Wednesday, 31 December 2008

I want to feel alive!

Well today I've been working on my environment again, patching things up and making more assets. I've been wanting to breathe a bit more life into it rather than just to keep adding objects.

Of course I'm still adding objects, but I'm starting to think more about what I want in my scene rather than just replicating the real thing. So far it's come to a couple of magazines, but using one texture for the two, making it a two sided object because you're not going to see both sides at once, just either Edge or Heat.

Then there's the drum with rubbish in it. With this I really tried to make it look dirty and gritty, and with the normal bump, it's doing just that. I'm not quite sure where abouts to place it yet, may have to do some moving about.

A couple more cables have also emerged in my bid to add life to the scene. This time they're hanging across the alley so they're more in view and a bit more of a focal point rather than just being up againtst a wall. What better to complement the cables than a pigeon!

I had this thought of adding more life to my scene, when I was playing Rainbow Six Vegas 2. There I was slowley creeping through and abandoned half built houseing estate with my team, and whilst the buildings were mostly wooden frames with some bricks, it still felt alive.

It was the little things. The plastic sheeting dancing in the wind, making sudden crashes when the wind caught it properly, and scaring the life out of me. Then there was the loose electrical cables swing back and forth.

Even though there wasn't much going on in the level, it was the little things that made it feel alive as I nervously crept through the town.

Tuesday, 30 December 2008


Have Microsoft ever had an original fucking idea? Please I want to know!

It seems that everything I see of Microsoft's has already been done, and usually better. They do it with EVERYTHING, and that's not really an exaggeration.

Why do we succumb to this bully, it's really starting to annoy me.

Ok rant over, but please if anyone can let me know of an original idea of Microsoft's that's somehow worth having, please, let me know.

Sunday, 28 December 2008

Melted cheese anyone?

I first started my research and development project with the starting point of 'modern architecture', ok I know it's quite a broad area but I've often found that projects that give you quite a wide area of subjects to study will improve you research and give you a better variety of ideas.

Anyway, I wanted to move into looking at the most cutting edge and 'omg' factor buildings. To do this I looked at the one and only Dubai...oh yes.

Now Dubai has become one of the richest Arab countries through, yep you guessed it, oil. It has been said that the oil reserves will only last till 2050 and so they have decided to concentrate on building up their tourism industry, which is great for my project!

I've sifted thought the many amazing designs proposed by a whole range of top architecture firms, and the main contributors seem to be a firm called Atkins.

Just looking at the concepts makes me dribble with anticipation of what marvels they could create, given enough money. When you look at what hotels already stand there ( for example the Burj al Arab hotel pictured below) it's very clear that all of what they propose is entirely possible, and immanent.

Another architect that stands out in this field is Zaha Hadid. The stunning Dubai Opera house concepts look unlike anything I've seen before, and really look like someone has put a model in for 20 minutes on gas mark 6 and out emerges this stretched, melted scene with beautiful curves and flowing lines. I have to say that I adore this style, and it is my perfect idea of modern/futuristic architecture.

Right I'm off to stick some playmobile in the cooker...

Saturday, 27 December 2008

So it's over for another year...

Well the days of eating myself silly have once again passed for another year and I'm kinda glad, because I always feel bad for being lazy...doesn't stop me from being lazy mind.

Today I want to talk about a recent addiction... no not crack, but something that kept me staring at a television screen for over six hours. Now I know that's a long time, but when you have two mates playing, planning, and executing stratagies with and aginst you, it is just quite simply impossible to put down.

So what am I talking about, well it's a game downloaded from the playstation network called 'Age of Booty'. If any of you can an imaging a cross between the playstation one game 'Overboard' and capture the flag, you're nearly there. I works on a system of hexagons where you direct your ship to capture ports and recources, and battle enemey ships.

I was amazed at how simple it looked and worked, but also at how complex the planning and strategy could get. You achieve upgrades to help you along the way. The other thing that really appealed to me the graphics. They are filled with bright, highly saturated colours, which is a welcome change when you look at all of the latest dingey next-gen games (not that I don't think that some of them look breathtaking).

I think it's really great that people are still making these new games, because they have a fresh feeling to them, and of course is a big change from the norm. If you own a PS3 you must give it a try, and it's only £6.99, much cheaper than drugs.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

The Thumb has Been Removed!

Ok so I know, I've been a naughty boy with the blogs, so I'm going to try and make an effort now to do at least two a week!

Well my assesments over, and I can honestly say it sucks being at the end of the alphabet! But i also took a few other things away with me.

