Thursday, April 29, 2010

"You introduce a simple problem...

...and gradually make the problem more complex." -Sid Meier

Just finished watching a short documentary (embedded below) on a 48 hours game design competition that was co-judged by Sid Meier (Pirates, Civilization). Pretty interesting to watch someone else's train of thought as they design the initial concept for a game. It was also a little difficult to watch some of the student projects fail so miserably, but I'm sure those are the experiences that you learn from the most.

I guess what stuck with me the most was Sid Meier's quote, "You introduce a simple problem and gradually make the problem more complex." I remember when I was thinking up my current superhero game, it started as a very simple idea (which I'm hesitant to disclose just yet). As I thumb through my development notes, I can see where things have grown a bit more complex, but the initial germ of the idea is still in tact. My outlook, and they way I've handled most projects, is to isolate the things I want to do into their own concise obsticles and gradually start solving them. We'll see if that works. Now, I have to decide wether or not download Pirates on Xbox live.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Creator Commentary

I've always been the type of person that really gets into the director commentaries and "making-of" featurettes on his DVD's. Its with that same excitement that I've begun searching out that same information on the creation of games. Today, Kotaku posted an article on a "developer commentary track" being added to the next re-release of Monkey Island 2. I think this is an interesting inclusion and might help get some insight into some of the great minds in adventure gaming.

This also reminded me that I've been sitting on my copy of Rogue Leaders: The Story of LucasArts.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Quick Update

Thought I would pop in and write a quick update. Didn't get to jump into coding this week, as I would have liked. Took on a video commission and wanted to get a head start on it so that tied up most of my time. Plus, recently picked up and beat the new Splinter Cell game for the Xbox 360.
My take: a much more accessible game than the others and the "tagging" of enemies was an interesting new feature. I also enjoyed the story, but found myself often confused as to who the different characters where and what their part in the story was. I think finishing the last game might have helped in that, but the that game is a part of a long list of titles that I just never got around to finishing. Anymore, I catch myself appreciating the games with the smaller amounts of play time, if only because they hold the greatest chance of my getting all the way through them. Interesting how a job and mortgage can pull the priority out of your gaming schedule. I highly recommend at least a rental, but you'll probably beat it in roughly 10 hours. Buy it if you have a friend that is also getting it, the co-op is pretty fun.
Also, I've never really been a fan of people that constantly quote movies (I have quite a few family members and friends brought up on Monty Python to blame for that). But I was hanging around with my brother the other night and decided to show him some deleted scenes from Superman II. If you haven't figured it out, I'm a pretty big dork. So, it was in watching the movie that I caught myself quoting General Zod a lot. Not proud of it, but it happened.

It was then that I decided to draw one of the scenes where he is leaning against a wall as his associates tear up the White House. Looking forward to digitally painting it and adding some destroyed walls and blood to try and take away from the weird GQ body language.

And just to give another glimpse of my art style, here is an older piece from about a year ago.

Well, that's all for now. I picked up some books to use as reference for buildings, so I'm hoping to build up more assets and delve into Torque X a little more. I'll post when I get some results.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

City Design

Was working on some "tiles" for the city the other night, trying to get a feel for what the background would look like. I caught myself checking out old screenshots of Rampage to see how they may have handled their buildings. I thought I was being pretty clever by adding some perspective to the angle of the structures, but then saw they did it a couple decade before I did.

Think I've locked down my sidewalk tiles and added a few variations to spice it up a bit. I still might go in and stretch them out a bit because I want a little more distance into the background. I then moved on to a base structure for the buildings. I want to add different elements to them order to create different buildings. The whole thing looked pretty flat so I ended up laying a texture over the whole thing. It was then that I realized that I might not be able to compose a building out of tiny textures because the "seems" between the tiles would look pretty obvious when the camera pulls out. I was watching a video on and saw a pretty ugly water texture that literally looked like patchwork. I'm hoping to avoid that, but we'll see what happens once I have a few built up.

So I had my grey building built up but it still looked pretty flat to me. So I started thinking more about the games overall color pallette. I originally had an idea of swapping the player character's shadow and light areas based on the direction he was facing. After discussing it with some people on the XNA forums, I agreed that it might suck up more processing power and be a bigger pain than its worth.

Still liking the idea of a light source, I decided to add a warm directional light to the city that would produce bluish shadows. Right now I have my photoshop layers set up with the light on its own layer. I'm hoping to be able to quickly produce different color building tiles by altering the grey base structure.

