Monday, 27 May 2013

Visual Design - A Little Catch Up!

Despite the group project work, I have actually been doing some independent visual design work. Without saying too much, here are some examples of the visual design work I have done during the second semester this year with a small description of what the work was for.

Leicester City Centre studies;
I decided to try and create something interesting from a fairly dull subject and I was extremely pleased with the result. I still don't like digital painting as I feel that there is something fundamentally missing compared to a traditional piece of work but I am becoming more confident with the medium and the processes involved. 

Mortal Engines, final character self portrait in an environment;
I actually took inspiration from this piece from the new Tomb Raider game's art book where the character was posed in a similar manner, the piece also had a lot of contrast to it. This piece is representative of the part of the story when Chrysler Peavy's pirate town of Tunbridge Wheels is attacked on its approach to Black Island and sinks.
Book Character Final;
This project involved choosing a favourite book character and creating a concept. I chose to draw 'The Man in Black' from the Stephen King novels The Dark Tower. More than anything, this project was a wonderful opportunity to produce a nice traditional piece that I'd not had the opportunity to do for a good while.
Masters Study Final, James Gurney;
 This year, our masters study project was to create a piece in the style of a master instead of just re-creating a piece. I struggled to find something that I liked but would also provide me with a challenge. I really wanted to avoid digital painting but with my skills improving I thought it best to stick at it. I decide to do a piece in the style of Jame's Gurney's Dinotopia, but, where as most of his pieces seem to be set in old, historical fantasy cityscapes I decided to take the opposite approach and, still using reference from some of his work, do my piece set in a modern sci-fi world. I received a very positive response for the piece! 

Self set, Moonshiners Project, 'Moonshiners Running';
Our year was given the opportunity to set ourselves a weekly project. A few ideas were put on the table and debated as to what would provide us all with the most scope for creativity. The subject chosen was '1920's Moonshiners'. At first I wasn't to interested in the subject, I had preferred others. The project was meant to give us all the opportunity to work on individual areas we were interested in whether that be characters, environments, vehicles etc. I really didn't know what to do, but after a little hunting for reference a great idea popped into my head! I aimed to complete a concept piece with all three elements, character, environment and vehicle. Will i never make things easy for myself? Well, I enjoy a challenge and I aimed to create a car chase concept with a hillbilly drinking moonshine. I also made my final piece into a kind of old, racing type sign. I'm not entirely sure how well I pulled off the whole piece though?

Interior Project;
The final visual design work I would like to share with you for the time being is the interior project. Initially meant to be a bar interior concept project, I noticed a few students who were trying different things. I also wasn't very interested in the bar idea and decided again to try something in the area I would like to be part of possibly, car design. I aimed to produce a number of simple, but stylistic perspective interior car concepts, to be extravagant with style, design and colour. I think in the future I would like to work further on the process and begin to eventually even work some surface properties into the concepts. And yes, both concepts are left hand drive! I've had some stick for that, although the pieces can easily be flipped, from my research most concept cars seem to be left hand drive. I have no idea why that is though.

Thanks for looking! Joe.

Life Changing or Career Building? - If we evolved from apes, then why are there still apes?

There are some things you just cant teach.

Okay, so maybe there are things that can't be taught, but this doesn't mean that those same things cant be learnt. Odd isn't it?

This blog is the perfect opportunity for me to follow on from my previous post regarding creativity and education and to hopefully discover more in regards to my own perceptions surrounding good education.

I've read many arguments for which is better to teach, technical skills or 'soft' skills. In a nut shell, technical skills are more advanced, job specific skills such as maths, science and languages etc. Hmmm, what the hell are 'soft' skills. I suppose I would define soft skills as having the ability to take a more thoughtful approach to things, perhaps even new and innovative approaches. As from my last blog post, technical skills teach you that one answer is correct, the rest are wrong, soft skills give one the ability to explore multiple answers and question them.

I agree with a select few arguments, that these skills go hand in hand and compliment each other, I personally would desire a balance of each set of skills, and preferably be strongly skilled in both areas. Other opinions clearly favour soft skills though, apparently because today, technical skills quickly become outdated, especially with the advancement of technology. I don’t think I agree with this. Of course we now live in a world were technology progresses more and more rapidly all of the time, but how much do the fundamental components of technology really change? Do you know it has taken thousands of millions of years for life to form on planet Earth? And do you know that over all this time, we still share almost 99% of DNA with our brothers the primates?

