Stolen Pixels #119: After Curfew

By Shamus
on Aug 25, 2009
Filed under:
Column

Took me a little while to realize why I was making a “Tonight Show” styled comic starring Dr. Breen. It wasn’t until I was done that I realized I still had the movie Funny People in my head and thus had an itch to write (bad) stand-up comedy. You can see the result here. In fact, you should go do that now. You just passed up two links to the comic. This one is your last chance! You missed it again? Hmph. Your loss.

Of course, stand-up comedy is actually really inappropriate for a comic strip format. The segues and set-ups and banter eat up lots of words but not much time. Except, in a comic, words are time. A five-minute routine would fill a graphic novel if you really tried to adapt it and not just cram a paragraph of text into a balloon next to a smiling head. (Which is sort of what I did today.) While making this I realized just how much the audience reaction is part of the routine. (Hence the faux-closed-captioning. It just felt like he was by himself without it.)

This is the first time I had to make a map for one of my comics. I just didn’t have anything that could pass for a stage, so I made a little box theater and a red curtain using the Source Engine tools. Once the comic was done I kept going. And going. Six hours later I had the makings of a TV studio set:

The classic ‘Tonight Show’ layout.  Guest couch, host’s desk, obviously faux-cityscape in the background, a stage area for the opening monologue and sundry skits.
The classic ‘Tonight Show’ layout. Guest couch, host’s desk, obviously faux-cityscape in the background, a stage area for the opening monologue and sundry skits.

I think I was doing it because I wanted to learn how to use Hammer. (The Valve level editor.) Remind me later to unspool my rant against that thing. Sheesh. No wonder Episode 3 is taking so long. Their tools seem to run directly counter to their design mentality.

It was really, really fun to be making scenery again, even when the tools were cumbersome and I didn’t know what I was doing. It’s been ages since I did any polygon-pushing.

A closeup of the host’s area.
A closeup of the host’s area.

Six hours for this. Man. I need to think up some more stuff for Breen just to justify the time I sunk into the set.

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201434 comments. Hurry up and add yours before it becomes passé.

From the Archives:

  1. Ian says:

    Yeeech, I know your pain. Hammer (even when it was still called “Worldcraft” and edited a game known as “Quake”) was never good with any level of complexity. Simple to learn, difficult to master, yadda yadda.

    Oh well, at least you were able to make a nice stage out of it. I never graduated past creating a couple of barren rooms (then smashing my keyboard in frustration, buying a new one, and going back to making Doom maps).

  2. Peter H. Coffin says:

    Actually, I think the comic worked out really well. That set will probably be well worth the time spent on it with the monolog and interview material you can build with it.

    Though seeing Breen up there made me miss the Frohman stuff again.

  3. ClearWater says:

    I missed those three links because I already saw the comic from my RSS feed of it. :p

  4. You could have a special guest of the Overlord.

    Just sayin’

  5. yd says:

    6 hours of work and all you showed was the curtain and floor!

  6. Blurr says:

    I far prefer Unreal Ed to Hammer. God, I have never used a more poorly designed level editor.

  7. RedClyde says:

    @Blurr: Try Bethesda’s. XD

  8. JohnW says:

    Seeing him reminded me of Clear Skies. Guy made an Eve-Online movie using these tools, have you seen it?
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=As8cmHb-aKU

  9. Hotsauce says:

    Funny comic! It was definitely worth (to me) the hard work and effort (that I didn’t) put into it.
    Hate to nitpick[1], but if cashaclyism is a portmanteau of “cash” and “cataclysm”, then I think you’ve misspelled it. Which leads to the question, “is it possible to misspell a word you’ve just made up?” Apparently, the answer is “yes”.

    [1] Obviously a lie, or I wouldn’t do it. This is what you get for providing free entertainment on the internet.

  10. Oleyo says:

    hehe, that was really well written stand-up, Shamus. I think that would actually work done live (with appropriately nerdy audience, of course)

  11. Joe says:

    Someone industrious needs to port the UT level editor into the Valve engine

  12. Randy Johnson says:

    I do believe this was one of my all time favorite Stolen Pixels. I felt like it flowed perfectly and it imitated a Late Nite Talk Show very well. MOAR!

  13. Shinjin says:

    obviously faux-cityscape in the background

    procedurally generated? ;)

  14. Pickly says:

    6 hours of work and all you showed was the curtain and floor!

    Yea, this is similar to what I was thinking. :)

    And it is a nice comic, though. Blizzard does seem to follow the pattern of following behind what other game companies were doing, even somewhat with the earlier than WoW games from what I’ve heard.

  15. Ell Jay says:

    The comic reads like a real “Tonight Show” monologue and the set looks fantastic. I’m really looking forward to lots more “After Curfew”!

  16. Mari says:

    Loved it even more than usual, Shamus! But my favorite part was over in the sidebar rant. “The only thing worse than being a lemming is being the very last lemming to fling yourself off the cliff, two years after everyone else.” That made me spew. And when I cleaned up my monitor I had to read it to someone else that would appreciate the sentiment which nearly made me spew again.

  17. Markus says:

    My rating: ****+ and I’m subtracting the last star and giving you a plus instead just because I’ve never played Half-Life and it took me awhile to get who Dr. Breen was. I eventually remembered him from the Frohman comics. Otherwise well done and you just MUST do more of these!

  18. Dev Null says:

    Just the angle of his cuffs? Or is Breem missing his right hand in a couple of those frames?

