Monday, 5 December 2011

"Welcome to bootcamp"

This post will is a brief reflection mostly focused on visual design and written at crazy o clock after a night of way too much IRN BRU and Art books ( Yes not being able to sleep due to constant inspiration )

So here we are Exploring Leicester, a nice and interesting place. Before leaving off to England one of my (ex) colleagues had told me Leicester was small, there wasn't much to do and pretty boring but so far every Tuesday I see new sides of Leicester. Going out to draw some pretty pictures of  still lives varying from museums to parks. At first I struggled, was insecure and really had to get back into the habit of drawing. Due to the lack of former education in fine art I'm somewhat behind the rest and need to put in that little bit of extra weight to get things done and ready.

Admittedly With our first project the canal I was pretty disappointed in my drawing, but slowly over time things improved. as I've started to spend more time observing, practicing and drawing I improved bit by bit. Also with the help of many class mates ( 
Katarina,Victoria, Jessica, Daniel , James, Luc ,Maffy and Samantha ) who taught me new techniques and/or gave me some C&C that helped me to focus on the points I'm weak on.

After our first feedback I've got told I haven't had enough work done. Knowing what Chris meant I've decided to go back to the museum ( next to the archway) to make a still live, went to abbey park to practice tree's  and started drawing random things in my room. Ellipses were also one of my weak point. It took me a bit to understand what people meant when they said I had to "
 learn "to draw ellipses and/or practice them but after reading up on a brief explanation I knew what went wrong and took some time to practice.  

Here are some of the drawings I've done so far.

On the left the canal final piece, I'm not too happy with it so i will most likely go back there one of these days to redo the sketches and final piece. 
On the right is "the archway"  i found this a very interesting assignment and am happy with the archway itself however the environment could use a little work. I'm not sure yet if i will restart the whole final piece or just try and fix it.


Drawing a car was a lot of fun, i learned how to smudge and eventhough it might have not been the best thing to do on a car i was quiet pleased with the result.

On the left a few sketches of the Dinosaur bone museum. I enjoyed this assignment a lot due to variety of objects we were able to draw. Also smudging was really helping here.
On the right is the final piece, i think this is so far my favorite drawing. The shading and tonal value's seem to work well.

Bradgate park was quiet a challenge. With a lot of the feedback i decided
to focus on tree's just to get them right ( or at least right-er)
Where i first suffered and tried to avoid having to draw foliage i actually started to enjoy it. And as i went on i tried to find new ways of adding detail.

The Space center sketches are for the latest assignment. I haven't done my final piece >YET<  as I've planned to go back this week to make more sketches and base my final piece on that. i'm quiet happy with some of the drawings as I've now also started to improve my speed. Unfortunately i'm still not as fast as most of the class but this will probably come in time.

These are some of my self directed study drawings ( not all of them) here i practice on still lives to become better in certain things. A few key points i made were Shading,Tree's,Ellipsis and the annoying sink !!!  Looking back on what I've done i'm actually quiet happy to have spend so much time on drawing as I've learned a lot. I'm looking forward to get my feedback on Tuesday !! 

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Game journalism: Reliable or trash ?

Game journalism has become increasingly popular these days beside the experienced journalists normal consumers share their opinion in form of reviews or previews.
One of the things I've learned the hard way was not to rely on grades, their often biased and will not always stand for the personal gamers' opinion. I remember when I was in high school having a (Dutch) gamers magazine called Power Unlimited and discuss the games and often ending up in discussions regarding grades they gave. This has led to several miss buys and/or false judgments and I've learned to rather than looking at grades base my own judgment on several reviews and footage.

How come I'm not choosing my games purely based on (p)reviews ?

Even review's can often be deceiving footage in form of screenshots and video's generally tell me more than someone's experience for the pure reason of being rebellious against overhyped blockbuster games that generally don't attract me but enough other people to sell well ( Battlefield, Assassin's Creed, Halo*cough cough*)

So without judging a game on footage what makes a (p)review good ?

Because video game (p)reviews are often rushed the journalist rarely takes the time to finish a game. This leads to an opinion based on often a few hours of game-play and might have changed further in the game. Even though developers these days spend more time on the start of a game than the end due to the low amount of people actually finishing games ( 90 % these days according to: )
So let's say a few hours in the game would be giving a good impression of a game there's still often
journalists being bribed by developers to write a good (p)review and if not Biased journalists will have their way writing either a really good story due to the fact their part of the fan base or didn't like the type of game in the first base. Often games are also being graded by a standard lay-out ( graphics ,game play , story ,audio etc) a game can stand or fall with any of these points  luckily this has led to NGJ. Standing for New Games Journalism.

NGJ  to the rescue ?

