Character Design: Prophet

Since I explained the history behind the relaunch of  Glory, I want to discuss the character redesign for the other relaunched Extreme book, Prophet. Behold, the Prophet of the 90’s!

KNNIIIIIIVVVVVESSSSS

I like the thought the colorist sat down and thought "Purple. Thats what we need."

Every design cliché of the period is represented here.  Huge shoulder pads! Huge arm bands! A generic jumpsuit a costume! A hat which can’t possibly work! The sole innovation the character had was wile most gritty heroes of the 90’s shot people with really big guns, Prophet had really big knives. Apparently Prophet was a time traveler. I think.

Now lets compare to the 2012 Prophet.

KNNNNNIVVVVEEESS...that actually serve a purpose

The book is written by indie darling Brandon Graham (King City) and a rotating artist for each arc, the most recent being Farel Dalrymple. Before we dig into the design itself, I want to discuss the world of Prophet, because it has a huge impact on the design. The story takes place in the far future, but that’s underselling it. The human race is apparently dead, the few ruins that remain strewn throughout space were built by Human so far down the evolutionary change we (and John Prophet) barley recognize them. The earth has become a motley mix of nomadic alien tribes and giant, carnivorous bugs. John Prophet awakes when his stasis pod he’s been stored in tunnels out of the ground. The world is harsh and barely livable, making Prophet’s chief concern one of survival. Survival is what drives this modern design of Prophet. It’s a simple suit of hunters orange, suitable for most environments and can be altered on the fly. It has a myriad of compartments for all the gear he has. Its simple but memorable and reflects Prophet’s personality.  Quite and to the point, adaptable and strong.

One final note, Graham and Roy didn’t completely ignore Prophets original design. John Prophets signature tool in the series is a big knife. But that it, it not just a weapon, it’s a tool for multiple situations. Its more then just to look cool, its push’s the survival aspect of the story, as it is used for hunting, climbing and defense. Even the hat shows up again, in a big climatic scene no less.

Advertisements
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Character Design: Glory

This is Glory in the 90’s.

HOW DO THE LEGS WORK. HOW

Yep. It hurts my eyes too.

 

If your familiar with the 90’s era super hero comics, you recognize the tropes. The Liefeldian (more on that later) proportions, the ugly costume, the fact that her legs can’t possibly work and so much more. Now if your eyes aren’t bleeding, we I’ll explain.

 

In the 90’s comic books it upon massive success by managing to get the general public part of the “collector market”. Basically, people believed “Hey! Those old comics from the 40’s are worth thousands today! If I buy fifty copies of Superboy #0 I’ll be rich ten years from now!”. Comics companies stepped up to the demand, releasing hundreds of new and relaunched series with shiny #1’s on the covers.  The watershed moment was with Uncanny X-men #1 which sold 8.1 million copies. For perspective, a comic is considered a blockbuster if it sells 11,000 copies.  Comics were big, for all the wrong reasons, but big none the less. Such things like quality and common sense be damned.

 

Now, as many as you can guess, this collectors market was a bubble. Which popped when people began realizing the comics would never reach the value of the thousands. The reason was simple, books like Detective Comics #1 or so, were considered valuable due to their rarity. Many had been destroyed because people never considered them valuable. With the 90’s however, people were buying dozens of copies of one comic, which made the books sell out, which led to multiple printings. See the problem? Soon the market was flooded with millions of copies of the supposedly “hot collectors item” that was supposed to be worth millions. A modern example of this is Amazing Spider-Man #583 where Spider-Man met the President (it was released right after his election). People bought the comic because, surely, it would be worth thousands some day. There where five printings.

 

So, the comics were never going to be worth thousands. But that dosen’t matter, because it’s the stories that matter! As long as the writing and art are good, comics will find an audience-

 

Oh wait. These books were crap. In the sweaty desperate rush to cash in on the publics short sighted lust for cheap collectibles, Marvel, DC, Image, and other publishers released books of a wretched quality. Not to say every book was unreadable (Vertigo’s library would be a good example), but…guh.

