Sunday, 12 December 2010
Friday, 10 December 2010
Tuesday, 7 December 2010
stabbed or shot in the process by the annoying NPC's about the place!
Thursday, 18 November 2010
Wednesday, 17 November 2010
A concept artists job role is presenting and generating the visual style of the game or film under the direction of the art or creative director. Being a concept artist holds a lot of responsibility in createing the starting blocks for the visual style and overall feel for the game which gives them a lot creative freedom. However, a large part built into the role of being a concpet artist is being able to take constructive criticism and using it to push the ideas that are on paper and you may really like and developing them further for the needs of the project.
Weta workshop who created the props and concepts for the great sci-fi film District 9 are a great example of a good art direction team and group of concept artists. A main feature in the film is the alien exo suit though it didn't always look like the final image here. In their new art book there are tons of images and thumbnails for the design process of the exo suit and a different suit was originally made physically from the concept but was never used as the art direction wanted something less organic and humanoid looking.
Concepting is really the fleshing out of ideas not creating a piece of art that gets a thousand hearts and wow your awesome on deviant art. It's often seen as just making cool digital paints or illustrations that show an interesting idea and not something that you could really get a physical end product from. It seems a lot of people aspire to be a concept artist without knowing what the job really entitles.
I feel that i am a victim of not working through ideas in the aim of making something that people go wow at sometimes, though the vehicle project i have been working on recently has really shown me the fun and need for working through ideas and developing them further to make sure that the same old clichéd ideas don't get footprinted in the designs and allows the rubbish to be put on paper and removed from your brain and clear the way for something original.
Friday, 29 October 2010
The first year was hard as the sheer amount of learning was quite intense; it really pushed me to use my artistic abilities not only creatively but also critically as well. At first I freaked out at the fact I was going to have to use this complicated 3D software package that I seemed to have the great ability of breaking just by opening it. But now after discovering it’s actually not that bad I found myself enjoying what I was doing, like solving the technical problems with making an asset in game to be efficient and on a budget as well as having to make good artistic judgments to make sure it fits the brief and the environment its supposed to have come from.
I’ve seen my drawing skills get better as I looked back at older work and then found when I came to do it again it seemed easier and found I was producing better quality images in a shorter space of time, allowing me to make more interesting compositions when I knew I wasn’t limited by a lack of technical skill or understanding what I was actually seeing in front of me.
Year 2 for me is where I want to start to find where I fit in the world of games and what I can bring to the table as well as further develop and flex my creative muscles. That being said I have come to the great realisation that I need to put a lot in to what I do to reap the rewards of being a good games artist and ultimately have fun with what I’m doing. I have the image in my mind that year 2 is the training montage in Rocky 4, the hardest fight is to come and only by working hard will you have a chance of making it through to the next stage. Well that and the fact as a student we are really broke like Rocky is in the film and we have to make do with the tech we have!
Where I want to go from here is really the next stage for me as the road I'm traveling down is a little foggy at the minute and I need to start finding that place I want to be In and have that goal to help drive my work and start growing my portfolio in the right direction.
Wednesday, 21 April 2010
Splinter Cell has gone in a new direction as seems to be the theme over at the Ubisoft offices, only instead of people slating them for dumbing down Prince of Persia but awarding its art style, the critics have been drooling over the new Jason Bourne/ Jack Bauer-esque action approach. Instead of being given a laod of cool weapons to take out enemies but then being told not to use them or you fail like in the last game Spliner Cell: Double Agent, you now get to use them and with great effect as well! Visually it's very impressive and with the new added feature of having the game go black and white when your lurking in the shadows and highlighting useful objects in their natural colour has been not only a clever visual style but a useful one in terms of gameplay. Another great additrion is the HUD has been completely stripped down and now the missions appear on objects in the environment as if they are projected and keep the flow of the game going without irritating cutscenes every time you take a step [cough, Metal Gear Solid, cough].
I guess that wondering where to go is part of the learning process and is always going to be a question that i will constantly ask myself. I tried to think back to the reason I wanted to do game art in the first place and the company name Ubisoft jumped straight to mind. They have always produced interesting art and styles in their games, but have also managed to back the visuals up with involved characters and stories. I guess I imagined myself creating art for a purpose for games generating the assets, environments or characters with the great story behind it and allowing me to bring that to life.
Well for now I guess i'm on my way and getting closer to finding where I want to go, though as time goes on and my skills improve my goals will be moving around and will ultimately shape what i'm looking for.
Monday, 15 March 2010
The Games Industry is full of a broad range of examples of creativity, not only from the artistic team but also from the processes in these areaqs and across all aspects of many industries, the generation of new and innovative ways of getting things done doesn't happen. This is where creativity can be seen in some form and the product of a group of creative people or person can then be measured. In the games industry triple A titles that are produced such as Call of Duty, Halo, Gears of War or the Hitman series, all possess a large manifestation of creativity due to their stylistic approaches and also their ability to appeal to a wide range of people.
Creatvity is all around us in everything we do and see in our lives. Though its hard to describe and pin down to a black and white answer, as it seems to be a very grey area that people always disagree on. There is no denying that Art isn't the only thing that can be branded with the exclusive use of trhe term "Creative" and that people shouldn't ignore that fact.
