Tuesday, September 8, 2015


Island has always been at the top of my to-visit list and this summer I finally had the opportunity to hop around this amazingly beautiful place. For four weeks my default mode basically was to stare around me, either looking out from the car or while hiking, taking in the sights of the fjords, glaciers, lava fields, alien basalt formations, geysers and over abundance of mountains (The Netherlands are about as flat as a pancake so any elevation over 5 meters are highly appreciated).

This piece (above) is the first I’ve finished since I got back and is inspired by a hike we did at Stokksnes, located at the South East coast. It was a rather wet day, with lots of drizzle and very low hanging clouds and it was only when I got back and looked up images of the place online that I realized what epic mountain peaks we missed out on! But, to my opinion, the view with the clouds cutting off the mountains was perhaps just as impressive. Or should I say bizarre? It looked like ‘someone’ forgot to photoshop the upper half of the landscape into the picture.

The image turned out like a still-life/collage of elements of the beach that stuck with me: the ash grey sand, the wall-like mountain slopes that were cut off by the clouds, the radar installation and the whale skeleton we saw close to it.
As I started working on the composition I kept fiddling with where to put the focus of the image. In the end I decided to start at the whale skull in the foreground and then to direct the viewer from there to the seaweeds on the left and then up to the radar installation. Working with very pixelated vs. smooth anti-aliased parts worked very well to accentuate this and guide the viewer along. The above two images are a depth render and an output test in which I used the depth render to isolate the colored areas to the front of the image. I didn’t follow through on this path in the end. The green dune grass contrasting so beautifully with the grey sand also didn’t make it into the final piece as I felt the color brought too much noise to the overall scheme I was going for, but I’m sure they’ll be given a spot in another piece :)

Below are some photos I took during that hike:

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Saturday, May 23, 2015

On Feedback

Above: some rejected idea for showing the player's inventory in a pop-up menu.

I’ve slowly and too-carefully been showing Noodles to a handful of people, which probably I should have done way sooner, to test out the mechanics/interaction on an audience; I wanted so much more to show and more to explore! So the past weeks I’ve been so focussed on making content and re- re-writing hideous-looking old code, that I lost sight of one crucial element: how to convey to the player what their options are. Oops.

Two things that need an overhaul: the display system of the items the player has picked up, and the moment(s) where the player is told they can use typed commands to do certain crucial actions.

Somewhere along the line of developing Noodles I began to steer to a more menu-free game, as I wanted to make the whole experience locked within an uninterrupted game world. Having menus, hovering boxes, etc didn’t really work with the idea I wanted of trying to keep things physical and close to the player’s avatar.

Up to two months ago there was a computer/web browser in the game that contained diary entries of sorts, where the player could read back on the items that had been collected and where some hints/tips were written into. But I wanted less text! It felt too much like a grocery list, which ironically I didn’t want, in spite of the game’s main goal being about collecting ingredients to make noodles. I wanted to go for a more organic game flow with room for discovery and figuring things out, rather than organized and systematically listing objectives for the player to complete and tick off. So the diary/browser/computer/terminal went out and I used the dream states to place hints for the player to figure out.

Now, the inventory is visible in the dream state of the House level, where ghost-like versions of the ingredients hover over the stove. The idea is that every time you pick up an ingredient, their ghost form turns into a solid one, indicating you now have this item. But then, because players don’t know what goes into the noodle soup, they can barely grasp what these objects even mean. The soy sauce flask was mistaken for gasoline, the jar of chicken stock was often mistaken for a lampion, and my carefully low-poly modeled pieces of vegetable was seen as a weird football. Not to mention, it was hard enough for players to even figure out they had to use typed words in order to access the dream states of the levels. So, back to the drawing board then!

The new inventory display turned out to be quite easy to implement and works even better with some of the other game elements than the previous versions. To access it the player can sit at the table in the House, which will transport him/her to a portrait of sorts, with the picked up items laid out on the table, and the avatar holding whatever tools they’ve picked up. The giant head, that has been giving hints from the dream worlds, now basically lists your inventory, but it feels less of a break from the game world, compared to menus.

Also, it reinforces the concept of the giant head as a keeper of knowledge, so I’m going to use a similar system to tell the player, more directly, that typed commands are part of the game play. Because that was actually a more pressing issue; most players didn’t follow through on the cryptic hints I had put in the game and thus didn’t understand there was so much more to explore and to work with.

