Saturday, 28 March 2009

Where I Want To Go, Apart From The Pub

Ive been asked the question where do you want to be in 5 years so many times now, and over the past 3 years theres been so many different answers to go with it. But the thing is im really open minded about that subject. At college i stopped on for another year to do a foundation in fine art because i didnt want my portfolio to just contain graphic design. I wasnt prepared to dedicate myself to just one thing so early in life, and here at uni i still kind of feel the same way. I stayed really open minded about what i wanted to aspire to while still thinking about what im passionate about, at first i thought illustration might be a good route because i love music and doing something like creating album artwork could be a good start. But it wasnt until i was casually flicking through prospectus' at college that i first layed eyes on this course. Ive played games for god knows how long and my parents always bug me at home for how i dont have enough storage space for them resulting in my floor being littered with game cases and controllers, so i thought following that route could be it aswell, id love to sit and play a game with my friends and then when the last boss appears on screen i could casually point and go yeah i made that. so here i am.

But thing is all the passion aside, when it comes down to experience in whats nessecary to be a game artist i didnt really have that much. When i first joined the course i didnt have experience with any of the modules. Essays i had done (and despised) but blogs no, and in terms of drawing sitting in a park with no more then a sketchbook and a pencil was even new to me, and i remember before uni started i downloaded 3ds max and gave it a go but the second it opened it just baffled me. I knew i wasnt going to suddenly and magically become some shit hot artist so my target for the year wasnt to create awesome artwork and models because it was all new to me and i knew i had to learn it all first, so i simply wanted to keep up with the learning curve.

Since ive been hear ive learnt a lot though which has gave me ideas into what i might want to be. My digital painting still sucks big style so i need to put more time into that. But the 3d work is something ive kind of clicked with, i know im not the best modeller yet and my character project shows that but once again i have to walk before i can run. Since being here ive downloaded about 4GB of tutorials for 3ds max showing me how to do everything from modeling a super high poly head to a low poly rubber ducky...seriously, i have a tutorial on how to model a rubber ducky, and personally i enjoy doing the 3d work. Theres nothing better than sitting in your nice warm room at 1AM with a can of beer in one hand and a cigarette in the other cracking one with some editable polys, i fucking love it. Like i said im still very open minded about where to go from uni but something 3d wise wouldnt be too bad for me i think.

For reflection i do know ive came along way from merely 6 months ago when the likes of a target weld on max got me confused and drawing the canal was bewildering. My first ever attempt on max i simply sat there making lots of teapots being amused like a simple child and now here i am having to hand in a 2,000 poly character, and thats just 6 months. so my ultimate goal from next 2 years is just to quite simply get better at what im doing, and well see where it gets me by the third year with any luck.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Creativity Part Two

And so we take a second look at that wonderful word creativity. My last creativity blog just tried to define what it is so its time for a new discussion point. After goin on about what creativity is i started looking at how it gets used and is required within the creative industry, and especially that of video games.

The words creativity and original do not go hand in hand in this day and age. Nearly every game is basically the same, I mean when was the last time you played something that wasnt an FPS or RPG, when was the last time you played something that didnt involve guns and shooting people or futuristic environments? not to say that no one is creative and is just instead stealing each others ideas but you get the point. So where is creativity's place in game if its not about making something original and new?

Well most of the time games are about setting the bar, with the same ideas as their predecessors being used but looked at in different perspectives and used in different ways to up that bar. Better storytelling, better graphics etc etc, a story isnt original but creating one that can better the previous requires creativity, and that where it can come in for the games industry. That and games can sometime act as inspiration for bigger and better ideas, adding new storylines and characters, weaving in new plots, this is someone using creativity and finding imaginative ways to add to and already exsisting idea in order to improve on it. Once again, creativity in the games industry involves setting the bar.

So to get involved with the creative industry what do you need to do? Well i remember Mike once said about how many a people will model ninja soldiers or whatever with the aspiration of being the next Tekken artist and so on, and send them to companies. Like the majority of them they will be put in the 'filing cabinet' AKA the bin, but someone who models their pet dog will probably get person sitting down and looking at it.

