Bill

Feb 192014
 

Hey Everyone!

Not exactly doing this art column weekly these days, but I’ll try to get back into it.  Just busy with game dev.

For fun this weekend I drew some fan art from one of my favorite games of 2013, which is Zelda: A Link Between Worlds.

I really liked the look of the Princess of Lorule, Hilda – so I drew up some art of her!  Must be the purple/blue/red color combination, eh?  😉

 

Princess Hilda of Lorule - by Bill Stiernberg

Princess Hilda of Lorule – by Bill Stiernberg

 

In this pic I went with the approximate anatomical proportions as those used in the game, because I think it’s neat.  Also instead of doing my usual “clean linework” I decided to basically paint over my sketch.  I figured it would sorta kinda fit the theme of the game having the rough lines…. or something…. anyway hope you like it, it’s something different for me!

 

-Bill Stiernberg (bill_at_zeboyd on twitter.  Deviantart page.)

 

Links to previous Art Columns:

Click Here to browse the Art posts, or

Last time’s Art column links:

Zeboyd Weekly Art (9/11/13): Alyssa Fan Art

Zeboyd Weekly Art (9/4/13): Making-of CSH Teaser!
Zeboyd Weekly Art (8/7/13): CSH, CSTW, Rainslick fan art!

Click Here to View the Older List!

Sep 112013
 

Hey everyone, Bill Stiernberg here.
Super busy today but I HAD to show you this awesome Alyssa fan art we received recently by the talented Dice9999:

Alyssa - CSH - by Dice9999

Alyssa – CSH – by Dice9999

 

Awesome work!  If you thought it had kind of a Suikoden feel to it, well, I asked Dice if she was influenced by Suikoden or SNK’s art styles: she said her favorite Suiko artist was Fumi Ishikawa, but takes a lot of inspiration from many sources.  Check out her DeviantArt page for more here, or check out her tumblr which is a work in progress here.

 

So I also wanted to show the official Cosmic Star Heroine cover art that I had been working on.  We didn’t reveal this until the Sony Press Event which was blogged about on the Playstation Blog, where we also revealed the Teaser-trailer  I busted my butt working on along with a good friend, Dean Dodrill.

Cosmic Star Heroine Cover Art - by Bill Stiernberg

Cosmic Star Heroine Cover Art – by Bill Stiernberg

I hope you like it!

There’s not much else to say except to look forward to our Kickstarter which we will be launching in a few weeks!

-Bill Stiernberg (bill_at_zeboyd on twitter.  Deviantart page.)

 

Links to previous Art Columns:

Click Here to browse the Art posts, or

Last time’s Art column links:

Zeboyd Weekly Art (9/4/13): Making-of CSH Teaser!
Zeboyd Weekly Art (8/7/13): CSH, CSTW, Rainslick fan art!

Click Here to View the Older List!

 

Zeboyd Weekly Art! (9/4/13): Brief ‘Making of’ the Cosmic Star Heroine Teaser!

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Sep 042013
 

Hey everyone, Bill Stiernberg here.

So this weekend we (finally) posted a teaser for Cosmic Star Heroine!  Yay!  It was a project that I had the honor of collaborating with Dean Dodrill on.  Dean is best known for being the sole artist and programmer of Dust: An Elysian Tail.  The fantastic music was produced by Hyperduck SoudWorks as well, who did an amazing job.  Let me give you all a brief overview of how it worked.

First, view the final product!


 

So the idea was to put together a Sega-CD style “intro” cutscene that we could post as a teaser, and also include in the game. Looking at a lot of old Sega CD intro/cutscenes to see how they did things, as well as grabbing some insight from cartoons/anime, we figured the best way to produce an animated teaser with limited time and resources was to use mostly still images, but to focus on panning, zooming, simple special effects for polish, and limited animation where it made the most impact.

We came up with the brief list of scenes, which focused on the setting and game concept, and a few key characters.  From there, Dean produced several rough sketches of the idea, and put them into a basic “animatic” form – essentially, how and where the cuts would work in a movie, but only using rough sketches.

