Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Breach of Contract

So I've gone a few days now without creative exercise. But that hasn't been due to laziness. We're moving interstate, and it's a logistical nightmare. Packing and cleaning: Urgh.

I'll have to make it up with extra effort for each day I miss.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Game Design Document

I put this together this morning. It was based on a number of example documents I found via google. I think a GDD can be overkill for a lot of stuff, especially for those ideas that haven't really gestated beyond a high level concept yet. But I also find that I don't record my ideas as diligently as I should, and a lot of stuff just gets forgotten or mashed up into something else over time.

This document has a fairly comprehensive list of topics, many of which won't be pertinent until an idea actually becomes a product, but still I thought it'd be good to have the template available so that when I do think "I should document this idea", I can fill in the parts I'm clear on and then drop the document into a work in progress folder to come back to later.

I could also just have a notepad and a pen, but where's the fun in that?

Here's a link if anyone thinks they might want to use it.

Game Design Document (Word 97 format)

Saturday, February 5, 2011

XNA Platformer Run Cycle

I got something of a run cycle working. It's pretty gumby. 2D animator I am not... plus I kind of cheated and duplicated the middle frame which makes him look like he's scissoring. The feet particularly don't maintain a believable shape very well. His back foot doesn't change in orientation at all except for the switch-over frame, which looks odd.

It's all a bit of a mess, but I still think it looks pretty cute in spite of.

It's certainly "good enough" to be moving on with other stuff for now. Like a jumping pose and a landing animation. Yay.

Edit: Actually I made a mistake putting the .GIF together, and the animation above is actually just looping the first 2 frames. So I put together a corrected version with all 4 frames and now I don't know which one looks better.

Turns out I don't enjoy animation all that much.

Friday, February 4, 2011

XNA Platformer Narrative #1

I've had a productive day, but I really don't have anything visual to show for it. I've spent the day* storyboarding my XNA platformer game, coming up with the beat script for narrative and gameplay beats, but it's not something I want to share just yet. Actually, it's probably not something I want to share at all, at least until the game is done.

I'm making the post anyway, for the sake of upholding that contract.

Back to work!

* Most of the day. The rest of it was spent alternately shooting the limbs off necromorphs and screaming and sobbing uncontrollably into a cushion. Dead Space 2, I am your bitch.

XNA Platformer Game

It has a name, but I'm not willing to share it yet. This isn't some baby name thing, where I think if I say the name out loud someone is going to suddenly give birth to a game next week that is called the same thing. I just don't know if the name fits yet.

Here's the promo: It's an old-school pixel art platformer adventure, in the style of Wonderboy 3: The Dragon's Trap. The game is set around a hub, from which you explore, kill monsters, find hidden treasure, buy upgraded weapons, and earn new powers which in turn unlock new areas or new rooms in old areas. The game design lingo would be 'microcosm adventure' I guess.

Here is the protagonist. Yes, he's a sexy, shirtless, beefcake pirate with green hair and a goatee. And a sword, for some reason. That's the Wonderboy influence. In fact, I don't think it'd be too much of a stretch to scream "PLAGIARISER!" at me and chase me out of town like the creative harridan I am. Can I call it an homage? That's what it's meant to be, though I'm not sure what the difference is.

So the basic story involves this guy, some bad guys, and some extra nasty bad guys. There's also probably going to be a lot of jumping.

There is an actual story, but at the moment it's more of a collection of ideas that need joining together, so I'll do that before I try telling it. Not that it really matters, these games were never about complicated narratives.

I took quite a long break from working on it when things got busy at work. Then when work finished, I was a bit burned out for a while. But then suddenly, one day out of the blue, I got a crazy attack of motivation so I went back to all of my code which just confused me, relearned it all, rewrote it all, and put together a level editor.

Here's a sample of the editor in action, very much work in progress:

Then... art. I have so much respect for good pixel artists. Even producing the most simple art requires masses of patience. I'm really enjoying it, and can spend hours in a day just clicking pixels, but it is slow and a few hours of work might only produce one or two sprites.

Now I'm working on a run cycle, and when that's done I can post some video of stuff in (very basic) action. As it turns out though, run cycles and pixel art combine to form one huge bitch of a pain in the ass.

