Today’s Art ( 28th March 2016)

Well, I thought that I’d do something a bit different today and, since I’d been watching a music-themed show on TV earlier, I thought that I’d try to paint someone singing.

Originally, this painting wasn’t going to use a limited palette but, sometime after I’d finished inking it, I thought that it’d be an interesting idea to only use red, yellow, blue and black in this painting.

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

"La Chanteuse" By C. A. Brown

“La Chanteuse” By C. A. Brown

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NEVER SEEN BEFORE! Planning Sketches For “Damania Redux”

2016 Artwork Damania Redux comic plans replacement article sketch

Well, I’d originally written another article for today. It was going to be an extremely cynical opinion article about how the fear of causing controversy affects the webcomic-making process. It was going to be a bold article in support of free expression, which railed mercilessly against the chilling effect that modern social media can sometimes cause.

But, then I worried that it would be controversial and I pulled it before it even saw the light of day (the same fate might also befall an article, and possibly even a comic, that may or may not appear in the summer).

But, since I can’t exactly leave this page empty today, I thought that I’d share some of the “Never Seen Before” planning sketches for my “Damania Redux” webcomic mini series that was posted here earlier this month.

Although I think that there will probably be at least one more detailed article about webcomic planning that will probably appear here at some point in the future, I thought that I’d show off some of my plans from this mini series both as filler content and as a way to make up for pre-emptively self-censoring one of my articles.

You can click on each of these pictures to see a larger version:

This was my original plan for "Damania Redux- Splatterpunk". As you can see, the third panel was originally just supposed to be a boring picture of Derek reading a book.

This was my original plan for “Damania Redux- Splatterpunk”. As you can see, the third panel was originally just supposed to be a boring picture of Derek reading a book.

These were my original plans for "Damania Redux - Cyberpunk". There isn't a huge difference between the plan and the finished comic, other than the random character who says "Like, you can't say that!"

These were my original plans for “Damania Redux – Cyberpunk”. There isn’t a huge difference between the plan and the finished comic, other than the random character who says “Like, you can’t say that!”

I make these comics quite far in advance of when they're posted. As such, the first planned comic [which actually got made into a comic, but I left it out of the main series] was about the then-upcoming "Star Wars" film. But, since it would be posted online after the film came out, I decided to drop it. Plus, as the plans show "Damania Redux - Deduction" was originally going to include vampires. What? i was watching "Supernatural" at the time.

I make these comics quite far in advance of when they’re posted. As such, the first planned comic [which actually got made into a comic, but I left it out of the main series] was about the then-upcoming “Star Wars” film. But, since it would be posted online after the film came out, I decided to drop it. Plus, as the plans show “Damania Redux – Deduction” was originally going to include vampires. What? I was watching “Supernatural” at the time.

These are the original plans for "Damania Redux - Be Prepared" (which was originally going to be four panels long) and "Damania Redux - Devalued".

These are the original plans for “Damania Redux – Be Prepared” (which was originally going to be four panels long) and “Damania Redux – Devalued”.

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Sorry again for the self-censored article, but I hope that this was interesting 🙂

Today’s Art ( 27th March 2016)

Well, I thought that I’d try something slightly different with this painting in my cyberpunk series and it didn’t really turn out that well. I’d planning to make a painting of a cyberpunk cityscape from a bird’s eye perspective, but I messed up the perspective and it just ended up looking like an early 20th century abstract or expressionist painting of some kind instead.

I’m not sure if this is a sign that this series is starting to run out of steam and that I should probably either move on to another art series or just make random paintings for a while.

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

"Losing Perspective" By C. A. Brown

“Losing Perspective” By C. A. Brown

Two Experiences With Beating Writer’s Block In A Webcomic

2016 Artwork comics writer's block article sketch

As I’ve mentioned before, at the time of writing these articles, I’m working on (another) short re-boot of my old “Damania” webcomic series which will hopefully have been posted here earlier this month.

Anyway, when I was making this short webcomic series, I ran into a very familiar problem that I had every now and then when I was working on this series back in 2012-13. I am, of course, talking about writer’s block.

Due to their regular schedule and the fact that each short comic has to be at least slightly amusing (and tell a self-contained story too), writer’s block can be a particularly harsh problem when you’re working on short “newspaper comic strip”-style webcomics. So, I thought that I’d talk about how I got past it whilst making the two comics I made when I had writer’s block one night.

Experience has taught me that there are many techniques that you can use to fight off writer’s block. Writer’s block can be a tricky thing, so different things can work in different situations – so this is hardly an exhaustive list of techniques. Still, I thought that I’d give you examples of a couple of basic techniques in action, in case they come in handy for you.

So, let’s start with the first comic:

"Damania Redux - Devalued" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Redux – Devalued” By C. A. Brown

This comic was probably the easiest of the two to make for the simple reason that parts of it consisted of craftily-recycled content from some of my older comics in the series (this one in particular). Since I already had a pre-made set up for the joke, all I really had to do was to change the punchline slightly.

