Dev Blog
February 4, 2023
Slave Zero X: Artist Focus Tia Rohrer

Tia Rohrer
Artist Focus: Concept and Character Artist
So, tell us about yourself!

I'm Tia Rohrer- I go by TK in some places, and Irischroma is my username in many other spaces online. I am a digital artist, primarily versed in Photoshop and a few other programs like Art Rage and a tiny bit of Procreate.

At Poppy Works, I do quite a few things now. My tasks vary significantly from project to project, haha! ...But you'll often find me making some sort of Artwork now, I'm sure.

I've been doing digital art since I discovered PaintBBS + Oekaki Boards in the mid-late 2000's!

How did you start working on Slave Zero X for Poppy Works?

I was brought on in 2021 to make a bunch of posters initially! The scope increased to a few more assets here and there and two character designs!

What sparked your interest to work on SZX?
When I was brought on, I saw all the fantastic work the SZX team had been doing. I remember my heart skipping a beat from how absolutely cool it was, a type of game I have always wanted to do work for!
What do you enjoy most about working on SZX?

The team. I loved working on the artwork itself, of course, but the people here really mean a lot to me. They made me feel incredibly welcome right away. It's already one of the things I miss the most since my part for SZX was over!

How would you describe the world of SZX? How did that World influence the art style?

I would say it's rather... Intense. There's a lot there that feels incredibly uncanny and quite frightening in retrospect. The types of people and things that live within the world of SZX would be pretty frightening to see in our lives but are normal to everyone living there.
The feel of the world is a bit nostalgic for me, outside of the graphical style itself! It's a grand mishmash of things we once thought to be hyper-futuristic and the pinnacle of technology, and something that feels so otherworldly and alien, far beyond our reach through technological advancements.
Despite the advancements and scary things within SZX, some ordinary people live there, tormented by the hyper-capitalist Mega City. Many things there are very much rooted within our own reality that surrounds many people in their daily lives. People that wish for better lives, to live more comfortably- things that the Mega City does not truly provide to them.

With the Frankenstein-like biopunk technology that SZX touts with pride, the horrors that live within the walls, and the people that face the same hardships we do- This influenced me to create works that branched out in terms of presentation.
Some posters may feel very amateur, some feeling rather expensive. There is a character we have become very fond of; you may see her in a few places. Her design was influenced by many 40's-60's retro cartoons and how many toys and merchandise have rotted over time, looking quite unsettling. I wanted to create a mix of uneasiness and fake qualities, giving the world a not-so-trustworthy look, despite the subjects they may pertain to! Some images appear much happier than they ought to be; some are performative, and some are genuine!
Such is normalcy within the world of SZX. I wanted to portray those feelings.

What has been a challenge you overcame working on SZX? An art piece you wrestled with? The complex pipeline?
The greatest challenge was probably my brain and the fact I was working in a freezing basement for most of this. My fingers and joints would hurt so much due to the cold, so some pieces are probably not as nicely rendered as I could have provided... I eventually got a small portable heater, but this could only provide so much for myself!

Oh no! Are you in a better situation now?

I am in a much better place now, lol
Because of the job here, I could escape that bad situation and move into a much better place.

What skill has helped you most on this project?

I like multitasking a bit. Having multiple things to draw and bounce between, mainly so I can try to keep my eyes fresh and not overwork one picture into a mess I end up not liking at all.

Poppy Works has been completely work-from-home since 2012. They are a global company in the sense that they hire anyone qualified from all over the world. What has it been like working with such a diverse group of people?
It's been so wonderful! There's a great variety of people that I've had the chance to work with, and I would absolutely do it all over again. I love these guys.
I'm also thankful that I can work from home and wear my wonderful fuzzy kitty paw slippers in total comfort! (:
Tell us something fun about working with the SZX team, a funny moment, something special that stands out to you about the team, or something you would like the world to know about this experience.
These people really like Sonic the Hedgehog.

What has been your favorite piece to work on?

This is quite hard to decide... I am so fickle with my work that looking back at most pictures I made even a month ago, I feel I could have done so much better. I find myself unsatisfied quite often.
One I recall having a good time working on, however, I think, was the Smiling Twins image. I was trying out a slightly different rendering style.

Was anything cut from the project you wish had stayed in?

I miss him every day. The snake....

How did you get started in this industry? Any suggestions for up and coming artists who would like your job?

I originally created comics for two different people for 3 years. I was getting burnt out massively, and the pay was not enough to support myself to live on my own. I injured my wrists and fingers quite a bit due to the workload I took on, and I would highly... Highly recommend taking care of yourself. Please. Wear a brace, stretch, and as soon as anything hurts, please stop. Find out if you need a different grip, get a chair that supports you, and make sure your setup isn't causing you any pain you can prevent... Anything to make sure your work isn't damaging your health in the long run. It's not worth it.
Outside of the unfortunate pain of artistry, I would recommend drawing things as if they were already going into a video game. Make a small plan, but not a full-on project as if you were going to develop this game in full.

Take the idea of "What sort of plants would live in a certain setting?" "What imagery would be present in the city/towns, and would they vary greatly?" Etc. You can get ideas for this by browsing various art books and seeing concepts that may or may not have ended up in the end product. Replicate these things! Create items a player could find/use/discover/collect, and a concept of what sort of shirts NPCs could wear!

Be sure to have rendered images and roughs to show your concept skills. These will help people figure out if you could fit into their pipeline and if you have the knowledge that could aid the rest of the group in moving forward!

Final thoughts

I love this team. Everything Poppy Works has done for me as a whole has changed my life and made it possible for me to be happier and healthier. I Want to make Slave Zero X 2. Or Slave Zero 2. Or anything. I don't know-- I just know I still love video games. I want to help make more.

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