Blog Articles

Implementing emotion

This has been a crazy TJD scripting week for our entire team. Nearly all focus has been placed on actually implementing those gigantic piles of assets and features we’ve been working on for so long, and finally getting it all in place feels wonderful. The first chapter is currently fully playable from start to finish, with pretty much all interactions in place. What we’re still missing though is a gigantic layer of scripting polish, as well as a rather huge chunk of our cinematics. This, and a big load of testing is what we likely will be working on the coming weeks.

I personally have had the honor of implementing Lina’s animation, both close-ups and normal views, and am constantly blown away at how much emotion we’ve somehow managed to cram into these wooden characters of ours. Obviously much of the emotion emanating from Lina now comes from her brilliant voice actress, Cassie Ewulu, who really compliments the character flawlessly, but much of it comes from Henrik’s awesome facial animation skills that bring these otherwise petrified wooden masks magically to life. These two efforts combined, create a character with SO much more life than her no-speech counterpart in the original low-res version. Working with these assets and talents is truly a pleasure.

I wish I was this cool.

The original idea of using African masks to portray our characters, comes from a thought I had before even starting the project at all, I was asking myself how come I bonded so successfully with the characters of Grim Fandango. I realized one of the key things they did right in that production (apart from the brilliant voice cast) was to completely tear down the character faces to the extreme bare-bones (pun intended) minimum of the core features that were actually needed to portray emotions. Instead of wasting time on making the characters look “real” or life like, they put all their effort into actual emotion. This decision breathed more life and drama into the game than any fancy facial mo-cap production you might think of, and in my opinion still hasn’t yet been beaten by anyone.

In realizing that this is what made Manny Calavera, the player character in GF so easy to bond with, I pretty much decided to chose a similar path. Combining that with my earlier fascination with African masks, was a very natural thing to do, and now that we are finally implementing it all, I’m happy to see it’s all working out exactly the way I was hoping it would.

Magic of 2011

Looking back at 2011 I see two major events that have changed my life radically. The first one is probably quite obvious to those who know me personally – I became a father. An event so bombastic, I’m not even going to attempt to explain its magnitude. For those of you who are parents, you already know – and for those of you who aren’t, let’s just say I wish that you one day will get to experience the adventure, that it indeed is.

The other mindbogglingly amazing thing that happened 2011 is that I somehow, through some weird-ass force majeur act of the kozmik-space-gods, managed to convince the rest of the SkyGoblin team to take on my precious The Journey Down project, as a full fledged commercial one. How on Earth I managed to do so I have no idea. I must have struck ’em in a moment of weakness and delusion or something. (Similar to when Mathias back in 2009 said “Hey we should move our office to Tanzania for three months!” And the rest of us said “Sure!”, and so we did An event still unsurpassed in simultaneous insanity and geniality.)

SkyGoblin taking on the Journey Down project has meant something tremendous to me. What I suppose you’d normally expect from becoming a parent is that you’d have to flush all of your free-time activities down the drain, in order to spend as much of your off-work time as possible with your new little family member. This much goes for my case as well -zero free time is a fact- but with one major difference: I used to spend ALL my free time working on The Journey Down. Now I get to spend pretty much my entire workdays with TJD which means I DIDN’T HAVE TO GIVE ANYTHING UP. Which frankly is just plain amazing. I owe a lot to my fellow SkyGoblins. Not only have they enabled me to work pretty much full time with what I love, they’ve also all contributed bigtime with their respective expertises to the project of my dreams. For all of this, I am incredibly grateful.

Here’s me wishing that I’ll get the honor of continuing to work with you guys during all of 2012 as well.

Thanks, guys. Y’all rule.

-theo

Sketching out a universe

Ever since me and Mathias started playing around with the concept of creating “The Journey Down” over five years ago, I’ve pretty much always carried a sketchbook with me and doodled TJD stuff in it wherever I’ve been. Whenever I filled my current book to the brim with sketches and doodles, I just started on a new one.

I stumbled upon my bunch of TJD sketchbooks today and realized that they’re starting to become quite the hefty pile of brain-pukes. So below I proudly share with you five years of thinking out the story, locations, characters and overall look of the Journey Down universe.

Here’s a look at what one of the sketches looks like after I’ve scanned it and done some early compositional tweaks, and below is my more or less finished backdrop, ready for insertion into the game. I actually implemented that very picture the other day and with flickering neon lights and all, I gotta say it wound up quite juicy.

What a fine opportunity to share some new music from our very own jazzmaster Simon D’souza. Fullscreen the new location and turn up the music -you’ll feel the ambiance envelop you like a sticky shower of cheap microwaved sparkling wine.

Kingsport bay street music by SkyGoblin

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