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

Saturday 31 January 2009

About nailguns.

So I got into the beta for quake live. Which is nice. I played quake 3 to death when it came out, but I never got the team arena expansion, what with it being a little lacking in content and all. But being a part of quake live, I've finally gotten a chance to see the only interesting-looking part: the new weapons.

The proximity mine launcher does what it sounds like. But it's only useful for speculatively mining areas of the map. I suspect you'll almost always be better served by hunting people down with a real gun.

The chaingun is what you'd expect - high RoF hitscan weapon with a spread. Rate of fire ramps up to the maximum relatively slowly as you hold the fire button down. You get into the habbit of starting to fire when you hear a combat, before you see it, so it's firing at full speed sooner. And the spread makes it more like a fully automatic shotgun than an alt plasma gun. Fun in context, but nothing terribly unique.

The nailgun though is a real prize - a weapon not quite like anything else I've used before. It really impressed me. It's like the UT flak cannon (primary) - fires a hail of nails that do massive damage if they all hit. But that doesn't do it justice.

First of all the nails are quite tightly packed and don't seem to spread that much in flight. They fly fairly slowly - there's a very noticable travel time for the projectiles. You always have to lead the target if there's any kind of lateral motion going on. The small spread makes it great fired down tight corridors though. What was most interesting to me is that it doesn't just fire a spray of projectiles like traditional shotgun weapons, it fires a cloud.

When you get a solid hit, you hear a succession of "shunkshunkshunk" as the nails slam into them in succession. While the railgun projects a line of damage, and the rocket launcher creates AoE damage where it hits, the nailgun launches a moving AoE.

One of the reasons the rocket launcher is such a great FPS weapon is that there's so many variables involved in each shot., all depending on the skill of the firer, the target and the situation. Travel time for the rocket means you need to lead the target proportionally to the distance. Direct hits cause the most damage, but are the hardest to pull off. Catching someone in the blast is easiest if they're against a surface, especially if you have the high ground, but does less damage. It's easy to clip someone for a little damage, but satisfyingly lethal hits are also possible. For any given shot the skills of the firer and the defender have all had an impact on how much damage was done

On the other hand is a very binary weapon. Was your cursor over the enemy when you clicked: yes/no? This weapon rewards skill and punishes ineptitude like no other. If you're good enough you do 100% damage. If you're not, 0%.

QL's nailgun is like the rocket launcher. The tightly packed cloud means that it's probably a one-shot kill with a perfect hit, but the difficulty of a perfect hit degrades rapidly with distance because of the travel time. Like direct hits with the rocket launcher. More frequently you'll clip someone with the nails, or hit them with the front runners of the cloud before they step out of the way of the rest. Lateral motion is the best defence against the nailgun.

The flak cannon is great point-blank, but because of the spread it's useless at medium range or longer. They could up the damage or number of projectiles, or tighten the spread, but then it would be too strong at short range. In its own way it's nearly as binary as the railgun, but weighted towards situation rather than skill.

The genius of the cloud is that it allows the nailgun to be overpowered in its ideal situation - at close range or against a target moving along the same line as you - without being either overpowered or useless at longer ranges. It retains its full potential in a wide variety of situations, but there's a sliding scale where the less ideal the situation, the more skill is required to make the most of it. And so, like the rocket launcher, using movement and tactics to create that ideal situation becaomes a part of the skill in using the weapon.

Unfortunately it only appears in a couple of maps. And I've not seen anything like it in later games. Shame.

Wednesday 28 January 2009

They have questions.

Androgynes with axes. In a curious pose that is either pivoting on one foot or dancing - hard to tell.

I was really playing about with metallic-looking shading here. Not satisfied with most of it, but I got to try out a few new things and practice others.

I'm having contrast problems again I think. I need some kind of standard to work from, rather than just daubing colour over a neutral brown. Maybe go back over the old ones and find a few that I'm happy with, then use them as reference?

That sounds distressingly close to the correct way to do things - not my scene at all. I'll probably just make a half-assed effort to triple-check before I call them final.

I did more three-tone shading on these than normal. Not the skin as I said I was going to do - that's turning out trickier than I imagined - but on the stronger metallics. It seems like a good idea and I should probably have done more of it. Making life harder.