 

Now lets bring this back to Glory. The character was created by Rob Liefeld,  possibly the most popular artist of the 90’s. Liefeld’s art is easy to criticize now, but at the time everyone was copying his style of questionable proportions and squinty, squinty eyes. Liefeld  eventually launched his own publishing imprint “Extreme Comics”, which was part of image comics. He realesed books like Glory and Supreme. The Extreme books where criticized for being very…similar to other popular books at the time. Glory’s, origin and conceit is clearly heavily based on DC’s Wonder Woman. Very, very, heavily based.

 

So why bring Glory up at all? Because four months ago, Liefeld relaunched his Extreme Comics line. But this time, the books are written by indie comics creator like Brandon Grahm (King City) and Ross Campbell , who is the artist on the current Glory book. O what does Glorly look like in 2012?

Yaaaay Talent

 

Now, that, that is a cool character design. The first thing I want to talk about is that she’s huge. Glory is supposed to be an Amazon warrior (Cough, Wonder Woman, cough) and she actually looks like one. The 90’s Glory is a swimsuit model (and her costume was one) meant to look hyper beautiful and nothing else. ’12 Glory is an actual Amazon, beautiful, but built like a tank.

 

Costume wise, Campbell actually doesn’t just stick to one costume like every cape comic ever created.  He designs super weird other worldly armor, and more conventional  super hero suits, while alays keeping red a prominent color. Further Campbell has given her a truly ridiculous mane of silver hair, that he somehow makes work. Whenever he has Glory on the page he uses it to make her stick out and grab your attention.

 

The redesign Campbell pulls off with Glory is actually pretty inspiring for me. He took  a boring forgettable concept and made something exciting.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Fighting the menus in Lost Planet 2

I like Lost Planet 2 quite, a bit, I just wish it wasn’t so terrible.Lost Planet 2 was released by Capcom in 2010, and was a radical departure from its predecessor. Instead of focusing on single player campaign, LP2 was designed foe four player co-op, simaliar to Valve’s Left Four Dead series. The game also touted massive boss battles against “Akrid” (the type of monster of the world” that towered over you and your companions. The game allowed players to take control of powerful “VS’s”, basically giant robots.  It’s all actually quite enjoyable, but it shoots itself in both feet

 

LP2 problem isn’t what breaks it, no instead its how the interface works. First is how Co-operative play works. As mentioned LP2 is focused of co-operative play, so one would probably want to play with other people. From the first menu, you navigate to the mission map and try to join a game. Unfortunately, just being able to join a game in progress isn’t possible. The way co-op is designed, the main draw of the game, makes it impossible to join game in process. You can only join a game that has people waiting for players. Once a game is started you have to wait in the “lobby” for the next part of the mission to join in.  This leaves you with a choice, either sit on your hands in the lobby, or just play by yourself.  It’s a frustrating position to put the player in, and that ignoring the interface issues.

 

One must navigate  a maze of submenus and sub-submenus, which the game never actually tells you ho to interact with it. The way the menus are designed are inherently frustrating, important options are outright hidden from the player, while just useless, and forgive the vulgarity, crap just covers the screen. For example, there an in game store in the game that allows a the player to use collected reward “credits” in a slot machine to obtain weapons and gear. The slot machine is a unbalanced and borderline unfair way to hand out equipment as it is, but the problem is compounded by the fact that the player is never told of its existence. Furthermore, the option to get to the machine is a small button in the character customization screen.  Its so easy to miss that I didn’t find it till six months after buying the game.

 

I like Lost Planet 2, there is a simple joy in running and gunning against a forty story tall salamander. However, while the “fun” stuff is polished, LP2 drops the ball on the basics of design. Instead of easily being able to start a game and advance your character, your forced to fight a menu system the entire time.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Evolution of the design of Abe Sapien

 

Its really an ape.

Its an ape actually.

