New Mypaint checkout

mypaint_diagrams

I pulled the latest mypaint from git today and did a build, just to see what was new.

The flood fill tool is very good now, with variable sensitivity and option to sample from all layers, as you can see it produces nice results. There is also a tool to draw clean lines and directly manipulate them afterwards similar to a Path tool or bezier curves. For those obsessive compulsive people, probably (I hear there are a few of those among artists), if you want 100% control of your lines! This is for you. Another thing I noticed was a new (to me) history tab showing recent colours and brushes. Nifty. Finally, there is a fullscreen mode that hides all controls, in case someone wants to only use hotkeys and maximize screen space.

I got into perspective construction again for a bit (still have to finish that Scott Robertson book) and mypaint has everything you need for that, too: Fine control over line angles (snapping at 15 degree increments) and ellipse shapes (also snapping.)

Together with the proven solid and flexible brush engine, the awesome brush sets available, many layer related functions and a lot of usability features this makes for a hell of a digital drawing package. I’m still impressed with the software.

Mypaint doesn’t do selections or snap-to-grid, nor does it provide effect brushes and image filters. It’s just the basics, everything needed for e.g. concept art or comics, no bullshit and nothing in the way. It exchanges .ora format with the GIMP seamlessly if you want to use that for postprocessing. The “one-two punch” of free and open source image editing.

Excellent work by the authors.


CERP? CEST? CERN? CERP.

CERP

Designing some more near-future European weaponry. The EUFOR troops needed an assault rifle, despite being seen (alive) only three times in the game. I decided a while back to have no assault rifles in the game, not player-equippable at least, since SJ isn’t a modern military shooter. So I came up with something that’s got the sci-fi vibe as well as a distinct Eighties vibe going on. The obscure cold war era German G-11 rifle was an inspiration, although the CERP is very much its own thing (and the G-11 mechanism would not fit it.)

The thing at the front houses a large sight. The switch is for a flashlight. There might be a grenade launcher or there might not be. Loading is from the butt end. It ended up very short, so I might extend the barrel some, although small assault rifles do exist.

In any case, I’m sufficiently happy with the not-realisticness of this that I might make it available in the late game with a sparse ammo supply. Conceptually, after all the attacks on the Herd, and due to their isolation, these weapons would eventually have run out of ammo, so they started making their own. The real world G-11 used obscure caseless rounds which would probably be impossible to manufacture for a bunch of deserters. Something like this might be the reason why the Herd MP uses standard ammo and box magazines (which are available in abundance.) Another difference is that the Herd MP knows no fire modes. It is full auto, all the time. The CERP is three-round-burst only. The two are the only machine gun-like weapons in the game.

CERP = Common European Rifle Project. I chose it over SR-3 or things like that because it sounds decidedly more like a real EU project, and the game tries to depict a near future all European army. Which is currently looking more and more like fiction, ironically.

There is a corresponding pistol that’s only seen once in the game.


Happy one

$mas

Happy whatever it is you’re doing today, people. Enjoy yourselves. I hope you get lots of presents. And careful with that tree.

Bard Song

I landed on WordPress’ stats page today. This blog has had 13,500 visitors and 65,000 views until now. I wonder if I should let WordPress have the ad money, or if it’s actually better to run my own domain and do the ads myself. I mean, I could use the money.

I’m thinking about doing a Patreon page down the line, and rewarding e-patrons with things like mapping videos or realtime game development, art, texturing, 3D modelling, programming, writing, composing etc. content. I’m not a specialist at any of those, except level design and environments, but you know, being a generalist is probably underrated especially if you’re indie. If I didn’t have the meta-skill of learning things from such different fields in relatively short time, I couldn’t be doing this. It’s like the AD&D “Use Any Item” feature, or like being a bard in that roleplaying system. The bard can’t cast as many fireballs as your party mage, but when the mage gets disabled, or when you’re without a high-level thief to pick that lock, you’ll sure be glad you had a bard. A high level bard can kick a lot of ass and s/he can do it in more different disciplines than anyone else. You’ll also earn more XP faster if you let a bard do all these things and keep your party small. Being a generalist isn’t so bad in game dev either.

Worldbuilding, cont.

I’ve been doing more research on prolonged isolation in mixed-gender, mixed-culture groups. Referencing things like long-term space exploration training, research stations in Antarctica etc. The findings, even without really digging down into it, are pretty clear.

Symptoms include e.g. insomnia and lethargy, with resulting accidents. A 2014 study revealed that a very high percentage of women in antarctic research reported sexual harrassment, a significant percentage sexual assault.  This happened even in professional space training – in one infamous case, the arrival of a female crew member led to blood spattered walls, additional locks installed and “all knives hidden” across the experimental station. Imagine if that had happened in space.