Wednesday, 24 February 2010
I really enjoy the soundtracks for games in general as they are very different and I find they are enjoyable to work to as a lot of the time the songs are purely background music without lyrics and usually classically composed and have a lot of story through them. Games are usually easily recognised by the songs that accompany them, If someone puts Halo on in another room i will know as usually the loud and dramatic orchestra will be blasting trying to break the sound system its coming through. Though even if i can't hear the title music the iconic sounds of the plasma grenades or the blast of the generic assault rifle is enough to be sure that someone is palying Halo without me.
Another game that sounds are easily recognisable is Metal Gear Solid, I mean the warning sound of the guards with the most ridiculous "!" symbol over their heads when they spot you is classic and anyone who has played it or seen a friend play will instantly know where the sound is from. Hideo Kojima has an entire orchestra that works on his games and they even hold concerts with the game playing in the background for fans of the game and the music alike!
Sounds in games have always been limited to actions that happen in game based on whether the character does something to effect the environment. I mean most gamers will remember the Mario coin blip and the Sonic spin as he went into a ball but what about the more realistic games. Sounds always seem the same and never appear to change as they do in real life due to the nature of being pre recorded.
Its a shame that the technology for sound in games hasn't been improved, I will say the quality and crispness does get better as time goes on. The sound systems for TV's and surround sound systems improve but as with many other aspects of games today it could be pushed easily to another level.
There are other options like using middleware programmes which are basically smaller game engines that help create certain different effects within the main game engines react. For example the DMM engine allows objects in game to have assigned material properties and effects they way objects in game respond to different effects on it. In other words wood will splinter, snap and burn but glass with shatter crack and melt. This software was used in the Force Unleashed and allowed the characters and world to respond in a more realistic way with each other.
Game engines have also in recent years become more user friendly so that it doesn't take a team of programmers to build a level and import objects in. Now the artists can build the level and assests realitively easily and are able to render and light their scene and have more control of where they want everything to go.
There is also a major difference in the way game engines can build levels, they are either additive or subtractive. Its pretty straight forward in the differences, a subtractive game engine means that you start off with infinite solid space and you carve into it and create the world in which you move in. An additive (also named Relative) engine allows you to build and create your world and environment in an empty space usually called a void by creating the solid forms and working out form there. The Unreal Engine has the ability to allow users to do both which makes it a very versatile game engine to use, opening itself up for wider uses.
The introduction of game engines has allowed games to be made more efficiantly and cheaply, without them many games wouldn't be able to have all the great visual aspects that make them so great.
Now we have online capabilities that have yet again enclosed people in their rooms, though gaming has evolved due to the interest from advertising and other companies sponsoring gamers to compete in competition. This is where the arcades had a rebirth (mainly in Japan) as games such as tekken and street fighter then challenged gamers to play agianst each other and become the best. This pushed gaming culture and pulled people to events to compete to be the best and win cash prizes, limited edition merchandise and of course notoriety amongst the gaming community. These competitions are held all over the world and allow the more bedroom orientated to get and experience the world for real rather just viewing pictures of it on google.
Huge LAN gaming tournaments and invitationals are also very popular especially amongst first person shooters where teams are made up of the best from countries or cities and can meet up and make friends or meet people they already know from online gaming sessions. Games are becoming increasingly more popular and have started to build huge communities on and offline and with the increases in technology and how people can communicate through digital media it seems that gaming culture and its social aspect can only get bigger.
Nintendo has been a great player in the survival of the games industry as their company alone has made upto 3/4's of the industrys total sales. They have made the games industry more accessible in nature and managed to capture more non bedroom gamers and have brought the games industry back to the world of the money making corporations rather than just the guy eating fast food and programming the same world of warcraft games for a select few.
The games industry is facing turbulant times but seems to have past a lot of the recessions storm and is on its slow way to recovery and slowly gaining its confidence back. Which is good as if the games industry is able to recover and get stronger as they have to work harder to push the boundaries of games to make them better and worth the £40 price tag then gamers of all ages will be in for a treat wth more original release titles and stunning story and graphics.
Tuesday, 26 January 2010
Gameplay is hard to describe but in its most simple form it’s the relationship between the players enjoyment and interaction with the set of tasks, puzzles and action that is given to them to complete. Gameplay is one of many fundamentals in gaming that if implemented incorrectly will leave games falling flat on their face before getting off the starting line and onto the shelves. Games are all about the interaction between the physical player and the digital character(s) on screen. If for example the challenges in the game are not… well…challenging then why bother paying them. Gameplay is supposed to be designed to make the game fun, exciting and involve the player in creating the story and the characters own actions throughout that path. If gameplay was removed from games then it would essentially become a Film or TV show as the sense of full immersive interactivity with the story and events that happened to the players own character would be removed.
