Monday, January 31, 2011

Lil' Reaps

You know... The more I think about, Lil' Reaps sounds a little... Wrong.

Seriously, I'm talking about Reapers...

~ Mark

Threadless - Woof

I made my first attempt to submit a t-shirt design to ""... It was rejected in about 6 hours. Figures. In any case, here's the design... It's a modified design from my post on the game Tetris. I'm personally very pleased with it... Personal best!

Anyway, here's the t-shirt design:

Don't tell me you wouldn't wear that to church.

~ Mark

Sunday, January 30, 2011


Have you ever doodled something that really has no logic or reasoning? Yeah, this is one of those pictures... I doodled it the other night and was like, "Um... Now what?" So I colored it and now I'm blogging it... I'll call it, "Thinker...", yeah. He's thinking...

Thinking... thinking...
~ Mark

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Did I mention...

That I got engaged over Thanksgiving last year? Old news if you know me, new news if you don't!

~ Mark

Video Game Tribute #16 - Tetris

To make a video game tribute would be pointless unless this block puzzle classic receives recognition... Lets be honest, if I show you a picture of 4 yellow squares forming one bigger square, your instinct will be to pray my next image is an upside down "L" made up of 4 blue squares... Then you'll want me to put the two images together... Then you'll expect them blow up. In case you're not catching the reference (which is expected if you never owned a GameBoy... Like me), I'm talking about the grandfather of all digital puzzle games... Tetris.

For me, Tetris was little more than a myth growing up... Something that made kids frustrated in the back of class with a muted portable console hidden conveniently behind their Social Studies book. Aside from sleepovers at friends houses who owned the game for Nintendo, I didn't actually play this game myself until the 2000s when it became available on cell phones. It was like waking up for the first time. Where I always thought video games were meant to numb the mind, I was suddenly thrown into a digital world where to stop thinking means certain death! Okay, maybe it's not that intense, but it's pretty stressful once you get to level 10... My brother plays it STARTING at level 13... Crazy schmuck. Tetris really broke the mold with it's unique gameplay, and now every puzzle game that comes out is some kind of grandchild to this old classic; Bejeweled probably being the most well-known.

What I recently just found out, however, is that Tetris wasn't actually created by Nintendo... It was made in Russia. Just another thing the Soviets beat us to. Though I guess it's for the better, who knows where Tetris would have gone had Nintendo created it and branded it... It'd be a mascot. Could you imagine Tetris blocks being on your backpacks as a kid? Doodling geometric shapes on the back of your book covers? Dressing up as an upside down "L" for Halloween and playing the next 3-D action/adventure RPG with a hero who's a block?? Good lord, I'd hate to see what would have become of Nintendogs... Yes, I'm shivering at the thought.

Truth be told, whether Commies or the Axis invented the game, it's America's corporate takeover that really matters... And thanks to EA Sports, we can enjoy this marvel of puzzle video-gaming on our cellphones, in the comfort of our work bathrooms, with our stall-neighbors wondering what all that clicking is in the stall next to them as they awkwardly try to hurry up and get to their next meeting without having to know the face of the man on the toilet, barely a foot to their left.

God Bless America,
~ Mark

Monday, January 24, 2011

AWESOME! - Schnauzers

What walks on four legs and oozes awesomeness? No, not me pounding my fifth Long Island... Okay, maybe me pounding a Long Island... But this isn't about me. This is about something else... This is about not only Man's best friend, but my personal Besty... I'm talking about the Schnauzer!

Why is a Schnauzer so worthy of an AWESOME posting? I'll tell you why...Cause I grew up with one. Say what you will about what makes a man's dog, how many of your manly dogs have beards? Yeah, none of em. I have a beard, and I'm a man. I think the same logic applies. Did you know Schnauzers were used to hunt rats? That's a pretty dirty job, and only the manliest of animals will hunt down something with diseases, I'd bet your Dobermans and your Rottweilers wouldn't wet their lack of pants at the thought of the "Black Plague"! Schnauzers? They eat Black Plagues for breakfast! At least that's what my dog's breath smelled like... Brushing your teeth is for Poodles. Sissy dogs.

