Thursday, 25 July 2013

WIP: Mini Station 2

So my last 2 weeks have been a bit crazy and have had not much time to work of the last piece. I spent 20 mins looking at it again tonight, and will continue to add to it until it looks like its supposed to! On the roof of a covered area on the platform I attempted a bit of texturing however I may remove this and continue with the solid colour shading. My next step is to finish the base of the other buildings and a foot bridge. Then I will add the decals and little details - a large clock, horn speakers and arrivals/departure boards. I added a flowery meadow behind as I think this is going to be a small station in the country. I may change my mind and turn that into a car park eventually though, depends what mood I'm in! I'm about to go to Thailand for a week, so I'm hoping for some sandy beach inspiration for another piece.

Whilst away from my laptop, I use a program on my iPad called 'Make Pixel Art'. I have used this app to make the station. It's limited, but it's a nice quick tool when you're on the go. In fact it feels quicker to use the pencil tool with a touch screen. Worth trying it out for small work.

DOTA2 has just become active on my Steam account so I'll be playing that tonight for a bit, and then when I return from holiday so I may write about that next time since it is now out of Beta. - oP


Sunday, 14 July 2013

WIP: Mini Station

So I've left home for a week on a job or 2 and didn't want the blog to fall by the wayside because of it. As I was bored on a train I decided to start another 'mini-pixel' scene. Inspiration came to me from all around - or rather I lacked inspiration and so began to draw a train! Here's the image I came up with on my journey which I will be adding to throughout the week until my next train journey a week on Monday when I hope it will be complete. It looks very barren at the moment as it features one train, tracks and platform edges. I will begin to add some station buildings in my next update. Like I said it's a very small image and a similar scale to the maze so expect similar basic pixel humans! I think there's a kind of charm to them. - oP


Thursday, 11 July 2013

First Look: Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn Beta

I would definitely say I'm a massive Final Fantasy fanboy. MMOs on the other hand... well, I try to get into them once in a while but if the basic gameplay mechanics fail to grab my interest then I do need an awesome story to make up for it. I haven't played many but I can say in my opinion that WOW is repetitive and frustrating (but addicting at the same time), and EVE is elegant and relaxing, yet also time consuming and sometimes really complicated to follow. I never tried FFXI so I have no idea how that worked as the first FF game in this format, but part of me always hoped that it had a bit more substance to it than the content of a typical MMO: "go collect 10 tiger pelts" and "kill 20 bats". This is what I expect from a dungeon crawler - and that's just fine, I'm expecting to kill hordes of enemies and click my mouse wildly to pick up loot. I'd like to just add an exception to this format - Borderlands 1 and 2 both have this MMO/dungeon crawler mechanic but it works because the game is just a playground for non stop violence and treasure hunting that you can enjoy with a small group of friends. I have always wanted to play an MMO for much much more than this though, as I would want to be part of a community, not just part of a mass of people occupying the same bandwidth. As of yet, EVE has been the only game to draw me in, but definitely not for the social aspect of it.

I have just reached level 10 with my first character and so I thought this was a good point to put down my controller, (yes I am playing on my PS3) and write about my first impression. I won't turn this into a massive review as it is a Beta and I'm not 'rating' it in any way. This is my opinion built on my love for Final Fantasy and my disappointment for MMOs in general.


Character generation is the first stop - and I know every RPG fan loves this part. Taking the time to balance stats correctly and make your protagonist look as awesome as possible (before covering them up with in-game armour and robes). The race selection as far as I can see has no real effect on gameplay. There are 2 clans for each race which have slightly different stats normally balancing between emphasis on the war or magic disciplines, however the core of the class system allows you to swap and learn other class abilities by changing to the appropriate weapon and learning from the appropriate guild anyway. Ultimately I would say this is more cosmetic and that you shouldn't worry too much about it - you can always change classes later on down the line. In-game there are 'jobs' to level up in also and crafting abilities you can add to your belt. So character generation is pretty standard thus far and reminiscent of most other RPGs you've probably played. I will just add that the ability to 'de-robe' your characters down to their 'small-clothes' so that when you increase the models bust-size you have an uninterrupted view of the lady-parts is most likely a well received addition to a list of functions the game was obviously lacking in alpha. Having said this I didn't play the alpha so perhaps this was near the top of SquareEnix's dev priority sheet to begin with.


