Wednesday, 19 August 2015

I screwed up

           Everything's been a little hectic recently - been busy with a ton of stuff, and just started a new job - and in all of this, I forgot to update the blog. Hopefully, I'll be able to get the art post for Saturday (and the last two weeks worht as well) up on Sunday instead. I'll try to get the usually Wednesday back up and running soon as well.


Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Ratchet and Clank: Going Commando

                Heading back to the PS2 HD remixes, we have Ratchet and Clank: Going Commando. First off, extra points for innuendo (and that goes for the rest of the series too).  Released by Insomniac in 2003, Going Commando was a significant step forward for the series, featuring tighter controls and improved dialogue. Unfortunately, that’s about it.
                Going Commando begins with Ratchet (now voiced by James Arnold Taylor) and Clank (David Kaye), now whiling away their time in luxury, being contacted by Professor Fizzwidget (Jim Ward) to recover a creature named the Protopet (a genetically engineered pet), after it was stolen from the Megacorp labs by a mysterious figure.
                Immediately, the game feels much smaller in scope, and this is my greatest issue with the game. There’s very rarely a sense of urgency or dread in the game, and the entire adventure seems more like a jovial romp through different worlds rather than an attempt to save the galaxy. The actual ‘threat’ of the game is also handled very poorly, and doesn’t come into play until after the halfway mark. Many of the plots attempts at twists are also handled very poorly, resulting in the entire story of the game feeling very awkward and stilted.
                This also carries over into the technical aspect of the cutscenes. Whereas Naughty Dog had already begun to learn the nuances of cinematography and editing, Insomniac seem to flounder here. Many of the cutscenes are awkwardly staged, and visual jokes tend to fall flat due to poor timing. Whilst the actors give good performances, the rest of the cutscenes tend to be rather bland. There’s also a noticeable lack of music during cutscenes, making some dramatic moments falter. Editing and pacing is slightly better than it was in the first game, though it’s still unrefined.
                However, Insomniacs attentions seem to have been focused less on story and more in gameplay. Many of the problems in the first game have been dealt with, especially the shooting mechanic. More weapons have been added, providing a much greater variety of options, some more useful than others. Each gun does feel very noticeably different, and one of the best features is trying out new weapons on enemies to see how they work. Of course, there’s then the possibility that you’ll never use them again, but that’s for the player to decide.
                Platforming has been given a slight boost too. Many of Clank’s abilities from the end of the first game return and are available from the get go, so traversal tends to be much more fluid. You can also get boots that gives you a significant speed boost when used, making backtracking or larger environments much more pleasant.  
                There’s also a few new minigames as well. Racing has been added, which provides a nice break from the endless run and gun, and plays quite nicely. There’s something thrilling about working out the best routes and speed boosts to beat your opponents. Spaceship combat is less fun, and rather clunky at points, and feels more like a chore or punishment at points. These sections become more enjoyable once you get the option to upgrade your ship, allowing you to survive longer and kill things faster, making the experience more satisfying.
                Hacking has been given a makeover as well, with their being two hacking minigames. The first is a grid where you have to make paths for beams of energy. It’s not especially fun, though nor is it unpleasant, especially in comparison to the other minigame. In this one, you have to direct a laser beam down pre-selected paths on a sphere within a time limit that increases when you make a right move, or shortens when you reverse a move. These start simple enough, but become increasingly complex, and the controls don’t always match up with the directions given, resulting in spending too much time being spent angrily guessing directions. Worse still, when you fail, the game makes you watch the path thread back to the start at highspeed, which is disorientating and began to make me feel nauseous after having to watch it too many times.
                The game is also rather difficult, and very unforgiving – for the most part – and much of my playtime was simply replaying the same level over and over until I managed to get to the next checkpoint. This makes the game feel much longer than it actually is, and drags the game along with it. Thankfully, the game does offer a few RPG style elements that actually do make the game slightly easier.
                These elements take the form of experience bars for Ratchet and one for each of his weapons. Every enemy you kill will give you experience for both bars. If Ratchet levels up, you gain extra health (which can be further bolstered by finding hidden health boosts in some levels), and weapons grow stronger the more you use them, incentivising their use. You can also buy armour to lower damage rates, and upgrade your weapons by collecting Platinum bolts.
                Going Commando also has a few pieces of side content in the form of skill points (which you get for beating specific challenges) and via the arenas, which will test your skills and efficiency as you fight hordes of enemies. There’s also a challenge mode that you unlock after beating the game, which allows you to earn a multiplier for bolts, providing you don’t get hit. Enemies are also harder in this mode, but the combination of enhanced equipment (including new, stronger versions of high level weapons) and the enhanced health from the first round makes it a much more enjoyable experience.
                Ratchet and Clank: Going Commando is a much better game technically than the first one, but the story and the humour is off, making the entire experience feel like busy work rather than an actual sequel, despite the greater variety in playstyles and the added depth to the systems.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Terminator: Genisys


