...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.


Saturday, January 26, 2013

Just For Fun

From the end of a night spent sketching with friends. Good Times!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Older Digital Creatures/Characters

Here are a few creatures/characters I did between 8-12ish years ago. I feel I've gotten alot better over the years but I still wanted to put these up before getting my new art posted.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Guide to Making Metroidvania Style Games: Part 2ish!

I felt it was neccesary to include this next section before finalizing all of the components of Part 2. Here is a helpful guide to use when planning individual level layouts. I'll complete the rest of this blog post anothetr time.

Core Interaction Loop Walkthrough

This image is an example of how to lay out a level for a Metroidvania style game. The glossary should explain what the symbols on the map represent. This layout could be for a side-scroller, an overhead view or even a fully 3D game.  

The scales and shapes of the rooms are meaningless. They can be whatever size works best for them once you start building. This just helps you orient yourself when mentally walking through the game in the planning stages and helps you remember where you need to put things. For the purposes of this example I’ve made the layout mostly linear. Now to walk through the design philosophies used to create this layout.

1.       Players enter this world where you see the start label.

2.       The standard entries are doors which players can open with the abilities they have at this point. They are labeled as green.

3.       If your game will include save points rather than a save anywhere system then you might want to have one at the beginning of the world so that there is minimal back tracking if players die.

4.       Room A1 is the players introduction to this world. This is the first thing players see that shows off the world theme. The room should be impressive and introduce some new element to catch the players attention.

5.       Exploration in Room A1 may reward players by allowing them to find a secret. This can be important or trivial based on what you have to offer players.

6.       Players exit A1 and go through a transition area before reaching A2. Transition areas can be used for variety, allowing players to get a break from action or even to mask loading if your engine requires.

7.       A2 is a room that only needs to serve one purpose. This room needs to ensure that players will immediately see an area that requires the use of an ability they don’t have yet. This is a blocker preventing the player from progressing. I’ve labeled it here in red. This room funnels the player so they are forced to see this blocker and it needs to stand out. It needs to be framed in such a way that it imprints in the players memory. It is the only important, attention grabbing part of this room.

(In order to make this blocker stand out you have a few tools at your disposal. You can use lighting in order to highlight the area. You can place a memorable landmark such as a statue or a symbol here in order to make it stand out. You can also shape your room in such a way where this location opens up. Do whatever needs to be done to foreshadow the point leading into the area the player can’t quite get to yet.)

8.       After seeing the blocker in A2 players are routed back towards the only available new exit. They can see another blocker on the way here but this one shouldn’t be emphasized. (You will understand why this second blocker is placed like this later)

9.       Players eventually make their way into A3. This could potentially be a puzzle or exploration based area. Players can solve the puzzle in the obvious way in order to gain access to A4. If players are cleverer then they can find out how to get into Optional B1. This route is not required but you should make B1 worthwhile by hiding a secret there.

10.   Eventually players will be routed through A4. This could be a combat heavy room or area which is where the meat of the encounters should take place. It still shouldn’t be too difficult because you don’t want players to die right before a save.

11.   The save point follows this encounter room if you are crafting the save locations. This way if players die in the next room or in a boss encounter they don’t have far to go in order to try again. You don’t want to put the saves too close to a boss room because then it can become too predictable when a boss encounter is going to happen.

12.   The Last area before the Boss is A5. In this layout this room serves two purposes. The first is to tease an even more distant future ability which will give players the motivation to return to this world after obtaining it later in the game. The second is to provide a slight challenge before facing the Boss. This also allows players a chance to refill any ammo or resources by farming them right before the boss. (There is a secret hidden in the room that players can’t reach yet. This is here to leave you a way to incorporate something you haven’t planned. This secret could be a power up, an expansion or even a route back into this level from another world.)

13.   You’ll notice that there is a One Way Entry indicator on the door leading into the ABoss room. This One Way Entry can be as simple as the door locking behind you or it could be more complex like being forced to drop down into an arena. The point is you don’t want players getting back the way they came.

14.   If your game includes Bosses then this is the place where you would want to place the encounter. If you aren’t going to include bosses then just treat this as an area dedicated to obtaining a new ability. Once you defeat the boss here then you get the framed reveal of the “Special Thing You Want”

15.   The New Ability should be enticing to players. It should be located in a place where it feels intentional and special.

