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Artist Callout

With around a month and a half left until capstone night, time is running short. I’ve fought it as long as I can, but I can’t multiply time or myself to get everything done.

This is a callout!

If there are any artists willing to create posters for Stranger Dreams please email me at [email protected] for details.

Painting A Scene

Today I just wanted to share a little about the my process for painting frames in Stranger Dreams. This also gives me an opportunity to give you a sneak peak of one of the new frames from the next segment of our game. It’s the door to your room in the local hotel in Mabel, Spark & Oats.

 

My general approach is to do a very rough thumbnail of whatever may be in the particular frame, paint in values, then do color in overlay. My tool of choice is Sai for a good portion of the painting with additional things done in Photoshop such as the wallpaper pattern and any text that we may need. This portion of the game has really been exercising my ability to draw buildings and outdoor scenes, so I’ve been enjoying delving into something I don’t normally do. I can’t stress enough how helpful it is to go and observe things!

 

Essential Tools for Collaboration

When it comes down to it, if you strip enough layers off of this project, right before the final layers, you’ll reveal a layer meaningful collaboration. Stranger Dreams would have remained little more than scattered ideas if it wasn’t for collaboration – little more than unguided and valueless effort if not for a solid foundation of collaboration. For our friend, Ordet, collaboration is an integral part of how he develops sound & music for Stranger Dreams. When we collaborate, especially at the same time, we’re sharing and multiplying energy and producing things we wouldn’t couldn’t have done otherwise. Good collaboration feels like a concert of ideas. Is the concert a symphony, a jam-band, or a séance? It all depends on the spirit of your collaboration.

So you’ve found your concert partner and you’ve created a ‘meeting of the minds’. What now? If you have the luxury of being in close proximity with each other than maybe you can story-jam with little more than an notebook/instrument and a willingness to share. This isn’t always enough and you may not live in the same geolocation as the ones you want to work with. In any case moving to a digital and synchronized work format is often a good move increasing the speed, structure, and manageability of your collaboration.

Here are some tools we’ve utilized to strengthen and leverage our collaboration at different times in our pre-production and production stages of “Stranger Dreams: The Watch”:

  • Dropbox – An Absolutely essential file sharing program [link]. You’ve likely heard about it or used it before. It basically gives you the ability to instantaneously and effortlessly share folders and files with the people you choose.
  • Google Docs – Collaborate on documents in real time with the poeple you choose [link]. It’s more than just a microsoft office clone, the first time you see watch buddies making real-time changes to the file you’re working on (they can see your changes too) is a fun experience. Experience the energy multiplying effects of working on a game design document right long with your collaborators.
  • XMind – Presentation, Brainstorming, and planning/logic tool [link]. Lay down tons of ordered and meaningful information from your head in a manageable, smooth, aesthetically pleasing way. Jackie and I employed this tool for the development of our branching story-lines and dialogue trees in Stranger Dreams. *Extra points if you use Dropbox to share your mindmaps*
  • Basecamp – Easy, logical, lightweight project management with features you actually want to use [link]. Sometimes using project management software can become a project in itself. Basecamp allows you to use only things that make sense to you. Create todo lists, milestones, events for you or your work-mates and place them on a calendar. You basically have the ability to see everything people are working on in the same place and manage your project as extensively as you want.

So there you have it. You can use these online/free services as a framework for collaboration to happen. Now all you need is some inspiration, a purpose, And some friends to jam with.

Bonus Blog Post: Concept Art

Since there was a brief hiatus on the blog I bring you a bonus heap of concept work from the earliest phases of our game. This spans from almost a year ago to up to what we’ve been doing recently.

There are two items in particular in the gallery that are of special interest. These show the progression from concept to finalized work. Make sure you click the thumbnails to see them in their full glory.

Drafting a Game Engine

Without a doubt, one of the more fun and intellectually stimulating parts of programming a video game is writing out the game engine in it’s initial phase. Writing on paper and in my head, I see the various pieces of the game come into fruition. Each piece grows independently while morphing and mutating in response to changes in other pieces. This all happens while developing a system in which the developer and player can each interact with the game.

I perch on a high structure, like a crow on a telephone pole, and look down upon the entirety of the game, noting characteristics and relationships. I let loose part of my awareness to move amongst the ephemeral dance of ideas in order to better model objects and design functions unseen by the player. That’s what a real joy in programming and abstract thinking feels like to me.

In the end what happens is the illusion shown on the screen (but that’s after the journey of development that the game and developers take).

Fuel

While working on a game engine I find certain things can help me work. For instance some music will help the flow of thoughts while other music is distracting. I’ve found that for me at least, the music of Autechre helps to encourage the abstraction and mental suspension.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qPWB06EArvA

Additionally copious amounts of, the delicious brazilian drink, yerba matte supplies me with energy and makes me feel like the mentat in David Lynch’s Dune film.

“It is by will alone I set my mind in motion. It is by the juice of sapho that thoughts acquire speed, the lips acquire stains, the stains become a warning. It is by will alone I set my mind in motion.”

Which I repeat over and over…