Monday, 21 May 2012

Long Absences and Pathfinding - The Mechanic

Been a hell of a long time since I posted here.  A while ago (like, a while ago) I decided I would keep up with this blog.  But apart from some random drawings which I already hate all I have to show are some pictures, 3D models and sprites that I can't show.

But dwelling on that is boring.  This is an art and design blog after all.  So let's art and design.  I've had a few ideas that I want to get down and into the world.  Ideas for action games, platformers, RPGs, FGs, FPS, all the other acronyms you don't know or care about.  But the thing is, I rarely get time to put these ideas on paper ( so they float into the ether never to return.  Basically what I'm saying is that I'm going to design some stuff here and now.  Thought process and all.

The first idea I want to explore is a game called "Pathfinder", or "The Path of Least Resistance", or "Name Pending".  The idea came from the thought of always being able to find what you're looking for, or to find a path to your destination/goal.  In terms of a game, this means being able to find your way through levels and enemies quickly.   Since I'm essentially giving players a mechanic that "finds it", no matter what it is I can afford to make the game really hard unless you stay within the "path".  But that doesn't mean that leaving the path is a death sentence (well, it is, at least in game but not for players with player power).  It just means the game gets a lot harder outside of the path and there are less hints, clues and cues to go on.  But outside the path lies greater reward, more experience (if this were the type of game to have it), items, different level routes, bosses and hell, even story segments and endings.

Now, apart from the genre which I haven't decided (early genres included Bullet Hell, RPG, Action and Platformer) the thing that I most want to think about is how I present the "path".  The motifs of the story and setting are simple when you think about paths.  Stuff like destiny and fate pops up and obviously finding someone or something, but I'll go into that later.  But then, coming back around to genre, the presentation of the path could change.  Or it might not, let's find out!

FPS:  The path could easily be related to guns, bullet trajectory, and special objects/powers.  What I imagine with this sort of mechanic is something akin to the Normandy landing in WW2 (that is what I think it is right?  God my history is horrible.  Medal of Honor taught me nothing).  You get off the boat, bullets are flying at you and your men, ships are going down.  You could either be the soldier or the pilot.  Oh, that's interesting, since I love Ace Combat I'm now thinking what if I mixed this mechanic in with that?  You could be a pilot trying to get somewhere along with a mass of enemy planes/fighters on your back constantly trying to take you out, you could make pit stops to hide/recover/fix your plane.  You could stick to the path, allowing your to dodge enemy missiles and gunfire while fighting back, or avoid the path and dodge everything yourself.  Err, anyway, back to the soldier guy, he lands on the beach and he can see the bullets flying at him before they actually do.  The path of the bullets is decided so all he has to do is move out of the way.  Grenades are crashing down on the ground, blowing everything up.  You can't see the grenade, but the pathfinder will always tell you if an area is unsafe and for how long.  Using that you could enter dangerous areas and exit before they become a problem, even luring and delaying your enemies so that these prophecies (oooh, I really don't like that word or direction - DIVERT DIVERT) you could do some interesting thing with the level design.

Third Person Shooter:  See FPS.  I kid, but it is basically the same with more focus on the character and their movements.  It's the same as FPS but it looks cooler, so it's probably better, right?  (Don't hate me Matt).

Bullet Hell (AKA Danmaku AKA Manic Shooters AKA Dodging Rain AKA WTF ARE YOU PLAYING KAILE):  I love bullet hell games.  Ikaruga, Touhou, DoDon Pachi, Radiant Silvergun, Mushihime-sama are among my favourite of the genre.  I love the chaos, the memorization, the fact that even if you're completely comfortable with the level or boss, there's still this tension and adrenaline rush. These games tend to be hard and I mean really hard.  The applications of pathfinder here are obvious to me, find a path through the bullet hell.  It's similar to the FPS concept, except instead of just going outside the path, I would have lanes that change the path.  There's also the possibility of the pathfinder being regulated to just a bomb (as in a mechanic in Bullet Hell games to clear all the bullets off screen while killing enemies or dealing damage) where using it shows you the path to use in emergencies

Randomly:  Path finding could be an activated skill that isn't always on, though that wasn't originally what I had in mind, it does mean you could upgrade and modify path finder to be more complex and interesting.

Platformer:  While this seems obvious (and it is, really) it could also be the best application.  You run through a stage, at first it could be really complex with puzzles that the pathfinder leads you towards.  It would show you the safest, easiest (if perhaps longest) path through a level.  Following it is meant to speed up game play and prevent players from breaking flow and going "huh, what now?" or "that shouldn't be there!"  Prompts for actions are timed based on speed and distance, reactionary commands slow down time and you can see when and where hazards and enemies are.  Perhaps later on you can upgrade the path to find new areas and harder difficulties.  The reason I want there to be a non-path is because I don't want this mechanic to seem like it's just hand-holding (which it essentially is).  There needs to be a real difficulty to this game, something that makes players think twice about leaving the path, an rewarding them if they do.

Perhaps the hardest part is having the path without having the actual path.  How would leaving the path affect gameplay?  Maybe it doesn't, in the end the path is the main mechanic, and it is supposed to find what you want to do.  So there should always be a path.  It could be misguided, the original path laid out for you isn't for your own good, or it's your absolute destiny.  And the path you choose could invariably be harder, but it's your choice and this mechanic would support that.  (There's a metaphor for life in there, don't think too much about it).  So once you leave the intended path, perhaps things change.  You find all your powers don't work as well, or are gone completely.  It could be a new path means new abilities.  Also, I wanted paths in a level to overlap at some point, so if you had powers that originally only work in a certain path, when these paths overlap they would combine powers giving you access to new areas.

Racing:  Ugh,  I love racing games, but I think a pathfinder mechanic to this just cheapens it, or makes it more complex than it needs to be.  Maybe I'll come back to this one, but I don't really want to think about it now.

Action:  Path finding changes a bit here.  While it could still relate to finding your way, solving puzzles and overcoming obstacles, it could also be applied to fighting.  It would show you where weak points on enemies are, what areas are guarded and open, and if an enemy attacks, what areas will be affected and when.  This kind of ties into what I had in mind for the bullet hell genre, and combining them gives me a 3D bullet hell action game.  Heh, right.  Anyway, the battlefield could be chaotic like bullet hell is, and pathfinder would tell you where stuff is happening and when.  You would have to move around while still fighting, and perhaps you can only apply path finding to your enemy, your environment or to yourself one at a time.  Later on you can combine environment with self or enemy, and then eventually you could use them all.  Yeah, I like that idea.  Which means I need to design the different type of paths and how to switch between them.  What first jumps out at me is just being a cycle on trigger buttons, but it depends on how quickly you need to switch between them.

Going back to the racing genre, perhaps I wouldn't have it racing so much against other people as I would have the player racing towards the goal, Sonic style.  Perhaps the platformer could combine these genres and have a mix of speedy path finding and platforming path finding.  The character could start off slow, using the mechanics to carefully climb up stuff (I imagine something like Shadow of the Colossus, except not really living giants, just structures) then as the game progressed he gets faster and more agile, using path finding to quickly scale the same structures with ease.

RPG:  I love RPGs, easily my favourite genre hands-down.  The genre itself is very diluted though, as RPG elements tend to emerge in all genres, so what is a pure RPG?  It's a topic for another day (and an entirely different person).  Like I said I love RPGs, except for the most part, I hate RPG battle systems.  Well, that's not entirely true, I guess more accurately I'm bored of the traditional turn based battles, even active time battles.  I believe for an RPG to be fun it needs to make you think about the fight and react to the fight.  Pacing is hard to get here, but generally the faster it is the better.  Path finding here would be similar to action, since if I made an RPG with this mechanic it would mostly show itself in the battle system.  And since the battle system would be more action than traditional RPG.  In a non-battle situation, path finding just becomes a way to find people you need to talk to, treasure you need to get, avoiding environmental hazards if any and so on.  Adventure games become something similar.

