Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Gone in 60 seconds...

60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour, 24 hours in a day, 7 days in a week, 52 (53 –leap years) weeks in a Year. Seems like a lot of time to get stuff done, but then again, is it really?

Well looking at it in terms of hours, we spend on average;

• 7-8 hours sleeping (varying age groups)
• Around 6 hours bathing, eating, cleaning, travelling, toilet and work breaks
• 2-3 hours general entertainment
• Leaving roughly 8 hours of work

The 8 hours of work translates to 2912 hours within a year and compared to the full 8736 hours in a year, it shows that we spend 1/3 of our lives working. We should therefore produce efficient work results and show progress. Majority of people however succumb to time wasting. This is where time management can come in handy. Time management is a set of rules, skills and techniques in which productivity and goals are achieved through managing time efficiently.
For me personally I find that I fall into the opposite side of the “Pareto Principle”. The Pareto principle is a ratio in which it is know that 80% of effects come from 20% of causes. The law was derived from Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto’s observation where he noted in 1906, that 80% of land mass was owned by 20% of the population. This was later used in business as a rule stating that 80% of sales come from 20% of clients.

The opposite side of the rule is where 80% of work produces 20% of real results. The 80% in this case, is non focused work due to time wasters or multitasking. For many people including myself, distractions come easily in the form of the Internet and the IT world we live in today. With most people working around computers, it is easy to switch between doing work to looking at emails, visiting sites, watching TV/film, listening to music or socializing through social sites (facebook, myspace, bebo). Oddly enough, even at this stage I have realized I am doing 80% of unfocused work and therefore have taken ¾ more time than I would have if I focused.

For productive work to take place, a time, place and situation needs to be set. A timescale to ensure that focused work can take place, an environment free from distractions and a situation in which a person is comfortable. Only once these three things are set can a person truly work efficiently. The timescale works well since most work we do has a certain timeline. It is very difficult for a person to concentrate for the full duration of the work period since the brain starts to tire and distractions kick in. The best method to overcome this is to work for short stints e.g. if a project takes 6 hours to complete, it would be best to work for 20-40 minute stints of focused work providing short breaks are taken after. This way a person actually works efficiently and can take a fresh look at what they do after every break to eradicate errors. To achieve a higher standard of work, sometimes it helps to complete a project under the time line so that it can be repeated more times. This way, proficiency increases and skills are developed further.

A good working environment can affect the speed and quality of the work that an individual produces. For most art students, they tend to work within their bedrooms surrounded by computers, game consoles, television and mobile phones. Working in this kind of environment will slow down productive work since temptations are around. A bedroom is also a bad choice since it is automatically connected to sleeping and relaxing and it is hard to break away from that mind frame. Working in an office is always a better choice since it is supposed to be free from other entertainment form and is always linked to the work that is being done. Filling a workspace with reference material and similar work will allow an artist to formulate ideas and develop styles faster.

By situation, I mean a set mind frame. This is where, at a specific time of the day, a work ethic is built so that an individual knows that that is the time to work, socializing, eating and relaxing are put on hold. This enables the person to get involved with the work produced. A situation also includes, ensuring a comfortable working environment is created.

Looking back on the ways I worked before, it looks like I wasted more time doing stuff I didn’t need to, due to not focusing and getting drawn into the process of working. What I mean by this is; as an artist, when we work we go through a process of working in stages; we mark make, analyze the composition, build foundation, reanalyze the composition, add colour and then finalize. I would tend to get too carried away in the work and not focus on the overall image. Therefore missing certain key stages such as building foundation and analyzing the work, which lead to a point at which the work I produced was not technically good. I would waste more time rectifying the mistakes I could have avoided in the first place if I just concentrated on what I was doing.
When working, since I spent too long doing work without focusing, I would get bored and rely on working with films or the Internet at hand. This meant that during a 2 hour-long film, I would actually spend between 30-40 minutes doing actual productive work. The rest of the time I was pretty much a mindless zombie. I also ended up over working which resulted in me having to snack lots instead of having a decent meal. This lead to me being distracted in ways to get more snacks and also resulted in me getting irritated a lot more. I think by planning out a day and keeping to the times, it may seem as if time is being wasted but in actual fact, more is achieved. I was afraid of setting times for individual work since I preferred to tackle one thing at a time. This method hasn’t actually proven to be successful for me since I would get a backlog of projects. Recently however, I tried to set times within the day by which I would change the work I was doing, I would work on 3D work for two hours and then switch to 2D for another two hours and keep switching within the day. This enabled me to work faster since I didn’t want to waste time before switching work and also allowed m to take a break so that I didn’t get wrapped up in a single bit of work.

For the work projects given to me, breaking up the work involved into time limits and relevance is important for efficiency. The only way to ensure that the most amount of work to be done will be to break into small chunks that are manageable, almost like feeding a child. It is easier for the mind to analyze and deal with small tasks at a time and therefore splitting work in this way should help speed up the time it takes to do work and the standard at which it is done. For a commercial artist this is very important since the more work completed on time the more work available and the more money made. By second year at university, I feel that knowing this and implementing a better time management system will allow an individual to succeed. During the first year, the importance of work lies in learning the fundamentals. It doesn’t matter how long it takes or the quality as long as the basics are set. By second year however, the thought that we are half way through university dawns in and we realize that to get somewhere in the industry, we need to be efficient and have a high quality of work. Managing the two is hard enough, I found that I concentrated more on getting the quality and have now realized that efficiency is what I should have worked on more. Learning how to work faster also helps with quality since quality only comes with practice. With the New Year around the corner, I hope to implement the Pareto rule and arrange my time better so that I can complete projects several times within the timeline. This way I should also improve through constant practice.

To leave you with an odd thought, the weird thing I find with time management is that you don’t notice how simple a concept it really is yet at the same time most people overlook it…

Sunday, 27 December 2009

Iron man is coming true...

With this technology, imagine the efficiency of creativity and concepting. Designs that can be instantly modified upon to ensure that they work in a real life situation. But then again imagine the drawbacks, the decline of traditional 2d skills such as sketching and painting...

Sunday, 15 November 2009


As many know, the release of the new call of duty modern warfare was only a few days ago. Those of you who have been able to finally tear your eyes away from the game would have noticed the amount of success it has had. It has been predicted to gross more sales in its opening week than The Dark Knight($155.3m), which is a big deal for a videogame. However, with the bright side of its release, it has also spun some cause for concern. MP's have brought up the subject of voilence within video games and protecting children from the content. This topic along with a leaked video of a section of the game has had few people discussing the impacts and necessity of such content within video games.

The section of the game is infact a mission based within a Russian airport.

The idea is that, you are an American undercover as a russian fanatic gunning down civilians within an airport...thats all i can really say since i still haven't played the game. Watch the video below to get a jist of whats involved. I must stress that the video contains voilence that some people will find offensive.

