Thursday, 15 December 2011

15/12/11 - Untitled Update

I held off buying a game I wanted (Skyrim) until after assessments, because I knew it'd interfere with my work. Now that we're on Christmas break, I finally bought it, and it's great!

Got some things to tweak on handed in projects, and some personal practice stuff planned too, so I'm not planning to spend Christmas playing Skyrim. Although I'd probably like to :D

Here are two paintings I've worked on these past few days;

I just felt like doing some personal stuff, since I don't usually have the time/motivation to do personal stuff when course stuff is on the list.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Legacy of Kain gallery

I'm putting this here more for future reading than anything. There are some unrelated image strewn around here, but most of the images seem to be from Legacy of Kain - a game series I have always admired for it's interesting dark fantasy setting. And by dark fantasy I don't mean elves with axes...

Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel 2 pitch (+ F1 Vision Statement)

I was doing a little research, and I stumbled upon this - it's the pitch document for Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel 2. It caught my eye because I'm a fan of the Fallout series, and because it's for a game I new little about that was cancelled.

I've just cut out a massive section of text since it just sounded like fanboy ranting, so I'll leave the actual game out of this and focus on the document itself.

Presentation wise, it's a visually nice document. I'm fairly certain every page contains an image, and there's a watermark-esque radiation symbol in the background of every page, which is nice to look at. Everytime the document reaches a new component (I.E characters) there's an accompanying image, which really helps visualisation.

The 'story' section of the document is fairly long (11 pages), and I'll admit that I just swept over it. It's just too much for this kind of document I feel, if I was a publishing agent I'd like to see a summary of the story which highlights the core and key elements of it, from which I can get a good idea of what the end story is going to be like.

The document also grazes over what I'd consider to be the core of the game, the gameplay itself. What makes it fun to play, what market it'll appeal to and how it's going to sell in the competitive market. Obviously, given that this is a sequel you can look at the previous game to get an impression of how the sequel will play out, but it's unlikely that the marketing/publishing people reading your document will have played the first game.

Update, on a side note;
I just found the Fallout 1 Vision Statement, which is an interesting summary of the things the designers wanted to be core in the game.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Task 17: Elements of game design, part six: documentation

Task 17: Elements of game design, part six: documentation
Like was said in the handbook, I'm going to treat this task like a dry-run for the FMP. Obviously, with my FMP I would spend a lot more time experimenting with ideas to come up with the ideal one, but for now I'm just going to go with the first one that pops into my head. After all, this task is about the documentation, not the idea itself.

Part One: Project Outline

For this project, I intend to create two characters, a vehicle and an environment to serve as a backdrop for these elements. The project will be based around Egypt, more specifically the archaeological digs there around 1920-30. It will be stylised slightly to compliment the technical restraints and to fit the target audience.

 For this project, I am emulating the restrictions of a game created current-gen consoles. I chose to do this as the FMP is viewed as a sort of portfollio piece.

For this project I intend to emulate the restrictions of a game created for current-gen consoles, like the Xbox 360 or Playstation 3. I chose to do this primarily as FMP's are portfolio pieces, and a demonstration of all you have learnt, so creating retro-grade assets would seem most likely seem lazy.

The intended 'genre' for the project would be the adventure genre, focused on exploration and puzzles. This has very little influence on the assets beyond the technical limits, as environments would be bigger and characters would be viewed from a 3rd person perspective. Depending on the camera angle, certain elements of the player character would have more detail than others, given priority in relation to their visibility.

I will create the player character (an explorer/archaeologist), a supporting NPC (a sidekick, most likely a research assistant), a vehicle (a buggy or jeep used to travel around locations), and an environment (exterior, dig site).

Throughout this project I aim to develop my knowledge of current-gen technical specifications, time constraints and design restrictions. In terms of skills, I aim to improve my abilities in the areas of character model creation and modular asset creation for environments. Additionally, I hope to further my knowledge of events in history I had little knowledge of, which should help broaden the range of reference that influences my artistic decisions.

For the 3D elements of the project, I will use 3D Studio Max 2012. 3DS Max is an industry standard 3D tool, and a tool we are familiar with. For the 2D elements, such as texture maps and concept work, I will use Adobe Photoshop CS5. Initial concept work for the project will be done traditionally, using pen & paper methods.

Part Two: Technical Specification

Naming Convention for all assets is as follows;

geo_wall_e02b.max - Geometry, Wall segment, Egypt level, number 2 part B.
clr_box_e01c.max - Clutter object, Generic Box, Egypt level, Type 1 variation C

chr_player_bearcostume.max - Character, Player, Special Costume

File Format:                       .max for Scene File
                                         .obj for Import into Engine
                                         .psd for unflattened texture maps
                                         .tga for finalized texture maps

Lead Character

File Name:                        chr_player_regular
Triangle Limit:                    Under 9,000
Texture Budget:                 1024x1024 24-bit Diffuse, Normal and Specular Maps
Description/Note:              Main player character.

