All posts by Marcel Durer

On the road and having trouble

Marcel Durer

I’m known to be able to talk without any punctuation but this is ridiculously. As you can see, we have a problem with wordpress – I’m still trying to figure out what exactly is wrong and how to fix it. It seems that the bug But the timing for that problem couldn’t be worse.

BECAUSE, this week is FMX week – and Shift! – Tales of the Sentinels is proud to be a part of it. If you are at the FMX2014 you are not only able to meet us there, but to see some artwork at an exhibition in the ground floor and listen to a presentation of both Sabrina and I.

Also we will be part of this years “Internationaler Comic Salon Erlangen” and the “Dragon Days 2014″ – but more about these two events, when I’m finish cleaning this bug-mess up. 

Diploma was just another step

Marcel Durer

It’s been a long time since there has been any activity on this blog. That doesn’t mean that there was no activity. Nothing could be further from the truth.

February has been a real busy month, as it was the final sprint. A lot of nightshifts (no pun intended), a lot of coffee and blood, sweat and tears there was march. And march was the month of my final exam.

Well, to cut a long story short: We did it! Although the first episode of Shift! – Tales of the Sentinels is not quit finished, my study at the Filmacademy Baden-Württemberg is. I earned the right to call myself “dipl. Transmedia- and Gamesdirector”, thanks to a great team. And as of now, I have to think about the true horrors – like insurances and financing my daily bread.

What happens right now is that we try to finish the artwork as soon as possible and to have a fully functioning prototype. Everything we can present as a showcase is still pretty work-in-progress’ish. In the end, the diploma was just another step in the process of making “Shift!”.

But to show you guys some stuff, (and specially for all of you German speaking readers) here is our German experience trailer. Have fun and stay tuned for more updates coming your way!


The great character parade

Marcel Durer

A new year, a new post by yours truly. A lot happened in the last weeks. We have made a lot of progress in the different departments. Some parts of the story changed drastically. For my diploma, the first really, really important deadline is something like 8 weeks ahead, I’d like to give you a brief overview over all the characters you will find in the first episode of Shift! and tell you something about them.

You can see them in the picture, and I will describe them from left to right.

Line Up

Click on the picture to get a full screen view on the chracters of Shift!

So we start with our hero Adam (17). Although he looks like your everyday teenager, he is everything but ordinary. The other teenagers at school would call him weird. That’s because he has another view on the world. Normally he tries to stay out of trouble. But he has a crush on Ronja – and Ronja means trouble.

Ronja (19) is a punk-rock girl. She has a strong opinion of the world and has no problem to fight for what is right in her opinion. She doesn’t hide her attitude, even though it could get her and her surroundings in big trouble. She knows something is wrong in the world and wants to change this.

Regina (49) is the loving and caring mother of Adam. She is a pretty tough power woman, the real head of the family and a typical greenie. Her biggest fear is losing one of her children.

Erik (51) is the father of the family. His mind is worried by the troubles of his job: the current financial crisis rocked his construction company and he has to fire some employees. But who do you let go?

Mimi (5) is the youngest family member. She has a strong connection to her older brother Adam. But just like Adam, she is everything but ordinary. Her drawings are showing events she couldn’t possibly remember – or which haven´t happened yet.

And now (since we call Shift! the “tales of the sentinels”) we continue with those special persons, who are able to shift between the layers of our world – the sentinels.

The first one is the cute Pudel (18) who has a “Girls just wanna have fun” look and attitude from the 80’s. Her name comes from the German word for “poodle”. You might think that she has the name because of her curly hair, but that is just secondary. She is named like a dog because of her unstoppable thirst for knowledge and her track hound behaviour.

The opportunistic and sometimes cowardly Wiesel (23) is in his opinion too cool for school. He is a real hustler, earning his money by doing small crimes with his abilities – and not only the police has a problem with that fact.

The colossus next to him is Tavarish (20). You could call him a big friendly giant type of guy. He might be the strongest guy, but he is not the brightest light – always pointing out the obvious.

Prediger (50) is a member of the high council of the Sentinels and a real powerful authority figure. He has seen things and knows stuff about Adam that even the teenager doesn`t knows. But the mysterious man has a hidden agenda, and Adam doesn’t fit in his plans. At least for now …

And there is the mysterious Schakal (43), but you already know about him, don’t you?

Hope you’ve enjoyed our characters.

