A Summary of Game Progress – Characters and Portraits

This blog exists because of our RPG Maker VX Ace Project, The Lotus War, but besides for posting some images of recent artwork, the game itself has kind of taken a backseat in the blog. Not because work has halted, but because so much has been covered in past posts. For example, older posts might’ve covered product reviews or character introductions – you might notice, though, that the products that we use in game creation are limited, and the main cast has pretty much been introduced. Similarly, custom scripts that we’ve utilized have been addressed in past posts, as well as some of the custom tilesets that will appear. But with a goal of having a demo available by next month (we’ll see how that goes), perhaps it’s time to recap some of our development progress. Today, I’ll start with something already familiar: the art. Expect, though, to see samples of cut scenes, the opening credits, and new views of our map coming soon.

Of course, we have the main cast fully assembled. You may remember from earlier posts that the artwork hasn’t always been up to snuff. Fortunately, with practice, I was able to create a team of which I’m proud:


Axel-NormalAuhn-Normal elf guy normalbron


We also have several of the secondary cast fleshed out:



And you might notice that the armor is a little more unified these days – although still varying from character to character. This was done to give it more of a military feel.

Some of the major bosses were also completed:

Galen-NormalshaneThe Bird-NormalThe Chief - Normal


Battlers have also been important, which we’ve been fortunate enough to obtain for customization through Holder:

ren-battler auhn-battler kai-battler galen-attack bron-battler taya-shot


This is all a big deal to me because it has truly come a long way. Some past examples were rough:

wpid-hero-template.png kai jealousimagewpid-taya.png



In the past, you might notice, the characters looked a bit flat.There was little dimension due to my lack of comfort with MangaStudio. My skill has vastly improved – and I also discovered new nifty tricks (the most revolutionary being “export in dimensions” rather than “export in pixels” – for Photoshop, it makes such a huge difference!). I’ve also grown in comfort using Photoshop, and discovered a nifty tool in GraphicsGale for pixel art. Not to mention my ability with the Wacom Bamboo Splash has increased dramatically.

In addition to that, I’ve created what will become the basis of at least part of the opening cinematic:

opening 1

Of course, given that the characters are my area and I’ve been updating the blog since month 3 or so, any frequent readers are well aware of the advancements in this area. For a game development blog, the greater interest might light in world creation, coding, scripting, and the like. Fortunately, J also has some great progress to report. Unfortunately, we’re spreading this recap out so that each aspect of our game has a moment to shine.

Check back soon for progress in our game music, our opening credits, our opening “cinematic,” and out in-game cut scenes. All of this will hopefully be leading up to a playable demo some time in August.

And please, feel free to leave feedback. Feedback is what we need to fulfill our ultimate goal: creating a great game.

A Few Characters and Sprites

I wrote the other day about syncing up sprites and portraits. Today, I wanted to show a few completed ones:







roguish girl normal



Here are some basic approximations of some NPCs and their sprites. If you take a close look, you’ll notice some details that might cause a discrepancy, as discussed the other day… but nothing too glaring, right?

Working on a Wallpaper/Coverart

Every time Justin does an update to my laptop, he decides to change my “future city” wallpapers to Subaru WRXs. And every time, I decide to find a new future city wallpaper. This time, I decided to break the mold and see about creating my own wallpaper. Progress:


At some point, I’ll be able to export it as a PNG at a higher resolution. But for the sake of sampling, this is where I currently am.

I got so excited about drawing this that for nights at a time, I was drawing until my hand hurt. Once the people were finished, took it a little easier, though that sky did take some time. Clouds, I’ve learned, are pretty difficult to draw right. I did get some I’m more or less happy with.

You may remember the cover art I was working on:


But Justin has decided he likes the wallpaper better as cover art, so the above will probably be replaced, although I had already been working to replace the cave with a dungeon:


But I do like the sentimentality of the new art.

What kind of cover art do you like?

