Today’s Art (30th April 2016)

Well, today’s artwork started out as another 1980s sci-fi painting but I messed up the colours in it extremely badly. In the end, the only way that I was able to get a vaguely decent picture from it was by using a ridiculous amount of digital editing and effects after I scanned the original painting.

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

"Let The Rain Fall" By C. A. Brown

“Let The Rain Fall” By C. A. Brown

Top Ten Articles – April 2016

2016 Artwork Top Ten Articles April

Well, it’s the end of the month and that means that it’s time for me to compile a list of links to my ten favourite articles about art, writing, comics etc.. that I’ve posted here in the past month. As usual, I’ll also include a couple of honourable mentions too.

All in all, this month has been kind of a mixed bag. Whilst I finally started gradually switching over to higher-quality watercolour title art for some of my articles near the end of the month (compared to all of the recycled title art I’ve just over the past month or two), this month’s articles also contained a lot more game reviews and rambling articles than usual too.

Likewise, my articles this month also seem to be a lot more art-based than writing-based. This is probably because I was working on a few art series at the time of writing them, but it’s kind of interesting to see that my blog seems to drifting in this direction.

Anyway, here are the lists. Enjoy 🙂

Top Ten Articles For April 2016:

– “Three More Things I’ve Learnt From Running A Blog For Three Years
– “Three Very Basic Tips For Making Cyberpunk Art
– “Four Basic Tips For Creative Copying (Of Public Domain Photos)
– “How To Seed Inspiration – A Ramble
– “Failure Happens, Keep Going – A Ramble
– “Some Thoughts About Creative Role Models
– “Some Thoughts About Art Styles And Detail Levels – A Ramble
– “Four Revolutionary Tips For Making Conceptual Art[APRIL FOOL]
– “What A Nightmare Taught Me About Plot Twists In The Horror Genre- A Ramble
-“Your Art Supplies Don’t Make You Any More Or Less Of A “Real” Artist- A Ramble

Honourable Mentions:

– “Using Multiple Versions Of The Same Picture To Get Motivated To Make Art- A Ramble
– “Four Reasons To Make “Analogue” Art

Today’s Art (29th April 2016)

Well, I was kind of in the mood for making a 1980s-style sci-fi painting. I’m not sure if this will turn into a series or not, because (like yesterday’s painting) this painting required quite a bit more digital editing than usual after I scanned it – I don’t know why, but I seem to have messed up the colour scheme in both of these pictures – hence all of the editing.

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

"Slow Evening" By C. A. Brown

“Slow Evening” By C. A. Brown

Mini Review: “Midnight Tek Frenzy” (WAD For “Doom II”/ “Final Doom”/ “ZDoom”/ “GZDoom” etc..)

2016 Artwork Midnight Tek Frenzy WAD review sketch

Well, because I’ve been playing a few other games – I seem to have neglected “Doom II”/ “Final Doom” a bit recently. So, I thought that I’d rectify this strange situation by checking out a WAD called “Midnight Tek Frenzy“.

Although I played this WAD using one of the more modern versions of “ZDoom“, it’ll probably work on pretty much any modern-style source port for “Doom II” or “Final Doom”.

Anyway, let’s take a quick look at “Midnight Tek Frenzy”:

Don't let this part of the level lull you into a false sense of security...

Don’t let this part of the level lull you into a false sense of security…

“Midnight Tek Frenzy” is a single-level WAD that took me about half an hour to complete.

The entire level is a large arena that has been split into a variety of fenced-off areas, platforms and catwalks. In order to complete this level, you must find six keys and then complete a basic timed switch puzzle…

 Don't worry, these friendly creatures will be there to help you if you get stuck with the puzzle.

Don’t worry, these friendly creatures will be there to help you if you get stuck with the puzzle.

In case you haven’t guessed already, this is a level that is squarely aimed at intermediate to expert “Doom” players. I’m kind of in two minds about whether to describe this level as a “slaughtermap” or not – since, whilst there are certainly a lot of monsters here, there aren’t quite the giant armies of mid-level monsters that you’d usually find in a slaughtermap-style level.

