Thank you to the players, staff, and fans who've contacted me following yesterday's news that The Matrix Online--the project I worked on for five years or so, up through the beginning of this year--will be shutting down in a few months.
I had a flowery thing written up basically comparing how I felt when I left the game, and how it looks to me like some of you feel, to being flushed from the pods like Neo was in the first movie, and about how dreams end but memories are precious, etc, but that's all kind of been done. So I'll just say two things that may be of more applicable help:
1) If you're going out for drinks this weekend, DRINK RESPONSIBLY, and if you're feeling particularly flush, maybe pour one out for old MXO.
2) Burn all your screenshots to CD/DVD. Seriously. Each day for the week and a half before I left I shuttled home another chunk of my screenshots on a novelty 1GB thumb drive. Just knowing I finally got them all archived to disc and tucked safely away really helped.
We're in the shiny helmet phase of episode 4 now, and not only that: it's also the iris door phase! I'm probably going to regret designing a ship divided up by those fancy doors all down its length, because now I've gotta animate them. The first one turned out okay, though, so maybe this scheme will work out after all:
More on/off screen light alternately illuminating Vero's funny faces today. He puts his helmet on after this and keeps it on for the rest of the episode, so I've gotta make the most of it! (Shiny helmet's after that, though--woo! <3)
This second one's big because I'm going to pan it into and then out of the screen in a few shots. But wait! Is that
a) An angry and determined Vero b) The Super Skrull
A bit more FX work today. I ended up animating liquid droplets floating through zero-grav twice, each in a different way. The first time, I used Photoshop to copy and scale the droplet sprites as they "recede" from the viewer in simulated perspective:
This gives a nice clean look, and preserved the tiny outline of the small droplets. The second shot was zoomed in closer, and I wanted to see if I could get more of a fluid look to them by drawing them individually in each frame, gradually drawing them smaller and smaller to give the illusion of receding into the background again:
Which worked pretty well! Big wobbly droplets are fun, and they were actually somewhat quicker to do, I think.
My lasso-loosening exercise last night might've worked, because I didn't feel too rusty as I started final art for episode 4 today; that's been something that's bothered me when I started drawing art for the previous episodes: they start off rough and angular and scrunchy in the first half a scene or so, then the gradually loosen up and get a bit nicer as each episode goes along. So I'm glad that I've been able to get back into a fluid feeling with the drawing right away for this one, it makes the work seem to go a lot better.
But is there a danger of being *too* loose and inky? Here's how Sig came out in one frame today:
Nice lashes, Siggy! Heh, I actually like this drawing though, not gonna change if for nothin'! =P
Also spent some time working on an opening FX. It's going to start with Vero coming to after that nasty meteoroid hit their ship took at the end of the last episode. The view will be first-person for the first shot, with digital effects on it to highlight the fact that that big shiny helmet Vero wears doesn't actually let light shine directly back to his eyes, but first runs it through digital optics and re-renders just the safe, visible part--because in space, especially deep space (ie away from the protective magnetic fields and other things of planets etc), and especially in the Galactic Core, anyone floating around with an optical visor can expect to get eye cancer or worse from cosmic rays and all sorts of nasty radiation. Be smart! Wear an indirect-optics helmet!
This is very rough so far, just a simple rotation and test interference pattern. I'll have to do the eventual panning and shaking by hand.
Now, it may happen that we'll see someone floating around in Galactic Center space in a transparent helmet in the not too distant future, but just remember that anyone doing that is crazy...or something else.
Ooh, and episode 3 got daily top 7th for 5/21/2009 on Newgrounds, so thanks to everyone who voted! It means it'll be on the front page of that site all day tomorrow, so more people will see it and have a chance to watch it. :)
Hey, and I almost forgot to mention that I uploaded a few high-res pieces of episode 4 art to deviantART tonight, too, including one for which I finally had an excuse to use dA's "Mature Content" flag. I guess I probably didn't need to, but hey, better safe than sorry on the Internet, ya know?
Episode 3 is now up on Newgrounds for its right of passage through their voting system where anyone with a computer and an Internet connection can rate it once per day, higher ratings meaning more promotion, more viewers, etc. I'm sort of addicted to watching the rating change minute-to-minute as hundreds of Newgrounders go over it, soooo...we'll see how episode 3 fares!
Got the episode 4 script written today and started on its storyboards. If I can do the script justice, this one oughta be a real humdinger, as Mick might say--not that it's War and Peace or anything, but it does have a damn big explosion, which is always nice (take that, Tolstoy!)
It picks up pretty much where 3 left off: in the control module of Sig and Vero's ship, the freighter AX71120 (quite the romantic name, eh?). The situation's changed, though, and in fact only the beginning of the episode will take place in the control module. I've only got the beginning of the storyboards done so far, though, so that's still all you get to see this in this news update. :P
Many thanks to everyone who discussed or otherwise supported the development of this episode! And you won't have to wait long to catch the second half of this story flashback, because I'm starting right in on episode 4 tomorrow.
Give episode 3 a watch and let me know what you think!
Yay, voices for episode 3 are done. But I still have to do lip-synching and music, which probably means I won't have the episode done until Monday.
