Sunday, July 31, 2011

The road is paved with polygons: Ghostbusters Proton Pack

Who’s not a fan of Ghostbusters? If you said, “I’m not!” well then…I don’t like you very much, and you’re a bad person; you smell and children hate you! No, not really…but really you do smell, do something about that.

Fetishising movies from the 80s sure isn’t new. I’d love to get a DeLorean body kit and build my own Back to the Future car. I’d even fly Christopher Lloyd down here, we could chill, go to the Taco Truck, that type of thing. Ghostbusters is right there too; seriously look up the Ecto-1 and see how obsessive some people get when trying to retrofit an old 50s ambulance into the Ghostbusters vehicle of choice.

I originally wanted to design the Ecto-1 – I had gathered tons of reference material, but for some reason (I don’t have any true idea…let’s just blame Jeff Goldblum, he’s awful) I just decided against crafting the Ghostbustinmobile in three dimensions.

I opted for the Proton Pack, which also had tons of fan material for easy inspiration. And really the Proton Pack is as simple a model as one can find; so if I can knock a project out within a short amount of time, and it looks relatively good, I’m fine with that.

Look closely, it’s really just a series of boxes and tubes strewn about; there is some order to the chaos, but for the most part it really looks like a messy set of cables and dials…I’m here to say there’s much more to it.

I mean look at all that junk. That’s the Proton Pack in one word, junk! It’s certainly not the supermodel of movie props, but there’s no denying it’s popularity and iconography – plus it’s just so different, nothing else looks quite like it; it’s ugly, but a cool kind of ugly, like Sean Connery.

I was astonished to find that all the fictitious warning labels were all created by fans and put online for those trying to make their own real Proton Pack prop-- Hurrah, for nerdiness!

Having the labels already available to me was invaluable for creating the final texture. As all I needed was a few color channels and detail maps to make it look close to the real thing.

I was surprised at how time consuming it was to finish. There are so many little parts, and those little parts have even littler parts on them. All the wiring was just as confusing to create, as it is to follow…some of the wires just go off into nothingness. 

Think of the model as just a rectangle, with smaller boxes; some tubes and wires and then dirt – that’s essentially the gist of the entire mock-up. If you go back and watch the film the Pack is insanely dirty like someone drug it behind a car then tried to clean it, but with a dirty diaper. I should have added some scuffs and scratches now that I’m looking at it more than a year later, to make it look more worn.

And no it doesn’t light up. That would’ve been cool to be sure. Honestly though they would have only shown upon rendering out the model or putting it into a game engine, neither of which I was interested in spending time on.  

I really can’t go in depth with the modeling process because it’s pretty boring. Most of the time was spent making sure each piece matched the movie version. I just wanted to share what the model looked like; the creative process and how I went about actually doing that is unspectacular.

I had fun making it though, and I learned that Ghostbusters’ fans are super passionate about the film…a third Ghostbusters movie would probably be a bag of dog doodie – the first movie will always be awesome regardless, and ranks among my favorites; So designing and learning about the Ghostbusters’ self made equipment was a pretty fresh experience. 

Monday, July 25, 2011

Bastion Review

Sometimes you get the feeling that a game is special the moment you lay eyes on it. Bastion’s one of the those games that comes along and reaffirms your creative spirit; each game doesn’t need to break the mold, but great vision, a beautiful art-style, and a dedicated team can do wonders.

The Calamity struck the world of Caelondia destroying the world and leaving only a handful of survivors. In case of global destruction the people of Caelondia were told to go to a safe heaven known as the Bastion – it too is in pieces…and furthermore seemingly only two people are alive.

As “the Kid” you need to try and rebuild the Bastion, and throughout your venture find who or what caused the Calamity that destroyed everything.

The world of Bastion is surreal; it’s almost like a moving watercolor painting. Everything is just gorgeous and has a stunningly unique look. Just walking in Bastion is pretty as the world forms itself under your feet and you never quite know which direction to go until you walk into the abyss.

