More July artwork

I think I missed posting any art last week, so here’s what I’ve been making. I think I’m just going to post each pic as I finish it, so this blog actually sees more action. 😀 It took me days and days to make these, so there’s not as many as usual.

Based on a true story.
A lore page from Destiny 2 adapted into a comic.
A guardian tells his adopted daughter goodbye. Hopefully not for the last time. Based on characters by jsmulligan.
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Pretty colors with Clip Studio Paint

Over the past few weeks, I’d been searching for an alternative to Adobe Photoshop. I tried out the demo of Clip Studio Paint, liked it, and bought it on sale. Since then, I’ve done tutorials and realized that this program can do everything. I’ll show off some of my experiments.

Stay behind me!
Sonic characters as Destiny classes, just because it was funny.
Shadow is the coolest, naturally.
Rex Magtoris, a character from a story

This was a speedpaint to try out the clothing brushes in Clip Studio Paint. The gold braid and the ruffle brushes have potential, but I need to really experiment with them.

The cat ghost’s cuteness is overwhelming.

This comic was me trying out the comic tools in Clip Studio Paint. It does panels, speech bubbles, and layout tools like you wouldn’t believe. It also has 3D posable models to use as reference, which made me insanely excited. I spend hours searching for just the right pose or angle, and now I can just slap down a model and pose it the way I want.

I’ve had to do hours of tutorials to get this far, and I have hours more ahead of me. And let me tell you, I am SUPER excited. 😀

Character art and graphic novel page

I did a ton of art last week. Let’s show it off!

Flowers are fun to paint.
A graphic novel treatment of one of the stories in the Destiny 2 lore.
Drawing people’s characters for fun.
More characters for fun.

Trying to improve my line work. My tablet draws sucky jittery lines, so I’m constantly fighting it as I go. I suppose I should do everything with the pen tool. It looks nice, but takes ages and ages, and I’m impatient. :-p

Watched anything good lately? (YES)

People are always asking, “What have you read lately? Seen any good movies lately?”

I always want to shout, “YES. YES I AM FOLLOWING A GREAT STORY RIGHT NOW.”

Then I remember that it’s inside a videogame and most of my friends don’t play shooters.

So, let me try to explain what this story is and why I’m so fascinated by it.

The game is Destiny 2, which I’ve been wild about since the first trailer launched.

I mean, seriously, this trailer is hilarious.

It’s a science fiction universe where mankind was granted Space Magic from this alien orb called the Traveler. Trouble is, a lot of bad aliens wanted the Traveler’s Space Magic, so they tried to wipe out humanity and nearly succeeded.

The first “season” of the story, aliens launch a surprise attack against the Last City, cage the Traveler, and just about win the war. Naturally, your character fights back with the aid of the in-game characters, all of whom are just as well developed as anybody in a movie. When you finally defeat the villain and free the Traveler (or … help it fight back), it’s like the finale to a Marvel movie.

Season 2 picked up a little later. It follows the race of space elves who live out in the asteroid field in this place called the Reef. There, the Prince of the elves, who used to be an ally, unexpectedly murders the most popular character in the game.

So long, Nathan Fillion. This was like watching Mal from Firefly be killed. The entire fan base lost their ever-loving minds and swore eternal vengeance.

The story played out like a revenge western. You hunt down the Prince’s band of alien outlaws and kill them one by one. But as you do, your in-game friend asks over and over, are we doing the right thing? Is this justice or murder? What makes us different from the outlaws we’re killing?

By the time you track down the Prince, you already have a few misgivings about this whole revenge thing. Then you find out that the Prince is being played, too. He’s got this evil space dragon pretending to be his sister and asking him to free it from a prison dimension. He’s busy doing it, but he’s beginning to doubt the whispers, as they ask him to do scarier and scarier things. By the end, the thing outright bullies him into taking that last step and opening the portal.

What comes through the portal is some alien monstrosity that eats the poor guy.

This being a shooter, you unload a few metric tons of lead into the monster and kill it. It spits the prince out as it dies.

The prince isn’t dead, but he’s completely defeated. Your in-game friend begs you to spare his life.

“The line between dark and light is so very thin.”

Fade to black.

Gunshot.

Despite the whole revenge story, it was a very unsatisfying end to the season. Was it right to kill the Prince, even though he killed our friend? The Prince was being manipulated.

Then the next season got rolling. When the Prince opened the portal, the evil space dragon got out and starts corrupting the space elves’ most sacred city.

The Prince’s sister, the Queen, who had been in hiding, gives the order to kill the dragon and cut out its heart.

One problem. These dragons grant wishes. But they twist the wishes, feeding off the desire of the one making the wish.

The queen takes the heart and wishes that her people would be strong again. The dragon twists this into “strong = corrupted by Darkness”. But somebody, somewhere, engages a time loop at the same time.

So now, the city spends 3 weeks being corrupted and getting uglier and uglier. Then the time loop resets and it starts over. This gives the heroes time to try to find a solution to the corruption curse. Seven cycles in, there’s no end in sight.

And then we find a cutscene of the Prince being resurrected as a good guy.

Looks a little worse for wear, but he’s the same guy.

In this game, Space Magic resurrection comes with a complete memory wipe. Resurrected heroes have no idea who they used to be, and finding out details of one’s past is frowned upon.