There are also cases where it seems to work well, but it looks like the participants have to be chosen with extra care. Unplanned long-time isolation has a history of leading to disaster, hence all the space travel research programs.

Another thing on my mind is Pitcairn Island, and what happened after the Bounty mutiny. There are also several records of polar expeditions that ran into similar issues.

It looks like my guess at how the situation might develop for the deserters in Scout’s Journey wasn’t far from the mark. Some turn into tyrants, some become psychotic, some are the target of assault. Some establish sub-groups for self protection which then engage in rivalry. Some look for a way out.

A small twist is adding religion into the mix – as happened on Pitcairn, as happens in Scout’s Journey. Both 18th century christianity and the fictional cult of the Star-Eater have strict ideas about the role of women in society, and pretty similar ones, too.

I don’t think a break-out attempt led by women (as happens in Scout’s Journey) is such a far fetched idea at all. Including the motivations that would lead up to it (basic needs not covered, no influence, marginalized, target of violence.) If this group was led by highly intelligent and resourceful individuals, they could succeed.

Historically, there have been occasions where women have banded together and, for example, pulled off sex strikes to effect change (or on Pitcairn, built a boat and tried to escape.) In a postmodern military scenario where society has failed, authority is largely absent, and everybody has easy access to weapons, I don’t think it too unlikely that guns would be pulled, on occasion, which consequently happens in Scout’s Journey.

It does seem like gender is a very difficult topic still. We would like humanity to be more civilised. We would like to let sleeping dogs lie. But evidence tells a different story.


Save the cat, but

There is a famous screenwriting manual called “save the cat” suggesting that your character should do something nice like that so the audience will like them. The inspiration is Ripley in “Alien” saving the ship’s cat.

My theory on why Ripley saves the cat is different.

The cat is the only creature on the ship who’s not a moron except Ripley. The rest of the crew all disqualify themselves when the question arises if the away team with the infected crew member should be allowed back on the ship. Ripley is the only one who’s trying to do the right thing here while the rest of the crew are dooming themselves by disagreeing and overriding Ripley’s order.

Had Ripley succeeded at that point and not let the away team back on the ship, most everybody would have lived.

Ripley doesn’t save the cat to make a nice impression on the viewer (it’s much too late in the movie for that) but because the cat is innocent. The cat deserves to live. Everybody else was an asshole.

 

 

 


Faction evolution: The Order

order_evolution

The Order faction has been going through massive changes since its inception. What used to be rather medieval – swords, steel plate armour, crossbows – has transformed into black leather-clad cyber-necromancers.

Crossbows turned into unique energy pistols, swords turned into magical scythes and sickles, and ballistae turned into hoverturrets. Plate armour turned into rather cyberpunkish biker wear with steel accessories.

A goat-headed god turned into a cybernetic goat mask wearing one.

Masks are still en vogue, I’m not sure anymore if those people even HAVE faces. I mean, one of them doesn’t have a head. I’m partly inspired by the giant knights in Michael Ende’s The Neverending Story, which are empty shells only controlled by the will of their mistress. (If you have only seen the – horrible – movie adaptation, do yourself a favour and read the actual book.) This influence has been growing, so has the cyberpunk one, and the medieval one has been dwindling.

The faction originally descended from the idea of knight factions in the RemakeQuake mod (which in turn probably descended from some proto-SJ ideas of mine); that is hardly recognizable anymore, and that’s a good thing.

I might well keep that cross-shaped visor and the Conquistador-type helmet for the footsoldier (the other guy is a Sergeant, the next higher tier) but swords as well as medieval body armour (and crosses in general) are a thing of the past. You don’t have to rub it in people’s faces to get the reference across, I think. Medieval attire is only an undercurrent now. The faction no longer mimics the historical inquisiton, they’re quite their own thing. Ancient, worlds-traversing conquerors in service only to their goat-faced god. An anachronism, but a dangerous one.

At the same time, I’m constantly working on making this faction and their crazy god more believable as an antagonist. Why are they fighting? You know, perhaps they don’t even remember. It’s become the main identifier of their culture, the thing to do. Most dangerous type of enemy.

The Herd faction kinda went the other way – they became more human, more accessible, an uncomfortable mirror for ourselves. They are the Order’s sock puppet, which gives them a superficial sense of power and autonomy, but the price will be paid in full…


Rundown: Music Composition

I’ll outline the steps taken to compose something like the SJ theme and get it into the computer. You will need a basic music education (high school level) and ideally you’ll dabble in playing an instrument.

