Comparison in Blood

Currently experiencing a low infestation rate.

Darkest Dungeon certainly brought one of the more original ideas for bloodsucking abominations to The Crimson Court. Vampiric in nature, but not necessarily undead, the Bloodsuckers (as they’re fondly known) are actually variations of humanoid insects. They don’t sparkle, either. That said, there is a consistent theme in the art direction for Darkest Dungeon that often combines beastly features with humanoid anatomy. The Warrens is literally filled with dozens of examples. Not to mention those weird, misshapen, infested souls that plague the Weald.

The humanoid features make them more interesting, too.

A malformed bloody maw.

It also leaves me wondering how or why they exist in the first place. Or when they first appeared. But this isn’t meant to be an explanation of Darkest Dungeon lore (as fascinating as that would be), it’s meant to explain some of the thoughts I’ve had recently. Or, at the very least, attempt to explain those thoughts. As I’m not entirely sure that I understand it myself.

I think I’m focusing too much on the result. This particular pencil sketch is one of the rare few I’ve liked of the work I’ve done in recent weeks, which says a lot as it isn’t of a very high quality. But I like the approach. I liked how natural it felt (and how confident I was) approaching it. I attempted to enhance the original sketch digitally for the same reason, as I don’t feel as though my approach to digital paintings or illustrations is particularly sound. I never really stopped to think about how I would normally do things. I just jumped straight into painting without line work and going for a mostly realistic approach, which, again, I don’t think was a particularly sound decision. So in two ways this piece is teaching me more about my creative pursuits.

Firstly, that by being focused on the result I’m losing a lot of what makes up the piece in the first place. I’m not thinking about how to achieve the best representation of the piece- I’m instead thinking about how to work towards a result that I want for reasons I can’t explain. Secondly, that perhaps I’m not as inexperienced with digital paintings and illustrations as I would have assumed. Maybe I’ve just been doing things in the wrong way and expecting (for some reason) to get the representation that I wanted.

You can almost hear the maddening skittering…

I’ve also not questioned my approaches as much in the past as I have recently.

I’m most curious as to why that is. I don’t exactly feel different, but I’m wondering if maybe this is foreshadowing a great period of creativity in my life and I just need to get past these hurdles first. Almost as if I realise the potential I could have and because I’m not living up to it I’m squandering it. As egotistical as that may sound. Not that it’s intended to be egotistical at all.

I’m quite happy with the piece, too. If that wasn’t clear. I’m not entirely sure where it’s going from here, but I would assume that I’m going to work on the digital version a little further and perhaps even expand upon the original sketch. That’s one of the neat things about digital illustrations. You can keep adding, removing, and adjusting endlessly until you get the result that you want. Which is equally one of the worst things about digital illustrations, as nothing is ever done and can always be approached again. I’m also surprised at how efficiently I’m working through this piece. I’ve not run into the usual issue of spending significantly more time for a fairly similar result, which, hopefully, shows some amount of growth within my approach.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

Art, design, and the like found herein (unless otherwise specified) is drawn and owned by David Wilkshire (also credited as Moggie) from 2006 to present date.

Darkest Dungeon, The Crimson Court, bloodsuckers, and all associated trademarks and devices are owned by Red Hook.

First Impressions of… Low Magic Age

Stand back! I have a spear and I’m not afraid to pretend I have the proficiency to use it!

Low Magic Age is an enjoyable Early Access RPG with a d20 System ruleset derived from the Wizards of the Coast Open Game Licence. At this stage of development there is a fully functional (yet deceptively complex) Arena, alongside deep character progression mechanics and varied equipment choices. The developers are also looking to add a campaign mode to fully flesh out the core experience. Likewise, there’s early Steam Workshop integration which could permit the creation of much more (Arena/campaign) content in the future.

It’s definitely one of the more promising Early Access titles I’ve seen.

Even if you’re not fully conversant with d20 System rulesets, Low Magic Age provides an intuitive and easy to learn presentation of mechanics alongside an impressive explanation of what everything does. A feature that I wish would be more prevalent in other RPGs with complex formulae. I’m also quite fond of how quickly you can pick up the nuances of combat.

