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Posts Tagged ‘art’

I’ve played video games since Bowling on the Atari 2600 back in 1980.  I’ve played on most major consoles here in the U.S. (the Neo Geo is the one I skipped… that thing was stupidly expensive, though I loved some of its games in the arcades of the day), though I’m still stuck in the PS3/XB360 era due to lack of funding.  I’ve played PC and Mac games, from simple DOS games like Sleuth up through Star Control 2 and The Dig, and later, Batman: Arkham Asylum (I know, it’s a port, but it’s my most graphically intensive PC game) and Minecraft.

I discovered a taste for design in the Dark Castle days, drawing out new levels on graph paper.  I further refined my interest in mechanics when I did some serious work designing a world and game systems for a RPG in the King’s Quest days, though it wound up being more of a Final Fantasy Tactics sort of game.  I really, really wanted to make a good sequel to Chrono Trigger, and made many notes on what I’d do.  Chrono Cross, great game that it is, just didn’t scratch the same itch.

I’ve always enjoyed games, both playing and designing.  In many ways, creating new games is more satisfying, since I’m a creative sort and would rather produce than consume.

My BFA is in Computer Animation, and while some of my classmates have worked for Pixar, Rhythm and Hues, Blue Sky, Dreamworks and Weta, I wound up in the game industry.  I’d have loved working at Pixar making Disney films, like I planned to do as a kid, but circumstances led to other choices.  I still love animating, though I’m most experienced at modeling, texturing and solving weird tech issues, since I’m  a “Technical Artist”, comfortable with tech and art.

I worked for Headgate Studios, largely working on EA’s Tiger Woods games.  Then I worked at Wahoo Studios, making a few Kefling games along with a smattering of other projects both internal and contract work.  I have a list around here somewhere of the 15 or so games I am credited in, which qualifies me as a veteran of sorts. That said, as is so often true, time and economics caught up with me, and I’m now “retired” from the industry after almost a decade working on the art in games, with a bit of dabbling in design.

These days, I design my own games, write about what I’d do if I had pie-in-the-sky budgets to design games, do graphic design, make cool game accessories and try to find ways to make a living in a freelance world since there just aren’t career opportunities at the moment.  Once in a while, I even get to play games (though some of that time is just playtesting my games… I really need to update Chromaround).

Games and I, we have history.

Anyway, I’m in between serious contracts, and while I’m scrambling for something new to pay the bills, I have a few minutes here and there.  So, given that I’ve been collecting games over the years, adding to my Steam collection and assorted game bundles, I have more than a few games to fill that time with.

So, I’m going to be systematic about it and just start plowing through my game backlog.  I’m going to give each game 15 minutes to really grab me, then do a quick writeup of what happened, probably with a screenshot or two, and with some commentary about the design and art.  Pith may be present.  I might revisit the games, but I probably won’t.  Still, I want to do a bit of exploration.  It’s good to see what’s out there, and how other games are designed.

I’ll post those writeups here, though I’m not committing to any regular schedule or format.  Perhaps this is the sort of thing YouTube is for, but I hate being in videos and hearing myself.  Writing, that I can do.  We’ll see how it all settles out.

I know, I know, some games really need more than 15 minutes to get a proper shakedown, but, well, I can’t be the only one who only barely has time to graze games.  I could devote dozens of hours to the latest Final Fantasy when I was in high school, but these are different times.  I think it’s a good game design that has the ability to do something to earn further attention within those 15 minutes.  I simply won’t be doing some games justice, but that’s life in this saturated, cutthroat market.  There are still lessons to be learned, I think.

See you next time with a bit of commentary on what I’ve been playing, then I’ll mostly shelve those games and start trekking through the wilds.

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Ambigrammar

I’m fond of ambigrams, and have taken a stab at making more than a few in my day.  This is the latest:

Chiaroscuro Ambigram V2

I’m just putting it out there at the moment without explanation, though.  I’d like to see if it’s readable and interesting.