Rough sketch of scene by Dean

Rough sketch of scene by Dean

 

I then took the sketch, and produced a colored, pixel art form of it:

Street scene - Pixel art form

Street scene – Pixel art form

 

Once this was done, Dean added it to the panning, zooming animation, and tossed on some effects like lighting/glow in After Effects.

Another particularly cool scene in the teaser features a magic, gun-wielding character named Chahn.

First, she summons several blasters with her hand.  Dean and I figured a simple animation here would be effective, so I drew 5 roughs of a hand:

Chahn's hand summon animation!

Chahn’s hand summon animation!

 

I colored and pixelated these, and created the gun images as well as a blue background.  Dean compiled them into the scene with the animation, using After Effects to create a summoning-like fade-in effect for each gun:

Screengrab of the hand scene

Screengrab of the hand scene

 

For Chahn’s awesome gun blasting pose, Dean sent me this rough:

Chahn's

Chahn’s “blaster” scene, rough #1 from Animatic

 

To help with the look and angle, he updated the rough with this:

Updated rough of Chahn's blasting scene

Updated rough of Chahn’s blasting scene

So I took this rough and created the various assets for the teaser, in separated layers in PSD format:

Chahn scene, sketch to pixel format

Chahn scene, sketch to pixel format

 

Dean then added a 3D panning effect using the various layers of the assets, and drew up and added the blaster effect, giving the guns a blaster “kick back” if you will.  The final scene had this really cool 3D quality.

 

The final scene, where Alyssa smiles wryly at the sniper scope, was pretty interesting as well.  Taking Dean’s set of 4 initial sketches, which looked like this:

Dean's roughs for final sniper scene

Dean’s roughs for final sniper scene

 

I produced a series of sketches, like this image:

 

Alyssa rough based on Dean's sketch

Alyssa rough based on Dean’s sketch

And did some quick inking, coloring, then pixelating and cleaning it up to make frames like this:

Alyssa, final scene frame 1, pixelated

Alyssa, final scene frame 1, pixelated

After all 4 frames were done in this manner, Dean put them into the animation, set the same background (with the crowd of fans and flashing cameras), and put a sniper view over the close-up with a neat scope blurring/reflection around the edges:

Alyssa's final scene with the scope

Alyssa’s final scene with the scope

 

And there you have it.  Basically it was a system of super rough sketches by Dean -> detailed sketches & final pixel art and polish by me -> back to Dean to insert into animation along with his special effects/3D effects.

 

The final step of the process involved sending the final draft of this teaser over to Hyperduck SoundWorks for developing the sound effects and music to go along with it.  They did a fantastic job!  I love working with those guys.  The end result was super neat, and we got to finally unveil this at Sony’s indie focused event during PAX.

The final movie can be viewed here!

 

The reception has been super positive!  It makes me feel all warm inside 🙂

We went with a retro look, to reflect the Sega-CD era stuff that this is inspired by.  We also wanted to give it some flare, so there’s a lot of effects going on that weren’t technically possible for an actual Sega CD.  But!  That flare really made it stand out and look great, so nobody seems to mind 🙂

 

Hope you enjoyed this!  Check out my other art column posts by going to the Categories Tab above, and clicking Art, or by following this link to view all posts tagged Art: http://zeboyd.com/category/art/

-Bill Stiernberg (bill_at_zeboyd on twitter.  Deviantart page.)

 

Links to previous Art Columns:

Click Here to browse the Art posts, or

Last time’s Art column links:
Zeboyd Weekly Art (8/7/13): CSH, CSTW, Rainslick fan art!

Click Here to View the Older List!

 

Zeboyd Weekly Art! (8/7/13): CSH, CSTW, RS3 Fan Art!

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Aug 072013
 

Hey everyone, Bill Stiernberg here.