That's when I ran into my newest problem, namely my creativity when it come to architecture, how to draw an interesting building. So last night I hit a few book stores and went through some bargain bins to try and find some photo reference. I guess I could have just checked google, but I wasn't finding anything I liked. Luckily, I was able to find a couple of books I liked, which I'm looking forward to referencing as I build the pieces.

At this stage of the game, I'm still learning the ins and outs of XNA. I'm hoping to start prototyping the basic movement in the game soon. I'll probably end up thumbnailing the characters basic movements (no animation) and importing it into the game just to see how it plays. I may be getting ahead of myself, but I'm starting to get a little nervous that all of my "grand ideas" might not work as well as I hope. We'll have to see.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Evolution of a Player

When I sat down design a player character, I had no idea how painful a process it would be. I knew the character would fly, so I wanted a cape. I knew that I wanted a lighter, "cartoonier" feel so I didn't want realistic proportions. I also knew that I wanted the animation to be better than normal, so I needed keep it simple if I was going to be drawing, inking, and coloring a lot of frames. Most important, I knew that I didn't want to take a "good enough" attitude with his design. The player has to look at it for the entire game so I needed it to be right where I needed it or at least as close as I could get.

So over the course of a couple weeks, and in the margins of many notepads, I started to doodle the character shape. I wanted a bulkier upper body to imply great strength, and shortened the legs for a little contrast.
I was pretty happy with a few of those and kept pushing forward. I was getting a little excited, and way ahead of myself, so I drew an action position and tried a few different color schemes. I wanted it to look like a piece of finished art so I tried to make my lines as tight as possible. I roughed out my shape with a non-photo blue pencil (they don't show up in copies or B&W scans) and then inked over the character. I used the red pen to signify where my shadows would go. Also, I mozaic'ed the images to give it a 16-bit feel. The final game won't look like that, I was just curious.

At this point I was feeling pretty good about the shape, but didn't love the colors. I decided to go forward to a "character turn-a-round". I was hoping to animate a walk cycle in the coming weeks and needed to figure out how he looked from all angles. So I went to work.

At first, I was pretty happy with this. He had the shape I set out for and definitely looked like he could lift anything, but had lost the cartoony feel I was searching for. Growing up on the "Bruce Timm" era of DC animation, I had grown to like the angled, low detail approach of character design. It helped keep down the line mileage and would keep the characters from looking mushy and wobbly. But it clearly wasn't what I was looking for. So I sat down with my original thumbnails and started to work again.
I was looking at the middle one when I realized that was the look I was going for. I then decided that I was having trouble trying to draw in such a full scale when my thumbnails were what was capturing the essence of what I wanted. So I took my favorite out of all of them, blew it up, and created my character on top of it.

This is where I ended up. I still need to figure out the logo for his shield, and maybe change the circle on his chest, but I'm happy with it. Hope that wasn't too boring for you. I'll put up more as I get it.


The Beginning...

I guess this is as good a place as any to start things off at. My name is, Ben, and I've always wanted to make a game. I'm about 30 now, and my underlying tastes have always remained in what was probably my favorite era of gaming, the Super Nintendo games. Having an equal passion for animation, mostly hand drawn, I've always gravitated to the games that pushed the medium to resemble the hand drawn feature films that I enjoyed at the time.

This usually led me to play pretty much anything with rotoscoped animation (Prince of Persia, Flashback, Out of this World, and sadly, Shaq Fu). I also remember the feeling of amazement of seeing when hand drawn animation was finally being incorporated into games (Genesis Aladdin, Earthworm Jim, etc). Looking back at those games, It's pretty amazing to see that the animation wasn't a fluid 24 frames a second, the sprites aren't huge, and there isn't a terribly large amount of overall animation. I think there is just a certain craft to them that I appreciate, and a liberal use of tried and true animation principals to the characters. Amazing what 15 years of memories can do to enhance a game's image. I'm still shocked at the vast difference between how Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (Arcade) looks in comparison to how I remember.

So, with the leaps in technology and the user friendly nature of the Xbox Live Independent game channel, I've decided to embark on my first game. I'm won't be going into specifics at first, but will reveal more about the game as I go on. All I can say so far is my game is about a Superhero. The reason I'm creating this blog is to help me to "stay with it" as I can tend to let things slip and never finish. But, also, I'd like to let people know what resources I'm using to maybe help them in the creation of their own games. I know that I like to see an idea form and others might find it interesting to watch this evolve.

Thanks for reading and lets see where this takes us.