A public dumping ground for words and pictures. Contact me at ThomasTamblyn@Gmail.com

Sunday, 13 December 2009


They were going to be crones. You know; maiden, mother, crone? But ended up looking too youthful to be crones. They don't really look like spinsters either. Barely like witches. Unless they're some kind of urban domestic witch.

The linework just wasn't coming together at first. It was missing something. But once i added the bustle it all fell into place. Goes well with the floofy skirts too.

Still, I didn't want them looking like they stepped out of a stately home. A bit of elegance was nice, but it needed to be brought down to earth. That's where the oven mitts and steel toed boots came from.

In fact the more i think about it, the less appropriate "spinster" seems. These are independent non-nonsense young-middle-aged women who have chosen their own way. Not going to bugger about fixing a placeholder filename though.

Colour creep continues. Dot patterns, quilted gloves, mud stains, pleats and embroidery. I may have to tone it down a little - I can't keep up this standard. The mud splats are probably too much. The quilting is necessary though, and the lacey embroidery makes #1. Just loopy mouse-squiggles, but it worked well enough when I zoomed out.

Modular: Body, implement, critter, head. Also each alt has a "floating" detail. In order: gloves, toecaps and sleeves.

I'm fond of #3's hair. I thought for sure I'd already done that on the swashbucklers but a quick flashback says no. Which is nice.

I'm wondering where these particular ladies fit in the witch taxonomy. They live in the cottages I'm fairly sure. They're the sort that tuts disapprovingly when the apprentice comes in. And they're probably a lot more outsoorsy than they look.

Thinking too hard about this. Maybe it'll feel more natural when I have an obvious continuum of wild -> domestic. And if not, they'd fit in fine at the university.

Fallacious argument

Wicker men. Very liney; I felt I needed to dump some of the responsibility for the texture on the linework for this one. The basic body shapes are so simple though, even if the hatched lines look more detailed than usual it balances out. And I used the colouring to pick up a lot of slack.

These aren't two alts of the same thing - they'd be functionally different. I started with the burnt husk but I wondered what it would look like with the fire. I don't know which is the "real" one. Fuego is flashier, but I still like the wicker husk. Maybe there's a way to get away with using both.

I'm getting further and further from what I originally felt the witches would be like. These and the scarecrows could well be the foundation of a new set. They may yet work as a "sub-zone", where you start off with all these scary stickly men and then things get leafier and spirit-ier as you progress. Could work. I'm not terribly fussed right now about rigid taxonomies.

The colour texture is a bit bodgy. Wasn't too well thought-out. It's good enough that I don't feel like tinkering further. I like the fire - it looks ember-y. Different to the firefox, but in an appropriate way.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Rattle traps

I was thinking, the witches lack low-level fodder. The green man and knight seem too nifty to be rank-and-file. So I wondered about some kind of allied/bound minor forest spirit - faerie or pixie swarms perhaps, or dryads. I had some promising ideas in the faerie swarm direction, but in the meantime I made some scarecrows.

They seem the kind of thing that might patrol the border between the farmlands and the forest. Scary but a little silly too.

At least that was what I thought, but the final things are a bit more Halloween than what I had in mind. Maybe the pumpkin's too much. Pitchfork has my favourite head and I wonder it wouldn't have been better to keep them all having non-head heads. A bucket, or a floppy hat for example.

One of the problems of doing stickmen is how to distinguish things that are meant to be more stick-like than normal. Here I did it with the little bits of branch and the way the limb-lines cross over rather than joining neatly. That combined with the posture and ragged clothes should (I hope) make them obviously scarecrows. Unfortunately that leaves them with a lot of lines and not many areas for colour. At least it makes them distinctive.

Scarecrows are normally straw-stuffed, but that would involve a lot of extra lines to look adequate and I didn't have the budget for it. These are pretty heavy already. Though if I do another type of scarecrow it might be a big plump stuffed or wicker-man type.

Details I like: #2's right hand. The pin holding on #3's sickle-arm. #2's pumpkin stalk.

Colouring was dull in both senses of the word. I tried, but couldn't come up with any effective textures. Even my tries for a shine on the metal blades looked poor. Decided to leave them with the flats and move on.

Modular bits: Head, torso, legs, boots, each arm. Though I'd probably lump together torso+trous, or trous+boots. And I drew the arms as pairs so I'd worry about the "balance" of them if you mixed+matched. How likely is it that I'll ever get around to actually playing with modular parts? Not very! But it's fun to imagine.

Might do either the faeries or a wicker-man next. Or not.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

They're all thumbs

More green for the witches.

I tried to live up to the level of detail on the green knight with this. It was a fair bit of work (as might be expected) but I'm really rather pleased with it. At the moment this guy and the green knight are probably my favourite coloured veeps.

Like the green knight, I was inspired enough that I went straight from vector to colouring. However! Unlike the knight, I then went back and made some variants. Modules are: Head, mantle, Axe, Near cloak+leaves, far cloak+leaves.

However, colouring was so time-consuming that I've left the other two variants white for now. I'd really like to try an autumn colour scheme in the future though.

My thinking when I first sketched the green man was that it was a loyal follower of the witches who dressed up in leaves as a kind of homage. That's why the mundane weaponry. But when I was vectoring it, I hit on the floaty leaf element and decided it would be cool to have him disintegrating into/shedding leaves in the wind. This gives it a more elemental/ethereal look. The axe still works for me because of the English folkloric associations. It could go either way still to be honest.

The variants could be more different. Rearranging leaves is fiddly, but doesn't lead to any huge differences in style. Perhaps I should have gone for some seriously drastic changes - like a hooded head and a deer skull head. But that'd probably be too drastic.

I'm happy with the different axe heads though. I was a little worried they'd be trivial since outlandish ornate axeheads were inappropriate for the concept, but I think I got three different, robust-looking axes.

So yeah, woo. I finish the weekend flushed with success. It feels nice to be inspired, nicer still if it leads somewhere. And I raised the bar on what I can manage with colour. I have three entries for the forest witch bestiary with a fourth ready to be added and two concepts bubbling away in my brain.

It can't last.

Shepherd's Respite?

A champion for the forest witches. I may have gotten overexcited here.

Did the sketch last night in bed. Burst of creativity. Leapt straight from vector to colouring without making any variants. To top it off I went OTT with the detailing.

But I like it.

The vine limbs: I was happy with the compromise between volume and stringiness in the line work, but come colour time I saw an easy way to make them vine-ier and I took it. Also a little watermelonish but.... let's overlook that.

The rust was originally moss, but it worked better after a hue shift and a drop in luminescence. It's probably the detail I'd drop first to tone down the knight. I did have full two-tone on the shield, but it pulled it into the forground too much, so I dropped the light spackles. That works.

Spikes on the morning star also got a little extra colour. It's hard to be restrained; start tarting up one bit and everything else looks too dowdy.

I could make variants for this I think. Changing up which bits are armour and which are vines, different weapons/shields and helms. But I'm happy enough with this as a (temporarily) final piece that I don't feel like fiddling right now.

