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Building Commercial Artwork, One Pixel at a Time

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How to Destroy an Airplane

Remember the cool damage texture I showed you last entry? I'm gonna show you how to make that. Image heavy doesn't even begin to describe...

The background of this entry is that for the sprite pack I'm making, I have basic fighter jet sprites complete and most of the animations done, but in order for them to be more useful in an actual game (and add value to the sprite pack), they need damage textures. Knowing Photoshop somewhat well, I figured out a pretty simple and easy way to make something look battle damaged relatively painlessly, and thought that it would be useful to share with you guys.

MS Paint, No, Seriously, MS Paint
So I actually use Microsoft Windows Paint for a lot of art I do, mainly because it's so brutally simple that you can sketch out a pixel art subject pretty damn fast, and because it forces you to be considerate because there are no shortcuts to get to something pretty. I contrast that against the use of Photoshop, which lets you cut corners like a banshee. While this entry goes mostly into Photoshop territory, I always like to start in MS Paint.

The size of the sprite to be damaged determines the size of the texture, and the airplane that's gonna get blowed up real good is 128 x 180:

Normally I would do this in the margins of a copy of the airplane, but I separated it out onto a 32 x 32 image here so you could see it better.
Where to start's a good question, but if you look at real battle damage it doesn't look that dramatic, and would barely be visible at this scale. So basically for coming up with a "look" I used some imagination and thought a big gash that revealed a little bit of the structure would look cool, like some big piece of shrapnel took a chunk out of the wing.

Blocking it out with the pencil tool, I came up with this:

If I were working on a full sprite of something, I would make sure to take down those lines to a single-pixel width to get rid of the jagginess, but for this situation, jagginess is exactly what we need. For this inside, I added some straight lines that look vaguely structural and some squiggles that could be ripped up piping. At this scale, it's so ambiguous it doesn't really matter too much:

You could have also done all the above completely in Photoshop with the Pencil tool, but it doesn't particularly matter either way. For the following, however, you will definitely need Photoshop or GIMP (or some other higher-level raster editor) to replicate the effects.

The Power... The Glory... of Photoshop

To get the pixels into Photoshop, it's just a matter of selecting the canvas (Ctrl+A) and pasting into Photoshop. I pasted it directly onto the airplane sprite:

Pasting the image in creates a new layer- and Photoshop is all about layers. At this point the layers in Photoshop are these (Watermark just has some behind-the-scenes layers for generating these journal images, like the green background):

Taking off the white is just a matter of using the Magic Wand tool with the trick for pixel-perfect selection being a very low Tolerance with anti-aliasing disabled (and Contiguous enabled so we get the ones on the inside too). A lower tolerance will grab similar colored pixels in the area, and anti-aliasing with grab bordering pixels regardless of color, neither of which we need.

Moved (Move Tool- V key) and scaled up here from 300% zoom to 700%:

Moving into position on the wing is just a convenience thing, maintaining separate layers means we can move it wherever, whenever. I should also point at that naming layers is kind of like commenting code- it's not really for you right now, it's for you in the future.

Side note: One of the most frustrating things when learning Photoshop is when, for what seems like absolutely no reason, your tools stop working- your paintbrush won't paint, your eraser won't erase, your blur tool won't blur. 99% of the time, that's due to two things, either 1) There's a tiny, almost invisible area selected or 2) The wrong layer is activated. Layers rule everything, all your tools (well... most, Photoshop is complicated) can only act on a single layer at a time. Within a layer, actions only affect pixels within the selection area (if there is one).

At this point, we're looking at a very blocky outline of a scar that doesn't look like it's attached to the airplane underneath at all. We could have blurred or smudged it, but that would have destroyed the pixel-look pretty quickly. The way I've found to keep the best of both worlds is to save the original pixels and blur a copy. But howwww????!! you ask, enthusiastically? One of the many nice things about keeping distinct layers is that you can create a copy of them, to monkey around with while leaving the original pixels pristine. It's just a right click on the layer in the layer window -> Duplicate Layer away. The image as a whole doesn't look any different after the layer is copied in this case because the pixels are 100% opaque- more on that in a minute.

Blurring can be done one of a billion ways, but in this case I just used a one pixel Gaussian Blur (Filters-> Blur):

It looked better, but it's not strong enough to blend the Scar very much... what to do?

If you want a layer to be more transparent, you just turn the opacity down, but what if it's already at 100% opacity (the absolute limit) like this one? You duplicate the layer. Wait, what? It's pretty simple, duplicating the layer stacks those semi-transparent pixels, in effect making them more opaque. If you want, you can merge them to collapse the pixel information into one more opaque layer. Anyway, here's what duplicating that blurred layer (Scar copy) looks like:

I turned the duplicate layer (Scar Copy 2) down to 75% opacity to make it less black. Opacity adjustment is so useful that few layers in a complicated piece are ever at 100% opacity. Now it looks like a legit disaster befell this wing.

Above and Beyond

For a lot of the scars last entry, I stopped at the last step, but for some of the bigger ones I wanted to add more detail... Adding some color makes it look more like the guts of the airplane are actually exposed ala a cutaway drawing. Making another layer (Ctrl+Shift+N) to hold the color pixels allows you to go back later and change the opacity if you overdo it without affecting the rest of the scar.

I used the Pencil tool at partial transparency to add red and a bit of dark yellow-gray to distinguish the inside of the scar from the outside, making it look like this:

This looks pretty good, but kind of strange since that gash looks somewhat self contained, and the blurred Scar copy layers are a little too perfect, like they're airbrushed rather than violently burned in. As always in Photoshop, the solution is to add another layer! This time, it was to simply hold some more manually drawn scaring, this time with the Paint Brush (the difference between Brush and Pencil is that Brush automagically smooths the line as it draws with semi-transparent pixels). Using the Paint Brush with straight black and about 30% transparency, I added some slightly more elaborate charring, making it look more like an explosive impact:

Aww yeah... lookin' good. From looking at real battle damaged airplanes, one thing that struck me was how often the damage took the paint off to reveal shiny metal, so I tried to replicate it by making... you guess it... another layer!:

Messing around with the Brush tool with white was a little too strong, so some selective erasing later got me here, more or less:

Hmm, I dunno. I moved the Shiny layer around:

...completely changing the end result so that instead of looking um, shiny, it makes the scar look deep and concave, like that side is lit up. Not really what I want, though.

My mom taught me an old art trick years ago that looking at your piece in a mirror will make problems that you haven't noticed jump out at you. In the digital age, you can just flip the image, so there's no excuse not too. It often hurts to look at the image, but that's kind of the point- to rip you out of the comfort zone of familiarity you've built up over the course of working on it. So I did that, and fiddled around slightly and came up with my final version, this guy:

Just as an experiment, I took off that original Scar layer to see what that would do:

So obviously, having those jagged pixels still makes a difference (and makes it look more like actual Pixel Art). Here's what all those layers look like without an airplane backing them up:

Finally, it's interesting to see what the layers look like individually. The top layer in this illustration is what would be the real top layer- a color mask (RGB 255,0,255) for transparency purposes, but all the other ones are the exact ones from above:

Here's what the finished scar looks like at actual pixel size:

Pretty neat, huh?


Thanks to jbadams for suggesting I go ahead and do this! Have a jolly December!

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Damage Texture Complete!

Promission Acclomplishkept (Mission Accomplished, Promise Kept)

I need to figure out how to do better "publicity" shots with watermarks. Kind of hard to provide pictures, since that's exactly what I'm trying to sell...
Anyway, without further ado... Damage!:

Witness as this:

Turns into this:

And then, for some reason, into this:

I successfully made a damage layer, which combined with masking and judicious use of layers, made it a cakewalk to apply to the J-20. Unfortunately, I don't think my old airplanes have PSD's up to that standard, but fortunately the damage texture will be easy to apply to the layer-less PNG's I already have done. Also, remind me to do a step-by-step sometime since I'm pretty proud of the Photoshop tricks I'm pulling off...

Anyway, I have to go help my girlfriend write a paper about the Battle of Khalkhin Gol, the most important Battle of WWII you've never heard of.


