Friday, 30 December 2011

Christmas break so far. Help I'm tired!

The Christmas break started off very productively, I was up super early on my first free day out of uni to visit Newark Air Museum and had a great day out on my own. Stupidly I bought an air-fix kit whilst there and spent the rest of the week building and painting that, still didn't finish it completely! Awesome fun though. At the end of that week I attended the student rep meeting to discuss the results of the student survey, I've got to hand it to Mr Pickton though, he did an awesome job of the survey and worked very hard, what can I say, he makes us look good.

The following week before Christmas I decided to take a rest and re-generate myself for the Christmas weekend, I did some extra work at Halfords where I work and part time and then it was Christmas! I had an awesome weekend, my parents came down from Warrington to spend the weekend and we were able to spend the whole of Christmas day at home with Sophia, and the following day, Monday 26th we all went to Mallory Park for the day to watch some bike racing at the Plum Pudding race meet. I honestly didn't think I'd be there with Sophia until next year, I've been to Mallory loads this year with my dad but havn't been allowed to take Sophia so I was well happy.

So, this week I was hoping to get some work done, obviously I visit Soph on Mondays and Wednesday's so havn't had those days full but I was asked to do a favour and cover somebody at Halfords so that was another day gone, Saturday I'm working till 1pm and Soph will be at the flat from 2pm and I agreed to help out by working all day at Halfords too so that's this week gone as well.

That leaves me with next week to get stuck into work and finish the vehicle design project and a presentation for critical studies. Mike was obviously right by telling us not to depend on the Christmas break to get stuff done as it will not happen but it really does go by quickly. I'm fine with getting stuck into work next week, the big problem is I'm tired. All the time! No matter what, im tired. Everything else thats going on in life is taking its toll it seems, I'm stressed, not eating properly and it seems everything i do day to day is none stop chaos and I'm only just keeping up. I'm hoping to see a doctor next week because of this, sometimes i feel motivated and ready to do work and my body is just too fatigued and other times i feel great physically but my head will just not function and I'm worried that my work wont be of a good quality if i cant clear my mind and that will effect my grades.

Hopefully a doctor can help but i dont know what to do, my life is my life and nothing can be changed. I've dropped my hours at work on a Thursday night but that only increases my worries over money. There's so much else going on, i feel i can cope caring for Sophia but the 'powers that be' seem to be making it as difficult as possible, i probably shouldn't divulge too much on that but it sucks and is stressing me out most of all.

But by far one of the thing that is stressing me out the most is driving in Leicester! I travel to Melton Mowbry 4 times a week to visit Sophia and it seems that every set of traffic lights are on red, even at one in the morning when there's nobody else on the fucking road, and there are a lot of traffic lights! and everyone else on the road are selfish wankers who have no time for everyone else! honest to god ive seen less violent drivers in the British touring cars at Brands Hatch!

Ahhhhhhhh rant over, possibly a little relief! I Should probably go and have a sleep and clear my head!

If you got this far, thanks for listening and putting up with me!

Newark Air Museum, Tuesday 13th December

To get the visual design Christmas project kick started, the vehicle design project, I decided to visit Newark Air Museum with first fee day out of uni to gather some research and also for something cool to do in my spare time.

The place is really awesome and they've got a lot more there than I was expecting, in total they have almost seventy air craft on display as well as a number of aircraft artefacts and aero engines.

They have some really impressive aircraft on display including a Vulcan, Saab Viggen, a Mikoyan-Gurevich Mig-23ML 'Flogger' capable of flying at over twice the speed of sound! and of course our very own Royal Navy sea Harrier! 

After the visit I've got lots of ideas floating around in my head for vehicle design and function and will 'hopefully' start work soon.

Sea Harrier
Aero Engine
Unfortunately work didn't begin straight away because I bought an air-fix kit of a Euro-fighter Typhoon, naturally! Well done.

Work Presentation

So a little while ago I received a few comments regarding the presentation of my work, in particular my 3D work. Obviously on Facebook as long as my peers have images that are suitable to give me feedback on my work that's fine, but what was being suggested was grabbing some really nice shots that could be used as part of a portfolio. Finding some methods that suit me, in regards to rendering and presenting the work.

I spent a lot of time researching, watching video tutorials and looking at others work to see how they were presenting there's. I then took a number of steps to come to a final method of presentation that I was happy with.

Some of the points I focused on where;
-Where work should be presented, (for now I have settled on an online portfolio courtesy of deviant art and will of course continue to post work onto Facebook).
- Making good renders from 3DS Max that are suitable, I am also planning on researching and using Marmoset renderer.
-Overall presentation of my work including,
   -use of the final renders, where the should be positioned and sized and which ones should be used
   -information including with work, ie; tri count
   -colour schemes, so i had a recurring theme running through my portfolio, grey seemed best to use as a background colour but adding something that would personalise the work more seemed important
   -a logo to include with the work being presented

Logo design included research and then the development of a logo to a final.

Logo and presentation research
Logo ideas and development
Logo development
Background development
Final Background
So there we are, so far so good, I definatley feel I have made some good steps towards the presentation, and probably more importantly the distribution of my work. Here's the web address to finish off, its still a work in progress but i hope to have it finished and organised very soon.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

There's nothing wrong with Fifa!

