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Archive for January 2017

During the years I learnt I can draw with decent results, but everything I know about this skill of mine only comes from practice and experience as a hobbyist. I've never studied drawing or painting, so when I spot something off in what I'm drawing, most of the time I don't know what to do to correct it. For me this simple task requires a lot of time. As a solution, since I can't seem to understand which part to touch, I generally delete the whole part and start from scratch!

To complicate it even more, I like to draw and paint new things most of the time. I could feel safe drawing usual poses, usual clothing, etc. but I like to draw exactly what I have in mind and most of the time this means new things, which I need to study first and fail at drawing several times before I understand how to do it properly. I don't always get what I want. I fail 90% of times. So I try to keep consistency in what I draw at the very least. I focus on symmetry, 3Dness, etc. I still fail at these but I try. I learn a lot but it's very very very time consuming.

Ok, this wasn't meant to be a depressing post. I only wanted to write a bit about my art process. Style can vary from author to author, but perspective, symmetry and other technical aspect can make a drawing feel real. 

Progresses for this week include Fujisa's starting set of 20 face expressions.


Fujisa is really expressive. She doesn't hide what she's feeling, she's direct and sincere, so her emotions map reflects this trait of her personality. She's also a bit clumsy and I aim to develop her as a very cute character.

Another step has been made for what regards Teru's outfits as well. I completed the lineart and flat colors for his Naginata uniform and for his casual outfit, which he will wear after graduating from high school. 


For this latter outfit I wanted to show a stylish side of him. Even if he's studying advocacy, he would choose a more casual style to go with and reserve a tuxedo for formal occasions (I will draw such outfit for some special scenes : )).

Next week (1-11 <--Way long week because I have ugly shifts at irl job orz) I will work on Teru and complete his starting set of expressions as well.
Thank you for reading! : )


During the past week I've been working on Teru sprite (as always, you can check his profile as other characters' in the Kujikawa Characters page), but since it's still a bit far to be completed I'll use this post to talk about Fujisa. I skipped writing about her last week, so it's about time! : D

So far Fujisa got two poses (plus a hand variation) and 20 different expressions. As for her personality, she's a very genuine and honest girl; for this reason, she shows her emotions clearly, so no fake smiles or introverted postures this time!
I designed a straight pose, aiming to look directly at the player to better "dialogue" with them, and an "embarassed" pose as Fujisa is also a little bit shy. Shyness turned out to be a useful way to show cuteness when drawing girls by the way lol.


Currently she has two different outfits, one being the school uniform, the other being some office wear. Actually, I had quite a hard time when designing the latter...
Fujisa is from a rich family and after graduation she's going to work at her father's law firm. It would have been nice to draw her some classic office wear then but I simply didn't like to have her wearing boring clothes for 90% of the story. I had a blouse I wanted her to wear and I kept it, but in the end I scrapped some pencil skirt to make her wear a wide skirt in striped thick cotton.


Since also Kairi is wearing a peculiar gilet, I thought about calling this clothing as "Kujikawa fashion" lol. I'll be sure to provide Teru with some matching apparel : )

Next week (23-31) I'll focus on completing both Fujisa and Teru sprites so that I can also show you their expressions. January is being tough, with many complicated assets to produce but I'm confident to finish at least them within the end of the month.

See you!

Fujisa sprite and clothing

I spent the week working on sprites but for this update I'd like to explore a bit more the process I use to make background art for the game. It feels weird to me not to talk about actual progresses, so starting from next post I'll get back explaining only what I'm doing or thinking at the moment again. Yeah, no filler posts anymore ^ ^

Anyway, I thought I had to make a post about this content. As you may remember, I already talked about background art process in this entry. The second method I'm using to paint them, is slightly similar. I'm not sure this post will be a proper tutorial, I think it will mostly tell the process behind the result. 


The SketchUp-paint method.

I used to draw background manually, with pencil and paper, and then I would color them with pc. I uploaded a half-finished picture of one of them at the bottom of this post, if you're curious to see. The result was not bad, the problem was that it was time consuming as hell. I'm cutting quite a lot of things while proceeding with Serenade's development, backgrounds -aka places- included, but it's never enough. Backgrounds quantity is never dropping considerably. So I came up with some methods to speed up at least a bit. To be honest, I don't know a way to save so much time that you can have a background in only one day of work. Also this method may be working for me but for you it may only seem a waste of time. When I talk about saving time on a high res background I'm talking about 30-40 hours of work. So it's about three, four days if I can work 8-10 hours straight each.

While for interiors I'm using 3D, for outside scenes I'm still locked with lineart and painting. The only upgrade I managed to get, is that the lineart can be automatically generated by pc after I input some information before.
SketchUp is a free program (only for non commercial purposes) you can use to make 3D models; moreover basic functions are easy enough to be mastered within a couple of hours. For a beginner, what's really useful about the program is the 3D Warehouse library. It's a catalogue made by users containing 3D models of almost anything, from a pencil to a city. Models can be downloaded directly into the program, modified, used as a part of one's own project and so on. In my previous post about background making, I was simply merging two photos and tracing a lineart above them to draw my own original background. This time is no much different.

To me, tracing photos speeds up my work a lot. To say one, I'm not an expert in drawing perspective. To say two, I terribly bad at transposing the scene I have in mind into a drawing. Probably because I didn't train enough in painting background art during my life, I am not capable to do it now the way I'd like to. Therefore, rather than calculating perspective with pencil and paper, I try to figure it out while shooting photos. With SketchUp, I use a similar way. I compose a 3D model using various models from the Warehouse and try to fit the perspective I need for my game.

