Art, reviews and thoughts from a young artist in Plymouth, UK.

Archive for the ‘Digital Art’ Category

Bratpop gig poster design

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My poster design for a local music gig.

I was commissioned to design a poster for a gig which I am going to be performing at (I play guitar).  The specification was for a ’90s theme and to get it done asap!  I started the project by researching ’90s gig posters.  I used Google images and Pinterest and asked my parents what they remembered from that time.

 

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Screenshot from a Google image search for 90s gig posters.

I noticed that the posters were usually on brightly coloured paper or had bright designs, often with simple lettering and striking single images in clashing colours.  I found a few posters with a similar yellow-orange-red colour scheme which I liked and decided to try using something like that myself.

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Posters with a yellow-orange-red colour scheme.

I started to sketch some design ideas to use as the central image on the poster.  I tried sketching band instruments, rock hand gestures, and a “back in time” clock doodle (my sketchbook page is on the right below).  As I played with my sketches I decided I liked the hands rising from the ground and I thought of them as zombie hands (bottom right) in front of a big bass drum moon.  I decided to also draw this sketch in white ink on black paper to see if it looked more interesting that way (on the left below in my black paper sketchbook).

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First sketchbook pages for the poster image.

I then drew out my design images bigger on white paper for scanning (first in pencil, then in pen using my lightbox) as I had decided to use Photoshop to put together the full poster design.  I did the hands and the drums separately so I could layer them and move them around as individual elements.

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Hands pencil sketches.

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Hands inked using my lightbox.

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One large hand from pencil to simple and more bold inkings.

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“Moon” drum kit in pencil sketch then inked.

I also started playing with lettering.  The bands were asked to come up with a name for the show and one of my friends suggested Bratpop, as a play on the ’90s Britpop movement.  This was chosen as the gig title, and I was given the rest of the text to be included on the poster.

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Sketches playing with parody band names and lettering from original gig posters.

I hadn’t designed a gig poster before so I had to find information about scaling and file size.  Erin (the woman who commissioned the poster) asked that it be printable at A4 and A3 so I consulted the poster artwork spec sheet here and set up a new file on Photoshop.  I edited my uploaded images that I wanted to use and put them into separate layers, and I dragged them into different arrangements so I could see how they looked.

After choosing where I wanted the illustrations I chose what colours to use.  I chose a yellow background, which I would add an orangey-red pattern to later and added a black border.  Then I chose a blue shade for the hands thinking of my zombie idea and so that it would clash with the background shade.  The hands were in three layers – light blue main, darker blue shadow, and black outline – and I chose to keep the drums as an outline only so that the hands would stand out.

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Border, background, hands, and drums layers in Photoshop.

I noticed that the text used in a lot of ’90s gig posters had the title in large letters along the top, and the rest of the information was squashed up at the bottom.  Often the text was in two colours only and swapped their colours in alternating lines (so light against dark, then dark against light).

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’90s band posters with examples of lettering.

I added the information text to the poster using this style, and also added the logo for the venue.  I wanted to hand draw the gig title but didn’t have enough time (I was only given a short time to make the poster).

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Poster with the necessary information added.

I researched grungy styles in text and textures, and found that a lot of the text was messy, blobby or cracked.  I decided to add a crackly texture to the show title, and I used a youtube tutorial on distressed text to figure out how to do it myself. I used all lower case characters because popular Britpop bands like Blur, Oasis, Pulp, Suede, and Elastica all used lower case in their band logos.

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My Bratpop gig logo for the top of the poster.

Finally, I needed to create the background pattern.  I found out using another youtube tutorial how to make a halftone colour effect in Photoshop to make the background seem more interesting and have a grungy pattern.  I created a new layer and applied the effect  from the left and right edges using an orangey shade to transparent, which was layered on top of the yellow background.  Finally I brought all the elements together and saved my poster as cmyk files for printing and rgb files for sharing online.

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My final poster design for the Bratpop gig.

I think this project went really well even though I only had a week or so to get it done.  I think the style looks close to other ’90s gig posters and I learned quite a lot from the project, including how to make halftone effects (which I think I’ll find useful for zinemaking) and how to do a distressed text effect.