I do love a controversial blog title! Now, for starters, I don't play Fifa, EA piss me off a little if I'm truly honest but that's another rant for another time. I used to play Fifa though, used to love it and buy it every year, even though very little changed each year. I think it's a fantastic game to play, especially with friends, well, friends who like football. It's probably one of the few games with a multi-player were you can sit as a group of friends and have a good time, not sit on your own and play against complete wankers online, who you can hear being complete wankers over your headset. SO, Fifa is a game that can bring people together and play in a group, without being too serious and just have a good laugh, how awesome, that's what game's are supposed to do. Now, as I mentioned, I don't play Fifa, hardly have time to play any games any more, but, when I get a chance, I do like to play games like Gran Turismo, Dirt, MotoGP, World Superbikes and TT Superbikes. This blog isn't about Fifa, but those list of games that I enjoy playing have a lot in common with Fifa. My argument here is that there are many forms of art, but it can be boiled down to two sides, creating art from the imagination, things that don't exist and are non-real, and art from life, art that is created from what exists, now that's quite a generalisation but bare with me. For the first part of the DMU Game Art course, for a big chunk of it actually, we do the latter, drawing and creating game assets from life, trying to translate what we see in front of us onto a page. In the world of art some artists enjoy to explore their creativity by producing whatever they want, and can I point out that quite frequently, or at least in my opinion, abstract art is pointless and quite frankly shit. But, there are also artists who endeavour and pride themselves on creating a drawing or painting on a real life subject as realistically and accurately as possible. Some artists spring to mind. John Constable and his landscape paintings in particular. Marie Rosalie Bonheur, another landscape painter, and, oh, who's that other fella? oh yeah! Leonardo da Vinci! How much more accurate can you get than the Vitruvian man? and if you are following me, this is my argument. Realism in the visual arts refers to the general attempt to depict subjects as they are considered to exist, without embellishment or interpretation. Realism often refers more specifically to the artistic movement, beginning in France in the 1850's but also has had influences on literature and the social-political environment, and now, VIDEO GAMES! i.e, Fifa, Gran Turismo, etc.

Does anyone understand my argument yet? Well, Fifa, and the other games I enjoy playing (Gran Turismo, MotoGP) are video games realist subjects. The companies who produce these games still employ artists you know! These games are the 'depiction of subjects as they exist' in the real world, artists who work on these games, and I can speak on behalf of Gran Turismo here no problem, endeavour to re-create real world objects with unbelievable accuracy for us all to enjoy in the comfort of our arm chairs!

Okay, so counter argument. "Fifa is for chavs and football hooligans", probably agree, and "fat kids sit playing Fifa when they should get off their arses and go kick a ball at the park". Also has some truth, but! but when I play MotoGP, I cant go and jump on Valentino Rossi's bike and fly around Donnington Parl, and like-wise, whoever's playing Fifa, chavs, whatever, cant, in the real world play alongside Steven Gerrard for Liverpool Football Club, or for Manchester United at Old Trafford. At the end of the day the game does what any game does, it gives the player the opportunity to experience something they could not in their real lives.

Im trying my best to be as open minded as possible here, and trying to have a view from both sides. Im not defending any games, or trying to promote any for that fact, but, as I mentioned I do enjoy to play racing games, that's 'my' genre, and other games based on real life event's, just like Fifa, and I know way too many people, people on the game art course too mind, not mentioning any names! who like drawing robots, muscle-y-gun-men, monsters, goblins and playing games like Darksiders, Marvel vs Capcom, Gears Of War, Halo and dare I say, Zelda. Im not having a go at theses games, I'd probably enjoy playing them, for about five seconds, they're just not for me, pixies with pointy ears, Jesus. 

Okay, so you enjoy Zelda, fair enough, just don't completely right off realist games, like Fifa! The beauty of art is that everyone has their own opinions on what can and cant be beautiful. I can imagine people would argue that there is nothing beautiful about football, cant be anything, players, stadiums, but, I've visited Barcelona's football stadium, the Nou Camp, and to me that was beautiful, a man made structure that can seat 100,000 people! and to re-create that as accurately as possible within a video game environment so that you can experience the buzz of the crowd, the atmosphere from that perspective is just awesome! 

To sump up, I'm not defending Fifa, just to make that perfectly clear, I don't own the game and don't play it, like any game it has its merits and it has flaws, although just to mention, Fifa 12 accordingly sold 3.2 million units in its first week of sale, (jobs for me and you). If you like drawing and/ or playing fantasy, non-real that's absolutely fine, just don't right off games based on real subjects because of some negative opinions that can surround hem, because they can be equally as awesome, honest.

Barcelona at the Nou Camp in a Fifa game (lovely grass!)

Monday, 28 November 2011

Game Production, Architectural Project Finished

So my house is finished. Overall I'm very happy with how the project has gone. It's way better than my previous house project for a start!

I initially had concerns with my texture budget, thinking I may have given myself too much to texture with only 8mb available but its actually come out quite well. Its surprising just how much you can fit onto a 1024pxl texture sheet whilst still maintaining quality. Also surprising how you can get get away with using smaller texture sheets (256pxl and 128 pxl) for tile-able textures, although one problem I found was with my actual reference images for the tile-able's. By using a digital SLR it meant that my reference photographs were of a very high quality, one photograph was over 7mb! and when I tried to scale them down to 256pxl or 128pxl, even 512pxl, there was a dramatic loss in quality. In the end my tile-able textures came out okay but its definitely something I can look at more in-depth in the future.

A quick look at the feedback I have received so far. My normal maps, for the windows of the house in particular  were very 'blobby/ lumpy', I went back into Crazybump with the height map and reduced the large detail sliders to resolve this. One other point from feedback was regarding how I had presented my work, I was actually quite happy with my renders, I stayed up till 2.a.m. a few nights ago teaching myself how to use the daylight system in 3DS Max and using Mental Ray to render. But I have taken note on my presentation techniques and will look into that more in the very near future. Somebody also pointed out that I had missed a supporting beam from my reference photographs in my mesh, which was easily rectified.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Game Production, Architectural Project W.I.P.