Axel vs. Axel

Earlier this week, I displayed a new Axel character, as our last one has become sadly out-dated:


With jagged lines, rough shading, and sub-par anatomy, poor Axel was in no condition to stand besides the rest of the cast. Wanting to have an Axel that was a better fit in Ren and Taya’s desert village, I re-drew him entirely:


With a bit of the same spirit, I really liked this newly revived Axel. However, I decided that my last one wouldn’t be completely scrapped, so I went into his Manga Studio file… only to find that I had already updated his anatomy and outlines, and he was colored at that. All that awaited was re-coloring. Why- I could even color him the proper complexion for a desert-dweller!


But now I have two similarly-complected, axe-wielding characters. What am I to do?


My solution was to further re-color the “new” Axel – and I believe now he should be part of Kai’s rival team.

Ugh… well… the things we do for art.

Which iteration is your favorite?

Updating Taya’s Battler

As you may or may not remember, Taya’s battler started as a dude from Holder named Van.


The thing is, it has made her look a little… manly… even though I’ve attempted to girlify him with boobs and thinner legs.

Recently, though, Holder has introduced yet new archer battlers! Males AND females included! I’ve wasted no time fixing up a new, more feminine Taya archer.


Now compare the past archer and the new one:



I also like this wooden bow better, which is a huge plus. But she’s now leggier and with more feminine poses, which is great. Also, now that I myself am better at editing the battlers, I was able to render it much smoother.

Anyways, another shout out and huge thanks to Holder for these great battlers. As you probably could guess, I’ll have to utilize them yet again for a new Axel battler.


*EDIT* I’m a complete moron. I closed the document and clicked “DO NOT SAVE” because I’m an idiot and thought that it was asking about the animated bit – not the complete character sheet. Now I only have half of my process from like 60 individual little characters. I’m done >____<


We’ve been away for a while, but that doesn’t meant that work on the game has ceased (it does mean that we’ve joined a gym, though -___-). I’ve mentioned before that I thought that some of our early characters needed a re-working. The first to receive such treatment was our own MC Ren, if you recall.



I mean, he’s just immensely better – though I tried to keep the spirit of him the same. But my experience with MangaStudio and my greater practice drawing certainly helped.

Taya was similarly redesigned.

wpid-taya.png Taya-Normal


And we won’t even get into Arinnel.

The next candidates, though, were certainly Axel and Kai. Let’s take a look at them as you currently know them:

Axel-Normal kai normal


Now, even between the two of them you can start to notice a difference of quality. I don’t think I had a standard pen nib size selected yet, so Axel’s lines are a lot thicker than Kai’s. I didn’t have the color blend too down as well when I drew Axel. I overall just wasn’t as practiced – though I gotta say, that’s a killer scarf that Kai is sporting.

A few other things is that I did really individualize each character’s clothing. But I thought more about it, and as soldiers in a military organization, there needs to be some continuity.



I mean, Rinnek’s armor is somewhat similar to Ren’s, and Anders’ is a pretty standard style I intend to use as a template for future designs.

In addition to that, when I first built my idea of this game while talking to Justin, I had in mind that many of the humans would be from the desert, so would have darker complexions (see Taya and Rinnek). While Kai could be from the cold mountainy areas, so a pale complexion makes sense, Axel was supposed to be from the same desert town. He didn’t really fit that aesthetic, though. You see, Justin started creating sprites before I was drawing these characters, and, being blond himself and having grown up around a lot of blonds, he just started – without really thinking about it – inserting a bunch of blondies. Probably also because that would make Ren stand out all the more. So anyways, after some thought and conversation, we agreed to try and have more definite looks for each regional group.

I thus bring to you, the revised Kai and Axel:



Granted, you can still see a bit of a line-size difference, but these are not official, resized and edited copies yet. In fact, the new Axel has not even been completed highlighted/shaded yet (only his skin thus far), but I think a more unified work among the soldiers is a step in the right direction.

