Got a new brush in the mail: a Princeton Round # 2 mini-detailer. The Windsor and Newton is more frizzy than an angora goat, and has been disposed of. At some point in the next few days, I need to create some big scene that I can illustrate with the tombows, the pentel, and the brush, so I can get a feel for the differences.
Spent yesterday tinkering on my RPG engine.
I finished out Tuesday by modelling Zoe, our puppet to play Eve and (probably) Mary and making a test drawing of the expulsion, which resulted in the above cartoon.
And just today, I tried shrinking the heads on the puppets to 80%. Because I always go overboard with the cartoon proportions.
Looks much better. It still looks cartoony enough for my tastes.
In real life, a person is 6.5 to 7 heads tall. Comic book or idealized proportions are usually around, what, 8 heads tall? According to this image I cribbed from Jesse White, 8.5 heads tall.
How do Clay and Zoe stack up with the 0.8 heads?
Three and change apiece. But again, I’m going out of my way to produce cartoon characters, not comic book characters.
So here’s the to-do list of next tasks:
Finish transferring the storyboard to the PDF
Sculpt an angelic dragon to play the Serpent of Eden.
Create a full page illustration in a finished style, for promotion purposes.
Create a reasonable facsimile of the cover.
These can be done in any order, as I feel like. All of them need to be done before I can launch the crowdfund, and none of them is dependent on any other (although modeling the Serpent opens up possibilities for both the illustration and the cover).
I’ve been focusing on the creative work because it’s more fun. E.g. the next thing I “want” to do is sculpt the serpent. The theory I gave on Monday is that I can do the busywork (transferring the PDF) any time. But if any time never comes, it never gets done.
Eh. Let’s make the serpent today. We’ll do a variation on this picture:
With the new proportions and the serpent in the middle for the cover. After all, a good way to think of book 1 is the Kings of Earth. Adam, Satan, and Christ, are the three entities who can reasonably claim to be King of the Earth.
I’ll try and schedule a block of busy work for this afternoon/evening and see how it goes before I decide to double down and finish the PDF during my prime creation hours.
And I got a Pentel Pocket Brush in the mail. Left is the Pentel, right is the Tombows, using the Pentel to fill in the blacks.
The pocket brush affords me much of the same life that the Windsor & Newton did, but more controlled. I can almost, almost draw with it. I think there’s a small but serious chance that with practice, the pocket brush may become my favorite way to ink. I think there is a larger chance that I will continue to work with some combination of the pocket brush and the Tombows.
Here we are colored in.
Next tasks on the list:
Produce a page in the chosen style. Using just Clay, here, I can produce page 4 or 5 (or both).
Sculpt models for Eve and for the Serpent.
Finish transferring the storyboard graphics and 1st draft text over into Scribus. (We’ve barely started, but I made an executive decision to work on the sculpts because transferring pages over is busywork, and can be done when I’m creatively tapped out).
Compose the first draft of the the Kickstarter pitch
Create the draft Kickstarter campaign so I can begin designing the graphics needed to make it work.
Contact people willing or likely to help me publicize my campaign.
Obviously, sculpting a naked caricature of whatever I think is the standard of feminine beauty, or a freaking angel dragon, are the most fun things on the to-do list.
This is Clay. It’s his job to model for characters who, in my books, are going to be or resemble Christ (that is, in addition to Our Lord, Adam, David, probably Judah). Assuming I decide to go with this model. I may scratch it and start over, try and get proportions I would like better. I think I did okay with the face though.
May God forgive me for the caricature.
Work on Clay and other 3D sculpts will resume later, though. First thing’s first. I need to go through my storyboard, add a couple pages, and produce the test PDF.
The test PDF will have my storyboard low-res graphics, and my initial text. It’ll get sent off to the Amazon printer, so I can edit the book in physical form, as well as make sure the color choices “work”. Once I make a PDF for the test print, changing the length of the book is a Big Deal, so I need to add some bonus pages to give the document room to expand if it needs to.
That’s today’s big project. I should also get a new brush pen in the mail in the next couple of days, and a new paint brush, and I’ll need to pick a page to produce as a finished illustration both to test the pens, and have art for the crowdfund. The illustration producing process ideally also starts today, but is more likely to start tomorrow or later.