Support Character (Buddy, the trainee research assistant)

File Name:                        chr_buddy_regular
Triangle Limit:                    Under 6,000
Texture Budget:                 1024x1024 24-bit Diffuse, Normal and Specular Maps
Description/Note:              Young sidekick character, small and agile.

Vehicle (Willys Overland/Ford 4x4 Utility Jeep)

File Name:                        vhc_jeep_regular
Triangle Limit:                    Under 7,000
Texture Budget:                 2x 1024x1024 24-bit Diffuse, Normal and Specular Maps
Description/Note:              Rugged, dented, and dusty. Interior is cluttered with misfit objects.

Environmental Geometry Assets (Floor tiles, Wall sections)

File Name:                        geo_TYPE_LEVEL~VARIATION~SUBVARIATION
Triangle Limit:                    100 per Square Metre of Floor and Roof
                                         100 per 2 Metres (Length) of Wall
Texture Budget:                 Shared 1024x1024 24-bit Diffuse, Normal and Specular Map for
                                         generic modular assets of a group. For example, all variations of
                                         sandstone tiled floor would use the same texture map

Modular Level Assets (Generic decorations, reoccurring level clutter)

File Name:                        clr_TYPE_LEVEL~VARIATION~SUBVARIATION
Triangle Limit:                    100 for smaller objects
                                         300 for medium sized objects
                                         500 for larger objects
Texture Budget:                 Shared 1024x1024 24-bit Diffuse, Normal and Specular Map for
                                         generic modular assets of a group. For example, similiar variations of
                                         pottery or ornaments would share a texture map.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Morrowind's unique flavour - still a mystery.

I'm still trying to find out what the developers looked at when they came up with these images. I'm really struggling to find out anything about the influences behind Morrowind's design. I really want to know what the designers looked at to get inspired and how they drew these references together to create these fantastic characters. I vaguely remember reading something about arabic and oriental culture having an influence, so I'll start looking into that more.

When I look at these images I get the urge to get some washy pens and try this style of drawing out for myself. I think that's something to experiment with over Christmas.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Cans of Peas

So this week we watched a film called The Mist. I enjoyed the film, despite not being a particularly big fan of horror films. It was a predictable in places, but I suppose we've become used to the usual tricks used in horror  so that's not necessarily the films fault. I recognized a few themes running through the film;

Fear itself is more dangerous than what you're afraid of.

Okay, so fear doesn't have pointy teeth and it can't fly, but you can't shoot fear. You can't set it on fire, or hit it with a stick repeatedly until it's putty. Fear drove the 'community' (if you can call it that) apart and turned people against each other. Towards the end of the film, the central group of characters were more afraid of the other people than the monsters.

That's because fear drove them into the arms of someone who was delusional, and fear made them do stuff they usually wouldn't do.

Religion is the root of all evil, apparently.

Usually in films, religion is either depicted as something good (rare) or something evil (more common). Of course, this isn't just wild stereotyping, religion has been the cause of some pretty grim events - but like every other type of gathering, there's good and bad. When it got to the point where the psycho preacher lady wanted to have the boy sacrificed I got a little disillusioned with it. In fact, I got angry. But then that was the desired effect, and she was essentially the "baddie" in place of the creatures (who couldn't talk, therefore you couldn't really hate them).

I can't help but feel that it's borderline bullying, though. Yes religion has been the cause of some bad things, but also some good. I'm not religious in any way, I'm completely agnostic, but I get a little tired at the way religion is often shown in films/games as clearly bad.

The military are the cause and solution of most problems.

Granted I didn't see that coming this time, but usually it's the case with most monster-based films. Sometimes they're directly responsible, others they just did something wrong. But most times they're depicted as the good and the bad guys, often at the same time.

There's something about the military that makes them a great central faction in a film, generally speaking. Usually they're the "safety line" in a crisis - once you reach them you're safe and fine. They always seem to be able to turn a crisis around and overcome the problem, but never seem to be able to stop it in the beginning strangely..

Monday, 21 November 2011

Workie Work Work, November

Alright, prepare yourself, because here comes a biggie. Just gonna do a work update to bring me right up to the present.

First of all, the Trash Project. Finished this about 1-2 weeks ago, and all in all I found it a relatively enjoyable project to work on. Most of the work went into the texture map given the small detail budget for the mesh, and since I was creating my texture maps out of photographs it was a relatively straightforward task. I struggled a little when it came to the support maps (specular, normal bump) mainly because I'm still not 100% on how they work. 

I tried to pick items of trash that were of different "classes", i.e a can, a cup, a bottle, a box. This branched off from my initial experimentation, where I created one of each type to measure out a rough approximation of how many triangles these objects would need. Eventually I decided to stick with this set of objects as I felt they were a good mix.

It's going back a few weeks now, but we went to the New Walk museum (it could be Newarke, I can never get it right). It was a really hectic day and there were kids running about everywhere -- a real test of concentration. I managed to get a good few pages worth of doodles done before bugging out, and a few of these cool dinosaur skulls.