16.   Once the player obtains the new ability then they must use this new ability to exit the room. This is how you enforce that a player learns what a new ability does. Most often you don’t even need a tutorial because they can’t fail here. They have to use the ability to move on past the barrier which is labeled in Red. It should be obvious to players.

17.   Once players have used the ability in order to get past the barrier then they are required to use it again in the next transition area. At this point you have just reminded them of what the new ability does. Here is where the magic happens.

18.   The exit they just came out of by using their special new ability just created a shortcut to exactly where they needed to go next. It even points them in the right direction. They have now entered back into A2 directly facing the most memorable landmark in the level.

19.   Players went through a long level sequence in order to gain a new ability and they didn’t have to walk back through the level they just fought through. (This is an important part of the polish in a crafted Metroidvania flow) The levels should be built to reveal shortcuts upon gaining new abilities. This doesn’t just happen by accident. You have to intend it.

20.   Players then use their new ability to get past the special attention grabbing barrier and they are rewarded by getting into the next area. They used a new ability 3 times in a row. Players will now be more inclined to remember they have this new ability even if they don't use it again for a while.

This is the basic philosophy you can use for crafting your levels. You never want to repeat the same things so you’ll have to get more and more creative when it comes to differentiating your layouts. Next up I will show you how to connect your world layouts so they merge together to make traversal convenient and empowering as the game progresses. You will want to include back tracking but you always want the back tracking to have a purpose.

To Be Continued…

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Guide to Making Metroidvania Style Games: Part 1


Metroidvania: A style of game (2D or 3D) which often features exploration based gameplay where a player controlled character gains new abilities that allow them to progress. These games are often action adventure titles with re-traversal elements. They include a growth system that unlocks meaningful upgrades that are required for game completion. The name Metroidvania comes from mixing Metroid and Castlevania though there are other games which use the same foundational design philosophies. These titles include all of the Zelda games, Shadow Complex and Cave Story. There is really no significant difference in game structure between a Zelda game and a Metroid or SotN style Castlevania.
The following series is intended for game makers who would like to take on the difficult task of creating a game within the Metroidvania genre. If you have never made a game before and are looking here for advice on how to make games I suggest you first get your feet wet by jumping into a tool such as Unity, Unreal Engine, Construct 2 or any other assortment game construction tools. You’ll need to know how to make games beforehand as I’m not going to teach you how to make games from scratch.
If you are still reading then I expect you already have the skillset required for game development and are looking for insight towards planning a game in the Metroidvania genre. This is going to be a multi-part series so if you don’t find what you are looking for right now I will probably get to it in the one of the next few parts.


Planning a Metroidvania game can be a daunting task and there are a lot of pitfalls you can run into if you don’t plan correctly before starting development. The reason you don’t see a lot of Metroidvania style titles is that they don’t typically work if you are using a linear development model. A good Metroidvania game requires the developer to understand how all abilities and tools function before getting started making levels. (Note: You can still make a Metroidvania game without having all abilities implemented beforehand but it makes it highly likely you will be more limited in what you can do later without massive amounts of rework.) Not only do you want to have all of your player earnable abilities implemented, but you’ll also want to set up a string of test levels which simulate your progression and growth through the game (I will cover this in more detail later).
These are my personal philosophies and thoughts on Metroidvania development so don’t take this as a rigid planning model. Only you will know what you need to do and how to do it best so look at this as a guide and not law. Some of the most innovative decisions you can make require you to break the rules from time to time. The design strategies discussed here work for 2D or 3D games and any assortment of camera styles (side scrolling, overhead, first person, etc…).


Before you start building levels you need to build the foundation of your game.