The Arena is almost exclusively combat, too. So if you’re not too keen on the idea of something reminiscent to dungeon crawling with a party of adventurers, you might want to wait until the campaign is implemented. It’s not actually dungeon crawling, though. As you progress through the Arena in waves. After each fight you can purchase new equipment, replenish ammunition, spend Glory for party bonuses, or even recruit new adventurers for your party. Each party progresses through their own waves, too. Switching to an entirely new party will reset your progress back to the first wave, while also resetting your gold and Glory to their default values. Switching back to an existing party restores their wave progress.

Just one more turn…

Your party can consist of either default characters, your own characters, or a combination of both. When creating characters you can follow a template or create your own custom characters, with the characters created via templates levelling up automatically. Which, I assume, as I don’t use character templates, automatically develop certain abilities. Which is a great feature for those who enjoy the experience that Low Magic Age offers, but might not be as interested in statistics or agonising over new abilities. Thereby it’s very new player friendly, too.

Each wave in the Arena also features a boss fight.

These will become available once you’ve defeated all of the fights in a particular wave. Unsurprisingly, these often feature incredibly tough enemies which are stronger than most things you’ve faced before. You can either fight these bosses as they appear or grind experience in the fights of that wave. As I do believe each fight per wave is endlessly repeatable.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from Low Magic Age but I’m very pleased with this current iteration. It’s an easy recommendation if you enjoy fantasy RPGs, tabletop rulesets, or Dungeons & Dragons with the only caveat being that the campaign isn’t implemented yet. So if you’re not keen on endless Arena bloodshed you may want to wait before purchasing. I still think it’s a great deal at the current price, though. Given that many of the existing systems are fully functional and that the Arena is also incredibly polished for many hours of enjoyment. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have another turn to take and another wave to finish…

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

The Sunshine Estate

It’s not so dark now, is it?

Many things have changed since the full release of Darkest Dungeon. We’ve seen the introduction of town events, the Antiquarian, Radiant Mode, Stygian Mode (the rebalanced New Game+), heirloom trading, and the first story expansion with The Crimson Court. With the release of the expansion it seemed as good a time as any to return to the horrors beneath our family home. I’ve been meaning to go back to my previous estate, but, as you can probably tell from the title of this post, I instead opted for a Radiant Mode campaign.

It’s an interesting concept for a difficulty adjustment.

Rather than making the enemies and dungeons trivial, it instead makes the campaign shorter and reduces the need for grinding significantly by providing Radiant Mode specific stagecoach upgrades. Most things are cheaper, too. Which, when paired with an Antiquarian in your roster, reduces the need to grind for gold almost entirely. It’s a pleasant experience overall.

I’ve not played the default difficulty (now known as Darkest Mode) since release, but Radiant Mode has great pacing comparatively. Each week has a purpose and affords progression. Whether that progression takes the form of a boss kill, an upgrade to the estate, levelling up a hero, or even an expedition to the Darkest Dungeon. It’s nice that the challenge is retained, too. Failure is still possible if you don’t play well or use effective team compositions. Or forgot to bring torches to the second assault on the Darkest Dungeon. Which was the highlight of my entire campaign, as I noticed almost immediately but fleeing the Darkest Dungeon results in a guaranteed death. I wasn’t fond of that as I’d been training these heroes for this for some time.

Nightmare made material.

Which also made the mistake even more hilarious. Thankfully, I didn’t have any Sun Rings on the heroes in that party so fighting through in the darkness was at least doable. By virtue of Cry Havoc and Rallying Flare we were successful. I did take 60+ stress from Revelation, though. They acted before either of my guards could be applied. I had few deaths in this campaign, too. Besides that ill fated attempt at fighting a Shambler with an Antiquarian party that lacked the necessary damage. We killed the Shambler- but the spawn quickly finished us off.

Hilariously, that loss was worth two achievements.

With the release of The Crimson Court I would have to agree that Darkest Dungeon is in the best condition that it’s ever been in. The classes are all particularly useful for one reason or another, there are innumerable team compositions to provide different answers to similar problems, and there’s even new content (and a new class) to experience if you own The Crimson Court.