If your webcomic has been running for quite a while, then one easy way to get past writer’s block is to see if you can find an interesting way to re-work some of your past ideas, themes and/or jokes.

This saves you the work of having to think of entirely new comic ideas (which can be one of the largest problems that writer’s block can cause) and, although it isn’t a cure-all for writer’s block, it can reduce the size of the problem quite considerably.

Likewise, as long as you change enough things and don’t recycle your own content too often, then it won’t be a huge problem. New readers of your comic won’t even notice it and long-term readers of your comic will probably either see it as a running joke or a nostalgic call-back to one of your earlier comics.

So, that’s how I got past writer’s block with that comic, but what about the next one?

"Damania Redux - Hidden Object Games" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Redux – Hidden Object Games” By C. A. Brown

This one was a lot trickier to write. I’d tried planning this comic out a couple of times in one of my sketchbooks and I’d come up with next to nothing. I had no detailed ideas for a comic, but I still wanted to make one. So, in the end, I decided to launch straight into making it and see what emerged.

Since I’d been meaning to make a computer game-based comic for a while, I decided that the first panel would look like something from a computer game – then I drew it, even though I had no clue what the rest of the comic would look like.

This also meant that I’d be able to start my comic off with a detailed art-based panel that wouldn’t really require much in the way of writing – with the hope that this would give the comic enough momentum to help me think of ideas for the other three panels.

This is a slightly risky and unreliable technique to use but, when it works, it works. All you have to do is to draw something random, cool and/or interesting in the first panel of your next update. If you do this, then you’ll provide your imagination with a prompt to work from and you might find an interesting idea for the rest of the comic appearing fairly soon afterwards.

For example, with this comic, since I’d drawn a picture from a hidden object game – I remembered reading online reviews of various games where people talked about the difference between modern hidden object games and old “point and click” adventure games and debated which one was best. Since I’d had experience playing both types of game, I suddenly had a very good idea of what would happen in the rest of the comic.

As I said earlier, these are only two of many techniques that you can use to get past writer’s block. Different techniques work for different situations, but it’s important to remember that writer’s block isn’t an unsolvable problem.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful.

Today’s Art (26th March 2016)

Well, this painting in my cyberpunk art series ended up being a lot more minimalist than I expected. This was mainly because, whenever I tried to sketch any background details, they just seemed to detract from the foreground in a fairly major way. So, in the end, I decided not to include a background in this painting.

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

"Blue Light Lab" By C. A. Brown

“Blue Light Lab” By C. A. Brown

Mini Review: “Resident Evil: Code Name Hunk [Demo 1.2]” (TC/ Mod For “Doom II”/”Final Doom”/ “GZDoom”)

2016 Artwork Code Name Hunk 1.2 mini review sketch

Although I looked at a previous version of this demo in January, I was contacted about a month ago by the maker of this mod who gave me a public link to the next version of the demo (it’s below the Youtube video, although the site that the demo is hosted on downloads the demo in a rather unusual way, which apparently varies depending on your browser).

For this mini review, I’ll only be looking at the most prominent piece of new content (the Krauser campaign) in this mod. If you want to see a review of the other parts of this mod, then check out my review of version 1.1.

Anyway, let’s take a look at “Resident Evil: Code Name Hunk [Demo 1.2]”:

Screenshot_Doom_20160224_161219

If you haven’t played “Code Name Hunk” before, it’s a very extensive “Doom II” mod (using the “GZDoom” source port) in the style of one of the modern “Resident Evil” games.

Although I’ve only played the really old “Resident Evil” games, this mod seems to be a reasonably accurate recreation of what I’ve seen of the modern games (albeit with retro “Doom”/ “Resident Evil 2”-style graphics 🙂 ).

However, I should probably mention that you’ll have to configure the controls yourself before you start playing. Although this demo comes with a copy of “GZDoom” (you’ll obviously need to supply your own “Doom II” or “Final Doom” IWAD though), all of the controls in it are set to the default controls (and there are no default key bindings for many of the essential actions in this mod). So, be sure to take a look at the options menu before you start the game.

The most visible change in version 1.2 of this demo is the fact that there is a new playable character (called Krauser) available. But, rather than just being another character, he also has his own set of levels – the first of which is included in this demo.

Yay! Multiple protagonists :)

Yay! Multiple protagonists 🙂

Like with the Hunk campaign, Krauser’s campaign begins with an introductory FMV sequence (including both newly-animated footage and footage from one of the modern “Resident Evil” games) that explains some of the character’s backstory.

Krauser is a mercenary who has been hired by Albert Wesker to spy on Hunk (as such, the events of Krauser’s campaign take place slightly later than the events of Hunk’s campaign).

