Let’s Illustrate Planetbase Part 3: Maslow’s Hierarchy… IN SPACE!

When we last left Fault Inc’s first space colony things were looking pretty good. We had a set of solar panels producing tons of electricity that we then used to power both a water extractor and an oxygen plant. Toss in all the freeze dried food the colonists brought with them and the future is looking bright!

At least until the sun goes down.

No sun means no solar energy. No solar energy means no electricity, which means no water which means no oxygen.

As you might imagine the Fault Inc colonists are not happy about this and start complaining.

You already had twelve hours of oxygen today. What more do you want?

The good news is that they stop complaining pretty quickly. The bad news is that they stop because they’re all dead.

On the bright side poor Jude apparently died happy.

Well shoot. Not only did several brave astronauts lose their lives but Fault Inc’s insurance premiums are probably going to skyrocket too. We’d better be extra careful with the next colony.

Let’s Illustrate Planetbase Part 2: How Hard Is Rocket Science, Really?

When you first try to play Planetbase there’s a big popup suggesting you should complete the tutorial mode before trying to settle an actual planet, but I’m going to completely ignore it in favor of clicking on buttons myself and seeing what happens. For example, it turns out that clicking the “Start Game” button triggers an adorable cinematic of your space capsule landing and your brave space pioneers emerging.

And you thought it felt good to get out and stretch your legs after a long car trip.

The best thing about camping in space is there are no mosquitoes.

Now I’m no space expert but I’ve read enough sci-fi to know the obvious top priority for a space base is air. And the easiest way to get air is by electrically splitting water, which means I need some power and water. Fortunately solar panels and water extraction systems come as pre-unlocked tech so I toss up some panels, drill for water and then set up an oxygen plant for my base.

Things are looking pretty good for Fault Inc’s first extraterrestrial colony!

Let’s Illustrate Planetbase Part 1: Everything Is Better In Space

Planetbase is a town management sim whose claim to fame is that it takes place in space, meaning it’s not enough to just worry about whether your citizens are happy and well fed in their newly built settlement. You also have to worry about whether or not they have enough oxygen or too much cosmic radiation. How much you have to worry about this depends a lot on the planet you choose to settle.

Since I’m going into this game blind I only have access to the easiest of planets: Class D. It’s a dustball with a thick CO2 atmosphere and while humans can’t breath that the fact that it at least has an atmosphere should help with everything from providing wind power to screening out a certain amount of cosmic radiation and debris. It would also make this an attractive planet for terraforming but I don’t think this game cares about so oh well.

Anyways, first up we need to name our base. Now let’s see… who do we know that both desperately needs a way off planet and has enough money to fund a space program?

Why none other than Fault, who as you may recall ended her last adventure by kind of sort of betraying her orders from a powerful Emperor and thus winding up on his hit list. Still, at least she managed to amass a large fortune in the process and what better way to spend that than on space exploration.

Extensive experience with stabbing monsters totally qualifies Fault to run a space based industrial firm, right?

Thus is born “Fault Inc”.

No, this has no impact on the game at all but after the last two Let’s Illustrates it would be sad if Fault didn’t at least get a cameo in this one.

Random Pixels: Submarine Map Necklace Bag

I rolled the idea dice and came up with a submarine, a map, a necklace and some sort of bag. The map and necklace together suggest pirate treasure which works well with the idea of bags full of gold. Add in the submarine and you get sunken pirate treasure.

Of course nothing but a big old treasure chest underwater would be kind of boring so I threw in a mermaid.

Random Pixels: Submarine Shield Cauldron Fuel Gauge

So those two Let’s Illustrates I did were a lot of fun and they did help me get over that first big artistic hurdle of “What should I draw for practice?”

But now that I’m starting to get in the habit of practicing the time required to play a game and keep a journal and organize reference screen shots and whatnot is actually getting in the way of practicing the actual art. So now I have a new plan!

I have purchased a set of Rory’s Story Cubes, Voyage edition. It’s a set of nine dice with adventure themed pictures on them instead of numbers. These things are really handful for anybody whose creativity needs a little head start. Want a random short story idea? A theme for your next game of Dungeons and Dragons? Maybe… inspiration for a piece of pixel art?

In my case I use them by rolling all nine dice, choosing four that seem to fit together well and then that’s the theme of my next pixel drawing.

For example, the first time I rolled them I picked out a submarine, a shield, a cauldron and an empty fuel gauge.

So I thought a little and came up with this:

A deep sea diver (submarine) wearing one of those metal plated old diving suits (shield). He’s underwater examining a pipe for carrying oil that can be refined (cauldron) into usable fuel (fuel gauge).

