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6:56 AM on 08.23.2013

Fan art weekend: Young Link

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.:)   read

10:05 PM on 08.17.2013

Plants vs Zombies vs F2P

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.   read

1:21 PM on 08.07.2013

Pre-Dota Art update: Dynamo & CX61

Quick sketch while waiting for thatNa'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.   read

12:50 AM on 08.05.2013

Art update: Immersion

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 puzzlein 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.   read

6:50 AM on 07.04.2013

The First of Many (TLoU fan art)

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 infrontof 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.:)   read

9:29 AM on 03.31.2013

A 'Completist' dilemma

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

9:25 PM on 03.12.2012

Late for Halloween, but yeah, whatever :)

So we just released a casual time-management game (for the casual gamers out there; i mean you do exist here on Dtoid, right?). Basically it's our macabre take on the bright-and-happy-service genre. I guess we're putting the "fun" back in "funeral," eh?

If you wanna try it out, a demo is downloadable at our Big Fish Games page

:-)   read

5:39 PM on 02.04.2012

Global Game Jam 2012: Enclosure

This is my 2nd time to join our local (read: Manila) game jam (my first jam was two years ago, and last year I just helped organize the event). As always, it was a very memorable 48-hour game dev crunch time (crunch can be fun, too!)

Anyway, here are the details:

Tien, Kristian, and I -- also known as Team December Project -- created a game from scratch based on the theme "Ouroboros," or the snake eating its own tail. It took a while for the word (and its meaning) to sink in, and it was at around 8 or 9 in the evening of Friday when we decided to take this theme out for a nighttime stroll. So we went out, walked several blocks, discussing, throwing ideas around, deciding which platform to use (Flash), how it should look (painting-inspired), and what elements to focus on (visually, the circle thing stuck with us).

But still the game eluded us. So we walked some more: talked and talked, got lost, asked strangers where the shops were (we missed the free dinner, heh), followed a couple who told us they were heading the same way, and finally, a few minutes later, in front of 3 steaming plates of tapsilog. We still have no idea what our game would play like, so we continued with the name-association thing that Tien suggested (so that's ouroboros = circle = infinity = loop = and so on). We didn't bother to over-think the theme because it will just make things complicated.

I didn't how it happened, but we started browsing through Kristian's Android phone for inspiration, and he showed us some interesting live wallpapers (take that, iOS!), including this particular Tron-esque thing:

"What if we could touch those lines and they change direction?"
"Like Tron?"
"Yeah, but different!"

Okay, so it's not the real conversation, but we got the feeling that we're on to something. Something about the lines and the colors. One early idea that I proposed was this:

What if each color has a behavior (like how it moves), and mixing one color with another changes its behavior?

Tien and Kristian kept the ball rolling by suggesting different (and definitely better) mechanics and goals. Some ideas were discarded, others combined, but we always go back to the stream of colors. Mixing colors was definitely in; one of our the game's initial goals was to combine a multitude of colors to form a white loop, which opens a portal to the next level.

But the "how to do it" part? Definitely still up in the air.

Walking back to the Jam site, we discovered this giant sundial in front of an engineering college building:

Tien suggested that we stop and just, you know, look at sundial. We're still kind of lost with our game idea so we took the chance to take something from it -- figuratively speaking, of course. After a few minutes of staring at the structure (and getting curious looks from night joggers), we decided to head back to the site.

By the time we arrived at UP ITTC building, we're pretty solid with the mechanics of the game, but the goal is still, well, nothing! We knew that pressing on the screen (we're envisioning it as a mobile game) will make the stream of colors passing nearby to start orbiting the center of the point, but the "why" part? No, we're not there yet. AND it's almost midnight; everyone's already hard at work with their games while we're just setting up our workstations.

It was around 3 in the morning, after writing a very short document of what we've talked about, when the initial excitement over the idea started to wane: we still don't have the goals, the obstacles, to make it look and play like a game. And it's already Saturday!

So I went out, took a couple of markers and a piece of carton (we ran out of paper) and tried to assemble our mechanics -- everything we have, really -- into something that would seem like a game. I went back and discussed this with Kristian (Tien slept early since he didn't have that many tasks to do). "Click anywhere" was thrown out, and we limited the color streams' movement in a grid, which made the whole thing suddenly look organized.

