ZigZag Resource Pack
Jamie Mckiernan gives Minecraft a cute-tacular new look!
Black. White. Grey. Hardly the most cheerful of colours. But every time I look out of my window in February, it’s all dull grey skies, bland white snow and pitch black nights because it’s already dark. Bah! I need an emergency dose of colour and charm in my Winter, stat!
Luckily, I’ve got the perfect solution - playing Minecraft Java with the ZigZag Resource Pack.
This delicious eye-candy of an add-on gives Minecraft a wonderfully cutesy makeover. Grinning pumpkins! Lovely new leaves! Steve even gets a shave and learns to smile. Blasphemy? Oh, absolutely – and I love it!
The ZigZag texture pack is the hard work of Jamie Mckiernan, an ultra-talented artist who works for Harmonix. And Jamie was kind enough to speak to me about it!
“I went to the Massachusetts College of Art,” Jamie tells me, when I ask her how she started out. “I was in Animation and Illustration and I always knew I wanted to be a concept artist – not necessarily for games, but some concept art field.”
“Then when I got out of school there was an internship at Harmonix and I took it, thinking it would be like a short term thing for a few months.”
Jamie has now been with Harmonix for eight years. Boy, I hope she passes that internship soon! Oh, wait - of course she has, because she’s moved on to bigger projects and lead positions. If you’ve played the Dance Central series, Harmonix Music VR or Singspace (and too many other games to mention here) then you’ve interacted with Jamie’s work before!
A lot of her artwork can be seen on her Twitter feed which I highly recommend you check out.
But she doesn’t just make great art at Harmonix - it’s also where she discovered Minecraft.
“There was a Harmonix private [Minecraft] server,” Jamie explains, “which was always super impressive because it was a combination of artists and engineers doing things.
“We started with this big group server where all the artists decided we were going to make a barbarian village in the middle of the woods.” Nice idea!
“I just saw it as the perfect multiplayer game because I could be creative,” says Jamie. “It’s not really about winning!”
Click the video above to learn more about the making of ZigZag!
Building something cool in Minecraft can be tough, but creating a whole new resource pack is a far more ambitious challenge! One that Jamie started three years ago.
“It started off just to see 'how hard it is to change a few blocks?'” Jamie explains. “Because making textures for work, I kind of understand it now.”
Jamie took her texture-tampering knowledge and started with the 1.8 version of Java. “[It was] right after they switched the system from being a big sheet of textures to the individual files, so it was a little easier to make a resource pack because it was actually part of the supported folder for it.
“That’s when I just started to see what I could do, and I posted a screenshot of the results of the first pass on Tumblr. A ton of people were just like, “Oh my gosh, you should do this!” – so that sort of lit the fire because I was like, 'Wow, people really like this, huh?'”
Minecraft isn't the most realistic looking game in the world (seriously, if you look like Steve IRL, see a doctor ASAP), but ZigZag pack gives the game an even less realistic, cutesier look, one I told Jamie reminded me a lot of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker.
Jamie describes her art style as a “flat, cartoon-ier sort of look.”
“And this is kind of how I draw,” she continues. “At the time [of starting ZigZag] I had been working on a mobile app for work where I was developing a similar thing; we were looking at a lot of Foster’s Home for Imaginary Creatures and really slick [animation] like Powerpuff Girls – it’s this 1950s retro thing.”
As Jamie explains to me, a less realistic art style is a look that tends to last. “It becomes timeless because realism is only realism in games for the next two years, and then we can do better.” Whereas games with less realistic styles tend to age better. “If it’s charming. Like, The Wind Waker still looks amazing.
“I take that theory into art direction too when I’m doing a game for work. I like styles that can last a little longer.”
Jamie shared with me some of her methods for giving Minecraft the ZigZag treatment. “I actually like to use a website called NovaSkin. They have a model viewer and you can basically paint right on the model like I would do in Zbrush or 3DS Max. You can see the painting in 3D as you’re doing it.
“I use that as a base, then I go into Photoshop and I keep uploading it to check my texture.” Novaskin is a great creative tool for Minecraft players - it’s well worth checking out yourself.
It's not always smooth-sailing though - like when Jamie was working on the llamas. “I accidentally painted their butts upside-down because I was like, “I think I got this…” and then I checked it in game, and all the tails are facing up!”
Huh. We've had some glitches in our time, but nothing quite like that!
Jamie still updates ZigZag frequently – following her on Tumblr is a great way to keep track of it (and you can find ZigZag there for free). But does she have ideas for any other Minecraft content in the future?
“It would be fun to try and do a more pixel art, lower-resolution version,” Jamie tells me. “Where the limited pixels are part of the creative challenge of it.” Seeing her skills with ZigZag, I have little doubt she could pull off something spectacular!