Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Sea Strike! - Pen and Ink Outline


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Click here for a high quality version.

And you thought your commute home was rough...


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We work hard, we play hard.

Freeware Profile: Gamma Bros.
Devloper: PixelJam
Platform: PC and Mac
Genre: Space Shooter

What happens when you combine the classic EGA/VGA low-resolution visual style of the early 90's PC titles with the acquired knowledge and limitless potential of modern gaming mechanics? Gamma Bros! A seemingly simplistic freeware title that at first may have a rather incomplex surface but once you begin to explore the gameplay you can really start to appreciate the love and effort that went into creating this wonderful game. By combining the time tested and classic 'Space Shooter' arcade genre with the solid foundation of modern gameplay and rewards this game truly proves that while the retro days of gaming may be dwarfed by today's AAA titles and million dollar budgets, all you really need is an understanding of the fundamentals of game design, some elbow grease and a little nostalgic love to produce a timeless game.

Gamma Bros. plays somewhat like a mixture of Gradius and Galaga, complete with swarming enemy formations, power-ups, upgrades and the fast, frantic gameplay you would come to expect from any great arcade shooter. Meaning that the game is easy to pick up on but requires some time and practice to master. The controls are simple, using the arrow keys in combination with the W, A, S and D keys allows your ship to move and shoot in four directions, similar to the controls used in titles like Smash T.V. The difficulty level begins nice and easy, slowly building up to a chaotic fast paced frag fest that requires quick reaction time and steady eye-hand coordination.

From the title screen the attention to detail is apparent, if you watch closely you'll see several separate scenarios playing out at once as the two Gamma Bros. hustle back and forth fiddling with computers, dialing knobs, pressing buttons and even taking a break to get a drink from the water cooler. There's also busy little helper robots that bustle to-and-fro. Very cool.

As soon as the player hits start and chooses their bro to play as the game begins. The catchy (awesome) theme song kicks in and you're off! Immediately upon exiting the large space station swarms of enemies begin to attack from every direction, enemy ships organize in formation and attack in sequence. Dodging and weaving while blasting away the squadrons of enemies you'll collect coins and power-up capsules that are left behind from defeated foes. These include temporary speed and firing boosts as well as health, shields, destructive smart bombs and invincibility capsules. Every so often a small ship towing gun upgrades, new ships and other useful items sails steadily across the screen, if you've collected enough coins these upgrades are extremely useful. By providing these rewards the gameplay value is accentuated, keeping the players interest focused on reaching that next gun or ship upgrade, becoming that much more powerful.

If the life bar reaches zero your ship is destroyed but you still have one more chance! As your ship explodes into pieces your Gamma Bro will be able to zoom through space via jet-pack and bubble helmet, allowing for one more hit to be taken before being destroyed. If you're lucky and still have the other Gamma Bro alive he'll eventually come coasting back onto the screen and you can then touch him to switch off via tag team. It's even possible to reacquire a lost ship, when buying a new shuttle the old one will be boarded and piloted by the other bro. A very well executed and helpful mechanic.

The battles are heated and fast, as you blast the attackers to 'bits', square colored plumes of smoke bellow as tiny fragments of scrap metal swirl out into space. Each enemy has a specific AI and method of attack, ranging from the simple drones who slowly form small groups to the quick and nimble spacemen (my personal favorite) who dive bomb and shoot fast pulsing lasers. Of course no space shooter would be complete without the infamous bosses. Sudden and tough, even the first boss encounter consists of pitting the player against three deadly quick battleships equipped with an array of wicked weaponry, from heat seeking missiles, tri-laser beams and even a giant destruct-o beam (that's what I'm calling it anyway). Throughout these battles I found myself so immersed in the gameplay it took me a moment to realize just how in-tuned I was with the action. I believe that connection is what all gamers seek, the thrill of the moment... That lovely video adrenaline rush.

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Shoot, move and SHOOT!

The music switches from an ambient, deep, thick bass drive to a sudden shift in gears becoming a faster, more intense melody when a new event begins. It's a great effect for carrying the player along, heightening suspense and then snapping into an action sequence. My favorite part about the music is that it's entirely composed of the familiar bleeps and bloops we've all come to know and love from yesteryear... Except it has a more modern structure, a more "21st Century" attitude.

Gamma Bros. is a title that every gamer, new and old alike should play. It houses so many solid gameplay mechanics and is abundant with enough variety and rewards to keep the player coming back again and again. Besides, these guys are giving you a grade 'A' game for FREE! I can't stress it enough, go download it today! PixelJam has created some really unique titles that all have rich attention to detail, solid gameplay elements and tons of replay value to boot... Each one is definitely worth checking out.

PixelJam.com

Friday, July 31, 2009

Pongatron!

Pongatron! was the very first 'official' game I've created. The creation was a long and interesting process... to say the least. It began with one idea, which grew to another, which then rapidly began to multiply and mutate into something that I no longer seemed to have any control over. It had become a monster with a mind of its own. In the end, Sam Bakenhus (the lone programmer) and I were forced to decapitate the proverbial head of the project (beast) clean off and salvage what we could, lest we lose our very sanity. The end result is 'Pongatron!'. Even though it turned out absolutely nothing like I had planned, this project has taught me many invaluable lessons as far as bringing an idea to life.