What do you think?

It seems that the trick is making the thing read correctly both ways, while keeping the letterforms appealing and at least reasonably consistent.  It’s hard to make an ambigram “font”, though this sort of font shows up often:

AmbigramSample

My designs lean more to the “tribal” aesthetic than the Olde Tyme Fontography.  It gives me a bit more flexibility, though it’s not always as readable.  It’s interesting to me to see how these might work.  They often try to “hack” our natural tendency to see patterns, especially with the little bits and floating details that might be important one way but best ignored the other way.

Sometimes it’s easier with more words, too… and sometimes not.  They can give more datapoints to help decipher the rest of the puzzle.  This one is for the Alhambra Speech and Debate team, for example, and some of it works well… other bits don’t.  A lot depends on context; someone on the team would be able to read it fairly easily since they would expect it to be relevant to their interests.

AlhambraSpeechAndDebateAmbigram

If you’ve a guess at what this latest one reads, I’d love to see it in the comments.  Thanks!

Updated with this application of the ambigram… and the word: “Chiaroscuro”.  Thanks, all!

ChiaroscuroBanner

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This should have posted on Martin Luther King Jr.’s holiday.  Sorry, I’ve been busy.

Martin-Luther-King-01

I believe that games are uniquely and exquisitely suited to explore content of character, since games, as a medium, are all about choice.  That’s the nature of an interactive medium.  It saddens and disappoints me that so many discussions of character in games begin and end at the character creation screen, with a Politically Correct checklist and identity politics.

Games as a medium deserve better.  Gamers deserve better.

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I’ve been looking for full time work since this Tinker business I’ve been experimenting with just isn’t paying the bills.  I applied to a graphic designer position with a scrapbooking company, and was politely informed that they cater to a “feminine” clientele and that my art isn’t what they are looking for.

OK, sure.  I could have made some great products for them, but to each their own.

I have to wonder, though.  With things like epbot.com, Forbes and IBM pegging steampunk as a Big Deal, and this sort of thing, with “steampunk” at least as important as “selfie” in dictionaries:

SteampunkDictionary

…it seems to me that steampunk design ethos, something I’m fairly familiar with these days, isn’t exactly “feminine”, but neither is it something below notice.

It’s not even strongly gendered in my experience, with steampunk fans quite happy to embrace things like Girl Genius or Hullabaloo not because of “token girls” but because of interesting and well crafted visuals and characters, some of whom happen to be female.  To be sure, there are those who take the Victorian fashion and buttoned-up morality as a sort of challenge, trying to find ways to make it pornographic (which doesn’t intersect largely with scrapbook patrons… I think… but I’m not researching it), but that’s just what the Internet does.  For the most part, what I’ve seen of the steampunk ethos and design is very inclusive and relatively nonjudgmental, which is part of the appeal of that “alternate history science fiction” sort of world where imagination is king.

I’m not a woman, but I’m married to a wonderful one, and she doesn’t see my steampunk work like the Tinker products and say “oh, that’s just so… masculine, ewwww”.  She appreciates it for its curious blend of precision and ramshackle weirdness.

So, I have to wonder what sort of market there is out there for steampunk designs that can be used in scrapbooking.  There’s certainly a “do it yourself” appeal to a lot of steampunk, which doesn’t necessarily lend itself well to prepackaged scrapbooking goods, and there’s always going to be those who heap disdain on any hint of the illiterate masses flirting with mainstream acceptance of their formerly fringe “geek safe zone” (see: “glue a gear on it“).  Even so, I instinctively think that dismissing steampunk might be a bit premature, and to consider it beneath the notice of “feminine” clientele is perhaps shortsighted.

To be fair, this company didn’t complain about steampunk explicitly, I’m just ruminating on their feedback.  I’m just not sure that “feminine” need equate to this sort of simple thing all the time.

What do you think?