I’m intending for this Radiant Mode campaign to be the first in a series of campaigns. I was thinking of doing difficulty progression akin to how you work through normal, nightmare, and hell in the earlier instalments of the Diablo series. I’ve had a lot of fun with this estate, but I’m slightly dubious about the shortened campaign length. Given that I’ve spent nearly 50hrs in this estate at this point. Though, to be fair, that is likely shorter than a Darkest Mode or Stygian Mode campaign would be. I also took the time to kill all of the bosses, level up all of the classes, and do other things that aren’t necessary for the successful resolution of a campaign. I’m starting to think I have a problem regarding the completion of miscellaneous objectives.

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

Mushroom Fluidity

Liquid mushrooms would be an edible oddity.

Not that I think liquid mushrooms would be edible and even if they were I would advise against trying them. Then again, we do have mushroom soup which is sort of like a liquid mushroom even though the actual soup is made of other things. This tangent is weird. Here’s an update on the works in progress present in Mushroom Inspired. They’re a little further along now, too. Two of them have been painted, while the third (which wasn’t present in the previous iteration) is still an inked sketch.

I doubt there will be further progress here, though.

I’m not entirely happy with the results so far. I don’t think that deathclaw even looks like a deathclaw any more, either. If it ever did in the first place. While I will admit that the reason I started this project was to improve my watercolour approaches, it’s not really working as intended as I think that the initial approach was flawed. It was too forced and inconsistent.

I don’t feel as though the original ink sketches were accurate to my ink approaches in general. Which is a considerable issue, as I’m trying to use an unfamiliar ink approach with a somewhat new watercolour approach. It doesn’t have any strengths. It doesn’t feel natural, either. This is an issue that is entirely my fault, but it’s probably best to move on from these pieces as I don’t really feel like they’re adding anything to what I’m doing. I just feel frustrated when working on them. Almost as if I’m fighting myself to finish them. It’s a shame as I’ve used a considerable portion of expensive paper to be met with failure, but the worst failures are the ones that you can’t learn from and I can definitely learn from this.

One step forward and two steps back.

The third ink sketch is a Fallout 4 deathclaw which has notable strengths and weaknesses. Most of the strengths are in the lines and the textures (especially the horns) which look great, but is equally as weak in the overall presentation. My original intention was to work on numerous smaller pieces to more rapidly gain experience. However, in practice that probably wasn’t the best approach. Especially as I’ve hit several walls actually composing the ink sketches to begin with. It has not been as easy of a run as anticipated.

I’ll likely work on larger pieces for the next run of watercolour paintings, too.

I’ve also been wondering if I’m putting too much pressure on myself for certain results. I’ve noticed that my general enthusiasm towards a piece lowers greatly when things aren’t going as planned, which, again, is an issue that is entirely of my own creation. I have departed from my usual approaches with several materials and I don’t think it’s doing me too many favours.

However, it does promise better things in the future. I’m just starting to wonder whether the promise of future results is worth sacrificing all of the current ones. Or if it’s even possible to reach those future results if nothing is working out currently. It’s an interesting issue, which I hadn’t really considered when I set out on this weirdly infuriating journey. I’ve learned an awful lot about myself creatively, too. Which is always a nice bonus. I’ve started to notice weaknesses I hadn’t considered before. It’s understandably frustrating, but I’m still hoping I can come away from this with a positive push forwards. I’m still mostly happy with how things are progressing so it’s not entirely awful just yet. But it is getting there slowly.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

Art, design, and the like found herein (unless otherwise specified) is drawn and owned by David Wilkshire (also credited as Moggie) from 2006 to present date.

Fallout 3, Deathclaws, Super Mutants, Pip-Boys, and all associated trademarks and devices are owned by Interplay/Bethesda.
The Elder Scrolls, The Elder Scrolls Online, Morrowind, the Morag Tong, and all associated trademarks and de

Space Cowbots

Time to scrap the Scrappers!

