Today’s Art (31st July 2017)

Well, today’s digitally-edited painting is kind of random. This is mostly because I couldn’t get to sleep the night before I made it, and had been awake for something like 36 hours when I made it. Then again, if you make paintings every day, then you’re going to have a few off days every now and then.

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

"Tourist Of An Imagined 1990s" By C. A. Brown

“Tourist Of An Imagined 1990s” By C. A. Brown

Top Ten Articles – July 2017

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

This month probably wasn’t the best month I’ve had in terms of articles. As well as writing more reviews than usual (which were fun to write though), I felt a bit uninspired during some parts of this month – so, a few of the articles were either kind of repetitive or not that great. But, well, occasional spells of writer’s block are one of the occupational hazards of daily blogging.

Anyway, here are the lists. Enjoy 🙂

Top Ten Articles – July 2017:

– “How To Change Art Mediums Quickly And Easily
– “Three Fascinating “Time Travel”-Based Art Exercises
– “Four Ways That Making Art Regularly Changes How You See The World
– “Four Basic Ways To Downgrade Your Webcomic (To Stay Inspired)
– “Three Things To Do When You Predict The Future Incorrectly In A Webcomic
– “Three More Tips For Making Art That Looks Like It’s From The ’90s
– “Three Ways To Make Something That Is ‘So Bad That It’s Good’
– “Three Tips For Making Art When You Are Tired
– “Four Tips For Remaking Famous Old Paintings In Your Own Style
– “Four Basic Ways To Create 1990s Style Gothic Horror Art, Comics etc..

Honourable mentions:

– “One Simple Way To Add Depth To Rainfall (Or Snowfall) In Digital Art/ Digitally-Edited Art
– “You Don’t Need A Huge Budget To Make Art

The Complete “Damania Replicated” – All 12 Episodes Of The New Webcomic Mini Series By C. A. Brown

2017-artwork-the-complete-damania-replicated

Well, in case you missed any of it, here are all 12 “episodes” of my “Damania Replicated” webcomic mini series in one easy-to-read post.

Links to many more mini series can be found on this page. And, if you like the cyberpunk setting of this mini series, then be sure to check out “Damania Retrofuturistic” and “Damania Regenerated“.

This mini series was kind of a strange one, mostly since I came up with the idea for it during a spontaneous moment of inspiration (whilst watching “Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex”, I think) and wanted to get started on it right away. This, of course, meant that I didn’t get round to planning the whole thing in advance.

What this meant was that the art and writing quality varied slightly from comic to comic. Likewise, the mini series also contains a mixture of story-based comics and stand-alone comics too.

Plus, at one stage, I almost expected that this would turn into a much longer comic – especially given that it actually featured a secondary cast too. However, by the end, I was starting to feel the usual comic-related creative exhasution and decided to conclude it after twelve “episodes”. Still, for one of my recent mini series, this is probably slightly on the longer side.

As usual, these twelve comic updates are released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence. Likewise, you can click on each update to see a larger version if it is too small to read here.

"Damania Replicated - 15 Million" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Replicated – 15 Million” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Replicated- Voice Over" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Replicated- Voice Over” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Replicated - Mixed Feelings" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Replicated – Mixed Feelings” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Replicated - In Other News" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Replicated – In Other News” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Replicated - Upgrade" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Replicated – Upgrade” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Replicated - Disguised" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Replicated – Disguised” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Replicated - Chips" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Replicated – Chips” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Replicated - Records" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Replicated – Records” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Replicated - Special Forces" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Replicated – Special Forces” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Replicated - Signs" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Replicated – Signs” By C. A. Brown

 "Damania Replicated - Runners" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Replicated – Runners” By C. A. Brown

"Damania Replicated - Gilded Age" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Replicated – Gilded Age” By C. A. Brown

Today’s Art (30th July 2017)

Woo hoo! I am very proud to present the final “episode” of a new webcomic mini series called “Damania Replicated”. There will be a full retrospective posted here later tonight but, in the meantime, you can catch up on previous episodes here: Episode One, Episode Two, Episode Three, Episode Four, Episode Five, Episode Six, Episode Seven, Episode Eight, Episode Nine, Episode Ten and Episode Eleven.

Links to many more mini series featuring (non-robotic versions of) these characters can be found here.

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

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] "Damania Replicated - Gilded Age" By C. A. Brown

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] “Damania Replicated – Gilded Age” By C. A. Brown

Review: “Alien Shooter 2: Reloaded” (Computer Game)

2017-artwork-alien-shooter-2-review-sketch

Well, after playing quite a bit of the first “Alien Shooter” game (and completing “Zombie Shooter”), I was curious about what the second “Alien Shooter” game would be like.

