Interview: Artists Louw & Pires share experience designing ‘Outcast Odyssey’

Card games are a hot topic right now with many card iterations of different properties releasing recently, including Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft and WWE SuperCard. Outcast Odyssey is a collectible card game coming soon to iOS and Android devices from Magic Pixel Games and Bandai Namco Games and with every card game, there comes a load of cards to see. That’s where talents like Warren Louw and Chuck Pires lend their skills to the new video game. The two comic artists are no stranger to the industry of drawing and creating for different projects and they share their experience in the comic and video game industry.

BuzzFocus: How did you get your start in art (best, biggest projects)?

Warren Louw: My first biggest breaks would have to be an ImagineFX cover and workshop in 2009 and doing a cover for DC Comics, Powergirl in 2010.

Chuck Pires: I was about 15 years old, I hadn’t been drawing too long. At school there was a group of us that drew and were pretty into video games, comics and anime. Hey it was the 90’s! All that stuff was still good back then! Anyway, my dad had seen me messing around with a few drawings and, him being a pretty skilled artist when he was in college, plopped his old collection of Frank Frazetta artbooks on my table. [He then said to me] “I’m glad, you’ve found a worthwhile hobby, but yer not gonna get any better looking at that stuff”. So that was pretty much it for me for the next year or so. I must have copied every pose or arm or leg that book had. Then, of course, I read the short biography they had at the beginning of the book, it said he’d been published at 15 or 16 years old. After that, the race was on. In my little brain I had to be published too.

After looking for art jobs online for a while I came across an ad for Hi-Fi colors, a comic coloring company looking for help. I was like yes! I had been messing with digital color for a few weeks so being 16, I naturally thought I was a god. Turned out, they weren’t looking for comic colorists so much as what they call “flatters”. Flatters lay all of the basic un-shaded colors down so that the colorists can easily select them and work more quickly. I took the job anyway and did my best at it for a few months, and even was used for personal projects for guys from the studio. It was paid published work and I was getting better at photoshop and coloring by doing it, so why not. Of course when the first comics I’d worked on came out, I rushed to see my name in print. I grabbed a book, popped it open only to realize most of the time flatters never get credited. So yeah, bummer city. I did flatting a while more after that but after I’d given my portfolio to the guys I was working for and not getting anywhere, I was looking for other opportunities. I was pretty bummed my little goal was squashed, but life goes on.

About a couple months after I’d stopped flatting I got a book in the mail from one of the guys I’d been doing work for, It was a personal project book that I unfortunately can’t remember the name of now, but right smack under his name was mine. That was pretty much when I decided, “yeah, this is what I’m gonna do with my life”.

After that, I spent a couple years buckling down and trying to improve my work. I took a couple classes at the community college and bought just about any issue of Spectrum I could find. When I was 18 or 19, Corvus Beli, the makers of Infinity, got a hold of me and wanted art done for their new rule book. I learned a lot about art and being a commercial artist on those books, and am still very grateful to those guys for giving me a shot!

BuzzFocus: Is this your first video game art project?

Warren: This would be my second video game art project. My first was working for the mobile gaming company, Phoenix Age Gaming on Castle Age and Underworld Empire.

Chuck: No, honestly, I couldn’t tell you what my first was. There was a time between Infinity rulebooks that I had to just take whatever work I could find. Not being a strictly comic artist and not being a cover illustrator kind of put me at odds with steady work, so when work came around I didn’t ask questions and just did what I could do. Most of the time when I do game work I’m being hired by someone who’s kind of outsourcing to me. A lot of them I haven’t signed NDA’s for the company.

BuzzFocus: What approach do you take differently with a project involving video games?

Warren: Well it totally depends on the briefing, but generally the level of detail and design is a lot more intense since there can be a lot of creative freedom. The level of incredible video game concept art these days can also be very influential.

Chuck: Well, the work itself is inherently different. Video games, you can add whatever crazy amount of detail you want, but it all has to work in 3D so it’s a very different beast from comics. Comics are all about readability and turn around. The work I’ve done in comics has gotten me to simplify and think about working more quickly. Meanwhile my work in games has helped me understand the medium more, and be more thoughtful of the work you’re doing.

BuzzFocus: What challenges or obstacles did you face working on this project that you didn’t expect?

