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DF Lee

Art Update #1: Creating a Visual Style, Part 1

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I do not like the dead eyes. Yes, dead eyes. Eyes with pupils but without white (or vice versa) are dead and lifeless. Not as easy to relate to and also kind of creepy. I just plain do not like the style. The zany anatomies, proportions, and creepy blank stares just aren't to my liking. I think when most people say it looks lifeless and dead they really mean that it just doesn't look relatable enough.

Also, as far as "pleasing 89,000 backers" goes, I think the people who keep saying "I don't care what they do" should really in all fairness be flat out ignored and only the people who actually have an opinion to state should receive attention (by DF). In this case, DF really doesn't need to please all 89,000 backers if half of them don't care and will be happy with whatever they end up doing. In my opinion, only people who think they specifically should or shouldn't use this style should be listened to. And that goes for anything else we have some kind of say in.

I also should add that I'm not saying DF shouldn't do what they're passionate about if they REALLY REALLY want this style and it's a hinging factor on whether they want to make this game or not, but like I said earlier I just want my voice to be heard and considered.

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Has anyone posted a link to these works by Nathan yet?

http://superpunch.blogspot.com/2011/08/nathan-stapley-show-at-gallery-1988.html

They seem to have a bit more expression and personality than some of the other images people have been posting. I think so, anyway. I really like his style in general, including everything that's been posted so far, and I can't really see whatever it is that bothers people about his work.

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Looking pretty good for a first initial test! If Double Fine can figure out ways to animate this kind of look efficiently it might be PRETTY AWESOME. (It's a shame Creature House got eaten up by Microsoft; their vector natural media program "Expression" was amazing, and their animation program that used the same vector natural media technology might have been amazing for quickly tweening these kinds of images. This is something I drew in Expression about a decade ago with a bunch of the stock brushes.)

I wonder how it'd look to have the gradients applied to the characters for lighting have a painterly texture to them instead of a flat gradient? Might look like poop but it might be totally radical. And once you establish doing that, you could even play with different textures to create different moods - what kind of mood would, say, a visibly halftoned gradient establish versus a flat one or a painted one?

And yeah I think it's a given that there will be more detail in the backgrounds and foregrounds, look at the level of detail in EVERY OTHER GAME TIM HAS HELMED and I think that it should be pretty obvious that this is just a VERY EARLY EXPLORATORY TEST. You want to get a bunch of these types of experiments out of the way in the beginning of a big project to figure out how to make it work, instead of deciding halfway through that the whole thing needs to be redone because you finally nailed the style!

(Unless of course you're using a stylistic transition to say something about the world - see the transition between the real world and Toontown in "Who Framed Roger Rabbit", or heck, see the cinematics set in the land of the living in "Grim Fandango". Or check out the comic YU+ME: DREAM, which marshals a TON of different styles to indicate different dream-worlds. Which could be pretty damn cool too, though that would require multiple versions of the main character's animation cycles to match different worlds!)

I will admit that I'm not a fan of the tendency Stapey has towards rather blank expressions in his paintings - but I also know that there's a world of difference between the 3-4 stock emotions most artists use when they're just drawing to draw, and the much wider palette of emotions they deploy when there's a narrative to express. I draw a LOT more different expressions when I'm working on a comic than when I'm just drawing random standalone pieces. There's also some stuff in his portfolio that makes me REALLY HAPPY to look at, he's got this painterly riff on Jim Flora going that really kicks ass when it comes together. And which will be SUPER SWEET to see in full animation. Or even smartly-done limited animation; I used to work at Spümcø, so I know the power of a well-thought-out cycle that you use over and over again, or some simple animation that suddenly blossoms into a half-second of beautiful madness. How much animation love they can afford to give to everything depends on how long the actual game ends up being, of course.

tl;dr: thumbs up, this is an interesting start and I look forwards to seeing how this evolves into a polished look over the coming weeks!

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I know this is just a test, but I want to post my opinion anyway: love the backgrounds, but I do not like the art style of the character. I like cartoon-style like in Day of the Tentacle, but this one particularly is kind of ugly.

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Please, no shitty dungeons in this game.

I'm not sure DF can make that happen. I mean... Dungeons...

I couldn't imagine DOTT without dungeons. Could you?

Anyway, I know you were just kidding :)

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Oh man, can I just say I'm far more excited about these posts then I am about the final game. Learning how you guys approach this design stage and follow it through to the end, can't wait!

And how much I love that background painting; That'd be my desktop if it wasn't so small.