I knew my self portrait was pants, there are a lot of things wrong with it. First of all the proportions are wrong, which does me no favours when looking at the entire model. Then there's the face, the cheeks are too big and the head is the wrong shape, I think the entire body is a bit square. The texture is also a bit dodgey. I think I basically need better reference pictures for the shape, dimensions and textures. Though I can honestly say I was quite pleased with the mesh of the arms and legs, they had a nice shape to them.

On the other hand Heather seemed to really like my war of the worlds project, which just goes to show that your best work is always the stuff you enjoy the most.

I've also got to mention Ben Mathis, because it has been awesome having him in this week. Just watching him work is a great experience, I think its the way he manages to get so much out of a small allowance and the ways in which he's so efficant. And on top of that he's a top bloke, always teaching, giving advice and guiding people.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Game Art Year 2: The Student Strikes Back

Hey im back! yeah i know it's been along time, but i'm here to show you a bit of work (shock horror).

Ok so with this project we were asked to make something interesting out of a piece of paper/card, using nothing more than scissors, PVA glue, and our imagination.

So here it is, i know it isnt that exciting, but i thought it would be cool to recreate one, and i think it looks a great deal like a real one. I want to make it look real so i used all the correct dimensions and measurements, which took about 2 hours!

Monday, 21 April 2008

Week 24 : A year in Game Art.....well, 7 months

I've got to say first of all that this is an ace course and wiped the floor with the others that I looked at before coming. But its not just the course that's great, It's the people too. Everyone is different, in a good way, and there's not an ounce of arrogance in sight, which is a rare thing when it comes to art college. I've been there, done that and hated the people who are up their own arses, so I've got to grant kudos to Mike for picking out not just the talented, but the unique and nice people. I think the people you work around are vital to your experiences and learning processes, and picking polite and helpful students must be a real talent.

I think that the structure is good, and provides and equal balance. I would certainly like to see more on digital painting, since I've come along way in them. The other day I compared one of my first paintings to one of my recent ones and I was shocked. In a good way of course.

Maybe looking more into marketing and franchises would boost our understanding of the industry as we know it, or looking at story telling and character building, but then maybe that's heading into game 'design' too much, I don't know. Maybe that's a good thing, broaden our horizons, but then again focusing might be a better idea.

I'm pretty much stumped for ideas of how else to improve the course, but if a light bulb does light up, I'll let it be known.

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Week 22: GDC

OK, so I've had a look around at the sort of stuff that's going on at GDC, and I can safely say, Damn you Mike I want to go to! It looks like there's loads of interesting talks, but most of all because the weather doesn't suck to high hell over there.

Looking back on GDC 2006 I noticed that events took place in London, which is no more than a short train ride from where I'm stationed when not in Leicester. Looking closer on the events I saw there was an interesting title, 'Creating Emotion In Next-Gen Games' so I've decided to ramble on about that today. Don't worry, I won't get all soppy on you.

'An emotion is a mental and physiological state associated with a wide variety of feelings, thoughts, and behaviours.'

Now I'm not going to get all psychological on you (partly because I don't know enough about it, but also because it's not my particular brand of whisky), I'm just going to look at some of the key techniques used to 'move' you.

Generally people will connect with characters or NPCs, as people who play over the Internet are hardly Oscartm winners. They must make the player identify with the character, and in doing so induce the player into bonding with them.

Creating a history helps, telling you where they've come from and what they've been through. Any little detail that will breathe life into the NPC is vital, and will help them relate to the character, igniting players' emotions, making them hungry for more.

So a great deal of the emotion created is down to the script, storyline and characters, but how about graphics?

With graphics getting better by the day, developers are able to bring facial animations in that can give a heightened sense of realism, but then realism isn't always necessary. Final Fantasy VII stunned fans, and in some cases raised emotions, when Aeries died, and facial animations were non-existent in that game.

But when it comes down to it, there's nothing like a good plot twist, something unexpected that will move the player with the help of shock.

Saturday, 19 April 2008

Week 21 : Where do I want to go, and how do I get there?

When I look back at this year, I think to myself 'wow I've come along way', not just in my work but in my lifestyle as well. Ive moved to a different part of the country, with different surroundings and a new subject. It feels like I'm gradually getting closer to that 'proper' job (since working in a pub isn't my idea of a career?

I think the thing that has changed the most in me is self directed study. All my life I've been at school working to timetables and restrictive curriculum's, where as now its about how much work I as an individual, put in myself.

Things that I've learnt over my six months (it feels longer) here, range from technical skills, such as using 3ds max, which has been a headache at times (and still is), to my artistic ability and observation skills. I feel that my self directed drawing work has really pushed me forward.

