Dev Talk Archives

I would have robot hands…

If I could.  I’d want at least one of them to transform into something seemingly unhelpful in the grand scheme.  Like a stapler (calipers also come to mind but those actually sound very useful).  I dunno, for comedy.

Also, my hands get tired from drawing/painting/arting all the time.  I assume the robot hands would need a tune-up once in a while (after delicate work), and I wouldn’t be able to lift anything heavy for a while cause my arms might fall off (that’s what Billy tells me anyway)…  Seems worth it though.

The rat is all set up to start painting weights on!  Won’t get it done tonight though.  Kind of a bummer, I gotta get this to the animator asap.

allen white rat guard rig

Following up the Curtis book I’m going to start building a list of must-have books for student designers and some others that I think are overall pretty solid.  Once I come up with a format for that and get some time I’ll start sprinkling those in amongst my regular posts.

I consider the entire operation very hazardous.  Too many worthless posts now have so much helpful upside.

I keep looking at the Halo Mega Blocks when I’m at the store. 

I want to like them. 

Cause its Halo.  And almost Lego.


Mega Blocks is not Lego.  And the sheer terror of that heresy keeps me away.  Also the figs are clearly handpainted by starving children, which is very dissappointing next to the gorgeous and crisp Lego figs we’ve all grown up on.  Well… I grew up on them.

I really can’t imagine me in a world without Legos.

Before you’re all creeped out by a mostly (lies) adult (pictures of also lies) guy meticulously analyzing all the toy aisles at the Walmarts and Targets of the world… It’s kind of my job.  At least that’s what I tell myself.

Seriously, you can learn a lot about the world from the toy aisle though.  Look closer.


Selling tiny stuff…

allen white raccoon racoon wizard

Most of the trick with this here Mouse Game stuff is selling the scale.  Everything is tiny, but we’re looking at it through equally tiny eyes.  When we started all this I did some… math… and decided 2m in game space was equivalent to 4″ in good ol’ RL.

I even got so carried away I made a little cardboard Mouse and took photos of him around my apartment, approximating the game camera position.  It’s important to get your head wrapped around what reads as tiny and what is not gigantic.  The Coon Wizard here is very large for our game, but even the threads on the various bits of his head-wear have to seem appropriately large in order to sell the scale. 

This whole issue will be a gigantic texturing headache at some point.  Gogogadget decal maps!

I am not a rigger.

allen white rat guard rigging

But rig I must.

Seriously, if you want to get a job as an animator learn to rig.  It seems to be an under-appreciated skill, which is odd as its totally essential to the process.  I can’t really wrap my brain around animators primarily working with the animation dummy models that are pretty much just skeletons.  It seems like such a cop out, artistically.

I couldn’t get behind such a narrow education.  Art and design are about solving problems, if you only have one approach you’ll be a poor problem solver.  Color me skeptical.

I’ve said this to a lot of applicants but I’ll repeat it…  If you want a job the more skills you are good at in addition to the job you’re applying to the easier you are to hire.  This should be agiven for Concept Artists because people that can “draw” are a dime a dozen, and competing for one of the sexiest jobs there is.  You really have to earn this kind of gig and the more bang you give me for my buck the easier the sell. 

As always it boils down to overwhelming your customer with your value.

I picked up the new D&D Essentials Dungeon Master Kit.

I’m sort of underwhelmed.  It feels like 85% fluff and 15% charts and tables.  You can’t just go buy the old 4th ed. DMG and expect to get any mileage.  Despite Wizards stance this is not a new edition, almost all of the rules have been errata’d.  The races changed, the classes changed.  If that isn’t a new edition I don’t know what is.

Truly I’m in the “I don’t care if its a new edition” crowd.  I was terrified by the AD&D to 3rd jump, but 4th was fantastic and although I feel like its darn near perfect I trust the D&D crew to keep turning out solid products.  I’m sure its a marketing/PR decision in the end and the design team is just playing the cards they’re dealt.

Let’s get off that tangent.

The book is great if you’ve NEVER DM’d.  But for me its a drag.  You really only need the encounter balance charts and the treasure calculation chart.  The selection of magic items is VERY short (15 pages).  The Rules Compendium is a better buy.  You get no monsters except what comes packed in the 2 short adventures.  With the Monster Vault not coming out for another month this is a bummer.  You can find a million unboxing videos on the interwebs if you’re super curious and want the whole run-down.