1.       Define the premise of your game is and what makes it unique.

a.       Is it 2D or 3D?
b.      How does the camera work? (Is it a side-scroller, overhead, player controlled, first person, third person, spline based, scripted, static, etc.)
c.       What does the player control? (A character, a vehicle, an object, etc.)
d.      What style is the game? (sci-fi, fantasy, realistic, cartoony, exaggerated, unique)
e.      What defines the game and makes it stand out to players? (mechanics, premise, look, story, characters)(you either want to do something unique and memorable or do something someone else has done better than they did it)

2.       Define the base player package properties. (What can the character do before acquiring any new abilities?)

a.       How does the character move? (Fly, walk, roll, slide, etc.)
b.      What does the character do to interact with the world? (Jump, shoot, slash, grab, kiss, fart, etc.)(The interactions in the game should support the premise and these standard interactions will define the character of the game. The can be original or derivative.)

3.       Define what abilities, weapons, tools, equipment that the character will obtain throughout the course of the game. These abilities can improve prior traits, they can stack on top of existing abilities, they can be equipped, and they can have limitations such as ammo. Most of all you want to define what differentiates each ability from others.

a.       How many unique ways can the character movement abilities upgrade? (Does it jump higher, fly, boost, run, crawl, roll, slide, swing, spin, swim, etc?) (All movement properties require limitations and unique mechanics. You don’t want one to invalidate all others.)
b.      How many unique ways can the character transform? (Does it change shape, become another character, alter its state, etc.)(Transformations can completely change a characters movement properties, collision and vulnerabilities.)(All transformations require limitations and unique mechanics. You don’t want one to invalidate all others.)
c.       How many unique ways can the character interactions grow? (Weapons, projectiles, magic, elemental damage types, contact, special abilities, etc.)(All interactions require limitations and unique mechanics. You don’t want one to invalidate all others.)
d.      If the character uses projectiles then how many different ways can they move? (do they arc, fly straight, dissipate over time, fire rapidly, come out from off screen, zigzag, bounce, reflect, stop things, blow up, etc.)
e.      How many unique ways does the character see the world and how do enemies see the character? (Visors, Visibility Options, Invisibility, Lights, Dimensions, Secrets, etc.) (All visibility options require limitations and unique mechanics. You don’t want one to invalidate all others.)
f.        How many unique hazards are in the game and can the player earn something that prevents them from being damaged by these hazards? (Suits, Charms, Armor, Forms, Hats, etc.)(To prevent or reduce damage from hazards such as Fire, Lava, Water, Enemies, Electricity, Space, etc.)
g.       How many special world altering abilities can the character gain or use? (Stop time, change gravity, teleport, fast travel, activate, etc.)
h.      Does the player have health or require fuel and ammunition that can expand or increase over time? (How much do players start with and how much is the maximum capacity they can carry?) 

Remember that abilities, tools and equipment can be implemented in different ways. They can be active, requiring the player to press a button or do a command to use. They can be passive, automatically doing what they need to when they need to. They can be equipped and unequipped by player choice. They can have limitations that prevent them from being used repeatedly or in certain areas. They can be used to interact with the environment, enemies or obstacles. They can have limited quantities or be one time use events.


Now that you’ve conceptually planned what you want to do with the main character and how they can grow it’s time to begin. Remember that a great Metroidvania game has nuances to how all of the mechanics work. The best mechanics are versatile with multiple uses. They create new gameplay opportunities and include limitations so that they can be implemented in configurations that create challenging moments for the player. This is the failing point for most attempts at making a Metroidvania game. The abilities you gain should all be unique and rewarding with detailed and polished mechanics. Now it’s time to create.
You should have a list compiled of the abilities you want to include that might look something like the one below.
Example Abilities List – I’m using simple and generic abilities in this example. Your list should hopefully be more creative and unique.
·         Default Abilities – Slash, Jump, Walk
·         Ability Upgrades – High Jump, Fire Projectile, Cat Transformation, Poison Suit, Night Vision, Reverse Gravity, Ice Slash, Run
The quantity of abilities that players can unlock is up to you. You can create as few or as many as you think you need to make your game. The list at this point is not ordered.
Ability Standards – you will need to have level construction standards that show the ranges your abilities can reach when used. This will help with level design and tuning. (Example: Default Jump Max Height: 2 Meters - High Jump Max Height: 5 Meters)(Illustrations and diagrams help with planning)

·         First build a proxy of the main character and setup the characters base movement properties. (you don’t need art or animations, all you need is a box to represent the collision) Make a small test level that is a reasonable approximation of a real play space in order to get the feel right. It doesn’t have to look good, but you’ll want it to “feel” good even if it’s ugly. (Build on a grid – don’t eyeball your measurements.)
·         Next you’ll want to implement all abilities that alter the way the character can move in the world. This is the most important part to finish as it will define all of the limitations and restrictions you will have in how you construct levels and what they will include.
·         Once all of your movement altering abilities are implemented and tuned so that they can work well with each other you can start blocking out a simple string of levels or rooms.

