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.