Breaking the new tablet in…

Sat down for the maiden voyage and realized none of the hotkeys were set the way I wanted them.

Then found I actually didn’t know what my tablet was setup like at the office so I had to try and paint, ignoring the fact they were wrong so I could figure out what was what.  Creatures of habit.

Slammed this down real fast.  Been thinking about re-reading Tarantula if I can find my copy…

Bob Dylan ; allen white

It’s randomly cross-hatchy, go figure.

Super-Secret-News: Drawing sweet robots at work.

More as it develops!


Check Boxes, always up to something…

The blog now boasts shiny new Categories which should help people look for specific info down the road.  You won’t have to sort through all the miasma, but the posts will all still read like I’m a raving lunatic so good luck.

A brand new Intuos 4 XL should be arriving today.  I suspect it will make at least most of my dreams come true.

I always get a lot of questions from would-be tablet owners about what’s the right tablet to buy.  Oddly enough Wacom doesn’t have a total corner on the market and since they’ve added the Bamboo line everything is fuzzy about what you need.  The Cintiq invariably comes up as well.

Here are my shopping criteria:

1) It has to be gigantic

Why?!  Well, I draw ALL day.  When I leave the office I come home and draw.  I’ve been doing this since highschool and its just about destroyed my arm with repetitive stress.  The bigger your drawing surface the more you draw with your arm and not your wrist and fingers which allows you to really marathon on your tablet comfortably.  A bigger tablet makes it much easier to letter (write) on your artwork as well.  Concepts require a lot of labels so this is important for me.  Scale alone really narrows the field for me in a hurry.

2) The Cintiq is so pretty!

I know, and they’re wonderful, but there are a couple things I don’t like.  First is the price.  They’re wicked expensive, like almost a new computer expensive. 

Second, and this is probably the biggest for me, is your hand is on the screen.  I’ve been using a tablet forever so the hand-eye coordination thing isn’t a thought for me at all.  But I’m sure for people just getting into the game drawing in a more traditional manner is a godsend.  I prefer to have my hand comfortably out of my field of view.  There are a couple guys at the office that swear by them, so I can’t say the Cintiq is a bad choice- It’s just not my choice.

3) Wacom or no?

Wacom is the industry standard.  The Intuos and Cintiq lines are made for artists.  I’ve never used another tablet brand and I never plan on it because the Wacom’s have always delivered (even back on the models that connected via serial).  When it comes to art supplies you get what you pay for, and when something works I never have any desire to shop around.

4) How does the 4 compare to older Intuos models?

Night and day, the 4 is light-years better.  The new Touch Ring allows for some very intuitive on the fly nib adjustments (I wish photoshop would add rotation already) as well as zoom and layer cycling.  Along with the hotkeys all the features are customizable and the LED displays let you know what each button does and can be calibrated application to application so what you need is always handy.  This is a big deal for me going back and forth between Bodypaint (where I want some 3d navigation controls) and Photoshop (where I need more tool options).  If that doesn’t sell you, the sensitivity and pen weight (SO light) alone were enough to make the upgrade worth it for me.

5) Conclusion

The Intuos 4 XL is the stealth bomber of tablets.  That is to say it is the pinnacle of science and sorcery.  I’m pretty sure every single one contains the soul of a dark god.  How else do you explain the fact the pen doesn’t need batteries?!

Bonus Thoughts for folks starting out with a tablet!

1)  Switch your pen nib out for a felt tip (they’re in the pen holder, twist it open!).  This will give you a little more resistance and be closer to drawing with a pencil on paper.

2) Get or make some good painterly brushes to improve the quality of your work.  I should be uploading a few I’ve made over the years soon.

3) Always revise your hotkeys on the tablet to find exactly what you need.  The less time you spend reaching for the keyboard the faster you will paint.  Every little bit helps.

4) The higher the opacity you can paint with the better.  Let the pen do the work for you and adjust the sliders less.  Again this is about speed, but it also has a look I prefer, so your mileage may vary.  I like the spring loaded nib to help give you a little more pressure range.