Warren: I totally did not expect how much work there would be with so many separate layers within the card set for Maggie Darwin. Each of the animals, Maggie, and different depths of the background all had to be on separate layers. I had to make sure everything was balanced out in terms of their details, sizes and shapes to all fit together as the card filled up more and more. Often I had to rearrange the layout to also make sure the progression made sense. Constantly going back and forth like that was quite challenging.

Chuck: Well, honestly most of the challenge might have been self imposed haha. For Outcast Odyssey, they initially showed me one of the cards for the game and had told me, “Ok, so we need 4 variations of these cards, each looking more powerful than the last”. It’s an idea I love, there’s nothing cooler in video games to me than feeling that progression, getting that cool new sword or that gnarly new set of armor, so I was all on board for that. They’d showed me a few cards, they were all awesome looking cards, but the transformation from card to card was not as noticeable as I thought it could be. [The] attitude I had with pretty much all my cards, “Maybe I’m not the most amazing artist on this game, but I can have some different looking cards” haha.

BuzzFocus: What’s your favorite part about working with video games? Worst?

Warren: Well, I totally love working with my team and making sure we are all on the same page. Its a great feeling knowing that your client is really excited about the initial concepts and happy with the end results.

The worst would have to be a few of the struggles during the process in terms of the designs. This is where I can often frustrate the hell out of myself, until I create something that looks awesome to me.

Chuck: [Sometimes] I feel like working the way I do, I miss the most awesome parts of working on games. I work from home [and] have for years. A lot of people hear it and they’re like “omg that must be awesome!” Truth is: it is and isn’t. There’s for sure no “office drama”, but you also miss out on making work friends and seeing how the actual game progresses and forms. Plus, it’s also not like a common workplace in that everyone has an inherent common interest. There’s no “hey man, did you watch the (boring sports thing) last night?” or something like that.

In my opinion, that’s the best thing about working on video games, unless its YOUR game. For instance, we all met up at San Diego Comic Con and I had a blast talking to everyone who worked on it about the game. This is not just some cash grab game, Jonathan Durr made the prototype in his spare time and Magic Pixel and Namco Bandai have come together to make it happen because they believe in it. Those kind of stories and people are what’s great about working on games to me.
As far as the worst? I dunno, turn arounds? Haha I hate those.

BuzzFocus: Are there any big or jarring differences between working on comic and video game art?

Warren: Hmm… Well in the comic world, you need to stick with the current designs for the characters and world involved. In gaming, you generally create new characters for brand new games, or updated designs for characters in the sequels, so there’s a lot more room for creativity, even in terms of the environments depending on the game.

Chuck: Well in one single project I’ve gotten to do both so I have a fresh perspective on it. First and foremost, it really really depends on the people you’re working for. You can have a fantastic or horrible experience in either, depending on who your bosses are. Thankfully this project has been one of those rare fantastic ones, so it’s just been about getting the job done.

Comics and games both have their pro’s and con’s, it really just depends on the personality. I’ve seen some guys that you can just go, “hey! I need 40 different kinds of space containers for a space game set in space!” and they can whip it out before lunchtime. Those dudes belong in games. Likewise, if someone can draw 22 pages the same 4 people hiding in a house from zombies for 4 issues, THAT guy belongs in comics. It’s all about what you find interesting as an artist.

In a lot of ways Outcast Odyssey wasn’t a traditional kind of game, as far as creating the art was concerned. Usually games are all about character designs, environment designs and about 20 versions of everything. This game is the first in what (we hope) will be a series so there wasn’t that need for continuity or previous reference material. We pretty much designed a lot of the characters right on the cards as we were going, so it was a lot of fun!

BuzzFocus: Any future or current projects that you would like to announce or share?

Warren: I’m currently finishing up a bunch of super hero related artwork for an anatomy art book, 21 Draw, being funded through Indigogo. Its been a real fun project to work on which will also be featuring 100 amazing artists from the entertainment industry.

I will also be doing my own personal studies of which I will be getting my fans involved in, so make sure to follow me on my Facebook page for that – https://www.facebook.com/ArtofWarrenLouw

Chuck: For right now, I’m working on the Outcast Odyssey web comic to help promote the game. Outside of that, I don’t know if I’m allowed to talk about yet!

BuzzFocus: Is there any dream project or game that you would love to work on?

