Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Old Masters

Painting in the style of an old artist.

When Chris first explained the task, I was looking forward to doing all of the research, wanting to find some amazing old artist who painted simply, beautifully but also realistically. Imagining, looking for all the details such as brushstrokes, textures and layers of paint on a canvas. So I was excited to learn from them and create my own piece of work.

To start I had to find that Amazing artist so I thought about looking through the library to find an artist book and then choose from that. But a while after looking I just couldn't find one that really took my interest. So I gave up on that idea and decided to look online.

Whilst I was in the Lab I started searching again but I couldn't think of Artist names to search for, so somewhere through looking for one, I got distracted and got on Google maps and discovered a little tool where you could walk around cities. Soon I was virtually walking around Derby and I followed my bus route to college, as you do, and saw the derby art gallery.

At this point I thought it would be a great Idea to go there and look for an artist as I also needed to go home on the weekend. I visited the gallery website and found that they displayed the work of Joseph Wright (at this point Chris was there next to me and made a comment that my chosen artist must be good because of the second name.) Anyway I saw some images of his work and was looking forward to seeing it myself.

As planned, on Saturday morning I got the train to Derby and walked to the Museum. After a while of walking around I finally recognised one of Wright's paintings. I was surprised to the size of it and how amazing it really was. After a few moments of admiring it I realised that the whole room was full his work. I had a look around but this painting was already my favourite. So there I was staring at it, when the curator came up to me and started talking to me, he went on and on about the artist I don’t even remember what he said. But he let me take pictures of the painting so he was all good.

As I came to painting a final for this, I decided to concentrate on some of the close-up photos I took of the painting, so did 2 samples just as experiments.

For the final I cropped the painting down to the part I wanted to concentrate on the most and started to sketch it on Photoshop. I started on an empty layer with a neutral fill background layer. Whilst i was painting this, I was constantly looking back at the painting and trying to copy the brushstroke directions and sizes.
I noticed that the artist had also used different brushes for different areas, as the female’s body is very smooth, however the tree trunk behind her looks rough and textured. To finish it all off I applied a canvas texture on the whole painting.

Original painting -> here

Saturday, 28 March 2009

Week 24: finale

Good points: Student interaction on the course is helping me to get to grips with my work. People like Mitch helping me with my digital art and Guy helping me with my 3d as well as the others <3. I like the feedback from the lecturers its helped a lot. King us out to gather reference material and experience and encouraging us to go out on our own helped improve my work. The general timetable is reasonable.
Bad points(T_T): We could do with A3 scanners and printers in our labs. We could do with more general equipment in the labs, and not to be thrown out for the animation classes. Could have done with a wider variety of emotion in films (instead of the depressing ones).

Week 22: GDC

My portion:
There may not be a lot to write on this but I thought it would be an awesome thing to see. Mirrors edge is a new type of game and the innovative things they say they have come up with in tackling this game would be interesting to know. Also it demonstrates a creative use of rigging and a solution to some rather obscure yet difficult problems in game design. The movement system also would be cool to get a look at.

Week 21: Reflections

In the beginning (life story...), me and some friends from school thought to make a game in the future. My role was the game artist (role playing dream :P) and I would be designing characters and landscapes. Going through college we split up and the dream fell through. Now that I am here at uni. I don’t know what I want from the future. But I do know that I want to do art and that game art is a lot more fun than fine art or any other art for that matter. I’ve not put much thought into what I want to do after uni. But I hope to learn more throughout the years I am here and hope to work with some of the people I know. I think the best way to decide what I am going to do is wait till I get there. Mainly due to the fact that I don’t know what skills I will develop the most over my time here. In one of the lectures mike mentioned that if we had dreams then we should go for them. For drifters this isn’t helpful but I thought about it for ages (and got very frustrated) but still couldn’t think of anything to aim for. So as for dreams and the future we shall wait and see as for now I think I shall carry on working hard and enjoying my time here.