When I get a chance, I need to finish Clay. Give him hands, hair, an armature, and a wife.
Well, lads, this is it. Project of the moment is to fund Awesome Moments 1.
Dr. Stump is the foremost expert on therians. He was well prepared for this life by his extensive life making Starnet videos detailing crazy theories about peak media franchises well before he got aboard the sleeper ship headed for Theria, and he doesn’t really care who knows it.
Old Sentinels say that once upon a time, Dr. Stump was a formidable man. That he’s let himself go in the past few years. But Dr. Stump does not talk about the glory days. He talks about therians. And if there’s something you need to know about therians, he almost certainly already knows it.
Partway through tinkering with my bestiary, I made a transition. I began to feel like a more western cartoon style had begun to slip from the world, and desired to pull it back into my art. You can see it in the difference between these pictures:
My human, placed for size comparison, is roughly anime, or manga in on the left, and draws more from the font of Chuck Jones on the right.
Maybe it’s reading Asterix as cartoon research. Or watching Looney Tunes or Tom and Jerry with my kid. But my personal cartoon style was forged, initially, by Looney Tunes, was refined by badass pictures of comic book superheroes, and was boiled down by video game graphics.
And now… now I feel like I want some of the original wellspring back in.
You can kind of see it in Awesome moments. My finished art looks like chiseled game characters with clear eastern influence, but my storyboards have bubble eyes like an ancient western character.
Jesse White, the guy who sold me on the Windsor and Newton Series 7 which I probably no longer use, was recently professing that we need a little more Chuck Jones and a little less weeb nonsense in our lives. He seems to have removed the offending tweet for whatever reason. I wish he hadn’t. I found the conversation helpful and clarifying. I am not opposed to anime or manga at all, but it solidified something I’d been considering for my own art.
So I’ve been doodling in various variations on what I would consider a more classical cartoony style. Drinking from the wellspring in my spare time.
Anyway, today is my “day off,” so I wasn’t permitted to work on my RPG. I really wanted to. I’m super hyped for that project at the moment. But, casting around for things to do, and not being allowed to do the one thing I wanted, I seized on my folder of study pieces. Art I find ’round the internet that represents some stylistic factor that I want in my own work, and therefore have saved to dissect. Figured I’d do a study.
And I saw this:
Obviously, not the Popeye house style. This is, I’m guessing, made in the style of Nintendo (Japanese, alas!) art back when the big N was trying to imitate Popeye back in their arcade days?
(For those who don’t know, a little bird tells me Nintendo tried to create a Popeye game and reskinned the characters when they couldn’t get the license. Popeye as the carpenter Jumpman, who would later be renamed Mario, Bluto as a gorilla, Olive as some dame…)
I dunno. Something about this Popeye 64 DS art spoke to me. I had to try drawing Popeye, and then a couple of my own characters, in a facsimile of the style. So I gave it a few practice shots, and then produced this:
This feels like the right direction. I need to practice with it some more. Maybe do some sculpts in 3D, see if I can get some forms going I like.
The question is, if I push my art in this direction, what of my existing projects?
Well, my favorite Jump the Shark art already has this feel to it, to be frank.
That’s one reason I like it. It feels like I’m starting to consciously recognize things I’ve been unconsciously seeking for a long time.
But what about Awesome Moments, the project I will probably take up again in less than a week?
I don’t hate it. It feels a little odd, a little potentially disrespectful, and I’m super leery of that. But I kind of sort of actually like it.
I love the extra life and the shadow depth that a brush lends my work, but with that life comes a sensitivity to the faintest tremors in my hands that don’t even seem to exist when I’m using the tombows.
Here’s the same pencils, inked with the tombows, and then given a hurried color job.
My Series 7 has a split tip, which Mr. Jesse White, who extolled to me the virtues of the brush, has recently complained is increasingly a problem. So it may be I have a defective product. It may also be that I simply need a lot of practice to master the tool.
Yesterday I made a diner for my sprites to hang out in, and tried a small cartoon with it. I then printed it out grayscale to get an idea what the monthlies will look like.
The process taught me several things.
On a colorful background, giving the word balloons drop shadows instead of outlines looked better and more elegant. On a grayscale background, or to a lesser extant a gameboyscale background, the balloons need the extra highlighting of the outline, though.
