Thursday, June 14, 2012

Chapter 4, Concept Art

Two weeks after the title announcement I've finished most of the concept art for Chapter 4 and this is actually the first time that I'm going to share concept art of a chapter before its release. It won't contain any spoilers though.

What I've got for you today are some impressions from Ankal Aasha of which we aready got a brief glimpse at the end of Chapter 3. This is a sketch of the towncenter:

And here are two rough color concepts in which I tried to figure out the range of colors and the general look of some of the details of that place:

I'm looking forward to the production of the final artwork of Chapter 4 because I'll be able to go completely crazy on one of my favorite subjects: sunken cities in the jungle!

Production will start next week. Before that I have to finish some rework on the preliminary version. For the first time I managed to totally screw up the writing. As always I presented the first draft to my wife. Normally she would point out a bunch of language issues but would generally like the result as a whole. This time she took a serious look at me and said "we have to work on that!". That's never a good sign. Because normally she's right. We discussed the first draft and I had to realize that I totally overloaded it with information to a point where it was just confusing to anyone else than me. So, during the late hours of the past two weeks I got back working on the prelim version while I was creating the concept art during the day. I identified a lot of stuff in my first draft that was either superfluous or that could much better be communicated at a later point in future chapters. I think that my current version is much more streamlined and I will continue to finetune it during the course of production.

Because what I'm slowly finding out is that it generally isn't a good idea to try to power through the production in a strictly linear fashion - first prelim, then concept art, then final art. This approach puts a lot of pressure into the first few weeks of production because you want to make sure that your prelim is perfect before you go on to the next step. But writing takes time because you are thinking a lot about the things you've written and it's often the case that some writing your were especially proud of sounds totally silly to you a few days later. What I actually realized is that I don't have to arrive at a final version of the prelim in order to be able to do the concept artwork. A first draft is normally enough to line out the set pieces, characters and interiours of a chapter. Additionally, doing the concept art alongside the writing can give you a lot of creative impulses for the writing. I experienced that during the last two weeks when I realized that I could make much better use of certain set pieces to illustrate the narration. You only see these things when the actual visuals lie before you. So, for the next chapter I definitely plan to change my workflow from a linear to a more paralell approach and produce the concept art and the prelim simultaniously.

I'm even thinking about going a step further. It turns out that there are certain portions of the prelim that just work straight from the first draft on while others get overworked a lot. What I'm thinking about is not to work on the final artwork in a linear top to bottom fashion as I'm used to but starting the final illlustration process on the finished parts of the prelim and keeping the other parts work in progress as long as possible. That would mean that I could work on the prelim even if I have already started the final illustration process. I would just move over to illustrating the other parts of the prelim as soon as they get finished. 

These are all exciting thoughts for me as it is all in the spirit of giving as much time as possible to the writing process in a given timeframe without hurting the other parts of the process. I'm learning a ton of things by doing this project and I think there's way for improvement in all directions.

In other news:

My layout assistant Ivan Berov has recently reached the rank of official layout wizzard by finishing what was the most complicated translation up to this date. When we started to paste the first lines of Hindi text into our layout we had to realize that we were in deep trouble. To put it in a nutshell: you are not supposed to layout Hindi text in a western version of Photoshop. The process to accomplish it anyway is so mind bending that I'm not even trying to explain it to you. You have to be a wizzard to do it. That's what Ivan is now. A wizzard! Thanks also go to Binay Kumar Pandey for his translation work and for being very patient with us constantly screwing up the review layouts for him.

I'm really happy to announce the Hindi translation of Chapter 1 today!

You may already have found the clues in Chapter 3 that hint at the fact that Indian culture is a huge inspiration for the Wormworld. "Janaka", "Jiiva", "Ankal Aasha" - these are all Sanskrit words. In Chapter 4 we will see much more of these influences and overall you will find out that the Wormworld is not inspired by medieval Europe like so many fantasy worlds but by the myths and cultures of the Asian continent. Mixed with German folklore! :)

However, I'm really loving the fact that the Wormworld Saga is translated into so many languages. The Hindi translation introduces a third row to the flags on the website so we now have seven languages to go before I dont't know anymore where to put all these flags. Well, I've already announced that I will change the navigation of the translation in the last post so no worries. I better do because we have a lot more than 7 additional translations in the pipeline...

Friday, June 1, 2012

Chapter 4, Title Announcement

It's almost a tradition now that I announce the title of the upcoming chapter of the Worworld Saga as soon as I have finished the preliminary version. So, here we go! The next Chapter is going to be published in August 2012 and its title is:

Chapter 4 - The Shelter of Hope

As you can see, the upcoming chapter is a bit smaller in size compared to its predecessor. However, first test readings clearly indicate that this will be the longest chapter so far in regards to reading time. As you will already have guessed, Jonas and Raya are meeting Raya's master Janaka and together with Jonas we'll receive a lot of background information. This chapter really wasn't easy to write because of all the things that I want to transport in it. It's likely to feel quite different from the other three chapters because it's mainly centered on dialog and a good deal of the action takes place in one interior location. However, I've made sure to keep even those parts visually interesting. In the end, I think, this chapter will mark a nice point of rest before the adventures continue their journey into the Wormworld. By that time they will have a clear mission to fulfill, that much I can say.

Now going to create some concept artwork for Chapter 4 and after that I'm going to work on the milestones. As always I'm going to keep you updated on my progress.

I've also updated the Wormworld Saga website. The first thing I wan't to mention is that I encountered a nasty bug in the website code which actually prevented anyone from buying a print inside the print shop since. If you tried to click on the Paypal buttons you were redirected to the Google Play website. It's fixed.

There's a space for Chapter 4 now and I toyed around with the sidebar elements a bit. I don't know how long I can keep up with that layout though. The newest content is sitting on the bottom of the site and the language flags start to clutter the main content area. I think there's some major overhaul neccessary after Chapter 4 but we will see. By the way, since my last blog entry we have added some new translations. Chapter 1 is now available in Malaysian, Chapter 2 is translated to Bosnian and Turkish and I added the Dutch translation of Chapter 3 just a few minutes ago. Again I have to thank Ivan Berov for his wonderful help with the layout work. 

On a sitenote:

Did someone notice the change on my desktop in the illustration at the top? It's subtle but you will find that my PC tower vanished from under my table. I bought my PC at a food discounter back in 2006 and when I worked on the massive layouts of Chapter 3 I started to notice just how old it was. Saving files often took minutes(!) and several important operations weren't even possible to perform because of "out of  memory" errors. I decided to invest into a new machine and now I'm working on a Lenovo Thinkpad W520. It's unbelievable how fast things work now. Plus, since it's a handy 15'' notebook, I'm now able to take my workspace with me anywhere I go. We are living in the future!