Meanwhile, there will be armored humans, not part of the military, that may have different armor styles, including leather armor (which we’ve decided to reserve for elves or non-military humans).

danielle justinian

For example, mine and Justin’s little cameo avatars are part of a little human civilization on the outskirts of Genos, and have split from the main human government. Therefore, they, while still fighters, do not fight for the government and are therefore not issued solider’s armor.

What do you think of the New Axel and Kai? How do you like Axel’s rather complete re-design? How do you feel about trying to have more of a standard in armor?


My Oldest Crush



Not my longest-dating crush, but if I had an old-man crush, it would totally be Sir Patrick Stewart – the knight behind Jean-Luc Picard AND Charles Xavier. Here it is before I change him up a bit so as not to “steal his likeness.” Below are a couple of other recent projects:




Shading and Highlighting

elf kid


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:


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?

Impressions of GraphicsGale

Because I’ve, of late, been dealing with sprites more than ever, I’ve begun seeking a better way to sprite. Photoshop, as obvious from its name, really is more focused on photo editing rather than image creation, and GIMP follows suit with that. Manga Studio, of which I’m a fan, is not really in a bitmap format, making it less than ideal for pixel art. After some further research, though, I have found a cool, free program, GraphicsGale.

As mentioned yesterday, I have sneaking suspicion that some of the functions of GraphicsGale probably are more intuitive for people who are used to using Japanese computers – not that I’ve ever used one, so I could be way off. But the functions make a lot of sense… they’re just not what I’m used to expecting from computer applications.

Left-click functions normally. It’s the A-button of the PC world. It’s used to select and utilize the selection’s primary functions. But rather than right-click operate like B-button, with its own functions (normally, a drop-menu), right-click in GraphicsGale serves as a secondary function to whatever tool you’ve selected. For example, you left-click to select the Selection Lasso, you lasso the part of the image you need to operate on, it’s selected and all is good… but rather than right-click to select separate functions like “Transform” or “Rotate,” you’d right-click to operate the Selection’s Lasso’s secondary function — deselect.

All of the tools work like that. Select the pen tool by left-clicking, operate its primary function (to fill pixels) by left-click… operate its secondary function (to select the fill color) by right-clicking. In some ways, this is more convenient, and I can image that if I were using a stylus with a left-and-right click function right on it, it’d be even more convenient (instead, I have to use my left hand to click the various buttons on my laptop). In other ways, and probably because I’m so used to the normal functions of a western PC, it’s less. Instead of the nifty drop-menu, I now have to navigate to the various functions on the tool bar.

Some of the tools work more conveniently. The Square Selector is great, displaying guidelines to show the edges of your selection. There’s even a magnified viewer on the left-hand side that offers somewhat of a pixel-view.

screen shot1

Other tools, such as Rotate (really, that’s the only one I can think of) operate with less ease.

screen shot2

My issue with Photoshop and GIMP, however, is resolved. While rotating/stretching/skewing images or selections isn’t perfect, it’s much closer. The colors don’t break-up and blur, and a clear outline of, say, my battler’s arm is still present.

GraphicsGale rendering after rotation:

screen shot3

Photoshop rendering of rotated arm:

screen shot4

One issue I had with GIMP is, however, present here too: layers seem to work more like sequential separate images rather than components of one image as in Photoshop and Manga Studio. This may be due to GraphicGale’s purpose of creating sprites and pixel art, rather than editing.

Overall I like this program for spriting, though I would never give up my beloved Manga Studio for portrait creation, nor does it replace other facets of Photoshop’s abilities, especially in the area of image editing. Although, like GIMP, adjustment is necessary on my part, the differences don’t feel like mere superficial distinguishing points; if a tool functions differently, it doesn’t feel as though it functions differently from Photoshop just to be different than Photoshop, but because the difference actually serves a purpose. It’s more of a balanced switch-out than a contrived annoyance.

Is anyone else working on Sprites? What kind of creation application have you tried?