RTS/Puzzle/Sports/Fighting:  These are the genres I don't think path finding will be interesting in without adding elements from the genres I've already explored.  I think path finding in RTS kind of defeats the purpose of strategy, as well as puzzles in general.  You want to solve a puzzle yourself, path finder solves it for you.  It's better in a game where the main challenging isn't from thinking about how you do something, it's actually doing it and dealing with the consequences.  Sports games just aren't interesting at all, especially realistic ones which this wouldn't be at all, and if it's unrealistic it stops being a sports game and starts being something more like action.  And as much as a love fighting games, I don't think the mechanic would be appreciated there at all, at least not without changing a lot about what makes a good fighting game.

Generally, the way I would add path finding into a fighting game makes it more action-oriented, games like Distrega and Psychic Force come to mind, which actually could be a lot of fun, you could have close range path finding (guarding/counters) and long range ones that show you where your enemy is attacking.  I guess success would be determined by throwing out a lot of complex attacks to trap your opponent and then moving through their attacks quickly to get at them and beat them down.  Tempting to mix bullet hell in there...but I think I already did.  Whoops.

Thinking about it, this is a very single-player mechanic for most genres.  Later on down the road I'll think about multiplayer application for all of them, but the only immediate ideas I get are based on the platforming and fighting/action genre.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Progress and updates and criticisms and...

Working gradually on my sculpt. It's been fun, and hard, but mostly fun. Figuring out how to use Zbrush again was the hardest part - as well as an upgrade, there are a lot of changes in Zbrush 4. Some are good, some are awkward, but it's not like I can continue to use an old version forever.

When it comes to sculpting creating a character, I think that an external eye is always needed. Sometimes what looks fine to you looks odd to other people. I can only attribute that to working on it from the ground up for many hours. After looking at something for that long you tend to get tunnel vision on it, and you fail to see the problems. Usually for a 2D picture, I can flip the canvas around and rotate it to get a new look, but in 3D you're constantly rotating and changing angles to get stuff to look right from all views, which makes it even harder to get a fresh eye on it.

These are all my work in progresses. For the most part, I had gone too wiiiiide with the whole thing, though looking back I didn't hate it. But opinions for the most part said to go thinner, so thinner I went.

(From awful to not so awful!)

On the subject of criticism, I was talking to a friend today who said they didn't understand how people can get blasted and be enthusiastic about it. And for the most part, people are wusses who have been raised under a soft blanket of love and comfort. I was raised in the pits of hell and torment, anyone who knows me can attest to this by the way I act.

(Disclaimer: I'm kidding, Mum. You raised me well.)

But seriously, people are too sensitive in general. The thing about criticism is that people only do it when they care, and you lose nothing from at least trying their advice. Of course, I think that on the flip side, giving criticism is just as hard as taking it sometimes. It's hard to judge how a person will react. Some will crawl up into a ball and rock back and forth in the fetal position, some will lash out at your and others will take your advice like a man and do what needs to be done.

Level 1: Coddling (The Wuss)
To coddle someone when giving them advice usually means you're giving them the bare minimal. Stuff that won't affect their work, but makes it look like you care or have something to say to them. This level is pathetic, and no one grows from it.

"Oh, your work looks great! Maybe you could tweak this part a little, it isn't necessary, otherwise it is looking good!"

The coddle requires a profuse amount of lying, ego-stroking and hand holding. If you have to coddle someone like this, I suggest you buy them diapers and a pacifier. Because they're a baby who is probably just fishing for compliments. People like this rarely want to change their work or listen to your advice or get better. Avoid these people, they are a waste of time.

Level 2: Buts... (The buttings)
To "But" someone, is to give them equal amounts of praise along with criticism. For every nice thing you say about their work, you add "but..." and criticize them. This is somewhat more honest, and usually what most people can handle. Some like more praise than criticism, and some like the praise after the criticism so you leave on a high note. That last part is important if they're a whiny douche who can't handle reality.

"Your work is good, and I love the colours, but maybe you could work on the [AREA YOU SUCK AT] more, and really refine it. I love the idea of the gesture, but you could make it less awkward and stiff?"

The "But" is a good way to go for the most part, it's the middle ground, and middle ground is always good.

Level 3: HELL MODE
HELL MODE is for masochists and Satan worshippers. It's for people who really want people to dig into every aspect of their work and really give it to them good. Most people hate this, and will often mistake it for a personal insult. Some people love it, and will see it as a positive thing overall. HELL MODE decides the boys from the men, if you can take HELL MODE in your area of expertise, then you are someone worthy of respect. Taking HELL MODE means you really want to improve at something, or you genuinely care about making your work better.

"You need to work on your [AREA YOU SUCK AT] because it looks like you haven't studied [AREA YOU SUCK AT] very much. This [AREA YOU SUCK AT] needs a lot of work, because it looks awkward and unrealistic. The colours are flat and there's no depth to it, you need to study [AREA YOU SUCK AT] more before you attempt something this complex."

People who give HELL MODE advice usually seem like assholes, and usually they are... more or less. It depends on how you say it, usually a HELL MODE crit won't focus on the areas that are good or don't need work, because if you're good enough to not get criticized in that area then you don't need to be told about it. If your lighting is really good, but anatomy is really bad people will focus on the anatomy first and foremost. Some may comment on the lighting afterwards, giving compliments that are akin to pouring honey on an open wound, but someone looking for this type of crit isn't looking to be complimented.

Also, I really need to stop bouncing between UK and NA English spelling. Why can't those assholes just spell the words the same way we do?

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Luce Umbra Final Concept - Lineart

Do I have to explain how much I love lineart? I do, and it's a shame that more people don't do it. While it's a respectable skill to do without, good lineart is just as hard to achieve. Years of practice have maybe gotten me half way there. The hardest thing is controlling line weight and keeping a good flow.

All I can say is thank god for the rotate canvas feature. Makes those harder lines a lot easier to deal with.

Anyway, the character is all but drawn out. I'm quite happy with the details and the design, though I worry a little that it looks too busy on certain sections. With that in mind, I kept the face and dress relatively simple so the eyes have some resting area before moving onto the next detailed area. The wings sorta throw that balance off, though I'm keen to keep them as I've never modelled anything like wings before, so it's a good learning experience. I had the idea of maybe getting rid of the wings and making the crown floating above her head more dynamic to replace them... but I think not.

My goal is to have concept and colours done by the end of March, and then during April I can work on the 3D sculpting stuff, then during May until the end I work on textures, effects and a rig/pose.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Luce Umbra - Further Designs and Ideas

So, here are a few more designs for the Goddess of Equilibrium, now aptly named Luce Umbra. A name borne from the need to stop typing excessively to refer to this one character. Generally, the idea for her design is to mix heavy/strong armour with soft cloths and fabrics. Which is a sort of balance in itself, and proving tough to crack. Beside balancing light and dark, which is a bit harder to show off without colours (I suppose I should get to those now and not when I'm painting textures) but regardless of that, I think I got some decent designs here. Now to find a direction and go with them.

I generally like the idea of the pauldrons, along with the gauntlets and greaves but it's hard to decide a direction to go with generally with it. Should I emphasize the light and dark aspects more on each side, or focus more on a balance which could shift tonally (is that a word?) I'm growing on the idea of giant angel/devil wings, no matter how cliché it might seem.

The idea for the weapon was originally scales, but it has been done to death (by that I mean by basically anyone else who choose balance as a theme). So, with the help of the think-tank, which is more like a think-pod considering it only consists of one other person (thanks Steve), I decided to go with a spirit level for a weapon. This goes along with the pebbles you can see in her hand, the idea is that she can always balance what seems impossible to balance, and the pebbles change colour. If this were a game, the idea would be that the pebbles represent which side is winning, and if all the pebbles turn black she has to fight for heaven, and if all the pebbles turn white she has to fight for hell.

Along with that mechanic, her powers and appearance change depending on how much light or dark energy she's using. More light means a more angelic appearance, and more dark means something more devilish. I really want to get that across in the design, but with the limits on the contest it might be a bad idea. However, now is the time to experiment, so I might just see what happens from that.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Dominance War V

So it's finally started. It was supposed to start weeks ago, but I guess stuff happens. I've been looking forward to it for a while, every since DW III I've wanted to join, but many things have kept me from doing so. Now I can focus on it, I hope to have a decent entry.

Of course, this is a world wide art competition, and when you start going to places like Russia and Korea (as countries with nothing better to do than solely devote yourself to a craft, whether that be drinking vodka, playing Starcraft or making awesome art) you start to see some amazing artists and ideas.

Seriously, these guys have some wicked imagination. I doubt it's the kind of thing you can learn, as most of my characters are pretty down-to-earth, but DW requires you to make giants. The scale of some of these characters is immense, even if they are humanoid type characters. But ultimately, this is about keeping up with the art-thing, which I haven't done in a looooong time. It's fun, but I forgot how tiring it is... the Russians have no problem with this, their blood is made from ice and vodka giving them unlimited energy, and the Koreans need a way to get out of Korea... that would be motivation enough for me to be awesome. But what do I have? Nothing really, a few Red Bulls and perhaps some fleeting illusions of grandeur. What can I hope to achieve? Something that I won't hate 20 minutes after it's complete.

As this is a character design and art blog, let's move onto the character.


The idea behind this Goddess is equilibrium, which is a fancy-pants way of saying balance I guess. But there are a few God/esses of balance, so here's me trying to be different. This Goddess uses both light and darkness to maintain balance in the universe, possibly some other magic that combines them both. She does this so that one side doesn't grow too powerful and take over, which would be bad for most people.

Oh yeah, before I forget, the theme behind DW V is to make your own God or Goddess. Last year it was robots, the year before it was demons. Or was it demons then robots? Whatever, the point is, every year they have a theme, though this one seems less broad than the others.

Essentially this means she's both evil and good depending on her mood and who she's fighting for at the time. If light is winning, she'll fight for darkness and vice versa. The idea extends to heaven and hell, though the concept of a traditional heaven or hell bores me - however it isn't a big deal or something worth thinking about since this is just a character design challenge. But... maybe I'll give the "game" some thought so that might help influence the design.

Originally this Goddess was human, and after a rough stint in life was sent to "Hell" for her crimes. In the pit she saw chaos and anarchy, and longed for order and peace. These feelings helped her escape from Hell and reach Heaven, where she was rewarded for her persistence as long as she be faithful and serve obediently. However, she found she hated Heaven as much as she hated Hell. The lack of freedom and individuality was driving her insane, but with no outlet she had no choice but to bottle it up. The cruel things she endured in Hell she was now inflicting on those who defied Heaven. She couldn't simply see things as black and white, there had to be a middle ground that was better, and in defiance she abandoned Heaven.

Her power and experience in both Heaven and Hell allowed her to act against both forces - this earned her worship from humans who needed a gentle hand to guide them against darkness, or an outlet to release their sadistic whims on another. She swore to keep balance and ensure that no side wins, and in that way she perpetuates constant war behind Heaven and Hell. When things get quiet, she fans the flames to stave her boredom.

The idea behind the design is to infuse classic light and dark elements. Angel and devil wings, halos and horns etc. Though I don't want to be that obvious with it. She's a fighter, and balancing of light and dark leads me to the obvious (scales) which I'm trying to integrate and use as weapons. I also liked the idea of representing those elements with objects - so far I'm using flowers in her hair. There's a creepy-ass flower called the bat flower or something, that looks like it's been chewed up and spit out by a dog. And some lilies for good measure.

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Long Time No See

It's been a while since I posted, but let it be known that a job (full time) makes people unexpectedly lazy when it comes to other parts of their lives. Like cooking, cleaning, and eating (or maybe that's just me.) Usually you would have seen my epic struggle to complete my final MA project - and I promise you it was indeed epic. 100+ hours with no sleep, mild hallucinations, some anxiety, despair and finally acceptance (like I was dying or something). It was a roller coaster, but who cares about that? The day is won, and I am finally free.

Looking back, I'd really have liked the time to do this properly, but things change. I'm proud to say that at the very least, I learned a LOT, and I mean a LOT about animation. And I'm confident with enough time to do animation, I can make something decent. The learning curve has been destroyed, so the hard part is keeping at it in order to get better. Hopefully a few of the things I have lined up (ALL FUHN!) will give me the chance to explore more animation. I really don't like being a jack-of-all-trades guy, but I'm confident enough in my design (add in the fact that I do it 5 days a week for 8+ hours a day) to know I don't need to practice that on my own time.

So, sweeping this entire last semester under the rug, I feel compelled to continue my blog. I apologize to all the readers who actually read (yes, all 3 of you...maybe 2) my blog, but the coming months should prove to be an interesting (or not) return to the ways of old. I'm planning on doing a 3D speed sculpt today or tomorrow, and Dominance War V is just around the corner. I've been looking forward to joining D-War for a long time now (since III actually), and with no other worries and a good chunk of now free time I can actually finish.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Character (Yumi) Progress

So this was done pretty quickly, but I have to admit I obsessed over a few things (coughasscough) and I feel I still haven't gotten it completely, but I'll make a final pass tomorrow to fix everything with the model. So far Yumi sits at 6252 polys, which I plan to reduce to at least 5500 (with 5000 being the most awesome I can do). As you can see with the wireframe, things aren't properly optimized. Overall, I'm happy with how she turned out though, and in a few days (2 at most) I'll start working on Regis, who hopefully won't take that long. But judging from the newer concepts I've done, I might be wrong.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Texture Progress

After a few days of playing around with textures and shading, all of which is very fun to do from scratch, I've finally finished (kinda) texturing. Happy enough with the colours and the shading, though I may work on the contrast a little and try some different shading techniques later on. Especially pleased with the face, as it was touch and go there for a while.

Ready to start modelling out the third character, I think I may model, rig and skin before texturing though, as I can do that at any point but rigging and skinning is important to the overall project in terms of animation. Oh yeah, this model sits at around 5000 tris, maybe 6000, I'm too lazy to check right now. Definitely less than 6000. I haven't done her weapon yet either, so it'll probably rise, hopefully not more than 6000 though.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Current Progress

So here I am, a few week later with some actual progress. So far, I've spent a long time mulling over style choice. I though I wouldn't, but I have. I was struggling with the long term look of the models, and as always trying to predict the outcomes. I've played around with various editors to try get the look I want (as well as learn some engine stuff).

So far I've learned it isn't easy. At all. Nothing wants to be easy, go figure. On the plus side, I'm happy with these models so far (some minor changes to geometry are needed). I figure I might just model out the rest of the characters before moving onto textures, but I wonder what that'll do to my motivation. It can be boring working on only one aspect. Honestly not looking forward to textures, as purely handpainted textures are a lot harder to do than ones assisted by Ambient Occlusion and Normal Maps. But that hasn't scared me away before. Maybe it's the whole keeping up with current game industry standards that's messing with my head. Oh well. Onto the shinies.

Played around with some stuff, mostly outlines for a rough preview. All the outlines I want should be done as post effects, no need for extra geometry for toonlines, that's a quick way to kill any engine I would think.

And some more renders, having figured out (with help, of course) what was wrong. Always something so simple, this time it was merely UVs. Christ I hate 3D sometimes.

She kinda looks like Sonic from the back... intentional?

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Characters (all of them!)

So I'm just gonna post all the character profiles I have here and update this post later on when I get a chance to with pictures. Very much tl;dr here, but what can you do?



Leo Hart


Height and Weight
190 cm
95 kg

Leo is a hunter; he is fast, powerful and knowledgeable. He knows a variety of sword styles and can switch between them quickly, using the best one for the situation. He has a broad knowledge of monsters/savage creatures and can quickly analyze a monster's weaknesses and strengths. He excels in fighting wild animals and things that are for the most part unpredictable. Leo can fight at long range but prefers to get close, he uses his tech to close the gap as well as hunter traps to bind, delay and distract. Leo is a balanced character who can switch between offense and defence, and usually commands the attention of those on the battlefield.

General Appearance
Dark red eyes, slightly tanned/dark skin, bleached blonde hair. Scars along his arm, a couple across his face. Muscular and well built, on the large side, broad shoulders, strong arms and legs. Leo fights in the wild; his clothes need to be thick, protective and robust. They need to cover his whole body (scratches and tears from brushing past sharp plants etc). He needs a method to detect astra and equipment to deal with astra and wild animals. He fights with his traps, so a quick method to lay them down is needed. He can set traps as he walks and shoot them out of the gauntlets on his fist. He needs thick gloves with astra shielding, as he uses sharp rods made from condensed astra to form weapons. His gauntlets can shoot rods in all directions; they can even fire after hitting an opponent. He can load the gauntlets with various tech in order to create different effects (smokescreens, shields, explosives). He loads the tech with special bullets that are attached to his arm, waist and legs.

Incredibly fast blood regeneration, increased stamina. Needs to keep active (or lose some blood) otherwise pressure builds up, which causes Leo to get irritated and feel uneasy/sick.

Hunter – Leo uses his knowledge and experience to navigate terrain and identify monsters, plants and hybrids.

Working Class – Hunters in this world don't have it easy. Their lives are quite primitive, with their best tech going into weapons, armour and monster/astra detection. They still camp out, use fires and move around constantly along the inner city parameter. Each group of hunters has a leader who negotiates with the inner city for services rendered (food, artifacts), tech specialist who make/maintain weapons and transport, cleansers who purify food and water for consumption, appraisers who determine the value of artifacts and harvesters who grow plants. Hunters are just below the leaders in terms of importance, as they are used for hunting and defence of the group.

Within the hunter's society though, Leo is considered one of the best hunters, but often is looked down upon by the older hunters because of his class. He takes a lot of responsibility and is known for training the younger hunters. He doesn't have a lot of friends his own age, as they would rather be doing something else other than hunting (and Leo doesn't spend much time doing anything else).

Leo is educated and smart, but often doesn't act like he is. He knows a lot more than he lets on and often acts the fool. He was taught how to write and read, as well as how to deal with social situations and politics. He was taught how to fight in a variety of styles, as well as how to hunt, which he shows much more passion about.

His goals in life are to explore and see the world (for what it's worth) and escape from his dull life and potentially duller future. He gets frustrated when he's caged and not allowed to be free, or when something is preventing him from progressing. He also gets frustrated when forced into high class/noble social situations. His only disappointment in life is his father, who he dislikes, but usually that's only when they come into contact with each other, generally his "daddy issues" don't come to light, even with other people are talking about their family.

Leo enjoys solitary moments in nice places. He'll often find someplace secluded to eat or sleep just to get away for a while before returning to his duties. Likes to maintain, modify and check over his equipment in his spare time, leaving him with no chance to do anything slightly normal.

Leo works hard to accomplish his goals, he doesn't like to give up and is determined to finish what he starts. He does know when enough is enough, and can assess whether it's better to give up or carrying on fighting. He's sensible and rarely makes bad choices. He tends to have a more positive outlook on life and tries to keep things upbeat (within reason). He can be whimsical and a goofball at times, but only because he's confident in his abilities. A curious person who always wants to ask "why?" but knows when it's best not to. He's organized and straightforward, keeping all his gear and affairs in order.

Leo was born into a life of luxury and comfort. He had everything he ever wanted and more, hardly ever needing to do anything for himself. His family were known for the power and influences into most political situations. A highly influential family who most people would give an arm to be apart of (or in good graces with). For most people this would be enough, but it wasn't enough for Leo. He was a strong individual who was not easily molded by the influences of others. Much to his family's dismay, Leo took an interest in hunting and fighting. Leo often clashed with his father, Brave over what he should be doing and how he should be acting. Brave would do everything in his power to contain Leo, while Leo would do everything to break out. His mother, Faith, played devil's advocate and liked to sneakily help Leo - as all she wanted was for him to be happy.

Leo would spend whatever time he could at the lower levels amongst the common people. He blended in easily enough, but his clothes were always a dead giveaway. Leo learned to dress two different ways, like a commoner and like a noble. When Leo was a child he encountered a group of hunters who taught him the ways of the hunter (in exchange for money at first, but soon they realized Leo's potential). Leo felt as if the leader of the hunters - Vargo - was like a second father. The kind Leo wanted. Leo was still immature in that he only hunted for the thrill and sport, he didn't understand how the hunters made a living of it, but soon it became Leo's favourite activity. He learned everything he needed and had the best of both worlds at his disposal.

A few years later and Leo would find himself hunting solo, exploring the exciting high astra areas that the others simply couldn't afford to do so. He would look for rare beasts to kill and artifacts to collect. On one of his trips, he encountered a strange human girl, he followed her as the two played cat and mouse, but eventually the chase was cut short when a powerful beast attacked. Leo and the girl managed to fight it off, but Leo was gravely injured in the process trying to protect the girl.

When he awoke in a strange village, Leo found he was surrounded by naturals who were healing him. At first he was surprised, as he never thought as naturals as anything other than slaves. But as time went on, he saw them for what they really were. He was in recovery for a month, getting to know the naturals and the girl he met (Moira) a lot better. Soon he was able to move around, but the naturals were reluctant to let him go. Leo didn't understand why, so he stayed for a bit longer as not to upset them. Soon after Moira told him that the villagers didn't want to let Leo go because soon he would transcend and become one of them. This had Leo in a bit of a panic, but it soon passed as they discovered that Leo hadn't developed an affinity for magic (meaning he was about to change any time soon).

Leo bargained with the naturals (upbringing was good for something) and vowed to keep their village a secret. It was an understanding between two factions that neither thought possible, so they gave Leo the benefit of the doubt. In exchange for letting him go, Leo would get them supplies they needed and as an added benefit, they taught Leo how to use astral weapons (his gauntlets). This agreement meant that the relationship between Leo and Moira could grow, and the two came to care for each other greatly. Leo travelled to the village often, sometimes to bring things for the villagers (like toys for the kids, clothes and tech) but mostly just to see Moira. This is how Leo learned a lot about natural culture and become more understanding and sympathetic to the naturals he encountered in his normal life.


Moira Lumina


Height and Weight

Moira is a combat mage, able to fight and cast magic at the same time. She doesn't shy away from close combat (despite not being good at it) and her boundless energy means she can evade better, escape and cast magic while moving. Her magic is explosive and powerful, but not efficient (as she's new at it). She uses her magic as a blunt force tool, rather than a sophisticated problem solving tool. Inexperienced with fighting, she looks to other characters for advice and support. Being a natural she has a connection to the planet and the Astra, able to communicate and operate some of the more supernatural elements in the world.

General Appearance
Deep black eyes, green/brown skin, brown/earthy spikes. Average body type, slender and quite athletic. Moira has two sets of clothing, her natural armour/clothing is organic, made out of living wood that wraps around the target and forms whatever type of cloth/armour they can manipulate with magic (naturals only). She commonly wears human style clothes (modified to fit her body shape) to blend in with human communities during her travels. She wears a thick hood and muffler to hide her face, and has a single pack full of things she needs (messy and unorganised unlike Leo) like medical supplies, magical items (for communication with astral beings) and her staff. She wears robes made for movement and mobility, but it offers very little protection from actual hits and has no astra shielding on it.

Nothing unusual apart from the natural condition.

Combat Caster – Moira uses her magic to defend herself, solve problems in the field and identify sources of Astra. Her style of magic is very active and explosive, perfect for combat whereas normal magic is mostly for field situations, like healing or communication. She can move and cast spells which is normally impossible to do, she can also dual cast spells at the same time.

Wild Naturals – Naturals that live in the wild often live in secrecy and seclusion. Their villages are tight-knit, with maybe 100 members at most (commonly only half that), so everyone knows each other. Because of how the world treats naturals, they are suspicious of new comers and treat the security of the village very seriously. They work as a community, with no one allowed to slack off. Naturals are poor, and rely on salvage or magical items in order to do daily choirs. Their magic is used mostly to ward or confuse trespassers, but they also use magic to keep dangerous beasts at bay. Natural villages always have one leader, with another in training under the current leaders. These two are in charge of important decisions. They also value teachers quite highly, as teaching others how to use magic and communicate with astral beings is a difficult job. Though rare, combat casters are highly valued as they can directly protect the village with their magic and have a greater capacity for learning magic spells than other casters. Apart from that, there isn't much in the way of social hierarchy in natural villages. Because naturals can directly feed on astra, they have no need for hunters or agricultural jobs, so most opt to instead maintain wards and nature happy.

