About Me

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Leicester, United Kingdom
Studying BA (Hons) Game Art Design at De Montfort University. It continues to be challenging as much as rewarding. Primary outcomes include 2D and 3D projects and 2am coffees.

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Almost time for the Colosseum

My Gladiator has coming along very well, mostly thanks to the Symmetry Modifier which has saved a lot of time and effort. Being excited in making armour for most parts of the body, I did find that I exceeded my budget. I was eager to create the Maximus Helm from Ridley Scott's Gladiator, and I did.

However, even when I had made it as basic as possible whilst retaining its distinctive shape, I had to ditch it, it was too much, if I had used it, my model would have been practically nude to be within budget. In removing the helm, I used my regained tris to bolster the facial detail and am considering usng alphas for long strands of hair, however I do not have enough for the entire head, so I will see how it looks.

Characters: Being one with them

Video game characters are perceived differently than ones you’d find in literature, especially if its one without pictures. Its then up to you to envision the character and base them upon what you’re reading. Currently I am in need of a new book to get into. I have read my fair share of fiction, one particular author who I quickly got sucked into was Darren Shan, whose work features around vampires and demons, the latter being borderline stereotypical, each particular demon is given a detailed description so that you can easily envision the grotesque appearance it has, it’s rather violent to say the least. You can see the link between these characters and those I’m drawn to in games!

Ingame history is what grabs me, it’s what defines the characters so that we develop a relationship with them and want to find out more about them and their backgrounds. Particular favourites of mine are revenge or tales of loss, when it becomes evident that these features revolve around the main character you can find it driving you forward, compelling you to keep going.

The protagonist and central characters play a vital role in a successful game as they are the focus for the player and how he relates to the game. From the pixelated Playstation to the current improving PS3 platform, the computer graphics play a huge part in the reality of the game and character development and continue to do so. However, it will take more than complex armour designs and huge weapons to keep gamers’ interest and attention, we’ve seen a fair share of hulking warriors with oversized swords and fantasy based humanoids. Despite this however, there are certain characters who need no introduction, I mean take the leading figures of Nintendo and SEGA, they have no background to speak of or one that we can connect to, yet their design says enough about them, and look how well their franchises have done!  Character designs have to be striking and bold to get us to stay with it.

This works for most characters, but there are certain characters which cannot be defined simply by their appearance alone; they need to have a background synopsis that helps give their place in the game. It is not just about what they will do, but who they are, their origins, background etc. I mean that when I see the playable characters for the first time, I can assume anything about them. For that reason, being the nerd that I am, I go on the video game encyclopaedias and read up on biographies of various characters and lore so my understanding is widened and so that events that take place make sense. In the case of World of Warcraft which was released in 2004, I did not start playing until its fourth year and was unaware that it was a follow on from the original strategy series Warcraft, until I did my research. As I played it, I became familiar with the central and leading figures and wanted to learn more about them so I could see where they stood in the grand scheme of things.

Whilst he isn’t a playable character, one example is King Varian Wrynn, the Leader of the Alliance and the King of Stormwind. From interacting with him you figure out that he has a bitter resentment towards the Horde - the opposing faction. However it seems that this resentment is based on more personal reasons - a fact that I learned from reading up on him...

The Horde ransacked and burnt his home as a child.


He was abducted and while suffering from memory loss, was taken in as a slave and made to fight in the orcs gladiator arenas.

In previous wars, the Horde has attacked his home and people. So it is no wonder that he feels this way towards them. Yet as the expansions have been released and as the WoW storyline has progressed, Varian has begun to show compassion and even a degree of respect towards certain members of the Horde.

It is role playing games (that differ from WoW) that really make the difference and connect to us more. It is an interesting change so that you have a choice, and that various outcomes are available depending and what you choose to do. So to an extent, we make the character as the game continues and the personality is defined. Two excellent examples of this are The Elder Scrolls and Red Dead Redemption. In RDR, the protagonist John Marston is a former outlaw trying to turn over a new leaf, yet the government is forcing him to return to his violent past to eradicate his former gang members while using his family as leverage. Now given this background it is possible to carry on this way:

Robbing banks
Hogtie People
Killing in cold blood
and so on.

Of course this will lead to the player being feared and hunted down by authorities, and making the game a bit difficult to complete. However through cutscenes we see John's true character and gives an idea as to what he would do if not under our control. If he peforms in the opposite, people will open their services to him and request help and reward him in return.