Revisiting Bradgate Park was next, and I decided to go find somewhere other than the Old John to draw this time. We went for a romp around the park, and we found this covered little forest bit looking up at the hill. It was a pretty cool area, and the lighting was beautiful, but sadly I didn't manage to capture this in my painting. Plus, the rock was stretching over much further, which I thought looked interesting, but I got critique about that so in the end I pulled it back. 

Then we set about the Land/Sea/Air vehicle project, which was certainly a challenging project. Fortunately we only had to design a vehicle for a certain type of terrain, not all three, so it wasn't as difficult as it was for previous years.

For this project I chose to design a courier/mail truck to ferry mail/packages across rough terrain, namely swamps and tundras. For this, it was a half-track design, offering both grip and mobility. The idea was that the front wheel would be able to rise and decline to fit the terrain, offering a relatively smooth ride with good suspension.

I looked at classic car designs when I was doodling up ideas. To be honest, I was trying to do the opposite of what I saw around me in 8.2, as everyone seemed to be experimenting with curvy, smooth hyper-futuristic concept vehicles. 

And most recently, the War of the Worlds project. I wanted to go for a very organic look for my tripod, and  I attempted to give it a very alien-looking material to further enforce it's extra-terrestrial origin. In sticking with the airplay's description, it fires a heat-ray which appears like a "jet of flame coming from a mirror" (not an exact quote, just a rough one). Unfortunately, actual descriptions of the tripod were scarce in the radio drama, so I did a lot of improvising.

Alright, hopefully I'll kick back into the regular routing of blogging again, I seem to have fallen out-of-sync.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Half-Life fan made trailer

Usually I'm the first to slate user-generated content as a sloppy pile of fanboy droppings, but for once I'll hold my hand up and admit that this is very impressive.

I *think* this guy has made a trailer for Half-Life using custom animations. I would usually say that a whole video from a first person perspective would be nauseous and confusing, but I think this works really well. And those are some top-notch animations. Bravo, Mr. Fan.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011


Watched a film today called Below, really enjoyed it. I don't understand why, but some part of me strangely loves submarine films. Maybe it's the claustrophobic conditions, or the eerie silence. I dunno, it's just odd in a cool way. I always expect a colossal sea monster to just rise up out of the deep and eat stuff, but it never happens.

I liked how the film avoided using cheap scares, it made me jump quite a few times when I wasn't expecting it. I've seen quite a few horror films and a good number of ghost films, and you get used to where all the spookiness comes in. But that part when you see the Captains' ghost in the window, that part genuinely scared me since I really wasn't expecting it.

I also liked how the 1940's setting wasn't forced or highlighted frequently. It was subtle and it worked really well, I forgot I was watching a film set during WW2 altogether. I even forgot they were Americans. And that's a good thing, because I focused on the characters instead of the background story.

And here comes the major problem really, I don't remember much about the artsy side of the film. Films usually have to reach out and slap me with their artistic merits for me to notice, so I tend to miss out this stuff. There were some nice tracking shots that followed crew members moving from hatch to hatch, and some nicely lit exterior shots (like the part where they have to go outside of the submarine), but in general I cant remember much about that side of the film.

Monday, 7 November 2011


I've just realised I haven't made a post in nearly two weeks now. Not good!

I've got some things I want to post about and throw up here, but right now I've got other things to be doing, so for now I'll just do a quick post. I'll put up everything else tomorrow or Wednesday, as I've got spare time then.

I thought I'd do a little bit about Alien3, since I watched it today. And I do love certain elements of it.

As far as I know, Alien3 is a hit-and-miss film. I know people who liked it, I know people who hated it. Personally, I loved it, almost as much as I love Aliens. I loved the "Prison Planet" setting of Fury 161 and the furnace/industrial theme of it's environments. I loved that it's inhabitants had formed into a sort of doomsday Christian religion, and that Ripley was a temptation dangled in front of them to seemingly sway them from the path.

Anyway, that's not what I wanted to talk about. It's the design work in Alien3 that really makes me a happy fellow;

I just love it. The surface is dark, stormy and very gloomy. It feels abandoned, haunted, even ghostly. The colossal structures in the background dwarf the scene, creating a truly epic sense of scale. Everything is geometric and angular, with sharp hard edges and visible construction.
The sky in particular draws me in. It's just surreal, hypnotic. In the top picture, you can just about see the figure in the bottom left hand corner. Imagine being in his shoes, and looking up at the misty sky and that towering mega-structure. You'd feel pretty awe-struck. 

Recovering the EEV.
This is a collection of stills from the opening scene, but a good handful of them are of particular interest. The sense of scale is pretty epic, the surface feels like a boneyard.

Interiors were also angular and grand in scale, with doors easily dwarfing characters. Everything was industrial and 'chunky'. It felt more like a tomb than a prison. And indeed, for most of the inhabitants, it was their tomb.

Colours indoor were mostly warm, in contrast to the relatively cold exterior palette. It served as a direct contrast and referenced the temperature of both environments. Lighting was harsh and high in contrast, which reflected the atmosphere of prison - practicality over comfort.