Something I want to point out; on the sketch he had a chipped sword and a kite shield. The hilt+hand largely obscured the knee plate, so I went for a hafted weapon. Besides, I have too many swords. After looking at it for a bit, I had an idea and made the shield a round wooden one. If this is the vine-animated armour of some long-dead knight, then his gear is going to be a bit old fashioned. My undeveloped knights theme has a lot of kite shields and swords you see, so this differentiates him.

Hmm - is he animated by the vines, or by the spirit of the dead knight (with the vines serving as surrogate body)? I don't know.

Might try remaking the vine golem with some of the new tricks I learned here. He's too fiddly at the moment and could do with some variants. Something for a rainy day.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

No Straws

I may have gone overboard on the highlighting here. I needed to draw more attention to the hands and so I highlighted the fingers and created a transition from fleshy to rocky. To match the others he needed belly and face highlights too. And eyeshine. Altogether that's a lot of shader detail.

I think he looks ok. The hands are passable, and he's obviously reaching forward, which implies a lot more depth than my usual flat poses.

I think the focus is definitely the hands here - not the solid rocky back. He's a something-grasper. Scree? Crag? Rubble? Cragpaw seems good. OK, so maybe he isn't a grasper.

Cragpaw. Not great, but snappy.

I also discovered a neat trick while playing with this guy - invert the area and then wang the hue slider 180 degrees. You get the same colours, but swapping which ones are the shadows and which are in the light. That could be useful.

His feet are more developed than gravelhide and boulderfist's. The random rock-shapes from gravelhide seem to have turned into something that imply actual foot-shapes. I feel no great need to go back and revise those two to match. Boulderfist's feet in particular needed to be left bare so his arms stood out against them.

In the works is more witchy-stuff. I've an idea for cauldrons, and a kind of green man. Do the woodsmen belong with the forest witches? Maybe!

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Turn the light off!

A bit spindly. Doesn't make good use of horizontal space. Arm lengths are skew-whiff. Staves have nice shapes - #2 in particular. Liking the bobby pin in #3's hat.

I spent too long trying to come up with alternatives to #1's sack. In the end I just went with varieties of cloak. Shame. A bundle of sticks, or a wicker basket might have been nice but I couldn't make them happen.

The colours are OK. I was trying to strike a balance between naturalistic and colourful. I think that worked out.

I'm getting annoyed with long robes. They're too easy, and I've been doing a lot of them. Must do more legs. Voluminous, baggy trousers.

The pose is OK. It's pretty much what I wanted - a hunched look. They're still more upright than they could be, but I think there was more to be gained by just finishing them off and going for a proper full-body hunch with later attempt.

May do more witches (and associates). I've got an old veep I'm still very happy with that would be a fine young apprentice to any old lady of the woods. Beyond a couple of witch/apprentice variations I think they could do with forest spirit allies. Pixies/sprites or something (will need to come up with a good way to make them look ok in this style). Perhaps leaf/forest golems.

Salt of the earth

More monsters. Conceivably I could expand these into a set, but I don't want to speak too soon. They do have a nice reproducible look though.

The teeth and rocky hide is a bit detailed, but I think I've come to terms with that. Maybe they're related to the rockworm?

As before, being burly monsters they have so much flat space that I need to so some kind of... not exactly shading but, texture? Detail? Interest? Something.

If I do do more of these I can differentiate them with the rocky areas. The one on the right, obviously, would be a boulderfist. Because he has big bouldery fists. The one on the left has a particularly stony appearance so he can be a gravelhide. If I do a big-mouthed one he can be a rockjaw. A lordly one with a crown of spikes will be stonebrow.

They weren't originally clyclopses, just earth elemental-looking things. They had brow ridges instead of eyes, but I needed a good collective name for them so I gave them single eyes and decided that these cyclopses are earth/rock creatures. If I come up with a good name I'll call them something else, but the one-eye thing can stay. I reckon the eyes are semi-precious stone, like jade or quartz.

I wonder if the mouths need more depth.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Outback Amazons

An idea for a setting. Post-apocalyptic outback-amazons.

The "amazons" are all the output of a slowly decaying cloning plant, set to continuous production by the same malfunction that destroyed the male zygote storage wing. They revere it as their mother goddess.

All with a classical Greece by-way-of Mad Max aesthetic going on. And the ever-fresh high tech barbarism thing. Because of their unique origin, their attitude to technology is confused with religion and child/parent instincts.

They defend their mother goddess from motorised raiders, mutated wildlife and other weirdness.

And of course the title for the whole thing would be Oestralia.


I bet 2000AD would print it.

Friday, 27 November 2009

They are snakes

Limbless slithery reptiles with forked tongues, milky eyes, dry skin and ice-lolly-like tropical colourings.


This critter is mostly blank space, so I was forced to use some texture. I think it ended up ok. Only two levels to it, so it doesn't seem out of place next to the flat shading.

Top left was the original. The rest are hue-shifts (obviously). Top right is my favourite, with just the right amount of contrast. Also I never would have picked that colour for the tongue, but it works nicely. Seablue's tongue is also pleasing.

The hue shifts are just me playing around, seeing what looks best. Only the top right snake is the "real" thing. I'm still avoiding palette swaps.

As far as the linework goes, I don't think the snake's body lines up properly. I feel that this should bother me more than it does. I saw a quote recently - "Build it wrong, but build it." I'm doing that.

Trivialities: the forked tongue is squared off. I had to to get the right shape without too many nodes. I'm thinking of changing the corner style to rounded to avoid this. I'll lose sharp points, but I'll be able to use much shallower angles without getting ugly square ends. I suppose I could change the corner style case-by-case, but once I start doing that I'll be varying line widths and who knows where I'd end up.

Arbitrary restrictions. Woo.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Sit and click

A friend asked me to make some icons for his Second Life rides and I was in the mood.

I'm not an SLer myself, so I couldn't tell you why having to sit on the seat is non-obvious, but apparently it was.

My brief was to create two icons which illustrated the concept of "First sit on the seat. Then click on the seat to start the ride"

I'm pleased with the body language of the guy in panel 1. That's some good sittin' even if I do say so myself. I think it's the eyes and the outstretched hand that do it. Plus the off-balance posture and twist of the hips.

The click panel is adequate. He has happy eyes because he's waiting for the ride to start. The chair that you have to click is highlighted, and indented as if it was an icon actually being clicked by the pointer.

The captions were not my idea. If you ask me, the whole point of an icon is to replace text. Giving them a caption is like giving a cruise liner a wetsuit. But he was putting text next to them so I figured I'd at least make a non-ugly icon/text combo.

I was helpful!

Monday, 7 September 2009

"...so he got up and left."

I wasn't sure if "mesmerist" was a word, but there you have it. "Telepathist" too. Telepathist! I must find an excuse to use that word.In the meantime: hypnotisers (not a word).

I'm trying a quick+easy metallic effect here. Pure white with 50% transparency. It looks... well, it looks quick and easy. Not offensive to me though and I might get better at it in the future.

I'm sure I was thinking interesting things while I made these guys, but buggered if i can remember any of it. Erm, I like #3's lampshade-hat. Also his crystal.