Hopefully this will be just a quick one before my head hits the desk. Just wanted to have a quick look at my house before I clean everything up, give it a few final tweaks and get some final renders before Monday.

Basically all of the diffuse textures are on there, apart from the lawn, which wont take very long at all. At the moment I've used 4.79MB of my available texture budget. I am going to add a specular or normal map on there, which will take 3MB of space each, so that's the remainder of my budget, so its a toss-up between the two. Obviously I'd like to have both but right now if I'd have to choose one, I think I'd rather apply the specular to give the windows of the house and conservatory a nice shine.

Overall im really pleased with how the project has gone, I'm extremely happy with my mesh although I feel I may have been a little bold with the size of my mesh in relation to the texture budget, I can make it though. Other little things I think I could of done differently would be to have a tillable texture for the bushes around the driveway instead of including them on my larger texture sheet and could of probably had the garden wall on the texture sheet instead of tiling that, so basically switch them around.

At the moment my diffuse texture's are possibly a little too bright so I'm going to have a play around with that tomorrow make the building a little more realistic and dirty it up a little bit.

Ive made a few renders here anyway so I can assess the diffuse textures, I definitely need to have a look at how the garden wall is tiling. When ive finished I'm hoping to have a play around with the renderer and get some nice render's posted when finished.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

The Test!

Okay, so just got back from uni and today we've had a visual design test. Apparently a few of the feedback assessments didn't go so well and people have been very worried about the feedback they have received, should they be? Possibly, probably, I mean, people seem upset that they have been asked to do 'more', "that's the only feedback I got", boo hoo, at the end of the day its feedback, the tutors probably have many reasons why 'more work' is the feedback they are giving, to be honest doing 'more work' should just be an obvious given, we are on this course because we all have artistic skills, and if its not obvious that any skill will be improved by doing more of that thing then, I really don't know, you can't be helped!

Chris told us that we were going to have a one hour test, of drawing and rendering from a still life, and everybody seemed to shit themselves! I think today is one of the first day's I've gotten into class on a Wednesday and not been the first one in there, there was already like 10 people in there drawing. I'm not saying that's a bad thing, that's awesome, but why were people worried? Jesus, we were drawing from a still life! that should be easy, laid back and fun, we're drawing shit everyday, and people start panicking because we have a 'test'. All we were asked to do is to do something we do, hopefully, every single day. Oh my!

Nuff said.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

War For The Future Of Games Journalism

Video game journalism is the reporting and discussion of video games, typically based on a core reveal/ preview/ review cycle. A recent growth in online publications i.e., blogs, has seen the rise of 'new games journalism', and the encroaching nature of the internet on video game magazines have the men at the top, 'the money-men' worried. I can see why they are worried. Video games magazines have become primarily buying guides, offering information about forthcoming games or definitive reviews. Magazines also operate as a filter, enabling the reader to keep track of what's actually worthwhile knowing in gaming. One of the more obvious reasons why people turn to magazines, although debatable in may peoples eyes, is they are 'often' of a much higher quality, better written. At the end of the day people are paid to write these articles, so they should be better, but there is an underlying flaw, game journalism is a job, and at the end of the day I fear that, that is how many writers see it as, 'just a job'. Some might say that the writers can't be blamed for feeling that way, fundamentally the -money-men' control what is being written. Most games magazines are systematically structured to guide the reader through to purchasing a game. Almost universally the layout goes; news, previews, reviews, a linear, clearly signposted pathway to the shop counter. Because there's not a whole lot of room here for reflective or in-depth analysis, the reviews don’t seem to serve their basic consumer informing purpose and are, nine times out of ten, worse than useless. Although some blame can be directed at the consumer.

As I mentioned, most readers only seem to view magazines as buying guides and little else, they only want to know what they'll be able to buy in the future, and what's worth buying now. This consumer 'zombie-ness' is hardly unique, most publications based around consumer activity work in the same way, including movie and music magazines. Part of the challenge then is to persuade readers that a lengthy contemplative piece based on a game released years ago isn't just a waste of space. The fundamental question is – do readers actually want it? Some magazines have had worthy attempts, including Edge magazine, the problem is that these publications are aimed at hardcore gamers. The net can provide all of these things, reviews can often be found in existence together with an average score , and retrospective articles, mostly in the form of blogs, can be found for the hardcore who bother to look for them. What video games magazines really should be able to do is exploit the conversational buzz that surrounds top, mass market video games for months after release. The problem I find most unbearable with the 'universal' review, is the number that sits at the bottom, (?/10), which suggests something objectively quantifiable. Opinions on games, and again on movies and music, ARE NOT objectively quantifiable, unless a reviewer approaches their review in an objective manner. And, by doing so leaves us with the bland, uniform evaluation of said shiny consumer items, which are after all, forms of entertainment, and as such are set to be viewed differently by different people.

But how can magazines change this? Magazine writers rarely get more than a few days with a game, which is hardly enough time to get past the first few levels let alone truly explore the parameters of the experience on offer, and, most reviews are usually written weeks before a game is released which makes reviewing the multi-player modes redundant.

I feel it's in the magazines interest to show the readers what they're missing, to explore and involve themselves with gaming communities and to revel in gaming experiences that only become accessible after months of play. There is a wealth of material out there.

New games journalism? At the moment its an interesting idea, perpetrated by a handful of talented and passionate writers. I'm finishing the blog by leaving you with an article from one of these talented writers, titled 'Bow, Nigger'. A intimate account of a game that the writer knows well, and which a community has grown with it's own emergent rules and traditions. Its a memorable piece of writing in many ways, but its notable for reading like games journalism, without being like any other piece of games writing you've ever read.