If you are in or near Plymouth please come along to the gig and share the info with your friends!

 

 

Game Arts at PCA Summer Show #BreakingThrough17

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Andrew Cole – Hero Brawl – Concept Art

Last weekend, Plymouth College of Art opened their main campus to the public for a huge exhibition of work by their students.  The college holds a Summer Show every year to show work from the students who are graduating that year.  I try to go and see as much of the Show as I can because it is great to meet the artists and talk to them about their work, to learn about what the courses are like, and to see so many different styles and forms of artwork.  I will be trying to cover as much of this year’s Show #BreakingThrough17 as possible this year but as there is so much I will be doing it across different blogposts.  This one is about the Game Arts room on the first floor.

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Sarah Damo – Wonder Seekers – Artbook and 3D printed robot

BA (Hons) Game Arts

The projects on display range from interactive VR prototype games to character design work and projects with more focus on story development.  I wore a VR headset and experienced being in a virtual spaceship as it flew around a space station and dodged meteorites as the creator, Jake Kay, piloted it using the keyboard.  Jake’s simulation of being in space felt realistic and I could look at stars and a planet and asteroids all around me.  I felt a bit unbalanced when I took off the headset but I would like to try out more VR projects because they really can give the sense of being in a different world.

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Jake Kay – Back to the Station – Render art

Jake said his project took around four months to model and code and was inspired by other games he enjoys like Elite Dangerous and Star Citizen.  He said he had “lots of fun” on the course and he hopes to find work as an environmental artist in the future.

There are other environmental modelling projects on display in the room.  One is an interactive VR experience called House Vr by Lucy Kisielewska, where the player is able to move around with teleportation (in a similar way to Google Streetview) and pick up and throw objects like cushions and cans using handheld controllers which show up in the VR simulation as a pair of hands.

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Lucy Kisielewska – House VR – Monitor view

I also watched video of a 3-dimensional courtyard built by Amy Watson complete with houses, wagons and a well.

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Amy Watson – Unlockable Dreams – Full display

One of my favourite projects in the Game Arts room is Sarah Damo’s Wonder Seekers.  She has some beautiful concept artwork on display as well as a 3D printed model of a robot, an art book, and a video of short animated scenes.  Sarah told me that Wonder Seekers is about “the story of a girl and a parrot in a post-apocalyptic world full of marvels” and that she wanted to do something “a bit different” by creating a post-apocalyptic world that “isn’t dark”.

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Sarah Damo – Wonder Seekers – Artwork

Sarah explained that her work is inspired by many things, including Romanticism, Impressionism and 90’s cartoons.  She works using Photoshop and creates short animations with After Effects.  She showed me how she had deliberately placed a three-dimensional robot character on a two-dimensional background drawing in order to make the character stand out.

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Sarah Damo – Wonder Seekers – Full display

Not all the concepts on display are for video games.  Jack Challoner has created bright and colourful artwork for his card game design project The Art Of Restrict.  I read through his detailed explanation of his decision making and artistic process designing monsters.  He thought about real creatures in our world and incorporated some of their anatomical features into his invented creatures to make them more believable.  He has thought deeply about colour, shape, environment, movement, and behaviour.

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Jack Challoner – The Art Of Restrict – Artwork

Another project I was really impressed by was Hero Brawl by Andrew Cole who has designed characters for a “team brawler” video game.  Andrew has carefully explained every stage of his character design process in an artbook, including how he attempted to emulate the style of Norman Rockwell’s character paintings and how he has combined elements of  Steampunk, Samurai, Medieval and Nazi armour and clothing to create his character designs.

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Andrew Cole – Hero Brawl – Page from the Artbook

The artbook for Hero Brawl really showed how much work goes into character design – Andrew identified an aesthetic style that fits the concept, did lots of drawing and painting exercises using stock images to get a feel for that style, studied history for ideas and inspiration, and painted characters and costumes from all directions.  I would like to see more books like this one published regardless of whether the games are made or not as they are a really interesting insight into how the artist works and into character design.  I hope that PCA is able to keep copies of these Artbooks for their library because I would like to have a much longer look at them.