This is also the case in Skyrim, as interaction with NPCs is impossible when being pursued by other guards. The other part of role playing games like these is that certain acts will make you feel guilty or leave you thinking ''My god, have I done the right thing?''. On the menu, the game keeps a log of the quests you have completed and details the decisions you’ve made like a dairy entry. Reading it over can really make you think. An example is if you spare a life or execute them, of course both decisions will result in different outcomes later on in the game.
Personally I do consider the ethic of certain tasks, when people are at your mercy it does make you hesitate as to whether or not you should deliver the killer blow. (Of course if you show mercy they get back up again and try to kill you!). I have had certain experiences in both of these games which have made me feel guilty, and I’m sure you will agree.
In the Downloadable Content Undead Nightmare of Red Dead Redemption, one of the side missions is to hunt sasquatches in the forest, after killing several of them you find one which it tells John that they are a passive race and not the carnivorous beasts that the NPCs think they are. It then goes on to say that because of your actions it is now the last of its kind, and begs to be shot to end its torment. What happens next was my call.


In Skyrim, there are some quests that are given by the Daedric Princes, deities considered to be evil or of chaotic nature. Upon finding one of their alters they will ask you to do their bidding, If the Dragonborn carries out their will they are rewarded with an artefact of power - a unique weapon or piece of armour. However due to their nature some of the objectives are rather disturbing to say the least. Examples include gaining a companions trust and then sacrificing that person upon an alter to be inducted into a prince’s cult or to slay an innocent to power an enchanted sword. When it has come to such requests, I have abandoned the quests and moved on to others less disturbing.

It is games like this which prove to be the most successful and recieve great praise. It is my hope that more will follow to represent the well loved genre that is Role playing.

Or course, there are some who take it just a bit too far....

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Art Direction

So what is Art Direction within the game industry? Art Direction has the responsibility for the overall look and feel of the game being produced, both in the way the player interacts with the game and the way the player interacts with his environment.

Specifically it involves ensuring that:

·         The game design project is kept on track;

·         The Art quality is at the right level and meets company/game series style requirements;

·         Everyone is participating and delivering;

·         Deadlines and company requirements such as budget limits are being met;

·         Advertising and published materials are delivered and meet company standards;

And the Art Director is responsible for defining the visual flow of the project - no pressure!

Furthermore it is their duty to oversee and create the idea that is being created, while ensuring progress is made with the game project. As with any major oversight and quality role in industry, a vital trait that is needed for this is good communication, so that ideas and issues can be easily shared and resolved amongst the individual contributors (animators, IT specialists, company management, finance etc) and departments concerned. The Art Director is also expected to put his mark or stamp of style on the end product game.

Art in the game industry is divided into several sub categories: concept, design, animation etc. so in a way an Art Director acts as an ambassador between these contributing departments. However it can be a complex role to say the least, since it is the director’s job to take the various inputs from everyone and put them into something solid and visual to present. A role like this can vary in scope depending on the scale and size of the project and the company itself. A director can also find themselves taking an artistic role in the production as well as giving feedback to the various contributors. So, in summary, the Art Director has to be creative but will rely on others for creativity in many cases as his role is more of a overseeing responsibility, making sure that the end product meets all of the criteria agreed before the project begins i.e. game quality, look and feel, production cost etc. In many ways the game production process mirrors an IT project where the end product must meet the agreed design goals.

Art Direction is not only used in the video game industry, it is also used in film production, publishing, marketing and advertising. An Art Director within film production is also sometimes known as the Production Designer in the USA and is responsible for the look and feel of the film set as well as setting the atmosphere and mood in producing the film. In addition, the Art Director is responsible for monitoring his department’s schedule and budget.

Nowadays the role is often referred to as Production Director, where their job is to manage and work alongside with the other departments within the film production team that are all connected to the visual aspect of a film, such as set design, construction, costumes and special effects. This can make Art Direction within both games and film production rather similar. However it is a considerably easier job from a CGI point of view, since a film is generally a one way system, without interaction with a player so in theory it would be easier to manage in terms of production compared to a game production depending on scale, as gameplay allows and often requires numerous pathways to be generated. However, the scale of the film will determine Art Direction requirements and also budget.

Another key role of art direction is to ensure that the game delivers a high quality exceptional visual experience to players. Many judge a game on what they see inside it, and want to believe it to be a true and fitting representation with appropriate context. Dante's Inferno for example, is mostly a fast paced combat game battling waves of foes. It takes place through the nine circles of Hell, so clearly the players want to see environments which allow them to feel that they are part of the game and understand the plot. For example the circle of Greed features pools and rivers of molten liquid gold - as a testament to those who hoarded and wasted it; and in the circle of Violence, where those who committed the latter upon others, are condemned into the Phlegethon, a river of boiling blood.

Personally I thrive on themed environments and settings within a game, as it makes a nice change from the traditional destroyed city scene we see in many post-apocalyptic and FPC games. However, there is always that boundary where it can sometimes become rather too fantasy based where you begin to question its realism.

Now obviously in our position, my course mates and I will want to get a rough idea as to whereabouts in the game industry we want to aim for. If I were to even consider a position such as Art Director, I do believe I would need some improvement on my work ethic and coordination skills. I am confident about my communication and game theme skills, less confident about project management and on a personal note, I do believe it's just simple motivation that I need, to keep at it. Or failing that - the ass kicking of a lifetime to wake me up!