Lvl 1 Internet Constructs…

I ordered an Intuos 4 XL.  I’m spoiled on the company model I get to use at work.  This medium thing is awful, its a glorified post it note.  Working on it feels like I’m trying to paint a mural on a wall of post it notes in a stiff breeze.

If only I was famous enough to sell this medium thing signed on ebay at a ridiculous markup…  I might try it anyway.

I’ve doodled a few potential characters over the last couple days to help get my brain wrapped around the options for the Mouse Game.

allen white mouse game

These things take no time at all, and they’re basically how I’d start a painting I intended to carry further to completion.

The internet is a weird place.  I think the web guru’s set out to make a hub for the sort of social networking nonsense that goes on in the world but soon everyone started knocking each other off.  Who can blame them?  There’s money to be made in competition. 

Now, it seems like you need a spirit guide to assemble all the elements needed to be discovered, or official, or hip, or internet…ed.

I nearly have the blog, the folio, the facebook, the twitter, and the linkedin all speaking to one another.  It does feel like I’m negotiating between members of a very estranged family that also can’t remember why they’re fighting.  Another evening’s science should get it all in place but I still can’t help feeling silly calibrating this much apparatus with which to repeat my insanity across the ether. 

But I can’t give up.  I must assemble the golem.  I need the internet points. 

More as it develops,


Get the Science Done…

I think I have the Forward and Diagonal run animations looking respectable on our Mouse Hero. 

Animation… It’s really not something I’m good at.  I can analyze it and see what sucks but making the right changes usually causes more damage than good.  I’m getting the science done bit by bit, but someday soon I need to recruit a fortune hunter to take over this madness.  I would like to at least get the process perfected with Ben so we can just plug our animator in, set them to crispy, and walk away.  Or whatever it is animators do.

Fortunately I know some wicked talented people I would love to rope into my self inflicted nightmares.  Unfortunately it looks like I’m not much of a salesman.

I’ve been drawing a lot at work to keep up with our ever accelerating world builders who continue to impress me with their mastery of our style and all the quirks in the pipeline.  I feel like we’ve all settled into a very comfortable groove, communication is open and encouraged, and the art is improving daily as a result.  Its hard to not be stoked about that.

It does mean I’ve been resting my hand though, so no concepts to report. 

I continue to have good discussions on CDN, and a lot of good questions about the early design process for making games.  Most designers get trapped in a ‘can’t see the forest for the trees’ mindset.  Games are not complicated to design, its a pretty simple critical thinking exercise no more or less complicated than designing for any other major entertainment medium… but it presents some tricky questions that most people don’t know how to get in the right mindset to work through. 

I’m going to break this down a bit more in my next post. 

Its funny what your parents remember about you growing up compared to what you remember.  My dad reminded me today about how I would often be called down to the office in elementary school to fix the printer… a detail I’d totally forgotten. 


Meaningful Procrastination…

Lightning Bug!

Lightning Bug Concept  Allen White

I didn’t feel like cleaning up the edges to throw a texture in the background.  Which leads to some explanation of some bad (maybe) habits of mine.

When I paint for myself  I usually only have about 3 layers until I get into glows and blurs and extra bits at the very end.  But the bulk of the work consists of these layers which I always label the same:

-OP (means Over Paint):  I do all the clean up and the bulk of the highlighting and all the details here.

-sketch (means sketch): I try to sketch as little as possible before I start painting.  If I spend too much time getting the lines right I’ll burn out.  Generally speaking I know almost completely what I want in my brain when I start so this doesn’t involve much work.  I always sketch with darker lines these days.

-UP (means Under Paint): This is where I do all the basecoating and quick shading, usually with a big splotchy brush.

-Background: Not really a layer of mine, but its always a middle tone.  Exactly what color I pick depends on the concept.  But this is where I make extra work for myself. 

When I’m working on the OP layer, I don’t really erase, its not helpful because I’ll just expose the sketch and UP layers.  So I’ll paint the background layer down.  Which is fine, it creates a really imperfect edge that sells the juiciness of the whole painting.  Which I dig.  Now I can merge the layers and color pick the background but believe me its never 100% accurate and I end up spending a lot of time doing cleanup. 

That said I REALLY like the presentation of the other Mouse concepts so I will probably address the bug here when I care a bit more.