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Please, no shitty dungeons in this game.

Where's the entrance to level 7?

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Oh, man. Too many cooks in the kitchen!

Lee, please continue to post awesome updates of early stuff even if you end up with 15 pages of people complaining about temporary mock-ups, and feel free to ignore most of us, especially the ones most challenged by reading comprehension.

I really like the parallax scrolling! I think it adds some real depth to the 2D backgrounds.

As for this:

like I said earlier I just want my voice to be heard and considered.

I'm really curious as to why you would back a Double Fine project if you don't like the Double Fine style.

"Can’t say I’m a fan of Nathan’s style at all. That’s probably what turned me off of Grim Fandango and Psychonauts, actually. But I don’t know why I would expect otherwise from Double Fine, seeing as they use that style for almost everything."

Yes, exactly. Why DID you expect otherwise? I also think it's kind of insulting that you want your "voice heard" but are clamoring for something different than what you should have been expecting from past experience and what has been stated early on.

I would never, ever want to listen to the disparate opinions of 87,000 people. I guess I'd make a terrible politician. Or a great one. Zing!

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You don't read everything. I stated that I don't like the art style and would prefer something else. However, I also said if it was a deal breaker for Double Fine then fine. Do what they do best. I never once stated the art was awful or hideous. I also wasn't rude in anything I said. I just stated that I would have preferred soemthing else.

In an earlier post I mentioned that it never really occurred to me that Tim would go in this direction. When I backed the project I immediately imagined "Tim Schafer making an adventure game" and when I think that I think of LucasArts immediately. I outright said that I was expecting something closer to that art style without even thinking about it beforehand.

Like I said, if Tim really wants this style than so be it. It looks like people in my position are outvoted anyway even if Tim does listen to the fans in regards to art style. But I don't think it's insulting at all to fill the role Double Fine and Tim himself has stated that the backers would have. I'm all for giving Tim his space to work probably more than any publisher ever has, but he said himself that he has to please us in some ways. If he chooses not to listen to me or others in my position in this particular instance for this particular issue, then fine. There are other matters we can speak up about. But our role IS to speak up and that's not insulting to them at all. It's what they asked for.

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I absolutely love the art style and parallax/depth scrolling.

The character design, not so much, but I'm assuming that's not the focus here.

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Super nice to see the same stuff me and my pals figured out on our own to make our student animation look nicer be used in the same way by industry professionals :) This is gunna be beautiful!

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You don't read everything. I stated that I don't like the art style and would prefer something else. However, I also said if it was a deal breaker for Double Fine then fine. Do what they do best. I never once stated the art was awful or hideous. I also wasn't rude in anything I said. I just stated that I would have preferred soemthing else.

In an earlier post I mentioned that it never really occurred to me that Tim would go in this direction. When I backed the project I immediately imagined "Tim Schafer making an adventure game" and when I think that I think of LucasArts immediately. I outright said that I was expecting something closer to that art style without even thinking about it beforehand.

Like I said, if Tim really wants this style than so be it. It looks like people in my position are outvoted anyway even if Tim does listen to the fans in regards to art style. But I don't think it's insulting at all to fill the role Double Fine and Tim himself has stated that the backers would have. I'm all for giving Tim his space to work probably more than any publisher ever has, but he said himself that he has to please us in some ways. If he chooses not to listen to me or others in my position in this particular instance for this particular issue, then fine. There are other matters we can speak up about. But our role IS to speak up and that's not insulting to them at all. It's what they asked for.

No, I've read the whole thread, thank you. I also said it was "kind of" insulting. As in, just a teensy tiny bit insulting. I didn't say you were kicking puppies or anything.

It just sounds a bit like this:

DF: This is what we're doing: 2D adventure, Nathan Stapley art, etc. Are you in?

You: Definitely! I just backed you. Though, I actually don't like most of what you've done recently. Do what you used to do instead.

DF: OK, thanks for backing, but we just told you what we we're going to do. It's not what you assumed.

You: I want my voice to be heard.

You're totally allowed to have your opinion and all, but a lot of us got into this expecting a Double Fine game (because there's no reason to expect otherwise) and it's not really our fault that you assumed DF would make something out of style for them. It just seems like you could have saved yourself some time by thinking about it for a second, which you admit not doing.

Anyway, all of this is pretty hypothetical at this point as none of the art or style or pretty much anything else is final. I'm not going to turn this into a "thing." Just keep in mind that you may not like some of the final elements based on your prior history with DF, and that may just be the way it is. That goes for everyone else including myself.

