Today’s Art (30th April 2018)

Well, I was still feeling inspired and I ended up making this digitally-edited 1990s-style cyberpunk painting. Originally, this painting was going to have slightly more of an ’80s look, but I kind of drifted away from this whilst editing it.

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

“Avenue” By C. A. Brown

Top Ten Articles – April 2018

Well, it’s the end of the month and this means that it’s time for me to make a list of links to my ten favourite articles about making art, making webcomics, writing fiction etc… that I’ve posted here over the past month. As usual, I’ll also include a few honourable mentions too.

All in all, this month has been a surprisingly good one in terms of articles, even if there was a slight dip in quality near the end of the month (since I’m busy making a webcomic mini series for next month).

Anyway, here are the lists 🙂 Enjoy 🙂

Top Ten Articles – April 2018:

– “Five Things I’ve Learnt From Running A Blog For Five Years
– “Three Very Basic Tips For Learning How To Paint Realistic Shadows/Shading
– “Three Other Things That Heavy Metal Music Can Teach Creative People
– “Three %@(£#*$ Stupid Ways To Use Profanity In Fiction, Comics etc..
– “One Constructive Way To Deal With Artistic Jealousy – A Ramble
– “Don’t Let Uninspiration Win! – A Ramble
– “Do Artists Have To Have Cool Life Stories? – A Ramble
– “Three Tips For Adding Your Own “Spin” To A Study Of An Old Painting
– “Three Tips For Making Original Art
– “What Can Old Computer Games Teach Us About Painting And Drawing From Imagination? – A Ramble

Honourable Mentions:

– “Four Awesome Things That Artists And Writers Can Learn From The Modern Games Industry [APRIL FOOL]
– “Three Reasons Why Physical Media Is Awesome
– “What “Blade Runner” Can Teach Us About Fictional Violence

Today’s Art (29th April 2018)

Yes! I was finally feeling inspired again when I made this digitally-edited painting 🙂 Although this painting ended up looking slightly different to my original idea, it was meant to be something of a more British style companion piece to this painting of mine that is set in a “1990s California”-style cafe.

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

“Greasy Spoon 1993” By C. A. Brown

What “Blade Runner” Can Teach Us About Fictional Violence

Well, although I’m still busy preparing next month’s webcomic mini series, I thought that I’d take a break from talking about webcomics and talk about what Ridley Scott’s 1982 masterpiece “Blade Runner” can teach us about how to make fictional violence more dramatic and/or complex.

Since I’ll be talking in depth about my favourite movie of all time, expect lots of geekiness and lots of SPOILERS too.

This is mostly because, although “Blade Runner” is a violent film, it handles these parts of the film in a very different way to the average Hollywood movie. This film does all sorts of clever, and very subtle, things with it’s violent moments that really help to shape the emotional tone of the film and to make it considerably more suspenseful, impactful and dramatic than the average Hollywood movie.

The first thing that Ridley Scott does is to ensure that most of the violence within the film isn’t “fair”.

For example, in all scenes involving gun violence, only one character has a gun at any one time (with the other character or characters being unarmed). This has the effect of making guns seem like much more powerful weapons than they usually appear to be in films. It also instantly adds an element of chilling suspense to every scene that includes a gun – since one character instantly has a huge advantage over the other character or characters.

By ensuring that only one character is armed with an instantly-lethal weapon at any one time, the film changes the dynamics of it’s combat scenes from thrilling duels between evenly-matched adversaries to something more like a hunter/prey dynamic (which is more similar to something from the horror genre). This allows Ridley Scott to add an element of unpredictability, shock value and fear to the film that is often missing in more conventional thriller movies.

For example, an unevenly-matched fist fight between two characters is suddenly ended in a shockingly abrupt fashion when another character turns up and uses a gun that was knocked out of someone’s hand earlier in the fight.

Another intelligent thing that Ridley Scott does with the fictional violence in “Blade Runner” is to present it as an ugly thing. Instead of the more sanitised, fast-paced and spectacularly choreographed violence found in many Hollywood films, the violence in “Blade Runner” tends to be a bit more realistic. Violent events in “Blade Runner” are often chillingly abrupt and/or they are drawn-out things that are filled with pain and suffering.

