I've been doing random small things for Hopedagger's Skirmish project, which has been pretty fun. It's top-down online shooter, tile-based, and hella fun, as the kids say. Check out the Skirmish website.
Why? Because it's good for you. Probably.
The majority of stuff I've been working on is weapons, as Skirmish's native artist, Draffurd, has already done enough terrain tiles, doodads, and player sprites for the game to look nearly complete. He's done a pretty damn good job, too, although it's hard not to nitpick when you get your hands on a complete tileset. I may contribute more of my expertise in getting Skirmish's art to super-levels, but it's hard to be critical and helpful at the same time. I'm trying not to be that guy.
Onto the arts!
As I said before, I've worked mostly on weapons, and here they are:
A standard weapon that shoots- you guessed it- bullets. I thought about making it bullpup (having the magazine after the pistol grip, like an SA80), but decided that at such a small resolution it might be confusing to the player ("Is it a laser gun? What does it shoot?") and save the bullpup design for another gun.
Shoots plasma. Plasma Rifle.
I like the glowy part in the barrel, it's one of my more clever application of pixels.
Modeled after the real-life Kriss Super V, the cool gun with a stupid, stupid name.
Can you tell which is which?
This was kind of hard, making two shotguns that both not only look like shotguns but are readily distinguishable. You wouldn't make the dash to a enemy thinking it was a Heavy only to find out you're shooting peanuts compared to what you expected.
I have a thing for sniper rifles, and I think it shows. I went to the bullpup design, um to get a longer barrel length in, you know, for higher accuracy. Plus it looks good- that too.
Launches puppies. Er- rockets. It's a rocket launcher. Cool.
For popping caps in asses.
The goal for all the weapons is that they be very distinct so you can identify them quickly, even if they are obscured by other objects. Halo is an example of this. Nearly every weapon is not only shaped completely differently from all the others, but they tend to be different colors. It's hard to confuse a battle rifle with an assault rifle or a plasma pistol with a magnum.
I'm sort of looking forward to starting on ammo clips, for some reason things like that make me happy- objects that seem kind of mundane but interesting because it's where as an artist you have to go above and beyond to make them stand out.
I've also been working on new character sprite animations, but it's kind of hard because it's one of those things that's easy to feature-creep.
I started with just redoing the player sprite itself, but then I started thinking about it and decided that every gun should have it's own top-down sprite instead of the Duke Nukem 3D-esque 'one shiny gun sprite fits all' style, which is pretty time-consuming given the walk cycles and possible reload animations that need to be done. Luckily, it's not as hard as it seems thanks to the layering system in place, as you can see in Figure Arbitrary Number:
Layers, the wave of the future.
It'll be worth it if I can find the time.
So, if you've kept up with Gaiiden's Journals, you would know that there is a Gamedev book series coming out compiled from articles on the site combined with a lot of original material. I'm actually a contributing author on the Content edition, I wrote a chapter each on beginning and advanced pixel art, which was pretty fun, in a work-all-day-worry-all-night kind of way. I basically spent the month and a half before school started working on it at least 6 hours a day, because writing is hard. Seriously.
Check it out on Amazon, and send me a message if you want a super-special signed copy for the modest price of $99.99:
Design and Content Creation: A GameDev.net Collection.
Unfortunately only the editors are credited, so I have to wait to get my copy before I can impress the lady-types. I'll just have to compensate by designing handmade dust jackets to better reflect the awesomeness within:
You know you want one...
The biggest challenge was keeping everything easy to understand while being informative. It's hard to know where people were starting from and cater to those who are hardcore beginners ("What's a 'J-P-G'?") while not alienating more advanced readers, since if they're anything like me, would skim the crap out of it. I also had the additional challenge of creating figures, since teaching art without pictures is like teaching someone sign language by booktape. It's not a good plan.
At any rate, I'm pretty sure that makes me an expert in my own special way. It's pretty much settled that I know a lot about pixel art at this point with all the research and thinking-out I did, which is a shame because I became kind of burnt out on it lately, partly because of it eating my summer but because of other RL shenanigans.
So... I'm going to college. It's alright. Well, academically it's really good, since I work in the dorms now (I "build community" by "connecting with residents," and probably some other lame crap we were spoon fed during our diverso-centric training) and am on a hella high scholarship, so I'm literally earning a profit by going to school. My job is pretty good despite the rather ridiculous over-thinking involved in the paperwork. I put on programs and befriend residents, who are mostly freshman. It's interesting to see the contrast between people who care about school and people who... suck. I do get my own room, which is nice, but it is sadly underutilized for entertaining because it's uphill from all my friends' living quarters on campus.