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One Fighter at a Time...

I've been... things. Doing them. I've been doing things!

So apparently it's been a couple months since I posted a Journal Entry. A few things have happened since last time... Obama was re-elected, Halo 4 came out, I found out my best friend at work is a former reality TV personality... ummm, and Bandai apparently has access to my deepest desires since they're finally making a Master Grade Tallgeese. Plus I have been very slowly working on the sprite pack.

Sprite Pack

For the sprite pack, I really want to get it done before the end of the year, or at least in January (hey, I'm a hobbyist, I can move deadlines however I feel like).

To that end, I made a tracking spreadsheet for the top-down sprites, which are the most important part of the pack from what I've seen people using in my "Free Airplane Sprite Pack" of yesteryear. What I've been doing lately is doing three things: adding a one-frame per side "tilt" frame, adding "camo" versions of each airplane, and general polishing. I'm kind of regretting deciding to add the animation frame since that requires a significant amount of work, but it's too late not to simply finish that on the remaining sprites. I am going to drop some of the original planes I intended to include since I don't like them that much and I doubt there's really a demand for them. Here's the current list:

[actually, due to unforseen productivity tonight, the J-20 is complete, as you shall see]

Yeah, a spreadsheet. But think of this:

Honestly, cutting everything not started might not be a terrible idea, although the FQ-3 would make a good bad guy since it basically looks like it belongs to Batman, and the Su-49 looks like this.

I'm also toying with the idea of splitting the pack even further and having the top, side, and full rotation animations in a separate pack. It would allow me to release the top ones, to have them done, and let me take my time with the other packs. What do you guys think?


My elephant in the room for my right now getting a damage state for every airplane... and I haven't started. I have a reasonable idea of what it will take and have found some more tools in Photoshop that will make it easier, but still, troubling. My basic plan is to make essentially large texture or two of "damage," like charring and bullet holes that I can then rotate, mirror, clip, and otherwise obfuscate so I can reuse the same ones for each airplane. Should be fairly easy, just making the texture (have it started), and then slapping it on all 20 or so airplanes... but "should be" and "actually what ended up happening" can be vastly different things. We'll see I guess.

For sort-of proof that I actually have been working, here's a J-20 camo version:

Actual size:

My goal now is to get that damage texture stuff working, and show you a damaged version of this guy by the end of the weekend.[size=1] And play Halo.
So if you don't hear back from my by Sunday night, 'merica time, something terrible has happened...


You guys have a good weekend!

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Oops, Crap. Copyright.

Sorry it's been over a month, but I had to make the choice between writing about working on the sprite pack, or actually working on it. I chose the latter for the most part, and playing Halo: Reach.

FAQ Through the Heart

So there I was, minding my own goddamn business wandering around on the internet at work, checking the gamedev.net forums when I started reading up on legal issues. I kind of like those threads where a new poster comes in and wants to make a sequel to an already extant IP, and they don't want to believe the fact that copyright law is basically a sword of Damocles hanging over their project.

Well in one of those threads (don't remember which one exactly), I clicked my merry way to Tom Sloper's website (one of the moderators here) which has an extensive FAQ about game development, including this entry, which has this gem:

Q:I want to depict a specific car or airplane or handgun, and I don't wanna deal with asking permission. Should be OK, right?

A: Better ask permission, or make your car or airplane or handgun look different from the actual one. A lot of manufacturers have taken to enforcing their IP rights recently, with model kit manufacturers and video game makers. License it or change it.

Ooooohh shit. I remember thinking about that once, probably the last summer when I was working on this sprite pack, but obviously completely forgot about it. I remember quite clearly that Tom Clancy's HAWX had the approval of all the aircraft manufactures since their logos were plastered all over the intro screen (which was actually pretty neat for an airplane nerd for me), so there's a very obvious precedent I can't really ignore. Plus there's the fact that I can't really just ask for permission because each person that tries to release a game containing the sprites will also have to get permission. Having end users other than myself also adds the complication that they might use the sprites for some unsavory game the original IP holders might not appreciate like "Super Orphanage Napalmer 64". So once again: Shit.
Okay, Now What?

Luckily it's not too bad since a significant proportion of my designs are completely original, like my signature "Fighter Jet Montage" here:

Only the F-22, F-35, F-15, Su-37K, and Su-49 (real-life T-50) are actual, but all are fictional variants and altered somewhat to significantly from the real-work counterparts. I think the path forward is to rename them within sprite pack, and change the real-world aircraft more than most of the ones seen above.

The side view sprites are going to be a little more difficult since the long-lost point of that project was to make a game with actual airplanes from every era after Korea.

For example, the following new sprite LOOKS SUSPICIOUSLY LIKE BUT TOTALLY IS NOT an F-16 right now. That's a problem.

By basically moving things a row of pixels down or up, I came up with this:

I think this one is satisfactorily different, and might be even a little overboard (although that might be the airplane pro within me saying that), to avoid copyright issues with any company named vaguely like Blockeed Fartin. Although now I have to do this with every real-world aircraft in my collection... oh well. By the way, you might have noticed that the Not-Fighting Falcons above are significantly more boring that the jets in the full montage. That's because I draw the base art in MS Paint to get the pixely-feel (gray being the easiest color to gradient), and then make color alterations (including camouflage versions) and other random polishing within Photoshop. I'm sure the dudes at pixeljoint would be super pissed if they found out, but whatever. I actually wrote a draft of a detailed explanation of my process, so look forward to that in the next entry.

Let me know what you guys think about how close or how far I should go to the original aircraft, especially since I'm so close to the issue (ie, have these jets ingrained in my subconscious).

Thanks for reading!

-Mark S

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Sprite Pack Dillema... Featuring Fighter Jets

Well, after two weekends shot sprite-pack wise thanks to a killer cold and a visit from my girlfriend (she currently lives about 3 hours away from where I live), I'm finally taking a solid look at what I need to do in order to get stuff done. I exchanged some PM's with Michael Tanczos- Jesus, like a year ago at this point, but thanks to school and the fact that I have an uncanny knack for retaining employment limited the opportunities for work on it. It's the classic problem of a large personal project getting buried under external life pressures.

Here's the situation:
I have 683(!) files, which sounds great, but that are a combination of:
Different genres

Different angles

Different scales

(for example) Space battleships vs space fighters
Different qualities

I grew considerably as an artist over the 7 years of game art I've been working on, and the quality gap is sometimes stark.
Incomplete sets

Thanks to the transient nature of our projects and my own inclinations, there's simply a lot of stuff that would be really useful for in-game use that I never bothered to make.

As I figure it, I have two different options: lumping and splitting, i.e. grouping the sprites by genre and releasing separate packs, or lumping the best together and making a "Starter Pack" (which is what Michael Tanczos suggested). I'm kind of torn, but leaning towards the former so I can release them in stages, the aircraft pack is reasonably close to being done, and any beginner pack would still have substantial gaps in the basics. Buuut... what do you guys think as game developing folks?

Photohizaps Breakthrough
Hey... hey guys, check this out:

I finally figured out how to animate things in Photoshop, which is the real breakthrough of the weekend. I thought it would be much harder, but nope, I'd just been putting off for essentially no reason. The relevance to the sprite pack is that I can finally test animations like the one above, which actually never got implemented or even testing in anything (but looks good anyway, no?)

One of the issues with the airplane sprites is that most of the the prettiest, coolest ones never acted as game sprites and lack the accoutrements of real game sprites, like animation or damage levels (unlike the above example):

This concerns me, because those are basically the crown jewels of my artwork. They're the first search result for "fighter jet" at DeviantArt, which would be more impressive if anyone on that site searched for something other than soft-core hentai.

I found sticking on damage levels isn't that hard, since I just made a set of "scars" in a photoshop layer that I can then stick on anything I want without much trouble. That, and the burn tool is pretty self-explanatory... That leaves animation as being the big problem, which is a pain in the ass. Today's task was to figure out how big of a pain it actually would be to add basic "banking" animations to the existing sprites.

