Tuesday, November 8, 2011


Here's a relic -- a half-finished painting that at one time was going to be the cover of "Hsu and Chan #8". Ultimately, I ended up going with a more-reserved  piece, which was about 85% black, thus eliminating the large areas of fur and hair you see in this -- each strand of which I was painting individually. Accomplished artists have a name for this technique -- "the wrong technique," is what they call it.

More interesting to my eyes, now, is how freakishly weird Chan looks painted -- all plasticky and blocky, as if he were a sculpture at the county fair, carved out of soap by unsteady hands. High cheekbones, too! Chan's part native-American.

And before anybody asks, yes, there will be a "Hsu and Chan #9." 


Friday, November 4, 2011

Inspirational Talk, part one

Pencils from the recent "Oblivion" game. Elder Scrolls 5 is seven days away! So, basically, I have to get all the work I'm planning on doing for the next four months outta the way before the week ends.

Game development! If you're a gamer, then the chances are very good that at one time or another, or quite possibly several times, you've thought to yourself, "Hey, why don't I make my own video games?"

Answer: Because they're a crapload of work, that's why.

You remember those documentaries you saw when you were a kid about filmmaking, where they'd tell you how, after three days of grueling labor and the creation of a full-scale giant alien prop and hot lights and temperamental actors and shooting permits and such, they'd end up with about two minutes of usable footage? Well, game development's like that, except for having anything usable at the end of three days. 

Usually, at the end of three days, what you have -- if you're lucky -- are a set of problems that are at least moderately different from the problems you had three days before. If you're not lucky, you're still working on the first problems, and can only hope to see the day when you get to work on new, exciting issues. And where do these problems all come from? Generally, they're the result of poor or incomplete planning. Is there a way to avoid poor or incomplete planning in game development? Of course!

It's just that nobody's discovered it, yet.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Killer Bees

More pencils from the forthcoming 1up.com game! Who is this mysterious insectoid man? Does he get improved cell reception? 

Since the new Grand Theft Auto V trailer went live, yesterday, speculation has been rampant as to who the unnamed, and quite possibly unseen, narrator was. The prevailing rumor -- which I will go out on a limb and declare patently false  -- is that the narrator is none other than "Vice City's" Tommy Vercetti, owing to the narrator sounding very vaguely, and very temporarily, like Vercetti's voice, Ray Liotta.  I've heard it, and the resemblance is there, but only momentarily. Mike Myers has been able to sustain an uninterrupted Scottish accent for longer than the narrator sounded like Ray Liotta.

And, of course, Liotta's management has already responded to the rumors, stating definitively that he had nothing whatsoever to do with the creation of the trailer, which would seem to lay the matter to rest, but hope springs eternal. Me, as much as I'd like to see the characters of earlier GTAs again -- alive if not completely well -- I think it's best to look to the future, since there's so much more real estate there. Besides, low-polygon characters don't always benefit from a transition to more-realistic styling. I'm thinking here specifically of Cloud Strife, who went from a spunky rakehell in "Final Fantasy VII" to, well, a woman in the CG feature "Advent Children."

Besides, at last count, my version of "San Andreas'" C.J. had 100 percent muscle AND 100 percent fat. "San Andreas" took place in the mid-nineties, so there's a very, very good chance Carl Johnson has already been laid to rest by a massive coronary. That's the life he chose to lead, dog.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

And a little color...

And here's the game background, with color more-or-less in place! If I know one thing about the future, it's that it glows like Christmas!

And in other game-related news, today saw the release of the first trailer -- I'll call it a teaser, though it was really more substantial than that -- for the long-rumored "Grand Theft Auto V." It's viewable now, of course, and required viewing for basically every member of the gaming populace old enough to watch it without upsetting their mothers.

What do we know? We know it takes place in San Andreas, Rockstar's fictional version of California (which, compared to its real-life counterpart, features way more carjacking and mayhem, and way less heroin use). We know it will feature a male character in the lead. We speculate that it will feature theft, and autos.

What don't we know? Everything else. Is it just going to be the city of Los Santos, or do we get San Fierro and Las Venturas as well? Is the dog at the beginning of the trailer indicative of dogs in the actual game? Will this be a return to the substantially wackier GTAs of old? Will we get to play as the dog?

So far as gut reaction to the trailer, I like it. It's not as mind-blowing as the trailer for GTA IV, mostly because it's clearly still using a souped-up version of GTA IV's graphics engine -- which is no foul, really, it's a great engine, and GTA IV's visuals are STILL really impressive, but it no longer qualifies as a revolutionary leap in graphics technology.

What little story that comes through the narrative speaks of a former criminal being drawn back into a life of crime -- which, honestly, sounds terribly cliche coming from one of the few game developers who have actually had some success in crafting a mature narrative. No doubt there are numerous twists and turns to come, however, so I should probably just sit back and wait for more details before I pass judgement.

Fortunately, Skyrim releases in less than two weeks, making it much easier to do so.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Background pencils!

Today, I invite you to enjoy a look at the pencils for my upcoming 1up.com game-webcomic. Your individual level of enjoyment may vary, depending on how you respond to landscape pencils. Ten points for anyone who can correctly guess the game being parodied! Eternal shame on whoever guesses wrong, 'cause there's clues all over the page.

I forgot to mention it since I was on vacation at the time, and thus very busy forgetting a lot of things, but while I was out, a new videogame-webcomic debuted on 1up.com, based on the "Elder Scrolls: Oblivion!" Yes, Oblivion, not Skyrim. If you've played Oblivion, you'll enjoy the heck out of this one -- check it out at: http://www.1up.com/features/oblivion-webcomic-game

Alternatively, if you haven't played Oblivion, you'll probably still enjoy it on some level, but if your only exposure to the Elder Scrolls series has been the stunningly gorgeous footage leading up to the release of Skyrim (soon!), you may be a little puzzled about what's going in. Specifically, you may wonder why there's so much fuss over a game series if one of its main, identifying features is that it has a ridiculously high number of bugs.

Technical glitches, that is. Not insects. It has those, but they're pretty lukewarm so far as game insects go. Two out of five stars, that's what I rate their insects.

No, the glitches of the Elder Scrolls series are the stuff of legends, and so varied! Many were terrible, game-killing bugs; quest-enders, instant death, falling through scenery, getting stuck in the landscape! Some were wonderful: item duplication! Gravity-defying paintbrushes! Some were just weird, and youtube can help you fill in the blanks there. The point is, if you played Oblivion on the first day, chances are good you had to reset at some point. Even now, five years and heaven only knows how many patches later, you can still find the errant bug cavorting through the game world.

Which I realize doesn't exactly explain why people -- myself included -- think these are some of the best games ever, regardless, but I was getting to that. The truth is, the game has so many bugs because there's so much GAME in there to start with. Elder Scrolls games aren't short experiences; they're as close as you can get to having an alternate life in a fantasy world that doesn't require a subscription fee, psychedelic drugs or circumvention of federal law.

In fact, for my money, they're WAY more immersive than an MMO, not just because of the beautiful landscapes and deep fantasy lore, but because you don't have to

1: hear other players, fully dressed in fantasy garb and suited up to battle the hordes of the underworld, talking about 'Family Guy' episodes, or

2: Feel like a complete wiener because you're the only one playing the game in-character. I'm not saying this because I've played "The Lord of the Rings Online" as a hobbit, spending several minutes alone on a hillside, strumming an in-game lute; I'm saying this because as far as I know, nobody else ever has.

At any rate, Skyrim's out on the 11th of November! Very exciting! Now go guess the game in the pencils.