#1's coattails are meant to be hanging behind his legs, not over them. Not sure whether that's obvious. Wow, I am exceptionally boring today. "Ooh I likes the shiny thins and also the lampshade."

Sod it, I'm going to go find some biscuits.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Talent scouts

I thought i was done with the jungle natives but here's another one. These guys like to take and carry around some rather grizzly trophies. If the level of detail allowed, they'd probably be wearing strings of ears. Perhaps these trophy takers are the ones that keep the fetish wards all fresh and scary-looking.

I did a lot of passes on these to get the node count down. Those fur-things on their shoulders were a particular bother. The masks here are pretty simplistic, but I'm ok with that for a bit of variety. I was thinking of monkey island's cannibals when I coloured them, so the one on the left will forever be Lemon-Head to me.

It was difficult to make three different trophy heads. It wasn't long before I gave up and just made two of them skulls - I know skulls aren't meant to have hair, but maybe they're actually dried heads. Besides, skulls look good with scraggly hair. The line coming down from lemon head's trophy is meant to be a string of blood or drool - not sure if that comes across right.

There turned out to be a lot of switchable elements on these guys. Masks, trousers, feet, knife, shoulder and trophy. If I want to keep things under control I'll call the feet and trousers the same element and maybe pair shoulders with masks.

Something else I did recently was come up with some variants for my monster fish-guy. Just head-swaps, but I'm not unhappy with them.

I pondered giving the middle one a dangl- glowy thing - it is meant to be a deep-sea gribbly fish after all - but was happy with its appearance and decided not to overcomplicate things. Shark guy I waffled over; for a while I was wondering whether it looked too much like a monster with a shark-for-a-head rather than a monster with a shark's head.

But yes. Variations. Even if there's no body details I can easily vary without redrawing the whole thing, the head swaps work ok. I'm calling them a success, even if the original is still my favourite.

Sunday, 9 August 2009

More culting

Yet more robed cultists. These ones aren't coastal though. The masks make them look like spider-cultists. Maybe underneath the robes they're even hideous gangly insecty bastards themselves. Who can say. I haven't decided yet.

The basic robed cultist outline here is a pretty generic one, and if I decide that I need some generic cultists I may well adapt these guys and just swap the masks for faces.

The colours are pretty wishy-washy. barely any unity across them except the eyes. But since I haven't decided what these mysterious hooded figures are for, this was more like three tries to see what colour scheme might look good than anything serious. Thinking about it now, maybe a sandy-coloured beige or ochre would work, and set them apart from the sea cult with its desaturated greens, blues and purples.

Truth be told they're all, linework and colour both, a bit of a rush job. I've been concentrating so much on the cute little icons lately that I suppose I wanted to prove to myself that I could still do figures. Tomorrow I'll decide they suck and redo them. That's been a productive attitude in the past.

Thee hundred and sixty-something

Here's another batch of icons, made much more recently than the others. As you'd expect they're generally a bit more intricate and involved. Detail creep is hard to stop. I've been going back over the old ones every now and then and revising ones that my quality threshold has overtaken though.

I obviously had TF2 on the brain when doing these. The broken bottle was demoman-inspired (although it may well be appropriate for those grog-swilling bravos). To its right we have a misc spiky ball that just happens to look more than a little like a sticky bomb.

Down the left hand side you'll see that I finally managed to make a backstab icon that I'm happy with. And was so pleased with the new hands-and-knees dummy silhouette that I used it again for a "backshot" icon and, on the bottom right, some kind of" oppressive cold" or "crushing despair"icon. I do like that silhouette, so hopefully I'll find some more uses for it in future. Next I need to make a good running silhouette, maybe based on the ubiquitous EXIT man.

The moon on the middle left is quite a bit simpler than most of these other icons. I remembered an old file of icon-type pictures I'd made before (they were originally intended to be alternate card suits) and adapted most of them. This one resisted any embellishment though - it works for me as is, even if it is rather plain and straightforward.

I'm fond of the half-full glass heart on the bottom row. It's probably the most intricate one I've done so far, and it's tempting to remove the highlights to make it fit in a little more with the others, but I can't bring myself to dowd it down. The book and the eye too are more 3d than most. Must be careful not to raise my standards beyond my ability.

I decided to experiment with colour again for this sampler, and see what it looked like if I "painted" them rather than just using a single flat-fill colour.

It was a worthy experiment, but I'm unconvinced by the result. Some look nice enough, like the heart and the fires, but others just look wrong. Some of the iconic representations like the backstab just reject any attempt at illustrative colouring and the result is a little embarassing on them. I also tried blurring the lines between the role of the linework and the colouring for the thorns on the top row. Failure.

Also, seen as a group, they just look incoherent and ugly. The single flat colour style complemented each other far better and I thinkI actually prefer even the black and whites over these. There's a few where colour helps make what's being depicted more obvious - the bubbling chemical vat for example, but overall it's not worth the bother I think.

Monday, 27 July 2009

You are also ugly!

I've been trying to make a new spray for use in Team Fortress 2. The basic concept is "my other medigun is a SUPPOSITORY!"

i decided that a nice offensive-looking riff on the medigun silhouette would be effective.

Results have been mixed.

They're just not easily parsable. I'm quite content with the basic vector medigun silhouette I made, but it's proved tricky to turn it into something that is both obviously a medigun, and obviously meant to be shoved where the sun doesn't shine.

At one point, in desperation, I actually gave the top-right version testicles. I knew then that I had crossed a line.

Maybe I'll use the vanilla medigun graphic for something. Maybe another hazard-sign like my heavy and demo sprays.

I'm especially happy with the heavy one. It really blends in well in the levels. The demo spray is only subtly different from the real hazard sign it's riffing off of, but it works well enough for my liking.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Vial Fluids

I had no plans - just felt like making some vector peeps for the first time in a while - and these came out. I didn't even have a proper sketch of them. There was a scribble in the margins of a "proper" sketch and I decided to try drawing over it. Turned out ok.

I like the bubbles. Just white, 50% transparent circles. Silly really, but I like how it makes the bright parts of the tanks obviously 'orrible liquids without being so detailed as to show up the flat fills elsewhere. I'd still like to do something for the metal bits though. No experiments have worked out yet.

There's not many swappable bits here. Just the heads and the tanks. Shame. I'd have liked another detail, something secondary like the psychers' backpacks. Maybe hoses/plugs for the tanks? Unsure. Not heartbroken though: I'm glad to have made something kind of OK.

The colours need tweaking. I figure I'd best recolour all the hospital characters at once so they compliment each other so that's fine.

Thursday, 16 July 2009


The other day I considered a career writing and illustrating childrens' books.

This is my pioneering work: "Spider and Snake". I like it. I think it has an important message, one that's more relevant than ever in these troubled times.

I drew no small amount of inspiration from my previous work for adults "The Sun", but my primary influence was the natural world. It's amazing how powerful the things we take for granted can be. Just look at the world around you and you will find truths everywhere.