First, I went back to an existing animation I had made last summer and added another "tween" frame to the whopping one frame of animation that was already there, but only in one direction:

I used the "fancy" version I had made last summer by throwing on some directional lighting via layer effects in Photoshop, which turned out to be a mistake since there was also an extra "shading layer" that needed to be animated, too. Trying to juggle all the effects depending on the angle is why it only banks in one direction. So that turned out to be more work than I really wanted to do for the whole set, so I tried another airplane that I hadn't animated before and which didn't have all the extra layer stuff, and made only one frame per side:

This turned out to be much easier, and I figured out I could just rip out the center section with the cockpit and move it and it would look more or less okay. The other easy thing is shortening the wings and tail, but both only work for one frame (maybe two). After that, I think the geometry of the fuselage of most of the planes would get too wonky, and would require some in-depth redrawing.

So... I'm still figuring out if I need to get over and do it, or find a workaround. Whaddya think? How important would banking animations be to a prospective developer?

A Funny Thing Happened on XboxLive...
I had a funny exchange this afternoon when some guy which I had exchanged standard insulting messages the night before: My teammates decided to try and spawn trap, which ironically cost us the game (capture the flag) since in trying to set it up, they let other team get the flag too many times. Some guy on the other team took it upon himself to message me and only me "NOOB!" (I guess I had the most kills) which I felt was rather ironic since he actually couldn't shoot his way out of a paper bag, and told him so. We exchange a couple messages, pretty standard, and then no more. So I get on today to play Dance Central, and the idiot decides to send me this:

Guy: [In reference to the half-assed spawn trap] "it's hard to aim when you die every 10 seconds"
Me: "I think you're confusing cause and effect."

At which point, I unlocked the SICK BURN achievement. Or should've, anyway. Maybe you had to be there. But seriously, the next day? Let it go, man!


Anyway... Let me know what you guys think and have a good night!

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Sad Panda Weekend

Hey guys, I meant to post a long entry this weekend but somehow I managed to wake up sick Saturday, and my condition has not improved. I did browse through the sprite pack folders I have, and I got further then I thought last year, and I'm debating on how much more I should do. Basically, I have a ton of airplane sprites, but most of them don't have damage states or anything, so I'm tempted to PhotoHack damage decals onto them so at least users will have another state of the sprite to work with. Plus, I need to make a bank of missiles and afterburner animations, but I don't think that will be very hard.

Anyway, to celebrate not being able to function at normal human speed, I bought Panzer General II from GoodOldGames (Gog.com). Well, I had planned on playing Panzer General 3 since I found a copy at a thrift store, but it turned out to be in that awkward stage in game history where they went from well-done 2D graphics (sometimes prerendered stuff) that still look acceptable to horrendous early 3D graphics ("But 3D!!!" someone shouts from 1998). Anyway, Panzer General II is one of the best turn-based strategy games ever made, and it's one of those games I periodically replay and that never let me down. Plus It's super nostalgic getting out the old strategy guide appended with my own notes, which feel like surprisingly thoughtful secret messages from my past self.

Okay, one more thing, I did complete another airplane (which I plan to show the "making of" later), the J-20, the Chinese maybe-kinda stealth fighter prototype:

Also, don't forget to check out the spaceship design rant's comments (entry before last), we ended up having a belated but extremely interesting discussion about what space combat would really be like.

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Short Photoshop Update

Hey guys, just a quick update on the big Photoshop drawing from the entry before last. It's been slow going for the past couple of weeks since my girlfriend is in town, and for some reason she expects me to do things and also speak with her after I get home from work. Oh well... We did go to the Nuclear Museum here in Albuquerque, which was pretty cool, since, you know, nuclear cannon:

Battlecruiser Update
I've been refining the piece overall, but basically got sidetracked with something I had kind of hoped I could avoid, which doesn't really make for startling progress at first glance. Essentially, I started working with lines scanned from the paper version of the drawing pretty raw and started thinning them out as needed. Unfortunately, much more of the ship needed that than I had thought about, so I went back and started retracing the lines in photoshop so I could guarantee their width, smoothness, etc., which is important to me for technical stuff like gun barrels. Speaking of gun barrels, they should all be the same length now since I made a couple base versions that I've copied and moved around as needed. It would be incredibly easy, except that damn Italian renaissance popularized perspective drawing, so they still need to be adjusted for each position.

Alright, here's what I got:

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Technical Design Rant

Another Monday, Another Refrain from a Tired Monday Joke
I feel overly narrative-istic (narrastic?)right now. I think the fact that I spend a good three hours a day at work listening to NPR's "This American Life" at work has warped my perspective on writing for an audience. It's just a shame I'm not an inner city single mother befallen by tragedy with a handy tape recorder, or an NPR correspondent who happens to have some marginally interesting relative with a handy tape recorder forcibly duct-taped to their chest. Just know I can't get stop hearing Ira Glass's voice whenever I try to explain something.

I'm also working on getting GDNET+ back again, but something messed up with paypal, so my sick avatar that I haven't made yet will have to wait.

Anway...I'm going to take this entry to kind of lay out my artistic interest and how that relates to the cool spaceship thing.

I think of myself as a technical artist. People as a subject have never really interested me, which I think sort of sets me apart from most artists I've known. Definitely part of it is the fact that I have a pretty strong Asperger-sy fondness for machines. Or maybe that's all of it. Anyway, I really like mechanical things, particularly weapons for some reason. It started with semi trucks and airplanes (living near a US Air Force base can take the blame for that), but soon extended to tanks, ships, and spacecraft after being exposed to movies. The Super Star Destroyer was probably my favorite Star Wars character. For whatever reason, I think drawing machines, and that's what I've gotten good at over the years.

How does that relate to the last entry?

Fact: Battleships Are Cool
Battleships strike me as some of the coolest machines ever designed. They're some of the best examples of war machines that look like they really mean it, and they're epically proportioned to boot. Unlike modern warships, they bristle with very obvious firepower. Hell, battleship turrets alone are some of the sweetest technical designs themselves IMHO:

Their basic concept also carries over to sci-fi as well as anything, since the a pretty common assumption in fiction is that if you're going really far, you're going to need a big thing to do it. Plus it's a handy setting that lets you fly across the universe but film in the same two rooms every week.

Tangent on Battlecruisers
[color=#ff0000][Easily Skippable][/color]
It's kind of interesting how the coolness of the word "battlecruiser" has somewhat overwhelmed "battleship" for a lot of things, Starcraft in particular, when the actual operational history of the battlecruiser is actually pretty terrible. Battlecruisers on paper sound like a really cool idea. The basic concept is that there are three main attributes of any fighting machine: firepower, armor, and mobility. Battleship designs historically balanced the first two, then did what they could within technology and time constraints for the third. They sacrificed speed for armor in a bad way. Theoretically their speed would keep them out of trouble if they ever faced an actual battleship, which Admiral "Jackie" Fisher, essentially the inventor of the concept, subtly explained by saying "Speed is Armor." Turns out, nope. It's really not.

The basic problem is that the speed advantage gained, say from 21 knots to 25 in the case of the original Dreadnought and battlecruiser equivalent Invincible, wasn't worth sacrificing basically half the armor protection. In a two-dimensional fight the small gain in speed didn't give the battlecruisers enough mobility at all to compensate for having functionally paper-thing armor. In the Battle of Jutland, the biggest actual Battleship-vs-Battleship engagement of the war, the British battlecruisers had the alarming tendency to explode almost immediately after being hit in the turret. This happened because the armor was thin enough to guarantee a large-caliber shell would penetrate, and because at the time a ton of extra ammo was being stored in the turret and the path to the main magazines left unobstructed. A hit on a turret was therefore almost guaranteed to set off the magazine. Turns out mecha and anime villains aren't the only things that die in enormous explosions.
Large Spacecraft Design: The East-West Dichotomy
Western Tradition
I've always thought there were interesting differences between some Japanese and western spaceship designs in my by no means comprehensive experience. Western ships (and by ships I mean big spacecraft- stuff bigger than the Millennium Falcon) of the past few decades seem to revolve around the precedents of Star Wars and Star Trek. Ships are almost of interminate size and plastered with details but always pretty linear, with little organic influence. They seem to rely on not betraying any real sense of scale to seem awe-inspiring- they tend to have the bridge or cockpit not terribly obvious if at all from the outside. Traditionally they always look very utilitarian, packed with unfathomable levels of detail but for some reason they never seem to display any obvious weaponry, which always disappointed me. A Star Destroyer or the Enterprise A-E don't show any teeth, which I think is a shame. Notice how a large proportion of the Super Star Destroyer is essentially crammed with empty detail that I like to call "squiggly bullshit.":

Cool, right? Too bad you need this helpful diagram, which I'm pretty sure had to be retconned as hell, to find anything except the bridge:

The only time anything vaguely organic or at least not made of right angles showed up, it's alien, but even then they tend to stay consistent to the rule that ships over a certain size have tons of random detail, but very little of it meaningful. Alien ships tend to have looser rules, but they mostly look insectoid or like very angry plants.The most painfully stereotypical example of this is in the Halo series, where brave human hexagonsfight purple dolphins.