Is technology any different? Really? You know, the controls I learnt to use to watch a VHS tape on my old CRT TV when I was 6 years old really isn't much different to the controls I use to control my blu-ray player on my brand new HD, 3D, smart TV. My point is that I really don’t agree that things change that drastically in one life time or a thousand years. Things improve, which is just wonderful, but the fundamental technical skills are so vital in order to continue to develop new skills all of the time, without the base technical skills at your core, the ability to learn and pick up new skills, whether it be a new piece of software or anything else would be very, very hard. I don’t buy it for a second that just because Autodesk release a new version of 3d Studio Max, or Unreal or Crytek release new versions of their game engines, or even if a company release a whole new piece of software that I've never seen before, that the skills I've learnt from the use of the older programs all of a sudden become redundant and wasted. Mine and my wife’s brand new Ford Focus, and when I say brand new, I mean brand new! Is so much more advanced and improved than the 13 year old Fiat Punto we had. But you know what I did when I got in the new car? Started it up and drove off in it, no problem at all, didn't have to think about anything. Okay I had to learn how to use the new controls on the steering wheel, even get use to the more advanced response from the accelerator and brakes, the traction control and the ESP (Electronic Stability Program). Okay, I'm getting geeky about cars again, but again, my point is that the technical skills I have been taught first hand in my life are incredibly vital in order to make my new experiences in life easier to handle.

Soft skills are still a bit of a hard one to explain. I might say that soft skills benefit your technical skills more than the other way around. Soft skills are more human, more natural, they help us to take approaches that perhaps aren't always the most logical, but are still necessary. Soft skills are perhaps not as easy to find or access compared to technical skills. If I want to learn new technical skills, I simply find the ones I'm looking for and devote some of my time to learning them, that isn't to say that some people can learn them quicker or easier than others and that then may come down to that persons level of soft skills. I think then that soft skills are offered randomly, and perhaps that is why some people are more attuned to them. Perhaps these people have had more opportunities to learn soft skills than others.

I'm not really sure if there will ever be away to teach soft skills, and I think that a persons ability to learn them depends on many factors such as age, personality, their beliefs, and even their technical skills etc. I think education needn't change so drastically, as although the future is so close and rapidly approaching, it is at the same time far away. I have always worried that when I'm as old as my grandparents that I will be as afraid of new technology as they are now, although, give them their due (maybe with a little thanks to me), they're not so bad. But they were never brought up surrounded by new developing technology like I have, so I struggle to see how I would be, I hope to be amazed by what the future holds, but I'm confident that thanks to my ever developing technical and soft skills, I will be able to handle what ever the future holds. 

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Creativity, Talent and Skill – If you don’t know, have a go!

I could swear I'd done a blog about creativity before?! I really didn't think my mind was that frazzled, but, if you're not already aware, that is what the Game Art and Design course can do to you. Unless! I have already done a blog on creativity, and in that case then, Mike, you need to get more 'creative' with your blog tasks.

To create something is to bring something into existence, so, somebody who is 'creative' basically has the ability to bring things into existence?

The problem is, most of the time this question gets debated it becomes tedious and boring, so lets just go straight into a Youtube video shall we. I know my head lecturer wont mind me posting this, so please watch it and enjoy it, and learn something. If you enjoy it, AND learn something, then please just feel free to ignore what else I have to say.

The talk by Sir Ken Robinson above is an extremely important and enlightening one. Because he has the ability to make people laugh, his message is more received than others and this is the important thing. If you agree with most, or all of what he says then, like myself, you're probably from planet Earth and have therefore been educated here.

I think the most important thing that Sir Ken mentions in the video is Education. For me personally, education is one of, if not the greatest assets to mankind, it is an extremely powerful tool, and when used correctly it can give very powerful results, but if used wrong it can cause major issues.

So far, I have been blessed with a wonderful education all through my life, not just at school, but from family, friends and even strangers. But as Sir Ken points out, there seems to be something fundamentally wrong with some approaches, even to good education. For me personally, it has taken a self directed journey in order to discover this, and maybe that’s the only way to, and maybe it sometimes takes others longer to discover it than other, or maybe sometimes people never discover and here’s where the problem lies.

Are you afraid to be wrong? If you are, why? I suppose from a young age you quickly learn that if you do something wrong it can cause problems, but why are we not taught that if you do something wrong, you might learn how to do it right, or learn something new, or create something new? Getting something right gives you one result, getting something wrong gives you infinite possibilities!

