Monday, 19 March 2018

Riot Art Contest - Winners Abound

I am a huge fan of the work so many talented folk put into the creative contests out there on the mighty interwebs and the winners for the 2017 Riot Creative Contest on Polycount is a superb example.

With topics running the gamut of game creation from concept design through to skins and VFX that look game ready. I am usually most taken by the Character Art section as we get to see 3d models all textured up that present not only some wonderful design thinking but heaps of skills with a suite of tools to get the 3D work up there for us. I just love Gordo's Bard Chick Magnet as an example of this 'complete package' submission. Being able to visit the thread and see some of the lead-up work as well is all part of my admiration for the craft and the lure for me to really get into it. Michael's Leona is worth checking toooo.

Maybe I shouldn't be surprised but perhaps my favourite category this time around was actually the VFX work. Every one of these I just cant help but watch over and over as they show off their craft using a variety of engines. This inspired me to have a real look at how on earth this is all done with wizardry of layered textures, cards and meshes all animated and warped through zany UVs to come together in dazzling displays of light and colour. Check out this work by Etienne, Matt and Yanni

There are several more categories, that you should check out, but I will leave off this droolpost with some Illustration pieces - essentially splash art for some of these groovy champs. All hail Nikita, Alexandra and Tinh:

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Some Gungans

For some reason I seem to be enjoying doing some 2D things atm. I felt the urge to do something Star Wars ish - so how about some Gungans. I quite like them as a species and culturally there is good stuff there. I set out to make some 'cool' Gungans though, not so comical. Well that didn't work out, they still feel rather funny to me...

This was all done in Photoshop using my Razer Blade Pro and Wacom Intuos Pro. Initial sketch, inking layer, colour layer and a few shadow/highlight layers to finish off. So nothing too fancy...

Saturday, 3 March 2018

Lizard Rock

This time I wanted to give Sketchable a try on my SurfaceBook, so a quick download later and I was doodling away. Things were going fine for a while with this rockin' lizard dude finding its way onto the virtual page. I gave up pretty quickly though as I would need to buy the proper/premium version to gt access to layers and more brush control etc.
I then brought my sketch into Photoshop and did the rest, you can see here the happy fellow feelin' the groove along with the initial sketch layer.

Tuesday, 27 February 2018


I am talking with my sister and nephew about their book idea - so I did this quirky little pic of a Dragonsnail as sort of concept art idea of a character that might slot into the text part - maybe around headings etc... The pic was a relatively simple affair done in Photoshop using my Wacom Intuos Pro connected to my nice new Razer Blade Pro. Going back to drawing in a different spot to where I am looking definitely took some re-getting used to. This relatively simple pic did take me longer than I wanted, but it's a cute little character that I was trying to keep gender neutral.

Some of the sketch layers for she/he were more complex, with much more intricate dragony features etc, but it was looking too serious and not cartoony enough - so I paired it back to here with simpler rounder shapes and a clean silhouette. I have a fairly dark and saturated background because the photos that the rest of the book will have the character might sit above, at least partially - so I wanted something that might actually be lighter than the backdrop - have to test that later. The idea of the characters even hiding in the photos came up - does she/he look stealthy??

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Razer Blade Pro and some Kenchy Wallpaper

I splurged out on a beasty yet beautiful Razer Blade Pro late last year with the intent of using it as a catalyst for more 3D creative work as well as gaming when time allowed. Here is the machine sitting on my work desk (not really setup ideally) - brought it in to do some more Unity work and UE4 tutes.

So, what do I think of the RBP machine almost 2 month along now:

  • Design and Styling > This is a superbly pretty machine, it is clean and refined in much the same way as the classy gear from Microsoft and Apple. We have a chiselled black body which is so understated for a gaming machine that it really does stand out. Yes the keys are all glowy but it otherwise looks like just a cool machine. That said it is well and truly in the 17" laptop category, it is very thin and pretty light for this scale of device which is appealing. That said you shouldnt confuse this for a super-portable device - it is just more portable than other machines sporting this much firepower hidden within. Check their site to see more of how pretty it is:
  • Grunt and Performance > One of the key reasons to grab a machine like this is the performance. Wielding specs like these doesn't leave you wanting for much [Overclocked i7-7820HK, 32GB 2667Mhz DDR4, 1TB SSD RAID 0 (2x 512GB PCIE M.2 SSD), 17.3inch THX Certified 4K UHD G-Sync with Touch, Geforce GTX 1080-8GB, Killer DoubleShot Pro (E2500 GBLAN, Wireless AC 1535, BT4.1, HDCAM, Thunderbolt 3, 3.49kg, Win10 Home, Ultra Low Profile Mechanical Keyboard Powered by Razer Chroma] It is certainly a treat being able to run things in 4K on Ultra - they just look so so pretty. I dont always run things that high, but the hardware certainly takes on gaming with no problem at all. With other tasks it is coping super well with a suite of applications running like a charm from Unity and UE4 to 3dsMax, zBrush and the Adobe suite.
  • Heating and Cooling > One of the things that all gaming laptops need to handle is HEAT, Razer may well have put some serious R&D into the cooling system hidden inside this slim body - but that is still far from enough to keep things cool. I run the machine propped up to get more air underneath and even run a fan beside me to help with that airflow. The laptop has only the two teensie fans, which compared to its larger cousins from other manufacturers is nothing. Sooo it DOES GET HOT! Hot enough to make the keyboard hard to use and several areas of the laptop too hot to touch. My measures (props and fans) are working though...
  • Screen, Speakers and Keyboard > The 4K screen is pretty nice, though I do adjust the settings on it for different things to get colours that I like. It is big and bright and just so nice to use for everything that I often ignore my external screen. The speakers are actually really good - use them lots when I don't have my fancy wireless Razer headset on. The groovy mechanical keyboard takes a little getting used to - but it is really nice to use. I freely admit that my gaming skills are so awful that the added benefit that a mechanical keyboard might bring is completely lost on me. Oh there is also the mousepad - which is off to the right hand side of the keyboard. This definitely takes some learning, your hands just move to the middle below the spacebar automatically (plus sorry you left handers).
  • Ports and More > There is a good array of ports around the machine, though having things like HDMI and USBC on the right hand side does feel a bit annoying with my mouse on that side as well. Warranty is one thing that I haven't tested yet, but it is a return to base kind of deal and that acts as a big deterrent for actually getting things fixed. For example I have the TOUCH on the screen turned off at the moment as I had a few times where it was going off all on its own - not worth the effort to send it away for that fix...
  • Thoughts and Recommendations > Ok, so if you just scrolled past all of that to here, what do I think. First up, I do really like this machine - it is overflowing with style and grunt and I am a proud owner of this beastie. That said it has a litany of real issues which are worth calling out: Really Expensive; Gets very hot under gaming load; No onsite warranty; Very noisy fans while gaming; Touch-screen issue etc. So where does that leave us - I do recommend the machine, but in this space the machines from Alienware and particularly Metabox are worth a close look if you are shopping!
So, what about this Wallpaper business then? I did this Pool Party Tahm Kench design in 2016 and it made me happy seeing it again - so I made some changes/fixes to get it to a Wallpaper for the machine :)
Tahm Kench is one of the champions from League of Legends (for those not in the know).
Here is the actual image if you would like a sunburnt river god on your desktop too...

Friday, 16 February 2018

Udacity Unity VR

I hadnt done much in Unity for quite a while and the GoogleVR tools are getting better all the time. So I dived in and worked through the Udacity VR intro course - to get more exposure to both their learning platform as well as the fun of VR and Unity.

The projects in the course go quite quickly, leaping through concepts and examples - like many of these things, to really learn the stuff we need to look at extra materials or do our own other projects etc. The images here are from some of the larger project assignments (one for an apartment and another for a more interactive maze environment).

I like UE4 lots as well, but it has been fun leaping about in Unity both the interface as well as all the C# scripts to make it all go. Like all creative/dev things there is a mixture of joy and frustration all mixed together.

There are a few projects in the wings that are likely be Unityish, so it feels good to be creating in it and actually getting things out, even if the assignments had pointers and starting points for things.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

X-Wing Space Station Modelling

With all the extra space ships etc landing in my X-Wing collection and how great the asteroids look, I thought that modelling up a custom space station would be a cool next step. The idea was a modular station that could be assembled in a variety of ways to make it more interesting but also to perhaps better match various scenarios.

So I did a bunch of sketches while binging on Netflix then dived onto 3dsMax to start modelling them up. The goal is to 3D print the pieces, so that probably means the geometry need not be superb, but it is good practice. I am not sure how much detail I will be able to get with cheap 3D printing, but I wanted a decent amount of starwarsie looking detail on them without going too crazy. Since we are 3D printing we arent looking at smoothing and to keep things fast I opted not to go super high poly.

