Tuesday, 22 October 2013

New Blog

I've decided to document all my third year work on a separate blog, to keep things more professional. I might keep this one updated with more personal stuff.

New blog here http://danhargreavesyear3.blogspot.co.uk/

Friday, 24 May 2013

End of Year 2 Review

It feels like it was yesterday I was writing my end of year 1 blog. God, these 2 years have gone quickly.

So what’s changed for me over the last year:

Generally throughout my first year I was being semi unproductive and just plain lazy at times regarding work. But now I have completely stopped that. Im glad I have too.

Changing this mindset was my main goal to accomplish this year, as I believe without the correct mindset and work ethic you will not get a job in this industry or anything like it. So making sure I changed it was vital, and it was done with a lot of focus, willpower and determination. It wasn’t a walk in the park mind you though, quite a few times (epically before Christmas) I slipped backed into my old habits of having 2/3 solid days of doing no work at all, I even stupidly had a week off from doing work to binge on the whole 7 series of Dexter (which I do highly recommend on another note).

I certainly felt the extra pressure of catching up on all that undone work though, not good.  But recently with the added bit of added pressure and motivation from the group project, my holiday and the end of the year 2. I was putting in roughly 55-60 hour weeks. I was mentally exhausted in the last few days but in a strange well it felt pretty good – knowing that ive just ploughed through a lot of work. That long stint of just doing nothing but work has just put it into perspective of how much I need to do to get a good grade, but It also how much and hard I can push myself. After that whole ordeal, its shown me how well I can cope with pressure as well, which is a great skillet to have in any intense job.

At the start of the year I felt my digital painting wasn’t up to scratch, especially after seeing the quality of work some other students are pumping out. It was, and still is something I want to improve on. In the second year visual design focuses much more on digital painting than the first year, so I had a lot of opportunities to practice. Improving in painting is just like drawing, the more you do it the better you get at it. Throughout the year I picked up better painting techniques from talking to other students and watching online tutorials and put these into practice. Below you can hopefully see an improvement. The first painting was from the start of the year, the second from the end of the year.

Abbey park Final

Moonshine Character Final

Ive always said in this blog that I have a passion for character art and I want to be a character artist. But with the recent completion of the group project I found working on environments and props to be a lovely experience. So much so that im changing my mind of what I want to specialise in on my FMP and what sort of job role I want to go into. It’s a bit late having this change of mind but with more job opportunities and less competition as a environment artist than a character artist and having this recent passion boost for environment art it might be the right decision. Ill use this summer to firmly decide on what I want to do.

Now that ive finished year 2 and have a long 5 month break ahead until year 3 starts, I have a lot of time on my hands. So apart from catching up on the big games ive missed out in the last 4 months or so, I want to do work. Drawing is still my weakest skill so I plan to do a lot of sketching so I don’t get rusty over the summer months. But im still looking to continue to carry on the group project with a few more members as we really want to win this competition. The exposure we are currently getting is great, so its something worth perusing. Especially so as it will massively help to get into the industry as having that on my portfolio will make me stand out from the rest of the crowd. It is also a chance to work on more environment pieces so I can get a better understanding on what path I want to take for my FMP.

Well I guess that’s it for another year, ill probably keep updating this blog over the summer, but not as much. See you in year 3.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Life Changing or Career Building?

I know what technical skills are, but I didn't have the foggiest what soft skills are until a quick Google search (where would we be without Google?). Its describe as ‘Soft skills is a sociological term relating to a person's "EQ" (Emotional Intelligence Quotient), the cluster of personality traits, social graces, communication, language, personal habits, friendliness, and optimism that characterize relationships with other people’. So basically it’s their mind set/personality, cool, let’s begin then.

This sums up soft skills nicely

These soft skills in my eyes are more important than hardskills. Having the drive, motivation and determination to go out there and push yourself time and time again even when you’re making little to no process is what will make you excel. I touched on the subject in a previous blog, basically saying with the right mind set you can pretty much do whatever you want.

These sorts of soft skills are vital in the games industry, even if you have a job in it. As you always need to be on top of your game and constantly striving to be a better artist. So if that means working on personal projects outside of work while you’re crunching 50+ hours a week in work, then so be it, because if you don’t, someone else will and they'll take your job.

I always thought I had good soft skills (especially self-motivation) before taking this course. But looking back from where I am now, I realise that I really didn't. I used to spend around 2 months (while working part time mind you) to fully create a character which wasn't even rigged, and that was down to having little drive/self-motivation. I’d get home from a 4/5 hour shift at work and be like ‘ummm ill start my character tomorrow/next week, it wont matter if i put it off’, and I used to think I had the drive to get into the industry, how wrong I was. Now after 2 years of solid grafting, especially this last year I have gained the drive/self-motivation I desperately needed and required to get anywhere close to a job in the industry.    

Learning how to learn effectively is more beneficial to the student than learning technical skills. As new bits of software get released or workflow techniques change, so the students are going to have to relearn/change their way of thinking to keep up with the evolution of technology  Without having these soft skills its going to take them a lot longer to grasp new technical skills than someone who has these soft skills.

