Saturday, January 6, 2007

Some random artwork

I've been doing some rather random drawing lately. None of them are large scale paintings, but they've given me a chance to dabble a lot with vector graphics using Expression Design, the program I've been building for the past year.

Traditionally I've been more of a painterly fellow so it is quite fascinating delving into the much more mechanical world of bezier curves, strokes and fills. The best metaphor I've heard to describe the process is a comment by Aaron Jasinski that drawing with vectors is like "making a picture using cut out pieces of paper." Quite true.

Holiday Couple
This was a quick picture I did for this year's holiday card. I have no idea who these people might be. Obviously however, the lady is incredibly charming and intelligent.

Club Silicon Logo
Here is a logo for a friend that was drawn half in Painter and half in Illustrator. I'm still not sure whether I like the brown or the blue one better.

"Faster than Lite" Space Strategy game graphics
I had a quick idea for a strategy game that used one simple verb: "drag a token to a location." With many strategy games users need to figure out selection, movement, attacking, stacking, managing their stack, etc. Here you move the piece and watch the results. There is actually quite a bit complexity that results. Pieces can attack, build new bases, lay mines, pick up power ups, set up combos, etc and all the user has to learn initially is that simple drag and drop command. This is a design tailored to the "Start playing in under 30 seconds" rule.

The graphics use a simple technique for taking layered 2D vector shapes and squishing them in a group so that they make a faux 3D shape. All you do is:
  • Offset each layer from the previous one on the Y-axis by a short amount
  • Squish each layer in screen space by about 20%
  • Rotate the layers around a common axis of rotation.
Voila, you have a smoothly rotating '3D' object in isometric space. It reminds me a lot of topographical maps. It is a good example of building something interesting with what you have at hand. With a bit of tweaking I suspect this artistic style could be quite evocative. It is also remarkably inexpensive.

(Click image to view at full size.)

Hope the New Year is treating everyone well! My resolution? Release another product this year! It has been over a year since I've had a new version of something I've designed officially go out the door and it feels a bit strange. :-)

Take care


  1. Speaking of "start playing in under 30 seconds", have you tried GalCon yet? Real-time strategy in a five-minute game... it's great.

  2. Where can I try the program you're building? I'd love to beta test it!

  3. Ansible? I see you've read Ender's Game. I actually thought of building a game something like it. It'd be a kickass property, to be honest.
    I'd love to see a mechanic designed around the secret weapon they have, the chain-reaction based one. That could be a very juicy game weapon, ripe with feedback potential if it was designed right.

  4. wow, I can't believe I never thought of that faux-3D method before. So simple yet so genius!

  5. BTW, there is a space game that I've seen that uses this faux 3d approach. You may have heard of it, it's called Gate 88 -- I recently found it, and am very intrigued by Queasy's stuff.

    He makes it look even more old-school and Atari-vectorish, but that's exactly how he gives his units depth in his space action-RTS.

    I think your look is a fantastic improvement though -- well done! I'm definitely a fan of your stuff.


  6. Hi Danc,

    Love the game idea -- especially the faux 3D art style and your continued meditation on the theme of games as discovery of a play mechanism through interaction. I have a strange question, though: did this idea originally start out in a different form? It seems like perhaps you first envisioned this as a pirate game (something similar to the "Pirates Constructible Strategy Game") but then decided to give it a sci-fi skin instead. Am I mistaken? Either way, I'd love to hear more about how you select the setting for your games. When a given play-mechanic could enhabit any number of generes, how do you decide on a setting? Maybe you could post an essay on this sometime.

    Thanks for sharing your work.

  7. You can get a very creaky alpha of Expression Design here.

    Matching a setting with a game mechanic is indeed a giant essay all by itself. In this case, the situation was much simpler. I have an unhealthy fixation with tiny spaceships. I've got design documents going back to when I was a small child that describe in excruciating detail how little spaceships attack one another. This is merely an extension of that fixation.

    Ender's Game! Yeah, baby. Why aren't there any games that are 'inspired heavily' by the Ender's Game fiction? It is ripe for all sorts of goodness. The "Little Doctor" is a basic chain lightening spell...easy to implement. Imagine hundreds of players playing online across the ansible link, controlling ships hundreds of light years away in a glorious fight against the Enemy. So sweet, I can almost taste it. :-)

    take care

  8. Beautiful artwork, the lot of it. My favorite is of course the cybernetic keyboard playing Jawa, and the picture of the two lovebirds for some reason reminded me of children's picture books in the 60s and 70s... perhaps a clean Eric Carle style. Very nice!