And I would like to think that I have captured some of that truth, some of that power, in this work. Now you might think I'm over thinking things but children aren't stupid. You write to them but that doesn't mean you write down to them. Because no good author disrespects their audience. An author has to overthink the process because that's ho you end up with something worth reading. Something that doesn't fall apart when you ask "why?".

And that is the ideal I aspired to with "Spider And Snake."

Thank you.

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Spinning wheels

I made these on my big page of icons. They're too abstract and detailed to really be a part, but they were fun to make and that's what counts. Maybe I'll come up with a use for them later.

Rotational symmetry makes it almost too easy to come up with something tolerably attractive, but I still tried to be as interesting as I could. While making them, I had in my mind that these were physical objects - talismans or something - so I tried to make elements pass over and under each other to give the impression of depth.

It seems that I really don't have much to say about these. I just thought they were pretty.

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Mongo smash

A return to the hospital. Another example of what happens when the hideous surgical experiments go right. When I return to the psychoborgs I might re-use the technique of matching the skin tint to the colour of the vile fluid being pumped through them.

These brutes are almost but not quite annoyingly symmetrical. The legs give just about enough motion for me to let it slide - though some of that was lost from the sketch now that I stop and look.

I struggled for a long time with the hands. I spent too long on misguided attempts at fingers before remembering that there was a good reason I'm doing stickmen. So they have hideous mittens instead. If I decide they lack enough colour I'd add it on the gauntlets, maybe even hazard stripes or similar. Maybe even incorporate the shapes into the linework, sicne the gauntlets are the bit I'm least happy with.

I lost track of which bits are supposed to be modular while making these, so there's odd little bits that don't have counterparts; #1's pot belly for example. It doesn't strike me as a problem.

If I can give the hospital enough variety I might be able to subdivide it like I for the coastal cult. I could distinguish between cyborgs like these and pure fleshy nastiness like... hmm. I suppose I've not done any of those. I'll add that to the drawing board. I might also experiment with the "vile fluid" motif a little more. Some kind of chemical-wielding madman with a hose might work.

Thursday, 11 June 2009


I decided at the last minute that these generic floaty wizards were lightning-themed. It's not really reflected anywhere on them except their staffs, and I imagine those are far from obvious to people who aren't me.

But that's ok. They're not lightning-themed wizards, they're wizards who specialise in lightning. They'll do fine as part of the university, or as generics otherwise.

They're not the first floaty characters I've done, but it's still a nice way to get a novel pose. Fixes the flatfoot problem too.

I did something unusual here; they each have one minor interchangeable detail. From left to right, gloves, boots and trousers. I didn't want all three to have (say) different styles of gloves, and trivial boot variations are getting really hard for me. So! Different detail area for each and they're all swappable. I suppose I could put them all on the same character, but I can't see much gained from that. I'll probably do more of this kind of thing when I can. It seems like it'll help make variations look more like individuals.

Colours were a pain to do. They're ncie and vivid at least. Possibly too vivid in places. I can't imagine I won't redo them at some point. But not now.

Idea in progress: cyber-surgical hulk.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Things to buy

Buying and selling is fun. Being able to hoard stuff is fun. Being given stuff as a reward is fun. I've been thinking more about the economic side of things. Mainly I've been thinking about things that you use lots of and are likely to have stockpiled. Stone, wood and metal for example would be the goods used to expand your guild house. Meat, fish, spices, wine and beer would be consumed by your guild members.

I want a tiered system, where goods can come in three flavours; common, exotic and rare. Not coincidentally these classifications work as universal prefixes for any of the goods I've mentioned so far. Common goods would be the default and exotic goods useful for the kind of stuff you'd like to migrate to as your guild improves. Rare goods would be very valuable - a quantity of rare meats, for example, would be an appropriately valuable reward for a mission - the kind of thing that you always want but can't necessarily afford.

Because I don't want common goods to be irrelevant to higher-tier players and I want exotic goods to remain feeling exotic, I'd make it so quantities of common goods are always required for anything of that type, but higher-level stuff might also require exotic or rare goods. So a basic guild hall might need 10 common wood and 10 common stone, but a mid-level hall might need 10 common wood, 10 common stone, 5 exotic wood and 5 exotic stone. Numbers pulled out of my ass.

It would be really easy to add extra levels of quality over or parallel to rare, but they'd probably be special cases. For example, "mysterious" meat that might be used to make the best meals of the game or be totally useless - with no way of knowing until you try. I also wonder whether there should be a staple food category for things like bread, milk, cheese and eggs that isn't interesting to be detailed. You just stock X quantity of "staples" to pad out your guild members' diet.

I'd like to encourage a lot of trading and speculation on these kind of goods as their relative value changes week to week, which means a limited supply. I've vague notions of players having an income of X units of resource Y per day based on their location, and also with access to a trader who will sell and buy goods for variable prices. But those are still vague ideas.

To go back to food, individual characters could have a preference for meat over fish, wine over beer or vice-versa and get an increased benefit from foods of that type. They might also specifically love or hate spiced food. That could be interesting, or boring.

I think food is going to be one of the major expenses for supporting a large guild. A money sink to help mitigate mudflation. But I don't want it to just be a meaningless expense.

Characters have a "stamina" value which is boosted by eating high-quality food. Stamina is like a pool of healing that is automatically depleted by characters to remove damage in between encounters. High stamina doesn't make individual encounters any easier, but it gives you more margin for error for the mission as a whole. In this way high quality food and drink can be a tactical decision before a difficult job.

The mechanic probably needs a little embelishment and tweaking - maybe making stamina level determine a regen rate rather than actually depleting to heal - but I like the basic idea.

Tango Foxtrot

I find myself with some more pirates to throw on the pile. I sketched this one as a generic armoured guy with a shield, but had more fun with the idea of a pirate carrying a drink in the left hand.

The bottle is a bit specific, but the pose wouldn't allow for (say) a beer stein without encroaching on the torso detail. I toyed with giving one of them a sack slung over the shoulder in that hand, but couldn't pull it off. And so the bottle it is. I'll need to make sure they're not over-represented or it could look silly.

Fairly generic as pirates go. Not really a bad thing; it's good to bulk out the crew. I like the name too - Bravo is a good word to describe people. Possibly even too good to waste on these particular characters, but we'll see.

I don't really have much interesting to say about these, now that I think about it. The pose has enough of a sense of weight to it that I'm content. The nodes are nice and sparse. There's a fair amount of variety in the details and the colour. They're pretty adequate in all respects.

A hideous, five-beaked maw

The tentacles have been reinforced. Eyestalks, a hideous five-beaked maw and another tentacle style for variety. I think there's a complete elder squid god here.

Individual tentacles summoned by the sea-cult are fine to start, but later on you can encounter multiple tentacles with an eyestalk, and eventually the vile feeding tube. The makings of a nice set of escalating boss encounters. I think I've got just enough material for two sea-cult themed missions; one based around the mundane weirdness of the cult and the other more about the mutants and awakened elder squid god.

Nice bit of continuity to come back to an old area for new encounters. I might also press-gang the old fishers into the sea cult. I'm moving away from the idea of dedicated recruitable characters a little, and in this specific case I think they'd be useful for another set of mundane sea-culters along with the dock thugs and acolytes.

