Thursday, 7 April 2011

End of year review.

I think this year has gone faster than the first. The summer between the end of the first year and the start of the second seemed to last forever. The second year just seems to of flown by. The reason for this has just been the constant work flow. I’ve learnt so much and progressed in all areas as an artist (so I’ve been told, not just what I think). I see my visual design now as fun. I know I won’t be getting a job as a concept artist, so I’m just using the projects has little breaks in between 3D projects. I’ve also come to love these blogs. It’s a good place to vent as not many people read it and it’s only what I would say to anyone if they asked me about the subjects in the flesh. I will try to keep it going over summer by putting some of my finished work from the year and summer projects. I also think I might use it just to slate some poor public events or TV displays. The most important thing though is to keep posting and looking at ‘cool shit’. I’d also like to take this moment to thank Papa John’s. They have essentially fed me this year and giving me a nice big hug when I’ve needed one.

As I’ve stated somewhere before. I’m looking at doing a couple of the summer projects to stay loose. I’m going to take a crack at learning Zbrush over the summer as it will most definitely come in handy. I’ll have another stab at a character as well to utilise my Zbrush learnings. If it’s a failure you will not be seeing it on the blog end of. As to which projects I’m looking at. The F1 car and driver brief it top of my list as I want to get a decent car model done and the driver is the obvious choice to try redoing a character and using it as a Zbrush test. I don’t really want to do a car in my FMP as everyone seems to do them. I want my portfolio to show that I can do everything but I have lots of stuff in my locker and not wheel arch specialist or some shit like that. I’m playing with the idea of doing an airport terminal. Not sure if it’s a security risk me going and taking photos last thing I want to do is end up in one of the governments underground torture facilities. I would probably find myself being charged with everything and for some reason being probed, knowing my luck.

Next year is going to be the most important of my life. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life until I saw this course. I’ve got nothing to fall back on, I’m on the best course in the country and I’m not going to let this opportunity escape me. Obviously I can’t predict the future. I might get run down going into the labs next week which a bunch of Yum Yums in hand. If I’m not laying in road somewhere I will be working, or sleeping and possibly having a beer when I can. Overall I’m looking forward to the challenge of next year. All new projects are being lined up apparently so I hope to be a pioneer in them for years to come. I have to say I’m not looking forward to the introduction to mandatory 2D projects being assigned though. If I’m not happy with a 3D project and I have 2D to do… it will not be getting done. I will not be getting a job based on my 2D skills. I understand the introduction of this as there is a lack of 2D being produced in the 3rd year which is understandable as everyone is focusing on their FMP’s. However I do think it’s almost comparable to asking a taxi driver to tuck you into bed at the end of a night. He could do it as he has the capability but it’s ultimately using up his time and costing him money.

Ever open minded, I reserve judgement on how this is going to turn out. It might be fine and the 2D will be a welcome break from my FMP. Anyway really enjoyed this year so far, still have couple weeks left to go. Overall, feeling good about this year.

Life Changing or Career Building?

On the course we occasionally get time to sit down and talk about ‘cool shit’ happening in the world and in the industry. The rest of the time we are doing projects or playing COD 2. Most people are always scouting the web looking for the next thing we can use to make our stuff look better. They well then show a few people who will spread the word. This only applies to the technical side of the course and the skills we will need when graduating.

Why teach people what the industry already know? Do people really think that an artist, however good they are with no technical ability will be hired over a slightly less talented artist who can make quality 3D models from the word go? Not only would they be gambling on the artist being able to pick the software and translate their talent into 3D work. They would also be losing money whilst training (investing) in them. I think it’s paramount to teach core skills in the industry. Without mine I would be nowhere.

However, the ability to know when something looks correct or not is not to be overlooked. You could have all the technical skill in the world but if you don’t keep your work within the briefing guidelines when it comes to style you will have to try again. The way for educators to get around this problem sounds simple. Just produce well rounded students who have a traditional art background and teach them the technical skills they need. If you think this is too easy to be true then you’re right. The students have to be committed to the course and willing to relearn everything they ever knew in order to improve.

From my own experience on the course, I think that it’s well rounded. We’re directed in a way where 3D is essential but so is 2D. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you area of interest is. Everyone does the same projects for both 2d and 3d so neither gets neglected. We get time to crit each other’s work face to face and also using the DMU Facebook page. We’re also encourage to take a look at the world around us and what’s happening in it as it’s full of inspiration. I have no experience of any other Game art course but from my interviews and reading about the course, I knew that this was the course to do if I wanted to get a job in industry.

There is no real answer though. Every company is looking for something different from graduates. If you meet their technical requirements you then must be able to work with them. If you’re hired and you piss everyone off, people will hear about it as it’s such a small community. If you mess up, there is guaranteed to be someone who is just as talented and willing to work with anyone to be involved in the industry.

The only thing educators can do is produce rounded students or direct them towards an area of specialty and hope for the best.

Monday, 4 April 2011

The yearly or termly blog on creativity….

