Monday, 23 April 2012

Task 24: Personal review of the second year: Where do you want to go, and how do

In life you get out what you put in normally and this is said about education a lot and I agree 100% for me it’s just having the motivation and drive to put in 100%.

Universities are places of higher education and research which gives academic degrees. Universities are places of academic freedom this is where you are allowed to have ideas and communicate them without oppression or persecution. The University of Bologna is thought to be one of the oldest university’s around and was found in 1088. The latin word universitas means a number of person associated into one body, society, company, community, guild, corporation, etc. Medieval guilds of students and teachers would have legal rights usually given by charters i.e. prince’s prelates or the towns in which situated. The guilds where then self-regulated and qualifications were given out to members.
University’s like Bologna started out as law schools and started of universities.  In Europe universities had gained in popularity and were beginning to show differences. Northern university’s focused on arts and theology whilst southern university’s concentrated on law and medicine. Bachelor’s degrees were commonly handed out to northern universities except some degrees of theology. Doctorates were given to the southern universities.
From my three years of university I expect to have gained a degree that I can be proud of and I will have learnt enough, be skilled enough to perform well at a possible job prospect. I want to get my dream job and be successful at it. I can only get there through hard work and determination. Not only do I want to get a job but I want to have furthered myself and learnt more about myself. As I believe university nowadays is a whole experience.
University is an option or choice you do not have to study at one. You are not forced to turn up to tutorials or lectures it is your choice. If you do not turn up you are wasting your time the tutor’s time and your money. The more you turn up the more you pay attention and the harder you work the better your end result will be. Being in university learning is crucial but reflection is also very important as it teaches you to become more self-aware and intern more efficient the second time around.
So far from my two years of being at university I have learnt a lot. I have gained and improved my art skills and techniques. I have also learnt new software packages and created assets that I am proud of. I am now getting better at scheduling and timetabling i.e. becoming more professional. Joining societies I have learnt more about myself as I have become more of an extrovert which will help me in interviews and makes me more employable. Dealing with living away from home sorting out bills/ payments and having more responsibility’s is also furthering me in my studies as I am becoming more away about how important my education is.

Task 23: Life Changing or Career Building?

This blog post I’m going to be talking about the teaching issues, different views from games companies and how this affects the students themselves.

I think that teaching technical skills and developing learning attributes should be both priorities. You need to develop peoples key attributes so that they have a concrete basis to then have technical skills. The thing with learning technical skills is that in our industry we get new software every year. This means certain techniques could be removed in the newer version and you would then have to learn other ways to do the specific task.
Also the thing with learning technical skills is that you could be really amazing on a piece of software i.e. 3Ds Max but you could get an interview for a position at a games company and they say to you have you got experience in Maya. This means you would have to re learn technical skills as the software is different, this can be difficult if you are set in your ways or you have been using the software for a long time. That’s why I think you need the basics or fundamentals so that you can easily learn new techniques and be easily moulded into what the studio/ Games Company needs you to be.
I think our course is very well thought out, in the first year you are eased into learning the basic skills needed to perform low entry models. This is key because once you have the basics down you can easily learn other areas of the software. You learn techniques in traditional art which helps you improve your standards, execution and creativity which can then be transferred into your 3D modelling. Then in second year you are let loose a little bit which means you can dabble in other programmes new technical techniques. This means that I believe the graduates leaving this course with high grades are perfect for games companies.
“Some game companies want highly trained graduate artists and programmers. Some claim they really prefer creative individuals with a good Liberal Arts background.” For me when a games company says the want a highly trained graduate I think the company needs somebody that doesn’t need a lot of help and will be self-efficient this doesn’t mean that the company doesn’t care about the graduate though. When I hear “creative individuals with a good Liberal Arts background” it means that they can give a bit of tuition or guidance to the graduate and further them in a more hands on approach.
I think education can meet these opposing views and I think our course is doing just that I believe that the biggest selling point to our course is that we teach traditional art skills alongside your 3D modelling. Having the traditional art means that the models we create are in proportion they have the right anatomy and they are the best around. Other course’s rely heavily on the 3D side and don’t really carry on the traditional art. I have seen a lot of character models being created with rock hard uniform abs. This is not the case in humans muscles bulge in different ways and to learn this you need to study anatomy which cements my belief in basic art fundamentals are key.

