Being able to draw a bit had always been a benefit at Primary school. Doodles of Teenage Mutant Ninja turtles could be created in exchange for protection, food and coinage for the arcades. The best fighters at school were susceptible to such gifts and thus, I was able to stay on the right side of popularity. It’s amusing to remember these days - I think I had a better head for business than I do now. Me and a friend would make Top Trumps cards for classmates to battle with. If someone was willing to pay 10p we might create a card for them that could not be beat, until someone paid more for their own card. Loyalty to customers was fleeting - we adapted to who had power. We’d create little book stories and comics which teachers would continually have to confiscate only to later show to the whole class as examples of good presentation. These tiny books (we loved making books the size of a big match box for some strange reason) were continually stolen or robbed - the ultimate compliment really! I remember getting in trouble because two kids had fought in the playground and the teacher had traced the cause back to card game we had created - with great power comes great responsibility (see Spiderman.)
One guy at Primary school was actually a better natural drawer than me. Man he was good - could draw without source material, I still can’t do that! With this level of rival I had to think outside the box and create products and pictures with stories rather than drawings alone and work in multitude of styles to gain as many fans as possible. The classroom lessons themselves provided a few rare opportunities to refine skills- the ancient Greeks and Romans were ample chances to create battle scenes (I often opted out of ‘the draw a clay pot’ option. My skills and sales would level up when things like street fighter arrived on the gaming scene- now drawing was not confined to the classroom. Precious magazines and sticker albums (thanks Mum!) would be my bibles as I desperately tried to recreate something that vaguely resembled ‘Chun Li’ or ‘Ryu’. I’d change the names of course - I was well ahead of the game when it came to copyright :) In those days few people could afford the Super Nintendo (which had just pulled off a spectacular conversion of Street Fighter II) and so a culture was formed around something which was unobtainable to many - a bit like how people view houses now I guess.
Remnants of my early card sets. Worryingly, I think some of these drawings are better than my attempts now :/
Some people have asked us why we took a month working on our bigger projects to make a game within a month, thus adding yet more work to our schedule. The answer is simple - to see something conclude. Creating games can be a bit despairing at times. If the project is big it is inevitable that at points creators will tire. It felt like we were going to have nothing to show for our efforts for a large period of time and that was a demoralizing feeling. Adapting Lovecrafts “The Terrible Old Man” allowed us to suddenly pour our efforts into something completely fresh and jump right in. It was a real challenge against the clock, but that made it exciting. Also knowing that within a month, the game would be out there for people to play was a huge motivation. For me, the most exciting part of the process is seeing how people react to your game and I wanted that feeling again. As the game only had only a handful of characters and backdrops, it was also a real chance to get to grips with a more polished graphics style. Here’s a bit about how we made our decisions. I think Shaun was a bit pleasantly surprised at how committed I was to trying to make this game look decent.
With ‘The Terrible Old Man’ being such a short game I wanted it to have a high impact ending. Other than Lovecraft’s description of yellow eyes and white beard I felt the character was pretty much open to interpretation. To me it seemed that he still held some small connection to the community - we are informed that he scolds the boy who threw stones at his window but no harm comes to him. I therefore felt that the old man should not be overtly portrayed as a monster all the time and instead had the ability to transform to some degree when roused or under threat. I felt this worked quite well in the end and made his appearance all the more unsettling. He almost looks like he could be friendly but something isn’t quite right. There’s a deperate madness there - something tormenting has a grip over him and years of sea voyages have eaten away at his soul. I quickly roughed up a couple of designs but felt that only one conveyed that haunting vacant look that I was seeking. It’s always enjoyable seeing and hearing the reactions of people to the old man’s sudden close up in the game. With more time, I’d have probably done more with the hair but I’m happy with the result.
The same day that we decided to take part in the MAGS competition, these roughs were drawn up. I was watching “First Dates” at the time, which might have resulted in the rather overly happy faces for the old man himself.
There were two features I wanted to explore with this project to try and enhance the atmosphere. The first was the use of video files to convey the more dramatic moments and the other feature that I wanted to trial was the use of subtle moving portraits for when characters spoke - it’s a gripe I have with many click and points, images that don’t move seem a bit lifeless to me. This portrait use I think adds to the mood of the game and makes the whole experience a bit more unsettling. It’s a feature I’d like to use again and build on.
Shaun confined me to the 640 x 400 resolution which I find very tricky to work in (he wanted to go smaller!) There was no time to waste, so I quickly worked up sketches that would form the basis of the moving portraits. Goodness me, the eyes on the bottom middle character look a bit misaligned don’t they - they stayed that way. I’ll put it down as homage to Francis Bacon’s work :)
Most challenging for me were the backdrops. I seemed to spend ages trying to get these to look decent. The perspective is a bit off but I felt it helped with the claustrophobic feel that we wanted and so just went with it. Backgrounds are something I’ll need to work on getting better at!
Well, that’s it for now from me. Perhaps one day I’ll go into a bit more detail as to how we made the portraits move as I know one or two people have been asking.
Shaun’s graciously given me this part of the website all to myself! Big mistake. Hopefully I’ll mention something vaguely interesting from time to time and reveal a bit more about our processes for those who care. But, for the most part I’ll just be rambling in my attempts to make some sense of the world!