Saturday, January 26, 2013

Darkstalkers Contest!

Recently, a contest was held to design a Darkstalkers character.  Darkstalkers 3 is probably my favorite 2D fighting game; I love the characters, gameplay, and even the music.  I love designing fighting game characters too, so as soon as I heard about the contest, I made plans to enter!  The cool thing was that the contest mostly relied on written design with optional visuals!  This shocked me; however, I still suspect that the winner will be someone with a strong visual concept.  Because of this suspicion, I decided to try and make something visual.  In fact, my original -- and rather audacious -- idea was to make a playable demo with this character, but a month would not have been nearly enough time to do something like that.  First, I'll show off the characters as well as their bios.


 Ginepro:  The Wooden Shell

Did someone say Pinocchio?  They did?!  Do they want a cookie?!

Instead of typing out my 8 page entry for him again, here's a link to a PDF.

Ginepro was my first design, but something made me think I should do a female character.  Since contestants were allowed to do two entries, I did a second one:


Narceilia:  The Gorgon

I realized way too late how similar her appearance was to C. Viper.  Oops!

Instead of typing out my 6 page entry for her again, here's a link to a PDF.



I definitely wanted to show off my art and writing in this post, but I also wanted to write-down my process for making these entries.  If you haven't guess, these character sheets were made by starting with a base model in 3DS Max, skinning them, and then posing them.

Base Model

For these characters, I started with a base model provided to me by a former co-worker and very talented 3D artist, Nick Miller.  Awhile ago, we were working on a 3D fighting game.  The project never came to fruition, but he allowed me to keep the base models -- 2 males and 2 females -- and use them in future work if I ever desired, and for this contest entry, I surely did.  In summary, if you aren't a strong or fast 3D modeler, which I am not, having great bases can help you conceptualize and build things quickly.

Skinning and DAZ

Skinning was the next step after creating my 3D models.  Skinning may be the most tedious and feared process in the character rigging pipeline.  Essentially, vertices have to be weighted to bones and if you aren't good you character can have all kinds of strange, inhuman stretching.
3DS Max, which I used to create these models, does have a modifier called Skin Wrapping -- which I believe I've mentioned in an earlier post -- that allows you to tranfser the skinning from one model to another, and I love it!

Daz's Logo -- nothing dirty about it...for now...

Then, there exists a 3D suite called Daz3D.  Now Daz has a pretty bad reputation for allowing anyone to pose the human form into indecent poses, but I found it useful for skin wrapping.  Essentially, I export a character, with about the same proportions as the character I'm working on as a .FBX.  I then import this into 3DS Max.  The great thing is that all the skinning information is kept intact!  I can then pose this imported model as closely to my character as possible and use Skin Wrap to transfer the skinning.  The only additional things I had to do was write a script to convert all the imported "dummy" bones to 3DS Max bones.
The only downside to Skin Wrapping is that you have to use the imported mesh's rig, which is problematic when using Daz models because they don't have arm twisting and relay on morphs which do no import with the .FBX.  After skinning successfully, I posed the characters.

Rendering and Coloring

For rendering, I just did used a simple gray material and used a skylight with shadows in 3DS Max.  Unwrapping and texturing are both time-consuming and I'm just not that great at them.  The only thing textured in my entries is Ginepro's leafy hair.  After exporting these grayscale images I placed the various poses.  I really wanted to show off some of the Darkstalkers craziness in this images with growing limbs and venemous snakes, but instead I was running short on time.  Here is what the grayscale images looked like: 

Finally, in Photoshop, I used gradient maps to convert the grayscale into very nice.  Gradient Map layers are great for coloring grayscale imagery quickly.  I plan on using them more often for sure!

Anyway, that was my "crazy" process for making these entries.  I'm contemplating on doing a 3D game in Unity and using this process to make my characters.  I'll definitely post it on here if I do!

Oh, and as for Battle High 2, we're nearing completion, waiting on some ending artwork, which has been well worth the wait. In the meantime, I've been working on some gameplay polish as we ll as some branding, such as this collection of icons:

I'll keep this blog updated as I approach the final days of Battle High 2's completion!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2013: It Begins!

Another Year Done

If only I were as styling as this dog was on New Year's Eve!

So 2012 is now done!  I decided to start this new year with a fresh post!  2012 was an alright year.  It had ups and downs, maybe more downs than ups, but I am happy the world didn't end in December.
The only thing I wish had happened in 2012 is that I finished a game of some kind, but game development takes a lot of time, especially when you want to do it right.  I could have probably punched out a silly, $1 Xbox Live Indie Game that would make no more than 10 sales, if that, but I wanted to focus more on my largest project, Battle High 2, which I'm hoping I can finish soon!


I found this while searching for images of resolutions.  I don't trust that Santa!
Some people think making resolutions are stupid, and to some degree they can be.  I make them though, and my idea behind making resolutions is that some are crazy and wild and impossible and there are way too many of them to fulfill, but I attempt change nonetheless.  Even if I make just one little change in my life for the better, I think it's worth it.  Anyway, here are some of my resolutions for this year!

