University of Wisconsin-Stout alumna and freelance artist Emily Dillhunt created all the card backs and tag frames around the avatars of the Lord of the Rings: Living Card Game by Fantasy Flight Interactive.
The digital card game, based on the epic "Lord of the Rings" book series by J.R. Tolkien, is in early access, meaning only a single player version is available on Steam, at this time. The full feature is expected to be released in three to five months, according to the Steam website.
Dillhunt, of Menomonie, graduated in 2016 from UW-Stout with a bachelor’s degree in game design and development with an art concentration.
Dillhunt was hired to work on the Lord of the Rings project by Tim Gerritsen, who co-founded Human Head Studios in 1997 and left it to lead Fantasy Flight Interactive in May 2017. Gerritsen is a developer best known in the game industry for his work on the influential blockbuster shooters Prey and Bioshock Infinite. Fantasy Flight Interactive is a Madison-based studio. It was started by Fantasy Flight Games, a strategic board and card game company based in Roseville-Minn.
Dillhunt said she met Gerritsen at a game developer conference two years ago in San Francisco and had done some freelance work for him while Gerritsen was at Human Head. “Tim approached me about doing some artwork for the Lord of the Rings: Living Card Game,” Dillhunt said. “Right away I was excited to work with him. I wanted to work on a fantasy-based project.”
What is fulfilling to Dillhunt is she was contacted to do some assets for the game in November 2017 and kept getting more contracts through August. “That tells me I was doing something they like,” Dillhunt said. She also is pleased that the artwork in the game is always in front of players as they play the game.
Working on project based on the "Lord of Rings," which paved the way for much of the high fantasy genre, was exciting for Dillhunt. “It’s had a huge, huge impact on all sorts of people,” Dillhunt said of the literature series. “If you give people enough content on a fantasy realm but leave enough room for them to have creative control within the world, you have the perfect hook for fantasy people,” she noted.
To create the artwork for the game, Dillhunt used the Internet to research Tolkien’s books and find descriptions of areas and used those to inspire her artwork.
Andrew Williams, UW-Stout program director of the game design and development – art, said he was pleased by Dillhunt’s accomplishments. “We are very proud of Emily and the successes our alumni network have had in their professional careers,” said Williams, an associate professor of art and design history. “When our alumni work on projects like this, it is a testament to the amazing talent of our students and the quality of the Bachelor of Fine Art in game design and development-art program.”
Dave Beck, director of the UW-Stout School of Art and Design and associate dean of the College of Arts, Communication, Humanities and Social Sciences, said Dillhunt took many of his classes at the university.” “In fact, her final year at the university, she was in my senior game design class as the lead artist for the team that created the award-winning game, Everend,” Beck said. “ I was impressed by how Emily always held herself in the utmost professional manner and demonstrated excellent artistic skills, no matter the project or group dynamic. Additionally, I think that her passion and pursuit of creating the perfect image, combined with her excellent communication and leadership skills, prepared her well for a position like this one after graduation.”
Everend, a video game based on a young owl caught in a massive cave after an ancient volcanic eruption, won the Best Visual Quality award at the Intel University Games Showcase in 2017.
Dillhunt started drawing as a young child, starting out working with art markers, creating traditional art. She encourages aspiring artists to get a digital drawing tablet. “It is industry standard to be able to draw digitally and taking a still from paper and digitally transferring it to the screen,” she said.
Being a freelance artist requires her to market herself, which includes having an online presence. She markets a line of her artwork on Etsy under the name of Inkmaven. She has t-shirts, stickers and lanyards that feature her artwork.
“I have always been the type of person who never wanted a regular, normal job,” Dillhunt said. “I want to be fulfilled in whatever I do. My ultimate goal in all of this is to create something that elicits a reaction from people. The biggest compliment to an artist is seeing someone use or wear your art.”
One of the designs Dillhunt has created is of Ruska, a woodland fox, a character she wears a mask for and portrays at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival in Shakopee, Minn. She bought the fox mask to wear to the Renaissance Festival as a visitor and for the past two years has been a professional character at the festival. “The mask lets me blame my mistakes on a character instead of myself,” Dillhunt said. “It’s theater without a stage. It’s all improvisation.”
She enjoys performing at the festival and being validated as people enjoy interacting with Ruska and smile, Dillhunt said. “It’s all for everyone else,” she said. “It’s all pantomime. Ruska does growl, bark or crow. It’s about the art of play.”
UW-Stout’s game design programs were named a national co-champion in 2013 at the E3 College Game Competition in Los Angeles. The programs, one based in art and another with a computer science focus, were ranked 24th nationally in 2018 by Princeton Review and the graduate program was ranked 18th.
UW-Stout is Wisconsin’s Polytechnic University, with a focus on applied learning, collaboration with business and industry, and career outcomes.
UW-Stout alumna and freelance artist Emily Dillhunt created all the card backs and tag frames around the avatars of the Lord of the Rings: Living Card Game by Fantasy Flight Interactive./UW-Stout photos by Brett T. Roseman
The digital card game is based on the epic "Lord of the Rings" book series by J.R. Tolkien.
Dillhunt, a freelance artist in Menomonie, markets a line of her work on Etsy under the name Inkmaven.
One of Dillhunt’s designs, a woodland fox, has become a character at the Renaissance Festival in Shakopee, Minn. that she portrays.