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:

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:

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.