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Andrew Cole – Hero Brawl – Full display

There is lots more in the room to see but unfortunately I can’t cover everything and some of the work is interactive so it is best experienced for yourself!  You can visit the PCA Summer Show until the 22nd June and the Game Arts room is on the first floor.  The Tavistock Place campus is also having an Open Day this Saturday 17th June so if you are interested in their Foundation, Undergraduate or Postgraduate courses you should go!

 

My Gallery

"About Me", an illustration I did using Promarkers and a Pentel brush pen in February 2017.

“About Me”, an illustration I did using Promarkers and a Pentel brush pen in February 2017.

I have added a Gallery page to my blog. It collects together a selection of my work as a young artist in Plymouth. There are examples of my illustration and game art work as well as examples of other types of creative work I have completed or participated in. Don’t forget to check my instagram as I add new work there regularly!

Global Game Jam 2017

 

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‘Quake Rescue gameplay screen shot

Last weekend I took part in the Global Game Jam 2017 with my brother J with support from my mum and Plymouth Game Devs.  This is the third game jam that we have done as a team, KitiJenGames.  The theme was “Waves”, it was a 48 hour jam, and our jam site was ThinqTanq.

The event started with a video about the Global Game Jam.  The video explained that the GGJ is a massive international event involving over 600 jam sites and more than 40,000 people across 90 countries!  We saw clips of people working in teams all over the world.  Most of the people in the video looked like they were in their twenties and I didn’t see anyone else around our age but I hope that there are others out there somewhere!  There was a welcome talk by the Extra Credits team.  Extra Credits is a YouTube channel that gives advice and has discussions about game development, and me and J really enjoy their videos.

The narrator explained some of the different reasons people take part in GGJ, like making prototypes for future development, to share their passion for making games, and because they love developing new games.  They then gave advice on taking part in a game jam:

  • Keep It Simple!
  • Communicate with your team and the other participants.  Being able to reach out for help from other developers is a benefit of doing a jam.
  • Keep brainstorming short and develop your ideas through the jam. A game could start with an idea that seems odd but could be well made and fun (e.g “Mario’s core concept is a jumping plumber on drugs.”)
  • Compromise with your team, and don’t dig your heels in.
  • Know what to save for next time!  Stay focused on your main idea and leave some of your other ideas for another time.  Try keeping a “For the sequel” file of ideas.
  • Get some sleep.

At the end of the video there were lots of short clips to introduce the waves theme.  We weren’t allowed to talk about the theme on social media until the next day because everyone has to wait until the last timezone (Hawaii) is told the theme!  It was just after 5pm on Friday when we found out the theme.

Me, J and our mum had a short brainstorming session together, and we talked about different kinds of waves e.g. sea waves, waves of monsters, sound waves, seismic waves…  We talked about what ideas we had related to them and about different game genres, and decided to make a game where you had to save as many people as possible from an earthquake using a giant claw to take them to a safe zone before the timer runs out.  We planned it out on paper and made a short video with our little sister.  We would only have until Saturday evening to make the game because we had plans for Sunday (visiting the Eden Project with friends), also we couldn’t work on Saturday morning because me and J both have regular Clubs then.  We knew that we had very little time so we worked for a couple of hours from home that night, I worked on the art for the main character and J started to code for the shaking background and the people to rescue.

 

 

In the morning we couldn’t do any work because J had his Code Club and I had my NatSatClub.  I had a workshop on using Photoshop to make animations.  I got back to ThinqTanq just after 1pm to start work on our game again, but my mum had lost the stylus for my drawing tablet!  Luckily Viki (ALittleRedPanda) had one spare and lent it to me.  J was responsible for the coding and music, I was in charge of making the art assets, and our mum supervised us to make sure we were on track.

The art assets I had to make included the character in peril, the claw to pick them up with, and the safe zone to drop them in.  I made all of them in Manga Studio 5 in a pixel art style.  The character has their hands in the air, and has a little animation which makes them look left then right, to give the impression they are running around screaming.  The animation only uses two frames.  I designed the first sprite, then for the second frame I flipped my design and edited the t-shirt on the flipped version so that it was correctly aligned.  I only had time to design one character, which my family all say looks like me!

