Dev Talk Archives

Post PAX12!

We survived!  The SMC panel was dynamite.  Over 200 PAXers got their MOBA worlds rocked, the Enforcer who ran sound for us said it was one of the best panels he’d ever seen, and everyone left excited to check out the game in the PC LAN Area.

The main attraction was of course designing a champ with the audience’s input.  It was what you expect, more or less an abomination, but also very fun and the result will look great in game.  We’ll be posting video of the whole shindig soon.

In the meantime here’s an ad I put together for marketing using one of the slides from the presentation before we left…

SmashMuck Champions - Moba Ad

More Accessible!

I want to talk about this at length when SMC and me drawing live on stage at PAX isn’t crushing me.  But it boils down like this:

Long version; I think this game needs to be more accessible so it should be cuter than what we first imagined.

Short version; mo’ money dis way?

Let me just post some old pics and brief notes…

 

The College Project:

Some friends were kicking this around as a tabletop RPG and asked for some doodles for their presentation to their class.  Pretty straight forward stuff, dark tribal was something we thought was pretty different and mutating into these different animals reflecting your skills was a neat premise.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The DS Pitch:

Ben wanted to repackaged the concepts in the tabletop into a hack and slash DS title.  I had a mockup on a photo of a DS at one point with a character walking around some huts and the second screen had skill selection or stats or something but I can’t find it anymore.  We really liked the samurai jack look for everything and I thought the dot eyes were a nice angle on the faces.  I also started kicking around the icons and was pretty pleased with the set I had at the time, but looking back some of them were pretty ghetto, mostly the caster circle ones.  The raven here worked out well but the snake and goat were awful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Flash Game:

Work was pissing a few of us off for a while and we talked at length about respinning this back up as a flash game more in line with the original tabletop project.  Division of labor was fuzzy and we were all basically trying to do more of what we’d done for 8hrs earlier in the day and nobody could make themselves turn the crank on that.  I wanted to go way dark, darker than Temple of Doom, but it was more of a backlash from doing kid stuff all day.  The team talked me down from super gorey to basically where the college project had been.  This time I doodled more of the human stage characters and did some UI I really liked as well as the rpg town and shopkeeper illustrations.  I looked a lot at sumi ink splatters and those foggy japanese ink landscapes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Retro:

I started off thinking we’d go post-modern pixel art here.  Looked a lot at the Super Bros. stuff and eventually decided that wasn’t highly accessible.  It was interesting to me but the sumi ink blocks pixelated and then shaped into characters wasn’t FUN.  At the same time I was looking at Spry Fox’s Bunni game and Triple Town and compared the switch from Steambirds radar map plates and unit markers to Triple Town’s cute and funny bears to my reimagining between the college project to DS pitch switch.  The switch made sense to me but I didn’t think it went as far down that cute road as it should have…  The pixel art is just way refreshing compared to the 3d stuff I do all day so its much easier to be excited to do a few frames in the evening.  Some explorations of the pixel eyes down there at the end.

I am having TONS of fun drawing these guys and am really excited to get playable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keep it ‘K’ute…

Or why COOL and KID-FRIENDLY aren’t always easy to bring together…

I want to look at something that plagues me every day at my job.  Its the crux of every design problem we tackle and is almost always the difference between what we produce being lame or fun.  The question is;  How do we make cute kid-friendly stuff without sacrificing on radical zazz?!

Background (read this to the party before the adventure begins):  I work at a video games company, Kiz Studios.  We make games for kids roughly ages 8-14.  That’s a WIDE demographic when you start thinking about what kids are into at either end of that spectrum.  Considering a game like SMASHMUCK CHAMPIONS you can see how that’s especially challenging.  There has to be at least one champ to appeal to every potential user within that spread.  As fast as kids are growing and their interests are changing that’s a lot of ground to cover.

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About Smashmuck:

I know I’ve been posting snippets from time to time about this thing.  We’ve been cranking stuff out at ludicrious speed for not quite 6 months and there is already plenty to show off.  And I’m responsible for posting most of the other sneak peeks on the Facebook page that you all need to go like if you want in on the Beta news that is rapidly approaching!

Here’s the totally-officious description:

SmashMuck Champions is a free-to-play arena combat game that combines intense action, player skill and strategy. Players build their own SmashMuck teams, training and customizing some of the toughest muck monsters, robots and creatures on Planet Muck. Then they send their Champions into battle, joining up to ten players in one of four action-packed game types. Combat is fast-paced and easy to learn, with tons of unique skills, weapons and attacks that you can master on your way to becoming the next SmashMuck Champion.