Week 20: creativity

Creativity is a wandering mind and experiences. If you can find yourself an idea that grabs your attention be it old or new or any idea for that matter scribble it down. Creativity isn’t just about art, its everything. What changes the idea from a thought into matter? Motivation, duty, accident? E.g. why idea of light bulb become invention of light bulb? Just to see in dark? Or something more? Everything you look at is someone’s brain child. Everything you listen to and everything you do is someone’s inspired idea. Things like bricks and engines and spaceships. Creativity lives in everyone and how they express it is due to how the environment they were brought up in shaped their ideas and the motivation to excel in what they do. There is no such thing as an original creation, just an inspired take on an existing thing. Things which may seem original like planes and wheels and cars all emulate nature or earlier creations to some degree. Take everything you know stick it in a jar and shake it up. Throw in everything you have ever felt, heard, touched, experienced. Mix it all up in a cauldron under a full moon on the solstice and see what comes out!
The greatest creations are usually carried out by people other than the person whose idea it was, for instance look at things like the SHC(super hadron collider) at Cern that could only have been brought about by many other people hard work. To be truly creative then you must never get bogged down on anything! You must be open to the universe and new ideas. The usual idea of a creative person is someone who thinks of 1000 ideas a day and forgets them just as quick. The reality is similar it’s the creative persons implementers that bring their creativity to life. Sometimes this is the person themselves. Other times like in most instances it’s more talented or skilled individuals that bring out this creativeness, but this also leads to a mixing in of their own ideas making it something more than it began as. A good example of this is games and movies, or architecture, or government policies, or a bank robbery. Where someone else’s idea is brought to life by others. There are those that say that creativity is borne of insanity, and those who believe it is a way that people express the way they perceive an idea or concept.
Creativity is an individual trait; it’s something inherent in all of us but emerges in different ways. From the man who murders hundreds of people and cut them to pieces (gruesome but has happened, leading to the question of the dangerous of creativity unchecked) to Picasso or Da Vinci. But what made these men great artists? Why is their work held in such awe over others?
The other side of the creative coin is curiosity. What happens when people think what if? What if I route the power through the relays this way? (They explode) What happens if I connect this to this instead? (Fork in the toaster) Or if I mix paints in this way, (Hey look! Brown!) or change code like this, (403 Out of cheese error!) or word it like this?
People talk about thinking outside the box making you creative. But in doing that all you do is create a new box for yourself separate to other people.

Week 19: the finite balance

Limited creativity versus limited technical skill. The finite balance is a war waged between the highly skilled graduates and the highly imaginative creationists. Game orientated educators have the problem of creating courses which can teach technical skill without extinguishing the students own style and creativity. Focusing on one topic namely their artworks technical aspects can get the students hung up on the little things and kill their styles. The major problems that arise are because of this. The finite balance must be reached to encourage growth and development as an artist but still leave them enjoying creating their artwork. The other problem faced is that too long on a particular piece that they are asked to do can make them become unmotivated. A better approach may be to guide them towards creating their own projects based around what is being taught at the time.

The solution! The students need to be encouraged to play games from all areas not just electronic and encouraged to redesign aspects from it according to their own style. They need to have many motivational workshops! Workshops which will inspire them to further develop their talents, these should also include going out and trying many things how else can they get a better grasp on say running through a forest or rock climbing if they have never done it? Open projects which include a list of requirements but of which the subject is open for them to decide. Once the skills have been developed then set projects can be introduced. As everyone knows that it’s easier to learn things whilst doing something you enjoy.
Enough ranting for now I think.

Week 18: sound

Sound is emotion! Even when the gamer is unaware of it the soundtrack of a game is shaping his play, in times of quiet the music is peaceful, when the action picks up so does the music. For example in halo: combat evolved, as you make that final run to the pelican drop-ship the music is playing full blast until that final crescendo when it goes to the end cut scene. Looking to key composers some of the greatest are from the east, Nobuo Uematsu (final fantasy), and Hideki Naganuma (jet set radio future), and the west’s Martin O’Donnell(halo: combat evolved). Their works have lead many gamers to inadvertently enjoy games more than they would normally expect.
Some important points in my sonic game history, hmm, they would have to be the victory music from final fantasy vii, the end music of halo, and the sound track of jet set radio future. Many, many hours have been wasted on those games intricacies.
But of course! Sound is not limited to just music, looking at games like left 4 dead where you learn quickly to listen out for the sounds that enemies make so as to avoid as much trouble as possible. Cause let’s face it if you have a huge scary looking enemy running at you shouting “Cheerio pip pip and what not” your reason for shooting it is kinda different, it also detracts from the overall gameplay.