This doesn't mean we shouldn't teach technical skills at all. Technical skills for an artist are very important, without them how can they produce the things we see in modern games?  It’s a fine balance to teach both skillets. I believe this course does a very good job in balancing these 2 out. Its hammered into you from day one that you need to graft to get anywhere on this course, let alone find a job. What stuck in my head and got put into perspective was being told at the induction that ‘50% of students will drop the first year, and another 50% in the second’. That’s not really down to peoples lack of technical skills, it’s their lack of soft skills – no drive to put in the required effort.  

The reason why most people fail this course....

This course does a great job in harnessing the students creativity. In year one it puts you on a tight rope and won’t let you wonder much from the set path, as this year is all about learning the tools of the trade. Then as you progress into the second year that ‘rope’ gets a lot looser, allowing more creative freedom. Then in the third year you get complete freedom. But we are guided and nudge into sensible directions with our creativity. This is what makes us Skillset accredited and highly valuable to employers. 

Thursday, 25 April 2013


When I was younger and watching TV and there was a scene of a group of people in a meeting  room trying to think of the next ground breaking product, everyone was umming and arring until suddenly one guy stands up and spouts out the most brilliant out the of box idea which everyone cheers at. That is how I used to view creativity - creative people can just come up with brilliant ideas all the time on the spot. I used to penalise myself for not coming up with that creative sparks in a few seconds like they did on the TV. Because of that i used to think to myself, maybe I’m not cut out for being in a ‘creative’. But as I’ve grown older (and hopefully a bit wiser) I’ve come to realise that creativity doesn’t work like that. When solving a solution to a problem it’s usually a series of little ideas which you can bounce of other people and get their view on it, which then as a team you have this creative solution. Very few people throughout history have been able to do this all by themselves, and if I, or anyone else can’t do that then I shouldn’t beat myself up, like I used to.

That lovely light bulb idea which rarely happens in real life

Being able to have these little creative ideas are not something people are born with though, it comes down to a few factors. Such as genetics and personal experience. Admittedly (and annoyingly) some people do have a knack for it just like their parents, but that doesn’t mean if you don’t naturally have you won’t have it at all. Personal experience is a major contributing to creativity. Try new things, even if it’s just a new dish at a restaurant. It allows you to experience different things which open your mind. For instance, if you wanted to cook a traditional English dish with an exotic twist, how would you begin to start if for your whole life you’ve just ate fish and chips, you wouldn’t have a clue what exotic food taste like. Whereas if you’ve tasted a wide range of food and flavours then it’ll be easier to see what works and what doesn’t, you’ll also have more knowledge on the subject, and as we all know, knowledge is power.

Talent has the same traits as above but has one major factor, and that is hard work. Your parents might have passed on their talent gene onto you and you might have a large amount of experience to call upon but if you don’t work then how are you going to be able to get better. I believe everyone has the same maximum potential, but how hard you’re willing to work and what you’re born with corresponds with how quickly you can reach your maximum potential.

How to manage talent

As technology has evolved over the years, development studios are being less limited by technology with what they are able to create.  Creativity and what people envision from these studios has really been the same since the beginning of games, but the way they can implement them into games has changed.
Creativity can be displayed in many ways with games. It can be a new graphical effect which was produced in an unconventional way. http://simonschreibt.blogspot.de/ This blog goes into detail on how certain effects in games new and old are produced. No matter what how advance game engines can go, developers will always want to create something unique so they will find a way to do it.
Gameplay can be another way a developer shows off their creativity, and is generally the way most people will recognise it as everyone can appreciate it. 

How 'gibbing' works in L4D2

Sunday, 14 April 2013

The final push for year 2.

So I've just got back from my 3 week Easter break, but it’s hardly been a break. Most people would use this time of to chill out, catch up with friends and maybe play a few games or so. Not me, nope. I've used those 3 weeks to catch up on any outstanding visual design work, which I wanted to have fully caught up but that doesn't seem like that’s the case. Damn me over estimating me how quickly I can do work! I have been getting my work done though, I got some nice digital painting finals done. I've also been making large headway with the project work.

So for the group project over Easter I and another member was tasked to help out another member who was struggling to produce all his work to the deadline, as it was a lot. It was decided just before the Easter break that we would take on some of his prop work so as a team we could move onto the next stage of this project as quickly as possible. I did plan to use the Easter break to catch up on mostly VD work so having this to do as well did put more strain on my workload. But I didn't mind too much as I love creating props – they’re just small fun assets you can produce in a day.

 My workloads not going to get any lighter over the coming weeks. I have a few bits of work to catch up on, the group project to finish off and any other work which is going to be given to us. Having all this work to do is going to be tough. But what makes it a lot worse is that last year I (stupidly) booked a holiday from the 12th of May, which is about 2 weeks before our final hand in. So now i have roughly 2 weeks’ worth of work time I can’t use. Some all-nighters are going to be needed. But I don’t mind so much, as I know if I put a lot of solid work in for these last few weeks then I can have the whole summer knowing I put in everything I could. I don’t want to go through what happen last year with me spending half of the summer worrying if I was going to make it into the second year. And that happened because I got complacent towards the end of the year and stopped putting as much effort in as I should have. I’m not going to let it happen this year.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Generalist Or Specialist?

Coming to the end of my second year has raised  few question for myself. Such as what job area I want to go into in the games industry. But also how do I become more employable.

