Thursday, March 15, 2007

Ars Gratia Artis

This is going to be a mostly disjointed post where I talk about random stuff.

I don't like the logo I currently have. I'd like a picture up there (maybe the latex nun from yesterday?), maybe have the words in a nifty font. But I can't draw, and my HTML skills are poor at best. If any of my readers is either artist or codemonkey enough to design me a spiffy new logo, I will express my appreciation by doing a blog entry of entirely your choosing.

Hey Pretty
I haven't talked about it much, but I am a longtime player (33+ months) of the City of Heroes MMO. One of the most impressive things about this game is the unprecedented amount of control you have over your character's appearance. The sheer number of options available to a starting character is huge... and necessary, since we are talking about superheroes, after all, and their costumes are one of their most important aspects.

I seem to have a talent for making good costumes. I base this conclusion on the following facts:
  1. I frequently get told by random passers-by that my costumes are quite awesome;
  2. I have made the finals, if not won outright, every in-game costume contest I have ever entered;
  3. People often ask me to critique and/or improve their costumes.
Sample time:

This is my friend Brownian's old costume. There's nothing especially wrong with it... until you learn that Brownian is a high-tech hero who uses Brownian Motion to generate fire and heat effects to immobilize, incapacitate, and capture criminals.

Light blue is a cold color. What's it doing on a fire hero? The red, on the other hand, is too dark, looking more like blood than fire. And the medieval armor plate, instead of creating a fashionably retro juxtaposition, simply looks out of place.

When I offered to help improve Brownian's look, I was given the following requirements:
1. No flame motifs
2. No reds or oranges

Some people would be annoyed with these criteria, but not I. Being restricted in this manner actually made it more challenging, and I do so love a challenge to my artistic sensibilities. I immediately went to work.

With a name like Brownian, who doesn't immediately think of the color brown? But this is also a fire character, so I went with a warm, rich orange-brown. This formed the "base" of the costume. Then, I chose a color "above" and a color "below" that brown to serve as contrasting elements. As in heraldry, contrast is very important to achieve a proper superheroic look. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that superhero costumes are modern version of heraldric coats-of-arms. For my "above" color, I chose a dark yellow, which is also a warm and firey color but isn't so clichéd as red or orange would be. For my "below", I chose black for its high contrast against the yellow and its association with charcoal.

Brownian is a high-tech character, so I went with a fairly standard techie bodysuit. I decided to use an intersecting line pattern to designate either power conduits or control circuitry, and so used the high-contrast yellow-on-black. By making the main suit black, I draw attention away from it and toward the more active parts of the costume, i.e. the hands, feet, and head. This gives the suit a feeling a motion, which is important since the character is named after Brownian Motion.

The gauntlets, with their exaggerated prongs, serve as amplifiers, since 90-100% of this character's powers emanate from her hands. They also draw attention toward this very key part.

The rings on the shoulders give the costume a retro feel, as do the fins and vents on the helmet. Fins help with the illusion of motion, the vents are "super-scientific sensors", and the rings act as heat sinks. If you look closely, you'll see that the rings are two-tone, going from cooler on the inside to hotter on the outside.

The silver chest device is something that came with the top I selected, and I wasn't able to alter its color, so I integrated it into the overall design. I achieve an "as above, so below" effect by mirroring the same color in the belt buckle and helmet chevron.

Brownian, of course, loved the finished product, and graciously allowed me to take these "before" and "after" screenshots. As an interesting aside, she later broke her own rules when she chose to add a cape to it afterwards.

I think it's a testament to the strength of my design that the addition of another element not only doesn't ruin the effect, but in fact works quite well. Capes are odd beasties; they need to appear related to the costume, but since they are more dynamic that the rest of it (what with the flapping and waving) they need to have an independent element to them. The choice of a fire motif here is particularly apt, as the fluttering of the cape seems to suggest flickering flames.

I'm mentioning all of this because, in honor of my birthday, I am offering costume consultations to those of you who play City of Heroes/Villains and who feel your current set of threads needs an upgrade. I am also quite handy with wordsmithing, as you no doubt have noticed, so if your character biographies are lacking, I can help with those as well.

I only ask this of you: don't make a boring request. Don't tell me "My character is Gun Guy, and he kills people because he is angry, and I want a costume that is black and red because black is death and red is blood." Eek. Boring. Give me something strange, something outré, or give me insane restrictions, like "My character is a sentient beam of light, and so he has to look ephemeral. You can only use shades of blue. Oh, and I have a Dick Van Dyke fetish, so work that in somehow."

Someone has answered my creative writing challenge. Bridgecrew Dave has written two pieces: Punisher, by Bret Easton Ellis (the guy who wrote American Psycho) and the much shorter Daredevil by H.K.

Also, in an astounding display of precognition, Hitherby wrote what can best be described as "The Super-Friends, as written in the style of the Prose Edda" back in January of '04. Hitherby is one of the few authors that can make me feel humbled and talentless, and I'm pleased to have her work gracing my pages.

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