Thankfully, there was still a sale running on GOG a few days before I originally prepared this review (in late 2016), so I was able to pick up a copy of “Alien Shooter 2” for 79p. I think that it costs about a fiver at full price though.

And, since I completed “Alien Shooter 2” a few minutes before I started writing this review, this will actually be a full review, rather than a partial review or a first impressions article.

Plus, like with the other games in this series, I should probably warn you that this review contains unrealistic/cartoonish GRUESOME IMAGES and BLOODY IMAGES.

So, let’s take a look at “Alien Shooter 2”:

2016-11-14-16h59m29

“Alien Shooter 2” is an isometric third-person perspective action game from 2009. One of the very first things that I will say about this game is that, unlike the first “Alien Shooter” game, this one actually has something of a story to it. In other words, there’s actual voice-acting, NPCs and even the occasional set piece.

Of course, some of the voice acting is kind of funny, such as the voice acting for this character. I literally laughed out loud when he said “deep in the bowels of this place” in a serious voice.

And, yes, there are set pieces like this one too.

And, yes, there are set pieces like this one too.

In other words, this is more like a “mainstream” game in some subtle ways. A few of the levels are somewhat more linear than usual and all of the levels are vaguely story-based. Whilst this detracts from the timelessly thrilling gameplay slightly, it’s something that you can get used to after a while. Even so, most parts of this game are just as thrillingly fast-paced as the first “Alien Shooter” was. And, thankfully, this game isn’t as easy as your typical mainstream game is 🙂

However, before I go any further, I should probably point out that the controls/perspective can take a bit of getting used to. Whilst I’d had a lot of practice with the previous games, one annoying feature in this game is the inclusion of vehicle-based segments (including at least one vehicle-only level).

The vehicles use a totally different control scheme to that used for normal character movements (eg: directions are from the perspective of the vehicle itself, rather than from the perspective of the overhead viewpoint) which can confuse the hell out of you and cause you to swerve around wildly until you finally get used to another set of controls…. only to then have to get used to the “normal” controls again once you leave the vehicle.

Seriously, why couldn’t the vehicles have used the same movement controls as the rest of the game?

The difficulty curve in this game is kind of strange too. Ironically, some of the earlier levels and one level in the middle of the game are more difficult than the later levels. This is mostly because, by the end of the game, you have such powerful weapons and such impressive stats that you may as well be playing with “god mode” enabled.

Yes, as soon as you get one of the better rocket launchers, the difficulty drops from "hard" to "easy" LOL!

Yes, as soon as you get one of the better rocket launchers, the difficulty drops from “hard” to “easy” LOL!

 Yes, even though the last two levels contain five bosses [well, sort of...], it only took me two attempts to beat both levels. Whereas, one level in the middle of the game took me at least six tries to get through!

Yes, even though the last two levels contain five bosses [well, sort of…], it only took me two attempts to beat both levels. Whereas, one level in the middle of the game took me at least six tries to get through!

Another reason why some levels are almost unreasonably difficult is because of the game’s saving system. Whilst this game now allows you to replay previous levels, it still uses the dreaded checkpoint saving system (only saving when you’ve completed a level). Given that one difficult level in the middle of the game is literally half an hour long, having to replay the whole thing every time you fail will probably cause you to ragequit more than a few times.

Yes, getting to this part of the level isn't too difficult after a couple of attempts. But, unless you picked up the hidden rocket launcher (or found enough in-game bonuses to buy it) earlier, then you won't stand a chance in the last part of the level.

Yes, getting to this part of the level isn’t too difficult after a couple of attempts. But, unless you picked up the hidden rocket launcher (or found enough in-game bonuses to buy it) earlier, then you won’t stand a chance in the last part of the level.

On the plus side, this game has received some fairly cool upgrades. Not only are there more characters, weapons and stats available, but you also get to choose an upgradeable ‘perk’ at the beginning of the game. The best one to go for is probably the “vampirism” one (which gives you health every time you destroy a monster) since it complements the aggressive playing style that you’ll need to use. Not to mention that it makes the final boss battle a lot easier too.

Plus, the perk selection screen actually has a sense of humour. Seriously? Humour? In an action game from 2009? Maybe there's hope for games after all....

Plus, the perk selection screen actually has a sense of humour. Seriously? Humour? In an action game from 2009? Maybe there’s hope for games after all….

