Monday, 20 December 2010

"most developers will produce early versions of a game that has either placeholder art or simple white, grey or orange"

Well well well, I never knew about that side of the game development process. I would have thought that all the art would have been done first then they would make stuff fit, or at least make a basic mock on paper that they know will work, then do the art then fill it in.

Its really interesting to know even vast great scenes with beautifully designed environments and buildings were not based around the art but the art round them. I remember seeing behind the scenes on games where they had the grid style walls and colourless objects, most memorably in Ratchet and Clank. In the game there was a whole secret 'museum' of behind the scenes artefacts and play test items to play with. However even after seeing these I imagined these were just untextured and simplified for testing and that they were just toggling the art on/off as they worked.

I suppose this is so they can know if puzzles/jumps can be completed etc.

this makes an artists work even more interesting with a new level of problem solving they have to achieve. I love stuff like this and which I knew about it earlier. I cant wait to move on to UDK projects and really get to feel like I'm part of a bigger picture.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

As real as it gets

Recently we had a talk from Del Walker and ex student who graduated last year and has recently been snapped up by Blitz games. He came back to tell us all about what it was like making the transition from student to employee of the real deal. He told us how he went about it and the processes he went through to improve himself over the course of the last 3 years telling us what we should expect. It was refreshing hearing it from a real ex student knowing that this was how it really was, we got all the grit on the interviews and some encouraging and inspiring talks about members on his team and how much everybody worked to get to were they were. Del seemed to be really at home already at Blitz and it really got me motivated to achieve what he had. Im hoping we get to hear from other ex 3rd years who find time to tell us about their experiences.

Compose Compose Compose

composition is quite often looked over and dismissed by art novices who cant really see beyond replicating or throwing together ‘cool’ ideas. In actual fact composition is one of the most important elements to art. Guiding the viewers eye around the work, showing story, meaning and design can all be achieved by the way the work is laid out and composed. From being into art from a young age I have been taught about how pictures can be unbalanced and be ‘heavier’ in parts pulling the viewers gaze into a void of colour, this usually occurs from the lack of or over abundance of subjects in a certain side of the work, and absence for example to the left of the work would pull all the attention away and half the picture, ‘theoretically’ would not be there. One can achieve a good composition by using scenery to carefully boarder and present the focal point of the piece, this of which does not want to be too far from the centre but at the same time hardly ever right in the middle.

Since year one I have tried to achieve exciting composition in all of my pieces, from painting through an archway to using vanishing points to guide the viewer’s attention to where I want it to go.

When working on imaginered work you can use everything you know and see in other work taken from real subjects. Artistic eye is important for seeing what will work best without exact reference, and knowing how things should behave. Work should always be self critiqued and analyzed every step of the way until the final piece is exactly what you wanted, most pictures are not the artists first attempt of the one piece but most likely a final comprised of tests and experiments to see what works best and using their artistic judgment to correct what they see. This is especially important when working in 3d because even when you have the reference it is hard to view exactly what you want to view and it takes a lot of judgement to fill in the gaps left by the 2d references you have at hand, this can be down to logical reasoning or true understanding of the subject both of which should be practiced and incorporated into your work. I have found this useful when doing this years 3D design, especially the self portrait, there are a lot of places you cant see or get a good picture of and it is down to anatomical understanding and judgment that helps fill those spaces and achieve something that looks viable and something you can be proud of.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010


The other day we were visited by Jolyon Webb and Aaron Allport who we met in our first year, they returned to give us another talk on the games industry and what we should expect. Just like last time it cleared up a lot of questions and thoughts I had about the industry and has given me a clearer picture on what I want to do once the course has ended. Recently I have been confuse as how I want to take my work with the 2D and 3D aspects but they explained the roles in detail and also what other positions involved and I really clicked to what the industry was asking for. I now feel inspired for the rest of the year now and really want to prove to myself that I’m dedicated to this as much as I love the art.

Its also reassuring that they explained the process of getting into the industry from how to get your foot in the door to the interview process, what to do and what not to do.

For now I’m going to keep expanding my skills and allow myself to fall into an area I feel comfortable and pursue it from there, my mind changed so much last year I’m hoping it settles faster this year.

