Wednesday, 7 November 2012


"the act of combining parts or elements to form a whole."

Composition is one of those words. At its fundamental levels it is very easy to understand but if somebody was to ask you on the spot, 'what is composition', try to come up with a good answer. I think because the word encompasses so many things it is very hard to explain in just a few breaths, because absolutely everything and anything in the universe has a composition, is composed of 'things'. Air is composed of 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen and 1% 'other stuff', the composition of a cake is the ingredients you used in order to bake it, it is the elements that are used to put something together. 

In art, composition is the the arrangement of the visual elements or 'ingredients' in a piece of art work or even a photograph, and the visual elements are the principles of visual art, basically the tools or rules/ guidelines that an artist will use in order to arrange/ organize the visual elements or 'compose' the visual elements in order to create a piece of art work. Composition is the main aspect of putting things together in the right way, and when things are 'composed' or assembled the right way it means that, that thing can work properly. In art, a successful composition means that, that piece of art work will be aesthetically pleasing, interesting or to put it simply, nice to look at.

Like I've said, the visual elements are the ingredients needed to 'compose' any piece of artwork. Understanding the elements 'ingredients' of a cake might be easy, maybe not for some but you get my point, so what are the ingredients for art, the visual elements. There are many, some might not be considered by certain artists to be visual elements but there are a certain few which no doubt all artists would agree on to being fundamental in the composition of artwork. so lets take a look at them; 

Line; theoretically there are no literal lines in nature, everything we see is a product of light but an artist will use line-like shapes to create distinct borders between objects in a scene to define colour, contrast etc. It is one of the tools an artist will use to create the illusion of a 3D object on a 2 dimensional surface. 

Shape and proportion; a geometrical description of an object in a space.

Colour; Colour is characterized by attributes such as hue, saturation and brightness. Many artists agree that pure white and pure black should not be used as they do not exist in reality (i wont get into this argument right now). Colour may also be used symbolically in order to describe, good, bad, peace or innocence.

Texture; is the perception of the surface quality of an object in a space.

Form; similar to shape, it is the visual appearance of configuration of an object in a space.

Value; closely linked with colour and has a strong relationship with light as light will dictate the value of an object, its lightness or its tone.

Space; is the 3 dimensional extent in which objects have relative position and direction. In artwork this can be used to create the illusion of distance and direction.

Understanding the visual elements can be somewhat easy to understand but unbelievably hard to apply to a piece of artwork. Again in comparison to baking a cake, we have the ingredients, 'visual elements' but now we need to know how to put them together to bake the cake. In this case we understand what line and colour and form etc are but we now need the 'recipe' to put them together into a composition-ally successful piece of art work. In art, the recipe for the composition of a piece of art work, ie  the organisation of these visual elements) is called the principles or organisation. One reason why art can be so expressive and unique is because there is no one way to organise the elements, fundamentally it is the artists choice to determine what the centre of interest, the focus of a piece of art work will be and the artist can then use the ingredients, the visual elements to compose the piece of art work. 

Because there are any number of ways in order to organise the visual elements, and may I add that not all of the visual elements need to be used in every piece of art work, there is still one extra thing needed in order to ensure that a piece of artwork is composition-ally correct and therefore pleasing to look at. Basically the thing that brings together the visual elements so that the piece of artwork works. These are referred as simply 'compositional techniques'. A compositional technique is the final arrangement of the visual elements in order to create an aesthetically pleasing piece of art work.

There are a number of techniques again which can be used by an artist to arrange the visual elements within their art work. Whilst fundamentally the techniques are used as mentioned to create an aesthetically pleasing piece of art work they are also used, and equally as important, to create an interesting piece of art work for the viewer to look at so they can be used to define mood and invoke a reaction.

Compositional techniques include;

The Rule of Thirds; "The method involves dividing the frame into thirds, vertically and horizontally (so it actually becomes ninths), and then using those lines to effectively bisect your image, using the lines to section off areas of the image and using the nodes at which the lines cross as key areas for points of interest. This rule, although very simple, works extremely well when used effectively, for example, within a landscape shot, the horizon could cross the frame along the lower horizontal line, with the top of a mountain range crossing the upper horizontal line. Similarly, with a portrait shot, the eyes could be placed at the points at which the upper horizontal line bisects the two vertical lines."

Considering all of this lets take some examples of art work, including my own and see whether they work composition-ally.

Above is my latest piece of work, a digital painting of Bradgate Park in Leicester. As you can see I have applied the rule of thirds here to some extent by choosing to place the focal point of the painting, ie the people standing on the top of the hill at one of the points at which the horizontal and vertical lines intersect which draws the views attention to this point creating interest within the painting. Other techniques which have been applied here in order to create this 'focus'
including the varied tone in colour, darker areas around the people on the hill and a lighter area where they are stood again draw the viewers eye to that point.

Compare this to last years Bradgate Park final above and I would say that this piece of art work fails in its composition. As you can see there is no definitive focal point. For the viewer this piece of artwork is not comfortable to look at therefore it would not hold the viewers attention ultimately failing as a piece of art.
 in my own opinion. Can you tell I never liked this piece?

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

A Treat For Halloween!

Halloween is here again and clearly the scariest thing about that is that we're fast approaching another Christmas and another new year, I really cant believe that its November tomorrow. So, this Halloween Ive opted for a treat, but not in the form of candy, no, this treat comes in the form of a Playstation game! So what? you're thinking, you've got Resident Evil 6? been out for weeks, most people have completed it, its more action than horror anyway. Well actually no, I havn't got Resident Evil 6, dont want it really, dont really care, but I have purchased and downloaded Resident Evil 3; Nemesis, on my Playstation Vita, oh the nostalgia! No doubt one of the best and most frightening of all the Resident Evil games alongside possibly Veronica X. 
Resident Evil 3; Nemesis for me has created one of those moments in your life were every time you see it, it instantly brings back all of those frightened nights of the past. Now we must remember I must of been around 10 years old, maybe even younger when I played this game, (which has an age rating of 18), I was scared shit-less to say the least. Its like re-watching old favorite horror movies, the game has the same affect, I remember first watching the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre around the same age, and the adverse affects it has on your mind as a child stays with you for life, every time you re-watch or in this case re-play.

Now i wont bore you with a review or anything like that, I just thought Id share with you why I still love this game, and what memory's make it still enjoyable for me to play today. Now these games are, for me anyway, why there is such a fondness for all things Zombie now-a-days. It was these games that kick started it all off, obviously im not so narrow minded to say that these games started the Zombie era, for me its quite clear that a certain Mr Romero made 'Zombie' so popular to this day, but I believe Resident Evil can be praised for defining the 'survival horror' genre that we still love today with game like Dead Island winning multiple awards last year and games like Dead Space 3 on the horizon.
For me the real world, gritty environments delivered by the first Resident Evil games where just awesome. Camera angles we're well placed to leave you always wondering what was around the next corner, there wasn't really any music in the games, but the incessant tapping of feet and small creaks, howls and blowing wind always create a fantastic mood. The way the game would cut to an animation of the door creaking open ever so slowly every time you walked through one and most importantly how great is it that at 23 years old, on a small PS Vita Screen with small sound the game can still make me jump! But there's one thing that stands out for me with this game. Its something that any film has really yet to offer me, possibly the Halloween movies, but even they cant come close to the sense this game creates for me, and im going to leave you with this. This game leaves me with the feeling, a sense of not being able to get away from something that’s chasing you.

Happy Halloween!