After talking to a few people and reading comments on forums and other sites, i have noticed that many people either don't care about the voilence and appreciate the game, or hate the game now calling it "voilent and sick". Many of you will have your own opinions on this subject matter, as well. Talking to a good friend of mine, they hate the game because of the reference to similar situations that have occured in Russia and abroad. They have had relatives who have suffered and passed due to these situations. Now this is a sensative issue for certain people so i just want to state that i fully understand both sides of the argument. From one point of view, i can understand how content such as the airport scene can be disturbing to people who have either seen it in reality or know of people who have. It is a serious issue and should not be taken lightly in entertainment. To younger audiences, it can make them insensitive to the impact of voilence within reality. To some it can motivate them to recreate carnage.

On the other hand, the game is specifically made for adults and is supposed to create a sense of disturbance and make the player feel uneasy so that they can then play through the game as if it really happened to them. Games are meant to stimulate our creativity and allow us to take on other personas. Live our lives different to what we already have. NOT AS A DERRANGED TERRORIST (i hope many of you do not find the need for this) but in this case a soldier of war, one who is fighting to protect peace. To achieve this, the designers have simulated near-realistic senarios and reallities of war. I can see that their intension is not to create entertainment from such senarious but more so a mood so that the player knows the reality of what is going on.

Games are often seen as being very voilent and many parents always complain about the effects they may have upon their children. The way i see it, games are not alone in creating controvesy when it comes to voilence and excessive adult content. Films, TV, Music and Books all have similar themes as video games. Look at Resevoir Dogs, Scarface, SAW franchise, Pulp Fiction, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, most rap music and even shows like Generation Kill. Resevoir contains scenes of torture and ganster voilence, it was banned for a while before release in certain countries. Pulp Fiction covers drug abuse, racism, rape, theft and voilence. Most rap music covers themes of gang related voilence, hatred to law enforcement and mistreatment of members of the opposite sex and Generation Kill portrays the realities of war in Iraq through the eyes of soldiers. It contains racism, hatred and voilence yet all these forms are aired where access is simple for younger audiences. All these things are around and can be easily accessed through other means such as television, internet and radio. Games however come with an age rating and would require people of that age to purchase. If not, blame lies on the people that purchase the game for younger audiences. If a parent buys an 18 rated game for a 15 year old, the parent is to blame for any effects it may have upon the child. For adults, its obvious that the game purchased is for a mature person and that it is ficticious.

In short, voilence in games is not a bad thing as long as it is treated properly and understood. Games do differ from other forms of media due to the fact that the character is being played by the player and therefore it is their own actions, but it should be the actions of sensible people that understand the difference between fiction and reality. COD Modern Warfare 2 has dealt with the voilence by advising people to skip scenes if they are too voilent or may cause offense. Like all other forms of media, Games allow the audience to believe a ficticious world and through that need to set the scene...

MP's discussion over COD Modern Warfare 2

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Train final

Thought i would upload some 2d work for the trainstation we went to visit in loughborough. Actually enjoyed painting old steam trains despite the detail involved, the original paint and texture of their surface produces an interesting reflective surface.

Friday, 17 July 2009

Snag Attack!!!

Well its been a while since i've posted anything. Been busy moving from one place to the other. Finally sorted out my second years accomodation and have moved in. Unfortunatly couldn't stay there long and have now come home for summer, so finally have internet, but my computers are all over the place and not set up yet. So much to do so little time. Anyway, enough of rambling. i thought i would put up some of my vehicle designs for the steam punk idea. I have decided to go for a motorcycle as a form of transport but want to see if a quadbike would work as well. Here are a few ideas for a motorcycle done in black and white.

Friday, 26 June 2009

Summer Project!!!

Well, it's been a while since I've posted anything here. Well since my last post, I decided to put Deadpool on hold since I want to re-do the head that I created in 3DS Max. The Z-Brush model I'm happy with, but the 3DS Max model needs better topology. Since then I decided to start my Summer Project. Over the past weeks I spent alot of time researching steam punks to better my understanding of how to make a realistic characeter. I started by watching several films such as Wild Wild West, SteamBoy, Gangs of New York and Doomsday. The films have helped with several ideas of how I could possibly go with my character. I gathered as much information on Steam Punks off the internet to also help with finding stereotypes that would allow an audience to place the character I create. After researching I started to look at designing the character in-depth, I started with drawings of what his head would look like and and accessories he might have. The sheet below is a chart to see what kind of steampunk I want to go with. For the moment I have decided to go with 3 along with elements from 4,5,7. I am still not sure if I should give him a top hat.

There are still two more sheets to come as soon as I finish the final touches to them. I have a weapons page and clothing page to go, hopefully i can start modelling the character within a week or two.

Friday, 22 May 2009

Deadpool Work

Well I've been working on this model for a bit. It's been interesting seeing as its based off a comic book design. I was trying to get it to look as realistic as possible but still with the comic feel.

This is the head of the character with colours added (NO TEXTURES AT THE MOMENT) in render view.

The wire frame version with statistics...

And finally the Z-brush version. This was my first time using Z-Brush so no doubt there will be mistakes I may have made and ways to improve my technique but I am pleased with the result.

I was going for a realistic movie kind of feel for the Z-Brush model. Will get them both textured and mite do the body for the 3DS MAX version. Will keep you posted on progress. Crits are fully accepted.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Still Alive.....i think?

Well despite it being late at night or very early in the morning, I decided to get back on track with my blogs. Recently, I have had nothing really to do and have resulted in playing lots of video games and watching films. Along with going out as well. I know most of you will be thinking that there can be stuff that I could be getting on with other than trying to entertain myself during the day. After overcoming the joy of unlocking all the special weapons on Resi 5 over a fortnight ago...I decided to finally get on with some work. Last week I finalized my plans for the summer project and now have a idea of what to do.

I want to try and make this feel like a proper project and therefore once I start in a few weeks, I will start with sketches to generate ideas followed by a full working of a final concept and final 3D model of what was expected. For the project, I feel like I would probably get more from the Steam Punk idea than the others and have decided to go with that. All year, I have been waiting to do a dystopian/post apocalyptic character that is based around scavenging and surviving in harsh climates. Something similar to Mad Max and Waterworld but obviously not the same. I think the Steam Punk option should provide me with the ability to do that.

But anyway, for now I have started a project working on a Deadpool character based on the actual comics rather than the film version. I started with the head but have run into a few problems of which I need to sort out since the look I want is one where Deadpool retains the original comic feel but seems believable. I also tried my hand out at Zbrush and am pleased with the result despite the poly count. I will upload these once I have my computer running again as it seems to dislike Zbrush and crash. I will try and keep this posted and hope for some positive feedback.