That’s as far as the story has gone, but it’s caused endless debate in the fan base.

Can we trust the Prince, who murdered our friend, even if he doesn’t remember doing it?

Should we kill him again?

Should we give him a chance to redeem himself?

What will the Queen do when she finds out that her brother has been resurrected by the Space Magic she hates?

It’s like a TV series. We’re in the middle of the season right now, waiting on tenterhooks for the next episode. People are scouring the game, trying to find clues as to what might happen next.

So, when people ask, “Watch anything good lately?” I want to scream, “YES. YES, I’M STUCK IN THE MIDDLE OF AN AWESOME STORY.”

But none of my friends play shooters.

The strangely Christian meta narrative of the Destiny games

Hold on to your hats, folks, I’m going all literary analysis on you today.

So I’ve been getting into the games Destiny and Destiny 2. These are multiplayer online shooters where you shoot aliens and collect loot. Pretty straightforward and pretty fun (and often, just downright pretty.)

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Destiny 2 concept art: Nessus

But the game also hints at a deeper backstory that it doesn’t explain super well, unless you’re willing to spend hours piecing together tidbits scattered throughout the games. So I’ve been watching lore videos on YouTube, where other people take all those tidbits and string them together into a cohesive story.

I’ve been increasingly delighted with the meta-narrative of Destiny.

Like most science fiction, the story operates from a humanist worldview: mankind can become gods if we just put aside our differences and work hard enough. But then the metaplot comes into play, and it’s decidedly not humanist. In fact, it swings decidedly Christian. I wonder if the writers at Bungie realize what they hath wrought and its significance.

The big picture story goes like this. There is this alien-machine god-thing called the Traveler that looks like a small white moon. It’s power is called Light. It shows up in our solar system, grants humans the Light, and terraforms the inner planets and the various moons of the gas giants. Humans go live on these planets. Humans also develop longer lives, better tech, etc, and go into a Golden Age.

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Destiny concept art

This doesn’t last, of course. There’s an evil force called the Darkness that chases the Traveler from place to place. Its weapons are four alien races that serve it, but all who crave the Light–or hate it. They stomp humanity, destroy their colonies, and ruin Earth.

Here’s where it gets interesting. The Traveler actually battles the Darkness one on one. The game is very vague about this point, and the lore videos have multiple theories about what exactly happened. Point is, the Traveler won, but it was wounded and stopped terraforming and things.

Instead, it sent out these tiny robots made of Light called Ghosts. Each Ghost resurrects a single person, basically a zombie (or revenant, since they have their soul) powered by Light. They became known as Guardians. If one of these guardians is killed, they can be resurrected so long as their Ghost is unharmed. If their Ghost dies, no more resurrections for them, it’s lights out.

destiny_warlock_by_tdspiral-d7ydedi
Destiny warlock by TDSpiral

See the metaphor going on, here? It’s super interesting. Almost a Holy Ghost thing.

Now, it’s not a perfect metaphor. In real life, the God is the source of all Light, and He was not only before the Darkness, he already defeated it. The Darkness itself has a name and a face. Once known as the Light Bearer, he has become the Enemy, and his sin was pride. “I will become like the Most High!”

Jesus battled the Darkness and overcame it, being wounded on our behalf. In Destiny terms, the Last City in the shadow of the Traveler might as well be built at the foot of the Cross, because the symbolism is so similar.

Now, it’s really too bad that Destiny clings to its humanist philosophy. In its lore, the Traveler gives Light without making any demands of humanity. No devotion to righteousness, no forsaking sin and Darkness. In real life, there are two sides, and we have to pick one. If that was the case in Destiny, then the battle between Light and Darkness would go beyond meta-narrative and become the personal struggle of every Guardian. The story of the Warlords–guardians who abused their power–would become even more vile.

destiny-2-concept-art-jeremy-fenske-02

If such a choosing of sides was possible, then redemption would also be possible for the four alien races who serve the Darkness, however unwittingly. It would be possible for them to abandon Darkness and serve the Light, too, thus becoming very interesting allies.

But Destiny keeps things very Tao, with Light and Darkness equally matched and no ultimate victory is possible. Mankind doesn’t have to seek righteousness and abandon sin in order to receive power. (Which, the more you think about it, is so strange. Why aren’t Guardians forced to pick sides? There are in-game stories of Guardians who joined the Darkness, so maybe, in a way, that choice is still there, just buried out of sight.)

So, that’s Destiny’s meta-narrative, a lot of Christian ideas underlying a humanist story. And it’s funny, because if you make the game more humanist (the Light is ours because humanity is awesome), then the battle between Light and Darkness falls apart, with no real difference between them. If you make the game more Christian, with the Light actually having conditions and everyone being forced to pick sides, then the story becomes much more profound.

Maybe that’s one reason the story is intentionally left vague, scattered throughout the game in hints and tidbits. Breadcrumbs for those to see who can. I’m continually shocked at the Christian terminology these lore gamers use to describe these concepts.

I think it’s a good lesson for us Christian writers. Tell a good story and don’t be afraid to pull in delicious metaphor about the struggle between good and evil. It rings true for everyone.

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Destiny 2 concept art: shard of the Traveler