Wednesday, December 30, 2015

2015: The Year of Dreams

Happy New Year everybody! It's pretty crazy that we're moving onto 2016 already, but before we do, I wanted to take a moment to look back at some cool things that happened in 2015. The gaming industry as a whole had a really good year, and a lot of amazing new surprises got announced throughout this trip around the sun. My New Year's resolution last year was to write a blog post a month. As you can tell, I fell a bit short of that goal, but I did at least manage to keep the blog somewhat active for most of the year. Here's hoping I continue that pace going forward.

In terms of art, I had one of my most productive years yet, so I'm definitely going to file 2015 on the "good shelf." Surviving in this industry is tough, and it can be really frustrating coming out of college and facing so many hurdles and rejection on the path to starting a career. But after a long time, I'm finally starting to feel more confident in my work and develop a more positive about my future. Hopefully it only gets better from here on out!

In 2015, I traveled to California three times (once for GDC, once for PSX, and once to teach at iD Tech Spring Break Camp), I spent the summer teaching in Seattle, I worked on my first ever Kickstarter campaign, I released my first ever mobile game on iOS, I got to work on my first Steam game, I got the chance to work with the wonderful folks at BrightCovers, and I worked on a whole slew of other interesting small projects. It was definitely a milestone year for me in terms of new experiences, and I'm really excited to see what comes next.

In these posts, I tend to have a lot of talking and not enough images (especially considering this is an art blog!), so I'm going to include a ton of pictures in this post. Without further ado, here's what I've been doing:

I've been doing a lot of work for Bright Covers, a local patio covering company here in Cleveland. I've been creating instructional videos for the assemblers as well as some promotional material to show off the product.

I came up with a few new rendering techniques along the way that I will definitely be utilizing again in the near future.

Here's the full animation that instructs owners how to construct their new unit.

I'm also in the process of creating some new mascot characters. This is still a work in progress, so he's not quite done yet. If you happen to attend any of the local home & garden shows though, you might be able to see the finished product!

As I mentioned, I also got to work on an early access Steam game called Grimoire: Manastorm. My role on Grimoire was mostly behind-the-scenes rigging and weight painting tasks, but it was a fun job nonetheless. If you follow the game on Steam, stay tuned for an upcoming update that will incorporate all of the cool cloth physics I've been working on!

On another note, I'm not sure if I posted this on the blog, but Wave Crash is officially out on iOS now! It's completely free and available right on your iPhone or iPad. Check it out! We put a ton of hard work into it. Going forward, our crew has some exciting new plans that may or may not include the use of VR headsets, but I'll talk more about that at a later date.

I also did a bunch of animation work earlier in the year. This is using a pre-rigged model, so the focus here is the wall running animation.

 As many cool projects as I worked on this year, I feel I didn't quite make as much personal artwork as I did in the past. I'm happy that work is keeping me busy, but it's still important to continue doing artwork for my own sake as well. And so for 2016, my goal is to draw one finished scene each month. I'm leaving the specifics of that requirement a bit open-ended, but each scene should be finished enough that I would be willing to submit it to my deviantArt gallery (and not in the scraps section!). I think it's an achievable goal, and it will be fun to go back to what got me into art in the first place: drawing for fun!

On that note, here's some of the personal artwork that I did manage to do this year. It's mostly related to The Nays (the series my sister and I created), so most of it hasn't been released online until now.

This was a Christmas present for my sister. Disclaimer: I have no claim own over any of the music, but the goofy voices are 100% mine!
These are clothing designs for two of my characters from The Nays, Shaw Braves and Chozu Eisu. They are two of the original characters from the beginning of the series, so they go through a lot of different designs.

And here we have a bunch of minor characters from The Nays. I've continuously been trying to draw every character in alphabetical order, but the series has quite the large cast so I'll probably be working on this until the end of time!

These are scenes from a fun 2-hour animation project I worked on back in September. The goal was to spend no more than 2 hours on each scene.

 For this one, I got inspired to make something using the old Gameboy color palette. This is Mar Keys from The Nays.

These are some new characters from the Shard of the Orient eventure in The Nays. This story is told in a somewhat unconventional way, and you can check out the official website here (the layout and pictures are still not 100% but the story is all up there). It will probably be like jumping into a random TV show on season 4 episode 7, but if you're interested feel free to read it!

And I think that sums up all of the more significant projects of the year. I warned you it would be a long post! Thanks for taking the time to check out all of my work. I don't have a huge following online or anything, but if just a handful of people find some of these pictures interesting, then maintaining this blog is all worth it! I think 2015 was a really great year and I plan to make 2016 even better. See ya guys next year. Until then... Adios!

Monday, December 14, 2015

RPGs and Playstation Experience

Hey guys! Been a while, and I have a lot of cool new stuff to share. I've been keeping busy with game development, 3D animation, drawings, and lots of traveling. I'll save some of the bigger news for my huge year-end post that will go up around New Year's. For this post, I'd like to concentrate on two exciting events that have happened recently: Playstation Experience and the release of RPGMaker MV.