Did you know, that apparently it took Thomas Edison 1000's of tries before he invented the light-bulb? Would he of invented it if he was afraid to get it wrong? And the point that Sir Ken makes in his lectures is, “If you're not prepared to be wrong, you will never create anything original”. Creativity and originality work hand in hand, and if somebody or something is creative then it means that it is an original idea that has value. Creativity spawns from unpredictability and the capacity to innovate. This brings me onto a little argument I had recently. Somebody had already told me that this person has this opinion, but I was taken aback a little when he said it to me. He told me that 'art is easy, anyone can do it'. Naturally, I quickly disagreed, and to prove my following point I quickly logged into my online portfolio to show him a specific piece of my work. Last year I spent many hours doing a pencil drawing of a car, a Bentley Continental GT if you're at all interested, and its shown below;

What I told him was that before I joined the Game Art and Design course I could never draw cars like this. I'd tried and failed many, many times, and he replied, 'but you must of always been able to draw well'. Well, no. We hear the phrase, 'naturally talented' thrown around a lot, and to some degree I agree with it and understand it, the human form is a very complex one, and yes, some people may have the abilities, naturally, to do certain things better than others, but my argument was that if that was the case, then it wouldn't last for long. You can only rely on natural ability for so long before you hit a brick wall, true ability, talent, skill, comes from dedication and hard work. Valentino Rossi makes racing a 240bhp motorcycle look very easy, but he had his arse on a motorbike before I could even walk! Ronnie O'Sullivan makes getting a top score of 147 when he plays Snooker look very easy, and his first 147 score was when he was 7! What do these two extraordinarily talented individuals have in common, natural ability?Then why is one good at one thing but cant do the other? Why cant some people draw cars like the one I drew, why couldn't I always draw cars like that? If art is so easy! Its because Valentino Rossi, Ronnie O'Sullivan, and myself believe it or not, have practise, and practised, and practised very hard to become as skilled as we are in the things that we do. I drew that car wrong 100's of times before I drew that one, but nobody seen me get it wrong! Ronnie O'Sullivan missed thousands upon thousands of shots before he became as good as he did and Valentino Rossi crashed at speeds of up to 200mph before he could race a MotoGP like he does today, like its part of him!

So it all comes back to my most important point. Creativity, talent and skill all thrive on one important core entity, and if the core becomes rotten, then creativity, talent and skill can become broken, misused or misunderstood. Education. The ability to be open to education is the most important thing, not for me or you, but for everybody, for life on this planet, and all to often we can close ourselves off from it all to easily without ever knowing we have. 

Generalist or Specialist?

Jack of all trades, master of none?

Its a question on many of the students minds right now, especially after this year. After a number of guest lectures from industry professionals and the group projects, lots of ideas and advice are being constantly thrown about on the specific roles available, specifically within the games industry.

Now is a better time than ever to start thinking about life’s next direction though, believe it or not the future is just around the corner every day, it keeps coming like a relentless, heartless, impatient bitch. Regardless of this, a few years ago I found out the hard way, that no matter how hard you work and plan for the future, sometimes it can throw something completely different at you and you find yourself all of a sudden picking your plans up out of the trash. It might not always deliver negative results though, and as most people will tell you who have experienced this, often, when one door closes another opens, and probably the best advice I could give you now is to pick up as many of the pieces as you can, take them with you through the new door, and although things might not turn out exactly as you had hoped, you might be pleasantly surprised. One of my favourite sayings is, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade”. I'm no stranger to making the best of what life throws at you, and at the end of the day, what other option is there?

Despite this positivity I wont lie that I have many worries about what my future holds, despite feeling confident with my artistic abilities and the fact that I would be a great asset to any team, I have no doubts that aiming for, and sticking at a full time job along side my caring role at home would be a struggle. But I also have no delusions that I’m not the only person who has to deal with personal struggles, and the most important thing is never to stop trying to overcome them. Last year, a guest lecture from Mitch Small of Codemasters, really gave me a moral boost, because of one thing he said. Basically, he told us that as much as thinking about our immediate futures in the games industry, we needed to stop worrying that if we miss an opportunity now another wont come along eventually, and he assured us that life will always continue to throw new opportunities at you, I think the most important thing is that I need to be patient, what ever happens, happens. Que Sera.

At certain times this year has been hard for me. A few weeks ago a few members of the Lockwood art studios gave a guest lecture and were also offering placements and freelance work, and I felt upset as my fellow students went and collected contact information and discussing what they were going to apply for as I sat back and thought deeply about if I could really give it my all, and this led me onto asking the same questions about my future careers. Right now, I'd have to say the answer is no, but can anybody? Just because I couldn't give a job my all, doesn't mean to say I couldn't give it a lot! So again, I'll just be patient and see what the future brings.