(At this point there doesn’t have to be any representation of enemy interaction but it would still be beneficial to start work on character interaction abilities. They will be used for interacting with the world as well)


You have your mechanics implemented, so now you need to block out an expanded test environment to figure out a few things. You want to build your level assets so that they have standardized entry ways. (Use uniform sizes and build on a grid) This way you can move your level assets around and change the order in which they can be strung together.
The progression testing sequence is going to be a collection of rooms strung together one after another. This sequence will be used to figure out which abilities players will unlock and in what order.
Each room should accomplish the following goals.

1.       Allow players to enter the room and see a graphical representation of the ability they are going to unlock.
2.       Force players into a one way situation where they have no other option than to collect the item.
3.       Allow players to touch the item in order to acquire the new ability.
4.       Force players into a situation where they are required to use the ability in order to exit the room.
5.       Allow players to exit this room only after using the ability in order to enter the next room.

These rooms should be self-contained experiences. They shouldn’t be large rooms and they don’t need to look good. All of the information players need should be provided immediately in view in the default camera. This should represent the most generic use of the ability a player has just earned. The room and situation should be clear and easy to understand. The only thing in the room that needs to be fun is the very small section which requires the use of the new ability. (DO NOT TRY TO MAKE THE LAYOUT INTERESTING OR COMPLEX AT THIS POINT! This could cloud your judgment and distract you from your goals at the phase of development.)
Once you have blocked in all of the rooms which include all of the unlockable abilities, try to string them together in the order which you think you would enjoy earning them.

Now that you can test the sequence you will begin to see what the game can be like in compressed form. (You get a taste for the feel of the character at any given point in their growth sequence based on when you collect abilities.)

·         Could a player complete the entire sequence and get all abilities?
·         Did the order that the player earned the new abilities feel correct? Did anything stand out as out of order?
·         Where you able to prevent the player from progressing without acquiring the new ability?
·         Did the ability feel good when you used it in the room you created?
·         Did players get confused about how to use the ability or where to use the ability in the sequence?
·         Were players able to get turned around or progress through the sequence incorrectly?

As you answer the questions above start thinking about how to improve anything that needs improvement. If players are getting the cooler abilities too soon then try to rearrange the rooms and the orders in which they acquire them. If players are breaking the progression then try to fix the example or tune the mechanics to allow for a limitation. If players are confused then try to fix the room or the mechanics of the ability. If anything feels wrong or awkward then either fix it or replace it.
At this point it’s ok to fail with an idea because you haven’t started building the game yet. You need to get it right.
If everything functions and you can progress through the whole sequence of levels without a problem then you can move forward. If everything feels good and you are happy with the order of progression using the movement based abilities then it’s time to work on interaction abilities. Make sure you can activate any ability at any time using debug options. This will save you a lot of time.


Now that you know all of the ways the character can move it’s time to figure out the enemy and object interactions. Create another simple test environment to figure out your world and object interactions.
You will probably want to have:
·         Doors – These will separate your areas and are a great way to block off areas until the player has earned the right ability or item. (Special weapon, key, suit, items, etc. are required to unlock.) Create all door types in your test environment! Try to use a single standard door size with different looks that represent what the player should use in order to open them. Remember doors can:

o   Open and Shut repeatedly
o   Lock behind the player to force them to deal with a situation
o   Unlock based on a puzzle or defeating an enemy.
o   Require an ability, weapon or key to unlock.
o   Be used to mask loading or help with area transitions.

·         Destructibles – These are objects that can break, dissolve or disappear in order to allow players to progress or find hidden items.
·         Obstacles – These are things that can damage the player. You might be able to bypass them by using unlocked abilities. Each should serve a purpose and be tuned to be overcome with ease once the player has acquired the right tool.
·         Devices/Moving Objects – These are things that require the use of certain abilities in order to activate them. They will move the player from one point to another and should be required to be used in order for the player to reach a new location. (Zip lines, elevators, moving platforms, gears, pistons, power sources, etc.)
Remember that some of these things can and should be utilized before unlocking new abilities. Others should require abilities to use. Each ability the player has should have at least one interactive element that works well with it. (Or requires an ability to use it)


Each enemy needs to be fun to engage with whatever default interactions the character has available. They can be hard to deal with but they should still be manageable. You should plan enough enemies to have at least one enemy, per ability, that is vulnerable to that ability or weapon. You should also have enemies that are fun to fight even when you have a maxed out character. It’s up to you to figure out what enemies work best for your game and the levels you include.
The enemies are there to reinforce the great feeling of character growth. They are an important part of the equation.


Once you’ve completed at least one door type or obstacle that requires a new character interaction to bypass you can finalize the ability testing sequence.
You can now create new test rooms where players can unlock or earn abilities which allow them to interact with the world. You will add these rooms into the original test sequence you created. The goal is to fill in all of the doors and pace your interaction unlocks with your movement modifiers so that they go together nicely.
Most people will evenly place interactions (new weapon or attack) between movement upgrades so that the pacing is even. You might not want even pacing because a perfectly paced game is predictable. People can get bored with predictable.
Use your best judgment when pacing out where all of the abilities are located in the test sequence. At the end you should have a micro version of the entire game you will make. You should be able to enter each room, one after another, and unlock abilities which allow you to progress forward and unlock the door to the next room. There should be one room per obtainable ability with only one required interaction in order to progress. From here you will figure out the exact order that players should be required to earn abilities in order to progress on the critical path to completion.

Don’t worry about sequence breaking with these test levels. If you did your job correctly with the layout then shouldn’t be possible.
At this point you will know how the game plays and what the abilities do. You will know that you can prevent progress until a player earns and ability, item or weapon.  You should also know when you will unlock each ability and you will have a good feeling about that order. You will have an assortment of interactions and enemies to get you started. Your game is only as good as your mechanics and if the character doesn’t feel fun to control at this point then you need to work at it until it does.
You should now have a list which includes all finalized abilities and what order the player is intended to unlock them in order to progress through the game. Your finished progression list might look like this:

1.       Run
2.       High Jump
3.       Fire Projectile
4.       Poison Suit
5.       Cat Transform
6.       Ice Slash
7.       Night Vision
8.       Reverse Gravity

Up Next Level and World Planning!


(PART 2 will discuss how to plan your levels and world layouts! I will also discuss best practices when laying out a world so that you get the most out of the abilities the player unlocks. These will include the tricks that separate the good games from the bad. The most important part of a Metroidvania games levels is the core interaction loop.)

Here is a preview of the core interaction loop layout I will walk you through in part 2. Thanks.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Creatures: Part 2

Here is another collection of creatures. I decided not to update the older post as it wouldn't sort as new. These are all from the same sketchpad.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Imaginary Worlds

It's fun to create little imaginary worlds that set up everything you need to know in a single image. Before getting started trying to think up new ideas for a game, cartoon or story try sketching up some random assortment of areas and characters. It doesn't matter if it's drawn well or not. Just finish something so you have somewhere to start then make up some stories and details about what you could do with it all. It's a fun little exercise that doesn't take much time and can inspire newer better things from there.

This is from about a year ago. I put together this idea with about 2 hours of sketching. It is made up of two separate images that I thought would be interesting to combine. I like some bits more than others but I think I can do something better using some of these ideas. :)

Sunday, January 6, 2013


What do you find appealing in life? Not the things you want or the people you like. What captures your eye and your attention when you look at something? It’s funny how little most people think about that.