But, unlike other games in this series, you can’t use bonus items you find whilst playing to buy extra lives. You only get extra lives on the rare occasions that a monster drops a “+1” power-up. I don’t know why they left this feature out, since it makes a couple of the levels more difficult than they should have been. But, for the most part, it doesn’t affect the game too much.

Graphically, the game has been given a huge upgrade compared to the previous game. The lighting in this game looks beautiful, and most of the locations, animations and monsters are more detailed too. Whilst this gives the game a lot more atmosphere and allows some parts of it to be even more ludicrously gruesome than the first “Alien Shooter” game, it does come at a cost. If you’re using an older computer, then expect some fairly long loading times both between missions and when you load up the game itself. Still, if you set the graphics to minimum, then the actual gameplay itself will still run at a decent speed.

Fun fact: This game came out at least a year BEFORE “Brutal Doom” did, and yet this one monster death animation somehow manages to be more splatterific than all of “Brutal Doom” combined.

And just check out this awesome lighting! Yes, there are some parts of the game that are set during boring daylight, but the gloomy corridors are the best parts of the game.

And just check out this awesome lighting! Yes, there are some parts of the game that are set during boring daylight, but the gloomy corridors are the best parts of the game.

The game also contains the usual survival modes etc… too. I didn’t really have much of a chance to check these out but from, what I saw, they seemed to be pretty much what you would expect.

All in all, this is still an absolutely brilliant action game. Whilst it lacks some of the pure thrilling simplicity of the first “Alien Shooter” game, it’s still a fairly solid action game.

Yes, some of the changes in the sequel don’t work that well (vehicles especially!) and the difficulty curve is a bit strange, but it’s still the kind of thrilling action game that could probably put most modern mega-budget games to shame. It may look a little bit more like a “mainstream” game, but it’s still pretty much the same thrilling action-fest that the first “Alien Shooter” was.

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

Today’s Art (29th July 2017)

Woo hoo! I am very proud to present the eleventh (and penultimate) “episode” of a new webcomic mini series called “Damania Replicated”. You can catch up on previous episodes here: Episode One, Episode Two, Episode Three, Episode Four, Episode Five, Episode Six, Episode Seven, Episode Eight, Episode Nine, Episode Ten…

Links to many more mini series featuring (non-robotic versions of) these characters can be found here.

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

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] "Damania Replicated - Runners" By C. A. Brown

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] “Damania Replicated – Runners” By C. A. Brown

Finding The Subtle “Everyday” Influences On Your Art Style – A Ramble

2017-artwork-art-style-hidden-influences

Well, I’ve already written about how your art style can be influenced by all sorts of things that you either don’t notice or have forgotten about. But, discovering one of these influences is always a strange experience. Especially if, like with one that I found shortly before writing this article, it’s been staring you in the face for literally years.

As regular readers of this site know, I often tend to use high-contrast lighting and vivid colours in my art. This has been a subtle element of my art style for quite a while, but it’s something that has become a lot more prominent in the paintings that I’ve made over the past year or so.

Anyway, I had a sudden realisation about one of the many things that might have inspired this when I was preparing a digitally-edited painting that will be posted here in September. Here’s a reduced-size preview of the painting:

The full-size painting will be posted here on the 10th September.

The full-size painting will be posted here on the 10th September.

Quite a few hours after finishing this painting, I suddenly thought “This would make a really cool T-shirt design“. I then looked over at the collection of old heavy metal T-shirts that were dangling from a rack on my door. Suddenly, I knew one of the reasons why I love high-contrast art.

After all, pretty much every heavy metal T-shirt ever made usually features an album cover design printed on black fabric. Because of the fact that it’s printed on dark fabric, the design usually stands out a lot more if it contains any kind of vivid colours. Thinking about it, these T-shirts probably had much more of an influence on my art style than I would have expected:

"Corrugation" By C. A. Brown

“Corrugation” By C. A. Brown

"Data Transfer" By C. A. Brown

“Data Transfer” By C. A. Brown

"Storage" By C. A. Brown

“Storage” By C. A. Brown

As you can see, all of these digitally-edited paintings look like they’ve been printed on black paper or, from a distance, black fabric. They use a similar high-contrast lighting/colour style to the one used in the vast majority of heavy metal T-shirts. And, yet, this was a subtle influence on my art that I didn’t notice until relatively recently.

The thing to remember about subtle influences on your art style is that they can be anything or anywhere. After all, we are all exposed to countless examples of art every day. Whether it’s the desktop background on your computer, the adverts that you try to ignore every day, the box art/cover art for something you buy etc.. we are all quite literally surrounded by art on a daily basis.

