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  • Ships

    September 3, 2004

    I have a ratty folder of every spaceship drawing I’ve done since I was in the 5th grade. Star Wars had just come out, and every able-bodied young man in the building started drawing. We would meet during recess and discuss the latest additions to our armada. Most kids dropped out, but I found a couple of people who liked spaceships and we kept at it through the 10th grade.

    You can see I always drew from the side…I could never grasp how to draw perspective. I’m still trying to figure that out.

    990-ds18.jpgI drew my first spaceship for a 5th grade science project. We got to play futurist and imagine what things would be like in the future. I designed in great detail (for my 5th grade mind, anyway) a long-term space colonization vessel with a cool support dune buggy, after doing a lot of reading about space. I think Mrs. Nunnalee was highly amused.

    990-ds01.jpgThis is the first fighter I ever drew, also around the 5th grade I believe. I think I showed this to Freddy Von Lohmann and Wade Chow, who were the reigning kings of spaceship design in the classroom. And so disappointed I was in the color, I only drew one more before sticking to black and white for the next 8 years. My drawings really sucked, but I kept at it.

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    This series of ships shows me struggling with representing 3d form in a flat space. I used a small straight-edge in this period of time, and graph paper to try to maintain symmetry. The designs are based on my childish notions of “fast and cool” equals “long and pointy”.

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    Around 1980, we went back to the States for a summer, and I saw Battlestar Galactica on TV. I got a picture of a Colonial Viper and started drawing three-engined ships with skid landing gear. See the attempts at foreshortened wings? You can also see that I am starting to play with modular components: engines, laser cannons are becoming standardized as I draw them more.

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    And then I saw Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, and actually bought a model of the main fighter. I paid great attention to the way the cockpit was modeled, and adapted it to the fighter series that had started with the Battlestar line. The basic “flying eraser” fuselage remains, but engine placement and cockpit remains somewhat varied. I drew maybe a dozen of these, trying to figure out the best arrangement.

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    I finally start to shake off the Buck Rogers influences and pursue more original ship designs, around the 10th grade. There’s one last gasp.

    990-ds17.jpgThe height of the “space race” in school was during the Battle Cruiser Yamato period, known as Star Blazers here in the States. In Yamato, the earth defense forces are basically refurbishing old WWII battleships and sending them into space. They had main guns and bristled with smaller anti-aircraft turrets. The more turrets, the better your ship. I remember staying up ALL NIGHT drawing turrets on this beast, easily crushing my opponents at recess, whos jaws dropped to the floor. How many are there? After that, I think everyone lost interest in drawing turrets, including myself.

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    I finally broke away from graph paper in the 10th grade. The middle fighter, drawn in 1984, was the last ship I drew with a straight edge! You can see that by 1986, I had a better way of doing wing foreshortening and had learned something about line thicknesses and shading. Still drawing from the side, though.

    990-htank2.gif.jpgThis was a significant breakthrough drawing for me.. It was one of the first no-straightedge drawings, had some good shading, and I was very pleased with the overall FORM. It was perhaps the first thing I had drawn that I knew what the shape would be like in 3D. More or less. I also liked the controlled placement of detail to create points of interest. The gun mounts are still a bit flat looking, but it was a big leap.

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    I continued to draw a bit my freshman year of college. These pictures were drawn while doing laundry in the laundry room. But it was 1987, and I was starting to switch to computer graphics using DeluxePaint II. Sketching would become increasingly rare in my life. You can see the Macross (aka Robotech) influence in the tail and fuselage.

    990-tships.gif.jpgThese are the last spaceships I drew, around 1992 as concept art for Star Reach, a computer game that I was helping my buddy Mark create artwork for.

    » More Photos on Flickr

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  • Crixa (1995-1996)

    September 3, 2004

    990-title.jpgThe work of many people, my first real project, many lessons learned and things to share.

