Games are a funny thing, they are often linear; leading us down a predetermined path despite all the tempting distractions laid in place to make us think otherwise. Yet even with that destination so firmly in place, how we arrive there and how we feel during that journey is within the eye of the beholder.
What one person would claim is the greatest game they've ever played is rarely what another claims. This inability to really measure and anticipate reception is arguably a developers only curse and as games evolve and develop, along with how that reception is monitored- some games choose to re-invent and some game developers choose to learn.
Developers often struggle to draw a line between what they intend to achieve from their game and what people expect them to, some games suffer terribly from fan-demand as opposed to united developer vision(see; what has happened to Sonic in the last ten years.) On the other hand, some developers choose to completely ignore critical reception in favour of barrelling forward, in some extreme cases to simply chase more money(Guitar Hero Franchise.)
Lionhead Studios 'Fable' Franchise is an incredible set of games to consider- I personally can't point out a set of games that have evolved and progressed from eachother as much.(Atleast within the span of just three games.) And yet I grow weary of the attitude of the majority of gamers over this brave franchise- Gamers who cry wolf and choose to believe it's 'never going to live up to the hype'.
We get it, Peter Molyneux(Creative Director on the Fable franchise) over-hypes games and he needs to shut-up yadda' yadda' yadda'.
Well you know what, no. He really doesn't.
While he's not my favorite person in the world(I've never met the man!)I've come only to respect him because of what it is that makes him unique.
Here is a man that is in an incredible position of power when we consider how far he has now come within the Microsoft family- Yet he bleeds creativity. That alone is a rare feat and he should be recognised right alongside the likes of Shigeru Miyamoto as creative visionaries evolving interactive media for the better.
Peter Molyneux loves games, he gets excited about the brilliant games his team create, he talks about them with passion and belief as ANYONE SHOULD OF THEIR CREATIONS. And he doesn't stop there. He looks at his past achievements and he says of their faults; no, that's not good enough. Next time it needs to be like this, next time it needs to be better, next time it needs to meet my ambition.
This isn't laziness, or deliberately holding back as most gamers would have you believe and I won't even get into the restraints and deadlines of developer-production and how that hinders vision on ambition. It's entirely possible to reach farther than you're currently able to go. That applies to the realm of creativity in its entirety. My first comic was far and away behind what I'm capable of but I had ambition, I had a dream to make it a reality and with the foundations in place with my first attempt, I grow and learn from that. Molyneux understands he sometimes misses the mark but should he be criticised for trying? Or for later making sure he does? Really? Is that what we should be doing as his audience?
If Molyneux refused to evolve the franchise from its roots and bring it closer to his vision then yes, by all means, I would support the cries and insults towards him as a game developer. But in reality, he does exactly what he is meant to and does so with more passion and enthusiasm than any other public figurehead in the gaming world. So he's proud of his work and you don't like it? That gives you grounds to bitch and moan when you know already you'll still buy the game. It's childish.
What is even more staggering to me- is the innovation within the Fable franchise is forever present and in little ways help bring, sometimes; entirely new gaming experiences to the table. If it were any other game under any other developer- somehow I think the whiners would praise to high heavens the brilliant attempts to bring us an entertaining experience. I am a huge Legend Of Zelda fan, yet in the entire history of that franchise it is outweighed several times by the innovation and re-invention present in just three Fable games. And yet the cries continue.
We gamers are a sorry lot, we get too passionate sometimes ourselves and perhaps for some of us the pain of Molyneuxs boyish enthusiam not delivering is still too much to take, like an ex-girlfriend leaving us behind, we hold some kind of grudge and wonder 'What could have been'.
To those gamers I ask them to remember Molyneux isn't just a developer but a gamer just like us. While he listens to what we have to say of his games- ultimately he has the vision and passion to carry them forward and create better experiences how he wants to. I am so thankful that a developer such as Lionhead exist in an industry I will forever want to be involved with, he is few and far between and whilst nay-sayers may forever slam Fable, I will continue to play and love these games. It's that simple. No one is going to influence my perception or experience with a game and with this franchise constantly throwing new experiences at me, I'd be foolish not to want in on that.
