Update: What I've Been Up To Recently, as of November 11th, 2021
Updated: Dec 21, 2022
Guess what day it is? It's the 11th day of the 11th month of the year! ... What, do you not understand the importance of that number? It's 11-11, the Lightworker's Call. In esoteric circles, when one starts seeing this number over and over in their day to day lives, it's said to signify a kind of heralding to a higher spiritual plane of awareness, or something to that effect. So, to anyone reading this post, that means you. Now, get to it! Get to being enlightened and spiritually awake! Chop-chop!
... But not before finishing reading this post, of course ;)
Anyway, welcome to another Update post, where I get to show you all what I've been up to since the previous update. The last one was about four months ago. What have I been doing since July? Even more playing around in Unreal Engine 4, of course; that, and some planning for future projects, but I'll get to that in a bit.
More Shadows of Wiccumshire stuff
Below is some concept art for the main character of this game, Helrynega, and her ethereal companion, Logus (circa 2018). Notice the lighting; stark shadows with Fresnel rim lighting to help accentuate her contours that the dark shading obscures. This look was inspired pretty heavily by the official artwork of The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, as it did more or less the same thing. I've always liked the way it looked, and thought how neat it would be to implement that kind of shading in an actual game.
Now, it would appear, that I have done just that. By messing around with my previously established cel-shader material I use for her model, I got the Fresnel rim lighting working almost exactly how it does in the above concept art... and all by myself no less! No external tutorial required to achieve this look. I take that as proof that I'm really starting to learn how UE4 works, at least when it comes to materials.
It's adjustable, too. Notice on her clothes (which is a separate instance to her flesh), it only shows up where the shadows appear, whereas on her skin it shows up everywhere (since her skin doesn't have the deep shadows, as it didn't look quite right at certain angles while play-testing).
I'll make this material available to all of you at some future point in time, either as a tutorial or as a reasonably priced digital product, maybe both. Either you give me your time and attention to learn how to make it yourself, or you can give me a little money for my time and effort to make it for you. Whichever floats your boat.
Made a stone fence asset. It's a little basic, but it looks okay, for now.
Made a wood fence asset, too.
I toned down the grass from last time as well, as you can see.
Oh, and here's some concept art of her in her home outfit, while I'm thinking about it (circa 2019):
Some Tweaks to the Cel-Shading
Since this kind of cel-shading only receives light from whatever light is parented to the sun component of the default sky box, it can't really receive light from anything else, rendering it not as dynamic as one might like (myself included). However, I did find that, by plugging in the texture to the base color as well as the emissive, it would technically receive light from elsewhere, but that lighting won't be cel-shaded.
As you can see in the screenshot to the right, it kinda breaks the cel-shading effect a bit. Normally, this would bother me, but I think this look actually works for this particular project (as you can see in the above concept art, it has some softer shading as well). It kinda reminds me of The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD, where certain lighting effects don't render as cel-shaded, making Link look more like a toy rather than a cartoon in some cases. In that game, in my opinion, that fusion of softer and cel shading doesn't work, as that game's supposed to be full-on cartoony (at least, the original was). Here, though, it sort of does... and I'm not just saying that because this is my game project and I can decide anyway I want it to look, it actually goes along with my original vision.
I also made a fairly decent underwater post-process material, one that distorts the view like waving water tends to do. I know it's hard to tell from this screenshot. I do intend to showcase this project (and the others as well) in video format at some point, probably soon. I've got a better computer now, so I can probably run OBS and UE4 at the same time now without the captured video looking like a PowerPoint presentation.
But that's not your concern at the moment. You're more likely wondering why she naked. Allow me to explain to you a game mechanic idea of mine that might satiate your totally innocent (I hope) curiosity.
Swimwear Mechanic - An Idea
So, as I've mentioned in my previous post, Shadow's of Wiccumshire is to be an Adventure / Horror game where you play as someone meek and vulnerable going on a difficult journey across the land of Wiccumshire, a region haunted by a (literally) unspeakable evil. One of the primary challenges the game poses is getting from one location to the next safely, carefully traversing the terrain so as to minimize harm to yourself. One of these world obstacles is, of course, water.
In this game, water can be a hazard if you're not careful. If you happen to fall into the water, you'll get waterlogged (potentially causing you to catch cold) and it could spoil certain items you're carrying, assuming you don't have a waterproof carrying pouch or something. However, water can be traversed, but it must be approached with preparation - hence, the Swimwear Mechanic.
In order to traverse a body of water effectively, Helrynega must don the proper outfit; either some kind of swimwear or nothing at all, and place her clothes and equipment somewhere safe near where she's going to swim.
