I should punch myself in the face

256 color limitation

Once of the tricky aspect of working with Arena textures is that they are only 256 colors AND that color information is indexed from a palette file. That means the image doesn’t have the color info in the file, it has a reference point to a master color file (this saved valuable space in the old timey 3 1/2 floppy days). Colors in an image have to be one of those exact colors in the palette file. To work around this, I have been only using colors contained in whatever image I was working on. It worked but it can be limiting in being creative.¬† Most of the project was done this way.

Palette image

DOH!

Now but a scant mere 9 years later, it dawned on me to import the color palette in as a raw image similar to how I first did early on in my hobby working on another project. Once imported, I was able to create a Photoshop swatch of all the working colors and boom. I’m blond, what can I say.

Palette swatch

More progress on actual files next update although you can see a preview in the image above ūüôā

– Martin

Time to clean up the mess

Begin again

So, I’ve finally got my stuff together, life has settled down, and the mojo to get back to my projects. I have a lot to post on other art projects I’ve done in the past (cough) couple years or so but first, I figured I’d give an update on where I am with the Arena Depixelization Project. Yes, it’s still on.

screenshot005

Testing

I have loaded up the textures into OpenTesArena. It allows very easy testing of levels without having to play the game. You can just select what level at the menu screen and load it. Right out the gate, I’m very happy with the starter dungeon. No need to mess with that in my opinion.

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More testing

However, the wall textures in the very next main quest dungeon are too jarring. So I have already toned them down for next iteration (not pictured below).

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Then I skipped to the 3rd main quest dungeon and found these round blob walls that just don’t cut it. So next I will clean those up. My plan is to systematically go through them all, until there are sufficiently aesthetic pleasing (or tolerable) then I will release ADP 1.0.

screenshot001

Limitations of Arena

There will be limitation right now as the texture combination for some of the levels is very off. Maybe one day, OpenTesArena will allow us to edit the level files and add new textures. Then we’d be able to makes matching or complimentary “tile sets” for each level, adding cohesion and variety overall. But, until then, this is what we got.

– Martin

Wait, the city is built from a crashed plane?!

The A to the D to the P

First up, I have been moving along quite nicely with the art for the Arena Depixelization Project (a name only a nerd could love). Not only have I got quite a bit of new stuff done, I have been revamping the ones I don’t like as I go. I’m focusing on one location at a time in game and redoing all the wall/floor textures that I find unfinished or that need a redo.

Brownout 3

I won’t post much on this for awhile but the previously unnamed but heavily hinted project, is Fallout 3. Yes, another Bethesda game….what can I say. Oh yeah, I don’t have to say anything it’s my project so pbbbbtttt. Really, I tried playing Fallout 3 and like what I did play but the artwork in the game is so (intentionally) degraded, it hides the games true potential. All they did was make super crappy textures and add a bunch of “noise” (dithering and random speckling) and a WHOLE LOT OF BROWN.

Fallout 3.2017-10-24.20.50.45.085

Original heaping pile of…..muddy desaturated textures

Cellout implies the wrong message

I know what your saying “I sure wish he would give it a cartoony makeover”….ME TOO! See great minds think alike. In reality, I’m using it to perfect my own take on the Borderland (game for the computer) cell shading style. While inspired from that game, my style deviates in many small ways from it (besides my not truly knowing how they did it).

Fallout 3.2017-10-16.23.10.15.440

When I was feeling out how I wanted the style to look

So much brown

It really struck home when no one realized that Megaton (the first city you reach in game) was built with pieces of a plane. There are pieces all over but the textures were so bad, you never realized that you were walking on pieces of a wing or that the shed above was part of a fuselage. Oddly enough, despite inspiring to make this a full project, I really not happy with how the jet pieces turned out and plan to eventually redo them.¬† I used them to learn how textures in FO3 worked and struggled figuring out the strange multiple way alpha maps were used along with normal maps. For the longest, I couldn’t get them to be selectively reflective of light. They were all shiny or no shiny at all regardless of light. I worked it out (more when I actually talk about the project).

 

It just needs a good scrubbing

Ultimately, I want to remove the noise, define the textures better, add visual interest as well as color: all while trying to maintain the feel of a world in decay. I still haven’t honed the process down completely, but I am learning quite a bit and pushing my developing Photoshop skills to the limit (TAKE IT…TO THE LIMIT…ONE MORE TIME). I want to perfect them before I return to my favorite game of all time, Morrowind. Oh yes, I’m not done with you yet, sweet Morrowind (too creepy?). Here are some more before and afters (note: some are still early prototypes or have already been reworked to be smoother and cleaner):

I’m gonna focus on ADP for now and honestly, this Fallout 3 project is going to take years since I’m just working on it sporadically until I have enough free time to hit it hard.

