Thursday, 23 December 2010

It's almost Christmas

So tomorrow is Christmas Eve, Christmas is almost upon us. I'd be in more of a Christmasy mood, but I spent the better part of today trying to fix my computer so I could actually log in. I never want to have to boot into safe mode ever again.

Anyway, not much has happened. The snow has generally brought the country to a standstill. You'd think we'd be able to cope with snow, since we can split atoms and land on the moon.

Whilst at my dads, my brother and I played Apache: Air Assault. It's brilliant as a helicopter simulator, but for brainless halo-players like me it fails to be fun after awhile. I played as pilot, and my brother was the gunner. It was really fun having to co-ordinate as we took out convoys and attacking forces - and I quickly became able to strafe smoothly parrellel to a road so my brother could pound the bejeebus out of armoured trucks.

It was fun for a while, but as soon as we started to be pitted against six Mi-24 Hind helicopters, it became more of a chore. For starters, Air-To-Air missiles were absolutely useless because they keep popping flares everytime you launch one. The Apache's cannon is too slow moving and has too much of a spread to compete against the Hind's chaingun,  so the aerial fights became nothing more than rocket fights. And trust me, trying to hit a fast-moving helicopter with slow moving dumb rockets is difficult. Trying to dodge six simultaneous barrages is nearly as difficult.

So yeah, Apache: Air Assault is a good game. I'm guessing it will be more enjoyable to someone who is good at aircraft simulations - for me, keeping out of enemy gunfire is a challenge enough.

I also got Halo: Reach this Christmas, but I doubt I need to add to the mass hype and love that the game has already got. Suffice to say, I've always liked the Halo series over the other multiplayer giants, mainly for it's sci-fi setting and fairly colourful palette. In my opinion, Reach is a brilliant sequel - the best (and last) halo game.

Anyway, 300 is on so I'm going to watch that. This post is probably riddled with obvious errors and spelling mistakes. It's not something I intent to continue, it's just this is more of a personal entry than an analysis or update.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Area 51 - Quick Post

Does anyone remember the PS2 game Area 51? Well, it was released as freeware so you can get it free for PC. Strangely, it was initially released for US-only customers, by the American Air Force. I downloaded it faster than you can say "conspiracy".

On a similar note, there's an Area 51 film that was started in 2005 and apparently is in post-production;

"A group of teenagers stumble upon an area in the Nevada desert known for hosting an alien encounter."
They lost me at teenagers. Do not want.

Update: There's one annoyance with this 'free' version, though. You have to be connected to the internet because it apparently streams advertisements during the loading screens. There's always a catch.

I played about two levels before I got bored, and didn't notice any advertisements. The initial buzz soon faded, and I had no motivation to sit and play it. It was disappointing to be honest, disappointing how little I cared for a game I would have loved to have played 4/5 years ago. 

Monday, 13 December 2010

Developer bias?

Ever since I finished Fallout 3, I've found myself browsing the Vault Wiki reading all of the lore and cut content. It's usually quite interesting to me, though with the release of Fallout New Vegas I've noticed it's becoming a place to share exploits and useless theories about how to get all of the best stuff in the game.

If you skip past these sections, you start to get an insight into how hateful some of these people really are. I really enjoyed the original Fallout, but I still stand firm in my belief that Bethesda did a decent job with Fallout 3.

Most of the articles for Fallout 3 have some comment about how the game is inconsistent with Fallout 1/2. It's irritating at best, but I learnt to ignore it. I figured that they were right to be bitter - Fallout 3 isn't the same as Fallout 1/2. Then New Vegas was released, and things just got pathetic.

New Vegas shares the same amount of inconsistency and non-canonical content as Fallout 3 - but because it was created by some of the old Fallout developers, it seems to have immunity to any sort of hateful comment. People are lapping the game up and spewing out content about it all over the Wiki, completely ignorant to the fact that the game shares the same flaws that they moaned about in Fallout 3.

And that's it really, that's why I get irritated by that Wiki. It's one rule for one, one rule for another. Bethesda get universal hate, Obsidian get universal love - and both did relatively the same thing. It's not fair on Bethesda, they made a decent action-RPG.

In all fairness, I prefer Bethesda's effort.

Friday, 10 December 2010

One more week 'till Christmas...

It's sad, in a way, that there's only one more week until we're finished for this term. It is, however, going to be nice to see all my old mates again and play unhealthy amounts of video games during the festive period.

Tomorrow is the Return to Castle Bradgate (horrible joke, couldn't resist) so hopefully I can get some decent drawings done before I start moaning about the cold. I've actually got a plan this time, so I shouldn't have to bug the locals about to get home like last time.