Thursday, 4 November 2010


Me and steve visited GameCity in Nottingham last weekend and it was the first time I had been to a proper game convention (after missing Eurogamer Expo), even if it was a small one. The main tent was set up in the square but when we arrived we couldn’t find anything at all and looked around for ages. All we came across was a exercise demo tent showing off every consoles new views on self health and how their games will assist in self fitness, and an EA set up with a few games on that didn’t really show off anything we hadn’t seen before. After consulting the map we went in search of several locations only to find out they were all bars and places to eat and nothing to do with games. We were honestly about to give up when we came across a small cafĂ© which was hosting a small mini game related to Gamecity, from here we could ask where the hell everything was and how to get to the main events.

From then on things started looking up, we found the live demo for Crysis 2 and managed to beat the que for that followed by talking to some people in the media industry covering the event. At one point we were watching a live game workshop and were invited in after explaining we were on a games course, where we were shown what they were working on.

After a lot of demos and talking we finally went and qued for the main event, the Kinect talk by Rare. It was the first time we had seen the Kinect device first hand and got a good insight into the future of the product from Rares point of view, some live demos and a extensive Q&A session.

To be fair it was a really interesting visit for a small set up and will defiantly be attending next year.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Failing to prepare…

I always knew I was a bit hit and miss with organisation, and id always be up for the concept of an organised room or an organised shelf but I could never maintain the order. I suppose this was part laziness part boredom, id switch and swap things quickly because I couldn’t be bothered to carefully replace the items. At college the deadlines were so slack and spaced I grew into taking my time and not focusing on a timescale. I got my work done and to a good standard but was never worried about not making a deadline because nearly all the class would not be ready either and the tutors would push the deadline back almost every time.

Since university though I have really come to realise the importance of organisation, as well as organising my stuff I have learnt the importance of time management, and I learnt it the hard way. During year one there were many times where I would begin to hold stuff off until I was rushing and not finishing it to the best of my standards. However this was not because I disliked the course or underestimated the importance of the project, I found that if it was something I enjoyed I was doing it way ahead of schedule. Organisation can be part of presentation as well, another thing I feel I lacked last year. Due to lack of time id scan pages quickly and arrange them poorly. Setting something out in an appealing way makes the piece a million times better than that alone.

This year however I have forced a change after suffering harshly from the final deadline and I swore I would never do that again. After a rocky start getting back on track I have begun to work a lot more efficiently spreading my work evenly and balancing time, spending longer on things I know I struggle with and trying to practice as I go. Managing stuff in hours rather than days and putting time aside for harder longer projects as well as going out less are all part of my plan. After putting these new plans into practice I’ve noticed my work speed and productivity has increased drastically and I’m feeling more relaxed and learning more than I did when I wasn’t making time for myself. I’ve even covered the poor presentation, I’ve made a digital stamp to sign my work and began using media and presenting how I have been recommended to do so. If I keep this up I know ill be on track for success. Like I said before I worked more efficiently on projects I liked and this year I’ve loved all of them and really gone to town and tried to improve as much as possible. I think it really shows in my work.

Like they say, “Failure to prepare is preparing to fail”.

(I was going to write who that quote was from but after I Googled it each link said it was from someone else.)

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Year one was defiantly a shock, but a shock in a good way, a point in the right direction. It showed me how hard and serious things were getting and motivated me to challenge my self. It was so much more intense than the other art years I had previously taken and I have no doubt this year will be any different if not harder. Over the summer I’ve really thought about where I could have improved and how I really intend to go for it this year and catch up on a lot of self study hours. One of my biggest downfalls last year was time management and as I sit here typing this the night before its due, I’ve come to realise its still a work in progress.

On a more positive note I have really started to do personal work in both areas of game art but I’m really trying to push visual design as I feel I’m on the verge of seriously stepping up my skill level. I’ve studied peoples work on Facebook and magazines and am picking up techniques that I’m adapting and learning from.

Last lesson we talked about dream jobs and future goals and mine would have to be working for Insomniac Games, the makers of my favorite guilty pleasure, Ratchet and Clank.