So should I become a specialist in the field I want to get into, such as being a character artist. Where I just spend all day every day creating awesome characters. Or do I broaden my skill set so that one week I animate characters, then the next week i'm creating foliage for the level. By the end of this post ill hopefully have an answer, or at least a better idea.

Since I first started working with 3D software I've always had a passion for characters, so that’s all I really did. But as I've gone through this course I've started different projects that before I’d never attempt (such as buildings, vehicles and foliage). It’s made me reconsider what field I’d like to get into. I love seeing a massive project through to the very end, seeing the end results of weeks and weeks of hard work. But lately with working on the Crytek ‘Off The Map’ project, I have been really enjoying spending each week working with something completely different. With working on something new every week you never get into a rut where you start to get sick of what you’re working on.

I should focus on being one of these types depending what type of studio (indie or major) I want to work for. If I go down the generalist route I’m going to be more valuable to an indie developer, as they do not have the resources to employ many people. So being able to pick up any task and complete it effectively is vital. Whereas working for a major studio it would be better for them to have a specialised people on board. This is down to them having enough resources so they can employ people who are the best in their field, allowing them to create the best quality assets for the game.

But I do think there is a middle ground which benefits everyone - being flexible within a specialised job role. So a person specialising in being a character artist should be able to rig and animate as well as create the character. A environment artist should be able to use a game engine/script as well as being able to create the assets which go in them. It’s also good to show you can adopt to any type of art style, as some studios only work to one art style (Crytek go for photo realistic whereas Blizzard are known for their hand painted style)

Being ‘T shape’  is also another good middle ground. It describes a person to have some knowledge in all areas, which related to the vertical line on the T. But this person is highly skilled in one particular area, this is represented by the horizontal line in the T.

Vavles model employee

Having knowledge/experience in a broad range of skills is a bonus to any employer. As this allows you to effectively communicate with other people within the team who could have an impact on your work. So for an example if you are a character artist, it’s an advantage to at least know the basics of rigging and animating. As this will allow you to talk to the animation team to solve any technical issues with your model without being lost in translation when talking to them.

I believe this is why technical artist are highly valuable. As they have skills in programming and art creation they can work with programmers but also work with the art team effectively because they can understand the workflow/pipeline for both teams . They almost become the middle man of the two departments.

The way this course is laid out it makes everyone ‘T shaped’, as it makes you work with every type of art in a game (environment/characters/props/vehicles etc. Then you specialise in whatever area you want for your final project. ). This is why graduates from this course have a high employment rate. So from what I've researched I think to become more employable as a character artists I think the best thing I can do is become proficient in rigging and animating along with character creation.

Out sourcing is becoming more and more used by the industry. Especially with the bigger studios, in fact according to the article here http://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/outsourcing-is-fundamental 83% of studios outsource. The reason why this is happening is because the economical sate of the country and the industry along the increase of man hours required to make a AAA game. Even with budgets of 10s of millions £s, outsourcing is still a major factor for development studios.

An interesting article on ‘T Shaped’ roles:

An interesting forum debate about being a generalist or specialist:

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Work Update – Off The Map and Visual Design.

So the Off The Map group project is going really well. Everyone seems to be pulling their weight  and we’re starting to see the level come together from all the hard work we’re putting in. Seeing the quality of the work we are producing (our group and the other 2) I have no doubt that as long as we keep it up we can win this competition. Crytek seem to be taking an interest too, with posting a blog about us here (which is featured on their main page) :

It’s really nice working within a team too. As I find any sort of demotivation is thrown out the window, seeing everyone else posting their work updates spurs me on to work (even if they’re just small updates).

So since my last update I've built all the houses which are going to be used within the level. I made a floor modular system to work with, which made the process of creating unique houses pretty efficient. I basically used all my unique assets (walls, wood beams, windows etc) to make several different versions of each floor. Then with all the floors I created I could mix and match between the ground and middle floor, roof and roof objects. Using this method allowed me to create 9 different houses in a very short amount of time. Below shows the process.

All the unique assets 

All the floors which i can mix and match

The final 9 houses

I was also tasked to create the cobbled streets. This was something I've never done before - create a highly detailed but tillable texture. This new workflow taught me a lot of different tools and approaches which I can apply to other tasks. It was a difficult task to make the texture interesting , but not so interesting that the player can see that the texture is tiling. I think I got a pretty good result, the texture has a lot a small things going on, such as little puddles caught between the stones, moss growing, and some dirt/rubble as well. But not so much that the tiling is obvious. Take a look:

That’s the 3D side of things, now the 2D side. 2 weeks ago I posted my (long) random short story. Since then I have completed the storyboard for it. I’m also pretty happy with the result with it too. The piece lacks the polish of a final piece, as the idea of a storyboard is just to get an idea down. But I really like some of the compositional approaches I took. I saw this as an opportunity to push my perspective skills, which I do lack and need to improve. I wanted scenes to have a range of wide shots, looking up at the main focal point and down. I think i succeeded  I enjoyed this project a lot more than expected, and love the character ‘Oakbeard’ I got from it. So much so that when I get some free time I’m going to make a 3d model of him.    

That’s me done, ill be back soon with another work update.

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Group Project - Off The Map

The British Library have partnered up with Crytek and Game City to allowing top students from game art related courses throughout the UK to create historically accurate levels using the British Library’s maps. The maps to pick from are Stonehenge, Pyramids of Giza and 17th century London.