Unfortunately, it's relatively difficult for me to find decent pictures in the small amount of time I've got to write this. I've got the DVD, so I can always take stills from that for reference. I'd like to do a more indepth look at the film, I might take the time out this weekend and take my own stills from the DVD. 

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Indie Games - a short rant.

I often hear people talk about how indie games are the way forward - how they are a vessel of creativity and intelligent design. And while this is true for some indie games, some are truly awful. Which is why I always get slightly narked when people slate AAA games and praise indie games just because they are indie.

One of the more obvious aspects of this is price. If you're paying £2-3 for a game you're expectations aren't too high, as opposed to paying £40+ for one. Also, the label 'indie game' automatically lowers your expectations, and any downfall can be explained by simply saying "it's an indie game, it's probably developed by one dude, back off".

I agree that Indie games are an exciting endeavour. They're not a new idea, not by a long shot, indie games have been around since the early days. But it's new platforms like the iPhone store and Steam that are really bringing this indie games into the spotlight and making them a profitable industry.

It's undeniable that the vast majority of indie games are utter shite. Seriously, browse any flash game website and you'll find that only about 25% of the games are worth any merit. The same goes for the Xbox Live Indie section. As this video elaborates;

The video is only really highlighting the bad games, but it made me laugh quite a bit and it goes to show that indie games aren't all like Minecraft. 

Task 16: Elements of game design, part seven: level design

Task 16: Elements of game design, part seven: level design

Level Design is a rather broad term given to the large task of creating game worlds, and it usually covers both aesthetics and ergonomics. Generally speaking, level design covers everything from placing the geometry to lighting to sound effects. 

Most of the people I've talked to about this topic believe that level design is some whimsical process where the designer simply doodles on a napkin and it comes to life in game by magic. I've yet to come across someone who understands (or at least, tries to) the sheer complexity of creating seamless game worlds that are simultaneously pleasing to the eye and complimentary to the gameplay.

I've had experience with level design in the past, working with the level editors for shooters like Unreal Tournament and role-playing games like Fallout. I've also worked with editors for strategy games like Command & Conquer. In all three genres, the rules of level design are different.

In Unreal Tournament, flow is an important part of a map. Areas have to have sufficient space for evasive moves like jumping or dodging, and you need to make sure all of the weapons can be used effectively on the map. There needs to be plenty of 'Z' movement in the level, so that the level feels more like a fluid space than a maze. Then when you design a level for a strategy game, the rules change. Level’s automatically become much bigger and more open, and assets become sparser and spread out. Focus is placed on accommodating large units, and creating areas of strategic value to the player.

The misconception that level design is mostly a visual activity is apparent in a good portion of user-generated content. I’ve played many user-created maps that were pretty to look at but horrendous to actually play. Whether it was poor item placement or poor flow, these maps were missing the core of a good level – good design.

Back at College we did a level design project in Unreal Tournament (the original, so we used BSP instead of static meshes). The first thing on everybody’s mind was the aesthetics – how it looked. In our initial planning stage we focused on creating ‘cool’ areas and landmarks, and as a result our levels were pretty shocking to play when we tested them. To give an example, one guy made an ‘Atlantis’ level where everyone spawned outside and made their way inside. That would’ve worked for a single-player level, but in a multiplayer game like Unreal it killed the pace completely. Our problem was that we considered aesthetics first over gameplay mechanics.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Task 15: Elements of game design, part six: visual composition

Task 15:  Elements of game design, part six:  visual composition

I'm ashamed to admit it, but I'd never really given composition a good thought before this task. It's one of the shameful things about being mostly self-taught prior to the course, stuff like composition just passed me by. I'd always had trouble creating an interesting layout for my scenes, and I'd always struggled to create interesting focal points, but I never could put my finger on it. And now I look at it, I realise it's something I should have looked at a hell of a lot sooner. A lot of my work prior to this course lacked any decent composition, and it looked very flat and dull.

Composition is essentially the process of arranging elements in a scene to make the most attractive combination. Imagine a box full of lovely flowers. In the box, they're nice, but not really much to look at. However, when they're arranged in a vase and in a room, they really shine and stand out. That's essentially what composition is all about - arranging elements to create the most eye-pleasing combination.

When you have a scene full of different elements and objects, it can be confusing for the viewer. Ideally, you want to use composition to guide the eye around the piece in a particular manner, drawing it to certain 'focal points' to help create the intended mood. For example, a gigantic building on the right hand side of a piece will instantly draw the eye away from the relatively uncluttered left hand side. Whereas a cluttered piece with no clear focal point will make the viewers eye dart around in an uncomfortable way, probably making them want to stop viewing the piece.

There are several ways to go about creating an interesting composition. A simple 'rule' we were taught early on is the rule of thirds, which breaks the scene down into a 3x3 grid. Using this method we are given 4 'golden points' which are focal points of the scene. Also, the top and bottom right hand squares are big eye-catchers since we naturally read from left to right. There are some good examples of this technique in the CGSociety article I've linked below and I've generously borrowed from all through this entry. Putting the focal point of your piece in one of the four points of the rule of thirds helps draw the eye to the object, almost pulling the eye towards it.

