Mr. Adamowicz, who died on Feb. 9 at 43, was a concept artist whose paintings of exotic landscapes, monsters and elaborately costumed heroes and villains formed the visual foundation for two of the most popular single-player role-playing video games of all time.
In Fallout 3, he envisioned a post-apocalyptic Washington; in the other, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, he co-created the look of a vast fantasy world. Together the games have sold more than 15 million copies and earned more than $900 million since they were released, Fallout in autumn 2008 and Skyrim in autumn 2011.
His death, at a hospital in Washington, of complications of lung cancer, was confirmed by Pete Hines, a vice president of Bethesda Softworks, the company that created both games.
Whether sketching out a mutant-riddled, atomically ravaged downtown Washington or a sprawling continent populated by wizards and trolls, Mr. Adamowicz was, in a sense, the costume designer, prop master and set designer for highly cinematic games. Other team members would render Mr. Adamowicz’s drawings on computers once the writers and art director approved them.
“All of the designs evolve through contributions from the whole team,” he wrote in an essay about conceptual design on the Fallout Web site. “I like to feel that it’s my job to instigate the process with a cool drawing that inspires everyone else here into making something really cool.”
Mr. Adamowicz (pronounced a-DOM-oh-wits) conceptualized virtually everything in Fallout 3: locations like a crumbling Washington Monument and coin-operated personal bomb shelters; items like the Pip-Boy 3000 — an electronic wrist computer that serves as a player’s conduit to menus, maps and other vital information — and the Fat Man, a weapon that launches miniature nuclear bombs; and monsters ranging from mutated naked mole rats to 30-foot-tall super mutant behemoths.
“He was one of the first people on Fallout 3 and he drew every concept image we had,” said Todd Howard, the game director for both Fallout 3 and Skyrim. “We’re talking over a thousand images, for years.”
Mr. Adamowicz worked with a fellow concept artist, Ray Lederer, on Skyrim, but came up with the look and feel of the game’s marquee monster, fearsome dragons that would intimidate Smaug, the venerable wyrm from “The Hobbit.” Skyrim is the first of the Elder Scrolls series to let players battle them.
Adam Carl Adamowicz was born on March 9, 1968, in Huntington, on Long Island. He received a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Colorado, Boulder, in 1990. He studied oil painting, figure drawing and palette mixing at the Boulder Academy of Fine Arts in 2002 and 2003.
Mr. Adamowicz worked as a freelance illustrator for Dark Horse Comics and Malibu Graphics and held down odd jobs, like haunted house builder and erotic cake artisan, according to his blog, before landing his position at Bethesda in 2005.
He is survived by his mother, Moira Adamowicz.
Fallout 3 is suffused with humorous touches of nostalgia for the time before a nuclear war had ended the world as we know it. (For example, the Ink Spots’ 1941 song “I Don’t Want to Set the World on Fire” plays on the radio as a player explores the radioactive rubble.)
Mr. Adamowicz actually had the wholesomeness of “Leave It to Beaver” in mind when he imagined a post-apocalyptic world. The game really begins when the protagonist escapes from a technologically advanced 1950s-style society that has survived for hundreds of years in a huge subterranean bomb shelter.
“I have an interest in all things ’50s because I think there’s a certain charisma with the music, with the automobiles, with the clothing style,” Mr. Adamowicz said in an interview included as bonus content when Fallout 3 was released. “So designing any of these characters and then throwing them into the wasteland, the dark humor for me kicked in when I imagined Ward Cleaver being pushed out of his bunker and he’s looking for fresh tobacco for his pipe and then here comes a raider over the top of the horizon.”
Source: Daniel E. Slotnik with www.nytimes.com