As the Greek gods of old, the Schnauzer stands proud like the pillars of Mount Olympus, rats die in its presence and Holy Light shines upon its already glowing skin!

Maybe I'm biased having had a Schnauzer from the second grade through the end of my high school years... Maybe few would agree... But all I know is my dog, Leo (yeah, like the constellation, equally as awesome), was amongst one of the most loyal and interesting dogs I've ever had the pleasure of knowing. Lots of personality, lots of energy, lots of awesome. What I will say of the mighty Schnauzer... they love doggy treats... Probably more than their owners. That stings a little, I've had a doggy treat... They're dry, icky... Only a real man would enjoy it... I am nothing in light of the Schnauzer... They're just so awesome.

They also come in all shapes and sizes! Whether you're little big or average, they come in three delicious sizes: Mini, Standard and Giant... I had a mini, and good. Lord. They are adorable. I'm not to masculine to admit it... I just want to put them in my mouth and eat them!

I'm gonna cry. They're so cool.
~ Mark

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Ragavont Animation Test

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I came up with a villain for Turble while screwing around in Flash... I figured I might as well show off the animation work... Although it's buggy and not all that impressive. But whatever...

When the file loads CLICK ON THE ANIMATION (I emphasize this because no matter how many times I've given this instruction with previous interactive flash files, somebody always manages to be annoying and say "It doesn't work, what do I do?"... YOU CLICK THE FREAKING FILE WHEN IT LOADS!!!!... "Oh, it works now, thanks"), then use the arrows to move Ragavont around. Up to jump, down to duck, left to move left, right to move right, and space bar to use his attack. I would have added a background, but my laptop has unfortunately kicked the bucket... Flash file included. C'est la vie.

Click the below image for so much fun (And be patient, I don't have a loading bar, so it won't show up immediately)!

~ Mark

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

iLive... In color!

Having to use a work computer has it's advantages, faster, better software... Limited to what I'm allowed to create though:/ So I just colored in an old sketch...

Yes, it lives... In color!!!

In living color,
~ Mark

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Video Game Tribute #15 - Castle Crashers

Okay, so I've been playing this game NON STOP. Typically for a game tribute, I like the game to be at least 10 or so years old. It needs time to marinate, become immortalized, become... Legend. But I seriously love this game so much that I highly doubt 10 or even 20 years from now I'll look back and go, "Meh, it was aight"... I've already lost AT LEAST 40 hours of my life to this adventure and I've only had it for about 3 weeks. I don't want those hours back, I want to invest more hours... I doubt my fiance will let me. I can't say I blame her. I'm a hot ticket.

I imagine I should probably say the title of this glorious 2D epic... It's called Castle Crashers... I believe this game has been out since 2008, and I've always been aware of it, but just never built up the enthusiasm to purchase it... Not to mention in 2009 I was unemployed and couldn't afford it if I wanted... I doubt the tax payers of America would have been happy about me using their hard-earned money to play video games... But then, my money goes towards it now, and I'm a tax-payer... No, I'm a tax-PLAYER. Wha-what!

In any case, this game brings us back to the glory days of beat em' up adventures. It's got all the basics to make me happy. 1.) Simple Game Play 2.) A challenge that isn't impossible 3.) AMAZING hand-drawn graphics 4.) Lots of unlockable goodies. Number four is a big deal to me. If I can run through a game, beat it, and not have anything worth going back and playing it again for, then I'm going to be a little disappointed. I like to have a reason to play a game a second time. Castle Crashers will have me going back until I'm 35 at this rate. There's over 24 playable characters in this game. You start out with 4 characters; X-Box Button colored Knights, each with their own unique magical power. The red one shoots electricity, the orange one uses fire, the blue one uses ice, and the green one uses poison. I've found that I have the most fun playing as the orange knight. I've unlocked a good chunk of them by now, but even after unlocking them all, there's also powerups to unlock (in the form of "animal orbs"; little creatures that follow you around and give you various boosts in whatever) as well as 69 weapons which can be discovered, unlocked or traded with other X-Box Live players... Most of them are useless. I think one of them is actually a lobster, but it's still fun to find them nonetheless. Needless to say, one run through the game won't be enough to obtain everything... I've beaten the game 5 times now and I still haven't found it all.

