...to the personal blog of Kynan Pearson. You might know me from my work on the Metroid Prime Series, Donkey Kong Country Returns and Halo 4. This blog is here so I can share some of my design philosophies, dump some ideas and post some of my random art. These are all my views and do not represent those of my employer.


Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Ocean Above

I've been kinda interested in aquatic themes and characters recently.

The Ocean Above is a story I've been messing around with about two great bodies of water. One is a vast and beautiful ocean which fills the sky as far as the eye can see. It floats above the dark and murkey waters below, suspended by a force called the great divide.

The main character Finlo falls from his perfect life in the ocean above, landing in the contaminated depths below. He tries to find his way back but things turn out far more difficult than he could ever imagine.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Coming Soon?

Coming Soon!
·         How writing down your intentions can sometimes help to motivate you and allow you to remember.
I thought it would be cool to list out some of the possible blog entries I’m thinking about for the future. This is more for me to just keep track of subjects I have interest in talking about. I might not get to all of them but they are all things I talk about with friends from time to time. Some of these might end up short as you can get a lot out of the titles but I’m looking forward to getting them down in writing.
I won’t be discussing Halo 4 stuff or anything relating to 343Industries. There are more official sources for those subjects. This will just be some of my personal opinions and philosophies. Hopefully there will be something in here that might be of interest to you. They might change in subject and tone as well once they happen. Let’s look into the future and see what’s coming soon… err or later! ;)

      Subtractive Design!
·         How less is sometimes more.

·         Some exercises to help you flex your creative brain hamsters.
·         Most humans are genetically hardwired to find certain visual things appealing. Here’s a few of them to think about.
Highest Highs! Lowest Lows!
·         The emotional journey of game development.
Find your Family!
·         Who you surround yourself with matters in life, work and play.
Metroidvania for Beginners!
·         A few helpful hints for developing games featuring lock and key mechanics and re-traversal elements.
It’s not what you do! It’s how well you do it!
·        There are lots of games that do the same things, why are some of them better than others!
Platformer Polish!
·         Some often overlooked things to consider when making side scrolling platformers!
Your camera IS your game!
·         How the camera is the view into your world.
·         Some things are iconic, timeless and definitive. This is what makes them that way.
Take the Throne or Make Your Own!
·         A discussion about Red and Blue Ocean Theory.
Yo Dawg I heard you like Zelda!
·         My opinions on how I think Ico and Shadow of the Colossus may have been influenced by Zelda.
Go with the flow!
·         Combos in Street Fighter 2 were a bug! Why sometimes you should work with what you’ve got instead of making what you wanted.
·         There are factors in play that are out of your control.
Comfort and Surprise!
·        Two great tastes... something, something, together!
Everything Matters!
·         You might not care about it yourself or even realize it exists, but someone else sure does!
·         How to see the things that you ordinarily cannot.
It Takes a Team!
·         How you need people even if you are making a game by yourself!
·         Everyone on a team matters and brings more to the table than you know!
Destructive Games!
·        How some games have the power to ruin your ability to enjoy others.
·         Limitations create gameplay opportunities.
·         Everyone would love to do anything they ever wanted without restriction… Until they can!
A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words!
·         How including pictures can make what you are talking about more interesting and understandable!
·         We live in a world of instant gratification so most people don’t have time to waste reading.
·         How I should have included more images in this post. J
To be continued… In actual blog entries.


Seeing how the world didn't end and all I thought I'd post up an old sketch showing how the cycle still continues. You gotta keep on Gurgin'!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Art Drop

Here's a large assortment of art out of my sketchpad. I finally got around to scanning it all. It's just a bunch of different ideas. I'll hopefully paint some of this stuff up in the near future. This is all about a year and half to two years old at this point. I have some plans for a few of these characters.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Vexx: Making Of - Part 1

A long time ago in a company long since destroyed there existed a game which would eventually become known as Vexx. At one point in development it was known as Clip and Mischief and then it became Jinx. While digging around on one of my older laptops I came across some of my early concept and level design work. I thought I'd share some of it since as far as I'm aware most of this hasn't been seen before.

Here are a few enemy creature concepts I did in early 2000.

Here is the first World concept I did for the game which was used for internal demonstrations as well as for the reveal to game journalists. I did close ups for all of the different sections of the game but this is the only one I've found so far. Gregg Hargrove did the colors. I think Jools Watsham might have painted one of the islands as well.

Here are a few concepts for the character when he was still called Clip or Jinx. I did the line work and painting on the non human characters and Gregg Hargrove did the coloring on the one with the Vivi-ish hat and boots. :P
This is a concept I did for what Vexx might look like in the sequel which never went into production. Remember all of this art is from 2000 though this one might have been 01 or 02. I wanted to give Vexx summon-able spirit creatures that would function kind of like the stands in Jojo's Bizarre Adventure. I know the summon creature here looks stupid but hey it's not like I would spend the time to redo it now. R.I.P. Vexx.

