A Thumb To The Eye Number 8

Cel shading. Much like digital video in motion pictures, at the moment, cel shading is a tool that has been used in some artistic and original ways (Jet Grind Radio), a few logical and unsurprising projects (Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker), and, usually, in unnecessary exercises to bring a little excitement to a bland product (hello Dark Skies 2 and Wild Arms 3). Any new development tool will get used for good and evil, much like some of the insane, non- shooter first person games of a few years back (Jumping Flash), but the real question becomes: “Is it a means to an end or a gimmick?” From AutoModellista to XIII to Killer 7, it is not likely that cel shading will go away within the next six months. Game manufacturers will continue to shove it out the door and onto shelves as long as you, the gaming consumer, are willing to purchase it.

What mystifies me, though, is what is coming next? What sort of graphic filter or shading technique will be huge and show up in every sequel that comes out in 2004? Well, Manhunt from RockStar Games has a cool ummm digital handicam look when you get a kill, but I do not see any use for this in any future Nintendo or Namco products. Or any games that do not involve killing your stalkers on a reality show. While I would love to see more Rez- style vector graphics or some sort of an 8- bit or 16- bit filter to make polygons look like sprites, I have a feeling those are not going to sell games to the man on the street, who I will call Ludwig for the rest of the article, so they are right out. Instead, here are the three filters of the future that will be selling you and Ludwig games next year.

Puppet Shading
There has not been a good puppet oriented game since Dynamite Headdy on the SEGA Genesis. (I have heard that Rakugaki Showtime is quite good, but it is an over $100 import, so, for the sake of this article, it no longer exists. Sorry all you collectors out there…) Sure, the T*HQ Game Boy Advance Muppet game is adequate, but what the world needs now is a 3-D puppet game. Once ‘Puppet Shading’ has been perfected, any game can look like it was made entirely out of fluffy puppet stuff. The ‘Plush Matrix System’ will allow you to play as fully 3-D puppets without the agony of strings and/ or sticks, having to be underneath said puppet to control it, and will enable you to do unpuppety things, like swimming. ‘Puppet Shading’ would be the wave of the future.

Some practical, in game, uses for ‘Puppet Shading’ technology? It would be obvious to tell you I want an RPG or platformer in ‘Puppet Shading’ but what about a fighting game? Using a Power Stone style system and ‘Puppet Shading,’ a developer could make convincing looking puppets fight each other with up to four players. How about a turn based strategy game, with puppets? Fuzzy Heroes is a stuffed animal based wargame that has been out for years. A few dozen stuffed animals fighting across a kid’s bedroom or out into the real world would be a blast to play. I do not even have to mention how cool a new Dynamite Headdy, Mario, or Bonk game would be with ‘Puppet Shading.’ Well, I guess I just DID mention how cool those games would be, did I not?

The downside to ‘Puppet Shading,’ you ask? Well, it would be way over used, for one. I could go the rest of my life without playing a stuffed animal cart racing game. Even worse, I have a feeling that more adult uses of ‘Puppet Shading’ could result, producing freakish and frightening images I can go the rest of my life without. And the inevitable and shitty Crank Yankers game…

Stop- Motion Filter
I cannot be the only one who loves stop- motion. From King Kong to Clash of the Titans, I simply MUST watch any movie with stop- motion effects. There is a certain, unspeakable, coolness to the herky- jerky movement of skeletons chasing after some dashing young hero. The Nightmare Before Christmas was stop motion and you cannot deny how cool a game based on that could be. Hell, the world’s greatest platformer, Skullmonkeys, was stop motion and it is my pick for best game EVER. A 3-D Claymation/ Stop Motion game would be revolutionary and pretty damn cool, to boot.

So, what practical game applications would a stop motion filter have? There’s the obvious ancient world (Greek, Roman, or Celtic) action/ RPG with kickass stop motion monsters haunting your every move. Give me skeletons exploding on impact from my gladius as I run through ruins. Give me angry harpies and three headed dogs. Rygar was cool but stop motion Rygar is better. Jerkily animated hydras and other sea monsters fighting against a ship of stalwart sailors. Man, that sounds like fun. As Skullmonkeys and A Nightmare Before Christmas proved, stop motion can be used for comedy, horror, and drama as well as action. With a severe lack of platformers out there, a stop motion platformer would melt my heart. So, ummm yeah, somebody definitely needs to make the Stop Motion Filter a reality.

Watercolor Shading
I was an artist for most of my life until I discovered my love of writing. I went to college for it. My girlfriend is an artist. I surround myself with as much art as possible. Okay, so you probably do not consider Transformers art, but I do. One thing I have always loved in the world of art is the look and qualities of watercolor and ink. From deep opacity to exceedingly subtle translucence effects, watercolor is a world of it’s own, liquid and soft, the world of dreams. So, while it might be more advanced than the other filters I have described, a watercolor filter could sell me any kind of game, even Yu- Gi- Oh. Well, not Yu- Gi- Oh, but definitely any other game.

The reason I want watercolor shading is primarily one game, from one company, designed by one artist. Yes, I want a Final Fantasy by Square, with the work of Amano translated into 3-D via watercolor shading so that it is as close to his original work as possible. Even, or maybe especially, if it was a remake of Final Fantasy 3/VI. Talk about a game I could lose myself in. My favorite Role-playing game of all time with the original character designs left intact. Oh, you want other games, too? How about a Panzer Dragoon style shooter in a fully watercolor world replete with exotic animals and plants that look as if they were ripped from an artist’s sketch book after a visit to Lovecraft’s Dreamlands? Would you play that? I sure as fuck would. And, since Lucard has surely disowned me after my discourse on Final Fantasy 3/ VI, a Mana game swirling with transparencies and ink effects.

Well, sorry if this week’s Thumb was a bit ummm surreal. I had a surreal week. Really surreal. Next week I am going to tell you ten stupid things to do in Wrestlemania XIX, get around to reviewing the Fourteen Year Old Girls, and tell you about my big project in two weeks. Until then, have fun, play some video games, be nice, and listen to some Gary Numan, especially Scarred, it kicks ass.