Alloy, the unsung action Figure…
To say, my situation with Alloy was a frustrating one would be an understatement.
The character has come so close to hitting mainstream, it isn’t even funny. I’ve pimped Alloy in so many ways and through so many mediums, one would think that he was already a franchise.
Before I go into that though, let me throw down a brief history of how I came up with Alloy. In 95’ I had to create a 10 second animation for a class project. Within the animation a character had to get up from a sitting position, then walk a few steps to the right or left, and then lift up an object. The Idea of making a walk cycle urked me right away, it was so much work, so I thought I’d be slick, and create a character with a unicycle. Hehe, thinking about this now, I realize how lazy we all are when we’re younger. Half the submissions of the “Red Baron Sprite Contest” consisted of characters with unicycles. They weren’t original with the Idea, and apparently neither was I, as my Teacher told me that wasn’t gonna cut it. At the Time the first unicycle character that came to mind was “Gizmo Duck” from the TV show Ducktales. When my teacher shot down my half-ass attempt, I went back to the drawing board. I replaced the cycle with legs, but a lot of other elements stood. Like the sloped back helmet, and Gizmo’s ability to activate gadgets from his suit. Also Around that time I was playing alot of Darkstalkers on my sega Saturn. One of the characters called Phobos caught my eye. Ulike Gizom Duck he can actually transform parts of his body into weapons and other gadgets. This is where I got the idea to infuse the two , and why we see chainsaw kicks, and buzzsaw punches in Newgrounds Rumble.
Even though this animation was to be ten seconds long, and contain a few actions, it was still a daunting project. I had to create a ruff of the animation on paper, and then test the animation on a Pencil Test machine. Then redraw all the art on new paper, with cleaner lines. Make another Test. Then, Trace over all the art on cellophane, with ink. THEN, color each cell from the back, let dry, and create the background.
What Takes me now a day with flash, took me months the traditional way. I didn’t mind though, cause every hour I worked on Alloy more and more Ideas of who he was and were he came from would Flourish.
Eventually, he became this Megaman/Sonic type character, who wears armlets like Wonder Woman, that turns into a robot, from a suit given to him by an Alien, like Green Lantern, who can change into a bike, like a transformer, and transform his extremities into weapons, like Phobos from DarkStalkers. Hehe well, while he isn’t completely original (and any Artist that says they are, is full of it), he is still unique when you combine all these influences as a whole.
I later used Alloy again, for an Animatic exercise. The results , I thought, came out good, though not great. I did like were I was going with him. His design was simple, yet stylized, and when I had tried my hand at Photoshop, as well as an animatic in After Effects, Alloy was the ideal choice. I liked Alloy, but I didn’t really see any potential, outside of the fact that he was a cool character to practice animating with. When the time came to try my hand at 3D animation, Alloy once again was my first choice. My first animation was nothing more than a clip of alloy breaking through a brick wall. It wasn’t animated, just the camera rotated, giving it that Matrix effect. I was later introduced to some cell shading techniques, and thought Alloy would be perfect to try the look with. I liked the look a lot, and decided to make a 3 minute animation, using Alloy and some of characters I’ve come up for him over the years. This animation ended up being my Final Animation test, for which I got a B+.. Hey can’t complain. 🙂
I had put much thought into Alloy. By this point, I had tons of characters for his universe, written 3 episode outlines for my pitch class, and finished my final. It wasn’t until I showed my portfolio in an interview for an illustrator’s job with UBO, that interests were perked up again. In my portfolio, I had some rotations done of ALLOYandRECOIL, and the interviewer loved them. I was eventually hired for the job, but was occasionally asked, what where my plans with Alloy, at which I didn’t have any. Thats when I decided to make a lil ALLOY MOVIE IN AFTER EFFECTS, it wasn’t much, really slowing moving, but enough for them to be interested in seeing what I could do with flash. Flash was a whole new beast. After sitting through the tutorials, and some help from a very helpful co-worker, I was able to grasp the concept. So of course, my first test run animation using flash was with Alloy. It was horrible, but everyone at the job loved it. If I was to submit this animation on newgrounds now, it wouldn’t make it past judgment. It’s that sad, but I learned flash, and that’s what was important.
After the huge Dot.com crash, UBO went under, and it was back to the grind for me. I worked, and freelanced whenever I could, without much thought to Alloy. But then a year later, I was contacted by my old Bosses. They were interested in Pitching Alloy as a TV show in France. They were interested in new content for an animation channel over there, and they thought Alloy could be one of the shows.
I was totally excited, and totally bummed. I needed to come up with a 45sec spot for the pitch, and my 3D was not up to snuff. I didn’t even know how to texture map properly. So knowing that I didn’t have the skill or the ability to pull this off, I did the only respectable thing I could do… I said yes.. and scrambled off to find every 3D book I could find. The results weren’t half bad, but it was no where near as ambitious as the storyboard was.. So I just crossed my fingers, handed in the pitch, and hope they wouldn’t notice.. Thankfully they didn’t…
All seemed well for a while. Weeks became months, as I stood by the phone, waiting for the good word. I wasn’t even looking for something like this to happen , but now I wanted it so bad I could taste it. I had a CHARACTER BIBLE printed out professionally. Even had my mother’s boyfriend, who was an excellent jewelry maker, design the prototype of Alloy in wax, which he later casted in solid brass.. ha-ha. Since he only worked in metals, it was the only cheap substance he could use. It weighed about as heavy a brick, but it was gorgeous 😉 Hell, even UBO went all out, They had rapper Lil Kim voice the narration for the Trailer, and even had Barry Micheal Cooper (writer of movies NewJackCity, abovethe rim, and SugarHill) write the FIRST EPISODE PILOT ! I figured there was a good chance this could happen.