– Martin

Previously, on ArtInPinkerton Blog (dun dun!)

Pixels so sharp they will cut you

For anyone who reads this blog (all 3 of you), its no secret that I tend to favor a more cartoonish and abstract style when editing game artwork. With the Arena Depixelization Project (ADP), this was mostly a necessity since I was looking at simplifying images due to the extremely low resolution and terrible graininess (grain E ness?).

Textures so muddy, they have to take their shoes before coming inside

However, with Morrowind, it was more of a desire to undrab (not even a real word I’m pretty sure) it some. The individuals textures were unimpressive but all together they worked (for back in 120 A.D. when it was created). With my early experiments, I used the cartoon method to add interest to the individual textures but it was crude.

 

 

“You know my name is Simon and the things I draw come true”

From here, I had a detour with a little experiment. For all the games I work on, I have a soft spot. Darkstone was one such game. It’s low resolution blurry textures begged for me to edit them. It was a challenge just figuring out how to access them and understand the file structure: there are odd duplicates, art sheets (many separate art assets on one texture), and strange encryption. I wanted to create a chalk-like art style. It was a side diversion and never meant to be a full project though. I really liked the results though.

STOP CHANGING THE DAMN FORMAT ALREADY!

I had very little experience back then and it was before Borderlands captured what I desired so well (ICE CREAM…wait no…CELL SHADING!). So I switched to working on Minecraft for my sons. I finished not only the main game but several of the most popular modification at the time. However, Mohjang (the makers of Minecraft) changed the texture format and naming several times over the duration I was working on it; breaking my texture pack (Grrrrr!) more than once. I never released it as by the time they finalized it, they had added so much more that I hadn’t done.¬† However, it gave me time to work on learning the graphics software (GIMP at the time…not the one from Pulp Fiction).

 

But the name almost begged it!

I’m not sure how I started working on it, but the next project I worked was Torchlight. I think I had just wanted to see if I could do it. During this phase, I dedicated quite some time experimenting with different styles and the software. Eventually, it turned into a full blown project which I called “Toonlight”…I am so clever…so damn clever. Looking back, I think I lamented how little the backgrounds “popped” and though I could smooth and outline them to make them defined. My biggest failing on it (beside the wee-bit of amateurish work…cough cough) was that I was so focused on the individual textures, that I didn’t account for the whole picture and scene. So much detailed “polluted” the screen. This is relevant for when I get to my newest endeavor. Toonlight was never finished (I had illusions it might be). I didn’t like the results on a game level and didn’t want to start over. The creatures looked nice though.

 

Nailed it….

Then came Borderlands. It perfectly encapsulated what I was going for. I loved the art style and now I had a inspiration to study and evolve my style. It was here I learned about rim lighting (making dark lines pop with a lighter line near it) and ways to make larger blank areas look less dull (hint: random lines and squiggles).¬† I didn’t try it for some time as I was working on finalizing ADP (which is….sigh…not done yet). When I finally took a break, I experimented with Morrowind again…this time on the faces; trying to capture that Borderlands style. Ultimately, I realized that my style was Borderlands-inspired but had my flavor added.

Brown…so much grainy awful pixel-y brown

I finally had enough experience to move forward. I had a few other side projects not “cartoon” style related (such as the FATE mod..so I can have all that crunchy 4K resolution…mmmmm tasty). Moving on, I had just the project in mind to hone those skills even further and put them to the test. Eventually, I’ll return to Morrowind and complete a full artwork overhaul once I’m done.

By then, I should have most of my style and workflow on lock (see I’m cool…I said “on lock”…like a boss). More coming next post……. (oohhhhhh a teaser…what can it be…).

Martin

 

Do not fear it is “I”

Letters count?

Awhile back I had posted that I had learned that I could update the font files. I never liked the font in Arena as it was too flowery for readability at such a low resolution. Each letter in the fonts was ranged from 3×3 to 8×8 pixels in size. They were all really just super small pictures.

