Between the Motos: Stephane Roncada

Between the Motos Stephane Roncada

February 22, 2017 2:00pm

It’s funny how things can come full circle sometimes. Stephane Roncada, the 2000 125 East Region Supercross Champion, started down the video game path as a mega-fan for a game called Motocross Madness. He now works for the same company that produced the game—Rainbow Studios. Rainbow Studios has since moved on to produce the MX vs ATV video game series. While Stephane was racing as a factory supercross and motocross rider, he would play Motocross Madness in his spare time and he got so good at it that he’s become a technical artist at Rainbow. I caught up with him recently to talk more about how he went from a racer to a creator.

Racer X: On getting his start with Motocross Madness ...
Stephane Roncada: I found out about the game from fans I had talked to a few times. As every MX/SX fan knows, you just have to buy every single motocross game that comes out, good or bad, it’s what you do. I first laid my eyes on a computer back in 1998, after finding out about a new motocross game called Motocross Madness, which was only available on computers. So I went to The Good Guys to buy my first computer ever, a HP laptop I believe, along with a copy of Motocross Madness. It took me probably a good 45 minutes to figure out that you actually have to “install” games on a computer; you can’t just put the disc in and start playing!

The two games in the middle are where it all started for Stephane's post-race career.
The two games in the middle are where it all started for Stephane's post-race career. Kyle Scott

I couldn’t get enough of the game, but for some reason my laptop didn’t have a charging cable, so I had to order one. In the meantime, I would bring the computer with me to the store, ask them to charge it for me, and come back later to pick it up and go home to play some more. This probably lasted for a week.

A few months after I started playing Motocross Madness, I found out from the same people that it was possible to create your own tracks and play them in the game, and that’s how everything started. I would spend hours on the phone with them, learning how to use software like Adobe Photoshop and 3D Studio Max to create tracks and put them in the game. Then, in 1999, I met up with them in L.A. to attend the E3 [Electronic Entertainment Expo] video game conference, where I met the team behind Motocross Madness. When they found out I was a professional rider and making tracks for their game, they asked me if I would be interested in working with them, creating new tracks for Motocross Madness 2, and I jumped at the occasion. My contract work with Rainbow Studios started shortly after that.

On becoming a contracted track designer …
I spent the next four to five years doing contract work, creating new tracks, for Motocross Madness 2, ATV Offroad Fury 1 & 2, MX Unleashed, and the MX vs ATV series. My racing career always came first. I would work on game stuff in the evenings, and sometimes on the road, but lots of people in the industry would give me a hard time about it, especially when I wasn’t having good results. “You should spend more time training and less time playing on the computer.” To which I would respond, “Racing always comes first, but I also have to look out for myself. Are you gonna pay my bills if I get hurt tomorrow and can’t race anymore?” I also want to have a life. Moto is my passion and my world, but there’s a lot more to life than just moto.

On retiring …
Knowing something else then moto made my retirement from racing really smooth, and my decision to retire much easier. I went from something I love to something else I love. I didn’t have to rely on the industry to keep getting a paycheck, and that’s something I am really proud of. I had enough determination to teach myself something new and use that knowledge to start a new career. There will always be people who say that if I had been more focused on my racing, I would have achieved more, and maybe they are right, or wrong, we’ll never know. To me, all that matters is that I am still doing something I love today, still related to moto, and I am just as happy, if not more, then when I was racing. When I was younger, I would have never thought that one day I would be working at a place like Rainbow Studios. I thought I would ride forever. It’s only when I started riding for factory teams in the 250 class that I thought I didn’t want to keep doing this as long as I could, just to get a paycheck. In 2006, after all that happened with my back pain and the Vicodin addiction, I realized that I had hit my peak already and it was only gonna go downhill from there. It was time for something new.

"I thought I would ride forever." Simon Cudby

On working at Rainbow Studios …
Working in the gaming industry is definitively very different than any other job. We work longer days than most people, there’s lots of overtime but no overtime pay, we do it because we love it. Most people’s idea of what we do is completely wrong. Whenever I tell someone what I do for a living, I always get the same answer: “Oh this must be so much fun, you get to sit and play games all day!” To which I respond: “I know, right? It’s pretty awesome!” No, it’s not like Grandma’s Boy, not at all. But why ruin it for them?

I started my game designer career as an environment artist, creating motocross/supercross tracks and outdoor environments. I am now a technical artist. I mostly do tools and workflows development, shaders and special effects, and programing. I have my hand in all aspects of the game. I try and give artists tools to make their job easier, speedup their workflows, and let them be as creative as they need to be. I sit down with each group of artists—environment, UI, characters, and vehicles—and discuss their goals, what they need in order to achieve those goals, and how I can help them work faster and smarter. A technical artist’s role is to act as a bridge between the artists and programmers working on a game, investigating new techniques, implementing them, and training the team. It’s something I enjoy as much as creating environments, and I’m looking forward to learning all the new technologies out there.

In closing …
To finish I just want to say a big thank you to everyone who buys our games and supports us. We have big plans for the future and can’t wait to create the best MX game ever! See you guys on the tracks.