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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