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Why Do I Want An iPad Mini?

So yesterday Apple announced the iPad mini, massive shock, not, and, as with anything new in the world of gadgets and tech, I want one. I dont know why I have this impulse to always want the latest things, I've always been like that, maybe because i'm a spoiled brat, dont care, I like to own new things, especially new, shiny technology. There is an obvious appeal to all of this new tech, obviously, as companies probably spend tens of millions during development designing their new piece of gadgetry, there's the smell, the feel, but there's something i just cant put my finger on for why i have this need to have these things, and i think that's why its an impulse, its just an illogical urge to want to own new gadgets. I think the closest i can come to describing what it is that makes me want these things, is when i look at a new piece of tech, it makes me say "wow, cool".

So why do I want an iPad mini? Well, when any new piece of tech grabs my attention, which is apparently way too often, i begin to compose as big a list as possible for why said piece of technology is needed in my life. What use i will have from it, how awesome it will be when other people see you have the latest thing, i have the money and life is short, what the hell just get yourself it, treat yourself, you've had a hard week. It can be an early Christmas present, or its the four week anniversary of starting your second year of uni, you deserve a treat. So naturally, when the announcement for the iPad mini came yesterday the list began, and in all honesty, more often than not there not bad reasons. One, I love reading books and for a good while now I've wanted to buy an e-reader, sometimes certain technology can take a while to grab me, for example, i love reading 'books', i like the feel of a new book and the smell of it and was quite reluctant to get an e-reader from fear of loosing the other charms of bending the pages back and creasing the spine of a good book. So i seen a few friends with the Kindle, it was good, yes, but not jaw-droppingly advanced technology, and then I seen the Kindle Fire, which has finally been released here in the UK now, its got a HD colour screen, large memory, wi-fi with a web browser, front facing camera and not a bad price either, but something still wasn't grabbing me. Same with 3D, i was sort of convinced it was just a passing fad, its good fun at the pictures but again there's something missing, and then i seen it on an actual television set in Curry's using the active shutter technology and that was a genuine jaw dropping moment, it looks great, and seen as me and the wife have just bought a new 3D TV, (still waiting to buy some glasses), I'm actually excited, in particularly to get stuck into some 3D gaming action, games like Gran Turismo 5, Uncharted 3 and Motorstorm Apocalypse, which have all been designed specifically to work for 3D just look awesome.

My wife has an iPad 3rd generation, and its an awesome bit of kit, and although i've wanted one, she doesn't mind me using it, its fantastic for surfing the internet on, very fast and easy to use, but there is no major reason why i should really need one, me and the wife both have iPhone 4S's also and the iPad is basically a bigger version but with no phone capability, this isn't a bad thing, its great for watching films whilst travelling, chatting on Facebook, playing games and using apps but none of these reason's can really justify the high price tag, they aren't really serious uses for the thing. Although one thing i still havn't got around to doing yet is downloading some paint app for it which admittedly I've been eager to do. Then Apple finally go ahead an announce the mini version. Now, this is another thing i've always been a sucker for, i love my tech, but make it smaller, slimmer, 'mini' and im as good as sold, please dont ask why. So yeah, i think an iPad mini would be a good investment for me, I can spend a little more money and better tech and finally have a really decent e-reader as well as use it for magazines and possibly comics such as ImagineFX, at the moment I am also struggling to organise the unbelievable amount of crap being thrown my way from all directions, although I do mostly just depend on my brain to help me with that and if not i use my iPhone, but surely an Ipad would be better for this? I can finally do a bit of digital painting out and about wherever i may be, i can suft the net, chat on Facebook, play some fun app games, download some useful apps on something that fits much easier into my hand and is much easier to carry around but still works as good as an iPad. So im looking at the different models, comparing specs, prices, seeing what I can afford, but there's a but, all the while theres a siren going off in the back of my mind telling me to hold off.

This is probably because im quickly reacting to an impulse, the other reason is that all of a sudden im getting the urge that i'm being ripped off here. Now, if you look around mine and my wife's flat it looks like a set from the Big Bang Theory, we both, me in particular as i've mentioned love gadgety things as well as you could say geeky things, nothing wrong with that. I actually owned the very first iPhone, the one with the aluminum back which i still think was gorgeous to this day, i then had the 3G, didn't get the 3GS due to my contract skipping that generation but my wife had that one, the i had the iPhone 4, and now we both own the 4S, which is awesome by the way. But when the iPhone 5 was launched just a short while ago i felt nothing, literally no enthusiasm for the thing, no checking to see when my contract next ran out. Now im no Apple fan, i've just always liked the iPods which is one of the more appealing sides of the iPhone for me, but this is the first time where i've really felt like when my current phone contract runs out I will not be upgrading. I've felt like this is getting a bit silly, Apple have now updated every product in its range in just seven months, i really dont think even the most hardcore of Apple fans can keep up, and i really felt like a lot of others would feel the same as i do, apparently not, iPhone 5 is the fastest selling phone in history, during a global recession, whaaaaa? Considering the amount of other iPhone model sales to date, surely the majority of these sales aren't people buying who currently have no iPhone or who have never had and iPhone, so the only reason is that these sales are coming from mostly people who already have iPhones. Where the hell are they seeing the appeal? I'm not denying that the iPhone 5 is beautifully designed, or has amazing technology in its belly, i'm just saying so has my iPhone 4S. Its clearly not the leap we got from the first iPhone to the 3G, or even the 3G to the iPhone 4 for that matter. For me the iPhone 5 is better than my 4S, its just not that much better.

What i can gather from these observations is what seems like exponential growth, that the leaps in the technology involved with Apple's iPhone is getting less and less apparent with each iteration. This cannot be the case, technology, not yet anyway, does not work like that, it keeps getting better, and even if it doesn't seem so right now, just look back at the technology we had just five or ten years ago, its a vast improvement over what was available just that short time ago. The other reason is maybe now that Apple have sadly lost Steve Jobs they are too frightened to take too big a leap forward, to be pioneering and different and beyond innovative  but this is what Apple represents, surely they aren't just 'giving the consumers exactly what they want', cant be, i've always been under the impression that Apple 'shows the consumers what they want', so it cant be that reason either.

So here's the conclusion I've come to. And here's why i think i'm being ripped off. The iPad mini looks great, and although apple claims 'there's less of it, but no less to it', upon further inspection this doesn't seem to be the case at all. At this point I've not even mentioned that alongside the announcement of the iPad mini Apple also announced a fourth generation iPad (and this is only two and a half years after the launch of the original iPad), but you may want to re-read through my last paragraph and just replace the word iPhone with iPad because i'm not going through that rant again. But, this new iPad has some new features, as well as existing ones, which i'd expect the iPad mini to come with but doesn't. The main points here are that the new iPad mini does not come with the new iPad processor in it, in fact im pretty sure it doesn't even have the 3rd gen's iPad processor in it and it does not come with Apple's now famous retina display, again im pretty certain its screen is, if not almost identical again to the iPad 2, now 2 generations old.  Quote from Forbes "Google’s Nexus 7 Android tablet has 1280 x 800 resolution in a 7” screen. Notably, the Nexus 7 display packs in 216 PPI (pixels-per-inch) compared to the iPad Mini’s 163 PPI. I find it baffling that Apple is aggressively pushing their Retina technology (and rightly so), while simultaneously producing what is clearly an inferior display experience for their iPad mini. Newcomers to the iPad will not be impressed, and existing iPad owners will be underwhelmed should they choose to purchase the iPad Mini as a second device.". Heres where i begin to feel as though i'm being ripped off. Apple have no problem demonstrating the fact that they revise their products every six months now and i'm beginning to get the feeling that they are DELIBERATELY holding back on the technology in their products intentionally planning on a better version in six months time, how is that fair? The reason i loved the Playstation 3 when it was first released, and the reason why i picked mine up at a midnight launch, is despite the high price tag at the time, I actually thought I was getting good value for money, it really seemed as though Sony had put together the best available technology they could at that time and it showed. I get the sense that Apple are blatantly demonstrating the stupidity of today's consumers, I haven't a leg to stand on then it seems, I have no problems with the advancement of technology  but i read somewhere once that technology doubles in advancement around every eighteen months or so, apparently Apple have cut that down to a third? I dont think so. 

