Balls of Dragon

That has got to be the single funniest lyric in all of Television Theme Song history. It makes me laugh every time.

Anywho, as many nerds who’ve emerged from the ’90s, I’m a huge fan of the Dragon Ball franchise. And like 99.98% of Dragon Ball fans, I was hugely disappointed with Dragon Ball Evolutions without ever having to see it. I saw the Honest Trailer on YouTube and that was enough. To be totally honest, I saw the cast and knew then and there that I’d never need to see it at all. But lately, I have given some thought to a Dragon Ball movie – mostly lamenting that a good American version will probably never be (because let’s face it: American live-action anime movies suck without fail. Although that’s pretty unfair, considering that Evolutions is literally the only one I can think of, and Initial D was a Hong Kong film). With the recent improvement in superhero movies – which the 80s never thought would be a success – though, I’m willing to entertain the idea (I was super excited to see a Robotech movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio, but alas!). The problem with Dragon Ball Z? Man of Steel stole its thunder. Really.

If we think about the most compelling Dragon Ball Z story arc, it’s gotta be the coming of Vegeta – a militant hard-ass from a destroyed planet of super-powered aliens – who reveals Goku’s true origins as a member of that race, sent as a babyto basically conquer Earth. Sound a little familiar?

Granted, Clark Kent, even in the new version, was never sent to conquer Earth (although his father did say he’d be a god) – but the rest? I won’t go so far as to say that Zod has taken a page out of Vegeta’s book, since he’s always been after conquest of Earth in just about every incarnation – but the characters are indeed from a similar vein at the outset.

So, in summation, I would not start off a Dragon Ball franchise with Z as the basis. Rather, I would probably actually start with Dragon Ball – a compelling story that I feel is a healthy departure from any American superhero stories to date. Why?

For one, I really appreciate that while, yes, Goku has the genetic edge in being Saiyan, he does work his butt off in martial arts training from the time he was a young boy. We don’t have American superheroes like that; certainly none in the current mass media. I’d say that the closest is Captain America, who was a soldier and has that genetic superiority due to government experiments. Batman also worked for every skill he has, without alien powers of governmental intervention – though he was heir to a billion-dollar fortune that he didn’t work for. One that would fit the bill pretty well, if we ever see her origins, is Wonder Woman – trained as a warrior from a young age and a member of a super-strong race. Still, look at the movies we have: Spider-Man, Superman, the Fantastic Four, Thor, Iron Man. All of them pretty miraculously attain their abilities without grueling work – and if grueling work is involved (again, Wonder Woman), we don’t tend to see it; it’s only implied.

If, then, I were to write a Dragon Ball movie – a good one, mind you – I would start with Goku as a child, training under his grandfather, and maybe Master Roshi, in Martial Arts. We would see his transformation into a hero who will work hard to save the world because he was raised to do what’s right. What would be difficult to portray on the big-screen, live-action and starting in this period of Goku’s life is… well… him becoming a giant monkey and crushing his grandfather. I think the monkey bit is a fairly important arc in the overall story; it’s one of the largest threats Vegeta offers when he arrives, it helps explain how the Saiyans thought a baby could destroy earth on his own, and killing the man who raised him is definitely a defining moment in Goku’s life (well, the realization that it was him), but it is very goofy to include in a live-action movie to appeal to Americans at large (unless it’s primarily a children’s movie… which would actually be very fitting, although stepping on your grandfather is not an image most parents want in their children’s minds).

I would definitely set the story in its native Japan. I would cast mostly Japanese actors – although I mean, I don’t care that much about Bulma, for example. Krillin, too. But enough with Asian people taking the backseat in their own stories. No more Tom Cruises being the last samurai, or Keanu Reeves being a ronin (though I know his character was mixed-race, and that’s pretty cool in my book, but still!), no more David Carradines being playing an oppressed bi-racial Chinese man when he knows neither the culture nor the oppression.  I think we’ve reached a point where we’re open-minded enough, as a whole, to watch another race take the lead in a movie franchise. And if we can watch Thor fight monsters in an entirely different realm, we could survive a fictionalized Japan. Or even, forget that and have it be in some made-up parallel-universe. Whatever. It’s not going to be in Oklahoma, is what I’m saying. (Nor in California, Hollywood.)

