Tuesday, May 20, 2014

XII. Defining a Look - Broken Contract Breaker Concepts

Breaker concept sketch by Geng Gendall based on Nick Tape of the hardcore punk band, Coke Bust.

Breakers are workers that have raised their tools as weapons and thrown off their shackles for a chance at freedom. As oppressed and subjugated workers, they needed to be easily identified as such. Several of my friends have commented that they wished the characters in Broken Contract looked more "from the future" which I feel is tough to do without making them either "high tech" with mechanical suits or skin tight compression pants covered in protective pads similar to how Infinity models look in their fitted armor. For myself, the indentured "mudders" from the Jaynestown episode of Firefly or the downtrodden forced laborers from the Seam in the Hunger Games really exemplify how I envision the potential future portrayed in the game. Carhartt gear might not seem very sci-fi but the term "overall" for protective clothes put over other clothes is thought to have been around since 1792, and the one piece work overall may have arrived in 1891. Its utilitarian look and function has remained relatively unchanged for over 120 years, so it may be a fair bet that utility wear like cargo pants, overalls, aprons, and coveralls will all see service and won't vary wildly due to changing styles. And if I'm wrong, that's okay too. Aren't we supposed to have hover boards in 2014?

Breaker concept by Sam Alcarez.

With all of that in mind, all of the aforementioned utility wear should exist in the 2300's: cargo pants, overalls, aprons, and coveralls and the workers clothes should be threadbare and dirty. Head mounted lamps should exist just the same, but the power source has likely changed. For our purposes its inconsequential. A head lamp is a head lamp whether its candle, gas, halogen, LED or other. Its a lamp worn on someone's head and as long as its identifiable as such and conveys the idea, "these are miners", then it works.

Breaker with pneumatic drill concept art by Oliver Zavala. This was the first piece of Broken Contract concept art.

Another thing I wanted to avoid was giving them lots of kit. When I first started this project I noticed that a lot of "futuristic miner" art I found online had them covered head to toe in pouches or tech gear if they weren't wearing exo-suits. When Oliver Zavala submitted the very first bit of Broken Contract art, the Breaker with pneumatic drill, I knew immediately that he nailed it. Here was a very stripped down and basic miner wielding his over-sized drill in plain overalls and a dehumanizing gas mask. It was exactly what I wanted and everything since has been built on his minimalist groundwork.

Progen Technician by Sam Alcarez. A potential Breaker. There are no guarantees with most Progens.

Now, with a variety of looks in hand to show slight differentiation in role and status we should have the look of a disheveled labor force pushed to the brink, which is exactly as it should be to convey the setting. Unlike the Security Officers, defining the look of the Breakers has been sort of easy and I'm fine with that.

-Nick

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Tangent IV. Progens and Drops

Updated sketch of Kellerman, the Progen Technician by Sam Alcarez.

A few weeks ago I went into some detail about Gen-Mods - genetically modified workers used in the mines. Today's tangent is talk about Progens (progenitor workers) and Drops (recent arrivals).

Within the labor colonies throughout the Incorporated Worlds there is a distinction made between what are referred to as Progens and Drops. Progenitor workers were part of the earliest waves of colonists or are direct descendants of those colonists. They carry a sense of entitlement because they were there first and are afforded a slightly superior standard of living by their corporate contract holders to match that entitlement.

Drops on the other hand are off-worlders brought fresh to the colonies who are expected to work for less. Not surprisingly, most Breakers are Drops. This is a division deliberately manipulated by the corporations by ensuring that Progens are intermixed into crews, usually as crew leaders, to make sure the Drops tow the line. By elevating Progens in colonial society just enough to feel they have too much to lose by Breaking, they will disrupt break attempts, rat on their co-workers, and strive to maintain the status quo. This dynamic keeps the workers divided and makes attempts to organize on a large scale extremely dangerous, which is why most break attempts are spontaneous or composed of only one or two small work crews at most.