I got asked on CDN (Christian Developers Network, where I’ve been having some pretty cool discussions) about putting together a video of me working, so I’ll try to get that figured out before I start on the next concept.


That George Washington…

Picked up Civ as I knew I would.  Made it through my first game on the default settings.  It was maybe too easy.  I out teched and economied the computer very quickly once I trounced Hiawatha.  I still don’t have a handle on a few of the tertiary abstract resources (happiness?! this is war!).

A few thoughts:

>It doesn’t perform well on my slightly crappy video card.  Even compared to Dawn which didn’t run well on medium video settings, most of my Civ settings are low and it will really chug as it jumps across the map.  I think its time for an upgrade =/.

>The Tech Tree is kind of weird.  It’s more of an hourglass with a lot of options in the middles and a bottleneck at the end of the Renaissance Era, in which you have to have Banking to move on.  Fine, but the Prereqs are along a line of mounted cavalry tech I had no interest in.  My early cities were’nt close to any horses I could have stabled, and frankly I just don’t see horses being good bean counters.  This one had me scratching my head a bit. 

In the end George Washington and I layed the smack down on Julius Caesar.  It was righteous.

I’ve been getting to tinker with Unity a bit more at the office.  My previous experience is almost all art side so I just make stuff and hand it off to the priests to sacrifice or however that goes. 

There have been a few things Unity does different out of the box from Hero, which soaks up most of our time.  But unlike Hero, Unity can be easily stripped down and rebuilt (odds are someone in the community has already done what you’re looking for) to suit your needs.  Hero is more like jailbait.  Looks pretty good from a distance, but ends up having no idea what its doing and gets you in a lot of trouble.

Unity is mad science.  It is the apparatus upon which to create your monster and give it life.  It’s very flexible and the demos with Pro3.0 really show off how powerful it can be.  It’s on my list of software to pickup but unfortunately has the spot behind Bodypaint 4.5.  If we’re going to get this Mouse thing moving at some point I’ll be building a lot of assets long before I’m assembling anything in Unity.

Mouse Game Updates:

Ben has my latest crack at the animations in and they look a lot better than the first few attempts, which is encouraging.  They still have a ways to go and we’re refining bits and pieces about our strategy as we progress.  I’m hoping once we have a plan we can rope some help in on this front, but for now its easier to iterate between the two of us.

The setting is starting to congeal in my brain.  It’s more wrought than found as I’d originally anticipated when we first started talking about this project.  Then again at the time it was first a collectible miniatures game and then a class based shooter that was trying to be cute while also portraying horrifyingly violent rodent on rodent crimes.  I really just wanted them to swear like sailors in little squeaky voices.

When I doodled the first couple light source ideas I also wanted to sketch up a lightning bug, but didn’t get to it.  I imagine these guys would fly around as mobile light sources.  Naturally you could arrow them but wherever they fall they’d still give off some faint illumination.  Spent maybe an hour on this thing including a bunch of unrelated research time (moles will have to get tackled some day soon!).  There’s more to do including some loose rotations for whoever ends up modeling it.

Lightning Bug, Allen White

I hate my medium size Intuous4.  It bums me out.  I’ve got to upgrade, going to wear my hand out with this tiny thing.


Moving to my own domain…

Well I realized Blogger’s hideous tendencies to squelch any attempts at reasonable formatting was shredding any desire I might have had to post anything to my blog.  So here we are.

I’ve had some interesting discussions and the world is full of wacky comings (Civ 5!) and goings (APB   D:)  so there’s plenty to talk about in the days to come!

For now, placate yourselves with some Mouse Game props:

Mouse Game Light Props


Pile of New Stuff

Well I ended up travelling over Memorial Day Weekend which totally Plax’d (read: ‘shot’) my post a day plans in the foot and I haven’t been able to get back in the swing of it.

Ben and I (well mostly Ben… ok, entirely Ben) have been tinkering around in the Unity Engine. Which is pretty whip-skippy, and also free. So check it out.

I’ve started fleshing out some bits and pieces to surround our furry hero from prior posts. But its mostly just putting off getting some story going which is where I’m headed the rest of tonight. In the meantime, here’s where I think this project is going:

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