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 Post subject: Re: Book 5 - Prologue 20
 Post Posted: Fri Jul 05, 2019 1:07 am 
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khamul wrote:
goldenboy wrote:
An artist can draw anything, with a pencil and paper, completely independent of any pre-existing 3D props and setpieces. By comparison, requiring new backgrounds to be modelled, textured, lit and rendered every time is going to become a strain.


I think that what you're not appreciating the impact of is that in Erfworld, everything is symbolic.

I mean, that's why Erfworld is so amazing. Every nuance is considered.

But it's also why they have to go this route. Because an artist can draw anything - so making sure that what the artist has drawn is right in every detail is incredibly time-consuming and expensive.

That's what I think is behind this? The attention to detail required is extraordinary.

That said, I found your post really insightful and interesting. You clearly have relevant experience, and one of the lessons I have learned over and over in my life is that it is a lot easier and a lot less painful to listen to people who have learnt things the hard way, than it is to learn it all the hard way myself.


This, when they started book 3 they had a lot of issues of this nature and it was the primary cause of artist burnout. And thats important here. That need to get things very acurratte has been the cause of most of their artist retention issues thus far.

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     Post subject: Re: Book 5 - Prologue 20
     Post Posted: Fri Jul 05, 2019 1:37 am 
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    Hello all!

    I'm happy to see a comic page up and people posting again :D I've really missed Erfworld D':

    I'm sorry to say this, especially because I know that everyone involved with Erfworld is working very hard, but I just really don't care for the art on this page.

    I've always loved Erfworld's story, but I didn't really love the art until Xin came along (though Jamie's art and having everyone be tiny and cute was adorable). To me the first panel has nothing of Xin in it, and the model barely looks human. There's no detailing in the face, I wouldn't have known it was Paige if not for the context of the story, and it's just not good.

    I don't mean to be so negative about this, but in addition to being story driven, I'd say Erfworld is also character driven. I care about what's happening in the story because I've been previously given a human face that can convey personality and emotion and I can invest in that. I can care about this model right now because I have a face to put on it, but for future characters? It's gonna look like a bunch of featureless clothespin dolls at this level.

    The second panel I don't have so much to gripe about; it reminds me of those old anime/cartoons when cgi was first starting out, and you'd have hand drawn characters but cgi robots/vehicles/whatever. I could live with that if the characters looked like how they used to.

    I unfortunately don't know the solution to this. I know artist burnout is a major problem, and the amount of work needed to be put in Erfworld to make it Erfworld is just so enormous. I doubt the money is there, but maybe having a team of artists that can mimic Xin's style? Or focusing the 3D to the environment only, and implementing hand drawn art for characters or unique items only?

    If I had the time and talent, I would love to offer my services to help Erfworld in some way, but I'm not a Xin or Red or anyone like that.

    I just don't know, all I know is I want the story to continue and to be successful.

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     Post subject: Re: Book 5 - Prologue 20
     Post Posted: Fri Jul 05, 2019 4:00 am 
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    Arci wrote:
    It seems to add to the sense of mystery and atmosphere that I'm listening to Kevin Macleod's "Ghost Story" while reading this piece.

    This is a nice short piece. I too didn't notice Page in the last panel. But I didn't care, she's not the main subject of that panel anyway.

    It is interesting though that she lost her sense of the tower. Could there be come integral connection between what a ruler can sense and... yeah, probably not. It's probably that she can sense various things, or rather, various categories of things, and the tower, becoming a temple, has shifted to a different category.

    I say her problem with sensing the tower is that there is this giant wooden edifice blocking her view. Also there is a forest of trees obstructing her vision as well.

    In other words, it's not the tower she remembers sensing for all these turns.
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    That sword looks like a classic rapier to me.

    Evidently were page turner to pursue a career in writing autobiographical material, there would indeed be a schwashbuckling tale or two under her belt (as King Dicky expected), if she wasn't stuck ruling the world's smallest side.

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     Post subject: Re: Book 5 - Prologue 20
     Post Posted: Fri Jul 05, 2019 5:29 am 
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    The Paige panel does feel unfinished to me, like a hasty sketch (what is the dark blue on the ground behind her supposed to be?). Which is wholly contrary to the writing and conception of Erfworld, in which everything is extremely meticulous in its planning. However, I'm going to disagree with everyone slightly; I do like Paige's overall form and proportions, and if the watercolor-y-ness of it were just there to give her depth and shading, I wouldn't mind it. It just can't be all there is when it comes to conveying detail, especially in her face. I don't know from art, so maybe this isn't feasible, but if this style is specifically easier and quicker to use, could something like this picture be made at a larger scale and then just shrunk down, so that more precise detail is easier to add and the rough parts don't show so clearly? Or is that what was attempted here?