Moira is a little clumsy and unreliable. Because she didn't mutate for a long time she was an outsider in her own home. She wasn't able to help with most of the tasks in village and was annoyed with her inability to contribute (or transcend). She doesn't have any friends in her village and is often bullied for being different (which is ironic considers how humans treat naturals). Despite that, the village does try its hardest to accommodate her and make her feel at home and welcome, but most of those efforts just highlight the differences and push her away. Moira's parents were ashamed of her, but always kept it hidden, as they were subsequently viewed as weird for giving birth to a human child despite being naturals.

Moira was taught how to use magic like everyone else in the village, much to their surprise she could use it very well. She learned how to speak both human languages and natural gestures. She's smart and knowledgeable about astra and astral beings, but knows nothing about the human world, including how to read or write.

Moira's only goal in life was to be accepted by her village and somehow contribute. She gets annoyed when she's excluded, put down for being different or underestimated. Moira is fascinated by human fashion and culture, obsessed with nice looking human clothes, but disappointed that she can't wear them.

Moira likes to practice magic and apply it to subjects like art and music. She finds joy in using her magic in creative ways, sometimes even for causing trouble.

Moira is generally distrustful of all people because of how she was treated and how naturals are treated, but she warms up to people eventually, some sooner than others. She's naturally friendly and charismatic, always knowing what to say to another in order to cheer them up. She can be naive and is always willing to believe the best in people. A cheerful and energetic person, she always wants to be on the move and hates to sit still. This means she can be very chaotic and unorganized, her thoughts bounce from one thought to another without any logical flow, which means she can be confusing to talk to sometimes.

Moira was abnormal in that she was born as a normal child. Her parents were both naturals but she was a normal human child for a long time. Moira's village was based on the outskirts of the island, not near the edge but far enough to not get noticed by humans because of the high concentrations of astra. Her village is extremely careful and distrustful of humans, opting to kidnap and expose humans that they encounter rather than kill them. Because Moira was normal she was often teased and excluded by other kids, even the adults were weary of her because for the longest time she wouldn't transform (or as naturals know it, Transcend). Moira's exclusion caused her to run away from home, at which time she met Leo.

The two didn't get a chance to meet properly, as Moira was attacked by a beast and saved by Leo. She sympathetically tried to heal him, but her magic wasn't nearly good enough, especially as a human, so she did the next best thing and returned home. The villagers were shocked to see her come back with a human, but they all did their best to help him. Leo was nursed back to health and Moira took a great interest in him, being the only other human she had seen. Leo would tell her stories about his world, and Moira would tell him about the naturals. It was then that the villagers realized how Moira saw them, and over the course of Leo's recovery her relationship with them improved drastically. It was during this time Moira realised how much she meant to the villagers, and used that position to bargain for Leo's freedom (threatening to leave). They folded quickly, despite their efforts to change Leo, nothing really happened.

Leo soon recovered and Moira was tasked with finding out if he could use magic, but instead Moira told him about what the naturals wanted to do. Moira helped Leo reason with the villagers (mostly a show, but Leo's persuasions helped ease a lot of tension) and soon the two parties came to an understanding.

After that incident, Leo and Moira's relationship developed quickly, as neither of them had anyone else they could really relate to. Moira would often hear how lucky she was to have found someone, as humans and naturals couldn't be together. Moira never considered the ramifications of this, so she ignored it. But eventually, Moira transformed and stopped meeting Leo because she was sad and ashamed. She thought that if she said nothing she would just blend in and soon Leo would forget about her, but Leo seemed to be able to tell the different between naturals despite them looking so similar and didn't give up on her. Moira is reluctant to show her feelings to Leo, but is bad at hiding them completely.

Moira's late transformation and extremely high tolerance for astra is the point of interest for many people. As experiementation on naturals is easy and the benefits could be huge. Mostly to allow humans to use magic without transforming, or to harness greater power from astra for weapons.


(Bow in Japanese)


Height and Weight
185 cm
79 kg

Yumi is a ranged attacker who keeps her distance and kills her opponents before they get close. She uses her tech to create platforms and shields (for defence and accessibility). She can jump on the platforms and shoot down from them, or use the shields to reflect/diffuse her shots for various effects. Her platforms can launch enemies and she can attack multiple enemies easily, but she attracts a lot of attention and often gets overwhelmed without proper support. She's an experienced fighter, smart and a great tactician, she can see through enemy formations and gives advice on the best course of action to take. She is extremely effective against humanoid/intelligent creatures, predicting actions ahead of time and reacting accordingly.

General Appearance
Emerald green eyes, dark brown hair, fair skinned. Strong body type, quite slender but defined. Since Yumi is military (and an archer), she wears armour (mostly on her shoulders, elbows and knees) along with some lighter, more mobile padding. She has a device on her head that is a communicator and has aiming assistance built in (tells things like monster distance, wind, astra levels, time, etc – think of the batman thing). She doesn't carry a lot other than her weapons and ammo, but she does have military passports and ID on her.

Somewhat short term/selective memory.

Archer – Attacks foes at a distance, never letting them within range.

Soldiers – Soldier's are feared and respected. Unlike the usual police force, all of them are highly trained and dangerous, though rarely seen by commoners. They are mostly used for security of important people, but some are also used to keep slaves in line, hunt dangerous fugitives (outsiders or foreigners to the islands/spies) or kill extremely powerful beasts.

Yumi, like all other soldiers is feared and respected, but unlike most soldiers, even her own team mates are afraid of her. She is reliable and highly praised by her superiors who always give her first choice and priority on important missions. She has risen in the ranks quickly, which often gets her a lot of disdain by career soldiers who have been on the job longer but haven't advanced as far. But no one dares openly oppose her. Yumi has no friends, but she respects her superiors and treats them accordingly. However, she's rough with her subordinates, which some appreciate but others do not. Spends most of her time alone.

Yumi is highly educated, able to speak and write in many different languages. This has use in that she can identify foreigners and understand them, so it makes it easier to complete her missions. She can plan ahead well and is able to easily read and respond to all situations, social or otherwise. She speaks well, using a lot of complicated words (which make her hard to understand sometimes).

Yumi has no long term goals or ambitions of her own; it is enough for her to do what she's told (though later she strives to be able to think for herself). Every mission she does becomes her whole purpose in life, which makes her a little narrow-minded. She gets rattled when missions don't go as planned, or is someone disobeys her orders or argues with her. She is disgusted at how naturals are treated, but no one knows this. She has a bit of an inferiority complex, which makes her aggressive towards those who fight better than she does. Unlike most people with her condition (amnesiacs), she doesn't care about her past.

Yumi enjoys reading and writing in her spare time. Sometimes she'll play a game of chess with her superiors (she always loses on purpose) which she enjoys, despite sometimes not liking their company.

Yumi is a professional who does her duty like any other soldier. She knows how to keep her emotions and more importantly her opinions in check and doesn't let them get in the way of her mission. She focuses mostly on the mission, and doesn't think about herself as a person for the most part (mostly a tool).
She can be bossy and demands perfection, usually pushing people as far as they can go before reaching their limit, unaware that most people aren't as tough as she is. However, she does feel remorse after having pushed someone too far, and will try to comfort them or be kind. Yumi is bad at consoling people, so despite her best intentions, it often comes off more like scolding or mockery/condenscension. She thinks of most people as objectives, whether it be to capture them or protect them. She doesn't do it because she feels the need to, but because its her job. Yumi has a spark of curiosity in her, sometimes she wants to ask about the questionable assignments she's tasked with, but is unable to go against orders for fear of consequence (even if it is the right thing to do), and feels unable to adapt to situations should they go against her original orders. Eventually she becomes more inquisitive, and learns to think more about herself and her desires and not just do whatever she's told. Yumi has a soft spot that most people don't see, she has a weakness for children which can override her military training. For the most part, she's incredibly kind and sweet to kids, letting them get away with just about anything.