A few weeks back we were giving the amazing opportunity to be a part of this, plus it lines up with our group project quite nicely. We were not giving the choice on which map we wanted create, we were told we had to recreate 17th century London. I don’t blame them, as the other 2 maps are just completely uninspiring, artistically and technically. This map will push our skills as artists.

We have to re-imagine 17th century London (just before the Great Fire) in 3D, using the power  of CryEngine from Crytek. The really nice thing about this is that it’s a competition between 10 different university from the UK and I’m pretty competitive, so I’m determined to get first place and with the team we have, I know we can. If we do come in at a high place/win it, I think we have a level flythrough/presentation at Game City. Not only will that boast my self-confidence, but it’ll be a massive highlight on my portfolio to potential employers. Its experience and achievements like that which will give me the edge over other students  applying for jobs. I’m sure Game City will be full of head-hunters looking out for new talent to snap up too, I want to be ones of those people who get snapped up. So I need to do everything I can impress them.

The first week we discussed what area we wanted to do and got down some basic ideas. We wanted to stay true to the real events (The Great Fire), so as homage to it, we will model Pudding Lane and the surrounding areas.

The second week we went to the British Library where we got many pictures of the maps made from around that time. The team then started to research into the history and to knock out some quick 2d concepts. As I’m stronger on the 3D side of things, I was tasked to model a detail white box of pudding lane from the actual maps we got hold off from the library. Doing this gave the other people a good start with the concepts, as they could paint over the renders. But it also gave us a general feel of the level and a good idea on how to approach the modular buildings.

Basic whitebox of Pudding Lane

Basic whitebox Pudding Lane

The third week we prepared for our group presentations and carried on with our tasks set from the week before.

The forth week we all agreed to make enough individual assets which could be put together to make several different houses.

Below you can see an example of how we are going to approach the buildings. Creating it in a modular way allows us to create many unique houses in a short amount of time. Which is a very effective technique for the scale we want to achieve.

Selection of all the unique assets i made

Using the above assets in different ways allowed me to build 2 different houses

That’s it for now, ill post an update soon on my progress with the project. Or head over to our group blog here: http://puddinglanedmuga.blogspot.co.uk/

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Interaction Design

Different ways for the player to interact with the game other than the traditional d pad and buttons have been around since the early days of gaming. But only in recent times, since the wii came out really, that the mainstream audience has started to buy into it. But just because the mainstream is buying into it doesn't mean it’s more immersive than something 10 years ago.

I’ve used quite a few peripherals in my gaming life. Only a few have really helped with immersion, the rest have been a feeble attempt at it. Steering wheels, for example, are an absolute blast to use, especially when its link to a gear box and pedals with force feedback.  Drifting round the corner and fighting the force of the wheel kicking back couldn't really get any better for me, and that’s probably because its replicating driving a car pretty well. I don’t really have to think about what im doing, it just comes naturally (even when I didn't know how to drive), that’s down to it being intuitive.

I've never felt more immersed in a game while playing on this
On the flip side, peripherals to enhance any sort of shooting game has never worked well. Yeah, pointing a ‘wand’ at a screen is  slightly better than moving an analogue stick on a controller, but it still doesn’t feel like I’m actually there shooting a gun. Even when the wand is placed in a gun casing (oooo plastic, how realistic). When it is, it does feel kinda cool holding it and pulling the trigger, but it doesn’t feel realistic, I don’t feel like im there, holding an actual gun. This completely takes me out of the immersion, im just constantly thinking to myself that im hold this big red gun made of plastic, makes me feel like a kid and kinda stupid. One thing ive never seen in a shooting peripheral is some sort of reloading process. Pressing a button on the side of the gun to reload it really kills the realism for me. Ive never seen a gun where you can release the mag then put a new one in, id love that. Someone invent that.

The peak of gaming accessory realism...... 

As the years and consoles generations go by we’ll see loads of attempts to merge reality and fantasy together(many of them pathetic im sure).  But unless something spectacular comes outs I really don’t see any of them taking off. Video games to me, and im sure to most people are a way to chill out and break away from reality. The last thing I want to do after having had a long day of doing work is jump around and waving my hands about like an idiot. I just want to slouch on my sofa bashing some buttons. I don’t think we’ll be seeing much more of this motion controller idea. People are finally getting over the craze of motion controllers, bout time too. This article explain why in a bit more depth: http://www.craveonline.com/gaming/articles/177457-has-motion-control-failed

But one thing which I do favour with some of these peripherals is the new wave of fitness games were getting, im not a fan of it, but I think it’s a good move. I know some people hate the thought of going to the gym to work out, and find that boring. But with games like wiifit it does get people to interact with a game in a healthy and entertaining way. Marinating a healthy life is a good thing, people know that but some can’t be bothered to move out of there house to get some exercise. Developers/publishers know this too, so they are capitalising on it, and I don’t blame them. They get their money and people get healthier. Win win situation. 

One thing I love seeing on every console generation is how  each company is taking a new/different approach to the form factors and style of the console and the controller. The last few decades all consoles suffered from brickingitis. Every single one was some form of a box and a box isn’t the prettiest thing to look at. The controllers were slightly better though. The first few of them were boxes, but then they started to understand that holding a box for a few hours did nothing but hurt the players hands. So they started to look into ergonomics and put it into practice and because of that we start seeing some comfortable controllers. Now it seems like it’s pretty important factor for some people - I’ve heard of people buying a 360 over a ps3 just because the controller fits in their hands better. Also rumours are that Microsoft never did (and still don’t) well in the east Asian market as the Xbox controller was too large for their smaller hands, even still when they released a smaller controller to suit their needs . So it seems like people are starting to express themselves with their wallet. Making it big business for companies to get it right.

Really wish people didn't kick off about this. Its supposed to be very natural to hold

Another thing developers/publishers are trying to push alongside these new motion controllers is 3D. To me 3D enable games are just developers jumping on the whole 3D bandwagon to milk a bit more extra money from the ill-informed customer. I don’t believe it adds anything to immersion or gameplay. Also with the current state of 3d technology and popularity, it alienates a big percentage of the market because very few households have a 3d ready tv and some people do not react well to playing 3d games for long periods of time, if at all ( Im one of these people).

I will hand it to some companies trying to do something new, but some of them are really going in the wrong direction. Take this article for example:
The first one is a helmet you put on to “feel the impact of getting shot in the head”. Yeah that’s something I really don’t want to experience when playing a FPS.

Monday, 18 February 2013

The Random Word Story

So last week we was given 15 different words, we then had 30 seconds to write down any related words to the original word. Then with the string of related words we had to form a semi comprehensible sentence  we had to do this with all 15 words. After we had all our sentences we had to make a short story using these sentences.

Now because most of the sentences i got were very strange/odd the best thing i could do with them was create a short childrens story, which is what i did. I got to admit, i actually quite enjoyed it.

Below is the story, enjoy:

Oakbeard And The Egg

In a solar system far far away floats 3 colourful planets. Each of these planets had a completely different colour, which reflected their environments. The planet closest to the sun, which is a tiny little thing,  is completely covered in a scorching hot desert, dubbed the ‘Dustball’ it shines with a bright orange glow.  The planet furthest from the sun, ‘Deep Blue’, has a surface of patches of ice surrounded by deep sea. In the middle of these 2 planets is ‘Terragreen’. This planet is filled with lushes green forests. Terragreen Is the only planet of the 3 to inhabit people, the other 2 just inhabit nasty monsters trying to survive within their harsh environments.

Terragreen is the new home to Oakbeard. Oakbeard was the captain of a very unique space pirate gang. What made them unique was that they are made completely out of wood. Oak to be precise. After centuries of treasure hunting Oakbeard  gave it up as he was getting too old for it, his ageing and infested oak legs couldn’t handle the running around anymore. So he decided to use his vast knowledge of years of treasure hunting to become a teacher. He felt that giving back to the community would make up for all his evil doings as a pirate.

Oakbeard settled on Terragreen as his new home, and got a job at the local school as a teacher. As Oakbeard was extremely knowledgably in his field and always had an interesting story or 2 to tell his classes were always jammed packed - 45 seats to 75 children. The sad thing is that all his stories and knowledge was falling on deaf ears as all his students were some of the most unintelligent children in Terragreen.

He decide that just lecturing them in school just wasn’t doing them any good, they needed to learn in a more practical sense. So he arrange a fieldtrip to the local forest as the children were currently learning the ecosystem of Terragreen.

It was all going well for Oakbeard and his students after a few hours of being in the forest. His students were actually learning something, exactly what Oakbeard wanted. But this was about to change. 3 of his students were getting restless and they decided to wonder off from the pack, these students were always up to no good. A short while after splitting up from the main pack they came across a giant black rugby ball, with throbbing veins across its surface. Kids being kids, they started to toss the ball about and after a few minutes of the ball being  bashed about it started to rumble, one of the kids dropped it to the floor. It then started to shake violently, it started to break apart, like something was hatching from it, and something was.

A giant beak broke though the shell, then claws. The kids started to back off from it, but had their eyes fixated on it. A giant chicken arose from it, but this chicken was something different – its beak wasn’t connected to its head, it was floating around its head. The kids froze with shock not really knowing what to make of it, the chicken took advantage of this and charge towards the children. The chicken  gobbled up 1 of the 3 kids quickly. The last 2 children didn't have any time to process what just happened and just automatically sprinted off, desperately trying to find to rest of the group.

Oakbeard and his group just reach the largest and oldest tree in the forest ‘Skyscraper’ the locals call it. The remaining 2 children barge through the group of children to reach Oakbeard. They try to spit out what horrific events just took place to Oakbeard. As doing so the chicken can be seen charging towards them from the distance. Thinking quickly Oakbeard hurries the children into the hollow trunk of the giant tree, and rolls a giant stone to cover to hole. A loud thud can be heard as the chicken collides into the tree.

Amongst the panic between the children and Oakbeard a tall green squirrel emerges from the shadows and tries to calm them all down, the squirrel succeeds after a little while. Little to everyone’s knowledge, even that of Oakbeard, the tree that they’re sat in is the home of Green Nut – A tall green squirrel, the oldest and most wisest creature in the forest. He then goes on to tell them the tale of the ‘chicken and the egg’.  The chicken will not rest until it has eaten the one who disturbed it, the only way to stop it, is to kill it.