So what do i do? Clearly consumers are stupid, and if they are willing to pay out for minor adjustments at best, every six months, I cant blame Apple for wanting to take their money. But what do i do? I still want an iPad mini, so do i buy one when they are released so I have the new latest and greatest thing, or do i wait for six months for the iPad miniS or mini2 or do i wait till 2014 for the next one, when eventually i know Apple will include the better processor and a Retina display. Right now my argument is pretty clear, and i cant really argue with myself now can I? This would no doubt be a major purchase for me considering the price, so I want it to be perfect and not be outdated in just half a year, so I'm sorry Apple, looks like i've talked myself out of this one this time and for now, my money stays with me.

Just thought I'd also share these articles with you, they dont 'back-up' my argument here, but are along the same lines as where i am coming from with it;

Ahh the pangs of indecision. Lastly I would also like to note that my decision is not yet final, you probably all know by now that naything could change when I get my mits on one for the first time.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Losing my pasion for gaming?

For a good while now I havn't played games as much as I used to, but I dont think I havn't played them as much as I of liked to, no, I dont think that is the reason. I dont know wether it has primarily been the events of the last 3years or so that have directly or indirectly affected my urge to sit down and play a game start to finish or wether it is ust the case that I have just gradually become interested in spending my valuable time doing other things, because lets face it, a video game, new or old, will take up a good deal of ones time, just to play from start to finish without worrying about tropies or achievments or whatever meaningless crap that one struggles so hard to get even though, at least in my opinion, the 'getting' of these things always seem cheap and meaningless.

I think it is a mixture of a few different things. Yes, i believe the last few years have had a major influence on me not playing video games as often or for as long. I havn't hardly had the time to sit down and play again, nevermind the opportunity to relax and enjoy one, and as time has gone on and these events have sorted themselves out, things have settled down and started to become easier I havn't found myself phasing back into a routine of sitting for possible a few hours a day, if not every other day, and enjoying a game. The workload involved with being on the Game Art Design course clearly has an influence on how much spare time you have to do other things but i think its a case as I've mentioned before, that there is eventually a clear difference between enjoying playing games and enjoying making them, and sometimes this is apparent in fellow students which one they are.

So what I have done in my spare time? Well i must say that for a good while now I have bought way more movies than I have games and watching a good movie is still something i thoroughly enjoy. We've just bought ourselves a new Samsung 37" LED 3D HDTV and blu-rays just look absolutely stunning on it. I actually counted how many blu-ray movies we have today and it currently stands at 194, not a bad number? I think a major influence on this shift between movies and gaming has just been how unbelievably exhausted I've been. When you've put every last ounce of energy you have into your daily activities, even picking up a controller and mashing away at buttons just seems like to much of an effort, so to sit down and watch a movie is a nice way to rewind and relax before bed.

The sad thing is that the events of the last few years have obviously had quite an averse affect on me and unfortunately i have lost my enthusiasm for a lot of things. Despite this i still enjoy art, and the satisfaction it can give when your hard work and dedication is clearly demonstrated in your work. Frustratingly i do want to play games, i remember how much I enjoyed them, but that is when i was at school with much less responsibilities, its hard to justify using your time in this way but as things, finger crossed, continue to settle down i hope my passion for gaming will return.

Summary of last few weeks

It has been a slow but sure start to the second year and i thought i'd just take this opportunity to talk about the work and what I've been thinking. Im happy with how i've started the year, it kind of feels like im stuck in the middle at the moment, one big step has been taken moving into the second year and I can see the next steps in front of me and its hard not to jump the gun. Right now im in a comfortable position and im basically just trying to focus on putting out some good quality work.

Second project for visual design has been an enjoyable one at The Great Central Railway in Loughborough and gave me the opportunity again to work on perspective drawing skills. I also still havn't had the opportunity to look at producing a digital/ colour version of my Abbey Park Final so i thought now would be a good opportunity to have a good go at producing a high quality digital final taking into consideration techniques discussed in the Concept Art and Planning PDF. The final piece has taken me at least 12-15 hours to finish, which i consider to be far to long, but seen as im still not completely confident with digital painting, (i havn't exactly done many) im very happy with it. I spent a lot of time researching and considering contrast, saturation and atmospheric blurring, especially towards completing the piece which I was able to apply to the final painting. The final is below;

I have now also finished the trash project ready for Monday's hand in. Again i'm very happy with the outcome. There are a few areas where i would of changed things considering but overall the project was enjoyable and i've got another good asset to include in my portfolio.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Elements of Game Design, Planning and Concepting

I hate these types of tasks, "come up with ground rules for concept and planning". When in reality I really don't feel qualified or in a position to be telling anyone how they should go about planning their work. At the moment I'm still in a position where what I can learn far exceeds what I already know, and this is probably why I feel this way. On the other hand, there is nothing from stopping me from researching how professionally artists go about planning and concepting there own work and feeding back here what I've learnt, not for anybody else to use but for myself.

So that's were the 'Art Process Boot camp' PDF comes in. Not only did I read it, all of it, even the bits at the end where the guy critiques his own work, but I printed it all out, which has probably cost me a bomb in ink by the way, and highlighted some of the parts which I felt where most important and, most importantly, most relevant to the planning of a piece of art work.

So I'm not entirely sure how to write this blog, whether to go on and on about what i think is important in planning or to share with you some of the items I highlighted within this tutorial, possibly a little mixture of both.

The most important thing I gathered from reading all of this was that in order to produce a good piece of art work you MUST apply a process in its creation. Ive seen plenty of other students who just chuck out concept painting after concept painting, even go on to get decent jobs within the industry, and there is no denying that these pieces of work look nice, but there is always something fundamentally wrong with these pieces of work, something you just cant lay a finger on, and that's because, according to this guy anyway, YOU NEED PROCESS. The key to any good painting is if it can communicate to the viewer. If you do not have this communication in your work, more than likely, you wont have the viewer's attention either. The second most important, if not equally important thing I've gathered from this pdf is in order to even start the 'process' you need to research whatever you plan on doing. You will not be able to produce something passable from memory alone, only the masters can do this! And this means reference. Reference, reference, reference.  You really need good reference, and if you cant find anything to fit the concept you change the concept. I don't need to talk about how to get reference, I know how and so should you, the important thing is to make sure you search for ALL of the elements you will need for your painting. ALL of them.

The next step in the process after the previous tow, is using your process and your reference to plan your composition and this means by making small, possibly shitty thumbnails, but this doesn't matter, its about your working out, once you find a layout you like, you'll know it.