Friday, 27 March 2009

Long road to…well I’m only a third of my way there yet

It feels like the first couple of weeks as I came to uni but its hard to believe that I’ve been here a while now. I came here to learn and better my skills in my chosen subject, that being an art based subject. I chose the subject since it involved key skills I wanted to develop. I was looking to learn how to do 3D modeling along with texturing. I could have picked this up from a course on 3D modeling or several animation courses but found that the course I was on was one of the only courses that included development of visual design and digital art at the time. I am pleased with the course at the moment since the key skills I wanted to develop are being developed but the bonus has to be the ethos behind the way the course is set out. The teaching is focused on game art along with furthering skills in key artistic areas such as enhancing skills in traditional media and sculpting. I have always tried to delve into different styles of art using different mediums. I never really thought of how simple it was to just pick up a pen and paper or any medium and just create. I always drew for a purpose and if the outcome was bad I threw it away. It’s a shame it has taken me a while to realize that true art is drawing what you see. It is what is around you in everyday life and using that to help create new ideas. So far it has opened my eyes to the possibilities of success in this industry as long as there is a drive, vision and freedom. I say freedom to finally justify my understanding of knowledge and life. Knowledge is up to the individuals who praise it, there is no point in learning things that will never interest you as an individual but striving to learn that which you want to learn. That is not to say that things you have learnt or do not care for are not important. They still play a part of life that overall, influence the decisions we make. I suppose that is the wonderful thing about university, there is so much to learn and do that everyday changes us in some small way or another. I look forward to next year although I Do Not want to look at it that way. For me next year is exactly like tomorrow where I will still carry on working, only difference is that there will be a slight structure.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

GDC go OnLive

OnLive is a device that claims to be able to provide real time gaming using a small box (micro box) attached to a PC or Mac. It is a new type of console that will require no upgrading, troubleshooting, drivers, installation or compatibility issues. All the hardware is mile away from you and is upgraded by the company so you don’t have to. The game content is simply sent over the Internet so you can stream and play in real time. The system is able to provide HD graphics at 60fps or so they say and will enable any computer to be able to play at full quality. The micro box is simply two USB slots, AV outputs and a Network Jack. The rest is elsewhere in a room filled with super computers to relay game activity. There is a lot more detail to this device and can be found on the link below.

To me this kind of device would have to be extremely powerful to provide exactly what is advertised. It almost seems impossible for this kind of technology to exist but we still don’t know what the future holds. A game rental streaming service seems like an odd way to play games. I still prefer to buy a console and disks in order to play games. There are so many oddities with such technology. What more is there to come?


Tuesday, 17 March 2009


Every individual has a vision of where they would like to be in ten years time. For me I simply want to create great art, making money is a part of that but more so the success in the industry. I would like to aspire to be able to create half if not more than what the artists I like, can create. I hope that the three years of University can put me on the right path to becoming the artist I want to be. I know already that there is a lot to take away from this experience more than just a degree.

Uni is the bridge that mends the gap between a world of education and comfort and a world of responsibilities and goals. It may seem scary but its always something to look forward to and is what can measure us as individuals later on in life. Taking care of oneself is a start and at uni I am already picturing a life with more than me to consider and it seems that, that would be a scary place. The responsibilities at the moment are minimal and I have enough freedom to realize who I am and the potential I have. Throw some more responsibilities and I would be lost in a paradox ending in me being in the same place over and over again. I suppose behind my scary words all I’m trying to say is, I would like to make the most of this experience and learn all that I can about the world around me including myself. So far I am pleased with what I have gained and cannot wait to do more. Seeing as assessment week is nearing upon up, I have come to realize in a short space of time how much I was taking for granted and the amount of extra self study I could have been doing. Reflecting back on this year has shown me what I want from life and how I can get it. It sometimes takes just a moment to sit back and look at where you have come from and where you are going. Reflecting is an important process of self development and can affect the way we carry on with our day-to-day tasks. Simply looking at my sketchbook I have come to notice how much I have improved just by using techniques learnt. The difference between teaching techniques has helped since individual study is encouraged and it truly pays to do so. With the way things are going at the moment I sense some relief in the fact that I can get to where I want as long as I keep working at it…

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Creativity Part 2

Well after watching Sir Ken Robinson’s presentation on creativity, it inspired me to do more with my time. I thought of the possibility of life without education (school in particular). Would we be able to become better at creating whatever we enjoyed creating. Would a child who loved building toy cars and mechanical objects become an amazing inventor or mechanic…

In my last post on creativity I commented on the fact that most people grow out of creativity since they are born with it in the first place. I mentioned how talent helped individuals succeed in what they do. Well to be honest I would rephrase that to account for the fact that talent is only really the perseverance or love for a particular subject that allows one to be able to exceed in what they learn. Looking at our lecturers’ presentation of his personal work, certain pieces done as projects with individuals portray creativity within us all. The ways in which his creativity manifested proves that we truly can and should do things out of the ordinary without fear of being judged since that is what personal creativity is all about. There are certain boundaries however that one should consider before deciding to become creative for example; ensuring that the law is not broken in order to create a piece of art. This would I suppose be creative but on a social stance it would be immoral.

How do we now become creative if we have lost it from childhood? Well I don’t think we have lost creativity, it’s just that people are afraid of being judged since judgment can lead to failure. If however, creativity cannot really lead to failure, why not just try. The only way people can be creative is to just try and once achieved, perfect the necessary skills through trial and error. Use everyday objects, environments, moods and general influence to discover creativity and achieve what was intended.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Red Pill or Blue Pill...

I am as lost as can ever be; the time to make use of the squishy thing in my head has now come. Liberal Arts or Specialization, it’s almost like voting again…trying to finds the pros and cons. Well the squishy thing is begging to question why we can’t have a bit of both like in a buffet line. It may seem weird but our lives are a long buffet line with good and bad things to come. We start as the child who is given the food that we essentially need, walking past as our parents decide what will be good for us and what won’t. We find our likes and dislikes, experimenting with everything and anything we can find. It is then as we move past the lovely kind lady who serves us chips and gravy to the stage at which we move into the compulsory line (School). Here we have to maintain a balanced diet of meat, veg and dairy that is seen to be good for our surroundings and what is to come. The scenario pushes past the point at which we now decide, are we full or can we keep going. Do we go to the seconds’ line (Higher Education). This is the point at which we discover where we want to go in life and what is needed to get there. Do we need to move onto the Dessert line (Further Education) and when we are there do we need specialized Dessert or simply Liberal Dessert…

Well I’ve not been discussing my specialties at a buffet line but more so the process to which we get to the point at which we can finally decide what we really want from life. It boils down to the question of being well rounded in a field of knowledge or just getting straight to the point at which we become specialists. Well I believe it all depends on several factors that need to be considered, for example in a field of medicine a surgeon can only further by selecting a specialty. Whether they want to focus on cosmetic or neurology, they cannot be both since it would be dangerous to the patient if they were under-qualified for a certain procedure. In this case, specialty is needed and thrived upon, however in an artistic field it would be advantageous to be liberally taught. This way the generation of new ideas and methods can easily be approached and changes within industry can be made. Specialists in this field would tend to carry on the way they were taught since those methods prove well to them. At the same time it can be argued that a liberal would not understand some of the techniques and procedures involved and therefore be at a loss since productivity would suffer.

