Friday, February 24, 2012

Chimeras and Other Things

Throwing up a quick Chimera WIP here.  I haven't been painting anything for about a week so this is a nice change of pace.  Funny, I had no idea there were goats involved in D&D Chimeras.  They always seemed rather harmless to me.  Except the billy goats gruff, those guys were just jerks.

Also, if you haven't yet, please do check out what will become the website for Pintsize Productions, where our challenge is ongoing, and two iOS app developers have generously donated copies of their games for our winners.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


After much preamble and numerous blog posts, I'm happy to finally announce Pintsized Production's first game, Traffix.  Pintsized Productions is the name Luis and I are calling our nascent "company", and Traffix is a not too clever portmanteau of "Traffic" and "Fix".  It's a simple traffic management game that actually looks nothing like the poster above, which I suppose should be explained.  

In the middle of production (ie a month into it) of Traffix, Luis showed me a sample of the game without any graphics.  It was essentially a bunch of squares traveling across straight lines.  I remarked that it looked similar to a Mondrian artwork, Broadway Boogie Woogie and suggested that we make a "Traffix Mondrian" version of the game as a lark and releasing it on Mondrian's birthday. Unfortunately, Mondrian's birthday is in the first week of March, so it really wasn't worth putting all that effort into something that would only really be understood by a couple of art nerds.  I still thought it was a cute idea, so I put together a mock release poster for Traffix, Mondrian style.  I may keep doing these for future games, just for fun.

If you actually want to see what the game looks like, please head on over to, where you'll find my hastily put together promotional blog, which will someday become a proper website.  In the meantime, there's a post there about our Pokki Traffix Challenge, in which we challenge you to get as high a score as possible in Traffix, and reward you with iOS games.  Please do try the Pokki version and join our challenge, and stay tuned for when we finally release Traffix on the iPad!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Traffic Game Bibliography

As I may have discussed before, the game my friend and I are working on revolves around traffic.  Traffic and infrastructure has been on my mind for the past year or so mostly because Manila's infrastructure is so woefully inadequate, and I suppose making games about it is my way of, if not solving the problem, then at least probing and exploring it further.  I wouldn't go so far as to say that it's like writing a book or creating a painting about it, but there are certainly similarities there.  As any good writer or painter must do, I've buried myself in as many books as I can about the subject to do some research.  While I know I am not doing these books justice with these rapid fire descriptions, I do hope you'll find them interesting enough to give them a shot.

Green Metropolis : Why Living Smaller, Living Closer, and Driving Less are the Keys to Sustainability

This is a fascinating book with a pretty controversial premise.  In contrast to common knowledge, city living is actually the most eco-friendly way of life.  Living densely, David Owen argues, makes us all inherently more efficient, and is the key to sustainability.  While there's a lot to chew on in this book, this idea of density and the kind of mass transportation that allows fascinates me.  I've already got a game idea in mind that plays into at least some of those concepts, and I think my ultimate game making goal is to create a new Sim City type game that relies less on strict zoning requirements and more on how to efficiently use a restricted space.

Traffic : Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us) 

While this book might seem to have some impact on our current game, the truth is that the traffic concepts discussed will take me much more time than I have right now to distill and turn into a game mechanic.  Terms like induced traffic and traffic calming will be of no interest to players if I can't figure out how to make them fun.  Chapters of this book that excited and interested me are its peek into LA's high tech traffic control system, which is mostly necessary because LA and its environs are built around automobile usage, and only recently have they started upgrading their public transit system.  His research into Mexico and India is also interesting because of the similarities between those places and Manila, in terms of traffic congestion.

The Great Reset : How New Ways of Living and Working Drive Post Crash Prosperity

This was probably the least interesting of the three books, at least in terms of finding anything useful to turn into a game.  It's not a bad read though, and starts out as a history book detailing the US Recession of the late 1800s, the more famous 1930s Great Depression, and how American Society changed then, and how they'll be seeing some major changes now.  Most of the city and transit changes that he envisions for the future borrow a lot from Green Metropolis, so if that's what you're interested in I'd pick that up instead.  Frankly Richard Florida has disappointed me lately, and  the only book of his I can really recommend is The Flight of the Creative Class: The New Global Competition for Talent (That has nothing to do with either traffic or infrastructure though).

Full disclosure, I've linked these books to my Amazon Associates account so on the off chance you're actually interested in these books please do click the links to help me out!  Speaking of helping out, I'll be making an announcement about the game this coming Monday, so do make sure to check out the blog next week and help us pimp our game!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Spacechem Valentine's Sale!