Week 17: game tech: engines.

A game engine is usually defined as the code skeleton which has been made to render everything you see and interact with on the screen. The fun stuff! Subtractive versus additive. Subtractive has the method of infinite solid. By this it means you have basically a huge block which goes on forever and you cut out the bits you want to work in. This can also be used as an additive type, in that you can cut out a large cube to create an artificial void.
Additive begins as all good things do with nothingness. This is called the void, with additive you fill the void! (and people say doctors are playing God), first you need to create a container for what you want usually a large hollow cube. Holes into the void are called leaks, as the void leaks in. Advantages and disadvantages of buying proprietary! Advantages: There is a guarantee as to what you get to work with, they usually have most bases covered, it has a market standard of capabilities, the debugging has already taken place, and finally it comes with its own built in handling for every instance, also cheaper time-wise. Disadvantages: it’s not customisable, you are stuck using what is provided by the engine so you can’t add your own physics, costs a large amount of money, requires understanding of the game engine.

Week 16: Game cultures

Game culture is a rather weird statement. Usually people will classify people as gamers and leave it as that. BUT if an R.P. gamer where to walk into an fps party, they would be stood in a corner twitching. Ok so that was a little exaggerated. My point being that being a “gamer” is only a loose classification, there are many “cliques” of gamers from strategy to fps to rp, not to mention the new arguments as to whether or not the wii “games” count as games and if you can call them a genre or even call the people gamers. Many hardcore gamers believe this to be watering down the stock, and view the wii to be nothing more than a party game console. I have friends on msn who I have met purely through MMO’s and only talk to them online. I think I shall be reviewing this particular sub link. In my opinion the people who wrote this are acclimatised fools. The soulcalibur games where decent enough, but that’s only because they threw money at it until they could get a decent game. The controls as ever are awkward and unmanageable and take a long time to get accustomed to. The character creation is laudably bad, all it is, is dressing the basic move lists of the stock characters up in pretty costumes. The addition of the star wars special characters was a poor play to raise sales, I agree that after the initial fun of hitting guys with a lightsaber it gets old fast. They should stick to their own ideas and not rip off big titles for more sales, as it will inevitably lead to less.

Week 15: introduction to the industry.

The industry at the moment is in a state of decline. Many companies via for the top spot, but as a result the market is flooded with poor quality games. One of the major reasons for this is because the companies are willing to put the money in but not the time required to pull off a decent game. A particularly bad example of a console this has happened to is the wii. The wii suffers from a lack of originality where virtually all the games on it are cheap knock offs of past games or of other wii games.

Jobs in the games industry seem to run on the time scale. A project for a new game may start with as many as 3-4 people and as the need requires more are hired. This is something which was openly admitted in lionhead’s podcast based around the creation of fable 2.

Some of the major problems facing the industry is producing a decent game or series of games which will keep the gamer coming back for more, doing it within budget, quickly, and to get it noticed.

With the influx of cheaply produced sub-standard games on the market at the moment the future looks bleak for the games industry. Certainly for Nintendo. The Wii may be popular now but it is merely another fad, but in this risky endeavour Nintendo alienated the majority of its followers. Though that may not be much of a worry as more and more people are losing interest with the poorly produced flak of today.

Week 11: Gameplay & christmas creativity

Finally the good stuff!
This is completely useless. It basically says it exists but doesn’t even attempt a reasonable explanation as to what game play is.
This highlights some of the riskier endeavours of Lionhead’s new game. Fable 2 took a lot of risks with removing the GUI and adding things such the human emotive response hook, otherwise know as the HERH or for those of us with no imagination. A dog. Yes that’s right there’s a dog. There was a great amount of difficulty making it a worth while addition to the game. BUT with added features to it such as when you ignore it and it is injured people around you start to comment about it. The fact that the dog is customizable and trainable makes it something worth investing in, though at the start it is of little use to the player and seems more of a hindrance than a help. The other risky endeavour of theirs namely the removal of the GUI. This was a great risk, because come on lets face it how many games do you remember enjoying without a GUI? Not a lot personally.