The rest of this pdf is more about the specifics within the process, in terms of actually doing the painting and in terms of planning is really important at this stage, the point here is to follow the 'rules' that cover ll of these specifics throughout the whole process. Specifics like focusing on tone, material, lighting and shadow, weight and balance, contrast and saturation and focal points. The most important thing which consists of all of these minor specifics that all add up to the major final painting is it's all about the process surrounding the understanding of purpose and discerning detail to create mood to achieve your concept, to have a clear inspiration and planning, a vision. So the next step is not in the specifics but in the remembering to ask the questions to find out.

The next steps are kind of about coming full circle and back to the beginning, firstly back to the point of communicating with the viewer and all of this planning should ask no matter how simple, does the piece tell a story? It doesn't have to tell the whole story but it has to communicate to the viewer and leave it open for the viewer to continue the story themselves in their minds. As I mentioned earlier if you cant do this, you wont have the viewers attention to begin with. And the final step which brings us back to the beginning is its all about applying the process throughout the creation of the piece of art work, this will give your work narrative and a purpose. As I mentioned we all see wonderful pieces of artwork everyday, from fellow students, peers, colleagues and professionals but more often than not we get this empty feeling and we can just brush past a piece of work without giving it any other thought other than, 'yeah, that looks nice' and this is because the work has no purpose. And this is because no process has been applied in its creation, it has just been created.

So here are what I think are the main, most important aspects of planning and conception, call them rules if you like. They do not directly consider the actual techniques involved within the painting process but cover the overall process which would go into a paintings creation;

-Getting Reference
-Planning the Composition
-Ask the Questions to find the Specifics
-Communicate with the Viewer
-Process in Creation

Starting Year Two

Year two has finally got off to a start after a long summer, but one which I needed, to try and start the recovery from the last few years which have been both physically and emotionally draining. I still don't feel like I'm completely there yet, I've become very anxious about things, become stressed very easily and am still suffering from unbelievable strain in my neck, but apart from that I can say that this year has been much easier to start than last. Things in my life away from work are settling down now and becoming easier, but its still hard to shift the feeling that anything can go wrong at any moment, but I am a positive person, and I believe we only get one chance on this rock so its best to try and enjoy things whilst they last, because, unfortunately, nothing lasts forever.

Okay, so now I've got the doom and gloom out of the way lets move on to week one of year two of BA Hons game art and design. The best way to describe would be to say that the week has started nicely. Monday started with our visual design lesson and we where at Abbey Park getting the year off to a good start with some nice environmental stuff, focusing on lighting and shadows, all be it the actual day was overcast and the lighting was crap, but hey, we're artists and we press on. After spending a few hours at the park, getting a few thumbnails down and plenty of reference I'd found a small section of the park which had been built specifically as a garden called 'Redland Garden of the Senses'. In here i found a wooden construction, similar to a tunnel with overground foliage all around it which looked fantastic, something that could easily be seen within a game environment, not only this but it provided me with the chance to put a bit of perspective into practise in case I'd gotten a bit rusty over the summer break.

Above you can see a page of my thumbnails with the idea for the final piece in the top right.

And below is my final piece, although the task was technically to focus on colour I felt the need to do a grey-scale pencil drawing to start off the year. I havn't managed to get much drawing done over the summer and felt this would get me back into the flow of things. I will 'hopefully' do a colour version of this as a digi-paint as a lot of other students are doing. It is just difficult as although I feel I am a fairly decent artist I have limited understanding of Photoshop and digital painting in general and although I don't like to name names, I get the feeling that others with lesser artistic abilities than myself are able to produce much better digi-paints purely because they 'know-how-to', which is frustrating.

Game production also got off to a 'nice' start, with the Trash Project set by Blitz. The project I feel is going to be an easy-ish start to the year to get back into the swing of things, the main challenge and focus of the project is to be able to produce convincing game art at a strict budget in terms of tri's and texture space, which will be a fun project and I currently feel quite comfortable with producing decent work with a small poly/ tri count. I have already gathered some good reference and have currently got a decent start with building the assets, the wireframes can be seen below. The trash currently stands at around 498 tri's with no smoothing groups applied.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Level (Year) One, Completed

Where to start? I'm feeling a mixture of emotions right now. Relief that the year has finally come to an end, I say finally as it feels like it has taken much longer than one year to reach this point. I’m satisfied by the work I have produced but on the other hand I feel I could have given so much more if the course was the only thing I needed to focus on this year. It seems like all year other things have demanded too much of my time and attention away from the course, and this hasn't only depleted my time being spent on my work but also my energy levels, my motivation, and the state of feeling stressed and overly-committed have been overwhelmingly abundant this year. I have often felt that the demands of my everyday life have exceeded my ability to handle them and again this has affected my concentration levels and my cognitive processes.

I know that these feelings have affected my work in many areas and severely in some. I started the year with a strong, positive attitude towards my ability to produce the work needed and still manage things in my life away from the course but as time has gone on things seem to have gotten harder, either that or I have found it harder to cope. Towards the end of the year I have felt constantly tired with no motivation to ‘get up’ and do some work, it has been frustrating that when I’ve tried to do work my mind won’t stay focused, and it won’t seem to function properly, it’s an extremely odd feeling to describe, but it’s just as though my brain wont ‘work’. I have good ideas on the direction I want my work to take but executing those ideas is where I seem to keep hitting walls, and this hasn’t helped with my attitude towards completing the work.
Despite these issues I’d like to think I am a fairly comprehensive artist and that my artistic skills and ability is at a good level in which to complete my work, and this I feel/ hope has been demonstrated by the work I have produced this year both in Game Production and Visual Design. On the other hand I have felt that due to time restrictions I am going to improve as an artist at a slower rate than I perhaps would because my focus is being taken away for long periods of time and this has made me feel demotivated. I am also extremely disappointed with how I have engaged with Critical Studies this year; again, to some extent my blog writing started well but as time has progressed towards the final stages of the year my state of mind has made it more and more difficult to demonstrate the thought processes for writing. My last few blog entries in particular I feel have been poor, they have been short and brief and the language use again I feel is unsatisfactory, and I can only put this down to my state of mind at the end of the year. As I have sat at my computer ready to write a blog my own mind just seems unwilling to respond, my mind seems to be both blank and unable to string a half decent sentence together never mind a comprehensive blog post. This has not only frustrated me but has upset me too, I have always been positive and confident in my writing skills and I have never found such a thing so difficult to do.

A look at the positive side of things and I can say that I am quite pleased with the work I have produced this year, my final pieces have been of a decent quality but I still need to improve upon my digital painting skills in relation to my traditional based skills. I must say I have been surprised by the large amount of projects and work that have been set this year, I'm not sure whether each year gets set the same amount of work or if this year is just hard working but I know myself I have posted 176 pictures to my visual design folder on Facebook which seems about average for most of the rest of my year were as if I look back over previous years 'first year' folders the number dramatically drops to under half that amount of work even for some of the top third years. Im not entirely sure what to make of this, possibly my year is weaker overall and therefore has needed to produce more work in order to achieve the level needed or simply that more work has been set this year than previous years.

There are also a lot of positive areas within my Game Production work this year, the actual quality of the work I have produced I am extremely happy with. My understanding of the 3DS Max program has increased at a good a level and has enabled me to produce some good 3D work. I am also pleased with the quality of the textures for the assets I have produced, particularly in the techniques I have developed for the construction of my normal and specular maps, I feel that they dramatically improve the quality of my models and help them to stand out.