I'm not sure if I'm making any progress. It doesn't feel like it. But then it never does, until I look back at what I was doing a couple of months ago and I decide that they're all no longer up to par and must be scrapped. Still, even if it doesn't feel like I'm getting better, it feels productive to be adding to a growing library of these guys.

Friday 23 January 2009

Layout of a scuffle.

I'm going to talk systems and mechanics now I think. Do excuse me if it seems a little presumptuous.

When two teams of characters go up against each other in a rousing game of red vs blue, it looks a bit like this:This is a five-a-side, the largest a game can be. You'll often be dealing with (or against) a smaller team. Now let's be depressingly conventional and have characters dealing attacks that do damage to the other guy's HP in a turn-based environment. Characters attack their opposite number as indicated by the grey arrows. The goal is usually to KO the other team while keeping your team as conscious as possible.

A few niggling details: Attacks are exchanged simultaneously-ish. The players make all their decisions (usually only one decision to make - more on this some other time) in secret, then check the "ready" box when they're done. Once both players are ready, the turn happens. Now, having everything actually happen simultaneously would be terribly confusing and mildly impossible, so here's what actually goes on: for each pairing a virtual coin is flipped (invisibly). The winner's attack happens first and then, assuming they survived, the loser's attack occurs. This happens for all the pairings, left to right as is intuitive. Not terribly exciting, but these mechanics have to exist.

So! A basic system for two lineups of people to use each other as punching bags.

One potential complication is what happens with uneven teams or when one character's opponent has been KO'd. Observe:
If a character has no opponent, then they direct their attack to the character next in line, moving towards the centre, as demonstrated by the grey lines of attack in this example. Note the blue centre-fielder. The poor bastard's going to be attacked by three different characters each turn. But he still only gets to attack the once, directed towards his opposite number.

Confession: I'm not 100% sure about the attack redirection mechanic. Look to the right of the diagram and you might see why. The right hand red is attacking the centre blue, but toally ignoring the right hand blue who will be pummeling her. This system is simple and easy to grok, but gives rise to the odd silly situation like this. Paired off combatants are neater.

And so! An alternative system would be to slide characters inwards to fill any gaps, creating as many pairings as possible. Characters left on a flank with no opposite redirect their attacks as described above. Potential problem: flanks collapse fast when a character is eliminated because their replacement is probably going to be taking heat from two opponents. But then the current system puts that same pressure on the centre.

I'm thinking that the "slide" method might be better, but it seems the kind of thing that would need actual testing. So this is as far as thought experiemnts and diagrams can take me.

Anyway - that's some basics described. Next time I'll probably describe what sort of attacks characters have and what decisions the players have to make.

Tracheaocide; now with R, G and B.

Done! Same day even. And... they're ok I think. I'm happiest with Mr Beta, but none of them are awful.

I suppose Gamma needs more contrast. I can handle that with levels. That's a point though - I should probably try and standardise how much contrast there should be between light and dark tones of the same colour. So far I've just been eyeballing it, but I'll bet if you took a bunch of these guys at random they'd look wrong together because the lighting doesn't match.

I suppose the number to look at is the V/B. Thinking about it, if I wanted to make different colour-versions for the same figure, I could do it by making a greyscale base figure for the light/dark definitions and then applying it as a transformation layer over flat colour. Hmm, no that wouldn't work actually - I'm always going to want some areas darker or lighter aside from lighting. I could define and save the /shape/ of the shaded areas though and use that as a guide.

I need better words to think about this stuff really. Perils of a non-technical education. I often find that - trying to talk about something new to me and I just don't have the words to say what I mean. Gives me a newfound appreciation for academic language, and a disdain for people who automatically dismiss it as pretentious.

Oops - that was almost proper blogging, and that's not what this thing is for. I'd best bugger off before I start trying to share my other profound, uneducated insights.


These are only linearts so far, but I rather like them. I have enough to say about them that I want to post about them now rather than just after-colouring. Besides, sod's law says that I'll fuck up the colouring and end up hating them, so I'm going to strike while I'm still enthusiastic.

Something that i think is interesting, regarding interchangability of parts, is the face-mask. It's exactly the same lines on all three heads, but the context provided by the three bodies changes what you interpret it as. I didn't plan it this way, but when I dressed the first variant (beta as it happens) in his scarf, I realised that I'd have to carry the face and neck areas over between the three variants if I wanted interchangability. And it worked out better than I'd have hoped.

