Meet the Team, Part 1

Hey, it's been almost a year guys!  No one reads this, but for me it's like a journal, so whatever.

I'll be posting pics of Team Triple Toss, which is going strong (and level 5-6!).  I'd like to journal the journey as it goes, and I've been keeping a journal of the adventure, but alas, time is not a kind mistress.  But, here is a picture of one of the team members!

 

Meet Toggaf, the brains of the operation, elf mage who constantly makes my job as DM incredibly hard.

 

I'll post the other characters throughout the week.

Team Triple Toss

I've been DM'ing a Swords & Wizardry Game on Roll20.   My players have finally come up with their adventuring party's name.  Their name was inspired by their first few sessions, when I was not fully-understanding the rulesof missile weapons, and the party was very, very effective (too effective) at throwing 3 darts per round.

Presenting, Team Triple Toss.


When someone suggested the name, the image above was evoked immediately.  I just now had the patience to draw it out.

 

Metroid Metal Muppets

Chances are you know at least two of the words in the title.  If you are what I would call a "cool dude," you know all three.

I was just at Magfest, a huge celebration of geekery, gaming and music.  Between getting my face melted off, some of the Metroid Metal forum members got together for a Secret Santa gift exchange.  For my match, I decided to get more creative.  

I created the above poster and printed it at 16x20.  It depicts the Metroid Metal band members as muppets.  I had the idea for months ahead of time, but the impending gift exchange inspired me to finish it.  It took 15-20 hours in photoshop.  The more I worked on it, the more I learned just how much in common attendees of Magfest and similar events have with the Muppets.  We're all a little weird, we're all a band of misfits.

It was a great success as a gift and as a creative excercise.  He was able to get it signed by the band and everyone loved it!

If you do not know about Metroid Metal, you are wasting time by not clicking this link.  The whole VGM scene is amazing and I was happy to celebrate being a geek with some of the coolest geeks I know.

Horace Digital Painting

I may officially have a problem.  I love drawing Horace Gentry.  He's just so fun to draw, and he's a character I have some attachment to, since I play in a regular D&D session as him.  This piece in particular I busted out right before bed, thinking I was going to do a quick sketch.

Well, I went a little further, and did this piece in about 2 hours with Photoshop and my Wacom tablet.  When I've been running on the treadmill I'll do some painting in my head sometimes.  Imagine new ways to show hair highlights, blend skin tones, etc.  So, I was dying to do another Horace piece in a new style.  It's obviously way more detailed than I usually do.  I was pleasantly surprised at how it turned out.

One day I'd love to write up my digital painting process.  Of course, I know I'm not nearly as good as most people that I'm drawing my inspiration from, but I'd love to know how my process stacks up to other profressional digital painters.

Watercolor Horace

I have been a strictly digital artist for years now.  All I need is photoshop and a Wacom tablet, right?  It's served me quite well all these years, but there's just something so wonderful about just putting marks on real physical paper. 

I've been itching to get back into drawing and sketching, and what better way to do it than with a nice pencil, in a nice sketchbook on a nice comfy couch?

This past weekend I bought a nice mechanical pencil, erasers, brush marker and watercolor set.  one of my favorite subjects has been my Swords and Wizardry (a D&D clone) character, Horace.  Now a level 2 (by accident!) Cleric, I tried to capture him here:

I have to say I'm quite pleased with how it turned out.   I think watercolors quite suit my cartooning style.  It was fun and liberating to add layers of color for shading, etc.  I plan to do many more watercolor pieces, considering how fun this one was to do!

VG All-Star 001 and 002

EDIT: I fixed Proto Man's helmet because I was an idiot earlier and didn't look at a reference.He's not a palette swap of Mega Man's sprite.  Mega Man's sprite is a palette swap of him.

The character above is the very meloncholy, often misunderstood Proto Man.  Kid of fitting for the first character in this series, since he was the first robot that Dr. Light built, and the "proto"-type against which his other creations were based.</nerd>

Something I'm going to try from now to the end of the year is draw 100 video game characters.  I'm trying to practice my speed sketching and games from the 8-16 bit era have a huge well of inspiration to draw from.  I'll keep each drawing to less than 30 minutes. 

 

How does she keep all that hair in her helmet?