So here is the set thus far all modelled up:

For those interested, these screenshots show the geometry which took me quite a few nights to get done over the last few weeks. The level of detail on the actual ships is really high, plus the production gives us really thin elements that I am not going to get on a basic 3D printer. I am just going to test a print or two and see if it matches enough or if some significant post-print work apart from painting will be needed. I made a template model first which had the pole connectors, then from there went to town with poly modelling to create all the shapes and details

Thursday, 2 February 2017

X-Wing Storage and a Raider

With the recent creation of my 3D asteroids for Star Wars X-Wing I knew I needed some sane way to store and transport them. Since they already had metal stands (for weight) I did a quick test on a fridge magnet to see if I could use that to hold them upright in a box. While the pull on them wasnt really what I hoped it seemed to be sufficient to keep them up and apart as long as I took care of the box - this would be part of my model collection so care would always be taken.

So I glued a big fridge magnet (a real-estate calendar from last year actually) to the bottom of a plastic box and hey presto asteroid storage:

While we are here, these photos show the storage boxes I am using to store all the rest of the bits and pieces. They have little compartments that are well sized for individual little ships and configurable for larger things too. These all pack very neatly into a shopping carry bag too.

On a related note, look at the marvel that came today! Yes the huge Imperial Raider set which not only comes with the closest thing to a Star Destroyer for the game but also a Tie Advanced, a suite of cards (including Palpatine and Tarkin) and a campaign of special missions as well. I mention it here specifically as my storage solutions will need to evolve to cater for this spectacular addition...

Apart from the addition of a few more ships when I find them on special, the next project I think will be the creation of a little space station that can hover over the tabletop. This will give the forces something to fight over and it can be an objective in itself with shields and hull plus a little turret. I have been sketching ideas that draw upon various geometries found throughout Star Wars (esp droids).

Oh and a good reference for painting and modelling posts for the game is on the FFG Forum

Monday, 30 January 2017

X-Wing Playmats and Asteroids

Star Wars X-Wing is one of the prettiest games you can have grace your tabletop. On the weekend I picked up one of the FFG playmats (the one featuring the 2nd Death Star). It looks just gorgeous with a nice level of detail and layout of Endor and the space station. At one point I wasnt sure if I wanted this or just the generic star field, but decided I could make a circular flat moon that can cover up the death star to make the mat into a more generic location. That is a little project to come later, for now check out how pretty it looks:

New playmat closeup (expensive but gorgeous)

With this uplift in visual quality I decided that Sunday would be Asteroid-day. The game comes with flat carboard markers asteroids but creating actual 3D ones to float above the battlefield the same way the ships do has been on my todo list for a while.

There are a few options for doing this, mostly involve using foam of some sort, painting then mounting them. I did consider modelling and 3Dprinting some but that would be a longer process.

So armed with some packing foam I started testing. First if I could model up some roid looking shapes and then how painting might work. You can see here that the modelling was fine, but my paint test using enamel showed that the meltyness of the paint was just too much. Yes, you get a nice effect as it eats into the foam, but my foam must have been too light as it ate into it toooo much (or maybe if I was super patient and used lots of really fine coats).

roughing up an asteroid - knife was used, but fingers did most of the work

modelled a suite of roids from the foam trying to get some interesting shapes

asteroid field on stalks ready for some spray paint

So I popped out and grabbed some black spray paint that works on plastic, which did eat into it a tiny bit adding more randomness to the shapes - made for a good basecoat of black. The paint was just black rust-guard for metal which also bonds to plastic that I got from the hardware shop. I used Games Workshop modelling paint to touch up the bits that needed it which actually takes a while with this many asteroids on the go.

spray painting, this shot is after the black with a dusting of modelling white on top

painting in the orange using nice watery paint so it gets into the nooks and cranies

Then I tried a few colours before settling on adding orange. I made this pretty watered down and only in certain parts of each asteroid. Kind of makes it look like rust and just makes them less monochrome. Lastly drybrushing some white over each asteroid brings out their complexity, detail and shape. Lastly I added a little more white to ridges and particularly prominent bits of each.

The bases I wanted to be simple black stands which could just be placed on top of the 'official' asteroid markers. This means they could just be picket up whenever they got in the way and the game rules could play out using the carboard.

stand testing using bolts, washers and such

They needed to be heavy enough to stay upright with a big foam asteroid on top which is more about dealing with any breeze wafting over the board. I got some bolts and washers which I superglued onto a thin piece of card and to each other. I sprayed them with the same black and they were ready to go.

assembled, glued and spraypainted weighty stands for the asteroids

Assembly was just about sliding the larger asteroids onto a stand and then making holes for skewers to attach some of the smaller ones to them. I superglued them in place after they were all setup and hey-presto a whole suite of asteroids.