 This last one is from one of my levels called Dragon Reach. This was early in progress geo I put together to figure out the pathing to objectives. Gregg Hargrove did a concept over the top so we had a visual target.
I had built just under 1/3 of all of the designer level geo in the shipping game but the game was originally supposed to have twice as many levels. All of them were built but near half were cut to make sure we could finish and polish the ones that made the cut. It feels a little weird showing such old work but it is fun to look back. Vexx isn't all that well known but I had fun working on the game and met a ton of amazing people along the way.
I'll post up some more designer block in geo from in production levels in a 2nd part eventually. I'll make sure Part 2 is more design focussed.

Good Idea, Bad Idea

When making games how do you tell the difference between a good idea and a bad idea? I was once told that when you describe a good idea to someone they can’t stop thinking of the ways in which it could be used and what they could do with it. When you describe a bad idea to someone they have trouble thinking of more than one way to use it or they require more information. While this might not mean the idea is actually “bad” there might be better ideas for the amount of time or resources you have to make something. This may all seem like common sense but sometimes common sense isn’t so common. Something can sound good and then end up being bad so you’ll still have to use your best judgment.

This brings me to the way in which I found that this good idea recognition philosphy can work. Some of the best ideas are things which require little effort and provide big results. Take for instance the Brick in Super Mario Bros. The brick is an amazing idea in that it’s simple and complex.
·         You can stand on them.
·         You can bump them from below to kill enemies on top.
·         You can break them when you are large.
·         You can hide them in thin air so that they are only revealed when jumping into them.
·         You can hide pickups in them secretly.
·         You can put “?” on the side to make them special.
·         You can hide secret vines in them that take you to bonus levels.
·         You can build an entire game worth of content with Bricks alone!
It seems simple but the brick is an amazing idea. How about we look at a different game like Donkey Kong Country! DKC includes devices called barrel cannons. This is just a simple object that sucks you in and spits you out but it’s incredibly versatile.
·         You can shoot from barrel to barrel.
·         You can shoot in a straight line.
·         You can shoot with an arc.
·         You can shoot past obstacles.
·         You can shoot through enemies.
·         You can bounce off of enemies.
·         You can shoot into and out of the screen.
·         They can rotate.
·         They can move.
·         They can blow up after being used.
·         You can build an entire game worth of content with Barrel Cannons alone!
There’s even more things you can do with them but you get the point. Now let’s look at Angry Birds. I’ll save you the bullet point list this time. The entire game is made from simple breakable physics objects and pigs put into any number of variations. There is a small quantity of pieces to use but you can make an infinite variation of levels off of those pieces. What a great idea.
Minecraft also shares this style of content. The entire game revolves around nothing more than placing and removing blocks and yet you can build an entire game worth of content with those blocks. These are all great ideas.
If you were making these games you wouldn’t be able to run out of ideas on how to use these components because they are versatile. I’m sure you’re now able to think of any number of other games with good ideas executed in ways that let them create a lot from very little. Portal, Journey, Street Fighter, Cut the Rope, Canabalt and Tetris are all built on good ideas.
Good ideas are still just ideas and have to be executed on well in order to become a reality. This concept of good idea recognition isn’t restricted to just mechanics, gimmicks and objects. It works on stories and all of the other content that goes into games. The good idea can also be the creation of a tool that allows you to make varied content easier.
Hopefully you’ve found this helpful but remember that this is just a philosophy and not a hard rule. Good ideas inspire you to think about all of the things that can be done with them but even ideas which can only be used once can still be good, they just might not as helpful in the end. Some say there’s no such thing as a bad idea. While this might be true I would still advise you to seek an idea that might be better just in case. J


 People often ask me what it takes to get into the game industry. In a lot of ways it boils down to one important factor… Motivation! Most of the people that I know in games, films, music, comics or entertainment have a similar trait. They are (or at least were) motivated to do something. They were willing to learn how to do something new by trying and then continuing to try. That first step is key because without it there will be no other steps.

You don’t need anything to get into the games industry other than pure and simple motivation. Every single person doing anything that contributes to the creation of something new didn’t know how to do it before they started.
If you want to be an artist you don’t need to know how to draw or to 3D model. You need to motivate yourself to try! There’s no excuse for not trying. If you want to learn how to design then just design something. You will never succeed in learning how to do anything if you aren’t motivated enough to just do it. Jimmy Hendrix was a shitty guitar player… when he first picked up a guitar. He was willing to try where others might have given up. He still had to practice and he had the self-motivation to do just that.
If you say something like I can’t be a programmer because I don’t know how to program then you are temporarily forgetting that one key ingredient. Motivation makes it happen. The only difference between those that do and those that don’t is motivation. You can’t learn without action! Don’t wait for someone else to tell you what you need to do! Don’t wait to learn how to do something before getting started! Stop making excuses about how you don’t know how to do it or that you can’t! Jump into action and try, then try more, then continue until one day you realize that you have accomplished your goals and you’re now doing what you wanted to do in the first place.