And VG All-Star #002 is Samus Aran.  Back in 1988, playing Metroid for the first time, I remember the playground rumors (the playground is what we had before the Internet for sharing cheat codes and passwords) of a "JUSTIN BAILEY" code and that the "dude" from Samus was, in fact, a girl.  Fear of cootie-transferrence aside, Samus is still one of the badest-ass characters in Gaming history.

Strago Magus

In a rare turn of events, I'm doing an art post two days in a row; and not only that, it's another piece of Fan Art!  I don't know why I resisted fan art for so many years.  It's a lot of fun to draw when the character is already designed for you.

This is Strago Magus, who is my favorite character in my favorite Final Fantasy game.  Final Fantasy VI had the best character designs, in my opinion.  It represents the last of Amano's great Final Fantasy work, before part VII and Nomura ushered in an era of belts and spiky hair.  Puffy pants, curly-toed shoes, ornate capes and the all-important muscle shirt complete Strago's look. He looks spry for a blue mage of 70 years of age.

I also attempted a faux-watercolor look in photoshop, which was a lot of fun to do.  I hope to do more Final Fantasy VI art using this style in the future!

The Duel

I drew some arts.  I will color it and add a background at some point.  I was inspired to draw a duel between Harry Potter and Voldemort.

The last of the Harry Potter movies comes out this week.  I'm a huge fan of the books, and the last few movies have been extremely good.  It'll be sad to see the saga come to a close, but I hope this really is it.  I don't want to see "Hogwarts High", a teen drama about magically inclined teenagers dealing with the most mysterious magic of all: Love.  Seriously, no.

Goodnight, sweet prince.

The Enemy's Gate is Down

The above "fan art" depicts a very iconic scene from the book Ender's Game. Six hours in photoshop.  Once Again I leave backgrounds for hte last, and it shows.  But I always imagined this room/scene being very very sparse - just Ender, a holographic console and a terminal.

I'm a huge fan of the book Ender's Game. I didn't read it until I was 25, and i was immediately drawn into the visceral action, the intrigue and suspense that culminates in the twist toward the end of the book.  If you like sci-fi and are even moderately interested in reading Ender's Game, go read it now.  If you don't care about Sci Fi, just quit reading this post since I'm going to nerd out for the rest of it.

I just finished Children of the Mind, which is the latest book, chronoligically, taking place 3,000 years after the original book.  What's interesting is it took me 5 years to get into the mindset to enjoy the original sequels to Ender's Game, which, starting with Speaker for the Dead, take a decidedly philosophical turn; a definite contrast to the action and intrigue of Ender's Game.

For the past six months I've been listening to the entire series via Audible.  It made trips to the gym, doing dishes and folding laundry that much more enjoyable.  The Ender books are the best produced audio books I've ever listened to, and I really recommend them.  It's the next best thing to a movie, with different characters voiced by different narrators (really "actors" is the better term) at times.

In addition to the original four Ender books released from 1985-1996, there are five full novels in the Enderverse released in the last 10 years.  The took place between the original Ender's game and Speaker for the Dead.  I had the ability to read them all in chronological order, so I did.  Consult wikipedia if you want to do the same.

The last chronological book (the one I just recently finished), Children of the Mind, was a very good read/listen.  The plot took a very interesting turn and presents -- and attempts to answer -- interesting questions, such as whether Artificial Intelligence is life, what it is to have a "soul", what happens when you die, etc.  That's quite a philosophical arc, going from a little boy in a battle school to a story about the very nature of the universe.

The author, Orson Scott Card, has political views that I vehemently disagree with, and he tends to get a little preachy in his storytelling, but I did genuinely enjoy them for their imagination and the very thoroughly realized characters.  And for getting through the sluggish parts (some of them tend to drag on with pages and pages of dialog), listening is the way to go.

I'm not sure, but I think seeing the story unfold this way (chronoligical rather than the order in which they were written) made it much more enjoyable, and I hope this will especially be true when Card releases the book that ties the Shadow Series and the Ender series together and ties the loose threads.

When I finished up Children of the Mind this past weekend, I got inspired to create the art you see above.

Same Great Taste, More Pixels!

I have mentioned on this site that I've been working on an art/game project.  Well, it is nearing release and i figured I could post about it.