Swimwear has two major attributes to consider: how quickly they dry out, and how much anxiety they induce. From that, you can probably tell where I'm going with this.
The more the swimwear covers her body, the less anxious she becomes while wearing it (remember in my previous post I mentioned an Anxiety Mechanic?), but the longer it takes to dry out, leaving you without your other clothes and gear until it does. Conversely, the less the swimwear covers her, the more anxious she gets, but the quicker she dries out. And, obviously, wearing bugger all is the furthest extreme on this side of the dry-out time / anxiety induction scale; she'll dry off nearly instantly, but her anxiety goes through the roof being completely exposed to the elements and potentially compromising her modesty.
I love it when games have you weigh your options like this, where each decision has some consequence, no matter how seemingly insignificant; where you have to really consider what you're doing rather than just mindlessly plowing through. To me, that's a sign of good game design, and I strive to implement such where I can when I design games (and by "design" I really mean "coming up with ideas for").
... And no, before you ask, I didn't come up with this whole thing just to be... weird. I swear! Besides, with the more mature themes this story aims to tackle, this trivial little incidental nudity's not even a blip on the radar in comparison. Trust me.
Kiki Banana 3D Platformer - experimentation
In my last few Updates, I posted some screenshots of a little experimentation in low-poly PS1-style graphics, using my Kiki Banana character as the guinea pig. I also showcased a higher-poly model and expressed an interest to attempt a more modern look.
Well, here it is... or, well, the start of it at least.
Here she is, clothed this time, though missing her outlines. Those inverted hull 3D outlines are very tedious to do, and take quite a bit of time to get right, so I just haven't gotten around to adding them yet.
Here she is from different angles.
The landscape is a little bare, not much more than a bunch of sand dunes and an ocean. Higher-poly assets take a lot more time to model and get to looking good. Low-poly stuff I can whip up real quick, no problem.
She kinda blends into the background without outlines, makes her a little hard to discern.
Cartoony Water Material
So I was playing around with a very basic stylized water material and came up with this:
It's not technically transparent, but it uses a DepthFade function to change it's color - the closer an object is to its surface, the lighter blue it becomes; and conversely, the deeper, the darker blue. It's no perfect (yet), but it's really starting to look sufficiently cartoony.
I also made an underwater ocean post-process, which turned out pretty neat-looking. It's really simple, too, and could be reverse-engineered to be anything from fog to shadow. I'll have to make a tutorial on how I did it.
As you can see, you can tell the depths at which each part of Kiki's body is rendered when she's totally submerged.
With 3D Outlines
So that's what Kiki looks like in a 3D platformer without outlines, now here she is with them...
... but without clothes. Am I starting to notice a trend with this post...?
Anyway, ignore her stark nakedness, if you can...I know she's the pinnacle of feminine beauty and all, so I know that's a tall order, but I did take the liberty to blur her bits out for you.
Use this to compare 3D outlines vs. no outlines.
To me, the outlines really make the model pop, especially when she's further away from the camera (I concede that inverted hulls don't look so hot up close).
I'm curious to see what outlines on a clothed Kiki would look like. Sorry to any of you gymnophobes I might've triggered here. This'll probably be the last you see of nudie Kiki... in video game form, that is. Comics, on the other hand... well, you'll just have to wait and see for that.
Yes, there will be Kiki Banana comics in the very near future. I know I've mentioned it a few times in previous Updates and other blog posts, but it is definitely coming. It'll be a web comic series hosted here on The Bradshacalypse (and perhaps mirrored elsewhere on other web comic platforms, like Itch.io or something). Finally, you'll have some context for this goofy pirate girl. Finally, you'll get to learn who she is, what her deal is, and get to follow her on her many adventures across the Nimrod Sea in search of treasure and mischief.
Okay, now this is getting dangerously close to lewd territory. Anyway, m o v i n g o n . . .
StarBright Story - experimentation
Now this is a project I've still yet to have announced in any "official" capacity (whatever that means), and I first "unveiled" the concept back in my first Update post one month shy of a year ago, as of this post. Here's some more development on it.
StarBright Story is a Paper Mario inspired Action/Adventure RPG set in a surreal dreamworld populated by denizens of the collective Imaginations of children... so a madhouse, in other words.
This is Starla, something of an anomaly in this dreamworld she finds herself in with no memory of whence she came. Beside her is her adoptive brother Bruh-Hup, a member of the Buh-Hup race of critters. After an ominous black star falls into their home village, they seek answers from the "Stelders" of Mt. Starbeam, from which things ...escalate.