Eastern Tradition
I've always preferred the more Gundam-esque ships, which seem to hew closer to real ships, which I prefer. You can actually see the guns! That's awesome! They also tend to be more colorful, which I think creates more visual interest than the overplayed GIANT GRAY THING, though less realistic.

Take these selected examples:

The Magellan Space Battleship from the original Gundam series, which looks like a battleship, but in space. Pretty straightforward and relatively cool. Take that a couple steps into the future:

Musai-Kai from one of the spinoff series (0080), which does an excellent job of being sleek and futuristic, while obviously being artificial and not a sinister grasshopper derivative. Also:Guns! You can see them!

The first 20 seconds of the following clip illustrates the scale thing pretty well (I wish I could show you a better one but they managed to block only that episode out of the 12):


You see the mobile suit (giant robot for the uninitiated) on the right of the bridge, then you see it launch from the bridge- it gives you a better sense of scale so that even though something like a Star Destroyer is much bigger, the impact of actually having some idea of how big the ship is makes for better design. Gundam series are particularly good about being able to see parts of the ship from the bridge, and having exterior shots of the bridge to illustrate the sizes involved. You don't just shrug it off with a subconscious "it's really big," you get at least a vague notion of what that really big actually is.

In the end, it's almost sad how incredibly intriguing this website is (mind blow alert): http://www.merzo.net/ particular for the ships of different series, which just goes to show you how incredibly vague they leave the dimensions within the main fictions. Also see if what I'm saying makes any sense while you're there since they have ships from both sides of the pacific.

I'm pretty much out of time to write, so I'll try to go into my personal ideas and biases that went into the actual design of my ship next entry. I've actually made a fair amount of progress since last time...

Note: Hopefully all the images work, I'm not quite used to the new jourrnal system. When I was growing up, we had to hardcode HTML both ways uphhill in the snow.

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What is this place? It's vaguely familiar...

It's been almost two years since I've posted, and I'm not really inclined to guilt myself any further by being any more exact than that.

What can I say? Life got in the way, per usual. I'd say I regret not spending any time on game development, but I honestly don't know where the time would have come from. Getting old. Feels bad man (see Figure 1).

Anyway, I'm basically stumbling head first into the American dream. Turns out if you work really hard in school, get good grades, and have a bunch of extracurricular activities, and don't major in something fictional like English Lit, you can in fact get a job after graduating college that doesn't involve wearily counting up the contents of the tip jar at the end of the day. I just got a job in the biggest city in our tiny state, Albuquerque, which is an actual place for Bugs Bunny fans and is pretty much as described for Breaking Bad fans. Well, probably anyway, I've only seen very small slices so far...

Gamedev.net. Right. Well if you haven't ever read my journal before, and there's a good chance you haven't since I haven't been around. Since I have more free time now, especially since my girlfriend is still going to school, I'm planning on getting back into art. When I was packing, I stumbled upon some of my old artwork I forgot about from high school and thinking "man, I used to be really good". I totally meant to upload a scan/picture of one of them, but that stuff is still stranded at my house so that will have to wait 'til next weekend.

I actually do have a project- well, I've had it for about a year: releasing a sprite pack or two into the Gamedev.net marketplace. I actually have had them for a while, but using really old art from high school, which was five years ago. So the plan, right now, and I have to message Michael Tanczos about it, is to basically take those old sprites and "upgrade" them in Photoshop, and add a few new sprites in to keep it interesting. I'll definitely have to explain what I mean in a future entry.

I know there's a halfway decent market for the sprites, judging by the emails I am receiving years after this thread was posted: http://www.gamedev.n...ne-sprite-pack/, and from people finding my deviantart account: http://prinzeugn.deviantart.com/, and that's just people who bothered to email me, god knows how many actually used them... But even so, making money isn't that important to me, it's having the motivation to produce artwork. And dammit, I miss art!

With that note, here's something I've been working on recently. I'll probably give a more in-depth description of what's going on with it in a later entry:

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Colorado Blues...

Greetings, cherished readers, how are you?

That's good... Me? Oh, shitty. Pretty shitty, actually.

Not to go into too much detail, but I have an internship in Denver which has outlived it's usefulness. I've gained lots of experience and learned new things for sure, but I haven't done anything new or exciting in quite a while- I'm just coasting at this point on the same old projects.Which, if you want to be cynical about it, is great experience for real life (or so I've heard).

The real irritating thing is that we (my coworker/roommate and I) were originally slated to be here until the end of November. Then, there were funding issues of some sort and they decided to bring us back at the end of this month, which was exciting because it honestly felt about time to go and all of our friends and family are back home. Of course, yesterday, the powers that be decided to have use stay after all- 2.5 weeks before we were going to move, and after we had told everybody and their brother we would be back ready to rock worlds by the beginning of October.

And then my lovably Asian girlfriend is living no less than 6,363 miles (or a holy fuckton of kilometers) away on a student exchange in China.

BUT I am raking in the dough... more on that later.

Sir Sapo's been pretty busy, and as his way, started another mini-project. I don't know if you guys remember Fortress of Terror/Lab 81, but it's essentially a stripped down version of that game (which we still maintain would have been awesome if school and our futures not stood in our way). So you're a soldier of some kind wandering around an underground bunker lab dungeon killing zombies/aliens/timebeasts. Or something. It's in the early planning stages...

My current idea is that the game is placed in the Angels 22 Extended Universe (TM), where the New Soviet Union is doing Bad Things, sort of like Red Alert, but in the future. Anyway, you're an elite Red Army soldier who was caught committing First Degree Unapproved Blog Reading (section 43.56A sub. C4) and assigned to a penal battalion, and given the punishment/honor of being the first and last soldier sent into secret LAB 81 to find out what happened there. They shove you in, and threaten to shoot anything (including you) that comes out the door without the unspecified "documents" (gameplay barrier FTW).

Here's the latest screenshot using Sir Sapo's programmer art:

I think Sir Sapo was trying to portray an anti-consumerist message with the Wal-Mart smiley face.
That, or he found the circle tool in Paint.

I don't actually have a copy of The Engine yet, and I think I lost the screenshot he sent me with redrawn tiles and stuff, so that will have to wait for next time. Until then, enjoy the >original on YouTube.

The flip side to the emo stuff at the beginning of the journal entry is that I'm actually earning money. I used some of this money to Buy a new 24-inch HDTV, and a new computer, plus a load off accessories for the computer:

Obviously not much of an emphasis on furnishings...

Laptop is a Lenovo IdeaPad 15.6" with:

-Intel? Core? i7-740QM Processor ( 1.73GHz 1333MHz 6MB )
-Genuine Windows 7 Home Premium 64
-ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5730 1GB
-8 GB PC3-8500 DDR3 SDRAM 1333MHz
-15.6" HD LED Glare 1366x768
-500GB 7200rpm HD
-DVD Recordable (Dual Layer)
-Bluetooth Version 2.1 + EDR

Buuuut... 1366 x 768 screen. [depressed]. Looks like I need to get another monitor. Or buy this to use with my old lappy with it's glorious 1920 x 1280 screen.