Let’s (Not) Illustrate Shadowrun Dragonfall

So after finding out that trying to illustrate Dragon Age wasn’t helping me get in as much practice as I had hoped I decided to try moving on to a game I was more familiar with: Shadowrun Dragonfall. It’s a really well designed cyberpunk meets urban fantasy RPG that did a great job of giving you a lot of freedom of choice in how you approach problems. Need to get past security? Use hacking skills to fake an id. Fast talk your way past a guard. Get advice from the spirit realm on alternate paths. And of course if all else fails you can just shoot your way through the whole game.

Anyways that wound up not really being any better than Dragon Age in terms of how much time I spent drawing pixel art versus time spent playing and writing about the game but I might as well link a couple almost nice pieces before we get to next week and I reveal my new (but not that exiting) art learning strategy.

My first Shadowrun character ever was a dwarf roboticist named “Uncle Chrome” who managed to find a nonviolent solution to most of his problems thanks to being moderately charismatic and extremely good with computers and circuits.

Fault’s shadowrunning career sadly never took off the ground but I think it’s safe to say it would have involved a lot more explosions and hostile negotiations than my old Uncle Chrome run.

Let’s (Not) Illustrate Dragon Age Origins

So I’ve been spending the past few months playing through Dragon Age Origins and looking for good screen shots I could pixelate as part of my long and futile quest to learn how to art. And while this was kind of fun I eventually came to the realization I was spending more time playing and writing about the game than I was practicing my art skills. That sort of defeated the whole purpose of the exercise so I gave up and came up with a new plan.

But it’s not like I didn’t get any practice done, so here are some of my “better” (as in least worst) efforts.

A tragically cheerful Fault, unaware she’s about to be thrust into yet another cursed world full of things that want to kill her.

Of course there are giant spiders. Can’t call yourself an RPG without giant spiders.

This is so low resolution it’s probably hard to tell who it’s supposed to be but I still kind of like how “meh” that expression turned out.

Alistair’s perpetual smirk increases his aggro by 5% and helps explain why he makes such a great tank.

I failed to capture Morrigan’s trademark scornful frown and instead made her look like she’s trying to remember whether or not she forgot to turn the oven off before leaving home.

I was aiming for “being a refugee is awful” but seem to have wound up with “WHEEE, camping is fun!”.



Let’s Illustrate Morrowind: Index

Once upon a time a certain programmer had the incorrect idea that it might be fun to learn how to draw by keeping an illustrated journal of video game adventures. One victim of his doodles was Morrowind, famous open world fantasy RPG and ancestor to blockbuster hit Skyrim.

Let’s Illustrate Morrowind: Final Thoughts

So I finally “finished” Morrowind, which is to say I got near the end but got so frustrated with some of the end-game quests that I decided to sequence break and see if I could beat one of the final bosses early.

At least I think it was a final boss. Having never beaten the game means I can only sort of guess what was going to happen. Honestly in the future I should probably avoid doing Let’s Illustrates of games I havn’t finished at least once before.

Anyways, it’s time for final thoughts:

Thoughts On The Game

I can certainly see why a lot of people say Mororwind was their favorite Elder Scrolls game. The setting is unique, the sense of freedom is great and the story is one of the best written open world plots I’ve ever seen.

What made the plot so great?

Well, first off there was the simple fact that it was properly paced for an open world game. The game knew you probably wanted to do side quests and so the main story had regularly scheduled moments of down time where you were encouraged to go off and side quest for a bit. It’s a simple thing but for some reason most open world games just can’t pull it off. Even Bethesda itself seems to have trouble duplicating it and instead gives us things like Skyrim’s “Dragon’s are attacking and we have to stop them ASAP” or Fallout 4’s “Your baby has been kidnapped please rescue them ASAP”.

Beyond that the story also did a great job of making use of such advanced writing techniques as Foreshadowing and Ambiguouty.

For instance, one of my favorite moments in the game was when you first hear about the seven trials of the Neverine and realize that those are all things your character will have to go though. The trials are too vague to really let you know what you’re in for but you still get this lovely sense of doom. And then when you start accomplishing stuff it’s fun to look back and realize that “Oh! That’s what the third trial was talking about”.

I also like the fact that whether you are a reborn hero or just a spy pretending to be a reborn hero was never really clarified, at least not at any point in the game I played. Sure, you hear a lot about prophecy and fate but for all you know that’s just a few Deadra lords playing games or a few scribes being hopeful.

ON THE OTHER HAND: I think we have to admit that the rough gameplay made the story hard to enjoy. I mean, I was so tired of walking back and forth across the ashlands that I bailed out 80% of the way through the story.

So overall I’m glad I played it and it would be really nice if Elder Scrolls 6 were to have a Morrowind style scenario but with Skyrim style gameplay.

Thoughts On The Gimmick

A no armor, weapons or consumable run of an Elder Scrolls game is less intimidating than you might think given how much magic is readily available and how easy it is to regain HP and MP through rest even without items.

What did surprise me was the fact that Fault somehow turned into a melee focused wizard instead of the fireball chunking sorcerer I originally had in mind. I guess that’s what I get for obsessing about having optimal HP instead of actually thinking about how to be a good spell caster.

On the other hand being a transforming hero certainly gave the playthrough a unique feel and resulted in some funny mental images.

On the other other hand combat in Morrowind is tedious enough without having to cast the same armor and weapon summoning spells at the start of every single fight. So I can’t really recommend the power ranger build to anyone.

Thoughts On My Art

My first Let’s Illustrate was just to get me in the habit of regularly practicing art by basically putting my online reputation at risk if I didn’t. This second Let’s Illustrate was then theoretically supposed to focus on developing actual talent by picking a single artistic style and focusing on getting good at it.

Unfortunatley I instead spent most of this series jumping from one style to another like a kid in a candy store. Let’s try a cartoon style! No, comics! Maybe something more Japanese! And so on and so forth.

That said I did finally decide to commit myself to pixel art, for several reasons:

1) It requires and teaches many of the same skills as traditional art (perspective, proportion, shading) while being more forgiving of small mistakes.

2) You can easily adjust the difficulty of a piece by increasing or decreasing the resolution.

3) There are some good smartphone apps for pixel art, letting me slip in a few minutes of practice here and there instead of having to dedicate a solid hour to sitting at my computer with a drawing tablet.

Some time in the future I’d still like to improve my actual sketching skills but for the forseeable future I’m going to restrict myself to pure pixelated Let’s Illustrates until I reach a level where I can produce the sort of stuff I wouldn’t be embarassed to see in an actual SNES game.

As for when I’ll be kicking off the next series, I’ve already started playing and illustrating but want a bigger buffer of saved up posts before anything goes live. Might take a month or two. I know that’s Ages in Internet time but I hope your interest doesn’t Fade while you wait.

Let’s Illustrate Morrowind Part 46: It’s Over When I Say It’s Over

So Azura is willing to back Fault’s claim of Neverine status but the prophecy won’t be fulfilled until the majority of the dark elves have also been convinced. This requires becoming the leader of all four ashlander tribes as well as receiving top honors from three of the great houses in the city of Vivec.

In more practical terms this requires doing dozens of side quests that require trecking across Morrowind’s quick-travel-less wasteland again and again and again. And while some of the quests can be rather clever I honestly only get about halfway through before rebelling. There has to be a better way to save the world than yet another volcano hiking trip!

Let’s see here…

If I remember the plot correctly a lot of Morrowind’s problems stem from the fact that their trio of god kings are slowly going insane. So theoretically if we can just deal with them the day will be saved, right?

The easiest immortal troublemaker to find is Vivec, who lives in the city named after him and hides out in a giant temple secured by a max difficulty lock. Fortunately Fault has just enough mana to cast a max level unlocking spell letting her into the godling’s main chamber with ease.

Once inside she’s immediately blown up by a max level fireball. But if you manage to dodge enough of them Vivec will eventually run out of mana and resort to trying to punch to you death instead. And as Fault well knows punching things to death is next to impossible meaning that it becomes relatively easy to whittle down Vivec’s health bit by bit, running away to regain stamina whenever you’ve been punched so hard it looks like you’re close to passing out.

Finally the mad god falls, but Fault’s victory is interrupted by a popup informing her that the threads of fate have been broken and that the world is likely doomed. Or in other words, we just broke the plot and can no longer win the game.

That has to have been worth a ton of XP

Now you could argue that this is a bad thing and that the game should prevent you from breaking it, which is why Oblivion and Skyrim actually make certain characters unkillable until after their part in the game’s plot is over or make certain doors impossible to open without the story’s permission.

But I like that Morrowind trusts me as a player enough to let me go off the rails and end the game the way I want to. Vivec is hard to kill but not impossible and he is protected by a door that is hard to open but not actually impassable. And while the game warns you that you might want to consider reloading an earlier save so you can still finish the plot there’s nothing actually preventing you from just continuing playing in your now messed up world as long as you want.

So while neither the plot or this Let’s Illustrate have anywhere else they can go from here I like to imagine that Fault, having defeated Vivec, goes on to have an epic battle against the other two kings of Morrowind. With them dead the ghost wall will undoubtedly fall, leaving nothing but Fault between Morrowind and the plagues of Dagoth Ur.

But you know what? I think the odds are in Fault’s favor.