Task 22: Creativity, the talent myth and craft

In this blog post I am going to challenge what I have learnt about from previous years of schooling and hopefully gain some more knowledge on what is talent, creativity and skills.

Creativity by talent is a common phrase and there is a lot of controversy over it. To me creativity is to make (create) something new which has value. What I mean by new is very difficult to explain as I believe interperating somebody else’s ideas to improve your own can be as creative. What I also mean by value is that it holds significance to somebody even if it is the creator. I agree with this statement but I also think you don’t have to have a talented in a certain field to be creative in that same field.

This article talks about how everyone is talented and everyone is creative.
The lady believes that “Talent is defined as the potential or factual ability to perform a skill better than most people.”  She goes on to say “All people have the capacity to be both talented and creative, but most people believe that they are neither.”
The bit about Michael Jordan being kicked of the varsity team was because he wasn’t tall enough and didn’t stand out from the crowd not because he wasn’t good enough. He played in the junior varsity team and scored several 40 point games which is a massive achievement. He then grew 10 cm over summer and managed to get on the varsity roster.
Another thing I disagree on is that to me talent is a natural impulse or instinct which you are born with, its hard wired into you and it’s hard to deviate or shut off the talent but it will always be there and comeback. I know I am a creative person and that I am not an academic person. I have dyslexia and dyscalculia which means I have trouble with words and number but in its most basic form. I know that my brain Is wired in such a way that I find it hard to remember number sequences but find it really easy to spot patterns in shapes and colours.
The definition of craft is an activity involving skill in making things by hand. A Craft to me can also mean a sport or singing so I will take the first half of the definition, craft is an activity involving skill. I have learnt from Physical education that skill is learnt along with knowledge and that both can only enhance and stimulate your talent.
In the game industry everybody has creativity just some more than others. I.e. An art lead is at high up in the level of creativity as he/she has an overall say on what is working and what isn’t working. A concept artist is another high up creative job. A lower level of creativity would be an environment artist but that doesn’t mean there is no creativity in fact I think I should be using the word freedom more than creativity so an art lead has a high level of freedom. To me indie games are the most creative as you get to see a lot of freedom as the developers aren’t owned or under contract from larger companies telling them what to do.
As an artist I show my creativity through my chosen medium and I would expect my creativity to be acknowledged by others through critiques. I believe from what I have learnt and what I already knew I am both talented and skilful but I know my skills can be approved upon through determination and drive.

Task 21: An Introduction to the Game Industry

I’m going to talk about how the game industry is structured and how it’s always evolving. It started off in the bedrooms and now it’s in massive multi million pound studios.

Codemasters is a great example of the evolution so far it was founded by two brothers named Richard and David Darling it’s one of the oldest British studio’s surviving. Codemasters started off in the bedroom with just coders and they started to create simple puzzle solving games like the dizzy series. They then decided to work on bigger titles and created a game I loved called micro machines. Codemasters then created a cheat cartridge for the NES called the Game Genie it bought in large profits and more exposure. Codemasters now works on big titles and is now a top independent developer. It produces top quality racing games like Dirt 3, Grid and Formula 1. They also have produced shooters like Operation Flashpoint and Bodycount.
From just Coders creating games it has turned into teams of hundreds even thousands to create a game in the art department alone there are over 10 different named roles that I have come across, in each role you would have a number of people working together. I am leaning towards an environment artist but I think I could be quite flexible and could be seen in other roles if need be.
In company’s you will often see outsourcing, This is when assets briefs or other quantities get sent off to smaller companies to reproduce, duplicate or create the assets. Sometimes things are sent to other companies because the company can improve or enhance the game this is seen with blur studios. Blur studios created spectacular trailers for Bio Wares Star Wars: The Old Republic, Batman Arkham City made by Rocksteady and EA’s Mass effect 2. The trailers bought a lot of hype for the games but for me I was disappointed when I saw Star Wars: The Old Republic as the graphics did not come near to the trailers.
Being an environment artist you need to create inspiring environments that capture the imagination of the player. The responsibilities of an environment artist are to take the concept art that has been approved and portray and create it into 3D. To create UV maps and paint textures for geometry in the environment. An environment artist would also have to use lighting tools and collaborate with other artists.
Here is an outline for an Environment Artist at Rockstar North.
As an Environment artist you need to be very good at 3D modelling and the other topics highlighted because it is a crowded job title. At the moment Visual FX artists are a valuable commodity due to the lack of them at a high standard. UI artists are also in need as it is a very technical job, salary is normally higher in the job titles with less people going for them. Also have more experience means you can earn higher salaries.

