As I am writing this on Christmas night, I would just like to wish everyone a happy and healthy holiday with family and friends.
Also, I spent most of yesterday immobile with illness, so I don't really feel like writing more. Goodnight.
Believe it or not I have been doing some small amount of game development these last few months. In a sporadic fashion I reopen my project, consult my sparse documentation to see what sort of checklist items I had open, and proceed to decipher what it was I worked on last.
The last time this happened, I went ahead and reworked the way my game used physics. I also looked at the next item on my list and started working on that, only to discover that my past self had already completed that particular system ( a way of dynamically creating objects from sub objects ) and had devised a simple and elegant solution to the problem.
I haven’t done nearly enough work on this game, which is too bad, because it already controls pretty well. There isn’t nearly enough game there to be fun yet, but the connection between your fingers and the game feels nice.
I’m not going to go into any detail though. I’m not going to write about what it took to revise the physics interactions. I’m not going to write about the slowly, but steadily congealing game mechanics. I’m not going to write about my concept sketches, the theme, title, influences, or game loop.
The next time I write about it will be when I have something to show, and I have something for people to play and offer feedback on. Until then, I’m just not going to talk about it.
Best Games - Might and Magic Clash of Heroes
During the reign of the nintendo DS a cavalcade of excellent games poured out of development studios and onto that small, two screened console. Many of them were overlooked, or had one or two weeks of notoriety before the next release from Level-5 or Capcom or Nintendo themselves launched, completely eclipsing any smaller releases.
Might and Magic is a name that can catch the attention of long time PC gamers, but outside of that small audience, the name really doesn’t count for much. Add to that, the fact that Clash of Heroes is only very tangentially related to the rest of the Might and Magic series. This game was doomed to obscurity from the jump. That’s an incredible shame, because Clash of Heroes might be one of the finest strategy games made in the last several years.
The meat of Clash of Heroes is matching three, or more, like items to create some effect. This lead a lot of review outlets to classify it as a puzzle game. This assessment could not be more wrong. There is nothing puzzle game about it. In Clash of Heroes you will match 3, but the game is not a match 3 game. That is just the mechanism by which you mete out your moves.
Three in a row vertically is an attack move and three in a row horizontally builds a defensive wall. Defence enacts as soon as you play it, but attack will take a different amount of turns to charge up depending on the type of attack and units involved. The real game is looking for holes in your opponent's defence while shoring up your own, using very limited resources. When you find yourself looking to set up attacks and counters 2 or 3 turns from now, anticipating moves your opponent will make, you notice how deviously clever and simple a strategy game Clash of Heroes really is. It has more in common with othello than bejewelled.
There is one mechanic that completely cements Clash of Heroes as a strategy game. Rather than being completely formulaic like chess, Clash of Heroes contains one random element. The placement of pieces on the board is completely unknown when you start the game. After pieces are removed from the board you are able to replenish them by hitting the reinforce button. The new pieces slide in behind your existing ranks only semi-randomly. The game will never create a match three on it’s own. Only the player can do that, either by moving or removing a piece. When the new reinforcements enter the board, you can be absolutely sure of the places they won’t be. Depending on the way the board is already set up, a lot of the time that also means that you will know where they will end up too. This lets you start planning new moves. If you added elements of a deck building card game to chess, Clash of Heroes would be the result.
When you pile on the variety of unique units, the cutesy but solid art, and the serviceable and sometimes grin inducing story, you end up with a game that didn’t receive the attention it deserved. It is currently available on every platform you can touch or plug a controller into, so maybe someday it will be recognized as the true classic it is.
Might and Magic Clash of Heroes is one of the best games.
I’ve been tracing.
Sometime late in high school I decided not to copy other artist's work. It wasn’t any sort of moral stance. I didn’t feel like I owed Erik Larsen an apology for redrawing one of his spiderman panels. I wasn’t selling them, or claiming that I came up with the drawing. I certainly didn’t come up with the character. Like a lot of kids, I was reproducing other people's work as a way to understand it. I thought that if I could decode how Ron Lim put together a splash page of silver surfer fighting Mephisto, I could someday learn to draw like him.
Then I stopped doing that. I drew from life, things I could see. I drew bowls of fruit, both nude and clothed human models, and a few animals. I would use photo reference, but only as a piece of a different composition. I completely stopped recreating other artwork, and I never ever traced something.
I don’t know who told me that tracing was cheating. I can’t remember if anyone even did. In any case I never traced, even when it would have been sensible. Drawing a brand new pose for a character just to try out different costumes is really not sensible.
I did some tracing recently, and realized I have been very stupid. Of course now I know that artists have been tracing for as long as it has been possible. Vermeer, tracer. Norman Rockwell, tracer. Neal Adams, proud tracer. So much landscape, still life, and portrait art was traced from a camera obscura projection, it would be difficult to tally it up. For whatever reason I considered it cheating, probably because so much of the rest of the world considers it cheating.
Here is an image I am currently working on.
And here are the steps I took to make it.
Like a most drawings, this one comes from an idea. I’m trying to represent the attitude of a whole group of characters as they are described in text. So the first thing I do is draw a page of quick dirty sketches.
I’m really just trying to imagine what the character is thinking, so I’m drawing poses and postures. Most of this probably doesn’t look like much, but I also usually don’t save this step. I just draw and delete a bunch of stuff until I have a bead on the character. This sketching part is probably the same no matter if you are going to trace or not.
Next I may or may not do some image searches on google to see clothes, postures, and interesting faces. In this case, I didn’t.
Next comes the interesting part. There is an addon for Blender called ManuelbastioniLAB
http://www.manuelbastioni.com/ an open source, blender specific, offshoot of MakeHuman. Both ManuelbastioniLAB and MakeHuman are collections of nice clean 3d models of humans with all sorts of adjustment sliders to make all sorts of different “humans”. I use ManuelbastioniLAB to create a pretty generic looking person inside Blender. I use all the sliders and tools to make a person sort of close to what I am looking for. Then I use the included skeleton to pose the character, and I adjust the camera and lights to approximate what I will be going for in the final image. Then I render out a quick version, which usually consists of just taking a screenshot.
My original intent was to take a screenshot and then use that as reference the same way I would use a photo. I would look at it and redraw the relevant bits just beside on my screen. For whatever reason, the act of moving the image from one place to another by looking here and drawing over there is not really considered cheating.
Instead, I thought, well the picture is right here on my screen, on another layer of the same file in fact. Why don’t I just draw over it? So I did. I felt like I was cheating, but I got the landmarks and fiddly bits out of the way incredibly quickly, if you don't count all that time setting up and posing the model. It let me work more on getting the right attitude and dealing with costuming and making all the little changes that just didn’t work in the initial pose. The position of the eyes, the tightness of the lips, size of the chin, Subtly repositioning the shoulders and fingers until this single captured moment says what I want it to say.
Now I don’t know if this technique will work for everyone. Maybe you have to do it the hard way for a while before tracing becomes a tool you can use without being slavish to the source material. I honestly can’t say. I do know that I was a bit rusty in the drawing department, having spent years sculpting and 3D modelling, but tracing helped me out a lot. I did a few freehand sketches on paper just yesterday, and found that laying down poses and rough camera angles felt much easier. Maybe I just needed to trace for a while.