The biggest thing in my life this last semester was a long time coming- I've changed my major(s) and thereby solidified my desire to go into a completely different career field. At the Beginning of this semester I added on History as a Major to my existing choice of 3D Animation, but by the end I had ditched Animation after getting some firsthand experience with the Animation program here at NMSU.
While Animation was sort of fun, the classes themselves I didn't like since they revolved around long and involved projects. For example, my 3D Foundation's project was due the last day of finals, at 4 PM. After working at least 5 hours a day for a week and a half in the designated lab (which had Maya), I got done at 4:45 AM that morning- wait for it- and I was the first person done. When I return at 3:30 PM to turn it in formally, my teacher reminds me that I still had to do a Demo Reel, a compilation of all our projects, which any reasonable human being would have forgotten about, but nooo... It only took an extra 3 hours, so I was done with finals 7 PM on Friday, when most people had bugged out by Thursday morning.
It wasn't that it was incredibly difficult material, it was just poorly organized and the infrastructure, IE computer labs and servers, were overcrowded and had inferior equipment. In addition, there was the inevitable difficulty in getting a enjoyable job in game development with reasonable pay at the entry level. I really don't feel like doing very low-level artwork for years before I can get into a creative position.
There's also been another large possibility for me as a career path; something to do with "Defense". I've always been borderline obsessed with everything military- technology in particular. I never really considered being part of the military, I don't think they would appreciate my inherent rebelliousness and low tolerance for bullshit, plus I've been expressly forbidden by my Mom, since my brother is an active-duty Air Force Officer ("one's enough!"). In fact, after the childhood desire to "fly jets!" I didn't ever think about any job to do with the military, except perhaps teaching history, but that would less with than about.
During all my general grappling between possible future, Sir Sapo was accepted to the Air Force Academy, which provided the impetus to push me into making real decisions. After hearing about the quality of the average cadet there (which was quite sad), it was apparent that I was more of an expert on everything relating to Military technology, history and policy than I realized. Not through lack of trying, however, since I remain a voracious reader of classic anti-war literature as well as my other collection. At worst, I think it gives me more of a balanced view of what really goes into the application of national force- that military power isn't a get-out-of-crisis-free card, and that it has severe human consequences that can't be explained away merely as "collateral damage." Essentially, I want to have more of an impact on the world than pumping out sprite sheets and hopefully prevent incompetence that seems to plague the defense establishment. Be the change you wish to see is a common way of putting it, I think. Hopefully my idealism will last.
I could bore you with more philosophical crap, but here's a story to demonstrate some of the ridiculousness I have stored in my head by offering a humorous tidbit off the top of my head (mostly)...
Official western response: "Holy Shit!"
This is the MiG-25 was a sort of commie boogeyman in the late 60's and early 70's. It was a seen as a Mach 3 monster when western fighters were barely pushing Mach 2.5. It looked menacing and it's performance was undeniable. F-4's- the most bitchin' American fighter of the time- were unable to even get near a MiG-25 streaking over Israel at Mach 3.2 takin piktars. Western (IE, American designers) were used to having the obviously most advanced aircraft, and many a pant were shat in when intelligence started to come in about the MiG-25, codenamed "Foxbat." It had nice big inlets, perfect for highly efficient and very powerful turbofan engines, big control surfaces that would make it a rockin-awesome dogfighter, a huge radar, presumably loaded out with advanced electronics, giant missiles that could go farther than anything built west of Ukraine. And because the Soviet Union was flush with it, it was probably built out of light and very strong titanium. To top it off, production numbers, despite the obvious complexity, were still enormous. The commies were not only building better fighters, but they were cranking them out like they were goddamn washing machines.
You know what an F-15 could do? Shoot down a fucking satellite. In Space.
This fear led to the FX program of the Air Force, which with the assistance of the brilliant but eccentric John Boyd, led to the F-15 Eagle, the most ass-kicking fighter ever built (in a historical sense). The F-15 holds the highest kill ratio for any fighter design: Infinity. Over a hundred enemy aircraft have been shot down by F-15s, with not losses. In fact, the only thing to ever shoot down a fighter version of the F-15 (there are bomber versions) was another F-15, in a training accident. All the awesomeness came at a price, however, and the F-15 could never be afforded in the numbers of it's predecessors and had many problems simply because it pushed the technological limits. Problems with it's engines and radar took nearly a decade to really be sorted out and only a few select countries could plunk down the cash to buy them.
