The Art of the Game

06 February 2017

Meet Mufizal Mokthtar, Ubisoft Singapore’s artist and art director on the Assassin’s Creed video game franchise and an accomplished sculptor in his own right.

Geek culture consumed KLite Mufizal Mokhtar at an early age. Drawing six-biceped superheroes as a child, the passion stuck with him despite initially starting a career in audio engineering. Today, Mufizal is an art director at Ubisoft Singapore and a celebrated sculptor of geek collectibles.

“When you get into geek culture, for most people, even for me, it’s a form of escapism,” says Mufizal. “Many people do many, many things to make life a little bit more exciting. Some people ride really fast bikes, modify cars, some people go base jumping to make life a little more exciting. They don’t really need to, but they do it anyway because they want to. It’s the same thing as geek culture. But it’s a little bit safer, I suppose,” he says, laughing.

His proudest moment so far in the game development field is working on Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, for which he was the art director in charge of the entire naval section and activities in the game.

And it’s easy to see why it’s his proudest. Aside from being hailed as one of the Assassin’s Creed series’ most visually stunning, orchestrating the naval section design was a huge responsibility considering that the game takes place in the Caribbean during the golden age of piracy.

“For that game, we in Singapore were deeply, deeply involved in it together with the lead studio, which was Ubisoft Montreal. So the ships, the ocean, everything was done in Singapore,” explains Mufizal.

But the 41-year-old self-taught artist stresses that he is no overnight success. It was a long journey from his childhood superhero sketches to art directing AAA video games.

Mufizal’s Captain America sculpture for personal commission.

He may have grown up with a love for drawing – he even entered the arts stream in secondary school specifically to cultivate this passion – but Mufizal wanted to pick up a new skill when he entered university, so he made the decision to study audio engineering. He eventually went on to take a job as an audio engineer, but he confesses to secretly installing design software on his office computer to work on graphic design freelance work on the side.

Then, at age 27, Mufizal (who’s also an avid gamer) decided to take the leap and apply for a post at a local game development company, but his inexperience saw him getting rejected the first time. He didn’t let the rejection faze him, however.

“I went home, and I learned what they needed me to do. About two months later I applied again and I got it,” he says proudly.

Crow King, from HMO Collectibles’ original Bounties of Bathos line being put together.

Mufizal’s eagerness to learn saw him moving around between departments and working in every discipline of game development in the company to develop his skills as a game artist. Five years later, his hard work paid off when he landed his big break as a senior artist at Ubisoft Singapore in 2008.

Since working on the Assassins Creed games from its second instalment onwards, Mufizal has even branched out to take his sculpting hobby to new heights, and co-founded Hand Made Objects Collectibles (HMO Collectibles) in 2013 with fellow Ubisoft Singapore artist Benjamen Wu. Currently, HMO Collectibles, which works on producing licensed handcrafted sculptures, has geeks in suspense over a recent announcement of collaborating with Capcom on producing a Megaman X collection to be released this year.

A work-in-progress sculpture of Thor.

Singapore may be a thriving hub for game development companies both local and international, but Mufizal believes Malaysia is coming into its own in the game development front as many like him who work overseas bring their expertise back to the country.

He fondly retells the attention Malaysia got when it was made known that a Malaysian (Wan Hazmer) is the lead game designer on Square Enix’s Final Fantasy XV and how they were both invited back to Malaysia to share their knowledge at local gaming convention, Level Up KL 2016.

“We used to have interns that come to the studio at Ubisoft who are now lecturers back home, “ adds Mufizal. “We have had more students coming into the industry, and everything we bring back to the community in Malaysia.”

By Aizyl Azlee
Sculpture images courtesy of Mufizal Mokthtar

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