SteamWorld Heist is an incredibly enjoyable tactical RPG offering the same charming art direction and quirky personalities present in SteamWorld Dig, but a departure in mechanics, presenting an adventure through turn based combat in mission sized bites, which is just as fun as the prior instalment but definitely more challenging. It’s the sequel that isn’t a sequel, which builds on the story of the SteamWorld universe but doesn’t require any previous experience to be immediately playable. It’s actually surprisingly intuitive in every way.

There’s a simple complexity in many of the mechanics.

Such as the characters themselves. Each is unique and named, with some sharing classes, but few sharing bonuses, and each has a signature ability that defines their role in combat. Every character has the capability to fight, but support and healing abilities are evenly distributed to help you develop effective party compositions to meet the challenges you’ll face.

Besides their innate abilities, characters can be equipped with a weapon and two utility items to provide statistical bonuses and further improve their effectiveness in combat. Utility items cover all sorts of bonuses such as bolstering health, providing retaliation damage, increasing damage, restoring health, or even some quirkier options like improved jumping. There are some that are best suited to certain characters which provide bonuses that fit their signature ability. Weapons come in a variety of destructive flavours, with everything from your standard revolver to an incendiary cannon which wouldn’t be out of place in the Worms universe. They’re enjoyable to use, too. They also feature ridiculous trick shots.

I feel as though an ancient evil has been unearthed.

Unlike other tactical RPGs which rely on calculated percentages to determine a successful hit, these weapons require you to manually aim (often with sights) to land a hit which make them a little more skill based than you might expect. With this comes ridiculous ricochet angles that allow you to land nearly impossible shots. These mechanics and varying mission objectives prevent repetition and stagnation in later missions. You should always keep a few extra weapons on hand, though. Some are definitely better suited to certain missions than others.

Be sure to stock up on Storage Units when and where you can, too.

Those will be important for carrying all of the equipment you’ll need to explore Deep Space. Which is a scary place. It really is. Levelling your crew will also be crucial to your success, which is handled via standard missions or particular solo missions which are designed to help you farm experience. Not to mention loot. So it’s a fairly comfortable experience overall.

One of the greatest successes of this title is the flexibility in everything from difficulty settings to optional content. It’s rare to have such control over how, where, and when you’ll progress with the story or with the optional content. Unrestricted access back and forth through maps gives you the opportunity to level up, recruit companions, visit vendors, and more at your own pace. Without fear that it will be locked out when you move to the next portion of the story. It’s refreshing to have options. I’d best describe Steamworld Heist as memorable and enjoyable. Something that’s fun to play, with an interesting story, and a unique cast of characters which are equally useful in the myriad missions you’ll encounter.

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

Steam Assimilation

Further down we go.

SteamWorld Dig is a rather charming, interesting, and somewhat unique approach to a classic formula. Unlike other platforming titles you quite literally build the path downwards as you continue exploring. It’s an approach that can leave you stranded if you don’t make use of the ladders, lamps, and teleporters so generously provided by the townsfolk. But it’s also one that provides innumerable secrets as you unearth new ways to approach old locations. It’s not a particularly lengthy adventure, either.

So it’s quite enjoyable revisiting old locations frequently.

These secrets will award you with precious minerals and mysterious Orbs. Both are used to purchase upgrades to make Rusty more durable, carry more water, take more damage, or dig even faster. The later updates which are more technological (and thereby more powerful) have an additional Orb cost. But earlier iterations are easily affordable with gold.

It’s a neat progression system, too. As you’re introduced to the concept that this is a fading mining town and the money that you provide through your adventure revitalises it, which is evident when you see the town growing and more vendors appearing. You’ll also unlock paths back to town at each major location, which makes returning to town incredibly easy in a way that reminds me of the first Diablo. The immediate approach to returning to town is to use teleporters. These will be found at certain locations, but you can also purchase your own (for a small Orb cost) and place them wherever you like. You might be hesitant to spend Orbs to acquire them but I bought four-five and could still afford all of the upgrades.

I don’t think this is the confirmation that they wanted.