One other area within the visual aspect of things is how I have presented my work this year. Earlier in the year some suggestions from third year students prompted me to develop a more consistent presentation style, especially with my 3D work. What resulted was what you call call a logo to sit with my work and a consistent colour and background scheme that has really lent itself to any final renders of work I have produced. This also means that my work is more presentable within a portfolio which I have set up using the deviant art web portfolio service. The site is still 'under construction'. A small quantity of work has been uploaded which sits great within the site but it is yet to reach a stage where one could use it to spread my work, although it would only take a small amount of time to get to that stage, one day tops. This, I hope will be done in the very near future and the site address will be uploaded to this blog as soon as that happens, I may even look at registering my own domain name depending on the cost. In line with that site I am also hoping to update the layout and presentation of this blog to coincide with it.

Finally, to look at the course itself and to conclude my year. I really can give nothing but praise to the course and those that run it. The tutors have always been extremely understanding of the difficulties I have faced over the last few years and have given nothing but the utmost support. The course also boasts some impressive guest lectures each year and this year has been no exception. I myself have particularly enjoyed the guest lectures provided by Codemasters earlier in the year, considering that this is a company that I'd be more than happy to work for the possibility to make connections with the company in any small way is a huge leap over what any other courses could offer a student.

I would also like to mention the fantastic level of support and help from second and third year students and even a small number who have since left the course and are now working in industry. The help they provide is invaluable in terms of progression through the course of the first year and I hope it is something I am able to do for any new comers next year.

Its really difficult to find any negative areas within the course without being nit-picky. As I have mentioned I feel that there has been a surprisingly high amount of work load set this year which seems to me to be inconsistent with previous years. A few students have pointed out that some of the course structure that is outlined on the DMU Blackboard is slightly out of date and if this were to be corrected may go some way in bringing consistency to the projects being set each year.

To conclude, thank god the year is over! Not to say that I havn't thoroughly enjoyed the year but I might now go and sleep for the next five months to replenish my energy for next year! Seriously though, I am certainly looking forward to the summer break. The heartache of the previous few years should go some way to resolving itself and hopefully my stress levels will decrease as will my tiredness and my energy levels and enthusiasm should reach its peak once again and I can continue to produce the work I know I am capable of. I have already got some good ideas for the set summer projects and as soon as everything settles down more at home I am ready to get stuck in. I have also got some other ideas for smaller things to do over the summer but I feel its important just to continue to develop myself without wearing myself out any more!

I finally want to say thank you to my tutors for the support they have given me this year, its always nice to know that people have faith in you're abilities. I would also like to thank my peers, the new faces I have met this year. It has been hard to adjust after making such wonderful friends the first time round who have always been there and given so much love and support to myself and my partner but I have also met some wonderful new people this year who have also shown support, so thank you.

Here's to never giving up!

Thursday, 19 April 2012


Hmmmm, a tricky one for the game artist and possibly the biggest part of any game studio is the team who works on a games environment. Games have reached a point now where environments can be ultra-realistic, an exact re-creation of anywhere or any place on the planet, whether it be a race track in Gran Turismo or Paris in Call Of Duty, realism seems to be a big demand from the gaming community.

I think we should start by looking at what constitutes environment design with the game world, the environment is what is more commonly known as a 'level' in the gaming world. Everything a gamer can see within the location is the environment, the environment could be a city or it could be an open, featureless desert, but it is the location within the game which the player needs to move through in order to progress through the game. But if a person were to paint an environment, it could just be made to look pretty, that person would not have to take into account the function of the environment or the practicality, were as an environment artist working on a video game environment needs to consider how the player will move through the environment, how they will interact with the environment both in game and visually. I suppose the most difficult job for the artist is to create the illusion of freedom within the game world whilst still directing a player towards the objective, without feeling forced and whilst continually ensuring the player's interest and attention is kept, from anything like the placement of a building to a rock or piece of rust on a wall.

I think some might argue that somewhere along the line, or at least gradually, our creativity is being driven out by the demand for realism, but I just don't think this is the case. If we look at games like Dead Space or Uncharted, these games are not re-creations of anywhere in the world, nobody could actually go to these places, but everything appears real, the environments aren't fantasy, the aren't real p[laces, but they consist of real things, buildings, trees, the property's of the materials appear real, and even though these places don't exist they make the experience feel more real.

I have a very keen interest in becoming an environment artist, I feel the role provides much more freedom than a character artist in that the role isn't just focused on one aspect, even items, weapons, assets, vehicles become part of the environment they are in and need to be consistent within the style of the game.

Monday, 16 April 2012


We make connections everyday of our lives with inanimate objects, they should be meaningless encounters with discardable items. It can be a phone, maybe a car, but we do this because we believe these objects have 'character'. Possibly due to the human condition it is a necessity to make this association in order for us to make a connection and this gives a big clue into what is truly important in character.

Character design in games has come a long way, but so has the technology behind the games so that's probably why, but one thing that will always remain the same is how we will respond and make our connections with characters and its all about the story, the narrative. A story being told through visual elements, Pac-Man is no different to Crash Bandicoot, he is the happy-go-lucky hero of the game and any person can automatically and instantly recognize that, which is the vital initial connection which needs to be made.

Im a fan of both films and reading books and have always felt that books have had an edge over films in conveying character. I find films introducing new characters have a hard time in getting the viewer to make a connection within the restricted amount of time (2hours approx) and can quite often leave the viewer with an inadequate experience. Books on the other hand more often than not do a better job, one series of books in particular I'm a fan of are Stephen Kings The Dark Tower which span over nearly 4000 pages. The vastness of the story means that deep connections are made with certain characters of the books, we learn their histories, their motives and aspirations and their thoughts and feelings are constantly portrayed.

Video games have the advantage that they are able to convey character  in both of these ways, clearly the main attraction is the visual element and the gamers response to the imagery being presented and that's where a game artist comes in. But as technology continues to move at an alarming pace I fear sometimes we can lose track of what is truly important. Game characters dont need to be tens-of-thousands of poly's for us to truly appreciate their characterizations.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Storytelling in Games

In my opinion, storytelling is one of mankinds greatest assets and probably one of the oldest. I love stories and from a young age I have always wanted to construct my own stories, listen to others stories, watch films and above all else i have loved to read. I believe that for a very long time now people have been extremley lucky in that we can access an almost infinite amount of stories through the miracle of books. I find books so amazing and i believe that they have and always will be among some of mankinds most cherished items. I find books so much more immersive than any film, and a book dosn't restrict us visualy unlike a film and we are allowed to let our imaginations run wild! I will put my rant about 'the miracle of books' asside for another day (or blog) though and focus more on storytelling in games.

Before i move on i just want to talk about what i feel makes a good story and, just as important what i feel makes us good storytellers. I feel that most importantly a good story must involve its auidience even if its just within thier imagination, it should move the audience. A good story for me should also have direction and purpose. These next two i feel have the most strong connection with a game, and they are that a good story should always have a strong character or characters and a good story should always create vivid imagery which couldn't be more true than with a video game! 

So what makes us good storytellers? Well obviously the human brain is quite a marvelous thing, and is the engine, the power behind our 'imagination'. "The faculty of imagining, or of forming mental images or concepts of what is not actually present to the senses." What saddens me though is that as we grow older, i feel that we are forced out of our storytelling abilities and that we have to struggle to keep our minds as open as they are when we are young. I feel that as we grow older our minds close and we begin to find it harder to look beyond 'the real', but i feel that we should cherish our vivid imaginations, it is a great gift to have!