A programmer who had developed a sprite based library for Mac approached me in 2001 (that's 10 years ago!!) to do some art for at-the-time-untitled game project.In 2005, it was finally released and called Midnight Mansion, and it receieved very good success in the Mac shareware market.

In 2010, Midnight Mansion 2 was released, which largely used the same assets but added some new elements and enemies.  But, by 2010, Midnight Mansion, which is already an "old school" game was really showing its age.

Vern, the programmer for Midnight Mansion, was porting his engine to Intel and taking advantage of OpenGL for graphics acceleration.  This, among other things, let him more easily embrace much higher resolutions than the 640x480 that Midnight Mansion and Midnight Mansion 2 run at.

What starte dout as a 4-6 week endeavor has taken almost 6 months.  I have re-drawn 90% of the graphics and sprites from scratch, and the result of comparing the old screenshot side-by-side to its new counterpart is astounding.

click me to see the original MM art (left) compared to the new MM art (right)

I sort of cringe to look at the old artwork, and frankly that's my motivation for kicking all kinds of butt with the updated version.  Not only am I increasing detail, contrast and vibrancy of the sprites and tiles, Vern has added some dynamic shadows and glows that really bring the game up to modern standards.

Check out the below images to compare some screenshots side by side.  On the left is the original Midnight Mansion screenshot, and on the right is a screenshot from the new Midnight Mansion.  Click to view the large version!

 

 

 

 

This new project will be released under the name "Midnight Mansion HD" in two parts sometime in the new couple of months, I'd imagine.  It'll be released at a price that will be impossible to turn down on the Mac App store, and then eventually to iPad, iPhone and Windows.  For more information, stick to this blog or head to http://www.actionsoft.com.  I'm excited to see some new life breathed into the world of Midnight Mansion!

 

Video of Me Drawing Stuff

I've been working with one-man-game-company ActionSoft ever since it was founded in 2001. The first game ActionSoft released, a Mac game named Midnight Mansion, is near and dear to my heart, and I've become close to the programmer and founder, Vern, even though we've physically never met.

Midnight Mansion was originally released in 2005, and since development started in 2001 (we were both in college so development and art happened in between semesters for the most part), the game was slightly dated when it was first released. Low resolution by today's standards, and the art in the original MM makes me cringe when I see it.

I was thrilled when Vern approached me to help do a makeover for the original Midnight Mansion. He has been busy porting the original code so that it will work on Windows and Macs, and it takes advantage of modern day video cards so that it can dynamically scale up to multiple montior resolutions. As a side effect, all of that old low-res art needed to be recreated so that the new game could take advantage of all the new real estate.

I have taken advantage of this in the last few months by recreating new art and bringing it up to my personal standard. I am definitely not as good as some of the pros, but I think I have absolutely improved in the last 10 years.

Using a screen recording program and wrestling with iMovie (I know very little about digital movies), I created a recording of the creation process. The original footage is 2.5 hours long, so I sped it up by a factor of 50, to just over 3 minutes.
I always enjoy watching other people's process in painting and drawing with photoshop, and I hope you check them out! The Midnight Mansion re-release is due out this Spring!

And here is a direct link to the video on YouTube.

Skeleton Fight

I've been in a cartooning sort of mood lately, and in between projects for other people I drew this little cartoonish sketch depicting Gilliam and Horace fighting a horde of undead skeletons. Of course, if you read my blog with any regularity (and really, why wouldn't you be?), you'll be familiar with these characters.

Click to view a larger version

I had a blast drawing it.  I loved trying to give personality to the skeletons.  I didn't fret over every single line, I just wanted to make it dynamic and fun.  I might go back and fill in the rest, color it and add some more elements.  But for now I'm content with it being a fun little black and white sketch.  Total drawing time is about 3 hours over a few days.

Swords and Wizardry

The week of Christmas we hosted my brother Andy, sister-in-law Dawn, sister Melanie and nephew Dylan. We are a family that loves games, and Andy and I are usually very competitive. I always have a blast, even though I might think it's a little unfair when Andy gets a simple 50/50 question for a pie piece in Trivial Pursuit. One thing Andy did last year in Sedona was be a Dungeon Master for myself and Dylan. We played a game similar to Dungeons and Dragons called Swords and Wizardry.

