I would ramble at length as usual, but my brain is in the Christmas-New Year sludge, this time more than ever it seems. I have to admit, I am enjoying not doing much of anything at all.
This animation loop was rendered back in March, as a submission for Thurne Mill’s 200th birthday exhibition (which, of course, was indefinitely postponed). Thanks to the BBC Sound Effects Archive for the audio.
Perhaps it will calm things down for you, for all of eighteen seconds at least.
Yes, it’s that time of the year again, which means it’s that time to post a card again. Originally I was going to try something completely different, but I thought I should really continue the trend of pixel and voxel for this year’s Christmas card, so here we have a star created in Magicavoxel. In fact, only a quarter of the star is physically present; the rest is merely a reflection in an isometric view. Interesting, huh?
2020: what is there to say?
Thank you to all of the key workers who have looked after us this year, and everyone who has just done the right thing. You are stars.
It does seem harder than ever to get into the festivities this year, but I hope everyone has as happy and as peaceful a Christmas as possible. Let’s hope things are different next time around.
Of course there’s a Robotnik Day. He just declared it one minute ago! I have to thank YouTube for this one. Not for the first time, its recommendation algorithm is responsible for this post. You see, amongst all the cute cat, husky and Timothy Dalton videos, an episode of Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog appeared. At the time it was seen as a bit crap and, let me assure you, it is rather – and that might explain why only one series was made. It may also explain the cult following online. Needless to say, I loved the show as a youngster, getting up at stupid o’clock on Saturdays to watch it and collecting several of the video tapes and watching them repeatedly. You can understand why I had to click that recommendation and watch. It’s mindless silliness.
Naturally, the chief villain, Dr. Robotnik, was my favourite character for he was responsible for most of the laughs. Voiced by Long John Baldry and flanked by his two haplessly hopeless henchmen in Scratch (robot chicken) and Grounder (robot… erm?), it was hard not to side with them against a Sonic so cocky and obnoxious you were relieved he never spoke in the Mega Drive games.
Other than Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine – a surprisingly addictive puzzle game – this version of Robotnik never appeared in a video game, so I thought I’d have a go at converting him to pixel art. I did consider recreating some of the Mega Drive boss battles with him, but that didn’t turn out well, sadly. So, we just have some poses with some animation chucked in to make up for it. At the top, we have Robotnik’s frustration at Sonic foiling his latest scheme. Below was a bit of experimentation and perhaps a little tame for a super villain; maybe he’s waiting for his “metallic morons” to arrive.
How about a static pose for us to finish, ‘Botnik?
There we are. And once again I have to mention that his name is Robotnik and not “Eggman”. Thank you.
I’ve seen countless versions of these little cut-away isometric interiors whilst browsing the work of various voxel creators, such that, if you’re starting out, it appears to be the law to make at least one. Hence, I thought I’d better try. But I wasn’t going to make one of my bedroom. I ended up riffing off The Crystal Maze and going all Aztec Zone this evening. It was the most iconic of all the zones, surely, and those cramped little game cells seen on the show were ideal inspiration for such a challenge.
I’m not sure what on earth the contestants are supposed to be doing in these cells – but then the chances are they wouldn’t even if it had been blatantly obvious. Bless them.
The first attempt was, perhaps expectedly, a bit naff. I was just throwing things in all over the place really and not remembering what I’d learnt last time around; namely, to actually engage the brain as to what I’m doing. For shame. Did have some fun playing around with the water feature, though I’m not sure the water texture is really working, nor the gargoyle itself for that matter.
The addition of greenery and some paint lifted it somewhat. The semi-buried items were less than successful, though. On a 50×50 grid, I probably should’ve seen that coming a mile off. Ah well.
Third time around, and we’re looking rather better now, a sort of mixture of the two giving a result I’m okay with. The time spent on the walls paid off, and the water has been muddied up a little; certainly enough to make sure you don’t lose your footing on those stepping stones. What’s more, I discovered the emission function and turned the ‘sun’ down to let the torches really do their thing, with a nice toasty glow lighting up the cell. It’s a powerful feature for which I can imagine many good uses. I look forward to playing with it.
At least it’s more interesting than modelling my bedroom.
Well, not quite starting blocks. But the recent penchant for pixels had me thinking once again about ephtracy’s MagicaVoxel, which has been sitting around on my machine for years now and, besides a piece or two here and there, hasn’t been put to particularly good use. My excuses are that I found the interface a little daunting and the camera seemed to do its own thing – usually not what I needed it to be doing. Well, I thought it was about time I came face to face with this old nemesis and settled the score once and for all.
I was going to make something.
Really, I was just being a drama queen for a change. It’s nowhere near as scary a program as I had told myself it was – actually, it’s rather fun and therapeutic once you get your head around the camera. Time disappears just as it does with 2D pixel art, or sticking Lego blocks together. I just started doodling really, thinking of Lego playsets, and coming up with some sort of ruined monument:
It’s not going to win any awards, but the lessons learnt in that session were very valuable indeed. And I actually wanted to make something else, rather than hit close and throw the PC in the bin so that’s a big hurdle cleared. Hence, the next two hours were spent modelling something on a larger scale; a ruined church, a not uncommon sight around these parts:
This one was lots of fun, and I think captures some of that toylike charm.
Yes, it does take a bit of getting used to, and I still have a great deal to learn, but MagicaVoxel is quite an enjoyable experience once you get going, and hopefully I’ll be using it more from now on. I’m sure if you use it more than once every two years you’ll pick it up even quicker than I did. And it’s free, which is always nice.
Yet more pixel play. This is what I do now, it seems.
The urge took me to have a go at a signature Norfolk round-tower church… but I don’t think that’s what we ended up with. I’m not quite sure what happened, it just came out that way and I just rolled with it for now. There have been too many false starts and abandoned projects of late; I’m just happy to have completed something. Perhaps that explains the elevated colour of it – euphoria!
The church here is loosely based on one in the village of Acle, which does have a round tower, though the belfry is octagonal. I would pass it every day on the way to university, now a decade ago (where on earth has the time gone?) It was nice to see it looking pretty in the morning sun, or dusted with snow in winter; whatever the weather, the church was a pleasant landmark, reassuring me there was still plenty of time to daydream. Of course, autumn and winter saw it cloaked in darkness on the way home. The winding ride between those little villages was quite something at this time of the year – at least for those who weren’t snoring – maybe the odd flicker of civilisation in the distance, but mostly just black. It’s incredible to hear stories from grandparents and their friends who would walk or cycle back and forth in the pitch-dark depths of winter without a care in the world. Different times, I guess.