Hellboy is a comic and character created, owned, written and the originally illustrated by Mike Mignola and distributed through the company Darkhorse. The book revolves around the titular Hellboy, a demon summoned by the mad monk Rasputin for the Nazi’s in order to-

Ok, for your information, I do realize how this sounds.

However, he is saved by the paranormal expert Professor Bruttenholm (pronounced broom), and is raised as a normal human child. He’s a normal guy tapped in a monsters body (think Die Hard’s John McClain with horns) with a destiny (to destroy the world, and all that jazz) he doesn’t want.

However what I want to talk about today is a supporting character, Abraham Sapien, Abe for short. Abe is mysterious Half-man, half-fish creature found in a suspended animation tube underneath a Washington state hospital in the mid sixties.

What I want to discuss today is the evolution of Abe as a character in the series and into the spinoff series BPRD, the government organization Hellboy and Abe work at. If we look at how Mingnola originally drew Abe, we can see several similarities to Hellboy, both in body type and in costume. While Abe is shorter and slightly slimmer than Hellboy, he still has the same stocky torso and thick limbs. Costume wise he wears the same shorts and harness, with the same aversion to shirts.

The backstory here is...long

Mingnola's version of Abe.

This illustrates the largest problem with Abe’s character during the early issues, he basically Hellboy, except he swims. However two important events took place for the series, the two Hellboy movies and the previously mentioned BPRD.

Doug Jones as Abe in "Hellboy"

While it came later, lets look at the movies first. Directed by Guillermo Del Toro and released in 2004, the movie reinvents Abe with psychic powers as well as a more humorous personality. He is played by the almost continuously disguised by make up effects Doug Jones. The comedic aspect fits well with the rest of the movie, which focused on the lighter side of the material (as long as the lovcraftian horrors). Beyond developing Abe a unique personality, he also gets a new character design. The fish aspects have been played up, web fingers, fish like eyes, and etc. However the most important aspect is the “psychic” element. It gives Abe a distinct ability other then “the guy who swims” and creates new opportunities for the character.

One of the few images where he doesn't have a cigar

Abe by Guy Davis

However this version of Abe would stay squarely in the film world. He evolved in a completely different way in the comics, one that did not evolve any new powers. Instead, he changed by be given a new set of responsibilities as a character. In Conquer Worm, the fifth volume of Hellboy, Hellboy leaves the BPRD leaves due to personal reasons. This event leads to the launch of BPRD, which focuses on the team Hellboy left behind. This makes Abe a leader character as opposed to the follower he was before. I should also mention the original artist of the series, who drew the book for ten years. Davis’ art style was completely different then Mingnola’s as was his interpretation of Abe. He made Abe significantly slimmer, and a more militaristic costume, which fit well into his leader role. Personally, Davis’ Abe has always been my favorite version of Abe, a serene looking, but troubled character who hides his emotions.

Abe is interesting to me because he shows multiple ways how to evolve a character design. Whether it be adding new abilities or new responsibilities.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Role of the Player in Deadly Premonition

There are two characters pictured here. One is invisible. can you guess who you play as?

Zack and York

In Deadly Premonition you play as the voices inside of a man’s head. Created by the Japanese game developer Access Games, Deadly Premonition was officially revealed in 2007at the Tokyo Games Show. After significant delays, Ignition Games distributed the game in America in 2010 as an exclusive for the Xbox 360. The game officially casts the player as Special Agent Francis York Morgan, investigating the brutal murder of Anna Grahm in the peaceful town of Greenville. After an autopsy on the victim, York finds evidence linking to the notorious Red Seed Serial Killer to the crime.

A strange, quirky FBI agent tracking a serial killer after he strikes in a small American logging town, wonder where they got that idea? As any fan of David Lynch will be able to tell you, DP’s plot has a rather, ahem, striking similarity to the 90’s television drama created by Mark Frost and Lynch, Twin Peaks. The games not subtle about its “inspiration”, in fact, one of the main reasons behind the delays was redesigning characters and story aspects deemed to similar to Twin Peaks. I have to admit, though, making an interactive version of Twin peaks is an achievement in and of itself.

