Monday, 16 January 2012

Lets Reflect: Visual Design

So first semester in my Game Art Design Degree, I have progressed massively and have to say these have been some of the most productive months of my life! Although there’s ALWAYS time for more to do and learn so here I am going to go through my progress from the first week to the Christmas break.

The first week: One Point Perspective
We were told to produce 12 thumbnail sketches and one final of this Canal very close to our Faculty building, so there we sat doodling away in a damp, windy environment. Treating every line like it’s our last with a sense that we are here because we have got something to prove, well that’s what I was thinking, but today I must say my state of mind is very different.

The second week: The Archway
So here it was the same idea, same fundamentals but a different place. I was kind of adapt to one point perspective having a Product Design background in A-level but to apply to something with intense detail and no symmetry did prove to be something of a challenge. I found myself struggling to convince materials such as stone, rock, leaves, or grass and had to attempt different techniques some of which were very tedious but educational to complete my final. 

Week Three: 2 point perspective
Ok so week three came along with the assignment of going into the city centre and sketching buildings in two point perspective. Before hand our visual design tutor Chris gave us a brief explanation of what was expected and how to do it. I found this a very educational task because to break down architecture onto paper is not easy, in fact anything man made has measurements, repetitive structures/forms, as well as parallel/symmetrical shapes so accuracy was quite difficult here.

Week Four: Cars
Right, so cars were something I have had an interest in since a kid. Though I hadn’t drawn many up till this point I really wanted to understand vehicles to the extent at which I could break them down on paper without reference. I really enjoyed this assignment but was not too happy with the final piece, it felt too squashed in its width but the wheels were what made me cringe the most. However it was progress and soon enough I will probably attempt a few more finals for personal practise.

Week Five: New Walk Museum
After progressing a little with observational drawing we went to the local museum that had dinosaur bones, skulls, insects and stuffed wildlife. I think for anyone wanting to become a creature artist studying skeletal structures of existing or pre historic animals is fundamental. I used this type of thinking to motivate me into going there many times throughout the week. It was also a breath of fresh air away from all the man made buildings and cars.

Week Six: Bradgate Park
This was a very interesting trip; it was foggy, wet and cold. We found ourselves in a huge, isolated park outside of the city with wildlife and historical ruins. I didn’t get a chance to even draw because it felt so uncomfortable in the cold weather, also the rain didn’t help. However, I managed to take a lot of pictures of the place, as many as I could because I knew building something of a reference library is very important for any game artist. I was happy with the progression and final although I think I may head back there in the summer for more photos as well as for personal drawing.

Week Seven: Still Life    
So this week we had the Pumping Station in Leicester on the list but it was not booked and our tutor decided to stay inside to draw objects as well as a full size skeleton. It was relaxing to do and I found it easy going compared to the previous weeks. Studying the human skeleton inspired me to look at anatomy, muscle groups and gesture. Definitely a easier week, which are rare to come by.

Week Eight: Space Centre
I went in my own time on a Saturday; it just so happens a sci-fi film based event was going was and there were dressed up star wars characters, comic book heroes, and monkeys... hah. I enjoyed studying technology meant for space exploration because it was completely different to designs we embrace in our daily lives. For example even the colours on a satellite are dominant whites or greys, only with a hint of red or blue to distinguish a simple logo and directional signs. Time well spent I think, it was definitely one of the better weekly assignments. What I did learn around half way was just because the brief suggests a minimum body of work, for example 12 thumbnails and 1 final, it is more of a “do more than” mark. Most creative things are progressive which means the more you do, the better you get so limiting myself in the earlier weeks by hitting the bare minimum I was not doing myself any favours, so this is why definitely for next semester I am working with more of a “how much can I do in a week” state of mind.

