AXRIA Diary: Graphic Novel (24/01/16)

I’ve been had big ideas for AXRIA’s story since its creation in 2008 (8 years now!), the overall scenario has changed and evolved drastically from time to time. Sometimes the story took a dark approach, sometimes it took a family friendly approach. But now i’m at a point where i don’t care, i just want to tell the story i want to tell.

Previously i’ve been making AXRIA as a video game to tell the story i’ve had in mind, but it has been through some serious development hell for numerous reasons. Video games don’t have to tell a story, but i was thinking since this is a story driven project, it didn’t necessarily have to be a video game. At least not for now.

So my approach now is to make a hand-drawn comic (graphic novel). I’ve went for this as drawing is close to my heart and doesn’t require the same production weight as animation or game design.

I’ve had experience in making comics before (AXRIA Retro World, AXRIA Tale of Zythora). Now in fairness, Retro World was very beta-stage visually speaking, and Tale of Zythora was left on a cliffhanger. I’m aware of what to do about it, and combine what i’ve learnt from that with what i know now.

I’m currently in the pre-writing stage. I often doodle ideas for scenes, and sometimes try to visualise them through short storyboards. Yesterday i was designing a map of Moonlight island, where the story is set.

P1110266

Map draft of Moonlight Island- AXRIA © Angus Beer

For the video game version of Axria i had ideas for the major locations (levels) that Sarah (the protagonist) would go through, and had ideas of each location’s backstory and the characters that lived there. Now that i wasn’t approaching this as a video game, i felt more freedom in writing individual scenarios when Sarah approaches each location.

It was something that i feel just worked, as i’ve had ideas circulating for these locations for years, but now it felt like i was on my way to bringing out their stories. For instance the snowy village (now named Sunsnow Haven) was just that, a snowy village.

However now i’ve devised a story around it; the axrian species retreat from their home city after a virus breakout, in Sunsnow haven they realize the virus dies off in cold locations. They begin to live there in fear they’re unsafe elsewhere on the island, but tensions grow as not enough axrian survive the harsh weather.

This is just the groundworks, but i feel i’m onto something. Most of these locations were made from unconscious decisions, and now it feels like i’m finding where they could’ve been inspired from. That or i’m finding new inspiration toward them.
Some locations were inspired by places i’d visited before or works of fact & fiction.

At the moment i’m basing each chapter on what happens in each location, I feel as if there will be plenty of content to fill each one. I made rough writeups of scenes i can visualise in my head, writing sentences or bullet pointing them.
Some sentences are left vague often so that i’d expand upon it later, i sometimes write over these kind of papers.

I’m now using the ‘blocking’ technique to highlight the text that relates to each chapter, and i then made small thumbnails to illustrate the main event of each chapter. I like to think them as covers.

P1110264

Storyboarding. AXRIA © Angus Beer

I hope to use the blocking technique to create storyboards like these- this particular one was made without writing up the scene, but thats ok as i feel i’m quite flexible about it.

I like to make these storyboards more presentable by having an appealing colour for shadows. And I try to make it as informative as possible with the ‘shot’ descriptions and movement arrows. You may notice the pan-down arrows as i was still deciding between animated film and comic. None the less i feel i’ll stick with this scene as i feel it will tell a lot about Sarah’s character.

811iogvgtul

Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind : The Original Storyboards © Studio Ghibli / Tokuma Shoten

I’ll be honest in saying that these are inspired by the way Studio Ghibli storyboard their movies (yes this will be a comic, but i feel it’s just as valid). Even though they’re rough sketches they’re still appealing to look at. And they’re informative to others on the production team.

I’ve taken a lot of inspiration from Studio Ghibli and especially Hayao Miyazaki’s works, not just technique but story and character wise too. I would love to write about my influences sometime. But i digress.

So that’s what’s been going on recently. I’ve been hitting some roadblocks recently which is why i’ve been absent for so long, but i’m recovering. I feel that it’s ok to go smaller scale when things don’t work out otherwise.

 

 
Thanks for reading, and i appreciate your patience.

-Angus Beer

Let’s make AXRIA (Part 5) | Pixel Animation!

I love to animate; Personally I feel it’s one of my strongest aspects when it comes to digital art. I’ve been experienced with animation since the days of Microsoft Paint and Windows Movie Maker, they were simple tools and in some aspects a bit notorious, however there’s a charm to them, especially maximising MS Paint to it’s full capabilities.

These days I use either the modern version of Paint alongside Photoshop to create the animation frames- and that’s what we’re going to be looking at today. These are some pieces of pixel animation I’m currently working on!

Disclaimer: This is all work-in-progress, therefore subject to change.