This has the effect of making the violence in the film a lot less abstract than in many Hollywood films. Instead of, say, “a detective fighting a criminal” – a scene in Blade Runner will be more like “one person harming another”. By focusing more on the consequences of violence and refusing to present violence in a typically “thrilling” way, Scott is able to criticise the more blase way that most Hollywood movies depict violence. “Blade Runner” is that rare thing, a violent film that is genuinely anti-violence.

This also extends to the characters’ motivations for acting in a violent manner. In this film, violence isn’t a way for heroic characters to appear “tough” or to save the world or anything like that. In this film, there are no clear heroes or villains (although it could be argued that Deckard is the villain, but that is an entirely different essay).

So, the motivations behind the violence in the film often tend to be chillingly “realistic” ones. Whether it is a frightened person making a last-ditch attempt to protect themselves, someone overcome with fury exacting brutal revenge or even a “just following orders” police officer shooting an unarmed character in the back (because she is considered to be “non-human” by the authorities), Ridley Scott makes sure that the motivations behind most of the violent events in the film aren’t things that the audience can cheer for.

In addition to all of this, yet another clever thing that Ridley Scott does with the violence in “Blade Runner” is to contrast ‘ugly’ violence with beautiful set design. Seriously, the locations in “Blade Runner” are the kind of fascinating, mysterious, imaginative, visually-detailed places that will linger in your imagination for the rest of your life.

Such as this awesome-looking cityscape.

Not only does this contrast make the violence seem even uglier by comparison, but it also taps into a much more fundamental instinct in the audience.

We have a natural instinct to protect and preserve beauty. Beauty being destroyed or marred in some way elicits an instinctive feeling of digust or horror. So, by showing ugly violence within beautiful locations or showing beautiful locations being damaged by violent actions, the film is able to tap into this instinct in order to make the fictional violence seem even more shocking.

For example, this awesome-looking neon corridor is the site of a brutal shooting. Several cutaway scenes in this segment of the film contrast this beautiful location with the disturbing image of a dead body. By juxtaposing beauty and horror, Ridley Scott is able to lend the film’s violence more of an emotional impact.

I’m sure that I probably haven’t covered everything in this article (eg: how the film’s ending is about the value of life etc..), but hopefully these examples from “Blade Runner” will show you that fictional violence can be handled in a much more complex and intelligent way than you might think.

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Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂

Not Every Webcomic Update Will Be Stellar… And That’s Ok – A Ramble

Well, since I’m busy making next month’s webcomic mini series at the time of writing, I thought that I’d talk about quality variations in webcomics today.

This is mostly because, although the second update in the upcoming mini series certainly isn’t a “bad” comic update, it didn’t end up being quite as funny or artistically detailed as the previous comic update was. Here’s a preview of it:

The full comic update will be posted here on the 23rd May.

Even if you only make webcomic updates occasionally, you’ll probably run into this problem too. Sometimes, the only good idea for a webcomic update isn’t quite as good as the idea you had last time. Of course, in these situations, the only sensible thing to do is to… make the comic update anyway.

Yes, you heard me correctly. Make the comic update.

As counter-intuitive as it sounds, a mediocre finished webcomic update is still better than a hypothetical “great” webcomic update that you haven’t made. For starters, it means that your audience gets to see something. Even if they aren’t impressed by the comic update, they can at least feel reassured by the fact that you’re still making comics (and sticking to your schedule).

Secondly, you are almost certainly your own worst critic. If you’ve been making webcomics for a while, then even one of your “bad” comic updates might still be considered acceptable or even good by the standards of other people. If you haven’t been making webcomics for long, then you need the practice – so make the update and post it for your own sake. Remember, even the best webcomics weren’t as good during their early days.

Thirdly, even if you only publish six comic updates a month (which seems to be my thing at the moment), you’ve still got to make multiple comic updates within a relatively short period of time. This is especially true if you want to make a long-running webcomic.