New games journalism argues that the worth of a video game lies not in the game, but in the gamer.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

My Personal Gaming History

My gaming history probably started in the late 90's. I remember going into Runcorn's town centre with my parents one day, which I realise now writing this is the strangest thing ever as I don’t ever remember going into Runcorn before or since, for anything! Maybe there was another reason for us going there, but whatever it was I cant remember, and it doesn’t matter anyway. What does matter was that for me this was, as it probably is for everyone who plays games, the pinnacle day in my gaming history. The day I got my first games console! And not just any console, a handheld! Yes, it was the Gameboy. Its strange because I have these snippets of very clear memory, I know that’s not what we had gone to Runcorn for, but I remember my dad suggesting buying one. It was in this dinky little second hand electronics store, which if I remember correctly wasn't solely for video games, but the Gameboy's were in a glass cabinet to the right of the door. There weren't just Gameboy's if I remember correctly, but I can only seem Gameboy's in my mind, surrounded by little grey boxes (cartridges), with these beautiful little stickers stuck to them, an inch square piece of artwork trying to represent and sum up the whole game, beautiful! I remember my parents working out a deal, sort of a 'bundle' as we get now, with the Gameboy and a few games, they were all second, not that I was bothered, the shop and the whole thing had, still has, some sort of charm about it. I would say that they don’t make them like that anymore, with a fear of sounding too old, but they do have small second hand electronic stores her in Leicester still, maybe it is only so magical when you're younger, and money has no real solidarity, no tight grip around your throat yet. I do also remember though, that spending £20 or £30 on this deal seemed like a big thing, which is hard to believe when the last console I bought set me back £425! guess what that was!


But, I came out of the shop with my new Gameboy, I remember it had this better, magnified screen. Not one that you clip on but actually part of the Gameboy's glass. As well as a few games and a nice big carry case. Two of the games I come out with were Tetris, obviously, and I definitely remember having some form of Mario, because Mario was so small on the screen but moved so quickly, and at my age it was difficult to play to say the least! I'm not 100% sure if I got this game on the day or later on but its one that's stuck with me, The Hunchback of Notre Dame. It was so cool, fun to play, but why was it 'so' cool? Well because, if you stopped playing for long enough the Hunchback would start tapping his foot and start whistling a tune! And little music notes would flout up into the sky! Ha, epic!
So that was my first ever console, not sure if I still have it laying around somewhere actually! And I stuck with Gameboy's for a long time after that, I'd fallen in love. I had a Gameboy colour next, game to remember, Spy vs Spy, never owned a Gameboy pocket, then I had the Advance with Advanced Wars, top game, I then had a few iterations of the Advance SP Inc. the SP itself and the SP tribal edition.
I never really had a love for home consoles at this time. I think I'd caught the handheld bug from day one. I did have a PC early on with a multitude of floppy disk games, Id probably decided there and then that PC gaming wasn't my thing, these games were awful to say the least, and PC's I owned over the following years just wouldn't handle games and were extremely temperamental, I haven’t got that much patience!
I think the only home console I owned for a while after that was the NES. God knows where that came from, but it was ace. A few games I played that spring to mind, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, a sort of Indy car racing game, all it was, was a big grey oval track, but it had a UI with four blocks to one side which represented your tyres. Waiting for them to turn red as your tyres became worn, and the cars handling deteriorated and you had to pit to have them changed was just awesome for me. And one game I always remember was A Boy and his Blob, I remember I could never quite do it, but I would try over and over gain, the concept of having to feed your blob jelly beans to transform him to complete the level was just a fabulous idea. And of course I had my cheat genie, unheard of nowadays, but that’s not the strangest thing, that’s the fact that you seemed to be able to find these in any little electronics store. You have to go into some state of the art, modernised Game store to buy anything console related now.
My Uncle had a Super Nintendo too, which I used to love playing when we'd go to visit, Super Mario Karting obviously one of my favourites, it seemed my love of racing games was instilled from birth! And my cousin at one point had a Sega Megadrive, don't remember playing that all to often though. It seems I had a bit of a 'dry spell' at this point, friends had Dreamcast's and N64's, it wasn't that my parents wouldn't buy me them, I just don’t think I had much interest, I was too busy enjoying what the real world had to offer me as a child, playing footy at the park with mates, or getting up to no good with mates! Days out here there and everywhere with my family, and racing motorbikes. I'm quite glad in a way that I seemed to realise from an early age that the real world, even though a game could offer you anything imaginable, still has infinite offerings to see and experience, and even now the thought of being stuck in virtual reality for too long really doesn’t appeal to me as much as it does to others.

But my dry spell was about to come to an abrupt end, my friends, or most of them anyway were already a part of it, and I was about to become part of one of the biggest families ever. The Playstation family. This for me was the definitive part of my gaming life, games had reached a point were they now really appealed to me, as I mentioned earlier I've never had much patience, and something needs to be 'worth it' to keep my attention. Games had never really been able to do that for me, they were more like a 20 minute, maybe 30 minute at a push fix. But the Playstation's games were finally at that level for me. I could list so many games that I played and loved, but here’s a few, Resident Evil, Medal Of Honour, Gran Turismo, Crash Bandicoot, Metal Gear Solid. I remember waking up before school on the morning of my 10th/11th birthday? My parents had managed to get me the PlaystationOne in a bundle with six games, they had it all set up for me in the living room!
Again I was late to the PS2, not by much, but it was the same story as the PS1, may years of pure awesomeness! Next console, this time I wouldn't be late! My love for handheld gaming was about to be reignited. The PSP! This was another definitive gaming moment for me, handheld gaming, despite it's charms, had always been very separate in many ways from home consoles, but Sony had done something very special here. I remember, I picked it up with my parents for my very first midnight launch!, I'd had it pre-ordered for a year. Waiting to get up first thing in the morning before school to flick it on after it had spent the night charging. Go through the set-up process, it has miniature discs! I was already well aware of the ins and outs way before release anyway. Insert-Tony Hawks Pro Skater Underground 2, Remix. FUCK! It looks EXACTLY the same as the PS2 version! How the hell.........?!


I wont talk about the forthcoming years of complete torture waiting for the PS3! I'll admit I was dragged into the whole 'console war', some of my friends went ahead and bought Xbox 360's, but I knew I'd wait, 'knew' the PS3 would be better, worth waiting for. I even saved and saved my part time wages, (£4.50 an hour), to buy a hi-def TV, ready for the PS3, they'd only just come out really and it cost me £650, for a 32” Samsung that couldn't even do full 1080p! I remember when my cousin got his PS3 I told him over and over, 'you need a HD TV, the PS3 deserves one! Needs one!'. But I was ready. Another midnight launch.
The PS3 has defined what gaming can be about for me, not only beautiful games with meaningful stories, stories which can grip you and steal you attention, but a complete entertainment hub, for blu-ray movies, internet browsing, downloadable content, this list goes on!
I feel I'm dragging again so I’ll leave the future, what I see and hope for, for another blog. I have way too many ideas. I do know my immediate future for gaming though, and I’m very excited. 22nd February 2012.

Codemasters Guest Lecture; Concept Artist Mitch Small

I'd firstly like to start the blog by thanking Mitch and his colleague for coming in, what a fantastic day! So, thank you! I found the day extremely informative on the available roles within Codemasters and the game industry, and on the role of concept artist in particular. I think most importantly for myself, I found the whole thing enlightening, after everything I've been through in recent years, its the first time in a long time that I've truly been excited about working in the games industry and I all of a sudden had a million and one ideas sweeping through my head about what I's like to do and who I'd like to work for, and what personal work I could be producing, and what improvements I could be making with my digital painting amongst other things.
I've always been massively into racing games, a passion I also have in real life, particularly motorcycle racing, MotoGP and the Isle Of Man TT. Codemasters are one of the big hitters when it comes to racing games, I'm absolutely in love with the Dirt series. I picked up Dirt 3 the day it come out which I never do these days, and obviously the main car in it is Ken Block's 650bhp Fiesta, its the one on the front box art! Awesome! Jesus, I even have a Ken Block t-shirt and Ken Block trainers in the same design as the car!

              Ken Blocks 650 hp Ford Fiesta Details ken block fiesta               

Race Driver; Grid was also another of Codemasters, this game was epic to say the least, now, I wont give you a game review, but lets just put it this way, Race Driver was my Gran Turismo substitute for a long, long time, it was that good! And they obviously acquired the Formula One license a few years ago. Codemasters would be an ideal company to work for, for me then, working on racing games would be a dream job for me. To be perfectly honest, I've had an idea based on the racing genre for my FMP for a long time now, which is mental I know. I wont elaborate on anything right now, but this idea has been stuck with me since studying on the course previously a few years ago, so, watch this space!
Back to Mitch’s lecture, I was able to take some comprehensive notes which I think will be very helpful. The practical part of the lecture was also very informative and a lot of fun at the same time. Mitch took us through a step by step process from an initial idea to a final delivery of a concept. I though the pipeline we followed was awesome and I can probably incorporate all of the techniques we used into my own work, Inc. mood boards, thumb nailing using pens/ markers for composition, 3D block out using 3DS Max and the use of Photoshop for painting, texturing and detailing. I most enjoyed putting my Copics to use to do the marker thumbnails, although they are quick and rough, they give a fantastic insight into the composition, lighting etc. of the final piece, and it is definitely a technique I am going to begin using.
One last thought on work, I have been very intrigued by the idea of conceptualising and I'm hoping to give a few a try to boost my portfolio, the more I can produce the better really. One final thank you to Mitch, one thing he said has stuck in my head, life has given me a few blows in recent years, and I honestly though I'd never make it back to uni, never mind get a good degree and a job in the industry which is hopefully still to come. But, during the lecture, Mitch said that we need to stop worrying that everything isn't coming at once, all coming together at the same time, he said that life throws plenty of chances at you, and that's really what I needed to hear right now, so, thank you again Mitch.


