Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Do the Robot

One of the things on my list this summer was I wanted to do a mech style robot design. Things being what they were, I didn't have a lot of time for personal things, but I tried to make some time over the past few days to do one. I'm still planning to revise it here and there and clean the edges etc. I did a variety of silhouettes and styles before deciding to go with this one.

I like the combination of polish and clunky. Growing up I liked Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Batman and Power Rangers, but I'm embarrassed to say I wasn't into shows like Transformers much. My inspirations here came from sci-fi movies and games - I've recently been into Dead Space and I was also inspired by some of the incredible concept art for District 9.

Overall for a couple days work I'm pleased, but as with anything I wish I had more dedicated time to work on things like this.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

More Character Design

I'm away from home, which means away from my Cintiq. It's funny, I've worked for years with my trusty Intuos 3 tablet, and now 3 months with a Cintiq ruins everything. Working with the Intuos feels like an incredible chore now, which is ridiculous and probably one of those first world problems you hear about.

I've been working on a female character in the same vein as my male design for Donovan down below. I wanted to do something fantasy, so I decided to do a mage, mostly because mage clothing in games always bothers me. Usually it's some sort of ridiculous robe, dress, gown or something. To me, even if you are a mage I'd still think in battle you'd want to move around. Just because you can shoot lightning out of your hand/staff/face doesn't mean agility isn't important when people are trying to murder you. Also, there's hardly any armor for mages. I know that you have magic, but there's nothing wrong with a little something between you and a sharp stick, right? I mean, this is battle we're talking about. Things like that have always gotten to me, so I decided to pursue some options.

Oh, also - it's a huge pet peeve of mine that women aren't fully clothed in games, so it should go without saying that we're going to do a clothed female character, not a cleavage babe in thigh highs. It will never cease to amaze me the things lady characters wear into battle. But I could talk about that for paragraphs, so let's just move along shall we?

My process for this was different than with Donovan because a mage by class tends to have his/her role a little more defined. I saw this as your sort of starting archetype female character for an MMO. If it was for a story I'd say that this is a practical, battle-hardened type of person - serious and seasoned. I dislike the archetype that mages need to be frail sensitive people that cringe on the outskirts of battle for fear of breaking a nail.

I did some costume concepts:

I'd like to do multiples in color like I did with Donovan, but I've had a lot of side projects on my plate lately. So for right now I picked one that I liked best, an amalgamation of a few designs, but primarily taken from the right image of the second set. I picked that design because I felt like it was practical, but the silhouette still read as a mage. What's more, even though there are drapey elements to the design, the outfit would allow for movement, while still theoretically still providing some protection.

I went for a bright blizzard style color scheme:

And then I added textures and scraped/scuffed it up so it looked like it wasn't fresh off the hangar at the Mage Surplus:

Voila! Job done. For now, at least.

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Archives

I recently did a digital painting as a response to some essays by Mikhail Bakhtin. This particular quote was really interesting to me:

"I am conscious of myself and become myself only while revealing myself for another, through another, and with the help of another. The most important acts constituting self-consciousness are determined by a relationship toward another consciousness (toward athou)....The very being of man (both external and internal) is the deepest communion. To be means to communicate....To be means to be for another, and through the other, for oneself. A person has no internal sovereign territory, he is wholly and always on the boundary: looking inside himself, he looks into the eyes of another or with the eyes of another....I cannot manage without another, I cannot become myself without another; I must find myself in another by finding another in myself (in mutual reflection and mutual acceptance)."

Naturally, being me I read it and thought about games. Because I always think about games? Hmm. I do have other hobbies, really. With the advent of more and more sophisticated choice based/ morality meter/ ethical dilemma games, I think this quote has a lot of relevance in games. Through the choices we make in simulated RPG environments we can learn a lot about ourselves. Even in other game types, like strategy games, this is true. Are you aggressive or defensive? If you're playing Civ 5 do you research wonders early, or go straight for the mass armies? 

I think that when Bakhtin wrote this he was implying that it is through our interactions with people that we learn more about ourselves, but I was intrigued at the substitution technology can take for human interaction in this regard. So I decided to draw a picture about my thoughts on the matter:

The Archives.
It's meant to be a little ironic.