You’ve got to come up with comic ideas on a regular basis and, as such, there are inevitably going to be slight dips in quality occasionally. No-one’s imagination runs at 100% efficiency all of the time. Your audience probably understands this too and are more forgiving then you think. At the very least, if you stick to your update schedule then this means that they won’t have to wait that long for the next comic update (which might be better).

Fourthly, a mediocre webcomic update can be more inspirational than you think. After all, if there are any aspiring webcomic creators in your audience, then they are probably going to see the mediocre comic update and either think “I can do better than that! I’ll finally start my own webcomic!” or “Whew! I’m not the only one who has off days with my comic sometimes!“. So posting a mediocre comic update might actually help out other people.

Finally, and most importantly, if you care about the fact that your latest comic update isn’t as good as the one you made before it, then this means that you care about making webcomics. It means that webcomics still matter to you. It means that you still feel motivated to make webcomics. It means that you aren’t giving up in frustration or anything like that. It means that you want to make better webcomic updates. And this is a good thing!

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Sorry for the short article, but I hope it was useful 🙂

Partial Review: “Legend Of Kyrandia – Hand Of Fate” (Retro Computer Game)

Firstly, I should probably point out that this isn’t a full review of “Hand Of Fate” (for reasons I’ll explain later, I haven’t completed the game).

But, since this game holds a lot of nostalgia value for me and because I’d planned to review it about three weeks ago, I felt like writing a review of what I have played. So, although this is slightly more than a “first impressions” article, it is far from a full review.

That said, I have a lot of nostalgic memories of playing the CD-ROM version of “Hand Of Fate” during my early-mid teenage years. Although it was already a retro game by the time that I found a budget re-release of it in a game shop, it was a game that would actually run on the ancient Windows 98 machine I had at the time. However, being terrible at point-and-click games, I quickly got totally and utterly stuck on a relatively early part of the game.

Fast-forward to last summer. It was a hot day and I was grappling with of the more difficult levels of “SiN“. I also wasn’t in a good mood and I needed something to cheer me up. Then I remembered “Hand Of Fate”. But, from my memories of digging out my CD-ROM copy of it a few years ago – I knew that it wouldn’t run on my current “ancient” PC. However, since GOG was having a summer sale at the time, I decided to re-buy a discounted digital copy (that actually works on PCs from the 21st century) of it for less than £2.

Of course, history has a funny way of repeating itself….

Anyway, that said, let’s take a look at “Legend Of Kyrandia – Hand Of Fate”:

It could be YOU!

“Hand Of Fate” is a comedic fantasy point-and-click game from 1993. The game takes place in the mythical land of Kyrandia, where random objects are mysteriously disappearing. The kingdom’s magicians are absolutely baffled by this turn of events:

Yay! Piles of books! I KNEW there was a reason why I loved this game 🙂

After a lot of discussion and research, they decide that the problem can be resolved by finding a mythical Macguffin of some kind or another (an “anchor stone”, I think). Of course, despite being magicians, they somehow haven’t developed powers of teleportation. So, it is up to a cynical magician called Zanthia to go on an epic quest to find the Macguffin and restore order to Kyrandia.

Well, after dealing with the obligatory “local idiots” first.

One of the very first things that I will say about this game is that it showcases both the very best and the very worst elements of early-mid 1990s point-and-click games. But, I’ll start with the good stuff…..

The first thing that I’ll say about this game is that it is hilarious. Like a lot of games from the time, this one has it’s own distinctive personality. Not only is the game’s fictional world filled with all sorts of random things and surreal characters, but all of this is filtered through Zanthia’s hilariously cynical perspective.

Seriously, I cannot praise the dialogue in this game highly enough. It’s hilarious!

There’s even a little bit of Monty Python-style humour too.

There’s also a vaguely “LucasArts”-style segment with poetry-reading pirates

Zanthia is, by far, one of the best comedic game protagonists that I’ve ever seen. This is mostly because she’s this brilliantly contradictory mixture of a tough adventurer, a typical down-on-their-luck adventure game protagonist and a spoiled aristocrat.

All three of these elements of her character are combined in a way that is both absolutely hilarious and brilliantly distinctive. Seriously, I’ve never seen a character quite like Zanthia.

