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.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Watch Your Head - Concept Sketches

These are just a few helmet designs that I did for Titan Quest. Many of the designs are based on actual helms from the early bronze age but some are made up from pulling decorative elements and details from other ancient artifacts. When sketching helmets, armor or weapons, one the of main things I think about is trying to accentuate the silhouettes of each armor piece. Having a broad range of silhouettes give the biggest visual impact when character customization is a consideration. I might consider doing another pass on each one of these helmets to block out material changes. Through a series of texture swaps, one helmet might start off as cloth, then leather, then reinforced with metal details. Another thing I pay attention to when sketching is I consider the distance of an object to the game camera, or how big the object will be 90% of the time when it is on screen. There is no sense in putting in detail that will never be seen or add additional visual clutter to the texture. An even distribution of small detail in a texture will cause the object to appear busy. Instead I try and block out the larger detail and focus on the silhouette. I enjoyed creating these sketches and referencing ancient Greek, Egyptian and Persian culture.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Every detail counts - Treasure Chests for DDO

When I was the Lead Artist on Dungeons and Dragons Online I was doing a number of tasks from concepting, scheduling, going to meetings and working with some of the tech artists on prototyping dungeons. I had a newer artist on my team who didn't have much experience and was eager to learn. I remember I had asked him to create a series of treasure chests that would be used all throughout the game. He just rolled his eyes and asked me if one of the interns could do that kind of work. He just wanted to work on characters or "something cool." I didn't have time to argue with him, so I just gave him some other task. I learned early on while working on Asherons Call, that if you are going to be creating a piece of art that will be seen very frequently, it better look good, no matter how small of an object it is. I decided to model & texture the treasure chests myself. It was a fun task and I take pride in every single art asset that I build no matter how small. These are just painted textures, no bump or specular maps. I can't remember the poly count but I know it was low.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Death of a good Independant Game Studio

On February 19th 2008, Iron Lore Entertainment closed it's doors for good. The independent game developer studio located in Maynard MA that created the Titan Quest franchise for THQ and the Dawn of War expansion Soulstorm, did everything they could to stay afloat in the rising tide of PC game piracy, unprofessional game reviewers and the shrinking PC Gaming market. I worked for Iron Lore for 3 years and truly enjoyed my experience there. It is very unfortunate that this had to happen and I wish it didn't. Many of my good friends worked there and are now looking for work. A former co-worker of mine sent me this link he found from Michael Fitch, our Creative Director at THQ that worker with us. His forum post best describes our frustrations during the TQ development and the difficult uphill battle that small indie studios have to deal with. I left Iron Lore in 2007, but still feel saddened by the closure of the company. Check it out.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Meaning of Life over Burritos - Part 1

So the other day I received a call from a good friend of mine whom I have known for 20 years. (Wow, I just realized I have known him for almost half my life.) He lives right down the street from where I work so on occasion we get together for lunch. It's a nice break during the week to step away and just hang out with my friend. We have been through a lot together. In high school we were in a band. There was 5 of us in total. We really created some amazing friendships from that band. We were good, but not great, but played some really great gigs. The only people I keep in touch with from high school are those 4 other guys. Some of them I see more frequently than the others, but when we get together, it's like no time has passed at all. They are part of my family.

So we went out for lunch. It was great to see him but I could tell he wasn't himself. He seemed lost or unsure. "When we were in high school," he said, "...we could go to the guidance counselor if we needed some help in figuring out where we should go to college." "When we were in college, we could talk to an assistant to guide us on our way so we could graduate." "Now we are in our mid-30's, we graduated from college, got married, had two kids, bought a house, have had three or more jobs. Now what?" Where do we go from here was the question. It is quite the juggling act when you are a coworker, father, husband and a friend. Your time is usually prioritized in that order too. Not by choice, but by necessity. Your time for you wife diminishes as soon as you have kids, and your time for friends is nearly none existent. It happens slowly, but it happens. What is even more derailing is that you become so focused on everyone else, that when the occasional opportunity arises for you to do something for yourself, you have forgotten who you are. This is not my house? This is not my beautiful wife? Where do I go from here? Do I really want to do this job for the next 30 years? Do I really want to live here? Is this the precursor to a mid life crisis? We joked that if that were the case, then neither one of us could afford the sports car. All of this sounds a bit depressing and in some ways it is, but in another way I think we are reaching a cross road in our lives. We just need to figure out which way we should be going and men are usually not very good at pulling over to ask for directions.

Concept Sketch - Tower Defense

The armies of Hades have torn down trees from the great forests of Elysium, scorched the golden fields and constructed towers and defensive walls as they march to destroy the greatest heroes of Greek Mythology.

Eternal Flame Concept

Concept sketch of an eternal flame & Door for the City of Lost Souls located prior to the river Styx. For some reason, the figure I put in for scale ref has taken on the form of Batman. What can I say, Batman is cool.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The frog creatures of Titan Quest Immortal Throne inhabited the swamp & marshes of Ancient Greece. These primitive, but clever little creatures constructed huts from the tall reeds and grasses in the swamps. Crudely formed pots & vessels were made from the abundance of clay in the soil and glowing starfly nests were attached to strung reeds and used for lanterns. These critters may seem unassuming and cute, but when attacked in groups, these frog creatures can chew you down to your bones. Be careful!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Concept Sketches 02 - Ruins w Creep

Black tar goo is bubbling up from underground forcing skeletal remains from burial sites to rise to the surface. This stuff grows like vines to consume and devour any living thing that gets stuck in it. A small crow has recently discovered that fact.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Concept Sketch 01 - Post & Beam Rome

Well it recently dawned on me that I haven't posted any artwork of my own on this blog, so here's some stuff. This is a sketch of a Roman alleyway that I did for a Titan Quest 2 project. The TQ2 storyline was based on an alternate Roman time line with fantastical mythological creatures. The city of Rome had endured a number of mysterious earth quakes and as you can see, the citizens quickly constructed a framework of post & beam supports all throughout the city to help the weakened stonework. There are also some giant wooden gears and pulley contraptions that reflect the influence of the great engineer, inventor & astronomer, Archimedes.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Great MP3 Music Site.

We have lost our way.

Now that the Iowa Caucus is over and done with, the focus is on the highly independent and irreverent state of NH. LIVE FREE or DIE! That's right, we're not messing around. My state goes "all in" when it comes to politics. I've lived in NH almost all of my life. I grew up here, moved away for college, but moved back as soon as I could to raise my family. NH is such a great state, the folks that have screwed up Massachusetts are moving to NH in droves. Over the past 10 years the population of Massachusetts has plummeted while the population of NH is growing like crazy. Folks in NH work hard, want a simple life, and want to be left alone. Politicians are the last people they want in this state. When we look at the candidates that come here to win our vote, many NH voters cast their vote on the person who will ultimately leave them alone and not mess up this great state.

It is clear after the Iowa Caucus, that there is a desire for change. I could not agree more. This country needs to clean house, hold a yard sale, pay off some credit card debt and get its ducks in a row. This country needs to re-think the roll of the federal government. Folks shouldn't have to look to far, it's pretty much spelled out in the Constitution. Has this world changed and does that document need to be amended to take into consideration todays issues and world events? Of course, why not. That's the whole point of the Constitution. Instead the President & Congress bend the laws and ignore the Constitution to go to war and violate citizens personal rights without batting an eyelash. Now is the time for a diversity of ideas. It is not the time to change from Vanilla to French Vanilla to use a tasty ice cream analogy. This country needs a candidate that will shake things up and make us think and re-think what the roll of government aught to be. The President is not a dictator. Congress can push back if certain ideas stretch the limits of the people. (whom they should be working for) It is our government that has lost its way. Both the Republicans & Democrats are to be blamed.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Ron Paul at the Red Arrow Diner.

Over the holiday break, I attended a small Ron Paul meet up at the Red Arrow Diner in Manchester, NH. The Red Arrow is one of those places that all of the candidates go to on their "Stumppin" through the state. On this particular morning, it was about 20 degrees and there was chance of an icy mix of snow and freezing rain. I showed up at the Diner at 7:50. It was reported that Ron Paul would be arriving at 8:30. When I arrived, there were about 5 people standing outside the diner. With-in minutes Ron Paul supporters started to pours out of the streets. There was around 35-40 supporters, some had traveled from Seattle, Texas, and South Carolina. All of the out of staters have come to NH to help for the primary. An older couple had traveled to NH to support Ron Paul. This couple had converted one of their hot air balloons to have the slogan RON PAUL REVOLUTION on the side. There were three news organizations there interviewing supporters and customers of the diner. Doctor Paul arrived before 8:30 accompanied by his son, some campaign people and a state trooper. He greeted all of us warmly, shaking just about everyones hands and speaking with us and the press briefly. After a quick hello, he proceeded into the Diner to meet with the locals having breakfast. The supporters of Paul remained outside to wave and greet early morning risers. After 20min, Doctor Paul exited the Diner to then speak to the growing crowd. He spoke of his message and vision for America along with Fox New excluding him from a round table discussion that was to be held one day before the NH primary. Fox news selected to not invite Ron Paul despite the fact that he is polling higher than Fred Thompson who will be attending. Bias media? Doc. Paul got the crowd all wound up then he was off to his next event. What is more interesting is that weeks prior to this event, the Paul campaign had made reservations at the Red Arrow for this event, however a night before the event, they got a call from the Diner canceling Paul's visit because Bill Clinton wanted to visit at the same time. Well, that didn't stop Doc. Paul and his supporters. We all showed up anyways. The funny thing is though...we never saw one Clinton supporter that morning.