They’re the ones who got me into game art in the first place, finding the concept art tab in the pause menu after you complete the game was the first time id really seen game art and loved it. Since then I’ve been obsessed with the art that goes into games and would love to introduce my artistic creativity. For ages I was all about the concept artist but as I’ve become more aware about the industry I have learnt it is a very specialist job for very specialist people and even if I did manage to develop the mad skills it takes to pull it off I think I still wouldn’t want it as a job. Its just too self dependent and hard to find work but luckily for me Id love to work on landscapes or characters, hell id even be happy making all the small boring assets as long as it all required some form of creativity and flare. I’m still indecisive about 3D and 2D but enjoy them both and as the year progresses I will have I better idea of an ultimate goal.

Until then I intend to continue studying every aspect of game art and exploring each new technique and skill I pick up along the way. I want to get fully submerged in Photoshop and start reeling off speed pieces slowly evolving a style. I just can’t wait to get creative in year 2!

Monday, 15 March 2010


I was just about to begin this blog post and read a little more down the page,

“We'd like to look at film in some detail, we're planning more on digital art origination and visual art theory. There will be more formal lectures covering things like key games, and we're planning to integrate the video tutorials into a more formal structure. We'd like to get out of the Uni more, and increase the amount of non-computer work, like sculpting for example. We've even had a suggestion for doubling the amount of traditional art...”

This sounds exactly what I wanted to hear, I love the arts side of it and would love to work in both digital and traditional but a chance to express my traditional art would be amazing. For me personally I think this course is structured really well, the pace is just enough to keep you on your toes but give you enough time to really enter your thoughts, I really enjoyed the sculpey task we were set and more hands on 3D like that would help some people get there head around the Max modelling. Recently our tasks have really taken a creative leap while staying in the boundaries of skill building. As far as the films, I agree we should analyse and crit them, id really enjoy seeing how various media bounce off one another.


I have to say I didn’t know much about the GDC and was surprised to read how amazing it looks, I have always known about E3 but this appears less of a convention. I was just flicking though the timetables and stumbled across a ‘Building an Open-World Game Without Hiring an Army’ talk. Its things like this that make me want to be in the games industry, I really love seeing people’s problem solving initiative and I admire it. This particular talk was on the game InFamous, which I myself have played so I could relate to what they were over viewing. I remember playing it and being amazed by the detail and style of the city, now knowing there was only a dozen artists im even more blow away. There is one part with a giant tower erupting from the city and I remember looking down at ground and thinking it must have taken a lot of people a long time to achieve.

From just reading the overview it appears they use various techniques allowing everything to fit with everything else and are able to change the appetence of buildings without changing much of the model structure. Then shortening the field of view and focusing on unique structures and how it all added to the final effect. I found just this small overview enough to make me wish I was there, I take a strong interest in the evolving game world and the creativity that goes into making things look right even if there’s not much to work with.

Where will this all take me?

So far ive really enjoyed the course and its really taught me so much already. I really enjoy the visual design side of things and am angling for something down that path, I can feel myself improving with every lesson with Chris and every task he sets, and now that the core knowledge is being put into place our weekly tasks are really opening up and I hope I can carry everything I have learned over onto these new tasks and really prove myself. I had never done 3D before here, I enjoy the development of the ideas and the execution of the tasks but I find my self getting bogged down on certain parts, its all about remembering processes and the more I work the closer I get to grasping it. The creative elements are not stopping me, I just need to get my head around how to go about it and hopefully the pace will quicken. So yes, I take a keen interest in all the fields I just feel that my visual is developing at a stronger pace. Im not closing any doors and will have to wait for feedback before I move on down this thought process.

Creativity and me

Creativity is ummm.. creative. Creativity is really amazing, everything around us man made was brewed up from someone’s mind, just merely a thought that this one said person chose to expand on and show others who in turn took into their creative mind and expanded and refined. Its amazing how much technology has exploded, they say we are merely a speck on earth’s massive calendar but we have changed the world more than any other living creature. I think what it really was, was curiosity which lead man this far, wanting to know the unknown and then wanting to play with it some more after. But I also feel creativity helped, having the ideas, strokes of genius on how to go about doing stuff.

