‘Contra with Two Players’ is done and DONE

God damn. I finally finished a new short. I have been working on and off on this Contra short for a year. When I say on and off, I mean there were month spans where sometimes I didn’t even look at this thing. In fact, I had all but given up on it during the summer and started working on another short. I decided to get back into it though because of the amount of effort I had already put into it.

I know it’s not much of a narrative or anything, but I’ve had this Contra idea floating around in my head for ages. I mentioned it before in other blog posts, but originally in ‘How to Hook Up the NES’ Jacquo was going to play that copy of Contra that came with his NES (which is why it came with Contra and not Super Mario). He was going to play with, you guessed it, another Jacquo! Eventually the two would end up fighting during the grueling game. It didn’t play out like this short, but the basic idea is the same, and it started brewing from that point.

My what a different a few, GASP, years makes. Even last year when I was working on this short, it was almost completely different. For one, it was MUCH longer. I chopped the absolute shit out of it, and I think it’s better for it. The idea of putting my dog in there as Player 2 actually spawned last week if you can believe that! It seems like such an important part of the short, and it is, it’s basically the pay off, but I was still foggy on the whole joke up until the very last minute. I basically just worked on all of the action and was just hoping things would fall into place. I think they did!

Anyway, I hope you liked it. I worked hard on those 20 seconds of animation!

Shamoozal Radio Podcast #38 – The Resurrection

SRP #38 - The Resurrection

Happy Easter everyone! Guess what? The Lord wasn’t the only one that rose from the grave today, as the Shamoozal Radio Podcast has joined him.

I know it’s hard to believe, but Frank, Sithlord, Joe and I got together this weekend and cranked out the latest episode, the first one in nearly an entire year. Steve or John unfortunately couldn’t make it during the busy weekend.

Since it’s been so long I thought it would be best if this was more of an off the cuff episode. I went in there with no notes and zero intention of doing our regular segments. Instead I thought it would be a good idea just to do an episode about catching up, so if you want to hear lots of crying and behind the scenes stuff about Shamoozal and us in general, then this is the episode for you.

Joe however did have a game for us to play. Since he’s on a health kick, we played a round of P90S (a pun on the famous P90X). So we do have one regular segment for you guys to enjoy. Anyway, I hope you like this episode. It’s a bit lower key than the normal circus that SRP usually is, so I hope that’s okay.

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Kid Icarus Line Test

It’s been quite a while since I did a Nerdlog post. Around this time last year, I came up with an idea for a ROM short that would be about Pit from Kid Icarus. This was before the 3DS was announced I think. Kid Icarus Uprising was announced when I was doing the roughs for this line test, and I thought to myself, “nice! I’ll have this done by the time the new game comes out!”. Well, Uprising was delayed quite a bit, and I never got beyond this point. I have a dollar bill, the same dollar bill that inspired me in the first place for reasons I won’t go into without spoiling the short, sitting on my desk that is a constant reminder to work on this. Alas, I’m working a full time job, freelance at night, the baby is about to pop out of wife any day now, and I’m neck deep in house hunting. Time is precious these days. That said, enjoy the clip and hopefully some day we’ll see the rest of it!

Elder Speak, Reviews, and Contra

Whoa, been a long ass time since I updated the blog.

As you probably know I’ve still been doing Game Club with Steve and Randy over at Elder-Geek.com. In addition to that, I’ve also started helping out Randy with his daily game news show on YT called Elder-Speak. I’ll be doing every other Thursday on that one, so the weeks where I’m not recording Game Club, I’ll be recording Elder Speak. Here’s the first episode I appeared on.

After the video was posted I was called out for not knowing anything about video games and once again the way I pronounce words was also commented on. I guess it’s a South Jersey thing I’m completely unaware of? I don’t know.

Sticking with Elder-Geek for a minute, I’ve also done a bunch of written reviews over there recently. So if you’re curious, go see what I thought about the following:

    Dillon’s Rolling Western – A decent eShop offering that’s longer than it should be.
    Resident Evil: Revelations – Freaking awesome, console worthy RE game.
    3D Classics: Kid Icarus – A remake for die hard fans only.

