Sunday, March 28, 2010

Adventures with Photoshop

So, following my previous post regarding how I've realised that a fair old amount of game book art is photoshopped, I've been experimenting further.
It's kinda fun.
I've found myself taking photo's on my phone for the express purpose of running them through some PS filters. That's why I have loads of photo's of kitchen knives.
It is.

Anyways, here's some examples of what I've been doing.

I took this picture on the way back from a mate's house

Ran it through a 'Cut out' filter

Ran it through a 'Sumi-e' filter after 'Solarizing' it

And finally ran it through a 'Graphic Pen' filter.

I think i'm happiest with the Sumi-e filter.
Now I have to learn how to insert objects into a picture.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Disappointed with game art

I'm not the most visually creative of people. I can't draw, and I don't pretend to know anything about art.
Which is a slight worry for me whenever I entertain the idea of designing my own games, which I do from time to time.
I can make standard computer programs do basic things for me that don't look shit - for example I use Word to design forms for two highstreet banks.
This reassures me that I can design a functional character sheet, they're just fields to be completed, after all.

Last night I had a play with Photoshop, which is something i've not done since summer 2006, and discovered that a great majority of the edgy and stylistic artwork i've seen in gaming supplements of late are simply photoshopped photographs.
I am extremely disappointed.
Yet also elated, as I now have a way in to pretend to be an artist, and produce acceptable standard pictures for any game system I produce. Woot! as they say.
For example, here's something I knocked up in about 20 minutes, which will no doubt not be up to the standards of other more experienced PS users, but I don't care. It's a first attempt.

The idea of both was to convert a photo into something that looks like a line drawing. I'm quite happy with the results.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

What should I be playing?

When I was in my early 20's I went through a period of angst, in which I really worried about the music I was listening to. Was it cool enough? Was I missing something that everybody else knew about? I got scared reading NME - there was so much going on, and I was there happily listening to the stuff I was listening to fives years ago.
Was I still relevant?

I have recently been gripped by the same fear when I think about role playing.
I've been playing White Wolf games pretty much exclusively since 1998. I've dabbled in D&D (which I do understand is popular with ver kidz, and makes me feel old because i'm sure I don't quite get it), Ars Magica (which is now, as far as I can tell, a game for aging medieval scholars/nerds) and games other people have kindly allowed me to play.

For awhile I thought I was indulging in a dying hobby, but some recent research has highlighted to me that the world has turned, and left me behind. People have moved on, and are no longer interested in the games i'm interested in.

This scares me, and makes me feel like an aging spinster at a 70's disco.

What should I be playing?

Friday, March 12, 2010

Puzzles in context

Last week my wife and I invested in a Nintendo DS. The free game we opted for was Professor Layton and the Curious Village, a classic point and click adventure in which you are tasked with solving the mystery of the Golden Apple, a great treasure hidden somewhere in the small, curious village of St. Mystere. Along the way there are other mysteries to solve as well - inheritances, disappearences, murders and the like.
There are examples of gameplay in the link below, the content of which is pretty much lifted directly from the game.

The twist to the game, that sets it apart from other point and click mysteries, is the blatant use of puzzles. Apparently everybody in St. Mystere is obessed with puzzles, and will often only release the information you need if you solve this one riddle they have. Hidden riddles abound throughout the town, secreted in alcoves, bushes and bottles, and the two main characters, Professor Layton and his apprentice, Luke, are also obsessed, posing riddles and brainteasers for each other at every turn.

You cannot progress through the game without solving a set amount of puzzles, and certain key puzzles. There are also hidden games and bonuses you can unlock.

It is very addictive. I've racked up about 9 hours play and solved 90 odd puzzles. My wife, who is not a gamer by any account, has played over 13 hours and solved 103 of the 130+ puzzles.
We've only had it a week.
It is surprisingly addictive.

It has also gotten me thinking about puzzles within RPGs.
My experience of puzzles in Roleplay, tabletop or live action, is not a good one.
The existence of a puzzle usually jars - why would the grand wizard use a block slide puzzle as a lock for his spell book? Why should the shadow spirit demand to know the answer to this riddle about legs and times of the day (which is clearly 'man') before letting the party entry to the tomb? Why do you need to 'speak friend and enter' to get into the mines of morias?
The puzzles used are usually either too simple or too hard - Great, I cannot progress through this door because this fiendish logic puzzle requires a level of maths knowledge I simply do not have! We fought through 17 rooms of Orcs, got to the final encounter, and it was a real anti-climax. Just a wooden puzzle sat on a table with a note saying 'solve me and pass'.

What I like about Professor Layton is that it 1/ provides a clear context for the use of puzzles that works naturally with the narrative and gameplay, 2/ gives an indication of the difficulty level of each puzzle, 3/ has a finite resource based  'hints and tips' buying system, so you're less likely to be stumped on a puzzle, 4/ rewards you for solving as many puzzles as you can.

I'm now thinking about ways I can use puzzles in future games that fit with the setting and situation, and provide a comparable challenge for the party.
And that aren't crap.