Its pretty ironic I cant think where to go with this blog, and even more ironic that I see my self as creative and resourceful. Ever since I was little I would play with the simplest of things.

“I could sit there in a waiting room and let my mind wonder with what I had to interact with like a pair of glasses for example I could see it as a robot walker standing on its long thin legs, slightly curved at the end for counter balance with two great solar panels at the top for power.”

When I was bored in school or while revising I would constantly be making things with stuff I had in my pencil case or just the paper in front of me. At college I made a whole crane rig system out of thread and card and a hanger hook that could move a hook around my desk just to see if I could steal my friends ring shaped crisps.

I think everyone has creativity but a creative personality is that which studies the idea long enough for it to blossom, to adapt and change thought processes and absorb all the information. Imagination is a powerful thing and that coupled with creativity allows the ideas to come from your mind.

Creativity is everywhere, from the start of time it has expanded and altered our world even in the smallest of ways. (Just like those curly laces you had when you were a child that you didn’t need to tie).

Who's right?

“Some game companies want highly trained graduate artists and programmers. Some claim they really prefer creative individuals with a good Liberal Arts background. They can?t both be right can they?”

I can see sense on both sides, while on one hand its obvious why companies would want experienced pros I can also understand why companies would look for creative fresh original talent even if its from a more libral arts based background. Obviously they’d have to be good at arts too but im sure this background has its pluses.

Just speaking off topic to fill in some space, I think this course is really a true game arts course as apposed to the many others I viewed, while all claiming to be game design and very arts based this is the only one I knew of under the name of Game Art Design, here I feel I am taught way more arts based stuff than I ever thought I would be on any of the other ones (which is great!). I felt as though they had pushed the art aside and just built up on core skills generic to the industry.

Anyway.. maybe im more pro- highly trained graduate artists, after all it would take too much time and money to train up someone who knew little of the industry but was hired on an intellect basis.

Music and Sounds in games

Music plays as important a role in games as it does in Film and Televison. It is used to create suspense, a sense of awe and dramatic quick passed action, without sound in our games most would be lifeless and not be able to hold attention long enough for even the first cut scene. My personal favourite is when sound is used to emphasise a vast landscape filled with a safe friendly vibe or sense of mystery. Sound in games however can be used on other levels unlike film and other media. Because a game is interactive, sounds can be used to help the player, or manipulate their own play style. For example, secret areas can be signified by a short twinkle or a dramatic 5 second track, a heartbeat can tell you that your character is low on health or is struggling. The more the player plays along side these sounds the more subconsciously attuned they become to the game and the more enjoyment and reward the player will feel. For me I remember the shrill dramatic sounds of the Tomb Raider games, even finding a secret area ended with a sudden loud chime which almost every time scared the life out of me especially when I was on my toes after a dramatic music build up. Also the cinematic within Halo for me are filled with beautiful orchestral vibes that I just cant get enough of, it really enhances the games feel and drama.

Game Engines

So everyone knows about games and what they look like and how they feel but what are the building blocks of a game? Instead of reverting to raw code every time a developer decides to create a game they will use a starting point called a game engine. This is what allows physics, audio, graphics and rendering and a whole host of other aspects. The developer will start with this basic core structure and build on it until it is a diverse and original game. Games can all use the same engine and still be amazingly unique, its like the engine is the canvas and paints for an artist and the artist then using the same materials creates a range of completely different masterpieces. Now, not all developers own their own engines and they are faced with the option of constructing their own or buying the rights to another pre-made one. An advantage of buying the rights is that it is ready and waiting to get building on and it is hopefully reliable and accurate. A plus side of making your own, if you have the ability to would be that you could create something with totally new and unique properties, new more realistic physics and graphic quality, (Geo-Mod engine for Red Faction) but then of course you have to make it and this is time consuming.

