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.