Your journey isn’t a lonely one as the sweet voice of the first survivor you meet, named Rucks, narrates the quest. If that scares you off, don’t let it – Rucks never says the same thing twice, and his voice is like a buttery smooth blues singer. The narration is the only voice heard, and Rucks doesn’t fail to be both uplifting and dower when talking about the Calamity.

I never played a game where I was physically alone throughout, but it never felt that way; because of the narration you always feel like you have a companion, he may not fight alongside you, but you’re certainly not alone.

In order to rebuild the Bastion you have to retrieve cores, and later on, shards; upon completing a world you can outfit the Bastion to become a sort of home base where you can upgrade weapons, buy items, and battle waves of enemies in a place called “Who Knows Where?”

Any game would fall flat without gameplay that’s rock solid. Bastion is at its heart an adventure game, and the combat is wonderful. You have two buttons to assign a ranged or melee weapon (you can use all ranged weapons or all melee if you choose), and a secret skill. Every swing or shot fired is satisfying and responsive -- you can play how you see fit, be it a more defensive style, blocking and counter-blocking or utilizing the dodge to roll from harm. The combat never got repetitive, nor too challenging that I was gouging my eyes out, everything seems so nicely in sync. Most of the ruins of Caelondia have some item left from the Calamity that can be used to retrofit each weapon to upgrade and dispatch the Squirts and Gas-fellas the rule the land now.

Bastion’s gameplay has the rare quality of making you feel like it’s you fault, not the game, when you fail and die. The controls are so simplistic, yet tight, and the gameplay so reliable that if you parish it’s you who needs to get better it’s not because the game is unfair, you just suck!

Bastion isn’t a long game but it’s paced in a way that it doesn’t feel too short – if that makes sense? The story gets astonishingly deep as you go on, and it’s hard to put the controller down. I love it when I just can’t stop playing, Bastion has that quality; a New Game + feature adds to the replay value too.

Aside from Shadow Complex, Bastion may be the only Xbox Live game that deserved to be priced at $15; it’s worth every bit and more.

If you have access to Xbox Live and you’re looking for something just a little different to play, you have to check out Bastion. It’s among the best that the Xbox Live Arcade has ever offered, and that’s actually saying something. Art, visualization and passion can carry a game into the realm of greatness – Bastion is great and beautiful, and wondrous and irresistible and any other adjective you want to throw around, it’s all of those.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Harry Potter had to die

Full disclosure for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows Part 2, so spoilers will rain down like meteorites. I enjoyed Part 2 a lot, more than I thought I would. Part 1 was the closest I’ve been to falling asleep during a movie. And while Part 2 isn’t completely jammed to the walls with action, there’s certainly enough for a summer movie release.

There are many small issues I have, and I’ve spoken to many who feel a little cheated by the film’s end. The anticlimactic showdown with Harry and Voldemort wasn’t a huge surprise, it’s just as weakly filmed as it was written in the book; it pales in comparison to the clash between Dumbledore and Voldemort at the end of Order of the Phoenix – didn’t David Yates direct both films? Why have the wizarding duels become less and less spectacular since?

It was still very faithful to J.K Rowling’s written word, and the slight tweaks weren’t so bad. Daniel Radcliffe delivered some pretty wooden line reads, but the rest of the cast, especially Alan Rickman, really brought heart to their respective roles.

Yet as I was watching I was fully aware of the final outcome, still a good story should hold the audience in suspense even when they know something is amiss. Harry’s mock death in the novel had a lot of weight when I first read it…now that I watch the film; I’m not so sure it works at all!

First when Harry dies in the novel, oh he is dead! If only for a shot while, but he is most certainly deceased. The film just has a flash of light, and you immediately see Harry in a dream state. You know right from the get go that Harry isn’t dead, and the impact from his sacrifice is nullified.

If Harry had died the emotional impact would have carried the film onto something the series just hasn’t seen before. When Harry is looking at a flash back and hears Dumbledore proclaim he needs to die, your heart twists at how cold Dumbledore says the words. And even Neville’s glorified wizard rallying speech doesn’t have any emotional resonance because we know Harry hasn’t kicked the bucket.

From bumbling fool to badass...not really.