    As for the 2nd panel, I quite like the palms, even if they do look copied (though it would be better if they weren't).

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     Post subject: Re: Book 5 - Prologue 20
     Post Posted: Fri Jul 05, 2019 6:24 am 
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    So is this Prologue 20 or Prologue 19? The update seems to be confused on the matter. :D

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     Post subject: Re: Book 5 - Prologue 20
     Post Posted: Fri Jul 05, 2019 7:04 am 
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    I wasn't sure at first, but on second look I really like the new style. I'm excited about the potential.

    When you change style from something people love, there will always be negative feedback. It reflects much more on the old style than the new.

    Re: expressivity of characters, I don't see a problem there. How you convey emotion is very strongly tied to the style, so of course it will change. Some styles and comics work with minimal or even no expressions; e.g. xkcd. For those the reader fills in the gaps--and it works, as long as the writing is good.

    I'm sure Erfworld can make the new style work, and really own it :)

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     Post subject: Re: Book 5 - Prologue 20
     Post Posted: Fri Jul 05, 2019 7:11 am 
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    goldenboy wrote:
    I have a background in videogames, especially 3D and environment, but also 2D. So I have a grasp of the scale of what you're trying to do with the modelling. I have to wonder if it's economical. Is any other comic doing it this way successfully, on the same scale as Erfworld?

    An artist can draw anything, with a pencil and paper, completely independent of any pre-existing 3D props and setpieces. By comparison, requiring new backgrounds to be modelled, textured, lit and rendered every time is going to become a strain. You'll have to re-use existing setpieces before long. You're already re-using assets. Plus, things like hair and facial animation are really hard to do well especially with toon shading. And a toon shader is never going to approach the expressiveness of hand-drawn lines. They work in videogames, where pictures move too quickly to catch the details. Even textures are hard to do, as you're probably finding, and simple photo-sourcing doesn't look as good as even a quick drawing. I just wonder if it's even economical to do it the way you're planning to do. Hats off for having a go at it, but man, I hope you know what you're getting into.

    The modeling does seem to provide consistency in color and lighting. If it is treated as two steps of the process (the drafting phase and the inking phase) instead of the entire process, it could prove more productive in the long run... especially for settings.

    When I was adding lines to Paige the other day to make my point, it only took about fifteen minutes. The model had already done all of the heavy lifting; it was just a matter of emphasizing its contours to draw it back in line with Erf's established style. Yeah, it probably took a long time to make that Paige model, but now that she's made she can be used for reference over and over. In that respect the models can serve as really customized artist mannequins... dolls that are easily posed, photographed, and then drawn over. Let the 3D handle the lighting and color and layer 2D over it for the details... outlines and perhaps a color tweak or two. Inking is a terribly time-consuming process, so if it can be mitigated with textures and renders (even stock ones), all the better.

    It'll be more expensive in time and effort in the beginning. But, as their library of assets increases (more characters modeled, more cities rendered), drawing over 3D reference dioramas will eventually outpace drawing from scratch. It's a long-term investment... certainly not viable for one-shots but invaluable for staple scenes and characters.

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     Post subject: Re: Book 5 - Prologue 20
     Post Posted: Fri Jul 05, 2019 10:14 am 
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    Overall, I think the 3D style is working reasonably well for the backgrounds and scenery, but definitely has a long way to go for character models - though the suggested edit earlier in the thread shows a nice way to build on the 3D and make something serviceable.

    I'm not sure I entirely get the reason for the shift to 3D, or the claim that what has made Erfworld great has been the attention to detail (I'd put that at 4th or 5th on the list of important qualities of the comic), but it is the artist's choice in the end. And I am pleased to see more regular updates resuming!

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     Post subject: Re: Book 5 - Prologue 20
     Post Posted: Fri Jul 05, 2019 10:18 am 
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    TL;DR: my feedback is: model it if you have to, but please try to stay true to the original art style.

    More detailed thoughts backing up that TL;DR:

    There are pros and cons to the written word versus movies/TV shows. The written word allows (also forces) a reader to use their imagination. In a visual medium like a movie you can tell part of the story visually, and if done well the story can be told faster without words. Instead of writing, "She turned left" the person just turns left. Comics are an interesting middle ground. Some things can be shown visually, some things you have to use your imagination.

    There has always been an unspoken acceptance (in my mind at least) that as a reader of this comic I am being allowed (forced) to use my imagination. So in general, I would caution everyone to take art feedback with a grain of salt. While the visuals are important I don't think anyone (staff or audience) should get TOO caught up on the visuals.

    That said, I will admit when I first came across Erfworld I was intrigued by this sort of alternate dimension world where full grown adults were living in bodies that we would consider almost toy-like, and what these bodies and different universal rules would mean for how characters thought, acted, and interacted. I am concerned that moving too much towards true 3D is going to eliminate that foundationally interesting element. Bringing these characters into 3D may bring them too close to Stupidworld.