I felt vain so I did a quick marquee select+fill job to give these something like a background. Each part being confined to the character frame prevents it looking terribly dynamic as a whole, but that's unavoidable and the problem lessens the fewer parts are present at once; I just wanted to see the whole range lined up.

I'm fairly happy with the new parts. They were fun to make, and they look better than the first two tentacles without obviating them. Eyestalks are a little cliché but the dual-eye tentacle with that weird puil works well enough for me. The mouth seems a little bare, even with the corded look to its "neck". I could carefully pattern the hide. In fact, some kind of minor shading or patterning seems like it would be a good idea for all of the tentacle bits. No rush though.

Trying for two new skill icons based on these; the eyes and the beak seem distinctive enough and would have obvious uses.

Still feel a little guilty about how simple tentacles are. These were fun to make and involved enough decision-making that they weren't trivial, but they don't feel "real." I'm sure I'll come up with something new soon enough. Lately I've been skitting about between themes. It's good to add breadth to old ideas, but lacking focus means lots of staring at a blank sheet of paper with no particular idea what I should be trying to do.

Sunday, 31 May 2009

Mark II crew

Fiddled with the cannoners and the misc pirates a bit. They were just outside of my tolerances. Barely worth posting the updated versions, but I can't see any harm in it.

The pirates were leaning too sharply. It's a common mistake I make, since I like to sit at funny angles I'm seldom looking at the screen straight-on. What I should do is horizontally flip what I'm working on to see if it looks wrong the other way round. I didn't bother this time and they ended up all Pisa for it.

Easy enough to fix though. Isolated the hands, weapons and heads, then skewed everything else back towards the normal, then moved the unaltered bits back into place. They also got some colour changes because i saw room for improvement.

The cannon-luggers' feet really bugged me - totally sloppy. So that got fixed. Redoing the cannon entered my mind, but they don't bother me nearly so much as the feet did. The colours could probably be tweaked, but really the feet were the main irritations.

I've still got those desert swordsmen to fix up. I'll leave them for now though - maybe when I do another desert-themed character and have more ideas for detail styles.

Saturday, 30 May 2009


A pleasant change. These came easily and, while I can fret over certain details, all in all they please me. These are your generic deck-clogging sea-dog-type pirate.

No eye patches, hook hands or peg legs you'll notice. I don't want to overuse that kind of powerful cliché if I'm going to be doing more than just a couple pirate-themed guys. I figure that in any given trinity I can use one (1) of those on one (1) of the characters. For example the dock thugs (who are still borderline pirates in my mind) have one eye patch between them. I think one of my old pirates has a peg leg, so that uses up that. Hook hand I have an idea for making huge and weaponised, theming a whole character-type around maybe.

Anyway - these guys. They flowed nicely. Originally I was thinking that I could swap about the sword and pistol hand between them, but it always looked best with the pistol up and the sword down so that idea was nixed.

I've got a good set of swappable components here. Head, torso, sword, pistol, legs and even feet. The clever bit though is accessories. I managed to rig it so that the sash and epaulettes are swappable too. #3's gloves can be the third accessory type, but they're not as itneresting as the other two. Of course this all gives me way, way more combinations than I need. No big deal.

I'm rather fond of #3's hair; I don't think I've done that style before. Just four V-shapes, nice and clean, but implying some nice messy-spikey-hair. His tailed coat too actually - I figure it used to belong to a marine officer, or maybe he even used to be a marine before getting captured and joining the pirates. Made sure he didn't look too sharp by putting a bare chest underneath it. Same kind of thinking behind #2's epaulettes.

Trivia: If you take the big hat, the epaulettes, tailed coat and long boots you end up with a rather official-looking marine-type person. May or may not be useful.

I'd like to do a gunslinging pistolier pirate, but it's not coming together yet. Also perhaps a spyglass/sextant/compass-brandishing navigator. I also wanted a booze-themed barrel/crate carrier, but I'm just failing embarassingly in that direction. Combined with my old pirates it seems there's a lot of space to be explored.

So far I've been thinking that each set is good for one, maybe two missions. But if I can get a large enough set, I could have multiple missions based around the same theme, but each with a different selection of enemies.

Thursday, 28 May 2009


Another set that I kind of forced through. There's quite a few areas that I consider questionable. Feet again. The designs of the cannon. Some aspects of the pose. I liked the sketch though and wanted to bring it to a finished state before I lost the love.

I experimented with some shine on the cannon barrels - they didn't look right without it. A 40% transparency layer of stark black and white seems about ok. I drew the shine bands manually, with a mouse, and it shows. When you zoom out though the wobble seems natural. That's probably just my laziness talking, but it's on its own layer so it'd be easy enough to tweak later.

Still, the cannon didn't look right until I dulled down the whole body to something closer to black to make ti stand out from the bright clothes of the gunners. Reminds me of TF2 where the weaponry is all a very subdued black and grey to be visible against the character models.

Pirates are a new set. I've done four or five good solo pirates previously, so I can fill out their ranks easily enough even if I find myself unable to come up with anything else. The dock thugs could be pirates too I suppose, though I intended them to be unfriendly locals for the harbour. Uncertain how I feel about that kind of crossover. Then again, I do like the idea that the sets aren't toally foreign to each other. Even the jungle natives, if they're on an island or a foreign coastline could be geographically close to a pirate base of operations.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Shop talk

This hypothetical game that I'm bearing in mind when I make these graphics. The basic idea is a Kingdom Of Loathing-like browser-based vaguely multiplayer game. Not exactly like KoL, nor an optimistically conceived "KoL... but better!" I am inspired by KoL, and I don't mean "I want to rip KoL off". I mean that KoL spurs me to be creative in my own way, that it serves as an example of what's possible.

The basic idea is that you, the player, is in charge of a guild of fantasy adventurers. You start off founding the guild with your leader character and gather more guild members over time. The central gameplay system is the "group of characters vs group of characters" battle as described previously. Outside of those battles there can be economic gameplay based around hoarding and consuming resources. Other gameplay systems could be "plugged in", but those two are what I see being where the bulk of the fun living.

The importance of the setting is how much it allows for. A fantasy mish-mash milleu allows for an almost unlimited variety of styles, characters and monsters. And it immediately lets the player know the sort of thing they should expect. Such as guilds of adventurers. The guild setting is far more important than the world though. It provides a rationale for managing a stable of characters, gives you an identity to become attached to and a good reason for your characters to seek out trouble.

Multiple axes of advancement are in my mind, what makes this setup particularly good for a game. You can level up and customise individual characters to improve their stats and unlock additional attacks. You can expand your roster of characters (who can then in turn be levelled up...). You can earn money to swell the guild coffers. You can expand and upgrade the guild house with new facilities. You can increase your stash of loot. You can complete missions to improve your guild's reputation and unlock more content.
And consider how these can interact - you take characters on a mission and they get stronger and earn the guild money. You spend the money expanding the guild house so that you can support more characters, or to provide facilities for those characters to use. And these interactions can be "squishy". You might decide that upgrading the guild is boring, so you focus on getting as many recruits as possible, just barely spending enough on the guild that they don't leave in disgust. Or you might really go in for pampering a few favourite characters with sweet bonuses from a nice guild house, and sweet loot made in your guild's armoury. And that's not touching on the economic gameplay, which can be used to enable guild progression or just an end in itself.