Now I don’t think the movie should have changed this fundamental fact. It would completely fly in the face of the book, Harry doesn’t die, how could you drastically change something like that? The movie just sours me to the book – and I thought Deathly Hallows was one of the better Potter novels. Seeing everything on screen and feeling literally nothing during the movies' biggest moments makes me really dislike the tale. And my view of the series as a whole may have changed.

Nothing carries the same feeling of utter sadness like death. It could have been a triumphant win if Hogwarts and the rest of Harry’s friends would have defeated Voldemort by themselves; it was entirely plausible. The only thing that made Harry special was his connection to Voldemort, when that was destroyed he was just a normal wizard. And after Voldemort was made vulnerable really anybody with a wand could have killed him, Harry didn’t need to deliver the final blow! The ending could have been similar -- just have Hermione kill Voldemort at the end, or anybody it really doesn’t matter. It’s not like Harry and Voldemort’s fight was this epic duel, it was no more grandiose than anything else happening.

I think there is more good than bad in this film– but it could have been better than good, it could have been great. None of the Potter films really transcend into anything other than just good adaptations of their source material, and the source is essentially a children’s book. If Harry would have stayed dead it would have changed the entire tone of the film, instead the ending just feels like a missed opportunity to become a great final chapter. 

After all there’s so many logical holes in the Harry Potter series that you really begin to loath it. Didn’t Hermione have a device that let her turn back time? That couldn’t be useful for anything, aside from taking extra classes…

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Wu-Tang Clan: Legendary Weapons

Albums with music depicting rape, murder, and putting balls on a dresser and smashing them with a spiked-bat, Bwahhh! That's not usually my thing these days. Wu-Tang Clan is different – I can listen to Enter the 36 Chambers for the rest of my life and never get tired of hearing songs like “Clan in da Front” and “Da Mystery of Chessboxin’.” Enter the 36 Chambers may be the most perfect Rap album ever.

Wu-Tang’s latter efforts are a mixed bag. The first round of solo CD’s from GZA, Ghostface Killa, Method Man, Raekwon and Ol' Dirty Bastard were all gritty Hip-Hop masterpieces. As solo careers took shape, Wu-Tang as a group suffered. I never sunk my teeth into Wu-Tang Forever (the second Wu-Tang Clan album), and the place I had in my heart for their Kung Fu styled beats has shrunk with each release.

Does Legendary Weapons pull my love for Wu-Tang back from the grave? No and No again. It’s not a bad album, but it’s probably my least favorite from the group to date.

I’m not giving pity medals for trying either. Legendary Weapons is a compilation and unflinchingly shows. There’s no coherent tone, songs are thrown together one after the next and you never get a feeling for what the producers were going for. I like hardcore rap, jazz, and occasionally R&B, but not all together. It’s such an unsolved Rubik’s cube of a track listing.

Ghostface Killah is the lone lyrical standout from the bunch, but even his verses seem cut short and out of place with the music in the background. Other Wu-Tang members don’t even appear at all. GZA, Masta Killa, and of course Ol’ Dirty Bastard don’t have any time in the spotlight. Not having a few quotes from Ol’ Dirty is understandable, but GZA's absence is a bummer.

The Kung Fu movie quotes and interludes are strewn about each song here and there, it’s a nice touch. I do want to here something new and bold -- but Legendary Weapons just feels unfinished.

At a run time of just around 37 minutes Legendary Weapons is short and forgettable. In this world of commercialized radio Hip-Hop Wu-Tang Clan was a divining light, now they’re just a dwindling afterthought.

Well, I realize that I haven’t said anything positive about Legendary Weapons. Take this then, here’s three good tracks. All three are more reminiscent of the darker hardcore rap sound Wu-Tang was famous for; all feature Ghostface Killah, which helps. Songs worth a listen as you drive to work:

“Meteor Hammer”
“Legendary Weapons”
“The Black Diamonds”

…Maybe I just don’t like compilation albums!?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The road is paved with polygons: Mass Effect mode go!!!

I’ve pulled no punches in saying that I’m obsessed with Mass Effect. If Mass Effect 3 is even half as good as it’s predecessors then I’d have no problem saying it’s the best Video Game trilogy ever.

