All Talk Archives

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.

-AW

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.

-AW

Looking for a new fix…

I think Dawn of Discovery and I have run our course and we should part good friends… You know before she starts leaving passive aggressive post-its around the house and I keep staying out late to avoid the arguments, or whatever.

The game is gorgeous, don’t get me wrong.  I’m content to pluck away at  it for hours just basking in its glistening caress.  For a while this might have been enough as a sleepy sim game but as I got more accustomed to how I wanted to layout my cities I could keep the [people - food + entertainment - clothing = taxes] equation balanced (that’s how the real government works, too) without trouble. 

Enter the Venice Expansion, with its intrigue, acts of subterfuge, and most importantly council seats.  Purchasing seats lets you buy a city right out from an NPC’s nose.  Yes, it pisses them off.  But you can easily mitigate this stuff by piling tribute or diplomacy on them just before pulling the trigger to skyrocket your relationship with them.  Some NPC’s will take buying their city as an act of war period, so not every AI will just lay down and die.

What’s the problem with a little loophole though?  Well in a game that’s basically one big fancy accounting exercise it makes complete sense to have as little upkeep cost as possible.  Which means no troops.  Troops are expensive, take up a lot of real estate, have high upkeep, and need additional resources to recover hitpoints.  Is this a fairly immersive and interesting way to handle troops?  YES!  Is it fun?  It’s a lot more frustrating than buying the city as a one time purchase =/. 

And that’s why I don’t want to play anymore.  Also enemies can rebuild turrets and castles instantly if you aren’t immediately controlling those tiles (impossible because your troops walk back to camp after a battle) and can’t recieve new orders for a quick cooldown.  A turret will take a couple armies 20 min to overthrow and cause enough damage to whittle you down after 2-3 turrets.

In the end I always just wish I’d figured out how to befriend the AI so I could buy the city.  Even with a coordinated assault that destroys all their fishing boats, sets fire to the city and lands troops all of the island you’ll grind on that one island for days in RL.  And the AI probably has 5-6 islands. 

This is pretty much the same problem I had with Evil Genius, where at a certain point the game rewards (or in EG’s case, doesn’t punish) you for slowing down.  Slowing down is more or less not playing. 

So the game says to you, “Play less!  Here’s prizes if you play less!” 

“But I want to play!” you exclaim.

It’s a bummer.

There’s a Civ 5 demo on steam.  I might be in love with it and just at a time when I was so lonely for something to replace Dawn for me.

Somehow its mastered itself and maybe transcended, now returning to grace us with its secrets.

It lacks all of the masochism I felt playing the older Civ titles and the Alpha Centauriis.  You know, that vague sense that you’d never been so confused and lost in your life?  The game was actually just clubbing you with its tech tree and the blunt trauma had caused you to lose some mental equilibrium.

Those days seem to be gone.  The UI tucks away all the complicated options into tabs so the options feel tremendous without forcing you to weed-whack through them to manage every unit.

The presentation is a little weird, I played as Alexander the Great in my first demo game and my nearest opponent was Bismark who looked like a turn-of-the-century German politician.  Every faction speaks their appropriate language (subtitled for your convenience, although omitting them might have been fun) which was really fun to listen to Caesar speak Latin (I still vaguely understand it from highschool).   The map was also littered with random geographical wonders (old faithful was right next to my Athens).

This feels a little schizophrenic.  I kind of found myself wishing we, the players, were random tribal chieftans and could change our avatars as we leveled.  I could warm up to it as is, but the anachronist history just feels forced.  The map is random, seems like everything else should be too.  And believe me, I’m NOT a rivet counter.

I think I’ll be picking it up.  I buy games with good demo’s.  I rarely buy a game without any demo, which is too bad as it seems less prevalent in the industry than it used to be.

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

-AW

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:

Portfolios…

It’s getting around to graduation time for you college kids so all this portfolio advice stuff rattling around in my head seems timely. 

No news or show and tell today.  Believe me, I’m disappointed too.  I am scrounging together research for some environments to go with the mouse warrior I posted earlier so keep a lookout for some really rough doodles and lighting studies in the near future.