To enable replayability I think the KoL method is best; make play cyclical. I'm imagining a "valhalla" where legendary champions live. When you "complete" the game, your guild's leader (usually the character you started with, but there can be options and events that give you the option to switch who your focal character is) becomes a legendary hero and becomes saved in his current status to your account. And then you start again from scratch.
But as you play, you slowly build up a roster of legendary heroes in their "maxed-out" state in valhalla, and that's almost like a meta-guild for you. I imagine that this would be where player-vs-player competition would occur, though there's no reason there couldn't be a bit of single player content there too as a final tier. You could also get various benefits in the normal game from restarting, like access to new content, guild upgrades or loot. Perhaps the old champions could become a wandering heroes that you can meet. The possibilities are too wide to go over in any specifics here.

The currency of play would be in character actions. Like KoL (again) this would be a limited play-per-day game. Each day, each of your characters can do one thing. This will often be going on a mission (in which case you'll be using up several characters' actions to do it). For characters who don't join a party for a mission, they can be put to work at the guild. Maybe they can craft items. Perhaps they could be hired out as mercenaries, or sent to compete in an arena - simple things with results based on character stats/skills that don't involve active gameplay like battles do, although they could be expanded to minigame-status if needed.
Downtime skills could be a class of character skill that gvies them a special option when idle. A burglar might bring you extra money. A researcher might come up with a new spell that one of your wizards can learn. A chef could make delicious cake. This means that even when you have enough characters to form multiple parties, you could just select a bunch of downtime options for your characters and call it a day.

Lots of things I've not talked about. Interaction between players. What would matter from the economy side of things. Potential for expandability. Structure of missions and how they're dispensed. Inter-character relations absed on a few simple personality checkboxes. Special events and challenges. How collectability would be implemented.
But this isn't exactly a proper design document. Best to make sure of my big picture before I start getting all fiddly and specific.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Something from the cart

I can't seem to get this kind of pose working right. Same problem with the sutured stalkers; on the sketch it looks nice and dynamic as if they're balanced on one foot and bringing the other forward. But after the "inks" they're slouching into the foreground with their rear foot resting on invisible ground. It's probably my fault for using a perfect flat ground line way back when. I guess it wouldn't be that difficult to go back and give everyone rounded feet but... what a chore. I'm not even sure it would be a good idea - the uniform flat cutoff lets me do things like the tentacles and the rockworm more easily.

Distractions. These are new. Armoured desert-dwellers. Dervish is such a cliché name, but it'll do for now. I also have a spear and shield-wielding guy in this style in the pre-triplicate batch, but he's so old that I'd need to re-do him to fit alongside these. My node discipline is totally shot here. Maybe even too far - I might go back and prune. The thing is that they're so spindly that I end up using excess lines just to get some emaningful differentiation on such small surfaces. Maybe I was taking the wrong approach to begin with and I should try more drastic styles rather than crowding and cluttering the lines. I did kind of push myself to finish these.

Colours were a cheat. They're mainly just hue-shifts of the first one with some manual touch-ups for the masks and contrast areas. Not awful though. Might be a good time-saver when dealing with "uniforms" - a starting point at least.

So, not as big a failure as those horrible ogres. I might revise these, but I feel slightly better for the work done.

Saturday, 23 May 2009

Mountain ogres

These are experimental - that's a partial excuse for the crappiness. While so far I've been tackling bigger, monsterier things by drawing them pretty explicitly, for these I tried to do them as stickmen like the human characters.

Results are mixed. They look disappointingly like a bunch of details pasted on top of a really crappy skeleton. I might have to give the arms at least volume. maybe i could shrink the legs to sticks - giving them a top-heavy look - to clear up room.

The shields are meant to be made from multiple pieces of scrap.

Too many greys make these really boring to look at. maybe they could do with some reds.

The metal areas really need some kind of shine or texture that I can't do with flats. I should probably look at reference pictures to come up with a good gimmick.

#2 gets a shoulder pad because his mask left that area looking really empty.

I wouldn't be surprised if I junked these. Though I might recycle #1 and #2's masks. I'm unhappy with the eyes. Might promote those to triangles or circles or something so they look like holes in the mask. The line-eyes really aren't working for me at that size. A node-light solution would be ideal. Maybe some kind of letterbox gap. That would also make them look a little more sinister rather than bemused and gormless.

The dangers of unbounded science

Someone prompted me to make a warning sign for causality violation. I came up with these two. And a related "closed space" warning sign. Made very quickly, hence the wacky font; I re-used the basic warning sign template from a team fortress 2 spray I'd made.

I think the one with the question mark is the best. It looks properly geometric as well as symbolic. or at least it would if it was in a serious font. I could easily see it become the kind of sign you end up recognising as a holistic image rather than a combination of symbols. I like the idea of the closed space one, but am unimpressed by the picture.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009


Gribblies. I suppose these would go along with big burly beetle guy, but I have no specific plan. These were drawn for fun. There's a common theme of four eyes - I couldn't help coming up with some unifying features, but other than that they're not really terribly similar. I guess the maggot could be a larva, the skinny guy and the burly beetle could be different castes, but the rockworm is blatantly a different species altogether.

Maybe they'll end up being wandering monsters or something equally random. They were fun to do and that's all that really matters. I can come up with a theme after the fact if I end up doing enough of them.

I tried being a little more adventurous with the colour here. Lanky and worm have highlights in their eyes (maggot's eyes were too small to bother with) and worm has a two-tone body. Even maggot has an unusually smooth colour variation across his body. I like it. I might try more deviations from flat shading in the future.

Lanky was hard to colour. The angular body shape and odd pose meant it was hard to parse what you were looking at. Eventually I just coloured the chest+arms a different, stronger colour than the legs and trunk. The hands and hooves were used as details to unify the two schemes across the body. I think it just about works.

Worm caused me to doubt myself. That chunky hide is really detailed. I think two of the chunks are pentagons, and all the rest are either deformed triangles or quads, but even so it gives the impression of a lot of fiddly detail. And even if the total line count isn't that high compared to some of the others I've done, it has a more naturally detailed appearance that I worried would make it stick out. Still not totally convinced that it doesn't, even if the main body is just three S-curves. The beak too is a little more detailed than I'd like, but the hide steals the show. Monsters in general need more lines. I'll let it go for now.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009


More for the university. Librarians. Or possibly teachers (or even students!) with a textbook. They're very tall and with little dynamism. I wondered whether I should give them cats to fill out the frame - both as wizardly familiars and because everyone knows that libraries like to have a pet cat. I may yet.

I apologise for how boring the colouring job is here. I don't dislike these bookmen, but they don't particularly inspire me either. Filler again I suppose.

