Today’s Art (30th July 2014)

Wow! This may well be one of the coolest paintings that I’ve ever made :) Seriously, it could almost be an album cover!

Like with one or two pictures I’ve made in the past, this painting was probably inspired by this absolutely amazing Judas Priest song. I don’t know why there’s someone in Ned Kelly armour in the background though- but, as types of armour go, it’s one of the most fun to draw.

As usual, this painting is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

"Amidst The Wrecks" By C. A. Brown

“Amidst The Wrecks” By C. A. Brown

Review: “Stardate 20X6″ (WAD for Doom II/ GZ Doom)

2014 Artwork Stardate 20x6 Review Sketch

Well, I was looking around online for a new “Doom” WAD recently and I stumbled across this interesting-looking eight-level WAD called “Stardate 20X6“.

Yay! Glowing pink death :)

Yay! Glowing pink death :)

First of all, “Stardate 20X6″ is pretty old school. Even though I used a modern source port called “GZ Doom” when I was playing it, jumping was disabled by default (just like in the 90s!).

Plus, apart from a few slight recolourings (eg: the Hell Knight’s/Baron Of Hell’s projectiles and blood are pink) and a few new wall textures – there isn’t really that much in the way of new stuff in this WAD.

But, on the plus side, this WAD is purple. Very purple.

Nice :)

Nice :)

In fact, this was one of the things that drew me to this WAD in the first place, since it’s pretty much my favourite colour.

However, the first couple of levels of “Stardate 20X6″ mostly have a rather strange purple/brown colour scheme which gives the game a gloomy “Quake I”/”Unreal” -style atmosphere. Still, as you get further into the WAD, more traditional sci-fi settings begin to emerge.

Secondly, I should probably point out that this WAD is for experienced “Doom” players only. If you are new to “Doom” in any way, then you shouldn’t play “Stardate 20X6″.

This is because this WAD is very challenging – in fact, it almost borders on being unforgivingly unfair at least a few times every level.

This is one of the EASY parts of level one.....

This is one of the EASY parts of level one…..

Unless you have years of circle-strafing practice, unless you know exactly how to use monster infighting to your advantage and unless you have the kind of chess-like tactical mind that can only be acquired through many years of “Doom” playing, then don’t play this WAD. You won’t even get past the first level. In fact, you’ll wonder if it’s even possible to get past the first level without cheating.

It is. So is the second level, the third, the fourth, the fifth and, surprisingly the sixth too (if you know when to run and when to fight). I’m playing the seventh level at the moment and I have no clue if it’s even possible to get to the eighth one (but it probably is).

You see, “Stardate 20X6″ has the delightfully sadistic habit of throwing small armies of mid-level enemies at you whenever you reach one of it’s many small arena-like areas. If you’re an experienced “Doom” player, you’ll probably laugh with delight and feel like a badass when you inevitably defeat and/or outmanouevre them all.

But, if you aren’t an experienced player, you’ll probably quickly be intimidated into never playing this WAD again. You have been warned.

There's also a cyberdemon to your left and an equally-sized horde of Hell Knights to your right. Have fun :)

There’s also a cyberdemon to your left and an equally-sized horde of Hell Knights to your right. Have fun :)

Another thing which compounds the extreme difficulty of this WAD is the fact that the BFG is nowhere to be seen until the seventh level. Seriously, I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve thought “I really wish I had a BFG right now” whilst playing the first six levels.

But, on the plus side, the BFG in “Stardate 20X6″ fires wonderful pink projectiles instead of the boring old green ones. But, when you finally get it, you are pitted against so many enemies (at least several hundred…) that the game may actually crash if you try to save at some points during this part of the level…

Yes, this is just a fraction of the army of monsters that you'll be facing as soon as you find the BFG....

Yes, this is just a fraction of the army of monsters that you’ll be facing as soon as you find the BFG….