Right now, my immediate plans are to finsih my third year of uni and hopefully come away with a decent qualification. In a way, there a little less pressure compared to some of the students who have no choice but to find a job at the end of this. I would really like to take a year out at the end of next year and really take some time to regenerate and relax, I honestly havn't stopped for four years now, and I really need to give my mind and body time to recover.

In terms of what I would like out of a career, well, unlike some I'm not setting myself incredibly high goals. I've heard many people suggest that becoming a 'T-shaped' person in terms of your abilities is the best way to go. This basically means that a person should be an expert in a specific area, but also have a more simpler, broader range of skills in many others so that any new tasks a company may need completing could easily be picked up by that person. In a way the Game Art and Design course gives us the best opportunity to do this, to me, the most important thing I've learnt from the course is that with the quick turn around of new technology and new software, the ability to pick things up quickly and use them well is crucial.

What I've really wanted to do since meeting Mitch Small is work for Codemasters in their race game devision. As mentioned, I'm confident in my artistic skills but I have no real wishes to become a concept artist, funnily enough, what I'd really like to do, despite what can be mind numbingly repetetive at times, is a general 3D artist, and with my huge passion for motorsport in general I think doing something game related and motorsport related I could really make a massive contribution as I am so passionate about both. Knowing that this is something I'd like to do also gives me an advantage, as I can now research and work more specifically towards this role without forgetting about learning new things, and maybe become a 'T-Shaped' person? 

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Interaction Design

I would like to think that I've been fortunate enough to have been born at a time when video games and all other technology have become major parts of individuals lives. Some people may not agree, but as well as providing people with enjoyment and entertainment there is no doubt in my mind that technology provides so much more. It can save lives and make life so much easier for anybody and everybody.

Today, one of the first things to consider with the development of new technology, (although sometimes you wouldn't think so, *cough, Windows 8 *cough), is how a person will interact with it. Companies now spend millions in development of interaction with their technology whether it be software based in user interfaces and AI or hardware base in the peripherals we use such as controllers, cameras a keyboard or the remote control for your television.

In recent years video games in particular have had huge developments in interactive design, particularly home video game consoles. I’m a Playstation gamer and have owned my PS3 from day numero uno and it has delivered me many new interactive experiences, some of which were complete surprises. The first 'device' in order to interact with the Playstation as many of you I’m sure will be aware is the controller or 'game-pad'. The game-pad is what the user will hold in their hands in order to control a device. Over the last 20 years or more, Sony have spent millions, if not billions in the design of their controller, the most recent being the 'Dualshock 3', as do many other companies. Companies will strive to deliver the most 'ergonomically' designed controller possible to make it as comfortable to hold for long durations, yet it is impossible to please everyone and designs change drastically from device to device. But as mentioned, since owning the Playstation3 I've also been treated to a few surprises in terms of interaction with the video games I've played. With the PS3 also came the introduction of the new Playstation Eye camera which tracks players movement with no need for a controller at all. A game called Operation Creature Feature is a particularly memorable game. The game presents you with one whole level on the screen where a number of strange looking creatures reside in one corner and their final destination awaits them on the other, very similar to Lemmings, but the levels are much more artistically advanced to say the least. By only using your hand, which the Playstation Eye tracks, you have to pick the creatures up and guide them through the obstacles each level presents without dropping them and thereby killing them.

Just after the PS3 Playstation Eye had been released, I also bought a game called The Eye Of Judgement. I'm a geek so bear with me here. The game is actually a card based game similar to Pokemon or Magic the Gathering, but with an extremely impressive twist. The game is packaged with a game mat, a square divided 3x3 into nine equally sized boxes and a small stand for the camera so that it looks directly onto the play mat. When a card is placed onto the mat, the camera reads them, and all of a sudden a creature or monster jumps out of the card on the screen as if actually in the room with you! Once two cards are placed onto the mat the game will cut to a scene where the two creatures will fight each other! This will only happen if the cards are facing each other though, as the camera will even read which way the card is facing and the creatures will also face in that direction, so another element of strategy is added to the game-play. What is perhaps even more impressive is that if you hold a card in your hand underneath the camera the creature will still jump out of the card on screen, and you can then turn your hand to turn the creature around and view it in a full three-dimensional space.