If you don't enjoy Fable games, fair enough- different strokes for different folks but please stop blaming it on Peter Molyneux. Shigsy made Wii-Music for crying out loud and how fast did we all forget about that?
Sunnyside Comics Podcast was quite recently one year old, I did a quick doodle of Yo-Yo and Kid Yo-Yo to celebrate(It's the rather incredible creation from the childhood of comic artist PJ Holden and I based the designs off the fantastic work WJC has done.)
My half of a sketchtrade, Catwoman was requested! Meow.
Quick colour questing for a few major elements in Issue 3. Tried alot of different colour combos, eventually arriving at these. Tidbit! Mountys outfit is meant to be abit of a nod towards Faith from DICEs game, Mirrors Edge- trying to layer some of my fandom! 99s is a reference to a one off image I did a long time ago(actually the header to my blog) where she sported a loose vest.
Lastly, Issue 3 continues- sneak peek at the 'pencils' folder. Where a colour I don't particularly love, is ruling the roost. Issue 3 clocks at ninty one pages, I do not expect to get it anywhere near completed by August, I do however expect September!
Just a final update here before my Lockdown on Issue 3 begins. Basically, Lockdown means, I'll be neglecting all aspects of my internet hotspots (besides vital elements like email) aswell as no longer taking time out to play games or indulge in any of my recreational habits- instead devoting all my freetime to working on Issue 3.
I always find doing this so very tricky at the beginning, especially when I feel I'm not performing so well but it's always a vital part of each issue as it teaches me to better my understanding of constraints and limitations. Ofcourse once I get through the first week- the ball is rolling and the progress I make the following weeks just can't maintain momentum with any distractions coming to play. Issue 3 has been plagued with brand new problems previous Issues haven't suffered from- mainly my lack of confidence as an artist and in the previous work I was producing for it. It's because of that, I feel the August release date may be too optimistic but I'm still shooting for it. I got Issue 2 done in a similar timeframe and that was with even less knowledge that I have now. I know atleast that the problem of confidence is no longer apparent- certainly not to the same degree, I'll be approaching Issue 3 with no such critical eyes on my work.
At any rate! It's go time. I won't be drawing anything other than Felicity content for the next month straight, with my part-time soul-draining job being the only exception. So I thought I'd just throw down some work-
Broken Falcon has been going smoothly behind the scenes as I slowly connect the dots. I have a game-plan for its long overdue debut that will begin strong once Issue 3 is out the door. Broken Falcon debut will be a digital-only comic(Will never be in Print)and as such will be presented in a new way from Felicity.
Well, I'm off to drink tea and be merry, Lockdown officially begins on Saturday!
Webdesign is the best example I can give relating to my own experience of over-ambition. Webdesign is hard. That is to say, designing a website isn't hard but designing a good website is. What's tricky about designing a website, more than anything, is getting the balance right. And that balance can be any number of things, from features/content, Form/Function, Colour/Weight.
Now, I'm no webdesigner, I've only gathered this experience from working on and completing around six of my own webdesigns. So I don't claim to speak from a position of knowledge, I'm speaking from what I've learnt from exploring my own ideas.
To get back to over-ambition, another aspect of Webdesign I find so frustrating is limitations. When I put pencil to paper, I can do whatever I feel like- fulfilling and finishing that notion is my only challenge. With Webdesign, there is concept and reality and often sacrifices between.
As example- http://99reasonstowin, the homepage of FELICITY underwent a massive overhaul not long ago. V1 served a purpose, hosting my comic on its own two legs and allowing readers to come, read the comic and experience what it had to offer. I had no reason to redesign the website, outside of my own personal perspective on it- I felt like it wasn't as good as it could be- dozens of reasons really.
Didn't reflect the character of the comic, the concept, the feel, the colours, the humour, it wasn't 'homely'. Black- a colour that the old design had in abundance is a terrible terrible colour to have on a website and I really hesitated to settle on it after failing to design a site without it prior to V1. Black is a dull lifeless colour void of bounce or reflection, exaggerating only a little- it's depressing to spend alot of time looking at. And I'm not some crazy hippy! There is a science to colours and the effects they have on our eyes and our bodies, colours are vastly important and therefore slapping alot of black around is a good way to loose attention from your audience. And that's another point, interesting to consider, I'm rambling I know but working on a piece of art- our concept of colour and ideas for using it are controlled by our intentions. We'll use certain colours in a comic panel for example to try to invoke a desired reaction or emotion. Websites take this concept of desired effect and multiply it because we aren't thinking about that one time the reader sees a panel, we're trying to think 'How can we encourage the reader to come back or hang about or enjoy it while they're here'.