As you can see, I'm clearly going for a more kid-friendly approach with this game. I would like it to be an all-ages game, something that both kids and adults can glean something meaningful from. I like to describe it as a kid's game for adults that kids can play, too... if that makes any sense.
Hey, those islands in the background sure do look familiar, don't they...
"Look out, Bruh!" Bruh-Hup follows you along, much like the partners in the first few Paper Mario entires. As you progress through the story, you accumulate more followers, all of whom aid you in combat and out.
Speaking of combat, there will be RPG-esque enemy encounters. However, fights aren't turn-based. Rather, they are more like 2D fighting games, particularly like Super Smash Bros. or even Cuphead, only a little slower-paced and methodical. Some fights are more like puzzles to solve rather than outright brawls.
As you can see, the visual style I'm going for is a kind of hand-drawn look, inspired by those old UPA cartoons from the 50's, but with a modern twist on it. The general aesthetic comes primarily from girls' cartoons from the 80's, like Rainbow Brite or Strawberry Shortcake, but also the likes of the Kirby series and, as previously mentioned, Paper Mario.
As far as video game projects go, this one, at the moment, is one of the top candidates for choosing to seriously pursue. What I mean by that is that all of these other game projects I've mentioned before (Shadows of Wiccumshire, The Voyage of Kiki Banana, etc.) are ones I'm just kinda experimenting with and having fun, using them as a learning experience rather than seriously attempting building a game out of them (seeing as they are way too big for just one person). This one, StarBright Story, is a little different.
While still a sizable project, it seems perfectly feasible to me that I could, at the very least, crank out a playable tech demo within a reasonable amount of time, given that I commit to the effort. So, while still not 100% sure if I will ultimately commit to it, as it stands at the moment, it's the most likely. If I do decide that, I'll let you all know with an "official" announcement of it's development. Stay tuned!
Addressing the New Changes to The Bradshacalypse
So, you may have noticed the website looks a little... different. As I mentioned in my last post, The Bradshacalypse is undergoing a major teleological shift. It's Purpose is being overhauled to suit not just myself but anyone else who wishes to come here. In short, instead of just being a place where I upload my artwork, I want it to serve also as a repository of knowledge for fellow Artists, Storytellers, and Creatives to aid them in their becoming better. I want to do my part to inject a little purpose to the Arts, because currently the Arts have become utterly lost; devoid of any sense of meaning, purpose, or duty to Humanity, and serve as mere ego aggrandizement or ideological propaganda. But I've written ad nauseum about this topic in this latest blog post and in my Welcome page, and will probably write even more about it when I get to writing some Articles for the site... but for now, that's all I'll say about that.
Unfortunately, though, I wasn't entirely ready to launch the newly designed site just yet, as I wanted to populate it with a bit more content before I went public with the changes. However, the Wix site editor just had to go and publish the changes seemingly without my input, so I just rolled with it.
The site's still not entirely finalized (and probably never truly will be), so expect more changes and tweaks to come. Nothing major, as far as I'm aware, but just little things. So if a page disappears, or changes, or returns unexpectedly, or what have you, that's why.
Plans for the Immediate Future
As always, I like to end these Updates with my plans for the immediate future. As of right now, my main plans are finalizing my plans to really start the Bradshacalypse ball a-rollin'. I'm currently working hard at getting my proverbial shit together - getting organized, setting up schedules to follow closely, and most importantly, deciding what it is I'm going to do and when.
As far as specifics, like I mentioned earlier, I'm definitely going to get the Kiki Banana web comic up and running very soon. Don't know when, exactly, but I'm feeling more and more that now's the time to get this comics project to set sail, so to speak (hurrdurr get it? She's a pirate, she sails around in a ship? Lol).
I also want to get some animation done as well, even if it's just a few dumb video game parodies or short animated GIFs. I need to do animation! I feel like I could really do some cool stuff, provided I just, y'know, do it! I've got so many little animated movies locked away in my head that need to get out! Animation will almost certainly become a high priority once I get everything I want to do organized and scheduled, so stay tuned for that.
Or should I say...
no, I mustn't...
... I must!
Or should I say, "stay tooned!" ... I'm not sorry. You're just gonna have to live with that. Cringe if you must, I shan't judge.
And, as always, I'll continue to play around in Unreal Engine 4 and Blender. Who knows? Maybe I'll birth a tiny little indie game of some variety. That'd be pretty nifty, wouldn't it?
So, anyway, that's all I got for this Update. See you in the next one! Now, go! Go out there and get to Light Workin'! Thought I'd forgot, huh?
11 - Happy Eleven-Eleven Day, y'all! May you never be the same! - 11