These remind me of the nurses, in that I managed to make the three variants far more different than I usually do. Rather than just different cuts of clothes or hairdos, I've suggested quite different kinds of outfit. And rather than going for interchangability in the parts, I've themed them relatively strongly.

Alpha is a semi-classy highwayman type. He has the neck thing, a shoulder-cloak and a snazzy waistcoat. His daggers are the most elegant-looking to me, too. I'm thinking he should be dressed in expensive-looking red.

Beta is a more raggedy street-type. The daggers are ugly and brutal-looking. He has a cool long scarf-thing going on, which I've tried to tat-up a little, and looks a bit more desperate.

For gamma, my thinking was "world of warcraft rogue". Rigid, layered leather-armour with shoulder pads, and military-looking knives. Which is pretty much how it turned out.

Despite the strong theming, the heads, weapons and bodies are all meant to be interchangable. I was using the themes as inspiration to create individually interesting elements, not because i had my heart set on creating three very distinct characters.

Wednesday 21 January 2009


Well, I got the sworders coloured. I'm not really happy with them though. There's some aspect I'm overlooking and I can't work out what it is. I know the metallic effect is dodgy, but I don't think that's the big problem here.

Too little contrast perhaps? The way the sword acts as a background for the head? Lack of or wrong focal points? I'm not sure. Done is done though and I'm not sad to put them behind me.

I'm wondering if I should use more tones on fleshy areas. Faces are focal points after all, and they could use more contrast. The pale skinned ones work adequately, but dark skin in thick black linework needs brighter highlights. It might also be the tool I need for things like weatherbeaten skin - it worked for raw skin on the sea zombies.

Bleh. So much negativity here. Must do better.

Monday 19 January 2009

Red Riding Hood's saviours

Sudden unexpected productivity! I got the woodsmen coloured. I did try out some brushes on these. It seemed to work pretty well on the inside of the cloaks. I'm not sure exactly what it's meant to represent, but it look right to me. Large flat areas certainly seem to benefit from having some kind of texture. Unfortunately the fur ruffs - the areas I started messing around with brushes for - didn't turn out terribly well at all. In fact they look abominable. I'm thinking rough fur is something that needs its own technique, not a cheap gimmick brush. But, again, I'm calling these done for now and moving on.

Other areas of note: I'll call Alpha's antler-head axe a success. Gamma's mouthbeard is atrocious, but i think that might be as much an issue with the linework as the colouring. Oh, and I seem to have changed the hue but not the value for the inner shade of Gamma's cloak, meaning it looks like it's glowing. Oops.

I tried implying creases and folds in the cloth here - most visible on the lower area of Beta's tunic. I like it. It's a little dodgy in places because I was mostly playing it by ear rather than thinking about where creases/shadows should appear naturally (another awful habbit to shake) , but it seems a pretty "cheap" way to add detail. Only problem is that if I establish that I'm willing to add that level of detail here, it raises the expected standards everywhere else. Not really a bad thing, but I should be careful of detail-creep.

Oops - just noticed that I left Gamma's cloak as single-shade. Can't be assed to fix, export and reupload so you'll have to take my word for it that I fixed it.

Saturday 17 January 2009

Just some lineart

I've not managed to get any good colouring done lately, unfortunately. I have some satisfactory linearts though, so I might as well throw them up here. All generic charactery people, no themes today.

The sword guys I did nearly a week ago, but I had trouble finding a "hook" for colouring them. Those strange moon-boots they're wearing turned out to be such eye-grabbingly-large flat areas that I can't just fill them with neutral tones and ignore what they're supposed to be made of.

Oh, the poses are a bit weird too. They're supposed to be in a "reaching backwards for a huge sword-swing"pose, but the more i look at them the more they look off. I can't tell if this is because they're actually a bit crap, or just because I was staring at them for too long. Probably a little from column A, a little from column B. In any case, I was running into a wall trying to colour them so I started on something else.

I like those woodsman peeps. The original sketch had something about it I liked, but it turned out to need a lot of massaging once I got it into inkscape. I have a big line of a half dozen tweaks and revisions before these three workables. And I'm still having troubles with hoods.

They feel more detailed than I usually do. The complicated fur ruffs aren't exactly node-light, but even so. It might just be the way that there's so many layers of stuff, subdividing or obscuring all the large flat areas.

