Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Ben Ushers In The Winds Of Change

Inspired by Jim's post last week detailing his process, I thought I would show that (despite my missing last week) I've been kind of busy.  As I've posted in the past, I have a little superhero/video game project that I work on in my spare time.  Its fun because it lets me stretch my muscles and work on animation, digital painting, and a brand of problem solving that I don't normally get to do. 

Well, I've had a rush of motivation as of late and started roughing out the character animations for the player's character.  I've done some in the past, but nothing too intensive.  A run cycle that's a few years old now, a jump animation, idle animation, and some flying.  Nothing too terrible, but the difficult work was coming shortly.

Rough Lift Animation (objects from the ground)
It was while I was working on new flight poses, that the lingering doubts about my character's design began to swell up.  I originally drew him 3 years ago.  I've evolved quite a bit from the artist I was and the older style wasn't working as well for me.  First of all, while his stocky build was working for strength, it didn't play as well when he was flying.  Particularly when he was tipped on his side with his stubby legs looking ridiculous.  All of that was annoying, but the worst of it was that I would immediately get comparisons to Superman.  It didn't used to bother me, but not it does... a lot.

My first instinct was to add gauntlets and a hair color change.  I figured that way I could keep my existing animation and just add these extra assets on top of it.  

Test Thumbnail Gestures with Arm Gauntlets
I did some variations, shrunk the character to give him that old school "sprited" look, and then placed the variations throughout the level to see how they worked.

It was then that I started to ask myself what I would do different if I could start over.  I'm a better artist now and I'm much more familiar with the software.  What were some of the older ideas that I had dis-guarded?  Well, one of them was my idea to have the characters light and shadow be effected in real time by the direction they were facing.  I would make normal maps (mainly used for CG graphics) and use them to give the effect of the shadow falling either on the front or back of the character depending on which direction they were facing.

Below Left: Doctored artwork (normal map) used to direct shadows
Below Right: Original art no longer containing shadows or highlights.

Now I can direct the light in a level and have it affect the characters.  I've never seen that in a game and am excited about it.  If you are sitting at a computer, you can actually test the effect not.  The yellow box represents the light and will follow your mouse.  Go here to try the effect out.

So I've committed to redesigning my player art slightly.  I plan on tweaking the costume, changing the colors, and adjusting the proportions.  I don't have to redo everything as the cape animations can be reused.  Below is a potential redesign idea.

Potential Redesign

I'm keeping my fingers crossed that everything works out in the end and am excited about this new direction.  I'll post more when I have it.


Original Sketch for Cover Art

First pass at Gauntlet design.  Might lose ridges.  Pretty sure they won't show up when the art is shrunk anyways.

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