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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.

Game Dev Tip: Staying Mentally Organized

I think that one of the most challenging and fun parts about making art for games is the conceptual stage. No matter what your skill level is when it comes to drawing [making the finalized work], if you have a well planned out concept or executed idea, a viewer will notice. My job is to make the places, things, and people feel real in Stranger Dreams. Lately, because of this, I have a million thoughts going through my head at any given moment. Sometimes when I’m in a place I feel like my head is in the clouds because my mind is in perpetual motion and it’s not until later that I realize I wasn’t all there. So, today I want to talk to you about the conceptualizing phase of Stranger Dreams and how it goes hand in hand with organization of thoughts.

Most of the work I’m putting into our game right now has a lot to do with thinking about things. And we all know intense thinking is taxing. Not only is that, but it becomes even more difficult when you have so many tasks to complete. It can seem overwhelming at times and this is when people become stressed and disorganized. These things make an artist feel hurried and sometimes discouraged and then it’s a continual cycle. After realizing that an extra day in the week will never happen no matter how hard I wish, I decided to get very organized and ration out my thinking spaces.

I think being organized physically comes more naturally to people than being organized mentally. It’s easy to put things into folders or on a hard drive, but you have to do this in your brain as well. For a second, think about a large storage device and all the things you may have on it that you’re working on. When you go to sit down, if you’re working on a painting, you open it and work on it. Imagine sitting down and trying to open everything on your hard drive at once. It would be so overwhelming and daunting that you would never get anything done and eventually the hard drive might crash [don’t work directly off your hard drive, kids!].

This is how my brain was thinking. Of course, it’s up to the artist to realize when your brain is getting foggy which can be difficult because we are such wonderfully complex creatures, but if you happen to notice: Slow down! Simply enough…just take a breather. Even if you only have .005 seconds to do anything but work, work, work, use those .005 seconds to clear your mind. Then, THINK about what you want to work on when you sit down. Have a clear goal in mind when you go to do something. Thinking about it all at once will not get you very far and you’ll use twice the brain energy making you feel tired and overworked with half finished thoughts about 30 different things.

Despite going slightly crazy, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and some concept work. Right now, my two main goals are getting the look of our menu system finalized, and creating the frames which will make up our main character’s apartment in the tutorial level. I’m feeling optimistic about my workflow, so expect more art soon! So, in your creative endeavors, stay mentally organized and the ideas will flow naturally.