WHY don’t they sell mineral water here? What is this, the middle ages?!

All of this character-based humour is supplemented brilliantly by several other types of humour such as slapstick comedy, surreal elements, funny storytelling, a mixture of modern-style stuff with historical fantasy settings etc.. Seriously, as a light-hearted comedy game, “Hand Of Fate” is absolutely brilliant!

And there are zombies too. Zombies! (Well, sort of..)

Likewise, this game’s artwork looks absolutely brilliant too. If, like me, you’re a fan of early-mid 1990s pixel art, then you’re in for a really nostalgic treat here! Seriously, just take a look at some of these locations:

Oooh, this place reminds me of the cave level from “Super Castlevania IV” 🙂

“Wonderful!” sums it up perfectly! I LOVE this place 🙂

In addition to the amazing artwork, cynical dialogue and hilarious characters, another reason why you’re going to enjoy hanging out in Kyrandia is probably the music and voice-acting in the CD-ROM and GOG versions of the game. Seriously, I cannot praise these elements of the game highly enough. This game is funny, atmospheric, unique and gloriously retro 🙂

However, you’ll notice that I haven’t mentioned the actual gameplay yet. Although it is mostly typical “point and click” gameplay (with an additional potion-mixing mechanic and lots of inventory slots etc..), it is typical of everything that is wrong with old-school “point and click” games.

Not only did some of the puzzles I encountered border on “moon logic” but, even with frequent walkthrough use, it is still possible to get stuck in an unwinnable state if you aren’t careful. For example, if you forgot to note down a sequence of flashing lights that you saw earlier in the game or make a foolish decision, you’ll get stuck here:

Fun fact: During my original attempt at playing this when I was a teenager, this is where I abandoned the game in frustration. I remember that gloating octopus all too well!

Yes, a lot of this is mitigated by the fact that the game contains a real saving system (where you can save anywhere an unlimited number of times). However, it is easy to make a mistake that requires lots of tedious and repetitive backtracking. This is the exact opposite of “fun”. Which, if you’ll remember, is why people play computer games!

In fact, the reason why I didn’t finish the game on my current playthrough (even though I was using a walkthrough very regularly) was because I accidentally threw away a seemingly useless tree branch at one point in the game.

It was only after repeating a highly-convoluted puzzle (which I don’t know how anyone could work out on their own) and traipsing back-and-forth across the map three times that I realised that I actually needed the branch. Needless to say, “ragequit” is probably an apt description of my subsequent actions.

Yes, solving this ultra-convoluted and hyper-repetitive puzzle won’t do you any good if you accidentally discarded a random branch that you found here earlier in the game. *Facepalm*

All in all, this is a game that is worth playing for everything except the gameplay.

If you want to hang out in an interesting fictional world, then this game is worth getting. If you want a hilarious game that really doesn’t take itself seriously, then this game is worth getting. If you want a quintessentially 1990s game that showcases the sheer amount of personality, imagination and uniqueness that defined games from this golden decade, then this game is worth getting. But, if you’re interested in gameplay, this game isn’t worth getting.

If I had to give what I’ve played a rating out of five, it would get five and a half for the characters/art/dialogue/voice-acting/atmosphere etc.. but maybe two for the actual gameplay, if I’m being charitable.

The Complete “Work In Progress” Line Art For My “Damania Regression” Webcomic Mini Series

Well, in the traditional fashion, I thought that I’d show off the “work in progress” line art that I scanned whilst making my recent “Damania Regression” webcomic mini series.

Unlike some of my mini series, there were hardly any dialogue/art changes between the line art and the finished comic (I think I replaced the word “that” with “the” in the second comic). However, since this mini series featured more digital art than usual, the line art for the final comic is missing two panels (since I added them digitally in the finished comic update).

You can click on each piece of line art to see a larger version of it.

“Damania Regression – Art House (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

“Damania Regression – Community (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

“Damania Regression – Testing (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

“Damania Regression – Fan Fiction (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

“Damania Regression – Gameshow (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

“Damania Regression – Scanning Disk (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown