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Tinker Oddments

This is a simple enough post… we’re just looking for a little feedback on what future projects we might windup doing in the Tinker stable of fun metal gaming oddments (well, all but the potential plastic Tinker Dice).  If you’ve a moment to opine for us, we’d love your input.

Thanks!  (If the surveys aren’t showing, this is an alternate link to the PollDaddy version:  Tinkering with the Future)

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With a new World of Warcraft expansion in the news cycle, it’s only inevitable that the Flying discussion cycles around again.

I make no secret of the fact that I love flying in games.  I am a Bartle Explorer, through and through.  Flying is perhaps my favorite activity in WoW.

So, when there’s a view that says “flying is bad“, I can’t help but think that they have a different perspective on what this World of Warcraft is.

(Caveat:  As I noted on Twitter in a comment to Big Bear Butt when he mentioned his article and that WoWInsider piece, I don’t mind waiting until the end of an expansion to be able to fly through it.  I think it’s a sledgehammer solution to the perceived problem, but I can live with it.)

One of the most repeated rationales for this worldview is that “flying makes the world smaller“.

To me, this is a completely alien way of looking at it, and completely backwards.

Yes, flying makes it possible to travel around quicker.  It makes it easier to plow through content.  It makes it easier for players to ignore enemies stuck on the ground and forces players to jump through the developer hoops and pacing.

(Aside:  When a game monetizes time, I consider it a cardinal sin for devs to waste my time, trying to find ways to slow me down.)

Also, from a technical standpoint, it does make something look smaller if you increase your distance from it, so flying up in the air will make something on the ground look smaller.

And yet, from my perspective, the ability to fly makes the World of WoW much, much bigger.  This is true for one simple reason:

I can explore more of it.

Flying opens up new camera angles, new places to go and see, and new ways for me to see how places relate to each other.  It’s a new perspective on what’s already there, a way to see things that I simply can’t get when I’m stuck to the ground.

It’s similar, in a way, to how I see the real world.  Yes, digital photography has allowed for more of the world to be captured and shared than ever before, and the internet makes it possible to “see” places around the world from the comfort of home.  In a way, it “made the world smaller” inasmuch as you don’t have to walk or ride out to see the sights yourself.

And yet, from where I sit, if I could never see those places, they may as well not exist.  (At least as far as my own personal experience, anyway; I’m not arguing any sort of absurd anthropic “China doesn’t exist because I didn’t hear a tree falling there” or any such nonsense.)  Being able to see, even just a glimpse, of what’s out there doesn’t make our world smaller, it makes it much, much bigger.  There’s all this stuff out there.  The more I see, the more I want to see, and the more aware I am of just how much there is that is there to see.

This is the beauty and fascination of the National Geographic magazine, or the Cosmos series.  They help us open our eyes, just a little, to what’s out there.

And when I see that, the only thing that feels smaller is me.

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Entropic Appeal

I’ve written about this before, in my Broken Down article.  Old things fascinate me.  There’s something both sad and heartening to see the effects of life as time goes on, both human life and all the other forms that we share our spaces with.

Anyway, this is a link repository of some more fascinating photo collections of beat up, run down places and things.

Abandoned Areas (Twitter feed)

Abandoned Olympic Venues

Abandoned but Beautiful

Abandoned Places

Abandoned Places 2

Abandoned Places Around the World

Abandoned Places LiveJournal

Abandoned Places.com (navigation is a bit wonky, but they have more details about the places, which is cool)

Expoland

Keelung Taiwan

Maunsell Sea Forts

Nara Dreamland

Spectacular Abandoned Places

Swallowed By Nature

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One of the things I do when I have a minute to spare, but can’t do much but think, say, while waiting at a traffic light, is to ponder a fictional setting that I’ve been puttering around with for years.  I think about pieces of that world, characters in it, historical events, magical mechanics, whatever seems most interesting at the moment.  I’ve written some of it down, and I’ve structured some of it into a series of stories I’d like to tell, and a lot of art I’d like to do.

Sometimes I find it helpful to share my creative process, if only because it forces me to think about it, and possibly refine it.  If you all can get something out of my meanderings, hey, that’s a bonus.

This time, I want to write about Geistflies.