Apart from that, the plan is to get ahead on Heather's Tree project and finish off the refinement on my Guru's work. I've only got to touch up the texture on the weapon, and sort out the flow on my Sack boy, so that shouldn't be too difficult.

I've noticed over the past week that I have the strange craving to play the original 1993 DOOM. I put it down to my post about the film. Of course, I could just go out and buy Doom 3 for the Xbox, but that's not the same really. Thanks to the internet, I can play it in my browser.

Damn you Critical Studies, I never usually want to play [very] old games. As I'm writing this, New Vegas is staring at me from my shelf with a look of disgust and betrayal.

I haven't really got much to say, but I'll post over the Christmas break. I've got Halo: Reach and Apache Air Assault to try over the break, so I'll be raving about them mostly. I'll probably end up writing a page-long description of how I blew stuff up in Apache. You'll just have to ignore that post.

Monday, 6 December 2010

It's cold, and I'm sleepy

I watched Doom about a week ago, and just felt robbed. I'd seen it before, but I didn't really pay much attention to it. This time around, I was just confused as to how they could get it so wrong.

I don't need to tell you what Doom is. Hell, I only played the original for the first few levels, but I seem to understand more about the Doom universe than the film producers. Whenever I think about Doom, I imagine the "Doom-Guy", hordes of demons and possessed humans, the base on the Phobos moon and an atmosphere of tension and mild terror.

Doom was Doom in name only, as it featured no recognizable qualities or elements of the game. It followed more along the lines of a run-of-the-mill action/horror film, like Resident Evil. Everything was really dark, fight sequences were really blurry and jumpy, everybody died one-by-one. And then there's the blatant Aliens copying. Enemies in the crawlspaces that try to turn you into one of them, panicking marines spraying bullets, and the guy who betrays everyone by "following company orders". Nothing really stood out, and the film seemed incredibly generic.

In my opinion, there's only one scene in Doom that was worth seeing. The "First Person" scene towards the end follows one of the characters drug-fuelled killing spree, as he destroys a horde of enemies using pure violence and clever use of the environment. For example, he shoots the axe a zombie is carrying, which then falls into the zombies head. Not realistic, but cool nonetheless. I know many people who disliked that scene, and it's understandable - the only creditable Doom reference in the entire film was blatant fan service.

That scene showed a tiny insight into the film Doom could have been. Unfortunately, little effort seems to have been put into making Doom stand out from the crowd. And worse than that, little effort was put into making it faithful to the Doom universe.

Then again, what did I expect from a film of a game? I saw the film adaptation of Farcry a few months back, and that was pretty shoddy too.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Blog Update

I keep forgetting to do this, but hopefully it'll become second nature after a few more posts.

Since my last update, I've finished my "Sackboy Self Portrait" for the Guru's and Grasshoppers. To put it nicely, it was a challenge both to create and texture, but really rewarding to see the final product. I've had feedback from my Guru's, and a lot of pointers as to where improvements/fixes need to be done. So as soon as I have time, I'll begin tweaking my sackboy using the Guru's advice.

We had a guest speaker come in - Simon Reed - who talked to us about his line or work. Simon focuses more on the graphical side of game development, such as user interfaces and icons. He worked on the menu system for the "F1 2010" game, so I instantly knew of his work. The thing that really appeals to me about GUI art is that it's practical. Sure, Concept art helps the 3D artist create his models, but the GUI is constantly seen and used by the player. That's a great draw for me - being able to do what I love doing and for it to have practical applications.

Since we were unable to go to the Pumping station this week, Chris has set us a project to design a vehicle. I was a bit confused at first, but I've spoke to him and got my head around what needs to be done. We're designing a vehicle for a purpose - for example, something to move equipment around or transport us somewhere.

We watched 'Black Hawk Down' in this weeks film session, a film I've seen many times and still love to this day. If there's one thing I love about that film, it's that it attempts to accurately portray war and it's effects on people and politics. It's also one of the only films I've ever watched that can make me really, really angry. The scene where the Somali mob overpower the American soldiers, kill them, and then parade their bodies around still makes me angry - even though I know it's both a film and that they're following the militia out of fear.

Personally, the only thing that's happened that's really worth writing about was the gig I went to in Nottingham on the 16th. Two of my favourite bands - Threat Signal & Sybreed - were playing, so I was really looking forward to it. Nearly missed it as well, I had to rush from Bradgate park, hopping on and off buses. It was well worth the effort though, because it was an awesome night and I met most of the band afterwards. I still can't believe I was sat around casually talking to Jon Howard (Threat Signal), and got to meet Ben (Sybreed).