The eyebrows of Woodsman gamma are something new. They're a feature I've not done before. I started drawing a hood on him you see, and it looked so characterful with just that first line that I left it that way. I did break the line in two to make it more eyebrowular, but I'm not sure that was a good move. It still looks ok though.

A problem with using eyebrows a lot is that they take up a lot of room. They probably won't work on anyone with proper hair. Still, they're something to bear in mind when a face is looking particularly bland and uninspired.

Looking back at old stuff, I'm less and less happy with surgical failure #3. Definitely needs more visible trauma, but since he's all coloured and "finished" its too much effort to go back and fix him now. The brine spawn monster is shite and I'll probably just try and pretend that it doesn't exist. The harpooners I haven't touched since i posted them here. I should colour them some time.

Looking way back at the crab dudes makes me feel disappointed. I had a lovely texture/pattern thing going on with them, but in all the other stuff I've coloured since there's not been any similar opportunity. The closest I've come is the shiny gold. I'm just not trying hard enough. Maybe I should try silly photoshop brushes - that's a tool I've never really played with.


Sunday 11 January 2009

Priests and nurses

These are some kind of priest/leader-type guys, I think? They don't have a good name, but I like them well enough. I'm fond of how they have differing torso-coverings with just one or two lines difference.

Charlie highlights a problem. Dark skin. Dark colours in general in fact. They don't work terribly well in areas of dense linework. His face is a blot. If it weren't for the gold mask, I'd have written him off completely. Not sure what can be done about this, apart from trying to stick with lighter colours.

Beta looks really pasty up there between the darker-skinned Alpha and Charlie, but I think he's fine when viewed on his lonesome. Especially with the less saturated purple robes.

These are probably your hero-types, so they get wildly different colour schemes. You'll likely only see one of these at a time, and if you do find a second, I want them to be as different in appearance as is practical. Which is why I was originally messing around with swappable heads and so on. Unifying colour schemes are for things I want you to be able to meet lots of - adding variety to a horde.

I wonder whether I've overdone the saturation here. I wanted a bright palette, but I could have used a few more neutral tones, especially on Charlie. I'm pretty happy with the gold though - cheap and easy-looking metallic there (though maybe a green/brown tone would make it even nicer...). I need to build up a library of those kind of texture tricks so that I can bring them out to play when required and maintaining a uniform style.

That's part of why I'm forging ahead rather than trying to make everything just right - forcing myself through a variety (ish) of stuff so that I pick up little tricks that I can use when i do it all "for real". If I ever do, that is. Meantime, this is just fun.

So - nurses. I am also fond of these guys. Lots of variety between them, but with a unified theme and colour scheme.

Trivia time: All colours for these guys were sampled from a burnt five pound note.

Very difficult to come up with three different-looking injecting devices, so Alpha and Charlie just have slightly different syringes. Bit of a cop out, but I felt that there was enough difference on the heads and torsos not to mind too much.

In fact, I'm a little worried that they outclass the mad surgeons too much, what with these meant to be lower in the hierarchy and all. Some of it I can put down to better colouring (including a primitive but passable technique for rubber gloves/boots) and less restrictions in the costuming (aprons don't leave much room for individuality) but still... I think the linework might just be better for these guys.

I'm at a loss for how I could bring the surgeons up to this standard. Maybe if I gave them some kind of outlandish costume element, like scary masks. I could alter the style of the dress from Apron+surgical gown to soemthing a little more vaired, but that sounds a lot like hard work. I might have to just re-draw them all and see what turns up. Or maybe a recolour will redeem them after all. Who can say.

Oh, and yes; Beta is taking his headgear cues from Faust. With his official clipboard and fancy shirt I needed a very obvious cue on the head that he is not a sane and balanced person. I've no idea why brown paper bag over the head isn't more popular amongst medical staff - it seems like the kind of trend that should have really taken off.

Wednesday 7 January 2009

Walking wounded

Surgical failures. Stitch zombies. Unfortunate undead. And so on. I told you I was doing these and they finally got done. The basic template I did at the same time as I started the brine zombies, seeing how many zombie-poses I could do (the answer was two, at which point I gave up and started drawing barnacles).

I'm sort-of happy and sort-of not with these. I suffered a bit of block, which was nice to overcome, but they don't quite look battered enough. Especially Charlie. I think I've done all I can with linework - any more and the open areas will be overwhelmed - so that leaves colour. Maybe bruises? I could do a little good by swapping Charlie's head with one of the bandaged ones. I don't think the cartoonish flat shading helps here either

Still, I'll keep pushing on. Better is the enemy of done. I can always go back. Or, more likely, start over with the benefit of having failed once already.