Geistflies

These little guys, to be precise, or at least, a fictional variant:

Fireflies

(Photos by Tsuneaki Hiramatsu)

Fireflies (or lightning bugs, as some call them) are mostly harmless, but have a certain visual charm on dark nights where their lights show up.  As with so many other weird phenomena, they are ripe for fictional explanations.  We know today that fireflies glow thanks to chemical reactions, but a less informed populace might invent other reasons for the glow.  Sometimes these reasons are based in evidence and observation, sometimes they are pure whimsy.  Often, there’s a bit of both involved, especially if location is important and patterns show up.

And as is so often the case, reality can be weirder than fiction anyway.  Take, for example, the weird story of the “Angel’s Glow” from the U.S. Civil War.  Some Civil War soldiers had wounds that glowed in the dark.  Weird, crazy stuff.  That article is just outlining a theory still, but a reasonable one.  And yet, to a delirious soldier in the field, would bioluminescent hitchhiker bacteria be the first thought?

Anyway, I designed that Geistfly Swarm card for some friends a couple years back (which actually is why I started digging into card design, which led to the Tinker Decks and Tinker Dice).  I just used a photo from a quick online search and ran with it to mock up graphic design concepts.  The text is really just official looking gibberish I made up so it looked like a card from an actual game, and I did the rest of the graphic design, experimenting with visuals.  The title of the card, “Geistfly Swarm” was just part of this creative tinkering… but it’s a name that has stuck in my mind since then.  It was just an experiment with making an interesting sounding name, sort of like my mild fascination with alliteration, but there’s something interesting happening there.

One, it rolls off the tongue well, with a pair of vowel sounds that echo each other in the two syllables.  There’s a lyrical quality to the term.  This lyricism can inform the genesis of the term, culturally speaking, and how it’s applied in society in the novel setting.  Perhaps the whimsy involved means that it’s largely used as a children’s story term.  Perhaps, though, like the Grimm Brothers stories, there’s a dark secret at its heart, and it’s been candy coated by the pretty sounds over the years.

Two, it’s a mishmash of two languages, German and English.  What sort of culture would use such a mix?  Would anyone try to be more grammatically correct and call them “ghostflies”?  What effect would that have?

Three, what if there are two species involved?  Regular fireflies, where the term is used much as we would today, and then the geistflies?  What would differentiate the species?  Color?  Behavior?  Location?  Mechanics?

…and so I decided that geistflies are an offshoot of normal fireflies.  They live in my world that has magic, sometimes wild and powerful, sometimes regimented and almost baked down to a science.  This particular bug, the geistfly, doesn’t light up for the same reasons as the firefly.  No, these geistflies react to magic and light up purely as a matter of physiology and its reaction and proximity to magic.

That relatively simple idea sparks a new series of questions, then:

Can they be used as detectors?  Do they have different reactions to different “flavors” of magic?  Where do they live?  Can they be domesticated?  What is their life cycle, and are they only sensitive to magic when they are adults?  Do they feed on magic?  How do they interact with magic users or “spells”?

Where does their energy come from to light up?  

That one spawns even more questions, like “if they tap into the surrounding magic, how would that affect their behavior?” or “if lighting up drains their own energy, would that mean they avoid magic instinctively purely as a survival mechanism?”, and answers to those would modify the answers to other questions, like using them as detectors.

Or maybe this one:  Why are they called geistflies?  Have they been linked to ghosts?  Are they most prevalent around battlefields, creepy old buildings or graveyards?  They aren’t exactly pyreflies, but maybe there are echoes in there somewhere?

I haven’t decided on answers to all of these, and really, it’s possible to dive down the rabbit hole and chase a lot of different aspects of these questions and their implications.  To me, that’s one of the great parts of creative writing and worldbuilding.  I love asking and answering those questions, and finding out how different ideas play off of each other.

This is also why I love games, where some of that incredible potential can be given to players, making for all sorts of interesting effects.

I’ll work geistflies into the stories somehow.  Even little things like this, the details that aren’t the spine of adventure, but rather the spice, are sometimes extremely useful and even important.