Back to clicking pixels.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Illustration Dump

This isn't really an illustration dump, but more of a rendering dump. I spent a couple of hours experimenting with digital painting tools, and true to my word, here are the results.

Pixel Art Dump

As a first post, it's not very exciting. It's just a dump of some old pixel art experiments that were over on my first attempt to start a blog I regularly posted to. Pixel art is art which is produced dot-by-dot. Stylistically it's representative of old-school video games, with limited colour palettes and chunky line work. It's usually produced without the assistance of advanced tools.

These experiments are related to an independant game I've been working on. I spent the last year and a half teaching myself how to program. I've always wanted to make a retro video game. It's a massive amount of work though, and I'm only now started to get into art in a more meaningful way.

My initial instinct is to apologise and make excuses for this stuff, but that's not what this is about. So... dump incoming.

The Contract

I'm 32 and I want to do everything. That's my intro, and my problem.

Professionally, I am a lighting artist. To clarify, that's virtual. I don't deal with stage lights and gobos, and I don't carry a roll of gaffer tape (though I do imagine if I did I would find plenty of opportunities to use it). My skills have been utilised in television, feature film, and video games. Most recently I was in a lead artist position, which included a lot of art directing, and was something which I enjoyed immensely. And was grossly underqualified for.

I don't think I lack in creative vision. But I do severely lack in an ability to adequately explore and communicate my creative vision. And that has never been so painfully obvious as it was when I was forced to explain visual concepts verbally, or communicate an idea with naive and clumsy whiteboard drawings.

I spent some time sitting beside one of the most talented artists I've ever met. His name is Jeremy Love. Not this Jeremy Love (though he looks very talented also), but this one. This guy is made of awesome. He'd hate me if he knew I was praising him on the internet, but it was hard to sit beside him because I constantly found myself staring at his work in awe, which only made him uncomfortable because it's creepy, and left me feeling slightly embarrassed about whatever I was currently working on.

I imagine it'd be like playing golf with Tiger Woods, or fighting an invading alien species with Sigourney Weaver. It's impossible to measure up.

I had the pleasure of working with him directly on a project, and one particular moment stands out to me: I had this image in my mind, this idea that was so powerful to me it was burning my brain, and I became insanely frustrated with my inability to illustrate that vision. I needed to share it. Jeremy, in addition to being insanely talented artistically, apparently has telepathic voodoo powers, because he said "I think I know what you mean" and then rendered the thing in my head so effortlessly, and with so much clarity, I kind of wanted to hug him and stab him at the same time.

At that moment, the desire to have just an ounce of his tonnes of talent was overwhelming. I rushed home that day, and spent the whole night sketching.

The next day I was tired, a little cramped, and overwhelmingly embarrassed by the garbage I'd wasted hours of my life on. What was that? A hand? A helicopter? Oh nevermind, I think my pen just took a shit on the page.

Okay, so skill takes time and effort. Surprise! But I'm an instant gratification kind of guy. I guess I ended up specialising in lighting because for some reason, it resonated. I was good at it from the start, and quickly saw improvement in my work, so was motivated to continue. With illustration it's a much tougher fight for me. I need a way to force myself to muscle through the disappointing lack of talent, which brings me to the point of this post and in many ways, this blog.

Booniverse is my contract. It began with a New Year's resolution (one I actually want to keep), and is going to facilitate that by giving me a forum in which to... dump, I guess. As I inferred in the first paragraph, I want to do everything; illustration is just one of the things I need to learn. Game programming is another, into which I've made many inroads, but I'll save that for another post. Then there's a short film. Some more lighting work. Photography. Creative writing. Like I said, everything.

But without a forum to put stuff out there, and without signing that contract with myself to stop procrastinating and start doing, then I fear I'd be 50 and still moaning about what I never bothered to do. So here it is:

I, Boon Cotter, do solemnly swear to maintain my commitment with myself to daily pursue creative endeavors, regardless of my mood or disposition, ignoring lulls in motivation and inspiration, always recognising that this is a process of learning and growing and that failure is just successfully identifying an area in need of improvement.

Round two, begin.