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garganroo is a game designer
garganroo uses this blog to post game art stuff, plus some general game topics that he stumbles upon.

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Our local art jam has challenged us to do a Link fanart with a twist. So I did this.

Okay, it's not much of a twist, but I think it's a mix of the young Links in Ocarina and Wind Waker. There's also a little bit of Pixar in there -- or at least there's an attempt.

Anyway, the real reason I did this is to practise a certain technique I've been seeing on some of my real artist friends (real = they get paid for it, as in pro). You know, the silhouette-first-in-black-and-white technique. I don't know what it's called, but anyway, here's my process.

Did a rough silhouette of Link, with basic shading and setting where the light will hit.

I start 'carving out, the details, emphasis on the face since I want a specific style on the nose.

More B/W details. I removed his sword because it's a distraction. Added a vague background of sorts. It took me a while to get the shading on the hands right. Fuck you, hands!

Started testing with color. (Pro-tip from the, well, pro: use Overlay blend mode!)

Added Navi and his sword, some glassy finish on the floor plus effects, some vague outlines here and there, saturate the hell out of it, and voila!

I can do this with my old workflow at roughly the same time (outline first, then color and shading later) but this one feels different. Fun experiment, though.

PS: I haven't played Skyward Sword yet, so expect another Legend of Zelda fan art in the future. :)
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10:05 PM on 08.17.2013

Aaand Plants vs Zombies 2 is out! So to celebrate, I dug out a 4-year old fan art I did for the first game. 

Anyway, much of PvZ 2's buzz centers on the big bad world of free-to-play and how PopCap (or EA) will nickel-and-dime the beloved franchise to death -- a valid concern given our love for the first game and the inexplicable hatred to F2P games in general (much of the blame is directed at Zynga). 

With the reviews coming in one by one, PvZ 2 appears to have proven all the cynics wrong. It's fun like the first game (that should be a given), but the F2P aspect doesn't seem to be as vicious as, say, Candy Crush. It's optional and you can complete the game without spending anything, they say. I've played up until the first half of the Ancient Egypt world, and while it's gently introducing all sorts of purchaseable stuff -- and filling the game with HUD elements -- it doesn't seem to be in such a rush to sell you anything.

Which is good for us, but I can't say if it's any good to PopCap. 

On the other hand -- and I'm putting it out there for the sake of discussion -- giving away a polished game for free with almost optional in-app purchases doesn't make any business sense. If this is, they'd give you a minimum of 5 lives per session, make you wait to generate each life, make each plant consumable, etc. 

Imma stop now and play some more.

Quick sketch while waiting for that Na'Vi vs Orange battle: 

This update even has a back story in mind (albeit a cliched one):

Little is known about these pesky duo other than they're once part of the biggest property scam in the Milky Way. Pursued by an estimated 2.5 trillion victims -- including the entire population of Xodus who suddenly found themselves without a planet to call home -- Dynamo & CX61 are on the run to find whoever sold them out.

I better send this to Kickstarter. Ha.

I'm not much of a Dota follower -- or even a decent player -- but The International is the first time I ever watched a gaming tournament (noob, I know). Watching Na'Vi lose against IG last year, I finally understood why these tourneys are popular. And since I'm not much a sports guy myself, I'd say Dota is the closest thing to a sport that I'll ever gonna play.  

Anyway, I still have 1 hour to go, so...yeah.

12:50 AM on 08.05.2013

Hello, I have another art update:

How often does it happen to you, that the world you're playing in just seems so...real that you forget about the real thing? Hey, even that monster seems immersed as well! :)

But realism alone won't lead to immersion; most games immerse you into their world simply because theirs is a world that feels logical despite anything/everything game-y about it. What breaks the immersion is a lot of things, like a story decision that goes against what the game tells you to do (like forcing John Marston to die in the end in Red Dead Redemption, when you can wipe out an entire gang in seconds), or an illogical puzzle (like that puzzle in The Longest Journey), or even sudden reminders of game world limits (like those awkward invisible walls in countless games).

As long as the game makes sense to the player, immersion shouldn't be far away. And hours will fly by and you realize your eyes and hands are tired, you're hungry, and you are just human.