During Mass Effect 2’s development, and after, I’d created 3 separate models: A Krogan, an Assault Rifle and the Cerberus SR2 Normandy. Two of the three I don’t feel I truly finished, but rarely am I fulfilled with my work anyways…so nothing new!

I didn’t want to spend an absorbent amount of time on any of them – especially the Normandy and the Avenger Assault Rifle. The Krogan was another matter, not only did it take far too long; I never completed it before becoming disinterested altogether.

I actually had to guess while creating our turtle looking alien friend here. Images of Grunt were hard to come by; Mass Effect 2 was a few months from release. I just went with what little I could find.

He does look a little odd, too chunky in some areas. I did have a texture – it turned out so awful I just dropped it. Creating textures has never been my strength, which is part of the reason why I gave up modeling.

Both the Avenger Assault Rifle and the Normandy SR2 faired better…I kind of finished them -- yeah for commitment! It’s weird that I modeled the most hideous gun from Mass Effect, so why did I choose to sculpt it? No idea, but it happened. I give myself a strict timeframe on some projects: a day and a half to finish. I only work on anything for about 2 hours before I have to move on to something else. Any longer and the stress from not making it perfect is overwhelming. So I rushed this one some – can you tell? I could have done better, no doubt, but I just wanted to be through.

I put some love into the Normandy. A little more care and detail goes a long way. If you can see it that is -- a lot of the texture work is impossible for the naked eye to see. It’s actually one of my most polished ventures ever…still the final image doesn’t expose that. I felt the render looked bare so I threw a random NASA space photo in the back, and then illuminated the Normandy orange. A noise filter and motion blur give it a look of slight movement.

I tried to emulate something that you’d see in game. While I didn’t quite achieve the look I envisioned in my head (when do I ever?) the final image isn’t bad.

After the Normandy I was going to model an Asari (the blue tentacle-headed, lap dancing aliens), and I did have some ideas on the overall design. It didn’t take shape to my disappointment. I had a hard time grasping what I wanted her to look like, and when I did settle on an appearance I wasn’t able to take what I had in my mind and translate it to 3D. Argh, it happens that way sometimes.

It didn’t help matters that my PC had a heart attack and stopped working for 5 months. Oh so fun.

Obstacles stand in everybody’s way; luckily we’re not talking about the fate of the world here, only a series of one’s and two’s in a computer. Like anybody who has some semblance of artistic talent, you have more unfinished work than finished work. And feeling satisfaction for completing something isn’t common – it’s more relief that you at least are to a stopping point.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Green Lantern Corps Issue #55

“The Weaponer Part 3”

Writer: Tom Bedard
Pencils: Tyler Kirkham
Inking: Batt

“The Weaponer Part 3” of Green Lantern Corps #55 is one long battle. Not much else transpires. Not that I’m complaining, but there’s not a lot of meat on the bones. That seems to be the gist of “Brightest Day” I’ve yet to read anything that doesn’t feel like appetizer.

I certainly like the concept of The Weaponer. Although his weapon seems more like a Deus Ex Machina – which ends what would be a long drawn out action scene with a heavy thud. The Weaponer takes out four Green Lantern Corpsmen in single panels, erasing what suspense the scene would have had.

The reason to read this issue is to learn why Atrocitus, Ganthet, and Guy Gardner formed a partnership. It’s fairly benign, their alliance is logical and frankly it didn’t need to be kept a secret…at least to the audience. The plot to “Brightest Day” seems flimsy and my interest is waning.

As a full trade “Brightest Day” may be worth a casual readers time. For those of us who can’t wait, it’s a chore to read issue to issue. Small revelations aside, nothing the “Blackest Night” or the “Brightest Day” have done matches the stellar “Sinestro Corps” saga.

Dare I say, "He just got rocked!?" Yeah that was lame, I'll leave now. 

Not every individual comic can be a masterpiece – Green Lantern Corps #55 is average; conceptually The Weaponer is pretty neat, be he’s a stop-gap villain. A nice lean story with no needless waste would be nice…but we can’t seem to get that.