Today I’m super busy with CSH related work, but I have some really cool fan art to post!  Without further ado:

Cosmic Star Heroine Fan Art (by Anagram-Daine - Click to Enlarge)

Cosmic Star Heroine Fan Art (by Anagram-Daine – Click to Enlarge)

I saw this pop up in Deviantart recently – it’s a really cool piece by Anagram-Daine.  Obviously it’s one of those telephotos you see in spy movies all the time.  The great thing about it is that he went and edited it to look like it’s pinned to a corkboard, complete with notes and redlines.   The best part, however, is all the other cool stuff packed in around the edges of the photo sketch!    You’ve got Moira, Gabe, and Tycho in the top left, Jim at the bottom left, Umi in the center bottom, Dacre and Paws next to her, Dem above them, and I believe that’s October next to them on the right.  There’s even me in the picture handing off an important suitcase! (Just under Moira).  Anyway, it’s a cool and funny picture (like the scratch out note over Jim on the bottom left)

 

The next pic I wanted to share was from LittleEiko87.  It’s another funny CSTW piece like she’s done before:

Cthulhu's Family: It's Summer Time! Fan Art - by LittleEiko87 (click to enlarge)

Cthulhu’s Family: It’s Summer Time! Fan Art – by LittleEiko87 (click to enlarge)

It’s cartoony and adorable.  I like the little touches, like the Deep One stuffed doll that the kids have, and the zeboyd towel Cthulhu is using.

 

Anyway, back to work on CSH for me – I hope you enjoy seeing the Zeboyd fan art as much as I do!

-Bill Stiernberg (bill_at_zeboyd on twitter.  Deviantart page.)

 

Links to previous Art Columns:

Click Here to browse the Art posts, or

Click Here to View the List!

Jul 312013
 

Hey everyone, Bill Stiernberg here!

So sometimes map making comes up as a topic of discussion.  The maps in Rainslick4 were definitely my most complex and detailed yet.

While I didn’t record footage of myself making a map, I can show you the layers that went into one of them.  This will demonstrate to a small degree how these maps are built.

***NOTES***

  • This is a compressed animated .gif – so it’s not at the full quality of the map in-game
  • The chests in this image were replaced by newer, better chest sprites in-game
  • This gif does not show the final animated map frames — like the flashing lights, flickering monitors, etc.
  • This gif does not show the process I underwent in building the various objects and tiles in the map itself, or how I placed them part by part.
  • It just shows each layer consecutively placed over the one beneath, which reveals a lot about how the map itself is constructed outside of all the art I had to make to begin with.
  • There’s a little artifact in the top right which is not visible in-game.

 

Enjoy! (Note also: the map is a looping GIF animation, so wait for it to restart if you want to see the whole thing)

 

Rain-slick 4 Map Layers Example (Click for larger view)

Rain-slick 4 Map Layers Example (Click for larger view)

 

This wasn’t the most complex map in the game, but I didn’t want to spoil some cool ones by posting them here 🙂

The overall process takes quite some time.  This image doesn’t reveal how long it takes to fully conceptualize a game location, and look.  It doesn’t show the time or effort it takes to draw the individual tiles and pieces of art, and make them look and work well together within a chosen color scheme.  It doesn’t show the steps to animate the map either, which is a big part of the presentation.

What you might get out of it is how many little details I put in.  Some of the layers you’ll see exist solely to ground objects with detail and ambient shadows.  This is a separate shadow layer from the one that falls onto player sprites, which is one of the final layers in the map and produces a more dramatic lighting effect to the game.  The shadows and shadow layers in Rainslick4’s maps were all custom drawn for each map in the game individually rather than using some kind of lighting engine or relying on older methods of lighting (like, shadows always fall to the right of walls).

Rather, with RS4, I wanted lighting to reflect the actual light sources in the maps more accurately.  I think it produces a more natural feel to the levels and is often pretty dramatic.  This particular map has a lot of glow effects and so that makes it a bit surreal as well.

Feel free to ask questions and I’ll answer them in the comments if you like!

-Bill Stiernberg (bill_at_zeboyd on twitter.  Deviantart page.)

 

Links to previous Art Columns:

Zeboyd Weekly Art! (7/24/13): First Cosmic Star Heroine Fan Art!

 Art  Comments Off on Zeboyd Weekly Art! (7/24/13): First Cosmic Star Heroine Fan Art!
Jul 242013
 

Hey everyone, Bill Stiernberg here.

So I’m busy making stuff for the game, but I wanted to share the first set of fan art we’ve seen for Cosmic Star Heroine!  Without further ado:

Alyssa (by Scott Hannah on Deviantart)

Alyssa (by Scott Hannah on Deviantart)

This is Scott Hannah’s stylized pic of Alyssa.  Clean lines and nice colors. I think he said he drew Alyssa based on a Phantasy Star image but I don’t remember which.