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Pongatron began in July of 2009 and was completed by early October. When I had originally started the project I had planned on having it finished in no longer than a month and a half. However, as stated above, this game seemed to want to go in a million directions at once. Trial and error was the name of this game. After months of development, changes, rehashes and do-overs we finally had a product to show. A real life game!

Check out Pongatron! here!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Attackin' Kraken - Deck

This was the first in a series of skateboard decks I've be working on, it's currently on sale and being shown at King's County - the coolest bar in Brooklyn :) It was completed using acrylics, spray paint and pen and ink.

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Sorry for the poor photo quality... These were uploaded from my cell :P

Friday, April 17, 2009

Super Metroid Statue - Complete

Here's the Super Metroid Statue piece completed... Just in time for the 15th anniversary of this wonderful title.

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High quality version here.

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Lair of the Beast

The basic necessities for life people, right here. This is all I need... Well, mostly.

Don't mind the grainy photos, I work in the dark... Like Batman.

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Monday, April 6, 2009

The Brave Need Only Apply

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Game Profile: Power Strike 2
Publisher: Sega
Developer: Compile
System: Sega Maser System
Release Date: 1993, Europe only
Genre: Action/Shooter (vertical)


There's a good reason why hundreds of arcade games are of the Shoot Em' Up genre. Shooters helped transform the coin-op gaming experience into a true test of ones gaming ability with their unique brand of chaotic challenge. Most required a cool head, steadfast reaction time and even faster fingers. Power Strike 2 is no different and has easily become one of the tougher Shooters that I've finished in my day.

To help the player against the typical onslaught of SHMUP enemies Power Strike II features six different power-ups, each with six different strength levels. The six power-ups are represented by floating number icons which make it easier to distinguish them. By collecting two or more of the same number the strength level is raised by one, just make sure that you don't accidentally grab a power-up you're not looking for. Before the start of a game the player is allowed to choose which special weapon they would like to start off with by using a preview window that actually shows your fighter shooting each weapon, this also helps by giving you an idea of how the weapons work.

Along with the chosen special weapon your ship also comes equipped with a standard rapid-firing straight shot and a powerful charge shot that is determined by how long you hold down the attack button. The main gun can also be powered up by collecting 'P' power-ups that appear after certain enemies or icons are destroyed, they
descend vertically and have to be quickly snatched up before they fall off the screen and are lost.

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The weapon selection screen helps by letting you preview each weapon.

A maximum of two shield's can also be equipped by grabbing the shield power-ups. Rotating quickly around your ship the shields stop some enemy bullets and cause slight damage to any enemy they come into contact with. Three different shield colors exist, each one also effects your main gun by means of adding a spread, rapid fire and/or power attribute.

Every time your ship is destroyed (all it takes is one hit) you'll automatically jump back into the game without any delay. Unfortunately when this happens you loose half of your weapons power-ups and any shields you've acquired.
While it is possible to gain extra lives it requires a good chunk of points to catch one. Nobody said it was going to be easy but Power Strike II is kind enough to grant the player infinite continues so that when you do run into the game over screen you can attempt the level again.

The gameplay is sporadic and very fast but the mechanics are well balanced and fair. That doesn't mean that this game doesn't require excellent coordination, the right weapon for the job, luck and most importantly, tons of practice.

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The levels are varied and all include plenty of challenge.

I believe a shooter embodies some of the purest elements that compose a video game, after all, there is a reason why some of the first video games ever created relied on the same, motor skill challenging principles. It all comes down to testing the players skill level and to get better, to reach that next level or to beat your last game's High Score you'll have to invest your time, energy and lots of lives.

If you're the type of gamer who believes that a game should present you with a challenge, I mean a real challenge (several different difficulty levels of challenge), I mean, seriously testing your eye-hand coordination, reaction time and the ability to stay cool under pressure than this game, my friend, is for you. If you prefer save points every couple of minutes and a leisurely frolic through an inconsequential, unchallenged and uninspired game (admit it, we've all seen too many of these types lately) then this may not be your cup of tea.

You don't beat Power Strike II, you survive it. Your victory is not handed to you but earned in the hours of practice and diligence required to finish this classic shooter.

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Power Strike II receives:
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Sunday, March 29, 2009

Building a Better Pixel Wheel


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Game Profile: The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Capcom (Flagship Studios)
System: Game Boy Color
Release Date: 5.13.01
Genre: Action/Adventure


Returning to true pixelated roots, The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages is an excellent addition to the timeless series. Created as a double installment alongside The Oracle of Seasons, together the two titles represent some of the last of the great retro handheld gaming mechanics, the same kind which have made the Zelda series shine since the beginning.

Instead of creating a completely new style to work with, the two titles use a lot of the same game design, menu layouts and sprite templates from Link's Awakening. This feature greatly helps maintain a sense of nostalgia and familiarity for the player to jump right into. I'm sure it was also a big time saver for development, allowing for more resources to be focused on more in-depth gameplay mechanics, which are apparent all throughout the game. These two titles were the last handheld Zelda titles to feature pre-sixth generation style emphasis (i.e. cell shaded influences) aside from the pseudo title for Gamecube/GBA, The Four Swords Adventure.