I am not sure how durable they will be with transporting etc, but they look super on day 1. Maybe they look a bit 'deadly' compared to how other people may want them to look - I think it may make us players think twice about getting too close.

Completed asteroids lined up on the new playmat

new asteroids sitting nicely on top of the cardboard playing pieces

closeup showing the rusty feel with the drybrushing over the top

Scary looking asteroids - all pilots beware

So it took me a full day to make these, basically season one of Star Wars Rebels which I had on during construction.

Monday, 23 January 2017

Game design and Star Wars

While I may have dropped the ball on updating this poor blog over the last little bit there has still been lots going on.

Let's start with the release of Rogue One, one superb little film that scratches the Star Wars itch with great enthusiasm. I watched it again yesterday and revelled in the starwarsiness of it all. I had just been getting back into the Fantasy Flight X-Wing game and seeing all those space battles unfold on the big screen reinforced how great that game is at bringing that same feeling to the tabletop.

The most fun games of X-Wing so far for me have all involved multiple players in some form of teams. The game is just super fun as it evokes the star wars dogfight feel, the different ships, special characters and the whim of the Force and its effect on the dice. Even with my smallish collection there is lots of variety to behold - yet the lure to purchase more is so so strong.

One of the reasons I wanted to mention all of this is something we have been talking about amongst our gaming groups - designing games to make losing fun, as fun as possible. What logic you can bring to the design of a game that can make losing really enjoyable. In a competitive game (where there is conflict between players) it can end up being not so fun for the losing player/s depending on the game. X-Wing is (I think) a fun game win or lose (the wonderful Shut Up and Sit Down review makes a similar point).

What makes it so fun to lose, I think there are a few factors. First the game is often well balanced, meaning it can come down to a roll or two that decides the fate of your pilots - but that is far from enough. The Narrative that grows out of the play is engaging win or lose - this type of storytelling has more in common with sport where it is emergent from the play. In this case it can manifest with the abilities of Chewbacca, R2-D2 or Darth Vader which informs the narrative even more. Other things that can make losing fun include time - the game is relatively quick to play with a chance you can make a comeback with a lucky roll always there. The 'way' you lose sits very well with the strong theme and it just looks so good on the table that there is a certain amount of joy in just watching. I will give this some more thought and post pack when I have more to offer...

This pic shows my Y-Wings under-performing the other day but looking super-great while doing so. "Gold squadron starting their attack run!"

Now I just need to organise some more gametime...

Monday, 31 October 2016

Delta Green Sums

Started another tabletop RPG game last week where we are playing Delta Green. Here is a little pic of Summer (Sums) who loves her little daughter but still heads out on these dangerous missions. She is a fun computer geek with a very disturbing cult incident in her past. She has a nice manner developing where she has nicknames for everyone/everything. Anyhow, here is a little pic using a more painterly style done in SketchbookPro on the Surface Book.

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Character Design Challenge and Baldi

One of the aspects of drawing that I love is creating or designing a character and bringing it to life on the 'page'. I wanted to call attention to the Character Design Challenge which draws a huge array of artists to try their hand at the chosen concept each month. If you check out the previous winners there is so much inspiration to draw on, either in the concepts themselves or the detailed realisation of the drawing. Plus if you follow your nose to all the inspiration, anatomy references and guides on their pinterest pages you wont regret it.

The current challenge theme (well just finished actually) is all about the Centaur which has clearly got lots of people's creative juices flowing as they say. Centaurs are a tricky one as that brings forth not only human anatomy but the tricks of horse anatomy as well. Check out the slew of entries there and get ready for the next theme coming mighty soon.


I was going to post a suite of cool entries here to inspire you to go check them out, but I really only need to post one. Here is Baldi Konijn's entry which is just all class, love the style, the execution and the details.

Since we are here, how about we let a few more of Baldi's pieces grace the page, I will have to try and practice more, to be able to draw like this would be wonderful!

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Orianna Ult Pencils

I wanted to try my hand at another piece of League of Legends art, after a little pondering, I decided that Orianna would make for an interesting subject, with her ballet grace and her devastating ultimate making for a nice starting point.

I wont be able to finish the inking pass, colouring and finishing before my flight - so I thought a post showing 10 steps of the pencilling might be interesting. Note that when I say pencils, everything is done in SketchBookPro on my SurfaceBook - so a virtual pencil I guess you would say. There may have been a few more layout scribbles before the first sketch as I played with the ballet form and getting Orianna to be the main focus while also building in lots of detail for the other 5 champs in the background. Many cool LOL images have other champions in them and it works really well.

Anyhow, stay tuned for the completed piece...