On Saturday, April 26th, I participate in my first Ludum Dare challenge, working with the incredibly talented and insane game design genius, Alex Rose. The game ‘Rude Bear Revengeance’ is a viciously fast paced, stylish and funny 2D platformer, and it was an honour and a challenge to be able to create world and characters that inhabit the world of Rude Bears latest adventure. Even if it was in a ludicrously short time span.
With the timeframe allotted, creating a playable and interesting games worth of graphical assets will be troublesome under any circumstances. Ludum Dare in particular is mostly dominated by beautifully stylish pixel art and gestalt, which makes a great deal of sense. A maximum of artistic beauty and efficiency with the minimum amount of time and strain. I wanted to emulate the previous Rude Bear game I had worked on, exercise my fine art muscle, and above all create something that visually went the extra mile. So in this case I went with the alternative of a rather detailed and realistically rendered series of environmental textures, characters and animations. As usual, science fiction and cyberpunk seemed to follow me around, and so the visual style for RBR was born.
This of course presented something of a problem in regards to time, given the nature and need to make sure that realistic lighting, hue and value is both consistent between all assets, and working as intended. It also presented problems in being able to fix certain issues, often resulting in the threat of entire paint overs of certain work. Luckily, I was able to call on a few tricks here and there to reduce the time and increase the ease of creation, saving my ass more than once. If Batman was a tool in Photoshop, he’d be called ‘Liquify Tool Man’. It’s not as catchy, but his suit would look beautifully proportioned.
It presented an interesting challenge. Would it be possible to create high quality, detailed textures, characters and animations in the short span of time Ludum Dare allows? Looking back, it certainly was, though not to the level of refinement of art and personality of animation that I would have liked. Something that is vital to the art process is looking at something objectively. It’s why you ask people outside of your project to check your work and why constructive critique is so important. After staring at your own work for extended periods of time, you often find yourself suffering from something I’m going to term ‘competence blindness’, which makes even obvious mistakes almost invisible. Without the time to walk away from the work and come back later to check on it, it becomes necessary to make yourself hyper vigilant despite the lack of sleep and food, and the exhausting exertion of constant artistic creation. It’s akin to having to get the scene right on your first take in a movie, if you were Robert Downey Jr in his troubled years.
Animations proved to be the most time consuming practice. It’s a relatively new endeavour for me and required a lot of tweaking and study in real time. There’s a lot to consider in animation than simply movement. It becomes necessary to think on appropriate personality for each character and to give things a sense of ‘life’. Given more time, I would have loved to explore the mechanics of giving each individual character much more spirit and personality in their movement, as well as a more elaborate and smoother set of gestures. Despite the rushed nature of the work however, I was quite happily surprised with how they turned out.
Creating art for games is not as straight forward as one would imagine. Certain things need to be taken into account during the creation process, and there needs to be a sense of unity in everything. The design of the individual characters must feel familiar to one another. They are, after all, each and every one a product of the same environment. From an academic standpoint, lighting, shadow and ambience must be consistent between all assets. There needed to be constant cross referencing between each and every piece to make sure nothing felt out of place in the world, both in intention of design and lighting.
Art direction here was one of the best experiences I’ve had in the particular field. Both of our ideas gelled quite splendiferously, and I was given a near 100% level of freedom in bringing the world to life. Being given free reign on a project is always a blessing for any artist, but as any professional will tell you, it’s vital to know what everyone else is thinking. Interesting fact about Alex Rose is that he only sleeps for 4 minuets a day. During the time he wasn’t sleeping, we would go back and forth on game concepts, art direction overall design. It was a refreshing change to be part of the development process in more than an artistic capacity, and definitely did away with the sense of disconnection that usually comes with working on a project long distance. The conceptual art for development that I was provided with was crude in the most entertaining of ways, but surprisingly effective. Strangely, the more obscure the concept given, the more fun (and easier) it was to extract something creative from it.
In retrospect, I'm incredibly proud of how the game turned out. It's a ridiculously fun experience, and visually, it all came together beautifully. Having set a personal bar for the challenge, I'm looking forward to the next one. There's definite improvement to be made to the pipeline, and as my fine art skills continue to improve, so too does the art I produce to create interesting and unique worlds.
Some interesting facts from the Ludum Dare weekend.
- I consumed a total of 2 cartons of orange juice, 1 carton of something I found in Asda that tasted like Pears (it wasn’t Pear juice) and half a bottle of Tesco apple juice.
- Animating cloaks is incredibly hard. Must look into that a bit more.
- Using existing art as a base for new tiles or characters has never been more vital.
- About 70% of the food I ate was in sandwich form.
- I have an unhealthy obsession with cyberpunk.
- Bears look even more badass when wearing eye patches.
- Working with extremely talented game creators is FUN
- When extremely talented game creators freak out about their game it's also FUN
- 10/10 of the time, all art, no matter what it is or in what medium, will revert back to how versed you are in the fundamentals. If you want to be an artist, build your work on a solid foundation. Every shadow, highlight, form and function of every object I created and struggled with was caught by the safety net of foundational art knowledge.
- In the future, I should save concept art and process images for the purpose of these blogs
Onward then, to the next Ludum Dare! Also, follow me on twitter! @QuothTheRaven2
Or Skype me at 'quoththeraventh'.