This is queue for Mr. Squishy; this is where a blend of both teaching methods would help a lot. Imagine an artist who is technically gifted and highly trained but has the ability to formulate new ideas and creativity. The artist would be able to see things from different perspectives but be able to relate them to what they are already taught. Looking at Fine Art course verses Game Art course, Fine Art skills provide students with the ability to be able to create any form of art and develop a strong artistic judgment. These skills can be applied to any industry since the basic ability is transferable, the skills teach the student how to produce art that in some way expresses them. Game Art is specialized and therefore the skills learned are meant to be taken into the games industry, a student would only be able to design certain sub specialties such as characters, environments, props and vehicles or the lot for the game industry. They would develop an artistic judgment but one that revolves around the needs of a game. Mood and emotion would not be a part of the work they create, it would not have a story just a purpose. Not saying that Game Art is not good since the skills learnt secure a job in the industry and are skills that a Fine Art student would not know unless taught in some way but it would be better to combine both skills.

The current Game Art course I am on seems to try and blend the two styles into one. The ability to work as a professional but transfers the skills that would be applied for a games industry into another field. Fine Artists would find it difficult to work on a commercial level since their work is produced for their judgment whereas Game Art is commercial. The blend of artistic judgment, ability to formulate creative ideas and work at a commercial and technical level would make a good overall artist. In certain other fields, employers should create a blend of Liberal back-grounded people and Specialists since specialists can keep the present going whereas the liberal individuals would be able to look at the future. They are adaptable and sustainable to change and can provide a wealth of knowledge from different backgrounds. Specialists can relate to the way things are going presently and keep them in tact.

• http://www.eric.ed.gov/ERICWebPortal/custom/portlets/recordDetails/detailmini.jsp?_nfpb=true&_&ERICExtSearch_SearchValue_0=ED172593&ERICExtSearch_SearchType_0=no&accno=ED172593

• http://www.collegenews.org/x1910.xml

• http://www.foxbusiness.com/story/personal-finance/on-topic/education/liberal-arts-vs-specialiation-degree-better/

Friday, 6 March 2009

Play a tune for me why don’t you?

Sound is an important part of any entertainment form since it allows more senses to be stimulated at the same time. When playing games, atmosphere is built using imagery, lighting and most importantly sound. Sound allows the player to know what is going on in the game, what is to come and allows for immersion into the virtual world.

Imagine playing a survival horror such as Resident Evil to the sound of circus music. The scary, tense feeling will disappear and the player’s gameplay will change to them feeling more over-confident about taking on enemies, doing so in a comical manner. With most games, music can be a presentiment for what is to come. In areas where enemies and fighting occurs, music changes to a more intense and adrenaline fueled style. This informs the player that they need to get ready and be careful. In safe areas, music changes to a soft melodic or less tense tone providing the player with the sense of safety. Some games have changed the way music is provided by constantly throwing the player in a false state of security to heighten frightful moments since the player does not know if there really is an enemy coming or if it really is safe.

Sound also plays a key feature to music games since without sound the genre wouldn’t exist. Music games use present media to excel the experience since most people like to impersonate their favorite music artists and would like to sing along to current or popular songs. Rock Band, Guitar Hero and Singstar all use existing songs from professional artists for players to sing and play along to. They work well in both selling songs and allowing for constant entertainment all using sound as the primary form. Guitar Hero and Rock Band are similar in style and game systems but the only way one can be better than the other is from the selection of songs available. This sets the bar for musical artists since they can profit from advertising their songs on the best game.

Martin O’Donnell, Kenji Yamamoto, Toru Minegishi and Koji Kondo are some of the well-known composers in the gaming industry. Kenji Yamamoto worked on the Metroid Prime series as well as contributing to Super Smash Brawl. The music in Metroid Prime is some of my personal favorites; it allowed me to be immersed on Tallon IV. The atmospheric and calming music in Phendrana Drifts (tundra) especially allowed me to enjoy the frozen wasteland even more, to the point at which I went there after battles just to look around and listen to the ambience and soft music. Toru Minegishi and Koji Kondo have worked on several titles also including contributing to Super Smash Brawl. The work I prefer has to be from the Legend of Zelda series. Again as with Metroid, the music in Zelda games has always made me revisit certain areas within the game just to feel how the music intended you to feel. Zora’s Domain, Hyrule, Kokiri’s Forest, and Goron City have to be some of the most amazing places in Ocarina of Time. Each place had its own individual musical style that made it fun and interesting. All the locations in Zelda never get boring and will always bring back memories. Martin O’Donnell is the man responsible for the music in Halo. Halo has large worlds and environments each filled excitement, fear and activity. With so much going on, the music balances the scenarios, injects emotion and above all is able to magnify the beautiful landscapes. Each moment of battle makes the player feel like a war machine able to fight any enemy (including scarabs) all down to the right balance of music. Martin O’ Donnell worked with some famous artists such as Incubus and Breaking Benjamin who provided their own individual styles to help push the game forward.

When talking about music in games, my personal favourite above all has to be from Zelda. Reason, the music in the game is a good balance of modern music in games mixed with a retro feel to it. The music never gets boring and makes the player feel like young Link. Towns and Cities are filled with happy music that gets ingrained into your subconscious only to make you hum the tune for the rest of the day. The best bit of the game involves the use of the Ocarina. Learning the songs and playing them on the ocarina makes the music aspect of the game even more rewarding. I loved remembering how to play songs such as Epona’s song, Saria’s song and Zelda’s Lullaby by humming the tune and miming the button orientation. The saddest possibly thing I have ever done however, has to be learning how to play all the Zelda Songs on a real ocarina just hoping to see Epona appear out of no-where (Still waiting for the day that happens, then we’ll see who’s laughing then...I’ll have a free horse). As for influential recordings, I believe that there can’t be one definitive recording since people have varied taste in music but it is up to an individual to decide their own.

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Call on the Engineer, I think I spilled my coffee in the system…

Okay, I’ve herd of game engines before. Everyone has definitely heard of engines such as the CryENGINE from Crytek, Unreal Engine from Epic and Source Engine from Valve Corporation. Usually people don’t really bother to find out anything else about them, we just know they are used to create games.

The game engine is essentially what drives the creation of a video game. They allow the creation and development of a game using several codes and features. Some of these features include rendering, physics, collision, sound, scripting, animation and artificial intelligence. When looking at modeling objects in 3Ds Max or Maya for games, we can only model and animate the characters. There is not much else that can be done, a character that we build will not be able to be controlled and will only follow the set animation sequence it has been given. This is where the game engine is introduced, the engine has the correct code and script to be able to combine several game assets into one scene and allow them to run in the way they were meant to. Some complex engines can specify attributes to assets within the game such as adding weight to a box or explosions to a fuel cell. The Havok engine is famous for its ragdoll system that provides game characters with weight and flexibility enabling them to move more realistically when different forces are acting upon the character e.g. throwing a character across a room or impaling them a wall. Previously, most engines would require the character to be animated in a single way showing only one way that the character is thrown thus resulting in a more controlled system rather than a randomized effect.