So, it’s likely that some of it has had an influence on your own art. Whilst one easy way to tell whether something artistic has influenced you or not is to work out when you discovered it and whether you consider it to be “cool” or “interesting”. If you like it, and you discovered it a long time ago, then it’s likely that it’s influenced your art style in some way or other.

But, as you probably guessed from my idea, remembering to see artistic things (like heavy metal T-shirts) as “art” when they might not look like traditional paintings or drawings can be something of a challenge. So, yes, this is how artistic influences can ‘hide in plain sight’.

——–

Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂

Today’s Art (28th July 2017)

Woo hoo! I am very proud to present the tenth “episode” of a new webcomic mini series called “Damania Replicated”. You can catch up on previous episodes here: Episode One, Episode Two, Episode Three, Episode Four, Episode Five, Episode Six, Episode Seven, Episode Eight, Episode Nine

Links to many more mini series featuring (non-robotic versions of) these characters can be found here.

And, yes, I think that most outdoor advertising is more decorative than anything else. I mean, how many people actually buy things that they wouldn’t have bought anyway, just because of advertising?

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

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] "Damania Replicated - Signs" By C. A. Brown

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] “Damania Replicated – Signs” By C. A. Brown

Partial Review: “Eradicator” (Retro Computer Game)

2017-artwork-eradicator-review-sketch

One of the problems with being a fan of sprite-based FPS games from the 1990s is that there aren’t that many of them out there.

Sure, there are more fan-made “Doom”/”Doom II” levels than you could ever play – but there aren’t that many different games. So, imagine my delight when, during a sale on GOG I found a mid-90s FPS game that I’d barely heard of called “Eradicator” for £1.99 (I think that it’s about a fiver at full price).

Since I bought a few games during this sale and don’t have time to complete them all, this is another partial review. In other words, at the time of writing this review, I’ve only played a little under half of the game. So, whilst this is more than just a “first impressions” article, it isn’t quite a full review either.

So, let’s take a look at “Eradicator”:

And, as you would expect, heavy metal/ hard rock music plays during this screen. \m/

And, as you would expect, heavy metal/ hard rock music plays during this screen. \m/

“Eradicator” is a sci-fi FPS game from 1996 that uses wonderfully retro sprite-based graphics.

Although “Eradicator” uses it’s own unique game engine, it is remarkably similar to the Build engine used in “Duke Nukem 3D”, “Shadow Warrior”, “Blood” and “Redneck Rampage“. Seriously, you can barely tell the game engines apart!

 I can't believe it's not "Build"!

I can’t believe it’s not “Build”!

However, unlike some Build engine games, there’s no source port for this game. The edition on GOG comes with a pre-made DOSBox launcher. What this means is that you can’t really use modern controls with this game (due to the lack of vertical mouse look). So, if you miss “Duke Nukem 3D”/”Blood”-style keyboard only controls, then you’re in luck here 🙂 However, you can also use the mouse for movement and/or shooting if you really want to.

Unusually for a mid-1990s FPS game, you actually have a choice of characters. There are two alien characters (Eleena and Kamchak) and one human character (Dan Blaze).

Although your choice of character mostly just affects which voice actor you’ll hear throughout the game, each character also has a different first level and two unique weapons too. Plus, if you want to, you can also switch to a third-person perspective whilst playing- although the game is a lot more playable in the traditional first-person perspective.

Kamchak looks quite cool in third-person perspective, but I imagine that the combat probably gets confusing if you use this perspective.

Kamchak looks quite cool in third-person perspective, but I imagine that the combat probably gets confusing if you use this perspective.

One of the first things that I will say about this game is that, in terms of gameplay and aesthetic design, it’s a bit more like a late 1990s FPS.

In other words, the game’s locations mostly seem to be gloomy, industrial, understated and -sometimes- boring. Likewise, most levels require you to complete one or more mission objectives before you finish the level.

Fun fact: This game came out the same year that "Quake" did. Although, interestingly, the location design is slightly more reminiscent of "Quake II".

Fun fact: This game came out the same year that “Quake” did.

However, some of the worst elements of mid-1990s FPS games are present here in abundance. As well as the dreaded first-person platforming segments, there are puzzles! Some of these aren’t that bad, but there are at least two timed puzzles within the first half of the game which will frustrate the hell out of you.

One requires you to navigate a maze-like base and shoot out three generators within a limited time frame (otherwise you have to do it again). Likewise, another puzzle requires you to press four switches within a limited time (and you pretty much have to memorise the level layout to do this). Plus, there’s also one part of level three where you can get totally stuck if you do things in the wrong order.

Yes, after sprinting around it and pressing switches more times than you remember, you will come to absolutely loathe and despise this particular level!