Publish At Least 2 Games

Publishing the same game to multiple platforms doesn't count...yet!  Also, I know nothing about Game Salad, but it sounds tasty!
As mentioned above, I was a bit disheartened when I realized I didn't personally publish any games in 2012.  Well, my goal for 2013 is to publish 2!  I'm definitely on my way with one.  Battle High 2 is very close to being finished.  I'm essentially just waiting on some art assets -- which have been well worth the wait -- and then dealing with some balancing, AI polish, and bugs.  I'm hoping I can get it published before PaxEast and GDC 2013 as well.
What will this mysterious second game be?  I'm not sure.  I'd like to do something in Unity3D.  I purchased a license for that engine and haven't done anything with it!  They've released Unity 4.0 already, and I refuse to upgrade till I do something in this release.  At the same time, my Global Game Jam entry from 2012 has been yearning for attention.  Maybe I'll finish that!  If I'm super productive, maybe I'll get both done!  Regardless, having a full time game industry job and trying to do this independently is a challenge, but it's one I enjoy and will continue to do until I no longer enjoy it -- which hopefully won't happen!

Improve Health & Fitness Habits

He has muscles, yes, but how fast can he type?  Also, will it blend?
This is such a silly one.  Everyone makes I'm-going-to-lose-weight-and-run-ten-marathons resolutions, but you know what?  I'm silly, and I am making this resolution!  (Sans the ten marathons)  Working in the game industry and on my personal projects sometimes causes me to neglect my health which can be bad later down the road in life, so I always try to keep them in mind now.  As I type this though and look to my left, eying an overly sweetened, iced coffee, this is one that will have to wait for tomorrow.
I'd like to believe I did do pretty decent on this last year though.  I started running and went from being unable to run a mile to being able to almost consistently do at least 3 in a half hour.  It's nothing wildly special, but it was still an achievement for me.  It was funny when I realized how smartphone apps were helping me in my pursuit of better health.  MapMyRun motivated me by estimating how far I ran and how much I burned, allowing me to see how I've improved.  Meanwhile MyFitnessPal helped me track calories -- and yes, I do know it's not all about calorie count and that I can't eat 1,400 calories of just cookies and expect to be healthier.  Overall, my resolution isn't to be able to bench press 5 times my body weight or have titanium abs or reduce myself to 0.1% body fat, but just to make small improvements in my health and feel better about myself.

Get Back Into Doing "The Arts"

The best "Jack of All Trades" and the original master, Ken Masters.
As few know, I actually graduated from The Art Institute of Pittsburgh for Game Art & Design.  In retrospect, going somewhere for computer science might have served me better, especially now that I'm a programmer professionally, but I still don't regret going to AIP.  I learned every part of the game development pipeline.  Sadly, this makes me a jack of all trades and a master of nothing, but a jack of all trades like me can get a game done by himself while a master has to depend on other masters to put all their mastery together.  I'm mostly just rationalizing at this point -- the game made by all masters will be far superior 99% of the time -- but I do like being able to do everything, even if my skills at that aren't top notch in certain fields like audio.  To this point, I'd like to get back to creating better game art assets for my personal work, mostly in the vein of 3D modeling.  Again, my modeling style is old school and filled with shortcuts, but at least I can get something done and then integrate it into a game.  Though it might not be an expertly sculpted, anatomically correct, overly wrinkled and naked, old man made in ZBrush and it's rig may not be the most intuitive and user-friendly, it'll be a working game asset.  I will say though, I won't be applying for art positions any time soon (or ever).

Be More Active In Communities 

Some online communities feel a bit like this show; hopefully, I'm not Chevy Chase's character in them.
This is one I can sadly say probably won't happen.  I know I should be more active in communities like Shoryuken (a fighting game forum) or the XBLIG forums, but I just have such a hard time keeping up.  Then, you have to deal with trolls and flame wars and things I just don't have the energy for, but I know that keeping up with these and being more active would be better in the long run.  Maybe this resolution should really be to improve my networking skills both online and offline.  I plan on going to two conferences this year; hopefully, at these, I can make some new contacts.  Again, this one will probably be at the bottom of the list, but it doesn't mean I'll at least take tiny steps to improve upon it.

Play More Games

This one seems silly, possibly one that counteracts my health resolution, but as a game developer, I sometimes forget to actually play games!  I forget about the fun I have playing games, focusing too much on making them.  This also hurts because I become out of touch with what's popular and what people like.  I can also experience new gameplay that can help influence and improve my design skills.  The most important part of this is to not just play games, but play games that are a little out of my comfort zone like trying an FPS or giving the new Resident Evil game a chance, or finally getting around to MineCraft.  The only difficult aspect of this is finding time and, depending on the game published format, funds.  Maybe a GameFly account would come in handy.

There are many more resolutions, but they are all rather simple:
  • Learn network programming
  • Draw more
  • Cook new and exciting and healthier meals but also crazy, elaborate desserts
  • And many more!
I don't feel writing more than that about those.  Again, I probably won't succeed in 80% of my resolutions, but even if I do in just one, I'll be happy.  Oh, and of course I also want to make a resolution to write in this blog more, which, with this, I'm hoping I've started my stride in doing so.  Here's to a great 2013 and thanks for reading!