The improved features are abound, from a library of new collectable items to a stockpile of challenging mini-games. Some of the cooler features include the addition of Gasha Seeds. Gasha Seeds are usually hidden or earned and once acquired can be planted in specific spots of earth, respectfully called soft soil. Once a Gasha Seed has been planted and a bit of in-game time has passed the player can then return to find that the seed has grown into a tree, bearing a large red Gasha Nut. With a swipe of Link's sword the Gasha Nut will open, revealing an item. Depending on the location of the planted seed different items will appear, sometimes fairies or a potion but most of the time one of the games many different types of rings will be found. Each of the 60+ rings has it's own stat changing properties when equipped, some are very helpful (upping sword damage or immunity to electricity) while others are not so helpful (transforming Link into a defenseless like-like or increasing the damage taken by enemies) either way, all of them add a ton of variety to the gameplay, as well as plenty of hours of replay value as you search for new rings. Upon my first completion of Ages I found maybe 30 of these little gems, and I thought I explored pretty thoroughly too. So far, my personal favorite is the Charge Ring which allows Link's spin-attack to charge in about a second, very cool!

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A Gasha Nut! ...But how do I get to it?!
Curse you Zelda and your trickery!


Aside from the unique and varied items the game also includes tons of new and varied puzzle components both in and outside the dungeons. Each dungeon houses new and interesting puzzle scenarios such as mine carts, movable color matching blocks and some interesting boss confrontations as well. Also new to the fray is a more in-depth underwater exploration system, controllable animal friends, two different time periods to explore and also interchangeable, outside game components. Meaning that once the player has completed Oracle of Ages, special passwords are given which can then be entered into Oracle of Seasons allowing for the player to start with all the rings they've acquired as well as opening up password specific NPC interaction. Simply put... There's a lot to do!

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The dungeons now come equipped with mine carts.
Put your hands up, it's more fun!


The time exploration between the past and the present is a crucial aspect to the game and plays sort of like the Magic Mirror did in A Link to the Past for Super Nintendo. Effecting a specific part of the past might result in changes made to the present (using a bomb to blast open a cracked wall in the past, then jumping to the present to access the exposed wall).

Overall the challenge rating for Oracle of Ages is decent and fair - Both in-door and out-door puzzles can be tricky and may take some time to figure out. The next objective isn't always clearly laid out, making for some necessary trial and error exploration. Searching may become tedious and frustrating but the payoff for solving the riddle is rewarding enough to hold the players interest and keep them going. Surprising enough, most of the bosses were not that tough at all, definitely some of the dungeons themselves were more of a challenge than the bosses themselves.

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Dimitri is one of the animal allies Link can control.
He can swim up waterfalls and eat just about anything.


In the end this is a really fun title if you enjoy the Zelda series. There's always something new to do and it will take even the most veteran player awhile to collect everything. It plays as a sort of side-quest to Link's usual enterprises so it includes some new characters and feels like a brand new adventure. I'd highly recommend this to anyone who loved playing A Link to the Past or Links Awakening, as these earlier installments clearly laid the blueprints for Ages and Seasons.
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The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages receives:
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Friday, March 27, 2009

'Currently Untititled' World Map

One of the projects I've been juggling lately is the creation of a fictional world complete with mythical monsters, crafty creatures, magical beasts and of course the ever continuing battle between good and evil. It's been an interesting experience because the world map was the first established factor, while the detailed storyline, characters and the locations have been added later, determined by the maps own geographical layout. This development decision has added a neat random element to the creative process.

The world map was sketched out by a simple prototype at first and then expanded upon by creating the finished version with all the fancy details. For the finalized version I used a few very helpful (and easy!) tricks involving Photoshop and a couple filters. Using difference clouds, embossing and the ordinary level/hue adjustment a realistic map template was produced. The final step has consisted of detailing different areas of the map with various tools and touch-ups.

Click on either map to see the larger version.

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Prototype Version

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Finalized Version

...Maybe sometime I'll let you in on some of the details concerning this magical world... Ohhh magic!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Caedes: Arcade Pinball - The Crypt, Layout

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The first of several 'Pinball Dungeons' in Caedes is known as The Crypt, it encompasses the monsters, objectives, bonus rooms and secrets standard to each of the dungeons. Designed as an introductory table the challenges are of an easier difficulty than the later dungeons.

Each dungeon is designed in Illustrator and then sprited and detailed in Photoshop. Each Illustrator blueprint contains five separate layers consisting of boundaries, flat textures, switches/portals/objects, enemies/paths and the currency markers. As you can see the right side is left blank for the HUD, which is completed separately from the table design. The scale value is 640 x 960, a standard television aspect ratio.

It's been a blast designing these tables!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Super Metroid Statue - Outline

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After FINALLY finishing my (epic) Top Ten Boss Fights list I'm back to posting current projects and the such... Phew!

Above is the outline I've drawn for my next illustrated piece, it's my own interpretation of the golden boss' statue from Super Metroid... Except the boss characters are organic. The project began as a possible tattoo design I'm considering. I've recently began the coloring and will have the finished product up soonly-ish.

A larger version can be viewed here.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Top 10 Boss Fights!

Ah, the "boss", one of the most iconic of video game trademarks and from a designers perspective they stand as a crucial element in creating an immersive, challenging and rewarding experience for the player.