Being human you are genetically hard coded to look for certain things. If you strip away all of the modern comforts you are accustomed to and start to think of what you would be like in the wild, then you can start to recognize how certain elements attract your attention. They draw your eye.
You know you need food to survive. You need shelter and safety from the dangers of the world. You’ll most likely think about reproduction or at least the comfort and support of connecting with others. There’s way more that you are genetically predisposed to think about but I don’t need to cover those. You can start to think about them on your own from here.
This isn’t actually a full discussion about those topics on a deeper level but they do relate to certain ideas about appeal. The next time you look at something like an image, a movie or a game see if you can recognize some of the elements I’m about to discuss. Also note that audio is just as important as vision when recognizing the appeal of something. I’ll skew some examples towards games since that’s probably why you’re here reading this.
When it comes time for you to create something new, be it an image, animation or background for a game then consider the following.
Edible Looking
People find things that look edible captivating. If it looks like you would want to eat it then it’s appealing. This is why the idea of candy land is so attractive to children and adults. The levels in Mario Galaxy and Mario games in general look edible so you are drawn to them. Grass often curls over the edge like frosting on a cake. The levels often look like you can eat them. This means you don’t mind spending time there.
This also works for cars and paint jobs. Shiny candy coated paintjobs make cars and bikes look attractive. People watch clouds roll by. They watch ocean waves swell and water flow and descend. They observe grass and leaves blow in the wind.  You need water and plants to survive. These things comfort people. This leads into the appeal of…
Ambient Motion
You are attracted to ambient motion (smoke, wind, flowing cloth or water, fire, gears, pistons). Some of this is based on your survival instinct and other parts are based on rhythms. People find these things soothing but they are also instinctually looking at motion to recognize danger as well. Is something moving over there? Is it going to attack me?
Your body is tied to rhythm and motion. Everyone’s heart beats and they are all forced to breathe over and over and over. The earth rotates and cycles occur over and over and over.  People find repetition, rotation, rhythm, and motion soothing.
Certain elements of lighting also create constant dynamic motion even if there aren’t any objects moving. Reflectivity, Shine, Specularity, God Rays and Lens flare all cause constant unique and dynamic motion when the camera is moving. This is generally more appealing than something dull and static.
Light and Darkness
We need the light to survive. It’s how we see and the sun provides so much. People are attracted to light. People find things that shine and glow appealing. You’re drawn to light sources by the very nature of how you see the world. The eye is drawn from dark to light. If you are in a dark space you will look towards the light. The contrast is that if you are somewhere that is overwhelmingly bright then you will be attracted to shadow or darkness. This goes back to survival instinct too. The mind thinks about escape routes and hiding places. Can something attack me from that shadow? Is it a hole? Can I hide there if something attacks me? This leads into the appeal of…
Edges and Borders
People find anything that assists in spacial awareness comforting. You want to know where the edges are. This is pleasing to the eye because it assists with people’s recognition of the extents of objects. Some of this is based on (cue repetition) survival instincts. You want to know where things can come from or where you can escape to. It’s also about preventing harm to your body. You want to know what’s sharp or where something is so that you don’t stub a toe scratch or cut your skin. You want shadow to creep into the recesses of a crack to show you it’s there and something else might be hiding in there too. The reasons don’t really matter. What matters is that humans find edges and borders more appealing when they are more clearly readable.
Look at doors, windows, crown molding, furniture and appliances. Attention is always spent framing something in a pleasing way. Look at the white borders surrounding text in a book. It frames the edges. You know it would look worse if the words ran right to the edge. Roads have curbs, street lights have bases, and almost everything includes some type of element that frames it or integrates it into the things they are attached to. Watches, TV’s, cabinets and speakers have borders. Often things that don’t have borders or frames have beveled or smoothed edges. This frames them by letting light bounce differently on the edge. Rim lighting is appealing. The way rocks or fences frame a garden/ yard matters. The way grass frames the base of a tree brings comfort and understanding. Your mind recognizes it even if you don’t think you care.
Things in nature do this automatically but man made things, when crafted well, take this into account. Look at your favorite games. You’ll start to see how they add frames and borders to the edges of objects and geometry. Even great pixel art takes this into account. Things created taking edges and borders into account most often look better than something that doesn’t have this care or craft. Sometimes this happens in the lighting with things like ambient occlusion. This helps integrate objects into the world around it. People find this appealing so if you aren’t doing this with the things you create then you are missing a very helpful tool. Create a blend where a rock intersects the ground. Put some grass there or even cut in a little crease to make it look like it’s eroded over time. It will look better.
Commonly Appealing
The rest of these could take just as long to describe but they are easier for you to reason out why so I’ll skip the long winded explanations.
·         Color – Color is meant to capture your attention. Vibrant colors signify Fruits, Flowers and Foods. They dazzle for mating rituals and they warn about Poisonous Creatures.
·         Exaggerated Scale – Really large things command your attention. Towers, Trees, Mountains, Monuments and Mammoths all require your thought.
·         Sexual and Phallic Imagery – No explanation necessary. We are genetically driven to think about reproduction in order to continue as a species. Sex Sells.
·         Soft and Fuzzy – Things that are fuzzy or soft looking are also appealing just because you are looking for comfort to protect you from the dangers outside. You are driven to find comfort to keep your body safe.
·         Cute and Cuddly – Big eyes and certain pleasing features trigger the protective parts of your brain so that you will be more inclined to raise your young and prolong the survival of the entire species.
·         Familiarity – This is why advertising works so well. You’re mind finds comfort in things you understand and see often. This can be common things we all relate to or even symbols.
·         Surprising Moments – Think about things like explosions, fireworks, volcanic eruptions, lighting and wild beasts springing out of nowhere to devour you. You’re mind imprints things that surprise you so that you can remember them for future protective measures. You cannot stop this and you get an adrenaline rush when it happens. This feels good for most people even if you think you don’t like it. It makes you feel alive. This is appealing.
·         Odds – You’re mind tries to group things so when you see even numbers of things you automatically understand they are a pair. If you see one then it is interesting because it’s isolated and individual. If there are 3 elements then your mind tries to work through what the connections are. Are these two together or are these two? Which one is the odd one out? What are the relationships? This might seem silly but your mind still does this even if it’s Rocks, Trees or buildings.
·         Symmetry – If you have random shapes or elements that don’t seem to look to look right then try adding some symmetry to it. Symmetry makes things look intentional and purposeful. Nature creates symmetry in creatures. We create symmetry in our creations. This makes them balanced and pleasing.