And perhaps you may read this and think 'He's reading way to much into this' but that is my point! Colour affects us subconsciously and it's an easy way to influence, if we get it right.
When first brainstorming ideas for 99reasons V2 I had a First Person perspective idea, a cockpit, from inside the head of 99, our main character. Below is my first initial concept.
Firstly you can notice my concept is governed by LINES. Horrible lines of RULE. These lines obviously indicating the rough ideas I have in my mind of how the website can actually be constructed, which is the governing thought to design. You can see through my design pretty easily, I'm basically trying to make a piece of art into a website. And that leads me to the next part.
Form over Function, or Function over Form.
It's easy to argue that FUNCTION should always be paramount in design. Infact, I'm not going to argue against that, that'd be dumb. I would argue that context is important to the question, sometimes function can take a back seat to form depending on what it is your trying to convey. In this case, the order so far is FORM over Function- a bad fit. And I'll get into that abit later on.
Important to note now that I do not BUILD my websites. My input is the entire design, graphics and finish. However, everything 'under the bonnet' (The really hard bit as I call it) is done by my good friend Darryl Walker over at Icarus Wish. So by this stage, I've passed my initial concept(above)to him for input on what is actually possible within the previously mentioned limitations. That leads to a revised concept, below-
The limitations this design idea are pretty staggering. To begin, the white box you see center of the image is the intended visual cut off area, ideally for me I didn't want the viewer to see much more outside of that box. That of course is ignoring the possible viewer coming to my website on a large resolution, or similarly, a vistor coming on a small resolution. Without distorting, warping or pain stakingly piecing together, the intended background image cannot exist purely in that cut off point. HENCE! Extended image. Which was a nice idea but it would have caused further issues.
One of which being my content box idea, 99 holding a datapad, my idea being an independent content navigation. Meaning simply that the 'cockpit' image stays static, or locked, while you scroll the content in her datapad. This is problem because firstly, it's too small. Secondly it's too low, some users would log on and not even see the top of the datapad, and thirdly it's going to cause problems being independent from the whole window.
These are all issues that can be resolved using clever code or design skills- I'm aware of that. Flash for instance is one such way to make this design a reality, but when problems occur so readily and do not have an obvious solution- you begin to realise that FORM should not be taking priority of FUNCTION and that if you are causing problems for yourself designing it, how is anyone going to navigate it?
However at this stage in design, my affection for the concept caused me to push on, trying to patch over the holes caused by previous concepts-
In this concept you can see the perspective from the initial design has altered quite significantly, allowing a larger and higher up content box, as well as a wider more 'roomy' cockpit image. Despite glaring issues with the idea I did somehow get as far as even rendering part of this in the intended fashion, seen below. It's when I got this far though that I realised I was reaching too far.
And that is because, this entire concept so far has only covered the Homepage of the website, how could it incorporate the Comic page, how would you read the comic? Would it have the same image for all pages with different datapads? Different arms holding the datapad? How does the user get home or navigate from pages other than the homepage. It becomes a nightmare because one piece of the puzzle has taken so long to get nowhere. And that's where I want to point back to the fact that designing websites is hard. And to ignore even, the previous statement of quality is hard, the actual physical elements of creating each individual part, designing each individual page, the content, the flow, the navigation- it's a TREMENDOUS amount of work to follow through on an entire design ethos.
So, keep it simple.
Red White and Black are FELICITYS colours, the team wear the colours between them, the ship sports them, the theme of Crimson runs through my work. These colours are so obvious as representation of Felicity and yet they weren't present in the webdesign, not in abundance. Keeping it simple, I birthed the idea below-
2010 saw the rebranding of Felicity, I had redesigned the logo, tightened the style, explored artistically to resolve questions I had begun to answer and I took all of that on board when approaching a new look for the website. I wanted it to show character, stand out and communicate Felicity but over all else I wanted it to be-
Neat, Tidy, Clean, Approachable and most of all Easy to Navigate. Simplicity goes leaps and bounds because all of us can connect to it, some read farther than others but all are welcome. And it's an obvious thing- often ignored. Think about when you visit a website COVERED in links and boxes, content- mess of words. You don't ease into that site, often you'll simply just leave to gather your information elsewhere.
On alot of my goals for V2 I feel I succeeded, in the sense atleast that I feel I have a homepage for my comic that is an extension of the comic itself not just a website where you can read it. I feel like it's easy, it's simple. Of course the process of getting it there wasn't! But when you've forced your friend to sit up to 1 am on a work night so you can see the pieces of your design become reality it is an awesome feeling. He may hate you with a burning passion but isn't that what friends are for? Hurrhurr.
Today Felicitys website http://99reasonstowin.com relaunched with a complete overhaul. It's the result of a lot of work and I'm so pleased to have the website reflect the spirit of the comic now. I'm planning on doing a few indepth blogposts exploring the design and concepts prior that I decided against and really just cover my own thoughts on webdesign.
Over the last year I've surrounded myself with more and more artists that far surpass my own abilities, that I admire, that I want to learn from. Part of this comes in the form of simply watching them on Deviantart; constantly being subjected to their updates, their journals- it's very easy to be connected to an artist through that community- to be inspired. Twitter is another huge contributor, allowing me to share in not only an artists expression; but their own mind, thoughts and direct advice.
It has however caused something of a conflict-
As my own creative thoughts and processes become torn between two trains of thought.
One tells me what I should and shouldn't do, it's one that speaks from experience- one that reflects success and a wealth of practical skill. These are the people who are professionals, who are talented, who aren't talking about when they're GOING to be a success, they're talking about why they're already a success(and I should stress, with a few exceptions, they don't do so with an ego.) In a funny way, having all these rules of success put a real limit on creativity, these DOS AND DONTS making mistakes feel like they shouldn't ever be made and I'm really not sure that's good advice.
Ofcourse, before explaining the other side of the coin- I know that this 'assumption' of rules is just that, an assumption- while some artists do indeed come across as DO THIS and DONT DO THIS, it's really just advice; a guideline. Hey pal, if you want to succeed in this business? You gotta start doing more of this and fixing more of this and stop doing this.
The other train of thought is that of optimistic adventure- it's the train I've rode my whole life- the freedom to express myself however I see fit, it's the train that got me to the Felicity station. I've arrived where I am so far, as an artist, through my own self discovery and passion for what I love, I've gotten here through my own hard work and stupidly large amounts of dedication(much to the annoyance of many sociable friends I've lost in the process.)
The conflict therefore is the pressure to grow and get better, seeing more work from people beyond me- making me feel like I need to try harder. Rather than go at my own pace. This ofcourse, is no bad thing- it's the equivalent to me stepping on the gas, to evolve faster than I have so far. It is however a double edged sword as the feelings of frustration associated with it- cause distress at the non-standard I'm currently at.
One side of me wants to succeed; ofcourse! but another wants to tell stories and keep doing what I love. I guess if you want to be blunt about it you could say, do you wanna draw as a hobby or professionally? I'm not sure it's so black and white. We live in a day and age where anything can happen thanks to the internet- Scott Pilgrim is an easy-to-go-to example. But I'm not comparing my work to that, I'm not saying it has that potentional- I just know that I don't need to play by rules to succeed, do I?
I think all artists need to ask themselves why they spend so much time hunched infront of a computer. For me it's the same as it's always been, to express myself, to tell stories. When I was on the Sunnyside Podcast(A local comic-themed podcast)I was asked what my plan was for Felicity as a book, interms of printing and selling- interms of it outside of being just a story.
I was staggered by the question, I didn't know how to answer it because I honestly never thought as far as that- I never thought, hey- I can sell this story.
My lifestyle as now, holds barely a commitment, so it's easy for me to say 'Oh I draw for the expression man, not the money!' but I don't have endless bills to pay and a family to feed. When I get older and I gain the burdens of adult life heavier on each shoulder perhaps that spirit of expression will change. Or perhaps it never will, I'll just realize that if I want to keep drawing I need to focus on making it a success and not just a personal satisfaction.
To put it in context, I scrapped what I had done on Felicity Issue 3(about half of the issue)through the conflict caused by the pressure to do better. On one hand, I can't say that this is a bad move, obviously it's going to strengthen the comic as I come back at it with newer ideas for how I go about it. But at the same time- it's something that I fought hard with in order to get 1 and 2 done.
The feeling of 'IT'S NOT GOOD ENOUGH YET, SCRAP IT' is what stops 99% of independent comic creators ever making a comic and I think I can say that with confidence. Sure, I hate Issue 1 and 2s art looking back now but the point is I got it done, so is the fact I stopped thinking that way for Issue 3, is that a bad road to go down?
I see improvements in my work and I feel like my return to Issue 3 will be stronger for it. I just still wonder is it right for creativity to be governed by 'rules of success' or should it be an animal, free to run wild until someone realizes it just needs to be tamed?
I was inspired by some vintage covers and I think subconsciously for a long time, the work of Matt Kaufenberg over at (http://skutterfly.deviantart.com) has been inspiring me to do this one off retro-vision of Felicity, a bit like I did with the fake NES game cover.
I pulled out some of the oldest comic covers I could find, curious most of all what a retro Felicity might look like, I looked primarily at old artwork and designs of the Batmobile. Essentially I wanted to make a version of the ship that looked way old but still recognizable. An easy way to do that was to turn that 'Cool' dial all the way down, haha- Yikes it's ugly! For T-gate I figured even though it'd be a futuristic story, a retro version wouldn't quite be ready for a holo-head and as the robot designs I researched contained re-occuring domes and curves I decided on a 'Light' Bulb type head- fitting ofcourse as 99 nicknames him Lightbulb.
I threw colours on the inks making sure to try and limit my palette and go over the lines now and again(for that authentic retro-look!) I also made the choice to 'down-grade' 99s goggles, seemed it might look out of place to be the 'hovering' Neon orange of her actual design. A cool little thing was that the goggles she sports here are the actual original goggles, that were a design element for a long time during the characters initial conception.
Lastly I applied visual effects like textures, grain, stains, dot-pattern. The 'child scrawling' is of course a nod to past ventures but primarly inspired by the previously mentioned Skutterbug, plus it just adds a cool, real aspect to it.
More Magpie, continuing off from the previous post!
Like more than a few Supers, Elliot chose her crime-fighting ways, she simply didn't choose her powers. I always liked it when there was a 'Home-made' effort to a symbol or costume. A crappy 'Trial' version outfit before the Super-suit comes into the mix. Magpie is no different- even sporting a metallic baseball cap with 'Lady Luck' scrawled on it, a nickname soon associated with the hero during her first year 'on the beat'. The theme of 'Magpie' is established story-wise so the colours she wears still reflect that. A younger less experienced Ellie sports the suit, body language suggesting more storm than calm, less elegance and experience.
The Super-suit itself hasn't changed considerably from the original designs. Elements like the belt(complete with shiny keys and locks, to further suggest the theme) have been removed in favour of flexibility(was unable to pose her in the very 'acrobatic' manner I want her to move.) And flared trousers too, trimmed to support the acrobatic feats. Also, to contradict earlier designs- the black on her suit is of a Matte surface, not a shiny 'glossy' one. Also for no real reason, her tail coats seem to get even longer each time I draw her.
I wanna talk some about designs and suchlike but I'm actually suffering the cold right as we speak! So instead I'll upload the images and talk about them when I'm done. I'm looking forward to actually properly using my blog again.
Team Crimsons 'Small' emblem and some of the variations I've provided myself with.
The 'Mascot' for Crimson has always been a Red Eagle/Bird which was a clear nod towards my protagonist of Broken Falcon, Zepher. I've went this long without designing the smaller logo(only long landscaped Logos exist prior)that you'd find in score tables, somewhere on the ship or as part of the merchandise available at the Mort Racing stalls!
As I have a few artistic ventures, I file it all under the roof of 'Crimson Feather Studios'. Right now, it's but a name! but someday it'll house similar lifeless geeks like myself, beavering away on something epic.