So Game-play, what is it and how do we use it in our games? Does it matter if we do? Personally I think game-play is the wow factor, it’s the immersion into the game through the involvement of the plot and character and a smooth control system and camera. Who need all this malarkey about game mechanics and things, back to basics! If you can’t pull off the basics then you shouldn’t try anything fancy.


Creation has been a hotly debated topic for aeons. There is no such thing as an original creation, if you listen to many religious fanatics everything is a spinoff of whichever deity they believed created the world and universe. Originality isn’t so original it’s just new to the people viewing it. Chances are it was refined hundreds maybe thousands of times before hand. Take Einstein’s theory of relativity he spent the entire second part of his life trying to make it work and never succeeded. Everything he did was based off prior knowledge. Though he is quoted to say that the biggest obstacle he had was his education. Many people have said that creativity comes from thinking of the abstract and the uncommon. But how would we know what these are without having experienced them in the first place? And how would we know how to express the new ideas if we didn’t know the old.
In actuality the way that we know things does shape how we express things, but we shouldn’t let them limit them. People always believed that humans couldn’t fly. Now we have many different ways of flying. People used to think you could never reach the moon. But through ambition and hard work it happened.
The major point is that creativity is not limited by what we know, but what we don’t know.
Creativity unfortunately must be backed up with what we can do. If you look at a lot of the ancient scientists works, things like Archimedes screw and laser which where centuries ahead of their time but where the materials to make them work wouldn’t have been available.
Proving that creativity is not limited to prior knowledge, but the implementing of creativity is.
As to how I’m going to show it in my work. I’m not sure yet. Obviously my own style and understanding of what I have to do is going to shape the work more than how creative I can be. But with hard work I shall be (hopefully) looking at producing pieces with a high quality.

Week 10: The elements of game design: Story AND character.

Back and back again!
This site gives a good brief overview of what happens during a character design session, and Stressing the importance of the lead developer and the communication between the artists. It gives a good run down of the jobs of each member of the team.
This gives good perspective into the use of characters points of view to effect how the character views the game. The in depth talks about how the over the top fight scenes are subtly underplayed by the story line. The emphasis on the game is put more onto the use of different view points but it only gives it from the 2 “main” characters. This is a bit of a downside as it doesn’t give much insight into the other points of view available on the game.
Upon the use of multiple view points it shows that they are more useful than mere cut-scenes in the involvement of the player.

In house on haunted hill (a movie I watched recently) there weren’t any characters that I particularly connected with. I think this is not due to the acting but more to the script. The lines where lifeless and seemed forced. The plot left a lot to be desired in that for a horror movie there was little suspense. I chose this and not one that I enjoyed because I thought it emphasized the point that no matter how good the acting, the storyline and direction need to be spot on else the viewer will lose interest.

Week 9: Gametech.

Not a lot to say on this one, cosmetics vs. functionality.
This article is a little outdated but still fairly relevant in what it says. It misses out controllers such as that of the Sega Megadrive and the Brown box. From this article it is apparent that a lot of the changes are more cosmetic to get around patents than thought out additions to controllers. It suggests that the use of a joystick is now non existent, but in reality it has just been reborn as an analogue stick. The time of “conventional” controllers is over as the article states, although I dispute its claim that the wii-mote is the future of gaming. There is still a lot to be said for the old school controllers. They where primarily designed for comfort and functionality second. The likes of the wii-mote focuses more on its motion sensor technology than on the actual buttons. Despite the reliance on the motion sensing technology the technology itself is pretty buggy and half the time doesn’t work. The buttons are hard to press and in awkward positions. Controllers such as the 360 and PS3 controllers are still much in preference to hardcore gamers.