So what makes a good, bad boss? Why are they so important to the structure of an action or adventure driven title? In my opinion I see bosses as the pinnacle of challenge in a specific point of the game and by confronting the player with this skill proving, strategic and action driven sequence a formidable test is delivered. Ultimately, if the player can overcome and conquer these tests then an accomplished sense of relief, satisfaction and most importantly confidence can be instilled. This process is vital for the drive of the game as it helps keep the players interest and emotions invested. With every boss that is defeated a small step is taken towards reaching the final goal and eventually, the last boss.

Without further delay, I present to you my ten personal favorite boss fights throughout the years.
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10. Contra III: The Alien Wars, Alien Airship

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"Let's attack aggressively"

I can sum Konami's Contra series up with two words, MERCILESS ACTION! Contra III, originally released for the Super Nintendo in 1992 - is no exception.

This battle begins as your
rude dude takes to the sky by grappling onto the massive missile located underneath your ascending helicopter, seems reasonable enough. Look out! A rocket pack wielding samurai alien attacks! Take him out and soon after the missile is fired (with you still attached, of course) and you begin your assault on the Alien Airship. So here you are, suspended in mid-air by jumping from one missile to another while simultaneously dancing with the devil and trying to destroy the two shield generators on the airship which are respectively located at the top and bottom of the flying fortress, the same shield that your rockets are continuously exploding upon forcing you to constantly be moving. Not to mention that you're also dodging the airships own projectiles.

After finally destroying the shield generators the exposed core of the airship can be taken out and this boss is cooked. All these factors jumbled together make for a very intense and awesome missile surfing boss fight, just don't say I didn't warn you.


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9. Mega Man II, Dragon

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Don't ask how he stays afloat with those itty-bitty wings
... It's not our place to question the future.


Capcom released Mega Man II in 1989 and as it turns out was an excellent predecessor to the first game. MMII is considered by many to be one of the best, if not the best in the series - it still stands as my personal favorite. MMII introduced many features that would become standard for all of the sequels, including the classic set of eight robot masters, the ever helpful 'Energy Crystals' (E-Tanks), a password feature and assist items.

Amongst a fantastic assortment of bosses is the Dragon who appears on the first stage of Dr. Wily's fortress. While it may not be the hardest boss in the game it creates an excellent sense of tension for the player by suddenly rising from the depths with a robotic roar and chasing Mega Man as he attempts to hop across several small platforms, one small slip and it'll cost you a life. After a few moments of this frantic scrolling race the screen comes to a halt and Mega Man has only three small platforms to face of against the robo-menace as he spews out fireballs, this also makes for a lip-biting battle. Fortunately for us, the Dragon is rather weak and with a few well placed buster shots and some careful jumping this boss is scrapped.


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8. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Granfalloon

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When orgies attack!

Konami just seems to be good, no wait, make that exceptional at creating engaging and exciting boss fights time and time again. Maybe it's a coincidence or perhaps they have game designers that deeply emphasis boss battles... Either way, they've made this list multiple times and rightly so.

SOTN was unleashed in 1997 and instantly became a huge success due to the addition of some amazing elements never before seen in a platformer, breathing new life into an old genre. Everyone of the dozens of bosses possess equally as much style and conceptual creativity as the rest of the game but amongst the long list of baddies one stands out by invoking a sense of bizarre awesomeness more than any other, Granfalloon. A massive, pulsating floating sphere made up of... Get this... Hundreds of sickly, pale human bodies, which are constantly being 'shed' off, falling to the ground in droves to slowly attempt an attack. As the player strikes the beast, eventually large chunks of bodies will begin to collapse, the unfortunate souls scream as they fall to their doom. With each section removed from Granfalloon, large
flailing pink tentacles can begin to be seen and if caught off guard the player can be zapped by a large beam shot from these strange appendages. Once the middle section is removed the core of the Granfalloon is exposed, revealing a demonic fleshy organ... This is where you strike and soon enough the monster will perish into a blaze of hellfire, back to the depths from whence it came.

This fantastically obscene idea alone should be given some kind of medal. The Granfalloon is by far the most horrifically wicked of all bosses I've ever encountered.

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7. Resident Evil 2, Sewer Crocodile

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"Come give momma a kiss"


Resident Evil 2 was released upon the public by Capcom in 1997 and consisted of everything from the original plus so much more. More monsters, more weapons, more gore and violence... and best of all, more terror! Some of the scariest, adrenaline pumping, nail biting moments of the game were completely factored around boss battle's. These instances are a perfect example of Resident Evil's ability to throw the player into a desperate life or death situation.

After exploring the surface of the zombie infested Raccoon City your chosen character will eventually make their way down into the sewers. After searching the creepy, ambient tunnels you'll find a large trash compactor filled with nasty water, it's quiet though... too quiet. In a matter of seconds a huge set of teeth come thrashing out from the cesspool as your character is knocked backwards and stunned. A roaring, monstrous crocodile slithers around the corner looking at you like lunch. Seeing as how the beast blocks one end of the tunnel the player must retreat back the way they came, running for dear life and maybe (if brave enough) flipping around to face the beast with short bursts of small arms fire... it does little to hurt the giant.