For example, this is the background I worked on last week. It has a very complicated gate which computer took care of. I used an only model whose author is unknown, but the elements in the pictures, like the gate, the windows, trees, etc. are made one by one by different SketchUp users. They are more than fifty!




I looked for several mansion models on the 3D Warehouse and in the end I went for this one. After some edits (I rotated the gate, changed perspective, etc.), I changed the "style" of the visualization, choosing "photographic modelling no.2" in order to have a lineart with white background. 



Sorry, Italian SketchUp... Anyway, the style I choose is the middle one
from the category labeled something like "photographic modelling 2". 

The lineart looks really rough and pixellated. Also I may want to change some details like windows' shape. So I export it as a .jpg file and with the program I use to draw (Paint Tool Sai in my case) I trace a lineart and then paint the colors.






(I always use 350 dpi canvas. Size are around 3000, 4000 pixel which I'll resize later to use it in my game.)  


Considerations.
Pencil + digital paint old art I was using prior to SketchUp
I use three different methods to draw backgrounds and this may end up in some mixed art styles later in the game. I'm trying to make backgrounds as similar in style as possible, but I guess I will be able to correct them only later, when I will have a bunch of them to observe. I came up with these methods after years of attempts and may change them in the future. I think a big part of the process is to try and try again until you find the result that fits best what you have in mind. For me, drawing backgrounds was too expensive in time and too far from the result I wanted, so I went for the 3D. But this solution won't probably work for everyone. 

Next week (15-22) it will be sprite time again ^ ^
I'll introduce Fujisa's (which I haven't finished yet...) and work on Teru's. You can check their profiles in the Kujikawa Characters page, they'll be two of the first characters you'll meet in the game.
See ya!

Ps. In this post I wrote some info on SketchUp which I believe they are correct. In case they weren't, please, leave a comment and I will make an update ^ ^

New background art step by step

I hope you all had a nice year beginning! I read on Twitter and on Gamasutra some dev's New Year's resolutions, and I can relate to many of them! Let's be confident that 2017 will bring some good results to our efforts, whatever we're aiming to accomplish! : D

This time I'd like to introduce a character you can already meet in Kujikawa Characters page: the one called "???". In a previous post I wrote that characters' complete names will always be visible in the textbox, regardless of being known or not by the protagonist Kairi. "???" will probably be the only exception in the game, due to the meaning her identity brings to the story itself. 
That being said, you begin the game as Kairi, our main character, and then you get thrown into a short glimpse of this mysterious girl's reality. "???" does some decisions during these few minutes that will bring consequences. And this is basically her role. (Yeah, in Serenade who takes decision is not only the player, characters as well will make some moves lol)

As for the sprite, after prototyping Serenade last summer, I decided to approach it differently this time. I often find myself trapped in anime or manga way to portrait characters: since you draw them anew in every scene, you can give them a lot of ways to communicate their emotions, being these ways extreme poses or hilarious changes in their hair/clothes appearance. I'm conscious that in a game you have to decide your assets and work with those, or it makes no sense. Therefore, I thought about looking after these assets a bit more. I love otome games because their characters are usually beautifully drawn. I could learn a lot by their artbooks. Anyway, at the same time, I realized that these characters are also pretty static: poses are similar, gestures are not specific for each of them. Let's say that Japanese otome games are a "different language" than a simple vn: a big role there, is the dubbing, voice actors are probably as important as the beautiful sprites. To say one, I never thought about a dubbing for Serenade, or to eventually gather money for a dubbing. I always thought it would be a game where you read, with an implied atmosphere of discovery. And pointing out this to myself, was really important in the process that is bringing Serenade to life. The choice of language you made defines the product you're creating. 
So, I put away all those beautiful artbooks and focused more on what I wanted Serenade to communicate. 

Therefore, I decided to invest more time in body language and poses for my characters. Instead of make them simply representing the character, outfit, etc., I'm also trying to make them express some kind of emotions. Drawing a whole new pose is a lot of work, but I decided to try this way from now on. I'm not thinking of drawing extreme poses at all costs, of course! Besides, I'm still learning so I'm not confident yet that results will reflect 100% this way of thinking of mine. Anyway, I used this method for Cry and Kairi before, and now I tried it on "???" too.




"???" is a cheerful girl, at times funny, who doesn't expect very much from others as she doesn't want to feel perceived as a burden. So instead of expressing her frustration openly, she just gets silent and reflective. For this reason, I thought about portraying her both in a lively pose and also in a pose expressing more introversion and boredom. (Game at this point is set in early 2009, that's why she holds an old model cellphone, but I think those phones reflected very young girls' personality way better since you could decorate them with keychains, don't them? :D)




From now on, I'll try to draw up to three pose variations for main characters, two for those who have important roles but don't show a lot through the game, and only one for secondary characters. I also aim to use few expressions and don't abuse with variations. I guess the process of creating assets and, before that, to decide how to create them is always time consuming but it's probably one of the pillars of a game, right? : >

As of today, I also finished coding Scene 1 of the game! So next week (8-14) I'll begin working on Scene 2 and new sprites! Have a nice week!

Who's that girl? - A mysterious character's game sprite -

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