Six Week Assessment and Feedback

So the assessment went quite well, feedback was positive in general which I’m extremely happy about. I've just spent the last few hours deciphering the feedback forms to see what the tutors have written and to see what I need to work on. I know I let myself down with critical studies, i.e.; my blogs, as I fell behind slightly, I was marked with an adequate, and I feel what I have written so far is of a good standard, but basically I haven’t done enough, which in my own opinion is inadequate. I have lots of ideas and notes for blogs I want to write, but time is extremely tight, I get one full free day every two weeks at the moment, and the tutors are fully aware of this and extremely supportive of my current situation which I am ever so grateful for, on the other hand, I must admit that I have prioritised Game Production ad Visual Design more due to difficulties with time management. This week we have no lectures so have time to catch up and hopefully do some more personal blogs. With the feedback in mind I'm hoping to do some more blogs reflecting Game Production and Visual Design, and obviously try to get some blogs down from my notes.
My thoughts about making more time for myself are all over the place at the minute. I'm going to speak to my manager at Halfords, (where I work part time), about dropping hours every other Sunday, which will give me one full free day every week, (double my free time, wooo!), but, ultimately I think I will need to quit my part time job at some point, maybe in year two. The only thing then is I'd be putting myself under a lot of financial pressure, I will obviously aim for the best grade possible to try and get a scholarship next year though. Obviously most of my free time is taken up with Sophia and I cant see myself giving up any time with her, Christ, I've already gone from seeing her 24 hours a day to less than 20 hours a week, more like 12 hours a week. Fingers crossed she will be home soon and have car provided for her here. Ultimately I don’t want to be faced with making a decision between Sophia and uni, because I'm pretty certain what it would be, I just couldn't face leaving uni again when I know I have so much potential. The main positive is the huge amount of support I've got from friends and in particular family.
On a lighter note, feedback from both Game Production and Visual Design was fantastic. I'm very happy because I have worked ever so hard. In terms of game production I pretty much understand the basics, which is why I probably did well with the wheelie bin project, but I'm obviously aware that it only gets harder so I must keep producing work so that I don’t struggle in the future. For visual design I'm quite confident that I can continue to produce work at a high standard. I need more practice with ellipses and I'm still quite 'early days' with digital painting so I hope to continue to develop my skills with that. Possibly forthcoming holidays will give me some extra time to realise my ideas.
Overall I'm happy with how things are going, I'm enjoying being back at uni so much and things seem to be looking up in my personal life too. I've still got lots of worries, no wonder I still have headaches all day every day! But I'm hopeful things will keep getting better. I don’t think I can take any more blows. Hopefully I can do some more catching up this week, but also give myself some rest so that I'm fresh for the next semester.  

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

A History Of Computer Games, Part Three - 21st Century Breakdown

The 21st century has been a massive success for the video games industry, the rapid growth of technology, innovation and creativity, the industry seems to have flourished and today the global video game industry makes more money than Hollywood. Toady’s video game market sees massive sales despite the harsh financial times the world has experienced over the past few years. The industry now generates sales in the billions of pounds and is one one of the most rapidly growing industries worldwide. From 2005 through 2009, the US computer and video game industry achieved real annual growth of 10.6% per year. By comparison, the entire US economy grew by only 1.4% per year during the same four year period. Since being released in 2006, in just 5 years, the game Wii sports has sold in excess of 70 million copies worldwide, and in terms of consoles, the Sony Playstation 2 has sold around 150 million units worldwide since its release in March 2000.
Despite these impressive statistics many major video game publishers recorded losses in 2010, with pressures of rising development costs,leaders Activision lost $233m and EA also lost $322m, and in the UK retail sales of hardware and software where at £2.98bn, a drop from £3.31bn in 2009. Nevertheless, I feel that these statistics do not represent the whole picture, only a few weeks ago EA released Battlefield 3 (28th Oct 2011), and claimed it was the fastest selling video game ever, selling more that 5 million copies in its first week of release, and, as some of these statistics only take into account sales of 'boxed' goods, they are missing out on one of, if not the most important video game developments of the 21st century, online gaming.
Previously the exclusive domain of PC games, online gaming has become ever more prominent with video game consoles during the 21st century. Initially the idea struggled to get on its feet, not many games or consoles offered online gaming but thanks to the development of broadband internet and our current generation of video game consoles, Xbox360 and PS3, online gaming is now common place. Where once playing a video game was an isolated hobby, they now offer in many ways, a form of unrivalled social interaction. Not only do our home consoles provide this service, the rising popularity of Flash and Java has led to an internet revolution where websites also offer a new set of user interactivity, a great example of this would be the massive success of Facebook games, the game Cityville was launched in December 2010 and within 45 days had 100 million monthly active users. As well as this, other technology, particularly hand held devices such as smartphones and tablets have also given a boost to online downloadable games, seeing 50 million downloads of the game Angry Birds.
I could go on for a long time about how things have changed and progressed for video games in the 21st century, absolutely everything seems to develop at an alarming rate nowadays , its honestly quite frightening, and this is no more true than in the field of technology, the parenthood and lifeline of video games. But what for the future, and how will I be affected as a potential future employee of the video game industry? Well, personally, the future looks good, the amazing new technologies that are currently being developed, leading to increasing new ways to interact with a video games excites me, as a consumer, but what excites me as a video game artist is the ever increasing audience reach of games. Will this give me the opportunity to share my own ideas and creativity in a way that no other career could possibly even come close to? And be paid for doing so? Magic 8 ball says it looks likely.
Yet despite this bright outlook for the future of video games, the UK industry is struggling. Once a leader in game development, Britain is slowly slipping down the international league table, *cough, conservatives. Our government has made huge cuts to the funding of Arts and Sciences, other countries meanwhile are offering generous tax credits to technology firms and excellent university courses in games development. Errr, what?! Sadly, in the UK it is expensive to make games, high wages and a government refusing to offer any tax incentives. In addition to this there is a growing skills shortage, many university games courses seem like re branded media study degrees and only 9 games related courses including our own here at DMU are accredited by Skillset out of a possible 141!
This could lead me off on a massive tangent so I’ll bring it to an end here. One thing to say is that the video game industry, particularly here in the UK, has reached a massively challenging point. I know I am surrounded by a mass of talent with my fellow students, but I still get the feeling that a lot of the world still doesn’t take us seriously. It better start looking, video games are big, planet sized, but they are heading in the direction of consuming a solar system, the artistic realisation and interactivity is branching, consuming other areas such as simulation, product and customer research in retail chains, other realities, the list goes on and I'm very excited to be part of such a booming industry and will watch with intense as to where it heads in the future.
Watch this space!