    Nice framework for a comic; you could have some fun with guest spots and reuse the backdrop (though only if you can get your “guests” into the engine I suppose…)

  19. Badger says:

    Nicely done- and I second the request for the Overlord as a guest. THAT would be teh lolz.

  20. David V.S. says:

    Could have been Dromed.

    But then we would not be able to see our show’s host until the spotlight found him.

  21. MisteR says:

    Loved this comic! The routine coupled with the responses felt really fresh to me. I’m crossing my fingers for more “After Curfew”!

  22. SatansBestBuddy says:

    That worked really well for a first time, it’s like you’ve been making gag comics for years already.

    I’m actually looking forward to using the set to do interviews, maybe something about how everybody has been stealing Nintendo’s ideas for something like 25 years now and at the same time giving them no respect when they go more than 6 months without anything new, like a nerdy kid at school who everybody either bullies for lunch money or begs for test answers, but nobody would ever think of being friends with them.

  23. vede says:

    Shamus (and other level-editing enthusiasts), you should seriously check out the Cube 2 Engine. ie. Sauerbraten and Blood Frontier. (MP-focused FPS games, which are also free and open-source.) The level editor is absurdly easy to use. I’m awful at most any sort of “art” (drawing, modeling, composing, designing) but I managed to make a really decent-looking map with it.

    Sauerbraten: http://www.sauerbraten.org/
    Blood Frontier: http://bloodfrontier.com/

  24. Davin Valkri says:

    Is “After Curfew” going to turn into a series, like Gamepunx, the Overlord, Left 4 Dumb?

  25. MelTorefas says:

    This was my second favorite stolen pixels so far (beaten only by your Guild Wars one way back)! I have never played anything half life and I didn’t know who the guy doing the routine was, but it was still hysterical and I loved it. Having “famous” game characters on this show in an occasionally running feature sounds like an awesome idea to me!

  26. Nick Pitino says:

    Gah, despite Hammer being a beast to use this post is STILL makeing me want to go and pick it up again if for no other reason than to relive my ‘good old days’. Back in high school my spare time usualy consisted of:

    1) Play Half-Life
    2) Play Half-Life Mods
    3) Make Half-Life Maps
    4) Learn How To Make Better Half-Life Maps

    Hammer is wonky, but I use to use it so much back in the day it just about became second nature to me. I’ve been wanting to get back into the old mapping and modding business anyway, it might be about time to do that.

  27. Icarus Tyler says:

    I’m interested in the many reasons Hammer (or “Worldcraft”, as I still call it) has apparently become unwanted.

    Hammer introduced me to world-building, and on some levels I still prefer its simplicity over the unwieldy behemoth which is 3ds Max (or any other industrial 3D-building-tool).

    Sometimes I even cherish the limits of many “lower” game-making-programs (i.e. Game Maker, RPG Maker, etc). Any limit, no matter which, drastically forces the designer to be creative with the tools he has at his disposal, thus often creating far more unique games.

    But should we introduce a beginner to something like 3ds Max, backed up by an industrial computer, most we get are ridiculously-high-poly-models and such, while creativity is often pushed into the background.

  28. Matt K says:

    Nice comic the backstory I was thinking of while rerading is that after curfew is the only programing allowed on at night and thus Breen has a captive (or more captive) audience.

    If you wanted to continue with it and not have to import additional character you could always go the Space Ghost method and have them appear via satalite.

  29. Volatar says:

    You made a map Shamus? Could you publish it by any chance? I like GMod maps :D

    • Shamus says:

      Volatar: I’m still fussing with it, but I’ll consider it. I added a custom texture to the level and had to add it in once place to show up in hammer and another to show up in game. I have this uneasy feeling that it will be a headache to distribute.

  30. Noble Bear says:

    Breen as seasoned late night host is damn funny. More of this would definitely be welcome in the future. Of course two things come to mind:

    First, I wonder what his post monologue signature bit would be. Y’know, Carson had Karnac, Leno had Headlines, Letterman has the Top Ten lists, what would Breens thing be? Maybe he could talk to a headcrab, ala Ed Sullivan’s segments with Topo Gigio or maybe he could bring up a big monitor behond him and chat with an Adviser ala Conan’s quasi clutch cargo routines. anyway, just some thoughts.

    The other thing is who will be his guests? theres alot of possibilities here as you could get avatars of developers on the couch and you could even have Travis also as a guest so the dev guy has to answer Breens questions while getting razzed by Trav. Or maybe you could do a Doonesbury thing and have some inanimate object representing the guest for which dialog can magically pour from.

    I dont mean to make more work for you, these were just my inital thoughts.

    Great work, Shamus, keep it up. :D

  31. Another Scott says:

    Wow, I am very impressed; half by the results and the other half by your commitment to play with the idea so much.

    Also, I just got the urge to re-read Concerned Comic again.

    Edit: which can be found here –> http://www.hlcomic.com/

  32. SteveDJ says:

    Just curious – could you add tracking to those three links, to determine which one people used? (I used #3 :) )

    Btw, loved the comic! Was that one long enough to count as a double-strip?

  33. Mikle says:

    Nice comic, but you have written that 3 classes were revealed for Diablo 3, forgetting either the Wizard or the Witch Doctor, depending on who do you equate Peter with.

    Anyways, just nitpicking my most anticipated game of this decade (unless it comes out in 2011 :()

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