Apple Targets Procedurally Generated Comics (Starring You!)

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The rumor mill for the next generation of consoles has strongly suggested that both the Playstation 4 and the Xbox 5 (because, hey–why not drop this 720 nonsense and just out-Price is Right Sony, right?) will be socially-driven, always-connected additions to your household. Which absolutely makes sense; despite whatever mild uproar companies like Blizzard and Maxis have caused in requiring an active internet connection to play their AAA titles, at this point in the information age tech can be purchased for less than the price of a meal and the next big race is likely to be connecting everyone and anything. (Heck, Cisco even wants to connect the walls of your house.)

So, it shouldn’t be surprising that companies would begin to find creative ways to use this ceaseless flow of collected data. Engadget recently posted information from a 2009 patent, filed by Apple, that sought to procedurally-generate comics based on decisions made by players in story-driven video games. Apple even snagged Mass Effect‘s protagonist, Commander Shepard, to stand-in as their shining example. This example seems obvious once thought about–the Mass Effect sequels employed their own similar methods to help new players jump into the sequels, following comic book-style breakdowns of the “Previously on . . .” plot, letting players chime in at key moments to decide the fate of the galaxy’s past. According to Engadget, Apple’s system would have collected those key decisions–including achievements–and then plugged the relevant information into a digital comic book that could be downloaded (or purchased?) across a variety of platforms by the player.

Now, 2009 is cold by almost any internet standard, but it’s worth noting how well a system like this would work today, especially considering the explosion of the tablet market in the last few years. Customizable comics are an idea that have been around for decades, but Apple’s version would leverage popular IP and capitalize on the sense of ownership that players experience when engaging with a first-person video game narrative. Might you not feel compelled, after investing sixty hours of your life into a space opera or Indiana Jones-esque Adventure, to spend $4.99 on an artistic commemoration of all those great triumphs and pitfalls?

At its heart, this idea is about storytelling, which we at Sprout Concept feel is critical for any venture. It’s a transmogrification of an experience that, while by no means unique (it’s difficult to call something that millions of players may have completed ‘unique’), is still, incredibly, singular. It’s amazing how video game players can speak about a title with fellow gamers, but still reflect on that time as sacred and personal.

Good call, Apple. Long live 2009.

The Heavy Hitters

Last fall I traveled to the annual CTNX conference to meet my mentor Chris Oatley and some of my fellow students from the Oatley Academy of Concept Art and Illustration. AMAZING show! It forever changed my relationship with art, and laid the groundwork for what Sprout Concept would soon be.

As I walked the show floor at CTNX, I met with so many artists I had admired from afar. Rather than crushes on celebrities, I swoon over those who create my beloved movies and games. Up until this moment these people were untouchable, but they were suddenly all around me eagerly talking about their work, and willingly looking over mine. These artists are behind some of the most influential and important work in the entertainment industry, but they are just like everyone else. They have all been through the struggle of trying to get better and get themselves out there, and they are more than willing to share their experiences and help others along the way. That sense of community is incredibly powerful.

“Rather than crushes on celebrities,

I swoon over those who create my beloved movies and games”

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Ryan Woodward, the fluid animator behind the beautiful short “Thought of You” held a workshop on his new visionary interactive graphic novel Bottom of the 9th. Ryan spoke of finding new ways to bring his stories to life, and realized that apps were the next logical step. However, as an artist, that can be an incredibly overwhelming idea. Just making the art is quite a process, and then having to figure out how to bring it together as a fully interactive piece on a mobile device is an entirely different set of challenges. Ryan was able to partner with great people to realize his idea. Bottom of the 9th has become an award winning, beautiful, and important piece of work that really breaks boundaries and pioneers the creation of art in a new medium. Chris Oatley and Lora Innes recently interviewed Ryan in an extensive 2 part Paper Wings Podcast episode. Click here to read and listen to his story. Sooo inspiring!

At CTNX I began to realize that artists and designers all share a similar goal. We are all trying to communicate, share, and present our ideas as clearly as possible and to as many people as possible, and we don’t want to be limited by any certain medium. There are so many artists and designers that have the desire to create immersive interactive experiences, but don’t know where to turn or how to go about it.

That is where we fit in. Sprout Concept is a network of people that thrive by creating great work and getting it out there through contemporary media. I can’t wait to see where we are by CTNX 2013! Be sure to subscribe to our blog to hear more about how this all began, see what inspires us, and to see what we are making!

The shape of ventures to come

This is our first post of many to come. We have been busy at Sprout Concept trying to establish our brand. We are trying to create various elements to our web presence. Making contacts and putting ourselves out there. Please visit us at to learn more about who we are. As we move forward we will be using this area to post items that inspire us, insight we obtain in our adventures, and anything else we come across.

About myself, I am a trained designer and artist who is looking to work with others to create amazing work in the interactive space. This includes games, apps, storybooks, motion art, and anything else I find interesting. As I go through this process I will be sharing my process and my knowledge here. So keep a look out.