Physics within game engines has allowed creators to produce realistic effects for any outcome. Blow up a warthog in halo and you will see that the vehicle explodes in random places and each part of the vehicle will be thrown in a random direction following the explosive trajectory. It sounds complicated but all of this is required to create one explosive scene (pun not intended). This can only be done with the write script placed in the right engine. This brings me onto the re-use of game engines. Most game companies re-use existing game engines or purchase them since it is easier and cheaper rather than having to create a new system or game engine. Epic’s Unreal has been used for all the unreal series, Rainbow Six 3, Gears of War, Mass Effect, Bioshock and many others. Companies such as Crytek have moved to concentrating on game engine technology for sale. Where as Epic and Valve made their engine for their existing game, Crytek designed its engine and produced a game to display the engine. Crysis was manufactured to display the most powerful engine that incorporated dynamic lighting, better AI, Motion Blur and Environmental effects. Crytek’s dynamic lighting system enhances the way objects react to different environments and light sources, the AI system allows characters to move along different terrain while adapting their centre of gravity. The environmental effects simulate dust and other particles along with seasons and time.

The future for gaming doesn’t look too goo. With next-gen engines, more money and resources are needed to achieve different game systems that are make a game more realistic and exciting. Smaller game companies will not be able to afford new engines or the technology to build their own and therefore they will be forced to revolutionize gaming or go bankrupt. Some companies and individuals have managed to create revolutionary games such as Baird, which is a simple plat-former with an interesting time based gameplay. But these kind of ideas don’t grow on trees and will really test game producers.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

I'm Pro...

Games culture is a new media culture that has been formed due to the success of video games up to date. Now, the understanding of the culture is split into various different threads, some would say that playing video games is enough to say that you are part of the culture, yet others would disagree and state that there is a serious aspect to consider before One can call themselves a gamer. I believe that both are part of the bigger picture but need to be identified as separate cultures as well, on one side casual gaming and the other competitive gaming. Casual gaming consists of playing games just for fun, a casual gamer can be someone like Parents or younger siblings that just play games to be entertained. This is due to the fact that games everywhere, they are on mobile phones, the Internet, computers, consoles and iPods. When it comes to gamers or competitive gamers, what define a gamer are the way the games are played and the interest towards games. Gamers tend to be more competitive towards gaming and surround themselves with things to do with games. Gamers attend LAN and online sessions and tournaments and play for glory of winning. It can be considered a sport.

For me, casual gaming consists of me playing video games with a few friends in a flat. We play games late into the night but tend not to care too much about who is winning and who is losing. It generally consists of people playing games for fun while having a few beers and making general conversation. Most of my life has consisted of this kind of casual gaming culture. I have spent various nights and days playing games round a friend’s house with no competitive play involved, just playing for a laugh whilst annoying each other with constant headshots and beat downs.

Two years ago, I was introduced to competitive gaming. Online gaming changes the way people play games, its not so much about trying to find the funniest way to win but more so the basics of just making a kill or win for your record. When playing online, every win counts since records have to be made and losses accounted for. When casual gaming on Halo, I tend to find the most complicated and interesting way to kill someone with something like a barrel or cone to spawning a tank on them. When online I have to make sure I kill someone when I see them so every kill has to be made with the weapon in hand. I also have the LAN side of gaming every Tuesday, which creates a different environment since people keep to themselves and concentrate more on the pixels in front of them.

The two forms of gaming are all part of the general culture, which also consists of going to conventions, collecting game-related stuff, meeting and talking to other gamers and communicating on forums. On the whole my involvement with games is due to the fact that I enjoy playing video games in both a casual and competitive environment. The fact that I also want to be involved in the industry fuels my interaction with the culture so that I can better my understanding of the needs of gamers.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

What becomes of our future when things turn for the worse...

Oh my God what are we going to do!!! We are in an economic recession and companies are going bust. What do we make of our chances in the industry and what’s happening to it? Is the games industry really recession proof? The games industry has come a long way since the days of just making games for fun. The industry has become bigger and more powerful. It can now compete with other entertainment industries, however, it is now being run as professional businesses. This means that projects have become bigger, teams have increased, more is invested into them and a yearly profit needs to be made.

Its January 2009, there is currently a recession in the UK. Now you maybe thinking ‘how can that affect the games industry?’ well if you look at it, the sales of games and consoles are hitting a high even though the recession is taking place. Why aren’t sales affected? Well games are affordable and probably a cheaper form of entertainment. Considering that a game lasts well over 6 hours (average time depending on the genre) and that they can be played several different times to achieve different experiences, they are definitely worth the money paid for them. Look at this way; if I bought a 2 hour long DVD at £16 (all depends on the retailer), I would be paying roughly £8 per hour for entertainment. If I bought a video game (Call of duty 4) at full retail price that I played for over 70 hours, I would be paying £0.57 per hour for entertainment. Either way you look at it, buying games is cheaper and lasts longer. The audience is also mainly filled with teenagers and kids that can afford to spend pocket money on games.

The majority of people, who buy video games, buy them to escape the reality of the world we live. During a recession we fall into dark times where the struggle for tomorrow is unclear, what better to do than escape the world for a few hours and become an Italian plumber with a moustache and fashionable dungarees. Yes FASHIONABLE you all know you want dungarees, tomorrow you will feel the need to go outside and buy a pair. Wait right there…I have a thought (my mind wonders), we have Hawaiian shirt days and Halloween and ‘underwear only’ days so why can’t we add one more for the calendar, Dungaree Day (D-Day). Imagine offices and stock markets filled with people in dungarees, in fact I think it should be suggested for our Game Art course: Mandatory Dungaree Day by which everyone has to include ‘its’a me Mario’ in every greeting.

New paragraph to end the lunacy of the statements above and carry on. The sales of games have increased and are still fine even though there is a recession. But the problem occurs when companies have to decide which games they can afford to fund. How can a company decide on what game will be profitable? Where will the initial development costs for the ideas come from? It’s scary to think that on one hand, everything seems fine yet the mechanics of the industry have just had a spanner thrown in to the works. Games that are on shelf and ones that are very close to release will be fine in this mess, but what about games that are due to come out in a year or two. What will they be like, will good ideas be canned due to the lack of money and resources.

Jobs…don’t get me started. If you are a third year or someone looking to enter the industry at this moment, I feel for you. Think, if Midway just ‘axed‘ 180 developers from its US studios and rumors are spreading that Free Radical are going bust, how many professionals in the industry are also now having to look for a job. Competing against people who are already recognized for their work in the industry is like deciding to compete against Tony the Tiger over who becomes a better cereal mascot. To include people already in the industry, if Midway had to fire 180 developers to ensure that the company could still keep going, how do employees feel about their job security. It doesn’t matter how good you are at the moment since companies will be looking at trying to make it through these tough times instead. It is tough when something like this happens, but from the other perspectives. Other countries are able to purchase even more stock than before due to the drop in the value of the Pound Sterling. They look at this as a gold mine; figures show that Japanese customers can get GBP 74,361 from JPY 10 million whereas it used to be GBP 47,619 for the same JPY value. America has similar increases as well, so what’s to say will happen to the overall gaming industry. Will it actually pay off to become an employee at an Oversees games company? What is the competition like? Troubled times but ones that will become better, there will be a point at which everything hits a low and the only way out is up. Sorry to put the fear of realism into your souls but these things have to be considered with great thought. I will now leave and hope that you spend a few minutes analyzing the situation since it is late and I need to escape into a alter universe.

Here are some links on the affects of what is going on today;



'Hawaiian Shirt Day'

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Fear for the Mist that shrouds our judgement…

I woke earlier this morning (well if you call 11am early morning) to find myself getting ready for the first Wednesday lecture and seminar of this year. The alarm went of at 10.45, at which point I immediately hit snooze. Don’t you just love to set the alarm a little earlier than expected so that you can hit snooze and feel as if you got extra sleep. I fought my way out of bed to find the room warm for once. I stumbled over to the window like a mindless zombie only to hope for a ray of sunlight despite it being England and January. I pulled back the curtain and was surprised. It wasn’t sunny but heavily covered in a blanket of Mist, seeing as I’m on the fifth floor the fog outside covered the rooftops and made it look even worse. I got ready and headed of to my Seminar only to find that I had to wait an extra 20 minutes. The seminar motivated me to do better work than I’m doing right now. As of now I am making a timetable so that I can get some more work done. I find that after being on a gap year with a timetable floating around and changing every second, my time management has been a little bit more relaxed. But, anyway onto the topic of this blog.

The lecture for this week beginning was on the Stephen King movie, The Mist, queue the irony (it being misty for real if you didn’t get it). Our lectures are varied and for certain weeks we watch movies to relax and most importantly to gain some form of inspiration. It also allows us to look and analyze good movies. The Mist is a good movie, the acting is average and plot is simple to begin with. Its what you would expect from a normal horror movie, except since its Stephen King, the story starts to take a turn for the even worse.

It shows how human beings change when tested using fear and survival. Majority of the characters are stable at the beginning of the film and have their individual opinions until they are forced to choose a side with the person who offers them the best plan of survival. On the right, the main character trying to save his son and escape the supermarket they are all stuck in. On the Left, the insane religious person who believes they should all pay the price of blood for their sins against God. I don’t want to go into the film much, since its best to be watched and I can’t be bothered to fill out a Plot Spoiler warning. The main topic I wanted to approach was the fact that I find watching films such as The Mist more frightening (well what you would expect from a horror movie before you realise that everything is just puppets and CGI) since the direction of horror is suggestive and left mysterious. There is no real explanation for what the creatures are and why they are there, but we just know they are in the Mist. I feared for the characters each time they decided to go into the mist. I don’t usually get into a horror movie this much but found that due to this style of direction, it drew the audience into the action and made it as if it was really happening to them as well. The movie made it for me at the End, if you haven’t seen it you will probably not see what’s to come. Rarely movie’s end in the way this one did and the emotions felt by the audience are out of the norm.

Back to the irony, don’t you just find that on certain days there is a constant running theme to your day? Its odd but it makes it seem as if everything was planned and meant to happen. I’m sure there have been moments of either repetition in your day or Déjà Vu. Anyway I think I’m now going to avoid any kind of fog approaching, that’s if I can escape it………..

Sunday, 11 January 2009

A man without vision is a man without creativity……

Creativity is manifested everywhere we look. The dawn of mankind as we know it today is subject to thousands of years of creativity. Think, ‘we wake up in a bed created by someone, we brush out teeth using a toothbrush created by someone, we wash using either a shower or bath created by someone…’ everything we do and touch has been influenced by creativity. Without creativity progression cannot take place. But what is creativity and how do you get it?

Well you can get creativity by sending me a cheque for £50, well if only. Truth is, we all have creativity. The question to be asked is ‘How do I unleash my creativity?’ Since the moment we start to formulate ideas within our head, we are given the ability to be creative. A child playing with Lego is just as creative as a highly renowned artist. What a child can do with Lego or anything in fact is considered to be creative. Playing adventurous make shift game such as Cowboys and Indians and being able to create an imaginary friend is all part of a creative process. It is what we do and who influences us that change our perception of creativity. Anyone can paint, draw, illustrate and invent but it takes for someone with talent to be able to recognize what sells and what doesn’t. An artist is a person who can instill life within their creation and present it to an audience whether it is sound, visual, and tasteful or something that can be touched. I have had friends in the past that cannot draw or paint but have been able to create characters and worlds, the only difference is the way they convey these worlds. Anyone can draw since drawing can be seen as moving a pencil on paper to cause it to create a picture of some sort, same goes for painting, singing, acting and so on. In the world today, creativity is used to sell. Not necessarily to do with money but it can range from inspiring, motivating, creating emotion and generally whatever majorities of people take from it.

A scientist, programmer, engineer, and even an evil genius can be considered to be creative people. The only difference is the creative fields. The word, “artist” usually describes a person that can paint, draw or sculpt, but it is also a person who can sing, perform and write. The thing with creativity is that everyone can learn how to be creative within the different fields, its just some people have the talent for it and learn a lot faster therefore they are able to become musicians, sculptors and artists. With other people, they tend to follow different paths due to their upbringing and influences and this allows them to be creative within fields that are not considered to be creative e.g. becoming a businessman. A businessman is creative within the financial field and is able to understand how to create a business empire.

Within the Game Design field, every single part of a game is part of an individual’s creativity. Generally majority of the creative part is nurtured and directed towards a final outcome but it is still considered an individuals personal work. The sounds, visuals and storyline are all part of people’s creativity. It goes for everything in the entertainment industry. For me personally I would like to be recognized for the creative work that I have produced since I hope to become an artist. For artists, I believe the recognition and appreciation are most important above the selling aspect. As for what creativity is? I believe the answer is, it is everything that is manifested and stimulates the five senses (touch, hear, see, smell and taste). How do you get it? (Well other than giving me a cheque) I believe it is instilled within all of us and simply needs to be nurtured and developed towards the right field and interests.