 I decided to invent an advanced library system, which would catalog not only archived copies of all media outlets, but also compilations of information cross-referenced with known behavioral patterns of individuals which could be mapped to create simulations of those people within a certain degree margin of error. Essentially it would be a master computer catalog system that would save all user profile information and use that information to create simulated versions of real people who you could speak to. The more information the system had associated with an individual, the smaller the margin for error.

 While the person depicted could be using these tools for any number of purposes, when I drew this I imagined her using a private reference room in the archives to access genealogical information about her family. She would be able to sift through news reports, blogs and articles, then use the computer system to tie related data to user profiles for deceased relatives to create more accurate simulations. It’s a somewhat literal interpretation of the quote, but I thought it would be interesting to see what you could learn about yourself through your interactions with technology, or in this case the search for the self through simulations of one’s own genealogical history.

Back from the dead!

Well. Summer class. Let me tell you: summer classes are not to be underestimated. I knew being a grad student was going to be intensive but I got kicked in the shins repeatedly over the past few weeks.

However! I have still be working, albeit it at a little more muted pace. So I'll be dumping a few sets up here in the next little while. Today I am posting some character design I've been doing.

I've noticed a trend in video games, where you have this caucasian male twenty something with brown hair that we're all supposed to identify with. Well, not me - I'm a blonde female twenty-something and any time someone threatens to make a character I'm supposed to identify with there's a shit storm. But I digress.

So I started out trying to think of a cool character that wouldn't be caucasion/ brown hair/ hooded sweatshirt. I'm not sure I've succeeded, but it was an attempt to think about a different sort of character. I decided to go black/ ambiguous minority. I also didn't want to make him completely ripped, because games are stacked with characters that are incredibly muscled. Like, comically muscled. I'd prefer a character I have some chance of feeling like I could be the person (well, if I was a dude, but being a female gamer is a trove of weird issues that I don't even want to think about wading into on this space.)

What have we got so far? Non-white. Non-steroided. It's a start. Next up, what sort of character is he? I thought about it a bit and I like the idea of ex military turned mercenary, maybe vigilante-esque. Think... Oceans 11, Guy Richie, that sort of thing. And I don't want him to be an elite killing machine. Maybe he's combat trained, but more of an agility pistol sort of guy. If he's not a combat specialist what is he? Maybe... a tech. Like a computer guy. Maybe it's 50/60 years in the future and rather than mechanics, hacker types are far more useful in picking locks, hotwiring vehicles, etc...

This is how I think things through, sort of an example of my stream of consciousness. So we've got a lot of useful information now:

Race: Minority mix/ African American leaning
Age: 30-ish
Build: Lean muscular
Occupation: Ex-military tech specialist. Hired merc, possible vigilante agenda.
Alignment: Chaotic good most likely
Time period: 50-60 years in the future

Hm. We need a name. I like "Donovan Wallace," so that's what I'm going to run with for now.

Let's get drawing!

Some potential face shapes - you can see the edge of my notes about personality on the side.

I look at photos of actors and things to get an idea of what I want. I think I used 3 different actors here, I try to make it not look like anyone specific, but it helps keep the ideas consistent. Plus with actors you can find pictures at different angles of the same guy which is very convenient.
The Donovan on the right is getting a little too beefy. Also maybe a little old, think it's the hairline. Just trying some different poses to get a feel for the character. If one of the many sketches work out it could make a good basis for a finished digital piece.
Clothing concepts.
So now I'm trying to figure out what he'll wear. We know his occupation, given that he's ex-military we can range from very military influenced to very casual. Lots of freedom, so I'm trying out a range. I'd think he'd still be a little military influenced in his look, since that tends to stick with you - probably not too movement restrictive; utility, comfort and protection are important.

Now that I have some ideas, let's flesh them out:
Donovan # 1

Donovan #2

Donovan #3

I actually like number 3 best. It's pretty casual but the colors are interesting and not something you see as much in games. Usually it's pretty gritty, so the red/orange is nice and goes well the the skin color. I also like that the gun holster and tightness of the sweater carry the subtle military feel I wanted. It might be a little Nathan Drake though, unsure. I also like that this one feels "normal" but still futuristic enough to fit into a near future aesthetic. They probably won't be wearing moon boots in 60 years, but you never know.

That's a wrap for now.