 So far I have really enjoyed this class, it’s not restricting at all and it is amazing seeing everyone’s take on the projects. I have progressed well but still believe there is a long way to go and all this is just the beginning. I will try from now on to keep updating my blog every time I complete work and try reflect on it as productively as possible; I hope doing this helps me in my learning, the idea of detaching myself from my work when trying to improve it. Just to note most of the work I put on this is post is not all of the work, instead most are finals and only a few prep sketch pages, also from now I will try put everything from each project on here. 

Sunday, 15 January 2012

My Personal Gaming History

Well... where to begin?! Let’s start with something called TV boy. I must have been around six or seven years old when one day my dad bought home this thing. It was a remote you plug into the TV, with several games on it. It was the most basic gaming system with no ability to save; games like pong; as well as other pick up & play stuff. Looking back at it now it seems so uninteresting not to mention repetitive, however at the time as my mind or technology hadn’t evolved I found myself spending so many hours in front of the TV fighting off turns with my brother to play these random games. I, and an old neighbour of mine would always be around each other’s almost all day playing video games, he had a PC with similar, very basic and repetitive games; he also had a Super Nintendo which was my introduction to Street Fighter 2! We would button bash the whole day away into this game, it was like a never ending circle rotating between the 4 of us, (my brother and his brother would pretty much always be present).
I can’t quite remember when but around a year into the SNES my neighbours dad bought a Sega Mega Drive! We must have been 7 or 8 years old, and then it got a little more serious... Mortal Kombat, Sonic, Bomber Man, Streets of Rage, and so many others I can’t recall all the names. At this point I still had my TV Boy of lameness, around the same time he had purchased a Gameboy and Pokémon Red; at this point it does seem like his parents were very nice and mine were horrible for not buying me any proper game consoles BUT I assure you it was literally because they wanted us to focus in school, hah! One of my fond memories of the Mega Drive was this one came with a small original controller, and a GIANT one with turbo buttons, a huge joystick and it was almost as big as the console itself. Oh the how fun it was to button bash with full blown fists on Mortal Kombat not thinking at all that the thing might break.
I remember very well that I was always the person who would get the “new” game console or game LONG AFTER everyone else, possibly because I wasn’t spoilt at all at birthday’s or Christmas. So summers and weekends were all spent at my neighbours and somewhere between 9 or 10 we both bought Nintendo 64’s, Perhaps the most fun I have ever had out of a console. Though he bought it way before me and my brother the real epicness began when we could play 4 players. Games like Golden Eye, Mario Kart, Mario 64, F-zero X, Bomber man Hero, Banjo Kazooie, as well as so many more were all spammed to the point at which the cartridges had to be blown in order to work. I also recall Pokémon Stadium (mainly because I forced my parents to pay £50 for it, which they didn’t let me forget easily) as an awesome game because of the multi player high score based mini games that never got boring. It also came along with a adaptor you insert into the N64 controller, which allowed you to play your Gameboy games on the TV, at the time to us this was the best invention we had ever seen.