Oakbeard saw this as an opportunity as another way to make up for his centuries of plundering honest people as a space pirate. He told Green Nut that he was up to the task to banish the chicken, but his woodworm infested legs was not. This didn’t faze Green Nut as he had just the thing to bring a bit of life into his rackety old legs. The silky smooth wig of healing. Oakbeard was a tad sceptical to start with, but gave it a chance. Green Nut took off Oakbeards hat and placed the wig on his head. He felt a rush of warmth run through his body, from head to toe. As this happened his old splintered wooden body started to change into a solid highly polished wood. He barely remembers the last time he had a body like that.

Feeling revitalised Oakbeard pulled out his trusty sword, which hasn’t seen action for a good few years. He rolls the giant stone to the side to make a gap he can squeeze through. He jumps out, attempting to lunge at the chicken which has been stood there all this time, waiting. The chicken dodges Oakbeards attempt to hit it. The chicken flies upto the higher branches of the Skyscraper to gain a height advantage, but Oakbeard quickly follows, climbing from branch to branch. They both settle on one of the highest points of the tree to battle it out.

There’s lunges and swipes from Oakbeard as he tries to slay the chicken. But it’s no match for the agile chicken, who can easily dodge his attacks and tries to counter with a devastating peck. This goes on back and forth until the heavens started to open up and it started to pour down with rain, making the mossy branches of the tree slippery. The chicken made its last lunge for Oakbeard, it slipped, plummeting  100’s of feet to the ground.

Oakbeard is greeted by cheers  and thanks by his students as he makes his way down. After moments of pats on the back and hugs from his children he noticed the slain chicken which lays emotionless on the floor starting to transform. It starts to form into a giant egg, similar to the one which it came from, but instead of being black and veiny, it was smooth and gold. This egg then started to hatch, a hand forced its way through the shell. Large chunks of shell started to come off.

The boy ate by the chicken earlier emerged from the egg, but they were hardly recognizable. Instead of being this, clean fresh faced child, he is now grotesque, probably down to being half processed by the chickens stomach.  

Oakbeard thanked Green nut for his help and gathered all the children to head home. They needed a rest after this ordeal.

 No one noticed but as the child stepped out of the egg, another smaller egg  fell out and rolled down the hill. But this egg was black, similar to the one the 3 kids came across before.

The black egg lays there in the forest waiting to be hatched again.

The cycle continues.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Mortal Engines : Done.

So that massive project is all handed in, finished, kaput. I've come away with a massive smile.

Why? I hear you ask.

The project went really well for me, in terms of the end product, art quality, learning outcomes and time management, that one especially. Don’t get me wrong, i've been pretty stressed the last few days but know where near as much as I used to be, plus I had a lot more on my plate than usual. And that’s all down to planning. The last week leading up to the project I made daily mile stones, I didn't go to bed or chill out until they were done, I guess it all paid off as todays been (relatively) stress free. Definitely going to be planning my projects like this now.

As we had to rig this model I really wanted to show it off, compositionally anyway. In  one of my lectures recently it was said that triangles are powerful things, so I kept that in mind when posing my model. I kept the feet wide apart pointing to the bottom corners of the image. I also incorporated into the design was the bright blue braces which standout from the brown colours of the model which diagonally runs from the top to the bottom which helps guides the users eye into the ‘compositional triangle’.

I also tried to pose him in a stance that looks like something has just happened/alerted him and he’s trying to ground himself against something. (Maybe a Gut Worker revolt?).

I've taken today as a well deserved rest day, then back to catching up on VD work tomorrow.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Mortal Engines Update

So I’m moving along with this project as quick as I wanted too, which makes a changed, and because of that I’m feeling less stressed and motivated – win win situation.

Since my last post I've managed to get the high and low poly finished, as well as the unwrapping. Which I've done in a fairly short amount of time, but im putting that down to using new software I've been meaning to use a a little while now.

The highpoly was mainly made by sculpting and a bit of hard surface modelling. Hard surface modelling is something I want to do a lot more of, as it’s a very hard skill to master and because of that, pretty valuable to potential employers.

I am happy with the results, I especially like the boots which were made by hard surface modelling then touching it up in zbrush. The anatomy’s not too bad, it’s fairly accurate, but getting that skinny toned look has been troublesome. But I think my biggest weakness are the folds on the trousers, they don’t look overly natural and don’t reflect the material too well (which is cotton). Next time ill study more references, possibly by take a picture of myself wearing them in a pose and use that. Im tempted to get this too : http://www.amazon.co.uk/Dynamic-Wrinkles-Drapery-Solutions-Practical/dp/0823015874/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1359450304&sr=8-1

The low poly was an absolute breeze for me because of a handy piece of software called Topogun. This allowed me to import my highpoly and place each vertices and triangle accurately onto the high poly. What would have usually taken me 2 days at a push, now takes me a day. Anything to speed up my workflow i'm happy about.

Ill be back soon with a texturing update.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Mortal Engines update - Highpoly

So I'm getting on with this project and I'm actually enjoying in quite a lot, interesting themes and its character art. Double win.