Green Lantern Corps #55 feels like padding, but the saving grace is the rich art. Both Kirkham and Batt’s art unite to create some great pages. It’s very modern, some of the lighting effects and motion blurring can only be achieved through Photoshop; it’s contemporary, and I’m not the biggest fan sometimes. In this instance I am a fan -- it’s strikingly bright and beautiful.

Next issue of Green Lantern Corps #55 should be the just a big relentless clash as the Sinestro Corps busts into the place. Would have loved Sinestro to bring his ugly mug to the party, still the Sinestro Corps alone should juice things up.  

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Amon Tobin: ISAM

Amon is a Brazilian Electronic artist – calling someone an “Electronic artist” is a brush the paints a broad stroke. Tobin’s music is strangely unique. His most recent album, ISAM, follows the same path as his previous compositions.

I like to think of Amon Tobin’s music as an incomplete sentence: one that doesn’t form a coherent thought initially. It’s complex and simple at the same time. Some songs may start off with a dog growling, an engine revving, or the shaking of a spray-paint can. How these simple sounds form into a tune is the enigma that runs through your brain as you listen.

There’s a certain mystery to listening to Amon’s odd melodies. It’s very sample heavy. Most tracks have a darker tone, almost industrial, like metal clanging together. It can take on a very futuristic feel and classic synth noises are overlaid across.

ISAM is dark and foreboding, an overcast cloudy sky. It features the heaviest sampling from Amon yet. Each song has a perplexing intro – the twinkle of chimes may dissolve into a full on orchestral aural storybook, like “Morning Ms. Candis.” So called “traditional” instruments are rarely heard, in the case of “Night Swim” Amon finds a way to make one of the most pleasant sounding instruments, a harp, eerie.

Amon Tobin has a gift -- one even he may not even recognize. He’s a DJ that doesn’t spin on turntables he instead mixes samples together to make a rich listening experience. It’s a musical creation, there’s nothing else like it. Not for everybody, and its taken time for me to decipher his music and enjoy it for what it is: otherworldly.

ISAM may take awhile to grow on me. Of all the music I listen to Amon’s needs the most replays to garner a fondness. Those looking for something completely different should seek out this and all his previous work. He goes by the alias Cujo on his first studio album, from that point on he uses his real name Amon Tobin on subsequent projects.

The songs to travel through time with:

“Piece of Paper”
“One Last Look”
“Lost & Found”
“Kitty Cat” – very creepy!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Mystery Science Theater 3000 Best of the Best: Part 2

The Horror of Party Beach

Forget monsters the horror is the dancing that goes on at Party Beach. The true scares come from effeminate men dancing with shorts that have to be cutting off circulation to their man-hood – what little they have. And a live band that has a singer use skull looks like it’s going to pop out of his face. The fight scene…well given the time frame it’s more of a “romp”, where a person is actually used as a battering ram – I’m actually surprised everyone didn’t break into song afterwards.

The monster that takes 30 minutes to arrive is comically hideous; he literally has a mouth full of hotdogs. I guess that passes for scary? “A monster, with a love for Beef Franks, oh no!”

The movie ends with one of the strangest scenes ever. One of the main characters, named Elaine, just moans off screen for about 2 minutes. The screen actually transitions away and she can still be heard panting and huffing in the background, it’s so odd. You can’t help but laugh when Servo then starts groaning soon after. I don’t know if it’s the worst ending to a movie or the best. Just the opening beach party is good for a few laughs alone, but the rest of the “riff” is pretty darn good too.

Favorite Quote:

“Your father was badly burned…but he’ll be alright!”

Final Sacrifice

I’m by no means ashamed to be Canadian, but boy does this movie test those limits. Outside of Justin Bieber, Final Sacrifice may be the worst thing to come from the Great North. It’s a horrid film with little redeeming qualities. It does have a guy with an awesome name, Zap Rowsdower! The word “awesome” does mean awful, right?

Anyways, the plot loosely revolves around a cult that supposedly ruled the Earth eons ago – watching makes me doubt they could rule over a plate of bacon let alone the world.