 

I also wanted to share a couple of really cool sketches of Alyssa done by the very cool Mu (Allison Jones):

Alyssa Sketch 1 (by Mu)

Alyssa Sketch 1 (by Mu)

 

And another by the talented Mu / Allison Jones:

Alyssa, CSH (by Mu)

Alyssa, CSH (by Mu)

 

I love her cartoon / comic style.  Very expressionate.  And the flowiness of her lines.  These are just quick doodles of hers but I think they’re fantastic.

 

Anyway, back to work on CSH, so seeya next time!

-Bill Stiernberg (bill_at_zeboyd on twitter.  Deviantart page.)

 

Links to previous Art Columns:

Jul 172013
 

Hey everyone, Bill Stiernberg here.

Have couple of things to share today!  For starters, Shin Megami Tensei IV came out yesterday for the 3DS.  To celebrate the release of an awesome game in an awesome series, I decided to produce some fan art of a main character, Isabeau.

 

Isabeau - Shin Megami Tensei IV (Bill Stiernberg)

Isabeau – Shin Megami Tensei IV (Bill Stiernberg)

 

 

Isabeau  is strong willed yet dignified, and there is a side of her the others must never discover. For this reason, Walter calls her “Iron Face” which does not please her at all.I tried some new things with coloring on this one. I minimized the lines some which I normally don’t do.  I also think that smoothing and mixing some of the colors produced sorta almost a slight painted look.  I think it turned out okay although it took quite a bit longer than usual.

So today I’m also going to post the logo I’ve been working on for Cosmic Star Heroine.   The game is takes place in the future, and is obviously scifi.  But, it also has a huge focus on the secret agent aspect of the main character.  Lastly, there’s an element of Alyssa being on the run, as she is targetted by a variety of criminals/organizations that she helped take down in her role as a spy/agent.  So to tie these all together, I went for a smooth scifi themed logo and featured Alyssa behind a targetting reticle / crosshair.
I messed with the logo quite a bit so that it would look good against both a dark or a light colored background.  I think the flare from the star in the image makes it look better against a dark background generally, though; but with the alpha channel transparency and some of the extra outline work I did, it works well against a light background too I think.


OK, that’s it for today’s Art Column, seeya next week!


-Bill Stiernberg (bill_at_zeboyd on twitter.  Deviantart page.)

Links to previous Art Columns:

 

Jul 102013
 

Hi everyone! Bill Stiernberg here. For today’s Art Column, I wanted to talk a bit about sprites!

Everyone does sprites differently – it’s actually a pretty complex art. So rather than going into great detail about all the types and varieties and styles of pixel art and spritework, I wanted to give you an idea of how I’ve been changing and improving the type of spritework I do for our games.  I’ll be focusing on the main character sprites since those are the most recognizeable.

With Breath of Death VII, the goal was simple: Two guys will start from scratch and make a short, but fun, 8-bit era style RPG, and finish it in about 3 months. This was our first game as Zeboyd, and we pulled it off. To do that, we absolutely had to keep the art requirements reigned in; thus we chose “8 bit.”

I decided early on that most people / gamers tend to remember games as much more advanced than they really are. As such, I did not feel the need to stay too strict within the confines of what a NES could actually do. Rather, I felt that if I stretched out a little bit from a strict 8 bit palette, I could produce art faster, and perhaps give the game a little more detail than a true NES game would be capable of. The point was to remain efficient, and produce a game that looked 8 bit to the modern gamer, even if it wasn’t technically possible on the NES.

To stick to the look of 8 bit, of an early Dragon Quest game, Breath7 used a simple 16×16 sprite for characters:

 

Dem Walk cycle

Dem Walk cycle

The sprites are also using only 2 frames of animation, and are always animated. This is very typical of early Dragon Quest games and it makes the squatty, big-headed sprites feel more alive by always-moving, and allows the developer to only need 2 frames of animation in each of 4 directions. I also stuck to two main colors for the sprite (white, blue) with little additional splashes (red, gold) and used shading and highlights sparingly. The simple color palette and details within the confines of the 16×16 sprite maintained a NES look, even though this particular sprite was more detailed than typical NES sprites.