P.S. I just ran into this today:

http://www.thisiscolossal.com/2014/01/bioluminescent-beach-maldives/

There’s a lot you can pull from real life weirdness for fictional worldbuilding.

bio-beach2

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It’s been a great 2013, with our two Kickstarter projects doing well, thank you everyone!  We’re still shipping out the Tinker Decks and the Tinker Dice, but we’re also looking forward to what else we may be able to do.  To that end, we’d like to get some feedback from those of you who might be interested in what we’re plotting.  (And if you’re one of the kind souls who come here for my other assorted posts about gaming, game design, art and photography, I’ll do more of those, too.  I’ve been itching to do some “regular” blogging.  Lots of ideas rattling around here.  This Kickstarter stuff might just be static, sorry, but we’ll get some more signal in here, too.)

So, first and foremost, we’re planning a new campaign just for the Gearchips that we offered in the Tinker Deck campaign.  We do have a few leftovers, but there is some interest in more.

These Gearchips are poker chip sized, ready for play with the decks… or whatever else.  My kids just love playing with little metal gears, and they can serve well as tokens in a variety of games.  They are 39mm, so they can even stand in as wreck markers in WarMachine for 40mm base units or the like.  We’ll fire that up in the next month or so, since a lot of the groundwork is ready to go.  We need to run a campaign because we still have to make sure we have enough interest to get a “print run” of the coins.  We’re not yet far enough ahead of the curve to just go get more coins and hope the demand happens later.

Secondly, we’re planning a set of Gearchip-like game coins.  Specifically, they will be gear-edged coins, all built to mesh with each other, no matter which denomination.  They will have square holes in the center for use either as driver gears with a square axle, or to be able to turn freely on a round axle.  They can function in any game or situation that calls for coins or chips of different denominations (say, 7 Wonders, Race for the Galaxy or Magic the Gathering), or as parts to a machine, albeit a simple, low powered one.  These won’t be highly hardened, tempered, true machine-ready gears, just toys.  Still, that’s enough to have fun with.

We have some questions on these, though.  What sort of metal finish?  How to simplify the sale of them in batches, while still allowing some customizability to allow for use in a variety of games and situations?  We’ve been very impressed with the Gearchip coins, and we want to see how we can riff on the idea.  If you’ve a moment, we’d love some answers to this survey or comments down below.  (For all the surveys, you can select more than one option if you wish.)

Third, we’re looking at producing another deck.  We had a lot of fun with the Tinker Deck, and have other ideas we’d like to experiment with, if it’s worth it.  We’re not at all sure that we’ll go with Bicycle as the printer again, though.  They do good work, no doubt, and they are really good people to work with, but the print run of 2500 or so decks is a significant monetary hurdle.  It’s not impossible, to be sure, but there are other options that we’re considering.  These, of course, don’t carry the brand name or the instant quality assurance and recognition, which can be a different sort of barrier.  If you’ve an opinion (or recommendation) on printers, please let us know.

Also, while we’re brainstorming, how about these options?

We’ve also considered making the Tinker pair of decks available in plastic, though that will definitely mean going with a different printer.  We’re not seriously looking at Kem custom cards, as their prices are prohibitive.  We’re looking at non-US printers for this (unless someone in the ‘States can compete).

Speaking of reprints, we did order some extras of the Tinker Dice, but if there’s enough demand, we may well do another campaign for those to get another batch going… though we’d spice it up a bit by offering new finishes.  We’d simplify the ordering scheme, though, since it was overly complex this last time.

We’re also seriously considering rebooting the initial, failed, plastic Tinker Dice campaign, though we acknowledge that metal dice just seem to fit the theme better… and are in some ways, just plain cooler.  Still, plastic dice have their charms, and are less likely to destroy your gaming table.  They would be less costly, too.

There’s also a temptation to do some sort of token set for wargaming… but we need to figure out the best approach for that.  Some of those templates are big, and might get prohibitively expensive to do in metal.

So thanks for chiming in, and for your support thus far!

…and we’ll get back to a game design post here in a little bit.  There’s this one on worldbuilding I’ve had in mind for a while now…

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We now have the Tinker Dice in hand!  We’ll be shipping them out to those who ordered only Tinker Dice.  The Gearpunk Dice are still in processing (I emailed the company again last night to get a timetable and photos… we’ll pass along what we learn), so we’ll send those out later, along with the Tinker Dice for anyone who ordered some of each.