First thing to change when rebooting Axria was Sarah’s sprite- I wanted to make this version significantly more fluid than the previous version of Sarah, and what else to make fluid than her hair?

You may notice that she’s in grey scale- this was done to help with the colour aspect of the game (Colours indicating hit points), however this may be programmed differently depending on how Game Editor behaves.


Now in colour! I went through each frame trying to get the movement as ocean-wave as i could by comparing to the previous and next frame constantly. 11 frames of animation that loop thrice, with Sarah blinking in-between.

You may have also noticed her Ponytail is temporally absent- this is done to have it as a separate actor in Game Editor- Moving along smoothly to Sarah’s momentum. Again, it depends how well it can be pulled off in Game Editor.

Old-Sarah-StandSarah_Kinzi_AA_stand_right_02

A comparison between the old and new (new one still needs finalising)


Sarah’s beginning to move- I need to work on her body making it move correctly to her legs, and overall complete the movement of her head and hair. One flaw the 2011 version had was her leg movement wasn’t that convincing, in that her legs never fully went all the way in front of her.

Old-Sarah-Run-nobg

I didn’t think it would be fair to compare the unfinished new sprite, so here’s the old sprite on it’s own.

So that’s my progress thus far on Sarah’s animation, while it’s got quite a way to go I can feel it has a lot of potential; I’m focusing on Sarah’s movement first and any additional detail would be added on afterwards. Thats what I learnt from making the 2011 version of Axria, I was finalising frames before they were ready.

I have a few more GIF’s for the road; two of which are for the enemies Tyranch X and Cyclaw, and the other being Sarah playing on a futuristic piano. With Sarah’s piano you can see how the colour switches from one shade and progresses down, with the keys either side less bright than the mid one.

Notice how the lighting is used to focus on the area, made with circles on the table and carefully chosen light spots on her shirt. It’s in normal colour first then progresses to a blue shade the further it goes out.

Two-notes-on-the-piano

The first Tyranch boss ‘Tyranch X’ has what I feel is one of the more polished animations so far; my idea of the Tyranch species is that they are on average grey, but the boss ones have their own individual colours. This is why I chose him to start out grey, that and the fact that my previous Axria game was Axria Retro World, which was all in grey-scale. Here it’s like we finally get the transition from past to present with the electric current running through him!

Tyranch-X_00_00

This Cyclaw animation was mostly a test as he doesn’t have his claws yet, the way this worked was by having a foreground image of the sphere and white glow, while the eye texture moves around; giving the illusion it’s looking around.

I remember noticing how it worked when i was younger, lightly holding my finger on my shut wye as i felt the pupil go around. I noticed it work in games with Resident Evil 2; there’s a scene with one of the Malformations of G, and he had a gigantic eye on the side of his arm!
Cyclaw-Test-AnimationThat’s about all for now! If you wish to see more animations, be sure to check out my Deviant Art page here.

Let’s make AXRIA (Part 4) | Developing ideas

Developing Ideas

I thought I’d share some of my ideas for Axria that I’ve been developing for some time now. Some of these originated from a design document I created for college, but when rewriting some sections i was suddenly coming up with more ideas! It feels amazing when it happens!

Weapons & abilities

Sarah’s the main weapons include the Naro Blaster and Boomercutter. When I was brainstorming ideas back in June 2014, I came up with the Idea of a Cero Sether (freeze beam) that would turn enemies into platforms, it was scrapped as I wanted a weapon that was more differential from the Naro Blaster. So I thought of the Eclipser bombs, which bounce depending on Sarah’s velocity and direction she throws from.

Sarahs new moves banner 3

Another idea I came up with last year was to have colours indicate how many hit points Sarah has- Sarah has the three main Primary colours on her clothes & hair (Red, Yellow, Blue)- so that would indicate three hits. What I thought of this year was to have the hit points run on leaves- so when you get hit you loose a leaf. You can potentially recover them, but if the areas windy it’ll be gone with the wind!

Since Sarah’s colours are primary, the secondary leaves (Green, orange, purple) don’t act as health rather they act as a shield that circulate around Sarah; these types of leaves are rarer though, so use them when you can! And speaking of finding them, I thought where could you find these leaves? I thought where else; trees! I thought if Sarah were to knock leaves off the trees they would then become collectable- encouraging exploration to find the healthiest tree!
Though this also helped in another aspect; given that the levels become more industrial as the game goes along, it becomes harder to find the trees, therefore harder to regain health! That idea was a happy accident!

leaves

-Angus Beer

Let’s Make AXRIA (Part 3) | Coming up with a cover

The idea of people judging my game by its cover brings me both joy and fear. Mostly fear.