It’s obvious I’ve been playing lots of 3DS recently, right? I should also be getting a review of Kid Icarus: Uprising together at some point. Whenever I can actually finish it off anyways. I also need to play Wizorb for this coming episode of Game Club, so that’ll probably throw off my KI time.

As far as Shamoozal work goes. The last few weeks were kinda shot, but I put some solid time into it last week and actually managed to get a handful of shots finished. I also tweaked the ending few shots AGAIN so that I can actually finish this thing. Looking back at my original story boards, I don’t know what I was thinking. Just way too much for what it is. I’ve pretty much distilled it down to a quick action scene with a joke or two thrown in. I showed my wife the “main” shot and she seemed to think it was pretty cool. I guess that’s something. Hopefully I’ll continue to make good progress on it and actually, you know, release a cartoon for the first time in ages.

This Contra background was my enemy


I come down hard on myself a lot, but you know, sometimes that’s a good thing. Take for instance this background I’ve been working on for the Contra ROM that I’ve been working on for… I don’t know, on and off for almost a year.

So I started Contra right after Howard & Nester (which is getting close to being a year old, ouch) and I was able to do boards, and a scene that involved a heavy amount of animation work. I decided to do that scene first since it was the most involved one. After that I was trying to tackle the main background. This background would be used greatly during the duration of the (probably) 30 second short. I struggled with that freaking background so much that it essentially derailed me from working on this short. Now it’s not fully responsible, but it was enough to make me question what the hell I was doing.

See, not only do I suck at backgrounds, but I also suck at perspective drawing (which is probably why I suck at backgrounds), and I’m not really great at painting with Photoshop either. Take a look at most of our shorts and you’ll see that the backgrounds probably aren’t the greatest, and if there is a good one, my brother probably made it. There is something about perspective drawing in which my brain just sort of shuts off, I don’t really know how to explain it. I also get frustrated somewhat easily, so when I have to deal with these hurdles, I try my hardest for a bit, and I eventually just give into me “sucking.”

The Contra background started out like this in the original storyboards I made, which I’ve posted before back in May of ’11.

When I originally sat down to make it, I ended up coming up with this retched pile of shit. Like, absolute fucking garbage. Just look at it.

There is a lot wrong with this. The perspective is absolutely abysmal. I’m almost embarrassed to show this, but you know, sometimes you have to show the bad in order to learn anything from it. So, yeah, the drawing is just “wrong.” Maybe for some reason, like someone that doesn’t know much about drawing, would think this is acceptable, but believe me, it is not. Also, look at my amazing fucking logic at work. I was thinking about how the bad guys enter this unit thingy and I thought “Well maybe I’ll put a ladder on the side, that’s how they climb it.” Of course I decide this after I made this giant piece of shit hanging off the side of it. I realized how shitty that was, so I thought “Okay, maybe the shit piece can have a hatch, that’s how they get to the ladder.” The ladder that no one uses once during this whole short. Also, those wires are the ugliest fucking things I’ve seen.

Second, the colors and “painting” is just garbage. I just don’t know what I’m doing with colors half the time. Color theory was one of my weaker classes in college. So for this I used the colors directly from Contra as my pallet in order to keep it looking like the game. I gotta hand it to Konami because their machine that’s made up of like 5 colors blows away the look I came up with here. Ugly painting for an ugly drawing. I mean, FUCK. The worst part? I spent hours doing this, and this isn’t even my first attempt. I have one where I wasn’t using flat colors and was going for a more digital painting look. Believe me when I tell you that it was worse than this thing.

So when I came back to this short last month I knew I had to rethink this fucking background, because I hated it and it just wasn’t working. I redid the boards for the entire short (still need to tweak a few frames at the end of it actually) and I came up with this.

This image is looking nicer, but it’s still got some bad perspective. Actually, I didn’t even bother created a two point perspective because that’s when my mind really goes out to lunch, so this was all free hand. My intention here was not to use this background as a final image, just to get the feeling for how I wanted it to look, I knew I’d have to tackle the perspective thing afterward. I gave myself a crash course in perspective drawing a few nights ago, even took out the ‘ol physical sketch pad, and did some small mock ups. I still wasn’t quite getting where I wanted to get with it.