You can also handle composition using 'implied forms'. These are basic shapes created using the assets in your scene, such as circles, rectangles, crosses and 'L' shapes. You can use these techniques to draw the eye to specific parts of the scene. For example, with the cross technique, the eye is drawn up the vertical line, and the horizontal line acts as a divider between the top and bottom halves. With the 'circle' technique you can essentially create a 'tunnel' to focus the eye down. The 'rectangle' technique frames the focal point of an image, using the outside artwork to push the eye towards the intended target.

I'll certainly be trying out these composition techniques next time I'm out drawing, it's definitely something that I need in the toolkit if I intent to become a true artist.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Task 14: Elements of game design, part five: planning and concepting

Task 14:  Elements of game design, part five:  planning and concepting

Often overlooked and underestimated, the planning and concept stage is a crucial part of game design. This stage is intended to remove all confusion and misconception and bring all of the team into one 'hive mind'. For example, the design document is intended to provide the fullest amount of information about the project so that all team members are clear on the aims and processes involved on the project.

Another purpose of the planning process is to solidify ideas and bring them down to a realistic level. Any confusion about the quantity/complexity of a particular task is removed if a design document is written correctly, and any outrageous/unachievable ideas are toned down in group discussion.

Usually, the planning stage (namely the design document) is handled by directors and team leads. In the reference material I read (this link), I discovered that the general design document is handled by the project lead designer, with the technical specification usually being handled by the lead programmer.

Concepting is the process of visualising ideas, usually through quick sketches/3D modelling, but sometimes in more simpler forms like mind-mapping (or brainstorming, whatever you call it). This is the stage where you develop your initial ideas through experimentation, usually coming up with a few dozen variations or alternate ideas, then trimming them down.

I believe that the concepting stage is a very important stage, especially for refining your ideas. That underwater football game may sound awesome in your head, but once you start exploring the idea through experimentation you quickly begin to see the problems. That giant spider robot may sound like a cool boss battle, but after some quick sketching you may reveal a series of crippling practical issues with the design.

Speed is a crucial part of the concept stage, as it's purpose is to quickly expand ideas and experiment. Most of these ideas will be discarded or altered, so there's little point in going into detail. In contrast, the planning stage is very detailed and rather slow. They 'feed' each other - the concepting stage expands initial ideas and creates new ones, and the planning stage solidifies the refined ideas and renders them in greater detail.

The planning stage is often underestimated and underdeveloped due to it's lengthy and laborious nature. You could argue that it is the point where the ever-changing and energetic pace of the initial concept period is slowed down and committed to paper. But while that can be viewed as a negative, it is also a positive. Toning down the reckless and wild flurry of initial ideas is critical to creating a manageable and achievable project.

We often work with small, single-person projects, so it can feel like the design document serves a limited function. The planning and concepting phase can seem unnecessary at times, especially when you feel like all the ideas are solidified in your head.  But it is definitely a crucial phase in any project, a way of capturing a wild fire and keeping it in a controllable state, if you will.


Went out and bought Rage yesterday, since I'd missed it on it's release. It wasn't a game I'd been longing to play for ages, just something I thought looked good from what I'd seen of it. I've only played a few hours of it so far, but what I've played I've really enjoyed. Anyway, I'm not doing a 'review' here, I wanted to talk about Rage for a specific reason..

I felt the faces in-game worth a mention. There's some nice face animation on the main characters, and so far I've seen a good variety of faces. I've seen older people, scarred people, overweight and underweight people. It's something that really surprised me, and continues to. 

Also, the environments are ridiculous in Rage! The rock cliffs and skyline are of particular worth here, they are of an outstanding quality. Since I'm playing the game on the Xbox I can't really say whether this is Rage on it's fullest settings, but the scenery has distracted me and made me crash quite a few times now.

More on Rage later, when I've actually had a good play :)

Friday, 21 October 2011

Treasure Chest

Treasure Chest, final version.

I'll be back to do a write-up about the project, and to catch up with my blog tasks. I haven't forgotten, just gotten in a bit of a jumble. Anyway, can't make this a long post, in the middle of something. Just wanted to upload this final render sheet.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Time diary, Tuesday & Wednesday

Just a quick update on the timetable thing, keep forgetting to do it.

Yesterday (Tues):

08.30 - Wake up, breakfast
10.00 - Labs, 3D work and timetabled lesson
17.00 - Back home
17.30 - 20.00 - Attempt to do work, muddied by talking to mates instead
20.00 - Cooking, distracted by TV
22.30 - Gave up on trying to get things done, watched TV and called it a night

Today (Wednesday):

08.30 - Wake up
09.00 - Breakfast
10.00 - Labs, 3D work
14.00 - Weekly film! ^.^
16.30 - Back to the labs, converting files so I can carry on work at home
17.00 - Back home, cuppa and short break
17.30 - 3D Work
19.00 - Big cook! (Housemate who is uber-chef is ill, so I offered to do it)
20.45 - Back to 3D work
22.00 - End of day cool-off break, perhaps some Gears of War and then an early night

Monday, 17 October 2011

Monday Work Update!