The walls of the cramped corridors shake and dust falls from the ceiling as the monster approaches. Then a small red light is spotted, it's a large gas filled canister attached to the wall. A quick press of the action button and the canister falls to the ground with a clank... Starting to get the idea? Backing up into a corner the only thing to do now is sit back and wait for your shot... The crocodile lunges towards the canister and scoops it up into its massive jaws... You raise your gun, wait until it's just a few feet away and then you fire... BOOM! A loud explosion goes off as the top half of the crocodiles jaw blows off taking most of the head with it. The lower gaping jaw rests on the concrete floor, tongue still intact, bloody. He ain't getting up again...

Out of all my favorite RE bosses the confrontation with the giant sewer crocodile has the most explosive results! Eh? Eh!?

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6. Half-Life 2, Strider Battle

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The only thing the striders are really missing
are those old Playskool plastic roller skates!


While some may argue that a strider is not technically a boss character, personally I believe they more than qualify for the position. Seeing as how they match several of the criteria for creating a boss fight scenario, such as: appearing only in pivotal sections of the game, being able to take a massive amount of damage before being destroyed, each come standard equipped with a wicked death-ray and the fact that they stand four stories tall, resembling the alien tripods from War of the Worlds. Valve did a fantastic job of instilling a sense of vulnerability when confronting the striders because of this intimidating presence.

The only chance Gordon Freeman has at destroying one of these towering monsters is to place several laser guided missiles into the beasts carapace, while simultaneously avoiding the deadly accurate bursts of fire from the strider. To make matters even more hectic there are many instances when striders attack in groups, keeping the player on the edge of their seat, completely in-tuned to the frantic action. Finally, at long last, the beast will collapse with a deep bellow and crash to the ground. It's as satisfying as slaying a dragon... I'm assuming.

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5. Super Metroid, Crocomire

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What's wrong Croco? Don't like molten lava?!

Falling into a dire situation was never so much fun! After descending through a horizontally placed 'floor-door' Samus is confronted with quite the dilemma, to the left she has a wall of impenetrable spikes and to her right she has the crankiest, ugliest, meltiest boss this side of Zebes, Crocomire! A huge Norfair dwelling creature with a very nasty temper and a flare for the hotter things in life. The battle begins as Samus begins to pummel Crocomire with missiles and charged beam shots, with each hit the gaping maw of the monster is revealed and once a projectile makes its way into its mouth it stumbles backwards. Crocomire volleys back with slashes from its giant claws and by spewing plasma loogie's, if the player is unable to land a critical strike inside Croc's mouth the creature will begin to march forward, forcing Samus to retreat. The battle plays out like a glorified tug-of-war until Samus forces the monster further and further back. Soon a thin looking bridge can be seen behind Crocomire, and underneath bubbles a lake of fiery lava. Each strike and the beast steps closer towards the bridge until finally one last well placed hit puts Crocomire directly over the weakened structure... Within moments the bridge collapses and the beast plummets into the pool of molten rock, screaming and desperately trying save itself but escape is not an option. Samus stands over the boiling enemy as it raises out of the lava only to collapse once more, soon the very flesh begins to melt away from the bone and finally, with one last scream of agony the monster sinks below the depths as a massive skeleton.

The music settles into an ominous tune and all is quiet in Norfair. Samus makes her way back to the spike wall when suddenly the screen begins to violently shake, the boss music kicks in and the wall shatters into pieces! Towering above Samus is the massive skeleton of Crocomire! How much abuse can this guy take!? And as soon as the unrelenting boss appears, Crocomire's frame finally gives way and collapses into a pile of giant bones. Finally the beast is dead and if it was anything like my first experience with this guy, the player will just want to do it all over again.
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4. God of War, The Hydra

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Ahhh! I lost my contact!!

Nothing starts of an action packed blood bath like the slaughtering of a giant, mythological Greek monster! I cannot think of anyone who is more appropriate to go head to brutal smashing head with these creatures of lore more than Kratos... When the merciless Spartan warrior is in the heat of battle it's hard to tell who the real monster is.

Right from the get-go God of War throws the player into the fire, well technically speaking it's the ocean... Kratos begins his masterpiece of a journey by making his way through the hull and deck of an ancient ship which sits upon a torrential storming ocean. Along with the sea-sickness all kinds of fowl demons swarm the boat wreaking havoc. Surprisingly this chaotic frenzy makes for an excellent tutorial level because of the superb design that went into leading the player into the world of God of War. I believe that by studying this beautifully expansive but strictly linear gameplay blueprint of GoW, future and present designers could pick up on a few tips.

Kratos murders and disembowels his way through the level only to be temporarily side-tracked by a massive hydra, which smashes through the hull of the boat to attack. After beating back the sea-monster several times over throughout the level the main Hydra shows itself, towering higher than the ships own mast.

Along with the giant momma hydra there are also two, 'regular' sized hydra head stalks that appear on either side of the big'n. First things first, the two little guys need to be taken out to make way for the real deal. As Kratos slices and electrocutes the snappy hydra heads eventually one will collapse into a pile of nearby crates, Kratos must then jump and climb the stacked boxes to reach a platform with a big, sharp anchor hanging directly over the stunned monster. If not reached in time the hydra will regain its strength and the process will have to be repeated but if Kratos reaches the platform before this, the anchor drops with a thud impaling the hydra and pinning its neck to the ships deck. The trapped monster screams and squirms in pain. This same pattern is then repeated on the other smaller hydra until both are fully disabled.