Alongside the aforementioned range of upgrades bought in town, there are key upgrades which you’ll find at certain locations in the caves that afford you entirely new abilities. Such as being able to propel yourself upwards with the power of steam. Or the classic double jump. Or even the ability to detect minerals. Of the available options, my personal favourite is the removal of fall damage. All fall damage. Forever. It’s so nice to be able to dart down large, open, excavated caverns without a care in the world.

I don’t believe it’s possible to miss those upgrades, either.

In this way, SteamWorld Dig is surprisingly content dense and enjoyable as a result of it. It’s not a massive, sprawling, open world but what there is to explore is crammed full of secrets and other goodies. It’s easy to miss it, too. Especially with the earlier secrets that require relatively late upgrades. It’s certainly a credit to the developers and their ambition, though.

I’ll be honest and admit that I bought this mostly in anticipation of SteamWorld Heist, but it has grown on me. It has a certain charm that reminds me of childhood days spent with the SNES and all of the adventures therein. Something that’s just fun to play. That’s interesting and enjoyable. That has controls which actually work and where every aspect feels intuitive. Those are not feelings that I generally get these days with many things I’ll play, but, for those reasons, I would highly recommend SteamWorld Dig to anyone looking for some good ol’ fashioned fun. The kind we had back in the day. Which I am almost old enough to say now. Which doesn’t concern me or fill me with thoughts of my own mortality in any way.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

Melty Black Goo

It’s a recurring concept.

Here’s one of those rare moments where I’m losing track of what I have and haven’t shared in various places. I’m usually a little more organised than this, but that’s what happens when you’re working in three-four different sketchbooks at once. I’ve got to keep flipping back through them to make sure I’m still aware of the things that I’ve done. I know that I’ve shared this particular piece over on Twitter but I’ve not shared it here, so that’s some clarity through the confusion. But I couldn’t say if there are any other pieces that I’ve missed along the way.

Or how many pieces that could be if I had missed some.

So, let’s talk about this sketch. It’s a concept that I’ve had in my mind for quite some time, but one that is evolving further away from the humanoid approach present in Corruption Collection and towards something alien. Melty black goo alien. Which is quite an interesting development as I’m not sure where it’s going from here, either.

I can confirm that it is going somewhere. I’m just not sure what the finalised version of this concept will be and whether ink, pencil, or even watercolour would be the best approach. I’m also not sure if there’s going to be more humanoid features in the finalised version. I’m mostly conflicted as the humanoid features will add an emotion to the piece, but the alien features will afford me the opportunity to be wildly more creative with a likely more unique final result. With both of these concepts I’ve been happiest with the faces and the emotions. Which might suggest that it’s best to lean towards the emotional approach. That said, I could explore each of these approaches as there are no restrictions as to how many of these pieces I do.

He’s more goo than man!

The version present in this post was actually a direct response to the fact that I haven’t felt too good about the faces I’ve been drawing recently. That particular issue is peculiar as I’ve always been interested in drawing anatomy, which makes it odd that my current displeasure comes from anatomy. It’s been a weird few weeks in more ways than one. I was surprisingly happy with how this piece turned out, though. It was mostly done without reference and more as an exercise to see how much of that information I retain.

Which, again, given it is anatomy, should be a substantial amount.

I’ve been looking to change various aspects of the process of creating things recently, too. I know that this has resulted in a more erratic posting schedule for which I apologise. But I would hope that you’d agree that the recent content has been of higher quality, is more interesting, and is more engaging to interact with. Which is a standard I intend to maintain.

Creative content has been particularly erratic despite a strong and steady flow from last year. There are more than a few reasons for this, but that doesn’t mean I’m not trying to be more consistent and to produce more content. I’ve been looking at new ways to develop content, too. I’ve been thinking about either video recording or streaming as a possible expansion of what I’m currently doing, but there are issues which I need to address before I’m ready to do those. I’ve also got a few things I’ve been working on recently, which will hopefully come to a satisfactory conclusion and provide a steady stream of creative content for a time. There’s also some older content that I might revisit as well.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

Art, design, and the like found herein (unless otherwise specified) is drawn and owned by David Wilkshire (also credited as Moggie) from 2006 to present date.