Thursday, September 28, 2006

Describe the emotion you get when you see something cute. What is it?

I can't seem to format things correctly tonight, so there will be no pictures in this post. Deepest apologies.

So it's been quite a week, a week I barely remember but has seemed to take forever. We've since done 2 more revised versions. Buck has graciously juggled seemingly endless audio changes and his crazy responsibilities involving his new house. Go him. I haven't slept much in the past week... just be in crunch mode every day, trying to fine tune the first episode to the liking of the client, all the while trying to get going on the second episode. I've got a running start on it now and barring any more huge first episode revisions (Turner producers are reviewing it today), the next few days should see me making some huge strides on episode 2. Just about every other project has taken a backseat or has been momentarily forgotten.

Bethany's brother Mike bought us the third and tragically final season of Arrested Development on dvd. The series was cancelled and the last season truncated, so we were able to watch the entire last season in one evening. For those unfamiliar with our viewing habits, Cleo and I tend to spend a lot of time in our makeshift office, each of us working at our tables on whatever project currently demands our attention. Often we'll pop in a movie or something on her laptop and watch as we work. Therefore in a lengthy work session we can polish off an entire shortened season of a brilliant sitcom. SHAME ON ANYONE who has not checked Arrested Development out... in a world of King of Queens and Everybody Loves Raymond and Will and Grace, Arrested Development was smart, consistently well-made, and above all very, very funny. I daresay it's the funniest sitcom ever made... I know it's blasphemy to say that in the face of all of the greats in the past, but Arrested Development was, I guess, the first post-sitcom sitcom. No laugh track, no studio audience. Single camera, documentary style filming and constant referential humor. The cast was perfect and the writing was spot-on. The narration by Ron Howard was always right. *sigh. I think the show was replaced by "Skating with Celebrities". Arrested Development was ahead of it's time and was ended in it's prime. And all of us are to blame.

Working a good amount (most of the day) means that I need to take sporadic time outs and do something fun or interesting to redcharge. It's really difficult to be creative in a technical discipline like animation when you're just burning yourself out. To offset this, I have been doing a good amount of gaming in my off time. Last sunday we made a trip to the mall and I got two very good games at far cheaper than I expected: Okami and Dragon Quest 8.

Okami was just release last week I believe and I've been looking forward to playing it since I first read about it a year ago over at good 'ol 1up.com (see sidebar). It plays kind of like Zelda with a dog... the plot follows a Japanese goddess taking the form of a wolf to save the land from an 8-headed demon. Word. The basic gameplay thus far is rather nice, but it's the presentation that really sells this... it's rendered in 3d but in a style reminescent of Japanese brush art... very painted with touches of calligraphic lines. In fact, the other main selling point is the unique gameplay mechanic of the brush. You wield a "celestial brush" that you can use to paint in bridges to cross water, or draw lines through enemies to slash them in half. There are I think 13 different uses for the brush, and thus far I have 2 of them. If you have a PS2, you have no reason not to go grab a copy of this game. I don't know how much press it's going to get, but like Ico, Shadow of the Collosus, and Katamari Damacy... you miss this at your own peril.

Dragon Quest 8 is the latest in the series that started graphical console rpgs as we know it... I have VERY fond memories of the orginal Dragon Warrior for the nes. The game completely owned me for a good bit of 3rd grade and it introduced me to rpgs. It predates Final Fantasy and is a lot more basic, but the Dragon Quest series has always been a good source of traditional Japanese rpgs for those of us so inclined. Dragon Quest 8 has been a blast for the 6 hours I've played it thus far... VERY brass tacks, traditional turn based battles, replete with action menus and colorful characters. The whole business is cell-shaded nicely, which is the icing on the cake. It's reminded me that at one time rpg's didn't need all the bells and whistles attatched to them these days (largely by a certain favorite franchise that's grown more and more gaudy every year). It's been so long since I've just enjoyed grinding through levels, exploring the world, and following the plot along.

ALSO I've just recieved my brand new Wacom Intuos3 tablet, and I am sufficiently geeked. My old, trusy Wacom Graphire tablet from early 2004 was showing some serious wear and tear, what with being used for several hours almost every day for over 2 years. I was going to have to pony up the cash to get a replacement pen for it (instead of just borrowing Buck's again for like 7 months... thanks, Buck!), so I chose to just bite the bullet and get a new, improved tablet. I even got a great deal on it, way below list price. Hoorah. It's bigger, it's better, it has a pen that isn't nearly as flimsy as the last one, and it's got programmable buttons on the sides(I swear I'm gonna find a use for them... because I really don't need them). So yes, I am moving on up in the graphic design equipment. Go me.