 

Next I worked on the claw, which has an “open” design while empty (and looks a bit like a propeller), and a “closed” design when holding a character.  I did the “open” design first, inspired by the claw machines in arcades.  This was another two frame/costume animation, for the second frame I erased the outer joints of the claw.  I am happy with my design which does look like a mechanical claw from a birds-eye view.

I designed the “safe zone” as a white square with rounded edges and a big red cross on it like a cartoon ambulance.  I also hand-lettered “SAFE ZONE” on the digital image using my stylus and big, black and blocky letters, to make it easy for the player to identify.

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By then J had got most of the game code sorted out, so I sent him my finished sprites so he could add them into the game (he was using plain rectangles which my sprites had to replace).  I still had to make the background and the start screen, but my hand had started hurting after making the first few sprites so I took a short break and tested the game.  J had managed to also make the game music in BeepBox which he said he wanted to sound like an earthquake.  We were laughing over the music and the little screaming characters running about because it was quite comical and ridiculous.

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I got back to work and started making the background.  We had decided to use a road and pavement setting and I dotted rocks and rubble all over it to give the impression of an earthquake.  These small elements are also necessary so that when the background shakes or a character moves around it you can imagine the movement and it seems like a real space rather than a flat background.  I learned about doing this when we made our last game, Infection!  I designed one pile of rocks and rubble and I cloned it to dot around because I was short of time to make lots of different piles of rubble.

The last thing I had to design was the Start Screen.  A Start Screen is important to explain what the point of the game is and what the player has to do.  I chose a colour scheme that made me think of dirt/earth to go with the game theme.  I chose not to use a ready made font but instead I hand-lettered the game title and instructions using my stylus.  I didn’t want to use a font that someone else had made as I wanted our game to have its own original look to it.  I tried to give the letters a messy but simple look.  I wanted to also make a Game Over screen but my hand was hurting too much to do any more drawing and we were running out of time.  Finally, my dad, my mum, me and Jenson all recorded voice clips for the game for when the player saves the little people.  We used an Android phone to make these wav files (and the Hertz app) and we tried to make funny silly voices to fit with the feel of our game.

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It was really fun making ‘Quake Rescue and being part of the Global Game Jam.  It felt like I was part of something giant with all the other jammers around the world.  The other teams at our site and Jack (SoGoodStudios) the organiser were all friendly and supportive.  I think our final game works well and I would describe it as a fun minigame.  I think we have definitely improved our skills since our first game jam and our teamwork is better too but it did get hard later on Saturday when we were tired and J wanted to finish up before I did.  I am looking forward to doing more game jams through this year!

Links:

‘Quake Rescue page on the Global Game Jam 2017 site

‘Quake Rescue on itch.io

‘Quake Rescue on Scratch

ThinqTanq jam site page on the Global Game Jam 2017 site

All games from the teams at our jam site

 

 

 

 

Games for Better Game Jam

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My ‘cover art’ for our game Infection! showing my final designs for the white blood cell, antibiotic and bacteria characters.

On the weekend of 30th September to 2nd October KitiJenGames (the games development team consisting of me and my brother) participated in the Games for Better 48 hour game jam.  The game jam was organized by Jack from SoGoodStudios and Oli from Sizeable Games because they believe that games can be a good tool for educating people about issues in the world. The game jam theme was Antibiotic Resistance.

On the Friday evening before the jam we went to Plymouth University’s Babbage Building to listen to talks from experts.  The first speaker was Dr Victoria Hurth (Twitter) who is an Associate Professor in Marketing and an expert in sustainability.  She talked about sustainable consumption and explained how animals are being bred (for food) in poor environments and they are given antibiotics to keep them healthy.  Because of this more bacteria are becoming resistant to antibiotics leading to the creation of ‘superbugs’.  The second speaker was Dr Mathew Upton who is an Associate Professor in Medical Microbiology and he said that “Resistance Is Inevitable” when we use antibiotics and explained about bacterial conjugation.  The third speaker was Dr Richard Ayres (Twitter) who is the Lead of Population Health at Peninsula Medical School and a practicing GP.  He explained that sometimes doctors don’t get a lot of time to assess their patients and this can lead to prescription of antibiotics when they are unnecessary.  The talks were really interesting and I didn’t know a lot about antibiotic resistance before them so I learned a lot.