There are two ways the games can be made from these engines, additive and subtractive. An additive design is one where the developer starts with nothing and builds in a sky box, slowly filling in the world from within the sky box. Engines like the Half life and Quake engines all use the additive method. The subtractive method begins with the opposite of the additive, a infinite solid which the user begins to hollow out into the world, this will reduce the chance of leaks (empty space outside the game being visible) but is a little trickier to handle. Game engines that use this method are ones like GeoMod and Unreal.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Games Culture

Am I part of any games cultures? I don’t know, I know what im into, action adventure and puzzle. I’d have to say the closest I get to being part of anything though is probably within MMO’s although I don’t anymore. I used to play GuildWars, a fantasy MMORPG of which I would play for hours, I think it’s the idea that it’s a real thriving community that evolves as you play, people discover ways to bypass things and loop holes in the system, that’s what I enjoyed most about it. I spent far too long on GuildWars, too many hours to say but each one was fun and fulfilling. I started playing the role-playing story side of it but it soon simmered down to player vs player where you could really go to town on the way you chose to set up for battle, finding the perfect balance of skills was what kept me playing for so long, and the thrill of victory as you take down a well known and well feared fighting type, it’d take too long to explain what im on about but take my word for it, it was fun. I had a few friends on GuildWars that I talked to about lots of different things not even related to the game, even though I didn’t know them in person, I got to know I guy who was playing in his spare time but worked fixing military aircraft and was situated on a foreign base, I don’t know how true any of that was but it was a fun concept. Also as you may have guessed, on of the main features of GuildWars is that you are part of a Guild, during my early playing days I was part of a really social American guild and it was really fun, but they all left for WoW. Now I suppose I could say im part of the xbox live community although for me that isn’t really social, I just enjoy that because it’s more satisfying to win against a real opponent than a computer, way more satisfying.

Games Industry, still holding strong?

Everyone who’s anyone knows were in a recession, something affecting nearly everything in the economy, but how about the games industry, it’s hard to tell. Many CEO’s have said that the industry could pass through the crisis virtually untouched. According to sales figures of December 2007, video games appeared to stay afloat while other industries retail figures fell.

I feel that whatever the economic state, entertainment like film and games will stay somewhat level due to their intentions and target audience, children and teens have to worry very little about the recession and will continue spending as long as there are new exciting things being released. At the end of the day people are still going to want to be entertained, yes they may not buy as many but the design of the industry normally works around people buying things they have been waiting and wanting for a while.

As well as all this, game hype and quality is on the rise, more money is going into advertising and developing, making more attractive games. Games like CoD have even received red carpet premieres so the industry must be doing something right.

Well if games are more or less unaffected by the recession what do they have to worry about? Id have to stay staying on top of originality and living up to peoples expectations are the main things, the industry is growing so fast its making giant leaps in technology with every sequel of a franchise. Game developers must stay up to date with this technology or they could lose there sales to a rival, and losing fans is a big deal. Because they are advancing so much, the consoles they release are going to go out of date a lot faster than before, this could be a problem when put with the financial status of the market, if they go and make better and better games for better and better consoles they could find themselves discouraging people to stay on top of new games and take their time with older games for the consoles they own.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010


A creative person has the ability to invent and develop original ideas, especially in the arts.”


To be creative is to do something worthwhile or beneficial. People who are passionate and love it enough will practice and practice what they do, they will do it because they love it, is this creativity? The ability to persist with an idea until mastered, or is having that single idea that reinvents something in a totally new and exciting light being creative?

We are all born, we discover and explore, is this creativity? I think it is, but not the same as conscious creativity, i feel that when a child grows and explores its surroundings it is self discovery not creativity that is found. As we grow we take to certain things, the things we enjoy we pursue and practice, this is a conscious creative state. However all people see this in a different light, fine art would praise creativity for the originality and self exploration or manipulation of some scene presented in a interactive or visual mannor but i feel that the simple fact of doing something for a greater worthwhile gain is creative, this course for example, yes its creative, its extremely creative, but not in agreement to fine art, if we produce work life like and of realistic design we are praised for it where as fine art would praise the opposite, with meaning. With our modelling we are creating 3d sculptures, if we were to show fellow game art students they would find it creative (providing it was good) because they understand the effort and outcome and see it as a visually appealing asset where as a less creative person like a mathematician would see it as merely a series of processes to which the same are applied to any 3d object constructed in the same way.

People are aspired to follow creativity from not only the enjoyment but for other reasons like financial success or praise. Being praised for work makes us feel good, and being able to fuel the praise means we become creative.