Thanks for your patience!

IMG_2644 IMG_2645 IMG_2646 IMG_2647

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I’m an animator.  I’m a writer.  I’m an artist.  I’m a math and science geek.  I’m a gamer and a game designer.  I do a lot of creative things, and always wish I could do more.  My interests are varied and my skillset rather “MacGyverish”, and I work at a fairly small company, so I don’t really focus on animation, but it’s what I earned my college degree in.  En route, I took many classes that required many papers to be written, and a handful of creative writing courses.  Much of what I ran into there was either dry and boring or trippy hippy artsy fartsy nonsense, but it was at least good practice.

So… this NaNoWriMo thing.  I’ve known about it for years, but I’m always too busy.  This year, I’m actually even more busy than I’ve ever been.  Still, I have a lot of novel ideas rattling around in my skull, and some of them really need to escape and see if they can’t spread their wings a little.  I’m sort of not really committing to anything, but I’m going to spend a bit of time writing a novel skeleton, if not a novel itself.  The thing is, there’s an interesting effect that I’ve noticed in my own writing that correlates really well to my animation.  I think that the animator’s Illusion of Life can apply to writing as well.

There’s a difference between “straight ahead” animation and “frame to frame” animation, or keyframe animation.  I’ve done traditional hand animation and computer animation.  I specialize in the latter, but enjoy both.  In both, straight ahead animation tends to produce a more lively, chaotic sort of feel, where the characters and action builds on itself and inertia carries the day.  Keyframe animation is much better when certain story beats or timing points need to be honored, and it’s especially useful for things like walk cycles and other sort of motions that game development uses (I presently work in games, though I’d love to animate for feature films).  Keyframing is also one of the major things that computer animation can leverage, since the computer can calculate the interim frames between keys, instead of needing an army of inbetweeners, as hand-drawn animation needs.  There’s still artistry in making the bezier-like animation curves carry weight and timing well, since computer interpolation is pretty dry and mathematical, so it’s not really a magic “Animate Awesome” button, but computer animation uses keyframing very frequently, simply because it’s good at it.  (And looking at those curves should give you an idea of how knowing math and physics are important to animation.)

Anyway, I’ve been thinking in similar terms for the novels I’d like to write.  There are “story beats” that I’d like to hit, character moments I’ve written mentally that I’d like to work in, and other assorted vignettes that I’ve worked more on than others.  It’s a sort of mental tapestry of ideas, themes, events and moments that I’d like to commit to paper.  It’s not so much a bullet-pointed outline as it is a sketch.  A sort of “concept art” for the story I’d like to write, a rough mental image that can be built into something stronger.  I’ve tightened the art a bit here and there, and left some other pieces loose so that they can be reworked as the whole thing comes into focus.

Interestingly, there’s a bit of what I wrote about here going on, too, where certain bits and bobs of detail can intimate other details, and ultimately, there really is a lot I can leave up to the reader.  It’s very much like a painting, in a way, where the novel has to carry enough detail and interest to let the reader fill in the gaps.  The interesting thing is that I think this applies in the creative process, too, where I hit the high points, the key frames, if you will, of my story, and then go back and fill in the gaps as necessary, but find ways to leave other gaps open for the reader.

As I’ve been writing this, then, in bits and pieces over the years, I do parts, the vignettes, in “straight ahead writing”, but I use those vignettes, those “fixed points in time“, as key frames to hang the larger story on.  It’s a relatively fluid approach, not unlike working from a sketch to a fully realized painting.  Like figure drawing, It’s important to nail down a good sketch, understanding the skeletal structure, musculature, physics and such, before going on to finish a piece.  Some elements can be done in a relatively straightforward manner, and other things might need to be left in the air, and in many ways, the whole piece gets attention over time, instead of just drawing a head, polishing it to a shine, then doing shoulders and so on.  More than once, I’ve seen students do that sort of thing in figure drawing sessions, and then they are surprised when they run out of room at the bottom of the paper for the legs of the model.  The piece really works best when considered as a whole from the outset, even if some of the process winds up being really straightforward, like rendering a face or a hand.