It's the obligatory Last of Us joke fan art! I don't know if this idea is original (didn't bother googling for it), but it's the first thing that came to mind* after finishing the game.

Or maybe Mario's already immune? 
Anyway, enough with the jokes. Onto my quick reaction.

The Last of Us is an exhausting game to play. I can only play 2-3 hours tops and then I put down the controller and take a sigh of relief. The last time I felt something like this was playing Resident Evil 3 more than a decade ago. It's the constant dread that's exhausting. Strangely enough, whenever I see a bunch of hunters roaming about, I kinda feel relieved -- they're easier targets for Joel. 

But let's talk about Ellie, specifically her AI. When I was reading some of the reviews before release, they're always talking about how dynamic the AI was and how NPCs are never a problem to you -- well that's because they're freaking invisible! Too many times have I witnessed Ellie or Tess crawling in front of an enemy and they just ignore them. Especially that Bill dude with his shoes specially made to make stomping noise with each step. That is not AI -- that's a design shortcut.  It's downright laughable. 

I was also missing the kind of vulnerability that ICO did with the girl. I'm not asking for a useless damsel in distress, but sometimes I kind of forget where Ellie is -- sometimes I don't even care 'cause she's rarely in danger. She can practically walk straight to the hospital without Joel's help. Well, if only she can swim. From what I remember there's this "Help!" indicator whenever your partner AI is in danger; I think it's a missed design opportunity -- how many times did your heart stop whenever Yorda's taken away by those dark creatures? I was hoping for more of that in TLoU. Maybe it's more pronounced in Survivor difficulty?

If I sound like I hate the game, let it be clear that I don't. I think that this is Sony's and Naughty Dog's finest moment and one heck of a swan song for the PS3 (I'm not expecting much from Quantic Dream's Beyond: Two Souls). The way they ended the game broke the long tradition of a happy or sad conclusion and instead went on the vague/uneasy route. It's brave, it makes sense, and it explains the game title. The Last of Us indeed.

PS. I didn't even use the last weapon unlocked in the final chapter. That was way overkill, IMO. Also, hooray for wall hugging without pressing a button!

*Pixel art in comic strip are taken from Google images results. Everything else is mine. :)

9:29 AM on 03.31.2013

Every year since 2011, usually around my birthday (March), I usually go to a nearby major city and stay there for a weekend or so, visit its tallest skyscraper, then explore the place for a couple of days. It's a fun diversion that, sadly, contrasts well with my real life (god, I really need to quit my job).

Anyway, the skyscraper thing is a requirement for each trip; I have a checklist of towers to visit and I'm ticking it one by one. I was lucky enough to visit the Malaysia's Petronas Towers, Taiwan's Taipei 101, and Hong Kong's International Commerce Center. Looking out from the vantage point of these super-tall towers is just, well, super. It's also a bit strange, too, that you're looking at a slightly top-down view of the skyline from one of the structures that define the said skyline. It's like a live map that beckons me to explore its depths, I guess.

But therein lies the problem. Well, at least a gamer's problem. You see, whenever I play games I make sure that every map of every level is 100% complete (unless they're unlockable only by paid DLC). I'm not a number-cruncher player, and I would never call myself a pro, but it feels wrong when I don't get to see everything the world has to offer. Even if I know that the unexplored portion of the map will lead to a dead end, I still obsess on getting to see that area with my own eyes (or the player character's eyes). I remember taking almost double the time in RPGs just because I'm exploring the possible edge of the map, or me deliberately turning off Journey's online multiplayer just to explore (and no pressure from strangers!). Long story short, as long as there's a big enough map in the game, I'll take the time to see it.

So imagine my dilemma as I stand before these strange lands, with all the streets and alleys and buildings and parks and mountains – I mean, where the hell do I start?

Exploring on foot can lead to some very picturesque views (like the above photo, taken at Lantau Island) but most of the time I end up frustrated because I had to force myself to stop checking every nook and cranny simply because I don't have the time and I'm getting pretty tired.

Ah, if only I have the time and stamina of a game character.

Anyway, might as well share some pics. Here's the view from HK's tallest tower:

And from Taipei 101

And from KL's Petronas
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