The only other thing I'd mention is a new group I discovered - "God is an Astronaut". For the most part, my music library consists of  metal, but I couldn't help but like this Irish band. They do the most melodic, beautiful instrumentals. If you've got any spare time, I highly recommend listening to "Fireflies and Empty Skies". It's brilliant.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Video Game Journalism

As consumers of both video games and gaming media, we hold very personal – and very biased – opinions about everything we see and read. Often, we never stop to consider how something was put together or just how difficult something was to create, before we sound off and tear it to pieces.
The journalists who review video and computer games can be as passionate about them as the player. Passion is one thing, though, deadlines are another thing entirely. No matter how much you want to write a thoroughly brilliant article, you’ll always be limited by the time and subject material you are given.
Truth is, they have to scour the world of video games for writing material. Perhaps they’ll have a really good month, with a string of AAA titles released ready for them to consume. But other times, they’ll have to put up with scattered releases and struggle to fill the void. Ultimately, while they may have a keen interest in video games, their bosses don’t. And it’s their bosses who decide whether they’re worth their pay.

Gaming Magazines are valuable for a number of reasons. Firstly, they do all of the searching and analysing for you, so you can just pick out the best games to get. Secondly, they usually have a DVD of extras, like demos, movies and pictures – so you don’t have to bother downloading them. Generally, they contain most of the information you’ll need to make decisions about the next batch of games being released.

With the dawn on ‘New Games Journalism’, magazines are beginning to look redundant. After all, everything they offer can be found on the internet. Usually, it’s free and faster to get everything you need off the internet – and you have a much wider choice.

Thanks to the internet, Magazines are suffering the same fate as every other form of media. Sales are suffering because you can find the same content on the internet faster – and for no cost. Magazines are becoming a obsolete and lumbering burden in the age of information-on-demand. Where you would previously go to the store and buy a magazine, you can now access everything you will need free from your PC or Phone.

While you do still get some hardcore nut jobs who still buy the original, physical media (I still buy CD’s) – a fair proportion of people will take the easier option, and turn to the internet. With lower sales, Magazines are forced to save money somehow, adding more pressure to the journalists already pressurised routine.

In short, ‘New Games Journalism’ is brilliant for the consumer and a headache for the traditional journalist. While the quality of NGJ content is often questionable, the ease of access and availability of the content is often more important to the consumer.

Personally, I’ve always been a fan of the traditional, ‘objective’ game journalism -I grew up with games magazines. While I’ve tended to lead more towards the internet in recent years, I still take everything I read with a pinch of salt. After all, anyone with a keyboard and an internet connection can write a scathing review of a new release... 

Thursday, 18 November 2010

My personal Gaming History

When I think about it, I never had an interest in video games as a child. Maybe it was because they were never advertised on children’s TV, or because I had toys and my neighbourhood friends to keep me entertained. Then, on his birthday, my brother got the Sony PlayStation, and we were bedazzled with the plethora of low-poly romps available to us.

The first game I ever played was Duke Nukem: Time to Kill. In retrospective, I can’t believe that my granddad bought that for my brother, age 10. I can explain the logic there, but I won’t, because that’s a long and depressing story about my dad’s side of the family.

The thing that continuously bugs me is that we’re told that violent video games ‘corrupt’ young children and turn them into social menaces. Duke Nukem was violent, loud, and full of swearing and sexual innuendo. By their logic, I should have been in prison at age 15, but I was annoyingly pleasant at primary school. Maybe Duke had exactly the opposite effect on me, or more than likely, I didn’t think I had a reason to be angry and nasty. After all, these games were cool and groovy, and I saw them as fun, not real life.

Unfortunately, I skipped over all the childhood greats. I started with Duke Nukem and progressed onto Tomb Raider, Nuclear Strike, Colin McRae Rally and Oddworld: Abe’s Odyssey. While I missed out on Mario and Sonic – I did manage to play Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon- and let’s face it, they were much cooler.

After the PlayStation we eventually got all three of the next generation consoles. I was never a fan of the PS2; I stuck with the Xbox, because it just felt right. Games like Fable, Unreal Championship and Halo were memorable for me because they were just so good. They had great game play, believable stories, and awe-inspiring atmosphere.

Those three qualities have become my standard unit of measurement when it comes to video games. Couple that with my love of sci-fi, and I’m left with a very narrow selection of games to choose from. It’s why I shrug off games like Forza Motorsport, FIFA and Call of Duty. It’s also why I loved Fallout, Command & Conquer 3 and Aliens vs. Predator.