Just a quick shoutout for Spacechem, which is having a Valentine's sale from today till the 22nd.  Get one of the best indie games of 2011 for only 1.99 on your iPad!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Monster Stock art is Funded!

Some more good news today, the monster stock art & minis project has been funded!  Joe Wetzel cleverly combined his two projects and lowered the funding costs, ensuring that his project got funded in record time.  That doesn't mean you should stop funding it though, cause if you keep contributing to the project it means more monsters for everyone!  To celebrate, here's a mummy for you, greeting you a happy Valentine's day!

For those of you who've been wondering about the game, worry not!  The past few post have been decidedly not game-centric, but my next post will definitely be a little announcement about the game. Stay tuned!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Published in BluPrint!

Just a quick post to self-congratulate myself no having two sketches published in BluPrint magazine.  It's nifty seeing your work printed on a magazine with a even a bit of circulation, although the sketches by Janeil Arlegui (the author of the article) and our friend Buz Walker-Teach shame me.  My folks got a kick out of it though, so it was worth it.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Art in the (Salcedo) Park 2012

Quick weekend update folks.  I haven't been posting any urban sketching lately so i thought I'd throw this one up.  It's part of a series of vignettes I'm making for Art in the Park 2012 in Salcedo Park.  Urban Sketchers Philippines is setting up a booth and we'll all be showing off and selling some of our work.  I decided to go the vignette route because frankly I was afraid that my urban sketching would pale in comparison with the more accomplished folks in our group.  It's a good way to differentiate myself a little bit, and I also like the idea that people can try to craft a story around these vignettes (a story that isn't actually present, mind you), making them a little bit more "interactive".  Or at least that's my press release.

As an art exercise, it was also a good way for me to practice doing thumbnails/storyboards.  Some of these are rather more detailed than any thumbnail needs to be, but I am trying to focus on composition more than actual details.

I've been quite stressed about this all last month to be frank.  This is the first time I'm ever going to have my art on sale in a public space and the thought of not selling a single piece frightens me.  The fact that these things take a surprising amount of time to create (about 4 hours, give or take) given how simple they look means I'm spending a lot of valuable time investing in something that will have minimal returns (both monetary and emotional).  Oh well.  If no one picks these up by 12 midnight, walk on over to the Urban Sketchers booth and  I will give these to you for free, so at least I know they'll have a good home!

Art in the Park is happening on February 18, 2012 in Salcedo Park in Makati from 2pm to 12am.  Please visit the Urban Sketchers booth to check out our work and maybe pick up a piece or two, and maybe even join our non-exclusive group!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Building Concepts

A couple of days ago I blogged about about the car designs I made for our upcoming game (side note: I really should announce the game's name already, since it's really nothing spectacular, but I feel like I've held off for so long that I might as well keep up the charade).  Now I want to show off some of the designs I came up with for the buildings that populate our game, and share the design philosophy(!) that went behind them.

Once again I turn to the amazing The Art of Monsters vs. Aliens. In the section under environments there's a two page spread of the art they used for the golden gate bridge.  I don't know if it's legible, but there's a phrase that's written there a couple of times : Add wonky detail.  For whatever reason this phrase stuck with me, and I took it to heart when designing the buildings.

Speaking of designing, I highly suggest that any designer always have a sketchbook with them.  You never know when you'll need to kill time, and you might as well be productive while doing it!  The sketches above were made while Aissa and I were in line renewing our driver's licences.  What usually took only a couple of hours ended up taking the entire day because the renewal center's card machine got busted.  Luckily for me I needed to design some office/residential skyscrapers, and we were stuck in Makati.  These sketches are pretty stylized but if you're ever in the Ayala MRT station, find the LTO license renewal center and look out  across EDSA and you might spot one of the buildings I used as a reference.

Back to being "wonky", so my basic design instruction to myself was "straight outside, wonky inside".  What I meant by that was that the outside lines of the buildings should be straight and clean, but the insides should be a little wonky.  So you'll notice that the floors of the upper right corner building are all symmetrical, but the stuff inside like the windows, aircon etc. are all a little different from each other.  I think this makes things interesting since there's a contrast between controlled and wonky shapes.  Actually if you look closely (or maybe not even) you'll notice that I don't really stick to that rule the whole time, but at the very least if I try to keep that in mind it helps to keep the design of the buildings unified.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Car Concepts

Keeping in line with the recent blog post about our game, I thought I'd share with you some of the conceptualization that went behind the look of the game.  When I was thinking of how I wanted the game to look, and how to make it look if not unique at least a little different, I immediately remembered some car designs that I liked in The Art of Monsters vs. Aliens.  The concept art in the game featured a retro 50s-60s look (think diners and drive-in movies).  These caricatures of cars really caught my attention so with gusto, I set out to sketch some of my own cars.