More recently the Playstation Move was introduced as another peripheral device for interacting with the games console. Unfortunately it has received very mixed and at times negative reviews. It is a very similar device to the controllers for the Nintendo Wii, but is claimed to be much more accurate. You hold the Move controllers in one hand, similar to a stick, and can play similar games to the Wii such as sports games like tennis, but the controller has another ace up its sleeve, or on the end of it if we're going to be literal. The controller has a small ball on the end of it which glows, different colours for different players, which, when used in conjunction with the Playstation Eye camera, is used for extremely accurate motion tracking. Games such as EyePet, fully utilise both the Playstation Eye and Playstation Move controller. The game gets the player to, ideally, sit on the floor in front of the television with the camera set to face the player and an area of the floor. When the player taps the floor, a small cute, monkey/ dog hybrid creature jumps out of the floor and the player can interact with the creature in many different ways. The game, probably since a Tamagotchi, is the first true virtual pet experience and the player must wait for their creature to hatch from an egg and then continue to care for it, by feeding it (with Playstation buttons), playing with it, (draw a picture on a piece of paper and hold it up to the screen and the pet will copy your picture and then turn it into a real object on screen!), as well as wash it and dry it. The real interaction is when the player does come to do any of the above things though, when drying the creature for example, using a Playstation Move controller, the camera will replace the controller in your hands (on screen), with a hair dryer! The technology is quite amazing, by rotating the controller and turning it, there is no way of telling on the screen that you're holding anything other than a hair-dryer and at first it is utterly mind blowing!

My most recent experience with new interactive technology, which I was saving for a separate blog but is probably better placed here, is 3D. Again, it has received mixed reviews, and again, many negative, but most people have only experienced 3D films, and most people have only experienced them at the cinema. Me and my wife recently bought ourselves a new Samsung 3D smart TV and watching a 3D blu-ray on the Playstation, with the active shutter 3D glasses that the television uses, the films are truly awe inspiring. Avatar, The Amazing Spider Man, The Rise of the Guardians, Brave and more are just beautifully presented in 3D. Even I was extremely cautious about 3D initially, and I'm usually the first to get suckered in to a new technology, but five minutes of watching a 3D movie on a true active shutter television, on a true 3D blu-ray disc and I assure you, you will converted.

Because the Playstation 3 uses blu-ray discs though, it is the first ever games console to fully present 3D specific games, which have been developed specifically to fully utilise the 3D technology. Gran Turismo 5 in 1080p, 60fps and 3D! Now that is a recipe to truly blow anybody away, the experience is just unbelievable and the depth it adds to the viewing experience is just indescribable, you truly have to see it to believe it! But the most recent game I had the pleasure of playing right through in 3D, was Uncharted 3 Drake's Deception. At a point where I didn't think games could get any more immersive, technology once again swoops in and proves me wrong. The 3D environments are so detailed and impressive, and enemies laser sights come right of the TV and I found myself ducking out the way! It has been one of, if not the most impressive, interactive gaming experiences I've ever had, and I honestly cant put into words how it looks and how it feels when playing, so I implore you to pick up a PS3 and a 3D-TV, or find a friend who has one and try it out, it is an amazing interactive experience!

What will technology bring us next? I cant wait! 

Operation Creature Feature - PS3

Eye of Judgement -PS3

Eye of Judgement -PS3

Eye Pet -PS3

Eye Pet -PS3

Uncharted 3 Drake's Fortune, 3D - PS3

Second Year Personal Review

For me, my second year could only be described as a roller-coaster ride from start to finish. I am writing this blog completely openly so that anyone who wishes to read it may do so. I hope this final second year blog will enable you to gain a little insight into my successes this year and my personal struggles I have endured in order to reach my goals.

My story of recent years is that in January 2010 my girlfriend suffered a blood clot on her brain and at that time myself, family and friends were told to fear for the worse. Both I and my girlfriend, Sophia, at that time were first year students on the DMU Game Art and Design course until, after only four months in, it all came to an abrupt halt. The force of what happened on January 11th 2010 to Sophia impacted so many people and it will probably never leave me completely. But, as time ticked away, an eternity for me, Sophia began to show signs of improvement and her sheer determination brought her to a point where she is now able to live a fairly normal life.

In September 2011 Sophia had reached a mile stone in her long hard road to recovery and I had built enough courage, as well as enough encouragement from certain individuals to make the impossible decision to rejoin the Game Art course without her. I have worked and studied hard all of my life and so has Sophia, and we deserve the chance to work for a degree, even if it means we will only be rewarded with one degree between us.