If you want to comment on the video or subscribe to the Smashmuck Champions channel I encourage you to jump over to YouTube and do so!

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Back on topic!

There are a few basic Kid-friendly tenants we have to abide by when makin’ the arts:

  • No Guts, No Gore: Pretty straight forward. 
  • No Blood:  E for Everyone actually permits animated blood, but we didn’t want to go this far down the violence rabbit hole.
  • No Scary:  This one gets tricky, but there is a line; lookin’ at you fleshy-robot-doom monster.
  • No Adults: Its a world of only kids and monsters and fun stuff.
  • Cartoon Violence Only:  You clobber somebody with a mallet stars WILL swirl around their head. 

When I got really involved and stopped pushing the envelope and tryed to just unwrap it and build a paper airplane to fly away on (I was trying to put a pipe-smoking monkey that talked like Harvey Firestein in the world out of boredom) we settled on a few more guidelines:

  • MORE ZAZZ:  My basic rule for art, period.  (apparently comma, then period.)  No kids in blue jeans please, give her a jetpack, etc.
  • No Guns:  I broke this rule eventually (but only because another rule let me), but all of my original weapons designs were hodge-podged appliances and goofy stuff.  Fun, cool, deadly enough to take down the monster and robots you’d encounter; which brings us to
  • No Kid v Kid Violence:  Obviously something to avoid.
  • Monster and Robots have no Souls:  Even the ones with personalities; so take out that aggression kid.  Here’s a baseball bat.  This is when I gave Blitz a gun, because he could shoot monsters and robots with it.

The bullet points make sense, and most every wrinkle can be ironed out if you extrapolate them.  But what does it mean for Smashmuck?  These won’t outright solve the problem.  There is a difference between cute pokemon that nobody likes and AWESOME pokemon that still manage to be cute, amiright?

Well if you’re familiar with the Muck Critters from Planet Muck previously they’d only been seen as mischief makers and the lowliest footsoldiers of our sinister villain.  They’re certainly cute and have all the cartoon ‘gumby’ properties (being made of sticky mud) you want to let them do just about anything; but, they’re completely devoid of individuality.  That’s just not interesting enough in a MOBA setting like Smashmuck.  There is also the ESSENTIAL need to make every Champ cool enough a user will want to play with them, their unique skills, powers and playstyle.  A good self check is, “Would this make a sweet action figure?”

So put one on top of a slobbering death-muck-chicken and give him a minigun.  Solved?

 Smashmuck Champions Promo Art - Blitz

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Off the top of my head Blitz has the only traditional gun in the universe.  I really wanted to avoid pointing something and pulling a trigger; so everything prior has been a crank or a switch or a toaster…  You get the idea.  Its just a horribly violent connotation.  But, the perspective of the Smashmuck camera (yes, the position of the camera makes a huge difference… think about it, you aren’t really aiming anymore when you’re looking down from above) and the fact he is a monster battling other monsters and robots in a crazy American Gladiators sport makes this ok.

There are some pretty intimidating Champs lurking in the background in this one.  And I find that is really the sweet spot for “scary” stuff.  If the lights were all on, we’d laugh at these guys.  But under or backlight them, let them loom up out of the shadows and they should be rather intimidating.   Scuttlemuck is a pretty good example of this.  Up close his snarling shark face could be pretty spooky but from a distance the pear-shaped body reads as pretty nonthreatening.  The most monstrous champs tend to get the least threatening body shapes.  Here’s another example:

Smashmuck Champions Promo Art - Brutus and Scathe 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scathe, the Muck Dragon, sticks to the script.  I also went without arms, it gives him a sort of helplessness that he can’t pick stuff up easily.  Keeping him looking a bit like an old man is also sort of disarming (puns?!) or extra creepy depending on how you feel about old people.  Use your ‘magination and picture a Skyrim dragon (timely!)  and then Pete’s Dragon (disney!).  Scathe is definitely in between the two on the Rock N’ Roll <-> Dangerously Tame scale.  I think that’s essential for the longevity of the character’s appeal as a player moves through the agerange of the demo.

Brutus, the gladiator, is the most classic looking warrior character.  V-shaped torso, helmet that mostly covers his face for that edgy cool, tall boots…  But the sword isn’t sharp.  Its just a square stick of metal.  I figure nobody has the balls to tell him he’s doing it wrong (pre-pubesence jokes?), and he really makes up for it with enthusiasum regardless. Brutus also just skirts the bottom line of having enough “stuff” to be interesting. To keep that cartoony vibe you have to exercise a lot of restraint and not overwhelm a character. Gears of War armor would not fly, it wouldn’t matter if Micky Mouse was underneath all that.  The Rumblebots we see getting served here focus on the sporty undercurrent of the carnage.