 

When we started Cthulhu Saves the World (CSTW), the original idea was to basically take Breath7 as a template, and simply add more color and detail – without going overboard and committing to a massive multi-year production. However, I also knew that we really ought to have more frames of animation for the walk cycle, as well as standing-still frames of art:

 

Cthulhu Walk Cycle

Cthulhu Walk Cycle

 

The Cthulhu sprite remains 16×16 in size. However, it appears more detailed because I simply used more colors to detail and define him. I also decided on using 4 frames of animation for the walk cycle. I tried it initially with 3 frames, but the resulting Cthulhu looked to be moving very mechanically that way. The 4 frames shown above are all unique and it gives me some freedom to make it smoother and show his leg and wing movement, where 2 or 3 frames would look jerky otherwise.

 

The next game we did was for Penny Arcade, On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 3. With Rainslick3, we initially designed the game to have more limited maps. Knowing this, I felt like I could spend more time on the character sprites. I also wanted to be better able to show Gabe, Tycho, and Co. since the PA characters are a selling point to many people. So in order to upgrade our sprites’ look without over-extending development, I decided to make RS3 follow in the footsteps of Final Fantasy VI for character sprites.

Rainslick3 and 4 Tycho walk cycle

Rainslick3 and 4 Tycho walk cycle

Here I have finally moved up to a 16×24 size sprite. That gives me 8 more rows of pixels in height to work with. This allows me to really give heads and faces more detail and give the bodies more definition, especially the outfits. It did not feel like a huge step up at the time, but looking at the game as a whole, having the 16×24 sprites really helped Rainslick3. It was also extremely useful during battles — we wanted to try out a sidevew for battle screens, and having larger sprites for maps allowed us to show the bigger, more detailed sprites in the FFVI style during battles as well.

Again, these sprites have 4 frames of animation in each of 4 directions. They also have a standing frame. With more room to work with, I was able to give the arms and legs more definition and create more of a regular looking stride. This also helped later, having 4 frames in each direciton, when drawing the character Jim, who… well he doesn’t walk, since he’s a skull in a jar.

Jim - Skull in a Jar - Walk Cycle

Jim – Skull in a Jar – Walk Cycle

With Rainslick4, I spent most of my efforts trying to really amp up the visuals on the game maps. I can talk about that in a later article, but the character sprites remained the same style and detail in RS4 as they were in RS3.

 

Finally, with Cosmic Star Heroine, I now have 4 full RPG’s worth of building game assets under my belt over the course of.. like 3 or 4 years or something. I am getting much more efficient at it than I was in the beginning, and learning new tricks and ways to make sprites more interesting and detailed in relatively less time.

With CSH, we want to take the game up to the next level with our presentation. We know we still want to use 16 bit, but this particular style still has so much more room for interesting sprites and visuals.

So in the past few weeks I’ve been considering just how some of the classic SNES and Genesis/SCD RPGs handled sprites. What did they do that made them pop in people’s minds? Why did they look so interesting compared to earlier games, despite being limited by the same hardware?

Alyssa - Cosmic Star Heroine - standing pose

Alyssa – Cosmic Star Heroine – standing pose

I figured a few things out in my study. The primary thing I noticed is that a lot of RPGs have character sprites with totally unnatural poses! It sounds like common sense when you think about it — but most RPGs have a “standing” frame where the character is standing straight, arms down, facing 90 degrees. Like a robot. That’s not natural! So with Alyssa, I wanted to give her standing frame a more natural looking pose.

I also went ahead and upped our sprite size a little more. Now I am drawing in 16×32 size, but I am also leaving myself room with the new game engine to vary the sprite sizes in case other characters vary outside that box. This will help with making characters look unique. But as for Alyssa there, I was also able to add more detail to her outfit, and give her a satchel with the added sprite room. I will also have more room to draw emotions on her face during certain scenes thanks to the added space. All in addition to the more natural pose.

Then I went to animate her walk cycle.

