Thursday, 6 October 2011

Level Two (woop!)

Hey people :)

Hope you didn't miss me too much :) I had quite the packed summer... from going away to Corfu and Paris (bit of visual design homework = going to the louvre & Corfiot palace hehe) to setting up a new club act Diva: the Abba Experience, which I have gigs for throughout Leicester already - including new years partying for me (gasp).

The Mona Lisa - seen in Paris.
       Diva the Abba Experience - I'm on the left.                                            

So here I am at the start of year two, having survived the "first year cull". For a second I'm a bit proud but I know really it's only going to get harder. In this blog I'm going to re-review myself in all areas of the course, this time properly scrutinising how i can make things better.

Visual design

Last year I did quite well in visual design. I had the core skills there and pieces like my self portrait and pumping station I really am proud of. I think towards the end of the year I did lose my focus which is something I need to work on. Part of the reason for this is my anxiety and self belief issues; sometimes up at abbey park or guildhall they made me dig my heels in a bit feeling i wasn't good enough to continue. I feel in this year I will develop my skills further i.e. using colour and perfecting perspective, I am also going to try and conquer my issues with self belief/anxiety using the resources provided to me like Sarah my mentor and my new equipment (laptop, dictorphone, mapping/planning software). I need to reassure myself that I made it through to the second year, that I am good enough to be here and stop comparing myself to others - this is a hard task for me but I think ultimately it will make me feel a lot better and make my drawing improve.


Gradually I am improving in 3D, just looking  at the pictures below you can see -
This was my first time using 3d max - the dalek. As you can see there
were a few problems - I set the reference wrong so I ended up with a
very thin dalek. There also wasn't enough geometry but still a good first
try I thought.
This was the last project I completed from year 1. as you can see
from the wireframe render I've improved a lot - the structure is there
and matches the reference shown. The geometry is cleaner too.

Again with my 3D I believe the one thing holding me back is my fear and anxiety. As soon as I can sort that I believe I will work better. Over the summer and now I am benefiting from a 3rd year mentor and over emails he looks at my progress. Take Tuesday for example; when we first got the 3 briefs at once that was a little too much for me to handle - although after waiting for Heather to finish I approached my dsa mentor and worked out a plan to handle how to get started without panicking. I am first completing the trash project to get it out of the way, then I will have more time to complete the two bigger tasks, also giving me a confidence boost. In our proper session on Friday we will dissect the briefs together - getting this outside help really lets me look at the bigger picture and I know I will do better having a proper plan set out with someone to tackle 3D head on.

Critical studies

I really enjoyed writing the critical studies blogs last year, although I am unsure of how I could improve them except for planning and allocating more time towards them so I can build up more on more topics. 

Looking foward this year I can already detect the changes from fundamental skills to purposeful learning. On Tuesday in 3D the change was evident within the briefs given. They are more professional and allow artistic development as well as all having a deadline of December 6th. The projects seem to be much more student run already, the briefs giving technical specs and outline only, and with that common deadline we have to be more hands on with our own time management & planning. The workload has also increased in visual design and is different to the first year. While going around Abbey park instead of being given the perspective etc. we were told about colour and composition and told to get out there and create a picture. This I did quite enjoy, and knowing I needed to make my visual design better I looked and researched a different way of shading/drawing landscape online (I was drawing outlines which made me get stuck and felt difficult - now with the help of a youtube tutorial I am blocking in trees with shading within thumbnails getting the idea down better). In Critical studies you just have to look at the length of the tutorial on the vle. Instead of a few pages and links we have a paragraph - similar to visual it is trying to get you to be more independent and source own material. This I understand to be part of the 'Purposeful learning' heading onto the 3rd year where 'autonomous learning' makes us totally think for ourselves with little help from lecturers.

So, that was my blog reflecting on myself and the course for year two. my main ambition is to kick the stress and worry, therefore making me a much better student, making my work improve vastly. To do this I will be working with mentors, lecturers and my equipment: setting goals & planning efficiently to stop myself from being afraid. 

I need a montage! 
'Cause even Rocky had a montage :)


Monday, 25 April 2011

Freshmen year...what it's over already :O

Hey people!

So this is the last assessed blog (though by no means the last, you'll still have to hear me witter on in personal blogs :P), where I see all my strengths and weaknesses and evaluate the here goes...

The GA course is fantastic. The people we get to hear from and the lessons we have I have really enjoyed. I mean if you know me you'll know I really panic over my skills sometimes - and if you remember the lecture from Blitz with the fox in pants...that really settled me. To know that I didn't have to be so perfect and that that was some of the stuff they were getting; was one of the first things as a first year to truly settle my nerves. So yeah, more awesome industry talks please!