Kellerman, as a Progen and a technician, has not only greater social currency and greater privileges in colonial society, but Kellerman could jeopardize the standing of their loved ones, who also benefit from being progenitor colonial laborers. It is these sort of complications that make an attempt at mass revolt so difficult. As such, in the story line of Deep Underground, the crew leader, Kollis, starts out with a rag tag group of Drop laborer Breakers and in the second scenario the Breakers may approach Kellerman and try to convince them to sacrifice their relative privilege to join the break attempt. Appropriately, this should require more than a few Dealing Checks and may not even be successful in the midst of the chaos. However, as a Progen and a technician, Kellerman would be a huge asset to have along.

Progens feel like a way to add in wild card characters appropriate to the context of the storyline that could go either way during the game and have a very genuine cause to flip their loyalties. This may make strategizing harder, but it creates an unpredictable narrative component that feels right based on the setting. It remains to be seen how it will go in play testing, but I think by starting Progens as NPC's (non-player characters) to interact with and acquire like equipment, it will be just fine. Its an interesting complication well worth exploring in game terms.

Thanks for reading.
-Nick

Saturday, May 17, 2014

XI. Evolution from Concept to Our First Model

Another piece of the puzzle that is game development. This is a 3D sculpt in progress courtesy of Tim Barry.

One of the really gratifying parts of this project is documenting the process as I see my ideas evolve and take shape. One of my pet projects that should be familiar to anyone who's been following the blog has been to take my friend and play tester, Chuck Hickey, and turn him into a part of the game. From the moment he walked in the door and sat down at the table for his first play testing session he had a fervent enthusiasm to play a Security Officer. With that enthusiasm to crack heads for the corporate Execs combined with his imposing presence I thought he'd make a great character in the game.

Security Officer sketch by Geng Gendall featuring Chuck Hickey's mug.

At the time the pet project started, Sam had just come on to work on getting the core concepts and look of the setting together. With him tied up I asked Geng Gendall if he could take on my pet project of making Chuck a Security Officer based on Sam's Security Officer concepts. He had just happened to jump into working on Broken Contract art of his own volition, so he took what Sam had defined and created a fantastic sketch of Chuck.

Now, with sketch in hand, I knew it was time to take things to the next evolutionary stage and find a sculptor. Originally, I had thought I was going to go strictly with traditional sculpting with my sculptors crafting the models out of epoxy putty, plasticard, and brass or plastic tubing, just like models I came up on. 3D sculpting seemed too technical and out of reach. I had contacts to some traditional sculptors so I tried that route first. My initial attempts saw me come up empty handed. Either they were tied up for at least a month out with other projects, or they just didn't respond - presumably because they're overwhelmed with their current workload.

Aetherium by Anvil-Eight Games. They just had a successful Kickstarter for this cyberpunk skirmish board game. Keep an eye out for the game to drop in the not too distant future.

At AdeptiCon I talked for a while with Brian Niro from Anvil-Eight Games about their game Aetherium, and the industry in general. Brian introduced me to one of their concept artists, told me what forges they used, and was just an open book with a wealth of information. I tried to glean as much as I could from the conversation. One of the guys at their table offered me a model so I grabbed a Nanomei Goliath - a fantastic miniature I might add.

This is a Nanomei Goliath by Anvil-Eight Games. This model prompted me to ask about their sculptors.

A few weeks later, after my initial sculptor search wasn't moving as quickly as I would like, I shot Brian an e-mail asking about the 3D sculptor they were using, pricing, and turn around. Once again, Brian came through with all of the details I needed, a contact, and a ringing endorsement of said sculptor. That's how I discovered Tim Barry.

Tim asked for a profile shot of Chuck. This is the one I gave him.

Tim and I exchanged a series of voice mails, phone calls, and he even dragged me into the world of Skype and we discussed all of the details and I shared with him the concept art and photos of the man himself, Chuck Hickey. Thus far, the experience has been great. He asks for feedback and when I asked him if he could soften the cheek bones and thin the nose a bit, he did it with no problem.

Tim Barry's rendition of Chuck's profile.

For those that don't know, the mustache and hair have to be a little thicker to create a detail that is raised enough to be painted on so that's why they are more pronounced. So far this model is coming along great and I'm looking forward to seeing the rest of him.