I don’t mind writing this blog every term as it will be interesting at the end of the course to see how my views on the subject have changed over time. I’ve been told to try and challenge my previous views on the subject explore others ideas. I can’t see this happening as I’m quite head strong when it comes to philosophical views, as I’m sure you will see throughout this entry.

So creativity, I’ve not changed my opinion that it is the title given to the skill of creating new and original ideas, and that also it can only be judged by others in ideas area of specialty. For example you don’t want art work to be marked by a government inspector who just ticks boxes…. Oh wait that’s what happens in school. It’s a well-known fact that Damien Hirst got a D in art A level at school and has gone on to be a very successful artist. I’m not going to say whether I liked his work, I just wanted to use this as an example that creativity can only be judge by those in the field that the idea applies too.

The tick box system that is implied in the British educational system is squashing the creative arts. Funding is being pulled by 100%, and courses such as our own are being forced to merge with the humanities department. Ironically we have been asked to do a project with the creative writing department who of which will only experience cuts that apply to their faculty. After meeting them and discussing their course and telling them what we could do I found myself thoroughly pissed off and this is why. The article/story they gave to us to work from was ¾ of a page of A4 no longer than this blog probably. We were told that they had 3 weeks to complete this task with no other side projects. On top of that we (game art students) found ourselves effectively re-writing their story so it actually described something. Whilst doing this we were in full swing of our group project and continuing with visual design work as well. With all the cuts currently being done by the government, why not cut the funding of the courses that encourage slow and poor practice rather than the top Game art course in the country?

Now to get this S.O.B back on track. Been asked out I show my creativity and how I expect it to be acknowledged by others. To be honest I don’t really care. All my good ideas I keep to myself as they are original. I don’t mean I’ve come up with a halo suit in a different colour and with a jet pack or muscle bound bellend to carry a chainsaw gun. I pride myself on that fact that I think differently too others as it is a mark of my creativity. I may not be the best at portraying my ideas in visual form, but I do have slight grasp on the English language that is more than enough to explain an idea. The idea of authorship has been in modern art for the last 50-60 years (where you get others to make your idea) and some of the most respected and iconic artists of recent times have emerged through this concept.

I would like to conclude that I’m not trying to blow my own horn, I will be judged by respected people in the industry and on this course on my work and not by government number monkey.

Off topic, if you’ve been sent here by some random webpage that says to check out this blog. I don’t know what the hell that is about, as all the other recommended blogs are no way related to game art nor are written by students… Almost as bad as YouTube’s recommended video system.

From Generalist to specialist?

As we know in most game companies around the world, employees are assigned to areas of specialty. You won’t find the world’s best character artists or Engine technicians producing concepts too often and vice versa. I’ll be talking in my next blog about creativity again… where I’ll be discussing that talent is learnt and not given from birth. My point being, from doing one thing over and over you get better at it. If you only make environments, your environments will improve and be better than someone who makes half as many. So the reason for specialists in the game industry is produce the best result possible without having too many cooks in the kitchen.

When starting this course (year and half ago) I thought I was going to be concept artist by the end of it. I’d come straight from doing Fine art A level where I spent most my time doing portraits. I had no experience with any 3d modelling programming or game engines. After sitting in a few lectures with Mr Powell I soon realised that it would near impossible to get a job as a 2d artist no matter how good I could become. So within the first couple of months I set about learning the 3d side of things. After a year of using the software I find myself as a very capable 3d modeller and all round artist in my opinion. In the recent group project I found myself taking interest in the technical side of game engines. I ended up creating a lot of stuff in Kismet creating Matinee’s and particle effects. I was also pleased to find that through my development I was able to now help and teach the people who have taught me so much over the last year on the course.

I find myself within a month of finishing my 2nd year on the course, and 18 odd months away from graduation. I still haven’t decided exactly what area I want to direct my energy towards. I’ll have one more stab a character modelling over the summer just to improve. However I do think I’ll aim to be an environment artist at the end of the course. I will continue to learn the Unreal engine as I go along as it’s something I actually enjoyed, and I wouldn’t mind taking a closer look at FX role in company. I try not to put too much pressure on myself in all aspects of life as I’m a firm believer if you put the work in, results will come. So far this has worked me. I’ll continue to work hard and learn what I can and let nature run its course. I feel that you can’t choose what you are; you evolve and develop into it. So by the time I’m writing this blog entry this time next year I will be a well-rounded artist that specialises in…… area of the business. Which I’m pretty sure will be environment art, but I never say never to anything.

Sorry to those who occasionally read this blog for my rambling and poor humour. Normal service will be resumed in due course I’m sure.

Couple of Group projects screenshots

Promised some screenshots of the level i helped create for the group project. The brief was to create a survival horror level based on the Queen's building on campus. Also it is meant to be roughly styled in the way of Resident evil 4. These are just some real time print screens from UDK. I'll upload a few more showing the torch we made to use when looking around the level.