So finally, does storytelling make a good game? Well obvcourse it does. To me the whole point of a video game is to immerse the audience in an interactive experience. I think video games (some atleast) have taken storytelling to a whole new level, they have proven the point of how valuable a strong character is, and through control, the ever growing vividness of the imagery, and the immense interaction provided, like I have said, video games have taken storytelling to a whole new level and i feel, like i have mentioned in one of my earlier blogs that they may one day replace films as the more common medium to experience and immersive and vivid story.

Oh and by the way, a good story should always leave an imprint, make us remember it and leave us wanting more!

Art Direction for games

The director of a film is always one of the highest roles during the film production and is perhaps only second to the producer. The same applies to the role of direction within game development and is therefore equally important.

Within the art studio the art director is in control and responsible for the visual style and quality of art in a game. The main clue is in the name f the job role, and so, the art director is responsible for defining the visual 'direction' of a game, this will include everything a player can see in the game as well as colour, mood, tone, texture details, and will cover all aspects of the game, character, environment, assets etc. The art director works closely with the games designer and carries the burden of communicating the vision of the game to the art team and therefore one of the most important aspects of any directors job is to pre-visualise the end product to ensure there is a consistency of style throughout the project.

Art direction is an extremely important role, particularly now when games companies are under huge amounts of pressure to deliver first class game titles with virtually no margin for error and project budgets reaching into multiple millions of pounds.

The art director should work closely with the lead artists of a project team to ensure that the game designers vision and the artistic vision for the game are carried out and achieved in the final product. Also, with an art director and lead artist working closely together they can take on certain jobs together meaning aspects of the project are completed more efficiently and again retains, or should retain consistency within the game's final visual outcome. 

It is the job of the art director to have an open line of communication with all of the team. Again this will ensure that consistency throughout the project is achieved, but will also ensure that the game designer's vision is achieved within the final product.

From watching the special features of 'Black Hawk Down' I made a few notes on important aspects within the art direction of the film that I think can be applied to art direction in any field;
-To gather as much reference material as you can, they referred  to this as 'pin-ups'.
-Photograph own stuff (scouting).
-Storyboard, this is to ensure exploration before doing something final and includes information within sketches and drawings
-A response to the visual imagery.
-To pre-visualise the end product.

Its all about the art!

Monday, 26 March 2012

Character Modelling Project

Ahhh, where to start with this one, the good or the bad. I really havn't enjoyed this project. There's probably a few factors involved here, my first impression of this project was that it was to focus on our understanding of basic anatomy and our modelling skills in respect to that, obviously an understanding good anatomy is a challenge to begin with, but that isn't to say I don't like a challenge, and I do thoroughly enjoy life drawing. The project also began quite well and at a good pace I'd say, the actual base mesh of the gladiator was fairly successful, including building the head and hands, the only issue with this was that I had used a few too many tri's building the hands which was easily fixable.

I was also able to put together a few concepts for ideas in regards to armour and weaponry which enabled me to finish the model with ease as I knew how the final mesh was going to look. Unwrapping was also a good step, I do feel the unwrap stage of any model is one of my strongest attributes and I was able to pick up the 'Pelt map' function quite quickly and apply it to the mesh efficiently.


I suppose the texturing process went okay too now that I think about it. It was hard to match skin tones on the different parts of the body which led to some minor (hardly noticable) seams.

On the other hand rigging was hard, not only because my version of 3DS Max had an issue with the Skin modifier, which I was advised to use over Physique by many of the second and third years, which led to me using the Physique modifier anyway, but it was also the first time I had rigged anything. Although it was difficult, it was a good learning process and I was able to get to an 'acceptable' point with my character.

So, the modelling went okay, so did concepting, unwrapping. Texturing was fun and looked decent on the mesh and rigging wasn't the complete failure it could've turned out to be. So, the bad? Well, overall I am just disappointed with the outcome of this project. I think I am comparing it to the last (vehicle project) too much, but all along with this project Ive just felt like it wasn't progressing and just hitting walls. The project never felt unique. I think my biggest issue with this project is that I find it really hard to enjoy any character work, its not that its too hard, I just don't aspire to being a character artist, I much prefer environments, vehicles, assets, all parts of a whole environment. It may be because of who I ma as a person, exploring new worlds seems much more interesting to me than meeting knew characters, its just how I feel right now. At the end of the day I don't believe I worked as hard on this project as I could've, especially in relation to the last project, but again I can say I was much more enthusiastic with the last. I'm hoping that these feelings are in most part in relation to this specific project and not character design as a whole. I definitely want to do another character project, sooner rather than later,  either way I know its something I can not and should not avoid.


Sunday, 19 February 2012

Game Production, The vehicle Project

Just a quick summing up of this project before it's too late. Wow! great project for me, right up my street, vehicles and such. I initially had some problems when I began to build the van, in that every time I extruded a face/ poly it would have a turned edge right across the front of it. I'd watched some fairly comprehensive videos on edge modelling so I was feeling fairly confident to begin with but when this happened it was just annoying! I though I was doing something wrong, that it must've been my fault, but in the end it seemed that resetting the normals resolved the issue. I was also able to pass this information onto some of my peers.

The aspect of the project I was most looking forward to was the texturing, I decided to step away from using my reference photographs to texture as obviously with a van, they're not the most exciting to look at and my van would just end up having some company logo on it that had no meaning to me personally so I decided to paint my own textures which turned out to be highly successful! I decided to texture the van based on one of my all time hero's, Valentino Rossi's, recent WRC Ford Fiesta RS.

The texturing was hard, especially trying to make sure that it stayed as closely as possible to Rossi's Fiesta without looking like I had just stuck things anywhere. It was also difficult trying to make larger 'vinyl's' that covered more than one panel of the car join properly on the separate panels. In the end the texturing went better than I could of hoped though.

There was one final disaster worthy on making its way into this blog post. Once I had finished I decided to try and grab some nice renders using Marmoset. I had never used it before, only heard second and third years suggesting it, I had also seen some examples of second years work which had been renders in Marmoset. So I downloaded the trail version and began to teach myself how to use it, I was doing quite well too, I had managed to figure out how to export my .Max file as an .Obj file so that I could apply different textures to the different objects within the scene, and then it happened. Marmoset crashed! not only did it crash but in doing so it managed to corrupt my .Max file (which wasn't being used anyway), my photoshop files for the textures (which also weren't being used) as well as my .Tga texture files (the only files that were actually being used by Marmoset out of the lot). How?! Thankfully after much panic I was able to recover my files from a variety of different places, I had to work into my diffuse layer slightly but I was able to get my files back to where they where. Phew.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Game Design and Gameplay

Game design is the process of designing the content of a game, this could be for a board game or a video game. Obviously for the benefit of my future im going to focus on game design for video games here. Game design includes a number of core elements which include the content and rules of a game.

The design of a game will always begin with an idea but today the initial design will take the form of a game design document which will consist of the games design for use during development. The document will include things such as background, gameplay, storyline, environments and levels, characters, the rules of the game etc. These documents are extremely effective today as game studios usually have large teams working on any one game which means that as the game develops  each element remains consistent with the next. Early in video game history (70's), video games sold commercially were developed on a much smaller scale and often developed by maybe only a handful of people who would take on several roles, the actual game designer would of most likely of been the lead programmer and in the case of Sid Meier, this individual sometimes made up the the entire art team as well.