This film also stars the nerdiest kid ever. Some little twerp that wears the same red sweater the whole film, and worships Dolphins’ great Larry Csonka…no really! The movie’s absurd, accompanied by some fantastic commentary by the MST3K crew. They try to keep the Canada bashing to a minimum, but it’s hard to restrain oneself when faced with such horror. A fan favorite, Final Sacrifice is the worst that Canada can offer, and the MST3K crew tears it apart.

Favorite Quote:

Really any time the kid says, “Rowsdower.”


“When people see my movie I want that them to say, ‘what did she say…I can’t understand her’”. The actors are just one of the many, many absurd choices in this film. The editing is all over the place, scenery changes at random (and so do hairstyles). The acting is abysmal, but in an “over-acting” sort of way, so it’s damn humorous. 

Mike and the ‘bots seems just as confused by the meandering plot as the audience is, if there is a plot. I didn’t know if you dug up fossilized bones, cut yourself on one, you would then turn into that creature – in this instance a werewolf, It’s science! Common sense even.

The only time you actually get to see a werewolf it looks like a dog crossed with a lion, only it doesn’t look nearly as cool as that mix would seem. Sure the movie is bad, but I wouldn’t have thought it so bad if the MST3K guys weren’t pointing out gapping plot holes and half-assed editing. By itself this would be a tough movie to sit through, luckily you don’t have to -- Mike, Servo, and Crow make this one enjoyable all the way through.


“He thinks he’s turning into a weerwelf!”


Tell me are pumas known for their great flying capabilities? Are they truly the most aerially inclined of all felines? Ah, man I should have paid more attention in school; you think the only cat that could fly would be something I’d remember. Anyway…this move’s shit.

I guess the Pumaman is a superhero, or an alien – alien-superhero? I don’t know. Doesn’t matter. His only opposition is a bland bald man, so I’m sure he can take care of that with his…flying powers, fingernail claws, and the ability to teleport. Wow, pumas are like the Gandalf of the animal kingdom.

Some scenes are pure gold. Like the Pumaman dropping a victim from the sky, who’s clearly in front of a green-screen – the scenery is actually at an adjacent angle to which he’s falling; unless Pumaman can manipulate gravity and physics -- which sounds about as logical as anything else in this film.

Some movies aired on MST3K are so awful there’s little need for the commentary. It’s just frosty on the delicious puma flavored cake in this instance. Have a few beers before watching this one, and trust me you’ll be rolling of the floor in no time.

Favorite Quote:

Crow: “Pu-ma-man he flies like a moron!”

The Leech Women

Leech Women grew on me upon subsequent viewings; I should probably get it checked out. The first 30 minutes are really where most of the hard-hitting jokes from Mike, Servo, and Crow are felt. It’s still enjoyable towards the end, but the opening alone is worth seeking this one out.

The banter between a struggling couple isn’t something I’d open a movie with, and yet here it is! Mike and the ‘bots fix that quick, for every harsh slap across the face the couple dishes out Mike and others throw one right back into the scene – taking any tension the scene would have had and turning in into a riot – the first half of this episode is where the main differences between host’s Mike Nelson and Joel Hodgson seem apparent.

Mike can brighten up even the dullest most boring scene. Joel always fell back on pointing out the obvious, which would make listless scenes in films just as boring. Mike can make a horror film light-hearted, Joel just took the pacing of a film as is. I diverged from my synopsis of Leech Women somewhat – suffice it to say this one’s has a great first half, it tails off later in the film; still the first half is funnier than some entire episodes.

Favorite Quote:

Mike: “And yet she’s only in her late two-hundreds.”

Merlin’s Shop of Mythical Wonders

Why Merlin would come to our time, open a shop, and sell or give away only destructive/ demonic items is beyond me. Maybe that’s what passed for humor in the Middle Ages? Selling items that kill your customers seems like a bad business practice, ah, but what do I know?

This one’s creepy. It’s really two shorts spliced together, neither relating to each other. A reporter takes Merlin’s spell book, and a robber steals Merlin’s monkey puppet…thing. Both are incredibly destructive, still Merlin takes his time retrieving both. I can’t blame him, if I had his wife I’d be dead inside too.