I don’t know a better way to discuss this than with some light analysis/commentary on a couple of these illustrations and concepts but its one of the trickiest design issues I’ve run into.  Its a fine line with lots of pitfalls, but where exactly that line is really boils down to the world/universe you’re working in and what rules apply there, the same as with ANY concept you may be tackling.  There are days I absolutely miss drawings guns, dinosaurs, cowboys, sorcereress chicks, etc. and balancing a successful and zazzed up concept with kid-friendly boundaries takes some getting used to.  A point for point or step by step guide would be a small tome of information.  I do get asked for that sort of thing, along with “how can I learn how to draw good” a lot.  A LOT. 

I hope you all enjoyed a little peek behind the Smashmuck curtain. Stay tuned for more insights and cool stuff. Keep Smashing!

-AW

 

Tons of value…

SMASHMUCK CHAMPIONS - DESTROYER FEATURE

WHOA! I am so pumped about these Destroyer characters! Doodled them up over a couple days at the office and am lucky enough to get to show them off almost immediately.

I won’t bother reposting the official description of the gametype here, its on the SMASHMUCK CHAMPIONS - COLOSSUS BREAKDOWN

To start I just sketch out the character as quickly as possible. I work light and then increase the pressure I apply to the pen as I tighten everything up. You can also see I lightly shaded in some darks to clarify the forms and round the figure. This is also the stage I’ll lasso off different segments of the character and play with the proportions. Originally the head was about twice the size it is here and the arms were very stubby. You can imagine what a difference that would make…

Some artists would go for a super super clean mechanical pen kind of finish at this stage before proceeding to flats (just flat color basecoat). I’m way too messy for that, I’ve never enjoyed that process. The mechanical illustration step is very time consuming and doesn’t really give anyone any information they didn’t already have… at least in my opinion .

Next I lay in a quick hard edge base basecoat at 100% opacity. Sometimes I’ll grab this and make it a mask for the next layer(s). The stone color is very warm here, but I know the character will be in a warm environment (ergo the brown background as well). Never ever concept on a white background if you’re going to do colors. The whole piece will end up washed out and considerably less valuable to the texture artists down the pipe who would just as soon color pick from it.

After that I have a layer or two set to Overlay mode that block in my colors. Often I just do this on the same layer as the rest of the basecoat at 100% opacity. But I was feeling super picky about the blues so I wanted to be able to easily tweak the temperature on these elements.

Last basecoat layer here, where I just sketch in some basic highlights on the stone.

Finally I fire up the “Over Paint” layer which is almost always the top layer in a painting unless there is some glow. Here I just paint over EVERYTHING else I’ve done up to this point cleaning up with the paintbrush instead of the eraser. This is a huge time saver. I never flip the tablet pen, it takes too long. Its much faster to eyerop the background and just paint along the edge to remove stray pencil lines.

If there is any glow like in the pic with both characters I’ll add another layer set to Color Dodge mode. Pick a big soft brush (with some texture to taste) and throw the opacity way down to like 15% and just dust it in.

The end!

For simple concepts I usually only have about 3 layers. Sketch, UP (under paint), and OP (overpaint). If I need multiples in any place it’ll look something like: Sketch, Sketch2, UP1, UP2, OP1, OP2, OP3, OPglow. That kind of thing. I find it much easier to navigate, I don’t waste time trying to be super organized because the layer count is so low.

Feel free to ask questions if you have em, I’d be happy to answer!

-AW

No lockouts here…

Get pumped.  The zaniest sports game you’ve ever played is on the horizon.

Hands down this is the wackiest, extremist, brawliest, funziest project we’ve ever concocted in our sinister laboratories!

Check it out:

 SMASHMUCK CHAMPIONS

If you can get behind wacky gladiatorial combat in a fast paced, free to play competitive environment, this game is for you!  That’s right, FREE TO PLAY.  You get all this madness for free.  You can just roll in it!  For free!  What, you ask, do you get?

Z-314 SMASHMUCK CHAMPIONS

Blitz SMASHMUCK CHAMPIONS

Kilowatt SMASHMUCK CHAMPIONS

Zert SMASHMUCK CHAMPIONS

Admiral Scuttlemuck SMASHMUCK CHAMPIONS

 

These are just a few of the pile of exciting characters you’ll be able to recruit to your own SMASHMUCK team!  I’ll be posting some of the new arenas you’ll be fighting over in the near future.  In the meantime head over to http://www.facebook.com/smashmuck/ and Like what you see to stay up to date on the news and new concept and screenshot postings.  There are pics there you can’t get anywhere else!