  1. Come up with a simple melody. This is the hardest part, and it helps having a musical instrument around the house although this is not required. It doesn’t need to be a very long melody.
  2. Mull it over for a couple days. If you can still remember it, it’s probably good. Tap your foot along with it to figure out what the tempo is and if it’s a 4/4th rhythm or whatever (do the counting if necessary.) Basic musical knowledge required.
  3. While you’re mulling it over, perhaps come up with a variation or a continuation. This gives you a little more to work with so you can extend your musical piece over a longer time span.
  4. Get a MIDI sequencer, also called a digital audio workstation (DAW) program, on your computer. Reaper is nice, but there are many alternatives (Cubase for example.)
  5. Download sample packs (these are snippets of sound recordings that can be played back on a computer or MIDI keyboard / synthesizer.) The Sonatina Symphonic Orchestra sample pack is free and very good for this type of thing.
  6. Install a virtual instrument plugin into your DAW that can play these samples (such as the SFZ player), if necessary. The standard for these virtual instruments is called VSTi, this is something your software needs to support.
  7. In your DAW, try inserting your virtual instrument on a new track. Load a sample file into it if necessary (groups such as “first violins” are just one file in Sonatina.)Skærmbillede fra 2015-11-23 01:56:12
  8.  If necessary, select something like eight beats of time and create a new MIDI item or whatever your program calls it (the black bar in the image.) Then open that MIDI track in something that’s called a piano roll editor (or MIDI editor.) This editor is usually available in any DAW. Skærmbillede fra 2015-11-23 01:53:42
  9. MIDI is a way to store music electronically, like electronic notes that can be played back by any MIDI instrument. The VSTi plugin is a MIDI capable instrument.
  10. You should now be able to play that instrument (here the solo violin via the sfz player plugin) just by clicking the piano keys of that virtual keyboard. If you get sound, awesome, it works.
  11. Click and drag in the piano roll editor creates notes (DEL key deletes selected notes.) These notes are just long and short bars for long and short sounds. The vertical direction makes them higher or lower on the musical scale (different instruments have different ranges, so be sure to check further up and down the keyboard if you seem to get no sound – you might be out of your instrument’s range.) The horizontal direction is backwards and forwards in time. It’s almost like painting a melody (you can drag notes around the screen horizontally and vertically too.) Switch on the metronome (among the icons in the upper left) and press the Play button, and you will get a click track for timekeeping. If that’s too fast or too slow, find where it says “BPM” (beats per minute) and change that number. Try something between 80 and 100. Watch how a cursor moves down the piano roll as the music plays.
  12. Click and drag notes in the piano roll to create a melody of, say, four or eight bars (they are numbered at the top.) Feel free to edit them as much as you need to until it sounds good. You don’t need to pay too much attention to music theory here, I recommend just going by ear. If it sounds right, it is right!
  13. Close the piano roll editor.

Now you have a basic melody that can be played back, edited and saved.

At this point, you might want to do any number of things:

  • Add another 4 or 8 bars of melody, perhaps a variation. Create a new MIDI item/track if you need to. You can arrange all your tracks and MIDI items in the big main window just by dragging.
  • Change the instrument (load a different sample) you were using – the same set of MIDI notes can be played back by a trumpet instead of a violin, if that’s what you like. You might need to select all your notes and drag them into the new instrument’s range vertically.
  • Add another instrument on a second track. Perhaps you want the first violins or the cellos or the horns to add to your music. Perhaps you want drums or timpanis to make a rhythm instead. It’s the same process.
  • Save the project and think up a completely different part to your music – perhaps you want to bring in some flutes doing something, or a harp melody. Whatever you like.

Now for some general points.

It is possible to connect a physical keyboard (something called a MIDI keyboard) to your PC and use that to record your notes in a more direct way, instead of using the virtual keyboard / piano roll editor.

Try to come up with musical ideas while away from the PC. Doodle around on a guitar or something like that, ideally.

Learn what a symphonic orchestra is, what instruments or groups of instruments make up the whole, and try to mimic it with your electronic sample sets. Listen to a lot of orchestral music (soundtracks..) and see where the different instruments are often used, and how. Learn which instruments usually do melodies and use them in your work. Understand what instruments seem to work well together, which combinations are often used by the composers. This video explains the instruments:

Start small. Make a melody first with a solo violin for instance. Then add on more instruments if the music needs to sound fuller. Try adding 1st violins, cellos, and maybe horns. Have those play little variations of the main melody, or just pads (simple long notes that add a fundament to your melody.)

Use drums and percussions if you like. Don’t overdo it. Less is more.

Listen to more classical music. Known stuff like Mozart etc. Look all this stuff up on Youtube. Learn to identify the instruments / groups of instruments by ear. A matter of practice.

Watch live orchestras play cool music on Youtube. You might pick up some tricks.

Good luck. And remember: none of this is magic (well, except coming up with a melody in the first place.) It is a craft that follows rules. It can be learned and practice does work.

 


Our heroine has a music, too

 This is likely going to be the main theme, or Scout’s theme in any case. I have more music than this, just haven’t shown it yet.
Enjoy!

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