Another slightly outdated webpage which needs updating. This is a reasonably good representation of the progression of consoles. It misses a couple of consoles out of its list but it is a good general overview. This shows how functionality is slowly given less thought as cosmetic design is given precedence.

In terms of user interfaces from consoles I have played the best has been the original Xbox, the controllers where of an agreeable size, and the buttons easy to reach and comfortable to press. Making it a better UI in my opinion.

Week 8: The trials of storytelling

Back for another week of blog work, this week discussing storylines and their importance to games.
In the case of this game the storyline happens to the player, forcing them along a set path created by the designers. Despite the greatly praised storyline Max Payne 2 didn’t sell very well. Max Payne was hailed as a great game and won many awards due to its artwork and storylines. So in this instance it is considered a good game, where as due to its lack of sales it’s considered a drop out. The result of this is that the game is a good game but for a select audience only. This is the problem with story led games as it is difficult to target a large audience.
In this interview it is argued that the storyline of the game is less important than the emotive connection the player makes with the characters. To this end David Freeman believes that writers should be part of the whole development of the game. Which is a good plan as emotive play is gained through actions more than words. For example if you where to spend several hours of play protecting an NPC you would be rather upset where they to die. The other major point in this article is the war between complete personalised storylines and developer led storylines. The two extremes can be represented by the Sims, and halo: combat evolved. Games such as bio shock try to incorporate both personalised storyline and developer led storylines. They do this by having set “paths” which lead to alternate endings. These games are usually less successful.

So in conclusion, Storylines are an important part of game play, but more important still is the emotive connections to the game the player makes. This is what draws the player back to the game and makes them want to play. This is immersion. There are no games with out a story line, only games with “granules” of storyline that can be recombined in many ways.

Art Direction for Games

An art director? Why does art need direction?

An art director in games, simple. They are the person who makes sure it all stays on track. The person who gets the final say, And the person who’s vision will be realised at the end.

We all have our own take on the things we read and hear. Unfortunately only one person’s view of it can be put in a game. That person’s ideas are what we see in the final project. That person is the ART DIRECTOR!!! –Insert super hero music-

They answer to no man! Accept the publisher, and the customers, and the developers, and the programmers…ok so maybe they answer to a lot of people, but that’s not the point here. They have control over how the game looks on the whole and the final project. In terms of creativity it’s probably the best place to be when doing the game art. If you are the artist you are restricted by what the director wants doing.

In relation to films and things, it’s pretty similar. The only major difference is between live action films and game art, otherwise it’s pretty much the same. The only difference with live action is that it’s more about getting people to do what you want so there is less freedom.

For an art developer what you would need to be. You would need to be steady; if you keep going off on tangents then you are never going to get your game finished! You need to be brave! You shouldn’t be scared to try out ideas, and you certainly need to be able to stand up to your artists and programmers. And of course you need an imagination! No point making a boring game where you have little input.

From Pong to Next-Gen?

Game play what game play? It’s all about the cinematics baby!

Or so many games developers believe, games such as Lost Odyssey have almost as much cut scene time as game play, but who wants to sit and watch the game be played for you now-a,-days?

So down to basics. What is game-play? If game designers knew it would probably lead to a cult game being created. There is no definitive meaning of game-play, BUT there is a quick and dirty meaning. This would be how engaging the game is coupled with how the game flows. Lets be honest now, if the game story is patchy, the cameras are dodgy and the control system makes no sense then how long are you going to play for?

Who are the leading lights in game design? Both the top and bottom places go to Nintendo –insert applause- Nintendo has managed to capture the largest range of people to plays its games ever seen. At the same time they have alienated the target audience of games from their console. For online play Blizzard still maintain one of the longest running and most successful online games, namely World of Warcraft. Electronic Arts hold the top spot at the moment with the mass platform game spore. This game not only allows players to completely customise their characters but to keep doing it, to the point where they meet other players creatures.

Most games to me are a way of wasting time.

Why write when you can play?