When it comes to the future, I’ve become quite sceptical. After all, I only have to look at the success of the Wii and Call of Duty and I begin to fear the future. My biggest fear is that the games of tomorrow won’t actually interest me.  My interest in video games peaked with the Xbox – where I had over 30 games. I’ve had my Xbox 360 for two years now, and I have 13 games.

I would love to see game developers using their imagination and making their games unique in the future. I’ve grown tired of copy-and-paste copies games overpopulating the genre. Games like Fable, Knights of the Old Republic and Fallout have proven that you can make RPG’s without relying on the old “Dwarves and Magic” formula. Respectively, games like Unreal Tournament have proven that you can make great multiplayer shooters that use imagination and innovation – it’s weapon set goes beyond “Pistol, Shotgun, Machine Gun” into a range of Rocket Launchers and Bio Rifles.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

History of Computer Games: the New Millenium

Though ‘Next Generation’ is a rather broad term, it is currently associated with the current ‘Seventh generation’ of Game consoles. The seventh generation started back as early as 2004, with the handheld consoles, Nintendo’s ‘DS’ and Sony’s ‘PSP’. Personally, I associate this generation with the release of Microsoft’s ‘Xbox 360’ and Sony’s ‘PS3’ a few years later, but I wasn’t keeping count of things back then.
As with every generation of console, focus was placed on improving graphics within games and showing off better ‘tech’, with Sony and Microsoft fighting to prove they had the best stuff. Nintendo decided to take a gamble and pursue a niche market, given that their last effort was unable to top the PS2’s success. The gamble paid off and caught many off guard.

They produced the ‘Wii’, which was marketed towards casual gamers and featured motion control as it’s method of play. Similarly, the ‘DS’ was controlled through a touch screen, and had two screens. The ‘Wii’ and the ‘DS’ proved hugely popular, and have had a significant impact on today’s gaming market. Now, the casual gaming market is rising to become as big as the hardcore scene. And that’s important, because Nintendo must have known they couldn’t coax Xbox or PlayStation players away from their systems. So, they instead focused on a much larger untapped consumer base.

In a way, it’s both a good and a bad thing that ‘casual gaming’ is becoming more of a focus for game developers. With the ‘Wii’ and the ‘DS’, the lower system specifications push the focus towards artistic style and game play gimmicks. The cost of developing ‘Wii’ and ‘DS’ games should theoretically be lower than development for the Xbox/PS3, and so the stakes are lower should a game fail to make an impact.

Smaller Game development studios should therefore have more stability should a title fail to make an impact, and ultimately the returns on a successful product should be higher, given that ‘Wii’ games usually sell for around the same amount as Xbox/PS3 games (For example, the RRP for ‘New Super Mario Bros’ was £45).

Seventh Generation games for consoles like the Xbox 360 or PS3 have increasing levels of details and immersion. ‘AAA’ titles like ‘Halo: Reach’ and ‘Killzone 2’ often aim to hit a cinematic quality.  To create games like these, development teams need high budgets and several years worth of time. If the final product fails to return a profit, they stand to take a massive loss. Such was the fate of ‘Free Radical’ – who produced one of my favourite game series, Time Splitters – who went under after Haze failed to make an impact.

For an aspiring Game Artist like me, news like this brings a mixed reaction. Given that the games industry is in – or about to be in - rough waters, finding a job could prove difficult. Moreover, keeping that job could prove equally difficult, as publisher deadlines and cross-platform releases put the team under real pressure. On the other hand, these turbulent times may even themselves out, leaving a more stable and balanced market, should I emerge as a beautiful Game Artist Butterfly.

Well, all I can do is hope and stay positive. 

Monday, 15 November 2010

1980 - 1990; the history of computer games

The Early 1980’s played host to the last years of the second generation of computer game consoles. This generation started in the late 1970’s, and put consoles like the ZX Spectrum into the market. These new ‘Gaming Computers’ brought computer games into the living rooms of the consumer, rather than the arcade. Now, publishers would have to create a new type of game – one that could actually be completed, rather than continuously played until the coins ran out.

While the Magnavox Odyssey (first generation) was the first console to use cartridges, the idea wouldn’t really take a firm place until the second generation, where it became the standard. The introduction of Cartridges allowed computer game consoles to have a growing library of titles for their owners to purchase and enjoy.

Now, the computer game would start to show steady progression, stepping away from the more simplistic games that populated the arcades, and into the more experimental and story-driven games that we have even today. Some of the today’s greatest series have their roots in the 1980’s – Final Fantasy, Metal Gear, The Legend of Zelda, Prince of Persia, Metroid and of course, Mario.