New Games Journalism means no less than the article being written from the perspective of a gamer, rather than the static view of how it's made/developed. This means that it's more engaging to gamers but the writer actually finishes the game AND is also more passionate about the game. Of course this can still lead to biased opinion's but rather than being corrupt or have it based on the first 4 hours of a game that contains hundreds of hours in content the journalist has a good idea of what it's like.

What does NGJ mean to me ??

Unfortunately nothing. I will still stick with my own little island picking off whatever game I like based on official website's, footage from YouTube previews ( without listening to the journalist previewing them) , screenshot's and people's opinion that i entrust due to the knowledge they have in games. What this mean's is Mr. X tells me this game has impressed him. I know Mr. x in person and know we share a same interest in games and/or knows what he's talking about when judging a game( generally people I've met on the course or my previous course). I inspect the official site then proceed to do a YouTube search for any footage released ( preferably not a (p)review done by someone but rather official or game play vids) and then form my own opinion. The difference in this case is I know the person that tells me about the game unlike some unknown/hidden journalist that might have NO clue what he's talking about and I have done my own research to see if I would enjoy the game. I think it's a good approach and has led to much less miss buys than when I relied on magazines.

Architexture Assignment

Four weeks ago I got the assignment to make an old building for Game-production.
So far this has been my favorite assignment because I love architecture and Old buildings. They fascinate me and the more detail the better. So I went searching around Leicester searching for the nicest looking building. I've come across a lot of churches/ old buildings/ ruins. Unfortunately my camera ran out of batteries and I ended up with only a few pictures on my camera. Secretly as I went out I already knew which building I wanted to make so I ended up sticking with the original plan but having enough of alternatives incase this wouldn't work out.  The "energy" building ( made in 1939),
what appealed me the most about this building was the white patterns, the details in them and amount of shapes all over the building. and even though both sides of the building look the same it's still very interesting to see ( an eye catcher to me every time I walk by).
So after making around 50 pictures of the building ( and later on another 20 ) I've started modelling.
My main focus in this project was to bring in as much detail as possible within the texture budged, to learn more about tileable textures and to become better at texturing.  The modelling went fine and proved to be no difficulty at all. The budged was 2500 and while trying to get as close as possible to this budged I decided to build a part of the pavement as well just to make it look slightly more interesting.
The scene ended up with 2468 triangles. Now to safe myself the effort of having to place UV's on exactly the same spot I decided to only make half the building and then after the unwrapping and texturing put symmetry on it. This was working perfect and saved me a lot of time. The texturing however proved to be difficult. I had a lot of unforeseen issues like shading issues halfway a texture, shadows stopping at edges and textures looking differently than when rendered. In the end i managed to fix most of those problems by trial and error. 

this is how the building ended up looking like, I'm quite proud of it and am looking forward to some time off so I can make another one.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Game review - Half-Life series.

On my blog I'd like to talk about a few games that have made an impression on me. This can be for several reasons such as: Art, Story, Game-play or other things. To give the best examples it's possible I might spoiler story elements. If your planning on playing these games OR sensitive to spoilers please stop reading as it might take the fun out of the game.

The Half - Life series made it's first entrance at 1997 it was made by valve and released by sierra. several small expansions and years later Half-life 2 was released (2004) it had an episode one in 2006 episode and two 2007.


Now why has Half-life made such an impact on me ?
I was already partly game addict back in those days. Spoiled with Wolfenstein, Doom and Duke Nukem ( had the demo that before half life) i was already shooting away left right and center.

However Half-life was new. This was heavily proven in the first few minutes of half-life while your in the train on the way to black mesa.  A memory i will never forget. the life hood around me, cargo being transported, soldiers running around, heli's flying by.

By the these days impatient generation called the longest train ride. this impressed me heavily when i was young.

It brought so much more believability to the game that it completely sucked me in. The first few minutes the experiment goes wrong and you walk by the several research rooms where you see scientists being attacked by headcrabs... awesome stuff !
For half-life this was also the main source of narrative. Where other games generally had cut-scene's or text Half-life had in game events that were up to the player to be seen or ignored.

The greatness of this was continued in Half-life 2 and even more story got put into small events such as citizens being arrested, combine soldiers being attacked or conversations npc's have. One of the most likelly most ( and probably without realizing) noticeable things i found was at the start when the player just arrives in city 17 before the negotiation the player walks by an interrogation room where one of the combine soldiers shuts the little window only to beat the citizen up.