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Dr Mathew Upton showed this image of resistant bacteria and I used it to design my bacteria character.

As soon as the talks finished the game jam started.  It was late on a Friday night so me and my brother J went home and talked about game ideas.  We decided to make a game where you play as an antibiotic and you have to defend the white blood cells from bacteria.  As you play, some bacteria would become resistant and you would have to power up with extra different coloured antibiotics, causing the bacteria to then become even stronger!  The game would be impossible to win and the goal would be to get the highest score possible.  We worked as a team to make a plan on paper and we decided that J would be in charge of doing the coding using Unity and I would be in charge of all the art.  J didn’t know much about using Unity yet but he thought this would be a good chance to learn more.  I decided to go with a cute pixel art look and that I would use Manga Studio 5 to make my files.

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My initial designs for the bacteria character

On Saturday morning J went to his Code Club (Twitter) and I went to my Art Club so we couldn’t get started on our game until the afternoon.  The list of things I needed to design was the bacteria, the power-up, the white blood cells, the antibiotic, the background and the border.  I began working on the main character designs, sketching on paper.  My antibiotic character was a blue pill with a smiley face that would have a little rocking animation.  My first attempt at a bacteria character looked too much like a little sun (very jolly!) so I redesigned to make it a bit more evil, and came up with a ball with angular spikes and a mean face, which would wiggle as it moved.  My white blood cell characters were dopey-looking spheres,and in our game they wouldn’t defend themselves but would just hang around until they were killed by bacteria.

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My initial designs for the antibiotic character.

J asked if I could provide my designs as a sprite sheet. I learnt how to make one from a tutorial and then drew the different sprites for their animations using my Wacom Bamboo tablet and Manga Studio.  After I sent a sprite sheet of the antibiotic over we needed a background. We used a basic plain one at first but it was difficult to tell if the character was moving around, so I made another background with rectangles of different sizes and similar colours, and for the border I used the same pattern but with darker colours.  It was a simple design (supposed to represent the inside of a body) but I really like how it turned out.  I created the sprite sheets for the other characters and sent them over to J’s computer for him to add in to the game, and I designed some ‘cover art’ to put on our itch.io page (and at the top of this post).

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Me and J are on the left eating pizza, Jack and Oli are in the middle.  This photo was taken and posted on Twitter by Eleanor Browne twitter.com/incubationeb

We had to haul our computers to the Babbage building on campus on Saturday night because J was struggling with making the animation work, and Jack helped us out with that and him and Oli gave us some tips.  We arrived just in time to share the free pizza which we ate while listening to video game music and chatting.  My mum had to start helping J with his side of the gamemaking and they spent a lot of time searching online for tutorials and help, but I think he learned a lot about Unity during this project.  We had to give up the idea of power ups and new levels because we ran out of time, and there are a few bugs with the scores, but overall I think our game is fun and cute.

Our finished game is Infection! and you can play it in a browser on your computer.  You can see the Twitter feed for the jam (and discover more of the games) at #GamesForBetter.  I really like Lumberjack and Chickens by Lisoo and I like the look of Dr. Swiperson by @CantGetOurName.

Jupiter Hadley played all the Games for Better games (including ours) for her YouTube channel Jupi Plays (support Jupiter on Patreon) and the judges sent us some feedback to help us improve our gamemaking in the future.  J has signed up to a Unity course to learn more for our next project.  I have signed up to a course on Pixel Art so that I can improve my skills and make more detailed sprites.  Our courses are both on Udemy and if you look around online you can find big discounts on them.  I am also researching game cover art because I would like to improve my cover art illustrations.

I really enjoyed this game jam and I’m looking forward to the next one, and though 48 hour game jams are really hard work they are well worth it because you have to push yourself and so you can learn and improve your skills a lot in a short amount of time.  Follow the link for my post about our first game jam.

 

Ludum Dare 36

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Roman defence start screen

Last weekend me and my brother were invited by Jack from SoGoodStudios to take part in Ludum Dare, an event where you spend a few days working by yourself or with a team to develop a videogame from concept to publication.  The theme this time around (for LD36) was Ancient Technology.