I'm glad that I was able to get three different book-holding poses. Especially #2's. Since it's really the book that is the focus, I used the simplistic wand technique I described before. Which reminds me - turns out I was wrong about how exciting eyebrows were. One of the woodsmen had them, albeit single lines with no volume.

Maybe if I use the house colour schemes method I'll be able to approach these a bit more vigorously. As is they're really rather mundane. The puppeteers were far more fun. Flamboyant costumes, cute puppet poses and bright colours.

Somehow the colours left #3 looking like Revolver Ocelot from MGS3. The effect is not entirely unpleasant, if not exactly what I had in mind when I did the linework.

These seem too fun to be dismissed as generics, but I don't yet have a proper home for them. i suppose if I had enough ideas i could do a carnival or circus set. I have a juggler I could wheel out, and a jester/fool type would be easy. Lion tamer too maybe? But evil clowns is not a trope that has ever gained any traction with me. Perhaps I'll stay away from anything circus-like and have them - along with the juggler - be street performers as part of a "city" set along with the thugs and thieves. That might work. I'd still want to do a fool though - he could be part of the chivalry/joust set to provide a bit of contrast with all those knights.

Legendary sandwich knives

Yeastbane the divider

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Quiver filler

Utterly generic and characterless. Filler. They'll do as practice if nothing else. I'll probably come around to liking them in a day or two - that seems to be the usual cycle of things.

I don't think I've used a longcoat as a variant feature before - it's always been a base part of the character. So that's good. And #3's outfit turned out nattier than I'd hoped. #1's ended up looking rather plain after I put so much flash on his brothers.

Not much in the way of meaningfully swappable parts unfortunately, but that might be a consequence of there being so much variation just in the torsos. The quivers and the boots could be swapped about, but that's trivial. It'll be head swaps and colour schemes that makes the only real difference.

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Wizards too!

By some coincidence, I've not done any magicy-types since I started drawing these guys in triplicate. That run has been interrupted.

I labeled these guys "instructors" for want of a better name. And because something about them makes me think "magic school". That could be an explorable new theme, or they could just as well be generic hero-types.

The poses are pretty boring - facing the camera and largely symmetrical - but I like them enough to ignore that. The high-collared cloaks please me. Really, that was the hook for the initial sketch and I'm glad i could reproduce it for the final linework. The scepters with floaty elements too - I like free-floating parts for magical implements. It's a nice simple thing I can do that adds a lot of interest. Also the hair on #1 and #2. #1's a new way of drawing hair that I experimented with; wispy and messy. I do not dislike it. And #2's silly old man hair worked out nicer than I'd hoped with a very low nodecount.

If I do decide that these are going to be magic school instructors, I'd probably re-colour them to make the cloak look like a uniform. In fact with a large enough pool of magic school characters, I could use multiple colour themes and divide them into houses. That could be cool. Something to think about if I go down that route. But like I said they could also be generics. Robed wizards in general are seldom heavily themed. Like this next batch:

Again, they could be part of the magic school (wand studies perhaps?) or generics. Note the floaty bits on the wands again.

Way back when I started playing with these not-really-stick figures, I came up with a nice way to do wands with a minimal line count. Just a straight line, with a break in it near the top to indicate the white part. I didn't use it for these guys since I wanted to emphasise the wands a bit more, but it'd be good on figures where the wand is incidental or secondary.

Not that I went all out on these wands. What is that, a marshmallow? Then some kind of crystal and a cliché star. The magic school approach would at least justify a lot of cliché. #3's hat for example.

One characteristic of robed wizards is that it's tricky to come up with meaningful variations for the main body without totally wrecking what made the original cool to me. See, they tend to be all one big shape. That's why the three here all have the same, err, don't have the words... "swooshy bits", down the front from the collar. Also, if I do come up with meaningful variation, it has to be swapped out all as one piece. So if I tried to swap parts between these guys, I'd treat the arms and body separately, so any of the robe styles could have sleeves, cuffs or gloves. Probably the shoes too, just to try and break pattern. Now that i look at them again, I wonder if I could swap hats/hair independent of heads... #3's lock might overlap #2's eyebrows in a less-than-attractive way though.

Oh yeah - #2! I want to point out that he's sporting an unprecedented new feature - eyebrows! I don't think I've done those elsewhere. The odd frown line, yes. But not distinct eyebrows. I think. Unless I did them on that old calligrapher or the minister of thamaturgy... I'm going to go check.

Nope! No eyebrows in the archives. This is a bold new advance in veep technology.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

More rumbling

Once again I somehow manage to proceed according to plan. Big, strong-looking guys in mask-shaped armour. I left these the other night thinking I'd have to redo them - wasn't happy with the weird gauntlet things even after a few revisions. but coming back to them with fresh eyes (and thanks to a second opinion) decided that they were good enough.

The colour on the other hand.... colouring these jungle guys is difficult. I want lots of nice bright painted areas on wood, but it's not coming out right. I want them garish, but it's not working. I might try narrowing the range of colour on each individual - for example, blue-greens with red contrast. Two or three complementary shades and a contrasting detail colour. Maybe that'll work. Meantime they're not awful, just... off.

I also managed to sketch up another jungle guy. Some kind of sneaky ambushy jumps-out-of-trees guy judging from the pose. The ruff things are meant to be pelts or cloaks of leaves/feathers around their shoulders that are going all floofy from the motion. I had this idea in my head that the cloak and the mask are meant to draw attention away from the limbs, making them look like floating demon heads when they leap down and attack.

I think I've settled on that as a theme for these jungle guys - fear. The masks, like the fetish wards are meant to intimidate, so it makes sense that a large part of how they deal with interlopers is psychological. It also matches up with how scary inhabited jungles are commonly portrayed in other media.

It's probably a little late to come up with a theme when I've already done a startling number of these jungle guys, but I found it satisfying to finally put my finger on it. "Fear" is certainly a lot better than some laughably generic spiritualist mishmash. I may be happy with cliché collage for the pictures, but I like to be at least a little original with the concepting.

If I compare to the hospital and creepy sea-cult set, I've actually got a fair number of jungle guys. Spear guys, sword+shield guys, skull staff guys, hulking guys and scary knife-guys. Five not even counting the kind-of cheaty fetish wards and the vine monster. Just missing a boss-type guy. I guess padding out the ranks didn't end up being a problem. I'll shelve the unenthusiastic-looking gorilla for now. And the dinosaurs can be for further into this jungle, or a different place entirely. No need to dilute.

Saturday, 9 May 2009


I suppose these are properly props rather than creatures, but I see them being used in much the same way and it's good to expand.

I was wary of them being cheap and sloppy-looking compared to the characters. I took several passes throwing away dodgy-looking elements and adding more details like the dead animals. At one point I had a hanging skull and ribcage, but it just didn't look right. I have a method for doing ok skeletons in the stick figure style, but in the context of the wards it wasn't obvious what you were meant to be seeing. There's very little room for me to be stylised on these so I focused on making the masks bright and chunky, and keeping the skulls low-node.

In case it's not obvious, these are meant to be some kind of territory marker. I guess they'd have a variety of useful effects like inspiring allies or terrifying enemies. They may or may not be magical. I don't see myself doing a lot of prop-type enemies. These felt right though. Maybe for a reason as silly as having a face.