Its not a rip off of Twin Peaks, as Rainy Woods had two imaginary dream dwarves.

An image from the earlier build of Deadly Premonition, called Rainy Woods.

Game play wise, DP belongs in the school of over the shoulder shooters started by Resident Evil 4. Sort of, as DP is actually an open world game, similar to Grand Theft Auto, and your free to go where to want when you want for most of the game. You’ll be given main objectives to advance the plot, but otherwise your free to do as you wish. The actual mechanics of the game play are not what we’re going to focus on however. Instead we’ll look at the player and their role as a character in the story. When you first start playing you assume you’re controlling Special Agent Francis York Morgan (call him York, everyone does), ace FBI agent with a mysterious past. But that’s a lie, or if not a lie, it’s a gross oversimplification of the truth. As you play DP, you’re introduced to the character Zack. Zach, as far you can tell, seems to be a figment of York’s imagination, an imaginary friend who tells him what to do and where to go.

It goes deeper then that however. Zach doesn’t just give suggestions; he is also in control the combat. When you enter your first “dungeon” York says “I’ll leave it to you Zach, I trust you”. After that moment, York has officially given control to his alter ego. Zach is also given the power to choose when to explore the town of Greenville and when to do the main storyline. Story wise, yes, there is a mystery of who or what Zach is. From a design position however, the answer becomes clear. Zach is the player.

DP may have many of faults, its graphics are severely dated, its visual aesthetic is lack luster, and its controls are problematic. These faults don’t stop DP from being brilliant. The casting of the player as Zach solves a number of problems that plague stories in games. Take Grand Theft Auto 4, the actual plot revolves around Niko Bellic a eastern mercenary looking to find an easy life in America. The plot is full of murder, betrayal, and heartbreak. Ultimately creating a dark and heavy tone of grit and despair. It is also a game where the player can have Nico drive an eighteen-wheeler into a gas station and then wreak havoc with a rocket launcher. The amount of insane destruction Nico can let loose in Liberty City, while entertaining, is also completely out of character to Nico himself. Nico is constantly lamenting about how he just wants to settle down and live the American Dream. This creates a schism between the character and the player. The player may want to go crazy and turn the city into a smoking crater, but Nico, he never plays along. Whenever there is an in game movie and Nico starts talking, the player feels removed from him, as his decisions may ultimately be at odds with the players.

DP however, finds a way to overcome this problem, to certain degree anyway. When York is talking, it’s made clear it’s York, and not the player. This allows York to develop his own personality and relationships. We find out York is a huge movie buff (which I found particularly endearing), about his job, and eventually his legitimately tragic past. While at the same time, giving the player some breathing room to do what they want and feel like their decisions matter. It also gives the player some unique responsibilities. York has given you nearly complete control, you have to feed him, wash his cloths, and protect him in combat. If you don’t want to that however, you don’t have to, York will never actually complain. You as the player have to live with the consequences though.

I highly suggest giving Deadly Premonition a shot if one gets a chance. Make no mistake, the game is far from perfect, you’ll need to forgive quite a bit to enjoy it. But, and that is a significant but, if you can look past its flaws you’ll find a game like few others. It’s an example of how to design a place for the player. To give them control, while still telling your story about crazy FBI agents, the undead, and ax wielding psychopaths.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Hello world!

Welcome to WordPress.com. After you read this, you should delete and write your own post, with a new title above. Or hit Add New on the left (of the admin dashboard) to start a fresh post.

Here are some suggestions for your first post.

  1. You can find new ideas for what to blog about by reading the Daily Post.
  2. Add PressThis to your browser. It creates a new blog post for you about any interesting  page you read on the web.
  3. Make some changes to this page, and then hit preview on the right. You can always preview any post or edit it before you share it to the world.
Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment