Wednesday, August 11, 2021

When Your Best Isn't Enough - Part 2

Last week I shared with you the first of two posts about a project that didn't go the way I would have ever expected. Today, I bring the second and final installment in the tale. If you missed the first post, this work is from 2012, when I was accepting any and all work to see if I could leave my day job and work full time in the gaming industry. These designs were for a video game that has since come and gone, and none of the work I produced made it into the game - as far as I can tell. In the first post, I shared the many downs and a couple ups that came with designing and finishing the first monster I was assigned. I bring you the second monster today.

As mentioned in my first post, I quickly felt out of my element on this project, and my years of experience felt useless to me. I felt lost on a project making monsters. Not the best place to find myself. As I got started, I did feel some confidence returning. I successfully completed the first monster, or at least I thought I had successfully completed it. I didn't learn that it was reworked by another artist until later. With this second monster, I was switching which roll it played in the game and the environment it represented. I got to work on some thumbnail silhouettes.

Phase 1 thumbnail silhouettes

The thumbnail phase for this monster went a lot smoother and quicker, which gave me a false sense of accomplishment and confidence. One of the thumbnails was picked as my starting point, I was given some notes, and it was decided that the animation skeleton for another similar monster would be used on the one I was beginning to design. This did limit me to some extent. I had to keep legs and other anatomy in set locations for the established animation skeleton to work. Even so, having a set framework to work around did allow me to not worry about some of the design. Legs had to be where the legs were, etc. Here are the first explorations into this monster.

Concept pass 1 and 2

From the beginning, I thought this one was proceeding very well, and as with the first monster, I truly felt that at any point, I was almost to the point of being approved. As before, at every stage, I was shown to be wrong as the design would give way to more and more iterations and changes. One of my first versions was selected, and I was asked to rework the head and only the head. I felt that things were proceeding much better this time around. Here is the head update.

Concept pass 3

The head was still not working, but apparently, everything else was. I was asked to do some head variations to explore what other options I could generate. This kind of stuff is fun to me. Drilling down to make one aspect as good as it can be. I used what I thought to be the approved body to influence and dictate the shape and kind of head this creature would have. There are several of these that I like, but sadly, this monster only has one head.

Head variations set 1 and 2

As I recall, and from what I can tell from these drawings is that the very last head option that I created was selected. When I thought we were getting somewhere with the design, I was asked to go back in and simplify and rework the spikes and spines on the monster's back.

Spike simplification

As soon as the spikes were addressed, I was asked more head variations. This is at the point where I was beginning to worry. I thought I had a locked-in body and was working on the head. Then the head was selected only for me to start work again on the body. Once the body was chosen again, now more work on the head. I will be honest, the final head selected was one of my least liked. I know you should never submit anything you are not happy with or would want to work on, but in the process of exploring iterations and versions, not all of them are going to be as successful. At the end of the day, for me, one of the less successful options won the day.

Head variations set 3

As soon as the head was established again, I was asked to rework the body again. It was decided that the organ or whatever those round things are that hold water shouldn't be on the outside of the shell, and I needed to work up a design with them under the shell. I got to work on doing that with the newly selected head.

Body rework pass 1

I remember these new versions not being well received. The last request broke the look and feel of the creature that was established early on. You usually can't make a massive change like that without doing some significant modification. And that was what I was then asked to do. I needed to go back in and rework the entire body/shell aspect of this creature. Keep in mind I was also still having to design around the established animation skeleton from another monster. I tried my best to make something work.

Body rework pass2

None of these hit the mark. I was having the worst feeling of deja vu at this point. What at first felt like a better, more successful start to the design has now begun to spiral out of control. And yes, again, I do know that I am designing and not illustrating. I am exploring all options in a design, and I will likely have way more misses than hits and will probably find myself at deadends. My issue is that I was getting the impression that things were working and that I was moving in the right direction, only to be told to start over. Again. I was asked to drop the water pods and give the entire piece a new start.

Body rework pass3

Working with the head they liked, the animation skeleton that I couldn't deviate from, and the three or four spikes on the shell, I produced a bunch more concepts. I think some of these are really working and would make for a cool monster. 

This is at the point I was asked to leave the project. I will never know why this particular time was when it happened, but there was a part of me that knew it was inevitable. I would be lying if I told you I was not relieved that I was no longer working on the project. It was not fun and only caused me stress and anxiety. This project made me feel like a bad artist. I did get paid for my time, but that time resulted in nothing useful to the game. 

Needless to say, I never quit my day job. Good thing, too, with all that has been happening these past two years. Global pandemics aside, if I had left my day job, the likelihood of The Grand Bazaar of Ethra VanDalia getting published would have been next to zero. It all works out one way or another. I wish that this project didn't leave me feeling like a failure, but not ever endevor can be sucessful. I had to spend the next nine years learning from this experience and putting that knoweldge to good use elsewhere. One day I hope to see my work in a video game, but for now, that day is a long way off.

That's all for another exciting Wednesday on the blog. See you back here on Friday! Until then... 

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