On his way to the town, Krauser is in the mood for a fight, so he jumps out of the helicopter into the zombie-filled forest surrounding the town. Although the pilot is annoyed by this, Wesker is merely amused.

*sigh* The pilot is such a killjoy. It was only a small parachute-free jump..

*sigh* The pilot is such a killjoy. It was only a small parachute-free jump..

Oh, Wesker!

Oh, Wesker!

One of the first things I will say is that there are some significant gameplay differences in Krauser’s campaign. Whilst Hunk’s campaign is more like a traditional “Resident Evil” game, Krauser’s campaign is a lot more action-based and it only features a very small amount of puzzle-solving.

Although Krauser gets more weapons than Hunk, this is balanced out by a higher difficulty level. In other words, there are lots more monsters to fight – not to mention that ammo and health can get fairly scarce sometimes.

This looks really cool and it will destroy anything with a single strike, but it takes quite a while to recharge.

This looks really cool and it will destroy anything with a single strike, but it takes quite a while to recharge.

Even on “normal” difficulty, this mod is surprisingly challenging. In other words, expect to encounter far more hunters, zombie dogs and lickers than in Hunk’s campaign. In addition to this, there is a type of mini-boss (from “Resident Evil 2”) that appears regularly about halfway through the demo level. These creatures can only be harmed with Krauser’s mutant arm and you’ll run into at least six of them within a relatively short amount of time.

However, although the monsters are fiendishly difficult, it’s important to remember that they cannot climb even the smallest incline or leave the area they spawn in. So, if you encounter a hunter or one of the mini bosses, just run back until you find a set of steps or a doorway of some kind. Once there, you can either fight them in complete safety, or just run away.

It may look fearsome, but as long as you stay at the top of this small ledge, you can just sit back and wait for Krauser's mutant arm to recharge in total safety.

It may look fearsome, but as long as you stay at the top of this small ledge, you can just sit back and wait for Krauser’s mutant arm to recharge in total safety.

However, even on “normal” difficulty, I had to restart the final third of the level three times before I was finally able to complete it.

Unless you conserve literally all of your ammunition during the final third of the level (which is similar to parts of Hunk’s campaign) and search carefully for more ammo at the beginning of the level, then you won’t have enough to defeat the final boss. I understand that this is meant to be challenging, but I would have appreciated slightly more ammo in this part of the level.

Yes, I even had to resort to using the bow and arrow... and, by the end of the battle, I only had three arrows left...

Yes, I even had to resort to using the bow and arrow… and, by the end of the battle, I only had three arrows left…

In terms of the level design, the demo’s level is divided into three distinct segments. After you’ve completed one part of the level, you’ll get an in-game cutscene and then the next part of the level will begin.

The large sprawling outdoor area in the first third of the level wasn’t quite as confusing as I had feared when I saw the preview video for this version of the demo on Youtube a while back. In addition to this, it also features some creepy dark tunnels that help to add some variety to the level. Plus, since this is still “Doom”, you can just press “tab” to bring up the level map – which can come in handy if you get lost:

 Seriously, why don't more modern games have something like this?

Seriously, why don’t more modern games have something like this?

The second third of the level is a lot more linear, where you explore a series of corridors and open a series of gates by defeating several mini-bosses. Although there are a couple of parts where you can choose to take one of two possible routes, for the most part you will have to explore the whole level.

The gates can only be opened by defeating the mini-bosses.

The gates can only be opened by defeating the mini-bosses.

The third part of the level is a drastically shortened version of Hunk’s campaign, where you have to explore a restaurant and then fight the final boss. Again, make sure to conserve literally all of your ammo during this part of the level (eg: use the knife when fighting the zombies in the restaurant) because you’ll need it for the boss battle.

In terms of the graphics and sound design, they’re as good as always. The monsters actually look 3D, and Krauser is well-animated enough that you’ll soon forget that he’s just a 2D sprite. Likewise, the sounds, music and voice acting are all fairly decent too.

All in all, this is pretty cool. Even though I only played the new Krauser level this time round, it’s surprisingly different from the Hunk level. Yes, the final boss battle borders on being unfair but, apart from this, there’s lots of cool stuff here. The new weapons all work fairly well and the first level of the Krauser campaign contains a good variety of settings (even if it’s easy to get lost during the earlier parts of the level). It’s a good addition to a great mod.

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

Today’s Art (25th March 2016)

Well, here’s the latest painting in my cyberpunk series. This one took slightly longer to make than I expected and, at one point, I thought about abandoning it – until I suddenly thought of a good idea for the background.

This painting required slightly more digital editing than usual – although, in this painting, my usual adjustments to the colour saturation levels (these days, I seem to adjust this as well as the brightness/contrast levels) kind of almost make the painting look like it was made with markers rather than watercolour pencils.

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

"Archive Files" By C. A. Brown

“Archive Files” By C. A. Brown