Thursday, May 30, 2013

Developor Diary IV: Post C2E2 Things and Character Things

 (This year's C2E2 booth was really amazing, kudos to Kent, Amanda, Shawn, Tim and everyone who made it what it was.)

(The booth was also generous this year giving out some toys, an iPad mini and an original sketch seen above. The sketch was done during the course of the final day.)

     The dust has cleared, the banners are rolled up and the cardboard Iron Man suites are tucked away in the closet. Money has evacuated pockets. Rooms are decorated with superheroes and villains. C2E2 is in the rear view mirror, but there is still much work to be done for Box O Zombies.
     A polished, fully playable demo of the game is in sights. This is impressive considering the team is a mix of professionals and students with most of us working on it part time. This makes production and deadline setting extremely tricky. As noted in earlier entries, flexibility and keeping a finger on the pulse is key. So far so good as the game is now taking shape before our eyes.
     The game is ever changing and will continue to evolve. We have a UI in place, but it is almost sure to go through a transformation. Buildings are adjusted and characters are stepping off of the concept sheet into the pixel world. Below are some of the art updates since the latest entries. This includes the complete survivor roster and a couple last second Zombie editions.

(More characters are joining the team, all serving a specific purpose in keeping the community alive. The pixel art was created by Vicky Kao.)

      This is the complete rosters of the game's survivors, all of which will be key factors to your...survival. Behind all those furrowed brows (would you not furrow a brow during an apocalypse?), there are unique abilities that will prove valuable whether you need to destroy, manage, defend or construct. The cast of characters not only serve different elements of combat and narrative, they each come with a specialty, calling for you to properly implement them when planning the best way to not end up between awful smelling zombie teeth. For example, Nathaniel Tinkerton (farthest to the left) is an engineer. Upgrading and protecting him will be important in advancing your camps infrastructure and recovering lost technologies. Where as Mindy Gupta is the team's doctor, maintaining health, emergency care and day to day medicine will depend on her progression.

(A couple new zombies join the group. This time I took a crack at the pixel versions so the team can focus on animation.)

      The exploding zombie was a smooth process, which was good because I needed to turn these concepts around quickly. The idea was to create a bloated zombie that would explode onto people. Something that isn't a new concept to the genre. As always, I wanted to figure out a way to bring something new to these old concepts and create a universe that feels a little different. So as I developed the silhouettes with a standard approach of a big, bulbous form, I started to play around with how human the zombie looked.
       I pushed it to the point where it look less like a zombie and more of a alien/monster. It went too far, but helped establish some interesting ideas. What came about was developing it on the border of zombie and monster. I started to give it an amphibious feel. I wanted to convey this idea of pressure building internally and over all sliminess. So what better inspiration than a frog like form that inflates and is often moist. The zombie started to transform from standard exploding zombie, to monster and now into a frog like zombie, with touches of the creature of the black lagoon in it's face 

(Time was tight, but I am getting a little better at knocking out iterations in a short amount of time.)

       Originally, I imagined the wrestler was attacked in his gym across from a construction yard. Upon turning, he chased out his apprentice into the construction yard where they battled and he picked up his extreme damage. Completely believable.
     Although the story is absolutely plausible...The Luchador makes him a little too much of an individual for a character that needs to be duplicated through out the game. So upon the return to the drawing board a new story arose that complimented the design and function better.
        I now started to develop him as a garbage man. I imagined him en route when he was bombarded by a hoard. Unable to fight them off, he was infected. In an attempt to avoid the life of a zombie he hurled himself into his truck as it was compacting. Unfortunately he turned while before being fully crushed and with his now mysterious zombies strength, crawled out to unleash smelly doom. The gives better support to the body damage as well as explains why you might see more than one of these guys hanging around.
      So initial disappointment lead to more iteration and the strengthening of a character. This version suits the hopefully iconic elements better than before without pinning them down to an individual. The Luchador is definitely a character that will be revisited, and because of this process of cutting and rebuilding, that design will find itself stronger when its day comes.
      In review both concepts could use some better rendering of the forms and surface textures. It would have also been nice to have a little more time to push the design further and refine elements to make the execution of the design a little more solid. I am getting better with poses but still have work to do in regards to making them feel a little more lose and fluid.