Also, there will be beta keys there soon.  Shhhhhhhh, secret.  Tell only the people you really care about.

 

–AW

 

The long dark journey into unpost…

I got married. 

It took a while.

I didn’t post.

I was busy.

I have horded art for a gargantuan post-a-thon though.

On the honeymoon I had a little time to flesh out the IP for a game I’ve been kicking around in my brain for a while.  For now I’m calling it ‘Hard Hats’ because the player is a construction worker of sorts.

Hard Hats Character #2 allen white

Hard Hats Character #2

 

He’s a vast improvement over the first efforts which were a lot more naturalistic…

Hard Hats Character #1 allen white

Hard Hats Character #1

 

I’ll model this guy today.  Or at least start, probably won’t get done as I’m not particularly fast. 

Also chipping away at this guy when I can:

allen white concept art

This is 50% res.  The painting is huge, I expect to spend a long long time working on it, but its totally worth it.  Really I have nothing in my folio that took longer than 24 man hours (I think the Witch is right around that).  Typically I’m too impatient to spend more time on something so we’ll see how this goes.

More as it develops…

New Year, New Signature…

I always put the abbreviated year under the cross stroke (not sure what else to call it) in my signature.

So, I’m always struggling to date my doodles right around this time (had the same problem in school too).

The mole Hero is coming together.

allen white mole hero color strip

Here are a handful of color explorations.  Please comment the number you prefer.  If enough of you band together you might sway me. 

I’ve gone back and forth on the helmet/mask idea in my brain.  It offers the hero a little anonymity which lets the player project themselves more easily.  Conversely it makes an already clearly anthropomorphised rodent even more alien. 

He shares the same round sihlouette as the other moles and his complete lack of ears should keep him from blending in with the rats too much.  I’ll be trying other costumes without the full helm soon.

I got an Airbrush Pen for my Wacom for Christmas.  It’s not a huge upgrade from the standard, but I do like having them both. 

The airbrush only features one button which you can bind in all the usual ways but also adds a Stylus Wheel.  The Wheel I’ve currently got rigged to flow which allows me even more control over application during the stroke. 

This is rad.

The more control you have the fewer strokes you need to make…

Ergo, you paint faster.

The stem is also bigger (being airbrush shaped), and much more ergonomic as a result.

INTUOS4 Airbrush Pen INTUOS4 Airbrush Pen
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Bodypaint r12 will be here soon.

Then its going to get really good.

-AW

Actually let me down…

The elipses… never forget them.

So, Tyler and I have been talking about the Mole Game.  You mean the Mouse Game?  You ask.  No, I say, I mean the Mole Game.  Different game? 

Same game. 

New not-name.

Also a new Hero.  With a lot more interest and potential.  I think we’ve struck iron enough things are starting to get hot.

I started digging into what the Hero might look like and sort of let myself down with this:

allen white mole hero

He just wasn’t quite right.  Especially the face.  I’m all over the gear and stuff he’s got going on, but on the whole its just not up to snuff, and certainly not mole enough.

I went back to just a generic mole and took another crack with a fresh set of eyes a few days later:

allen white mole character

That’s pretty much on the money.  From this I can adapt the Hero’s build.

I’m back and forth on the idea of a helmet, but Ben keeps begging me for more RPG content so I’m thinking shops and different sets of gear will come into play somewhere along the line.

The moles really excite me.  Tyler’s kicking around some really rad stuff that has me jazzed to push the look into new territory.

More as it develops!

-AW

More of a crucible, really…

Birds.  I’m drawing some.

allen white bird meeting doodles

First up we have what happens when I’m on a long conference call with nothing to say.  Ballpoint, in my moleskin.  I dig the moleskins for their size and paper quality.  I destroy them, I go through 4-5 a year just at the office.

I like the idea of scarification/carving of the beaks in a bird society.  I’d imagine dyes and paints would also be popular, a lot of clothing just wouldn’t make sense if they were still flight focused.

Yes that is a man who’s eyes have exploded out of his head…  I guess you’re not wondering how I felt about the whole affair.

Also… I tried to record a bit of doodling video last night, realized I didn’t have Camtasia installed.  I did pick up the new trial but had this done in the five minutes it took to download, which is pretty much all the line work I’d do and figured the opportunity had passed and I’d have to try again on the next pic.

allen white sparrow

I’m debating how to give them “hands.”  Will probably sketch some studies.