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This is just an addendum to the photo set of the Gearpunk dice.  We’ve ordered some in a black nickel finish, and though we don’t have all of them in stock yet thanks to a factory mistake, we have a few.  May as well show some beauty photos, right?

s_D6GearpunkBlackNickel

D6GearpunkBlackNickel

s_D8GearpunkBlackNickel

D8GearpunkBlackNickel

s_D12GearpunkBlackNickel

D12GearpunkBlackNickel

s_D20GearpunkBlackNickel

D20GearpunkBlackNickel

s_D20SpinGearpunkBlackNickel

D20SpinGearpunkBlackNickel

s_DFudgeGearpunkBlackNickel

DFudgeGearpunkBlackNickel

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If you’ve perused the photo library of the Gearpunk dice, you might have noted that the Zinc-finished dice are rather shiny, especially when compared to the brass and copper variants.

Gearpunk D10 Decader Antiqued Copper

Gearpunk D10 Decader Antiqued Copper

Gearpunk D10 Decader Antiqued Brass/Bronze

Gearpunk D10 Decader Antiqued Brass/Bronze

Gearpunk D10 Decader Zinc

Gearpunk D10 Decader Zinc

I’m partial to the antiqued look, both because I like the more rustic aesthetic, and because the antiquing makes the dice easier to read.  Since the factory managed to mangle our order’s quantities, we wound up with over 100 extra shiny Zinc D10 “decader” dice.  One of them seemed like the perfect test subject, then, to see what sort of simple inking options I might have.  I’ll be trying other experiments, but this is the initial test, which I’m pleased with.

I used Speedball “super black” India ink, water and a small hobby paintbrush.

Specifically, this ink:

Speedball Ink

And a brush a bit like the middle one here:

Small paintbrush

Though I picked up mine in a set of three at the local hobby store for $2.  It doesn’t need to be an expensive brush, just one that will hold a point when wet and is about 1/8″ in diameter or so.

I put eight drops of water and three drops of ink in a plastic cup for this experiment.  I diluted the ink to give myself a little time for the ink to dry.  When used straight, the ink dries fairly quickly, and I wanted a little wiggle room in case I messed up.  This experiment really doesn’t need a lot of ink, either.  I would have been fine with 1 drop of ink and 2 drops of water in retrospect, though it’s not a bad thing to have a bit more than necessary… and it’s not like a few drops really put much of a dent in my supply.  That’s the nice thing about this ink; it’s great to use, even when diluted.

I used the brush to pick up a bit of the ink, then gently applied it to the background behind the numbers on the die face.  The water tension naturally makes the ink settle into the recesses, though I did need to guide it around a little.  I added a little with a light touch to the other recesses in the design, and brushed lightly to help spread things around and get some ink in the smaller details around the edges and corners.

Since the ink does run a bit, I did only one face at a time, the one facing up and its edges.  Inking the adjacent faces would mean the ink would pool largely on the downhill side of the contours, and while I didn’t want a flat color, neither did I want it heavily lopsided.

Each face, then, took a few minutes to dry.  That’s not too bad, and if I were doing a set of dice, one face at a time per die, by the time I finished with the last die’s upright face, the first die could be ready to roll over and do the next face.  It’s best if you get each application dry before doing the next, so that timing might not work perfectly, but all in all, it wasn’t too much of a wait.

I’m sorry I didn’t have my camera handy to take photos while I was working, this project had to fit in some of my very constrained time last night and I wasn’t properly prepared.

Here are some photos of the finished die next to one of its unprocessed kin, in a variety of lighting situations (including one that’s just a color correction, taking the yellows out of an indoor photo).

s_IMG_7382 s_IMG_7383 s_IMG_7385 s_IMG_7380 s_IMG_7380_alt s_IMG_7381

I think it turned out well, much better than I had expected.  I’ll be doing more experiments when I can, but this was a good start, I think.

Thank you!

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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!

It’s worth noting that there are two photos of each single die.  This is to show them in different lighting and against different surfaces, in this case, black leather and aged painted concrete.

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