This year certainly seems to be a year of sequels to old franchises – Star Wars, Mad Max and Jurassic Park all get new entries this year, as did one franchise that could really do with a rest -Terminator.
Yes, the unstoppable metal killer has returned in this year’s new insult to the series, Terminator: Genisys. Also, that is a very stupid title.
The war against the machines is almost over. After decades of hard fighting, John Conner (Jason Clarke) leads his men in a final siege against the villainous Skynet, with Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney, replacing Michael Beihn) at his side. Inside the compound is a time-traveling device, and Skynet has already used it to send a T-800 back to 1984 to kill Sarah Conner (Emilia Clarke, replacing Linda Hamilton). Reese volunteers to go back to save Sarah, arriving back in 1984. However, he catches a brief glimpse of a terminator (Matt Smith) attacking John, followed by a series of flashbacks to a childhood he never had.
Now in 1984, Reese begins his hunt for the T-800, but is quickly attacked by a T-1000 (Byung-Hun Lee) instead. Reese is saved by Sarah Conner and her T-800 guardian ‘Pops’ (Arnold Schwarzenegger), and quickly discovers that the world John Conner had told him about doesn’t exist – the rules have been changed, and the future along with it. Now, the unprepared Reese and Sarah have to fight to prevent Genisys, and Skynet, from destroying humanity.

Let me begin with this – the plot foundation is fine. There was nothing wrong with the idea of Skynet sending a Terminator back in time before 1984, and the basis for the story is a good one. Unfortunately, it also quickly takes a nose dive into idiocy and senselessness as more and more ideas are piled atop one another, eventually drowning out any semblance of coherent story, something extremely frustrating when compared to the simplicity of the original Terminator.
This is not helped by the films absolutely awful handling of dialogue and character, and the Director’s (Alan Taylor) inability to direct anything that does not involve blowing stuff up – which is made more confusing by the fact he’s directed some very good episodes of dialogue driven shows. Anything that approaches a moment of respite is quickly ruined by the lack of character movement or direction, resulting in a terrible scene where the principle villain of the piece monologues to Conner and Reese whilst all the characters stand motionless in a car park.
As for the action, the film does a decent job whilst it keeps the scale low, but too often the film decides for a larger spectacle that quickly devolves into poorly rendered CGI, often in overly elaborate and nauseating shots. It begins to feel like watching a bad videogame rather than a film.
The films tone is also very temperamental, with the film aiming more for comedy than the action-horror of the originals, resulting in prolonged sequences of ‘Pops’ and Reese glaring at each other in scenes that could be pulled from bad romances movies. The occasional one liner does warrant a small laugh, though they only serve as a reminder of how far the series has moved away from its roots.
For those that may criticise my focus on the films deviations from the originals, this cannot be helped as the film deliberately stages sequences to resemble those from the original films. It’s hard not to make comparisons when the film is basically thrusting them in your face, whilst pretending it can fill the boots of its predecessors.
On its own merits, Genisys is simply an overblown, dumb action movie that attempts to shoe horn a complicated plot into a dumb film. There is no sense of humanity present here, no moment of empathy or attempt to garner sympathy.
The cast is fine, though the poor direction and bad script severely hamper performances. Jai Courtney is the weakest key cast member, as it seems to take him a while to get in gear. Smith, Jason Clarke and Schwarzenegger provide the best performances, though Clarke often knows all too well how silly the entire thing is. Good actors are wasted in bit roles that prove to be pointless, especially J.K Simmons, whose entire role could have easily been written out.
Terminator: Genisys is a dumbed down, bare bones, idiotic action film with nothing to say or any reason to exist. It attempts to breathe new life into a franchise that didn’t need any more than two entries, and does so by basically invalidating the best parts of its history. It is a film best left unwatched, and perhaps stands as a reminder that resurrecting dead franchises is not always the best idea.

After this, I wonder if there is any way for James Cameron to return to the franchise and brief some charm back into it. Unfortunately, he’s too busy making equally bad movies that just happen to look slightly prettier than this one.

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Sketches 3rd July - 30th July

            I do apologise for the distinct lack of updates here. Personal issues have had a major impact on my output and motivation, resulting in the last month being something of a struggle. Much of what was completed was animation work, so much will be included in a single entry.