Storyboard – let’s picture it

Marcel Durer

When we read stories, we get instantly images in our mind – but in every head, the images look different. Comics are a bit different since they are (at least in my opinion) the perfect hybrid between written stories and animated film. Comics are a visual medium and visualization auf the story is probably the most important step.

Felix and I take the exposé of the first episode and we make a storyboard out of it, as you would do for a film likewise. This means, we do not work with the typical panel-in-panel look you normally have in comics.

While making the storyboard we ask us different questions for each panel/frame: What can the user explore? Do we have a foreground? Did we consider the golden ratio? Where is the light coming from? Is there a way to keep the amount of panels smaller so we can concentrate more on each panel until the deadline? Is there animation to consider?

In the end, we will have scribbles of each panel of the first episode. In my opinion that is the most important milestone: Not only are we able to make a to-do-list with every single task that is left to do but we can also use these scribbles to test stuff. We can scan the scribbles and load them into unity. With our prototype of the comic we will see if our ideas make sense on its final device and if the flow of the story is right. I’m excited.

Felix and I take the exposé of the first episode and we make a storyboard out of it, as you would do for a film likewise.

Felix and I take the exposé of the first episode and we make a storyboard out of it, as you would do for a film likewise.

The truth is in ink

Marcel Durer

I’d like to believe that I’m something like an open and outgoing person. When something is important to me I have no problem to admit it.

I’ve got a few tattoos on (or under) my skin – and every single one means a lot to me. For me it was a logical step to immortalize Shift! on my skin. Tattoos are an expression, it’s an artform. I can’t understand how I couldn’t do it: Shift! is my diploma and therefore some kind of goodbye of my studies here at the Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg. The core meaning behind Shift! that staying positive has a positive effect on ones life became a concept I adapted to myself. I have so much fun working on Shift! that I’d like everyone to share that fun. And I’d like to think that the fun and  drive which I’ve got for this project is inspiring  the rest of the team. Like the band H2O sings in their song “Heart on my sleeve”:

“The places that I’ve been, forever written on my skin.”

I always go to the same tattoo artist. As I’ve never made a bad experience with him, I’m happy with all of his work and everytime, the atmosphere is relaxed. Most of my friends have tattoos made by him. I won’t mention his name in this blog post but you can ask me for the contact.

So that’s it. I’ve been prepared, stayed sober the evenning before, and was in a good condition – although I got to say that the spine is a strange place (feelingwise). But I’m happy with it as I am with Shift!.


“The places that I’ve been, forever written on my skin.”

shift tattoo

I’d like to believe that I’m something like an open and outgoing person. When something is important to me I have no problem to admit it.

This Is Schakal!

Marcel Durer

Let me introduce you all to one of my favourite characters in Shift! – his name is “Schakal”. And this guy is a bit … unique.

I’ve already used this character for short stories and other projects before I’ve worked on Shift!. He was also a character of mine in a pen & paper roleplaying game. Seeing him finding his place in my diploma is therefore pretty exciting.

Schakal is some kind of a modern day shaman, an urban nomad and a spiritual
loner. When you look at him for the first time, you see nothing but a hairy and worn
down street bum. Scrubby beard, piercings and tattoos, torn down street clothes,
massive dreadlocks and a lot of tribal ornaments – all these things are hiding an
extremely intellectual and sophisticated person. He loves to quote poets, talking in
riddles and seriously, he is the biggest source for spiritual knowledge in Shift!. I
simply love the idea that there is more behind the surface. He is another element in
the whole project that screams out “discovering will be rewarded”.
Schakal has a close look on our main character Adam. Both might develop a
mentor-student relationship. But the mysterious Schakal has a deep and dark secret
in his past, that might change everything …

The name “Schakal” is the German word for jackal. He already looks like a
wandering, battered scavenger. But to be totally honest – his name comes from the
song “theme for a jackal” by one of my all-time favourite bands the Misfits.
His outer appearance was influenced by many other personalities and characters:
the musicians Max Calavera (Sepultura, Soulfly) and Chris Barnes (Cannibal
Corpses, Six Feet Under) have been role models for him as well as the pro-wrestling
star Raven and the comic characters Gateway (X-Men) and LoBo (DC Comics).

I’ve spent a lot of time with this character in the back of my mind. Seeing him now
come to life, thanks to wonderful artists, authors and other persons makes this work
even more exciting.


Check out the Schakal theme song in Jan´s article!

Inspirations for the storyworld

Marcel Durer

When I pitch the core idea of Shift! people are often asking me about my inspirations.   In this post I want to tell you about my main inspirations for the storyworld of Shift!.