My first year back on the course was more difficult emotionally than anything else, but I was greeted by many new faces with understanding and support which lifted me up and carried me through. This year started so positively, Sophia had started a college course for people who had suffered brain injuries and it gave me strength to know that she was still able to enjoy an education in the arts. The work for myself at uni was intense and plentiful and with so many things to keep on top of at home away from my studies, paperwork, various appointments for Sophia, paperwork, contact with social care, doctors, deputies, carers and more, and more paperwork etc. everything together began to get on top of me and my anxieties grew as I became more and more aware that having so many balls up in the air, it was inevitable that I was eventually going to drop one.

I do not enjoy living in Leicester full stop. For the most part, people are rude, ignorant and have no compassion for their fellow human beings, in 2011 I was mugged at a park at the end of my street, and when Sophia became ill I was put through three years of real hell and suffering and my life was ripped apart, over before it had barely began. But as my life began to fall back into place, my worries, anxieties and the stress brought on by everything didn't seem to be dissipating.

For reasons I am unable to explain this year I have worried and become stressed more than ever before. At times I let things get to me too easily, even trivial, unimportant things, but I am passionate about certain things and this year the prospect of staying here in Leicester a minute longer has just gotten too much and I have come so close to packing up, dropping my studies and leaving and never looking back, the pressure and the stress has made me ill and it eventually came to a point where it was obvious to me that none of this, a degree, my friends in Leicester, and the small life we have built for ourselves here was worth it. It was time to go.

Up to this point I had still worked as hard as I always do on my university work and was more than happy with the quality of the work I had been producing, but nothing was going to stop me from producing this work anywhere and at any time. What happened next was what every person deserves when they reach a breaking point and what I hope everyone is offered. The support from my friends, my family, my acquaintances, my tutors and my friends and fellow students at university burst into life and overwhelmed me. The decision was still my own, but by the strength of others it was being forced back, fought back in the opposite direction. The right direction?

I don’t believe in fate or destiny, or that everything that happens, happens for a reason. Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc. I am a scientist at heart and a geek in the flesh, and what I KNOW is that at present, the only real logical explanation that anything happens when it happens, IS BECAUSE IT JUST HAPPENED. You might say that sheer luck or the infinite possibilities of the way the universe works happened to give me my final push, others are entitled to say that I was meant to stumble across what I did. All I know is that at the final fork in the road I was presented with a random quote from Thomas Alva Edison;


With the second year group project looming my decision to stick at it and persevere would turn out to be the right one, and a boost in energy, positivity and willingness was exactly what I needed in order to manage the incoming influx of work for the project. Fortunately though, in February, I was pleasantly surprised to be informed that I was being placed into a group with whom I already knew were five other incredibly hard working and talented students who, over the next fourteen weeks would only reinforce my already high opinion of them. Not to say that I'm not also confident that during the project I worked impeccably hard to make an outstanding contribution to the groups work, the work was difficult enough, but with the added pressure of my caring role at home it has taken every last ounce of my energy to produce the amount of work at the standard that I have. But the support and understanding given to me from my five team mates during the project, Chelsea Lindsay, Luc Fontenoy, Dominic Bell, Daniel Peacock and Dan Hargreaves, made everything so much easier and so worthwhile. They are truly wonderful individuals and extremely talented artists. I wish them all of the luck in the world in their future endeavours and here is to hoping that we may have the opportunity to work together again in the future. Again I would like to say that I have been extremely lucky to have been placed in this group with five other hard working and talented artists.

Before I finish my post, I would just like to wish the best of luck to two of my fellow students and close friends who have been given the opportunity to work with BMW in Munich, Germany for a whole year starting in September. I am insanely jealous of you both but I'm certain that you will both be fantastic role models for the Game Art and Design course and go on to have very successful careers within the video game, art, visual effects industries or wherever else life leads you.

This year has been one of, if not the hardest years of education I have ever endured, for all of the reasons above and many, many more. I would like to end my post by taking the opportunity to thank my beautiful wife Sophia, and my wonderful family for the support and understanding they have offered me during the whole year. I have had to lock myself away from the world for many, many hours over the last eight months in order to fully devote myself to the work and Sophia, family and friends have been wonderful in offering constant support and patience at times when I have become upset and stressed with the amount of work I have had to do. So I thank you all, and give my word that what ever next year brings, whatever next year throws at me, I will give as much effort and devotion to my work as I have this year and finally come home with that scroll of paper that me and Sophia more than deserve.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

The Group Project, Finished, Part One

After fourteen weeks of impeccably hard work, yesterday myself and the rest of my group, (Chelsea Lindsay, Daniel Peacock, Dominic Bell, Luc Fontenoy and Daniel Hargreaves, Pudding Lane Productions) gave our final presentation to our tutors and the rest of our year group as well as a number of final year students. We all felt the pressure, we all felt the nerves, but we all felt confident, as we have throughout the project, confidence in how much effort we had put in, confidence in the quality of our work and confidence in the outcome of our project.