Yumi's past is a little-known mystery. Her name is only a code, and Yumi has long since forgotten her real name or family. For all she knows, she was born into military life and raised as a soldier. Obedient to a fault, Yumi will always follow the orders of her superiors even if she disagrees with it. Despite her cold and uncaring demeanour, she often struggles with her conscience and bullies herself for her lack of strength. Her task is to hunt down and capture anyone who gets too close to the truth about the island, or those who have infiltrated the island. Since foreigners act differently than natives, her superiors tell her that these people are going in for "reconditioning" that is necessary because the people have been overcome by stress or some strange disease. The truth is that these people are interrogated for information then killed. Yumi meets Leo and Moira after she captures them, together they learn about what really happens to the prisoners and the horrors that befall them. Yumi's faith is shaken and she defects to Leo's team.


Regis Guillory
(Regis – Royal, Guillory – Powerful Will)


Height and Weight
199 cm
95 kg

Regis is a fencer, he fights with a modified rapier which he uses to primarily to parry and block attacks then counter with outstanding force. His fighting style requires him to stay close at all times and deal damage (or take hits), when he charges he can predict attacks that come at him and avoid them ahead of time, making him the best charge character in the game (he can teach Leo how to do it, but not as well). He can defend against multiple attackers, but only strike against one.

General Appearance
Variable eyes (usually black), slightly pale skin, grey hair. Slender frame, average build. Regis is a well dressed, well groomed and eccentric. He wears a top hat and monocle (which may or may not do anything special); a suit/tux with a napkin and pocket watch, sharp shoes and well cut pants. His body frame is lean but somewhat slender, with hair that has been slicked back.

Mood eyes, sometimes Regis' eyes change colour depending on what mood he's in or the person he's talking to. Regis also gets migraines from time to time.

Fencer – Regis uses his knowledge of momentum, his sharp wit and even sharper sword to fell enemies with advanced parries and counters.

Upper Class – The upper class are blessed with the best position in the world. For the most part, a lot of them are in politics involving the inner cities well being, but a few who are in the know are concerned about the activities that other islands are involved in. For the most part, the upper class are concerned with their house/family standing and work hard to improve their reputation. Others simply enjoy life.

Regis is often looked on with two faces, one side of society reveres him, the other side loathes him. But he plays the game so well that most situations are favourable for him, even when dealing with people who hate him dearly. No one wants to face him directly, so most fighting happens in the shadows, which is where Regis can fight best.

Regis is very well educated as one might guess, he's smart and manipulative, somehow gaining knowledge into a person's inner thoughts and motivations. He has a strange faith system that revolves around death and loss, no one really asks about it after the initial conversation though (not that Regis would explain it properly). This is based on the truth of the world, and how everything returns to the planet and is reborn through astra.

Regis' goal is to keep equilibrium in the world, and prevent the efforts of those who would unite the planet once more. He's also looking for his daughter, who went missing a long time ago. Regis suspects the location of his daughter to be hidden in rare artifacts (science journals/logs). Regis is rarely, if ever frustrated or disappointed, nothing really annoys him (that anyone can tell).

Regis enjoys classic literature and the theatre. He loves the finer things in life and never seems uncomfortable. He likes to teach people less fortunate for him (for various reasons) and takes pride in his fool-proof teaching methods.

Regis is always calm and collected, he never lets his emotions show on his face (though his eyes may change colour) and keeps a suave smile on at all times. No one can really tell what Regis is thinking, as everything he does has a deeper meaning. He can be unpredictable at best and completely chaotic at worst, but usually this has little consequence for allies. Regis is very persuasive, and can talk people into doing what he wants; sometimes even going as far as making them think it was their own idea. Of course, his air of mystery doesn't come without its fair share of lies and after so long, he can't help but tell a lie or two, usually just to keep the person on their toes. He talks like a gentleman and never raises his voice or shouts. He rarely speaks down to people, but he does adjust his use of language to suit the person he talks to.

Regis is a mysterious man who spends most of his time around nobility. No one knows what family he comes from or what he actually does, but everyone knows him and he knows everyone. He uses nobility to gather and sell information, but no one knows why he's gathering all this information. He meets Leo and the party while they're exploring the upper echelons of the inner city, and acts as their guide throughout it. He helps them find information about the island, and in return he uses them as a shield of sorts to get to where he wants to go.


Clara Maurus / Maurus Clara
(Clear/Bright/Famous, Dark skinned) – Personalities switch names (Female name is Clara, male name is Maurus).


Height and Weight
134 cm
55 kg

Clara/Maurus is a shifter, meaning he/she can change his/her role in combat as he/she pleases. The male half is better at fighting, preferring close range debuffs, the female is better on the field, using alchemy/tech to create different items. In a fight, the female half uses long range attacks and items to enhance the party's performance, as well as making little machines/robots can that do the fighting for her (or turrets). The male uses poisons to strip away defences and hamper offense. The male is better when fighting a lone, powerful enemy, while the female is better when fighting multiple enemies.

General Appearance
Dark skinned, dual coloured eyes (one blue, the other purple – generally they both look blue though), dark purple hair. Childlike build with no discernable features that indicate sex. Clara/Maurus wears ambiguous clothing, something that can be quickly changed depending on the mode. Needs bags for holding lots of items (backpack?) Uses a lot of tech, but tends to make new things rather than use tech that is equipped. Not the fastest character, clothes can be quite puffy to hide gender attributes. Can hold hair in a hat (which he/she can take off). Uses ranged weapons to attack from a distance (female) or attack at closer ranges (daggers).

What seems like schizophrenia, probably other mental inflictions as well.

Shifter – Switches between personalities in order to fulfil different roles in combat and on the field.

Alchemists – Alchemists are a secretive and dangerous group of people who toy with the natural laws to create powerful items. They have a secret guild (super secret even) that only the best, brightest and often the most morally devoid people can join. Breaking the rules is absolutely forbidden, and punishable by death no matter how small the offense. Alchemists have the ability to travel between islands to collect materials and date, and they can even travel close to the planet's core (though none of them have been able to pierce the thick shield surrounding it or find a way through). They rarely consort or work together, but they all have a symbol on their clothes that identifies them. Some merchants will recognize this symbol and open up the "special stocks" for alchemists.

Clara and Maurus are exiles (in a sense) from the Alchemists Initiative; they are on the run for stealing a very precious stone, which was actually just done for a joke which escalated way too far. Clara and Maurus were junior alchemists who showed a lot of promise, but would often make silly mistakes (on purpose) that enraged their teachers. The truth is they got bored by all the rules and decided to cut loose. Before they left, a lot of the alchemists looked forward to seeing them grow, as they said that Clara and Maurus had a lot of potential. They have no friends, but need none, as they have each other.

Clara is very good at maths while Maurus is better at science. They are both very smart and learn quickly, often not making the same mistake twice (in alchemy, the first mistake can be fatal...).

Clara and Maurus strive for a family, though their personal goal involves reviving someone very dear to them (each other). If it's something they both want, it's a parental figures (which they place on Leo and Yumi). Clara and Maurus get annoyed when confronted with rules and regulations, or told they cannot do something (the consequence of being annoyed depends on how much they like the offender). They get defensive when asked about their past or condition and tend to shut down at that point.

Clara and Maurus enjoy causing trouble and generally blowing stuff up in weird ways. They love to experiment and gain knowledge, as everything leads them one step closer to their goal. In their spare time, they're either tinkering with tech, or creating some crazy potion.

Maurus is aggressive and very protective of his sister. He can be hard to calm down when he gets into a rage and even harder to control. He can be socially ignorant, talking to princes and poor people exactly the same (which gets him in trouble – a lot). This is mostly because he likes to insult people and make fun of them, sometimes for a reason, most of the time just to be an asshole. But despite his harsh words and mannerisms, he has a heart of gold and never looks to hurt anyone (even if he destroys a few buildings in the process). He has a crass and standoffish manner of speaking, often not finishing his words properly.