                 Main body of work:
                 A current work in progress, which includes a large amount of work done in the past month. Assume that most drawings that don't have a date are in this sequence. This is where the sketches for 8th, 9th and 10th of July are.

 3rd July pt1 - Head turnarounds of characters in current animation.
 3rd July pt2 - Head turnarounds of characters in current animation.
3rd July pt3 - Very rough background.
 4th July pt1 - My anbimation is getting rather detailed.

  4th July pt2 - Initial sketches of youtuber Markiplier.

  5th July pt1 - Initial sketches of youtuber Markiplier.In a school girl outfit. It'll make sense in context.

 July 5th pt2  - detailed background art. 

  July 5th pt3  - Background work, still being worked on.

 July 6th pt 1 - angled head study.

  July 6th pt2 - very bad anatomy practise. 

  July 6th pt3 - monster design, unfinished and probably won't be finished for quite a while whilst I redesign it.
 July 7th - it's very light, but there is a multi-limbed monster here. 

July 8th, 9th and 10th  - go check out the work in progress up top. that's where all the work from these days is.

 July 11th - working on a character design. Not much here, really.

 July 12th - colour practise. Not fussed on the eyes.
 July 13th pt1 - colour practise. Not bad, just not great.
 July 13th pt 2 - more terrible anatomy practise.
 July 14th pt 1 - working out location shots for the animation.

 July 14th pt2 - comic art. 

 July 14th pt3 - female nude. Need to work on the head, and the hands - which aren't actuslly here.

 July 15th - background. Unfinished. 

 July 15th pt2 - character work. The eyes are off, and the face is too round for the character.
 July 16th - monster design. I got bored with the legs.

 July 17th - monster design with much better shading. 

 July 17th pt2 - unfinished comic page work. 

 July 18th - monster design.

July 19th - monster design, with better shadows. Which is better? You decide! 

I became aware that my portfolio lacks animals, so I spent a couple of days doing timed sketches. 
Not sure what the times were for the first days sketches, but the second days are all listed.

 20th July pt1 - Gull.  
20th July pt2 - kitten.
 20th July pt3 - 2 kittens.

 20th July pt4 - long haired dog.
 20th July pt5 - lemur

20th July pt6 - little baby monkey

20th July pt7 - koala
 20th July pt8 - horse
 20th July pt9 -an iguana, looking annoyed at me. Probably because it may not actually be an iguana. 

 20th July pt10 - horse portait.

 20th July pt11 - a very pretty fish. this was a longer pose, about 25 minutes I think.

 20th July pt12 - Giraffe. The proportions are off.
 20th July pt13 - Spider. 

 20th July pt14 - Another dog.

 21st July pt1 - 30 second animal sketches. The cat sketch sucks. 

21st July pt2 - 30 Seconds animal sketch. I believe the top left was supposed to be a gopher of some sort. 

 21st July pt3 - 30 Seconds animal sketch.

 21st July pt4 - 30 Seconds animal sketch. I think the top left was supposed to be a tiger or lion. Starting to notice that the top left drawings all suck. 

 21st July pt5 - 30 second horse and 1 minute pig and gerbil. 

21st July pt6 - 30 Seconds/ 1 minute animal sketch

 21st July pt7 - 1 minute sketches. I had about 3 horse pictures appear in a row.

 21st July pt8 - 1 minute sketches. 

 21st July pt9 - 5 Minute 45 second of a hawk. I was still under the idea it was a quick sketch, so the colour was an after thought.

 21st July pt 10 - 5 minute 45 second sketch. This is terrible. 

 21st July pt 11 - 11 and a half minute cat. The head was drawn at the wrong angle, so a lot of time was put into adjusting the angle.

 21st July pt12 - 30 minute lion. The angle of the head gradually changes as it moves from the eyes to the mouth.

 22nd July - sci-fi landscape base.

  23rd July - sci-fi landscape with some detail.
 24th July - monster design. The original version is way back further on this page. 

 25th July - further variations of the monster.

 26th July - random doodles.
27th July - further doodles of some ficitional animal.

28th July - A sketch of a character designed by someone else, so the style is different from what I usually do.

29th July pt1 - warm up sketches and mouths. I was on a course, so was doodling when things got boring, or I could get away with it.
29th July pt2 / July 30th pt1 - This was started on july 29th, and I kept working on it the next day. The levels on that head are off, and it annoyed me greatly, so I gave up on it.
  July 30th pt2 - a Gothic Lollita dress (a Japanese fashion, with no relation to Nabokov). I just felt like drawing a pretty dress that day, so just chose one at random from the google image page. 

There we go! I do apologise about the lack of the updates, but I'm sure you understand. With hope, all will go back to normal soon. Until next time!