Yes, you’ll be faced with a small army of imps at one point in the level and you’ll even find yourself up against four arch-viles at once (this part of the level is surprisingly easy though. Because they all emerge from a small room, you just need to run up to them quickly and fire the BFG a couple of times before they leave).

In a traditional "slaughtermap" level,  an equally-sized group of Barons, Revenants and/or Mancubi would be teleporting into this room instead.

In a traditional “slaughtermap” level, an equally-sized group of Barons, Revenants and/or Mancubi would be teleporting into this room instead.

But, despite the large quantity of monsters in this level and the enjoyably frenetic gameplay, it still almost doesn’t quite feel like a slaughtermap level since the monster density is just very slightly too low. Still, if you want a good introduction to this style of level, then you can’t go wrong with “Midnight Tek Frenzy”.

This level also feels slightly different from a “slaughtermap” level because of the level’s emphasis on non-linear exploration, finding keys and solving puzzles. Whilst experienced “Doom” players will find the monster-filled areas easy to navigate, you’ll probably spend at least five minutes aimlessly wandering the level in search of the last key.

Plus, like in any good “Doom” level, many of the keys are booby-trapped in all sorts of inventive ways.

And, yes, I laughed when this guy suddenly popped up in front of me. "Doom" levels can be hilariously evil sometimes.

And, yes, I laughed when this guy suddenly popped up in front of me. “Doom” levels can be hilariously evil sometimes.

Visually, this level is pretty cool – although it mostly uses the standard “Doom II” textures, there’s a new skybox and a few small textures from games like “Duke Nukem 3D” thrown in too. Whilst it’s nothing stunningly spectacular, this level still has a really cool sci-fi atmosphere.

Yay! Sci-fi :)

Yay! Sci-fi 🙂

And "Duke Nukem 3D" too :)

And “Duke Nukem 3D” too 🙂

Musically, this level is fairly cool too. The maker of this level uses some of the fast-paced and upbeat music from “Rise Of The Triad: Dark War” as the background music and this compliments the frenetic and thrilling gameplay really well.

All in all, I had a lot of fun with this WAD. It’s enjoyably challenging, but it’s certainly not the most difficult WAD that I’ve ever played. However, the slightly greater emphasis on exploration and puzzle-solving help to set this level apart from other levels of the same type.

If I had to give this level a rating out of five, it would probably just about get a four.

What A Nightmare Taught Me About Plot Twists In The Horror Genre- A Ramble

2016 Artwork Nightmares and horror fiction article sketch

Well, it’s been a while since I wrote an article about writing (and storytelling in general). It’s also been a while since I wrote about the horror genre too. Even so, I’m going to have to start this article by talking about my dreams for a while.

As usual, there’s a good reason for this that I hope becomes obvious later – although I should warn you that, since this is an article about both nightmares and the horror genre, it may contain some disturbing descriptions. But, I’ll try to keep them to a minimum.

The night before I wrote this article, I had a nightmare (which was probably caused by the fact I was watching “Supernatural” at the time). It wasn’t really your garden variety anxiety dream, it was an actual nightmare – with creatures and everything. Well, one mythological creature of some kind, a monster hunter and everyone else.

The interesting thing about this dream was that it wasn’t actually seriously scary until the very end. Yes, this dream actually had a creepy plot twist.

The twist was, of course, that I (unknowingly) turned out to be the ancient creature that the monster hunter had been following. I haven’t even seen “The Twilight Zone” and even I know that this twist is taken directly from that show.

In retrospect, this melodramatic plot twist should have been obvious – given that the monster hunter shot me within two minutes of the dream starting ( at the time, I just assumed that he was aiming at someone else and had missed). Not only that, when I actually saw the bullet wound later in the dream – it was surprisingly small, almost painless and totally bloodless.

Then again, this wasn’t really that shocking for the simple reason that, in most other nightmares that I’ve had, any horrific injuries that I sustain are almost always totally bloodless and only mildly painful at most. It always seems perfectly normal at the time for some reason.

No, the really creepy part of the dream was the sudden change in the emotional reactions of everyone around me towards me when it was revealed that I wasn’t as human as I thought I was.

Although I overheard the monster hunter talking about the creature earlier in the dream (and mentioning that it can be harmed with milk), it wasn’t until after I’d seen my injuries in the mirror that the monster hunter suddenly appeared behind me and poured a glass of milk over my head.