This is beacuse when it comes to creativity what companies and game are looking for isnt originality because originality is a spin off of predecessing ideas, but more the uncommon and imaginative. Imagination is whats needed to fuel games, afterall ever game out there is someones brain child right? In terms of what ive said theres loads of games with ninjas and all that in them but things like dogs and cats arent really used in games (except for NPC's and Nintendogs for the DS) so to model something like that doesnt show you abilities to model a good looking but generic ninja warrior but your imagination to go for whats uncommon and can be seen as creative and original, and i think this what kind of creativeness the games industry is after.

Friday, 20 March 2009

Life Changing or Career Building?

When i was at college i was given a lecture on how you can basically fail college and still get into university with unconditional offers based on your portfolio. It was about how your skills and abilities can sometimes over rule qualifications and that if you are good at what you do, and have a shit hot portfolio to prove it, you dont really need qualifications to say your good, your work does it for you. But with some game companies wanting the exact opposite it comes down to which one gets you places in life, the grades of the highly trained programmer or the creative individuals portfolio?

Im my opinion i think the portfolio is the more important of the two, the biggest example to back me up here is this. Your at a job interview and the person sat next to you after the same job has left uni with the exact same grades as you but theres only one job available...bam...thats grades getting you the job go out the window because yous are both even, the only way to win this one is with your portfolio.

Im a strong believer in the portfolio because of the fact its personal to you, unlike grades which can be as identical as the person next to you portfolios are different. I left college with a final grade of MMM, which is the same grade as like....about 10,000 other students? But i bet none of them had my portfolio and vice versa. Their completely unique to you and show your work and your work only. They can be tweaked to show off your strong points and they can be used to give the employers what they want, bonus points to you. Company vary as much as the weather does these days, which each company making completely different kind of games to one another. So having a portfolio containing the kind of work they do in it will help twist their arm more than a grade ever will i think. So if you want to work for microsoft on the next gears of war, dont go putting your my little pony models models in your portfolio.

But specializing in one area to satisfy someone can be a bit dangerous. Specializing in one area can leave you weak in another, while getting good at everything can turn you into the handy man of gaming...good at everything, but not brilliant at one thing, and the word mediocre doesnt seem to get you anywhere in this industry. Also ive heard of universities having 'house styles' where all the students come out with the same kind of stuff in their portfolios. So do universities need to teach it all and give it all to students?

Which leads to the question how can education meet these opposing views and yet provide a valid and fulfilling experience to students? Well when it comes to the good experience university living provides that anyways, afterall getting drunk and pursuing women becomes second nature in this kind of habitat, and who doesnt enjoy that? So its what can students learn from education that should be the question.

Well I think its down to the student really to specialize and learn about what they are passionate about and seek in life. Uni cant 'teach it all' to a student so its up to them to develop the style that suits them so they can get a job they want. Uni is a stepping stone to teach them their A,B,C's in 3ds max and visual design etc etc, Giving the students the tools that they need to get the job done. The rest is just motivation and passion on the students behalf.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Sound for Games

sound is used in games to create a variety of things. It can create atmosphere, pace and emotion. all of these tasks can be performed well by the right music and sound, helping support and portray the emotions and feeling that go with the certain settings of the game. If there is a fight scene or you are on the run then a fast paced soundtrack supports the action, creating tension. If a deserted eerie feel is needed as the player explores spooky environments then the classical slow spooky music will be used. Sound seems to be extremely underestimated in games when contrasted against visual looks and effects, as afterall people do generally get more pleased by the look of a giant explosion then the sound of footsteps echoing through a hallway. This i believe gives sound in games more of a background role in overall gameplay, but it is still one of the key components in creating an authentic and rememberable gameplay experience.

After doing a bit of homework into the key composers in the games indusrty it striked me that the majority have common traits. For the most part the key composers dont just work in games, they are known throughout all media. Harry Gregson, the man behind all of the Metal Gear Solid soundtracks is also known for his work in the Shrek films and the number 23. Martin O'Donnell has his name to fame through the Halo series and Masami Ueda is the man behind both the Resident Evil Games & Films. This also stirkes me as it comes across as if there are no such things as 'freelance' composers, people that just drift in and out on films and games composing bits and bobs for them here and there, all composers are dedicated to entire series' and are called back in when sequels to a franchise are on the drawing board.