After having some awesome times with the N64 it was only a matter of time before the Playstation came along, once again my neighbour and most of my friends had it at least a year before me... >_>. I managed to obtain the PS1 (small white one) soon enough with Street Fighter EX2 Plus, which was so much fun as I could recall almost all the characters from playing it earlier on the SNES. I remember Tomb Raider quite well although I don’t think I ever completed it, Driver & Driver 2 were both also amazing games, almost like the GTA before GTA decided to move into a full 3D platform. When you could get out of the car and get into another in Driver 2, I was more than amazed at how free I felt in game, ha...ha. Metal Gear Solid has to be one of my favourite PS1 games, the comic like exclamation marks and box disguises alongside a lengthy, detailed storyline. There was also a game called “Jackie Chan Stuntmaster” which was a beat em up single player where you basically went around kicking ass around New York. I remember renting many times although I never bought it. One strange thing I did as a kid was rent games I would never end up buying, instead I would just rend familiar titles over and over again.
Considering handheld gaming I did have my fair share of Nintendo’s Gameboys, beginning with of course the colourless Gameboy. The main game I spammed on there was like I mentioned before, Pokémon Red, just to clarify, my Megadrive and Gameboy were once my neighbours and he actually gave both to me when he bought himself a Nintendo 64, I still own the Megadrive which till this day works ^__^ . Later on as time progressed with the PS1, I purchased a Gameboy Advance, games like the Tony Hawk Pro Skater series and Pokémon Crystal do are the ones I remember most with this console, although I didn’t spend too much time on it; it was something you would bust out when you had friends round to give to whoever isn’t on the console, aha.
After around a year into secondary school my parents bought me and my brother a PS2 for our birthday (yes, I have a twin) which came with GTA 3. I must say that game was VERY awesome because you could steal cars, kill people and be rewarded in game!! Ok joking aside, as desensitising as it sounds it was very enjoyable to play bringing a strong escapism. Personally I enjoyed the easy going games like the Gran Turismo series where it wasn’t something you took seriously, something where you could have a laugh. I did however, have my fair share of RPG games such as Boulders Gate 2 alongside a few from the Lord of the Rings series. As someone who used to play a lot of football I also loved the good old footy games and Pro Evolution Soccer on PS2 was something a lot of my friends also played so it was always fun to enjoy in a group.
As far as PC gaming goes, I didn’t really play any at all, except the one mostly everyone else has played, World of Warcraft, (don’t judge me, I was young). Seriously though up till this day I still think WoW was one of those games I have most enjoyed yet most hated. Personally I think the MMORPG idea is genius as it allows everyone to compete equally to enjoy the experience as a community but at the same time it can be a breeding ground for addictions that distance people from reality. I was also one to spend more than six hours a day on this game, starting at around 15 years old, I quit by the time I was 17 as I saw it almost leeching away my life! Games such as this I would probably never go back to, but at the same time I am always interested in what new content it has to offer each time a expansion hits the stores because I am still interested in the concept. It seems games like these are very hard to play casually as it’s a never ending psychological reward system, similar to a rat in a maze being given a piece of cheese each time it figures out the way; but the maze is never ending and the rewards become very repetitive. I think WoW and other MMO’s can only be enjoyed to their potential if many of your real life friends are online with you, but still something I wouldn’t personally go back to.
Ok, WOW that’s a lot of words on my gaming history, although there’s still a little bit more to go! What do I play today? Am I a gamer? I don’t think so, not at all. Not 4ish years ago I purchased a 40GB PS3 with GTA 4; I have also been through Call of Duty 4 and MW2 although I only played both online with friends. Casually I find myself on Fifa 12 online just for a few games during breaks from university work and the last game I completed was Assassin’s Creed 2 which I must say is somewhat of a masterpiece, I found the game kept luring me into wanting more and when I finally completed it, I was satisfied with it. The most recent game I bought was Gran Turismo 5 over the Christmas break; coincidently I was working on a vehicle project; although an interest in cars is something I’ve had for a very long time. Personally when it came to games I have always considered myself somewhat of a “light weight” especially these last few years I haven’t seen myself get attached to anything nor was I interested greatly in one single game where I could proudly brag about how awesome I am at it. On the other hand, I am very interested in what the future has to hold especially a decade from now where gaming as we know it may have completely evolved into something my generation may consider alien. As for a game I would like to play today? Star Wars: The Old Republic looks really cool, as I am also interested in MMO’s I think it’s something I could enjoy, but it would possibly mean ending/failing my degree, aha but seriously it does seem like a overall, solid, in depth and interesting game as it is backed by a strong and almost every lasting franchise.

Friday, 13 January 2012

A history of computer games: The Next Generation

As we begin to address the present time of gaming with the powerful consoles of today we also notice many evolutionary steps in gaming that were not of concern before such as Blu Ray and High Definition gaming, 3D technology; as well as the massive increase in both cost development and marketing to produce top of the range content but most of all, to make the greatest overturn. Considering video games there have always been two power structures at play, the game “publishing” companies and “game development companies” appear as very different flip sides to a single coin. Game development companies for example; Bioware, Naughty Dog, Infinity Ward, are all highly motivated by the love for high end gaming, entertainment, and experience. However the publishing companies for example; Activision, Sony Computer Entertainment, Electronic Arts, are all in it for profit, the product itself is not of first priority. 