Although the milk produced a theatrical cloud of smoke and some loud hissing sounds, it wasn’t particularly painful or frightening. It was everyone else’s shocked and/or hostile reactions that startled me into waking up quickly.

So, why am I talking about a nightmare that I had? What does any of this have to do with storytelling?

Well, it has to do with how plot twists are handled in the horror genre. As anyone will tell you, all good plot twists should be foreshadowed earlier in the story. To make a plot twist truly shocking, the reader needs to see a couple of subtle clues about it earlier in the story that theoretically give them a chance to work out the twist before it is revealed.

In the horror genre, readers expect a lot of strange and horrific things to happen. They expect tragedy, unusual characters and bizarre events. As such, there’s a lot more room for horror writers to hide clues about upcoming plot twists than there is in many other genres.

For example, I mentioned that all of the injuries in my nightmares tend to be totally bloodless. Most of the time, this just feels like an “ordinary” part of the dream – except for the one time that it was actually a clue that I was actually some kind of ancient creature. If this dream had been anything other than a nightmare, the fact that a gunshot hadn’t really hurt me much would have been a huge clue that something wasn’t right.

Another thing to remember about plot twists in the horror genre is that at least half of the shock value comes from the way that the characters react to these plot twists.

Yes, even if the twist itself is extremely shocking, it’s often only truly horrifying when the characters actually react to it. Regardless of whether they react with abject horror or with cold indifference, character reactions are an extremely important part of any plot twist.

Again, the truly frightening part of my nightmare wasn’t the fact that I was some kind of immortal ancient creature (since this, in itself, would be kind of cool). It was the fact that the people around me suddenly saw me as some kind of monster that had to be killed in the most horrific way possible. That was the true horror of the nightmare!

So, remember to foreshadow your plot twists carefully and – more importantly – remember that your characters’ reactions can make the difference between a scary plot twist and a silly plot twist.

———————–

Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

The Complete “Damania Resurgence” – All 15 Episodes Of The New Webcomic Mini Series By C. A. Brown

2016 Artwork Damania Resurgence Retrospective sketch

Woo hoo! This “mini series” ran for a whole fifteen episodes 🙂 When I started it, I only expected it to last for 6-8 episodes. Although I’ll probably be taking a break from “Damania” comics for a while, I thought that I’d post the whole mini series here in case you missed any of it.

If you want to check out the previous “Damania” mini series from March, it can be found here. If you want to check out the two short narrative comics (featuring these characters) that I made last year, they can be found here and here.

Anyway, enjoy 🙂

As usual, all fifteen of these comics are released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence. If you want to see a larger version of each comic, just click on the image.

"Damania Resurgence - Smart Phones" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Resurgence – Smart Phones” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Resurgence - Like A TV Show" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Resurgence – Like A TV Show” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Resurgence - Film Night" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Resurgence – Film Night” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Resurgence - Debunked (Censored Version)" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Resurgence – Debunked (Censored Version)” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Resurgence - Nightmares" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Resurgence – Nightmares” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Resurgence - With Great Power..." By C. A. Brown

“Damania Resurgence – With Great Power…” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Resurgence - New Game" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Resurgence – New Game” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Resurgence - Raven" By C. A. Brown (And Edgar Allen Poe)

“Damania Resurgence – Raven” By C. A. Brown (And Edgar Allen Poe)

"Damania Resurgence - The Meaning Of Life" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Resurgence – The Meaning Of Life” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Resurgence - Licenced Pyromaniac" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Resurgence – Licenced Pyromaniac” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Resurgence - Undercover" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Resurgence – Undercover” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Resurgence - Goth Night" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Resurgence – Goth Night” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Resurgence - A Calculated Risk" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Resurgence – A Calculated Risk” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Resurgence - Jump Scares" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Resurgence – Jump Scares” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Resurgence - A Rogueish Plot" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Resurgence – A Rogueish Plot” By C. A. Brown

Today’s Art (27th April 2016)

Well, here’s the next comic in my short reboot of my old webcomic series (the previous short reboot can be seen here).

Well, I thought that I’d end this mini series on a high, before I really started running out of ideas. This series was a lot of fun to make (albeit quite a bit of effort, given that I made the whole thing in about a week or so – even though it was posted over two weeks).

