Captain’s Log #4 – Happy Halloween!

This is an archived Kickstarter update, originally only available to Nelly’s Backers:

Right, this is a picture of me pulling what I thought was a VERY SCARY face. But it came out not at all scary, like I just love pumpkins. I don’t love pumpkins.

Halloween Pumpkins

Progress Report

There are all kinds of interesting things going on below deck, but I’m going to be mysterious for now and save those for future updates.

Since we last met I’ve written a whole load of “Look At” interactions. Woah! Calm yourselves! These are the chunks of dialogue for when Nelly examines different parts of her environment. They’re a mixture of puzzle clues, jokes and narrative exposition, and they make the world of the game seem much more alive.
3D Modelling an Airship

I’ve also been modelling and texturing ships in 3D. These cel-shaded ships will make cutscene backgrounds and animations much more efficient to produce. When the Baron escapes with his Fowl Fleet, Nelly chases him down in this airship. I’ll now be able to stage that action very flexibly, without re-drawing the same ship by hand over and over again.

Cel Shaded Airship

As it happens, the names of these ships relate to puzzles in the game. So I can’t tell you them, but I can tell you what I’ve learned about drawing cartoon pirate ships.

What I’ve Learned about Drawing Cartoon Pirate Ships

Well, it’s a funny thing. The human face is probably the most expressive and complex image we read on a daily basis. But it can be rendered perfectly clearly by two dots and a line. I never use emoticons, but here’s the perfect opportunity for one 🙂

While it’s possible to create cartoon characters with highly simplified features. I found that applying the same approach to drawing ships didn’t quite work. Ships are very interesting shapes, alternately flowing and rigid, beautiful and functional and full of a thousand details and flourishes. Drawing a ship from imagination (or memory) is an interesting and difficult challenge. I suddenly realised I didn’t know what kind of curve the hull should follow, whether the prow should be higher than the poop deck, how the rigging joins the masts and a dozen other questions.

It’s an odd situation. We don’t know exactly what details belong on a 16th century merchant vessel. But if they’re missing, somehow we know they’re missing. I found that to draw the ships for The Fowl Fleet I had to do the research: look at blueprints, photographs, miniatures, 3D models. I had to start with something quite detailed and complex, and then simplify it and bring it into the style of the game.

I suppose the moral of the story is: faces and ships are different. And I’ve seen more faces than I have 16th century merchant vessels. Um… Here’s the airship in action (i.e. spinning round):

A Humble Confession

In the last update I said I’d show you the two Digital Drunkard characters based on backers. The characters are complete, but haven’t been approved by the people who’s faces inspired them… so you’ll have to wait until next month. Sorry!

I hope your Halloweens are suitably diabolical. (I also hope an apparition appears and tells the mysterious Joshua Howard to check his emails!)


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