pre-production part two: dreams and nightmares

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so hey, I ended up finishing another image for one of these! It’s my first NPA animation in photoshop, and after 60+ hours of work I can safely say that I will never animate in photoshop again! The program just isn’t built for it, it’s got an animation system straight from the 90s (designed for making animated gifs, and only animated gifs), and layer control that just doesn’t work with undo and frame changes. Disappointing on every level…

To be fair, it was a learning experience, and I got a lot better at using photoshop in the process. For one thing, always use the solid-pixel pencil for fills, otherwise you’ll get bleed through where the pen pressure didn’t hit 100%.  And tap the eraser once when you switch layers, so undo doesn’t switch the freaking layer back. Also, make sure to change undo (ctrl-z) to step backward, but I think I made that change a long time ago… I’m pretty happy with the result, but all future animations will be in Flash for sure.

For a mini-review of the cintiq 13 hd I recently bought, I have to say it’s really great. There’s about a 0.2 second delay for drawn lines showing up, but you get used to that very quickly. And the pen and eraser both work fantastically, a definite 1:1 connection that makes it feel like a magic piece of paper you can zoom and undo. I set the two pen buttons to sample color (alt) and pan/scroll, and the four side buttons to prev/next frame and undo/redo. I used the wheel buttons for the four main tools I use: brush, lasso (in [-] mode so it can remove sections after the first one), marquee, and move. I basically can’t recommend it enough, and other than the 1/1000 driver errors (which I think are caused by lag on windows or something), it’s better in every way than the ol’ mouse! =)

Okay, let’s get to some preproduction already! Here’s some music to get you in the right frame of mind.

One of the main concepts of this game is dreams and nightmares, and a surreal sense of both in the real world. Red’s secret power is the ability to create dreams which influence the outside world, so she spends her incarcerated time stepping into dreams and creating a new world in her own image, while trying to avoid the nightmares of her past.

Part of what I want to get across in Red the character is that she doesn’t give a shit about anything. Red lives a life without fear, she doesn’t care that she’s in prison, or that the world is falling apart. She just dreams of better worlds, until it becomes clear that that is not enough to stop her nightmares. Her quest is self-serving, she’s not the hero, and the world might be better without her in it.

Nightmares are actually an interesting concept for me. I think in the last four years I’ve had maybe eight nightmares, and all of them revolved around my computer getting a virus or being stolen. For some reason, when someone pulls a gun out at me or a monster is chasing me, I just laugh and say “do it” or “I’m not running from this, I’m going to turn around and fight.” I think that’s probably a bad sign, but something just doesn’t feel scary about “life or death” scenarios. It might be because I don’t enjoy or particularly respect the horror genre, and I stay away from those kinds of movies because I find them completely boring (I think I actually fell asleep the last time I watched a horror movie…). Or I might just be dead inside already, so there’s not much to lose…

But the idea of nightmares is interesting, because they are like your brain trying to tell you something urgently. You and your brain become two different people, and have a conversation about a problem. People don’t have nightmares for no reason, they have them because something is wrong and needs to be solved immediately. My nightmares usually mean “Greg, you need to backup your work folder,” but I think it still applies…

But dreams are different. They don’t have a message to get across, or any motives. I like to think of them as the echoes of your day and everything you thought about. It’s not your brain thinking, it’s your brain processing. And sure, people think there are messages sometimes, but I like to believe those are merely the processed answers to things you were already thinking about during the day.

redneptune is definitely a game about the blending of both dreams and nightmares, and I hope the music choice gets that across. I don’t want to spoil too much of the plot, but the theme is literally about the difference between dreams and nightmares in many ways. One of the main categories of pre-ideas is labelled “nonsense”, in the tradition of Alice in Wonderland and Hitchhiker’s Guide. There’s just something about the way the mind works when sleeping or falling asleep that I find fascinating, as if the rules of logic no longer apply.

Okay, I’m getting a bit too philosophical, so I’ll end it here. It is technically 6:33am right now… But I do hope that animation let you see a glimpse of Red as a character, and what this world is built around. At this point I have everything up to the final, final, final boss planned, it’s just a question of writing some of it down with interesting art to match… See you next time, but for now I think I’ll try out this sleep thing I’ve been writing so much about.

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