Weekly Penguin
July 30th, 2014

Creating the Mecha-Pendroid

Happy T-Day – it's TAGAP Anniversary time again!

Here it is – the video I hinted at quite a while ago; A timelapse of how minibosses are made here at Penguin DT HQ!

Streaming version: YouTube  |  Download: Google Drive

This is exactly how it goes; I start by doodling the pencils and placing them over the Pablo's sprite in order to scale things proper. Then I duplicate everything in vectors, which I then shade and texturize by using every dirty digital artist trick I deem necessary. After that I create all the special effect overlays – like in this case the masks for pulsating lights and nanoglass shields – and add in all the necessary extra details I may have overlooked.

This video wasn't recorded in real-time, obviously. No, my computer wouldn't be able to handle a video capture program AND vector-heavy HD artwork at the same time. Instead, since I have a habit of saving bazillion intermediate backups while I work, I compiled the timelapse from those. That's 145 PSD frames, weighing about 1.2 gigabytes, and with some simple cross-fade magic they turned into a pretty nice progress video.

As you can see, we're going 'all-in' with this HD thing. If there's a detail that needs adding, it will be added, resulting in this monster-of-a-PSD featuring over 1100 layers. Do you remember when the Xbox 360 and PS3 arrived and the triple-A developers complained how time-consuming and costly the transition to HD era was? Well, they weren't lying; Twice the resolution = twice the detail = twice the work. While development in HD takes a lot longer, it sure looks gorgeous, doesn't it, especially in motion. When you see the Mecha-Pendroid in action, most of that HD detail starts to make sense, from the moving beak and opening shoulder mounts to the animated visor.

There are two behind-the-scenes aspects of enemy creation the video doesn't show. First up is splitting the Photoshop artwork into sprites and assembling the character in-game. This wouldn't be that interesting to witness, actually, as all it really entails is saving the image, layer-folder by layer-folder, into separate images and writing the proper script using scaled pixel-measurements. This amounts to tons of dialogue boxes and some maths in a text document.

The other part not shown is the sound mixing. Most of the sounds this brute makes come from commercial sound effect libraries and while they've been heavily edited in order to fit the absurdity on display, they're still essentially just sound files and adding them to the video wouldn't have made any sense. That said, more than half of the weight of this beast comes from sounds and credit must be given where the credit is due;

And by the way, the description in the end of the video is no joke – that's what making of TAGAP really feels like sometimes. It can be equal amounts painful and therapeutic, especially with the whole space church thing, with which I created elaborated pieces of artwork that I then had to tear apart in a glorious hail of particle effects.

I hope you liked this one – happy T-Day!

What am I doing right now?

In addition to today's video feature, we've made plenty of progress with TAGAP 3 itself. Just this past week I started working on a brand new level – the first part to the episode that features the space penguin church I described in the previous update. Most episodes in TAGAP 3 consist of three to four levels, you see, and while most of them start with an open one followed by something more linear, here the situation is reversed. This level, too, will take quite some time to finish, again thanks to the plethora of custom art assets required. On the plus side, this being the more linear map, scripting should be a lot faster and easier.

Gaming front

In the previous blog I mentioned I was going to take a deep dive out of my comfort zone with Final Fantasy XIII. How did it pan out? Well, let's put it this way – after finishing XIII I jumped straight to XIII-2. So yes, I liked it FFXIII quite a lot! The use of dynamic roles instead of fixed roles and abilities turn the game into a lot more dynamic and strategic experience. I'd recommend it, but take note that the combat system doesn't open up until five hours in. When you first start the game you only have one or two combat options, making it the most simplistic thing under the sun, but when it starts proper around the five hour mark, it's great fun all the way through.

It also doesn't hurt that some things never change, like the Square Enix' grand production values, great art, music and the entertaining – if a bit melodramatic – storyline. The world of is also truly beautiful and one of the most in-depthly designed universes I've seen since Mass Effect. In fact the way every single tid-bit – from society and characters to technology – is explained in a similar, believable fashion with an ever-expanding Datalog. Think TAGAP 2's Database on steroids.

Even though I just spent 50 hours in Cocoon and the Grand Pulse – all during a staggering heat wave – I've already returned to the scene in Final Fantasy XIII-2. To tell the truth, it was XIII-2 that got me to try XIII in the first place. You see, the sequel is all about time travel and from everything I've read it sounds like it's one of the meatiest approaches to the subject in the realm of video games – and in case you haven't noticed by now, I'm kind-of-a sucker for good time travel tales.

That's it for now, time join Pablo in the celebrations – by destroying some piece of digital artwork I just made 😅

Until next time,

Jouni Lahtinen, the head penguin