    So: model it if you have to, but please try to stay true to the original art style.

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     Post subject: Re: Book 5 - Prologue 20
     Post Posted: Fri Jul 05, 2019 12:12 pm 
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    Fla_Panther wrote:
    That said, I will admit when I first came across Erfworld I was intrigued by this sort of alternate dimension world where full grown adults were living in bodies that we would consider almost toy-like, and what these bodies and different universal rules would mean for how characters thought, acted, and interacted. I am concerned that moving too much towards true 3D is going to eliminate that foundationally interesting element. Bringing these characters into 3D may bring them too close to Stupidworld.


    This is a really good point I had not previously considered. 3D modeling could make the characters too "real", always staying with exactly the same contours from different angles.

    Personally, I agree with the others who think the 3D modeling is a mistake. Maybe there is no other path forward, but it's kind of like when you see a great movie and then you get a sequel, and if anyone ever asks you how the movie is you say it's fantastic but don't watch the second one (sorry). I think the audience for this will be very different, because the readers who got drawn in got drawn in not just because of the story but because of the amazing graphics.

    At this point, I'd prefer it to go all-text and become a story, maybe with an illustration once every 20 pages by hand-drawn artists.

    I agree that it's important the images add to the story rather than detract from it.

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     Post subject: Re: Book 5 - Prologue 20
     Post Posted: Fri Jul 05, 2019 12:23 pm 
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    Excellion wrote:
    Book 4, Page 41 for example. There are four different wheels of fortune in it, that were never reused in other pages. For a 2D artist it is a matter of just drawing the image, whereas 3D modelling would take a lot more time. There is always the question of "Will we invest time in creating a model for something that we never use again?", which limits creative freedom.


    This also illustrates just how good the old art style was (and I think this applies to books 1-3 too). While I can see how the 3D modeling would help with milestone 5 stuff (ie "tablet apps, animated shorts, the board game...") and with the landscapes and architecture, I am pretty skeptical it is going to maintain the overall quality of the comic.

    Personally I would rather have the artistic quality of the old stuff, even if it meant some dwagons had the wrong eye color. The art and parson metagaming is what really brought me to the comic.

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     Post subject: Re: Book 5 - Prologue 20
     Post Posted: Fri Jul 05, 2019 2:45 pm 
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    Thinking about the art from a totally different angle, I worry what will happen when they are showing linkups. Personally, I think the high point was uncroaking the volcano (which I really liked). As the art has become increasingly realistic, I have found scenes like these increasingly awkward to look at. At times, Erfworld is starting to feel outright pornographic.

    I know I am in a minority here. But I also know that one of the benefits of joining the Toolbox is being allowed to see the pin-ups, which are pictures of the characters wearing next to nothing. If the comic itself starts including that kind of image, this could cut into the incentive for people to become Tools. And that would cut into funding, which I know is a perennial problem.

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     Post subject: Re: Book 5 - Prologue 20
     Post Posted: Fri Jul 05, 2019 10:58 pm 
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    Hmm, just brainstorming on ideas to make the characters look erfly cheaper

    1. You could rig up the simplest doll possible, it doesn't have to look much like the character, maybe close in build and height, no real hands or face or anything. I'm picturing like 15 cyllanders a character, just for blocking the scene. Then draw over it completely, rotoscoping a little but ad-libbing the face, raiment, etc.

    2. You could keep the detailed dolls you have, but plan on drawing the face separately. Zoom in and draw in broad lines a portrait, that readers don't get to see except in low res. Maybe save 'em for the Toolshed.

    3. Do like The Dreamland Chronicles originally did. Lots of pages in one place, 2-4 panels per page, a few facial models for each main character for different expressions, but you tilt the head at a different angle to imply subtle facial expressions that just aren't really there...

    Oh awhile ago you gave away units and you plan to sell them. OK. Going to need at least 1 good face per saleable unit then. Aww man why does my decrypted stabber have a better face than Paige here? You already did #2 without zooming in enough to inject her with character didn't you. :mrgreen: Using these sorts of models for the rank and file's art probably speeds things up, actually, though you might want to recolor the humans often. It would be a big pain to model all the interesting casters and warlords, though.

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     Post subject: Re: Book 5 - Prologue 20
     Post Posted: Tue Jul 09, 2019 2:49 am 
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    I think you guys are jumping the gun on worrying about the 3D art. It'll take time for this method to find its style, but there are a LOT of options. With an edge detection shader, what you're seeing here is only the tip of the top of the tip of the iceberg as far as what's possible. It's really just a matter of finding the aesthetic that matches Erfworld best. I guarantee it's there, it's just a matter of figuring it out. And I don't see anything wrong with using the prologue to experiment in that direction.