As for the level design, it’s fairly good. Although the game obviously channels you into area-like areas a few times in each level, the levels thankfully aren’t too linear and you will have to spend a while exploring and searching for keys and/or switches – as you would in any well-designed “Doom” level.

Not only that, there are a few fairly impressive outdoor areas too, which help to ensure that the maps in this WAD don’t get monotonous or boring.

Like this one...

Like this one…

All in all, from what I’ve played, “Stardate 20X6″ is a WAD which proves conclusively that there’s much more to “Doom” than just mindlessly shooting demonic monsters. This WAD proves that “Doom” is actually a game of strategy and cunning where your brain and your reflexes are the most powerful weapons that you can have.

In fact, I’d even go so far as to say that this WAD is, in it’s own strange way, actually a puzzle game (with guns and monsters) rather than anything else .

This WAD may only contain eight levels, but don’t expect to complete it in anything under 10-20 hours at an absolute minimum…

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get four.

Today’s Art (29th July 2014)

Well, I thought that I’d try to draw/paint someone holding a guitar from a slightly different angle to how I’ve previously drawn people holding guitars. Although this proved to be more challenging than I expected, I’m quite proud of how this picture turned out :) But, saying that, I’m still absolutely terrible at drawing people sitting cross-legged.

As usual, this painting is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

"Serenade" By C. A. Brown

“Serenade” By C. A. Brown

Literary Taste: How To Find It In The 21st Century (After Bennett)

2014 Artwork Literary Taste Article Sketch

Late last month, I was randomly surfing the internet and I found this fascinating old novella-length essay from 1909 called “Literary Taste: How To Form It” By Arnold Bennett on Project Gutenburg. Seriously, even if you don’t agree with everything he says, you should read it.

If you can get over Bennett’s slightly old-fashioned writing style (which I personally quite enjoyed), there’s actually tons of interesting stuff in there – Bennett is a literature geek who, like all geeks, talks enthusiastically and in depth about the thing he loves.

Not only that, Bennett also gives us whole bunch of completely timeless insights about the value and purpose of literature too (and it’s very telling that, even in 1909, people didn’t like how Shakespeare was taught in schools LOL!).

He also makes a really interesting argument that all literature is connected and, like clicking on the links in a website you love, you should look for similar and related books after you’ve finished a book that you like. In addition to this, he suggests buying as many books as you can get your hands on too (*sigh* he’s a man after my own heart).

Seriously, as old as it is, this essay is an absolute joy to read.

But, saying all of this, he has a rather narrow idea of what literature is and what it “should” be. He dislikes stories that push people to an excess of emotion (eg: fun stories) and he’s slightly cynical about most modern literature (kind of like how I’m slightly cynical about most modern computer games).

In Bennett’s view, “literature” should consist of old books which a select cabal of literature geeks and critics throughout the ages have venerated and – if you don’t like these books – then it’s your problem and you should damn well learn to like them!

So, because of these flaws, I thought that I’d provide list of my own ideas and advice about how to develop cool literary taste.

1) Follow your geekiness: If you’re a subscriber to the sci-fi channel and regularly go to “Star Trek” conventions, then try reading some scif-fi novels. If you play MMORPGs and “Magic: The Gathering” obsessively, then try reading some fantasy fiction. If you watch programs like “CSI” obsessively, then try reading some detective fiction.

If you love action movies, then try reading thriller novels. If you (how can I put this politely?) enjoy or have enjoyed visiting the “adults only” parts of the internet, then try reading some erotic fiction. If you like watching gory horror movies, then try reading some classic splatterpunk fiction from the 1970s-90s. I’m sure you get the idea….

The fact is that there are 6-7 billion people on this planet and we’re all unique. So, like with everything, there’s no “one size fits all” idea of what literary taste should be.

Although this goes completely against everything that Bennett says in his essay, you should develop your tastes based on what interests you and you alone. I can almost promise you that there will be other people out there who will share your tastes too, so you won’t exactly be walking a lonely path (unless, like me, you enjoy solitude).