I'm done now.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Weird Butcher: Pushing Rendering and Style

     This was a piece I used to practice line work as well proportions of a stylized character. I was a little bored with it after all so I decided to push it as a piece to practice my rendering of light and any other elements that I stumbled across along the way. I usually concept characters standing in some form of the abyss. I slowly want to work in some environmental elements to help build the character. It helps sell the character and their world (This was some good advice by concept artist Hunter Schulz). As I worked through the rendering process I kept myself open to what direction it might go. This lead to attempts at catching some atmosphere, see where the dust is rendered near the core of the light cast. Additionally I added some overlays to change the presentation to feel like a pseudo old photo, adding some smudge texture, scratches and a more define frame. All little touches to help build the feel of whoever the hell this guy is supposed to be.

  I didn't quite achieve the level of polish and feel I was hoping for. I could have done a better job defining the forms and building up hints of muscle and the pulling of skin in his arms and legs. Although I was pushing towards exaggerated portions, I could have spent more time balancing them better during the sketch phase. The design still seems a bit off to me and could use a better sense of movement across the right side of his body. I also found myself unhappy with some of the detail that is lost in the face and the phone. I could have prevented this with better planning in terms of proportions and  composition would have solved these issues.

It was a little awkawrd working on the piece. I worked on it for an hour or less at a time over the course of a couple weeks. This is not preferred, but things were quite busy between GDC and C2E2. It did however pose an interesting challenge as well as give me time to think about some ideas to play with.

The character design in general was light on story and more about the situation. I wanted to create an image that raised more questions that it answered. Yes he is a butcher who isn't very clean, he works in a dank, dark shop. It must be hot due to the sweat stains. He is a messy butcher due to the stains on his apron. He isn't very careful indicated by the way he is holding the butcher knife and the scars. However, why so much blood? why is he taking a selfie? WHY IS HE RAMBLING INTERNET JARGON?? WHY ARE HIS PANTS AROUND HIS ANKLES??!

So that is about it for this post. Some progress renders can be seen below. I should be posting again shortly. Any feedback is appreciated, it all helps me on my quest to become a better artist with each illustration.

(While working I saved out renders that I felt were proper landmarks of progress. Originally it was planned as a softly rendered character on a white background. It ended up going with a grittier render with hints of an environment.)

Sunday, May 12, 2013

BRANIAC! - Rendering From Memory and Instinct

     This is a piece I had worked on last year and decided to dust off and polish up for the blog. It started as a gray scale render. The color pallet isn't very successful. I didn't spend much time on the pallet and that is part of it, but I would like to get to a point where my color design is a little more instinctive than it is at the moment. Expanding my color pallet and design is definitely a major goal this year.

      This is meant as a re-imagining of the Superman villain, Braniac. This was a test in my rendering with little to no reference. I wanted to pay homage to Alex Ross and his style of realistic, model based illustration. The challenge I posed to myself was to do so without looking at a model or reference. I got as far as I could on instinct and eventually used my hand and shoulder as a quick perspective reference. I also looked at some chrome material reference to touch up the metal spec. As a way to pay homage to my inspiration, I gave him Superman's cape as seen in one of Alex Ross's more iconic Superman poses. I also felt it create a nice parallel. Although I find myself uncomfortable with it being more or less a direct copy.

     I always felt Braniac was the best villain to serve as Superman's arch nemisis. So the design was meant to be more reflective of Superman and present him as a similar creature but of an opposite spectrum. Originally he had crazy wired tubes extruding from his head. I liked the silhouette it created but it never felt right, so I axed them. As I worked on it, I moved away from the Alex Ross style costuming a bit. Instead of the old school fabric design I worked in some creases to give it more of an organic armor feeling. In the long run, the pose would have greatly benefited if working from a model.

     (Superman by Alex Ross, the inspiration and reference for the Braniac design.)

     The cape, for the majority of time, was a disaster. It started out very stylized and as the body became more hyper real it stuck out like a sore thumb (Ashton Gallagher, an awesome artist, helped me sort this issue out). I eventually caved and pulled reference, if I were to progress this or turn in for professional work I would have pushed it a little further away from the reference. Adding some tatters, changing the shape and adjusting folds would have helped in this area. The pallet also needs to be revisited, going back to a color wheel and working out something more balanced and alive.

 (This is the progression of the piece. Unfortunately, I lost the very original sketch. I found myself unhappy with the resolution half way through so I bumped up the image size. This gave me the room to work in some finer detail that I am unable to achieve at a low resolution. As I improve, the ability to achieve that illusion of fine detail at lower resolutions will come a little easier.)

That does it for this pile of words and images. There will be plenty more posts in the next couple weeks so I hope it isn't a complete waste of time. If it isn't check in for more practice posts as well as another Dev Diary.