I'm sure I'm beating a very popular dead horse, but go to your local book store and plunk down the $12 or so for John Hodgman's The Areas of my Expertise. I haven't laughed this hard for so long a time in ages. Seriously. It's beyond hilarious.

This is for some reason turned into a post where I just plug things I am currently enjoying... let's just go with it, then.

Watch these now. They're in order on this page, I believe. It won't make sense if you watch them out of order. Komaneko is just about the most adorable thing I've ever seen. Like adorable in the you-will-spontaneously-cry-and-laugh way. They made both Cleo and I ludicrously happy during a dark and rainy day.

Hm... what else am I doing? Nothing. Just working, playing video games and preparing (fingers crossed) to begin moving on monday or tuesday. We'll see how all of that goes. Stay in touch, kids.

Friday, September 22, 2006

The Angry Mob

Well, here we are, another Friday early morn.

This week I sent off the first take of the first episode of Lame Games, called Sick Weapons. We did a demo of the last half of the episode last January, so it was good to finally get it done to some degree. I'm sure the kids up in Beantown will want a revision or two, but it's a good percent finalized I'm sure. I also got a crash course in After Effects on wednesday, for which I am very grateful. I've wanted to learn that program for about a year now and now I know at least enough to put an episode out in a video format. Hooray! Feature-length here I come! I'm starting production on the second episode as we speak, hopefully it'll go quickly and easily, and will be of grand, inspired wonder. Fingers crossed!

Wednesday night, to commemorate our harrowing quest to get the dvds Fedexed to Boston overnight (my girl friday and I just caught the last truck out that night), we traveled to the new Best Buy right by our house. I purchased a copy of Fable: The Lost Chapters for my poor little Dell. It had been so overworked in the 10 days prior that I felt it needed some gametime to relax.

So Fable is a game I've heard much about, that it was another flawed bit of genious from Peter and the Lionhead Studios gang... Pete thinks big and talks big, but dosen't always deliver the goods. At first I wasn't really getting into the game... I'd say the first 2 hours were pretty dry for me - standard setup, cheeky npcs, hack and slash and cast a spell, linear quest from point A to point B. But after plugging away at it for a bit, the game's charm won me over. First of all, the graphics are splendid. I guess it's fall in the game world, and that's a good way to keep me watching alone. The character models are nice and slightly stylized... like little action figures. The game is fairly customizable from the quests you take, to how you cut your hair, to whom you flirt with. I shaved my characters head.

I'm blowing through it, trying to really hit all of the optional side quests and stuff to milk this game for all it's worth. I'm sure I'll write more about it as I progress.

In other news, we saw The Black Dahlia last weekend. It was a god-awful mess. Really. Brian De Palma should be beaten with bamboo poles. Skip this one, kids. I walked into it really wanting to like it and I just couldn't. Poorly shot, directed, scored, cast, acted, written, etc. A nightmare... but if you're in the mood for a high-concept, big-budget train wreck, you could do worse. We laughed at parts that in no way here meant to be funny.

Our moving got pushed back again. On monday Cleo and I drove down to bible study and walked past our future place. We thought of throwing eggs but wisely decided against it. It kinda hit me that I'm a bit nervous about moving... I haven't moved to a new area and inherited any new friends in awhile... I worry about making real friendships with the people I know down there. Insecurity draws nigh! I worry about people wanting to hang out and come over and do stuff. I worry that we'll never see anyone. I worry that people will mistake Cleo and I for one of your standard boring married couples and not want to chill. But I trust in God that things will work out right, and that he has our best interests in mind. We'll see how this goes.

I miss being in a band. I really want to play again. Punk rock 2 tha maxx.

Well, I'm off to bed. Tommorow = a good 10 hours pumped into the new episode. I'm storyboarding as I go and trying some camera angles not yet seen. I guess that last comment dosen't really make much sense, since there's only been one episode thus far. *Ahem

In conclusion, listen to The World/Inferno Friendship Society. One of the greatest bands alive today, I assure you.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Candide or Optimism.

Anyone topping Voltaire yet? Didn't think so.

This week has been delirious and quick... worked a few near-24 hour day shifts on Episode 1 of LAME GAMES... it's coming together and due next week. I cannot tell you how great it is to get some of these scenes out of my mind and onto the screen. I'm unsure of what the rest of the world may think, but I've done my best on this and I'm happy with that. It's been over a year and to now be working on finalized episodes is just awesome. I'll gladly pull the all-nighters, just to have some completion. And I suppose they're pretty funny as well. Funnier now that I can watch a few scenes and play with the timing and actions.