Trust me, if you try to fit yourself into someone else’s ideas of what you “should” read/believe/look like etc… then this will bring you nothing but fear, hollowness, existential despair and misery. So, be true to yourself when you’re developing your literary taste.

2) Know your history: In Bennett’s essay, he talks a lot about how important it is to read old books from the 19th century (and earlier). Whilst this might seem slightly snobbish and pretentious to modern readers, what you have to remember is that – at the time Bennett was writing – the 19th century was as recent to him as the 20th century is to us.

So, what I’m trying to say here is that, when you’ve found the type of literature that you enjoy, look for famous older examples of it from the 1920s-1990s. Each genre had it’s own “golden age” in the 20th century, so it might be worth doing some background research to see which decades you should focus on.

For example, science fiction was at it’s best in the 1950s-80s and horror fiction was at it’s best in the 1970s-90s. However, some genres are pretty much timeless and you can find lots of great examples of them in every decade of the 20th century (detective fiction would probably be good example of this type of genre).

The reason why you should read these “old” books from the 20th century is because many of them have influenced and inspired modern books in your favourite genre. Not only that, it gives you almost instant geek cred if you can talk about famous old 20th century books in your favourite genre.

For example, if you’re a sci-fi fan, then you can probably either impress or make yourself at home amongst other sci-fi fans by talking about the Robert Heinlein, Philip K. Dick, Ray Bradbury, Frank Herbert, William Gibson and Isaac Asimov stories that you’ve read.

3) Try some other things too: With a few exceptions, I’m not really a huge fan of romantic fiction -but I’ve read a few romantic novels and even enjoyed some of them. You see, the interesting thing about very occasionally reading things in genres that you don’t usually read is that you’ll sometimes find something that you like.

Not only that, you’ll also be able to talk about books from other genres when you’re talking to people who are fans of a different type of fiction than you are.

Plus, if you read books from different genres sometimes, then you’ll also get to encounter different types of characters and/or settings to the ones that you normally encounter when you’re reading.

4) Read the occasional “cool” book: Although there’s no real single definition of what is and isn’t “good literary taste”, some books generally tend to be seen as “cooler” or more “important” than others. I’ve never quite understood it either, but it can be a good idea to read at least one or two of these books so that – although you already have great literary taste – you can still impress people who have very fixed ideas about “good literary taste”.

But, the good thing is that quite a few “cool” books are cool for a reason – many of them are fairly readable, some are fairly short and the ones that aren’t either of these things are full of all kinds of brilliantly weird and strange stuff.

To get you started, here’s a list of a few writers to check out if you’re interested: William S. Burroughs, Jack Kerouac, Albert Camus, Allen Ginsberg, Hunter S. Thompson, Kathy Acker, J. G. Ballard, Jeanette Winterson, Chuck Palahniuk, Charles Bukowski, Hubert Selby Jr., Gore Vidal, Marjane Satrapi and George Orwell.

——

Sorry that the advice in this article was so basic, but I hope it was useful :)

ART PREVIEW – August & September 2014

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] "Art preview gallery - August and September 2014" By C. A. Brown

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE]
“Art preview gallery – August and September 2014″ By C. A. Brown

Well, as regular readers of this blog and my DeviantART gallery probably know, I tend to make my art fairly far in advance of when I post it online (mainly to ensure that I always have something to post every day).

So, since I both do and don’t want to show off some of the cool art I’ve made for August and September right now – I thought that I’d make a small thumbnail preview gallery for you all to enjoy :)

Oh, be sure to stay tuned – there will be an article later this afternoon at the usual time ( 3:11pm GMT/ 4:11pm BST)

Today’s Art (28th July 2014)

Well, since it seems to be festival season at the moment, I thought that I’d make a painting loosely based on my memories of the last day of a music festival I went to about six years ago (Wow! was it THAT long ago?). Anyway, on the last day, quite a few people just abandoned their tents and more than a few people actually set their tents on fire before they left. It was quite a sight LOL!