A lot of these recent guys have been made in the service of an idea. Which is not how I started doing things. It's been sort-of good and sort-of bad. It's different, which is useful. On the one hand it gives me something to aim for. On the other, I seem to lack a lot of the inspiration that gets me through the less planned-out ones. There's some electrokinetic "psiborgs" (who need a decent name) that seem adequate, but I felt like I was only going through the motions. They're done - three variants and coloured - but they lack je ne sais quois. Maybe I'll post them if I'm really bored.

I bring this all up, because today I was bricked by inspiration and managed to turn a scribble into something interesting and unexpected to me. I've almost finished vectoring it up, and then I'll have some fun with colours that aren't hospital-blue or dead-fish grey. I'll get some saturation going.

Sunday 4 January 2009


Still trying to just power on through with my laughable attempts at colouring. Shitty as they are, I'm finding that colour makes the characters seem a lot more substantial than they do as linearts. Besides, you can't keep crying over every mistake; you just keep on trying until you run out of the will to continue.

These are cultists of some kind. I intended them to be members of the elder fish-god cult, but they came out looking a little generic, bar the odd skin tone. That book they all carry is the blasphemous and eldritch text of their cult.

I don't know what I was thinking giving them torches - a light source (coloured one even!) being carried by a character really makes life harder. I mostly managed by ignoring it, which makes thes guys look slightly worse than usual. I like the polished bronze effect on the torches and the censer (in case you were wondering what Charlie was carrying) but it makes the rest of them look even worse by comparisson.

I'm not sure about them all having the exact same shade of robe. I might go back and tint two of them a little. Probably desaturate the oddly colourful elritch texts too. But that's stuff to ponder later - these aren't meant to be usable-quality after all, they're a learning experience.

One thing I am happy about is how much better these guys look than my first cultist attempt. He had an open book, whcih was pretty neat, and a decent-looking hood. Unfortunately he was looking straight into the camera with a perfectly symmetrical pose. It looked terrible. I'm trying (not necessarily succeeding) to avoid cheaty boring symmetrical poses. I figure it's good discipline to try and get a little motion into the stances, or at least a 3/4 viewpoint. I figure I should confront bad habbits and crutches - although maybe just one at a time, eh?

The rope-belts are weird. They have volume, when I usually "paint" details like that on for the sake of simplicity. But it actually turned out "cheaper" in terms of lines and nodes to do them that way. I discovered the same thing when I wanted to give a dog a collar. I doubt anyone other than me will notice though. Maybe the rope belts need trailing ends to look more ropy. it would also add a little more interest to the big flat boring robe areas.

Other stuff that I'm sort-of working on:
A hungry velociraptor. A mad doctor's assistant (nurse maybe?) if I can ever work out what they should be holding. A many-armed surgical frankenstein. Some kind of gorilla, or possibly just burly man-thing. - I don't know, all I have is a silhouette so far, but I like it.

Thursday 1 January 2009

Sutured stalkers

This is the kind of nastiness that mad surgeons get up to in their spare time; they open up the brainpan and turn people into Voldos. I imagine it made sense to them at the time - in fact, the one on the right looks like he might have been a surgeon himself who got a little bit carried away with the self-experimentation and then decided to tape a bunch of scalpels to his surgical gloves.

These guys flowed pretty easily from the early scribble. I mean they're far from perfect, and I still have no idea how shading is supposed to work (might think about adding a shine to the middle guy's bondage-suit), but it wasn't a painful birth.

A little annoyed that I've unintentionally duplicated the pose of a character I did a while back. I can probably live with it.

Still to come: surgical failures aka stitch zombies. Also maybe some more fish-related mutantry. I took another look at some crappier brine mutants I abandoned and started wondering if they could be brought up to scratch somehow. I also have an acolyte-type person that may or may not be a part of a sea-worshiping cult. I suspect I'll need some thematic inspiration before I can call that one finished.

Likelihood of all of the above making it off the WIP board: uncertain. But those are my plans. It's not like I have deadlines to work to or milestones to meet. Right now I care mostly about keeping myself interested in the project so that I don't just say "meh" to the whole thing.