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.