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

A History Of Computer Games, Part Two - The 80's and The North American Video Game Crash of 1983

The 1980's for the video games industry was all over the place, a decade of trials and tribulations, success and failures.

On the back of the PC revolution, the video games industry was about to get into full swing, a rapid growth of technology and more powerful computer systems meant we seen one of, if not the biggest developments in the industry, the transition of video games from arcades and into homes.

From very early on in the 1980's we begin to see the introduction of some of the most iconic games in gaming history. Pac-Man in 1980, Donkey Kong in 81 and Mario Bros in 1983 are just a few. But in 1983 came the North American Video Game Crash, almost destroying the then fledging industry. Too many poorly made games and a massive choice of systems to choose from, a media frenzy.

With the shift from arcades into homes we began to see the very first 'game ports'. Unfortunately many of these ports were, as I've stated, of a poor quality and were widely criticised. Pac-Man is one of the most successful arcade games of all time, and one of the most recognizable video game characters of all time. After its release in the US in 1980, Atari obtained the license to port the game to its Atari 2600 home console. When Atari did this, there were around 10 million Atari consoles in households across the US, but, with this figure, Atari decided to manufacture 12 million copies of the game, with expectations that the game would increase sales of the 2600. Atari were too confident, and published a prototype port of the game not to miss that years holiday season. The quality of the games was so bad on the Atari 2600, many consumers asked for refunds. The game barley resembled its arcade counter part and Atari incurred huge financial losses from around 5 million unsold game cartridges.

Above; Pac-Man arcade vs the Atari 2600 version

Another disaster was E.T. After the film was released it was quickly licensed to become a video game. Head of Warner Communications, owner of Atari, told the CEO of Atari, Ray Kassar, that he wanted the game out by Christmas (6 weeks). Clearly Atari hadn't learnt from their mistakes, Kassar said, “We had literally six weeks to produce a brand new game, manufacture it, package it and market it. It was a disaster. I mean, the programmers hated it. Nobody liked the game”. It is still to this day considered one of the worst video games of all time. Almost all of the 5 million copies were returned to Atari, and, by the end of 1983 Atari had lost nearly $536 million.

There was an overwhelming amount of poorly produced games appearing at this time and video games were rapidly loosing value. Another reason, as I have suggested, for the crash is too many consoles. Today we have three home consoles to choose from, Xbox360, Wii and PS3, were as in the early 80's there were literally dozens of consoles competing against each other. With a huge amount of confusion sparked by the diversity of consoles available there was a loss of publishing control. Today all games for consoles are controlled by the console manufacture, but in the early 80's there was a loss of control and there was a boom in third party games being developed, the market became flooded and it was more bad news for the industry.

The last contributor to the crash was the computer. By the early 80's home computers had significantly dropped in price, they offered superior graphics and sound as well as other uses such as word processing. Many consumers felt that a computer was a much more sensible and practical investment than a console.

In 1983 the industry came to a sudden halt, lasting for two years. But why don’t most people know about the video game crash of 83? Well, the crash was primarily bad for the industry not the consumers, who were treated to an array of, all be it poor, but cheap video games.

The crash had some long lasting affects, starting with the NES (Nintendo Entertainment System) released in 1985, new measures were taken to control third party development with the 'lock-out chip' built into the system, as well as some of the best and most memorable games ever including Metal Gear in 87, The Legend Of Zelda and Final Fantasy. The most important change for me however was the shift of the video game market from the US to Japan, and even today Japan has the majority control over the home video games console market.

Sadly Atari never recovered from the crash, but from 85 onwards the industry as a whole began to recover after the release of the NES. Towards the end of the decade Nintendo had released the first ever portable games console, my first console, the original Gameboy and the world was introduced to 16-bit technology with the release of the Megadrive from Sega.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

A History Of Computer Games, Part One

Thomas Watson, President of IBM 1943 - “The world will probably eventually need five computers”.

To understand the history of computer games, their roots and origins, I feel that it's particularly important to firstly recognize and understand the history of computers. Computer games are purely a form of entertainment, whether its an FPS or a simulation game, the keyword is 'game', it's existence is simply to give the user some form of enjoyment and release from the daily grind of reality.

For this blog though, I'm going to try my best to avoid the subject of game, and instead focus solely on computers. Why were they invented? Who invented them? How have they evolved and developed? And finally and probably most importantly for the intention of this string of blogs, at what point did somebody decide that there should be a computer with only one intended use, playing games?

From just a few hours of research, I've began to get a real sense of the scale and diversity of the computer's history, and the impact the computer has now had on our lives. It seems computers are now literally in everything (i.e. the microchip), and come in an almost infinite amount of forms. Yet the strangest thing is we somehow take all of this for granted.

From day numero uno, to this day, whatever computers appear to be doing, all they're actually doing is maths, very quickly. This is our first clue then as to where computers come from.

For me, computers really appeared as early as the Victorian era, as so much of what we now call civilization has come from. The Industrial Revolution! The Machine Age! It couldn't have been done without men. Men called 'computers'. Men who did maths with a pencil. The major problem was that these 'computers', men, made mistakes. Possibly the first major step then, towards what we today would define as a 'computer', was to get rid of human error. The men with pencil's needed to be replaced with something more reliable. A mechanical brain? Ironically, what it took to come up with the goods, was a man with a pencil! Charles Babbage.

Charles Babbage was known to everyone who mattered in Victorian London. He was Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University, basically, he was a complete number junkie, obsessed with order, maths and tabulation. What he came up with was a machine. It was what his Victorian audience would of called a miracle, but what we today might call a computer. What he built to fuel his thirst for order was what he called his Difference Engine.