    Qualia Games was founded by Mark Kern, and I came onboard with him to realize our high school dream to create our own game company. While this venture wasn’t successful, it did become the springboard to later opportunities. Based on this game, the entire team was invited to join Blizzard Entertainment after we closed operation, but only Mark took them up on the offer. I went to Tiburon to work as Art Manager on their Playstation version of NCAA Football ’99. I think Mark and I needed a break from each other :-)

    This was a real education, fraught with stress and learning-on-the-job. I learned that technical smarts is the least important factor in the success of a group endeavor. I’m grateful for the opportunity to work with some of the finest individuals I have ever met:

    • Alen Yen: Visual Design, Level Design
    • Bretton Wade: Lead Programmer
    • Jeremy Biddle: Programmer
    • Ray Archie and Lee Vodra: Sound Design, Music
    • Dave Seah: Game Design, Interface Design, Art Technical Direction, Support Programming, Support Graphics, Project Lead
    • Mark Kern: Visionary and owner, sound engine programming.

    Crixa – The Last 2D Shooter

    990-crixa-int3-4.jpg Crixa was originally designed as an in-house test game for the team to get their feet wet. We were fully funded for two years, so we wanted to push out a quick game that would help develop our graphics libraries and smooth out the creative process. However, about a month after hiring our first three employees and signing two-year leases, our funding crashed and disappeared. Holy shit. The year was 1995.

    We had to convert Crixa into a product that could land a development deal or die. The web had yet to evolve into a viable marketplace, so Mark put his efforts into contacting possible publishers. We got some interest from (I think) Bungie (then located in Cambridge, Massachussetts if I remember correctly) and Blizzard Entertainment, who had just released WarCraft II, the sequel to their modestly-successful Real-Time Strategy game WarCraft. WarCraft II was their first huge success, and flush with cash they were looking to expand their portfolio with some smaller, quicker-to-develop games. We landed a 10-month development deal, and began to develop Crixa into a more fleshed-out game.

    Crixa, as it was originally conceived before all this drama ensued, was a 2D top-down shooter borrowing elements from some of my favorite games: Star Maze on the Apple II was a notable influence. The open-play mechanics of games like Rescue Raiders and Castle Wolfenstein (the original 2D one from Silas Warner) were also a strong influence. We also wanted the smoothness of classic vector games like Rip Off, but with nicer graphics. We dedicated a whole 32 rotations for each ship graphic, which consumed a lot of memory. Remember, at the time there was no hardware sprite scaling in Direct X. I don’t think Direct3D was even around then, 3D acceleration not becoming widespread until 1997 or 1998.

    The Expanded Game added mission elements, a “base” you could move around to support your position. Various parts of the levels were connected by a power transfer and switch system, which could be controlled through a “state manager” in our level file.

    We created our levels using, of all things, Aldus Freehand. This was artist-accessible, and the exported PostScript output could be parsed into a form that Crixa could load. It was an inspired, if somewhat ungainly, hack. But we didn’t have to create an in-game level editor.

    Our last delivery was a 3-level game demonstrating the graphics/physics engine (sweetly done by Bretton, who’s gone on to accomplish great things). We’ll probably put it online again…Jeremy (now in SF) has it almost working on modern systems for both Mac and PC.

    Alas, Crixa was deemed not competitive in the marketplace any longer, especially because another game with similar play mechanics had come out. The numbers of the game were not promising, so we were cancelled. Qualia lingered on for a few more months subsisting on contract work, but at the end the company could no longer afford to maintain payroll and we closed. Stressful times. It took years for me to get over it, but it’s a testament to the character of the team that we’re still all friends.

    Ship Models

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    Game Screens

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    Bosses

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  • Qualia (1994-1997)

    September 3, 2004

    990-96-qblimps.jpg Qualia Games was the game company founded by my high school buddy Mark Kern.

    Nasal Wars

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    Nasal Wars was an internal training game project resembling Joust; it runs only on Mac OS 9 unfortunately.

    I made these splash screens under the art direction of Alen Yen; we were swapping roles for the purposes of cross-training.

    Agent Intrigue

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    Agent Intrigue was a concept we pitched to another company, a kind of strategic action game inspired by Joel Surnow’s old La Femme Nikita television show on the USA Cable Network. Before you scoff, that’s the same Joel Surnow who did 24

    The GUI is me, using a technique that Alen had shown me (lots of little bits of junk glued together). The 3D work is by a contractor.