Clara is a bit of a recluse and very bad around people. Clara would prefer to be alone, in the dark, in some corner in the middle of nowhere. She gets uncomfortable around large groups and in cities, so usually she lets Maurus handle social interactions. This is for the best, as Clara can be very perverse and knows things that someone her age shouldn't know. She has some weird quirks, some of which involve alchemy or tech and sometimes she'll say things that are completely unexpected. Her perversion mostly comes from being a sadist, and revelling in the pain of others. This part of her is often restrained by Maurus, as her role in the group conflicts with this part of her personality. The party is often reluctant to accept aid from Clara because of her unknown side effects. She speaks in a lone tone and usually alludes to something sinister.

Clara and Maurus live their life by travelling the new world, looking for rare materials to create exotic new items. Clara and Maurus have experience at deep world diving, having developed tech that allows for even more astra protection (unlike usual protection which is mechanical/armour, Clara and Maurus can do it with tattoos.) Clara and Maurus meet the party as they are about to leave the island, as they have the tech needed to explore and survive the world. They join the party as their quest/exploration might lead them to the answer they seek.

Monday, 5 July 2010

Kitbashing 101

So, my plan is to be as efficient as possible in my task of creating these characters, which reminds me I need to either post or update their profiles, at least so people know what the hell I'm doing. I mean, at least so I know what the hell I'm doing (who are these people reading this anyway? You don't really exist, do you?)

Anyway, kitbashing is basically taking your time to make one thing as well as you can, then using that one thing to create 100 more things. In this case, I spent about 2 days getting the head and body right, then I spent 1 day creating a few variations from that one head. Basically, this cuts the time required to make something in half. More than a half, a half-half, so... 3/4. No? Whatever, maths sucks. Anyway, some are slight tweaks to stuff and others are a bit more drastic.

Oh yeah, ignore the lack of eyes, I plan to do something with them, but basically it doesn't involve eyeballs. I have a long term plan for them, I just have no vision about what they'll look like in the future. It'll come together, it always does.

The first variations I made were for the main characters:
This one is male (young).

This is female (young)

This is male (older)

This is male or female (childlike)... it'll make sense later.

This is natural female (young), this may also make sense later.

Next up, is body types. Even for both heads and bodies, I wanted to create a lot of variations for things like NPCs, but I won't do that unless I have a lot of excess time. A LOT of excess time.

EDIT: Decided just to post the bodies here. There isn't a LOT of difference in build, as the characters will be wearing clothes so there wasn't a lot of point doing that. Most noticeable are male, female and then height. More things will change after I do clothes and retopo, mostly proportions.

Natural Type - was going to deform it more, might do that later

Female Body

Male Body

Male Body Tall

Child Body

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

From Dough to Boy

It always amazes me at the end of a Zbrush session to see how far the model has come. For the most part, I was practicing some anatomy, but after such a long absence from Zbrush I was rusty to say the least. I couldn't remember brush settings, I didn't have any alphas loaded, nor could I remember the optimal brush or tool for the situation.

Basically, what I'm saying is that this took quite a long time, but this sort of thing was never quick in the first place. The head gave me a lot of trouble, as did the hands. Oh god, hands, I'm still terrible at them, but I never find the time to really make good ones. For the most part I would think the quality depends on the basemesh, either from Maya or Zspheres. The head however, felt like an endless battle between realism and style. I think I reached a nice middle ground (depends on what the middle is though). I found each of the features to be hard to get right for a while, as you can probably see from the first 2 stages. The nose wasn't in the right place, the eyes looked weird and I couldn't get a mouth good enough to even look at as a work in progress to put on the face. Eventually everything came into place, the eyes last of all (being the hardest but most important feature on the face).

The body was fun to work on, especially mixed in with anatomy DVDs and books (which aren't as easy to learn from as they go so damn fast you can't follow along easily). I feel like this is another step forward, but then again I always feel like that, and 2 weeks later I hate whatever I've done. The body has a mix of correct (I think) anatomy and smooth shapes, mostly because I don't know what I'm doing with this yet. I'm thinking Wii style graphics, which means I don't NEED to do this, but it never hurt anyone to get some nice shapes. And if I do decide to use normal maps, this'll help, right?

Sunday, 6 June 2010

The End of the World (Working Title)

So, my third semester is (naturally) based on character design. Seeing how characters change over the course of design. Style and concept feeds into design which feeds back into the style and concept. I think its circular like that, but only up to a certain point (after which you've overdesigned the character).

To help me with this, I have enlisted the help of some friends to create some rough concepts for me. Some of them know more or less enough about the world, but I want to see what they come up with and how I can change it to fit the concept. I guess the point I want to prove is that all character are more or less viable for any given concept, it's just a matter of working it.


So the basic idea for this game would be the end of the world (no, not that kind). This was inspired by the idea of looking over the edge of the known world. The kind of thing you would imagine would happen if the concept of "the world is flat" was actually true. This "world" is flat, so by going to the end of the world, you could look down to the abyss. The island the game starts on is basically a chunk of floating rock, the truth of the world is a big secret, so people naturally think that what they see is all there is and that going to the end of the world is forbidden.

The game would be an action RPG (wet dream genre) so narrative is important here, but I didn't want to get too far into it. Basically, the world (Earth as it was known) was fractured into much smaller islands (if each continent was a floating island) that are for the most part isolated. The Earth before it split was very technologically advanced, and it was only because of a tragic mistake (THE ENDLESS NIGHT) that the wold was fractured. Evidence of the old world is present in the new world, as artifacts lay scattered around the area. Some are functioning tech, others are books/paintings depicting the old world. The most valuable are scientist's journals that describe the events leading up to the world fracturing and the team behind it.

The energy radiating from the planet's core is now a powerful and for now, constant source of energy. But this energy has adverse effects on people, changing their form into something that can handle exposure. Most consider these people freaks/mutants and abominations (religion isn't dead yet), so they are hunted down and for the most part captured or killed if they resist. The upper echelons use these mutants to harvest energy from the planet's core -- usually from the bottom of the island -- in order to power the island. The mutants are the only kind of people who can use magic, but magic is more of a symptom of illness than a product of mutation.

For the most part, the mutants are slaves, working in the mines and factories to help the rest of the population live comfortably. The luckier natural slaves work as maids or caretakers as well, the most unlucky are used for experimentation or as sport. Of course, this only works for the island you start on, as a constant how the island uses mutants differs. Some islands would use them for military and other islands have been taken over by them. Regardless of the circumstances, the one thing that mutants provide is the means to harvest energy, so an islands existence is often dependant on them. How they get the energy are by using turbine like devices that suck in the radiation and use its raw power. All appliances/devices have radiation shielding, which means if something goes wrong ordinary people can get exposed and changed, so despite it being powerful it's often dangerous and unclean.

So the upper class exploit the lower class and the middle class is totally unaware, seems oddly familiar, but what do I know (or care) about world issues? The specific details of each island differ, but overall this is how things operate. The lower down you go the more things change, mostly with mutants becoming more free and common at this point, the most powerful living near the core. Eventually I want the story to journey down to the core, using the islands as a stepping stone to get there (with some classic transportation to get between them, like an airship).

As mentioned before, there would be mutants warped by the core's energy and all RPGs need monsters, so animals and plants are also affected. Creating monsters and fusions between species (animal + animal, animal + plant, plant + fish, plant + human etc) that would populate the outer rims of the islands (as energy basically envelops the islands, the outer rims are unsafe and the middle is the safest). This would create a need for hunters/cleaners, because there's a need for food and water. So the hunters would go out and hunt for food as well as protect the inner city from dangers, and there would be jobs like harvesters (for plants/crops) and purifiers (so you can eat tainted meats and drink water). Mechanics/technicians would be responsible for creating the shielding so that appliances work and hunters can venture further from the center without being exposed to radiation. All combined they have a working machine that operates nicely. A model that I hope can be adapted and changed depending on the island.