The Job Fair

Since these applications are the bulk of the materials I go through and I have had experience standing in lines at these things too I think it makes sense to just follow the entire process through from start to finish.

We’ve already talked about Passion.  So you’ve looked yourself in the mirror, had epiphanies, gotten it together and you’ve worked your butt off for a few years.  Congrats now you get to look for a job so you can work your butt off forever.  Fortunately for you art is a pretty sexy career path (No, you don’t get to play WoW all day, all you posers can settle back down).

Job Fairs are like Speed Dating.  Ideally the school’s given you a list of the companies that will be present that’s at least half accurate and you have a couple in mind you HAVE to wait in line for and otherwise you’ll see who shows up.  Generally you have no idea who you’ll be talking to (Art Director, Hiring Manager, HR Grunt, etc.) or exactly what the company is looking for or if they’re just present to keep their rapport with the school for when they are genuinely hiring.

Most students approach the Job Fair with the intent of getting a job.  You’re doomed to disappointment if this is your goal.  Odds are the person who will hire you isn’t in the building at all. 

Now, don’t get me wrong, Job Fairs are also a good place to get some legit portfolio review if you do manage to get to talk to Artists or Hiring Managers.  If you’re talking to and HR person just be excited.  Excitement is important, more on this later.  If you’re goal is just to get the emails of the Art Directors so you can follow up, that is a

I advise you to set a reasonable goal for yourself that isn’t “get a job.”  A good goal is to make sure you’re leave behind makes it into the box labeled; GOOD. And not the trash.  A lot of stuff doesn’t make it out of the building.  Or your goal could be just to get the emails of the Art Directors you talk to so you can follow up.  If you’re an underclassmen go to the Job Fair for practice at failure.  Seriously, accept that you’re too young and underskilled and everyone is going to shoot you down.  You’ll still get good feedback and you’ll remember what not to do. 

The first Job Fair I went to I dropped something as soon as I started my pitch to EVERYONE I talked to.  Ravensoft, Lucas, Pixar, you name it I was bending over or stooping down to retrieve something.  I am not a clumsy person either.  It was an absolute train wreck, it was rad.  Walking back to my car afterwards the only thing I could think was, “Could be worse, I could have been ‘qualified but retarded’ instead of just retarded.”

To be perfectly honest with you I am not good at Job Fairs.  I do not elevator pitch well.  My background is in Theatre Design, which being the grand-daddy of storytelling, has a very unique way of approaching design.  I’ve always said Video Games blend a very powerful level of audience interraction and cinematic potential that surpasses Film and Theatre.  Combined with- 

I’ve melted the mind of some poor HR person and I’m not even into the meat of it yet.  All she wanted to hear was “Well, gee, I’ve always loved art and playing computer games and it just seems like it’d be the best of both worlds, which would be swell.”  Or something.  The first thing an HR person will ask you is “What Games do you play?” or “What’s your favorite (insert our company here) game?”  My response was always something along the lines of, “I don’t play many games anymore, I’m too busy working.”  Which is genuine but doesn’t match their script of correct answers.  Also, don’t dwell on the portfolio feedback of these folks too much.  Art is subjective, and they are not artists.

Most importantly be excited.  If you’re not into it, believe me I was not into after applicant #5, and you’re number #1262 and we can just skip it.  If you get jittery, yawn, it’s psychosomatic and will calm you down by fooling your body into thinking its tired.  I like to pop altoids nonstop in addition to this.  But when you step up to the plate be excited about accomplishing your goal.  Be honest about what you want.  The Job Fair is youre first chance to start overwhelming potential employers with your value.  You only have a few minutes, nowhere near enough time to get a job but enough time to lay the foundations for solid follow ups.