So, from these next generation consoles, we kick start it off with the Xbox 360 (2005/2006), also known as one of the ‘seventh’ generation consoles. It has reached very great success, its features include a portable hard drive of 20gb which would leave behind the idea of ‘memory cards’ in history. Not to mention its awesome online capabilities with “Xbox live” which is actually one of its greatest attractions when it comes to choosing a console in present day? Although customers have to pay for a yearly subscription it is very stable and polished in comparison to its competitor (PSN, which we will get to soon), it also hold many more features alongside a very ‘sometimes too serious’ gamer community hah, although I have never owned a Xbox 360 myself its online gaming does appear vastly more efficient to the PS3. Up till today, Microsoft have produced many variations of the 360 with many promising larger hard drive space such as the ‘Elite’ (120gb) as well as design variants in aesthetics such as the Xbox 360 S (250gb).  

Right, so the Playstation 3 (2006) decided to come along embracing new technology, full on internet compatibility, and nicely polished aesthetics, but was this sleek, shiny machine able to fulfil as promised? Considering sales, not so much, it aligns itself slightly below the Xbox in terms of units but this could be because it was the first Blu ray player to hit the market, with Bluetooth controllers and free online gaming; its cost was also almost double Microsoft’s 360. Though it has kept a good reputation with its exclusive titles such as the Uncharted series, God of War, the Little Big Planet series, Kill zone series alongside many more though not all amazing, many allowed it to make greater use of its technology with very high quality graphics. Although I must mention the embarrassing crash of PSN in April 2011, Sony claimed an ‘external intrusion’ which led on to customer information and credit card details possibly being vulnerable. The whole online network was down globally (to my knowledge) for around a month. This left customers including ME very unsure of this “free” online thing although Sony did give a few free perks once everything was all back online as a apology to its customers. The PS3 has also followed up with a slim line version with 250gb. 

Now that we have gone through the big hitters for those veteran gamers it’s time to talk about Nintendo, though it offers much less quality in terms of graphics and gaming variety the Nintendo Wii (2006) has been the most successful next generation console. Its innovative controller brought motion sensitivity where player’s movement could produce the outcome on the screen. Due to its easy going, more “friendlier” games its demographic reaches vastly wider that Microsoft or Sony, the Wii console is seen more of a party piece to utilise with a group of people and it also asks for less commitment from users, a very pick up and play system. Both Microsoft and Sony have since added motion controllers to their consoles, Playstations ‘move’ controller and Microsoft’s ‘Kinnect’ both give users motion based game play, however the Xbox’s Kinnect system does not need any controller to use, similar to Playstation 2s Eyetoy. Although the Nintendo Wii isn’t the first to make use of motion control it sure is the most popular in terms of sales, though I don’t think serious gamers will be buying into it anytime soon. The future does a little cloudy though as game production costs constantly rise & Game publishers rather push on prequels and sequels and not invest in new titles. 
Nintendo’s DS is also a big name in this next generation war as it has become very popular in its own right for its stylus based touch screen interface as well as dual screen display. In competition with Sony’s PSP it has proved to be a lot more popular again in terms of sales as Nintendo, just like there Wii console decided to aim it towards a vast demographic of young kids, middle aged adults and even the old & retired. Titles like ‘Brain Training’ were very popular with parents for children as the DS provided an educational system of gaming. Nintendo have released many DS’s variation such as the DS Lite, DSi, DSi XL, and now the Nintendo 3DS (2011) which provides 3D viewing of games without any sort of glasses, though opinions may differ whether people want their games 3D or not, it is apparent that the technology is being used today.