·         Meaning and Symbolism – You mind tries to seek meaning so if you can provide it then you don’t need to explain it. It’s more fun for people to think they figured it out on their own.

I could actually go on and on but I think you get the point.
Next time you are looking at something you really like look for the elements we discussed. If you are creating things then keep this in mind. People are almost guaranteed to find certain things appealing so think about added them to the things you create to make them more interesting and dynamic.
·         Moving Things – Clouds, Rivers, Waterfalls, Waves, Cloth, Wind, Grass, Leaves, Rain, Snow, Gears, Pistons, Fire, Smoke, Sparks and Living Creatures.
·         Lights and Shadow – Contrast, Light Rays, Lens flare, God Rays, Glows, Neon, Fireworks and Sparkles
·         Edges – Beveled Edges, Erosion, Borders, Blends, Frames, Integrators, Ambient Occlusion, Rim Lights, Overgrowth, Intentional Seams, Outlines, Spacing and Separators.
·         Edible Qualities – Smooth, Colorful, Candy Coated, Chocolately and Clean.
·         Shine – Reflection, Gloss, Specularity, Wetness and Icy.
·         Surprise – Fireworks, Lighting, Explosion, Eruptions or Shocking Elements.
·         Comfort – Repetition, Symbols, Logos, Familiar Relatable Elements
·         Landmarks – Large Isolated Elements (Towers, Mountains, Bridges, Trees, Creatures, Castles, Bridges) Odd Clusters (3, 5 or 7 of the same components)
I hope you find some of this useful. At least it’s a nice refresher for some things you could consider common sense. I still need to edit this but I wanted to get it out earlier. Thanks for reading.

Saturday, January 5, 2013


I've always had interest in drawing creatures, monsters, aliens and other random lifeforms. Here are a few from one of my sketchpads. I'm going to figure out a way to use them for something eventually. Here's the first set and I'll just keep updating this post as I scan the others.

Here's also a couple of characters I did 11-ish years ago while back at Iguana and Retro. I know it's old but I like some of the ideas and might revisit a few. I'll keep them down here as a reminder. :)