Gameplay lies in the way the player controls the character or army or actions on screen and if this isn’t cohesive with the joypad or keyboard in a way that feels natural and becomes invisible then the immersive actions on screen become lost. The gameplay spell is broken as players become too wrapped up in focussing on the button presses they have to pull in order to make something happen, I mean take guitar hero for example. It’s immersive, fun and relatively simple, but to a novice there can be a point when they give up and think it’s too hard to bother to learn and invest time and leaves only the more dedicated to try and master the fast paced button mashing.
Sunday, 10 January 2010
Games rely heavily on the main character you play, its simple really a lame rubbish looking character isn’t going to make you want to play as them or be involved in their world in any way at all. However, get it right ad your part way there to getting a game to sell. A good example of creating a successful character in a game is Max Payne; he had everything you could want from his characters archetype. Max Payne was a moody badass detective type who went through the game killing just about everyone in his quest for revenge for the murder of his family. What made him good was the fact he was stylised in quite a dark anti-heroesque way which fitted well with his back story and in turn helped tie him into the game world and connect with the player.
More recently characters such as Altair and Ezio from the Assassin’s Creed series have been well thought through as the story directly ties the player with wanting to hunt down the characters memory and solve the puzzles. As this was cohesive and solid throughout, the game flowed and developed rather than the player being dragged through pointless missions where the best reward is the cut scene rather than the gameplay. Bioshock being a first person shooter and never really showing the characters face, plus the fact the game throws you in the action straight away instantly connects the player with an emotional bond and with the constant struggle the character faces only builds upon that and creates a steady step by step story flow laying smaller parts for the player creating a more thoughtful approach and smoother transition on each part of the game.
Story and character is a symbiotic cycle e.g. a good sounding story can fail if the characters aren’t interesting and unique enough or good characters can fail if the story is weak and full of plot holes. Ultimately games need to start thinking hard about the way they are built. Story and character should be considered a forethought and not an afterthought to special effects and glossy graphics.
Games technology has improved dramatically in just over 10 years not only in the way games have become more complex and graphically more impressive but also in the way the consoles and even handheld consoles have had a lot of thought put into the design. Consoles had always been seen as something like a PC so should be built for purpose, though home use of consoles started to demand the need for more ergonomic and stylised finish that would be appealing in the home. Also making something visually appealing automatically gives the buyer an attraction to the product and adds the feeling that they would buy it over another console just on an aesthetic quality.
On the other hand designers can go to far with their quest on making something aesthetically unique and ergonomic. A good example is the first design of the PS3 controller with the weird and supposedly better more comfortable design for the user to hold, though it’s a weird boomerang shape. It seemed too weird for a lot of gamers when they first saw it and started to put people off the console and so it was changed to a more streamlined version of the original PS2 controller. The only reason I saw the benefit of having a boomerang shaped controller is that when you get frustrated with a game and you launch the controller at the screen it immediately returns after circling the room in a graceful manner. Well Microsoft couldn’t have gotten any worse in the design than the original Xbox, that as the name stated was a huge box that weighed a ton and had a massive luminous green X on it. The controllers however improved dramatically, they got rid of the old black and white buttons that sat somewhere off the original controller and became shoulder buttons on the new controller. Also for people without tiny hands the larger size of the control pad made gaming easier, still not perfect but with time I think they’ll get there. Overall design has become a huge part of modern culture and controls the way we buy things so games console manufacturers will have to keep stepping up their designs in order to compete for the need of cool looking gadgets.
As a gamer it really grinds my gears that story seems to be this mystical and rare gift bestowed upon games these days. It’s like the development team put all this effort in to making these games and then go and pay a monkey in bananas who has watched to many American soap operas and moody cop shows to right the storyline and the script.
You get a choice of about three things happening with story in the games industry.
1. You get an amazing blockbuster Spielberg-esque story.
2. You get a more watered down version of Spielberg’s story as if someone had vaguely described one of his films, as if they had watched it a few months back missing out vital plot points and then filling them quickly at the end leaving you a bit confused dumbfounded.
3. You get someone who should never be let loose with a pen and paper, shouting about the best story ever where they just rattle off a list of cool action sequences usually to do with aliens or monsters or something roughly set in the future or something and tell you they’ll finish the details off later…and never do.
Without a good story in a game you might as well just be running around shooting stuff or using magic for no apparent reason and have characters with the personality of a grapefruit. Story doesn’t just involve an Act 1, 2 and 3 but also sets up the world everyone lives in and the way the characters act, look, behave and relate to the world they are in. To many times, does a lack of good story, kill a potentially great game. I mean the Tomb Raider series started off well and then went all weird and tried to be dramatic and cinematic and ruined the gameplay and then decided to commit game suicide by killing off the main character in their franchise which then had to be explained away in the next title whilst the old title was being quietly swept under the carpet.
To me story is one of the most important and often overlooked parts of a game. Nowadays, consumers are expecting that with next gen graphic and physic engines a next gen story should be involved as well. As £40 or even £50 is a lot to ask people to part with if they are only getting something that is half-baked. To end on a positive note games are getting better with their stories and developers a starting realise the effect story has in so many parts of their games, I mean just look Mass Effect and its soon to be released title Mass Effect 2 where the choices you made in the first game effect the way you play the next game. Interesting ideas like these will push the ways in which games will look feel and play and add a better sense of depth to them.