I was wondering for a while if I should put radio-type static on voices that come through an intercom or ship communication channel, but, like I didn't want to put normal analog static on a broadcast image, I also don't want to do it for sounds, since all this communication stuff should be digital for these people. So, similar to how I sneak in a little flash of a lower-resolution image on a broadcast face, after some experimentation, I found that you can get that "over the airwaves" digital effect simply by downsampling the voice sound file to a lower sample rate--effective *and* a bandwidth-saver, how convenient!
Here's an example of that, and one of the frames that goes with it:
Subtle, but helps distinguish the speakers in a conversation when one's local and one's remote. How's my neo-Southern drawl?
As usual, lines where Vero's shouting proved the most challenging. There are three in a row with him shouting toward the end of this episode (that Vero and his temper!), and I dunno, I probably came close to 100 takes and a sore throat just trying to get those to come out like I wanted--and who knows what my neighbors think of me at this point. In order to try to keep up my spirits I saved a few of outtakes for you. Not only did I sometimes just say the line wrong, I even started getting so confused I was mixing the lines together midway through!
Got the main animation work done now; I don't have the lip-synching done yet, since I'll be doing that tomorrow after I record the voices, so what can I show you for now that's done and relatively non-spoilerish? Hm...
Man, most of this stuff is spoilery. Well, how about...this dynamic airlock sequence?
You may recall that back in episode 1, when Vero was telling Mar about the trouble he and Sig ran into at Tempus 477, we saw this image of Vero and Sig in their ship's control room:
Episode 3 is a flashback to that incident, so part of it involves re-rendering that shot during the episode's larger narrative. Here's a question: if you have two guys with reflective helmets, and two active monitors, how many times can you get the warning in a single shot? Five? Seven?
Yes! Oh, I did have me some fun in this episode drawing those big ol' shiny helmets.
First thing today was finishing up a few leftover art bits for the episode, and unsurprisingly I managed to squeeze a few high-res compositions out of those, which are now up on deviantART. Those will *probably* be the last for this episode, since the art is now all done, and will in fact soon be collected in a gallery on episode 3's very own home page...once I finish the animation and sound and music editing and all that.
Tomorrow I'll start putting the episode 3 art together into the actual animation. A few images from the last full day's drawing session:
This guy is on a monitor, and I wanted it to glitch or show static or something to remind the viewer that this is an image on a monitor, but I didn't want to use TV-style static, since the broadcast would be digital, so I'll just substitute a pixelated version for a split-second:
Sig and Vero: lean mean shipping machine, as you can see:
This being the last full art day, I also ended up with a few more high-res compositions that I've inserted into A* on deviantART.
And contributions are now open for episode 4, so if you'd like your name--and optionally web site--showing in episode 4's credits as a proud supporter of A*, you can get that done now on the support A* page.
Ooh, almost forgot to post this little reminder about Monday being the last day for getting your name/website in the episode 3 credits. So if you'd like to be in there, visit the "support A*" page handily linked in this web site's top menu and get that taken care of before the end of the day (Pacific time) Monday. It's easy to do AND very much appreciated!
Have a good weekend / Mother's Day / whatever until then!
Hm, I'll probably make the shadow on the far wall there full black in the final animation--you'll still be able to distinguish it because it'll move as the head peeps out from behind that foreground wall--but I'll keep the thin 50% shadow that's just barely visible between the head (that big shiny dome of a space helmet) and the foreground wall.
Frame from a two-stage zoom-out:
The effect is pretty cool in motion but I can't show the whole thing to you yet because it's too spoilerish. :p It's kind of interesting how Photoshop's Radial Blur filter puts some graininess in longer blurred parts, I never noticed before that it does that.
I also uploaded a shockingly (semi) abstract piece that uses a piece of art appearing right before that spoilerish zoom-out to A*'s space on deviantART.
Since I'm hoping to wrap up episode 3 next week, this coming Monday, May 11th, will be the final day for contributions supporting episode 3; ie, it's the last day you can get yourself listed in episode 3's credits by using the gold button on the "support A*" page.
By the way, I've updated that page to give people the chance to include a web page address along with their name. So, if you decide to support episode 3, the episode's credits could show your name and the address of, say, your deviantART page, YouTube page, blog, or whatever.
If you've already contributed to episode 3 and asked to have your name included, contact me if you want a web address there as well. Currently this is only SEPET. :) If you're one of the people who contributed and *meant* to include a name for the credits, you've got until the end of Monday (Pacific Time) to let me know so I can make sure your name gets in there.
Even if you choose to remain anonymous, thanks for your contribution to A*!
Episode 3 is a few weeks off of my intended 3-weeks-per-episode schedule due to my taking time to re-edit the first episodes for sound and get some networking/promotional stuff done. That phase is *finally* complete and this week is all full-speed-ahead on episode 3 art; I'm shooting for getting the bulk of it done this week, then the animation, voices, and music next week, thereby having the episode ready for you around the end of next week.
It's an ambitious schedule, but I really want to get episode 3 out there! At any rate, I should have plenty of art and animation previews to leak out to you this week. :)