Warren: Wow… well I’ve been a huge fan of the characters from Soul Calibur, so working on such a project would be incredible! I think Im still a far way from being talented enough for something like that, so hopefully one day!

Chuck: I’ve been doing this kind of work since I was 15 so there’s been a bunch. If you would have asked me when I was 15, I would have said for Joe Madureira to crash through the walls of my high school in an awesome car and tell me, “I need your help finishing Battle Chasers!” haha. In my early 20’s, I had “a proper sequel” to Final Fantasy Tactics I’d been working on and designing for almost a year in my spare time. Nearing 30, I have more dream projects than ever! From Joe Abercrombie to call me up and say “I want you to adapt Half a King into a comic!” to about 3 different ideas for games I have a burning desire to make before I die. I figure I have a pretty good shot at least one of these crazy ideas to come to fruition.

BuzzFocus: Thank you for your time, gentlemen.

Warren and Chuck: Thank you.

Upcoming platformer, Leo’s Fortune shows promise

In order to be fun, a platformer needs to do one crucial thing right and that thing is precise physics. If the game feels and plays right as you are running and jumping along, then everything else falls into place. I should be able to intuitively slow down as I’m running and have the exact effect happen on screen. Leo’s Fortune is a platformer that features a little furball that can run, jump, float, sink and swim. Yes, Leo’s Fortune nails all the basics and has a strong foundation for a rather quirky and charming mobile/tablet game.

Story is told through good-looking artwork that has its own unique style. The art combined with the voice-over is very reminiscent to one of Tim Schafer’s recent titles, The Cave. The gameplay is accomplished with moving left and right, jumping and inflating and deflating. Unique to Leo’s world as opposed to your Mario’s and Sonic’s is that inflating and deflating can cause effects such as building momentum on slopes, wedging between tight areas and sinking/surfacing in water. Puzzle elements will also slowly introduce itself and they will demand some clever use of pufferfishing up.

Stages are cleared after making it through just like in other platformers, but the bigger goal is to get all 3 stars. Each star represents completing a stage with particular excellence and these include collecting every coin, not dying a single time and completing the stage under a certain time limit. What’s also neat as opposed to other games with 3 star systems is that you do not need to accomplish them all in one run through. You can complete a stage focusing exclusively on beating the timer then go back and take your sweet time collecting coins. Getting all the stars in a world will unlock bonus challenge stages.

Leo’s Fortune will release on iOS first and other platforms on a later date. The tentative release date window is later this month for iOS.

‘Clash of Clans’ adds X-Mas Elixer Boost to Incite Holiday Clan Attacks – But no Dark Elixer Boost in Sight

Get ready for more Clash of Clans raids this holiday season.

Once again, Supercell has initiated a resource boost for iOS gamers. In August, the studio gave us an anniversary boost, which raised gold, elixer and dark elixer collection for the modest cost of a single gem.

My clan tends to play Clash with a Game of Thrones‘ mindset. We have the Iron Born on one side, who don’t make any IAPs (in-app-purchases). And then we have the Gold Cloaks, who spend money every week because they lack patience. So the Iron Born rejoiced when this boost came as did the Gold Cloaks, who took a short break from micro transactions.

In October, Supercell gave us a Halloween boost on the Spell Factory. This allowed us to create spells in one-fourth the time – again, for only one gem.

Both of these were welcome boosts. However, in November, when the spell boost went away, Supercell converted the cost of spell production from gold to elixer. Now, you have to add in the cost of both spell and troop production, when deciding on which village to raid for elixer.

The new X-Mas bonus allows us to boost elixer collection and barracks production at the cost of one gem. This is a welcome boost. However, it pales in comparison to our prior two boosts since it only covers regular elixer. Why not dark elixer too since that takes forever to collect? Also, since you’ll probably start attacking more, you’ll start spending more elixer. It’s just like real life, make more money… spend more money. Ah well, that’s life for you.

The new elixer boost is great for folks who have been trying to upgrade troops in their research labs by farming other villages. If you’ve been trying to raise gold to upgrade those defensive structures, like the pricey Wizard Tower or long-term Hidden Tesla, then you can focus on doing more attacks every hour with the Barracks boost.

Just remember, if you’re saving for an elixer upgrade, having the ability to raid more doesn’t mean anything if you end up just breaking even on your elixer with every attack.

The Clash of Clans X-Mas bonus is active through Jan 7, 2014.