    Misc

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    Blimps! Airships! They’re cool and majestic and mysterious! That’s why they are the logo. No other reason. Rendered in 3ds Max R1 and processed in Photoshop. The cards I designed were pretty cool…output for maximum imagesetter resolution by doing the halftoning ourself!

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  • DuelTris (1992)

    September 3, 2004

    990-92-dworld.gif.jpgDuelTris was a game for the Apple IIGS, a 16-bit computer that was somewhat popular from 1986-1990. I met the programmer through AppleLink: Personal Edition’s Apple II Art & Graphics Forum (AGR), and we produced this game. It was a minor hit in the Apple IIGS shareware arena, and I actually made a small chunk of money from it. It was this experience that gave me the idea that I might be able to make a go at doing graphics professionally; this was just after graduating with my Masters in Electrical Engineering and not feeling too good about it.

    All the graphics on the Apple IIGS’s best color mode were 320×200 with a maximum of 16 colors per scanline. With tricks, you could have up to 16 zones of 16 palettes. The main screen used an even fancier trick to get a 3200-color mode, though it’s limited to 256 colors in actual use.

    All graphics for Dueltris were done with the Apple IIGS version of DeluxePaint II Enhanced, still one of my favorite programs for it’s excellent pixel-level control. Photoshop still can learn a thing or two from this venerable program (hint: Photoshop’s pixel tools suck by comparison). However, the title screen did make use of the IBM-PC version of DeluxePaint for adding the sky colors and bottom logo green. The resulting 256 color file was then run through DreamWorld’s tools. I could be misremembering this…

    Note: Most of these screens for the Apple IIGS will look kind of squashed (this is particularly noticeable in the other portfolio sections). That’s because pixels on the IIGS were 20% taller than they were wide, a vestige of that machine’s compatibility with television video. Also, these GIF files were scaled by 200% so you could actually see them on a modern computer. They will appear quite chunky, but on the IIGS the graphics were smoothed out.

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    The main playing screen uses 16 colors, except for the bottom row, which used a separate palette of 16 colors to introduce more greens. The high scores screen on the right show the progression from flat line art to filled 3D.

    Note: The statues are based on a book on Incan architecture. Why Incan? At the time, I think we were trying to get away from looking like every other “falling blocks” style game. I remember doing a “high tech” version that didn’t look quite as good…lacking the colors for nice metallic effects there. I wonder now how DreamWorld really felt about the stone look.

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    Some more graphics from the screen. The Album5.gif never appears in the game…it’s something I just put together because I thought it might look cool, and I liked the sunface thing I had made in the game. This one uses all 16 colors, which the game screen version couldn’t because it had to share colors with the blocks. The credits screen appears when you quit the game, or you look at the credits. I can’t remember anymore.

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  • Star Reach (1993)

    September 3, 2004

    990-93-starreach.gif.jpgFirst commercial artist gig for a game, arranged through buddy Mark who did the 3D ship modeling. We did the artwork over the summer of 92. Star Reach was a game similar to Star Control. I never got a copy, so I’m not sure how it actually played.

    (BTW, I didn’t do the ad layout)

    interface

    Created with DeluxePaint II Enhanced on my IBM-PC, a rippin’ 486DX2-66!

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    aliens

    Created with, I think, Aldus PhotoStyler and touched up in DeluxePaint II Enhanced. I didn’t have PhotoShop back then…

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    landscapes

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    Rendered in VistaPro…remember that? This was way before Bryce was available.

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    sprites

    Lots of sprites to show how things were blowing up. Created in DeluxePaint II Enhanced. Still kicks butt over PhotoShop, in my opinion, when it comes to fast pixel editing. 313-93-sprbuild3.gif.jpg313-93-sprexplo2.gif.jpg313-93-sprexplo3.gif.jpg

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    title (unused)

    990-93-title-st5.gif.jpgTitle screen for the game, went through several revisions, but never had the “pop” that the publisher was looking for. A different artist made it. Never saw it.

    These were my first attempts at making any kind of 24-bit color image, incidentally, or drawing anything like this in perspective.

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