So my character jumps into the opening cutscene - the first part of the game which actually has a Final Fantasy stamp on it - I was already in some slight discomfort as I'm very much used to the game telling me who I am rather than deciding myself all the way down to the Braveheart styled war paint tattoos on my face. Cutscene finishes.... Everything is extremely vague thus far. Now plonked down in the middle of this city, a fresh faced adventurer - I start to make my way towards my guild, and so does everyone else. You're greeted with the familiar MMO sight of lots of people spamming emotes: dancing, laughing and waving as everyone is excitedly trying out all the non-essential features. I couldn't blame them really, so I joined in a bit. I hate myself a little. My first quests are reminiscent of my World of Warcraft days, lots of collecting and killing. I am now level 10 and I can confirm that all my quests in and around this city have involved this. If you love WOW and this game mechanic then that's fine, this could be the game for you. I don't really feel the need to go into any details at all about the gameplay as I think I've summed it up with my WOW comparisons. I will say though that I have died considerably fewer times than my WOW character did in the first 10 levels of play. Although it is very frustrating when kiting an enemy, there gets to a point where they will lose aggro, turn around, become invulnerable and when back at their spawn point, heal to maximum health - very annoying! Hopefully this will be changed.


So how does the game operate on the console... I'm not going to lie, to begin with: awkwardly! If you want to get any use out of all the features, including the chat console and window navigation then I do suggest you plug in a mouse and keyboard. You have to at least plug in a keyboard or you will be typing messages all day instead of playing the game. I quickly got used to having all 3 input devices close by and found that I used my controller for movement, battling and inventory/equipment management whilst I used my PC accessories for all journal and map navigation. It didn't take long to get used to but if you don't take this advise then it could mean life or death in some situations! Hotkeys on the controller are assigned to the d-pad and buttons on the right. To access them you hold down the L2 or R2 triggers giving you a total of 16 hotkeys. There are also 8 'sets' of these 16 hotkeys you can assign, and they can be scrolled through by hitting R1. I think this works quite well although it's most likely a slightly slower input method than a keyboard is.


So what makes this game a 'Final Fantasy'.... well there's Bahamut, crystals and Chocobos... what else do you need? I'll be honest I guess I haven't played enough of it to have seen all the FF elements in all their glory. There is a summoner class that you can't play from level 1, but that you can work towards. Limit breaks are back! I have yet to use one though! They are class-based but I think you need to be in a party to build towards the limit meter and then only one person can use the ability. I need to experiment more with this. Arguably this could be any MMO with the FF brand slapped on the box, but I'm too early in the game to have a valid opinion. I'm hoping there's a large story arc that I'm moments from getting immersed in - we shall see.


Graphically (remember I'm on the PS3) the game is beautiful, but not breathtakingly so. Zooming into your character you can see great detail and I do wonder how much it will improve when it's released on the PS4. The other character models both NPC and players however move with a reduced frame rate and enemy animations are clumsy and sometimes erratic. This could be down to my connection, server stress or perhaps it could be linked to the platform. Some textures also fail to render properly when zoomed in, however I have forgiven most of this at the moment because of the beta status. 


I'm not a major role-player in MMOs because I have never found the right one for me. I am a story-oriented gamer, and this is what I expect from an RPG. I understand that this type of MMO is what's popular and I guess I don't HATE this style of gameplay - but would I pay a subscription fee for it though when I could just boot up Diablo 3 or Torchlight and play on my own? Is it worth it? Ultimately you're paying for the servers, and the multiplayer aspect of the game. But is it really multiplayer, or is it just lots of people playing their own single-player dungeon crawlers that happen to overlap on a server. Are the 'instances' that require groups of players to team up to defeat bosses just there to give you the illusion that the entire game is multiplayer? I suppose you get out of the game whatever you want to get out of it. You can join guilds and make your experience a team-based one rather than running around as a lone wolf (but if thats your style of play then why play this game in the first place?).