Due to an oversaturation of poor quality games in the market, the computer games industry crashed at the end of 1983. This effectively brought an end to the second generation of computer game consoles.  A few anecdotes summarize the crash – more Pacman cartridges were made than actual consoles, and Atari are rumoured to have buried the unsold/returned E.T in a New Mexico landfill.

 In retrospective, this was the virtual kick-up-the-arse needed to propel games into the next generation. With the release of Nintendo’s ‘NES’ (Nintendo Entertainment System) bundled with Super Mario Bros, the third generation of computer games emerged.

Though the third generation consoles were an improvement over the second, the NES and the Master System were the only ones to really stand out and gain popularity. Also, these new consoles were not longer ‘gaming computers’, so the user could no longer write their own programmes on the system.

As we break into the 1990’s, we begin to see the major developments that later evolved into the technology we are enjoying today. The fifth generation of computer games is most notable for the transition from 2D to 3D, with consoles like Sony’s PlayStation and Nintendo’s N64 using 3D technology.

The jump from 2D to 3D literally opened a whole new dimension of possibility, allowing game developers to create more intricate worlds and expand on existing classics and genres. For example, the previously minor genre – the first person shooter – would emerge with the release of DOOM in 1993. DOOM was both popular and controversial, well known for its excessive violence and use of satanic imagery.

However, DOOM set the ground rules for nearly every other first person shooter. It would be the spiritual grandfather of games like Quake, Unreal, Halo, Call of Duty and Half-Life. Like the endless ‘Pong-Clones’ of the 70’s and 80’s, there would be endless ‘Doom-Clones’ over the next decade. 

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Weekly Update

I haven't posted in six days, so I thought I'd leave a little update on how things are progressing.

We had a lesson with Jack today (Chris is ill, unfortunately), focused on reinforcing our perspective technique by drawing vehicles - mainly cars. It was quite a challenge, as cars are smooth and often odd shaped, so marking out their basic geometry was pretty hard. Went to the National Space Centre last week, did a few landscape drawings of the buildings there. Wasn't worth paying £10 to get into the main area, though.

We've been focusing on texturing in Heather's Monday lessons. Right now, I'm around 80% finished on my building now, it only really needs the guttering to be textured and it's done. Finally got in touch with my "Guru's and Grasshoppers" group, so got straight on with their project. We have to build a personalized Sackboy, which is coming along nicely also.

I'm going to try and be more regular with my Blog entries, as it's important to jot down my thoughts and opinions  on the weekly events. Looking forward to winding down with the weekly film tomorrow, should be a great way to get some perspective after this busy week so far.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

The Birth of Computer Games; a look at the first titles to grace the screen

The Computer was created for a number of reasons, the most prominent being calculation. On the other hand, Computer games were created with the sole purpose of Entertainment. And while Computers had big inputs from the Military and the Government to speed their development, the humble Computer Game would be created by individuals.

In 1958, William Higinbotham created ‘Tennis for Two’ on a small analogue computer. Higinbotham was a working man, earning his living at a nuclear research lab in New York. He wanted to create something that would entertain visitors while they learned. ‘Tennis for Two’ was created in three weeks, with help from Technician Robert Dvorak who assembled the device.

Not only was Higinbotham the first person to create a Computer Game, but he was the first to realise the use of Computers for Entertainment. And I think his creation was vital in setting the foundations for future Computer games. In time, the Computer game would expand out from Computer labs and College mainframes, and become a widely accessible entertainment device. Importantly, Higinbotham proved that Computer games could be created by individuals and small groups, without the input of big players like the Military.

Later releases like ‘Spacewar!’, ‘Pong’ and ‘Space Invaders’ would prove to be instrumental in the evolution of the Computer game. ’Spacewar!’ set the basic blueprint for the action genre, based around the idea of fast-paced competition and ‘kill or be killed’. ‘Pong’ was the first Computer Game to be widely accessible to the public in arcades. ‘Pong’ proved that the Computer Game was a viable commercial product – though I doubt anyone predicted that the Computer Game industry would rival or even overtake the Film Industry.

Though ‘Spacewar!’ set the initial blueprint for the action game, it was ‘Space Invaders’ that would truly fix those principles and become the archetype for the single-player action game genre. The Game has a limited narrative that was roughly explained before the game starts, and featured a single player fighting waves of increasingly harder opponents. To achieve his task, the player had three lives. Early Games like ‘Space Invaders’ had no end; the aim was purely to achieve the high score.