Alyssa - Cosmic Star Heroine - walk cycle

Alyssa – Cosmic Star Heroine – walk cycle

The next thing I noticed when studying older sprites was that the run and walk cycles were more natural. Gone were the conventions of, say, FFVI, where you had foot forward, feet together, other foot forward, feet together – repeat. This new Alyssa sprite now uses 6 frames of animation rather than 4. There’s a huge advantage to this. Most noticeably, I can animate her gait more naturally. Her feet aren’t robotically placed forward/center/back like my older RS3 and 4 sprites. But I also noticed that by having 6 frames of animation, I could add more nuance to her animation. For example, she has little tufts of hair that I can animate now. With 4 frames of animation, that sort of thing would look jumpy and erratic. With 6 frames, I can now more smoothly animate the small details, such as the hair on her front. I can also create a wave-like effect of her hair flowing behind her in her north-facing animation cycle. This is the kind of thing that having only a few more vertical pixels and 2 extra frames of animation allows. It’s not much more to ask, adding 8 more lines of pixel rows and 2 extra animation frames – but the increase in flexibility in animation and detail is surprising.

 

That’s it for today’s Art Article. I am still learning and still examining the methods for drawing and animating sprites in this style. I am really excited to get the other characters done, and to try my hand at animating them for battle poses and attacks. It’s a hugely interesting and rewarding experiment so I hope you enjoyed reading about my preliminary discoveries!

 

Seeya next time!

-Bill Stiernberg (bill_at_zeboyd on twitter.  Deviantart page.)

Links to previous Art Columns:

Jul 032013
 

Hey everyone!  Bill here.  Trying to get back into the weekly art column while also really getting into the cool stuff I’m doing for CSH.

So this week I have drawn Ashe, from League of Legends.  Someone requested I draw her, and she looked like a cool char, so I did!

I’ll also put forth a fan’s really sweet Cthulhu sketch.  Because, you can’t ever have enough Cthulhu.

Ashe - The Frost Archer - League of Legends (Bill Stiernberg)

Ashe – The Frost Archer – League of Legends (Bill Stiernberg)

With each arrow she fires from her ancient ice-enchanted bow, Ashe proves she is a master archer. She chooses each target carefully, waits for the right moment, and then strikes with power and precision. It is with this same vision and focus that she pursues her goal of uniting the tribes of the Freljord and forging them into a mighty nation.

She’s a really cool character.  GET IT

Cthulhu is Awesome! (by ~GustavZaccone on DeviantArt)

Cthulhu is Awesome! (by ~GustavZaccone on DeviantArt)

In his words: “Basado en el juego Cthulhu Saves The World… cuando puedan juegenlo… es una orden o_ó”

Excellent sketch, very much reflects the initial concept art I drew for this game!

 

OK, I gotta get back to making Cosmic Star Heroine.  New projects, always so much fun.

Seeya next time!

-Bill Stiernberg (bill_at_zeboyd on twitter.  Deviantart page.)

Links to previous Art Columns:

 

 

Jun 192013
 

Hey everyone!  It’s Bill, I’m alive.  Been living under a rock finishing up on Rainslick4 the past few months, so now that the game is out, I can start up the weekly art column again!  Yay!

This week I am posting some art I made for Rainslick4 – Fish Force!  I made this for the PAX panel we did where we played a clip from the Fish Force theme.  I drew and colored the pic in a sort of 16-bit genesis style.

We are Fish Force! (B. Stiernberg)

We are Fish Force! (B. Stiernberg)

 

Next I’m posting some awesome art by we.are.the.armada, who drew up part of the cast from CSTW!

CSTW - by we.are.the.armada (http://wearethearmada.tumblr.com/)

CSTW – by we.are.the.armada (http://wearethearmada.tumblr.com/)

 

I’ve always really liked armada’s sketch-esque look and bold, simple coloring.  Armada drew this picture quite some time ago, but it was while I was still busy wrapping up RS4.  So now I must share it!  Check out more from armada here: http://wearethearmada.tumblr.com/

 

All righty, that’s it for now.  I’m gonna try to pick this column up weekly again now that out I’m out crunch mode.

Requests are always welcome too!  (although whether I do the request depends on time and how intrigued I am by the subect 😉

 

-Bill Stiernberg (bill_at_zeboyd on twitter.  Deviantart page.)

Links to previous Art Columns: