Monday, 13 December 2010

Vehicle Update

This is my vehicle project. I chose to do a caravan as i spent a lot of my childhood holidaying in one and the benefits of owning our own caravan means i have unlimited access to reference and hardly needed to use the internet.

Rooftop Project

Time for some render updates. This is my rooftop project. Inspired by the recent foggy days we've been having, my level has depth fog and animated fog planes as well as particle effects and fracture meshes.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

There are many life lessons I have learnt during my time at university. In my first year I had to learn how to cook and clean for myself, as well as co-habit with complete strangers. In my second year, I had to get to grips with paying bills, managing my time and learn how to co-habit with friends (big mistake).

And that brings me to my final year. So far I have learnt that gas is expensive. So expensive in fact, we practically never have it on. As painfully cold as it is there are many benefits to claim from this. The first one is having more money but the most important one is I now seem to spend most of my time where it’s warm, and labs happen to be very warm.

So far this year I spend pretty much 10am-5pm, Tuesday to Friday in the labs and as a result my work is practically finished and to a much higher standards than previous projects.
Now I am my own worst critic so I can honestly say I’m not happy with every little detail but that is going to taken care of after I have relaxed and refreshed for a few days.

Guest Lectures .... an inspiration to everone

I’m rather impressed this year to see an increasing number in the amount of guest lectures we’ve had.

It’s encouraging to see that the main selling point of this curse is very much true as the connections we have with the industry grow stronger.

My favourite lecture so far has definitely been Sophia and Meghan from Outso. I’ll admit I didn’t know much about the company but I was so inspired by their presentation. It was great to actually see work produced by the studio as it reinforced their commentary and left me feeling enlightened. It’s even more inspiring to know they are past DMU students that have achieved so much in so little time.

I always enjoy the motivational wonders from Jolyen at Blitz as it always puts me back on track but I’ve seen their lecture 3 years running now and it would be refreshing to see their content change every now and then.

Up, Up and away

Although this whole business with rising tuition fees doesn’t directly affect me I still think it’s worth commenting on.

There are many key points to consider when taking University education into account. A rise in tuition fees will ultimately cause a drop in the number of people going to university as only those of a wealthy background will attend.

Selfishly this will mean my degree will be worth more as higher education will become more elitist and those with degrees will be sort after and job prospects may become easier.

However it does not give everyone a fair chance. A super intelligent student from a working class background may never get the university place they deserve, but Daddy’s little princess growing up in South Kensington can happily pay her way through uni.

I also feel that the impact this will have on society will affect us all. At the moment it may be a quick fix to the governmental debt problem but the long term effects of people with less of an education and higher unemployment rates will bring the county to it’s knees.

Universities will also feel the effects, as less people attend, courses and departments will have to discontinue possibly resulting in the closure of some universities completely.

Ultimately the education system will turn into the one we see in America. Parents will have to save up college funds before children are even born and ridiculous schemes and pageants will introduced in order to fund scholarships.

However, students may learn to really appreciate their education and not take it for granted. It may also mean that the more deserving will get into higher education. Students who actually worked hard and achieved good results will deserve their place at uni, instead of being accepted with 4 Ds just because it fills the institutes quota.

Overall it’s definitely not right to take away someone’s right to an education just because they can’t afford it but remember just because you have the right doesn’t mean you deserve it.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Floor 8 ... Welcome to Animation

As the lift doors slide open I gaze upon the full wall mural for animation, sure it may not be the best drawing I’ve seen but the bright colours and creativity is both inviting and respectful to the animation course.

Turn-around, however, and what does Game Art have to offer - two miniscule guru posters. Not only has it little to do with the course but the artistic skill involved is that of a 5 year old on photoshop.

Thankfully they have since been replaced by some student work but it still attracts little attention and doesn’t really celebrate the success of our course.

We are skill-set accredited, there should be a full wall digi-paint up there. Not only will the technical skill be far greater than the animations offering but it will also claim back the corridor as ours.

The things you learn

One thing that I have definitely learned from the rooftop project is how to manage my time.
I had very clearly written a little calendar schedule which I religiously stuck to but I still found myself going over my personal deadline.

This is because I had miscalculated the amount of time it would take to unwrap, texture and import all my assets. The Unreal engine I have gotten to grips with but the unwrapping and texturing took ages.

But the positives I take from this are how to manage my time for my FMP. As I will be doing an environmental scene I can now budget more time for texturing and I will most definitely be unwrapping as I go along because doing it all in one stint is just brain-rotting!

One thing I was proud of was getting the particle effects to work. It took a while but I was ecstatically happy and now I feel that Unreal isn’t this big scary program but actually a lot of fun and I will definitely incorporate it into my FMP.

The only thing I am not happy about is my skydome and I might re-address this problem before the summative assessment as I am in the zone with y vehicle project.

The main issue I have with it is making the panoramic image. I made my own using photographs taken out of the fletcher building but it doesn’t look crisp enough as other examples of work I’ve seen. Without pointing fingers this is most likely because their magical panoramic images were pulled from the internet but I am going to stick by my morals and use my own textures.

I did originally use the skyline from a recent foggy day as it was spooky and mesmerising but this didn’t come across in Unreal as there are no dynamic elements so I might rethink the weather and lighting over Christmas.

Patience my young Grasshopper

As the Gurus and Grasshoppers comes to an end I thought it appropriate to put my thoughts on here.

Overall I think the scheme is beneficial for both sides and turned out to be rather successful.

At first I was apprehensive that none of the first years would be interested but luckily enough they were still in that bewildered phase where they turn up to every lecture religiously and soon enough they become genuinely engaged and listened to what we had to see them take on-board our advice and improve and I must admit I learned a few things myself. Working closely with other Gurus gave me the chance to see their techniques and shortcuts they use and giving mini tutorials every week has definitely improved my communicated skills.

However the scheme did have its downsides. No clear timescale was set so the tutorials and texturing projects we planned to give were cut short as the scheme was brought to an abrupt end and some weeks when stress levels ran high, it was extremely annoying to have a first year hanging off your elbow.

Overall I’m not sure how much the Grasshoppers benefited. They pretty much learned to model and texture quicker than our weekly meets but I guess it’s the little shortcuts and timesavers that will help them most. It also makes the course more close-knit as we all work and learn together which is very rare to see in other university courses.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Rooftop Mania

A quick look at my Rooftop area. I put this together in 3DsMax quickly just to see if the level would look coherent.
This area is adapted mainly from the workshop area outside Fletcher as it provided me with enough reference and the layout looked rather appealing and interesting to me.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Rooftop Mood-boards

Day 1 of the rooftop project and so far I'm sticking to my schedule.

Today's task was to source my own reference to make moodboards, so armed with my camera i set off for Leicester - or at least as far as I could go due to the EDL protests. But have no fear as i came across a fountain of endless reference right here on the DMU campus. Pipes, vents, alarms you name it I found it.

Well as you can clearly see i put together 3 moodboards showing the different aspects I felt make up a successful rooftop environment.
Moodboard 1 shows rooftops in general so that i could get a feel for layout, size and height.

Moodboard 2 shows assets found on existing rooftops so that i could determine what assets my own rooftop would need.

Moodboard 3 shows the textures, materials and colours found on my travels and from these i created a colour table so that all my concepts will follow along the same colour scheme.

Saturday, 17 April 2010

There's a Zombie on your lawn

Oh dear, my latest obsession is yet another Popcap game.

It’s a challenging, problem solving and intellectual game that pushes the boundaries of in-game humour

Oh yes, and it all centres around zombie eating plants.

Plants vs. Zombies is the latest sensation to take over my life. I would be ashamed and embarrassed, what with major upcoming titles being released but I’m not.
Because it is awesome.

As my loved one sits glued to his PS3 drooling over the latest Final Fantasy, I can be found sat at my pc, fending off a horde of brain-eating zombies with sunflowers and wall-nuts (I said it was intellectually witty). The simple, colourful 2D art and cheerful jaunty music can keep me entertained for hours.

Which has inspired me to do a bit of detective work. I am now curious how Popcap has such a huge following of casual gamers…what is their secret?

Let’s start with some background info, which I’m pointing out I didn’t pull straight from Google.

Popcap was founded in 2000 and currently has around under 180 employees under it’s control. Their major-title ‘’Bejelewed’ sold almost 50 millions world-wide over all major consoles such as the Xbox 360 and PS3 and their efforts have won them over 25 industry awards.

Their latest title ‘Plant vs. Zombies’ was apparently an App store record breaker selling 300,000 units in the first 9 days of its release onto the I-phone.

The audience of most pop cap games is on average a 43 year old woman playing on social networking sites such as Facebook. This audience alone generates more than $1 billion which is mostly made from virtual currencies and buying in-game gifts. This specific audience gave reasons to their gaming addictions as to play with relatives and friends.

So it would seem that casual gaming is mostly comprised of a female audience. Simple rules and addictive gameplay is vital to draw their players into purchasing in-game products to keep this multi-million pound industry afloat.

Bye-Bye Z-brush, hello pixel art?

Friday, 16 April 2010

A Crisis of Faith

If I were to describe my university experience for the second year I would say it was demoralising.

The start of the year was great, I was engrossed in an interesting project, testing out new software and visited interesting places, overall I was a happy bunny. This led on into a relaxing Christmas holiday and some encouraging feedback that spurred me on into the second term but then everything seemed to collapse underneath me.

I had fallen out with my flat-mates and my self-esteem took a huge knock in which I still haven’t fully recovered. Not only that but I was asked to improve my life-drawing skills with no model, I was asked to stay sane with no weekly therapy sessions and I was asked to make a working group level with practically no group.

Now in all fairness some of these events are unfortunate, due to circumstances that couldn’t be helped and so I took fate into my own hands and tried to make the best of things.

I used my loving boyfriend as a life model, so that I could catch-up, I held make-shift therapy groups down at the pub with fellow peers so that we could vent of steam and having been re-assured that the group projects were individually assessed I began to concentrate more on me.

But this is where it boiled down to the main problem for me, what was said and what was done didn’t quite meet.

After having presented our group projects I was told that the lack of work from other group members wouldn’t reflect on me, but I think it has. I can’t help but think that the projects were assessed in the blink of an eye and those initial prejudices have stuck.

What hurt me even more was that after initial concerns with the overall size of the level, I personally explained our brief and our ideas with the new-improved layout, fairly early on in the semester and got the go-ahead, but then for some reason at the presentations we were told that it wasn’t good enough and too small. If this is the case then why weren’t these issues brought up sooner instead of just patting me on the head and sending me on my way?

I have apparently wasted hours of work on a brief that was never going to be good enough.

I also couldn’t help but notice that the main concern during the reviews was the lack of work with frequent references and comparisons to the 3rd years. I personally believe this is grossly unfair. Surely assessments should be based on the individuals capabilities and under no circumstances should comparisons to students who have 2 years more experience than us should be made, I have found the whole experience demoralising and now I am just focusing on improving my skills and planning the best-damn FMP there shall ever be :P

Although this sounds fairly rantish or possibly even rude. It is not at all intended this way. I am merely trying to keep my self going and to stay sane. These past few months have been testing for me and i have had to change as a person, but by no means am i giving up. I am learning and growing as a person for every day i am on this course and i have developed a repetoire of skills that i hope will be invaluable to me for the rest of my life. If anything, this year has taught me to keep fighting. Not to make excuses and shift the blame, not to run home and hide in the comfort of a mother's love. It has taught me how re-assess my life and instead of giving up on problems, try approaching them from a different angle.

