Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Morrowind art book

I've been looking for Morrowind-related art for a long time, I loved all of the designs and cultures they created for that game. And I found this;

http://bordel.haghn.com/Art/Illustration/Morrowind/ The insanely rare "Art of Morrowind." book, scanned in.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Task 24: Personal review of the second year: Where do you want to go, and how do you get there?

Task 24: Personal review of the second year: Where do you want to go, and how do
you get there?

So, what are universities for? Well, the obvious answer is that they're here to provide people with education and skills that'll benefit them in employment, or to give them the skills required to obtain a job. They also help break us out of the habits we've all picked up in our time in education prior to starting. Obviously, some students do not come straight from education, so for them this point isn't applicable, but regardless university does force us to take responsibility for our own work and education.

Universities are age-old institutions, some of the earliest evolved from monasteries. Religion was a driving force behind the development of the university system. Churches and mosques would require scholars to keep record of the faith and to research it. Over time, they broadened their horizons to include scholarship, mathematics and medicine. The University of Salerno was one of the first, focusing on medicine, though it faded away with centuries.

When I first arrived at university I was expecting more formal education, I imagine that impression was based on my prior experience in education. Throughout my time in mainstream education I've always had the impression that education was a one-way thing. Personally, I blame school for that, as we were all just expected to sit their and absorb everything that we were told. Any extra-curricular work was usually a sheet full of questions that no-one had any interest in. In my time here at university it's slowly sunk in that education here is two-way. I say slowly, because 13 years of mainstream education is hard to shake off in such a short time. However, it's been eye-opening.

As to what I want to get out of my time here at university, that hasn't changed. It's always been about trying to improve my skills as an artist, and to get into the mindset required for the industry. Granted, the transition has been hard and I'm still working on achieving my goals, but it's not been fruitless. One of the major obstacles that I've faced these past two years has been dealing with the problems that I've faced outside of work - going straight from the comfort of home into having to handle everything myself has been a rough line.

Over these past two years I've learnt a lot, and I'm not ashamed to admit that the majority of it I've learnt outside of set work. It's been the times that curiosity has driven me to new things where I've learnt more. That's not to say that tutorials and lessons haven't taught me anything, that'd be completely untrue, but I always seem to soak information in better when it's something I've gone out of my way to learn. Maybe that's a by-product of my experience in education, maybe I have an inability to soak in information unless I'm fully into it, I don't know. In reflection it's better to embrace it then to fight it.

To reflect on my second year as a whole, I feel it's been a learning experience greater than the first year. The first term was a step up from the work we did in the first year, both in terms of scope and speed. The group project was a major challenge and an all-around ball ache, but it was fun at times and it taught us all a lot. It was also a great example of the trials and rewards of working with other artists on a task. Overall, the second year has been challenging but not without it's merits, I've learnt a lot and had plenty of fun with the tasks set.


Friday, 20 April 2012

Task 23: Life Changing or Career Building?

Task 23: Life Changing or Career Building?

Technology within the games industry is constantly advancing and changing, to the point where certain technologies become obsolete within a couple of years. Some new technologies are simply an advancement of an existing one, so simply require a little bit of extra learning. However, some require totally new skills to be developed.

When it comes to jobs within the industry, employers are often looking for a mixture of current gen technical skill and traditional art background.  The two elements are opposites - the technical skills are very current and constantly changing, whereas the traditional background is an age-old skill that has changed very little over time.

It's hard for educational institutes to know how to provide their students with the right balance of current-gen technical skill and the underlying artist foundations. Since the industry is constantly changing and advancing, they need to constantly refresh their curriculum and covered topics. However, without the underlying traditional element, students will be left only with skills that are soon to expire. The underlying skill change to a lesser degree since they are fairly universal, which is why I feel they are worth more of a focus.

In my opinion, the underlying skills that subtly affect all the work that we do are far more important than specific technical skills. It's like trying to paint a wall without first putting up the wallpaper. I imagine that employers would be far more interested in an applicant who has a strong artistic background than someone who knows technical skills that are turning redundant.