I talked with my brother about game genres and what skills we have, and we decided that he would do all of the game coding in Scratch because he has experience using that, and I would work on pixel art for the game.  Our idea was to do a tower defence game, called Roman Defence.  In our game you are a Roman soldier defending a town from escaped wild animals. It is a relatively easy game, using only a few keys, but as you play the enemies get faster and it becomes more challenging.  There is also a power-up in the shape of Pompeiian bread that appears every 30 seconds.

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Roman defence game screen

The game was written in Scratch but converted to Flash for playing on the web using the  converter at http://junebeetle.github.io/converter/.  You can see inside our code on the Scratch page for Roman Defence.  I used an Android app called Pixel Art Editor for the visual elements and we used PixiTracker for the music.  It was the first time we had used these apps.  They were a bit confusing at first but we learned enough to be able to produce what we needed.

The only experience I have had in the past of doing pixel art is building in Minecraft creative mode.  Working on my tablet to create the sprites was fun but zooming in and out all the time was a bit of a pain.  First I researched online to find images of Roman shields, helmets and spears, and for pictures of lions and rhinos.  Then I opened the app and created a canvas in the size needed for that sprite or background.  My brother J told me what size he wanted for each object, as he was coding alongside me using just coloured blobs and rectangles until my art was ready.  I thought about the images I had found in my research and did rough paper sketches of what I wanted, then started to work in the Pixel Art Editor app.  Sometimes the poses weren’t quite right, so for example my first draft of a lion looked very tame!  But it was easy to change and add shading etc.  I like my designs but it would have been good to have had more time to create more animations and enemies.  The only animation in the game is that the soldier’s head and arm bob up and down as he moves.

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Roman Defence game over screen

I saved the images as .png files with transparent backgrounds and used BlueTooth to send them to the computer that J was working on.  I sent them one by one as I completed them so we could see straight away what they looked like in the game.  It took only a few clicks for J to replace his blobs with my art and I felt satisfied and proud seeing them in the game.  Sometimes I sent partly completed images just to check that they looked right on the screen.  At the end of our Sunday working session I also drew the game title for the start screen.  That took more time than the other images because I had to make sure the characters were evenly spaced.  J said he wanted fat characters like in the Metroid logo, so I did some research into the old Metroid games and used that as a starting point, but obviously we didn’t want something space age!  I think my final design looks like an authentic retro game title.

When we had finished Roman Defence after two long days of hard work we opened an itch.io account together, calling our team KitiJenGames, and uploaded our game there.  Then we created a Ludum Dare account also called KitiJenGames and submitted our game to the Game Jam.  I also wrote a blogpost about making Roman Defence and Jupiter Hadley (support her with Patreon) played our game in Part 3 of her LD36 YouTube videos and again in her Plymouth Game Devs LD36 video.  We have been playing lots of other games which were submitted to the Jam and leaving some comments.  Two of our favourites so far are Tank In Dungeon by @BentouDev which we would buy if it were a longer game, and Sacrifice by @tayl1r which is interesting because it is such an odd (and dark!) concept.

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“Disgolem”, a rhythm game for LD36 by Jack (SoGoodStudios), OhCarson (SizeableGames) and Emmy (Ghoulkiss)

We were lucky to be working on our game opposite the team which consisted of Jack from SoGoodStudios, Emmy (Ghoulkiss, support her with Patreon) and @OhCarson from Sizeable Games.  They were helpful with advice and testing our game and we learned a lot just from seeing how their own development process worked.  Their game for LD36 is another of our favourites, and is a rhythm/puzzle game called Disgolem.  Emmy’s golems are adorable and are brightly coloured with geometric designs.  I was really pleased to meet her as I admire her work but I was a bit shy and didn’t say much! I also briefly met Will from SoGoodStudios and the BrainyBeard team, and the Plymouth Game Devs have tweeted and Facebooked our project.  We definitely plan to make more games, J is getting started with learning to use Unity and we already have some ideas for our next project, so Watch This Space!

 

 

 

 

 

Today’s Sketch

Roses

I created this with Manga Studio 5, which I got for my birthday a few months ago.  The software is similar to Photoshop except it just has tools for drawing and is easier to use.

The idea for this picture came from a card I drew a while ago (on my post Art cards from May).

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