In one way or another, most single-player action games are an adaptation of ‘Space Invaders’, always using all or most of the basic rules of the game. The core fundamentals of ‘Space Invaders’ can be found in most modern games. For example, “Aliens vs. Predator [2010] features a game mode called ‘Survivor’. ‘Survivor’ pits the player (A single Colonial Marine) against increasingly difficult waves of the serpent-like Aliens. The Player can hide behind scenery objects to block enemies and dodge their attacks, and the game mode has no end. The waves increase in difficulty until the Player dies. Then, the high score is added to the scoreboard, and the player is given the opportunity to try again.

When you break it down, ‘Spacewar’ and ‘Pong’ set the basic rules for multiplayer game play, especially for the action and shooter genres. The fundamental game play element of ‘Kill or be killed’ emerged from these games. The game play of ‘Spacewar’ and ‘Pong’ was real-time and tested player’s reflex skills – much like the modern shooter.

In conclusion, the early Computer games were more than the primitive entertainment they appear as to modern gamers. They were like an experiment, making breakthroughs in design and technology through success and failure. They explored the possibilities of the computer game and paved the way for more advanced titles like ‘Super Mario Bros.’, ‘Doom’ and eventually ‘Halo’.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Guest lecture from Blitz Games

Today we had two representatives from Blitz Games come in and give us a talk about careers in the Games industry, specifically on the Art side. From the two hour long session, I learned a lot about the qualities needed to make it in the Games Industry.

Now, I knew from talking to Mike, Chris and Heather that people in the industry are fed up of seeing the same old clichéd nonsense they always get shown. However, I didn’t know that they were interested in seeing developmental work like problem solving, idea development. And the more I think about it, the more it makes sense.

When I first heard that Blitz made games predominantly for the younger age groups, I was a bit apprehensive. Obviously I’m not lost in some delusion that I’m going to go and work on the next Gears of War title, but the talk made me realise that children’s games have the same potential for great design as adult games. I’m interested in the environment design aspect, and working on more colourful, imaginative landscapes is starting to sound like a plus.

It felt really weird to see the interview of an ex-student of this course working at Blitz. I didn’t know him, but some of the others obviously did. The way the guys were talking, they seemed to like employing graduates for several reasons. From what I understood, they look at students because they are enthusiastic and driven – or as the guy said, ‘hungry’. I am quite hungry, but I’m having Cajun Chicken for tea, so that’ll go away soon.

I picked a cold up the other day, which made the two hours miserable as I coughed and leaked. If anyone got sick of hearing coughing, I apologise. I guess its Karma getting me back for covering Jon’s stuff in kitchen foil while he was out. Oh well, it was worth the laugh.

I’m getting stuck for words now. I don’t want to drone on about the talk, as that’ll just make it a chore to read. To summarize, I did learn something from this talk. It empathised that attitude is important as well as quality of work, and that I’ll need to show them that I can work as part of a team if I want a job in the industry. One of the speakers pointed out that being quiet is a bad quality to take into this line of work, as co-ordination and co-operation are a big part in keeping projects on track. 

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Memento, this weeks film.

This week’s film was Memento, a psychological thriller that has put me into a mental coma.

Memento follows an investigation by Leonard, who has short-term memory loss – being able to remember nothing after the accident which caused his memory problem. He’s trying to track down the man who raped and murdered his wife, a mysterious ‘John G’.

 The first half of the film had me in a false sense of familiarity, believing the story would be one I’d heard before. As the film reached its midpoint, and approached the ending sequence, things became a lot more confusing, and all of a sudden I completely lost the plot.

That seems to be the feel of Memento, though. The film is entirely from Leonard’s perspective, and often you are as lost and confused as he is. That’s the point really, and as the story finally unfolds towards the last sequence you actually feel the same confusion Leonard is feeling.

Actually, the more I think about the film, the more I believe you’re not meant to fully understand the situation. And seeing it entirely from the perspective of a man with short-term memory loss, you can understand why there’ll be blank spots.

I don’t want to go too much into the story, as it’s an integral part of the film. I’d rather not ruin the surprise for anyone who hasn’t seen the film. All I can say is that you have to watch the entire film from start to finish with NO interruptions. I can honestly say that the whole film will be lost to you if you don’t watch it properly. And give it a few hours after seeing it for the story to sort it out.

So, another unexpected yet great film – I’m really starting to like this movie afternoon idea. I’ve watched some films I’d never usually see, and they’re proving to be classics so far. 

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Week 3 Blog Entry

Rather boring name I know, but I've got a number of things I want to say, and can't think of anything witty to call the post.

First of all, we watched another documentary today after a cold morning of drawing - in which most of my fingers became ice cubes. It was the second in a series exploring the integration of Man and Machine, and the social and scientific impacts of said integration. 