I’m a big nerd (surprise!) and as such I love to play roleplaying games. There is one called
Werewolf – the forsaken. In this game you play a werewolf (surprise!) that protects its turf together with his pack-mates. In a holy mission they have to protect the world of humans from degenerated shaman spirits. The game is a part of the World of Darkness universe and definitely worth looking at.

Of course X-Men had a big influence as well. The mutants in this Marvel comic series are
developing their superpowers when they reach puberty – just like it is with the sentinels in
Shift!. But mutants are feared by society, this is why they have to keep it as a secret.

Neil Gaiman’s Sandman comics have been a big influence as well. The idea that abstract
concepts and … well, ideas like dreams, fears, emotions, death and life and all that stuff are having their own personalities struck me like a lightning.

And finally last winter a wonderful woman introduced me to the wonderful world of studio
ghibli. Their films are mostly based around the ideas of Shinto, just like My neighbour
Totoro. I became interested in the location based concept of Shinto and wanted to see how it would work in a Western society. I was inspired all winter long.

These are my biggest influences on the world. Some people suggested me to start reading The Night Watch (Nochnoi Dozor) because those books have some themes similiar to Shift!. And so I did. Now that I know Nochnoi Dozor, I’m prepared not to copy it by accident but to focus on the differences. And it makes fun!

Comics are my first love

Marcel Durer

Ever since I can remember comics were always around. I’m not talking about the cartoonish stuff like Disney and friends. Although, I bought them, the reason for it has been the funny gimmicks in them. No, I was always looking for the good stuff: for mutants, superheroes, action and huge storyworlds. No wonder my first comic book I can remember was an X-Men issue. I can’t retell anything of the storyline, but I remember Gambit and Wolverine in it.

Sure I loved Batman as well. I loved every comic from Marvel and DC that had its own cartoon show in the ´90s. That included mainly Spider-Man, Batman, X-Men and Iron Man. Although there was a Superman cartoon show as well, I never liked him for several reasons. Even in my early years I could tell that a person given THAT kind of power would never ever act purely good.

Anyway, when I was about nine, my mother sent me to an art school called The Labyrinth”. It was that kind of school where busy parents sent their children so they could learn artsy stuff in their free-time. My courses were filmmaking, animation and drawing.

My teachers praised me as a “gifted comic drawer”. Looking at my sketches from this time, I wouldn’t agree. Although I can imagine that if I would have focused more on my drawing skills, I could have become a professional.

In the meantime I started to read X-Men monthly and became a huge fan of their whole universe. My fascination grew when I realised that all stories in it were connected in some way to another. Around that time, X-Men Age of Apocalypse came out.

Until that point I wasn´t confronted with such a grim and epic storyline. Also the level of the art work was stunning. Joe Madureira had a major influence on me – not only on my drawing skills but also in my taste for comic art.

It must have been in that period of time when I tried to create my own superhero universe. The stuff I drew was a pilot scheme with all the characters I wanted to have in the story. There was “The Human Mosquito”, “The Reborn Hercules” and of course the animalistic “Hunter” – my own version of X-Men’s Sabretooth. Sadly, I haven´t had the endurance to finish it or to make something more out of it than a pile of papers.

You see, I became a comic book nerd and as I headed into puberty, I needed some more violent stuff. LoBo became an instant classic for me – not only was there a guy looking like he would listen to the same kind of music as I did, but he was rude and brutal on top of that. AND he kicked Superman’s butt.

Getting older other comics and graphic novels crossed my path as well as mangas. Garth Ennis’s Preacher, Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, Frank Millers Sin City and James O’Barr’s The Crow are just some of those I still worship today. And of course, I stayed true to the Marvel Universe.

In 2009 I began studying Interactive Media at the Film Academy Baden-Württemberg.  I focused on story worlds and game design. But through the years I realised that I still used comic strips to pitch my ideas or to adopt other story worlds.

When it came to our adaptation workshop, we had to face the impossible challenge to create something cool with Friedrich Schiller’s Die Räuber – and again we did a comic.

Today I’m facing my diploma and with Shift! I want to question what a comic can be nowadays. Given the technology, game elements and experience in storytelling – I think we can do so much more!

Why am I boring you with my life story? I want to show you that I am not only a dude who wants to make a comic because comics are cool. I want to show you that I really, really love that genre and that here is a guy, who has passion for it. I hope my passion will transpire into the work so you can enjoy it as well.


Screenshot from our Die Räuber comic.