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I remember playing the first Monkey Island. There were really no facial expressions. It was you, your mind and the dialogue. All the funny quotes and sarcasm was actually powered by the fact that you did not have the characters expressing everything for you. I'm not saying this art style has no way of communicating expressions, but I just wanted to mention that you can actually get an improved experience by for example having a quiet guy with a poker face just staring after hearing something.

This is what we were talking about earlier that you can't really criticize it until you have the story, the dialogue and the voice acting ready. Maybe it'll be even better than anything we have seen.

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This "making your voice heard" is perfectly ok, I think, just as some basic facts are remembered.

* That you have a particular opinion is pretty uninterresting.

* Why you have that opinion might be slightly more interresting.

* In particular, if you think that doing X would make the game more awesome, and have a sound argument for why it would do so, then you're on to something.

Now, once you have stated what you think should be done, and why, DF can read that, and either they agree with your reasoning that it would make the game more awesome, or they disagree (perhaps because they feel it would make the game less awesome in some other aspect). If they disagree, then that's that. It doesn't matter if 20000 backers have that opinion, or if the Pope himself does. The voice had been heard, but that doesn't mean that it has to be obeyed.

Not saying that anyone in particular in this thread has got this wrong, but it's useful to point out sometimes...

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I like everything about this except the "puppet" animation. I would gladly sacrifice fluidity of movement to have individually drawn frames of animation. Is this just for the sake of testing or is this the animation process being used in the final game?

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Once again, thanks for these awesome updates.

I'm amused to see two types of post popping up here:

1. 'Bit x or y of what you show looks crappy, is this how it's going to look in the final version.' Which is fine work from people who don't understand what mockups are

&

2. 'I don't like the art style, I wanted it to be pixely and look like Monkey Island, why won't you listen to me and my $15???' Which, again, doesn't realize that this is a MOCKUP and contains a random character from the artist plonked into a fairly random scene just for testing purposes. And also seems to suppose that they have such a wondrous artistic eye that they should be listened to over DoubleFine who constantly churn out quality products.

It amuses me. :)

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I think marcus brings sound general advice to think about. If you keep that in mind you may more often add a few lines on why you are criticizing the work. However if a forum user feels he wants to share his opinion and stop at that, he should do just that.

As for Spoco2, I agree that some people do not seem to understand that this is only a prototype. However what we see was supposed to reflect the art style even if all the details are not there - it says so in the first post. So that people talk about how they do not like a certain art style is actually relevant. A lot of the discussions have also been around the artist's previous work and not the mockup.

You are amused by that people think they are better artists than what Double Fine has to offer. The fact is, some may be that. I'm not saying it is, just that it isn't as far-fetched as you might believe. Also if you want input on your work, you don't need people to be at your level or higher to get something out of it. I would say it's up to the artist to decide whether he wants to hear input here or not.

Let's say that half the forum users disliked the art, which I don't think will happen. Then the artist who realizes this can take this input in many different ways. He can feel discouraged and do a worse job because a lot of people are negative about his work. He can realize that maybe I can change something to make more people like it. He could also just don't give a damn and do what he thinks is best. It is pretty hard to know what action will bring out a better product and I guess that is what defines how we are. My opinion is that feedback always has a bigger probability to bring out something better in the end, so I say continue to say what you feel about the art style.

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Once again, thanks for these awesome updates.

I'm amused to see two types of post popping up here:

1. 'Bit x or y of what you show looks crappy, is this how it's going to look in the final version.' Which is fine work from people who don't understand what mockups are

&

2. 'I don't like the art style, I wanted it to be pixely and look like Monkey Island, why won't you listen to me and my $15???' Which, again, doesn't realize that this is a MOCKUP and contains a random character from the artist plonked into a fairly random scene just for testing purposes. And also seems to suppose that they have such a wondrous artistic eye that they should be listened to over DoubleFine who constantly churn out quality products.

It amuses me. :)

I was thinking more or less the same thing - It reminds me of showing clients works-in-progress and no matter how many times you tell them to ignore things that are irrelevant at that stage, they don't ignore them, and instead insist you change them :gulp:

Feedback is invaluable, when it's relevant =p

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I remember playing the first Monkey Island. There were really no facial expressions. It was you, your mind and the dialogue. All the funny quotes and sarcasm was actually powered by the fact that you did not have the characters expressing everything for you. I'm not saying this art style has no way of communicating expressions, but I just wanted to mention that you can actually get an improved experience by for example having a quiet guy with a poker face just staring after hearing something.

