Monday, July 21, 2008

Genghis Khan

Phew, it's been a hectic couple of weeks, so the Blog went to the wall a bit. I came up for air out of the work swamp at the weekend and Elaine and me went to see 'Mongol' at the local art cinema. We didn't know anything about this film as we've been a bit out of the loop, what with being in new country and all, but we were sold on the poster alone- man with two big swords. The film didn't disappoint, beautiful scenery, great combat sequences and a treasure trove of reference for me when it comes out on DVD. I can't recommend it highly enough.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008


I loved doing maps when I played D&D. Most of them never saw the light of day as my gaming groups were never what you would call 'dedicated', but then nor was I. While i was trawling for stuff on my hard drive that might be usefull for the dungeon tiles I came across this one.

I did it mainly for fun and to keep me busy while I was waiting for work to come in. For some reason I had it in my portfolio the last time I was out at WOTC (I think because I just copied everything that looked colourfull into a folder to show to art directors...professional) and I ended up getting comissioned for some battlemaps on the strength of it.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Dungeon Tiles (3)

The first thing i did with the Dungeon tiles, was ignore any notions of research or preparation and just went ahead and made some. "Madness!". Not so, my reasoning was that a good place to start would be to see how they're used, as that's they're primary purpose (looking nice is secondary). I didn't go as far as to use them in a game, at the moment I'm just thinking of the process of printing the tiles and setting them up.
So these are my very first stab at the set. I wasn't going to post them, as strictly they're a 'tool' and not a finish or even a sketch (I suppose you could call them a 'sketch of use' or something), but I thought it would be fun to put up what I would do with no research just so I can compare it with the end result when i finish. I decided on a straight section of corridor and a 'T' junction, even ignoring my plan of the tiles I wanted to produce, and came up with this...

There's not much to say about the actual design of them. From my experience with the maps for D&D, I knew that I wanted to include shadows to create depth, and 'clutter' (little bits of stone and cracks on the floor) to create a bit of noise and interest. More importantly though is what I learned from printing them up, cutting them free, and placing them. Well I didn't learn very much to be honest, nothing ground breaking anyway, but it's all important -
-need to be printed onto thick card, or mounted on foam board (or similar)
-need cutting guides at either end (and at corners) to match up the tiles (not a big concern but would be nice)
- the ones I've made for this are very dull, not much better than a grid, there's not a lot of story in them.
-because they're line drawings they'll photocopy nicely (I only realised this when i had a printed piece of paper in my hand. Printer ink is expensive, so this is great news)
-the line work I've used is very timid, and therefor confusing, I should think about being bolder.

I'm sure I've probably learned a lot more without realising it, but that will only come about as I start to design more tiles. It's a good start though. here's the version that are ready for print, if you want to make a very boring dungeon (remember not to scale them on the printer, like I did first go...)

Thursday, July 3, 2008


The Overbeing piece that was used for the Orb of Eventide at the magic site is in the visual spoiler list now, so I had a look to see what I had for it and figured it was worth popping up. I can't find the initial brief, but I remember it had to be someone worshiping a giant forest spirit thing, and she had giant owl(s) with her.

It was pretty straight run this piece, the only hick-up I had was in the initial sketch. The giant owl I put in was, well, too giant, and ended up making her look like she was small and had wings. Mostly my sketch was a bit pedestrian and confusing (or it failed on all counts ;) Here's what was said.

[Overbeing] Chippy
Some scale issues here, though.
The huge single owl is kinda making her look small... And also like she can fly, which she cant.
Both of those things need to be mitigated a bit.
Filling the frame with her also will contribute to scale.
I would also like to see her pushed even a bit further from human proportions.

So in the next pass I kept the main pose of the characters and started to think of how I could light her from the inside, like she radiated some sort of godly energy, and I struck on the idea that maybe her soul was visible as some sort of flower, and then I used her body to protect it, creating a living wooden rib cage. All a bit far out, but the idea broke me away from the human form and I now had something powerful to work with on the Overbeing other than the owls. This was the revised sketch that was approved.

When i went to final I wanted to take the Overbeing even further away from the material world, so I enlarged her robes helping her to look more regal and aloof, but more importantly it hid her leg. This detached her from the ground and the material world a bit ore. Other than that it was pretty much just rendering and playing with the tonal composition again for the lighting. I think the worshiper looked better in the sketch, as they gave the event more animation, like the Overbeing has just appeared in all its splendour and the worshiper was being pushed back by the awesomeness of it. The worshiper in the final, looks a little too blaze, as if they speak to the Overbeing all the time.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Tetris (dungeon tiles 2)

The first thing to do with the Dungeon tile idea was to start working out what shape the tiles were going to be. Using my tried and tested methods, I figured I would start drawing out little sections of corridor until I got bored, or I had enough ideas to fill my 12 slots. However, as I was drawing them I realised they looked like Tetris pieces, and I noticed that there were only so many shapes you could make with so many squares (I'm sharp like that). So after playing Tetris for like and hour, I started working out what you can do with a set number of squares,
1. - you cant do much with, 2. -nothing here either (there's rules here I'm taking for granted, like each square has to connect up along a side), but when you get to 3. things start to get interesting (I use interesting in it's loosest form, it was interesting to me) and with 4. and 5. things get quite complicated (...). So I sketched out all the variations I could think of for sets of 1,2,3, 4 and 5 squares. Which looked like this.
There were 25 of them (I didn't think of the 'dead end' until near the end) and that was above my budget of 12 tiles. I was starting to think I would only go up to the 4 set when I remembered that some of the combinations were the mirror of each other, so all I would have to do was point out that the tiles could be printed 'mirrored' and you would get the rest of the combinations. And so that let me pretty much pick all the interesting combinations and a few varying lengths of straight corridor. While I was doing that I was thinking about the whole maze thing and thought I needed a dead end in there as well, so I made the executive decision to increase the budget to 13 (since I'm the art director on this, it was pretty easy to wangle, which is not normally the case). Apt that the dead end is 13 eh?
So my Dungeon tile set now looks like this