Secondly, I love the visual design lessons especially when we go out to places. This has helped me organise my own little trips as going to say Bradgate park first with a group has given me more confidence to plan such trips. One of my favourite outings was the pumping station, where being a Leicester girl I watched about all the history and really got into drawing the massive wheels - which to date is one of my favourite pieces of work. In areas where I have found difficulty help has been on hand even with one to one help which I really benefited from.

- My pumping station final, a piece of work which via it's quality I think shows how much I enjoyed the day.

3D is good too, although I feel sometimes it is a little fast and hard to pick up straight away; this may be my problem though as I do struggle with it. Constructively, I think the tutorials could be a bit more detailed or made easier to understand, and keep the Guru/grasshopper thing going, it's extremely beneficial to people like me who haven't had all that experience.

The Blog and Critical studies I have really enjoyed - I wish our class would speak up a bit though ;) it's a little quiet! I don't know if you've enjoyed my ramblings but I have found it very fun putting humor into them...especially doing my rave-esque really was awesome. I have liked writing about issues to do with gaming (see 'Hello my game is...and I have a problem') and showcasing my other talents i.e. my singing in personal blogs.

So what about me?

Overall, I have had a big adjustment with this course. It is hard going from being excellent to a pool where pretty much everyone is excellent...and then some. My biggest hiccup has to be the 3D stuff, It makes me so stressed that i still can't stick this stuff...although that dosen't mean i'm giving up! After completing like my 10th church today I know i will get this. I'm also looking into what extra tuition is out there and i've been offered some training on a project re-imagining the lost theatre in London (randomly my singing teacher's daughter's husband is a 3D artist running the project :D) so hopefully that'll help too. 

Reflecting on myself I really need to stop worrying and over-thinking things. This is really hard as how I am does make me obsess... but I am trying step by step to manage the feelings of stress about everything. I also think practising better time management can help me achieve better results. A lot of my dilemma relates to my own lack of self confidence also.

So yeah, That was everything on me, myself and the GA from the saff


Sunday, 3 April 2011

The great outdoors: environments

Hey people!

So environments? After starting shooting for my music video to 'find your way' today (my single with  Lacky C & Duv) I've actually had to think quite carefully about environment today. Environments, in games support the characters and gameplay and are one of the most immersive parts of a game. In some games it can be the shellshocked deserts of Afganistan, in others the colourful simplisitc areas of the Johto region (Pokemon), In our video today it was the Saff streets and the graffiti outside Goldhill park...why? to give the 'hard' attitude of a rap music video.

Films make envionments all the more easy to evaluate and in critical studies we looked at the influences of Edward Hopper on Dark city. Similar to the simple devices I talked about in the character blog, this used the same dreary colour palette of Hopper to convey a grim, ill picture of WW2 America. The city in Dark City is described by Higley as a "murky, nightmarish German expressionist film noir depiction of urban repression and mechanism".

A comparison of the opening shot from Dark City and the works of Edward Hopper, just so you can clearly see the similarities in the colour palette.

So what else can environments tell us? Well they can tell a narrative (as in the scene from Black Hawk down) or even illustrate scale (The Tripods; War of the Worlds). A favourite example of environments of mine is Dr Who. Now It just happens that my other half is a raving Dr Who fanatic - so last wednesday we went to the Dr Who experience (London Olympia). If you haven't been, seriously go it's amazing...but why am i mentioning Dr Who here? Well it's Time and Relative Demension in Space or the TARDIS! Just look at how the TARDIS environment has changed over the years to express the different emotions or outlooks of the doctors. The most significant being the new generation of the doctor, starting with christopher eccleston. The Tardis takes on a more organic (with the coral like beams), rejuvenated outlook and for the first time the doors are on the inside. Also, the dark colour palette suggests the rage inside the doctor. When designing the new TARDIS the organic feel was used to signify the new modern series. Expanding on this even more the updated Matt Smith series sees the TARDIS being enlarged and revamped further with new gadgets and gizmos on the TARDIS console showing the current doctor's flamboyant, erratic nature.

Pictures from the Doctor who experience, London Olympia. The David Tennant/Christopher Ecclestone TARDIS compared to the 1970's version.

Following on from the Art Direction Blog, I also have some pictures from the exhibition showing the art direction offices at the BBC that make Dr Who. They show just how much it takes to get a character or environment sorted:

Pictures I took from the Doctor Who experience showing the BBC offices used for art direction.
And you all thought my moodboards were extensive!

Now let's look at the basis of an environment within a game. I'm looking at Inception.

Now the film is amazing, and if you haven't seen it i would totally recommend it. But what would we do with it if we wanted to make it into a game? An article from World of level explains just how inception is a game level designer's dream:

 "Throughout the film words such as architect, creating levels, worlds, creating boundaries (closed loops) for believable worlds and designing layouts are discussed in Inception."
"Many things in Inception directly relate to level design and creating game worlds. Here is what I learned in Inception about creating worlds.

  • As a level designer you have a chance to build worlds, to design levels. You create a world out of an idea, a single thought you have in your mind. Simple idea becomes something tangible for someone else to experience. Player has a chance to explore your creation. Something that started as a simple idea in your mind can become a game world. Do not ignore a simple idea of a world you want to create. 
  • Continuously create. Never stop creating. Always design and build something new. 
  • Design with story in mind. Make sure the player has an objective you want them to fulfill. Make it clear, make it interesting. 
  • The world you create is about visuals and emotion. The feeling you want the player to experience, reinforced by the visuals. 
  • Never create from memory. Always use reference to create worlds. Use your memory to communicate the feelings of spaces and environments you've been to, but when designing use reference to make the world believable."

Sound familiar? I can pretty much hear Chris reading this! (My Visual Design lecturer for those who don't know). Fully reading this text aligns all the major factors of creating an environment or level, or anything for that matter. Idea, Create,Story,Emotion and Reference are the first tools in creating a believable environment. I mean would you dream of tackling modelling a character without decent reference? this is just like the Edward hopper comparison that was used as reference to create the dark city world. And just look at all the reference and hard work behind the Dr Who designs...

Ultimately, environments screw with our emotions...just like the adverts on tv. They add to the overall feelings we feel - like an artists dummy they bend us with their use of colour, smell and style. 


PS: the audio 'Find your way' is on youtube:
full video coming soon :D


Hey people,

So when I first saw this blog was about character I initially thought of myself. People usually say I am quite the character...the word 'eccentric' or even 'idiot' has been thrown around; but what makes me that character? Say we're making 'The GA from the Saff' the motion picture and I have to cast myself? Just what would I be looking for? (apart from someone taller and way more stunning - I'm thinking Megan Fox).

This is just what this blog is about. We need to define just exactly what makes a character, and just how to go about designing one. In acting, a discipline I used to cover, the first step was visualising that character, everything from their job and natural processes to their feelings and situations. It is pretty similar in the world of gaming and film. 

"Issues that you’ll work to define:
  • The character’s natural activities, as part of his or her job.
  • The challenges that these sorts of actions suggest.
  • The character’s primary emotional attitude, and how that is displayed visually and in language.
  • The character’s visual appearance and movement animations, both voluntary and involuntary.
  • Attributes and powerups that might affect the character’s abilities, and how they grow.
  • The character’s natural environment, and enemies that may be found there."

When creating characters a lot of different techniques are used to make them more believable, genuine characters although I think a lot of it depends on the genre. For example the lead slasher in a horror film isn't going to be coloured pink and have a cheery disposition, but with moody lighting, intense music and rough stylisation he becomes the dark Freddy Kruger we all know and love.

I think an easy example of the design of characters is within the movie 'The Chronicles of Narnia:  The Lion, The Witch and The Wardobe." Here we see the evil witch and the heroic Aslan in ways which don't really depend on the script or much of the acting (Aslan being just the voice of Liam Neeson). The stylisation of both characters from the shining lion to the cold witch, even imprinting on the scenery around them suggests their characters. For example the witch is bathed in ice and her costume also suggests this. Everything about her is telling the audience she is evil whereas Aslan is a golden, shining lion and his setting (following the books Christian theme also) is always sunny and like spring. In the film they have played up to this brilliantly, I can't think of a bigger contrast. 

^ pictures from the Chronicles of Narnia - the lion the witch and the wardrobe. notice how everything on the witch's picture is cold and sharp whereas the lion Aslan uses warm colours predominately orange.

In visual design, the amount of drawings and research we've done for projects like 'reef' have also extended this. If i make a swamp like creature with gloopy, dreary colours it will express the character as such, whereas my final piece was a colourful coral based lady which immediately suggests she is good. Techniques as simple as this create compelling characters which ultimately create a realistic game world.

"To create a truly immersive game experience with a compelling fantasy world, you have to populate that world with real characters. Not just characters that behave realistically on the screen, but characters that ARE real to you, the game’s creator. The more you know your own characters, the more real they will become, and the more they will help draw the player into your game’s imaginary world."

So there you go! characters are very important within the game and film world. without believable characters we'd all just be down the the stick men...


Monday, 14 March 2011

The Sadistic Artistic: Art direction

Hey people,

So here we are, another day another blog... after the stress of the gladiator i've finally got round to starting these get those paintbrushes ready peeps we gonna talk about Art Direction.

So what is Art direction?

looking at the job descriptions online it's a pretty demanding job spec:

"The art director is the creative visionary, responsible for defining the visual direction of the project. The art director carries the burden of communicating his or her vision of the game design to a diverse team of artists."

"In professional game art departments, the art director is the captain of the ship. Art directors are
generally responsible for setting the visual tone, quality, and style for the game."

Every description i have looked at is pretty much saying the art director is at the head of all the creative descisions in a Game project. looking at the brief they must determine (convulsing with the art team and lead artist) everything from environment to characters, textures to levels as well as the overall style and quality of the game. They're the boss in art terms and are directly responsible to the publishing company.

So is it a creative role?

I can see why people would think an art director position isn't creative as it is a lot of descision making...which to some people could seem quite administritive. I however, revising the links I think it is a highly artistic role. Think about it, this is the person who has to derive the research and make desicions on everything - from characters to environments etc. This also means they have to use their artistic judgement to a high degree. I would compare this role to a fine artist or researcher as to create say a character the art director has to find all the relevant research and starting ideas, refine them and show them to his team.

The silver screen vs the gaming world

So we've talked about art direction for games... what about films? surely they are very similar? A case study i've grabbed from the skillset website on Alex Laurent (a visual effects film guy turned art director for EA) should tell us everything we need to know...(ooooooooooooh!)

In 2004 Alex Laurent swapped the film industry (working for ILM on visual effects on such films as the Mummy series) to take over as senior art director at EA. He is currently working on the Harry Potter games.

Talking to Skillset, Alex explains that the film industry is very mature and that there is a tendency to spend lavishly to create profit and return whereas in games "there is a very flexible standard and there is no promise of realism". He goes on to say that players are prepared to comprimise on graphics etc. if it creates an immersive game world.

Describing the transfer of films and games Alex argues that the two worlds are not interchangeable and examples of cinematic storytelling which is new in games is what he will be bringing to EA, giving games an "artistic maturity".

Scrolling through this article I can tell that the main difference between Art direction in films and games is the budgets and capabilities of the mediums. Crossing from film to games Alex Laurent's main challenge seems to be working to the revised budgets and picking battles in the design.

So what next? The Art Director from the Saff...

After discussing the trials and tribulations of becoming an art director I don't think i will be in that position for a long time. I've definitely got a long way to go developing technical and traditional skills before I become even a mere concept artist so yeah, i don't think i'll be jumping straight into this role... Although I do think I would like the art director role as i am a very avid researcher, i like discussing ideas and trying new artists etc. however working to restrictions such as briefs and time/budget restraints would annoy me!

In conclusion I think the art director is literally the big boss at the end of the game. The Dark Queen in battletoads, Bowser in Mario Bros, hell even Inky from pacman :D


Wednesday, 9 February 2011

So you want to make a game...

Hey people!

So did you miss me? Sorry It's taken ages for me to get back into this, due to a van made of cheese (my textures messed up okay!) and designing a metal character the blogs have been pushed back a little... purely my fault but I'm here now at the start/select screen pressing A. So... Game Design. I'm studying it so obviously I have a passion for it. As you've seen from my earlier blogs and the film I brought in today (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) my gaming passion lies in the past... but how far have things moved on? Do the Battletoads really rival the sleek Tekken 6? In this blog i'm studying what makes these games different - the thing running through all of them...what is in their design?

So let’s imagine we’re in that meeting, in that first job at Blitz or Codemasters, we look at the brief and the question is…How do we make this game?

When I think of Game Design, to me gameplay is one of the most important things – but what actually is it?

Gameplay is interaction with a game (in particular, video games) through its rules, connection between player and the game, challenges and overcoming them, plot and player's connection with it. Video game gameplay is distinct from graphics, or audio elements.”

To me, Gameplay is the overall play of the game – the environment, the characters, how everything moves and feels, rules and mainly the interaction in the game. Take a bad example say anyone remember superman 64? Well if you’re one of the lucky few that haven’t just watch…

This video just shows why gameplay – the control, environment and overall plot determines how awesome a game is…good gameplay is essential; when done badly gameplay is horrendous.

So now we know what gameplay is, where to start with the design? If only there were some examples of awesome game designers to follow…oh yeah there is!

As the best place to start is the beginning… how about the creator of Spacewar! ?
Steve "Slug" Russell is a programmer and computer scientist most famous for creating Spacewar!, one of the earliest videogames, in 1961 with the fellow members of the Tech Model Railroad Club at MIT(See ‘the evolution of awesome part 1 for more info).
With Spacewar! The lead programmer was just one guy. Within the 70’s the game designer, lead programmer and entire art team was this one person. Nowadays it is a completely different story…
With the modern developers game design is HUGE!
With the exception of casual games like bejewelled, the big budget games of today have dozens of designers. In larger companies each aspect of the gameplay and design is governed by a separate person, lead designer and general designer.
Game design falls into many different categories all with different designers:
  • World design - creation of a backstory, setting, and theme for the game
  • System design - creation of game rules and programming
  • Content design - creation of characters, assets, puzzles, and missions
  • Game level design - construction of world levels and its features
  • Game writing - dialogue, text, and story
  • User interface design - constructs the user interactions and feedback

Examples of jobs within a modern game developer

  • Lead designer
  • Game Mechanic designer
  • Level/environment designer
  • Character Artist
  • Writer

So now we know how Game play and design are worked we can start sharing the jobs and making the game…Phew! But what game to make? Obviously in a survival horror like the Queen’s building project we need the design to something slightly different to a game circled around Barbie and her horses (just a bit!). We need to think about the target audience. This will affect the genre and ultimately affect the Game design itself.

So that was my first foray into Game design… But what do I personally look for myself? Loving the fighting genre as well as RPG’s the type of gameplay I’d be looking for is Hack/Slash. Founded by the old pen and paper style of D&D games as well as card games like munchkin, Hack Slash gameplay emphasises combat.

So until next time this is the GA from the Saff saying bye!


Friday, 14 January 2011

The Review Hue

So back in the GA frame of mind; we're all stressed and shaky (god knows I will be when we see the next 3D brief; Eek!)...I myself had an awesome Christmas involving a HD camera (which will make textures look amazing...) I hope you all did too :) I've been stumped with writer's block for the past few days, so for this blog i'm gonna try and kill the banter and get on with it for here goes: Game reviews.

Most of the game reviews I've seen are of the magazine type. These flashy reviews focus on the main games out at the moment etc. Flicking through a copy of 360 magazine I can see the main feature is Gears of War 3, as well as Dead space 2 and the new Medal of honour. All big games. All games with companies that can pay for the reviews.

This links to my main point - so what issues face games reviewers? I think the temptation to write flatly for a magazine is very great. I mean who wants to write about the growing Fifa franchise again and again and again......oh yeah and again... but if it pays? Well people will. Looking at the links it seems to be a choice similar to music; as a singer myself I write my own music and would love to perform it... but if singing ABBA and mowtown on the gig pays me...well that's what I gotta sing. This makes it quite tough for a game reviewer to choose - do you write passionately about a subject that pays little, or do you 'sell out'?

The next obstacle is how to write the reviews. Do you bump it up with facts and figures handed by the company, or do you use a little imagination and write what you know from playing. What you enjoy about the gameplay, the characters etc. Do you, this time, dare I say... GET PERSONAL!? Or would it be more in your own interest to stick to the mechanics of the basic review...plot, style, specs, mark, end.

So who actually pays for Game reviews? Researching the internet I found that the salary in dollars for a Games tester or Reviewer (magazine) is $32,000. I even found a job opportunity looking for a games reviewer on a self employed basis. When I worked at Game over Christmas the manager also offered me the opportunity of writing reviews that would be paid for if chosen. This again shows the two extremes. The salary is obviously a job writing corporate articles in a magazine whereas if you want to write alone it almost always seems to be self employed. 

New Games journalism

The rebellion that is new games journalism is way more personal than the amateur or magazine style writings. It's not reviews in the traditional sense and represents a stark contrast to the more normal review or article - the term itself was coined in 2004 by journalist Kieron Gillen. 
When reading the examples of NGJ i found it really confusing as to the metaphors etc. I liked however how links were made to the personal experiences of the gamer themselves rather than just a bog standard review. The main difference between the magazine reviews and NGJ is this - NGJ tends to respond to the subjective experiences presented in the game world, interactions, and personal flavour which creates a unique story - kinda similar to most of our blogs!

In conclusion i think NGJ, although hard to understand at first, is better than the corporate magazine reviews, just giving cold statistical reviews. I think with the way I myself write I will be able to write (if not already) in the NGJ style - I already develop little personal tweaks on subjects and in these blogs that give my writing those highlights. I also hope I'm passionate enough not to get sucked into the world of monotony that is the higher paid magazine style review.

So until my next blog; the long awaited review! (and yeah it'll be a kick ass retro game) I say stick it to the man and write how you want :D