As far as games go i believe they are following rules and traditions because they know that design sells, they will follow the same regulations of winning formulas just to succeed, each idea can be seen as creative but in the end the process may no end up being that original. Only when they apply new outside the box theories and design can it be seen as truly creative, every now and again a game will come along that is so mindblowingly unique that most would say it was creative.

I think the idea of creativity has many different forms and views and depending on your audience it can receive different levels of praise and reception.


I think gameplay is one of the most important factors, i wouldn’t play a game without it. But what is it? I believe it is the structure of how the game handles and how rewarding it feels to play. I would say it was made up of several factors, the way you input commands, the way they are performed, How challenging vs how fluid both are, and how rewarding the overall outcome is. That is what i believe gameplay is and that is why i believe it is a definable set of rules no matter how you go about creating the game and hard ware, if you play it with your hands or whole body, if the game gives you a million unlocks and a zillion points for a kill, none of this would be fun if it wasn’t for my stated factors.

So how should they work? If you are playing the game, you want it to be easy to tell it what to do, the input needs to be fluid and not complex but hard enough to be challenging, example a button combo of five would be acceptable for an amazingly rare finisher but if you required that every time it would be boring and repetitive, same with if it was only one button to execute every skill and move. The way they are performed should be instantaneous and responsive; the A.I. should be smart enough to know if such a command was necessary, like approaching a cliff edge where the character hesitates instead of walking blind to his death. Finally the game should be rewarding to play, replayability is a good feature of gameplay, going back to the start for a reason makes you want to play it again, and having a more challenging setting makes you feel you’ve worked for such a setting. This is what makes a good game, and with that, I believe gameplay is important and exists.

Stories and character

What is it that makes a character seem important, what warms you to them, in a book it can be a deep back story that intertwines with the character at a present allowing one to understand their actions and feelings. In film it maybe the lighting shot and music that subconsciously makes you feel at the right time. With TV they can stretch it over a series giving you time to understand and warm to the characters on a personal level that evolves with time.

Now with games, they are becoming more like blockbuster epics than just mindless score stacking, so how do they do it? I believe a combination of above with a little more. In a game you can warm the same as a book and view it the same as a film but you are the character, you control their actions. This is where games should out shine the others, action and consequence. Games are becoming more choice based and are now beginning to shape a personal story to the player, alternate endings, the rise and fall of friends all of this is now being implemented to try and create a richer story. Speaking of story, of course this is the most important feature but the application of the other story tools really boosts the experience. I really like the idea of a fully immersive character and plot which can be subconsciously or consciously be manipulated by the player for a unique experience they can share with fellow gamers, ideas like Mass Effects background carry over, which uses the previous games save file to manipulate the plot of the new game I find really interesting. Games like this are what will carry the games into the future, of course we can keep all the mindless violence and gore too.

Games Technology

Over the years hardware, like the software it provides has evolved in style as well as complexity. More time has been put into the way we interact with the consoles hardware and the way we input information. At first the console designs were practicality based, it plays a game and we control in the simplest way. Now console manufacturers are thinking about the design and interactivity of such consoles to provide a better experience for the user. My first console was the Playstation, it was one of the first to use disks making it sleek and innovative at the time but looking back now its appetence is clunky and grey, such a bland and practical colour. Later I upgraded to the PS2 and that was a major improvement, its ability to free stand was unique in its self however the input method was the same controller. Now the 3rd generation consoles have taken to style in a big way, each with its unique design and functionality, the biggest step being the Nintendo Wii remote with its motion sensor technology. Player interactivity has come a long way since the two function buttons and a directional pad.

As this interactivity has evolved so has the interface the console provides, now having to work with more than just running a game consoles have become more functional quickly evolving into a a home entertainment system. System start up would welcome you to a large menu from which you can access more than just the game, from DVDs to online access. Now a player can choose to leave games altogether in one session and instead download a film or browse a social network site, maybe even through a on screen avatar.

New technology now is making the way for no controllers at all, using camera and tracking technology mixed with this browser friendly interface, one day i see ourselves browsing and interacting whilst slouched on the sofa waving a hand or standing and jumping around for more physically intense games.