So I've got my concept pretty much nailed down, but have yet to produce a final pretty concept as its time to get the modelling done. Below is a selection of silhouettes I produce, and so far I'm loving number 3, its got an interesting  silhouette and reflects the character really well – lower class’s work in the guts so they’re skinny, a lot of skin showing as they work in hot environments, because of this their skin will be loaded with burns, boils and dirt. Then a few satchels to carry tools, and a rag stuffed under his braces to wipe away the sweat, and a piece of salvage as jewelry.

Currently I’m in the sculpting stage. This is my first proper attempt at sculpting someone with a very low fat content (usually I’m sculpting super buff people or fully clothed people), and I’m having some trouble with it, especially the back/scapula. Even with a handful of references and a few anatomy books by my side I’m not 100% satisfied with it. Some parts don’t look natural – 2 different muscles/bones don’t blend in well (maybe too many hard edges/lines?). But I've been at it too long and so I've got to move onto the over items to hit my daily milestones, something I’m determined to do these days. 

Zbrush sculpt WIP

Should have the final highpoly done in the next few days.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Sound in video games

Sound in games is overlooked a lot these day by the ‘casual gamer’. When a new game comes out and we talk about it, it’s usually ‘Ah man the graphics are amazing’. I’ve never heard ‘The sound is amazing’ or the like. Which is a shame, as audio in games is just as important as the visuals, and in some cases it’s more important, as I find sound effects entice more intense emotion than anything visually. But they don’t get appreciated.

Sound in games has come a long way since its beginning in the 70s. As technology improves so does the sound. When you played games in the arcade the only sounds you got was to notify you that you fired your weapon or just died, and the difference between these sounds was a Bleep or a Bloop. Fast forward 40 years and we have a whole range of sounds, from ambient bird chirping and the crunching snow as you walk on it to bassy explosions and full orchestrated scores.

 Sound engineers back in the beginning of gaming had to actually program the sounds into the chip, which would play when triggered by an event. Now when and how to play the sound is all developed by the game engine.  Game engines can fade several different sounds in and out at the same time depending of what the player is doing, making a wide variety of sounds. Below is an interesting snippet about it with a sound engineer from Namco Bandai's Cook or Be Cooked:

"I tied [RTPC] in with the cooking times, so when a steak sizzles, it actually sounds more realistic than fading in a loop over time. This allowed me to actually change the state of the sound needed over time to give a more realistic representation of the food cooking as its visual state changed. It's totally subtle, and most people will never notice it, but there's actually a pretty complicated process going on behind that curtain.

"I (had) roughly four states per cookable object that went from beginning, all the way through burned. There were loops for each of those states that fed into each other. These were also modified with one-shots -- for example, flipping an object or moving it to the oven. We tried to provide as much variation as we could fit into the game, so almost every sound has a random container accompanied with it."

Sound has always been about to support and enhance the players experience. Unlike films, sound engineers/designers have to create music and sounds that are influenced by the player. So for example when a player fires a gun you can hear the startled birds by flying away, then after words there’s an eerie silence and you can only hear the natural environment around you, no wild life. Before the gun being let off you can hear the hustle and bustle of the jungle. This adds so much to the experience.

I’ve notice in some games players seem to lust for a certain sound, and they’ll keep playing to get that sound, that satisfaction. For instance, the COD series – Shooting and hitting an enemy online gives off a ‘tick’ sound, and something about it is so nice to hear, you want to keep playing to hear it again, making the game more addicting. So addicting I’ve read personal reviews of similar titles where people would complain saying there’s no hit sound. It’s also used to great effect in MMOs and RPGs when you level  up.

Top 5 Memorable sound is games.

There are many top name composers working in the game industry at the moment, some of my personal favourites are (in order):

  •           Harry Gregson Williams - Famous for composing the Metal Gear Solid series as well as many Hollywood hits  which is known for its superb cinematic feel, which the music and sound really help to sell. Many epic moments ive played in the MGS series I remember because of the music.
  •          Jeff van Dyck – Composed the Total War series. I Really love his work. Total War takes place across the roman empire, middle ages and feudal japan. All of these eras have very different sounds, and Dyck replicates them perfectly, and you truly feel immersed in the game.
  •          Nobuo Uematsu - Who composed pretty much all the Final Fantasy’s out there. Again just like the others, the orchestral score helps make the player have an emotional connection the story and characters.
  •        Koji Kondo - Composing most of Nintendo’s franchises over the years, such as the Zelda and Mario series. Both very emotional games.

Many games who have top notch composers (like the above) on board usually release a separate game soundtrack album as the music is so good it can hold its own as an album, and many people go out to buy it.

Good Times by Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards has been one of the most influential tracks about,  despite the ‘Disco sucks’ trend 1979 it still reached number one in the charts. It also kicked off hip hop popularity in the 80’s, and because of that it’s become one of the most sample tracks in rap ad hip hop.

Useful links:

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Start of the Mortal Engines character.

So I've been waiting for this project since last year, it’s been a long time coming. I've always had a massive passion for character art and just want to create characters all the time. Pity the course doesn't have more character based projects as I think they are a great way to learn game art as they’re so complex. But on the flip side it can be overwhelming at times.

So for this project we have to create a character inspired by the book, Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve. I read this book through the summer, and while it is a pretty tame book it does a great job of painting a mental picture of characters and environments. Which is a concoction of Victorian post-apocalyptic steam punk (mouthful..)