I love covers, especially the ones that sum up the whole experience in one image. They can sometimes feel like more like a work of art rather than something that’s just advertising a product. Now I love making art but the only thing that holds me back is actually deciding on what best represents the title. These are my concepts of covers for Axria; throughout the years.

P1030304
Before I’d even come up with a true title, the piece to the left (from 2008/ 2009) was perhaps the earliest concept for a cover. It shows the main antagonists and the protagonist Sarah, and the goal of the game that is Sarah’s home city, Moonlight City. Sarah is more of to the side as most space is taken by a possessed Tyranch. Looking back today Its intriguing how much has stayed & changed in terms of the scenario, even though I hadn’t pieced it together at this point.

Come to think of it, the scenario still needs to be glued together!

lazer in scarfires hallway axria poster pixel 00

When I properly began development on the game in 2011, these were the the two main posters i had in mind, digitally made and personally i think were pretty good for their time. The first one was left off as more of a draft, I was getting the hang of Photoshop but you can see the incomplete elements (Windows not fully realised, and unpolished neon colours in the ceiling). This takes place in my vision of the last stage, Scarfire’s Fortress.

The second was used for the title screen, to me this is what i grew really attached to as the image that represented Axria. I was going with an atmosphere where she’s in the dark yet has blue and red lights shining from either side; a suggestion of the good and bad She’ll come across on the adventure, while she’s the figure in the middle who chooses which colour to go with.

 

Sarah painted 2

Some time had passed and in 2013 I was doing a lot of acrylic canvas painting, as I was seeing the possibilities it had thanks to my art course at the time, and the likes of movie poster artists such as Drew Struzan (Indiana Jones, Blade Runner, The Thing).This was what I made some time while the project was shelved, made on canvas paper with acrylic. I recon I did pretty good on this one, with the texture, though I only see it as a version 1. The main thing I want to change is making the background black, as compared to a solid background it leaves a lot more to the imagination where she could be. Also to make the red & blue lighting prominent again.

That’s my progress on the covers so far, my plans are to fix the anatomy of the pixel art title screen, and any other tweaking needed. And to make new drafts to lead to a final cover.

Let’s Make AXRIA (Part 2) | Remaking the past

Game Over 2011

If there’s one thing that makes me feel i’ve achived something, its taking a rough but ready piece of art, then fine tuning it. Here you can see the old version of the Game Over screen and my recent rendition. The fixes started with trying to outline Sarah with a better anatomy, i made a thin outline on top and tried measuring each body part with face length in mind. From there it was all redone with a new pallette of purple (Indigo). I chose this colour scheme as it felt like a shade that balanced blue and purple, a colour that could convey a feel of sorrow, yet not in a overly dramatic way.

Game Over Progression

The only real omission was the eyes in Sarah’s shadow, I had considered reworking that but I figured it’ll leave more to the players imagination. Like wondering what the shadow looks like beyond the screen bounderies. Also I made the shadow go in the direction according to the moon’s light. The moonlight was pretty fun to do this time, and the experience i’ve gained with pixel art can be seen when you compare the reflections from both pieces. Its complicated to explain but the methods involve planning the bright spot, then working with in-between shades, making them ripple as much as you see fit.

That’s my experience in remaking the game-over screen, overall felt rather rewarding to myself, though I would be curious on other people’s thoughts on this make-over.

Game Over 2014

-Angus Beer

Let’s make AXRIA (Part 1) | The beginning

So I’m beginning a documentary on the making of my game; one of my most ambitious projects; AXRIA. I made progress on this game back in 2011, but due to difficulties in programming and being indecisive, the game was shelved in favour of a side-game (Axria Retro World, 2012). I decided for my college course of Games Development, while I wanted to move on with other games I felt this game meant too much to be left behind. The main reason of delay during 2014 was because of wondering whether to go with traditional animation or pixel graphics. Since pixels were what I went with before I stuck with what I knew best. Over the Summer I put together a more concrete plan in my sketch books; for all the stages, characters and (at last) the scenario. fractal labyrinth_00_06 Coming back home I began work on the game. This was the first sprite sheet I made, for the stage named Fractal Labyrinth. My motive was to keep the colours bright and more distinguishable. Previously I would have so many shades of each colour that it began hard to track each one while animating. This is usually why modern day pixel artists limit their palette. I was getting in the mood of pixel art again, I was feeling confident enough to put together some  mock-ups for a public preview. At this point my progress is mostly sprites; my next goal is to get the initial designs for each stage,  then get the engine started. I’m hoping to build on top of the Axria Retro World engine as that had a lot of promise, just needs some refined tweaking to make wall jumping smoother and more approachable if say anyone else were to use the engine. This is day one of documenting, and I’m going in with confidence.