Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Top Down

My personal feeling is that I'm getting better at this.

About three years ago, particularly with the online campaign, I decided to begin drawing creatures from a top-down view for the combat sequences I was running in my online and offline games. Up until then I had mostly used abstract figures ... but I felt it would add more feel if I actually improved my ability to draw. I am, unfortunately, no artist; I can't render perspective at all, and I have trouble conceiving the shape of something as it would look from the top-down from a front-picture. For example, the fly above was meant to be an ankhkeg. Frankly, I can't make my mind image an ankhkeg from the top by virtue of images I've seen - and really, I have no idea where the wings come from. Look good though, ya?

My only point is that with practice, things get better. There aren't a lot of top down images on the web, nor do they look any better than the above image. Role-gamers do not use computers. I wish there was a top-down image for every creature ... but one of the benefits to making them myself on the Publisher program I use is that I can make them transparent. That has game benefits.

Anyway, if you're out there, and you have nothing better to do than paint miniatures, try a top down image of something on the computer imaging program of your choice. See how good you are at it.


I just wanted to add in this bit, as I'm reading this description of an artist working. One thing I have found about drawing my own images ... the curving line tool is easier to use, more forgiving and much more adjustable, but if I use the freehand, squiggly tool to make something, the resulting image is scarier. Compare the wings of the fly above (drawn with the curve tool) to the line of its body or its legs (drawn with the freehand tool).

The useful images Ozzie linked to in the comments field are very nice, but those with lines that are smooth lack a certain ... distinctiveness.


Eric said...

You're looking for RPG tokens, FYI:

Alexis Smolensk said...

Hey, thanks Eric. Those aren't bad.

Lukas said...

Wouldn't hurt as an opportunity to take a moment and consider the reason the monster IS a monster.

It's ok if you don't do a precise reconstruction. It looks fairly like a giant locust that might be a manifestation of fear of famine. Or of all consuming critters... Or just bugs that fly and have beady eyes.

I'm sure that's what an Ankhkeg is for anyway.

Ozzie Pippenger said...

This looks pretty nice, I think I might try something like this. The only drawback would seem to be that a top down perspective doesn't work well on humanoids though. How would you draw, say, an orc in this style?

My main strategies right now for making visual aids without artistic skill are drawing with pixel art and using rotoscope and contrast filters on photographs I find online. Pixel art gives the game more of a computer game aesthetic that some people might enjoy and others may find strange, but it has the benefit of being very slow and precise. When you can modify your drawing down to the individual pixel, you can really take as long as you need to get it right.

Putting filters over photographs sounds cheap and ridiculous, but it conveys the idea very well. A high res photo right off google image reminds people too much of the modern world I think, but if it's older looking and harder to make out, it can be just enough to get the imagination going.

It's important to my games to have easy and quick visual tools at my disposal, because if I relied completely on the work of other people, I don't know what I'd do when I needed to convey an actually original idea. Using pre-made images for every monster, for example, would make it difficult for me to use monsters I had invented myself, because there wouldn't be any similar images of them to use. So like I said, I think I'll try this style out and see if I can add it to my games.

Alexis Smolensk said...

For humanoids, Ozzie, check out the online campaign. Got a combat going on there right now.