The funny thing about the games industry is that playing games and overcoming challenges requires the same skills as making games themselves. Lots of games challenge you and only through determination and motivation will you progress. The same resolve is required to learn the trade. The only difference is that games reward you with sounds and images that someone else created for you. Learning a trade rewards you with things you create yourself!
Practice, practice, practice, practice! Every attempt brings you closer to success. You can do anything you set your mind to. Just stay motivated and good things will happen!
Here’s a great interview with Jordan Mechner and Eric Chahi where Mechner talks about the 1 3 2 method. Give it a read; you’ll be glad you did! http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/4239/the_auteur_forum_mechner_and_.php
If you’re in the industry or trying to get into it for the first time remember this one thing. Stay motivated and keep going. You’ll get there eventually!

Group Photo

I like to doodle a bunch of random creatures in my sketchpad. These are from a couple of years ago. I start with a thick Sharpie outline and then I figure out the inside details. I draw in pen only so I have to live with any mistakes I make. This sometimes creates happy accidents that I wouldn't have arrived at if I had any intention to begin with.

The Expanse

There's Power in Words!

Words hold power! I know you’ve probably heard something along those lines at some point in your life but it’s absolutely true. What you call something defines it!

Let’s look at the simple example of titles or positions. Imagine I asked you if you would like to meet one of two people. The first one is a SALES ASSOCIATE and the other one is the PRESIDENT. Not everyone will choose the same one but you can almost guarantee that more people will chose to meet the president than the sales associate. The funny thing is that both of those choices could be the same person. You can do this with any number of positions from directors to custodians to workers. These are just words used to describe someone. Now the sales associate could be more amazing in every way than the president but people have to react to the only info you have provided. You can see how powerful a simple label can be.
How about we switch gears and talk about descriptions. This is where hyperbole can become a factor. Let’s say I offer you the choice between and INCREDIBLE sandwich and a TERRIBLE sandwich! The sandwiches are both technically the same sandwich but the choice is clear! How about a more subtle approach? You can have a good sandwich or you can have an ok sandwich. The choice is no longer so clear which is why people tend to exaggerate. Again simple words have the power to sway a decision.
These principles apply to fame and advertising as well. The more you hear a word the more familiar and comfortable you are with the word. This leads to the word having more power. Let’s say you travel to a country and you get arrested. While you are in jail you are given a choice between a COKE or an INGLIOMDORETRIA SODA. Most people around the world would choose a Coke, even if the ingredients are the same and even if they’d never had a sip of Coke in their life. There’s history, familiarity and comfort there. They have heard Coke so they feel more comfortable choosing that.
Words can be self-fulfilling prophecies as well. Have you ever heard someone talk about how they can never meet anyone when they are sitting in a room full of people? Have you ever heard some say I can’t do it and then never make an attempt? Words have the power to manifest things by how they not only influence the speaker but also those around them.
So now let’s look at games development. You’re making a children’s adventure game and your team consists of 30 people who will all be working on various things. You are in the process of making content for the game and put together a list of assets that need to be developed. The list might include entries that look something like this:
·         Levels
o   World 2 – Room03
·         Enemies
o   Generic Mover
If you are in development you might see the list and think that style of content description isn’t uncommon. You’ll figure out what you want to do with those along the way and then give them final names once you’ve defined them. Now think about what we are discussing when looking back on that list. It’s all up to random chance. Someone might figure out something cool to fill in there but often time’s people have time pressure. They might not have direct access to the writer or director. They might just have to make something and then pass that on to someone else. So think about what happens when the description they get is generic. How much character will they actually add to it?  What would someone think if they hear about it from the outside and share that with another person?
Let’s adjust the list so that the assets now have some type of name description.

·         Levels
o   Glowing Mountain – Cave of Wonder
·         Enemies
o   Laughing Leaper
These words have now created a description and an expectation of the assets to be created. Even without any additional information anyone that hears about them will be more inspired to think about what they would do with those or what they mean. It’s not guaranteed that you will end up with better results but based on what you call something, what word you use, you have the power to change or improve whatever it is.
Another talking point is in regards to picking titles for a game from existing words or making something up. Remember that a word will define something and often times you only get one shot. You see 2 games behind the counter at your game story, LEGENDARY or STANDORETHICA. Sometimes you can gain interest by using a made up word as it’s mysterious, but the vast majority of people will pick the familiar word. They will be able to say Legendary and will understand it immediately. When people speak about other things and someone says legendary then you might think of the game even though that wasn’t the context in which it was said. Legendary has a history full of meaning. The other title just can’t compete.
There are risks associated with using familiar words though. Unless your use becomes known to begin with it might be swept away and lost in a sea of other uses.
Look at your favorite Films, Music and Games. Think about all of the content within them. Now look at some that haven’t succeed. Some of the most famous and popular are familiar and defining in ways that describe them in a superior manner. Would a game like Street Fighter have been as successful if it had been called Shinku Hadoken? Would the Master Sword have been as important or timeless if it had been called Garudo's Bane? Would Master Chief be as iconic or memorable if his name had been Nathan Smiggles?  StarWars, Batman, Superman, Tomb Raider, Megaman and Avatar all had familiar words before you’d ever seen them.
There’s always going to be more to any subject but just remember that what you call something defines it in ways that can expand beyond your expectations. People can repeat those words, they can have prior meanings and they can influence how something is perceived, received or even created. Remember how much power your words can have the next time you name something or describe it to a friend. It can make all the difference in the world.