I think the part that shocked me most was how the technology exists to control emotions. A woman suffering with severe depression had a brain implant which could make her happy. It all sounds wonderful until you look at the wider implications. Without sounding too pessimistic or depressive, for every good person in this world there's a bad. And can you imagine the implications of 'emotion control'? 

There was another part about integrated communities, which mainly focused on World of Warcraft and Second Life. Nothing there surprised me really, I've known about those games for a while. 

I still find myself haunted by last week’s documentary, however. Scientists were conducting an experiment in which a monkey used a joystick to play a simple game, and a robotic arm mapped his movements via brain signals from an implant in the monkeys head. After a while, the monkey realised it didn't have to move its arm physically to control the robotic arm, and continued playing the game using only its mind.

I’ve finished my Dustbin 3D Model for the Game Production project, and I am very pleased with the outcome. I’m going to render some nice pictures out, so I shall include the link in tomorrow’s blog. I’m also enjoying the Visual Design work, as perspective is slowly becoming easier to me. It always was something I wanted to do but was bad at. So I 

We have no lessons next week, so we can attend the Game City festival in Nottingham and one in London if we wish. I really want to have a look around, but I need to consider a back-up plan. I tried to explore Nottingham last Sunday (in preparation for a gig in November) and got utterly lost, so it’s probably best to think this through.

In geekier news, Fallout New Vegas is released on Friday. I’m considering whether it’s worth buying on the day or waiting for the holidays so I don’t fall behind with work. Considering I played Fallout 3 for an embarrassing period of time, I’m definitely getting it and Halo Reach, as those were two games I’ve followed for a while. Gears of War 3 is a must-buy-special-edition for me, but it’s not until next year.

That about makes it for this entry, though I will be posting about the film tomorrow – anything I’ve forgotten will be posted then. 

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

The Wednesday Film - a look back

Every Wednesday, we gather in the Queens building and watch a film. Last week it was Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, and this week it was Airplane!. So here's a quick look back at those movies.

Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (shortened to Lock Stock herein) caught me by surprise. I have a very negative outlook on gang-related films in general, and so didn't have high expectations for this film. It was a pleasant surprise though, and I felt it was a very intelligent and carefully created film that made me laugh at times, and cringe at others. 

Lock Stock is based around British (London, I think) gang-subculture. When I heard 'gang' I feared the worst - expecting crack snorting 'ghetto' types. Again, it was a nice surprise that the characters were believable and had some depth to them - for example, Big Chris's devotion to his son. 

The film took a while to get started, and I only really understood what was going on towards the end. Despite this, I really enjoyed Lock Stock. And importantly, it taught me that the quality of a film is not determined by it's genre alone. 

This week we watched Airplane!, which I've heard about but never actually seen. Airplane! is set mostly on-board an aeroplane ('Airplane' being the American spelling), and features a love plot between two of the main characters.

Airplane! was purposefully full of cliché's, and many of the jokes were light-hearted mockery of these cliché's.  Unfortunately, it just wasn't my style of comedy. I found myself laughing at certain jokes, while the rest passed by with maybe a little chuckle, nothing more. The film wasn't bad, it just wasn't my sense of humour. That's the thing about Comedy - you either find it funny or you don't. 

So, one film I really loved, one that I enjoyed. I wonder what's still in store for us...

I'll leave with a closing quote from Airplane!, which still makes me chuckle;

Captain; You ever been in a cockpit before?
Joey; No sir, I've never been up in a plane before.
Captain; You ever seen a grown man naked?

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Freedom of Speech and 3DS max first project

One of the things I decided to do when I finally had my internet set up was to check the news. I wanted to see what's been happening in the world whilst I've been settling in. And what's the first thing I read? Yet another ignorant politician striking out at game developers. I felt it was important to look at this and write about it in this blog, because as a Game Artist I have to be aware of the social response to video game content I will help create.
"It's shocking that someone would think it acceptable to recreate the acts of the Taliban. At the hands of the Taliban, children have lost fathers and wives have lost husbands. I am disgusted and angry. It's hard to believe any citizen of our country would wish to buy such a thoroughly un-British game. I would urge retailers to show their support for our armed forces and ban this tasteless product."

It's EA's reboot of Medal Of Honor that has rattled the Defence Secretaries cage. Now, I could go into detail about how he's got his facts completely messed up, how they're just multi player skins and how it's none of his business anyway. More importantly, however, I can't believe he would have the audacity to call for a ban.

Like it or not, Freedom of Speech is universal. We can't just pick and choose who gets freedom and who doesn't. It's incredibly childish, like saying "you can draw with my pencils, but you can only draw the pictures I want you to draw".

Anyway, moving on.