Like with the previous mini series, I’ll probably post a retrospective of the whole mini series on here later tonight. Normal daily art posts will resume tomorrow.

Stay tuned for a line art post for this series (containing alternate dialogue etc..) on the 8th May too. As well as a slew of articles about making this comic (and webcomics in general) in early May, mainly because I’m somewhat further ahead with writing the articles than I am with these daily art posts.

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

"Damania Resurgence - A Rogueish Plot" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Resurgence – A Rogueish Plot” By C. A. Brown

Review: “The Blackwell Deception” (Computer Game)

2016 Artwork Blackwell Deception Review sketch

Well, today, I thought that I’d review “The Blackwell Deception”. This is the fourth game in the “Blackwell” series (you can read my reviews of the previous three games here, here and here).

Whilst this game appears to be self-contained at first, you should probably play the previous three games first, or some later parts of the game may not make sense to you. Likewise, you’ll probably want to play the fifth and final game when you finish this one.

Although I bought the first four games (in a collection called “The Blackwell Bundle”) when they were on special offer at GOG in November, the fifth game seems to cost as much as the entire collection (at the time of writing, at least). So, I’m not sure when or if I’ll review that game [EDIT: Expect a review in late July].

Even though I’ll try to avoid them, I should probably warn you that this review may contain some SPOILERS.

Anyway, let’s take a look at “The Blackwell Deception”.

Blackwell Deception - Title screen

“The Blackwell Deception” is a 1990s-style film noir/ paranormal detective/ horror “point and click” adventure game that is set in New York in 2010.

You play as Rosa Blackwell, a medium who – along with her ghostly companion Joey (also a playable character) – finds ghosts and investigates how they died, so that they can pass over into the afterlife.

- Via this place. Which, yet again, has a cooler design in each game.

– Via this place. Which, yet again, has a cooler design in each game.

This game begins with Rosa and Joey investigating a haunted boat. This serves as a tutorial/ pre-credits scene and it contains some surprisingly tricky puzzles.

After you’ve solved everything on the boat, Rosa and Joey return home only for Rosa to get a call from Jeremy Sams, a reporter she used to work with.

Jeremy has come down with the flu and wants Rosa to help him finish the story he’s been working on. I won’t spoil anything, but it quickly becomes evident that there’s more to this story than Rosa thought….

Yes, it's another case!

Yes, it’s another case!

One of the first things that I will say about this game is that it took me a while to get into. Compared to the previous three games, there are a lot of subtle changes here (to the gameplay, graphics etc..). Some of these changes are good and some of them aren’t.

As for the story, it’s more complex and dramatic than in the previous games. Not only does Rosa find herself in the middle of a really compelling case, but we also eventually get to learn more about Joey too.

I really loved the story in this game, although it’s clear that there are still a few plot threads that will be resolved in the next game. Whilst this game doesn’t quite end on a cliffhanger, you’ll still be left with at least a few questions by the end.

Likewise, the series has also returned to the horror genre slightly in this game too 🙂 Although it isn’t really as scary as the first “Blackwell” game was, it still contains a few surprisingly creepy characters, scenes, plot twists and story elements.

Not only that, the game also contains a fair amount of humour too. For example, one amusing part of the game is that, when you’re playing as Joey, some item and character descriptions will change slightly.

If you're playing as Rosa, this thing will be described as a "GPS Unit", rather than a "Map Gizmo" LOL!

If you’re playing as Rosa, this thing will be described as a “GPS Unit”, rather than a “Map Gizmo” LOL!

LOL! It's funny because it's true!

LOL! It’s funny because it’s true!

The characters are, as you would expect, as great as ever. Not only does Rosa have slightly more character development in this game, but Joey also gets a surprising amount of character development too

Visually, this game has received an upgrade too. Although I personally didn’t like the new sprite for Rosa (eg: she looks too minimalist and, whenever she walks, her legs remain slightly too straight etc..) – she has a few more animations than she did in the previous games, including a couple of idle animations if you don’t do anything.

Not only that, this game has significantly improved backgrounds and illustrations. Seriously, I love the backgrounds in this game – they really lend everything a “film noir” style atmosphere 🙂 Not to mention that a couple of the backgrounds near the beginning of the game are even animated slightly too.