As usual, this painting is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

"Festival Fires" By C. A. Brown

“Festival Fires” By C. A. Brown

Animation Doesn’t Have To Be Difficult

What? Glowing red eyes are cool!

What? Glowing red eyes are cool!

Before I begin, I should probably point out that this article is just some of my random thoughts about very basic types of animation rather than any kind of real animation tutorial.

This is mainly because the program that I use for all of my animations is an absolutely ancient program from 1999 called “Jasc Animation Shop (version 2.00)” which nobody else probably uses these days. Not only that, it’s a pretty basic animation program which probably only does a fraction of what more complex (and incomprehensible) modern animation programs probably do.

Anyway, although I’ve always been fascinated by animation, it wasn’t until a year or two ago that I started making animations on something close to an occasional basis. Of course, this was also when I discovered digital animation – before this , I actually used to draw every frame by hand:

This is from 2006. Wow! My art style looked terrible back then LOL!

This is from 2006. Wow! My art style looked terrible back then LOL!

Of course, the great thing about digital animation is that you can just alter parts of a previous frame and then save it as a new frame rather than drawing each frame from scratch. Not only that, it’s really easy to make basic alterations to an image digitally, so you can produce lots of frames in a relatively short amount of time.

So, although I’m something of a traditionalist when it comes to making art, animation is one of those few areas where I think that digital is better.

Yes,

Yes, digital is better

In addition to this, you don’t need as many frames as you might think that you do. Although I occasionally tried to make flick books when I was a kid, I always used to think that all “real” animations had to have something like 24 very slightly different frames for each second of footage.

I think that I’d read this fact in a book about professional animation and, well, the thought of spending ages drawing twenty four pictures for just one second of footage kind of put me off of animation for quite a while.

But, of course, unless you’re producing a major animated film the old fashioned way, you don’t actually need this many frames per second. In fact, you can get away with a shockingly low number of frames every second.

As long as the changes between each frame are slightly larger than they would be in a “traditional” animation (eg: if something moves 1mm per frame in a 24FPS animation, then it should move about 8mm per frame in a 3FPS animation), then your audience’s minds will automatically “fill in the gaps” and you can get away with a much lower framerate. Yes, this will make your animation look slightly “low budget”, but it’ll still be an animation.

For example, the looped animation at the beginning of this article is about four seconds long and it only contains a grand total of six frames, one of which is repeated at the end of the animation. So, the actual number of new frames in the animation is actually only five. Here they are:

Frame 1

Frame 1

Frame 2

Frame 2

Frame 3

Frame 3

Frames 4 & 6

Frames 4 & 6

Frame 5

Frame 5

And, since each of these frames was just a slightly altered version of the previous picture – the whole thing only took me about twenty minutes to make. So, animation doesn’t have to be as difficult as you might think.

Remember, it’s ok to repeat frames later in the animation if you’re showing something happening in reverse (eg: the flames in the background dying down after they’ve flared up).

But, despite what I’ve said earlier, you can get away with even lower framerates than this if you’ve got other interesting stuff in your animation.

For a great example of this, check out an absolutely hilarious (but NOT for the easily-offended!) animated Youtube videogame discussion series called “The CCS Video Podcast“.

The art looks fantastic, the discussions are really interesting and there’s a lot of really twisted humour in the videos – so it’s not really a big issue that the framerate ( in the older CCS videos at least, not so much with the more recent ones) can be anything between about 0.5 to 3 frames per second.

In fact, you probably won’t even really notice it unless you think about it because you’re distracted by all of the other interesting stuff in the videos.

So, if you’re making something really interesting and really great and you’ve got a fairly low budget, then the animation doesn’t have to be “perfect”.

——–

Sorry that this article was so rambling and so basic, but I hope that it was interesting :)