So last week, I got to attend the second annual Playstation Experience in San Francisco. It's a huge gathering of all things Playstation and it was full of awesome game announcements, demos, displays, free goodies, and really excited people. It was a ton of fun and I would definitely love to go back again. As my friends and I described it, the convention almost felt like a mini-E3 that just focused on Sony stuff.

 The event was more consumer oriented than some of the past conventions I've went to, but I still got the chance to meet up with a bunch of fellow developers. I played the new Shadow of the Beast, which surprisingly was really faithful to the original (including some of my favorite songs from the old soundtrack!). I tried Severed (new game from Drinkbox) and was really pleased with how similar the visuals are to Guacamelee. I played Street Fighter 5 and King of Fighters 14, both of which felt like really solid additions to the franchises. (I even managed to win a match of KoF, time to go pro!). 

I also got to play the Uncharted 4 multiplayer which was neat. The booth was set up like a tropical oasis with multiple teams scattered throughout the area. I'm definitely more into the single player campaign than the MP though, so I also made sure to check out the panel with the mocap/voice actors. They went into a lot of detail on what things are like behind the scenes over at Naughty Dog, so that was a really cool experience.

But without a doubt, my favorite part of the convention was getting the chance to try out the Morpheus (or Playstation VR as it is now called). I've used a bunch of other headsets in the past, but none of them have given me quite as mind-blowing of an experience as the PS VR did. First off, you can comfortably use it wearing glasses! Personally, I think that is huge since taking off my glasses to use an Oculus always seems to dampen the experience for me.

Secondly, the sense of space is incredible. I played The London Heist which made use of two PS Move controllers instead of a standard Dualshock. To anyone who still remembers motion gaming as a Wii waggle-fest, let me tell you... this is miles ahead of that! I looked down at my hands with the headset and saw my character's hands. When I pulled the trigger on the controller, my character gripped his fingers. The relationship was one-to-one! There is a part in the demo where a character hands you a cell phone. You can't hear what he's saying until you physically put your hand up to your ear. It was just brilliant!

I know my words can't do it justice but this is something that I feel everyone needs to experience. I was still a little bit skeptical on VR but when you get the full experience with motion controls, it is completely unlike anything we've ever been exposed to before. I can't wait until this thing hits the market!

I could ramble on about the conference forever (in fact, we did over at Final Save Point), but I also want to get to some of the development stuff that I've been doing. A little over a month ago, the new version of RPG Maker officially launched. Named MV, for the first time ever this version supports custom resolutions, mobile/browser builds, and a ton of amazing features through the new plugin system. As you may or may not know, I've been obsessed with the program since RPGMaker 95 and it was what really got me into game development in the first place.

Although it's certainly not as beefy as a full engine like Unity, the program has always had a special place in my heart. And with the ability to go up to 1080p, I can finally develop professional quality games in it! So far I haven't created anything in MV that I intend to release commercially, but I have put together some interesting projects.

In addition to some sample projects to try out the engine, I've created a few games about The Nays. The first is a port of a game I started in VX Ace that can now realize its full potential in the more advanced RPG Maker. The game is about a small detective agency and it's a sequel to a game I made way back in RPGM2003. I'm taking advantage of the quest journal plugin to keep track of cases, and I've already begun work on a custom UI. It's probably my biggest ongoing project in the engine.

I also started up a goofy little baseball simulator called Biggert City Baseball. A long time ago, I used to have this electronic baseball toy that would simulate a baseball game by "spinning a wheel" and coming up with random outcomes when you press the button. I got the idea to recreate that in video game form using creatures that my sister and I designed as part of The Nays universe. I'm envisioning it as a sports/RPG hybrid where you play games of baseball, but in between you can wander around towns and increase your stats / recruit players.

I got really fired up about this and managed to program most of the core gameplay in a single day or two. When a batter comes to the plate, it cycles through a list of outcomes and stops on one when you hit the button. Depending on the batter's stats, they are more likely to get a certain type of hit (power hitter might have 5 frames to hit a homerun where a contact guy only sees it for 2 frames). I'm still tweaking the values, but technically you can play through an entire game and have most of your results displayed on screen somehow. I also drew up the entire field, so progress on this game is moving right along.

Overall, the RPG Maker MV release has been pretty amazing. I've been fairly active over on the official forums and it's been a lot of fun being so involved in the early development of the engine. If you're at all interested in game development and don't know where to start, this is a really great place to get your feet wet.

Anyways, this post is getting pretty long so I think I'll cut it off here. I have a lot more news that I want to share, but I'll save it for next time. I hope everyone enjoys the holidays. You can expect my next post some time in the next few weeks. Until then... Adios!