After reading this article it can be summed up with 3 words. Lie, Cheat, Shout. This is the basics of what he is saying, Make your game, and kick up as much of a fuss about it as you can. Go as far as you can to make it known, in the case of introversion it worked. People will be on your side as everyone loves an under dog! Just sell the idea that your game is good no matter what its about and then worry about making it good. Most importantly know your audience! No point trying to make a game if it’s not going to appeal to your target audience.

As a standalone review this is a pretty poor example. Despite the person writing it showing signs of being a boy racer, they show a lack of knowledge to the current standards of gaming. Despite the obvious flaws in this review it does bring up some points. He mentions his friends liking it, which means it has the beginnings of a fan base and also mentions some technical sounding things. This shows that there are people who aren’t hard core gamers are buying games though! Which shows that even games which are as poor quality as Project Gotham racing 3 can still get a good review.

With articles such as this one, how can you not want a good review? Things like this sell games, even simply to satisfy a gamer’s curiosity.
The links here are truly un-miss-able they give a good idea as to the scope of reviews towards games and how wide the market actually is.

Writing about Games.

Back for more!

It’s a sad fact that in today’ market almost all games are sold through reviews. Look at the multitude of magazines and sites dedicated purely to game reviews e.g.

This is not as bad as it seems! Impress the long time gamer analyst panel and all the testers and you have got yourself a good review. Or better yet bribe them. But either way, get a bad review and your game won’t sell.

So here’s the problem how do you impress a bunch of dolts who are set in their ways and know what they like. Whilst still making a new and imaginative game?

The answer is you don’t! You rip off an older well know title, and then dress it up as much as you can. This is the basis of modern games design. I mean come on look at final fantasy!

But even still there is hope!! Despite the idea of bad reviews your game can still sell. This is through the power of marketing. Get enough flashy lights and skimpy outfits and your game will sell despite poor reviews. The wonders of target audiences.

Well enough of a rant for now and on to better and brighter things! Like sleep!

A history of computer games Part three: 2000s - the future

The 21st century is a near standstill game-wise. With many similar looking and handling games coming out there is very little in the way of progress. That is until the release of the next gen consoles.

With the release of motion sensitive and wireless controllers gamers have a much more involving game, which means that the graphics have to keep up. Release of blue ray and HD screens leave game artists with a dilemma. How do they improve the graphics? The problem occurs with the beyond realism effect. This was over done in many of the earlier games. The cause is artists trying to improve the games by making the colours more vivid, in many cases to the point of near blinding the gamer.

By the time these consoles where out there were many health warnings and restrictions in place. This was due to several recorded incidents of people dying from excessive game play. This restricted the development of many games and put a hold on all game production till consoles and games could be safety tested and protocols put in place for the safety of the clientele.

With the development of entertainment pods, and research into total immersion software such as VR suits gaming is flying to new heights. The easy access to quad core processors leaves many gamers thirsting for faster paced and graphic heavy games. This leaves the market open for anyone who can offer a better delivery system of the games, and for development of more powerful game engines

A history of computer games Part two: 1980s - 1990s

The middle ages where the revolution of gaming. A massive increase in technology allowing smaller chips to be made meant more powerful graphics engines could be run. Programmers and game artists had more at their disposal than ever before to show off their skills, pushing the boundaries of the technology available to them.

The 1980’s gave birth to many amazing games which are still played to this day. Games that where played on the old consoles like Atari and master system are being reborn onto mobiles! These games; asteroids, sonic the hedgehog and others like them are still counted among some of the best concepts written to this day. The 80’s was the birth of many small freelance enterprises such as bug byte software, not to mention the larger corporate enterprises such as Nintendo which are still running to this day and producing the next generation of consoles for young gamers.

The creation of True basic in 83 gave rise to a new series of games allowing gamers to come off the line mapped games of the past. In 1987 chipsets where starting to be found on motherboards allowing more memory and processing power to be available. This coupled with the introduction of the GIF (general image format) meant that computer art could step out of the 1d and into the 2d.

During the 80’s there was a major crash in the games market .A lack of originality and copyrights led to many versions of a single game flooding the market with refuse. Around this time (c. 1987) Apogee was founded; well know to this day for its games, and as having released the first shareware game.

And THUS! We now give birth to the 90’s gamers.