Speaking of my old laptop, Moore's Law has not been kind. In mid 2006, it was near-top of the line with 2GB RAM, 256 MB video card, and a dual-core processor. And it cost three times as much! I dunno, it's blowing my mind that since the i7 is hyper-threaded, my little processor managing gadget shows 8 cores running at once...

I also bought a very nice Logitech MX1100 mouse.

Um, I also got a Turtle Beach X11 gaming headset for my Xbox, which is also nice to use for Skype on the lappy.

Stalker: Shadow of Chernobyl vs Halo Reach
I bought Stalker because is sounded cool to me, and I needed a new game, and I bought Reach because holy shit REACH!!!!!!1~

For all the millions of dollars poured into Halo, I still liked Stalker's single player better. Heck, Reach's campaign was just not that exciting. I mean, it was enjoyable- all the Halo games have neat campaigns, but it just wasn't my style. I did some thinking, and I've decided it's because I like walking in FPS's. Okay, not really walking, but the kind of extended levels that involve you wandering around not shooting anything (or not pushing for a single objective) constantly. Not shooting means you get to actually explore the levels and really adds to the immersion.

You know what the best single player game was I've played in the past couple years? Unreal. That game is pretty ancient, but holy crap it was neat. No announcements, no sounds cues (like some NPC yelling "Get in the Warthog, Chief!"), just you fucking lost on an alien planet. And it wasn't some abstracted "you" the Cliched Character Archetype, it was you, since you got barely a whiff of a backstory. Which is great, since I really don't care for pretending to be Spartan 117 or 'Soap' and being forced to watch "my" interactions with other characters who knew the your character beforehand.

In Stalker, there was a little bit that broke the first-person perspective, but there wasn't much, and it was all paced to you. Plus, lots of wandering around in really interesting places. What was I talking about again?

Anyway, that's all I've got to say about that...

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Back Soon. Yes.

I tried more and harder and this is what I got... thoughts?

I'm thinking about putting in the pilot's hand giving the Partisan the Finger, but I dunno...

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Denver Adventure

Sup. I have a pretty wicked caffeine headache right now, but let's see if I can stay cohelrnrphe.

RL News
So I moved to Denver for an internship... pretty crazy. Compared to Las Cruces, Denver is bigger and badder and better. I'm surprised at how not bad it is, actually. I live within a 45-minute walk to work which isn't too bad, and there's a ridiculous amount of decent restaurants around.

The only sad thing is that there's less time to hang out with my hot Asian girlfriend before she goes to China on an exchange. Luckily, she came up with me when I moved up and stayed a few days, and we saw some of the cool museums and stuff they have around here. For example...

Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum

This is the first place we meant. It's basically this hangar on an old air force base full of cool old airplanes. They had a lot of jets from the 50's and 60's that are more obscure (and I love obscure) as well as a few newer airplanes like the most overrated aircraft of all time, the F-14A "It was in Top Gun once" Tomcat.

I'm actually trying to volunteer there, I sat through orientation (this was after the GF went home) and signed all the appropriate waivers, now I'm just waiting to hear back from them. They have different positions, like sitting at the front desk or restoring exhibits, but I really want to be the guy to give tours, because I know a lot about airplanes and I like attention.

After the orientation, I kind of snuck my way into working because they were short on people and there was a summer camp coming. So I started out showing people into the F-4E cockpit. Met a guy who is working on the new gigantic display for the F-18 Super Hornet.

Then there was this one older guy who sat down, and as the woman showing me the ropes started to give the spiel "This is a F-4 E-model..." and the guy interrupts her "I know, I designed the slats." So he started talking about all the stuff they had to deal with making it fly, flow separations, etc. That conversation brought the airplane to life.

Denver Botanic Gardens

The Gardens were pretty neat. It was kind of like a zoo, but for plants, and not quite as boring as that sounds. They had this giant greenhouse for tropical foliage, which not only had some pretty flowers but also had some of the ugliest plants of all time:

Poop Plant?

We also went to the zoo, but I don't have any pictures so it might as not have happened. Well, sort of. It was really crowded, that's all I really remember.

Game Stuff
Of course, with all the moving and working I've been doing, there hasn't been a lot of time for game stuff. I did hang out with Sir Sapo yesterday, but we were in the mountains with a bunch of AF academy cadets and shitload of firepower. We contemplated going all Wolverines and waiting in the wilderness for the Russians/Mexicans/Liberals to come, but it didn't happen. Shooting clays was fun, though.

The only thing I've done is cheaply adapt the giant loading screen into something more resembling a menu. At some point I hope to give it a different background, but this'll do for now.

Is it Menu-y enough?

Aight, gotta get to work tomorrow, I better get going.

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Man, so I have an early morning of shopping and packing for my move to Denver... don't expect the most cogent journal entry.

Sir Sapo Rises
If you hadn't seen it yet, Sir Sapo(the programmer-man) has put up an excellent journal entry showcasing some of the work (mostly his) that happened this weekend when I visited. I'm pretty sure he stole the more-than-one-B-52 screenshot idea from me, but whatevs. At least the smoke marker works as god intended.

I also happened to miss renewing GDNet+ somehow, which was borderline tragic as my theme for some reason defaulted to the new white scheme. This is bad, since I'm still living under the illusion (circa 2005) that GameDev.net operates under a light-text-on-dark-background visual scheme. Oh, and I lost my avatar and couldn't post a journal entry. Not a big deal, I just used the opportunity to slightly modify my standard avatar. And, uh, didn't write a journal entry.

Better All the Time
So I got bored today (when I should have been packing) and decided to search through some old artwork to make more big artwork for the game. Big stuff is always nice for loading screens and credits, plus it's hella fun to make. I found my old MiG-51S on the Ground...


After some considerable croppage and repainting some amateur-ish shading, I'm here:

Much better-er? But seriously, fuck that shadow.

Not quite there yet, but I hope that before long it will look like it wasn't drawn by an 8-year-old boy with an amphetamine problem.

Seriously, I learned basically everything since I did the original- more about how to use selections to clean up lines, separating things into more layers based both on location and function, how to use transform to change proportions- basically how not to suck so bad.

I only hope that in another 3 years, I'll be able to look back with the same disgust at my current work- because that'll mean I'm that much better.

Aight, I gotta early Wal-Mart trip scheduled tomorrow to buy stuff for my move. I'll only be there for less than 6 months, but I need a bed...
Don't forget to check out Sir Sapo's journal and Hopedagger's new post.

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Belated Breakdown

[EDIT: I completed the breakdown of the explosion layer, it's here]

Get your scroll wheels all lubed up (gross?), this is gonna be epic...

This entry is dedicated to a deconstruction of the sick loading screen you saw in the background, for the edification of whoever. I always find it amazing how complex these major Photoshop drawings get, with dozens of overlapping layers that each have their own small purpose that integrate to form a cohesive whole. Besides being maybe educational, I always enjoy seeing things broken down. Maybe you guys do, too.

Background: What's Old... is Old.
The purpose of this drawing is to make an updated version of our old Angels 22 loading screen, which served its purpose, but looks a little dated:

Okay, for serious, this hurts my soul.

Layers; Hellz to the Yes.
I think figuring out what layers do and how they work is probably the most important aspect of learning Photoshop. In that vein, I've broken down this drawing into layer groups, little folders that hold the individual layers.

What is a layer?
So... what is a layer? Well, anything, really. The nice thing about layers is that you can separate everything, which gives you freedom you never knew you were missing. The basic idea I'll illustrate by breaking down that sick explosion in a minute. Don't worry, we'll get to it in due time.

A simple example is a drawing of say... a boat. I dunno. Just a boat, with no background. How I would do it is break it down into basic layers: lines, color, shading. Having those three things on separate layers might seem kind of strange when you're used to using legacy tools like the paint bucket, but makes a whole lot of sense once you get used to it.

Having the lines on a separate layer means you can erase stuff like unnecessary details without worrying about refilling the color around the lines or redoing the shading. In MS Paint drawings like those you'll often see us use for sprites, color and shading are I fact the same thing. A blue gradient would be composed of one row of light blue pixels on top, followed by a row of darker blue, followed by a layer of pixels of an even darker blue.