Gameplay, back to square one…

The definition of gameplay is something that is always questioned. What does it mean by gameplay, what do you do with it, how does it affect a game. Well, sometimes it seems that it’s just a description to try and sell a game or its invented to describe lots of aspects that make up a game. I have always considered it to be a description of the overall experience and the game mechanics. It is what happens in the game, what needs to be done by the player and most importantly what makes them keep playing. Games such as Call of Duty 4 have two gameplay experiences, the first being the main storyline of the game. Playing as either (SAS) ‘SOAP’ MacTavish or (Marine) Sgt Jackson fighting against Russian ultra-nationalists and Middle-Eastern Rebels. This would be the main gameplay, the reason for playing the game (that along with the fact that it’s an FPS shooter based on today’s times). The second gameplay experience is the multiplayer side of the game, what is achieved when playing against other people over the Internet. With Call of Duty 4 the ‘Perks’ and weapon upgrades change the way the multiplayer is played since players are constantly changing their combat technique.

With Gameplay being a simple description of the overall game aspects resulting in a good experience, there can therefore be no rules to set what makes good gameplay and what doesn’t. The rules apply to the various aspects;
• How long is the game?
• What is the ‘Difficulty curve’ like?
• Is there a story, and if so is it entertaining and crucial to the game?
• What is expected from the players?

The list goes on ranging from character development to overall graphics. Gameplay for me will always be the description for the experience and what is expected. For others, they may perceive this as something else. Most of the time people’s understanding of gameplay focuses on individual aspects of a game rather than all of them. Whatever it is, I believe the true definition will never be subjected to a single sentence and will rely more on theory.

Today an advanced fighting cyborg, tomorrow a team of footballers and yesterday a pink pony…

Characters are a vital part of a game, they constitute what is considered a game and allow the player to be engrossed within the virtual worlds. If you want a better example; Imagine playing half-life without Gordon Freeman or G-man, imagine Mario without Luigi. DON’T WORRY!!! Its not the end of the world I was just making a point, but you can see already how un-effective ‘gameplay’ is without core characters. People generally play games to entertain themselves and escape into different worlds. They want to be different people in these worlds and that’s what the characters allow them to be. If I wanted to entertain myself for a couple of house I wouldn’t want to play as me sitting around doing stuff that I do (generally, because I play games in my spare time and well that would create some kind of paradox…Me playing, me playing a video game, about me playing me).

Characters in any kind of situation or form need to always be believable on some level. Look at characters such as Neo from the Matrix. People can associate with his character since although fictional, there is a sense of the story being very real and possible whether now or in the future. His character is one that majority of adults can believe, a middle aged man who works as a programmer in an office and lives a day-to-day ordinary life (possibly not so much with the night time alter ego of Neo being a hacker but still….). Characters have to have something in common with the genre of people interested, for example Peter Parker is a geek which would appeal to comic book readers since they generally are geeky (there’s a geek in everyone whether they like or not). His alter ego of Spiderman appeals since it makes it almost possible for an amazing ability to be associated with geeky and intellectual people and therefore the character becomes more interesting and almost believable. For me ever since I was a kid I was hoping to god that a radioactive spider bit me even though I generally hate spiders. It would be so cool to be able to shoot webs from my wrists and climb buildings, although England would be a bad place for Spidey since there aren’t many tall buildings. Radioactive Spider where are you…

Film characters are great although to make them believable, good acting is involved. Characters such as Joker in Batman would not have been as effective if either Jack Nicholson or Heath Ledger couldn’t act the part. Imagine Joker being played by Sylvester Stallone, actually scratch that the humor would make it worthwhile. Anyway, a good character always needs a good history, connection to the main story, other strong characters that are related in some way and most of the time they need a stereotyped. History plays a huge role in the development of a character, it can connect the character to the current story and allows the character to become more real. Other strong characters make the story more believable and create better flow. A stereo typed character bridges the gap between several audiences. People are all different and whether we like it or not stereotype is the only way we can be compared to each other. A character that breaks away from stereotype begins to become more interesting since majority of people do not like to be stereotyped and would rather be seen as someone else. People that play games, read books and watch movies escape to become someone else for a while and therefore the characters start to have a similarity with the audience. Characters make a game but good strong characters set the benchmark in entertainment, whatever the form.

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

You can push my buttons.....

The SNES, I remember the first time I held the controller of one of these. I was in Kenya at the time and game consoles where extremely rare to find. You had to have imported one from either the US or Europe (Japan as well but can’t handle learning a new language at the age of six). Course the problem was the Internet, this was around 1995 and Africa was just starting to get used to the idea of computers being used in small businesses. The Internet only hit off around 1998 onwards when phone companies started to integrate it and create a possible connection to customers. The amount of people who owned a computer back then was limited as well, so home users couldn’t connect and it was left for businesses and schools. Anyway…a friend of mine had just gone to Europe and picked up a Super Nintendo Entertainment System (Snes). He set it up one day and handed me the controller, I looked at it wondering what on earth this thing was, a flat rounded piece of plastic with the combination of buttons and a cross (later I realized this was the D-Pad). I must say it was a little bit big for my hands and the buttons where far to stiff, it oddly seemed rite though. I knew, just holding it that it was meant for great things…Street Fighter II and Super Mario Kart. Looking back it did the job well, Mario Kart was a little tricky to handle but once you got used to it you where okay. The Snes controller like many back then, had one bad quality, after playing for over two hours the pain could not be contained. I had once played for more than four hours until I had blisters on my fingers, but all of it was in good vain.

As games progressed, so did the advancement of controllers. The analogue stick greatly improved the steering in racing games, the accuracy in shooters and it looked cool. The N64 controller has to be one of my favorites, the design appealed to both left and right-handed players as well as the game genres. Strategy games and early plat-formers didn’t need the analogue stick and therefore the outer handles of the controller could be used for the buttons and the D-Pad only. For games such as Golden-eye and Perfect dark, they required the use of the analogue stick and the z-trigger at the bottom to replicate a gun. It was easy to use (well once you understood what you needed from it) and was comfortable. Most of the buttons were smooth and did not cause pain as you played a game.

I preferred the N64 controller to the Playstation controller. The Playstation controller has always seemed cheep to me. It feels as if you’re holding a plastic toy rather than a controller, it doesn’t seem right. The button combination was confusing and I struggled when first trying to use the bumpers. Playstation upgraded the controller by adding duel analogue sticks, which did make gaming easier than having to use the D-pad all the time. The problem was the analogue sticks being too close to each other making it less comfortable and harder to move from button back to analogue. The controller hasn’t really changed over the years and still isn’t any better. The bumper buttons still seem as if they’re going to fall off, and they make a very unusual noise every time you press them.
Microsoft original Xbox controller…………what were they thinking? Was it meant for a Godzilla? Lets make a console that both kids and adults can play, but at the same time lets see how they cope with Godzilla’s controller. It’s like watching an elephant climb a ladder. Microsoft was thinking BIG, I recall seeing stickers on my first Xbox warning me not to drop the controller on my foot to avoid major harm. Once they released the S-Controller, gaming hit off. The new controller was comfortable (still a little big but micro versions helped) and the analogue sticks where in a good place. It still took a while trying to figure out what and where the buttons on the thing where. Controllers at this point where trying to achieve far too much but at least they had the right amount of buttons needed for shooters and sports games.