A little rough but it works

A little rough but it works

If I build it, I’ll build it thrice

I wasn’t satisfied with my previous attempts and decided to quickly rebuild them again. This time, I tested each one out in game to see how well the effect worked. Surprisingly, this took more time than I imagined and I ended up completely revamping each font file 3-4 times till I was happy with them. In game testing allowed me to see where I missed or added a space, what characters didn’t look right, and generally if the font looked ok when playing. As you can see in the picture, the editor lets you click each pixel, one by one. While each character font file can have the spacing and padding adjusted using the slider (thus bigger or small amount of horizontal pixels), the height of the characters was fixed for each font file. Although it would be relatively easy to just rename one of the other font files that have a bigger height setting, I think that might play havok on how the game displays text and didn’t really see the need for it.

Through some in for spares?

To determine which font affected which portion of the game, I filled in a different set of characters in each font file as a solid box. Then I just looked to see which font was being used in each portion of the game containing text. Like with the art (and probably sound files), I found that not all fonts were used. Of the 10 font files included with the game, I have only been able to find 4 of them in game. Or at best, the others are used in some obscure corner of the game.

NOTE: The screenshots were taken with a vanilla version of Arena since this mod will be released as a separate mod from ADP.

UPDATE: I released TES Arena ReFonted on the nexus. You can get it here.

– Martin

State of the Blog 2016

Went away

I know, I know. I have been away for some time. 2015 was a very difficult year in the non-digital realm and some things had to slide to offset the stress.

Came back again

However, despite my my absence on this blog, I was actually quite busy on the graphic arts side of the house. I either oversaw or personally completed several projects for coworkers and friends. One of which, I am extremely proud of (more on that hopefully in a future post…i.e. one that isn’t written late at night when I should be sleeping).

It’s all fun and games

While I didn’t really work on the Arena Depixelization Project too much (it had to slide too), I was involved with design aspects for a couple of mods focusing mostly on 3D layout & set design and got some interesting practice on cooperative project management as a graphic artist/designer. I even every so slightly fiddled with 3D modeling.

Accelerate to 88 mphs

I have Photoshop now, guess I should actually work on learning how to use it.The problem is that I’m so used to GIMP, Photoshop seems downright alien to me. I imagine my warm up period will probably not be¬†the speediest.

I want to experiment a little with my art projects. I am thinking of “remastering” some of my very very early and¬†juvenile (i.e. decades old) artwork. I don’t know how it will turn out but at minimum, it seems like a interesting experiment.

Another similar idea I read about was to take kids artwork and reimagine it. I have a lot of that lying around from over the years and that just seems like a fun concept.

I guess we’ll see what the year brings but overall I feel healthier happier and more like my old self. I miss my old blog…and I seem to hear a certain collection of 64 x 64 pixel sprites calling my name ;

Р Martin

“I’m not dead yet!”

Not quitting

Real life (RL) hits most enthusiast artists and game¬†modders extra hard at¬†some time or another, as it did me (I had the trifecta of work,¬†family, and computer¬†problems).¬†Since¬†most of us¬†do this for fun, we have¬†fit¬†it into¬†our¬†leisure time.¬†Some days,¬†there is practically no free time.¬†But more often,¬†there is time¬†but because of RL,¬†the mental (and/or creative) juice isn’t there.¬†For extended periods of “down time”, the¬†bigger danger is that the interruption and loss of creative motivation¬†might lead to loss of interest in a project altogether. This is especially dangerous for larger projects where the modder/artist might reflect on the enormity of the work that still needs to be done or if a newer shiny bauble attracts them.

Motivation

The source of motivation plays a big factor in overcoming this kind of stagnation. In my case,¬†the motivation is internal based (i.e. I do mods that I want to see). Additionally, I’m not modding current games so the pressure from the community isn’t a factor either. My projects are my COUNTER to RL stressors. I relax when I’m editing pixel by pixel. Each of my projects is an experiment in artistic design for me.

The Torchlight mod was my first real art¬†mod and there are many things I look back on that¬†showed my inexperience.¬†However, I¬†actually get energized at the thought of seeing how it would look now that I’m (slightly) more skilled. I guess what I’m saying is that if you do¬†projects for yourself first¬†and you enjoy it, it’s more likely that you’ll come back after these “unplanned pauses”. I’ve been working most of¬†mine for several years (on and off) and haven’t ever considered abandoning them.

NOTE

I originally planned to detail my¬†work on some fire walls for Arena but this kind of just happened. Since I want this webpage to chronicle my artistic processes, I rolled with it. Long story short, sometime this week I’ll do that post ūüėČ

– Martin