Happy new years everyone! Check out the zombie gals in our new 2014 Zombie Pinup Calendar. The calendar will be out very soon and we will have a limited run so get them before they are gone!
We will announce the release very soon but in the mean time, sink your teeth in to these pics
The dust has cleared, the banners are rolled up and the cardboard Iron Man suites are tucked away in the closet. Money has evacuated pockets. Rooms are decorated with superheroes and villains. C2E2 is in the rear view mirror, but there is still much work to be done for Box O Zombies.
A polished, fully playable demo of the game is in sights. This is impressive considering the team is a mix of professionals and students with most of us working on it part time. This makes production and deadline setting extremely tricky. As noted in earlier entries, flexibility and keeping a finger on the pulse is key. So far so good as the game is now taking shape before our eyes.
The game is ever changing and will continue to evolve. We have a UI in place, but it is almost sure to go through a transformation. Buildings are adjusted and characters are stepping off of the concept sheet into the pixel world. Below are some of the art updates since the latest entries. This includes the complete survivor roster and a couple last second Zombie editions.
This is the complete rosters of the game’s survivors, all of which will be key factors to your…survival. Behind all those furrowed brows (would you not furrow a brow during an apocalypse?), there are unique abilities that will prove valuable whether you need to destroy, manage, defend or construct. The cast of characters not only serve different elements of combat and narrative, they each come with a specialty, calling for you to properly implement them when planning the best way to not end up between awful smelling zombie teeth. For example, Nathaniel Tinkerton (farthest to the left) is an engineer. Upgrading and protecting him will be important in advancing your camps infrastructure and recovering lost technologies. Where as Mindy Gupta is the team’s doctor, maintaining health, emergency care and day to day medicine will depend on her progression.
The exploding zombie was a smooth process, which was good because I needed to turn these concepts around quickly. The idea was to create a bloated zombie that would explode onto people. Something that isn’t a new concept to the genre. As always, I wanted to figure out a way to bring something new to these old concepts and create a universe that feels a little different. So as I developed the silhouettes with a standard approach of a big, bulbous form, I started to play around with how human the zombie looked.
I pushed it to the point where it look less like a zombie and more of a alien/monster. It went too far, but helped establish some interesting ideas. What came about was developing it on the border of zombie and monster. I started to give it an amphibious feel. I wanted to convey this idea of pressure building internally and over all sliminess. So what better inspiration than a frog like form that inflates and is often moist. The zombie started to transform from standard exploding zombie, to monster and now into a frog like zombie, with touches of the creature of the black lagoon in it’s face
Originally, I imagined the wrestler was attacked in his gym across from a construction yard. Upon turning, he chased out his apprentice into the construction yard where they battled and he picked up his extreme damage. Completely believable.
Although the story is absolutely plausible…The Luchador makes him a little too much of an individual for a character that needs to be duplicated through out the game. So upon the return to the drawing board a new story arose that complimented the design and function better.
I now started to develop him as a garbage man. I imagined him en route when he was bombarded by a hoard. Unable to fight them off, he was infected. In an attempt to avoid the life of a zombie he hurled himself into his truck as it was compacting. Unfortunately he turned while before being fully crushed and with his now mysterious zombies strength, crawled out to unleash smelly doom. The gives better support to the body damage as well as explains why you might see more than one of these guys hanging around.
So initial disappointment lead to more iteration and the strengthening of a character. This version suits the hopefully iconic elements better than before without pinning them down to an individual. The Luchador is definitely a character that will be revisited, and because of this process of cutting and rebuilding, that design will find itself stronger when its day comes.
In review both concepts could use some better rendering of the forms and surface textures. It would have also been nice to have a little more time to push the design further and refine elements to make the execution of the design a little more solid. I am getting better with poses but still have work to do in regards to making them feel a little more lose and fluid.
I’m done now.
Anthony Sixto, Box O Zombies Art Director
In a couple of weeks, there will be a new set of Box O Zombies toys demoing at C2E2. I was fortunate enough to design several of the new figures. Among these figures, is a special edition that will debut at C2E2 and will only be available at trade shows. That special edition figure has been named, Zomic Book Guy. In this developer diary I will take you through a relatively brief overview of the process of taking something from my brain, to paper, to the imaginary world of a computer screen to the imaginary world of reality. So if that sounds very uninteresting to you, just scroll to the bottom to see what the final digital sculpt looks like.