Today the design document will be very concise and detailed, it will also be clear and well ordered to ensure that the whole team working on a video game know everything there is to know regarding the titles direction. The primary function of a design document is to serve as a reference or instruction manual for the development team (artists, level designers, animators etc.) so needs to be easy to read and follow and today the document will typically go into lots of detail regarding all of the key elements of the game including, objectives, level and environment design, character design including characteristics and personalities, enemies, music, graphics, narrative and gameplay etc.

So what's the difference between game design and gameplay? Well for me it seems 'game design' is everything, the hole shabang! and gameplay is an integral part of the game design, one of the 'key elements'. The actual gameplay within a game design document should detail how the player interacts with said game. There's a very fine line between the game design and the game play it seems, as gameplay would most likely be one of the largest components of a game design document, but what sets gameplay apart from the other aspects of the games design is that it describes the interactive elements of a game. Actually another word sometimes used for gameplay is game-mechanics, and it is what distinguishes a game from other non-interactive media such as books or films. Certain elements of game design may be listed under gameplay which might include reward systems, the actual interaction between the player and the environment including objects within the environment. To summarise gameplay is the overall experience of the game design.

So what makes good game design? Well I'd say that all entirely depends on the games genre, and more importantly whether the game is a new IP or a sequel and if the game is fictional or based on true events such as a sports game. Overall its the vision for the final product which is most important to me and the more detailed a games design document is the more likely that final vision is likely to be attained, but this would also be affected by the size and skills of the team working on an individual game.

So were do I stand as a video game artist within the game design? Personally I feel I play a huge role, and not only within the games industry but in any. The actual artistic approach with anything will always play a vital role in the interaction of the viewer and the subject, ie; the gamer and the game. The artistic approach of a game is needed not only to make levels and characters, but to convey emotions and feelings. I'd like to think that any artistic role should be creative and within the game's industry it is the artists job to create what a game designer can only put into words as best as possible in relation the designer/ designers vision.

SO just to keep you happy Mike, is FEAR greatly different to Pac-Man? There are so many answers and all of them are right I'd say, if you pull back the curtains then the two games would appear very similar, particularly in terms of gameplay and objectives, you run away from enemies through corridors which is meant to be quick, jumpy, and increase suspense but newer technology means that FEAR is more interactive and therefore provides a greater experience for the gamer than that of Pac-Man.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Reef Character Visual Design Project

This is just a quick summing up of this project now that's coming to an end, I'm just completing my sculpey model of my finished character. Initially with this project I had some strong ideas and was quite eager to get started. The task seemed quite open in terms of which direction we could take the character, the key word given to us being 'humanoid', which said to me something which has 'human' form (ie, a head, two legs, tow arms etc) but dosn't necessarily have to appear human.  A few of my peers didn't seem to like the openness of the project being given, I cant see why myself, to me this meant the results would be much more diverse and most importantly in no way wrong, the actual process of our design seemed the most important thing. My initial idea then was to create a more stylised character, thinking more along the lines of Pixar and Dreamworks, I decided to do this as my vehicle design project was taken with a more sensible and practical approach.

Thinking along the line of 'reef' my first thoughts included bright colours, warm climates, clear waters, sandy beaches, the Caribbean, sea life. As I wanted my character to be taken with a stylised approach I felt it needed to have some sort of overall image and personality and after spending some time in DMU library I settled upon the idea of creating a 'Rasta-man', 'Rastafarian' character. Here was my big problem, I had instantly settled on ideas, I brought together some strong mood boards and imagery, but I had to clear an image of how I wanted my character to look in the end which I now see completely stunned all of my conceptuality and design from the word go. I immediately began designing my final vision which is completely stupid, I came up with some sort of turtle/ old, decrepit Rasta-man character which was quite frankly crap. I was too busy trying to put all of my thoughts into one final image straight away without any prior concepting and it was going completely wrong, I didn't just want a human with bits of coral attached to it or a sea creature stood on two legs but I kept arriving at the latter and it wasn't what I wanted. Again, the problem was clear, the images and ideas of where I wanted to take the character where too strong and that includes what I had in mind for storyboarding and it was wasn't taking me anywhere exciting as it wasn't giving me anything that I wasn't expecting.

 The character wasn't what I wanted, and for me personally it didn't seem to 'fit' into any specific game genre so therefore wasn't suitable. I decided to back to the drawing board and start from scratch employing some of the techniques that we were shown at Mitch Small's initial concepting lecture, I started with a human form silhouette and began to work into quickly and without much thought for the final outcome. These concepts were much more open for a final direction and I settled on one in particular and began putting together a mood board to use for working towards a final. I had now begun to take a completely different approach in terms of the characters 'style'. Going from a cartoon-ish feel to a much more real, horror/ enemy feel, the whole thing felt like it would be accepted much easier into a game environment. In the end I settled upon a fish-skeleton/ monster type character, the idea was more of a twist on my initial thoughts on 'reef' in terms of colour and a sense of calm, this character was more of a 'risen-dead' from the dark, colourless depths of the ocean, the idea that the character didn't belong was kind of unsettling and I was pleased with the results.

Overall I admit that I didn't really enjoy the project. I don't know whether that is because I'm not very keen on the idea of character artist or because the whole approach was new and it meant the project was more difficult in terms of finding my way. What I do know is that if I were to do the project again I would employ some of the techniques I have learnt in this project, which would make the process easier and in turn probably more enjoyable. I certainly hope to do another character design project before completely disregarding the idea of character artist, at the end of the day the chance now to explore new grounds, probably get them wrong, but not have to worry is probably a chance I wont likely get again.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Back to the Grind

Just a quick reflection on how the new semester has started. Overall quite well I'd say, unfortunately I'm still feeling quite tired on a regular basis which is making work seem difficult, mostly just to focus on what I'm actually doing but I'm trying my best to keep positive! We have been given our new Game Production project which is the Transit van, unfortunately I haven't started until this second week so I really need to get my act together with this one. I'm slightly annoyed at myself as not only is it a project I have never done before, it is at least, some kind of vehicle which I'd expect myself to be quite eager to get on with, my aim is to have the model finished by next week so I can really push on the texturing. This is the first project that also requires a design document so I'm going to try and make notes on how the project goes along.

Visual design has been great, this week we were looking at blind contour drawing which is always enjoyable, particularly as a group, and it began to feel like the class were becoming closer as we were interacting much more and generally having a good time. I also thoroughly enjoyed my self directed study, firstly the photographs of myself making a variety of different expressions which I got a slightly carried away with, (instead of taking 9 photo's I took 22!). I then did some blind contour drawings from the photographs which I developed into final water colours which can be seen in the pictures below. The water colour idea was actually inspired by an artist (agnes-cecile) I found on deviant art of all places! (I actually never look on deviant art, maybe I should make it more of a regular thing!). I also did some blind contour drawings of a 'street-scene', actually a block of modern flats, which I again developed into water colours using the same technique as the expression pieces. We have also begun the life drawing sessions which I don't feel is my strongest area, I don't particularly want to be a character artist anyway, but I always enjoy life drawing anyway, I know it helps me to become a 'better', more observant artist and I can usually produce a few fairly decent pieces, I will post some work onto my blog as soon as I have them scanned.

As for Critical Studies, things are as usual. At least there's some stability in my life! Obviously last week, first week back, we were supposed to go ahead with presentations on a game review we had done which didn't happen, I was a little dissapointed, but I reviewed the game in my last blog which I still enjoyed and feel I was probably able to include a little more anyway.