Go for feedback.  Go for contacts.  Do not go for a job.  Don’t try to sell yourself to what you think the employer is looking for.  Jobs are a lot like dating.  It is a relationship, and both parties need to be satisfied for things to work out.  You can interview them as much as they interview you.  Don’t be afraid to ask the hard questions up front, it will make you memorable.  The Job Fair is your first chance to start overwhelming potential employers with your value. You only have a few minutes, nowhere near enough time to get a job but enough time to lay the foundations for solid follow ups.

Tomorrow we’ll talk about Leave Behinds!  Oft overlooked and undervalued but worth so much more than a crummy DVD case.

Almost Respectable…

A post a month is hardly going to fill this blog.  But I suppose its better than nothing. 

It’s only a matter of time before all you nutty art students desperate for jobs find me here so I will start talking to you now beause you will appear and ask me what it takes to get a job. 

I know you will. 

It happened today. 

Made me feel old, but also full of terrible dark mysteries, as if I could see beyond.  Which is fun, so thanks. 

I’m assuming if you’re reading this you have a jist of my role at KizToys.  Not that I’m a big deal, but let’s be frank this isn’t exactly ArtOrder.  You surely sought this thing out or click EVERYTHING that your “friends” like on Facebook.  But just in case I am the Lead Concept Artist.  And lately have the wonderful responsibility of responding to the Concept Artist Applicants most of which are from the recent SCAD Job Fair.

I’ve been asked for feedback and advice a couple times now, so over the next couple days I’ll be posting some suggestions, tips, guidelines, ramblings, etc. about getting an art job.

Step 1: Passion

I don’t want you to run away from the cliche, it’s important.  This starts way before interview time.  If you’re serious, deadly serious, this had better start before Art College too or you are screwed.

I don’t mean screwed.  But you’ve really gotta bust it at that point if you want to catch up.  I easily see well over several hundred artist portfolios for art jobs all over the studio every time we go to just SCAD’s job fair.  That’s several hundred from just one school for maybe 3-6 positions. 

You have to really want it.  You have to want that job more than those other several hundred people, several thousand, the universe, you get the point.  Concept Artist in particular is the holy grail of art jobs, so stay after it.  Figure out whatever gets you pumped because you have to be able to come to work every day and churn out sketch after sketch after painting and the sooner you figure out how to shake off a slump the better off you’ll be.

In my experience the world is full of people who like the idea of things.  For example; a lot of game design students “want” to work as 3d artists, but really they just like the idea of being a 3d artist and truely want to play World of Warcraft. 

What do you want?

Don’t try to fool employers either, believe me, your portfolio says everything.

More tomorrow!

I’m not sure how I manage to talk myself into coming home and working more, when I know my arm can’t hold up for the whole week doing that.  But I still do it.

Knocked this out over the weekend.  The Lead Designer and I are huge Team Fortress 2 buffs and we were talking about putting this thing in for the community content contest.  Unfortunately I think we’re distracted by other projects already so this probably won’t make it off the page.
Second, I finally put an arm on this rotation so its hot to trot as they say.
Finally, I started this for a contest over on another blog, but I can never get things like this done in time so I’m chipping away at it along with my current freelance gig.

More as it develops!

The funny thing about a blog…

Blogs don’t write themselves. Months of observation have backed up my suspicion. I hoped, against reason, that mine might break the mold.

Let me briefly introduce myself: I get paid to make stuff up. It’s sweet. More on that in later posts.
I’m starting a new ‘folio project for myself to keep things fresh. Since I don’t have a good example of my modeling and texturing prowess (lots of texturing bits, no modeling) I’m going to tackle a character.
First up Concept and Rotations!
I cranked this bad boy out many months ago when my buddy and I were talking about potential side projects and always wanted to come back to him:

This is a really quick sketch, but we’re headed forward not back and I’m more than satisfied with this dude to move on and not worry about details at this stage. We can answer any questions we come across in the Rotations.
I’ve spent maybe a total 4 hours on the front view of this rotation all told. I’ll post a couple WIP pics as well to give you some idea of process.
You can check out a high-res here if you want to get far too personal with the little mongrel.
I’ll do my best to be more informative in the future, just hoping to get a healthy base of nonsense down while I warm up the genius.
Until next time…
Allen
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