While Inkscape’s new text tools are nice, it behooves a craftsman to still choose line breaks by hand from time to time. I did not do so in the above comic, and it looks sloppy.
Pixel art looks okay at 160×90, as in the first panel, when printed. But the closer you get from that, the less readable it becomes. Even the medium shot is hard to read.
Charles Schulz wrote, in a little book on cartooning I once got for Christmas, “Cartooning is the art of drawing the same thing every day, but convincing everyone you’ve done something different.”
Well, I can’t stand drawing the same thing every day. One of the reasons I’m pushing back production of Hat Trick is because when I inevitably get around to it, I’m going to have to redraw similar panels, and worse, do the same background in multiple panels.
I can get lost in drawing a good backdrop. I greatly enjoy it.
But once it’s drawn, I don’t want to touch it again, not even from another angle. That makes me an okay game artist, and a terrible comic or storybook artist.
Unless I use game art tricks. Which a sprite comic is meant to do. Use game tricks to produce a comic strip.
So… what if I made HD graphics for the sprite comic. Still made the long shot panels pixel art, to maintain the conceit of a digital world, but moved around HD sprites on HD backgrounds for the mid and close ups? Kept the color scheme though.
I toyed with the notion when the sprite comic was to be full-color, and decided then it was too much effort.
But what if I just cyanified the pixel art, printed it out at a consistent scale, inked over it, and then colored it to match the pixel art?
Well, I’ve tested the sprites. It was a bit time-consuming, but each additional character and background I make means the comic can be produced to that quality level with less work next time. And…
I need to produce the diner before I can make a final determination, but I like this process, and I like the products it produces.
So, to test the diner?
Heck naw. I said I’d work on Vargenstone today. IF I put my hours in on Vargenstone and IF I have time later today, I will start drawing the diner. But probably not until Friday.
Now we come to the drama that inspired all this hullaballoo.
In Wolfenstein, the player is able to walk 8 directions, while aiming his gun 8 directions.
In Vargenstone, the player is supposed to walk 8 directions, while aiming his gun 8 directions.
That is 64 versions of each animation involving the weapon. 64 walks. 64 idles. 64 attacks. Even keeping the framerate low, to 5 or 6 frames, and at the low quality where I spend 20 minutes on an animation, that’s… a bit of work. When you consider I have to make a separate version for when the dwarf is disguised and armored, it’s 192 versions of each animation.
Now it’s not quite that bad. One of those elements (aiming or walking) but not both can be mirrored for all the left- and right-facing animations. So that reduces us to 40 instead of 64, or 120 instead of 192 versions of each animation. But that’s still one full time week per animation per character. Except I need to spend more than 20 minutes per animation.
And if we set aside my complaining about work, that’s a lot of graphics data to try and store in a game that’s meant to run in your web browser.
Wolfenstein solves this by not solving this.
Your body can animate going four directions, but because of the low possible fidelity, they are almost indistinguishable. Your gun can point in, IIRC, 5 directions per hand, and be in either hand.
Enter the Gungeon solves this by animating your character in four-directions: the diagonals.
That reduces the number of character animations to 2 sets which can be flipped. Since both sets are facing to the side, they then attach your gun to the side, and rotate the gun sprite in code, giving them 180 degrees of rotation on each side.
Again, they are able to get away with this in part because of the look of their graphics. If I were to make Vargonstone work this way, I’d have to redesign the graphics from the ground up, and then get approval from the designer, who has already approved the concept work I did 4 years ago.
Now, I could probably get away with doing one of each animation in each direction. E.g. if you aim southwest and move north, the southwest walking animation plays. This kind of shenanigan is done in games all the time. Even in big-budget, AAA, 5 to 10 year dev cycle games.
But I’ve chosen to split the torso off from the legs because I’ve decided to make the work I had previously done work. Which brings us to where we are today.
Today, my goal is to draw a single frame of the upper torso aiming forward, for each of the five directions I need to animate in. Then rig it up in Unity in my little “art playground” scene so you can aim in 8 directions and walk in 8 directions.
The key will be the difference between the direction you aim and the direction you walk. I am convinced I can choose a rotation of up to 45° without it looking bad. So, if you are facing South, aiming south, southwest, or southeast are all acceptable to just play on the upper torso. I think a 90° twist that only manifests itself in the dwarf’s tiny, obscured gut is too unrealistic. My intended solution there is to turn his legs one notch toward his aim, so if he’s walking south and aiming east, the south east walking animation will be playing with the legs. And then for the remaining possibilities, I intend to play the walking animations backwards.