I ended up showing my brother, Frank, the above image. He drew some helpful lines over the original art, sort of “righting” the perspective. He of course eye balled it too… I guess he’s a much better eye baller than I am. Regardless, it was a nice help and it gave me a good starting point for getting this thing together. I spent a good chunk of this week redrawing it and coloring it, and I’ve finally come up with this.

Perspective has been entirely eye balled here. I’d hate to put down some actual guides and see how off everything is, so I won’t be doing that to save myself some sanity.

I’m not positive that I “love” this, but at the moment it is acceptable for my needs. I could change my mind when looking at it again tomorrow and start from scratch. I’m not ruling that possibility out in the least. Anyway, I fooled around with colors and look for hours. I kept going for the green from the NES hue, but it was so ugly that I needed to rethink it a bit. I decided to focus on the gold and the blue, but I still wanted a bit of the green in there. The only blue used in the NES game is for the panels behind the unit. I didn’t want this to be pitch black, so I decided to make the background blue. I think it helps make the gold pop. Not sure I’m feeling the green, but I was happier with choosing an off color for the areas I did instead of just going darker with the gold, where essentially the thing would look like a giant poop when all would be said and done if I did that. There are still some things that are glaringly bad here to me, but I think this background has come a long way. I look at it, and I don’t hate it. At least not yet.

Assuming this is basically out of the way, the second biggest hurdle of this short has now been cleared. Hooray. This is actually a mostly simple short (I think) so having something like this finished feels pretty good. Maybe I’ll start making some real progress with this thing after all.

The lesson here? It’s healthy to be hard on yourself sometimes. If I wasn’t, I would have thought that original background would have been acceptable, and I wouldn’t have put in the time in trying to get it right.

Heading to MAGFest tomorrow!

Despite the fact that I feel kind of like dog shit, I totally intend on heading out to MAGFest tomorrow morning.

If you don’t know, MAGFest is the annual Music & Games Festival that takes place around this time of year. If you recall, I actually attended one with a table two years ago. I missed last year because things were extremely busy with the twins still.

My original plan was to get a table this year, but I waited to long (I had to make sure I had the funds in place) to book a table and that fell through. It’s probably for the better though as I actually thought I’d have some product to promote, but alas, I don’t. So instead I’ll be headed there tomorrow as a regular joe, exploring the floor and hopefully meeting some cool people along the way. I have a room booked for the night and I’m going to head home early Saturday morning.

Anyway, be sure to say “Hi!” if you’re headed there and just so happen to recognize me, which I doubt you would.

I really hope Metroid Metal is playing tomorrow night as those guys are awesome and I’d love to see them live. I’d also like to get lots of Street Pass hits on my 3DS (and maybe you’ll get a fun SwapNote from me!) and plan on playing some classic arcade games. Knowing me, I’ll probably walk out with a NES game or two as well. I’d also like to go to EgoRaptor’s panel, which is at 12 midnight tomorrow. That might be tough. I’ll either be asleep like my old man self, or be drunk somewhere, or drunk asleep somewhere. Can’t drink too much actually, got an early ride the next morning and I’m worthless when I’m hung over.

Well, hope to see someone there.

I made a Skyward Sword Video Review

I have been wanting to do video reviews for Shamoozal for ages, so it was fun to finally get the chance to make a video review of my own, even though it’s for Elder-Geek.com and not for here. That doesn’t mean I can’t share it with you folks though, so here it is.

What do you think? This was actually much harder to put together than I anticipated, and it unfortunately cut into the time I had planned to work on the new ROM episode. Remember that free weekend from the kids that I wrote about in the last post? Yeah, that was this past weekend and my time was dedicated to putting together this review. It was good for me though, it’s been a long time since I’ve edited a video together, and it was a great exercise in doing voice over work for this sort of thing.

