Vic DeLeon aka VJ is a Bungie Environment Artist and was the last person hired for work on Halo 2. He also has the distinct honor of being the worst Halo 2 player at Bungie. His Gamertag is Lowest Ranked.
Vic grew up in Culver City, Calif., and spent some time in Atlanta and South Florida. His earliest gaming memories involve Combaton the Atari 2600. "That was all we did. Me and my brother would play Combat all day long. It was awesome."
Still, he had no inkling that some day he would end up in the game industry. “I wanted to go to art school, but my family was pushing for me to go to med school.”
Vic studied biology at Florida Atlantic University for a while to keep the ‘rents happy. But, eventually, he ended up following his own dream, majoring in fine art with a minor in Computer Science. He eventually earned a masters degree in fine art.
But, all through school and in between getting his bachelor’s degree and grad school, he was working at a small studio making educational games for DOS, Amiga, and Apple. “I did all the artwork, since I was the only artist for the longest time. I even had to do the packaging and labels! This was Shareware stuff, from 1989 to 1994, and it was very much a garage-industry, where everyone did a little bit of everything.”
A few years later, Vic and two friends founded a studio called Digitalo. They did 3-D simulation stuff, working on all kinds of platforms and engines, like Performer and VRML and eventually the Quake and Unreal technology. Working in the U.S. and Japan, Vic got to contribute to projects like The Virtual Florida Everglades, Virtual Reality Notre-Dame Cathedral, and a few other things, like a Japanese cyberpunk roleplaying game (RPG) that was never released and an action-RPG loosely based on the Oliver Twist character, among others. He had been contracted to make art on all kinds of games and expansions, including stuff like the Unreal Tournament Add-on Pack that never saw the light of day. Vic went on to direct the art on the sci-fi shooter Devastation for the PC and Xbox, but the Xbox version got canned. Unfortunately, after six years and lots of hard times, Digitalo went under and Vic was looking for work. That’s when he saw the job opening at Bungie.
He did three phone interviews and a full day of interviews in Redmond before Bungie gave him the good news. Vic and his wife moved to Redmond when they were expecting their first child, and Vic started work at Bungie right in the middle of crunch time. Three weeks before Halo 2 lockdown, Vic’s wife went into labor, and their son was born on August 17.
So, what’s it like working at Bungie? “I hate to sound like a fan boy, but it’s even better than I expected. I love it. I could go on and on. It’s like working in a high school locker room without the smells. No, I take that back, there are smells. It’s just crazy, like one big zoo. There are times here when the whole office is just laughing. Just busting-up-rolling-on-the-floor laughing.”
Vic claims that the environment team is “probably the most raucous group … you’ve seen our whiteboards … ”
“Yes,” I tell him. “They’re unspeakable.” In fact, when I took my Red Team of Backstage Pass winners through Bungie back in November, I was kinda horrified. The whiteboards are truly filthy.
I just had to ask Vic why he sucks so badly at Halo 2. And, lucky for me, the rest of the environment team had come back from lunch by this time and offered their take on Vic’s sucktitude. Here are some choice quotes:
“Horrible situational awareness, horrible hand-eye coordination, horrible environmental awareness, and extremely low I.Q.”
“We’re all playing on one side of the map, and Vic’s over on the other side playing his own mini-game … trying to flip over the Warthog.”