Friday, 30 April 2010

Looking to the Future...

Another year passes us by and it’s time to start planning ahead for the future once again. What are my goals? What do I hope to achieve and how do I plan to better myself in preparation for the all important 3rd year? My main plan over these coming summer months is to improve my skills in using and understanding 3D Studio Max to the high standard that I should be at this point in time. I have found it a difficult and often frustrating program to use at times and at least in my experience have slowed my learning process of the program by too much for where I should be right now. But after doing the group project my execution of Asset creation and texturing have vastly improved so I look to improve my High-Poly modelling over the summer with particular attention to character modelling and hand modelling, both things I have had major issues within the past but feel now more ready to be able to create a more suitable model. I’m hoping I can practice a lot over the summer so I can also become a lot faster as one issue I have at the moment is that my pace can sometimes be too slow and this has a knock-on effect when I’m trying to do other work, getting faster will defiantly free up more time for me to do more work.

Art wise I want to practice more with colour on traditional media such as paints and pastels as I have spent most of my life drawing this year working with charcoal and graphite sticks. I have no issues with using colours but just wanted improve my charcoal rendering as it’s not something I’ve had a lot of experience with in the past. I will try to draw some location scenes with paint and such over the summer for practice as well as a bit of still life work in preparation for the 3rd year. The masterpiece project we did in Photoshop really helped in my understanding in the layering of colours and the directions of lines to achieve different effects so I aim to try and emulate this in my work as it as a lot more free and spontaneous than my current stiff and technical style. I have made big improvements in what I used to be like with my drawing but I do feel it needs loosening up further.

Above all I hope I am able to get into the 3rd year to be able to put all this work into practice. After the issues I’ve had over the past 12 months and the setbacks that have jumped my way being able to come back for the 3rd and final year with a clean slate will be a great reward. I have some time over the summer to be able to get myself together and come back with a renewed focus and stronger determination to better myself and achieve the best I can so I can get into the position to be able to get a job in the industry I love. It hasn’t and won’t be an easy road but I look forward to every step that gets me there. In closing I just want to thank the Tutors and some of you out there that have helped me and guided me through a very difficult time in my life and given me the motivation to keep myself moving forward, Your help and advice won’t be forgotten. Good Luck to you all.

Something to feed you brain's...

Just wanted to share a couple of links with you on here to some interesting articles I found while online. The first is an article called "Videogames and the Philosophy of Art" by Roger Ebert, He comments about video games and their potential as art. To view the article click here.

The Second article is the age old discussion of "Death and Ethical Violence in Videogames". Rather than just being another article shouting how its harming our children and such, it try's to explain how it is used in some cases to deepen stories and even make you empathise more with a character in a given situation. So give this one a try too, To view the article click here.

Oh and just as an extra, Here's a link to "Half Life 2: Raising the Bar" BUY IT!! Its something that everyone should read regardless if you have played the games of not, its like a bible for game artists and modelers on how the whole design process from start to finish should be carried out, Plus its Mike approved. Its a bit pricey now but I urge everyone to get it. Click Here.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Group Project : Team Shock!Horror! *UPDATE*

Well it's all done and presented but that's not really the end of the tale. What I learned from this project will defiantly have far reaching effects on my future work and understanding of what goes into producing and designing assets for a working game model. It was a great experience and has defiantly opened up my thoughts on doing a group project for my F.M.P next year, I wouldn't say its what I'm going to choose off the bat but it is defiantly a choice now as long as the right people are open to do it. The biggest things I can take out of this aside from the group aspect is my understanding of the Unreal Development Kit (UDK), how to use it, how to import assets and how to build rooms for playable levels. I had never used the program at any point before this project but I managed to get to grips with it surprisingly fast and I do still find some elements of it confusing such as remembering the codes you have to type in to take in-engine screen shots and such, but this can be fixed with practice as experience has taught me with 3D Studio Max but other than that I'm happy with what I can do in the program thus far and look forward to using it again in the future. Anyway, Here's just some updated pictures of some extra in-assets and some UDK renders of my room with most of my imported assets.

3D Studio Max Asset Renders

Unreal In-Game Engine Asset Renders

Friday, 16 April 2010

My favorite gaming memories while growing up...

Growing up before and during the gaming boom of the 1990's and witnessing firsthand the battle between Sega and Nintendo for console supremacy there were moments that I can remember that stood out as I was growing up. Moments in games or just moments in time that were game related and for those who were too young to remember these times I'm just going to give you a quick run through of what stands out when I look into the dark recesses of my brain.

- My first Console -

The first console we ever had in my house hold was the ZX Spectrum +2. For those of you who have no idea what this was it was an all in one keyboard and tap deck unit that ran tape games such as 'SuperGran' or 'Hungry Horace' Needless to say the games were basic as hell and sometimes you would have to wait up to 20-30 minutes for the game to load and during that time you were entertained by a loading sound that sounded like an electric synthesizer mimicking the sound of nails down a blackboard... over and over again... it was hell. But I must admit that some of the games still entertain me today and at the time it blew my world away. I'm pretty sure that I have this console, that was released in 1986, to thank for what has become a lifelong interest in video games.

- "You've got to use your hands???" -

Aside from the nicely placed 'Back to the Future' quote there I am talking about a moment that cemented me as a lover of videogames. On September 28th 1990 me, my brother and my father stood in the queue of our local electronics shop for the launch or the original GameBoy. When I look back at my child hood it is constantly scattered with memories of playing this hand held wonder. From games such as Tetris, WarioWorld and Bart vs. the Juggernaughts my childhood is full of fun memories of playing these wonderful games and we abused the fact we could take it anywhere. Any day trip, holiday or even picnic we were there with our 8 bits of green and black awesome playing away linked up with our link cables and battling each other over and over. They took one hell of a battering but I still own my original GameBoy, I still have the box and it still works and I think that's a great testament to the handheld that showed and still shows to this day just how enduring and fun the handheld can be.

- The Game Changer -

If you grew up in the early 1990's you will know what I'm about to talk about. During this time possibly the greatest battle of the consoles happened between the two iconic companies Nintendo and Sega and if you were a kid then it was either a fan of Mario or a fan of sonic. It divided friends and schoolyards and was a huge part of the war the companies had with advertising for each playing on this divide to create very loyal fan bases for each franchise. I must admit I kind of turned on Nintendo the day the Sega Mega-Drive entered my home and I took the side of the Blue Hedgehog, so much so I never played a SNES till some years later and didn’t even own one until I reached my 20's. The MegaDrive, Mega CD and later the 2nd versions of each of these really shaped me in ways outside gaming. For the first time I was able to see brilliant colours and games (especially by Disney) that used to mimic so well the style and look of cartoons. The humour was usually brilliant, the levels well designed and enemies suited the environments they were in. Games such as 'Mickey Mouse in Castle of Illusion' the 'Sonic' titles, Aladdin and Earthworm Jim were visual feasts for the eyes and made such an impression on me at the time and still do now and I have them to thank for boosting my interest in Art.

If I go any further forward this will just become a list of everything I've ever liked and as fun as that that would be I’ll just stick to my childhood memories for now and go on about the '3D era' another time. But for now that’s just a small insight into some of the games and some of the moments that have shaped who I am as a person and a gamer. I was just very lucky to be able to grow up and experience firsthand what really was a golden age in gaming and the birth of a proper gaming culture, I look back at that time and just remember what fun it was to watch all these new icons emerge and become so engrained into the culture and to be honest I would love to experience that again. Games and console these days are more about units sold and graphics than they are about game play and enjoyment, there are some I admit that still hold onto the old ideals and get a good balance of great visuals with compelling story and fun game play, but during that awesome era there were just so many to choose from, It was a beautiful time and it really was a golden era.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Group Project : Team Shock!Horror!

Time to let the cat out of the bag... or as it is in this case a grimy Resident Evil themed level in UDK. The good thing about this blog is that I can talk about and present my individual contributions to this project, not to take anything away from most of my group who have worked very hard and very efficiently on their given tasks with the work management structure being very effective and without issue. We held together well and there were no big fall outs or shouting matches, we all did our part and we all got on well and were very glad to work with such a nice group of people.

Initially our first idea was to create a 'lab' type area with large experiment test tubes lining the main walkway corridor on the first floor of the Queen's building but were told that might be too big of an undertaking and should find a different location within the building to help scale it down. This was a very wise choice indeed. Our individual skills with 3D work and Unreal meant that we would for the most part be learning new skills and in the case of Unreal a whole new program within a short amount of time and if we had stuck with our initial idea there is no way we would be anywhere near finished by this point.

For my personal contribution in terms of in-game assets thus far I won’t bore you by listing them individually. Below are screenshots of what I have produced thus far and must admit after the past issues I have had with 3D I really feel now more than ever I am getting a good understanding of the program and with plenty of practice of the summer I will be in very good shape to produce some great quality work in an efficient amount of time. Anyway, enjoy these pics :

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Motivation and such...

Motivation can come in many shapes and forms, from fond memories to a talk with a friend or even a smell in the air. It's something I must admit I have been very short of over these past 12 months due to personal circumstances that I won’t go into here or just a run of bad luck like when my hard drive broke and lost a whole semester worth of work. I've gone from the depths of shear depression and not even having the motivation to talk or be around anybody to trying to get myself back to some sense of normality. I have found few things helped me get back on track such as talking to friends and family and incentives, such as if I get up and do a certain amount by a certain time I can reward myself with a treat like chocolate etc. May seem small and silly but if it gets me up and working then it’s worth it. For more long term goals I tend to use dates as a motivation more than anything, for instance if I have a project due 26th I aim to finish it a week before that date where possible that way it give me more free time to relax etc and if I finish even before the earlier date I end up feeling more pleased with myself which in turn boost my confidence. It may not work for some but I'm just talking from personal experience here.

Confidence is something I’ve noticed that some people on the course seem to lack, some for personal issue that can’t be helped and some that stem from talks with our tutors and are left feeling a bit lost and de-motivated. I know I've experienced this and I have feeling it's something that needs to be addressed at some point soon as a group. Something that helps me get motivated to producing more work is working with other people, not necessarily on group work but just having a bunch of friends around you while you’re working, you can tend to talk a lot but if you keep at it I find you can produce more work in one sitting and feel much happier while doing it. Ultimately in my experience I tend to work more effectively when I feel part of a team, Not to say I can’t work on my own by any means but there’s just something about working with other people, sharing and talking through ideas that just seems to enhance the way I work and will probably carry over into the 3rd year when its F.M.P. time. Doing work in this fashion will also pay off later down the line in other ways. Working and getting on with other people in a work environment will help develop trust and respect between one another and this means they will respond to more favourably when if you need help with anything thus aiding you in becoming even more productive while at the same time if someone else needs help you can aid them and the will be in better shape with their work. Everybody wins and it sure as hell beats being all bitchy to one another and creating an environment where nobody wants to work.

Problems can come about in groups if for instance you have an idea in your head and you go about you thought with the "I think this is what we should do and I don’t care what anyone says this is what we're doing" sort of attitude. This isn’t a constructive way of going about your work and will not benefit anyone and I have seen this before in groups during college and the who group suffered as a result because know one was integrating with the plans, and wasn’t appealing to anyone and as a result the grades were low and a lot of people we left unsatisfied knowing that they could have done better but were pushed into one idea with no input given. This will just leave you feeling so un-motivated it's not even funny. The best advice I can give in these sorts of circumstances is to have an open talk where everyone can share their ideas, extract the good points that everyone agrees on and try and reach a common ground that everyone can agree on and enjoy doing. Allowing everyone in a group to be more creative creates a more optimistic environment and can lead to awesome new ideas which in turn can lead to better grades which makes everyone happy.

Another thing that some people actually try and avoid but can actually be a big motivational tool is 'Constructive Criticism'. I used to hate the idea of people looking at my work, picking away at it and telling what is wrong with it but it’s not horrible, you just need to look and think about it in the right way. All the hard work comes into creating the final piece of whatever you happen to be working on, when someone looks at it and tells you that something needs changing and this needs to go there and that needs to be done this way etc don’t just be like "screw it" and walk off in a childish strop. Take the information given to you on board and use it to make your work better. We are in the business of making things that appeal to a wide audience and if you show something to your audience and they don’t like it then change it to meet there expectations and then only good things can happen. It’s not even like you have to go back to the drawing board, if someone gives you good constructive criticism then they pretty much give you an itemised list of what you need to do, there’s no hard work and late nights thinking of new ideas, it’s right there in front of you and if you follow what they said and present it again you will be set. It’s all about learning from your mistakes and self improvement. I does work and its very affective so just learn to take the shot and then just go at it again with your list of improvements and you can’t go wrong. It’s all about not wanting to settle for second best think of it as someone setting a bar for you and then just go at it with a "I won’t just meet your expectations I’ll surpass them" sort of attitude and you'll find you go about your work with a lot more confidence and drive to produce better and better work which in reality is what you should be doing in the first place.