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February 19th, 2010

First status update of 2010

This is the first, long overdue progress update of 2010. TAGAP 2 is in very good shape. The good news is that in end of January I finished Level 17, which means there are only two more levels to go. The bad news is that I decided not to continue any further before I have finished every single cut-scene between levels 2 and 17. And that's loads of stuff; This is third week in a row I'm working exclusively on TAGAP 2 cinematics.

Cut-scene extravaganza

Great deal of the missing tidbits consists of cut-scenes. Some of them are simple to produce, some almost painful. This is in fact the only point in TAGAP production when I wish it all was 3D. 2D art has that unique personal touch, but it also means when I want to show an object from a different angle, I have to draw, texture and shade it all over again. Good example is Pedro's helicopter; As of now I have drawn and animated made five different versions ( three in game-scale and two close-ups). Insane amount of work, but it pays off in the end when you finally see the cinematic sequence animated on screen.

As an example of the amount of details, I'm writing this blog post as a break from animating Pablo's face for a checkpoint cuts-scene (taking place between levels 14 and 15). This is thanks to the ETL (entity transformation loop), which allows us to do animation thousands of times more complex than anything in the first TAGAP. Still, we're not talking about anything on the level of Valve's Source, but it's still delightful add even more life to these 2D beings, especially for close-ups.

And no, I haven't done any special program for this; At this point I'm so accustomed to creating these animations via script parameters creating an additional tool might actually be only a slow-down.

Designing the Level 1

I'm not sure have I mentioned this before, but I still haven't designed the first level. There is a reason to it; This time around we are implementing an (optional) in-game tutorial and before I could design it, every gameplay aspect had to be locked down – and now they are. So, the first level is in the design and concept phase. The theme of the level was always there, now it's just the matter of outlining the gameplay.

Outside TAGAP2

Since I'm now unemployed again, I spend most of my time ( read; from 8 am to 19 pm ) on TAGAP2 and coffee brakes... so yeah, there really isn't much outside TAGAP2 in my life just now. That being said, I've watched even more Doctor Who. Tennant's final special is suitably awesome and dramatic, while the Tom Baker era I'm going through has featured some awesome horror-infused tales. If you haven't seen any Doctor Who, I recommend picking up Series I (of the new series) if you can afford it.

I've also just recently finished perhaps the best miniseries I've seen in ages, if ever. I'm talking about Jekyll, by BBC. The series, written and produced by the current (11th Doctor era) Doctor Who producer Steve Moffat, starts of like a modernization of Jekyll and Hyde tale, but takes it into far beyond that.

What I love the most about it is how Hyde is portrayed. Ever since the first movie versions, Hyde has been this supposed-to-be-grotesque monster and, in modern times, pixelated, deformed Hulk. That's bulls**t and team behind Jekyll knew that too. Jekyll's Hyde is the ultimate psychopath that doesn't scare you with some fake teeth and glued-on hair, but with his completely unpredictable nature and behavior. Physically Hyde is thinner, younger and sleaker, but generally looks like Dr. Jackman, the modern day Jekyll.

And it all comes together with an impressive performance of James Nesbitt as Jackman/Hyde. He is likable as Jackman and so outstanding as Hyde, that I dare to say he beats Ledger (RIP) as the scariest psychopath on screen. Spice it up with superbly intense writing, bleak and simple visuals and a haunting score, and you've got a truly unsettling series of awesomeness and thrills.

And oh yeah, last time I checked the whole series was only about 4 EUR on Play.com, so it won't break your wallet either.

But that's about it for now, I have start creating even more city skylines.

Until next time,

Jouni Lahtinen, the head penguin