So I hold my hands up and take full responsibility for the fact I haven’t updated my blog for a while in regards to the work I have been doing for the group project, and I apologize for that. But, I can assure you full well that the work has been done, in fact, apart from a little visual design work, the group project work is the only work I have been doing since my last update 11 weeks ago. I didn't even take any time off over the three week Easter break last month like some of the other members!

Its all been worth it though, our project has just gone from strength to strength and all thanks to the hard work every member of the group has put in as well as the fact that the team has gotten on so well from day one. We have helped each other, supported each other and I'm so happy that I was put in a group with such talented artists.

So lets get on to the work I have contributed to the project since my last update! I wont go into to much detail on my processes of development as it would no doubt make this blog very, very long but I will try my best to give a little description of what the work was for. More information on all of the teams work can be found at our group blog;
I will also go into much further detail on all of my processes in my personal design document.

  • Week Three - In week three myself and two other members of the group took a trip to Rutland and Oakham to begin gathering some first hand reference for our modular buildings, more information can be found on that trip at our group blog here;
With a little time left at the end of the week I began to experiment with the building process of modular buildings;
Team photo of the Rutland trip
My first try at modular buildings
  • Week Four - In week four the team began to split the work up between the members. The ideas were flowing and the diversity of work needing to be carried out was growing. After the Rutland trip I'd managed to get plenty of reference images of churches and church ground objects, and from my initial research and concepts I had included some churches in those too with gravestones and a church wall. The rest of the team liked those concepts and the idea of including church grounds in our level so this week I was taken away from my modular buildings and asked to build a decent selection of low poly gravestones. Seen as other members of the group were developing their modulars, the team thought it would be a good idea for me to do the gravestones as well as a modular church wall so that we could start to demonstrate how the level would also be populated with smaller assets.

  • Week Five - At the end of week four I spent some time completing the minibus test at the university and was able to arrange a trip to York, The Shambles, for all of the teams taking part in the 'Off The Map' project using the university minibus. It was a great opportunity for the team to collect more first hand reference, and because I was driving the minibus we were able to spend as long as we liked in York and all of the team members were able to attend. The trip was fantastic and gave the whole team a real sense of just how tightly packed the 17th Century London Streets would have been. More information on the York trip can be read at our team blog here;

The Shambles in York
After the trip the team went into week five in full swing, full of inspiration and ideas from the York trip. For the week I was tasked with producing a selection of street specific concepts for Pudding Lane. The team were worried that, although the level was beginning to grow rapidly, a lot of the streets were beginning to look very similar. Some of the team members were doing more detailed concepts of their designated streets, looking at various props that might populate certain streets. I on the other hand decided to look into the teams idea of colour grading individual streets to bring variety to the level. I have to admit, I’m not the greatest fan of digi painting as it is, wont go into that now, so I decided to produce a variety of water colours as I'm confident with the medium and I think the medium lends itself well to portraying the atmosphere the team hoped to convey in the level.
Week Five team blog;
The watercolours I produced are shown below;

  • Week Six - Before the team had their first meeting of the week I first spent a few hours in and around Leicester city centre gathering more reference for the team. Some reference particularly for use for modelling as some for textures in the coming weeks. I also wrote an independent blog on the teams blogger on my adventures around Leicester which can be read here;

After collecting all of the reference in Leicester, my job for week six was to produce a selection of textures for the project. The team hoped to get the full selection of 'modular' type textures done for all of the buildings this week so we planned all of the textures we thought we needed, discussed the amount of material id's our modular buildings should use, and then the textures were divided between myself and two other members of the team. The team was also hoping to bake the textures from high poly models in order to ensure the textures were of as high a quality as possible. I was a little unsure about this as I haven’t one much modelling in ZBrush and therefore wasn't very confident with it but one of the major benefits of this project has been the fact that certain team members are strong in certain areas of their work and, especially because our team got on so well, we were all able to share our knowledge in these areas in order to help others. Dan Hargreaves is much more familiar with ZBrush and high-to-low poly baking in general and was able to help me a great deal with the whole process, providing me with plenty of advice as well as links to good tutorials on the process. In the end, I decided the best way I could go around doing my textures was to do the main details for the stone work and bricks by first baking the larger stone shapes and the using the program nDo2 to create the smaller details. For my wood and plaster textures I purely used ZBrush to sculpt these. Another thing I found hard was creating a tileable texture within ZBrush, but again Dan was able to help me with that process and any other seams for these I was able to fix in Photoshop. I was extremely happy with the outcome of the textures I produced after not being so confident with the process at the beginning of the week.
Team's week six blog;