Long video where you can see how valve does it's story telling ( start of the game )

The story itself was also one of the great things. These days a lot of games have implemented this technique ( though valve is still well known for NOT including any cut scene in the half-life series) but the unlike the load of spin offs and world war 2 First person shooter games that followed in it's time Half-life seemed to have a lot more depth and more unique than most of it's spin offs. The fact the player has never gotten to see or hear Gordon freeman ( of course there are some "photo's " hidden around and in half-life 2 the front cover suggests how Gorden Freeman would look like. but in game itself he's the faceless hero making it easier to emerge in the story.  Another good thing about the story is the setting. The environment subtly changes and all makes sense. valve has done it's research and makes things the way it should be. A good example one of my previous teachers on game-design once gave was: The fact the Half Life series ( actually valve in general) Has a good sense of Visual Rhetoric. So for example a warehouse containing heavy objects must have wooden pallets to move them around. If they are there must be a forklift to pick them up. If there is a forklift, there must be a floor/ramp/doorway that allows the forklift to have access.  This is something that amazes me and something that even to date MANY MANY MANY game developers can learn a lesson from. Because how often do i see games where there's this massive boss standing in a room with a tiny door/entrence and/or random items that don't fit the setting( invisible walls anyone ? )

Then there is art. Half-life even though originally not meant like it has gone for a "Realistic "approach. meaning that even though the events might be fictional textures/models aren't stylized. the creature design is really good. I remember headcrabs scaring me to the point where i had to stop for several minutes to breath. . . . . ok maybe they still do. Then there's the Vortifaunts with 3 hands casting electric shocks. and the amazingly cool 3 legged dogs that shoot a pulse of electric when you get close and sometimes travel in packs ( unfortunately not in half-life 2).
Another thing that has made Half-life very good are the puzzles. In half-life 2 the gravity gun got added. this brought a whole new element of game play. The player could now pick up radiators with the gravity gun and hide behind it and/or move obstacles to place them on different locations(solving puzzles example)  This made the puzzles a lot more fun.

What i liked the most about Half-Life 1:

Probably the Start seeing black mesa in it's work and the 3 headed  Tentacle part in half life which took me ages to get through.

What i liked most about Half-Life 2:Seeing how portal got combined in the Half-Life universe, The whole resistance fighting part ( and being part of the resistance) helping them out, giving them cover etc. Nova prospect ( the abandoned prison) which was absolutely Awesome running around fighting off waves of Combine. Also probably my favorite part would be the tunnel part in Half-life episode 2 ( decided not to spoiler this)

What I didn't like about Half-Life
Headcrabs, Ravenholm, fast headcrabs, poisonous headcrabs.

P.S Keep them in the game though.

Friday, 11 November 2011

My personal gaming history

My personal gaming history goes back to when I was about 6 / 7 it was about 1991 where i Started off.
I started playing small games like The dangerous Dave a side scrolling platformer and Paperboy. Clones of pong. A bit later my dad game home with games like Wolfenstein 3D, Doom things like that. It caught my attention even more than the others and it didn't take long before i started asking if I was allowed to play games on the computer more and more. As I grew up I got familiar with the terms demo and freeware so I often went to a friend's house for him to burn a ton of demo's for me so I could play them at home. I must have finished the Command & Conquer demo that contained only 3 levels at least 20 times. It was mind blowing how realistic and awesome it was to me. Soon i got the full version of Command and conquer and Warcraft i loved it. the strategy obliterating my enemies angry parents because I spend way too much time on the computer and often got way too much into it.

Several other games that made a big impact on me back then were: Worms,Duke Nukem 3D, Tomb raider (obvious reasons I guess), unreal and Half Life. Half Life  ESPECIALLY has always impressed me greatly.the story, the animations the world... it really feels like you're in "Black Mesa". One of my favorite and mostlikely for people also the most boring part was the start in the train. I kept on looking around at soldiers running back to their helicopter cargo being transported the things happening made the game for me.

By this time I was completely addicted to games. No game would be released without me knowing all the in's or outs.

As time passed on I started playing Final Fantasy which I really enjoyed due to the again great story, detailed environment, great character development game play and mini games. I must have finished the game about 6 times by now with the last time being about 3 years ago. The graphics might be old now but i still think the Final Fantasy series can survive for people who are in the genre.

While in high school I played a lot of Unreal Tournament over the network. Continued the Command & Conquer and Warcraft series loyally. And of course Half-life 2 which i can't say much more about than I already said about the first one.

I've played Pokemon and really enjoyed the story but also the game mechanics. even today I still think the Pokemon >> Gameboy<< RPG's are a really solid title.  The story is simple but not cliché, the game play appeals and there's a lot of sense of progression through the game.

Then I got games like Portal that had simply again one of the best stories I've seen so far. a fun puzzle game that kept me busy for a while. and games like Left 4 Death as i really enjoy co-op games.