The GameCube to the rescue, I loved this controller purely because of the colour-coded system that makes it easier to find buttons. The “A” and “B” buttons are green and red since they are used as action and negate buttons in most games. If you wanted to do something press “A” (green) if you wanted to go back, press “B” (red). The c-stick also worked well not to distract the players attention from the primary analogue stick so that it was easier to know which one did what. But save best for last, the 360 controller has to be my choice. NOT because I prefer Xbox games but ergonomically this controller is extremely comfortable, the layout is easy to read (looks similar to the GameCube layout) and it’s the only controller that successfully fits my little sister’s (seven year old) hands. The added bonus of it being able to attach a microphone headset and a micro keyboard also make it reliable and user friendly. It is also easy to navigate from applications and tasks due to the central logo button.

Controllers will always advance such as the Wii mote but for practical and design reasons. The Wii mote it great for family fun, interactive games and the 360 controller is good for racing, sports and shooters but nothing beats the old fashion keyboards and mouse. Over the years I’ve been able to get my hands on some of the most interesting controllers, generally they don’t work well as all round controllers but work for the games they are intended for. The Nes zapper and Snes Bazooka are great for arcade type shooters. You can have a lot of fun playing Duck hunt with the Bazooka. They need to make more of these for next gen consoles.

The most fun I’ve had playing with a controller (hands down) has to be the Steel Battalion controller for the Xbox. I’ve never seen a controller so big and complicated. It has two joysticks, one analogue, a gear lever, brake, accelerate, clutch and several buttons (one of which is a windscreen wiper button). All these allow you to control a massive robot as if you were inside the cockpit. The game never really hit off since it was released close to when next gen consoles were being released but it is seriously one of the hardest and most entertaining games I have played in years.

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

I’ve got a story to tell……..

Stories play a relevant part in human life. We can learn lots of things from a simple story while also being entertained. Ever since I was a child I’ve been told various different stories from books, film, television, word of mouth and even through songs. They all make up a part of who we are and define our own personal stories. Depending on the games we play, we will most likely find some form of a storyline within them. Without a storyline a game has no purpose. Majority of the arcade and puzzle games along with sports games don’t have a story since they are point based which generally forms the objective of the game (Person with highest points wins). Other genres such as shooters and strategy games tend to have a story since they don’t rely on a point-based drive. The games are driven by the need to complete the story or make the story. Either one allows the player to carry on playing and creates an overall gaming experience.

A good story often makes a difference within a game and results in its success. The story usually makes the player feel connected to the game, it gives purpose to what the character has to do and can affect the way the player interacts with NPC’s (non-playable characters). Games like halo, half-life, call of duty and gears are good examples of games that manage to create a connection between an NPC and the player through means of story. In Halo, the connection between Master Chief and the A.I named Cortana becomes stronger as you play the game since Cortana is a vital part of the Master Chief’s story. By the beginning of the third game, Cortana is separated from Master Chief and is found in the hands of a dangerous being. Since the bond between the two characters grows through the prequels, the player has a greater understanding of why he needs or wants to save her and would do anything to get her back. Sergeant Johnson is also another character that the player starts to feel comfortable with due to the story that builds around both Johnson and Master Chief. At certain points in the game the player can feel at ease knowing that Johnson is on the gunner of a warthog and is rite by their side. Gears does the same kind of thing with the connections between the four characters and the histories that some of them share. Dominic Santiago shares a history with Marcus Fenix, which makes them a good partnership (if the AI was good for Dom). The combination of Baird and Cole Train also add to the story since each character has their own personal history that unfolds as the game carries on. The more a player plays the game the more they care for each of the characters.

Games such as GTA, Sims and MMORPGs allow the player to create their own stories. GTA focuses on a main storyline but also has the addition of several sub-stories. The player can choose to do whatever they want to do but generally the main story of the game is played out, the only changes are the outcome of how the story is played out and the conclusion. GTA’s sub-stories revolve around NPCs and the more sub-stories the player follows the more they achieve throughout the game, some NPCs can help the player in combat and others can help the player with money, relationships and weapons. In GTA 4 the option for calling NPC friends over a mobile phone was introduced. This way the player was able to build relationships with NPCs by arranging dates or activities that they could take their friends to, this involved going to play pool, bowling, comedy shows, strip clubs and many more. MMORPGs such as World of Warcraft have a main storyline but generally don’t have an end to the game since the player can decide to do whatever they want. The game is built so that people can create their own stories in another life and world. The interaction within the game is done through real people also playing the game. This way people can for a history and relationship with other people. I was watching a show called Pure Pwnage, which takes it to the extreme but also portrays reality. An episode was dedicated to the World of Warcraft experience, which showed the main character having a real relationship with a person over WoW. The two involved did not play the main story of the game but concentrated more on dating each other’s characters. It’s a good example of a game that lets the players create their own stories (even if they are strange) yet also have the option of playing the main storyline as well. Story telling is important and therefore to make a successful game, the game needs a story. It needs to make the player want to play the game yet care that they are playing at the same time. Certain games however will not need a good story or one at all due to the way the game is played.

Thursday, 1 January 2009

ART DIRECTOR or Motivator……

Art Director….Art Director…….ART DIRECTOR.
Doesn’t matter how many times you say it, it sounds really important. So what exactly does the role involve? Well it seems that the games industry (and film) works very much like an ordinary business with management ‘breathing down’ on employers’ backs, getting them to work harder and faster. An Art Director is very much like “management” and instead of ‘breathing down’ on employers’ backs they simply inspire and motivate creativity. The Art Director works closely with the game designer to set the style, art and overall gameplay. They ensure that the art team maintains the objectives set and works within the budget for the game resources. Good directors can affect the outcome of a game’s visuals and the 3D components. An art director for a game has a slightly different role to that of a film art director. Film art usually involves setting and designing scenery, clothing, characters and props. All the things designed are either found or made in real life and viewed through the camera. Only the things seen in the shot need to be designed. With games; the scenery, props, clothing and characters have to be virtually made and everything within the player’s environment has to be included. To become an art director for either film or games is not easy and that is probably why it pays well. You need a lot of previous experience in the field that you want to go into. For games you need to have worked as a lead artist on a major project or worked on two to three successful games that went on the market. You can’t simply jump into the role since the more experience you have the better your understanding of creating a successful game and the better your creative judgment. An Art Director doesn’t do the actual art for the game, but they influence the project. I personally would like to become an Art Director at some stage in my life but would definitely love to build up the experience to get to that stage. I can’t imagine working in the industry and not having done any art for it at all. For me to be successful in the role I would make sure I also have the skill to be able to motivate and appreciate good artwork. To hold the responsibility of defining future game artwork is a major responsibility and therefore the title or “Art Director” is fitting for a role of this importance.