Kratos can now make his way to the main hydra by climbing a rope net to the top of the ships mast. The colossal monster greets our anti-hero with a piercing roar and begins its attack by striking with its tooth filled mouth and bellowing in attempt to knock Kratos off the platform. If these attacks are not dodged or blocked in a timely fashion a chunk of life will be depleted.

After enough of a beating the beast will be stunned just like its friends and when this event occurs a specific button sequence must be followed to further the battle. These interactive cut-scenes make for some
really fun eye candy. Kratos swings and attacks the hydra like a graceful trapeze artist... Killing a hydra. After each of these events the monsters head is smashed into the mast post weakening the beam until eventually it snaps like a pool-cue, exposing a razor sharp impaling device. Hooray! Only one more button sequence needs to be performed to put the monster out of commission. The monster sits stunned for the final time, Kratos leaps into the air and pulls the beasts head down towards the wooden spike. The Hydra fights back but after mashing the circle button like a crazy person the monster gives out as his head is forced into the shattered mast. With brutality you could only come to expect from GoW the beast is pierced from the inside of its mouth, through its head and out its left eye socket, trapped and screaming bloody murder the whole time as its forced down the mast, until finally all life is expelled from the sea terror... Just another day for Kratos.

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3. Shadow of the Colossus, Avion

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The bigger they are...

I'm not even really sure where to begin with Shadow of the Colossus... Simply put, this title heightens video games to another level of artistic respects by producing an amazingly unique and beautiful experience, unlike any other I've ever played. It feels more like a journey than a game. An epic adventure in a vast, desolate, lonely but absolutely gorgeous world. I suppose that if you've already played this game I don't need to explain the premise much, it speaks for itself.

The fifth colossus is Avion, the massive flying creature made of stone and earth who dwells in the skies above a large, pristine lake. Sprinkled about the body of water are fragments of ancient structures, including large perches for the bird-like titan to rest on. Avion's introductory cut-scene shows its massive size as compared to Wander, the pale, young protagonist. The colossus soars through the sky overhead with magnificent grace, its wings collapse the air as it steadily comes to land upon a large stone spire tower... There the beast will watch and wait.

Wander starts atop a tower that peers over the blue lake, Avion can be seen in the distance settled, seemingly content. Wander will have to destroy the colossus to proceed further in his quest to resurrect Mono, the sacrificed and apparently accursed young woman behind our hero's motives. After jumping several stories from the starting tower, Wander splashes into the waters below and begins swimming towards a column of platforms that rise inches from the lakes surface. Climbing out of the water, Avion can now clearly be seen, no obstructions stand between the two combatants. Raising his bow, Wander takes aim at the still beast, carefully predicting the trajectory of his arrow, making sure not to under or over compensate and then releases... The arrow soars through the air shrinking quickly into the distance until it seems to disappear and suddenly the titan shrieks and stirs, the arrow has struck its target. With one massive wing stroke Avion lifts from its perch and proceeds to literally, dive bomb towards Wander. Within seconds the speeding mountain is about to crush our hero with its stretched out wings and at this critical moment wander quickly springs up jumping directly into the titans furred body, grasping tightly as it begins to soar into the sky.

Now the real battle truly begins. Wander clings to Avion's thick fur and cautiously begins to navigate over the soaring monster. With each step the beast is constantly moving, flailing its wings to stay airborne and bending its body vertically, all while Wander clinches on and begins the search for the colossus's three weak points. The first is located on the very end of Avion's landing strip sized tail, the second and third sweet spots rest on the tips of the wings.

Falling off the monster is not uncommon and after enough perseverance and 'grip power' Wander will land the final blow on Avion. The creatures massive body collapses, hitting the water like a glacier crashing into the sea. This colossus has been slain but this exhilarating gaming experience is as alive as ever.

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2. Metal Gear Solid, Metal Gear REX

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"Number 5 is alive!"

Metal Gear Solid was the first game I played that really effectively introduced a cinematic backbone to the playing experience. Just like any good movie, MGS relied heavily on plot movement, character development and the emotional connection created between the viewer (player, in our case) and the experience. Not only was this new form of 'cinematic-based' gaming introduced but also included were a variety of new gameplay mechanics that had never been fully explored. Calling on a strong emphasis for situational discreetness, stealth and cautious actions helped create a scenario that forced the player to keep their cool and watch every corner for signs of danger. Warning: Not following these MGS codes of conduct may result in a squad of terrorist soldiers that search tirelessly for Snake and yes, they even look under boxes.

The boss fights in MGS revolve around the same cinematic principles as the rest of the game and by doing so, each boss character is introduced to the player as a person with a history and their own personal motivation. Associating the members of Fox Hound with unique personalities creates a strong emotional sense between the game and the player, invoking deep connections all the way from vengeance to sympathy. A great achievement in video game history was reached the first time we, as the player, actually felt bad for a character that had just been killed by our hands. Even today this emotional association is not easily reached in games.

The boss fight between Solid Snake and Metal Gear REX ranks as one of the greatest (in my humble opinion) because it indulges in all the climactic glory that the Metal Gear series is known for delivering. To go into the glorified details of this battle's story would take a bit too long for a top ten list so lets just cut the chase...