So, first order of business, my final for Loughborough;

I'm quite happy with the end result. It's not polished and smooth, the brush strokes are thick and clear, but I like that. The bottom area is lacking, mainly because I got tired of constantly reworking the vegetation. I've sunk about 5-6 hours into this so far, so I lost patience with that bottom section towards the end.

I'm really pleased with this piece because I can see a definite improvement, in comparison to my last paint. My only concern is that this is a "one-off" thing and that my next final wont be of the same quality. I'd be quite gutted if this was just a lucky paint, but time will tell.

Also, I did a little doodle tonight. I wasn't in the mood to fire up 3D tonight, so rather than waste time I thought I'd just doodle;

It's a Stargate! Took a good few hours though, not really the timescale for a 'doodle'. I enjoyed painting it, and it was nice practice, even if it was straight from photo reference. I'm not really too confident in painting straight from my head at the moment, I still feel like there's some basics I need to refine before I can do that at a competent level.

Been doodling around the Newarke museum today too, felt I improved my rendering techniques there whilst I was drawing. It's semi-obvious in my drawings, as towards the end my shading starts to become more crisp and defined, at the start it very much becomes a blur. More on that later, tea's done! :o

08.30: Get up, get ready
10:00 - 16.00: Visual Design - Drawing at Newarke Museum
17.00 - 20.00: Personal Painting - Stargate
20.00 - 21.40: Traditional Painting practice
21.40: Probably going to unwind before sleep.

Sunday Time-thing

Meant to do this last night, completely forgot;


11.00 -- Got up, Family came over to prod things and gossip
17.00 -- Family went home, started finishing off Loughborough Final
21.00 -- Had tea, relaxed for a bit watching TV before bed

Okay, so it's not really accurate. I've just forgotten what I did yesterday, I didn't do much really. I'd mostly written yesterday off due to the family visit, but I managed to get my Loughborough Final done in those few hours I had left over, so not all bad.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Saturday time-diary

Today is what I'd class as a "write-off" day. Got very little done today.

11.30 -- Got up (had a lie-in)
12.00 -- Went up town, got a camping stool for outdoor doodling
12.30 -- Sat down to do some painting. Got distracted talking to mates, doing more washing, reading articles posted up that then lead to about four other articles...
19.00 -- Tea

Ala, write-off day. Complete waste of a day. Did get further on the painting, nearly finished now. But otherwise, today was lost :/

Friday 'time-diary'

Today's 'time-diary';

08.30 -- Got up, had breakfast, tried to wake up.
09.00 -- Headed towards train station
09.50 -- Got train to Loughborough
10.10 -- Went to Loughborough's Great Central Station, did some doodling
13.30 -- Started heading home
14.00 -- Got home, had lunch
15.00 -- Went to labs, did 3D work
17.00 -- Headed home
17.15 - 19.00 -- Lost internet time, mostly Facebook, backing up work, listening to old music and reading reviews of obscure games I'm not even interested in.
19.00 -- 2D work, painting
21.00 -- Ate, Washed up, Sorted out washing
22.30 -- Watched Family Guy on the TV, played half an hour of Gears of War, talked to housemate about 3D stuff

While I didn't waste as much time today as I did yesterday, I still lost about 2 hours when I first sat down at home. Lesson learned there? Working in the labs is a lot more time efficient then at home.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Fursday Update. Yeah, Fursday.

First order of business, the weekly film. We watched 'The Mechanist' starring a disturbingly thin Christian Bale. It was a pretty confusing film at first, but I think I've finally got my head around the plot. There's not really much I can say about The Mechanist, it's not a film I normally would've gone looking for. But it had a very dark visual style, with a lot of dark shots and desaturated scenes. The musical score was interesting too, added a lot of drama to the film in the more tense scenes - it reminded me of the crescendo events in Left 4 Dead.

Secondly, I've decided to take on the 'diary'-esq challenge discussed in today's Critical Studies session. Back in the first year, I wasted an awful lot of time doing things like spontaneous cleaning or reading crap on the internet. Or watching hours of My Name is Earl just because it was on the TV in the kitchen. That's something I want to ditch this year, as I really wasted a lot of time I could've used doing more meaningful stuff.

So here goes today's time-diary-thing;

10.20 (ish) ; Got up
10.30 (ish) ; Had breakfast, watched about an hour of the 1968 Batman series on TV
11.30 ; Head towards Uni
12-12.40 ; Lecture (Crit. Studies)
12.40-15.30 ; In labs, working in 3D
15.30-16.00 ; Room tidy, washing sort
16.00- 17.30 ; Haven't a clue, lost internet time
17.30-20.40 ; Painting (digital), talking to mates

Already I can clearly see a lot of wasted time there... efficiency is definitely something I'm going to need to learn.

Finally, here's a rough work-in-progress painting of a carriage from Loughborough;

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Ooh, blog!