Using a separate Shading and Color layers allows you to make that gradient darker or lighter without having to go in and change the individual rows. Same thing for color- you can just change the solid blue backdrop of the gradient. This obviously comes in super handy when making 'new' units or whatever by changing the color. It becomes ridiculously easy (and really cheap, I might add).

Above here is the groups (of layers) that make up the sweet explosiony goodness of the loading screen. The order is important, since that's how what is drawn on top is defined. Note the lone "FlareTrail Over" layer. Not matter how organized you try to be, somethings are just better left out. In this case. it's because while it spiritually belongs in the C-17 Bank folder, it's visually flying out and over Explosion's gray trails. See what I'm talking about? Why yes, I do feel slightly OCD now that you mention it.

To start off the actual stuff, let's review the drawing in question:

Each of those folders above represents one or more of the following parts (some are expanded or compressed for clarity):




EDIT: I finished the super-breakdown of this layer group, it can be viewed here (Large Image)

C-17 Cargo Plane Banking

Moar C-17's


Background Dogfights

Background Sky

The following describe the specific layers in each folder in all their dizzying complexity. Not for old people or animals. Optional safety warning for Kids.


This is the main jet in the foreground, mercilessly stolen from the previous iteration. It really served as the starting point. I think it looks pretty good considering my current Photoshop version doesn't like to open the actual PSD I had of this. It forced me to use the flattened version, meaning I couldn't individually modify the highlighting and shading layers of the original.

MiG Layers
Highlight- for engine exhaust, semitransparent
Nozzle- Had to redo the original (too dark)
Vapes- Aerodynamic effect
NoseShine- Shine up that there nose
CanopyHighlight- Lots of canopy layers to get transparent effect
CanopyLines- "
Emboss- "
Canopy- "
SickleHammer- Not in original, oops... (you're never really done)
MiG- Main layer, originally a separate .PSD with distinct layers
AfterburnerFlame- Behind MiG, so flame doesn't overlap the jet

Lessons: Even with basic transformations, you can change something to a useful degree. The original MiG's proportions were a little stubby and not quite as sleek as they really should have been. I used Transform (Ctrl-T) and skewed and scaled to get a subtly different airplane that just looks better. You can't really do that if it has a background attached to it. Layers!

All the canopy layers do different things, mostly using layer effects. Throwing just one bevel and emboss on a simple canopy-shape is going to look far too simple. Glass has very complicated reflective properties and essentially has different layers in real life. I remember being amazed as a kid looking out a car window, that my reflection was also there. It was a mirror and a window! Having so many layers also allows just one aspect to be changed without interfering with the others- like if you had the right color but needed to mess with the reflections.


This is the player's aircraft, although you wouldn't really know that just by this. There's actually another version of this same airplane that's a custom Ace blue, but feedback on this version (which is in fact retro-ized to look like the legendary Mk II) was much better. The main features in this part of the drawing is that the airplane started it's life as a fairly large hand-drawn sprite made in MS Paint.

This meant that it was rather pixellated, but luckily it was big enough to alter. Rotating a couple times in Photoshop anti-aliased it automatically, and some subtle filters didn't hurt to blend it a little better. Another thing that had to be altered is the fact that the original shading is somewhat ambiguous- it's essentially a perfect (ie, unreal) light source directly from the front.
Mk III Layers
Shock Cone- Uh, looked shitty, didn't use
Vapes- Added for effect, feeling of motion
Afterburner Streaks- More effect...
Afterburner copy 2- See above...
Partisan copy- The original airplane layer with a filter to mitigate the pixelization and flatten the shading.
Partisan- The actual, original airplane sprite done in MS Paint

EDIT: I finished the super-breakdown of this layer group, it can be viewed here (Large Image)
The other centerpiece of this drawing, illustrating how cool the horrors of war look sometimes. I mean, the yellow symbolizes the inherent fear one has on the battlefield, the red is the blood spilled for lost causes... blah blah blah...


Missile Trail- "Hey man, nice shot"
Streaks- Yellow streaks to add some speed to the fireball
Wing- Some remnants of the poor guy in the explosion...
Tail- Other distinct pieces, to show it was an aircraft
Smoke 2- The main layer of dark gray smoke surrounding the fireball
Shrapnel2- Smaller Chunks
Fireball Texture- The original fireball with a filter on it for more texture
Fireball Front- Main fireball layer, all hand-drawn
Fireballback-Since the layer above was somewhat transparent, it need an appropriate colored backdrop
TrailDetail- Highlights and specific shadows for the light gray smoke trails trails
FireTrails- The actual fire of the chunks shooting out the bottom
Trails- The main component of the lighter gray trails
Explosion Trails- Basically more of the above
Contrail- The contrail of the airplane that exploded
Shockwave- The circular shock wave, since(spoiler alert!) that C-17 was actually the pyramid spaceship from Stargate (the movie).

C-17s in the Background

These provide more depth to the image, providing something in front of the sky and the battle in the distance, but something farther away from the Mk. III and the MiG.

C-17 Bank
Flare Core- The shiny part of the decoy flares
Flares- The smoke trail. Yeah, the name scheme doesn't make 100% sense
BankHard- The C-17 cargo plane
Contrail Long- The contrails got a bit complicated since there's four engines visible at one side
Contrail CloseBottom- The contrails coming out of the jet. They are ugly in the middle because those parts didn't need cleaning up (the explosion covers them up)
Contrail Close Low-"
Contrail Close top-"
Contrail Close high-"

FrontWing- The shiny part of the decoy flares
BackWing- The smoke trail. Yeah, the name scheme doesn't make 100% sense
C-17 Base Copy 5- The C-17 cargo plane
Contrail Copy 2- The contrails coming out of the jet, simpler because there needs to be only one per wing.

C-17 Back
C-17 Base Copy 3- The original sprite, with a posterize filter over it to reduce the amount of detail deliberately (far things are fuzzy in RL)
C-17 Base Copy 2- The original sprite, plane jane from the side.
Contrail Copy 2- Lots of contrails in this drawing, eh?


These were challenge from my girlfriend, since she thought I was being lazy just using a real cloud background with a couple of Filters thrown on top. You'll see more about that in the next section.

Highlights- The whitest part of the cloud, like the edges of the rufflies. Defines the Cloudy Part layer better.
Cloudy Part- The base part of the cloud, with most of the structure and definition.
Backing- Since the other layers are fairly ephemeral, er, transparent, they required a more opaque backing.

Cloud Copy
Highlights- These layers seem awfully familiar... Okay, this whole group is just a copied and mirrored version of the above cloud. Bummer, dude.
Cloudy Part-"

Background Stuff

This layer is all about establishing both the epic-ness of the battle by showing what we're seeing up close is only a small part of a larger battlefield. It also, uh establishes that we're in the sky. Not space or underwater or whatever. Just the wild blue yonder...

Originally all the dogfighting contrail stuff was made in a separate Photoshop document with each contrail in a different layer. That was because it was a lot easier to use Transform to make all the windy parts without dragging all the other trails together.

BG Stuff
BG Explosion- The little explosion with the trails leading in. It was shocking how fast I drew this. Practice, I guess.
Background Dogfight- One of the four layers of dogfighting. They took considerable rearranging to make them mesh right with the stuff in the foreground.
Contrail Copy 3-"
Contrail Copy-"
Background Dogfight 2-"
Bottom Sky- This is the part that is actually from a picture of a sunset taken from an airliner (not mine). I changed the color and put what I think was the "Paint Daub" Filter on it to make it look less photo-real.
Layer 13- Similar to the above, but with a much more boring original picture. I wanted more texture than just a plain gradient.
BackgroundWhite- A misnomer. Is actually a gradient of blues that form the absolute backdrop for the sky.

Last word
Wow, that took forever to get posted. Oops, sorry guys. I have the extended explosion layer thing which will doubtless be more exciting done, but I'll save that for another journal entry, lest I break the all time Journal-Land record for physical length of a journal entry.
EDIT: Lies!