‘Feed Me Oil 2′ to play off of Black Gold puzzles more than its predecessor

Mobile puzzle game, Feed Me Oil 2 is on its way to iOS before the end of the year and it will build on the original’s concept of maneuvering oil through obstacles to fill a creature’s mouth. These obstacles include walls, gravity and other physical barriers. Feed Me Oil 2 takes these and also introduces new stumbling blocks, such as water and ice to play off of the physical properties of oil. Everyone knows oil floats on water and the game takes this scientific fact and, you guessed it, has oil floating on water as a gameplay element.

Feed Me Oil 2 will release first on iOS and should find its way onto Android devices later on, much like the original did more than a year after launch.

Blast Zone to bring classic gameplay into the mobile world

Kabam, known for its social and strategy games for mobile and tablets, is bringing a classic gameplay style to the world of freemium. Upcoming title, Blast Zone is coming this December and it harkens back to the good ‘ole days of Bomberman. The similarity is drawn from the concept of having extra cutesy characters who can plant, kick and blow up bombs and placing them into a grid to duke it out. It’s simple, old school fun and it should bring you back to the days of Bomberman ’93 for the TurboGrafx 16.

Blast Zone will impressively feature 400 unique levels offline, but the most joy will come when playing online. If I got a request on Facebook to play some Bomberman right now, I’d say ‘heck yes.’ Blast Zone is the closest thing to that and I see fun times to come blowing friends up and competing for scores. Purchasing gear and upgrades is doable with in-game and real money and that’s where the freemium part comes in; however, skill always prevails and that’s the important thing.

No firm date has been made yet, but Blast Zone will be releasing on Google Play and Apple App Store sometime in December.

Nasty Swastika Found in ‘Clash of Clans’ Camp

If you play games on iPhone or iPad, then you’ve probably come across a game called Clash of Clans, developed by Supercell. In this game, you get to form or join a Clan with friends and people you meet through the global chat. Then, you build up your camp’s offensive and defensive units so that you can attack other camps and defend your own, respectively.

It’s a game for all ages, but sometimes games like this get abused by users who want to make derogatory comments or use excessive profanity. It happens all the time in multiplayer games such as Halo or Call of Duty, where players will use various slurs (often racial) in naming their teams. However, those come with an “M” rating for Mature and the online interactions are rated.

In Clash of Clans, you can report players who use profanity or other inappropriate communication in Global Chat. Unfortunately, you can’t do anything if players put an unseemly word or symbol in their village. Recently, players have been leaving words or phrases, written by assembling walls like Lego blocks, in their camps, which spell out a name or make an image.

A friend of mine recently sent me this still. He plays with his family on Clash, and was shocked that his nephew would see a swastika in another player’s camp. If a player would put a swastika up in his/her camp, then how many other players may leave hateful messages? Unfortunately, he had no way of directly reporting the user.

It begs the question as to whether there should be some restrictions or a rating system placed on games like this, where children can potentially be exposed to hateful messages and user interactions. At the least, it would be good ethics for a reporting system to be put in place – if only for peace of mind.

However, not all messages are bad. At one point, there was a player named Jorge Yao, who dominated the Clash of Clans leaderboards. When he retired, he left a giant message in his camp spelling out the words “Thank you.” Now, that’s a good gamer.

iOS: Rayman Jungle Run infused with 10 new levels & playable Globox

Rayman Jungle Run iOS gamers are getting a free patch for the holiday courtesy of Ubisoft. The new upgrade features the new Potpourri world, composed of 9 new levels and one new Land of the Livid Dead.

In the new world, gamers will be able to tap plants to make platforms appear. There will also be water slides.

Also, for $0.99, gamers will be able to play as Globox.

The new patch is available today.

Rayman Jungle Run
Rayman Jungle Run - Ubisoft

Available Now: Borderlands Legends brings the Wasteland to iOS – expect less gore

Action-RPG and strategy combine to give iOS gamers a new Wasteland experience in Borderlands Legends on iPhone and iPad.

But if you were one of the “few and proud” who bellyached over less-gore in Borderlands 2, don’t be surprised by Legends‘ less than gory take on the Wasteland. The top-down view gives little room for the gore buckets of blood and decapitation you witnessed in the first Borderlands. However, there’s still some great cartoony blood to be found in this iOS adventure, plus all the leveling and loot hording you crave.

