Sunday, June 29, 2008

Wolf of the Battlefield: Commando 3 - For Sano

Well, WOTB: Commando 3 has been out on the PSN and XBLA for a couple of weeks now and I've been closely looking at the reviews and the comments from a few forums. And it's been getting a mixed bag of reviews. Our average review score is landing at around 65%. Our highest so far has been an 85% from and the Lowest is a 40% from Giant Bomb.

It seems I've really ticked off a lot of people with the art style I chose, especially in my character designs. In one case it seems to have really grated on a reviewer's nerves so much that He couldn't even get past how atrocious my stuff was that it basically brought the score of the whole game down! Here are a few examples of people's comments on my art work:

"The logos, menu layouts and pause screens are well-done, but the character art kills the overall package. Sorry folks, this one just doesn't catch the eye. Environments are nothing special, attention to detail is sometimes lacking, and did we mention the character art?"
- Ryan Geddes review,

"yea... not to be excessively critical, but im in the art industry. and i gotta say, the character art in this game is really weak. it looks like something i'd pull out of my a55 back in college when the the deadline for an assignment was 1 day away and i didnt even start working on it yet."
- 'drtaco99', Gamefaqs poster

"I think the art/style is fugly and low-budget looking. It doesn't match the series, type of game or even anything else Capcom is known for. I really hope this is the last game to use it since I'd rather have NO art than BAD art. The explosions and environments are decent looking without that cartoony crap spoiling it.."
- 'CrossHanded', Gamefaqs poster

"for an indie developer, i'd be less harsh on the artwork. this is Capcom, though, and i'm sure they could have spent the $100 bills they light their $1000 cigars with to get one of their regular artists to put a portfolio together." -'xenodolf', Gamefaqs poster

While I've developed a fairly thick skin for criticism for my art and being able to decipher constructive criticism from even the worst critic, I don't think I expected to get such a negative reaction from a lot of fans.

I think it's safe to say that if a sequel for this game would be made (which I doubt), I definitely shouldn't be a part of it! It's quite a blow to the ego reading some of the postings. People will go out of their way to state how they didn't like the character designs, but otherwise they enjoyed the game. For awhile, I really felt like I brought the team down.

In any case, I know I gave it my best shot. I definitely did not want to make another 'realistic' looking game. I'm one of the few that's pretty much sick to my stomach seeing the same old boringly-designed-space-marine-versus-boringly-designed-space-aliens-FPS. The way I see it, if other people can have their boring mediocre designs drive their games, why can't I have my boring mediocre designs out there too!

The thing is, I didn't think people would hate my drawings this much! One poster took a line from Dane Cook and said the art made him want to punch babies (that ran as our office in-joke for quite some time)!

Anyway, don't worry I'm okay, I've gotten over just how bad of an artist I am. Case in point: I just watched Wall-e. And I am both amazed at how awesome the Pixar artists are, and depressed at far I have to go as an artist!

Anyway! In one of the forums I ran across this one poster named 'Sano'. Now this guy didn't like my art either, but there was one thing I did that he liked. Here's what he said in the posts from the Capcom-Unity Boards (I'm 'Biggedy' by the way, and 'CapKraig' is the Capcom-side producer of WOTB: Commando 3):

I had initially thought it'd be a funny reference if I made the Commando's prison outfits mirror another Capcom character's prison duds. In this case it was Cody, from Street Fighter Alpha 3. It was a fun, but maybe a little obscure way of sneaking in an in-joke.

So when Sano posted, I was so happy that someone actually caught my reference! I was so pleasantly happy that day! One dude! One dude got my reference! Cool! That one guy expressing his appreciation for my in-joke (not even my art, really!), tipped the hate-scales for me by a lot. In my pessimistic head it went like this:

"Maybe nobody liked my art and maybe I caused the game to be brought down a few notches of where it could've been, but one guy actually got my gag! Cool!"

I think I would've been fine if it ended at that. But a few days later, Sano came back to post a screenshot of the panel he liked so much. Wow! He really liked it!

But that screenshot's too blurry, so...

This one's for you Sano, perhaps the only one I managed to entertain with my art! Thanks for single-handedly picking me back up from "my-art-sucks" land and bringing me back to "my-art-sucks-but-maybe-I-can-get-better-someday" land! And in true neverending battle style, here's the rough thumbnail of the drawing:

That's it for me! Good night, er, good morning all and God Bless!

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Wolf of the Battlefield: Commando 3 - Wolf

One of the games I worked on is finally released on the Playstation Network (and next week on the x360). So now I can unleash the hounds on my blog! Shuffling through this art made me realize that I generated a lot of art during the course of this project. In hindsight, I'm amazed because the project was on a very, very tight schedule and budget! How did I ever survive that?

Anyways, I'm posting up some of the concept work I did for WOTB: Commando 3, starting with some character designs. The first one we'll start with is Wolf himself.

Initially, we weren't working on a game that had the Commando license. It was just a game that kinda paid homage to it. I don't think we were ever thinking it would actually be the successor to Commando and Mercs. The license came in surprisingly (and a little painfully) later on. So what you'll see are some early designs that got scrapped as well as the final designs.

I had a lot of frustration trying to get a set of character designs Capcom had wanted and it was tough to try to please them especially with management changing hands midway into the game. So rather than shoot myself, we enlisted the help of another designer to help me out, Sach Steffel. Before I jumped onto the project, Sach had done some initial designs for the original pitch document. Who better to help me out than her right? Even though Sach was on another project at the time, she was able to help out and do double duty. I think having her help out maintained a little bit of my sanity as I also had to lead the art for the rest of the game.

For a couple of the characters she had helped me 'unlock the code', and get something the clients would agree on. Our styles are fairly different, so when it came down to generating the final assets for UI, cutscenes and turnaround sheets for the modelers, I had to translate her designs back into mine, so everything was unified. That was actually a pretty fun process! I think I had fun identifying and taking the important parts of her designs and seeing them through. Anyway, make sure to visit her site, she's got some great stuff! This turnaround sheet is what I ended up generating:

Mind you, all this initial character designing was before we had the WOTB: Commando 3 license. Later on in the production cycle, once we already finished generating character assets for the game, we had to go back in there and change it again! It was down the wire too, I remember being so stressed having to re-draw all the UI assets over. Ugh , the pain. So for the main characters alone, we ended up doing re-designs, new models, textures and cutting out two other characters and generating a brand new one (more on these guys in a later post).

So the blue guy above keeps more in line with the original Mercs dude, except he's wearing a shirt (it gets cold in the jungle). So, even though we were bummed about all these changes, the team did an amazing job pushing on (I guess having no time to spare will do that to you!).

My favorite piece of art I did in the game were the M-crashes. They were 2D panels that slid in whenever the player did a special move. They were also the most action packed drawings I did of the characters within the game. Plus, I'm such an old school nerd, 2D panels sliding in are always fun!

Wolf's pose is based on the original pose the main character was in, in Mercs. I was actually surprised it only took me one rough sketch to figure out the pose he'd be in. With all the work that was piling on top of me my greatest fear was being so stressed and fatigued that stiffness would start creeping into these panels. While the stiffness does appear in my later drawings, (in UI assets, cutscenes, etc., hey, I'm sorry I was tired okay!) the character M-crashes, thankfully, made it through fine.

That's it for today, I'll try to post up more of these next time! Sige!
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