Monday, 13 February 2012

Father to a murdered son, Husband to a murdered wife....

It's Gladiator time and needless to say I rewatched Ridley Scott's masterpiece once again to get in the mood. I bashed out some quick concepts so to get an idea of what I could aim for once the figure was finished and I could begin modelling the weapons of props. The common features involve:

Little chest armour-harness of Shoulder guard
Bracers and arm armour
Greaves ( Foot armour)

Highly ornamated helmets
Variety of weapons

Currently I am at 944/2500 tris, so there is much that can be done, bearing in mind that the hands and head will contian the highest details. I look foward to this as this is totally new from previous projects. I hope to complete the model and begin the next phase by weeks end.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Elements of game design

So...gameplay. Well as the name might suggest, it defines the interacting aspects of a video game. This can be broken down into major themes such as environment, characters, interactions, missions and so on. Each of them should be at a certain standard in order for the game to be a critical success. Reading the gameplay tab on video game pages on Wikipedia gives a detailed overview of the game format and what exactly the player goes through, as well as explaining the game interface and interactions.
These categories are what deem a game ''fun and playable'', we look for subliminal aspects and key themes that draw us into it in the first place and encourage us to progress through it, even at times where we come to a standstill. This applies for games all any genre or era, even arcade classics such as Space Invaders or the mobile game Snake, you reach that point where you get to a certain level or have played it for so long, and you just cannot keep going.
The availability of Multiplayer encouraged this competitive behaviour and whoever was in the top 100 or had the highest score was important. Despite this not being really significant in real life, it still gives you that sense of pride and you feel motivated to beat yourself. Other games include a puzzle to them give the game a good ol' twist, it's shows there's more to it then slicing your way through your foes to find the light at the end of the tunnel.

For example Within Darksiders' areas there are generally puzzles and exploration is required to continue, usually setting off mechanics that have a time limit or having limited windows to traverse from A to B. I enjoy it also because of the whole Heaven vs. Hell theme and what have you.

I tell ya, the number of times I have had to refer to youtube tutorials in get from one area to another, its shameful, needless to say in my PS2 days whenver I asked for a game I usually asked for the guide as well, so I knew the location of every collectable and so on- but hey, that's just me being enthusiastic. On this note, I look foward to the summer release of Darksiders II Death Lives.

I think the quality of the gameplay is set by the ease of playing the game and also the duration of the game which in turn is set by the tasks/collectables built into the game design. There are key attributes which come together to set the overall game quality – the player’s involvement in the game, the amount of learning involved to progress in the game, the satisfaction that the game gives in terms of player achievement, the emotional connection with the game and also whether the game can be enjoyed as a group or by ones self.
As it has been hinted through previous blogs - what draws me to games is the hidden revelations or secret story or plot. The intentions of the various protagonists are also important to me as I feel more connected to them that way and I want to help them. An example would be in the case of Assassin’s Creed where I took great pleasure in having Ezio hunt down the Templar’s and slaughtering those supporting them - after watching Ezio’s family being executed.

Although I have not fully explored the range of games of this kind, I have become attached to games where you have a choice in what you do, how your actions can change the course of the game and how you can have the option to say different things when in conversation with NPCs,
I first experienced this in The Phantom Menace on PS1, the graphics of which to this day still make me sick as they literally had no faces! It was a pixelated blur for the whole figure. Still the game provided good fun for me at the time, it was either this or A Bugs Life for me!

Ok I am clearly rambling on having gotten myself speaking my mind, I will have much more to say on the matter when we get to the character chapter of Elements of game design- sure do look foward to that one.

The work goes on...

A quick work update. After brainstorming the reef character project I took the meaning quite literally. I wanted to go for a camoflauge look, using coral and other reef plant life to hide my character. Also out of personal choice I wnated it to be humaniod, not human. The crew of the Flying Dutchman from Piratees of the Caribbean really did influence me on this one.

I was pointed out this would be 'a bitch' to model, I soon found out they right. The wireframe and tinfoil layers were not so much of a fuss, the thinner wire from our previous figurine poroved handy in binding seperate components together. As I appled the sculpey, it's thickness didn't exceed one quaret of an inchsince it didn't seem nessesary to have it thicker. However it began to become unbalanced as I carried on. I decided not to add the anemone skirt because the the anatomy wasn' to the original scale, it wouldn't have looked right.

In terms of 3D work, the Ford Transit Van is now complete, I encountered several issues along the way have made me unhappy with the final render, however this was due to my own faults in my modelling process which eventually caused the textures to not match the UV templates. It is pretty clear where I tried to amend.

And now we have been set the gladiator project, which sounds challenging and yet funat the same time. Needless to say, this way my first reaction!