Borderlands Legends on iOS through the Apple App Store
Borderlands Legends - 2K Games

View the Borderlands Legends trailer:

iOS & Android Gamers: Kick off June with a Pac-Chomp Discount

If you haven’t had the chance to check out Pac-Man on iOS or Android yet, you can kick off June with Pac-Chomp. It’s a unique combination of match-3 gem gameplay and the classic Pac-Man game.

Oddly enough, I just discovered this hidden gem on Google Play market, currently a free download for the basic version. Instead of matching three gems or more, gamers match three like-colored ghosts. However, Pac-Man is also on the board. You can just match ghosts to advance to the next level, but the joy is trying to get Pac-Man to connect with one of the power pellets. Once he does, the ghosts change into the highlighted, blue-colored ghosts you remember from the classic Pac-Man game. Then, you can gobble them up by swiping your finger, controlling Pac-Man.

Currently, Namco is celebrating one million downloads of the game by selling the full game for $.99 instead of $1.99 through June 6 on iOS. On Android, it’s discounted to $.99 from $3.86. Yeah, it’s a pretty drastic drop on Android. I’ve been playing the free version and have been getting hours of fun chomping action in. So far, I haven’t upgraded yet. The full version gets you past Level 6. There are tons of power ups in the free game to enjoy between stints of Temple Run. So I’d suggest you check out the free version for yourself and make the decision from there.

Get Pac-Chomp on iPhone:
PAC-CHOMP! - Namco Networks America Inc. Games

Get Pac-Chomp on iPad:
PAC-CHOMP! - Namco Networks America Inc. Games

Review: Cygnett InSound Noise Cancelling Headphones

Noise cancelling headphones are designed for consumers who value their hearing and are willing to put a price tag on it. Instead of blasting your music at the highest volume, you can simply cancel out external acoustic noise to get a more robust sound, without the added fear of hearing loss over time.

The Cygnett InSound Noise Cancelling Headphones offer a low cost option on saving those eardrums you value so dearly. These lightweight cans are excellent for drowning out ambient sounds like airplane noises, running water, the sound of a train grinding against the tracks, standard commuter traffic and other constant ambient noises. Dialogue and baby cries will still come across, but you’ll be hearing a clearer sound without the need to crank your volume up.

The headphones use two AAA batteries that are put inside the left earcan. On the right earcan, there is an On/Off button. If you switch it On without any music playing, you will notice a very low hissing sound. However, when you do have music playing, you will immediately hear the difference in sound quality. It’s as though you cranked the volume up a few notches, only you didn’t need to. Eardrums saved. There is also a volume control on your headset, next to the On/Off switch.

The actual audio quality is good for midranges and classical music. Tchaikovsky “Swan Lake” sounded excellent. However, these headphones won’t capture diverse ranges of music, from excessive highs to low bass drops. You’ll still get a good sound, but don’t expect to get the same dynamic range you would get from higher priced AKG, Sennheiser or Boss headphones. The Sony MDR series is also a good line for music lovers. However, you’d be cranking up the volume to block out those unwanted sounds instead of simply switching a button on and saving those precious eardrums of yours. Standard iOS and Android video games will sound great on these earcans, but explosions and artillery will have a muted feel.

The earpads do an excellent job of cupping your ears without feeling excessively large. Other headphones tend to opt for large round earcans. This one is oval shaped. The headset does get warm after a while if you’re using the Noise cancelling technology. I found that after forty minutes, I had to let my ears breath.

The Cygnett InSound Noise Cancelling Headphones comes with a two-plug airplane adaptor, carrying case, and two audio cables (a red and black cable of varying lengths). One problem I had was that the shield on one end of the black plug kept coming off. It didn’t happen on the red cable so hopefully it was an isolated incident. However, it was annoying when I had that side plugged into my handheld device or computer. Whenever I would try to pull the plug out, the shield would come off first then I had to grab the white part, which is guarding the wire. I’ve never had that problem with a set of headphones before, especially one priced over a hundred.

Overall, InSound Noise Cancelling Headphones are a great option for handheld device users, who aren’t ready to step into the $200 price range. If you travel often via train, bus or airplane, these earcans will definitely give you delightful musical solitude for a low cost. Your eardrums will thank you for it.

Rating:

8 / 10