I have also discovered how much you can learn from working with other people. Everyday I will get a tip or a little trick from my class mates, and it's always a pleasure to return the favour. I'd say that a large amount of progression has been gained from working next to each other and simply observing work and techniques.

I find that looking back on my older work is always helpful and can be fun, just like going back and reading my previous blogs, it gives me an idea of what I was like and what I've learned.

So it's coming to the end of the year, and I'm really looking forward to the second year, not that the summer break doesn't go unwelcome. But the thing is I still want to do work over the summer, and I think that's the main thing that's changed, the fact that I want to get better and not just pass the course.

Saturday, 12 April 2008

Week 19 - Life Changing or Career Building?

When I look around at a lot of games courses I tend to find that they're a bit detached from the art side of things. The other day I was browsing through a graduates online portfolio only to see a character that was badly drawn, poorly shaded and to be honest wasn't very original or exciting. In a paragraph explaining his he work he stated that his course didn't have much art-based work in it.

It concerned me because this guy probably wouldn't get a job with this portfolio. OK so maybe his 3D work was brilliant, but it's not like 2D and 3D work are completely detached.

Like Jolyon Webb said, it's easier to teach 3D programs than to teach how to draw. For this reason I think it's a good idea that for game art courses to be more 2D art based, and that's why I'm here.

I think it is essential that key skills in all areas are taught, but the point of an education is not just to qualify students for work, but to prepare them as well.

Another issue is one raised by David Braben at gamecity. He stated that most game courses are five years out of date and that they aren't teaching what they need at the moment.

"If a university can take over a year to introduce a new module to the degree, then how is it at all possible to keep up to date with an industry that has changed major technologies several times in the last 12 months and is only now just beginning to get to grips with the power of PS3 and X360?"

So how do you educate for an industry that is advancing so quickly? An Industry that has technology, which is constantly developing? Well unless we can download weekly updates from the companies directly into our brains, I'm clueless!

Friday, 11 April 2008

Week 20 - Creativity

I hope when I graduate from university that I would have gained new skill sets, that will allow me to qualify for a job in the games industry. But I also hope to come out with a new way of thinking of and looking at things. A question that I've heard so much is 'can you teach creativity', and I can't think of a good answer to that.

I suppose I think of myself as quite creative, I can generate ideas and think 'outside' the box (sorry), but in this type of work, would it be advantageous to be the most creative person in the world? This work has limits, for example, how high-poly something can be , and if you were to put a cap on how 'creative' you can be would it work. Or maybe being creative is not just how unique or brilliant you're idea is, but how much can you get out of those limits.

Some people say that Halo was a brilliant game, one that re-defined the genre. I don't think it was very creative though. The story was pretty much non-existent (unlike the novels written by Eric Nylund, which I recommend to everyone, even if you don't like the game), the levels were samey and weapons were nothing compared to Timesplitters. But it was a good (not excellent) game and sold by the bucket load.

So you don't NEED creativity to make a good, successful game. Of course there are always going to be those people who buy Fifa every year, and that's not a bad thing because that's the market. Loco-roco was a very creative game that used motion sensing and had an appealing graphical style (not to mention little coloured blobs that you had to wake up who then sang in Japanese, each one with its own unique voice! anyway...)

Maybe we should be using creativity to take the games industry forward instead of churning out WWE 2013. Maybe the games industry should be trying to overtake the film industry. With the growing amount of real actors you see in games these days maybe they are.

You may have noticed me being creative by doing week 20 before week 19, now that's thinking outside the box.

Thursday, 3 April 2008

Week 18 - Game Technology - Sound for Games

Sound is one of those things that I think rarely gets the credit it deserves in games. You can often find that the best sound is that which you do not notice, because, it immerses you in the game experience, but without it the game would be dull. It is almost a sub-conscience thing.

Sound is a great tool for setting the mood or creating a feeling, and is something used to great advantage in the horror genre, which I have to say, I play for 5 minutes and then wuss out of. Sound is a huge part of the film industry, and I think, that more game developers should build on sound design to make it an even bigger part of games.

My noticeable favourite soundtracks include Final Fantasy VIIs ballads, which I think played a huge part since there was no voice acting, and the epic soundtrack of Shadow of the Colossus, where the enormous orchestra played to the scaling of the titanic creatures.

My favourite artist made soundtracks have to be the adrenaline pumping hard rock and drum and bass of Motorstorm, and the tunes pumped out in SSX 3 as you navigate your way down secluded mountainsides.

It's not just music that grabs my interest though. Sound effects are another big part in games. The weary and disturbing ambiance in Max Payne was a real mood setter, whilst the pure noise in Black left me hearing my heart pound throughout my body.

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Week 17 - Game Technology - Game Engines

Game engines are the core software to a game, to put it simply, without them there would be no game. The software will crunch the code written by programmers, and construct the virtual world that you are playing in and everything in it.

There are many different types of engines, some created for specific tasks. For example the widely used Havok engine, used to simulate realistic physics and 'Speedtree', which was used to generate the realistic trees and vegetation in The Elder Scrolls IV : Oblivion. These types of engines are know as middleware and are usually deigned be used in conjunction with other engines.

Many game developers will buy into an existing game engine to use on their game, which will save on time developing a new one and cut down on man power. A different approach will be to develop a new game engine or improve an existing one. This would enable developers to create the engine to suit the experience they want to make.

A good example of engines being used together in a next-gen game is in Star Wars: The Force Unleashed. This game uses the Euphoria engine, used to generate realistic human responses with other humans and the game world, with the Havok physics engine and the DMM Engine, which regulates what objects are made from what substances and how they shatter and break accordingly. The game appears to push the boundaries of physics in gaming, and you get to be Darth Vaders apprentice, how cool is that!?

Monday, 31 March 2008

Week 16 - Gaming Cultures

It's easy to say 'Gaming Culture' but i think this is to generalised, because there are so many different experiences avalible and with them come different people and different behaviour.

For example you have your MMORPGs, where communites are created and people will become submersed into a virtual world. On the other hand you have FPS', where teams and clans are formed and compete in a more competative nature.

There is also big money at stake with the major gaming leagues, where people and teams (depending on the game) will compete for vast amounts of money. The gaming leagues will show the greatest players and teams, but perhaps they don't have the same sense of community that an MMO game would have.

My experiences within a game community aren't that extensive but I was once a member of a clan, and a bloody good one at that. Not good as in talent-wise but because we were a good team. The game was Socom: U.S. Navy Seals on the PS2. It was more of a casual thing for most of us, we would usually have a clan match once a week and then play together whenever we were online.
Like I said, it was the people in the clan who made it. One guy, Taz, who was a bit of a loud mouth would ALWAYS blame laggers and would get really worked up sometimes (much to our amusement). We were all quite laid back and never took it to seriously, but when the match came around we would co-ordinate and used tactics to work well as a team.

It was a great game with a solid online mode, which proved to be a great foundation for (TUE) - The Ultimate Elite (ok so everyone thought it stood for Tuesday, but the name makes us sound good doesn't it?)

Week 15 - An Introduction to the Games Industry

Over the last 20 years the games industry has changed a great deal. Before it was all bedroom programmers and now it's large teams working together.

The success of games is the key to this. A successful game with large profits will mean a greater budget for the next project and so on, creating spaces for more employees and better technology. A game ten years ago would have had a budget of around $1.5 million, where as now a game tends to have a budget of $15-30 million. I Find it amazing how quickly the industry has progressed, and I am convinced that one day it will compete with the film industry.

The one word that is most feared by me when I think about the future is outsourcing. The process of recruiting people from outside the company, often from different countries, to work for you thus reducing the head count and salaries in your company. As a result, less job opportunities...eek!

But upon reading an interview with Pandemics Executive Art Director,
Carey Chico, I was slightly more reassured. He explained that they are always looking for talented artist, especially those who are capable of more than one task. He also shed more light on the outsourcing situation, by explaining that the artists are need to get the message across to the outsourced employees, they don't just hand them a brief and pick the work up a couple of months later.

Of course different companies vary and so will the industry 2 years from now when I'm job hunting.

Sunday, 9 March 2008

Week 11 - The Elements of Game Design- Gameplay

The word gameplay gets thrown around alot out there, and probably has a hundred different definitions. So I'm going to make it a hundred and one by trying and describe what I think the term gameply means.

Every game has rules. If a game had no rules it wouldn't really be able to exist. For something like a game to function properly there have to be boundaries, places you can't reach, things you
can't do. We also need to be told what we can and can't do in a game. Different game genres usually have set rules, for example, a racing game has a track. This is the track you race and you have to stick to it. Of course people try to expand these rules, by letting you take different paths of giving you the illusion that you can go where you want, but they generally still stay the same.

Burnout Paradise did this by giving you a big city and letting you go where you want. But utimately it was just a bunch of tracks duct-taped together. You were still confined to a track and were still made to go a certain route if you wanted any chance of winning.

I think this is all relevant in the term gameplay. There are other more technical sides to it aswell, such as, what button does what and how much damage this gun does.

I think if I had to sum it up (which is incredibly difficult and probably unaccurate) I would say that gameplay to me, is the game designers giving us decisions to make. For example, how do i approach this battle, what weapon should I use for this situation or how early should I apply the brakes if I dont want to crash, unless I want to crash and see the car deform and explode, which happens all to frequently when playing Burnout.

Thursday, 14 February 2008

Week 10 - The Elements of Game Design - Story and Character

Its got to be said, characters can make or break a game, or any story. After all, they are the ones you control, listen too and interact with. Obviously TV programs and films are different in the way that you do not interact, plus the fact that a film only has 2-3 hours to introduce, develop and explain a character, where as books, games and TV programs can take longer.

The first games to really bring characters into them were games like Full Throttle. They actually used voice actors and were able to develop them which added so much more depth to the game.

I also find it interesting to play Grand Theft Auto 3, and to notice how the main character never speaks a word! But yet the story still keeps you hooked. I think this is due to the characters around you and how they have strong but different personalities.

When I play a game or watch a film, the script can really make a difference, for example the film Enemy at the Gates, a film about the rise or a russian sniper during WW2. It had an epic story line and battle scenes but was let down by a terrible script in my opinion (and Jude Law).

Bad acting can make just as much difference. Take Assasins Creed. Altair, possibly the coolest looking and moving character I've ever seen in a game, but was played by some American (in the Middle East!) who sounded more wooden than my desk, and weakened the character as a result.

Though, I think that it is very important to have convincing and nice looking characters, because first impressions really count. Whether you think it or not, your mind will automatically asses something (or someone in our case) within the first few seconds of seeing it, and make a judgement. It's then up to the writer and actor to build their personality and change that persons mind to how they want you to see that character.

So when you first saw me, you would have made a subconscious decision on whether you liked me or not.....I wonder if its changed?

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Week 9 - An introduction to Game Technology

Throughout my gaming life I've used about 15 controllers from different systems, from the basic but classic snes controller to the bulky and clumbsy xbox pad. As controllers they all do fine and serve their purpose, but sometimes it's the little touches that can really make it stand out from the rest.

Take for example the z button on the back of the n64 controller that made it feel alsmost gun like, or the c stick on the gamecube controller which looked alot like a nipple. One thing I have noticed is that Nintendo seem to be the ones who take on new ideas and have really pushed the idea of a game controller along. Their latest game pad the wii-mote is something completely different and never used before in games, and for that I praise Nintendo (although I am not the biggest fan of the wii), they are always in search of new ideas rather that churning out the same old thing.

As far as my favourite controller goes, I'd have to say the PS2/3 (as theyre more or less the same) is the most functional, and you can see this from the way that it 'hasn't' developed much over the years. A close second would have to be the gamecube controller because it was just so damn comfortable. It felt like it was moulded to fit your hands, as if you'd pressed your hands into a ball of clay and made a controller out of it.

Looks though, is a different matter. The N64 pad was iconic, with its three handles almost looking like some sort of hybrid super-controller. The PS3 pad however, is a bit too industrial looking for my tastes with its perfect cricles and straight lines. But it shocks me to say that the xbox 360 controller is my favourite for looks, partly because I'm not a huge fan of it. I think it's the smoothness and curved contours that draw me to it.

When I look at the future of gaming I can see controllers moving more towards motion sensing, even though I do not think it enhances the gaming experience a great deal. Who knows, maybe one day we'll be able to hook ourselves up to a PS5 and let our minds be the controllers.

Sunday, 20 January 2008

Week 8 : Storytelling for games

Stories are vital to nearly every game going. Although it could be debated that some genres do not require stories and would still deliver an enjoyable experience. Examples of this could be Tetris. You're not clearing blocks to save the princess or fight of aliens, you're doing it because it is your aim, plus it has a certain feeling of accomplishment when you slot that long block down the nicely placed gap that you created.

One great storytelling experience that I was sucked into (and have repeated 4 times now) is Final Fantasy IIV, and I have yet to play another game that has more depth or felling in it. There are so many things that make a good storytelling experience, but I think that one of the main things I look for is believability, because it is what makes the experience real and draws the player in.Stories in games are usually told by a character, NPC’s or a narrator. But in the world of MMORPGs, of which I am not very familiar with, the worlds are dominated by human controlled characters, and it’s these that create some of the most interesting stories. For example, when people wage war on each other, and I’m talking about hundreds of people invading a city populated by other ‘real’ people.

So I guess that a game can make a great story and not just be made by one.