I’m up and the progeny is up. But the rest of the house would like to sleep, thank you very much. So I’m going to ramble a bit about what I’m up to while the offspring plays quietly with some stocking stuffers.
Hah! Just kidding. The kid ditched the stocking stuffer almost immediately for crayons and paper, because the kid is my kid.
Previously, in this space, I mentioned “rebuilding Final Fantasy using Piqha.” I did a ton of Piqha sketches to try and provide myself with six decent designs to use for the classic FF classes, and decided on these ones:
Fighter, Monk, Theif, White Mage, Black Mage, Red Mage. Since the white mage is supposed to be D&D cleric with the trademark information scrubbed off and any references to religion artfully removed, I cranked it all the way back: my healing class is not only a cleric, but a Christian. Similarly, while the Final Fantasy red mage went on to become its own thing, it’s fairly clear that in the first game it was a reference to the D&D ranger, so I went with one of two wilderness scout looking guys.
And hey, let’s make the wizard actually look like someone messing with dark forces, then.
Anyhow, my thought process is: if I take Final Fantasy, fix the plot holes, replace the characters with similar characters from my tool bag, and alter the plot to fit the characters, at the end of the day I’ll have something similar enough to Final Fantasy to fall into the healthy reference zone, and different enough to be its own creature.
For instance, Final Fantasy I centers on a time loop. The first guy you beat is also the final boss. Except he went back in time, and you have to go back in time to fight him. Except that has pretty much no effect on the rest of the game. It’s just sort of there.
Okay. Why not make the time travel thing present throughout? Piqha are a race of genetically engineered starship components. When they live in a fantasy setting, it’s because a ship crashed, and the little gremlins in the walls of the ship built civilization on the shipwreck. What if four piqha, Our Heroes, are on a ship that is crashing because of some kind of time vortex, they get launched into the distant future, and getting back to their own time is their whole objective?
Anyway, this year I drew pictures for Christmas for my family members, as is my custom, and because I have piqha on the brain, they’re all piqha.
They aren’t exactly concept art, but they aren’t exactly not concept art either (each piqha picture was designed with the recipient rather than the needs of my stories in mind). For example, I haven’t even decided whether mer-piqha are a thing. There’s no reason why they can’t be, but there’s no reason why they must be either. But one of my family members likes mermaids, and I have piqha on the brain, so mer-piqha it is.
But I have a celebration tomorrow with a white elephant gift exchange, so I thought, why not straight up make concept art, frame it, and hand it out? So here’s our four Heroes of Light in their spaceship:
Since I have four, I decided to name them Tsi, Em, Wye, and Kay, respectively, after the colors of printer ink.
“But what about the character classes?”
Ideally, I’d make a custom version of each class for each character. In practice, I’m going to start with reusing the same graphics for each class, but doing a recolor for the character, and if I have time in the polish phase I’ll get more fancy than that.
Of course, this raises other problems. If Em is a girl, she can’t very well be a Christian Cleric. If I want to say, “well, suppose she’s a nun, and while that’s a very different set of powers in real life, there can be overlap in game mechanics,” then what is her equivalent to a warrior monk?
I could just say, “they’re all boys; deal with it.” It would be a pretty good selling point. It might make social justice types mad enough to advertise my game. Bands of Brothers are under attack by the forces of evil, and pushing back is a noble cause.
But on the flip side, I want the four elemental fiends to be analogues for the heroes, to be “this is you in a hundred years if you turn evil”, and in Final Fantasy at least, one of the elemental fiends is definitely female.
So here is a puzzle. I do not suffer a woman to be a Christian priest, even in science fantasy, but I want one of the character’s direct analogues to be female and I want all four characters to be allowed all six classes.
I don’t have a solution yet. My best solution is probably to make Em male, and make the Kary/Marilth analogue male as well, but it’s going to be months, possibly more than a year, before I actually have to make my call. So I’m not going to stress over it. If a better solution exists, it will present itself in that time.
In the mean while, I’m going to continue developing the concept art along the current lines. After all, it’s not final art. It’s just a white elephant gift for a small party.