Of course, you would have weird stuff, like nature/plants would become dependant more on the radiation for survival than sunlight, so trees always point to the outer rims and some trees grow upside down (the roots on the surface) so they can poke underground and feed off the highest concentration of radiation. And what RPG would be complete without crystals? I dunno what purpose they'd serve other than looking awesome, but I'm sure I can think of something (I had a good idea prior to playing FFXIII, but as I played it I noticed how similar it was to mine so now I feel bad using it).

New Stuff: Thought about weather (for a strange reason). Had a vision of rain coming down in bubble form, basically raindrops but at 100x magnification. You could pick them out of the air and avoid getting wet, but they would rest on objects and 'pop' once enough tension is pressed on them. Light (night and day) works because the light from the sun hits the radiation clouds and is absorbed by them. The intention of this was to have blankets of light that hover across the sky, making day and night really sporadic and random (lots of RPGs have a day and night system). You would see daylight in the clouds, and maybe people prepare accordingly depending on what weather they see coming towards them.

Entertainment is what you expect from any RPG. There are sports (nothing special or specific yet), TV/Movie stars, pop/singstars, actors and fame. There are games, art and culture but they all depend on the area. Nothing in mind yet, but I'll think of something.

In terms of military and government, there isn't much there that is different than what the current Earth is like. But the military would be a lot more secular and rarely used, more like an extensive police force that mostly focuses on crime and dangers within the inner city. Most monster threats are dealt with by hunters, with exceptionally dangerous ones being dealt with by some special tasks force. What military and ranks are left would mostly be for protection of important people. The real purpose would be to deter from invasion from other islands, and perhaps the most trustworthy and reputable would get missions on other islands. Of course this is all secret and not noticed until getting past the first island.

As for weapons, I mentioned before that energy is collected by turbine-like machines and used like that. Weapons would largely work the same way, as there would be trace (or more obvious) elements in the air, so weapons would draw on that to use more powerful attacks (so the more of it that is around the better you can fight - but that also means its a more dangerous area). The weapons would have mini-turbines in them that suck in and distribute power to the other parts of the weapon, then after that the energy would be expelled (like steam) and disperse. People proficient in using these weapons would mostly be hunters, but this tech would also be helpful in transportation as well.


As for the gameplay, it would be an action RPG as I mentioned before. Not turn based -- although I did want to explore that side of it -- but more like Star Ocean. My first ideas were that of a multiverse type thing. I would use that excuse as a reason to add in previous characters I did and just tweak them to fit the setting (that was me thinking lazy). There were things like character classes which I explained a bit earlier (Hunter, Harvester, Tech, Mutant etc), which I think is good for an RPG as it helps classify and split characters, but I doubt it really is needed so much in a game where every character can be its own class.

Naturally, random battles are out of the window. Nostalgia is all well and good, but progress is better. Random battles were a tech limitation, and unless the tech limits me I won't limit myself.

I also had the idea of a system which would allow you to preview fights to find out strategies and weaknesses and exploit them in a real battle. Knowledge is power, and a lot of RPGs are quick to throw you into random fights and punish you for not knowing your enemy inside and out. With this, you would get a short preview of the fight (like 10-20 seconds?) and use that time to try out new things with the enemy and find out the weaknesses which would allow you to prepare accordingly with equipment and skills. Figuring out how this system deals with boss fights would be key, because apart from reloading an old save there isn't a way to know (and reloading kinda breaks the flow something harsh). This idea would extend to exploration, in that the character would be given knowledge of what each path would hold so there aren't any pointless areas and finding items would be easier. Naturally, if you missed an item you would know about it, so completionists and kleptomaniacs would be satisfied (I always hate those treasure hunter trophies/achievements).

As for in a fight, there would be free movement across the field with attack and defense options being applied at will. I wanted a system where you could control all the characters, but that's strikingly similar to turn based systems. My idea would initially be to have a timeline of sorts, and once that timeline is complete you can switch characters or let the AI control them. This would effectively let you control all characters in the same time window without leaving any of them helpless. If they are attacked, they are attacked in a timeline that allows you to manually defend (provided you are controlling them, you could let the AI defend). The switch is optional, so you could play as the same character for the entire fight, but for harder fights it would be better to switch characters.

Attacks and defense would be in real time, so while you're attacking and defending, time is ticking along and your allies and enemies are moving. For the most part, there would be light and heavy attacks (as well as directional normals, so pressing the movement stick towards an enemy and attacking would execute a move that closes the gap between you). There would be defensive options like block, dodge and parry but the options would be more available to defensive characters.

Stronger enemies would have a radiation shield that keep characters out, and all fights would have ranges. So when you start a fight, naturally your target will be at long range. There will be a chance for your characters to charge in quickly and cause big damage - most of the time for trash fights this will be the best method to dispatch enemies with. But as you dash in, some enemies will attack you with ranged attacks or magic, meaning you have to avoid/counter their attacks to get in. If they manage to hit you they cause extra damage and push you back, making you retry the charge or rethink your approach (like distracting them or stunning them). Some characters will have tech items (like hover boards?) that help them charge, when these characters are hit they get an extra chance to get in, but often it gets harder the less aid they have. Once your character gets in, they can cause damage and stay close.

Ranged characters don't need to get close to do good damage, and often being close means trouble for them. So the opposite holds true in these cases, the character has to retreat (instead of charge), using whatever attacks/tricks to get away and keep away (maybe I can call it keep out). Dealing enough damage (or getting a certain number of hits) causes the enemy to back off. Naturally enemies will do this as well, meaning that close range characters need to keep close. The issue is dealing with this along side the timeline concept and switching characters. I guess when a character is defending, charging or retreating the player is alerted and can switch characters.

Anyway, there's a light and heavy attack, and some defense, there's also a simple switch target buttons, as RPGs without dedicated targeting buttons are messy when you fight more than one thing (and often annoying when you can't target mages or the most troublesome enemy). There are of course some special attacks, bright lights and whistles. Each character can set a stance or mode, and when you hold a button that mode charges up. Once complete the characters moveset changes and new attacks become available. For example, if you had a character who normally uses a sword, charging up a new mode (that allows for quick hits) would change how he moves, so there would be no heavy attack, just light/quick attacks, there might also be less (or no) defensive options but instead replaced by attack options. Pressing two buttons together would execute a special move that can only be used once you've hit the enemy enough times, but normal special moves could be done with their own unique buttons. Ranged characters work pretty much the same. I'm thinking about a launch system that once active allows characters to deal extra damage, changing normal attacks to aerial juggles and smackdowns, some types allow the airborne enemy to stay in the air longer.

Magic would work a little differently, with only a single defensive option, mages would have several different attacks that need to be chained together based on colour (often the colour of the next spell to be used - corresponding with face buttons?). Charging skills would instead activate a certain spell, which changes how mages work again. There would be active areas of magic that can be used to attack. Each radius will have a button that needs to be pressed to activate the magic (like a flame pillar or lightning strike), so when enemies enter the radius they can be hurt. There could be overlaps or buttons combined to increase the area of effect (AoE) or power. Using the targeting button instead allows the players to adjust the attack zones (automatically and manually). Instead of special moves, the same buttons assigned to that task will be used to cycle through magic set ups, allowing mages access to all of their power.

Thinking a little on how to handle techs, like making their skills give them the ability to build robots or turrets on the battlefield (easier/simple ones are just placed down, but harder ones need to be built from scratch each time). Techs would be able to attack like any close or long range character, but their skill modes would be more about building stuff (vehicles as well, everyone hop in the tank to blow this monster to pieces). The method of doing so would be a little like a minigame I guess, as for what specifically I dunno. This method was also how I wanted to do things with characters who mix potions and medicines.

I was thinking about summons, but I honestly might leave them out, as the idea I had for them seems more like its own game than something I should retrofit into this one. As for extra stuff, I wanted to bridge the gap more between gameplay and narrative, things like mentioning and using attacks that characters have in the field and in cutscene/story segments, and characters not doing some new/weird crazy crap in cutscenes that for some reason they can never do in a real fight (DEUS EX MACHINA). Maybe being able to select what skill/spell you want to use at a certain point in a cutscene would change how to the cutscene progresses.

Well, that's about all I got for now. So next up will be some character concepts.