Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Inevitable Batman Illustration: Practicing Strokes and Color Constraint

This has been sitting in my drafts for awhile and finally was inspired to write for it and post it thanks to my partner in crime Amanda Dittami (talented game designer with a new site! adittami.com). She surprised me with an early birthday gift of a Batman statue which I first drooled over at C2E2. It just so happens this was the very same statue that was one of my inspirations for an illustration I did just a couple weeks ago.

There were two goals with this challenge. One was an attempt to capture the mood of the character with a simple color pallet and design. Similar to the Tim Sale designs from the animated series (which had a huge influence on my work). I did not want to copy or recreate the style from the series, so I wanted to push the detail a bit more and build more complex forms out of the simple shapes that built up the form. Also I wanted to a little something different with Batman's design so he felt a little more ghostly.

The second goal was to create a more painterly illustration with a bit of the chaotic feel you get from short and sporadic brush strokes. I also wanted to work in a limited color pallet to challenge my ability to work up a form without starting with a black and white pallet. I did this by first putting down a more colorful and textured background.

(The initial background looked like this. I spent time purposefully and strategically showing some of the brush stroke to bring the canvas to life. Along with the color choice, it helps create a blazing and active background. Didn't nail the look I was going for but was close)

I then put down a rough sketch with my brush set to a setting similar to pencil or charcoal. Outside of the dark grey, I added no other color other than what was in the background and what the background blended with the sketch created. I used this rule to pull the illustration out from the background.

(From this point on every color and value was defined by using the eye drop tool. As I built the image up I shifted the values of the background a bit. Although I am satisfied with the final piece, I feel like a little bit of the energy from this sketch was lost. Most importantly though, it was great practice and  challenges like this sharpen my abilities in a few areas.)

Below is a render of the painting at different states. Seeing the progress laid out illustrates the process of not adding color and also reveals the simplicity of the illustration.

That does it for this post. Hope this was interesting enough to have read through it all. As for students checking out the blog I hope this was helpful and may give you some ideas on how challenge yourself.

If not sorry I wasted your time.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

BioHarmonious- Entry III: Adaptation and Letting Go

         As we develop BioHarmonious adaptation and flexibility have been critical. As the project evolves concepts have to change direction mid-production to avoid any inflation in the game's scope. Limitations due to time put pressure on the team to come up with creative solutions. Rather than cut things or compromise ideas completely, we try and find new approaches to simplify and economize implementation. This way the visual, audio and game-play style is still rich. Although a system may not be as complex as we would have liked, the fundamental element of fun is there in a simpler form and will hopefully stir the audiences curiosity. The goal is to have audiences finish the experience wanting more and not just wishing for more.

      An example of the necessity for adaptation, coupled with ability of letting go, came about when developing the visuals for the object transformations. We started with an iterative process, with small changes being made by multiple objects. For example, you would grab one natural object at a time, figure out what building it combines with, then make the transformation. Each building had about 3 or even 4 possible transformations. This would lead to a system of mixing and matching multiple natural objects with a manufactured object. When they were all implemented, it would then cause the building to look dramatically different from it's original state. Below is an example of an early visual mock up of the transformation system along with some animation notes.

(When all transformations are laid out on a single sheet, the plan is visually intriguing and exciting. However, the player will never experience this layout of visual information while playing the game and the small changes fail to provide a sense of reward for the player's actions.)

            An important detail to consider outside of the short development cycle is the game's primary venue. This experience will be featured in museums among many other pieces (There will also be a web version). The average play time will be short, maybe only a handful of minutes, So the experience needs to properly scaled, so that even in a small amount of time there is a sense of reward, accomplishment and discovery. A complex system that demands long play times, would leave most players only experiencing the tip of the iceberg. This would have been a huge oversight on my part, but thanks to the great mind of lead Designer Amanda Dittami, we were able to properly revisit our plans.