A giant, death wielding bipedal robot capable of launching nuclear weapons from any location on Earth is now in the hands of Liquid Snake, one the most sinister rogue agents alive. The only thing standing between him and the end of the known world is one man, Solid Snake. Snake was literally, born to fight and as one of the worlds greatest 'tactical espionage' soldiers now only he can stop the mechanical monstrosity and save the world. One man, one robotic terrorist and only one victor... Que dramatic music.

The reason why this battle is so magnificently epic is because it truly is the culminating event that the player has invested everything into. It's almost as if the fight is earned, as Solid Snake and the player sneak and fight their way through Shadow Moses Island for the entire adventure, from start to finish. The fight with Metal Gear REX delivers the amazing climactic finale that the experience and journey undoubtedly deserve by maintaining the authentic and powerful cinematic and emotional immersion consistently throughout the entire game leading all the way up to the showdown against REX.

When it comes down to it, this title has to be played and absorbed to fully understand why the cinematic values are so crucially important to the cellular make-up of MGS... As well as what the potential for an interactive experience can amount to when executed efficiently.

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1. Mother Brain, Super Metroid

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Since I've started this site I've come to realize just how much Super Metroid has influenced me throughout the years. I've picked up considerable aspects of creature design, creative processes and linear problem solving thanks to this one, lone title. It's as if my young brain had soaked up as much as possible from Super Metroid, teaching me lessons that no institution ever could and the results are apparent every day in my creative life. Along with being first on this list, Super Metroid was also the first game I chose to profile and review... The obsession factor is obvious and with due cause.

If you've already played through Super Metroid than maybe you understand why this one is at the top of my list, in fact it's at the top of many of my lists. Aside from being my favorite game of all time it has also become one of my greatest influences and it seems to act as almost an embodiment of my childhood... A link to the past if you will. All the reasons why I love games and why I've chosen to dedicate myself to this art form is because of the qualities this title has carried and taught me throughout the years.

As for myself, this is why games are not only a means of entertainment but also an equally important factor to our very nature. The human condition relies on the pleasures and the experiences we receive from having fun... Whether it be in the form of literature, film, music or Super Nintendo, the need for escapism by entertainment is as crucial a necessity for mankind as the very oxygen we breath.

Super Metroid is the tangible reason why I continue to explore my own creative dreams. A crystal clear reminder that our potential is as limitless as our imagination... And I owe it all to Mother Brain.


Monday, February 9, 2009

Lock Lips

Back in 2nd grade I brought two of my new and coolest toys to school with me one day. They were called MadBalls and were creepy, gross little foam monster heads compacted into ball form. Great for any activity involving ball uses! The two I bought were Freaky Fullback, a football player with an oozing empty eye socket and Lock Lips - the creepy fellow you see below (A high quality version can be seen here). Naturally when recess was called I brought my new ghoulish friends along to play with, everything was going fine until some nasty little girl got a hold of Freaky Fullback and proceeded to throw him over the school fence into a residing backyard ... I was never able to retrieve him. To say the least, I was heartbroken. Unlike his unfortunate brother, Lock-Lips stayed with me for a long and happy time, even though I always felt bad for him because his mouth was locked shut. I always figured it was because he had a terrible potty mouth and thus, was cast away into his iron shackles of suppression for all eternity. I guess it works better than soap in the mouth.

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Drawn completely in Photoshop in about ten hours (yes, I took my time with this one) as an homage to one of the great toy series of the 80's. BUT WAIT! Awesomely enough, MadBalls have been reintroduced to warp yet another generation of young minds. I think they run for about five bucks at most retail stores ... GIRLS BEWARE!

James Groman is the talented artist behind the duty of reinventing the gruesome gang and he actually has a Blogspot page dedicated to the job! Check it out here ... And yes, I totally have the new MadBalls shirt from Hot Topic and yes, it's galaxies beyond cool.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Red9 Entertainment Logo


This was a logo I created for the use of Red9 Entertainment, a company name I've been playing around with for awhile. It was designed in Illustrator CS3 from scratch in about three or four hours. It was fun to create because I pretty much started out with a blank screen and I had no idea what the logo would look like or what it would consist of. After awhile I decided that an electric light bulb spider would be pretty sweet ... and, voila! Partially inspired by the robotic spider boss from Mega Man X.

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Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Caedes - Arcade Pinball: Breaking the Mold

When designing the mechanics for Caedus I first asked myself what could I do to further engage the player into a pinball game ... How could I make pinball even more fun than it already is? In tackling this challenge I knew that I had something that most pinball machines don't have - The medium of video games. By creating a pinball game centered around the limitless possibilities of a video game I've been able to incorporate many features that could not be re-created on an actual pinball table. This advantage has the power to break the mold.

Excerpt taken from the Design Document:

Pinball Meets the Plague…

The appeal of Caedes comes from a mix of classic and updated pinball elements, appropriately named Arcade Pinball, combined with a new and immersive action RPG experience. While the main focus of the game is on the pinball tables fast and frantic gameplay, Caedes includes a world outside of the familiar table that houses extra gameplay elements, using a World Map layout the player is able to travel in-between different locations, buying and selling items and upgrading various gameplay affecting stats using stores located around the World Map. While the first pinball table (the pinball tables are known as Plague Dungeons) is available to play from the beginning of the game, the remaining Plague Dungeons are unlocked after specific objectives have been met in previous Dungeons. Each Plague Dungeon will have a unique theme (The Crypt, Furnace Mountain, The Frozen Fortress etc…) consisting of its own set of objectives, enemies, a Bonus Room, a Mini-Boss Room and a primary Boss Room.