I also recoloured the witch doctors. They were too dull; I wanted them brighter and showier. Still not hugely happy with them to be honest, but not sure what needs to be done. Maybe they're still too unsaturated after all.

Embarassingly, I've run out of decent ideas for jungle peeps. I've got spear guys, sword+shielders, witch doctors, fetish totems and a vine golem. Is that enough? I could lump the dinosaurs in with them I suppose. Drummers maybe? If I can come up with an interesting pose. Carnivorous plants? Some kind of triffid? Maybe it's time to just go back to doodling randomly until I happen upon a new theme.

Hmm, maybe if I could come up with a nice style of armour, based on the mask shapes, I could do a jungle juggernaut character. Worth scribbling I think.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

A picture jungle

Inexplicably, I made good on my plans. Witch doctors. These are the first jungle natives I've done in colour. I'd been seeing the masks all bright and colourful in my mind's eye, but for these shaman that seems wrong. Bone white it is then. That also helps make them stand out.

That's a problem with that kind of closed pose you see - all the details overlap and it looks messy. Even making a deliberate effort to keep the torsos naked and featureless, the arms and staff crossing the front divides a lot of areas in a distracting way. The masks needed to be striking.

I'm not sure why I did it, but i like the strong red in the skin tones I've got here. I think I'll carry that across all the natives. It can vary from light to dark, but I'll try and keep them all looking ruddy. It could be some kind of decoration or just the local look.

Also had some unexpected luck doodling a jungle golem. I was pondering what sort of motifs these natives might have and I liked the idea of vines and flowers. That and trying to doodle a kind of jungle scarecrow gave me this very swooshy vine monster. I imagine it's animated by some kind of magic in the mask.

No variants here for the same reason as previous monsters. Not much I can easily vary. The mask I suppose, but that on its own wouldn't be enough. I'm not sure that the curling bits of creeper and blossom give me enough to work with either. To be honest I'm not terribly motivated to even try right now - I'm happy with it on its own. It's got an unstrung puppet look about it that I'm fond of.

Not rocket science

Some victims of eccentric hospital experiments. These ones based around unlocking the potential of the human mind. This particular unlocking either kills you or turns you into a twitching imbecile, but a twitching imbecile with telekinesis!

I started these ages ago with the rest of the hospital guys, but they were crap and so I moved them to my fragments file and forgot about them. Last night I looked them over again and rescued them from awfulness. Now they're mediocre at worst.

#2's collar is unusually 3d. And so I judged it worthy of survival when I was de-awfuling them. The green things are meant to be holding tanks for some noxious chemical. Maybe I should try and make them shiny, or put bubbles in them, or make them partially empty? Something to make it more obvious.

The collars/devices and heads are all independently swappable. I wouldn't have been happy with just the heads, so I'm glad I managed to get another modular detail there. I briefly pondered different styles of manacle and, err, footacle, but decided that that would be reaching.

At the moment my eye is turning towards those natives again. I'd like to expand their ranks a little. Some kind of shaman/witch doctor seems a good move. Maybe totems, idols or fetishes of some kind? I might have a go at some kind of pet triffids or vine monsters. Or whatever. Masks are fun.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Talking about icons

When I was making my icons, I looked at a lot of existing ones for inspiration. Also to steal. I've liked these cute little symbolic graphics ever since I first saw them in Diablo 2, and so I thought I'd blather and over-think them a little. Or at least, the ones whose icons I can easily gaffle from the web.

Diablo 2's icons are all silver silhouettes on brown. They're made to look like they might actually exist in the world as glyphs. There's drop shadow and texture, and the silver symbols don't touch the edge of the glyph plate.

In the game these icons are displayed at a fairly large size, and with few on screen at a time, so they can get away with a lot. And yet they're pretty abstract. This means that while you may not know what a given glyph is meant to represent, you can still recognise it pretty easily in a crowd.

I think that the texturing actually harms the readability of these icons. In areas of high detail, the grey lines on the white confuse the shape slightly. Very visible on the second glyph on the bottom row.

World of Warcraft. Warcraft 3 had almost exactly the same style icons, but they mainly portrayed units and are less interesting to me (though most of them did get recycled into WoW. More on that later).

These icons are actually small illustrations. The icon frames are like windows onto a larger scene, unlike the or symbolic Diablo icons. They also use strong colours and high contrast to make the icons even more distinctive from each other. Necessary, since WoW gives you a bar of relatively small icons to select from and it's easier to pick out colours than shapes at a glance.

This small display size does mean that a lot of the detail is wasted in play and you come to rely on recognizing the colour and rough shape of an icon, often with little thought to what it's a picture of. Still, if you take care to look they do work to illustrate the skill in a way that the Diablo icons don't.

Another problem with these illustrative icons is that they're harder to make. As a result, WoW re-uses a lot of icons for multiple skills and/or items. It's simply too much bother to commission a new piece of art for every single new ability.

Guild wars. Like World of Warcraft, these are fairly illustrative. They have a softer look, less cartoonish but not significantly less stylised. Guild wars also likes to use graduated fills or textures as a backdrop while WoW usually prefers featureless black.

Something Guild Wars does with colour that WoW doesn't, is that each class's skills have a unified palette. If you see a cyan-on-purple icon, you know it's a mesmer skill. Green and chestnut brown = hunter. Like WoW's, you tend to focus on the pattern and colour at display size rather than looking at the illustration, but the unified colour scheme means that your skill bar is cohesive and attractive to look at. Since guild wars characters have access to skills from two classes, this also helps distinguish between them on the skill bar.

Despite Guild Wars' icons being just as complicated as WoW's, it doesn't repeat icons like WoW does. Unfortunately they've chosen quantity over quality. While a lot of the icons, especially the ones from the basic game, are very striking and attractive, others are very obviously under processed photographs. The fourth icon on the second row is a particularly bad example.

When I played Demigod recently, I found its icons particularly problematic. They're fairly attractive illustrations and a unified colour scheme across all of the skill icons makes them pleasing to the eye in a group. Unfortunately they're just far too detailed and with far too little contrast.

On the character's skill bar, displayed at roughly this size and with only four icons to choose between it's no bother selecting the correct one. On the leveling-up page though, they are less than half the size they are here they all become identical brown blurs. You actually have to memorise the position of the skills you want to buy and check the tooltips since the icons are almost no help as reference.

As you can see from my previous post, I decided to go with a stark Diablo-like style for maximum contrast and readability, though my icons are also a little more illustrative than Diablo's glyphs. You can also see where I stole the dummy person silhouette idea from. While I do plan to use colour, I'm following Guild wars' with a very limited colour palette for maximum clarity and also using that colour to convey other information.

In all honesty, my options were also fairly limited by the fact that I lack the ability to draw proper illustrative pictures, but I don' think I'm missing out on much. To my mind, flat high-contrast shapes are the way to go. Readability before illustration. Also, the simplicity of these icons should make it relatively quick easy to come up with a large number of them, hopefully obviating the need for repetition or bad photo manipulations.