As an artist two things are important to continuing to be an artist. 

1.  Do not stop art-ing.

2.  Art harder.

Harder will mean different things for different art.  For me it usually boils down to “faster.”  Sometimes bigger and faster because that usually lumps into the “Give it more zazz!” mentality.  It is important to be able to self-motivate through gauntlets like these, whether they be of your own creation or just homework.  The sooner you know how to flip your own switch the easier pretty much all of life will be.

Anyway, I volunteered for a small art suicide mission.  There simply isn’t time for this project so of course I made it as elaborate as possible.

For some of you these seem echoes of some distant almost forgotten nightmare:

allen white mystery

As part of this operation I bought a new hot knife… Well, actually I bought two. 

I picked up that piddly wire “Wonder Cutter” doo-hicky from Michaels (everyone’s favorite arts and crafts shop).  I did so hoping it would be cheap and passable enough to get the science done.  Wonder Cutter is a misnomer, it’s pretty much a wonder it will cut anything.  You can pretty much barehand the “hot” wire and only experience discomfort, not regret.

(YES THIS IS HOW MEN TELL IF A TOOL IS WORKING!)

So.

I bought this little rock star:


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The manual says it’ll do 840 degrees F.  Which is pretty much so hot the foam parents tell horror stories to their foam children to keep them in line.  It’s also so rad I want to open everything with it, *eyes sweet-tart wrapper*

Is this dangerous?  Yes.

Is this awesome?  Yes.

Does it demand louder music? Yes.

And it cuts the HELL out of the foam.

To be completely honest a hot knife is not the end-all-be-all of foamy destruction.  A rasp file with a good handle is still my primary carving option.  I only recommend a hot knife for specific applications and an experienced hand.

The speed and quality with which you can art is inversely proportionate to the amount of clothing you are wearing.

If you don’t believe me… try it.

The unfortunate side effect of telling you all this is now when you imagine me all you see is Julianne Moore in the ‘Big Lebowski’.

I have been replaying Bioshock.  I forgot how near perfect it is…  If only the character models didn’t deform so bizarre…

-AW

This sounds like heresy…

I might willingly skip V. Bros. tonight. 

I know. 

I’m ashamed.

And also really tired.

I went through my old texture stash and found a bunch of textures that I could make work for a sort of abandoned factory texture sheet.  It’s really slap dash and there’s a bunch of stuff on there that you aren’t seeing. 

allen white mouse game environment

This kind of thing will be pretty typical for how we tackle stuff in Unity, it prefers (as does every engine really) as few draw calls as possible.  A mega 4k will be the MO I just have to do some concepts to figure out where the focus needs to go.  Something as common as the concrete floor could easily take up a whole quarter of the sheet…  The fewer the draw calls the more flexible the entire operation is as well.

I did find some very groovy reference pictures bombing around the interweb the other day which has my brain beakers bubbling away (what does that even mean?). 

Never underestimate the power of more reference.

Tyler and I spent some time talking about Vogler, Campbell, Eliade and Jung.  Who we may or may not have a borderline dangerous fascination with.

Vogler gets thrown around a lot in classrooms because its Campbell-Lite.  I find it to be a drag, but its not written in Campbell-speak so the layman (drooling art student mongoloid) can actually wrap his sad limp brain around it.  (You’re not all mongoloids, settle down.  Ok, some of you might be… read earlier posts about Passion and decide if you need to be here at all.)

At the same time I find Campbell can get more than a little kooky (see ‘Power of Myth’, also, say kooky more often) and is also just watered down Jung.

Jung is my gold standard for myth smarts.  Not that its a legend that he’s smart, he’s smart about legends.  In my estimation the more you know about symbols the better an artist you are because your job is to tell stories with symbol “collages.” 

As such I occasionally find time to read ‘The Red Book’.  Which can be summarized as Jung’s proof of concept on individuation focusing on himself.  It’s absolutely terrifying in that sort of mad-scientist way.  He thinks it works so he’s gunna shoot himself up with the new drug.

I’ve read a lot of Jung and this is by far my favorite.  It may not have the instructional capacity of his later, practiced work, but ‘The Red Book’ is the source.  The logic follows the symbols but you’re presented with the borderline insanity of ALL of the images confronting Jung, not his case studies and hand-picked historical references used to reinforce a bullet point in some big dry lecture.

As an introduction it might melt your mind.  If you’re familiar with what’s going on you owe this one to yourself. 

Much like ‘The Golden Bough’ by Sir James G. Frazer I expect to finish sometime in the years shortly after I die.

-AW

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