This is the intelligence equivalent of winning the Nobel, Superbowl, Oscar and Lottery while Natalie Portman decides she wants your body.
In 1976, however, Lieutenant Viktor Belenko of PVO Strany, or Soviet Air Defense Forces, crashed the party by flying his MiG-25 from Siberia to Japan, because contrary to what the Beatles taught you, things ain't so great Back In The... Soviet Union. The Ruskies insisted it be returned of course, and it was... in boxes. After being lovingly and thoroughly picked apart by the kindly fellows of the CIA, et al. a few important factors came to light. Titanium turned out to be steel, with holes punched in it to same weight, but not enough to prevent the MiG-25 from becoming, well, a very gravity-friendly aircraft. Sacrifices were made to structural integrity and the G-limit on the Foxbat is half of the F-15's- it can't turn worth shit, in other words. Those real nice engines turned out to be old-school gas-guzzling turbojets- Belenko came within 30 seconds of running out of fuel when he landed. But it was fast, right? Well, sort of. It could go Mach 3 all right, if you never wanted to use those engines again, and replace everything that melted on the airplane- like the pilot. Okay, not really the pilot, but it's still not a good idea.
And that's why I want to be a super-genius man when I grow up- or whatever I said.
Speaking of MiGs, Sir Sapo went back up the academy yesterday and is doing well, but he'll have to post his own journal entry if he wants his life laid bare on the world wide intertubes.
This last semester has been what I would classify as a almost near-failure in the social arena, as I have made a few friends, and they are almost all hot girls. But they are just friends... forever. JFF's, if you will. It's nice having friends to hang out with but frustrating meeting someone and then discovering that you have to bury your feelings yet again. It's pretty sad how good I'm getting at it, but hopefully I'm going to be harnessing all the girl-power at my disposal to give myself a reinvention of sorts. At the lowest level I'm going to start trying. Gah.
My major project over winter break was build me some models, plastic models, that is. I started out with the Tamiya Leopard 2:
The Leopard 2A6 is considered the world's best tank along with the LeClerc, Challenger 2, M1 Abrams and whatever crazy new thing the Russians slathered in Kontakt and call a tank.
It was a pretty fun model, but the turret baskets are what scale modelers like to call total bulls%#t. Much superglue and skin removed by aforementioned super glue went into making this guy complete. This was more finishing what I started rather than starting from scratch, but I needed to get it done so I could move onto other stuff guilt-free...
Can you guess which one is fictional? I'll give you a hint: it's the robot, stupid.
I've recently rekindled my love for the Gundam Anime, having bought some series that I didn't have and re-watching them. This guy is the new Master Grade Zaku II, and I removed all the armor to show all the fancy stuff inside, as you can see here:
All the armor can be removed to reveal internal detail, but I took off half because I'm lazy
These Gundam models are- not gonna lie- pretty damn nerdy, but that pretty much means they are extremely fun if you let yourself go there (and I do). They require way less paint than models of real stuff, plus they are half toy and you can pose them in hella sick ways:
If it were real, you would fit conveniently between those two fingers
This pose actually doesn't make sense, since the cockpit is in the body and there are spare optical sensors around th... you know what? Forget I said that. I'ma cool guy, really.
Okay, this is getting sad...
I might as well throw some of my school projects in here, although I'll have to wait until I get back and can offload from servers before I can upload some of the neat-o stuff to youtube, but here's as small still from my 3D animation project:
In this frame I was going for an underlying feeling of not failing my animation class.
The drawings below took forever to do and were part of Drawing 1, which sounds like a fun, laid back kind of introductory course but is indeed a lesson in learning to hate drawing, in detail. I learned to hate drawing sunflowers, drawing teapots, drawing fabric, drawing ceilings... it was not a very fun class. It produce some rockin' works of art though:
These seashells took approximately 8 hours to draw with a Sharpie and cost me several years of my life.
I now have an extreme aversion to black and white and gray things because of this drawing. Charcoal.
Okay, that's all I have for now. Hopefully I'll have time to give more Skirmish updates and get my other school projects up here because as much as I like to bitch about them, they turned out pretty alright. I'll probably be back in the morning to edit all the grievous spelling and grammatical errors I didn't see tonight. Have a good time in '09 and whatnot.