Before jumping the gun and I start modelling, I’m going to do extensive research as I really want this piece to shine. I’m currently re reading the book to jog my memory, and I’m gathering inspiration from similar themed films, I've just watched ‘Book of Eli’ and maybe later ill dive into the Mad Max films. As I’m surrounding myself with sources of inspiration I’m making many notes, and creating moodboards (see below). So far I’m liking the ‘Salvage Men’ in the book, who work in the gut of London surrounded by fumes and fire as they dismantle and salvage anything from the recently consumed city/town. I think it’ll be fun to really play on their poor, dirty twistedness.

Ill be posting some basic concepts within the next few days. Check back.

Monday, 7 January 2013

New Year, New Semester, New me

I think ive made this post several times, but this is the last time, promise. I’m sick of feeling like this. This is also the last self pity post im making too.

So while being dropped off from  home to uni by my brother I had a 2 – 2.5 hour lecture/motivational speech. While he does go on, he does have a point, several of them. He gave me several tips on how he deals demotivation which I think is my biggest problem. One of them is to think about how not doing that bit of work now means you’ll have to deal with it later, so something else might not get down, which means ill fail at the module, then maybe the course, then what do I do if that happens? Basically I got to think of all the negative things which could happen and their knock on effects if I don’t do it, and that’ll motivate me to do that piece of work.  

Im going to start the gym back up too. I did it over the summer and I just felt mentally better and motivated. Its seems to set me up for the day if I do it in the morning, which im going to need as the work load is increasing this semester. Healthy eating too, my brain needs food, and its not cheap pizza, burger and chips.

Oh yeah, and 'Man up' too.

I’ll be putting all of these into place asap.   

Expect a new blog post soon.

Friday, 4 January 2013


Even though we are art students, so we communicate mainly through visual means it doesn’t mean we shouldn't can’t use words to communicate ideas. Sometimes reading something is just more clear cut than pictures, it gets to the point straight away, especially for technical stuff.

We have these documents  to explain areas which pictures cant. Such as technical specification, target market, story, gameplay elements, funding etc. Its these documents which gets your game approved and funded in a professional setting, so if you can’t do this well then you won’t be producing your game.

Documentation in my third year is going to be a major aspect of all the work I have to do. So to get some practice in (as practice makes perfect) im going to produce a small document on a game ive always wanted to produce. Due to some lucky circumstances I kinda did when I joined an indie team,  but like with 95% of indie teams we disbanded  and the game was left 25% finished - it was still an experience nevertheless.

Project Outline

To create a fast paced, online, third person action game based around the height of the roman empire conquering Britain.

Up to 64 players (32 players each side) choose to play as either the Roman Legion or Barbarians, with the choice of 4 classes each side supporting different play styles. Players battle it out through several match types to earn experience to upgrade their class and attributes, as well as cosmetic appearance.

PC exclusive to provide an excellent online gaming experience with superb visual quality, and to keep costs down to a minimum (less licensing costs)

Rated 18 -To offer the most realistic experience to the player (War is not pretty)

Software – 3DS Max, Photoshop, Zbrush and UDK.

Learning Outcomes

Create realistic character models
Historically accurate weapons and armours
Photo realistic textures
Strong player silhouettes to differentiate between classes easily

Technical Specification

  • Lead Character

For the base model the players chooses between a selection of pre made head and hair types for each class to stick on the body. (This keeps art quality high compared to ‘feature sliders’ while still having a personal touch for the player).

Heads - ~2000 tris with 512*512 Diffuse/Specular/Normal
Hair - ~300 tris with 256*256 Diffuse/Alpha
Body - ~6000 tris with 1024*1024 Diffuse/Specular/Normal

Depending on what class the player picks, and the level of their class , the armour and weapon specification can change, but the max is as follows:

Armour -  ~4000 tris with 1024*1024 Diffuse/Specular/Normal/Alpha
Helmet - ~ 1000 tris with 512*512 Diffuse/Specular/Normal/Alpha
Weapons -  ~ 750 tris with 512*512 Diffuse/Specular/Normal/Alpha

  • NPC

As this is an online only game there is not many NPCs, but one of the levels is based inside a gladiatorial arena. The stadium is filled with a crowd, 100s of NPCs. As there are so many NPCs the poly/texture budget has to be very small so not to effect performance.

Male - ~ 1100 tris with 512*512 Diffuse/Normal
Female - ~ 1100 tris with 512*512 Diffuse/Normal

Example of the male crowd character

  • Vehicle

Players who reach a certain level will unlock a horse to use.

Horse - ~ 5000 tris with 1024*1024 Diffuse/Specular/Normal/Alpha
Equipment - ~ 500 tris with 512*512 Diffuse/Specular/Normal/Alpha

  • Environment

There will be many different environments to reflect Britain at the time, such as thick forests, mountain ranges, small villages, fortifications and gladiatorial arenas. Triangle and texture budgets for these level would differ greatly as some levels have more detail than others.

Gladiatorial arena in its early development stage

  • Props

Many props will be scattered around the environment to make it more visually appealing. Below is just a few examples of them:

Selection of clay pots - ~ 1000 triangles with 512*512 Diffuse/Specular/Normal Tools - ~ 1000 triangles with 512*512 Diffuse/Specular/Normal Crates - ~ 500 triangles with 512*512 Diffuse/Specular/Normal