I will continue to play the game in beta as I love Final Fantasy and that outweighs all my other opinions. When the subscription fees kick in though - that's another story.


If anyone has any opinions of the game so far then please share them with me and tell me what character build you're going for. Back to the grind! - oP


Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Pixel Maze

Today after adding a bit more to a tileset I decided to see how long it would take me to put a small piece of work together using only simple tiles. I had made some bushes in different orientations that matched up so I thought a maze would be a good idea. Once I had finished the maze I could see that it actually looked quite small (height-wise). A maze fit for dwarves! Rather than re-do it to a scale that I had planned when starting my pixel art projects, I thought I'd do an even more simplistic style of people and I'm actually quite happy with the way it ended up. I won't be doing anything else to it as this was an exercise to get me working as fast and as efficiently as possible.

It's best off saving the image and zooming in to have a good look at all the lovely pixels of the full version. - oP








Monday, 8 July 2013

StarMade

There are those people that see a game involving placing and destroying blocks and immediately go: "What a total Minecraft ripoff!", but the concept was around before the aforementioned game and personally if it's fun to play who cares! The game in question this time is StarMade which is FREE to download so please go get it without question! There's a lot of work left to go into this game but as it stands there is a build which you'll struggle to not spend a good few hours straight playing.

So what is it? It's a minecraft-esqe space sim! Following the tutorial you'll learn the basics of block placements to build a spaceship! It's as simple as adding a ship core, power, and thrusters and voila you have a (semi) functioning vessel. Once you have the basics down, this is where the hours get whittled away. I began with a simple mining vessel... which got expanded and expanded until I had 9 missile bays and 6 anti-matter cannons. It's even possible to build a ship interior allowing you to float or walk around (with a gravity generator), meaning you can have your engineering, shield generator and bridge levels all separate and live whatever science fiction reality you so wish. In fact your ship can easily be torn apart by pirate attacks, and so protecting your vital systems with a protective outer hull is an absolute necessity.

Ship movement is simple and easy, but when gravity comes into play then it gets a bit more complex. I learnt this the hard way as when entering a planet atmosphere I suddenly realised that my front-heavy ship was beginning to fall quite drastically into the ground. Lots of button mashing later I managed to break out into space with Scotty's voice ringing in my head: something 'not-enough-power' related. More experimentation into the physics of this game and how the physical build of the ship in relation to power etc is definitely necessary. 

This is a sandbox game and so don't feel as though you have to stick to the rules! Building a forest on top of your ship is possible, as is placing most other blocks (I haven't tried them all)! What this does to your weight and manoeuvrability is another question to be answered but experimentation is encouraged. The website has a library of user-submitted ships which may be worth looking at for inspiration.

I won't say much else other than I definitely need to try this on a multiplayer server. Sometimes it's nice to build alone, but it's also nice to blow up your mates... 

Please check it out: http://star-made.org

Enjoy! - oP


Friday, 5 July 2013

Tilesets!

I've began a new tileset based on the isometric pixel art I am revisiting. I'm hoping to create a base collection of environment and object squares from which I can pick and place to create the bulk of work. This uniform method will also help with my future game creation. When creating a level the layers will be basically split into floor, foreground walls, background walls, roof/ceiling and objects. A recent tech demo I did utilising only cubes for player, objects and walls was build in-editor. This allowed me to experiment with a few different layer techniques. I am now focusing on my artwork and will utilise the former layering system and create levels out of the editor and then import it into the game editor. I'm hoping to think of an almost fool-proof method to fast and effective level/art design utilising copy and paste from tilesets.  - oP


First Post!

First blog post! As opposed to the pointless re-posts of my tumblraging, on here I'm hoping to be more active online with my creative side. So as I get back into pixel art and game design I will post my work where possible. As a taster here is an unfinished piece of work I did 3 years ago and a perfect example of what the majority of my style will be like. - oP