(A few images collected for inspiration. These are all sources that capture elements that I would like to learn from. So the idea is not to imitate, but dissect their appeal and understand the principles in a way that will strengthen my work.)
The first step was wide open for this character. Unlike the others, he had no written description. All I knew was that I needed to have a figure ready for C2E2 and that they wanted it to be a play on a convention visitor. I usually let things cook in my head a bit before putting them on paper. Meanwhile, I gather reference and inspiration. This process helps be develop a better idea of who the character is and where I might find the appeal. This is something that is a pretty standard approach and for good reason. It usually works out for the better.
For quite some time I had made the full transition to digital. However in developing this character I was reminded not to phase out the traditional materials completely. I came up with some initial thumbnail sketches while away from my desk. It was the early stages of transferring thoughts to a page. It was a small sketch pad and a relaxed moment when I found something that clicked (A good reminder that it is best to forget the certain pressures and trust your stream of consciousness). I found a shape, posture and personality that struck a chord. In most cases I would keep going through a couple more iterations to see if something better comes along or just dig out some other ideas. Unfortunately time was dwindling and I needed to trust my instinct and run with something.
(I eventually decided to go with cartoon-ish damage to the eye to help cut our the silhouette and make it stand out more. I also played around with different hats and bag designs, trying to find a proper balance of shapes and line work.)
I scanned the pencil and ink sketches and brought them into Photoshop and began to knock out more rough iterations of a particular design. I hacked away flesh, swapped hats and played with accessories until I found a combination that worked best for the character, printing constraints and thegame’s art direction.
Early on there was concern over the character’s size. I chose the size in order to create an interesting silhouette, movement and some character contrast. This contrast not only comes with the body size in comparison to his accessories, but his intimidating size paired with his somewhat nervous expression. Also, the contrast in size and accessories helps create define the humor. I wanted this character to have immediate pay off in the game’s universe, as a reference to the sights of C2E2 and as a statue you wouldn’t mind having displayed amongst your collection. I felt his size and the motion in his pose helped create the appeal we needed with out mocking his wright.
(These are the iterations building up to a near final concept. I tried different color and accessory combinations. In some cases I’m figuring out the logic of the details and in others I am looking for something that just feels right. Usually, there would much more iteration, but deadlines change things.)
(An early look at the sculpt progress, as well as a glimpse of what Zomic Book Guy looks like under the mask.)
(This nonsense is a sheet calling out the color codes for the printers. This is always tricky, for there is no way to say for sure how accurate the colors will translate. In some cases I trust the printers, while in other spots I call out a few colors within a gradient.)
(Featuring the pixel art of Eddie Einikis)
In a way we stumbled upon our approach. One of the first buildings we made was on target but a bit too advanced. So in order to make sure things didn’t get out of hand we worked backwards. Stripping the building down to make the lower levels. This helped create a nice blueprint. So even if future buildings were built up the chain of levels, it established a mindset on how to make the buildings feel natural and connected.
We also need the buildings to serve the game functions as well as the platform. The primary platform at the moment is the iPad and iPhone. The assets are a low resolution art style on a high resolution platform, they need to be designed to make the leap. The buildings need to read clearly, in regards to their function, status and position on the map. The player has the option to zoom in and out a good amount. So players will want to keep tabs on all the game elements at once. This creates problems with even more details lost at the most zoomed out state. We approached this with a few layers of detail, hue and saturation coding. I was also told this can be referred to as a visual hierarchy so now I’m saying it’s that thing. VISUAL HIERARCHY (credit to Matthew Board, professor at Columbia College for the additional vocabulary).
Artist of the Week
The next phase of the Box O Zombies line involves taking the art style and narratives in new, fresh directions. Rather than starting from scratch, we are playing off the first run in order to really expand the sense of discovery and unpredictability. We are starting this new universe with the iOS game and a new line of toys focusing on survivors. The two will interact with each other in a very cool way. The narrative of the game and the new art direction, really help us contribute to the genre with diverse characters that begin to feel a little different from the norm. As we begin to roll the world out, it will open up to more possibilities and unexpected turns. Hopefully, the plan will be executed in a manner that people can appreciate.