my key sonic moments in gaming history would be a punch up between Resident Evil 2 or Super Metroid. Super Metroid being one of the first full games i played when i was a child, to complete it in under 10 hours was an achievement deemed near impossible and the length of the game meant it had quite the soundtrack to go with it. Also the soundtrack wasnt just some cheesy bit of music that was present on all the other games on its time like super mario, it was one of the first game i played with music that had meaning. each and every theme in the game fitted perfectly. With creepy themes in abandoned areas interrupted by fearful themes when you encounter space pirates. Each zone also had its own theme, electrical fast paced music to complement the zones with lots of action and eerie almost choir like music to accompany unexplored, mysterious zones. this all added to the game and made it on hell of a game for a 8 year old me :D

Resident evil on the other hand goes down as one of my key moments aswell because it had music in it that i ended up getting to hear for years after, giving it a more nostalgic value than anything else. The save room song was one used in every res evil game and one i always remember. After half an hour of running around basements getting your arse kicked your low on health and ammo praying to god your not going to die and have to start over from the last save point, then you enter a room preparing for the worst and you hear the save room song. Instantly you know your safe, no ememies, health, ammo and a save point to sort you out on your way. It was almost like heaven. That on top of the fast paced song at the end always accompanied the laboratory tannoy blaring 'self destruct system has been activated, all personnel evacuate emidiately' res evil has a thing for always having that at the end. When you heard that you knew it was time for the final boss, sort of like a psych up song for the final battle. and its why i love it so much

To end im gonna answer the question is it true that the Nile Rodgers/Bernard Edwards composition 'Good Times' is the most influential recording made in the 20th Century? Well i did some looking up and found the song on ye olde youtube and at first i thought this was a trick question because in my own personal taste that song isnt very good which leaves me to personally answer the question with no. But at the end of the day music is all about personal taste, some people like it, some people hate it, but getting into the likes of that is a bit deep so ill probably go on about that some other day

toodles for now

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Gaming Engines

Game engines are vital pieces of software that put realism into a game, real life physics such as weight, density and buoyancy are put into games using engines. Without these we would have tanks acting like they were the weight of a marshmallow or boats being confused an trying to be submarines by sinking the second you get on them. This is done using complex code which us as artists will probably never see or understand, well leave that for the programmers thank you. So in short engines make the game work. It also handles all the main factors of a game such as AI, lighting and animation and makes them work together for the game. The key engine technologies pretty much boil down to the source engine from Valve, The Havok engine and the Unreal engine. Each with their own personal traits and games including Half Life 2, Bioshock, The force unleashed, Gears of war etc etc

Gaming engines can be resuable with the like of the source engine being used in half life 2, counterstrike and team fortress 2. Making them middleware. This resuable technology can save a lot of developers time as instead of creating their own engine they can simple buy other companies engines, quite a bonus considering creating an engine can take years and cost from £10,000 to 3 million. Also not having to create your own engine can be seen as a good thing. Not having to worry about making your own engine means less focus on technology and more time spent on gameplay. games such as BioShock proves it works with the game not concentrating on next gen physics and instead just buying one, the unreal engine to be exact, so most of their time can go into making the game being both creatively and beautifully designed.

Some of the key issues for gaming engines, both old and new are either issues that have cropped up due to the next gen era or ones that have been haunting gameplay since the dawn of time. Technology restraints are a big issue. As next gen engines are becoming more and more photo realistic with dynamic lighting and so on the technology to play them on such as PC'S arent quite being able to keep up with them, resulting in them not being able to support the engines. This is especially the case with PC gaming. When the Crytek engine first made an appearance it was more a showcase piece for the company then a reliable engine as barely any computers were powerful enough to use it. Technology is having a hard time keeping up with one another as yet another issue engines have is the old chestnut of AI, over the years of gaming AI has been constantly critisised in reviews due to a lot of games having a lack of good AI 'on a couple of times he just froze up while the enemy turned us both into bullet and hamburger sandwiches' or 'he ended up endlessly running around like a sheepdog with a piece of shrapnel stuck in his head' to say a few from zero punctuation reviews. In the world of next gen consoles graphics have reached the point where they are only one step away from looking pretty much like real life but in gaming engines AI hasnt seem to have caught up yet, leaving us with PS1 day cases of NPC's occasionally still being no use nor ornement.