3DS Max is completely new to me. While I have done 3D before (Maya), only the base principles can be carried over, leaving me to learn a new piece of software. That said, I am particularly proud of my 'Dalek' 3D model. It took a lot of time to create, and is bound to be riddled with faults and problems, but as a first project I feel I have made a fairly accurate representation of the creature. And more importantly, I have learnt a lot about 3DS Max and it's workings.

I will post the renders of the 3D model up tommorow. I'd only just finished when the technician came to lock the door, so I didn't have time to get any renders.

Wearing warm clothes tommorow, as I'm out all day down the canal drawing. Hopefully I'll get a cracking drawing done to show my understanding of single point perspective, and hopefully I won't get mugged. Well, they're welcome to take some pencils, that's all I shall be carrying.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Who am I?

It's a bit weird to introduce myself after I've begun posting, but I figure now is better than later.

My name's Robert Palmer. Usually shortened to Rob, or Bob if I'm at home. Simplest answer is that my father is also called Robert Palmer, so it helps stop "Who, me?" cropping up every five seconds in conversation. I don't usually answer to Bob anymore because I just think Rob sounds nicer. Though I moved to Leicester from Bidford-on-Avon, I actually come from Wolverhampton. I won't go into details, but it's sufficient to say me and my dad didn't get on, so I ended up moving.

It was my tutor who recommended that I look into the Game Art course. The interview gave me an insight into the content and teaching methods of the course, which became the main reason I applied. College was thoroughly disappointing - almost an extension of school - where even those who put little effort into their work could talk their way to a better grade. So I tried pretty hard to get good grades so I could progress onto a course where people seriously wanted to improve and create great work, not just to doss around and watch videos on YouTube all day.

I hope that in this year, and obviously throughout the course, I can shake the awful attitude to work that has lingered since school. I've tried quite hard in college to break it, and to a certain extent I did, but it still lurks. That attitude of "work at work, play at home" that doesn't fit into a course designed around self-improvement. 

Aside from games, I have a pretty bland list of interests that usually stem back to games in some way. For the most part it's drawing, a little bit of writing, some light modding, web design and graphic design every now and then. I'm not ashamed of this, it's who I am. Some people obsess over personal fitness, some obsess music or dance. Personally, I'm a fan of science fiction - mainly because it's a form of escape when thinks are a bit mundane. I usually enjoy the apocalyptic genre most of all, because I've always had a love of adventure and exploration.

I'll jump on the bandwagon, my dream job would probably be as an artist. Not only concept art either, I enjoy other forms like texturing, 3D and GUI work. I'd probably be happy making the covers for games or movies, as there's still an artistic undercurrent that makes it enjoyable. I'm sure - as with college and personal work - what I like and dislike will change, and I may find that things I found taxing become more enjoyable. 

From browsing a number of job advertisements for Artist positions, I've noticed a few recurring qualities mentioned in the requirements. I looked at some Game Artist jobs, a 3d artist and a GUI artist. Apart from the technical knowledge they wish to see (relevant programs), they seem to be looking for personal qualities like punctuation, will to learn and teamwork. Most jobs specifically ask for applicants that can work to a schedule, stay within limitations and who can keep in with a global theme throughout the game. 

What I've learnt from this brief dip into employability is that being good at art or 3d is only half the effort, that most companies want competent people on their team. I'll leave it there, because I'm already over my word count.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

First Post - Blog Analysis

For our first task for Critical Games Studies we have been asked to write a short commentary on another Blog. I chose "think\vs/thought".

I began reading the initial few posts, and immediately I had an image of the Author in my head. The language used gave the Blog an intelligent-yet-casual feel. This also carries onto the content of the Blog. It becomes obvious very early on that this Blog is a personal journal for the Author, and much of the content on the page revolves around personal likes and dislikes. Secondly, the Author seems to use the Blog to almost 'talk out loud' about issues and problems.

A fair amount of time separates each post, which the average amount of time between posts being a month. Occasionally, a few posts are within a week or two of each other, but nothing seems to link those posts together. The easiest explanation for this is that the Author had nothing to say for a while, or was otherwise preoccupied. 

Blog's like this one show just how easy and fluid the whole process is. Because you can't see your audience, it is far easier to say what you want, how you want, because they're won't be any long reaching consequences. Posting is as simple as signing in and creating a new post, so the Blog can be updated from anywhere you can get an internet connection.

For me, Blogging is a fairly painless process that allows me to write down thoughts and opinions without too much worry. You're never sure how many people - if any - have read the post, so you can be as open as you like with it. Also, Blog's have proven to be a useful tool in the past for work, as you can quickly write up ideas that may be used at a later date.



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