środa, 30 maja 2012

Visualizing alien universe - interview with creators of Carpe Chaos

There are lots of science fiction webcomics. Some are hard s-f, some are space operas and some are just different. Many achieved high popularity and wide recognition. I assure You that Carpe Chaos is top tier example of that genre in Internet-published sequential art. But it does one thing differently – and everything else in it is affected by that one simple change in the game. In Carpe Chaos universe there are no humans. None at all. Not too many s-f comics does that (not counting the anthropomorphic animal ones – cough, furries, cough, cough – and humorous or strictly bizarre creations). The fact that the universe lacks homo sapiens make the plots, the world and its inhabitants very unique. No (human-shaped) point of reference forces You to utilize imagination even more – and the team behind Carpe Chaos is very good at it.

The format of comic is also rather fresh. There are no overreaching story arcs, no one big plot and no squadron of main and background heroes. Instead of all this writers propose self-contained stories, or even single scenes, which show the interesting worldbuilding, as well as behavior and emotions of alien races through capturing their everyday life and their problems. From brute killers fighting aggressive cultural occupation by teaching their children how to count to religious journey of two asteroid climbers. From escape of two convicts and racial issues behind it to the moral problems of uneasy truce between enemy species. Plots are intelligent and intriguing – I highly recommend that You should learn that fact by simply reading the comic. And it’s also I reason that in the interview with Eric Carter (writer and Creative Director of Carpe Chaos) and Anthony Cournoyer (Lead Artist), prepared with big “offscreen” help of Team Leader, Jason Bane, we are talking mainly about art, with one question in mind – how to visualize the universe without humans and what to use to make it seem alive?

Wanna know? Then let’s head straight to the interview!

Hello and welcome to Net is Nerdy guest zone. First question is about working on webcomic with no humans in the cast. We are used to expressing emotions with our gestures and facial features and aliens from Carpe Chaos are very different from us. How do Your express their feelings in the design for comics? They're surely anthropomorphic to some degree, but they lack some of our traits - Turikasuul for example have no hands and eyes. How You balance basing the drawing from human expressions and definitely alien elements in showing their emotions?


Portraying emotions on such alien bodies is definitely a challenge. We've been very conscious of how we plan to achieve that since the beginning, and that's helped. We have fairly extensive emotion sheets for each race, which help guide our direction in this area.

It's also noteworthy that the emotional expression of each race is part of a larger initiative in Carpe Chaos. We want each species to be both familiar and disconcertingly strange. We're striving to  preserve a sense of alien-ness while also making each race easy to identify with. Some races, like the Turikasuul or Xotron have very hard to read faces, which balances out a body which is much more similar to the human body. While others, like the Kaean and Porgs have faces which feel very familiar, and bodies which are very alien. How we choose to arrange these features wasn't an accident either; the physicality or emotional familiarity of each race specifically targets a portion of our audience. We want specific kinds of people to enjoy specific races more than others. It will hopefully create a sense of allegiance similar to what you see with World of Warcraft; Horde Forever!! kek kek kek.


There is little to no difference when translating emotion from human to both Porgs and Kaeans. They have all the necessary elements to convey a solid emotional spectrum. The challenges are presented mainly with the Turikasuul. I never hope to reach the same level of subtlety that a human has when working with a Turikasuul. But what you lack with facial cues, you can make up for by exaggerating the posture and mouth. The way the Turikasuul is presented toward the "camera" also affects our perception. We are all used to identifying low angles looking up with power and pride, while high angles looking down gives you the opposite feeling. Plus we have dialogue running alongside the artwork, too. So a really complex emotion can travel well along a subtle line that just hints at it. And it helps that the Turikasuul are more introverted :-)

Copyright © Carpe Chaos 2012

The Carpe Chaos world has lots and lots of background, each race is created with many cultural and anatomic details in mind. But in the comic itself You have scenes from lives of the alien individuals, mostly without any infodumping on universe or the things they talk about and do. You must rely on artists to hint the rich background of every situation. How do You deal with presenting the details of the Carpe Chaos verse without actually putting some of the stuff like species biology, history or culture in words?


Nobody's a fan of pointless exposition. We try to avoid it as much as we can in the comic. If you want to dig into encyclopedic monologues of the universe, there's a format that's great for that, it's called an encyclopedia, and we have one on our wiki. 

Our strategy has been to create this robust world behind our stories, because that world will inherently force our stories to be more rich. We have to account for universe features that fans may never know about, but in doing so we hint at and reveal the depth that's behind our stories. The background of Carpe Chaos is like a massive behind-the-scenes scaffolding that's holding up all the stage effects of our stories.

Copyright © Carpe Chaos 2012

The three main races we have seen already are very different - they have unique physiology, lifestyles, culture and technology. What ideas and inspirations You utilize to show the differences between species in designs of their vehicles, clothes, housing, everyday-use items and weaponry?


We're always trying to pull inspiration from lots of sources for all our designs. I use Google Image Search and Deviant Art constantly, and every time we have a new design I post at least 10 references for the artists to incorporate. We also do a lot of iterative development. Draw the thing over and over, adding bit by bit to the design until it becomes it's own unique thing that isn't too connected to any particular one of the inspirations.
Copyright © Carpe Chaos 2012

Carpe Chaos universe is a rather colorful place - literally. But some of the stuff included is rather grim and even violent. With the exception of Turikasuul homeworld - which is dark and rainy - all of the environments and races are shown in the rich palette of colors, rather bright, which gives it distinct, a little “happy” or maybe “utopian” look, certainly suggesting more optimistic theme in my opinion. Is the contrast planned or it happened naturaly during illustrating the concept?


As an art director, I'm addicted to color. I love the way Star Wars and Warcraft uses color. I think this is one area that George Lucas has actually improved on in the prequels. Everything is rich and delicious in Star Wars, and I think that makes the whole world more enjoyable. I think I'm also influenced by how much of the palette of video games is brown, gray, or black. I hate that. I love how Mario has every color in the rainbow. You're hard pressed to find a single environment of a Mario game that doesn't have green, blue, red and some other color in the scene at the same time. Even something like a lava level that is dominated by fiery colors is filled with blue hued shadows and green platforms or turtles. When we do make something dreary grays and browns, it's a very intentional choice to fit the mood or milieu of the story.
Copyright © Carpe Chaos 2012
Thanks for Your answers and I wish You luck with the future projects!


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