I know, it’s a bit of a stretch, writing about how visual art creative principles inform my writing, and all without using much in the way of visuals to underscore the idea (though the links I’ve included have good visuals).  Still, I thought it might prove useful to try to illustrate how these principles of creativity can bleed between disciplines, and how learning in one sphere can enhance another.  I’ve long believed that, like the basic physiology of neurons, creativity and intelligence grow as you start making connections between individual building blocks of your palette.  If you want to have a rich imagination, you really should be inquisitive and explore.  Learn as much as you can.  Find things that allow you to reframe an idea in a way that you haven’t looked at it before, and it will help you understand what you’re looking at.  Look for the connections and look for the different perspectives.

And then commit it to paper.  I sketch most often with a ballpoint pen.  It forces me to either roll with the mistakes or do it right in the first place.  It’s an emboldening process, ultimately, even though mistakes are inevitable.  Funny how often that’s true.

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Ada Lovelace Day

It’s Ada Lovelace Day!

She was one of the historical figures I built this deck’s cast around.  Some of the more esoteric inclusions, like Henri Giffard, fit holes that I discovered as I went about building my list, but Ada Lovelace was in the cast from day one.

She’s our Queen of Hearts in the Tinker Deck and Rusty Tinker Deck.  Perhaps it would have made more sense to have Jane Austen in that role for the “romance” connection, but for whatever reason, the “Love” in Ms. Lovelace’s name seemed like a more natural fit for the Hearts suit to me.  (And it seems that diamonds are sufficiently romantic in the end, more or less.)

Anyway, some desktop images seem to be in order.  Just ’cause.

AdaLovelaceDesktopRusty1 AdaLovelaceDesktopRusty2 AdaLovelaceDesktopTinker1 AdaLovelaceDesktopTinker2

 

 

 

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Just a couple of photos from this morning’s emails.  These are the final coins, and they will be going into production soon.  We did ask them to do something for vertical stacking of the Gearchips, and I gave them a design that could have worked… in theory.  They took a look at it and decided that, for whatever reason, their systems just weren’t going to cooperate.  That said, we are getting meshing gears, so that’s a big win, as far as I’m concerned.  The Dragon Tinker coins really make me smile.  Something about that mischievous Havok & Hijinks dragon face, I think.

DSCN2868 DSCN2869

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I offered these as a base level $1 tier on the Tinker Deck campaign.  I don’t have .PDF files for these yet, but these .PNG files should work just as well.  (Oh, and we’re still taking orders for the decks for a few days, if you’re interested!)  You can print these on 8.5×11 paper to get properly sized cards.  The art is centered on the page, so you can try to make them two-sided with the backs, if you have a printer that can register things well.  There are two images for each set of six cards; one has the “die cut” lines for where the final cards would be cut, and the other is a clean array of the images.

Thanks, everyone!

TinkerDeckSpadeHigh TinkerDeckSpadeHighClean TinkerDeckSpadeLow TinkerDeckSpadeLowClean RustyDeckAcesAndJokers RustyDeckAcesAndJokersClean RustyDeckBacks RustyDeckBacksClean RustyDeckBlanks RustyDeckBlanksClean RustyDeckClubHigh RustyDeckClubHighClean RustyDeckClubLow RustyDeckClubLowClean RustyDeckDiamondHigh RustyDeckDiamondHighClean RustyDeckDiamondLow RustyDeckDiamondLowClean RustyDeckHeartHigh RustyDeckHeartHighClean RustyDeckHeartLow RustyDeckHeartLowClean RustyDeckSpadeHigh RustyDeckSpadeHighClean RustyDeckSpadeLow RustyDeckSpadeLowClean TinkerDeckAces TinkerDeckAcesClean TinkerDeckBacks TinkerDeckBacksClean TinkerDeckBlanks TinkerDeckBlanksClean TinkerDeckClubHigh TinkerDeckClubHighClean TinkerDeckClubLow TinkerDeckClubLowClean TinkerDeckDiamondHigh TinkerDeckDiamondHighClean TinkerDeckDiamondLow TinkerDeckDiamondLowClean TinkerDeckHeartHigh TinkerDeckHeartHighClean TinkerDeckHeartLow TinkerDeckHeartLowClean

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