(The plan is scaled and developed to not only accommodate tight deadlines, but scale the experience to the expected play time. This way we are ensuring most players will get the full experience we intended. Objects now under go single transformations and no longer layer natural transformations.)

        The second most important attribute for the project has been patience. We are a small team which means everyone has to wear many of the figurative hats. In my case, I concept characters, buildings, environments, prep in-game assets, plan animation and manage the art production pipeline. Meanwhile, the developers and sound engineer are relying on a steady stream of assets in order to start testing and advancing their end of the game. Creating something for testing purposes is important. What that means is, similar to writing, sometimes it is critical to get a draft done, whether you like it or not, ready and into someone's hands for review. This needs to be done so some other aspect of production can me dealt with. Nothing is final on the first pass. Assets are constantly prepped to a workable state with the understanding they will be revisited and truly finished at a later date. It takes patience to let go sometimes, but it is for the better of the project as a whole.

(One of the first concepts developed that helped define the design of the manufactured planet. Time spent on this concept was pushed, trusting it would help mold the overall visuals in the long run. Eventually it was scrapped as the games character. However the idea is currently being revived and redesigned for a smaller role. The character above currently survives as placeholder art and has the spirit in the design of the manufactured objects.)

             A key to maintaining this patience is communication. The advantage of a small team is flexibility and the ease of communicating. Less people to manage means less damage done if we decided to change directions mid production. There aren't as many gears screeching to a halt. However, it also means workloads are more intense so communicating, although easier, cannot be taken for granted. Everyone is responsible for a number of things, having production plans laid out in their minds. So it is important each discipline meets to ensure we remain on the same page and those plans don't stay confined to an individuals imagination. At times I have drifted a bit, meeting with Amanda helped reel art production in and keep the over all development, outside of art, in mind.
            We set out to create a rich experience of discovery. We wanted the worlds to feel complex, alive and intriguing. As we develop the game we are constantly fine tuning how we will achieve that level of immersion in such a small window of play time. At times we may be a little over ambitious, but we seem to be on the right track. The world is shaping up to be an intriguing one. The hope is that we can be successful enough that audiences enjoy poking around the world as much as they enjoy playing the game.
          We will begin closed play testing shortly which is bound to bring in a wave of adjustments and tweaking. The next entry will go over the interesting elements of processing, dissecting and implementing play test feedback. A process I have always found to be an exciting pool of psychological discussion. A few months after this stage, barring any major set backs, we will see the full release of Art Works for Change's web and exhibition game BioHarmonious. It is right around the corner which means longer hours and a frantic increase of production.
             Thanks to those who continue to make it through hundreds of digital words. For those new to game development, much like myself, I hope that these entries prove helpful. For those who aren't I hope I haven't wasted your time. The words will end after this.

Note: If anyone is interested in joining the closed play test session please feel free to contact me. If you don't have a contact for me you can find ways to reach me on my portfolio site (sixtoart.com) or find me on Twitter (@AnthonySiixto).

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Summer Draw Challenge Finale: Creepy Back Pains

This will be the final entry for my summer Draw Challenge series, I actually had this done for quite sometime and didn't get around to posting it. It started as a thumbnail for another concept. The thumbnails ended up not progressing do to a change in direction. So I figured I would grab my favorite, progress it and use it as a practicing in painting values and creating a sense of form/texture.

As I worked on it, I started conjuring up visions of the film The Thing in the mushy mass that is my brain. I started to play off that but didn't want to recreate it. So I started incorporating more organic, drier feeling textures over the slimey, sticky forms from the film. If I were to complete it I would continue defining that difference with color and texture. Although it is far from perfect it was exciting to get it to this point, since I completed it, I have seen a direct improvement on the work that followed it. So it may have not turned out the way I want, but I learned a lot from the practice.

So that does it for the Summer Draw challenge, there may be a Halloween one soon. We shall see, if I continue to breathe oxygen, there will be many more posts on the way. Thanks for checking it out and I hope you enjoy my stumbling attempts at becoming a better artist.