We decided that the goal now is to guide the color stream to a supposed "Point B" by using the orbit-around-a-point mechanic. Our game finally found its purpose. Everything was clearer now.

30+ hours later, we completed our game, Enclosure. It took home the Jury Award 1st Place and the People's Choice award as well. Yay! :-)

You can download our game from our Global Game Jam page:

Be sure to check the other awesome games from ITTC and CSB sites, too!   read

9:22 AM on 09.19.2011

Vivi, then not Vivi (a fan art)

Yeah, it's been three months since my last art update. Been very busy with a game due this October and I was just...well, busy.

A few weeks ago I noticed some friends from the art department were posting very nice pieces of digital art for what they call an "art jam" -- so being the presumptuous game designer that I am, I asked if I can join as a sort of newbie-so-don't-take-me-seriously contributor for their weekly art submission. Their previous themes were about faeries (don't ask) or orcs or other fantasy creatures, and lucky me, last week's theme was a "character from a video game." So maybe I can do this -- not with their level of skill, but I think I can scrape through with something.

Anyway, I've been meaning to do a fan art from Final Fantasy 9 for a long time, but I was just too scared or too lazy to do it; it's my favorite FF, by the way, so it's really a no-brainer. I started working on something Vivi-related last week inspired by that heartfelt scene at Dali Village where our tiny black mage discovered something horrific...

...only to replace it with another concept while traveling to work a few days later (Pro-tip: hop on a bus, sit at the corner, and just think) and decided to tie it to my previous work (a kid playing as Wander of SotC).

After a few days of experimenting and revising and polishing (and repeating almost everything), I finished the too-soon-for-Halloween boy in a Vivi costume fan art:

I'll save the dramatic Vivi scene for later. :-)   read

2:42 AM on 06.12.2011

At least try (LA Noire fan art)

After six long months of silence, a new fan art. This time for L.A. Noire:

10 cases in and I still don't know what to make of L.A. Noire. The technology's great, and so does its beautiful recreation of 1940s Los Angeles, but repetitiveness is quickly setting in. Maybe its potential is hidden sometime after my first 10 cases, but for now the entire talk-investigate-talk-chase-talk-shoot-talk shenanigan is just testing my patience.   read

11:00 PM on 12.31.2010

No cake this Christmas (new fanart)

As part of an ongoing tradition to post something gaming-related every Christmas (as seen here and here), I made another fan art with Fat Princess as its theme. I know I'm a year too late, but better late than never, eh?

I have a confession to make though: I didn't finish the damn thing and it wasn't half-done by New Year. I've less than a day to spare for this (I'm working this holiday, so...) and I guess I bit more than I could chew. Proof that it's unfinished: Knight and Priest hats for gifts instead of actual characters, no background (well, complete bg), etc.

Still it's a progressive improvement; my first Christmas art has two characters, the second has three, and this one's got four characters! Yay!

Seriously, Happy Holidays to all. 2011's another big year for gaming.

+ +

I'm a PS3 owner, and I know many owners (and fanboys, there's a big difference) are looking forward to the platform's 2011 lineup -- just look at all the first-party/exclusive stuff scheduled for release next year!

1) LittleBigPlanet 2
2) Killzone 3
3) Uncharted 3
4) The Last Guardian
5) Resistance 3
6) Infamous 2
7) Ratchet and Clank: All4One
8) Journey (probably)

Usually we only see 2-3 major games a year, and for some reason (perhaps dev delays are also a factor?) we're getting most of 'em this year. Maybe the 2012 apocalypse is real so they want to end the year (and the world) with a bang. Cheers.   read

10:12 AM on 11.08.2010

Colossal (art update)

While listening to Kow Otani's sublime soundtrack for Shadow of the Colossus, I remembered that I did a fan art for it almost 2 years ago:

I was too proud of it then because of two things: 1) It was one of my first digital artworks using a pen tablet -- and in color too! 2) I finally finished SotC! A momentous occasion perhaps.

Now 2 years later, I had this idea of a boy trick-or-treatin' in a Wander-inspired costume.

A lot has changed after 2 years, I guess. :-)

(Looking forward to that HD ICO-SotC bundle next year!)


Speaking of HD ports, I think Square should upgrade FF12 to the PS3. Gameplay- and story-wise, it's definitely more next-gen than FF13, IMO. Come on, those textures are screaming for a make-over!   read

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