This is not the last you have seen of this Game Art student.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

An End of an Era

As the end of the year rapidly approaches I can’t help but feel sad that our group project must come to end.

Even though I no doubt have grey hairs now and have more than likely shortened my life span by a good decade due to stress induced rants I’m kinda going to miss working with my team.

At first the thought of working with unfamiliar peers scared me, I thought it would be hard to forge new friendships so late on in the year and I really did think our work would suffer because of it. But I can happily say that I have forged new relationships with brilliant, talented people that I am glad I had the chance to work with.

Had I written this blog merely a week ago, im pretty sure I wouldn’t have been so laid back. I took my responsibilities of team co-ordinator too seriously and saw the possible failure of anyone on the team as my own. But I feel I have reached enlightenment. I have peered into the inner depths of my understanding and now realise that self-motivation of others is not something I should worry about. It also helps that our level is coming on in leaps and bounds and everything is fitting together so perfectly I should be scared we’ve done something wrong.

Well one thing that does concern me is the size of our level. Other groups have chosen vast areas to play around with but I feel that the work we have done is well within our capabilities as I wanted the team to feel comfortable and to see work that puts into practice everything we have learnt so far.
The majority of the team have really impressed me and I really hope they are proud of what they have achieved. Even though communication between our group members has been lacking I’m really moved by how exicted they all get when they see our nearly complete level.

I can honestly say that most of us have slaved away at this project, literally putting our blood, sweat and tears into it (so much so that unfortunately my VD is lacking) and now I just pray that everyone gets the marks we deserve for our awesome collaborated effort.

Prince of Disney

Nestling down into my seat and stretching my legs as far as they could go, I trained my eyes onto the silver screen, taking in car advert after car advert after car advert, awaiting the feature film.
And then an all too familiar concept flashed up on the screen, dazzling my senses and appealing to my inner geek.
Prince of Persia: the film.
I was quite intrigued until a friend of mine leaned over my assorted packets of sweets and whispered in my ear,
“They’re making this film into a game”


WHAT!?! No seriously, what?

Have I been living in an alternate universe or am I mistaken? I’m pretty darn sure that Prince of Persia : Sands of Time is already a game.
I’m actually a little confused, are they going to revamp a classic, which doesn’t really need doing or are they doing something much, much worse.

Have Disney sunk they’re money grabbing claws into a film they are completely going to ruin, so much so that actually the new game isn’t anything like the old one?
(in which case, the game is surely infringing on some copyright laws.)

The pure fact that Jake Gynlenhaal is meant to be the prince. A prince of PERSIA I would like to point out is troubling me enough. But then it is directed by Gore Verbinski, who didn’t do too bad a job of Pirates of the Caribbean, which in all fairness was based on a ride.

But I’m still bothered about the whole 'making a game into a film into a game' thing. It’s just a shame to see that the games industry has resorted to such tactics and seem to have completely abandoned making anything original. Most games now seem to be remakes or movie based games which just makes me sad. Here we are in graphical standards that were merely seen as dreams a few years ago and we are wasting our talent and capabilities on replicating a film. A film that uses real people, real textures and real world lighting. So needless to say but however good we make the game it will never look as good as real-life, which happens to be the film.

Gah! Not sure if this is making much sense as I’m going around in circles but that’s my entire point! A game into a film into a game is a never ending cycle that boggles the mind.

Cheers to you Prince of Disney for giving me one big headache.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

A New Perspective

Being a Team Coordinator was a task thrust upon me by my fellow teammates. At first I was rather flattered that everyone had deemed me approachable and hardworking or it may have been that only minutes before the vote I was seen screaming down the phone at a lazy peer.

Either way I wasn’t going to let them down.

Naturally I thought that everyone else in the team would eat, sleep and work on the same hours I do.

How wrong I was.

