Wednesday, September 3, 2014



This video demonstrates roughly what the gameplay will be like.  While Malachi and I are still working hard to develop content for our virtual world, at least we can take a few "practice flights" to let us (and you) know where we're at.  That's Malachi's finger in the upper right directing "Bella" where to go.  Improvements could be made to how her body moves while flying, but that's why we run these tests.  These tests also illustrate what content needs to be made.  Right now as Bella takes us on this tour through the Unity 3D terrain we created, there's clearly not enough vegetation and flowers.  I will continue to create the art for the assets and Malachi will continue plugging them in until we are satisfied with the look of the game.

 Making a game look good is one thing, but the game has to be fun to play.  This video gives us a taste of what players will experience when they play our game.  We still have a long way to go to make the game more challenging as the game goes on.  To do this we need to implement algorithms and timers, etc., all kinds of technical things so that the gameplay does not appear repetitive.  Unity is helpful in that regard.  Our goal is to create a game like Sims City, where the more you play the bigger your world becomes.  Or in this case, your hive.  As Bella completes her missions her hive grows.  More young bees means more food is necessary and so the player must be more efficient than ever.  Wrong turns cost time.  Finding that great source of nectar is more important.  Performing the "Waggle Dance" flawlessly is crucial.  Not to mention all the other chores that take place in the hive - cleaning the cells, storing honey, building comb, feeding young bees...  Sound challenging enough?  That's just the beginning...

 In this shot we see Bella land on a flower with the goal of collecting pollen and nectar.  On the right side of the screen we see a menu with important player info.  Complex math will come into play, but for now we're only interested in what tools to give the player.  Too much info overload and young players will be lost.  Too little and the older kids will be bored.

Now that Bella has a full load of nectar and pollen it's time to return to hive for more chores.  Here Malachi demonstrates the "Waggle Dance".  This tells other bees where to find that great nectar source you found.  The diagrams below shows how real bees do it.

The language of bees is important to understand, and so we are committed to making a lesson out of it.  Bees orient their hives North - South.  They use the sun in relation to the food source and hive as a reference points. This gives us the direction of the food source.  The frequency of the waggles and size of the dance circle determines the distance.

Here's a glimpse of the action inside the hive.  These "games within the game" will demonstrate how hard bees work as well as test the player's wits and reflexes.  At this point we are simply testing how the bees move and the interactivity of the whole thing. 
The task being shown in the clip (right) is the storing of honey.  It's a bit buggy, but we're working on it (no pun intended).

Thanks for checking in,  Look for new updates as we hit the home stretch in the completion of Nectar: A Honey Bee Quest!

Saturday, August 23, 2014


 One of the great things about being involved in a project like Nectar is that I get to play with really cool programs such as Z Brush.  I've never done any modeling before (not like this anyway) so there was a bit of a learning curve.  I won't bother showing you some of my early attempts, but this image (left) is a good example of what one of these 3D models looks like at first. 

You start out with a sphere that you can pull into cylinders and cones.  At any point you can add spheres to each shape and manipulate those as well.  The structures can be moved at the newly created joints and can be enlarged, shortened, or removed entirely.  So with very little effort one can generate a basic skeletal structure.  This guy is to become one of the game's baddies.

Once the structure is completed it's time to model the character.  This is done by adding and carving into "clay" Z Brush has a symmetry feature which allows me to render the details of the spider equally on both sides.  So essentially I only need to model half a spider...  In this snap shot you can see my in progress.  Notice the joints on the front legs and texture on the head.  It's in these details where I can enjoy implementing my style.

Now that I have a finished model it's time to start painting.  For this I spend a lot of time looking at photos.  This particular spider is a Garden Spider.  This is my interpretation of what I gathered from several photos.