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     Post subject: Re: Book 5 - Prologue 20
     Post Posted: Tue Jul 09, 2019 3:33 am 
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    zbeeblebrox wrote:
    I think you guys are jumping the gun on worrying about the 3D art. It'll take time for this method to find its style .... I don't see anything wrong with using the prologue to experiment in that direction.

    +1 here. Text updates with experimental, in-progress art, are a win-win-win-win for me. I'm happy to read some Erfworld (though I'm way too emotionally invested in Noah and Paige for them to be on the wrong side of Fate :cry: ), I'm happy that Rob is getting to publish some writing in any form, I'm happy that the text updates give them a place to post some work-in-progress art experiments, and I'm happy that my tiny little Tool membership is being billed to chip in for it and support the effort.

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     Post subject: Re: Book 5 - Prologue 20
     Post Posted: Wed Jul 10, 2019 8:59 am 
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    gchristopher wrote:
    zbeeblebrox wrote:
    I think you guys are jumping the gun on worrying about the 3D art. It'll take time for this method to find its style .... I don't see anything wrong with using the prologue to experiment in that direction.

    +1 here. Text updates with experimental, in-progress art, are a win-win-win-win for me. I'm happy to read some Erfworld (though I'm way too emotionally invested in Noah and Paige for them to be on the wrong side of Fate :cry: ), I'm happy that Rob is getting to publish some writing in any form, I'm happy that the text updates give them a place to post some work-in-progress art experiments, and I'm happy that my tiny little Tool membership is being billed to chip in for it and support the effort.


    Agreed. Every time the art style has changed there has been controversy. People adjust.

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     Post subject: Re: Book 5 - Prologue 20
     Post Posted: Wed Jul 10, 2019 11:35 am 
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    zbeeblebrox wrote:
    I think you guys are jumping the gun on worrying about the 3D art. It'll take time for this method to find its style, but there are a LOT of options. With an edge detection shader, what you're seeing here is only the tip of the top of the tip of the iceberg as far as what's possible. It's really just a matter of finding the aesthetic that matches Erfworld best. I guarantee it's there, it's just a matter of figuring it out. And I don't see anything wrong with using the prologue to experiment in that direction.

    But...
    Titan wrote:
    So here we go with one approach to character art. Everybody on the team will be interested to hear your feedback.

    Rob and team were asking for feedback. We gave it. It wasn't jumping the gun. Unless you are worrying about our worrying tone. Then forget my worrying about you worrying about our worrying tone it's okay. My bad, I have no willpower when it comes to having meta-conversations online. Especially since I've run out of things to talk about on the comic itself.

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     Post subject: Re: Book 5 - Prologue 20
     Post Posted: Wed Jul 10, 2019 2:15 pm 
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    The art is quite unappealing. If it were my first exposure to the comic, it would probably be my last exposure too: I would write off the imagry as too ugly for me to waste my time with. There is plenty of really great art in the world I have yet to see. There are entire lifetimes of amazing art to experience and I just get the one life. Wasting my time on this doesn't seem like a good return. Encouraging Balder and whoever else is working on this 3D approach to keep wasting their time on this particular project seems selfish at best to me.

    Balder had a winning formula with book 1. Work on a tightly scoped story with good art. That's all he's ever had to do. What he's doing right now is a waste.

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     Post subject: Re: Book 5 - Prologue 20
     Post Posted: Fri Jul 12, 2019 6:39 pm 
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    The title of the page is "Prologue 20" but the image has 19. This threw me and I thought I missed 20 when 21 came out.

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     Post subject: Re: Book 5 - Prologue 20
     Post Posted: Fri Jul 12, 2019 8:18 pm 
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    Unlurking to welcome the newest presentation!

    The narration is a very alone-in-the-world wary sort of approach. Does that solitude show up in the art? Yeah, but in its own way.

    I think the first picture mostly washes out Paige's wrinkles, and her face looks more neutral than afraid -- but hey, her narration sounds like she isn't all that afraid, or at least that she's dealing with it. The housecoat is properly ludicrously pink, standing out to show off the impromptu nature of her maneuver. The quick-line art works very well for a sword as slender as that. The leaves are an innocuous mish-mosh, and the ground looks aquatically rippled, though I suppose that's the sidewalk-glow-moss that Noah cultivated.

    Regardless of background, Paige stands out -- alone indeed -- in her picture, but I didn't notice her at all in the second picture until quite a while later. In that one, the matted treetops dominate the canopy (helpful for a hidden city, I should think) save for that... face. Or most of a face -- it's as amorphous as a piece of clay squeezed in a hand, but still shaped just enough that one is sure that this is a deliberately-made face. It has a good aesthetic for Nestly -- low-tech but still standing intact.

    But its lack of expression makes me wonder just what kind of mood it will have...

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