Friday, April 4, 2008

Magic Crystals are so cliche.

Once you have finished your lava level and your ice level you should check to make sure you have enough magic crystals. This is an old sketch I did for Asheron's Call 2. This sketch is of a Vault crystal shard that one would find at the end of each Vault dungeon quest. The player, once making it to the end of the dungeon, would come upon a massive underground cavern. Cantilevered out into the middle of this massive space would be a stone bridge with a circular platform that holds a crystal shard. After clicking on the shard, the player would be presented with a short movie slide show with dialogue that would reveal a small piece of back story. To really build visual suspense I made sure the bridge was very long so it took a while to run up to the crystal. I also used some forced perspective to make the bridge appear longer so that crystal appeared further from the player than it actually is. Once the player made it to the shard, I wanted the visuals to capture a bit of Indiana Jones, when he was in the Mayan temple about to take the golden idol. A heavenly light has made its was down through the earth to add dramatic effect. I was very happy how the vault cambers worked out and they were a nice visual pay off for making it though the dungeon.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Sci Fi - Alien Pod Plants

I have been working on fantasy sword & sorcerer games pretty much for 12 years. Not by choice, but that's what the companies that I had worked for wanted to make. Finally now that I'm at Conduit Labs, I'm working on something other than dungeons. There was a brief moment a few years back I almost had a chance to work on a Sci Fi title. This is an old sketch of a couple alien environments. Many of the shapes of the plants pull from pod-like shapes or succulent plants. These are just simple form studies, and like with many of my sketches, I focus on trying to create interesting silhouettes through positive and negative shapes. Texture and color can come later once I have a better idea where these plants will be located.

REM - Accelerate 4/5 Stars

After a decade of very disappointing albums, the vintage 80's alt rock band that contributed to my high school audio scrapbook with Out of Time & Automatic for the People, have found their way out of their middle age fog. With help from producer Jackknife Lee, the band has dusted off their distortion peddles, found some memorable guitar runs and crafted some melodic & ironic lyrics. Accelerate has the fire that is reminiscent of Monster or New Adventures in Hi Fi, but also pulls tones and colors from their earlier albums. I know the "kids" have their own bands that represent their generation. The members of REM may have grown older and may not be considered "trendy," but don't give up on the guys that help create today's sounds. These guys finally have something to offer and if you have ever been an REM fan, you are sure to find a few tracks on this album that sound familiar but fresh. This is a great Rock album for 2008.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Hobbit home for sale - 3 beds, 2 baths, nice neighborhood.

Back in 2003, when I was at Turbine, a small group of us was asked to build a demo area of The Shire from Lord of the Rings. There was only 5 of us, but we were a good group. I took on the task of creating some of the buildings. I really enjoyed creating this Hobbit home. It has a fun whimsical shape but it's still earthy and weighty. It was designed to be mushed into a hill to blend into the terrain. It did this very well. The movie, Fellowship of the Ring had already been out in theaters so I had seen what they did with their buildings, but Vivendi didn't have the rights to the movie. We were dealing with the book rights only, so I couldn't just copy Weta's designs from the film. Instead this design is an amalgamation from previous illustrations i had seen, some ideas from the movies, and a bit of my own imagination. The folks over at Vivendi and the Tolkien folks loved our demo and thought we did a great job capturing the feeling of the shire. Two weeks later I was asked to move over to the D&D Online project because the Lord of the Rings deal got signed. I was a little disappointed that I was moved to the other project, but what disappointed me even more was to see that the next artist that took on the Hobbit homes did not build off of what I had created but instead built a series of homes that fit more comfortably in with Smurfs villages.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Modular Gear - Character Sketches

While working on D&D, we came up with a modular armor system that we referred to as "gear sets." A gear set is a piece or group of pieces of armor that would be parented to the base skeleton of a character model, then the verts were weighted so the gear pieces would deform properly on the body. A couple other games had done this technique before us, but at the time this was a fairly new technique for creating modularity in character assets. Before this technique, we would just swap out an entire torso for one with armor on it, or the hand meshes with one with built in gauntlets. The sketches that I did here illustrate 5 different gear sets being applied to the same base body mesh. The base mesh and texture does not change, but through gear set swaps, you can quickly get a large variety of looks. I made sure this technique was fully implemented for Titan Quest. Without designing the armor system in this fashion, we would have never been able to pull off the millions of possible armor combinations that we did. Now a days you see this technique being applied to vehicles, buildings, and weapons.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Mr. Bones - Dungeons & Dragons Online

I don't do nearly the amount of modeling and texturing I use to. Now that I'm at a web company, I'm pretty much up to my eyeballs using Flash. This fairly low poly skeleton warrior was one of that last things I created for the D&D project. Like in all MMO's (massively multi-player,) you can't make it far without having to kill 100 rats. In the case of DDO, you can't go far into the caverns of the damned without cracking a few of these guys. Good times.

Ye 'Old Sketches from Dungeons & Dragons Online

Just digging through some old sketches of mine. Here is a collection of dungeon sketches I did in 2003 blocking out some visual directions for Dungeons & Dragons Online. An overarching visual idea that I was exploring was a tremendous sense of weight to the architectural elements. The scale of some of the stone work shows carved blocks the size of a 2 meter tall human. Some of the stonework has been repaired over thousands of years so somethings might not look structurally sound. I particularly like the tortured soul sculptured in the lower left, supporting the weight of the dungeon on his head. I left Turbine before getting a chance to use that idea in DDO, but I may have done something similar in Titan Quest Immortal Throne. That game took place in Hades. That visual would have fit in well there too. Good ideas are never forgotten. They just might be put on the shelf for a while.