Anyways, in the first movie, he’d probably be about the age of the kid in Ender’s game for the main storyline. While I’d like to stay away from Piccolo as the villain, to maintain distance from Evolutions, it’s somewhat unavoidable. Though I think chronically his journeys, his dealings with Yamcha for instance, would be pretty fun to watch. There’s already a seed planted for god-aliens in our cultural-subconscious: I can’t be the only one who saw that Ancient Aliens program on History Channel, talking about how this village of Chinese people say that their ancestors came from the stars – that’s a good opening for Kami-sama and how he came to viewed as a god, which also opens the way for Piccolo.

The next movie would take place years later (as the anime similarly lapses), when Goku reunites with the Z fighters to avert a new threat that Kami-sama has alerted them to: the arrival of the Saiyans. During that movie, Vegeta would gain sympathy (as he did the anime) talking about Vegeta (the planet) being destroyed by Freeza. The last installment would see Vegeta and Goku team up to take Freeza down.

I know this cuts out some of the best stuff: Trunks, the androids, the Cell saga. But if I were to stick to a trilogy, that’s probably the arch I would follow.

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Not too Super

Tonight, I will be watching Man of Steel for the first time since it was out in theaters. While it was an honest disappointment to me the first time I saw it (didn’t like Clark, or really even Lois although I like Amy Adams, Jonathan Kent’s death was… laughable, it was too “artsy” and long in some parts, Clark’s reckless abandon), there were enough good points that I hope a second watch will improve it (the fight scenes, every Kryptonian that wasn’t Clark).

Basically, half the movie is Clark with this expression on his face.

What did you think about Man of Steel. What do you think about the casting, etc., going on for the sequel?

Shading and Highlighting

elf kid

Untitled-1

Shading and highlighting not only adds depth and fullness to an illustration, but it makes it feel overall more complete.

The first image, flat and lifeless, would be a really boring one to include into our game as a finished product. Even though the second one is admittedly not my best work, and the coloring simplistic with fewer details, it’s much less noticeable when the fabrics, hair and skin all seem toned.

Photoshop offers dodge and burn tools (and actually, I believe Manga Studio does, too), but I have found the product inferior to manually mixing colors with Manga Studio’s color blend. A rendering using the first image of this post, edited with Photoshop’s dodge and burn is below:

elf-kid

Admittedly, using the dodge and burn tools were much faster than color blending, but what it offers is less control. When, for example, it lightens or darkens the colors too much in contrast to the surrounding color, perhaps due to too strong of a stroke, the differences are off-puttingly stark. I would try reducing that by using blur (or is it smudge?) – but blur ends up making everything look overall less defined.

While it’s true that color blend would do the same thing if I were operating only on a single layer (pull the outline into the blend of colors), there’s still the issue of tone control. Dodge/burn will default the change to its pre-determined settings within the color on which it’s working. But if I want to add some warmth to the character’s skin tone, for instance as I did above, I can choose to blend in a color with a little more red.

I did, however, like the subtle touch that it brought to the hair.

Have you guys tried dodge/burn for shading and highlighting? How did you like the tools?

The Bird

The Bird-Normal

 

One of the magic-using bosses that you may encounter, he is called the Bird for obvious reasons. After hyping the dangers of magic so much, we wanted to introduce mutations to the magic-users. This guy’s are obvious, though not really detrimental. I wanted him to look like X-Men’s Beak, but Justin thought it was too ugly.

To be fair, that’s pretty ugly – but it would’ve highlighted the dangers more than seeming more like “Look! You get cool powers like wings and flight!”

What do you think?

Characters Based on Friends

galen

 

One way to keep diversity going is to rely a little less on your own imagination and start looking at reality.

When I write, and even when I draw, I always end up making characters that are a little bit me. I think that’s why, when drawing, I really prefer to draw women. Aside from drawing and for my characters in general, I always like quiet but spunky types with a little damage. I find a good way to keep all characters from being too uniform is to base them on people you know.

This guy, above, is based on one of Justin’s best friends. We call him Muscle Milk… haha. He should make a great boss battle.

New Cast Member

elf guy normal

 

This guy is a stock elf. We haven’t really gotten a role for him, but I’m drawing as many characters as possible to pop into the game. He looks pretty cool, though, yeah?

