Thursday, October 21, 2010

Personal vaporware

I think it's appropriate I do the first real post about something personal and important.

The Last Days - of what?!

The Last Days of the Third Age (or TLD) is a full conversion modification of a PC game I love.

It's called Mount and Blade and probably everyone into indie games knows about it. I won't write about that, if you're interested in free roaming medieval mercenary simulation/RPG where you can fight on horses, google it, read some reviews and try the demo of Warband. Warband is like a sequel of MaB with multiplayer options and better graphics.

However, we're making our modifications for the old MaB - (there are technical issues preventing us from porting to Warband.)
 The official website of MaB and Warband

What is TLD about? It's a bit like MaB, but set in J.R.R.Tolkien's MiddleEarth and much improved. In MaB you ride around as a mercenary, doing quests for various lords, fighting enemy kingdoms, raising your small band of soldiers and the general goal is to become a powerful warlord, have fun and roleplay your own story.

TLD takes the engine of the game and makes it all about the War of the Ring. You've seen the movies, right? Sauron and his orcs are evil, elves, dwarves, humans and little hobbits are good. They fight.
TLD is based on the Lord of the Rings books - we're trying to come up with our own designs for costumes and weapons, we try to show stuff they didn't put in the movies.

I started doing concept art for TLD five years ago and it's kinda cool seeing how I progressed from those first drawings I did at the dorm instead of studying.

My TLD concept art gallery on DA

To show something more up to date - here's a batch of very fast little paintings I did this week for ingame encounters (you can see some ents attacking the player's party, some tribal orcs, raiders and so on)
(they're all done in ArtRage with the watercolors and pencil, all under an hour.)

Here's another sub-project I'm trying to start for TLD - portraits of all the NPCs in the game. It could take another 5 years to do them all though :D
In this sped up video I draw a sketch for prince Imrahil of Dol Amroth. Music and editing included!
Prince Imrahil - sketched in 14 minutes

Interesting and/or useful links I found this week

1) A bronze sword maker. Wonderful replicas, a must see for any sword enthusiast and fantasy painter
2) Plumtree - Scott Pilgrim (nice moosec)
3) MaB: Warband launch trailer
4) TLD forums (the public info is sadly quite old)

What else am I doing?

I'm repainting a cover of STREET: Empathy, the first book I did a cover for - written by my friend Ryan A. Span. (there will be a new edition of the book and they want a nicer cover. Can't blame them, the old one shows it's age.)
STREET website - you can read the book online (if you're into cyberpunk, I can only recommend it)
I'm also drawing and painting class illustrations for Dračí Doupě 2 ("Dragon's Lair 2"), there are quite many.
DrD2 website (czech only)
And last but not least - I go to school. ;) Mostly regularly. And researching stuff for my masters thesis - I'll write about that in a future post I'm sure.


...continuing my TLD story:
Being a huge Tolkien fan and enjoying the game, I simply had to get involved. I drew some elves and asked the mod leader if I could be a concept artist. Seeing no harm, he kinda agreed and I never stopped drawing stuff for the mod since.

I think I'll post about the process of making designs and putting (or not) them ingame some other time, this blog update is more about the whole idea.
We've had a couple of big releases, the last one a few years ago. And of course, without showing previews every week, people start to talk. "The mod is dead!", "It's vaporware" (google if you don't know the term) and so on.
It's not easy to keep calm facing such allegations, but we do. Mostly. ;) We've been through a lot - our mod leader disappeared a year ago, along with all our code and his unique vision. (we think he must've passed away, he wasn't a person to just walk without a word), so a majority of the mod had to be remade from scratch. Members of the team come and go, some stay for years, some contribute a bit and lose interest. We've had a great old time member leave us recently, which was a really unfortunate and sad thing for all of us. Creative disagreements happen.

But I've been very pleased with recent progress, we're finally getting to the phase of a playable mod, features are popping up and being tuned, most of the graphics are in and looking very cool. It all starts to feel like Middle Earth.
Beside doing concept art I also did texturing, model adjustments, feature design and recently also GUI adjustment and repainting of menus and such.

We still don't show much progress to the public, but we slip screens and info here and there. If you haven't yet seen it, take a look at our last official preview:

TLD: game locations preview thread

I think I'll post this now before it becomes even more obscenely old. If you've read past here, you deserve a giant cookie and a hug!
(ask for it in the comments. :D)


  1. Well I'm glad you finally have a blog on the go! And I'm glad that I'm the first watcher, and to top it off I'm really glad you posted some of your lush artwork.

    There I said it :D

    I wish my blog posts could half as informative as this! :)

  2. Third watcher - bronze medal like a hittite!

  3. Good stuff Merl. About time you had a blog for your fantastic artwork. TLD would be only a shadow of what it is without your vision.