The other aspect of the game I feel I need to touch on is the graphics. Castle Crashers was created by a company called "Behemoth", their logo is a fat chicken with a sword... And that alone makes them okay in my book. Their artist is a guy named Dan Paladin, who apparently used to do a lot of stuff for Newgrounds... He's got a unique style that makes this game stand out amongst most other 2D Beat em' Ups out there... The use of vibrant colors, incredibly stylized characters and VERY fluid, yet hand-drawn, animation makes this game pop from start to finish. Even when the game is getting frustrating, you don't care as much because it just looks awesome. Being an artist (or so I like to call myself), the graphics are going to be more important to me than actual gameplay. I think I've talked about it before, but I simply adore the 16-bit era of gaming... More imagination, and MUCH more effort went into the gaming experience because people didn't have computer graphics to cop-out on. Give me a stylistic 2D side-scroller over the next leap in computer imagery any day... To this day, I simply DESPISE Mario 64 for that reason alone. CGI will always inevitably become outdated by the next leap in technology, but something hand-drawn, that will always be exactly how it was imagined to look, not bound by technological impairments. Street Fighter 2, epic, still epic, will always be epic... Virtua Fighter... Not so great now. Easily forgotten.

I mentioned earlier the simplistic gameplay... Castle Crashers is by no means easy, it has a decent enough challenge and sometimes you need to play levels over just to level-up enough to take on the later challenges... But any person at any age with any skill-set can easily pick up a controller and jump in on the action without having to bug the other person playing with a billion questions like, "What am I supposed to do here, this is stupid, I wanna play Uno instead...", yeah. There's 4 basic buttons: Jump, Hard Attack, Quick Attack, Use Special... in addition, there's block and magic, which are just trigger buttons, I don't even use block half the time, and to use magic you just hold down the trigger and hit one of the attacks. SO. FREAKING. SIMPLE. You run around, kill stuff and collect stuff, there's no continues or 1 ups or game overs or experience debt, none of that. Just play till you beat it. It's got up to four players, which I haven't done yet, but I'm aching to play with someone... Maybe I can talk my fiance into it... She really just plays Mario. I should get a friend.

Castle Crashers also uses humor very well. There's characters doing things in the background, random cut scenes and victory animations which crack me up. There's a sequence in one of the levels where there's something making the ground shake that's terrifying the animals into crapping themselves... and not in a gross poop way, the game isn't vulgar by any means, it's just having fun with itself, and you can tell the animators and developers had a blast with this. And that's really what it comes down to, it's a fun game, it doesn't take itself too seriously, and it was made by people who understand the bare basics of classic gaming: Just make it fun.

The moral of the story? 2D kicks the snot out of 3D.

Curse the Z-Axis!!!
~ Mark

Friday, January 7, 2011

Turble Villain #6

Concepted another villain for Turble to engage combat with along his dangerous journey towards awesomeness. This concept actually came from screwing around in Flash where I needed to quickly doodle up something to animate while I messed around with Actionscript 3... Which is not a fun language when you've spent the better part of 6 years learning Actionscript 2... Oh well.

Anyway, he's a little rag-doll creature, sort of a homage to "9", which if you haven't seen, watch it, it's pretty cool. He uses a sewing needle for a sword and a button for a shield. I haven't thought much about what his attacks will be, but I'm sure it'll be something "yarn" related... In any case, enjoy the picture, because I'm going to be without a computer for a few days... Stupid Mac Book Pro is stuck in sleep mode and apparently it's a defect a lot of those models have... So if you have a macbook that's over 3 years old, get ready for fun... Sigh.