Character Highlight – Kai!

kai jealous

 

Kai is kind of the Gary to our Ash. He feels an intense rivalry with Ren, rooted in their shared experience at the Officer’s Training Academy. While hot-headed and perhaps a bit childish, his determination to do the best and be the best make him a formidable soldier and earn him a mission similar to Ren’s.

While the main rival, his true motivations and allegiances are ambiguous. He doesn’t get a lot of screen time, but hopefully we have time to develop him adequately.

Stamina Meter

One of the infuriating, yet totally understandable, aspects of Harvest Moon was the stamina meter. Remember in the SNES/Gameboy, especially, when you’d be busy chopping wood, clearing your field, planting crops, smashing rocks, whatever, and it just ate and ate and ate away at your stamina? And then you’d have to eat or go to the hotspring or just call it a day all together? That drove me nuts. I was on a mission, dammit! Those fields needed clearing!

Now, though, in developing our game, stamina is a feature that we’re looking into. If it bothered me so much in Harvest Moon, why is it something that I’m pushing for now? There are a couple of reasons.

With the more-open world we’re striving toward (despite the need for load screens, etc), a player could be tempted to speed through a game without ever setting up camp and getting the chance to converse with your party, have your party create items, or build relationships with either of the two girls. It’s fine for second or third play-throughs, but that type of play sort of ruins the experience of the whole game if that quick-play version is the only one the player knows. The player can just keep running and moving and lose all the other elements of the game.

Unlike KOTOR, another game with a homebase, there’s no way to force a player into the homebase as there is with KOTOR (the base is the ship, the player needs to enter the ship every time one world is finished to move on to the next). The stamina meter will encourage the player to take a breather and enjoy these other aspects of the game.

But, of course, there still need to be ways to keep this feature from being an infuriatingly dull-point for the players who do just want to finish – or to assist players who traveled a little too far and are now stuck in an area with no campsite and enemies all around. So it’s likely that food, potions, and other items will assist in alleviating stamina to keep a player going through moments like those.

What do you think of a stamina meter? Have you played any games with a similar concept? Was it a help or hindrance in your enjoyment of the gameplay?

Setting Up Camp

One option I want to incorporate into The Lotus War is the ability to set-up camp. Sometimes, I find the time spent in the homebase to even be some of the most interesting moments of the game. It’s a good cool-down time to talk to the other characters and get a feel for the stories, or even enrich the one you’re playing out.

KOTOR, my obvious favorite, is a good example of this. Because your ship is the mode by which you traverse from one world (or level) to the next, it’s a necessary break you need to take to advance in the game. During this time, the player can talk to Bastila, Carth, that cat chick, that annoying girl, the hilarious kill-bot, and get them to make great and useful items for you (btw, the aforementioned kill-bot was not the little droid, though T3-M4 was an awesome asset. I would not have survived my first fight with Malak had it not been for him!)

Setting up camp really came up as an idea because I wanted to be able to trigger conversations and events with the party members – and waiting for towns or specific buildings could’ve made the events sparse. Now, because the player can choose to bypass campsites, the events may be missed – but there will still be more of them. I really hope to use it as a way to keep from having the same, repetitive conversation with the party on every occasion (because we can set up events unique to each campsite).

The system by which the player travels the map is like FF7’s – the MC’s avatar is the only one present on the map during all of the running. The party members, then, are not visible all the time and therefore cannot be talked to at a whim to further story lines. While that may be a downside in the mode we’ve chosen to represent the party/travel, the upside is an un-cluttered screen and a less ridiculous look (it does look pretty silly for the party to be running in single-file like a game of Meerca Chase (am I the only one who remembers Neopets?) or you know… Caterpillar or whatever it’s called.

Not only does the party-travel mode look silly, but it does have draw-backs in progression and conversation. For example, it will be more difficult to script new and different dialog, or progressive dialog. At best, we could randomize the conversation. At least, we’d have to program a short greeting to each of them but save the meatier conversation for certain points in the game.

Setting up camp not only allows for the progressive conversation we want, but also for the ability to have characters craft items for you/the party, which is another fun aspect in itself.

 

What do you think about games that retain a home base? (even if that base is mobile)