Also we animated a train to come along the track and kill the player on impact if they are still on the track. I’ll try and record a video of a play through of the cool shiz that we’ve added to the level. There is an integrated system of vents that you can walkthrough to get to the subway section. I will also upload a screenshot in editor showing just how big this level really is. Enjoy.

Friday, 1 April 2011

Elements of game technology, part three: interaction design

For people who are involved with games, the idea that the controller/joystick was over looked for so long seems quite bemusing. It’s similar to the fact that Peter Durand invented the tin can in 1810. The tin can opener was invented by Ezra Warner in 1858. However the can opener is gigantic Face palm in comparison to the joystick.

With every art form and technology evolution is a natural and necessary progression. The thought that simulation is the next step in computer games though worries me. I own a WII and have played the PlayStation and Microsoft versions. I found the gameplay amusing at first but if you are playing a through a game and putting in the hours, you do get tired and naturally find a way to play the game in the laziest manner. Everyone I’m sure has walked in a room and seen a hand flapping up and down. Then when walking towards the person realised they’re playing Tennis on the WII and merely resting their arm in their lap.

The success of the games industry so far in its short existence is due to the gamers who lay in bed and power through endless puzzles, plot twists and noob tubes. I fear that with the new technology of motion capture the big players may forget this. A console based purely on physical movement as input is suicide to the industry. If you’re new to my blog and reading this, you must be thinking I’m a fat computer nerd saying that he doesn’t want to do exercise. I’ll let you know that I was heading for a career in football/soccer until I dislocated my knee and destroying it. I was also and keen rugby player and sprinter for my area. My point is I love exercise but I don’t want to be doing it when I’m relaxing. I play video games to relax and the last thing I want is to be in my front room in gym gear and have my knee give way on me. I would then have to ring the emergency services and explain I’ve collapsed because I was trying to reach level 4.

I think in the next couple of years the industry has to make the line between interactive games and traditional controller games clear. If you could give the player the choice of holding a plastic stick or controller then fair enough. The last thing I want to see it one of the great games such as Mortal Kombat being played with real time sensor pads on my Dad and his mates in the lounge at Christmas.

I would like to point out that I’m not against simulation. Over the summer I worked for a racing simulation company at Silverstone race circuit. Simulation can play out in scenarios in many industries and fields of business making it an important area of the gaming world, as it has a lot to offer the real world.

And thus concludes this blog entry. I’m going to have a rest for a bit and play some Total War with Napoleon.

Triumphant return/Elements of Game Technology, part two: sound for games

Oh yes, it’s time for another comeback. I’m sure there will be parties in the streets of Paris tonight with the news of the return of my blog. So why the gap the posts I hear you cry? The group project to make a resident evil style level of the Queens building on campus, has taken over mine and everyone else in my years life for the last couple of months. With it now almost finished with only a fly-through and minor tweaks needed I can now catch up on these blog tasks and the few visual design tasks I have remaining.

I’ll post some of the stuff I’ve done for the group project in due course but until then… blogs away!

Music has a massive effect on us human beings. It has the power to make someone breakdown in tears one minute and make someone in sweaty room to appear to have a minor seizure the other. It’s an art that has been at the frontline of culture for hundreds of years and has evolved and spread with the world. The power it can have on a piece of film or video game can immortalise a scene in person’s brain for a life time. A perfect example of this is Steeler’s wheel – stuck in the middle with you. Myself and many people when hearing this song will automatically think of Michael Madsen dancing backwards and forward with a razor blade. This idea can be transferred into video games as the wall between film and video games crumbles.

When thinking of Grand theft auto: vice city I immediately think of the radio stations and the music used. The choice of music cemented you as the player in the 80’s era and also gave a lot of people’s careers a pick up 20 years later. In streets of rage 2 the music arguably made the game. With visual technology being nowhere near where we are at the moment, audio had an even more important role in video games than at present. Apart from the two games mentioned above games that I’m attached to musically include Street fighter 2, Sonic the Hedgehog, Pro- evolution soccer series, Gran Turismo 3 and actually Madden NFL games but this is only for the work of Sam Spence.

Now I’d just say I consider myself very musically diverse. I was brought up listening to Mo-town and proper R’n’B from my mother, and Disco and dance music with my Dad. I also have to older brothers who at the time enjoyed the work of 9 inch nails, nirvana, Silverchair and Slipknot to name a few. I myself enjoy and respect all of these genres that the above bands’ music conforms to. I do love my funk/disco and dance music the most. I’m actually a fan of Chic and the bands of the time; however saying that ‘Good times’ is the most influential piece of music of the 20th century uneases me . I think in every era of music that has been generated over the 20th century there have been pioneers. This also applies to the arts, one movement of artists inspire another etc. etc. If the people who have voted for the ‘Good times’ believe it’s the most influential then that’s their choice, however I think ‘Everybody dance’ is a better song.

I’ll be churning out more blogs in the next couple of weeks if anyone wanted to know.