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Community Interview: Doctorval (Docaholic), creator of new AO icons

This week we've managed to interview Doctorval (Docaholic), creator of new AO icons and AOU Partner. He's currently a volunteer working with the Dev Team on new icons for the game.

Hello Doctorval , could you give us some background info about your AO life?

Yes of course, I'd be happy to chat.. four score and 6+ years ago, (early June 2005) I stumbled upon Anarchy Online. A friend pointed me to it, and the strange thing is he didn't play much and moved on to FPS games that were more to his style. I however, loved AO, it has a depth of game play that surpassed most if not all MMO's out at that time. Even today I feel like there is much more to learn. I only have one 220 toon (Doctorval on Rk2) and it took him 4 years to get to 220. (and that only because my friends 'forced/dragged' me to 220 in spite of my resistance LOL) I love low level twinking, I am fond of my level 15 doc 'Drydock' I learned a lot about twinking from the guide on the AO forums for a level 7 GTA twink trox doc named IronCircle. let me get that link from my bookmarks..

http://forums.anarchy-online.com/showthread.php?t=495576&highlight=low+level+twink+guide

It's a bit old, but still a valuable source of twinking information. I recommend anyone interested in learning about twinking take a long look at this guide.

Anyways, I still play AO every day. and I still find fun things to do. My current fun project is making a level 60 twink crat. I got him to 60 and he has decent armor, now I need to farm some nodrop items like low level comm relays, and anything that can help buff his nano skills. He'll be a work in progress for a while to come. LoL I just remembered, I should have placed a warning at the beginning, I can be a bit verbose. Did you have some questions?..

Back in December of 2009 you created a thread at the official forums with the catchy title "I'm tired of reused Inventory Graphics.." stating that as a gaming artist it was an outrage about all the reuse of icon graphics. Then you proceeded to prove that new icons could be done within a reasonable amount of time, by creating some yourself. Did you ever expect the community support to be so... gigantic?

That thread and rant about reused graphic was my way to let loose some frustration about loosing my Biocom when processing what I thought was a monster part. I was also amazed that there were only like 37 ring icons but hundreds of different rings in the game. so I was then curious as to how long it would take me to make an equal number of rings. It just took me about a day. I posted them in that thread and got lots of reaction. One thing led to another and I soon found myself remaking the arul gems (my favorite sets of new icons) and then other things.

The thread is now rooted in the "Game Suggestion" forum and has almost 150,000 views and over 1,200 replies, making it one of the hotest topics in the official forms for the past few years. Is it hard to keep up with the feedback there?

The thread took on a life of it's own and I got lots of great feedback and tried as much as possible to make adjustments from that feedback. It has slowed down of late, but I haven't slowed at all. Working with Genele we have made over a thousand new nano cast icons. (all part of the re-balance) as well as hundreds of new inventory icons. When some of the 'equipment' icons got changed, people noticed. Some liked it, some were like "what the heck is that?" "where did it come from?" lol but once you got used to it, I think it's nice that the DB bracers now have their own look and don't share icons with other items.

When Kintaii, a member of the Anarchy Online Dev Team contacted you regarding your thread and the icons you created, were you surprised?

Yes and no, I do quality work and I'm fast, that tends to get noticed. I was very happy they did contact me about using my artwork in-game. There was a lot going on at that time and it took a bit of time to finally sign an agreement that would allow them to use my icons. Delays like this are to be expected, but it never makes it easier 'waiting' for things to happen. Means asked me to select my 12 best new icons and he would do a test with them and put them in game. That initial batch saw replacements for the half digested body parts, OT and Clan rings, a stalker limb the engagement ring and wedding ring. it was nice to see them in-game, and one of my pet peeves was squashed,.. no more loosing of Biocoms due to the half digested body parts looking like monster parts.

Does Means sounds like a Canadian Mountie on the phone? many people want to know =P

I don't know, I never spoke to Means on the phone, I think the first time I heard him speak was when I went to the new offices in Montreal, and he does like to talk, and talk, and talk.. but to his credit, he always has something interesting to say. He's got more stories than Shakespeare. lol

Approximately how many icons have you made for Anarchy Online?

I'd hazard a guess the number of icons is hovering around 500 or so. (not counting the 1000+ new nano cast icons that Genele and I made. We work well as a team.) More recently I made a bunch of the 10th anniversary 'special' items (like the gum, paper clip, duct tape etc.) and lots of new icons for new missions and stuff. A lot of the DB and Xan stuff is getting better icons and making the unique stuff look really unique. Probably my second favorite batch of icons I made was the filigree rings to go with all the various gems. they were fun to make. Sometimes it's the little icon changes that have the biggest impact, like when I changed the Sketch-n-Etch tools used for making armor. they did have subtle differences in their icon, but I made it more evident which piece the tool made. It's a lot easier now to grab the right tool to make sleeves, helm or whatever part you need. I have had nothing but positive feedback on those icons.

What software did you use to make the icons?

A lot of the icons I have made start with me making a model in Anim8or then I import the model into Bryce Play with different textures and do a rendering at 512x512. One of the nice things about Bryce is that I can simply make all the 'parts' of the model flat black and then make a quick render, this effectively creates a 'mask' and I can use that to cut out the fully rendered icon from the background. then all I need to do is re-size it to game size 48x48 and poof I have an icon. I do any post processing needed in either Paint Shop Pro or ArtGem before saving the final game ready icon. This whole process takes about 8 steps. I took the time to document the process to show you how I do it. Let me take you through the steps..

Step 1: make the base model in Anim8or..

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Step 2: Refine/Smooth out the model a bit more (Subdivide works great)

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Step 3: Import it into Bryce and scale/rotate/move as I see fit, and make a quick test render with the default base gray texture.

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Step 4: Now I Play with the object's textures. In this case I'm making a new Omni/Clan Graffiti Spray Can. It helps to keep the textures clean because they tend to loose allot of detail when reduced. I chose a white metal for the omni and a tan color for the clan.

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Step 5: Now I change the texture to flat black and render the mask that I will use to cut out the spray can from the background.

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Step 6: With the 2 cans cut out I reduce them to 25% size and place them on my work screen. This is a good size to do any post processing in Paint Shop Pro or ArtGem.

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Step 7: I added a bit of reflective glow and this is the final look of the new Graffiti Spray cans..

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Step 8: Reduce the icons again to fit the final size needed in-game and prepare a sample to send to Genele for her approval. (Genele will often have some very good suggestions to tweak the icon even further.) In this sample you see the finished icons placed in a backpack. I like to place the icons I make in open backpacks because it gives a good feel for how the icon will look in-game.

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And that my friends is a quick look at the process I go through to make an in-game icon. I hope this gives you some insight to my icon factory. And remember, I still check my icon thread almost every day, so if you have suggestions, feel free to go make a post.

We're wondering.. did you get a sneak peek at the new engine?

When I went to the 10th Anniversary party in Montreal, I did see the new game engine running. It looked awesome, it really does give new life to the game. I'm sure a lot of old players will come back when it gets launched, and I think they'll stay. Not just because of the new graphics engine, but because AO has so much more to offer than just another pretty game. AO has the most interesting character development system that I have seen in any any MMO. It's the game-play that makes AO worth playing. and that's why we all love our little gem.

Thank you for your time Doc, is there anything else you wish to add in closing?

Thanks for this interview, it was lots of fun. I assure you there are lots of new icons heading in-game soon. I accept any and all criticism, so if you see me online and want to let me know what you think, just send me a tell.

Cheers!

Last updated on 01.09.2012 by Khuri
Article written by Windguaerd
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