Obviously cars aren't my expertise, but I had a lot of fun sketching a Honda Jazz and trying to simplify its look to turn it into a game sprite.  I sketched the jeepney from pictures (thanks, Google Images!), because frankly I didn't feel like standing in the hot sun explaining to curious passerby and suspicious police why I was so intently looking and sketching a public utility vehicle.

I had a lot more fun sketching cars than I thought I would, and by the end of the exercise I felt I was getting more and more proficient at it.  Unfortunately it really wasn't really time efficient, and I found (unsurprisingly) that when I finally shrank the images I made down to sprite size (roughly 40x20 pixels) any superfluous design elements had disappeared.  So in the interest of time I decided against preliminary sketches and instead went straight to the game sprites.  Seeing as we're already behind schedule (real paying work gets in the way of passion projects) I think it was the only move I could really make.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Traffic Game Concepts

I realized with a little dismay that today is February 1, and the game that Luis and I have been working on has yet to see the light of day.  It's not that no work was done.  In fact the game is mostly complete at this point, and we're just making the final tweaks and hoping to release before the end of this month.  Till then, let me share a couple of sketches of the initial game ideas I presented to Luis over bottles of Craft beer.

For the past few months I've had a tortured relationship with my career.  I always hated that everything I made is digital and had to impact on the real world.  I wanted to do stuff that changed the environment (Metro Manila) I lived in, and there was never going to be a way to do that through making art for games.  I went through a brief, insane moment where I was semi-seriously considering going back to school to become an architect or railroad engineer, basically anything that lets me affect the world around me in a positive way.

After these flights of fancy died down however, I realized that even if I did push through with this radical career change, it would take me years of study and building up a career before I even managed to do anything remotely near as world-changing as I want to.  I already feel like I'm running out of time as it is.  So I made a compromise with myself : I will satisfy the urge to fix the problems I see around me by making games about solving them.

The first problem I wanted to "solve" was traffic.  Solving traffic marries my love for efficiency with my almost disturbing fetish for mass transit.  This first game idea doesn't actually touch on mass transit however. It's more about managing the flow of vehicles.  People love to complain about how bad traffic is and how they could do a much better job than our traffic enforcers (which may be true), so I wanted to make a simple game about how managing even a couple of intersections can be pretty damned hard.  It's very much inspired by this game I found while doing research on traffic games, but I wanted to streamline it as well as make it aesthetically prettier than it is right now.  Gridlock Buster goes deeper into actual traffic management systems used by traffic engineers worldwide, and while I personally find that fascinating, I don't know that it would translate into good gameplay.

My second game idea has to do a lot more with efficiency and making traffic lighter. The basic idea is to map out a route for a bus or other mass transit system based on the number of users on that route.  So a successful route would be one that managed to serve the most number of customers and be profitable while not creating too many stops and slowing things down.  This sketch was even color coded according to the density of the city blocks.  This was inspired by the game Cities in Motion, which is a game that is based solely around creating Mass Transit (ie it was made for me).  This was the game that opened my eyes to the possibility of creating games about traffic.  It's not a triple A game by any means and it's not raking in triple A money, but it's a well made niche game made by a small team that's profitable.

Ironically profitability is one of the things that I feel makes the game less interesting than it could be to me.  I felt that the overriding purpose of the game was to make a profitable company, and not to ease congestion and make traffic and public transport better.  That's not necessarily a huge problem, but I never felt like my transit systems were making much of a difference improving the flow of traffic.  In fact in some cases, like operating bus lines, it ended up making the traffic worse, which undermines the whole point of mass transit.

This second game idea of mine would place slightly less emphasis on profitability and more on improving traffic flow and efficiency.  Plotting out a good route would not only make you a tidy profit because more people will want to use your services, it will also create visible improvements in the traffic situation.

Luis and I ultimately chose to make the first game because it was much simpler.  This being our first game ever, we wanted to try something that wouldn't be too complicated and discourage us too quickly.  The second game idea is the one I like better, and offers the possibility of a much deeper, complex game system, but that will have to wait.