  • Week Seven - Week seven got off to a slow start as it was also the start of the three week Easter break, but prior to the holiday the whole team had a lengthy meeting to discuss the jobs we would all like each other to do over the break, and anything else that might of needed to be done we could all chat on Facebook. I had decided to stay in Leicester anyway over the break instead of travelling home to the parents as I was planning to basically not take a break and work throughout the holiday. So, for week seven, to start the Easter break, I was tasked with completing my set of modular buildings, I hadn't finished these with doing the modular church assets in the third week of the project so it was time for me to finish mine. I set myself the task of completing ten modular buildings for the week, concentration of keeping the main structures the same, two/ three stories, and creating as much variety as possible in building shape, wooden beam distribution, door position and shape, window positions, size and shape, chimney position, size and shape not forgetting that the textures completed last week would also add even more variety to my buildings.

Below are my modular buildings as well as the team blog for week seven;

Sound In Video Games

I cant think of any way a person could go through life without being affected or influenced by music, music can define lifestyle, culture and personality no matter how small or large a part it plays and there is no doubt that music has played a large part in history. Music has an undeniable power to evoke emotions and it affects how we perceive things. Just like art, music can be powerful, controversial and influential.

All that being said, I cant really stress enough how important music is in every walk of life. Within the world of media, music has always been a big part of the film and television industries with films like Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and even older films like The Good, The Bad and The Ugly having their own defining original scores, its only really in recent generations that we have seen the sounds of video games matching the audio quality of such films with their symphonic orchestral scores.

Gone are the days of the beep, bop, boop of Pac-Man and Pong, as technology develops, faster processors, larger storage devices, so too has the audio quality of games. When the PS3 was released I had worked hard at my part time job to save up and buy myself a HD-TV and I used to go mad at my friends who would play theirs on old CRT televisions. As the technology has progressed within the consoles themselves so to has the technology within the peripheral devices needed to play the games and get the 'full' experience. You see, I'd also bought myself a cheap-ish surround sound set, and what a difference it made! So much so, I've not used the standard sound from my TV set for at least seven years! Once you get used to it and then switch back to the standard television speakers the difference is just unbelievable! And for me, that is what the sound, the music does, it makes the difference, it makes the experience what it should be, it evokes the emotions, the feelings, it delivers the final impact a game deserves.

Today, visuals are only half of the story, as sound in video games becomes more and more crucial, good sound design grounds a player in the environment, transports the player to the fabricated game world and importantly, lets the player know what’s going on around them. As you may be aware from previous blog posts, I'm very into my motor sport and a sucker for racing games, I love playing Gran Turismo with the surround sound. The sub-woofer can deliver the deep down growl of a v6 engine and the surrounding speakers makes it feel as though the other cars are really around me, close behind me or close on the inside going into a corner. Every other genre of game is only enriched by its sound though, the clinking and clanking of a Necramorph waiting around the corner in Dead Space builds the suspense and the tension, the ear piecing shrieks of gun fire surrounding you in a war game. And as the technology becomes more readily available and affordable, just as high definition television sets have over recent years, the demand in the market begins to rise and pushes things forwards. Although, as with HD when it was first released, it is hard to introduce people and get them on board, especially with sound. Seeing a leap in visual quality, in graphics, is easier, its much harder to convey the experience of a high-end surround sound set up, but as developers continue to strive for new and innovative ways of introducing the consumer to great sound quality, the sophistication of sound design should continue to grow with the demand.

The wonderful thing about the type of media a video game is, is that each component is there to compliment the other and the final product could simply not work without all of the cogs running smoothly in unison. So for me, sound in a video game is just as important as the visuals or anything else, whether it be an epic score, a catchy theme tune or the endless sound effects needing to be implemented in today’s games, the effect of being immersed within the games environment is probably the most important thing I desire from a game, and this could not be done without sound.