Other things to note? Our new Visual Design project seems fun and interesting, the Reef project, I have a few ideas buzzing around in my head. Also been some good programs on TV recently, a new series which actually coincide with the Reef project Great Barrier Reef on the BBC. Two programs also on the BBC with Dr Kevin Fong, To Boldly Go Up and To Boldly Go Down and again on the BBC the three Stargazing Live episodes with Brain Cox and Dara O'Briain where really cool. There was also an extremely good Horizon program, BBC, titled 'Playing God', which was extremely interesting.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Game Review Presentation, TT Superbikes

Great, looks like I'm the only one to have actually put together some form of presentation for this week and now we're asked to do a blog! Ahhh well, I suppose I have some notes to work from now, so here goes.

The game I have chosen to review is TT Superbikes for the Playstation 2. I've chosen to review this game for a few reason's, it is by the means the greatest game ever made, many gamers probably wouldn't even give it a second glance, but I don't play this game because I am a 'hard-core' gamer, I play it firstly for my love of racing games and my whole passion for racing, Motorsport and motorcycle racing in general, including my love for the Isle of Man TT and for a handful of other personal reasons which I will try to include along with an un-biased review of a game from a gamers perspective, hopefully mixing the tow will make for a decent review.

So, firstly, I feel I should explain a little about the Isle of Man TT. The Isle of Man TT is a motorcycle race held on the Isle of Man once a year. It is possibly the most prestigious motorcycle race in the world, but definitely the most dangerous, toughest and exhilarating race in the world. The race takes place over 37 ¾ miles of public roads, over 200 corners must be negotiated up to six times and 5 races take place over a week. Riders can reach speeds of up to 200mph between trees, hedges and brick walls with the opportunity for disaster around every corner. Experts say that it can take up to 3 years to learn the track, to date 237 riders have lost their lives to the TT course, on average that's 5 deaths for every mile of the course. The racing is also unbelievably fast, the fastest lap time to date was set by John McGuiness, his average speed over the 37 ¾ miles was an astonishing 131.57mph! I have only been across to the Isle of Man once to witness the racing but I can say for a fact that it is the most surreal thing you can experience in your life, the noise, the speed and the sensation you just feel that something special is happening and I highly recommend anyone to travel one year to watch, I'm sure you'll get hooked, all I can say is that if it doesn't excite you then you're not alive!

Here are some videos to give you a better picture of what the TT is about and the speed's they reach;

I regularly go to watch club Motorcycle racing at Mallory park and last year went to watch the world championship (MotoGP) at Silverstone, as awesome as it was I was still sat a hundred yards away, behind 70 feet of gravel traps and an 8 foot fence. The Isle of Man TT is one of a kind, just from those videos you can see how close spectators can get to bikes racing past at 160mph+, in our generation of corporate control and health and safety nuts, this shouldn't be allowed to happen, but thankfully the event is untouched, and each year the event holders strive to make it 'as safe as possible'. But as all of the riders would tell you, they race the TT for the dangers, the thrills and the excitement of being on the very edge, it's in your blood and you cant get it out! To many riders the TT is not about beating others, its about beating the track, riders with no hope of winning have come to break personal bests and challenge the course, riders are always chasing faster and faster lap times, as I have already mentioned, it's like nothing else I've ever experienced, incredibly fast, it makes the hair stand up on the back of your neck! It really is like the real world version of Wipeout, or Death Race and it's legal!

So with these 'relationships' to the ideas of films and other video games you would imagine that the Isle of Man TT would lend itself well to a game, but ultimately it may only appeal to those who truly appreciate the particular event and circuit, or those who take their racing seriously enough to be extremely patient during the rather steep learning curve, fortunately I'd land myself n both of those categories.  The biggest, actually second biggest positive, I'll come to the biggest, of the game is, although I own a £425 Playstation 3 console I find myself constantly drawn to this 'last generation' Playstation 2 title, it allows me to do something that not only no other current generation title allows me, but to do something I only dream of doing in reality. It does what a game, in my opinion, should do, it allows me to involve myself in something I feel very passionate about in my life away from gaming and says 'here you can have a go too', but in the safety of my arm chair. The game obviously allows you to complete full laps of the TT course, which is all I want to do, I can stick in Call of Duty or Skyrim any day of the week and thrust myself into what feels like a never ending campaign but I would much rather do a lap of the TT any time. Obviously the course is very long so progression through the game involves a series of challenges which take place over segments of the course.

Particularly for a Playstation 2 game Jester Interactive have created an extremely realistic depiction of one of the world's most famous circuits and according to Jester the game features "every vital bump, wall, tree and house" en route. 

Other attributes to note are that the game features impressively realistic bike physics and rider animations, as well as believable audio, the game also offers 80 motorcycles as well as side-cars from different classes to chose from and delivers a superb sensation of speed.

So, I'm sure you're wondering what the biggest positive is? Well take a look at the following pictures;

The pictures are of Colin Rides motorcycle workshop, a small shop and workshop in Widnes close to where my parents live. I used to visit the shop regularly with my Dad on his bike, which really was more of a youth club for friends and possibly geriatric delinquents than a motorcycle shop! Sadly, Colin passed away a few years ago, and I hadn't visited the shop for quite a while with commitments to my education, but on visits I often chatted to an old chap named Stan. Stan was in his seventies, and like my Dad, many others who have surrounded me in my life and now myself he had a wonderful passion for Motorbikes. I told Stan about this game, how awesome it was, that you were able to race the full TT course on a video game, bear in mind I was in my teens, I imagine he thought what was coming out of my mouth was utter bollocks. Yet, the next time I was at Colin Rides with my Dad, tucking in to some chips, pie and gravy I'd imagine, guess who'd gone out and bought himself a Playstation 2 just so that he could play this game? Stan, you legend! I remember sitting and chatting to Stan about our lap times and how many 'clean' laps we've completed, how I struggle through the Glen Helen section and how he loves the sensation of flying down Bray Hill, something he's always dreamt of but never been able to do in the real world. It's only now that I come to realise how fucking awesome all of that is! If a video game can bring a Seventy year old man to spend his hard earned cash on a home console to play just one game and bring him and a teenager together with a common interest and passion then that video game has succeeded and surpassed many others in my eyes!

As I have previously mentioned the game may only appeal to serious race fans, it is very difficult to race a clean lap, with the extremely narrow road ways and the high speeds it takes many hours of patience to get right. It probably only shows how tough the real event is, I'm a huge racing game fan and its the only game Ive come to play where I cannot complete lap time's quicker than the real racers, John McGuinness, Guy Martin, Cameron Donald, Conor Cummins, Ian Hutchinson, and to those who have sadly lost their lives to the course, Dave Jefferies and Joey Dunlop, they are the bravest men in the world. The game has a difficult time in the gaming world, but if I was the only person playing it, which I know I'm not, I would owe a lot to Jester Interactive for making the game and giving me many hours of enjoyment, maybe I can repay them one day by working alongside those guys to make games that I love.

To finish on a positive not, I would like to say how impressively true to life the game is, accurate land markings, bus stops, an impressively wide range of foliage, flashbulb-popping photographers, roadside picnic tables and outdoor restaurants, licenses sign-age, adjoining avenues, pavements and curbing (most of which will play havoc on your bike's balance), and an assortment of buildings that may be unique in the genre because the majority of them are unique. The visual effects are sadly quite limited probably due to the hardware limitations of the Playstation 2 so I can only hope and pray for a PS3 release.

Finally I'd like to point everyone in the direction of a wonderful, life affirming film documentary which was released last year about 2010's Isle of Mann TT and the whole event in general, I'd pursue anyone with a pulse to watch it.