Friday, 23 March 2012

Tax breaks finally hitting the UK games industry

So after years of struggling to get tax breaks for the games industry in this country it looks like it's finally here (or at least, round the corner). George Osborne only lightly touched on the subject on Wednesdays big budget announcement, but did commit to provide tax credits for the video games, animation and high-end television industries. How much and when is not known as of yet, but the rumour mill has already started to churn them out and people are making educated guesses. 

George Osborne may have single handedly saved the games industry 

TIGA, an association representing the games industry produced a report in February (which you can buy/look into here) explaining how tax breaks will positively effect the games industry and set out clear guidelines on how the tax break system should work if one was put into place. Here's a snippet of it : 20% tax relief on production costs for games costing more than £3m to produce and 25% on games costing between £50,000 and £3m. But this will based on UK expenditure, using British staff.

Its about time the UK is getting these tax breaks. The UK (in my eyes) has one of the best creative industries in the world, and that's not just for games. So its sad to hear of all these studio closures with all the talented people losing their jobs because the government wont recognise the games industry as a serious player in the entertainment industry which produces A LOT of money (it currently makes more money then the film industry). Because of this we lose our talented people to other countries which do recognise the importance of the games industry and provide tax breaks (such as Canada). This means business (and job opportunities) is booming, something which is currently lacking in the UK. 

Hopefully by the time these tax breaks hit and start to take effect ill be ready to graduate and land my first job.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

What makes a good character

Nearly every game to hit the market is filled with characters, be it the character you will be playing or someone you could be interacting with. So because of this, characters play one of the most important roles in videos games. As people we can relate emotionally more to other people (even if they’re not real, like those in a game or film) than anything else in a game.

Characterisation is something which can really make or break the character. So its important that the character artist can perfect it to make their character the best it can possible be. Characterisation can be how the characters sounds, their attitude, how they walk/move, all of these things build up a believable and interesting character.

Brilliant pose : He's cautious but ready to fight (Right side pose)

Characterisation is something which really sells the character, not how many triangles it has, what type or how many texture maps its using. This is why you can see so many low spec characters which are pleasing to the eye. It is something which can be artistically judge, so all good artist can make decent characters without the use of all the latest and greatest 3d techniques. I have come across work which is technically good (good topology, sharp textures, good use of UV space etc..) but not that artistically good, which in the end makes a pretty boring character. I cant help but think I fall into this category - I’ve used 3d software for a few years and know the next gen workflow well, but I’ve had no form of art education prior to this course and I think that effected the overall quality of my previous work. And now that I am developing my artistic eye and judgement I can see areas I can critique with my older models, and see ways of making better ones in the future. This is something which I have only started to build on throughout this course, so its something I must work hard to improve on over the next 2 years of this course as I aspire to be a character artist.

Brilliant pose, character and art style

Some of the best characters I have come across in video games which give of the most personality is Team Fortress 2. These characters are all very well done stereotypes, their design/characterisation compliments their personality/ role in the game perfectly (for example you have the small skinny cocky American who plays the scout, or the slightly insane German doctor who plays the medic). Their silhouettes are not overly complicated, in fact they are very simple, making them easy to identify at a distant or at a quick glance, something which is very important for a fast paced online FPS. The characters and environment follow a very simple colour scheme ( Red for team 1 and blue for team 2) as well which provides a good contrast between friend and foe, so identify who’s on which side is simple because of this.

TF2 very simple but highly effective colour swatches

The design of characters is not limited to games, the process also applies to films and TV shows. Some of the characters which stick in my head is the 2 main characters from the TV show Peep Show. I think this is because I can see my personality in both of the characters, even though they play totally polar opposite characters. They both have these inner monologues about everyday mundane things which I can relate to so much. On top of how they think they also act like real people (Mark has his boring interest in history and video games, and Jeremy’s a lazy man whore).

So not only are characters one of the hardest 3d objects to do technically, they're also the hardest to do artistically. All aspiring character artist have a long, hard road ahead of them.