Saturday, June 12, 2010

Special occasions on (the) line

Avatar story: Next ⇨ | Latest ↠

It’s important to have traditions. Very important. (I’ll explain later why I say this so categorically, just bear with me for now.) This year I started a tradition, and it was also a pretty strong force in convincing me to create this blog. No, it’s not in my first post, so don’t look for it. This tradition was to change my avatar at certain special times of year to tell a small story.

The first one I did was for my Birthday. It was harder than I thought it would be, but I think it was worth it:
It told a short story of me leaving my mouse a graffiti, inspired by a poster my middle-school's counselor had in her office that said "be kind to me, I'm having a bad day". The story showed him being puzzled by it for a couple of days, then shrugging it off, stopping briefly to return the torch to his left hand, and moving on.

I quite enjoyed making these, despite them being so much work. I wanted to make another, but the only other occasion that came to mind that I thought deserved making an avatar for it was Christmas. I had this tossing and turning around in my mind when the TV, once again, blared advertisements of things to buy for Mother’s day, which was approaching quickly.

This, I thought, was the perfect excuse to do another such picture. It would be easy, too; I had already made a female mouse when I first did my avatar, mainly to have something to compare it against to see if there was any doubt my avatar was a guy.

Since I’m working on the computer, and made the arms, the body, and the head all separate shapes, rotating them into a hugging position was easy (except for the feet: First, I had to make sure they didn't step on one another; second, they were standing, not walking, and for digitigrades that means supporing their weight on the soles of your feet). However, it turned out you can’t just put two characters hugging like that, especially when they’re the same height. I’m not going to show it here, because the resulting image made them look like they were boyfriend & girlfriend or husband and wife; that definitely was not the idea I wanted to give. How, then could I make it unambiguous that the female was the mother?

The answer was so obvious I couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought of it from the beginning. I had to make my mouse shorter than his mom. This also solved the problem of them looking like they were stepping on each other's feet, because the kid now had to get on his toes to reach his mom.

The next problem was that the torch the mouse carried had an established glow field: barely enough to light himself up. If I wanted to be consistent (and I did) I couldn’t have the same torch suddenly cover illuminating so much more (the circle only covered their bellies; I checked). Even if I moved the torch to focus part of their faces, there was another subtlety to consider: when you’re burning your mom’s whiskers off, it really ruins the moment.

The final image

There really was nowhere for my mouse to hold the torch that wouldn’t imply some body part was burning, so I went with the wall torches you see here. However, the torches didn’t light up the whole thing; the top of the mother’s head was out of the area where the circles overlapped. So what did I do? I cheated.

Rather than two overlapping circles, I made one that contained them. I was able to do this because most people really have no idea how light adds up. For instance, if you get an incandescent lamp with two 60-watt bulbs, you’d expect to get the equivalent of a 120-watt bulb, right? Wrong. The light is more like a 111-watt bulb; but people don’t know this, so the cheat works.

Finally, after using such a long sequence to return from my birthday image, back to normal; I felt I needed something to transition back to normality, so I devised the following. The Torch on the left is supposed to be the one that was on the right in the hug, viewed from the other side. Perspective is tricky, especially if your wall isn't flat.

My mouse character picks up his torch and waves good-bye

This art was basically wasted due to the small size of avatars. I learned that if you want to put two characters in a 32×32 space, they can't be separate, because the space wasted to indicate that they aren't touching is space you can't use to show who each of them is. For this reason, when I did my next "special", I left out making the "transition"

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