Got shown this blog earlier whilst up in the labs, found it quite interesting to look at. Plenty of different styles and mediums too. Will give it a better look when I'm back home;

Monday, 10 October 2011

Monday Update

Alright, I'm just going to come out with it. I broke up with my girlfriend last Wednesday and it's still hitting me pretty hard. So my posts are going to be pretty down beat for a while, but I'll try to keep focused.

Last week we got our first batch of 3D projects, and went back to Abbey Park to do some drawing and colour painting. I've decided to do the 3D projects in order, since they have staggered hand-in dates. I've finished modelling the Treasure Chest now, I've just got to tweak it based on the feedback I've been given and then move on to unwrapping. I'm quite proud of the model so far, but obviously the textures are the key component of this low-poly project.

I've had troubles getting the lid to fit properly, it's a problem with the design. The lid is curved at the front and has 5 golden coin "teeth" which dig into the legs when the lid is closed. I have two options at the moment; either alter the legs so the teeth fit, or remove/reduce the coins.

Here's a digital painting I did from the Abbey Park trip. In comparison to other artists on the course, it's not brilliant, but I've noticed an improvement in my painting skills so that's definitely a plus. I struggled with the trees in the background, it might be worth investing in some special brushes to help with foliage. 

We visited Loughborough's Great Central Station today, so I'll have some stuff to show for that soon. I'm going back up on Friday to do some more sketches, and I'll be doing more digital painting from reference I took there. Also, this week I should be moving onto painting the diffuse (colour) map for the Treasure Chest, so I'll post about that too.

Blog Task (13) : Reflection on year one, and ambition for year two

For me, year one was a complete change of pace both in academic study and general day-to-day life. It was the first time I'd had to fend for myself like that, away from home. And admittedly, I struggled to cope for the first few months. In terms of study, I found the university pace to be hard to adjust to coming straight from College, but in time I did come to understand it.

I learnt a lot in the first year, especially in 3D. I'd had prior experience in Maya, but it was brief and rough. I found Max a little scary at first, but the tutorials and feedback I got both in person and on Facebook helped me understand it better. In terms of 2D, I was mostly self-taught before the course. The help and guidance I got really helped develop my skills, refining my self-taught ways and learning new things. And before University, I saw work blogs as a chore. As I worked through the first year, I began to realise the purpose of our blogs - basically an artist journal. 

So what do I take from the first year into the second? Quite a lot actually. I've realised that working at home is a lot less productive than working in the labs, and that keeping to myself all the time is counter-productive since I don't get feedback and help from other students as much. I've learnt that sometimes work gets tiring and cumbersome, but procrastinating only serves to worsen that feeling.

In terms of aspirations for the second year, I really want to improve my workflow outside of coursework. While we improve our skills working on the given projects, only we really know which individual aspects we need to improve on. So I hope to focus on my main weaknesses this year, hopefully helping to bring my overall skill level to a respectable point. This will also help ease the transition into more self-directed study, which is a core part of year three. 

Overall, my aim for year two is to get more involved in the course and in self-directed study. I feel like I floated through year one, so I want to get more involved this year. I understand that it is not something I can just jump into - it's going to take some time to change my routine. 

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Game Art, Year 2

You'll have to forgive me for keeping this one short, I'm going through some stuff right now I'd rather not talk about. I'm not really in the mood to write much at the moment, but hopefully this stuff will be sorted out soon. Depending on whether the other person is willing to talk like an adult for once..

So yeah, Year 2! Even thinking that brings in a rush of different emotions - excitement, bewilderment and a touch of fear. Strangely, it feels like Year 1 never ended. Which I'm guessing is a good thing, I'm not going to have any problem getting back into the flow of things.

Like I said earlier, my head's a bit clouded right now, so I'll come back in a day or two and properly do a "Year 2" starting post. But I will say this, it's good to be back!

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Orange/Blue Contrast, a popular theme

It's a small article, but it's interesting non-the-less. My brother showed me this earlier, and I can't believe I'd never noticed it before.

If you're not in the mood for the article, here's the evidence they give. Still makes the same point.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Pre-Order bonuses

Even though I'm a Game Art student - and wanting to get into the Game industry - I still look at some of the things that said industry does and think, why?

I've been thinking about bonus content recently, mainly the bonuses you get for pre-ordering a game. I'm indecisive about where I stand on this stuff, because I feel it's both good and bad at the same time.

For example, pre-order Red Faction: Armaggedon and you get a free copy of Red Faction: Battlegrounds and $10 a future THQ game. Are they that desperate to get people to pre-order Red Faction that they're ready to hand out discounts? Seems a little drastic to me.

It probably worked, I haven't checked. But I can't shake the feeling that all this is rather silly. Especially when there are different pre-order bonuses for different retailers. I just see it like they're trying to lure in customers by jingling shiny objects in the window. Well, as long as their handing out free stuff, we're fine with being led around.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Music Dilema

I've always tried to buy music I liked, whenever possible. And I've always stuck to my guns regarding piracy, especially against those people who have the money to buy music but are unwilling to spend it.