If you've never played a tabletop RPG, it's very difficult to explain. Basically, Andy created the worlds, and Dylan and I played adventurers and faced peril, monsters, traps, puzzles, and some awesome rewards. The character I created in '09 was a young, charming (rolled a 16 for Charisma) and mysterious Cleric named Orzain "Oz" Thistlecrown. He fought bravely alongside Dylan's fighter Gilliam and won against the evil Frog Cleric and help the mayor of Andronia, and even convinced the head of a local gang of thieves to fight alongside them (for the right price, of course). The bloody battle deep in the dungeon ended with everyone dead except an unconscious Gilliam and, of course, Oz.

This year, we reprised our roles and crept deeper into the dungeon, this time unraveling another mystery and finally finding a new enemy: Kaddo the Wizard. Unfortunately, Oz died on the first day of adventuring. Perhaps drunk from his previous success, or just a lapse in judgement, he reached into a sack of gold only to find out that the sack was not a sack but a "Bag of Teeth", which clamped onto his arm and ended up killing him. Gilliam, dejected, carried Oz back to Andronia for a burial. Trying to drown his sorrows in a pint of Andronia's finest ale, he ran into another stranger in town. Not nearly as charming as Oz, but quite a bit stronger, older and wiser (and maybe a bit crazy), this new stranger, Horace Gentry, offered to take Oz's place for a share of the gold and riches that were sure to be deep in the dungeon.

Gilliam really didn't have much choice.

Horace did indeed prove useful, a couple of times doing a "Turn Undead" to send ghouls and skeletons fleeing from their sight, and more than once bringing his new "Bone Doom" mace down upon the head of an undead creature. A young hireling, Ordalack was hired to bear a torch, but in a miraculous turn of events saved the whole party by managing to throw a dagger to finish of a ghoul that had already paralyzed and disabled the rest of the party. After this event, Ordalack was made a permanent member of the group and a new name for this adventuring troupe was created: "Sword and Scepter".

The party faced ghouls, hideous labs, a "hyenawere", a giant 10 foot centipede, a flock of ravenous birds, poison gas traps and finally a set of water filled rooms so heinous that they almost had the party killed before they finally met up with Kaddo the evil wizard. After fighting through his horde of Skeletons, they were able to withstand the Wizard's power and kill him, losing several party members in the process. In the end, Horace, Gilliam (now level 2) and Ordalack survived the dungeon and returned to Andronia victorous and eager for more adventure.

Son of a Brain

 

Samus Aran fighting the mysterious Mother Brain.Taking a break from the usual photography on my blog, here is a digital painting I've been working on for the past week or so. I really like how it turned out, very close to what I imagined in my head. Of course I know I have a lot of things I could have improved on, and there are lots of things I could have done if I took more time on it. But, at about 16 hours of work, I was just about tired of this piece by the time I called it finished.

This is another Fan Art for Metroid. I did another hi-res interpretation of Samus Aran a couple of years ago, and this is my attempt at a more complicated scene featuring the sci-fi bounty-huntress battling Mother Brain.

This is the climactic battle of the NES game, Metroid. It's fun trying to interpret 8-bit art, since there is usually so much left to the imagination. This is the best screenshot I could find that closely matches the battle I depict above:

There are things I'm always trying to improve on with digital painting, I know I'm an novice. Obviousy, I take a cartoony style and apply semi-realistic lighting to it, but I still struggle with finding a nice balance between cartoony and realistic, especially when it comes to the lighting. Either my line art falls flat or my coloring and shading doesn't read as three dimensional.

However, I think I am getting better at minimizing my brushstrokes and I am very pleased with how Samus and Mother Brain turned out, as seen in these 100% detail cutouts:

Crow

I think crows are neat.  My mom's family's crest has three crows, and her maiden name is even derived from the latin for Crow.  I still want to take a picture of one, and you think that would be easy, I just haven't seen one when I was out shooting.

I also like video games, and I am helping one of my friends finish up a game he is working on, and this is one of the screens I painted for him tonight.  I kinda like it, so I'm posting it here.  it has a crow in it.

Screen from Midnight Mansion 2, of a crow perched on a tombstone.