Task 20: Elements of game technology, part three: interaction design

I’ll be talking about the interaction in games and how we have gone from game pads to full blown 12 button controllers (not including directions) and how modern motion controllers are changing interactive design.

Intuitive definition

1. Using or based on what one feels to be true even without conscious reasoning; instinctive.
2. (Chiefly of computer software) Easy to use and understand.
Call of duty gets a lot of questions asked of it and a lot of them are negative due to its mass market domination and its countless releases. From first time gamers to seasoned gamers the control system is always scrutinized and nit picked over. I have been playing the franchise since the very beginning on pc to the latest console versions. When I play the game I do not think what buttons I need to press to kill somebody or to go into prone it is second nature to me I believe it to be intuitive but this is because I have built up muscle memory and cognitive skills.
To a first time user getting there head around the button layout takes time but call of duty helps you out with practice arenas at the start of the campaign and certain game modes like spec ops. Spec ops is where you go against waves of computer AI enemies racking up points to unlock guns and more ammunition. The hardest thing for a new gamer is to get their head around the thumb sticks. You need to move in a direction with on thumb pad, aim your gun with the other thumb pad, pull the triggers to aim down sights and shoot all at the same time.  Also on the screen you can get player clear prompts and helpful on screen reminders i.e. Press x to pick up weapon or Press A to climb. The prompt doesn’t get in the way and isn’t too intrusive and doesn’t break the immersion to much.
The new Wii and PlayStation 3 controllers are pushing the way game designers think about interaction and immersion with the player. Socom 4 is a great game to show the way the motion controls have immersed the player in the game. When you have the Sharpshooter peripheral for the motion controller you feel ready to play straight away. There is a digital trigger, a realistic pump action and even a firing mode selector this means the game can be even more realistic and immersive. When you tap the bottom of where the magazine should be, it reloads the gun in the game. When you jab the gun forwards your character brings out his knife and takes a swipe. Watching videos of people using the motion controls in the game I believe it can be fun in single player use but it wouldn’t work in multiplayer as people that use the normal PlayStation controllers would have a massive advantage.
My thoughts on motion controls, I see them to be gimmicky when they are implemented into the hard-core games like first person shooters but I can see it that it works perfectly in more casual games. I haven’t got around to playing a game in 3D but I can definitely see it becoming popular and very immersive as long as it doesn’t become just everything in your face 100% of your time. Another thing about 3D is that you currently have to wear glasses to view the TV, this can be uncomfortable and not practical to people with glasses already. People need to be able to afford a 3D TV without the wearing glasses before the 3D takes off.

Task 19: Elements of game technology, Part Two Sound of Games

Sound in games is very important they can be very complicated and compared to those in movies. The music can range from simple melodies on a synthesizer or big orchestral pieces. Soundtracks are very important and set the tone for the game. From many years of playing games you remember playing certain games when you hear certain songs or soundtracks. For instance I remember playing Need for speed underground 2 because of the song Rise against - Give It all. The song brings back good memories playing it and racing my brother and makes me want to play it again and that is what a good soundtrack needs to do.

In games like ssx the soundtracks influence the game and song selection is key as you want every song to be memorable, catchy and should withstand a lot of replay time. In ssx deadliest catch you have certain music styles for different race events fast paced music for race events, more upbeat tracks for the trick events and more dangerous and mysterious for the survival mode. The music also reacts to what you’re doing in the game so if you grind along a tree the music will stutter, if you carve from left to right the music will pan from left to right speakers and if you bail the music will scratch and distort. All of this creates a pleasant and interactive experience in which the player will be happy.
 Martin O'Donnell is one of my heroes in the sound department and has been at the front Of Bungie’s hit series Halo. From the very first second I put Halo: Combat evolved into my Xbox the Georgian monk chants started up and instantly you feel excited almost to the point of chills, it pumps you up to play the game. Martin uses an orchestra to create his music with amazing instruments and very talented players. Martin designed and produced the music a certain way. He made it so it could be dissembled and remixed in a way that meant he could have multiple interchangeable loops which would keep the track appealing and of variable length. Martin O’Donnell also worked on the halo titles up to and including halo reach, each soundtrack for the games has been outstanding.
Here is a video of the sound developers from 343 studios who are making the new Halo 4 game. They talk about how they had to stay true to the original soundtracks but also stamp their own identity on the pieces. The story of Halo 4 is much more focused on Master Chief so they wanted the music to help portray his emotions.
Hans Zimmer is a heavy hitter when it comes to music in films he has worked on such films as black hawk down, gladiator and inception. He decided to work on call of duty modern warfare 2 and subsequently has worked on Crysis 2.
Sound is used heavily in storytelling and navigational clues in games. In Gears of War 3 when you complete a section of the gameplay you might hear a gong this tells the player that the intense action is stopping and to get ready for some storytelling. In multiplayer shooters sounds are very key as well you need to hear if the grenade lands near your feet so you can run away. Hearing the other players footsteps is another crucial aspect in shooters as you need to know whether players are close to you or not. 

Task 18: Elements of Game Technology, part one: game engines

In this blog entry I will be writing about game engines, how they vary, their advantages their disadvantages, usability and what games they support.

There are lots of game engines out there to pick and choose from but a lot of Games Company’s use their own in house engines this is due to the fact that the engine has been in use for a number of years, they have control over the whole direction the engine takes. They have a direct connection with the people improving their engine, bugs get fixed in a matter of days not months and also they can get access to improvements that haven’t been completely finished but could be helpful to the developers.
Here is a list of commonly known Game engines, the games on the engine and the Companies that use the engines.
Game engine
Unreal Engine 3

The unreal engine has a lot of Games company’s using the engine this is due to its ease of use and its amazing features. The games that have been made in the unreal engine have been amazing and most have won awards for how good they were. Batman Arkham Asylum won and was nominated for loads of awards from sites like giant bomb, game informer, game trailers and games radar. It also won a BAFTA for game of the year and the studio won spikes Studio of the year.
The unreal engine can be heavily modified as its core is written in C++, it was originally used for first person shooters but then it has subsequently developers have made stealth, MMORPGS and RPG’s games using the unreal engine.  Unreal engine 3 is designed for Xbox 360, windows, windows vista, windows 7, Mac OS X, PlayStation 3, Wii U, iOS, Android and Adobe flash player. This means it’s one of the most versatile engines around. A lot of the gaming code is written in the Unreal Script a lot of gameplay can be shaped and moulded with going to deep into the internals of the engine.  The engine has come a long way since the first Unreal Engine 1. Here is a comparison between the engines and the character models of the unreal tournament games.

The CryENGINE is another huge engine like the Unreal Engine and was primarily used for  first person shooter games. Crytek used a technology demo called Far Cry they then realised and saw its potential and started to turn it into a game after progressing the engine Ubisoft bought the rights for the Far Cry franchise. Crysis was developed for the CryENGINE 2 and when it was released it was unfeasible for computers to run on its highest or even average settings. As the computers became better the game was used as a benchmark tester to see if you had a good computer or not.
The CryENGINE 3 was announced at GDC in 2009 and it was announced that the engine was being developed for Microsoft windows, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and even the Wii U. Crysis 2 was also created on the CryENGINE 3 and was a multiplatform game which helped other developers see the potential in using the CryENGINE for use on the consoles.
I must say I prefer the Unreal Engine due to its ease of use, is kismet system which allows you to alter the Gameplay scripting and this is very easy to use as it is uses nodes. This helps bring life to our levels and or models.