This Contra background was my enemy

contra_decent-bg

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.

Planning the next Zelda short

zelda-barney

I won’t lie, I’m terrible at perspective drawing. While I can visually picture almost exactly how this next Zelda short will play out, when I actually think about putting it onto paper (well, digital paper) I get a little scared. I’ve been mulling over how exactly to go about doing the perspective work on this when it popped into my head while cleaning up the girls’ megablox a few days ago that it might be a good idea to actually build a model for it. Hence this hypothetical Link versus Barney thing you’re seeing.

What you’re really looking at is a quick mock up I did of the room where Link fights the Aquamentus in the original Zelda game (that’s the first dragon like boss mind you). This is a sort of to scale model, the Link figure is perfect and the Barney was the closest thing the girls had to a dragon, not to mention the fact he’s about as large as I’d like him to be. I thought the Megablox would work perfect since the area this fight takes place in is surrounded by similar blocks. So within a few minutes I built my stage pretty close to how I imagine it.

I took a few shots that I can use as a target for where I’d like things placed. It’s interesting because I already found some issues with how this is exactly going to play out. When Link dashes from the door to the blocks, I was hoping I’d be able to pan the camera completely away from the dragon. This wasn’t exactly working as planned with this model, so there is still some work to be done, but hopefully this will help push me in the right direction.

Been a while, huh?

The last few months here at Shamoozal have been… uhh depressing to say the least. It’s been ages since there has been a new short, I’ve cut content from the Nerdlog essentially killing it, and the only decent thing we did have I moved over to Elder-Geek.com.

Last time I did one of these updates I mentioned how I was calling a time out on my Contra short and switching over to a new Zelda one. I supplied some concept sketches I did for the short in that post and since then you guys haven’t heard a peep from me regarding shorts. I wish I could tell you that I have secretly worked on the short all along, but the fact is I haven’t. I haven’t worked on it since that night, which was at the end of July.

The fact is, over the summer I came pretty close to calling it quits on this whole Shamoozal thing. It’s been a very long road since we’re started this site, and not to sound like a baby, but I just haven’t met the “goals” I set up for myself when starting this site all those years ago. I know a lot of that is my fault, it truly is, but it is what it is.

But I’ve said it before in the past and I’ll say it again, Shamoozal will probably never truly ever die. I’ll always keep this site around because it’s just my creative outlet. Unfortunately this year I’ve been in a serious creative rut. Brutally bad creative rut. My desire to create just hasn’t been there and I can’t really tell you why, it just isn’t. Sometimes I’ll sit down to do work and before I know it I’ve spent an hour dicking around on the net with nothing accomplished.

I spent the summer on more of a personal journey. I’ve been learning some different aspects of web design and internet stuff in general as opposed to working on my animation and art. Of course I’ve also helped Steve in developing the Elder-Geek Game Club, but that’s not a huge time taker. Oddly enough, I’ve also spent what would have been Shamoozal time doing lots of exercises. Heck, I dropped about 10 pounds this summer and can fit into clothes I thought were completely out of the question. So I’ve been keeping busy, just in other areas of my life.

So I wanted to put a little something up here to tell you that there is life still in this thing. I’d still like to attend MAGFest in January of 2012, and if I do that it means I need to gear up for it. I need to have a new short finished. I need to come up with a whole idea for my table. January is actually right around the corner, so this is kind of the moment where I really need to commit. Being at MAGFest isn’t going to be free, so if I go I really need to make it worth my time and worth it for this site. I can’t go there with the same old show I had two years ago.

What does this mean? I’m hoping it’s the kick start I need to move forward with this site. I’m feeling slightly recharged about it the last few days and I’m hoping that once I sit down to work on the short things just feel right. I’m still very confident in my Zelda cartoon idea, and I’ve been mulling over exactly how it’ll play out in my head over the last week. Now I just need to sit down and physically plan the thing. I need to get that short done before Skyward Sword comes out, because I’m not going to lie, but shit aint getting done when that game hits. Plus, I’d really like to time the release of the short around the time Skyward Sword’s release. I *think* it’s doable. It seems doable.

So with that, I’m out for now. If you’re reading this, thanks for hanging in there with me, I know it’s been a bumpy road.

Game Club moves to Elder-Geek.com

As you most likely already know, I’ve recently decided to switch gears here on the site. It also happened to be at a time where we had just started doing the Shamoozal Game Club podcast.

We’ve been partnering with Elder-Geek.com on this podcast for the last few episodes now and with the change in focus on this site we’ve decided to bring it over to Elder-Geek.com completely. So what does this mean? It means this podcast will not have any new episodes appearing on our feed here on the site. Hopefully it also means we’ll get more people participating and of course we can still discuss it on our own forum. Also, it’ll still be Steve, Randy and I taking part in the episodes.

I’m very hopeful that we’ll have a nice transition from here to Elder-Geek.com and I’m looking forward to having a new home for Game Club.

Shamoozal’s Game Club #5 – Cybernator

Cybernator

On this episode of Shamoozal’s Game Club we’re talking about Cybernator, a side-scroller from Konami for the Super Nintendo. We break it down in the way that we are now known to do. We also play three songs from the Cybernator original soundtrack: “We’ve gotta do it”, “Asteroid Run” and “Till the Crack of Doom”. There are going to be some changes to the show in the near future, but I will let Phil elaborate for you.

Next time we’re going to be playing Shatterhand or Shadow of the Ninja. Vote for your choice at the bottom of this post!

If you’re already subscribed to our Podcast feed then all you need to do is wait for the episode to show up in your Podcast aggregator. Or, you can go a head and listen to it right here (there might be a delay before the Podtrac player refreshes):

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