Cold Valley, Carrot Cake’s first publicly released game, is finally here! It’s been a wild ride since beginning the project back in April of last year, to just this June when I decided to return and give the game a massive art-overhaul to release to the public. I really hope you give it a try, and let me know what you think – whether you loved it or found it frustrating (as I know some have in the past!).
You can either download it entirely for free here, or support me over at itch.io. Both versions have the full story to complete, but the itch version contains access to a small, hidden scene that you’ll have to scout out in order to find. Happy hunting!
As with any ‘first’, this has been a huge learning experience, and I hope to take away some real skills with me for my next project. ‘Kingdom Ka”s public release will be just around the corner, so keep your eyes peeled for news.
It’s been over a year, but I’ve still got a soft spot for Crossing to the Cold Valley. With pressure on me to make the entire game in less than four weeks, the product I had to call ‘finished’ at the time was as polished as a lump of coal. I told myself I would really give it that spit-shine it needed over the summer, but other (maybe more serious) projects had to take priority. Many months later, I’m finally back with Cold Valley on the operating table. And what an insight it’s been forming into. We rarely have an opportunity to revisit and improve our old works, but I’ve had the space to really rework and reconstruct the game’s art and music to a level I hadn’t anticipated. I sat down with the original artwork of the bridge, prepared to just tweak it here and there, but concluded that a touch-up wouldn’t suffice. Primarily because I originally created the game at 720p – I can’t for the life of me think why I settled on that resolution at the time, even for most of today’s phone that’s low-grade. So I would go back into it using a 1080p resolution, but also the knowledge of drawing and the patience I’ve developed over the last 12 months.
And when you spend a long time on something you learn about the things you don’t know just as much as the things you do. With so much time, you get to spend longer getting frustrated at the imperfections, at the colours you just can’t ‘quite’ get right, at the shapes not feeling confident enough. I’m sure, even now, I could rip these up, start over, and create something better. But life’s too short, and you have to let that white whale go. These illustrations aren’t perfect, but hopefully they match the tone of the story well enough. Most importantly, however, is how much of an improvement they are over my last attempt, and how far I’ve come.
So, for the morbidly curious – I invite you to go back and compare.
Last week I was chosen to be the debut illustrator over at The Illustrated Singles Club – a new blog looking to find the visuals in new and upcoming music. The blog selects a new single and an illustrator and gives the illustrator freedom to interpret the song as they wish.
A week ago today I was given Tom Forest’s single ‘Summer’, which almost couldn’t have been more perfect a choice. The song is densely nostalgic – whimsical, but also completely sincere. Forest sings that, should he ever return to his days as a child, he will have ‘died and gone to heaven’. It’s poignant, while also being lifted by the rose-tinted childhood memories many of us can relate to. If there’s two themes I’ve ever loved exploring, it’s nostalgia and death.
I knew exactly what I wanted to draw by the end of the first chorus. The first few notes of the song immediately brought to mind a vast, baking desert with cracked earth – a single road running through. I soon knew I wanted that road to be lifting from the ground towards the sky, as it brings its travellers toward a ‘heaven’. The plodding bass at the beginning lent itself perfectly to a large, giant-like figure moving through this environment. Importantly, I wanted the sense of thick heat of the scene to lend it a feeling of hazy, drugged up magic – rather than something more apocalyptic.
Lastly is the queue of different characters climbing aboard the bus, mostly just everyday people, but toward the back some childlike fantasies and idols – maybe even human accomplishments – that eventually fade away much like we do.
With only a week to produce the piece, having smaller and less detailed features and characters worked in my favour. The piece was also a good excuse to get a firm understanding on Krita, an open source paint software I’m working towards transitioning to. I think it’s hugely important that artists feel as though they own the tools they use to create the work they do, and supporting open source where I can is an important part of that. There are still a few quirks I’m learning and things to iron out, and rendering feels a little slower than I’m used to (especially on Windows), but for every hurdle I’ve discovered something to keep me coming back, which is fantastic considering I haven’t paid a penny.
This was a brilliant project to get involved with, and a great excuse to produce something a bit more left of field than my illustration typically takes me. I hope I’ve done the blog proud.