Above: cryptic hints and more cryptic hints! Might have been pushing it. Darling killed.

Above: sketches for new & better information points.

With Noodles I want to work with dream realms that somehow reflect the player’s current environment so (hopefully!) with the new system in place this will become much easier to understand, without spelling it out too much.
Thankfully, actually making noodles isn't this involved!

Above: People on the street can be so rude! The dream state of this level shows which ones are in a bad mood and are best avoided.

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Monday, April 13, 2015

Hello, World

I had imagined Noodles to be long finished by now, but alas, courtesy of some sidetracks that needed finishing, progress has been a bit slow lately. However, I'm very happy that at least I still enjoy working on it and last week there was some feature-creep trimming that should make for a more coherent game (and one that's finished before the end of the year I imagine).

Against better judgement I also went into polishing mode for some of the parts and completely re-did the rooftop scene. Focussing on getting the mechanics to work properly should be my main goal, I guess, but coming from a visual arts background, some tiny bits of blandness in the previous models started to really get on my nerves. The new setup should work much better :).

Also, there's more (relevant!) starstuff in the game now and some of the puzzles & hints work together much better as well. AND I've been putting in some soundFX made with BFXR, which really complements the look and feel. So all in all: Progress!

Some more screens after the jump:

Feature-creep that can stay in: some NPCs to populate the outside world.

"You can't hide from galaxies" (<--- actual in-game hint)
And why should you, with them being so pretty and all.

Still tweaking SUN's Red Giant look. Used particles to make a fiery corona and added growling burning sounds made with BFXR. 

The rooftop garden's new look. I was inspired by some of the orchid plantations I saw in Indonesia, which were covered by huge nets, so I was going for a more airy feel. The previous version seemed bulky, static, uninspired. Now, you're walking on nets and planks. I wanted to let the player see what's going on with the roots of the plant, but now I don't know if I will still keep that idea in.

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Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Seeing in C#

Being in cocooning mode has been great for digging my teeth into Unity C#. After a handful of futile attempts at getting back into programming (not that I ever was that advanced before, but I have dabbled with GameMaker back in my PC days) and after having done artwork for two games (with Mudvark and Glitchnap), I'm finally starting to see the light, in C#. And it's awesome!

I've been working steadily on a little game idea with Unity 3D. C4D's FBX export hasn't given me any troubles as of late, so my work is easily ported to Unity and I can spend my time focussing on learning C# and on working my way through Mecanim. 'Noodles' will be small and manageable, so I can actually finish it entirely instead of slowly letting it bleed to death or discarding it, as easily happens with my personal projects; even with the simple mechanics I'm already finding plenty of programming obstacles to overcome. So in the mean time, here's some work in progress shots taken within Unity. Also, I'll be posting some work-in-progress on my twitter, from time to time.

Of course there had to be *some* flora in the game.
A view of the main level and its colliders. Very happy with the open look of the architecture.
The outside world.
Preliminary and unnecessary states-messiness in Mecanim.
Oops. Some texture swapping mistakes that actually look kinda rad.
Dreaming of the surface of the sun (enter Sunshine soundtrack cue).

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Friday, January 2, 2015

Another New Year

On a personal note: 2014 was quite a tumultuous year over here, but in the end I think what will stick with me most are all the great, smart, empathic, interesting and caring people I’ve met or grew close with. For this year’s holidays greeting image I at first considered making an image of two people, holdings hands and watching a new night sky arrive, but after a very brief moment of insight that idea quickly fizzled out (pfew!). Because, hey – what’s wrong with having amazing friends/buddies/partners in crime instead of one loved one?

So: here’s to great friendship! May 2015 bring you guys lots of it, along with interesting new opportunities, valuable insights, crazy dancing nights and stories to tell in the years to come.

xo :)

If you’d like a wallpaper version for your desktop/iPhone/iPad: have a look over here.

There's a few notes after the jump:

Above: Wireframe screenshot of the scene. For the majority of the stars I actually used C4D's viewport object display. The spherical stars are actually omni and area lights with the sphere representing the light's falloff radii. Other shapes were made from null objects with their object display set to show a pentagon or just some splines grouped together.

I really like the pixeled look here. Why pretend this anything else but digital? Also, mixing the jagged look with a more realistic lens flare creates a nice subtle tension in the image, by allowing different materialities to speak out. The eclipsing sun feels even more like a burning light source because of the realistic way it's lens effects are rendered in relation to the pixels that don't hide their flat origins.

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