But, yes, this game is a lot more atmospheric than the previous three games were.

Oooooh! This looks like something from "Blade Runner"!

Oooooh! This looks like something from “Blade Runner”!

And check out this cityscape too :)

And check out this cityscape 🙂

A grizzled old detective, in a city bathed in the amber glow of streetlights? YES!!!!!

A grizzled old detective, in a city bathed in the amber glow of streetlights? YES!!!!!

As for the gameplay, “The Blackwell Deception” is a lot more like a traditional “point and click” game than I expected.

Although you still have to do some detective work, the gameplay is a lot more puzzle-heavy than it was in any of the previous three games. There’s a greater variety of puzzles here too – including everything from inventory puzzles, to (almost) pixel hunting, to dialogue puzzles.

Hint: The key to the room is that tiny collection of 6-8 pixels by the door. Yay! Pixel hunting!

Hint: The key to the room is that tiny collection of 6-8 pixels by the door. Yay! Pixel hunting!

As I’ve mentioned in other reviews, I’m terrible at adventure game puzzles. Although I was able to solve a few of the puzzles in this game on my own, I ended up resorting to using a walkthrough quite a few times.

So – if, like me, you play adventure games for the story, art and characters – then make sure you keep a walkthrough handy when playing this game.

The gameplay has also had a few other changes from the previous games. Some of these are good and some of these are bad. Connecting clues together is a gameplay mechanic once again and so is searching the internet too. But, unfortunately, Rosa has bought one of those annoying modern smartphones.

Although this means that you don’t have to go back and forth to Rosa’s apartment like you did in the previous game, it also kind of detracts quite a bit from the “film noir” atmosphere of the game.

Dammit, I avoid these annoying things in real life. WHY does one of them have to appear in this game? Seriously, what's wrong with a desktop computer and a good old notebook?

Dammit, I avoid these annoying things in real life. WHY does one of them have to appear in this game? Seriously, what’s wrong with a desktop computer and a good old notebook?

On the plus side, if you decide to leave a room whilst playing as Joey, you don’t have to switch back to Rosa first. Although this is a small change, it really helps to streamline the gameplay slightly.

In terms of length, this game is slightly longer than the previous three games were. With the frequent use of a walkthrough, this game took me about four hours or so to complete (compared to about 2-3 hours for the previous games). But, given the difficulty of a couple of the puzzles, I’d guess that it would take a fair amount longer if you don’t use a walkthrough.

It might not be the notorious "Rubber Duck" puzzle from "The Longest Journey", but this still looks a bit too much like an old-school inventory puzzle for my liking....

It might not be the notorious “Rubber Duck” puzzle from “The Longest Journey”, but this still looks a bit too much like an old-school inventory puzzle for my liking….

All in all, even though some of the changes to the gameplay in this game annoyed me, I still really liked this game. The story is thrillingly compelling and somewhat longer than you might expect. The characters are brilliant. The graphics are wonderfully atmospheric. The dialogue is well-written. There’s also a good blend of horror, film noir and comedy here too. Just make sure you keep a walkthrough handy though…

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

Today’s Art (26th April 2016)

Well, here’s the next comic in my short reboot of my old webcomic series (the previous short reboot can be seen here).

Well, for the penultimate comic in this mini series, I thought that I’d make a cynical comic about those jump scare-based horror movies that used to be all the rage in the early-mid ’00s.

Of course, American studios liked them because the lack of gruesome scenes meant that these films got a profitable “PG-13” rating in the states. However, since our censors in the UK are somewhat stricter with horror movies, most of these movies would get the same censorship certificate as a few “proper” horror movies do (eg: a “15” certificate). So, when I was a teenager, it was kind of Russian roulette which type of horror movie you would see when you went to the cinema LOL!

Although, at one point, this comic contained a cynical reference to the fact that these kind of films were released by American studios, I later changed this since I realised that said American studios didn’t actually invent this genre (in many cases, they were just lazily remaking much better horror movies from Japan, Korea, Thailand etc…).

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

"Damania Resurgence - Jump Scares" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Resurgence – Jump Scares” By C. A. Brown