This is what we were talking about earlier that you can't really criticize it until you have the story, the dialogue and the voice acting ready. Maybe it'll be even better than anything we have seen.

I hate to seem to be defending those people criticising the art style before they've even seen it in a developed state, but that argument doesn't really hold water here. The reason low-res games could get away with having limited expressions is because the detail was low enough for the mind to fill in the blanks. When resolution gets higher, the artists have to work harder to make it seem expressive, which is why the Curse of Monkey Island characters had a range of basic expressions, and so on. If the original Monkey Island had been a high res game, they would have done more with those character animations - which is part of what makes the Special Editions feel a little empty in places.

That said, it's not all about facial expressions. Grim Fandango's skeletons could only do a limited amount with them, but the great use of body language especially in the cutscenes (seriously, watch them again!) really made up for it. So there are a whole raft of things that DF can and will do to bring the characters to life, from various facial expressions to animation stuff to voice acting and clever writing. Since we haven't seen how any of this stuff will develop yet - all we have to go on is a basic lighting and parallax scrolling test - it's too early to know exactly how these characters will express themselves on screen.

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Great artist, great game mechanism!

Happy to be a backer and no reason to think Tim Schafer or anyone at DF is not god, so far.

DAMN I'm curious about the story concept.

[runs off to quickly invest in Nathan Stapley art]

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Once again, thanks for these awesome updates.

I'm amused to see two types of post popping up here:

1. 'Bit x or y of what you show looks crappy, is this how it's going to look in the final version.' Which is fine work from people who don't understand what mockups are

That's not what I'm asking at all. Rather, I understand very well what a mockup is, and I'm asking if the decision to do puppet animation is a shortcut taken for the sake of a mockup, or if it represents the animation process they look to use in the game. It's a fair question, don't be so smug.

I really do like the art style at all, I just think that, while puppet animation can work for robot characters and such like in Machinarium, it's less expressive for more organic characters. It may be smooth, but it's artificial looking, and I hope it's just a placeholder because it's so easy to do in After Effects.

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Wow I LOVE how the background looks, it's AMAZING! That's a brilliant style!

Not so sure about how I feel for that style for the characters tho..

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I remember playing the first Monkey Island. There were really no facial expressions. It was you, your mind and the dialogue. All the funny quotes and sarcasm was actually powered by the fact that you did not have the characters expressing everything for you. I'm not saying this art style has no way of communicating expressions, but I just wanted to mention that you can actually get an improved experience by for example having a quiet guy with a poker face just staring after hearing something.

This is what we were talking about earlier that you can't really criticize it until you have the story, the dialogue and the voice acting ready. Maybe it'll be even better than anything we have seen.

I hate to seem to be defending those people criticising the art style before they've even seen it in a developed state, but that argument doesn't really hold water here. The reason low-res games could get away with having limited expressions is because the detail was low enough for the mind to fill in the blanks. When resolution gets higher, the artists have to work harder to make it seem expressive, which is why the Curse of Monkey Island characters had a range of basic expressions, and so on. If the original Monkey Island had been a high res game, they would have done more with those character animations - which is part of what makes the Special Editions feel a little empty in places.

That said, it's not all about facial expressions. Grim Fandango's skeletons could only do a limited amount with them, but the great use of body language especially in the cutscenes (seriously, watch them again!) really made up for it. So there are a whole raft of things that DF can and will do to bring the characters to life, from various facial expressions to animation stuff to voice acting and clever writing. Since we haven't seen how any of this stuff will develop yet - all we have to go on is a basic lighting and parallax scrolling test - it's too early to know exactly how these characters will express themselves on screen.

I still feel those parts were stronger in the first Monkey Island game, so it is my experience. With higher resolution you get more detail to work with, but that doesn't mean you need it to make a better game. My point was not that low res is better because you can then imagine things on your own. The point is that used right, a certain art style with both unwanted and decided limitations can be used to achieve a different experience for the player.

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i see since Programming Update 1 Redbot has grown his mighty beard, is his quest now as a mighty lumberjack to find the monster truck that must not be (ref to when tim asked what to have and not have in the game)

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Eh, I say Double Fine should just keep doing what they're doing. They'll carry on improving and refining the art style as they were already planning on doing anyway and the people with 'concerns' will feel happy that they are being 'addressed'. Bless.

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