-Nick

Sunday, May 11, 2014

X. Anger and Expression - Uprising Art from Geng Gendall


Over the last few weeks I've allowed two worlds to collide. My two greatest loves have long been tabletop gaming and punk music. As far back as 3rd grade when I was introduced to Dungeons & Dragons by my older cousins, I've wanted to be involved in the gaming industry. In the late 80's though, I discovered hardcore punk and eventually started playing in bands and running my own record label as a hobby. My two loves vied for my attention as I juggled touring and putting out records with working in game stores and making time to game. At various points one would dominate over the other largely because my two loves rarely intermingle. For me both loves are sort of all encompassing as they are such time intensive interests.

Get It Away s/t EP record cover. Get It Away featured Anton Zaleski of Hyacinth Games on vocals. The art was drawn by Colin Swanson-White and the record was released on Third Party Records around 2002. Third Party Records is the record label I've run since 1994, though I haven't release anything new in over 2 years..

One of the large draws for me to move to Chicago 8 years ago was that my friend Anton Zaleski, then known for Underestimated Records and the punk band Get It Away (and now known for Hyacinth Games/Wreck-Age), had gathered a large friendship circle of gaming punks. It was a weird world where band practices and pushing 30mm soldiers across the table top or settling Catan did not conflict. It was a wondrous couple of years, but eventually balance was lost and everyone spun off into immersion in punk or gaming respectively putting me back into a compartmentalized life.

Having invested over 20 years of my life into punk music, I've made the acquaintance of numerous talented musicians and artists. Oliver Zavala, Colin Swanson-White, and Samuel Alcarez are all people I have met as punk connections. Additionally, two of my first play testers for Broken Contract were Chuck Hickey and Monkey Ramirez, who are also people I have met through music. In fact, a lot of concepts interwoven in the storyline of the game are drawn from looking at the world through the lens of punk which is often angry music about the struggle for freedom against oppression or authority. Ultimately, Broken Contract is just a different medium for me to express many of the same concepts I do through music, but that's not the only way that the two overlap.

This concept art just screams violent oppression. Art by Geng Gendall and based on Chuck Hickey of Black SS.

If you've been following the blog then you have already seen the Security Officer art drawn off of play tester and musician Chuck Hickey. This bit of art garnered a lot of attention from my friends, so I asked my friend Nick Tape from the band Coke Bust if he'd like to be featured in the game. He gave an enthusiastic yes. Now one of the advantages of utilizing my punk friends as models for concept art is that they are often already captured in moments of high adrenaline action at punk shows. This is made even easier with the abundance of talented punk photographers like Angela Owens who document the punk scene. When I made the decision to try and capture one of those high energy moments of Nick Tape I did a search via google images and came across this photo taken by Angela. As soon as I saw it I could envision Nick smashing his way through Security Officers instead of the crowd, while carrying a shovel instead of a microphone.

Coke Bust photo taken by Angela Owens.

I passed the image and idea onto Geng Gendall and he came back with this image:

Original art submitted by Geng Gendall.

This art not only captured all of the energy of Angela's photo, but it focused the rage into a hated foe instead of a frantic crowd. Adding to the details, Geng used the Chuck-Hickey-as-Security-Officer sketch to create a realistic target for Nick's flying fist. He drew off of all of the concept art that came before to add other details like the FeSky (FerrumSky Corporation - in this case the faceless masters) logo on all of their gear and the reflection of another approaching Security Officer in Chuck's dislodged sunglasses. The only seeming flaw, was the gun in Nick Tape's hand. The gun is very dramatic and adds to the sense of revolutionary violence, but at the same time the setting would make the gun a very unlikely object to have. All of the Security Officer weapons are designed to shock or stun to keep the workers alive. Killing your workers is no way to make quotas. I mentioned this to Geng and he graciously obliged by altering the gun to a pick axe in a manner of hours. Here is version 2 of the art:

Art by Geng Gendall.

Pretty soon my worlds will be colliding even further. I've started talking to a 3D sculptor about taking things to the next stage of development - turning images like these (of Chuck and Nick) into 30mm resin models like you would see in games like Zombicide and the soon to be released, Aetherium. This means the time for crowd funding is approaching rapidly. I will be hoping that both communities come together to help fund the further development of Broken Contract so please keep following this blog or Facebook/Twitter for updates. Thanks for reading!

-Nick