At the end of the day, you can learn many new current or next generation skills from the internet, via the vast array of tutorials available for free. New tutorials come out to keep pace with the industry, so in that respect they're a viable alternative. However, I think the underlying artist foundations are something that benefit from formal education and cannot be developed as effectively through public-domain resources.

I looked at a job for a Junior Character Animator. Despite being an animation role, it paints a similar picture to game artist job roles I've seen. Candidates need to have thorough understand of animation software, animation principles, an a strong traditional background. This surprised me, considering it was a Junior role, I expected the requirements to be looser.

This just goes to show the tough situation employers face, and similarly education faces. The industry needs people with good art backgrounds and good current-gen skills, however this creates a jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none situation when it comes to education, since it's hard to develop both qualities simultaneously. Education faces a definite problem as to which area to give priority.

I could waffle on and fill another 50 words but I think I've done enough waffling already here.


Task 22: Creativity, the talent myth and craft


The use of the imagination or original ideas, esp. in the production of an artistic work.

Task 22: Creativity, the talent myth and craft

"Creativity is the quality that you bring to the activity you are doing. It is an attitude, an inner approach – how you look at things." 

It's hard to describe creativity, but personally I've always thought of it as the ability to create new things out of existing ideas. I can't remember who said it, but I remember the quote "there is no such thing as a new idea, only a new combination of old ideas". I believe that to be true, more so now than ever. 

"The creative process can be accidental or deliberate."

The belief that creativity is something we're born with is widespread. It suggests that creativity comes naturally to some people and not others, and that it's something that we cannot learn or develop. I believe this isn't true. As kids, we all painted stick figures and drew wonky houses, freely expressing our creativity in any way we could. Somehow, along the line, we either keep or lose that creativity we had as children.

There's a line I really like from an eBook on Creativity by Steven Mithen, which is "the surprise caused by a creative idea is said to be due to the improbability of the combination." It's an interesting way of looking at it, and I think he's onto something. Many 'creative' ideas mix several seemingly incompatible or undesirable ideas and create something interesting or unique. One example of this I could give is Morrowind, which spliced together giant turtles, colossal waterfleas and mechanical spider-dwarves and managed to create something magical looking.

Creativity can be developed, I believe, by anyone. It's not something that you can develop by reading a book or taking a lesson, more something that comes naturally through processes. 'Talent' is a similar concept, though talent refers more to someone's overall skill rather. Talent too can be developed, but not directly, it's a sum of all parts (including creativity).

When it comes to video games, I think creativity can be expressed in every area, whether it's an interesting game mechanic, interesting visual style or music. Take a look at the Wii, it had massive success almost entirely due to it's inventive and novel control scheme. Despite being released in the age of Halo and Call of Duty and having last-gen graphics, the Wii was a commercial success. On a similiar vein, it seems the Xbox Kinect hasn't really taken off  in the same way, due to the lack of creativity in it's design.

As an artist, I try to express my creativity through any means available, whether they be artistic or otherwise. I hope that through the work I produce and the way I approach problems, my creativity would show through, though I do not expect people to acknowledge something that is not there. Some things I do are more creative than others, and some turn out to be not creative in the slightest way, so generally I do not look for acknowledgement.

While I do not consider myself to be 'talented' currently, I would hope that in time I would be recognised as 'skilful' rather than 'talented'. To me, the word 'talented' implies a natural-born ability, and a sort of prestige. I think 'skilful' is a more appropriate tag as it acknowledges that the person has developed their skills rather than being born with them. 

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Valve employee Blog


A very interesting read. Valve's informal company structure definitely seems to encourage creativity and teamwork!

Book of Eli Matte paintings & concepts

I was rooting around for something related to the film when I found this, which is pretty awesome. It's a page full of matte painting before-and-after's, and concepts for the film. I really enjoyed the film and it's visual style, despite post-apocalyptic fiction being a cliché. I thought they handled it well.

Anyway, I found it interesting seeing how they composed certain shots from the film. I could've sworn these were all real places when I watched the film.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

RE: Day 1 DLC

Found this on Kotaku, in the comments section for an article on something to do with Day 1 DLC. It's pretty good;

I'm not going to go into the topic, because I'm pretty sure everyone's read enough about it already. Suffice to say, I believe a lack of information is the culprit here, and until people really understand how game development works, the argument is just going to loop.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Genre Definition

What makes a game a Role-Playing Game (RPG)?

