It’s been quiet around here lately. I’m still looking for work, and Unemployment is about exhausted. So, I still don’t have the luxury of spending much time here, and I’m… significantly stressed. Still, this is worth noting. The Gearpunk Dice that we’ve been waiting for since last year are finally here, so we’ll be shipping them out to everyone as soon as we can process them. Thank you for your interest and patience!
Posts Tagged ‘art’
The Tinker Gearcoin project funded, thank you everyone!
Of course, we still have some time to go and room to grow, so we’re doing something kinda crazy. We want to design a 12th coin, but we’re crowdsourcing the design. Sort of. It’s like Magic the Gathering, when they do their “You Design The Card”; we’re going to ask a series of polls and let the community decide on what we do with the design of the coin. We’re starting with this (36mm diameter, image not to scale):
…which will be a “driver” coin. That smaller gear’s round center will be a big hole, right through the coin, so you can put a pencil or finger in it as a handle to crank the coin around. Or it can be a pendant, earring or something else. It’s weird, it’s wacky, and I really don’t know where it will wind up.
So if you have a moment and are interested, please check out the campaign over here, spread the word, and join us for the crazy ride ahead!
Posted in Administrative, art, Game Design, writing, tagged art, career, EA, EA Spouse, freelance, illustration, industry, job, photography, video game, video game industry, work on June 6, 2014 | 7 Comments »
OK, not so much “morbid” as… depressed, but that would have killed the alliteration.
For a little bit of context, I was laid off or downsized from the video game company I worked for just about two months ago. It’s been… stressful. Really stressful. It’s part of why I haven’t posted here for a while.
For a bit more context, there’s this fellow’s insanely large video game collection that hit the news:
Anyway, there’s also this article from Kotaku that made the Facebook rounds recently:
It’s a decent article, but I wanted to chase down a couple of implications that they didn’t get to, and tie a few things together.
As might be noted by the Kotaku article, or by speaking with veterans of the industry, there is a lot of churn in the video game production world. Staffing woes aren’t uncommon in many industries, so it’s not like we’re super special snowflakes or anything, but it’s worth noting that the industry isn’t a stable one. It’s a wildly profitable one on the whole, an entertainment medium that isn’t going away, but it’s not financially stable, nor is a career in the industry going to be a stable one.
I read an article a while back (though I can’t find it now), and this thread seems to echo the same thoughts, that careers in the video game industry are short on average. As in, five years short, or about two big game dev cycles. It’s true that we don’t live in a world where you get one job right out of college and stay at it until you retire or die, so again, this isn’t all that unusual, but it’s somewhat sobering. Or it should be.
I’ve worked in the industry for eight years. I’m an old hand at it, in some ways. That’s… weird. (Not as old of a hand as some, but still, it’s weird to think of myself as statistically over the hill, career wise.)
Anyway, this does have effects on the industry beyond what the Kotaku article notes. Because companies are always fluctuating around, “redistributing assets” and such, there are convenient excuses to drop older, more expensive employees and pick up fresh meat from colleges. The passion in these younger, unattached employees (mostly male) is exceptionally easy to exploit, as I’ve railed against before, and as the EA Spouse kerfluffle illustrated all too well. Conditions haven’t improved much since then, though some managers do a good job. Death marches and crunch might be the backbone of a production schedule, but they aren’t healthy.
Tangentially, this explains a fair bit of the “boys’ club” mentality of the industry, for those of you who are up in arms about Blizzard’s recent public relations black eyes. People who grow up (and actually mature, unlike the ESRB’s definition of the word) and want stable careers for their families don’t last long in the industry.
This is part of why the indie scene is important, as veteran developers try out new ideas that would never fit into the studio or megaentertainment company mentality. Games are an important artistic medium, but they are hobbled by the realities of the industry. Indies are opening up the scope of the medium, but like so many artistic avenues, it’s not really a solid career choice.
I could get bitter about this, but really, I’m just noting the realities of the industry as a voice of… not warning, exactly, since I still see great value in games. It’s more of a voice of pragmatism. The industry is not a place for long term stability (relevant to those who wish to make games), it’s not a place for actual maturity (relevant to devs and gamers), and it’s not going away.
I’ve been applying to studios around the world, but have no real leads. I may well be out of the “official” video game world now, more or less “retired” by circumstance, and left to do indie games with friends on the side as I scramble for other work, whether freelance art or some other art position somewhere. Again, this isn’t a desirable position to be in, but it’s not too surprising or unique. I’m disappointed, but then, as I noted in that NBI article, I believe that a job or career is just something you do to pay the bills so you can afford to do what you really want to do in your spare time. I don’t have anything yet, but even if I pick up a new video games job, I can’t really see myself in the industry for decades, just because of how it works.
I’ll work on indie games because they interest me. I’ll make my Shapeways, Zazzle, Kickstarter and other projects because I just can’t stop creating. I may well wind up with a completely irrelevant job, but games, art and creativity are something I will always be involved in.
But… yeah… I’m busier now than I ever have been, working hard on a lot of different things, but making very little money. This blog, as great as it is to write here, isn’t my priority. I’ll be here now and then again, still, I’m not closing shop, I’m just busy. Really busy. I’m updating my portfolio (seen over here), working on my own projects (novels, games, art, photography, all sorts of things) and looking for freelance opportunities. If any of you have leads, I’d certainly love to hear about them.
See you around!
Posted in Administrative, art, Game Design, tagged art, Bicycle, board game, card game, custom cards, game, gaming, Gearpunk, Kickstarter, steampunk, Tinker Deck, Tinker Dice on January 5, 2014 | 4 Comments »
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…
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.
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.