~ Mark

Monday, January 3, 2011

Tron: Legacy

Having never seen Disney's "Tron" in 1982 (partly due to the fact I was born in 83'), I didn't have any memorable response to the Tron Legacy teaser I saw back in 2008 (was it 08? I don't remember). I recognized the Light Cycles, like most, and I'd seen the arcade game before, but outside of that, my knowledge of the franchise was slim to nothing. I did note that the special effects in the trailer were pretty awesome, and that alone peeked my interest, if anything. Now cut to November 2010 and I'm actually really looking forward to the film, having seen full trailers with even slicker effects that the teaser. It looked darker, more serious than what I had thought the original probably was. All I really knew was that it was Disney and it was based on video games, so I just assumed it was typical cyber-campiness for kids.

Now I can't just go see a sequel without seeing the original... However to my dismay, Disney (being the fascists that they are) pulled ALL of the original copies off the shelves. So now it's impossible to find a copy unless you're willing to give Amazon $140 dollars. I don't even think it's in the infamous "Vault". It's just nowhere to be seen, and I haven't heard anything official from Disney explaining it. So I shell out 60 bucks to get a copy of the 20th Anniversary Addition off of and PRAY I don't get ripped off by some random schmuck in Milwaukee. I was a lucky man. 3 weeks later I finally obtain my copy of Tron and now I'm ready to watch it and run to the theater for some sequel action... Sadly I didn't get around to watching the original until after I saw the new one. C'est la vie. What I will say is that it was cool watching the original AFTER the new one and learning some of the back-story and even a few inside jokes that most people won't get.

But I'm getting sidetracked. Tron Legacy. For the sake of people who like to be rational and see film as an SAT rather than something fun, what I'll say is that TRON Legacy won't go down in history as anything ground-breaking or extraordinary. And for what it's worth, that's okay in my book. So going into this film, put your intellect aside and don't expect Citizen Kane.

That being said, I've seen this movie twice now and I'm aching for a third viewing. If I can sum this film up in one word, it'd simply be "BEAUTIFUL". You literally cannot take your eyes off of this movie for a second. I don't know if it was the 3D, or if it was the bright lights, or if it was Olivia Wilde (probably the third option), but it was absolutely breathtaking how gorgeous and sleek this visual treat really was. Personally, I think 3D needs to just go away. I loved Avatar. That was a movie that demanded a third dimension, and it worked because 3D fims never pushed the bar like that... However, nowadays these idiot film makers think that slapping an extra dimension on their movie will make it a good film. Really all it ends up accomplishing is giving me a major headache and a serious case of vertigo. But I digress... Tron. Legacy. It used 3D to its advantage. What you won't find in this film is excuses for using that particular media. 3D was meant to compliment the already captivating visual environment they created. You don't get things flying at you (though there was one scene that made me jump out of my seat) or a bunch of 1st person perspectives to make you feel like you're there... You get actual dimension. It makes you feel like this isn't the real world, this is something different. Which is what Tron is all about. The digital world, a place outside the real world. What I also found interesting was how the real world was in 2D and the digital world was in 3D... We live in a three dimensional reality and video games are a two dimensional format... So it's a little ironic in that regard.

So outside of dazzling visuals, what else are you getting? Typically in a movie like this you get loads of action, fast paced, shaky cameras, a chase scene every 10 minutes, and a heroic one-liner for every dead henchmen. What was interesting about this film was that it didn't hype up the action, nor did it rely on the action to drive the plot. What I've heard some say is that it's actually a little slow in some parts. The fight scenes weren't terribly cliche... Though we did get one unnecessary forced bullet-time evasive maneuver... Can we please stop doing this, filmmakers? Please? The only real action check-listed item was that EVERYTHING explodes in the digital world. EVERYTHING. Programs are among the most frail humanoids every created. You crash your car, you explode into pixels, someone throws a Frisbee at you, you explode into pixels, you fall over or trip, you explode into pixels, you get shot in the arm, explode into pixels. I think in the next Tron movie they should have a Thumb-War competition and on a three-count, you explode into pixels. I'm serious, don't even play "Patty Cake" with these people.