Is it the ability to customise your character? Can't be, otherwise APB would be an RPG.

Is it experience points, levelling up and perks? If so, Call of Duty's multiplayer is an RPG experience.

Is it a sense of choice & consequence, or karma? That would shift most JRPG games like Final Fantasy out of the genre. And that wouldn't sit well with their fanbase.

Is it loot-hunting, enemy grinding and mounts? In that case, Borderlands and most MMO games are the purest RPG games around.

Is it the ability to roam free in a huge world? Flight Simulator. Armed Assault II. Angels Fall First: Planetstorm. 

How do you define a genre? It's a thought that's been going around in my head all day really. It's a similar thing with other mediums too. You can't say a song is a pop song because it features catchy, clean vocals, because many other 'genres' feature this too. You get it in metal, often considered to be the polar opposite of pop music.

I think it's a sum of all parts thing. It's one one feature that makes it a certain type of product, it's a sum of the thing. Hence why you end up with sub-genres like the role playing shooter and the turn based simulation.

Pointless entry over.

Friday, 6 April 2012

Craig Collins, Porfollio

No way in hell did I just find a guy responsible for some of the art behind Future Perfect!* I was searching for reference and it just popped up!


On a side note, this guy has some impressive personal and professional work too. Cool find!

"Though they are under [a] NDA I have recently completed work on up-and-coming titles Fear 3, Firefall and Mass Effect 3."


* I should probably point out that I love that game, and it's different variety of settings and cultures.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Task 21: An introduction to the Game Industry

Task 21: An introduction to the Game Industry

Funnily enough, this is something that's been on my mind for a while now. Throughout mainstream education, we're all encouraged to experiment and metaphorically stick our fingers in different pies. Also metaphorically, these pies are usually quite hot, and it's hard to get used to them at first.

God that sounds kinda dodgy. Maybe it's just me, I've got a dodgy mind at times.

Anyway, we're encouraged to experiment, and usually we find our niche and expand into it. Sometimes, however, our course/program/school/job requires us to work with these other "pies", and that can lead us into a jack-of-all-trades limbo state.

I think I'm a good example of this. After doing traditional work, digital work, sculpture, 3D modelling and level design this academic year, I'm in a muddle as to what I feel most comfortable with. Actually, that's not true, pencil & paper will always be my comfort zone. But I am confused as to what medium I should expand into and work on. Which is a problem, I think, especially considering how the games industry is currently very specialist focused.

Back in the olden days, when games where made by a small handful of talented folk, generalists were abound. And while some games are still made by small teams of 2-3, the majority of titles purchased and played by the public are made by studios consisting of large numbers of artists, programmers, sound engineers and managers.

I took a quick look on a job website, and as I suspected, most of the jobs are very specific. For example, a character face rigger vacancy is open, which is a very niche role. It seems that a lot of these positions require a certain talent, like character modelling or environment modelling, and a hefty amount of experience and expertise. It's the same story across other job sites I've checked out.

I had a cheeky read through Mr. Tristan Silva's blog and he made a very good point on this topic about how studios try to keep an employee busy even when they've forfilled their role (in his blog, Tristan talked about a character artist sent to do animal modelling.). So maybe there's still a bit of wiggle-room after all?

Going back to my earlier pondering, I'm a little concerned that my lack of specialisation could trip me up. Realistically speaking, I need to find my area of interest and focus on it, rather than trying to generalise.

To sum up, it seems the (current) industry is focused around a number of smaller cogs turning a larger wheel. Each cog has a purpose, like character or environment modelling. Cog metaphor aside, it seems that you need a specific area of expertise to net yourself a job, which means a jack-of-all-trades approach isn't going to get you very far, unless your are amazing at everything. In which case, you deserve a medal!

And because I'm in one of those moods, here's an animated gif of Brian Blessed laughing enthusiastically. Why not. Enjoy!




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