Oh, plus I'm moving to Denver, Colorado for a few months. I'm leaving before July 1st...

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There's a Reason Why I Don't Update on Weekdays...

I'm currently working on a fairly expansive journal entry going fairly in-depth on the previous journal entry's huge loading screen. I'm gonna see if I can illustrate how weird/awesome it is to get really into a drawing with Photoshop. Until then, I have a couple other minor bits.

About That C-17
The legendary(-ish) LanchanL had a comment last time I figured I could answer dramatically.


Well, okay, so that is a pretty hard bank in the loading screen and the picture is one at an airshow, presumably mostly empty. If it was fully loaded, which it probably was judging by the secondary explosion of its buddy there (must've been filled with futuristic ultra-dynamite, it might lose a fatal amount of altitude making a turn like that. But hey, better than being chunked by the massive explosion right next door.

Accidentally Started Photoshop; Couldn't Stop
I got bored tonight and decided to hack together something I had been thinking about- using cool text effects to sort of represent what a title is. Goodbye Blue Sky is of course a reference to the Pink Floyd song recounting the Blitz on British cities by the Luftwaffe. I've thought about it as the game title, but I dunno, seems a little too abstract for our target people-who-Google-'2d airplane game' audience.

Next Up: "Walkin' on Sunshine" by Katrina and the Waves. But not really.

Aight, gotta be up early tomorrow. Stay tuned!

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Be not afraid...

Yeah, this is still my journal. Do not be frightened by the mysterious block of code below... turns out it's my first computer game. EV4R!!11`

import java.util.Scanner;
import java.util.Random;

public class NumberGuess {

public static void main(String[] args) {
int n; //n is the user input
boolean result = true; //aw yeah, booleans FTW
Scanner guess = new Scanner (System.in); //input scanner named guess
Random thing = new Random(); //make random number thing
int rnumero = thing.nextInt(10) + 1; //generate random number between 1-10, add 1 b/c counter starts at 0

System.out.println(rnumero); // print answer for debug
System.out.println("type a numero between uno and ten-SHUTTHEFUCKUP"); //instructions
while (result == true) //set run condition
n =guess.nextInt();
if (n //too low...
System.out.println("2 low n00b");
if (n > rnumero){ //too high...
System.out.println ("fuckin' high, fag");
if (n == rnumero){//win
System.out.println ("you hax!!!!2!");
result = false; // trip run condition

I call it "Number Guesser/Xbox Live Simulator." It accurately depicts what a guess the number game would be like if it were played with the average person on Xbox Live.

Hopefully I'll get farther this week, but we'll see. I'm thinking about getting the Beginning/Advanced Gamedev Programming books... plus hopefully borrowing a bunch from Sir Sapo when I can.

Funny Thing Happened on the Way...
So I was driving back home from my girlfriend's, which is a shitty 75 miles away, minding my own goddamn business when I notice a shadow in the left lane out of the corner of my eye. This was odd, considering the closest car was miles behind me. The shadow flickered, and it took me a double take to figure out what it was. A helicopt- holy shit!

Turns out there was a CH-47 Chinook following the highway at about 200-300 feet (60-90 meters) going about 3 times faster than my 70mph (113kph) car... I never even heard it coming. There were even guys hanging out the rear ramp.

Fortunately, they did a U-turn up the way, so I stopped at the side of the road and vaulted over my passenger seat, grabbing my camera as I fly. So, I got somewhat fuzzy piktars. Keep in mind I couldn't really see my screen in the sun...

Here he comes...

I waved.

There were guys, I swear...

Pretty low... also, note how depressing the terrain is.

Other news
Not too much to report on the game front, but I have been working on the new loading screen, which will be pretty epic when complete. I'm also cranking away on sprite designs- next up is a SAM site, I think.

Aight, you guys have a good night!

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Technical Game Design

Today we're delving into the world of technical game design... which may or may not be a real term. Whatever.

Weapon Theory: Think About It!
I often had gameplay revelations when I was doing cardio in my PE class, resumably because there was nothing else to do (unless I feel like reading People's January 2007 issue) and there's an intense amount of blood going to my brain. Long story short, I had an epiphany at about pretend-mile 1.4 on the stationary bike a couple weeks ago- how we came up with weapons in the past is all wrong.

See, in Angels 20 (A20) and Angels 22 (A22), we basically thought of what weapons sounded cool and threw them in there without much thought as to what hey were supposed to do, exactly. Cool weapons, that's what we wanted! "Wouldn't it be cool if..." was the name of the game. Huge caliber Gunpod! (read about it ina book). Manually Guided Missile! (Used the redeemer in Unreal Tournament). Napalm! (Saw Apocalypse Now, wondered how it smelled).

We ended up with crap like the cluster bomb, which is a neat idea stolen from real life, but was pretty much useless, and the scatterpack, which shot a bunch of missiles which would fly around randomly. Using the scatterpack usually created an impressive spectacle as thethe areas to the left and right of the target were completely devastated while target itself remained untouched an generally unimpressed. (The only redeeming quality of the scatterpacks was that they would light villagers on fire in A20. AAAIIEE!!)

We had some understanding that there needed to be a degree of purpose and balance, but that didn't get us very far, and probably hurt us more in the end. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

One of the primary offenders I remember was the Heavy Flak, which had something like 1000 health. The normal bomb dealt 100 damage, and everything else was worse than that, so you were left with the one option of using the original "Angry Sparrow." It did 1000 damage, so you could only carry 5. That was the reasoning, anyway. This had a couple of important (and shitty) effects: 1) Since you could only carry one weapon type at a time, you had to dedicate an entirerun to killing Heavy Flak. and 2) Since you only carried 5, your aim better be pretty good. Of course, for a beginning player, these facts made the game annoying as well as almost impossible.

So, with that understanding in hand, I decided to start thinking about the interaction between weapons and the enemies, that's really the core of the game. Which is to say, this is a game about shit getting blowed up. Blowed up real good.

Just wait until there's a city...

Weapons: An Intro
I've been working on a spreadsheet of weapons attributes, because as all you crazy technical guys out there know, the world is made of numbers. Thinking about all the different ways to do damage in our current paradigm (dropping/shooting stuff of an airplane), there's a only a few real variables to work with. It can be broken down into two categories: how and how much? Thinking along these lines, I got:

1) One big piece or a few little pieces? (Distribution)
2) The rate at which damage is dealt? (Damage/sec)
3) Is the damage done where the player directs it? (Precision)
4) Is damage done for a near-miss? How far does it count? How much? (Splash Damage)
5) Is the player limited in how often they can use the weapon? (Recycle time)
6) How much damage is available to the player in one loadout?
7) How much damage is done in one use (press of the fire button)?

Alright, having that figured out a little better, it was time to crank out some numbers to get started. I decided to use Excel/OpenOffice Calc, because I never really bothered to familiarized myself with the concept of spreadsheets before.

The sum of all these numbers is FUN!!!1

But, that's not all. You also have to worry about how easy a weapon is to use. The Brimstone, a guided missile will be easier to use than say, the Angry Sparrow unguided rocket, so it makes sense that you carry less of them. The trick is to figure out the kind of arbitrary (unless you want to get into neuropsychology) "easiness" factor, which you almost always have to do in playtesting. Right now, I'm just trying to guesstimate that just to have something to throw in the code and get going.

From that table, you can see how different weapons have different rates of damage. While working I tried to add more damage when I though a weapon would be harder to use, etc. For example, the Heavy Gunpod (called the Mulciber, not sure why I didn't put that in there...) does not that much damage per second because it's supposed to be pretty straightforward. I didn't put in a field explaining it well, but the Mulciber is going to burst fire (Hence 3 units/use), and very accurate. The idea is that you'll swoop down and fire at a tank, firing a burst which destroys the target. The bullets should be close enough that all of them hit... should. Once again, playtesting might just blow a bunch of wholes in my neat chart, so we'll just have to see.

But all these weapons numbers are kind of out of context without thinking about what they are actually going to be used on. Sounds like another journal entry to me...


...don't think it'll be long for that city, either.