Now, for all the people saying that Tron Legacy didn't live up to the original Tron's potential... Please shut up. Having now watched the original Tron, I can say with the utmost confidence that ANYTHING this movie did would have been an improvement over the original. Bad acting, simple plot, stupid costumes and an end sequence that still makes absolutely no sense to me... Jeff Bridges (sorry, Kevin Flynn) jumped into the antagonist program's head and Tron threw a disc at it. Then Flynn ended up back in the real world with little to no explanation. Not to mention he totally makes out with Tron's digital girlfriend for no reason before jumping off a ship. Very random. Very weird. Very 80s. So yes, the original was ground-breaking, no one had ever seen CGI like that before, but in retrospect, this came out after Star Wars and Star Wars to this day still looks believable. So get over your nostalgia already. Not to mention... were they wearing hockey pads in the original? Someone said the new one has too many plot holes as well... I'm fairly certain the original didn't even EXPLAIN how that laser was able to zap Flynn onto the Grid in the first place. I'm just going to go ahead and say it had something to do with The Matrix.

Speaking of the Matrix, I am curious now how Neo would fair against the digital godlike powers of the Big Lebowski himself... Seriously, somebody make that movie.

I've got to talk about the soundtrack... Daft Punk took a really good movie and made it great. If this film isn't remembered for its plot, visuals or acting, it's definitely going down as one of the coolest soundtracks ever. Period. I ran out and bought that soundtrack immediately after seeing the movie and even now when I listen to it, I can piece together the whole film in my mind audibly. They didn't cheap out and use a bunch of forgettable orchestral pieces, they went all out 80's retro, cyber-punk epic on this one and it was GLORIOUS. It's a two hour long music video.

So I suppose I should mention a Con or two to all these Pros... While the CG was pretty flawless, I think it owed a lot to the fact that we're not being led to believe the Grid is anything in the real world, so it didn't have to look realistic, it just had to look cool. The places where the CGI needed to look believable were a little bit lacking. Kevin Flynn's younger face is what comes to mind. Because Jeff Bridges is obviously too old to portray himself 28 years ago, they had to resort to computer graphics to re-create the young Flynn. While there were parts where it looked real, the majority of the time, it was obviously faked. And I really can't hate on this too much, it's not exactly a science we have perfected... Creating a CGI face is borderline impossible, although "Benjamin Button" did it really well. So when young Flynn (or C.L.U. 2) was talking, you could tell it was off just a little. Something with the lips didn't look right... But still, a pretty ambitious and effort nonetheless. Nothing terrible there.

I also think the movie skipped over some potential action sequences towards the end for the sake of time... Sam Flynn, who clearly is not an action hero, somehow walks into a room of guards and walks out a minute later having killed them all... HOW DID HE DO THAT?! Prior to this, he basically got his butt kicked by every guard that crossed his path. I'd want to see that fight. Even if it was a series of dumb-luck flukes, SHOW ME ALREADY!!!

Outside of this, I really don't have much else to critique... Maybe it just needs time to sink in, so I can get over my bewilderment some and think a little more rationally. I really just loved the heck out of this movie.

So what's left to say of Tron Legacy? I think it gave some depth to a franchise which really didn't have a whole lot to go with. The characters were likable, the acting was decent, the plot, while not too involved, was enough to keep the movie flowing, and like I've already said 100 times, it was beautifully designed. Assuming they have a larger budget next time, I'm excited to see what form The Grid will take on in a sequel.

Aight. That's all.

End of Line.
~ Mark