MST3K interject their jokes into the mix a lot. You can tell which movies they had fun watching and scripting beforehand by the amount lines they deliver throughout. I really don’t know what tone this movie was going for, whatever it was it didn’t work. Still it made a fine film for Mystery Science Theater 3000.

Favorite Quote:

Servo: [Mocking Merlin] “You’re welcome.”

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The road is paved with polygons: Creating Frog

In hindsight becoming a 3D Artist shouldn’t have been a career choice, it was something I was interested in – not entirely committed to. I’ve moved on. And I do have some thoughts on the matter; I won’t bring them up here (I hate when someone tells me their life story when I didn’t ask). Instead I felt like sharing the work I’d done in the passed.

Akira Toriyama has always had an influence on me. I grew up with Dragon Ball. So I can’t help loving the artistry of Chrono Trigger and Dragon Quest, the former being one of my favorite games. Frog is the valiant knight, a stalwart hero. But really he’s just a Frog with an awesome sword. He’s a fan favorite, and I really wanted to try a highly detailed model. Having an interest before you start working is always a good thing, so the choice to create Frog was an easy one. 

Reference wasn’t hard to come by. The main conceptual reference is from the now discontinued Chrono Trigger remake Chrono Trigger Resurrection. It’s always unfortunate when a fan project gets shut down. The art left behind was exceptionally helpful, so all credit where credit is due. In 3ds Max (not sure which version I was using at the time) I went for a very “chunky” starting point; I just formed Frog’s core anatomy from basic shapes. His head, torso, arms, armor were all separate objects. Which makes exporting them to another program easier overall.

After the basic structure was set I popped the model over to ZBrush. For those who are unfamiliar 3ds Max (the program I start almost all my models in) is great for making hard geometry and objects. While not impossible, it’s a tougher task to create high detail organic models with 3ds Max alone. It’s just not built for that. That’s where ZBrush shines, it’s essentially a sculpting tool. Basically your model is like 3D clay in ZBrush. You can push and pull and cut into it as much as you like without your PC melting from the excessive processor usage.

Sculpting Frog in ZBrush went better then expected. It took only a few hours to get most of large facial and body characteristics in. That’s one of the beauties of ZBrush, you're more free to create the model while 3ds Max can get more technical – looking at wireframes and pulling vertices into place with 3ds Max becomes nauseating sometimes (obviously I’m speaking to a small crowd…just know that sometimes working with 3ds Max is not fun, like walking through fart-gas, unless you like that sort of thing?)

Here’s where things get tricky. I feel much more comfortable rendering my models outside of ZBrush. But taking Frog back into Max was a no go. It was way too large of a model. 3dso Max works well when creating environments, things that don’t have a lot of polygonal information. 3ds moves turtle slow when there’s too much going on in a scene. ZBrush doesn’t, so I usually go way overboard and sculpt the crap outta a model at around 10 million polygons – I’ve gone to half a billion in some cases. I realize this all sounds boring, but if I were to import Frog as he was into 3ds Max, my neighborhood would have exploded!

Luckily ZBrush has a unique add-on for just such an occurrence, called the Decimation Modifier, which breaks the model down bit, by bit. It was actually used in Gears of War to keep insane levels of detail. I used it to similar affect. And it worked wonders, there’s virtually know visible difference between the high detail model and Decimated version of Frog I imported in Max. 

I imported the Decimated detail of Frog into 3ds Max as a Normal Map (Normal Maps are like a jacket of detail thrown onto a model, geometry is being rendered through complex lighting algorithms), and it looked something like this…

Then it was the matter of some simple texture work. A diffuse/ color map was added (that means I just painted on the model with Photoshop), and a specular lighting texture, and bump mapping for some touch-ups.

Once textured I just posed him for a simple render. I’ve never invested too much stake in rendering out a model, as it would look different in a video game engine anyways. Still I thought it turned out relatively fine all things considered.

If there’s one thing I miss about modeling, it’s the creative process. You never really know how things are going to work out; you just have to experiment. Frog turned out beautifully, and I couldn’t have hoped for a better result.