Objective Synopsis:

Every Plague Dungeon has six different objectives that must be completed to acquire the possible 100% rating per table. Objectives may include defeating a certain enemy type, shooting the ball into a hard-to-hit specific spot or completing a bonus room. While most of the objectives vary from table to table there is a standard objective that remains consistent throughout the game. To advance to the next Plague Dungeon the player must defeat the current Plague Dungeon Boss; once the Boss has been defeated a new path opens on the world map leading to the next table.

By destroying enemies and completing objectives the player will be rewarded with money points (called Lucre) which act as currency, which can then be spent outside of the Plague Dungeons to buy items, upgrades, information or whatever may pertain to the gameplay. This element of the game gives more meaning to the Action RPG aspect of the game. For the hard core pinballers the familiar high scoring of pinball will still very much exist in the game. After completing a table by destroying the Boss, the table will then become available to play in ‘Free Play’ which is a throwback to classic pinball with the money points replaced by standard pinball points. Other key differences noted in Free Play mode are explained in the ‘Free Play’ section of the document.

By entertaining the idea of giving the player a world to traverse, items to collect, upgrade enhancements, solid controls and an engaging story to follow coupled with Arcade Pinball elements that could only be incorporated into a videogame I believe that this game could be received well by new and veteran players alike. Simply because all the elements incorporated into this game have already been tested for decades and still, today remain popular and friendly to all player preferences. It’s pinball with perks … It’s Arcade Pinball!

After months of research and development these features arose from the dust to be molded into the game that is now under construction today. This is one of the many aspects I love about creating games - the ability to encapsulate a specific genre, using the solid traditional rules and processes forged in the past and then building upon that formula, adding your own unique features, in attempt to create something new. I truly believe that this potential for creativity is essential for all aspects of life.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Last Stand

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This project was my first attempt at using After Effects to create an animated short, done in 2008 for a class mid-term. Last Stand was created by using the same technique used on the Creature Feature project, by drawing out body parts separately I then connected them together to be animated. It was mostly a trial and error process (a few strange layering/effects 'glitches' are apparent) but all in all I'm satisfied with it as a first time experience. It was completed in roughly three weeks.

Note: The uploaded video quality is about 50% of the original AVI's.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Caedes - Arcade Pinball: Introduction

Back in 2006 I began tinkering with the idea of a new kind of pinball video game, the result three years later are the blueprints for Caedes - Arcade Pinball. Inspired by developer TechnoSofts's Dragon's Fury for the Sega Genesis and Devil's Crush for the TurboGrafx-16 (two different console versions of the same game) released in 1992, it was one of the most memorable games I had played growing up. Even though I was only able to play it a few times when I was younger its pure awesomnicity has stuck with me since. The premise was to take the thrill of pinball and incorporate it into the medium of video games. The result is spectacular, the game plays like pinball should with the familiar silver ball, flippers and high scoring action but adds to the experience with a huge three leveled table, roving enemies, objective specific bonus rooms and a wicked dark Gothic theme filled with all kinds of creepy special goodness. The fact that a game like this was never really replicated afterward is a total mystery to me, so I've attempted to take up the opportunity myself with Caedes - Arcade Pinball. Essentially I'm taking the universal language of pinball already evolved digitally thanks to the Dragon's Fury/Devil's Crush premise and expanding upon that potential by adding even more unique elements to the mix, hopefully evolving the genre even further.

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Devil's Crush, the inspiration for Caedes - Arcade Pinball is now available for download on the Wii's Virtual Console.

In the coming weeks I'd like to post my progress, ideas and development strategies as I continue working on this project. My ultimate goal is to have a playable prototype of the first pinball table in the game, as of yet no date has been set for a deadline. There are a lot of fun ideas and game mechanics I've wanted to incorporate into Caedes and I'm hoping that with a little diligence and patience, a cool new way of playing pinball will be developed and ultimately, shared.

Expect more details soon!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Creature Feature

This is a project I did for a Special Effects class in 2008. At first glance it just looks like another creature I've colored in Photoshop but WAIT! ...What sets Creature Feature apart from the others is that it was actually constructed with the purpose of being animated in After Effects. It was drawn out in individual pieces so that once scanned, could be 'hinged' together with some 50 different joints to create a movable monster!

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All of the body parts were drawn out separately, scanned, colored and then pieced together.

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It took many hours to piece it all together but the end result was exactly what I was aiming for. I was able to import all the constructed pieces into After Effects and make a short clip of the monster swiveling his limbs and opening his mouth...Each finger could even be moved! I'll try and get that uploaded sometime. Meanwhile a full sized image can be viewed here.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A jumping off point...

I've decided to attempt and use blogspot as a base of operations for my online portfolio as opposed to running my own site. I've browsed through a few other art related blogs and have seen some pretty cool applications for displaying artwork. Maybe I'll even do some writing on here - you know, to pay my dues to a free blogging service.

Hopefully I'll get started soon.