Usually I would plow on with my work, jump head first and finish it in a matter of days or weeks but as I sat in labs nice and early, furiously texting still-asleep teammates, I realised how long and infuriatingly slow this project would be.

On the plus side we learn from our mistakes and I flat out refused to let the team start modelling before we had our detailed concepts. A stage in game-production I will never overlook again.

Having clear-cut concepts and a well prepared schedule has proved invaluable when it comes to production. As a result fewer mistakes have reared their ugly heads and what stressful problems we do encounter are mainly down to self-motivation.

One thing that has surprised me is some people’s complete disregard for deadlines. I understand that sometimes life just doesn’t go your own way but that seriously can’t happen every day for 3 weeks. If this was the real world and a real game-pipeline, I’m pretty sure your boss wouldn’t care that you’re hung-over or having a lazy day. Face it you wouldn’t have a job anymore.

Having voiced my concerns and letting off steam, I have now become more level headed. I now understand that not everyone works and behaves the same and most of my stress stemmed from a sort of motherly instinct to see everyone in the team do well and be proud of what they have achieved.

I have now tried to relax more, I clearly inform everyone of jobs and deadlines through various forms of communication and now it’s down to them and how far they want to go.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Inspiration from the skylines of Leicester

As I trekked home clutching my bag of various Sainsbury’s basics, I couldn’t help but notice the storm ravaged sky. Great pillars of torn clouds danced in the rays of the setting sun, casting a golden hue against a purple sky.

I couldn’t help but think of Constable and Turner and how the stormy sky resembled their work so much.

The textures of the clouds were so fluid and oil-paint like that it was uncanny to Constables technique. His ability to capture the British weather has always been a fascination of mine ever since my Mum and I worked on a 4,000 piece jigsaw of the Haywain. ( yes jigsaws are a guilty pleasure of mine)

However the gold and purple of that evenings sunset much resembled the colour palette of Turner.
Now Tuner is a tricky one for me and I can honestly say I am not a fan.

I have seen well over 50 of his paintings in the flesh (or canvas ;p), standing only millimetres away from his brushstrokes and I still can’t see the fascination of him.
To me his paintings look like they were left in the rain and whatever masterpiece lay underneath has washed away, there’s no depth or detail that keeps me intrigued.

I must say that I am rather patriotic and passionate about our country but I fail to acknowledge Turner as one of our most celebrated artists.

Maybe I need to know more about the context of his work, which in all fairness I am off to do right now, but if my attitude towards him changes, then you shall no doubt hear from me again.

Friday, 1 January 2010

Holograms, Clones and life-size Master Chief

He tugs at his uncomfortable green lycra suit and re-adjusts his helmet. Breathing deeply he listens out for the explosions on the far side of the arena. Carefully he cradles an explosive in his left arm and lights the fuse. His power enhanced gloves make the bomb feel as light as air as he throws it around a nearby corner, just as a white lycra-clad contestant runs around. His screams are heard as his wounded avatar is teleported to the sidelines.

“ And White-Bomber is dooowwnnn!” announces the spectator “and out of the Bomberman Championship 2924!”

A live action Bomberman you say? Well you never know.

As a new decade starts we tend to look back over the years and from a Game Artist’s view there have been some significant developments.

Just to think that only 10 years ago we were all playing on PS2’s, amazed by the captivating graphics of 2,000 tri characters and yet in what is a relatively short amount of time, we are now playing on consoles the size of our palms or on 47 inch screens with so much detail it challenges our own reality.

So in the next 10 or 100 years who’s to say that in-game graphics will have advanced so much that the only way forward is to bring games into real-life itself.

Hordes of clones could be created and then suited up like Master Chief whilst side-lined players re-enact Halo 3. Hologram technology could allow us to run around caves collecting treasures like Tomb Raider.

I suppose the main point to take away from all this is to consider the future of games, will it actually get to the point where only real-life stands in the way?