Garden Spider

Check out this awesome Ambush Bug modeled by my partner Malachi.  My task was simply to paint it.  It was difficult landing on a color scheme and patterns because these guys change color to blend into their environment.  It may be necessary to paint several variations of this predator depending on what flower it will be hiding in.  Anyway, I chose to make it brown and green, obviously two very common colors in our game.  It's hard to believe this creature really exists.  Seems made up to me!

ambush bug



Some more assets to our game.  As always, the leaves and stems are interchangeable.  That means they can be flipped, moved around, and distorted to look like different leaves.  So several variations on these plants can be placed in the game and they won't all need to be identical.  Too much repetition can destroy the illusion of flying around as a bee in the natural world.


clover (side view)
clover (top view)
skunk cabbage

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Making of Nectar: A Honey Bee Quest (Part 2)


Malachi and I have spent a great deal of time on the creation of Bella, the star of our game.  Malachi supplied me with an amazing 3D model he created in a program called Z Brush.  Using Z Brush I was able to draw in more detail and apply color.  The finished Bella is now ready to be plugged into the game and for us in promotional materials.

The Bee Tree

Now that we have our main character, it's time to develop home base - The Bee Tree.  Above is an example of Malachi's original sculpture.  It's up to me to add the bark texture and paint it to the best of my ability. If you look closely you can see where I already began playing with brush types and textures.

In the end it would require a combination of Z Brush tools, some additional sculpting, and a paint job.  Above you can see how I used a rake tool to further subdivide the form and lay out the foundation of tree bark.  I also experimented with new features such as moss and mushrooms.

Building up and carving into the digital clay was necessary to achieve a realistic oak tree bark texture.  Further manipulation of the model may be necessary once it's put into the virtual world Malachi and I are inventing.

Monday, February 3, 2014

The Making of Nectar: A Honey Bee Quest (Part 1)

I am pleased to have begun work on Nectar: A Honey Bee Quest, an interactive game app conceived by Malachi Bazan of Nevada City California.  Mal approached me over a year ago about the potential of collaborating on a fun, educational game featuring honey bees.  My job is to render background art, create textures, model characters/assets, and work closely with Malachi on game play and story lines.  Mal is a gifted animator and programmer.  He's also a skilled character modeler and 3D designer.  Our goal is to create a game with a strong mood and attention to detail, to put the player in the world of honey bees.  In doing so, we hope to create empathy for these insects, and educate young people of their importance.

The first step is to design the world our honey bee character (who we call Bella) lives in.  Below are some samples of various textures for leaves, trees, and ground.  This 2D art will be melded with 3D assets within the game to create the environment.


Apple Tree

Maple Tree

Pear Tree

This game will require several types of trees for Bella to fly into.  The leaves and tree branch art will be fixed to three-dimensional structures within the game, sort of like placing a skin over an object.  The leaves and twigs on these branches are all separate assets and can be moved, flipped, and rotated so that they can appear random. 

Apple Tree Branch
Maple Tree Branch
Pear Tree Branch

Pear Tree Leaves

I gave particular attention to the details on the leaves.  From Bella's perspective, these leaves must hold up visually when players fly in close.  Several variations of each type of leaf are drawn up, and with the help of some tools in Photoshop they can be manipulated further.  Everything put together and you have any number of trees all of which will be unique.

Tree Bark Texture

What about the big parts of the tree?  Like the trunk for instance.  For that I have to design bark texture that can be wrapped around a 3D model placed within the game matrix.  

 Apple Tree Bark

 Maple Tree Bark

Pear Tree Bark

I enjoyed drawing up these textures.  Every species has unique bark patterns and coloring.  I look at several samples of bark in order to get a feel for each type.  In order to cover large areas that can wrap around a 3D tree trunk the artwork has to "tile" as seamlessly as possible.  So they must connect top to bottom and left to right.  If any details stand out too much or aren't spread out evenly, a pattern can emerge.  The Pear Tree sample below is an example of a texture that still needs a little work.  Of course there is only so much you can do.

 Apple Tree Bark (tiled)

  Maple Tree Bark (tiled)

Pear Tree Bark (tiled)

Ground Texture

It is especially important for ground textures to tile comfortably because it has to cover a large area.  3D assets such as trees, bushes, rocks, etc will break up the monotony and a believable world will emerge.




Dry Grass

Dirt (tiled)

Mud (tiled) 

Stone (tiled) 

Dry Grass (tiled)