Usually I'm in favour of buying CD's, but I'm starting to lose faith.

I've been listening to some new music recently, and figured I'd buy the albums while it was on my mind. So I managed to find three of them on Amazon, which was convenient. The fourth album I can't find anywhere, not even on their website.

To get all three CD's would cost me £46, which is absolutely criminal. I'm used to paying £8-10 for an album from HMV or elsewhere, especially back in my pre-internet days. But someone was charging £18 for Odium's latest, which is ridiculous. I'll pay ~£40 for a video game because they have lasting re-playability, but I'm not willing to pay ~£18 for a CD which I'll just rip to my PC and put on my shelf.

I'm starting to understand why people pirate music. It's not like CD's are the easiest thing to get a hold of, especially with my taste in music which isn't exactly the popular taste. Some CD's I like can't be found outside their native countries or have to be imported, and that usually means a sky-high price. For example;

Suddenly, piracy seems less selfish and more necessary. It can't cost more than £1-2 to make a CD, so why does someone feel that £48 is fair price? Or £65 for that matter. I can definitely understand why people are opposed to this level of greed.

Here's a tip; if you want people to buy music rather than pirate it -- don't try and rape their wallet in the process. They'll just pirate instead, it's free after all.

On Stranger Tides

So I went to see the new Pirates of the Caribbean film the day before last, and was actually quite surprised with it. I hadn't looked at any press reviews or any publicity stuff for it, and was going just because it was another Pirates of the Caribbean film.

I think it's fair to call this fourth Pirates film a cash-in on a successful franchise, especially how the original three were meant to be it. But as far as cash-in's go, it was enjoyable. While Mr & Mrs Turner don't reappear in this latest film, Jack Sparrow does - and to be honest he's a big enough selling point.

It wasn't anything groundbreaking in terms of story, but it wasn't bad either. It was your typical adventure scenario - a few sides go looking for something of value, and the main characters end up captives of one of the sides and forced to go along with them. It's a staple thing, it was the same story for both Tomb Raider films.

The only thing I really didn't like was the crappy love sub-plot, which more suitable for Twilight than Pirates. When you tell the audience that mermaid's lure men in and then tear off their faces, it's an insult for one of said mermaid's to be "good". It's more than an insult actually, it's just plain stupid. What, does she sit around with her mermaid friends and talk about being nice and helping out the community?

That really stopped this latest Pirates film from being anything more that 'great', because it was plain stupid. I did, however, like how Blackbeard was portrayed consistently as 'unsavable' and often referred to by his real name, Edward Teech. There were some interesting characters, although the typical "fat slobbish governor" character was just a bad move.

In summary, I think if you got to see Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides expecting anything more than a good adventure film, you'll probably end up disappointed. I've heard a few people say they didn't like this latest film, so ultimately the only way to find out what you think of it is to see it.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

A Quick Ponder

Command & Conquer 2: Red Alert
The Elder Scrolls: Morrowind 3
Halo ODST: 3
Call of Duty 2: Modern Warfare
Ghost Recon 2: Advanced Warfighter
Unreal 3: Touranment

It's funny how one misplaced number can completely bugger up a game's title and sequence in a series. I have actually heard someone refer to Skyrim as "Morrowind 5".

Friday, 20 May 2011

May work update

It's been quite a while since my last post, sorry. I underestimated how lazy I would be during the holidays. That coupled with finally getting my new PC working, and being able to play loads of new games on it, meant I've done nothing for weeks.

So I pushed myself to do some digital painting practice (another apple, and an item at hand);

Monday, 2 May 2011

Post-Easter Update

Bit of a ridiculous gap between this post and my last, but that's Easter for you. Spent the last week of the break just relaxing at home, catching up with some of the games I missed out on in my time here.

So I got Crysis 2 first, and had fun playing through that. It felt really polished and refined, and had some fantastic looking graphics - I didn't see many overlapping meshes or blurry textures. The only real downside to the game was that nothing was really memorable. Everything that happened I'd already seen before, most of the events and story elements had already been done before in the genre - so nothing really stood out.

Got Portal 2 too, and had a lot more fun playing through that. I don't know how Valve managed to do it, but they took all of the strengths of the first Portal and build on top of that. Found the game a little difficult in parts, but it was nothing that I couldn't work through with a little mind power. But, as much as I loved playing Portal 2, it felt like a sequel for sequel's sake. The co-op campaign felt like an afterthought, and it was a little hard to understand the ties between Portal and Portal 2. Still, Portal 2 was well worth the money, and was one of the more unique releases of this year.

Got some digipaint practices for you too:

Duck money bank.

House key. Yeah.

Food dye! Which my sister uses to dye her hair, oddly. 

Felt like designing a sci-fi weapon, I'd just been reading up on Deus Ex stuff so I was in the mood.

An old one I didn't put up, it's a portrait of John Howard - lead singer of Threat Signal. 

Another oldie, this time of Patrick Stewart.

An older one, of Raziel - a character from the PS1 game 'Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver'



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