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  • Writer's pictureFrancois DesRochers

The Bazaar #56: Artist Review (Kevin Long)



INTRODUCTION

 

When the Rifts RPG first came out, it was a wild, post-Apocalyptic mash-up of technology, magic, psionics, demons and monsters, scrambling for supremacy, or factions simply trying to eke out their existence. One of the premiere elements that aided its success was the plethora of fantastic artwork. Some of it was clean and crisp, others dirty and grimy. For me, it was typically the latter that really gave me the sense of what Rifts was going to be in the games I was the GM. I loved the idea of a small party of mercenaries, fighting tooth and nail against all odds to try and get a job done – often referred to as Low Fantasy or Low Sci-fi. That said, one artist really presented some fascinating, clean images that were extremely influential in how I envisioned the setting. Already exposed to Kevin Long’s work with the ROBOTECH RPG, I was absolutely thrilled to see his work so prominent in this new RPG I couldn’t put down.

 

It really is almost impossible to think of Rifts artwork without conjuring up many of the great works that Kevin Long provided. He was the premiere artist for Palladium Books, apparently from the mid-80s and leaving in the mid-90s. The reasons for his departure are quite frankly not a subject for this post – I don’t claim to have any idea why, nor do I find it relevant to showcasing and admiring his artistic contributions. Some time with Google shows he landed in the computer gaming industry as an artist, with credits for a slew of game titles. The most recent information I could find was that he is currently still working for Raven Software, as Principal Artist and Warzone Environmental Art Director.

 

BODY OF WORK

 

Kevin Long’s artistic influence with Palladium Books is pretty much cemented into its corporate history. His work can be found in most of the game lines that involved the futuristic, mechanical, and robotic, but certainly not limited there. From his earlier works supporting Palladium Books in the ROBOTECH and TMNT RPG era, his art is found in Beyond the Supernatural, Heroes Unlimited, PFRPG, and numerous entries throughout the entirety of the Rifts catalogue. With the exception of Larry McDougall (Bazaar #24: Artists Review of Larry McDougall) and a few illustrations by Kevin Siembieda, nearly the entirety of the interior black and white art in the original Rifts Main Book (RMB) was Kevin Long’s. At to that many of the infamous coloured illustrations in the two inserts from the RMB were also Kevin Long pieces as well (e.g. red ‘Borg and the blue Ley Line Walker). These also had lasting influences on both the bionic modification theme and imagery for Ley Line Walkers to this day.



Kevin Long’s work for Rifts certainly did not stop in the RMB. His contributions were seminal to the continuation of the World Book and Sourcebook and Conversion Book series, providing a phenomenal catalogue of images and artwork. This work wasn’t limited to some great internal black-and-white work. Some of the more recognizable covers are coloured versions of his artwork; the last Rifts cover credited to him (I believe) was World Book 8: South American 2. His work wasn’t exclusive to Palladium Books though – he did some work for Shadowrun and has Battletech credits as well.

 

REVIEW

 

Visual Elements. Wit the exception of the coloured works in the RMB and several covers, Kevin Long’s work with Palladium Books were largely in the black and white motif that became the norm for interior art with Palladium Books. There is a distinct style that is clearly identifiable whenever you see one of his pieces. Crisp and steady line work, shapes, and forms from humanoids to weapons/robots and everything in between are clean precise. These are supported with a variety of hatching techniques to develop shading and promote depth that provide a realism to the image that a Player of GM can really sink their teeth into.

 

Influence on Rifts. When it comes to technological illustrations, Kevin Long provides a masterwork level of detail and immersion. Originally exposed to his style in the ROBOTECH RPG, his ability to create and depict inspiring images really helps draw a Player into the game. For his Rifts contributions, the robots and power armour (e.g. UAR-1 Enforcer, Glitter Boys, SAMAS), vehicles (e.g. CS Death’s Head Transport and Sky Cycles), and equipment (e.g. energy rifles, body armour) are keystone images for the theme and feel of the game.



The images used to define the various O.C.C.s and non-technological elements of the game (e.g. people, monsters, demons) have created an indelible effect on Rifts as a whole. The classic silhouette of his ‘Borgs and Crazies, his designs for the Juicer, Ley Line Walker and Crazy (M.O.M. conversions), all are still in use. This speaks nothing of the impact of his illustrations in various World Books, Sourcebooks and Conversion Books afterwards. The lines, form and use of texture and shading captivate an instinctual response; we readily accept the depiction because of the realism and detail, the scale of larger objects believably bulky and in line with their in-game statistics. When I look at his image of the Cyber-Doc in his lab, I’m immediately capable of imagining a grimy, concealed Body-Chop-Shop that handles “underworld healthcare options.” His depictions of urban settings harken to other references (e.g. Blade Runner) that helps inform and support the vibe. The differences in design he was able to realize between the Coalition States and New German Republic provided a definitive baseline for comparison.



CONCLUSION

 

I will not be assigning ratings or marks to the artists reviewed as part of this series. The impact of an artist is entirely a personal experience. I am neither a Fine Arts major, nor would I think to cheapen the experience and efforts of any of the contributors. The aim of this post is to celebrate the artist’s contributions to the Rifts RPG. I’ll be doing other reviews and selectively choosing some of my favourite pieces for display; an homage to the artist for the inspiration they generated, and the additional elements their artwork has provided to the role-playing experience in general.

 

Given his influence over the artistic elements of the game, and the fact they remain impactful over the way Rifts imagery has evolved to this day, Kevin Long’s legacy is firmly confirmed. As an aside, we certainly should not discount his other contributions to the Rifts RPG. Numerous books across the various PB game systems have with credits to Kevin Long for additional text, artwork, and ideas that helped shape the fabric of Palladium Book games as we know it. This influence, whatever it might have been (I mean, it is a vague reference) is still very much impacting the design choices of books published over 30 years after the RMB came out.

 

I won’t claim to have any idea as to what his current portfolio in the computer gaming industry looks like; different genre and one I don’t even have a toe dipped into. Not that it matters. The point of the post was to explore, highlight and revel in the fantastic artistry that Kevin Long provided throughout the formative years of Rifts, and the long-lasting influence he has left on us as Players, and the game we love to play.


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1 comentário


thecounterpoint
24 de abr.

Kevin Long was one of the greatest artists for Rifts. I think that the illustrations by Wayne Breaux have many similarities to his art, especially robots and vehicles.

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