Tom Waits got me through a lot of this week. Tom Waits and Cleo, my newly-appointed Girl Friday. She made meals and encouraged. She's the greatest.

Fall fall fall fall fall fall fall is more or less here. We've taken grand walks. My personal Halloween season begins around now. The season is too short as it is, so I lobby for a start in mid-september, as the weather inspires. There may be pumpkins this weekend. Oh lordy lordy yes.

We're delayed again from our betrothed apartment. It shivers at the touch of a tenant that is not me, my wife or my cat. It longs for the day when we shall keep it company. We bought a sign for the door. It reads "Morgue". 3 weeks or so till we tred upon it's blessed plankboards. Godspeed you, time.

I have no pics to show for this entry, as I've been doing just animation all week. I'm sorry, you shall have some soon. I promise.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Why take? Don't take!

It's cold in my house. It's like 75 outside but I need a sweater. I'm feeling a little sickly today, so that's probably why.

This past week has been enjoyable, what with the nice cool weather we've been enjoying. I received my copy of Psychonauts in the mail on thursday and have logged about 10 hours on it... I think I'm pretty close to the end. It's fantastic and wonderful. You simply must play it. Order it now. I've also been hard at work on the big project, as well as the video for my good friends The Last Hope. I had hoped to have it done by now, but progress has been slower than I'd prefer. Still, we press on.

Also this past week was born Madeline Claire Buck, the first child of Adam and Jules Buck. Congrats to them, it is indeed an auspicious occasion. We visited them in hospital. The child is very tiny, but healthy. And cute. Cute in that newbornish squished-up way.

I'll post some pics of some work I've been doing later... for now I must return to whatever it is that I do...

Monday, September 04, 2006

Suture Self

A fall draws near! Command? SCOTT chants the spell of FREAK OUT!

Dragon Warrior reference. Deal.

Temperatures dropped like 15 degrees in the past 3 days, and that is just fine by me. I wasnt a long, cool fall, one where it's like in the 50s and 60s for 3 months and then just gets cold right before Thanksgiving, and snows right after. It'll be interesting going through the holidays in an urban setting, we haven't done that yet. I hope for carolers. In fact, I want the southside to transform into the opening of A Muppet Christmas Carol.

Upon returning from Jersey last week, I realized that I hadn't drawn or animated anything for about a week or so, and that inertia had set in. I hate that. So to break back in I did up 3 designs for my friends at Commonwealth Press. His concept for the designs were "PA Fascism". So here's an example of what came out the other end. This and the other designs might just be on tshirts at some point, so stay tuned. And if ever you're in the market for printing, drop them a line... they're small, cheap and very good at what they do. DIY till ya die... from it.

In other news, I think our moving has been postponed a week or so on account of the wacky outgoing tenent pulling a gun on Trish the spunky landlady when she went over to figure out why he was still there. Well, actually it might have been a toy gun... and it was just in his underwear band (?!), but she still called 911 because that crap is just all kinds of wack. So yeah, we may not be out of Altoona until later in the month. Thankfully the new production schedule for Lame Games has the first episode due on the 25th, so I can take this time to get an extra jump on it and the second episode. Will I ever be glad when these are done.

I beat the amazing Grim Fandango. Go track down a copy of it NOW. I was actually sad to get to the end. I only consulted a walkthrough once, near the end. I am master of time and space.

I dowloaded a demo of the first level of Psychonauts as well, which was helmed buy the incomparable Tim Shaffer, who also helmed the aformentioned Fandango a well as the famous Monkey Island series. His company is called Double Fine and you should go check out their hilarious page. I look at that page and wish to God I could work there. Maybe eventually? I'm wandering, though. Psychonauts is a FANTASTIC game with truly impeccable art direction and presentation. Seriously, the art blurs that handdrawn/3d line in awesome ways. The level design was very sweet in the stage I played and the writing was (predictably) great. The gameplay is tight and fun 3d platforming with the classic doublejumps, punching, etc. When I have a bit of splurge money I do beleive I'll be plunking down the cash for the full game. The sad thing is that, like Grim Fandango, the game is very little known in this world of Tony Hawk's Grand Theft Halo Madden. Anyone complaining about a lack of innovation, inspiration and hope for the future of games needs to check out Psychonauts. The cool thing also is that Double Fine is another small, focused group that puts out great work. That's the way to go. Small and focused. SUPPORT AWESOMENESS!

So yeah, so today I'm working on one or two of the billion projects I'm involved in... who knows? I'll post progress as it occurs.

Hey, go listen to the Loved Ones' album. It's really good in that melodic punk for grownups way. No tracks begged to be skipped. Been awhile since that happened. Hooray for everything.