Reading a review is much harder than it appears! I’m much more accustomed to recording a few lines of dialogue as a character. I put together two versions of this review, the first of which I read my written review almost word for word. It just didn’t sound very natural, so I went back last night and re-recorded my audio, instead trying to do the review as if I were having a conversation with someone about it. It’s not perfect, but maybe I’ll start to get good at these sorts of things if I keep up with them.

Anyway I’m interested to see how it gets received. I tried to put more emphasis on the mechanics of the game, and go less into what the game is about. I feel like so many reviews these days read like previews of a game with the occasional opinion thrown in for good measure. I’m more interested in talking about why I think a game works the way it does. I may not have gotten that point across in this review, but again, all part of the learning process. I almost didn’t even bring the story up, but I wanted to talk about the Skyloft characters so I felt like I needed to. Also kept all talk about graphics and audio to a minimum. I think the game looks and sounds fantastic, but the review was already running long and I wanted to focus on what I felt were the important aspects of the game.

So yeah, it was lots of work, almost my entire Sunday plus a bunch of hours Saturday and Monday night. I really under estimated the scale of something like this.

Happy Thanksgiving

So I know it’s not quite Thanksgiving yet (we still have a few days) but since this is the only time I’m going to update the blog for a while, I figured I might as well say happy Thanksgiving… so… yeah, Happy Thanksgiving!

Since my latest post I’ve done a bit of work on the Zelda short. It’s not a crazy amount of work mind you, just some really loose roughs for two of the more complicated shots. Of course as I’m working on these shots I realize the flow of the storyboards isn’t quite right, so I have some rethinking to do on some of the scenes.

Speaking of rethinking, I also haven’t forgotten the Contra short. It still pops up in my mind from time to time and I think I’ve actually come up with a solution for it. The day I thought of the solution I almost considering jumping back onto it to wrap it up, but that would be too much bouncing around. My goal is to hopefully see this Zelda thing through. I’d LOVE to have it done by early January. I’d have to kick it into high gear (and with the holidays coming it’ll be busy!) but I might have some nights and days where I’ll really be able to give it my all. The week before Christmas I’ll have the place to myself for a few nights, so I totally plan on banging out a lot of work then. Assuming I have enough PTO at the 9 to 5, I also plan on taking off Christmas week. Sure I’ll spend some of those days with my girls, but I’ll ship them off to the baby sitter so I can really put a lot of effort into the Zelda short. I am *thinking* those few days will really make quite the difference. I’ll hopefully have most of my roughs done before those days, so it’ll be lots of clean up animation and all that good stuff.

In the meantime, the gang plans on getting together this Friday (this Black Friday) to record what could be a final episode of the Shamoozal Radio Podcast. We haven’t done one of these since the summer, and quite frankly SRP just really isn’t part of the big picture anymore. In my letting go of most things Shamoozal, SRP is pretty much part of that. I don’t want to say it’ll be gone for good, but I will say I don’t really have any intentions of doing more past this one. Things could change though.

If you like hearing me talk though, you can still catch me on the Elder-Geek Game Club, the podcast that was formerly known as the Shamoozal Game Club. It’s a biweekly show where Steve (of SRP and this site in general), and EG.com’s Randy talk about a game chosen by the audience for an extended period of time. The show has been going well in it’s transition to Elder-Geek, and I hope some of you folk had an easy time making the transition. We still like to try and talk about the games we’re playing on our very own forums, so it still has very strong ties to the Shamoozal.

I have also begun writing reviews for Elder-Geek.com. I enjoy writing game reviews, and since I’ve cut the idea from the Nerdlog, I asked Randy if it were cool to continue doing some writing over there. Thankfully he was fine with it, so I’ll be doing the occasional review over there. I don’t get a heck of a lot of new releases these days, so my reviews probably won’t be coming at a very steady pace. You can already catch my reviews for Where Is My Heart (PS3) and Super Mario 3D Land (3DS) over on the site. I’ll also be reviewing The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword for the site, but that’s going to be a bit far out there yet. In fact, I very may likely end up doing lots of Nintendo stuff over there, so it’ll be fun!

Anyway, just wanted to fill everyone in on what’s been going on. Thanks for stopping by and reading.