At the time Babbage publicised his ideas for the Difference Engine, the idea that a machine could be instructed seemed a radical concept. Babbage only built a demonstration piece, but, to his Victorian audience it seemed that what they were watching was a machine capable of thought, they found it hard to keep up! Babbage was well ahead of his time it seemed. But what was the potential of his ideas? Sadly it was never realized, Babbage made a few 'errors' himself and his Difference Engine was never made. At one point Babbage's ground breaking machine was ridiculed and dismissed. In the end it was even claimed that it would never have come to anything anyway. But, in 1991, engineers at the Science Museum did build the cog wheels 'computer', and it did work!

I wont go into explaining how it worked right now, it worked using what Babbage called the 'unerring certainty of mechanism', but it did do its job, it eliminated human error and was capable of astonishing calculations. It is so sad that it was never built, and amazing to think how different things could have been if the Difference Engine had been made.

Charles Babbage recognized the need for even more powerful machines despite the lack of people who now took him seriously, and, before he passed away he did come up with what he called the Analytical Engine, something that worked in almost exactly the same way as a modern electronic computer, this thing even had integrated memory! But sadly, like his Difference Engine's the device remained on paper.

For me then, Babbage's machines were truly the first computers, possibly not what we're familiar with today, but machines capable of immense calculations without error. What if they had of been made in the 19th century though? The Empire would have been even more efficient, Britain even more powerful, the first World War probably wouldn't of started in the first place!

It wasn't until the middle of the next century, 80 years later, that the need for a mechanical computer surfaced once again. During World War 2, Alan Churing was the man needed to crack the Lorenz Cipher, an almost impenetrable code used by the German high command and Hitler himself. What Churing invented to crack the code was Colossus, the worlds first electronic computer.

Colossus' life though is shrouded in mystery, it is believed that the machines and their plans were destroyed in the 1960's, and bound by the official secrets act, officially, Colossus didn't exist at all. Another tragic story of 'what ifs?'.

Today, Alan Churing is generally considered to be the father of the modern computer. But where am I heading? How have we reached the point of what we today consider a 'home computer'? And where are all the games?

After WWII, Britain was in a prime position to exploit the technology of Colossus, but due to the secrecy surrounding it (it never existed), we were almost completely written out of the whole history of computing. Then the whole industry was developed by our rather less secretive friends, the Americans!

The idea that a home computer would become an everyday machine used by civilians seemed like a huge no no due to the sheer size of computers, until 1958, and the birth of the silicone chip. Yet from all of my research from my point of views it seems like it wasn't until the mid 80's that computers weren't just tools used by the government and that they weren't going to be machines just used to do serious maths.

But what about games? It could be debated forever. It is considered that the first 'true' video game was invented by a physicist in 1958, a table-tennis like game played on an oscilloscope. I don’t agree. For me personally, Atari are the inventors of the video games as we know them today with the Atari 2600. The first commercially available home video game, not an experiment or a prototype, but an electronic computer designed solely to be a games console, for no other purpose than simple pleasure for the average being.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Be all you can be!

Hi everyone, my name's Joe. If you're not already aware I have been on the Game Art Course at DMU previously. I started the course in September 2009 with my partner Sophia Leong, but in January 2010 Sophia suffered a stroke and was in hospital for quite some time. She is now in Melton Mowbry undergoing rehabilitation and is making outstanding progress. Basically, if there's a God, in January last year he decided to pull his pants down and take a dump all over my life! (Sophia's brain injury hasn't been the only crap I've had to deal with), but that’s another long story for another time. The one thing to note now is that what has happened to Sophia has been a massive shock to me, but with an amazing amount of support from friends and family I am beginning to see some light at the end of a very long tunnel. I always like to believe that things could always be worse no matter how bad they get, and to try and give myself some perspective on things I always try to tell myself that there is somebody, somewhere worse off than myself, (although every time I think that my mind jumps to the Fawlty Towers episode when Basil is told that, to which he replies, “is there? Well I'd like to meet him!”).

So here I am back on the course. I was initially drawn to Game Art and Design at DMU due to the fair amount of traditional artistic skills, drawing and painting etc., that are incorporated within the course and the idea that the course would help me to transfer these skills into the digital medium.

For me, right now, everything still feels a little 'up in the air' with everything else going on around me in life. So for now, I'd basically just like to work hard and make it through the year, but in the future who knows? I did at one point aspire to work for Naughty Dog at their Santa Monica studios, being a huge fan of their Crash Bandicoot and more recently Uncharted games. But, with the shit hitting the fan as of late, my life being the faeces in this instance, I'd basically just love to finish the course with a good degree under my belt, and thinking more practically, in the long term I've always thought I'd like to be an illustrator for children’s books, I think I'd really enjoy that. All I really want is to get Sophia home with me and take care of her, and having a job as an illustrator may give me the opportunity to balance work with whatever needs Sophia may have, and, I could possibly even work from home. Being realistic, having a decent education and a good, well paid job would be massively positive and beneficial for myself and Sophia.

As I mentioned earlier, my dream job would probably be working for Naughty Dog, possibly as a concept artist or environment artist. Naughty Dog currently have a few vacancies, six in total in their art department and one of the main aspects of the company that I find wonderful is how much they value the role of art within the industry, asking for skills such as 'a fundamental knowledge of art history, art styles and artistic principles', as well as, 'aesthetics in game and film', obviously values which I also feel strongly about and have an interest in away from the course.

I could probably go on but I think I'll leave it here for today, I'm running out of breath!

Glad to be back!