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Since last entry was a wall of text, here's a little something I threw together today. I call it the Command Garage, and it's part of a matching set that will be used to create enemy bases in a sort of RTS/Command and Conquer kind of vein...

From pencil sketch to MS Paint sketch to finished product, which I might further refine using Photoshop

Have a good night!

-Mark the Artist

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School's Out Forever

So. I had my last final exam Thursday, which had filled me with fear that led me to study super-hard, so I got a 96%. My other classes I think I did well in, but I won't know my grades for a week. When they come out, I'll probably get mad or excited and put up another semester post-mortem.

Other Non-Announcements
Sir Sapo has another week of school, so don't expect anything too intense in the next week from him. I do have a few Journal starts that I'll turn into full-length entries this week, and hopefully this summer we'll get a sick playable demo out. Before that, there might be a "meh" demo, too.

Since I've been at school too, neither of us worked very hard on the game, but we both have some ideas that should be relatively interesting. Nothing too revolutionary, but some cool visual and gameplay ideas- like darkening everything in a B-52 strike except the bomber, the enemies, and the explosions, which will create a dramatic effect. Another idea we want to implement soon is Angels 20-type SAMs... picture please?

Secretly though, what I look forward to the most is drawing the little doodads that fill out the level. You know, the mountain cabins, the streetlights, etc.

My Roommate Ex-roomate is a Jackass
My roommate... don't get me started. But okay. Here's what went down...
He basically didn't clean for shit, as we say. The floor of his room was visible only part of the year, and the mess eventually manifested itself in the main living area, which we share. This guy had garbage bags filled enough to become structures unto themselves. I have a picture of one freestanding in his room. This is especially crazy, since you have to walk by the dumpsters to get to class. They stayed there until someone else took them out, which is a small part of the following story:

So this last week was exam/finals week, and my lazy roommate has predictably put off writing a whole slew of papers until the last minute. Living on campus, we get forcefully kicked out the Saturday immediately following finals week if we haven't moved out, so time is of the essence. This kid, who is spoiled as hell, has his mom drive 6+ hours to help him clean and pack. This doesn't strike me as all that unusual, but the details are ridiculous. He basically sat at his computer, working on his papers he hadn't even started yet, while his mom cleaned his very messy room (think cheetos bags and condom wrappers) and packed his loads of useless crap. So, kind of a dick move, but everybody procrastinates, right?

Well, here's the kicker. While his mom stayed and cleaned (leaving her and my girlfriend alone in the apartment), he went to go see Iron Man. She was there for two and a half hours after he left, or until midnight, while he watched a movie. Oh, and he didn't get back until after 2 in the morning, so much for seeing it and running back.

Being lazy: I get it.
Procrastinating: I get it.
Getting your mom to help you move out: I get it.
Seeing Iron Man II: Not really a huge fan.

Having your mom do shit you should be doing while you dick around instead of working on multiple term papers? What the fuck, man?

So I helped her some, did my part of cleaning of the place and then some, and then posted a Facebook status describing what a horrible person he is, and tagged him in it. I added a comment that basically said "If you're reading this, you should be writing your paper or helping your mom clean," essentially crafting a perfect protection clause. He couldn't bring it up without addressing the fact he had been checking Facebook, and therefore admitting to the kind of crap I had accused him of. But, I know he read the status since he de-tagged himself from it... this pleases me very much.

I wish I had his address so I could send his mom a Mother's Day card; she was very nice.

New To-Do List: Like a Promise, but with Bullets

Summer To-Do List

-Make Journal entry about weapon dynamics/ balance
-Illustrated history of loading screens
-Make Journal entry on enemies
-Make Journal entry about effects ('Explodineering: A Helpful Photoshop Guide')

-Make Guess-the-Number game in Java
-Start learning something other than Java so I don't get stuck
-Add to and make definitive To-Do List
-Put Angels 22 demo in GDnet Showcase
-Put finishing touches on Partisan:Forlorn Hope, put in GDnet Showcase

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Finals week...

I have a longer journal entry brewing, but I won't have time to make it good (read: make piktars) for at least a week, since it's the end of the semester here.

In fact, I just got back from singing >this song in front of my Chinese class for my final...

Now all I have left to do is finish an "e-Portfolio" for my Geographical Information Systems class. And read 5 chapters and take 5 online quizzes. And then take the exam. Hurray!

Also, I have to give a few lessons learned from the Vietnam War for my Vietnam War class, in 5-7 pages (double spaced), which shouldn't be too bad. And then I have to complete my term paper for English, which will be time consuming but I should do alright considering my classmates are... less than inspiring.

So all in all, not too bad, but I'm not going to have time work on game stuff for a while.

Oh, and the Halo:Reach Beta comes out Monday. Pricks.

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Get your Game/Face on.

[Internet crashed as I was writing this last night...]
Hey guys, I have another video update for you to mull over. It has me- in real life!!!!1` And if you're anything like me, you'll feel vaguely uncomfortable!

I mean, I always think it's kind of a mindfuck to find out that someone you're familiar with online is actually a real person. Take journal land for example, who would have thought the Blag generating entity known as JohnHattan > would be so beardy in real life?

Anyway, for your viewing pleasure, here's the update: (Don't worry, has game footage for the last half)

>A2X Update II

Oh man, there's a reason why I don't make videos every week. It is a crazy-pain... results are pretty nice though, I think. Watching yourself on video is always kind of weird- I'm always tempted to do 16 takes, but then I realize I have a life. Anyway, gotta get to sleeps...

Thoughts, ideas, complaints?


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Spring Break Cometh, Homework Taketh Away...

Man, so midterm season is over and it's finally spring break... I'm excited but exhausted. Sir Sapo and I actually have spring breaks that align this year, so the plan is to get together something this week (our parents' houses are about an hour away from each other) and get some work done. Well, not so much work as overall project direction plus random cool features.

Meet the B-52>*
Sir Sapo got bored the other day, which is sometimes a good thing, since he does cool things that it usually takes him weeks to get around to implementing, like:


Repair trucks insidiously on their way to go fix something...

No more, thanks to unstoppably brutal American air power!

We're thinking the actual gameplay mechanic could work like this: You can call in airstrikes using a beacon/smoke flare you drop on the ground with the airplane. I'm thinking (haven't run it by Sapo yet)that the B-52 would get shot down unless you cleared the area of almost all the anti-air units, similar to the Bison in the original Red Alert.

Weapon Select Screen
Someday soon we plan to have some sort of interface going, so to that end I created a detailed mockup of one of the more immediate concerns, the weapons select screen. The nice thing I did was make everything is its own Photoshop layer, it's going to be trivial to make actual textures from it.

I dunno, I think it looks alright, but I've been struggling with the style. I really like the idea of it looking like what you would find on a real fighter jet, with the cool high-contrasty green display with basic wireframe symbology and whatnot, but from a utility standpoint I think it might be hard to see what are actually buttons, and what are pretty things. I'm hoping that once it gets implemented that Sir Sapo and I will be able to come up with enough effects to make it obvious which parts you are actually supposed to interact with.

Ah well, you can see for yourself. Let me know if anything is even vaguely confusing:

I suddenly decided that "Weapon Select" didn't look right. I couldn't tell you why "Select Weapon" sounds any better, in retrospect...

Coming soon...
One of the big things I'm hoping to get from Sir Sapo is the new version so I can make you guys a new video showing the new features, so look forward to that. Also: I found one of our webcams, so get yourself ready for some V'Journaling tomorrow when I inevitably get bored. Be prepared to be frightened and amazed to see the weird hair and boring non-foreign accent of the real Mark the Artist!

I also promise to offer significantly less beardage than >JohnHattan.

Aight, peace out!

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Get Your Tubes Ready

Aight guys, another boring-looking entry that links to something exciting! I made a much longer clip with all the promised features. Best 6 minutes of video 5 hours of editing I ever spent...

>A2X Update Uno

Once again, my voice messes with my own head. Had some trouble with FRAPS not getting along with Windows Movie Maker, but I managed to work around it.

As always, comments are Mandatory.*


*Since forever, that's when.

EDIT: This is a new entry, made it look less identical to the previous one...

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