mandag 25. februar 2013

Sound in games

A while ago, I read this very interesting essay-thingy written by canadian indie developer Superbrothers, which argues that the “native language” of video games is primarily audio-visual, and that current-gen games, with their superfluous, excessive talk, menus and informational messages undermine the coherence of the game and disrupt the flow of the experience and its communication with the player.

The entire text is appropriately named “LESS TALK, MORE ROCK” and that is basically what it comes down to. Aside from talking about the language of video games, it also talks about creative processes and inspiration, how they often drown in talk talk talk, and suggests that maybe we should strive to get around that. Here’s a link to the text.

Why does text and speech disrupt communication in a video game setting? That’s the point of language, after all.

Images and sound (and when I say sound, I mean ambient sounds and music) are perceived differently from speech and text. When you see images and hear sound, your unconscious mind is working and mulling on it nonverbally, recognising shapes and patterns and looking for associations, but it doesn’t bother your conscious mind much, freeing it to reflect on what it is hearing and seeing.

Have you ever experienced having someone talk to you when you’re preoccupied with something else and you hear them talking but you don’t actually register what they’re saying? Probably you have. When you hear speech and read text, your conscious mind needs to turn its attention to that and interpret and understand it, and you are distracted from your conscious reflecting.

So when you cram your game with dialogue and textual information, you are robbing the player of being able to make their own reflections and thought processes as you instead patronisingly spoon-feed them superfluous information they would be fine without.

The Superbrothers-text explains it much better than me. Which is why you should read it.

Anywho! Back to sound and music!

My parents would always tell me to turn down the volume on my games. I understand the never ending bip-bops probably got on their nerves, but I don’t think they understood (or understand) what an important aspect of the experience the sound is. I absolutely can’t play games without hearing the sound, even if the sound would have no impact on the mechanics. Sound is such a huge part of the experience; I think it provides as much atmoshpere and mood as the visuals for me.

Even when game sounds were just bop bip bop and chiptunes (we had a very outdated console) to me, they were still such an integral part playing without was just no fun. One of my earliest video game music memories stems from Sonic the Hedgehog 2:

This is the final boss music, it’s really haunting and I still think it’s very intimidating, but there’s also a certain feel of triumph connected to it. You’ve made it to the final boss, after all. It’s also a bit pompous and bombastic, which suits a villain like Dr. Robotnik well.

Then there's Rayman! The original Rayman game had this really funky soundtrack that was also very diverse and embodied its equally diverse world very well.

And all the boss music was like rocked up takes on the music of the world they were the boss of.

I'll end this post where I started it by posting some music from Superbrothers and Capybara's game Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP. The music for this game was written by Jim Guthrie and is definitely an example of music lending a lot of mood to the game. It's simple and clean and very esoteric and beautiful where it needs to be, sometimes it is sad and then it's piss-your-pants-scary where you need that and in this example it is quite comforting, which I think isn't really an atmosphere games attempt to convey quite often. It's really neat.

tirsdag 19. februar 2013

Angel nests

(officially the worst blog headline ever)

I did some thumbnails of my final scene for the book project, then realised this wouldn't really work out without a better idea of what the room actually looks like. So I spent some time mapping it out and working out some details today, just taking a short break from the group project. 

I'm doing a scene in the beginning of the book, where the main characters are getting drunk in the back room of the angel's bookshop in Soho, and they have an argument about space birds.

Here's an excerpt on the bookshop. 

"Aziraphale collected books. If he were totally honest with himself he would have to have admitted that his bookshop was simply somewhere to store them. He was not unusual in this. In order to maintain his cover as a typical second-hand book seller, he used every means short of actual physical violence to prevent customers from making a purchase. Unpleasant damp smells, glowering looks, erratic opening hours - he was incredibly good at it."

Later in the book there's also something about the mafia coming around and making threats to set the book shop on fire, and then they are never seen again, but I couldn't find that segment again. The aggressive possessiveness the angel exhibits over his book collection is probably my favourite thing about the character because it's so unexpected from an angelic archetype. (but then, during the course of the book, he really doesn't act very angelic except he fixes a bike once)

So I thought it would be a cool environment to do. From the book you get the feeling it's rather cluttered and musty, but also lived in, worn and loved. And it's completely mundane and human, except for a small sort of sigil on the floor used to contact the other angels in heaven. 

Regardless. Here are the thumbs for the final scene which I did before actually having a map. At first I thought I'd do a scene where they're driving around the countryside in the demon's Bentley car, but I thought it wouldn't be as fun as the bookshop. 

lørdag 16. februar 2013

Good Omens take 2

I had another go at the angel character from the previous post. Or, that is to say, to be honest I didn't really change anything except his hairdo because, you know, what's the point in drawing angel characters if you can't draw massive floofy curly angel hair.

And then I drew this because I wanted to. It doesn't really qualify as a final and I wouldn't have needed to be so meticulous to nail down colours or anything, it was just nice to do something simply because I wanted to. 

fredag 8. februar 2013

Good Omens

I'm going to write about the 3D character project a bit later but right now I just need a break from it a little bit because I am so tired of looking at it. 

These past few days, beside getting the group project rolling, I've been working on the book character project. Oh wow man I was so excited when I heard about this project, I was like "omg gonna do all the books" but I had to narrow it down a bit and choose a book. 

Initially I really wanted to look at Neil Gaiman's American Gods, because it would be awesome to do interpretations of familiar gods in a modern, american setting, but I was really torn between that book and Good Omens.

Good Omens was a collaborative project between Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman so obviously it is a really awesome book.

The thing with American Gods is the amount of characters in it I would enjoy drawing is just mental, and I never really felt any attachment to the characters other than thinking the concepts were neat.

Good Omens is a bit simpler and I always thought the main characters were really endearing. I thought it would be cool to do the two of them because they are very opposite of one another and they sort of play off one another in a way that I think it would be a shame to do just the one of them, one would loose its charm without the other.

The gist of the book is the apocalypse is going down, and the two main characters, an angel and a demon, decide they like earth as it is and try to stop it. 

I started out by turbo-re-reading the book, noting descriptions of the characters as I went along. I already had a pretty clear head-image of the demon-character, but not the angel, which, when rereading the book wasn’t so strange because he really isn’t described in much detail.

What I had to go on was that he has plump, manicured hands, thinks tartan is stylish, has a fashion sense that tends to gravitate towards the fifties, and that: "Many people, meeting Aziraphale for the first time, formed three impressions: that he was English, that he was intelligent, and that he was gayer than a tree full of monkeys on nitrous oxide." Both characters look human to blend in with people or something.

So I guess the natural thing to do was look at renaissance depictions of angels and 50s clothing.

Mmmm tartan vests.

Some sketches that came of it:
I really wanted him to have long blond curly angel hair like the renaissance angel paintings, but at the same time I also really liked the well-groomed 50s hairstyle. Can't have both. LIFE IS HARD.

For the demon character, Crowley, matters were much simpler. I always had a realy clear mental image of him and the moodboard is more for reference than inspiration.

Crowley is described as having dark hair and good cheekbones, loves gadgets, enjoys looking stylish and wears sunglasses to hide yellow slitted eyes. Being a demon, Crowley can change form but hates doing it because his current form is his favourite and he's scared he'll forget how to change to it. In the beginning of the book he is the serpent in the garden of eden, hence the snake eyes, I reckon.

Sassy sketches
And then these two. When I drew these yesterday I thought I had settled on a design, but today I am not so sure anymore, mostly because I still have a massive crush on renaissance angel hair.