Finally almost a half year later, I get the call, and find out that the whole project was shelved. I was bummed, but I carried on. Freelance work getting scarce I hit the pavement for a regular job. Hey, ya gotta live, right? I had all but given up on that Dream, and was happy to relieve my Stress animating on my own stuff on the side.
Out of the Blue I get another call from UBO, who once again, want to give Alloy another chance, possibly in another medium. I suggested, “why not as a GBA game?”
I explained that the gameboy base was higher than any console system on the market. It would be a good way to promote the character through a simple but fun game. Later on, we could revisit the character as an animation, once it had a fan base. Hey, it worked for Sonic, and Mario right? UBO was hooked on the Idea, and went ahead and looked for a GBA developer, and I went to work and trying my hand at designing some kind of gameplay that could be unique to Alloy. UBO was convinced that the best way to present an Alloy Demo to a publisher was to create a working GBA on the console. I wasn’t so convinced. I felt that we should do it in Flash, and use the extra money to actually create a 3D game demo as well, using some really cheap but good 3D engines out there. There was a little back and forth on the subject. Of course, since they have the money, it went their way, but I didn’t give up so easily. I asked Tom Fulp from Newgrounds if he wasn’t too busy get started on a sidescoller engine, on the side, and I would still try and work in the demo that way. We met up with “Blackhammer”Games. They had an Ispy puzzle game out on the GBA market, and was one of the only GBA Developers out here in New York City. A real bunch of nice guys, but they never created a platformer on the GBA so this was a learning process for all of us. Once the deal was signed for BH games to make the demo, I knew there was no chance that Tom Fulps’ flash engine would be used. So I called Tom, told him the bad news, and apologized for all the work he had put in it. Tom wasn’t as down about it as I was. He told me it was fine, and that he had some Ideas on how he would continue developing the engine, and even had an artist for the graphics. That artist, was synj from newgrounds. That game ended up being the demo of Alien hominid.
I could gut myself off the Irony of that. 🙂
Work on the Alloy GBA was at first slow and arduous. I worked as an Asst Manager at Blockbuster, while making GBA sprites at night, and over the weekend.
It was very tiring. As tiring as it was, nothing can beat working on your own GBA game.
And every week I would go home with a working build of the game on a flash card.
Nothing much was happening , you can move Alloy left and right and make him jump, but that was enough to keep me motivated week after week.
While it was cool to see my characters move, and kill the occasional baddies, I wasn’t too impressed with the gameplay. I don’t think any of us were. It also didn’t help that a lot of my Ideas to make this a fighter based platformer, where shot down at meetings. The truth is it was even harder to defend the mechanics, since no other 2D game on the market had the premise. Even to date, the closest game to come near my gameplay mechanics is AstroBoy. I have learned from past experience though, people only understand from example. So I had to forge ahead with the graphics, and hope I can find someone to at least demonstrate it in flash for me. I had made tons of artwork for Alloy, and about a fraction of it got in. The size restrictions, color restrictions, etc. were really a pain in the ass hurdle to get over. Just getting the collision and jumping mechanics right seemed like a chore to the programmer, so squeezing all these game mechanics in wasn’t looking likely.
In the end, that demo end up being rushed, because UBO needed to get the demo to a meeting with Nintendo, but even the basic mechanics were no where near polished. So Nintendo shot us down. “Nice Graphics, no gameplay.” It was just what I feared. After that, UBO no longer wanted to invest in Alloy. The plug was pulled, and ol’ Alloy flatlined.
Once again, Alloy was shelved. I hadn’t put much thought into Alloy, started freelancing again, and worked on Pico2 on the side. Times were tuff, and money was tight, but I was at least doing what I enjoyed to do, able live off it.
In the biggest twist of all, I was contacted by Synj to do additional animation for the console version of Alien Hominid. The very game that Tom Fulp coded, using the platform engine originally created for Alloy. Such is life;) I was still happy to do it though, as it was an opportunity to get my animations in a retail game.
It wasn’t until a couple of years later that I told my Alloy Story to Josh (PsychogoldFish.com), that things took a turn for the better for Alloy. He was intrigued with my gameplay mechanics. He loved the whole Idea of a combo-based gameplay, that worked with puzzle elements, as well as the parry juggles. Better than that, he added tons of his own gameplay elements, like, grappler and shooter puzzles! I was in heaven. Some one that finally got it!! I told him that I still had all the art from the GBA game in its original flash format, and would he be interested in completing a flash demo, as the Alloy game was originally intended. Josh was down!
Thus, Alloy Arena was born. Fish nailed everything I wanted in terms of gameplay mechanics. The shooting, the combos, even the enemy collision detection combos. The only thing that’s left to do now is to complete the demo as the full platformer-fighter hybrid, that I have dreamed it would be all these years. I even haveplans on the table to release a flash movie along with the game. Even if Alloy doesn’t get picked up after this blitz, I know that I at least did him proper.
I have a funny feeling this won’t be the last we see of Alloy and his misadventures
update: well there is finally an end to this journey, sadly its not the end some of have hoped for.