The Road to C2E2
The path has been set since late October. C2E2 is down long stretch of road. A production plan has been roughly blocked out. New toys and a game must be ready for the masses roaming the maze of pop culture t-shirts, comics, action figures and if we are as lucky as last year, Bubble Man! (or was that wizard world in which he graced us with a booth?). It is at C2E2 where the Box O Zombies game, and how it works with the new toys, will be demonstrated. The new line will not only be cool little sculpts, they will be game pieces. So scanning a figure into the game using NFC data, will unlock a character and some special abilities.
Now with that made clear, new challenges are presented for art direction. On top of an overall update and improvement on the art style based on what we have learned, the art direction has to walk a fine line, pleasing two mediums. It has to create a feel and temperature for the universe while working for a pixel art game. On top of that it has to make sense for a 3″ printed figure. This has been a challenge but incredibly fun. The concepts have to be consistent, meaning that they characters can’t feel dramatically different as pixel art, concept art or a sculpture. Otherwise the sense of connection to the characters across the mediums will be lost. So there is a fine balance of creating interesting detail that builds a character history and design, while still being able to translate key details with simple pixels and more complex sculptures. Where as too fine of detail, will lead to quite a bit being lost in the two different conversions.
(Early concepts of some survivors along side early pixel conversions. Both have since been updated to find the a better balance. This includes updating the pixels to match details, replacing Able’s rifle with a flashlight and giving Nathanial a cast. It also includes bouncing back to the concepts and injecting a bolder color design. Illustrator Vicky Kao has done a great job bringing character’s to life through pixel art and animation.)
This time around the characters are pushed towards a more stylized, painterly feel. This was a case where it served an artistic and practical purpose. Now characters can be given more energy and interest with harder edges, simple strokes and pushed proportions. So if we encounter a character who may seem pretty plain in description (Nathaniel for example), we can ramp up his appeal with the art style. It also is easier to convert to pixel form, due to some key components are already exaggerated. A good example of this is Abe’s lanky figure, round buckle and over-sized hat (get it, it’s an over-sized hat). The simplicity also lends itself to manufacturing, if characters can be strongly and uniquely defined with a less detail, it makes them cheaper to produce. It took awhile to fully develop the new art direction, but eventually we found a nice harmony amongst the many variables of the project.
Production is at full steam, but it is still a bit too early to reveal game details. The next entry will begin to pull the curtain back ever so slightly, so if you close one eye and look through the slightest of cracks; you will sneak a peek at what will be shown at C2E2. This includes more concepts, pixel art and introductions to new team members.Over the coming entries the blog will flesh out the overall art direction of the game. Don’t stop looking at words yet! More words below!
Featured Artist: Vicky Kao
The developer Diary will introduce a member of the art team with each entry. It is a small group of young artists, some still students. However, it is an incredibly talented team worth highlighting. They all have great abilities and provide lessons to any artist through their work.
This week we have Vicky Kao, an illustrator on her way to graduating from Columbia College’s Art and Design Department. She has a great range of anime style illustrations that bleeds into more surreal imagery. She modestly is hesitant with animation, but has a great sense of movement and the ability to capture a character’s energy. She is definitely an artist to follow and you can do so by clicking letters, that reference some code that makes your computer show you lot’s of cool things. Click the letters below.
For more updates from Anthony Sixto, stay tuned!
Happy Holidays from the Box-O-Zombies Team! A New $10 Pledge Level has been added! Pledge today to get your Exclusive NFC Collectible Zombie Santa Kickstarter figure.
We’re pleased to announce that we’re getting in the holiday spirit with our Zombie Santa exclusive Kickstarter figure! Ever wonder what happens to Kris Kringle when you don’t feed him his cookies and milk? Wonder no more with this exclusive holiday flavored zombie.
Just because it’s the end of the world doesn’t mean Santa wont be making his way to your town. Our Zombie Santa is coming to eat your brain whether you’re naughty or nice. Complete with in game content and special Christmas bonuses, this limited edition figure will be included with all pledges with the exception of the JUST A FLESH WOUND level.
We’re also pleased to announce A VERY ZOMBIE CHRISTMAS pledge level. For $10 you get a digital copy of the game when it releases and your very own Zombie Santa. You’ll still need to buy an NFC reader or the full Box-O-Zombies game to get the in game Santa content, but you’ll have a Zombie Santa figure to keep you company all year long.
We’ve got some early concept art to share today and we’ll be showing off our finalized concepts over the next few days including an early render of the actual figure. Happy Holidays from the BoZ team!
Don’t forget to share with your friends!