess I’m kind of a nerdy guy,” the 26-year-old Nau said over the phone with a grin you could practically hear through the receiver. Raised in Athens, Ohio, Nau first came to CIA in 2004, but left in 2007 to play in the band Skeletonwitch, where he also kept his design hand in by creating comic-book-style band art of monsters and other fantasy figures. When he returned to CIA in 2011 to complete his degree, biomedical art caught his attention.

“I’m kind of competitive: I thought biomedical art was one of the most intellectually challenging majors at CIA,” he noted. With his continuing interest in drawing fantasy life forms, “I thought biomedical art was a good way to explore that.”

Pursuing the subject, which included an “Anatomy for the Artist” class taught by Amanda Almon, gave Nau the opportunity to observe surgeries, attend cadaver labs and draw from life, while his concurrent studies in game design helped him learn about player motivation, game characteristics and the theory of game operation.

His two areas of interest were not as different as they sound. “Biomedical-art and game-design fields relate through the overlap of interactive media,” Amanda Almon explained in an email. “The idea of engaging the audience to explore and discover new things to learn through an experience is shared between both fields. The growing concept of ‘serious gaming’” – games with important educational purposes – “is the future of where biomedical art and gaming intersect.”

That future can be fun, too: Age of Pirates immerses players on a high-seas adventure in the living fantasy world of Laanbrakan, where the fighting, sailing, trading and wars of wits offer interesting narrative complexities and a wide range of choices, assisted by the game’s 130,000 map sectors – improvements over Trese Brothers’ popular Star Traders game and even its Temple Assault Elite, which was named one of the best strategy games of 2013.

Trese Brothers’ Andrew Trese, quoted in a Pocket Tactics review by Owen Faraday, described Age of Pirates as having interactive story lines, long-term goals, customizable difficulty, captain’s equipment and that tiny-but-huge Laanbrakan phone-screen world to explore. Not to mention all the swash-and-buckle theatricality of steampunk-Caribbean style.

Nau and the Treses are old friends, having grown up together in Athens. Nau had kept up with them and was eventually hired on as an illustrator, a job that provides plenty of difficulty: The Android format has limited processing power and image details can get lost, so complicated ideas and situations have to be conveyed clearly and simply.

Keeping the Trese Brothers company vision in mind and calling on the draftsmanship and technical facility he learned at CIA, Nau developed a concept and crafted pictures for Age of Pirates based on his own research of pirate-era imagery, including Dutch Masters paintings and photographs of ships and beaches. It helped that one of his CIA classes had sent him to the Cleveland Museum of Art to photograph and catalog his own personal visual encyclopedia of style, technique, composition, period and color, he said.

Nau worked with two monitors, one displaying his reference images while he digitally painted on the other. Because company members work remotely, they would have a “Google hang-out” once a week to confer with one another and, if necessary, Nau would adjust his work to better fit his colleagues’ ideas. He called the whole process a fun challenge that CIA helped him meet by having developed his artistic self-reliance, giving him the tools to problem-solve on his own.

His success is no surprise to Almon. “Derrick is a serious, detail oriented and intelligent student with a strong aptitude for solving visual problems through impeccable technique,” she wrote. “He can use a wide range of media in his work; from 2D to 3D static images to animation and interactivity.”

Almon thinks game design offers Nau and other CIA students an excellent career path, one that promises expanding job opportunities and better financial security than artists have traditionally enjoyed. “The gaming industry is a billion-dollar operation, commercially,” she explained. “From large AAA companies like EA, Ubisoft, Microsoft, Sony, etc., to smaller independent ‘indie’ game companies, options for employability are diverse.” Moreover, she said, serious educational games represent an important growth sector.

For Nau, the future is looking bright. Though he plans to wait and see what time will bring, working for a digital-game company that is now a full-time, successful operation “has really opened my eyes to what’s possible” with an art education, he said.

He never thought he’d be working on an Android game with old friends. With another of those audible smiles, Nau added, “It’s really cool. But I might be biased.”

YouTube Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Flickr Pinterest Instagram

Social Feed

Student work on view at Look About Lodge in the Cleveland Metroparks South Chagrin reservation this weekend, 12-4pm.

2 days ago via Twitter


For more information about this or other CIA news, contact us here.

Read More

Community Works

Visiting artists, exhibitions, conference and symposia exploring socially engaged art.

Read More


Save the date. Four celebration events.

Read More

Cores + Connections

Creating. Connecting. Building better futures.