Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Resting and Seeing

No posts for a week or so because I've been having a nice restful holiday to New Zealand.  It was a chance to rest my brain, and allow myself to really see stuff again.  To see stuff, I draw - photographing stuff is good, but you don't see what is there or get your mind working on it until you draw it.

When you make a game you need a premise.  OK - we're shooting a bunch of bad guys - and why are they bad again?  They're evil zombies from a scientific experiment gone wrong?  OK - that is a premise, and without one even the most obvious game idea won't work.

My game concepts are all driven by fairly rich premises and I need something to work from to build those.  Bad guys need a back story, and good guys need one too - if players are to care at all about your game characters they need some dimensions.

Sitting in a cafe is great - I find I can easily make up stories about the folks having a coffee two tables over.  But travelling to another country, sitting in airports and travelling on ships and helicopters: hell, it doesn't get any better than that for topping up my creative reserves.

Here's some images from my trip and a few words about each - maybe it will give you some insight into how my imagination sees the world and creates a story out of it.

I flew into Wellington, NZ and started there with a trip to Weta Digitals "Weta Cave" for their "Window into Workshop" tour.  This was an absolutely amazing insight into the creative people behind movies like "Lord of the Rings" and "District 9", and I have only my memories of it as we were not allowed to take pictures.  As it was a guided tour doing drawings was not possible either, not that Weta would have been all that keen on my "taking notes" of what they were working on.  

I went to the Southward car museum and managed to strike up a conversation with the curator there.  The Corvette Stingray and Jaguar E-type next to it were pretty nice too.
Clearly you need to lend me this De Lorean so I can save the universe from evil

I went up on the Wellington Cable Car to a great vantage point and checked the harbour views.  In this picture I'm in front of an older cable car in their cable car museum.

From Wellington I went across to the South Island on the Interislander: a large roll-on, roll-off ferry.  It was a few hours so I got to relax and sketch.  My favourite activity is ninja sketching random people and making up stories about them.  I hold my sketchpad down out of sight and draw them quickly hoping I won't get sprung.
Guy on the Ferry

Guy on the Ferry: he was sitting a few seats over and had a very game-worthy face.  Strong potato of a chin and kind of a solid demeanour.  He could be like some kind of SAS guy, trying to get away from the memories of his last tour in Afghanistan.  He actually smiled a lot, but when his friends pointed at something out the Ferry window he kind of got the "thousand yard stare".
These guys were clearly spies travelling to complete an assignment.  I'm not convinced they really were human.  Maybe SAS guy was going to take them out.

As the Ferry neared the South Island there were some lovely views of the peaks of the fjords reaching up out of the water, and a few tiny yachts gliding across the water.
View out Ferry porthole
There was something about the way portholes framed the views that made them more poignant, more dramatic.
Queen Charlotte Sound
I think it is the way whoever is watching the view becomes part of the frame itself, their black silhouette and that of the ships window being a surround for the scene sliding past.  Ninjas and assassins are like that - you don't see them because they become part of the darkened frame.

Coming into Picton
The ferry itself was pretty enormous - and as it approached the South Island terminus of Picton the buildings seemed tiny compared to it.  One of its sister ships was tied up at the wharf.

We spent a few days in Picton doing the wine district and driving around the Nelson & Marlborough area, then headed down to Franz Josef Glacier.

 Our cabins in Franz Josef were right next to a miniature horse place and one of the cute little guys stuck his head all the way through the wire fence to where I was set up on a chair with my sketch pad.

The goal of Franz Josef was to get up on the glacier itself which was acheived by helicopter.  I would love to own one of these things.  Lots of game memes here.  :-)


Landing up on the glacier we met up with our guide who took us through the ice caves and crevasses.  Glaciers are very very big.  And powerful.  This is a shot of me carefully listening to the safety briefing - "Don't fall into the ice caves as we won't be able to get you out".

The ice caves can go all the way down through the glacier to its bed, but they quickly get too small for us crazy humans.  Here's me doing my best Bear Grylls/Crocodile Dundee impression as I head down into one of the crevasses.

The mountains of the Southern Alps - which featured prominently in the Weta Digital enabled "Lord of the Rings" - were pretty spectacularly beautiful too, swathed in dense green from sea-level and soaring up to snow capped peaks.

From Franz Josef it was back via the scenic Arthur's Pass national park to Christchurch.  This city of 300,000 people has been plagued by earthquakes for the past few years.  Locals have responded by deploying shipping containers as makeshift barriers to prevent rocks from nearby mountains plunging through their houses.

Post apocalyptic doesn't get any better than this.
The city itself is amazing too - shop owners have moved their businesses into shipping containers and a new cafe district is thriving in the container mall called "Re:START" in the city center.

Here a once proud landmark of Cave Rock is fenced off due to earthquake damage and this rather inexplicable steam-punk pumping device is playing some role in that.
After a couple of nights in Christchurch at a rather Agatha Christie style guest house called "The Grange" it was time to head back to Australia.