Sunday, 29 June 2014

Very dirty LEGO

I've been working on this project for years - in fact, over two. That's not to say it took me the full duration, but I rather lost steam along the way and it's been an effort to bring it to fruition.

Having seen one or two examples of painted LEGO amongst the wonderful stuff on the web, I decided to experiment with heavy weathering on a mech. I deliberately chose materials that could be washed off to leave the bricks as-new if I decide to break him up. I think I used chalk and ground pastels for the bulk of it, which (I hope) will clean off easily. The build itself was a great learning experience. I am not experienced at creating from scratch with LEGO and I can tell you it's super-hard to end up with anything that looks remotely coherent!

I stumbled a bit when it came to presentation. I went round the houses on a graphic design scheme, and what you see here is rather a pale expression of the grandeur I had planned. I experimented a lot with Russian criminal tattoo designs, but nothing ended up working in the end. I chose the painting in the end as its hues matched those of the model, and the combination of the image and the text drew the associations I wanted for this mech.

I firmly believe there is no such thing as wasted work though, and I think the tattoo research will be very handy for something I am brooding over right now.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

3D handcrafted video games

Things have been a bit slow on the blogging front for two reasons - I am having terrible trouble with my broadband (thanks, seemingly, to some indeterminate problem at what Sky refers to only as "The Exchange") and I've been away. More on the latter in a bit...

During the rare moments when I do have a connection I've been discovering 3D handcrafted video games. This is a genre of games which use traditional 3D animation techniques in place of more conventional computer graphics.

One of the first (or possibly the first) was The Neverhood released on CD ROM in 1996. It is a point and click adventure using claymation sets and characters. The static nature of the point and click mode allows almost any style of images to be used, so while visually innovative, the title did not make any advances technologically. The use of claymation was very probably a response to the critical and commercial success of the film A Nightmare Before Christmas, released in 1993. Indeed, there were two other 'claymation' games in the early 90s (Claymates and the ClayFighter series, both on the SNES) but these was conventional looking games, which adopted the claymation aesthetic for their pixel-based sprites and cover art.

A sequel, Skullmonkeys, was released in 1998, this time on the PlayStation. This title is a platform game and successfully combines claymation figures and sets into a fully animated gaming experience interdispersed with claymation cut scenes. The plot has you collecting clay balls, which seems to be a wry but clunky way of justifying the use of claymation in the videogame marketplace.

While 2D animated games abounded over the years, there seems to have been a bit of a break on the 3D handmade scene until The Dream Machine in 2010 from Cockroach. This is a mystery puzzle game in which a claymation protagonist uncovers some rather odd goings-on in his new flat. Although brightly lit and colourful, the style of the puppets reminds me of the expressionistic Eastern European work that terrified me as a child.

2011 saw the release of Lume, from State of Play games. Rather than claymation, it picks up on the recent trend for using relief and layered paper and card to create images. It's a beautiful, friendly looking piece which harks back to the 60s and 70s childrens illustrations which used blocks of colour with wobbley hand-drawn lines as detail. 

The Swapper by Facepalm Games was released only a few weeks ago and is available on Steam. It is a side-scrolling platform adventure where the bulk of the environments are miniature sets. I love the juxtaposition between the gritty, dirty world, and the luminous HUD overlays. There is also a bit of a late 70s vibe going on with the protagonist(s) sporting silver visors atop their bulky environment suits.

 Lumino City is State of Play's forthcoming sequel to the aforementioned Lume. From the teaser it seems that they talented folk in South London have turned up the volume on its predecessor to create an amazing blend of animation and physical models. I particularly love the use of depth of field, makding everything seem very intimate.

Via Awesome Robo