Yes, after sprinting around it and pressing switches more times than you remember, you will come to absolutely loathe and despise this particular level!

On the plus side, some parts of this game includes the kind of challenging, intense combat that classic FPS games are famous for.

Not only do you get a ridiculous number of imaginative sci-fi weapons (I think that there are something like 15 different weapons available – one of which is like a primitive version of the Redeemer from “Unreal Tournament”), but there is also a reasonable variety of different cyborg/ alien monsters to fight and even at least one boss fight too.

I almost got stuck on this, until I remembered that -whilst the flamethrower looks cool - the rocket launcher is a MUCH better weapon to use!

I almost got stuck on this, until I remembered that -whilst the flamethrower looks cool – the rocket launcher is a MUCH better weapon to use!

Another cool, imaginative thing in this game is that you can actually remotely control things like robots, security cameras and guided rockets.

Learning how to do this can be a bit annoying (through trial and error, I learnt that you have to press the “action” key twice) but it’s really cool when you know how to do it. Needless to say, this imaginative feature is an integral part of the game and you’ll have to use it in a few areas in order to progress.

Yes, controlling enemy robots is cool - but it can take a while to work out how to do it.

Yes, controlling enemy robots is cool – but it can take a while to work out how to do it.

In terms of the level design, it’s ok. It’s fairly standard mid-1990s level design. Compared to more linear modern level design, it’s brilliant. But, compared to other games from the time, it’s nothing spectacular. Don’t get me wrong, you’ll still have a lot of fun exploring the non-linear levels (even if some look a bit dull and/or are a bit confusing) but it’s nothing special.

Like many classic 90s FPS games, “Eradicator” also comes with a level editor. Although this apparently also includes a feature that allows you to convert “Doom” WADs into “Eradicator” levels, there seems to be little to no documentation about how to use the editor.

Not only that, it’s a proper old-school DOS program too. For example, in order to convert “Doom” levels, you apparently have to manually type out the file path for the level in question:

This looks cool, but unless you've memorised the exact location of your "Doom" WADs, then you're going to have problems.

This looks cool, but unless you’ve memorised the exact location of your “Doom” WADs, then you’re going to have problems.

In terms of music, the best music in the game is probably the title screen music. The rest is either forgettable or nonexistent. But, like in many classic 90s FPS games, your character will occasionally make comments during gameplay. Most of the time, these are just “realistic” functional comments about the mission, rather than humourous comments though.

In terms of the voice acting, it’s kind of meh. The voice-actors for Eleena and Dan Blaze both sound at least mildly bored and unenthusiastic. The voice-actor for Kamchak seems to be trying to impersonate a Klingon from “Star Trek”, which is kind of amusing. Still, it’s cool to play an old-school FPS game where your character isn’t ominously silent throughout the game.

 If you play as Eleena, then she will quite literally say "This must be a factory" in this area. Thank you, captain obvious!

If you play as Eleena, then she will quite literally say “This must be a factory” in this area. Thank you, captain obvious!

All in all, from what I’ve played, “Eradicator” is an ok game. Although it’s absolutely great to play a sprite-based FPS game from the 1990s that I haven’t played before, “Eradicator” doesn’t quite reach the high standard of “Doom II”, “Rise Of The Triad” “Blood” or “Duke Nukem 3D”.

Yes, it’s miles better than “Star Wars: Dark Forces“. But, it’s still just sort of average. The visual design is a bit dull, the game’s more innovative features can be a bit clunky at times, and the puzzles can be annoying too. But, it’s still fun nonetheless. It’s a game from a time when FPS games were about exploration and imagination, rather than just online multiplayer and mindless corridor-like levels.

If I had to give what I’ve played so far a rating out of five, it would get three and a half.

Today’s Art (27th July 2017)

Woo hoo! I am very proud to present the ninth “episode” of a new webcomic mini series called “Damania Replicated”. You can catch up on previous episodes here: Episode One, Episode Two, Episode Three, Episode Four, Episode Five, Episode Six, Episode Seven, Episode Eight

Links to many more mini series featuring (non-robotic versions of) these characters can be found here.

And, yes, the old guy in the background in the fourth panel is none other than a really old version of Harvey. It’s a reference to this really old comic from 2012. Which was actually part of a three-part story arc (1, 2, 3). Interestingly, I wrote this story arc before Rox appeared, so that’s why the only characters in it are Roz, Derek and Harvey.

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

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] "Damania Replicated - Special Forces" By C. A. Brown

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] “Damania Replicated – Special Forces” By C. A. Brown