Friday, 14 June 2013

Imagine Comiciness

For some reason the latest issue of ImagineFX (97) lay unopened on my desk for a few days, the folly of this was revealed in full when I opened it up to see Adi Granov's super X-Men art piece on the cover. With this being the 50th anniversary of the X-Men it was great to see Jean and Scott grace the cover with Adi's flair. I love his comicy realism, the result isn't over realistic or laboured and still imparts the line-art logic while looking oh so luscious.

[Adi Granov's cover art for ImagineFX 97]

Diving onto the disc we get a suite of screenshots (plus the video) of Adi crafting the piece and even the final PSD and brush assets etc. The vid, even without audio commentary, is gorgeous to watch as we see the process beginning to end with all the corrections and adjustments along the way. I like how he isn't afraid to grab a chunk of the image and reposition, scale or rotate it - he moved their heads a few times even. Seeing the rough outlines suddenly find tone in just a handful of brush strokes is lovely to watch. Here are a few of screengrabs from the video that hint at the full process.

[screengrabs from Adi Granov's video for the creation of the ImagineFX 97 cover]

ImagineFX Issue 97 lays out even more X-Goodness inside as well as a whole spread of pages devoted to the hero of the moment, Superman himself including Jim Lee's return in Superman Unchained.

[Superman Unchained cover by Jim Lee via the DC site]

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Lochy Monsters and Game Mechanics

I wish I had time or would make even more time to explore the incredible wealth of board games that exist now. We are at a real highlight in board gaming history with so many games and so many clever designers crafting gameplay, mechanics and theme into lovely experiences for us.
A few Saturday's ago we had a long table at a restaurant for a long long lunch consisting of pizza, drinks and Defenders of the Realm. With 9 people this meant two games going at once and even though our end of the table was defeated twice (once in less than 2 rounds by taint if you can believe that) it was a great day.
One of the cool things about DotR is the Pandemic mechanic and then the theme and how we come together to try and hold back the tide. It also plays harder as the game goes on which I love. There are some nice game mechanics here that really work in well with the theme and that is the perfect combo.

I have been working through a whole raft of variations on the mechanics for Loch Dreagan aimed primarily at how to enhance the logic that the male monsters are trying to win the heart of the fickle monster maiden. I have been looking at mechanics that let you build up to doing something special for her, this is to counteract the otherwise transactional feel of buying her off. Some form of heart dice is tempting to make the certainty of doing something for her less precise - is my lavish dinner going to be received as well as I think and will it be better than the seaweed necklace that the other monster is making...

These mechanic ideas I test in my head as much as I can (or with simple tables of outcomes and sample turns) and there are some very tricky aspects to this part of the game design. Balancing the complexity/difficulty at the start of the game with that at the end. As the monsters grow they have the potential to do more - though the competition for those same resources heats up. So the needs to be reward for effort - even if it is cancelled out by the effort of the other monsters. This is much like an RPG, players are vastly more powerful at the end game, but their challenges ramp up as well - even moreso.

This morning's idea is to maybe change 'resources' (Food, Treats, Scars, Trinkets and Nest) to cards rather than units/chips and thus introduce a set building mechanic that would allow players to decide on how many of their resources to spend each round in their attempt to woo the gorgeous maiden. Do they save for a bigger turn, spend the resources on themselves (buy traits = buffs or feather their own nest = hand limit), or get in now while her mood matches a card or two. I am looking forward to working through this mechanic tonight.

Here are a few more sketches from the book showing the slow evolution of the monsters from the loch - some of these were about trying to give them expressions without over anthropomorphising or cartooning the look.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Polycount Escape

When good community sites run competitions (esp the bigger ones) it is always impressive to see both individuals and teams pour such energy into the creative and production processes. Polycount recently announced the winners of their challenge titled The Escape. The big name sponsors attracted some cool entries for this 'video game challenge' which had loose requirements in many areas but required in-game shots from a game engine of some sort (CryEngine, UDK, Source, Unity, etc).

In the leadup to the results it was fascinating to see some of the threads giving us a peek into the progress of their ideas and then the builds. The entrants are clearly very talented people who have a pretty good grip on their craft. I like how in the WIP threads. like the one for the winners, they will post an amazing in-game image and say something like 'these are only placeholder textures on a half finished model' while it already looks incredible. Check out some of the entry threads to see the variety on show - it is super inspirational to see these guys generate worlds, assets, character and style in such a short time.

The first place entry, Public Enemies, is an amazing 1930s car chase with 3ds Max used to model assets for CryEngine. I think I will let these images speak for themselves - zoinks!

Here are a few teasers for other entries of note, great to see the variety and quality on display from each team.