Tr. 1.S. – “Treason In Space”

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I’m excited to announce that I have created a dev blog www.treasoninspacegame.com which follows the progress of my latest passion-project with my brother Jeff called Tr.1.S. – “Treason In Space”.  It was created with the intention of internal use to easily share our progress throughout the game’s development, but the more I thought about it, the more I believe it should be shared with everyone.

Jeff and I have always tinkered with game design and it seems like a perfect match – one, we’re brothers who have developed our love of games together throughout the years – and two, my brother happens to be an engineer.  It all started about 7 years ago when I approached him about making a little game demo based off of a puppet show I was producing with my friends at Blue Sky Studios.

I was in the process of moving on from the Blue Sky to get back into game development side of animation and my friends and I had just finished our last episode of “Treehouse Studios” – a low-budget, adult-orientated puppet show giving a gritty, behind-the-scenes look at the difficulties of animated film production.  In the show, I was portrayed as the “has-been” and my friend Nick Bruno (who is a director now) was “the new a**hole” and the two characters were always at odds with each other.

So I pitched an idea to my brother about making a single-level, two-player fighting game as a funny goodbye to my best buddy Nick appropriately named “TREEHOUSED” .  I would produce the art and he would code the game.  Jeff IMMEDIATELY dove in and the result was a fun and extremely funny mini-game that both Nick and the entire animation team loved.  Based off of the game’s response and that the process between us was so organic, we decided to continue our development relationship on other projects.

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Since then, we have developed many prototypes which normally resulted in production halting after finding our attempts were not very fun.  This was due to me and my preconceived notion that an indie game should be both original and groundbreaking.  Something about our failed prototypes lacked the simplicity and appeal of our very first project together.  I recently have come to terms with the fact that the reason our original game demo actually worked was because it was both extremely accessible and based off of a very popular genre.

With our latest prototype, we have gone back to basics and didn’t try to create anything to heady or genre-defining and the result is playing extremely well.  Please check in with us periodically for updates.  Thanks.

 

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How Mario Paint Helped Me Choose My Career

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I am a co-creator of a podcast called Just A Few More Minutes where I team up with my 2 friends and colleagues to discuss all things animation and video games.  My co-hosts are Jeff Gabor (right – supervising animator at Blue Sky Studios) and Michael Berardini (left – animator at Blue Sky Studios).

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On our last episode we discussed what it was that got us into animation.  Mario Paint actually came up in my response, so rather than rewrite what has already been said, I figured I would just transcribe that part of the episode:

“What got me into animation was the Genie in Aladdin.  I remember seeing it in the theater and just being absolutely blown away by what they were doing with him.”

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“So I was always drawing doing ultra-violent comics, I was probably 13 or 14 at the time, and I immediately deviated and knew that if there was a chance in hell I wanted to try.  This was pre-internet, so I had my mom pick up some animation books and I still have one called “The Animator’s Workbook” by Tony White.”

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“It’s a really basic intro to animation but it inspired me to make flip books and stuff and I didn’t have a light-table so what I did was take my Mom’s typewriter, put the cover on it and then took the desk lamp and put it right over my hand so I could see through the paper and made all these little flip books and just sorta taught myself some of the concepts.”

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(a lot like this one, except the hard cover was smooth)

“Then Mario Paint came out around that same time.  Mario Paint is very crude, but at the time it was the only way of me trying some of these concepts and seeing the results in real time.  You had at the most 6 frames, so I would do things like eye-blinks or head-turns.  I can’t tell you how influential Aladdin was for me and I can’t tell you how much Mario Paint means to me because of that.  I actually captured them on a VHS tape and I actually captured that to digital, so I’m probably gonna do a blog of my love for Mario Paint.”

You can listen to the entire episode here or on our SoundCloud page.

My Post-Film Animation Years

I can’t believe it’s been 7 years since I left a secure job at Blue Sky to try something new in gaming.  To say it’s been smooth sailing would be a lie, however the friends I have in both the film and gaming industry have been more than supportive in my career shift.  I am grateful for the opportunities and the friends I have made throughout this adventure.  With the recent release of Brigitte from Overwatch, I figured it’s a good time to showcase a collection of my favorite animations from the projects I’ve worked on.  I’m looking forward to the years ahead of me.

Here are the companies and games highlighted in this reel:

Blizzard – Overwatch

Riot – League Of Legends

EA Tiburon – Madden 18

Day For Night Games – The Black Glove

Irrational Games – Bioshock Infinite

38 Studios – Project Copernicus

 

The Art Of The Demo Reel

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Whenever I do a presentation somewhere or start teaching a new class the subject of demo reel creation always comes up, so I figure it’s high time to write up some pointers.  Be advised that a lot of this information comes from the days when a bunch of animators would gather in a room to review reels.  While the methods of delivering your reel have changed, how you approach creating a reel has not.

The secret to having a solid reel is brevity.  Instinct tells you that if something took a long time to create, you want to put it out there to get that satisfying pat-on-the-back for all your hard work.  As hard as it may be, you have to leave instinct out of the reel creation process and objectively look at your work with no bias.  Contrary to what you may believe, you are not judged by your best animation – you are judged by your worst.

What I sometimes suggest is to create a dummy reel of some of your favorite animations and size up your own reel to it shot for shot – deleting the work you’ve done that doesn’t hit the quality bar or lacks entertainment value.  The reason for this is to pare down your reel to your absolute best work – even if it’s only one shot.  The harsh reality is that when an animator looks at a reel, they can usually tell within the first 5 – 10 seconds if they’re interested.  It sounds soul-crushing, but if you think about how many reels have to be reviewed from potential candidates, it makes sense.  So even if you only have one great shot to show, you would much rather leave them wanting to see more from you (potentially leading to a test), than the alternative of being put in the “not interested” pile.

So you have pared down your reel to only your best work.  What next?  Before you start editing, you have to take your remaining work and tailor the reel based on the company you’re applying to.  For instance, I remember reviewing a reel at Blue Sky Studios years ago that had a Flash animation of Jesus coming down off the cross and killing the Roman soldiers with his nails.  Entertaining?  You bet your ass it was.  Relevant?  Absolutely not.  So in other words, do your research.  Don’t have dialogue with a lot of swearing in it if you’re applying for an animation position for the next Veggie Tales movie.  Don’t send mocap animations to Pixar.  You may laugh at what I’m saying because it seems like common sense, but I’ve seen this happen WAY too often.

Now that you have tailored your absolute best work for the company to you’re applying to, it’s time to put it all together in a nice little presentation.  Here are your guidelines:

– Unless you are applying for a position doing motion graphics, I DO NOT want to see a 30 second intro of your name and title smashing through glass with flames billowing behind it while the camera shakes from the jolt of an off-screen explosion.  Simply cut straight to action.  If the viewer is interested, they will want to find your information – which will be conveniently placed at the end of the reel on a simple title screen.

– The ONLY time a music track is acceptable is when showcasing physical animations with no dialogue.  Choose music that suits your theme and is not annoying.  For instance, I don’t want to see your animations playing to “Barbie Girl”.  It will tarnish your reel regardless of how good it is.

– This is highly debatable, but based on my experience of reviewing hundreds and hundreds of reels over the years, it’s important to hook your viewer VERY quickly.  Based on this, start with your absolute best animation and end the reel with your second best.

– If your reel is all dialogue, simply cut from one shot to the next with a 6-12 frame buffer of black in between.

– In the days of physical media, I can remember seeing these huge, elaborate packages that contained a reel in them with sub-par animations while the best reels were the vhs tapes or dvds with sharpie writing on them. What counts is what’s on on the reel, not what it looks like.  The time they spent on the physical presentation of their reel would’ve been better spent on polishing their animations.  How is this relevant in the all-digital era?  Simple.  A Vimeo or YouTube link will work just fine.  A fancy webpage with bells and whistles doesn’t play a role in whether or not you’re a good animator.

That’s pretty much it.  This isn’t absolute, so if you have any other guidelines you’d like to share, please feel free to comment below.  If you have any questions, feel free to contact me.

Working With Riot

A few years ago, I got contacted by an industry friend of mine who I had worked with a few times over the course of my career.  At the time he was recruiting for Riot and noticed I was looking for work over social media.  He contacted me and asked if I would be interested in working remotely for the team.  I couldn’t say no.  They sent me a computer and got me ramped up with the animation skins team on League Of Legends.

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The talent at Riot is unbelievable.  I found myself rather intimidated to be honest.  It was an amazing opportunity and I got to work with some fantastic people.  Tom Robbins, for example, was initially my point person on the team.  He is a great guy and was a hell of a mentor – getting me up to speed with their pipeline while keeping me on my toes with my animation quality.   There are many, many more amazing animators I worked with during my time at Riot.  Far too many to list.  Make no mistake about it, they are very, very good at what they do.

Sadly, things didn’t work out in the long run.  In the end it came down to my lack of passion for the project.  I hadn’t played League Of Legends before that time and I had a pretty tough time getting into it.  It just wasn’t for me and it showed in my work as time went on.  So take note that if you’re working on something that your heart isn’t into, it will ultimately affect your work.  I am forever grateful for my time with the good folks at Riot.

Some of the emotes I made:

 

 

17 Years Ago – My Time At LucasArts

I recently found these on an old hard drive. I was a Junior at Ringling School Of Art and Design when I got the offer to work as an animation intern at LucasArts on their new turn-based game “Gladius” (PS2, Xbox, Gamecube) almost 17 years ago.  The team was incredibly inviting and really took the time to help me grow as an animator over the short time I was there.  These are only animations I found from that project.  Please forgive the quality as these were captured in the pre-HD era.

My first real attempt at reviewing games.

Over the years I’ve played around with retro game reviewing, but it was always ended up being rather boring and not informative.  I recently spent over a month getting this first honest-to-god attempt at doing it right.  I hope you enjoy it.

Extra-Life 2017

For the past five years we have hosted a retro-gaming marathon through Extra-Life supporting Boston Children’s Hospital.  This years marathon will take place on Saturday, November 4th at 9:30 am EST where we will continuously play retro games for 25 hours.

Last year our team raised over $11,000 for Boston Children’s Hospital.  Please help us to raise even more money this year.  Donating is simple, tax-deductible and 100% of your donation goes directly to support our chosen hospital.

To donate please follow this link and click the green “donate” button at the top-right of the page.  Thank you.

https://www.extra-life.org/participant/pete

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