I ended up with World of Warcraft which kept me busy for several years unfortunately. Unfortunately in the sense of it's a good game and I enjoyed my time but. During this time I didn't play any other games i didn't expand my knowledge of games ( I did in the sense of art) and lost a lot of time.
Until I canceled my subscription and started to play the games I missed before like for example Mass effect 1 & 2.

In my gaming history I've always mostly been a PC gamer. I have had a Sega mega drive, Game Gear, Gameboy color/Advanced, Playstation, Playstation 2 and now Xbox 360 but most of my games have been pc. I also mostly enjoy RTS, RPG and sometimes FPS games. I'm not narrow minded when it comes to games that are outside these genre's ( portal for example) however these generally have to be good games that have both really good game play and story as that's what i enjoy most in games. So from games in the future i hope there will be original games again ( most of the things coming out now seem to be clones and/cheap rip-offs or developers milking out an IP) Portal would be a great example, Left 4 death or even a small title like Bastion which was originally released with the Xbox live arcade pack and due to its success quickly became available for pc on Steam.

So original games, Quality and while I'm at it maybe scale the difficulty up a notch. because it really feels like games these days only have the easy and easier option. several games that will be released soon and live up to this criteria are: Skyrim ( 11-11-11) Diablo 3 ( early 2012) and Guildwars 2 ( un announced release date). these and the examples of Half life, portal and left 4 death are the type of games I'd love to work on.

P.S of course i still hope about every single day valve will release an episode 3 or Half Life 3 but seeing how long it's been silent i fear for the worst.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

The history of computer games, part 3 2000 - Now

Like most subjects studied going back to the origins of its subject is always a good idea. So for studying game-art where did this start off ? When did the first video game emerge and how did they evolve ?

By now were in the 3rd and last part of the history of games. 2000 till now.
This is the time where sega stops developing consoles and only focuses on games.
Sony releases the playstation 2 and a year later microsoft comes with the Xbox while nintendo releases the gamecube.  The playstation 2 was an instant hit and to date the best selling console (150 million playstation 2's are sold)

2000 the sims
In 2000 Maxes released the Sims 6.3 copies and became best selling game for that time. It was a casual simulator of the daily life targetted for the casual gamer. Giving the freedome of playing the game, designing your own house and family.

2002 Warcraft III and Age of mythology

Warcraft III made by Blizzard and Age of Mythology made by Ensemble Studio's set the standard for 3D graphics in RTS games.

2004 world of warcraft

Blizzard releases World of Warcraft. The first and only MMO to date with such a huge amount of subscribers. World of Warcraft had 10.3 million subscribers.

2004 Half-life 2.

Half-life 2 Released by Valve revolutionizes the physics engine called havoc with things like the gravity gun that allows the player to pick up object and throw them away. and puzzle's involving gravity.

In 2005 Microsoft launches  the Xbox 360, also  age of empires III brings physics in RTS pretty much setting an example for its genre. Due to all these changes in games with physics the games became a lot more interactive and destructible.

2006, Sony launches the PS3 and Nintendo Launches the wii.

With all these new consoles Microsoft and Sony discover their making a loss on every sold console while Wii makes about 6 dollar profit per sold unit while microsoft loses about 125 Dollar per sold Xbox360 and playstation 3
307 Dollar.

Because by this time most gamers were asking for better and better graphics most developers couldn't keep up. Because the ps3 Sold so poorly at the beginning Sony ended up losing a lot of their exclusive titles making it harder and harder for sony to compete.

the rise of MMO'S

Even though MMO's werent new in this time they became a lot more popular.
Games like Final Fantasy XI (2002) World of Warcraft (2004) Warhammer Online (2008) Age of Conan
got more gamers addicted to the genre. And due to it time since MMO's proven themselves to be a steady income
for developers. However the demand for new content increased as well stressing big MMO developers like Blizzard, NCsoft and CCP Games to come up with more and more content patches.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

The history of computer games, part 2 1980 - 1990

Like most subjects studied going back to the origins of its subject is always a good idea. So for studying game-art where did this start off ? When did the first video game emerge and how did they evolve ?

Because the home computer became more and more popular hobbyists could now create their own simple games allowing for a burst in games. two of the earliest games of this age were Donkey Kong and Pacman. Pacman is an arcade game developed by Namco. it was so well received that up to this date it's the highest grossing game. Everyone has seen it and unofficially became the face of video games at that time.

Donkey kong however started off as a game for players with poor results but it was such a breakthrough for nintendo that it also became one of the best selling arcade games. in 1981 universal studio's decided to sue Nintendo over Donkey kong because it would have been a copy. However Nintendo's lawyer named Howard Lincoln discovered that universal studio's didn't own the copyright neither. Universal studio's ended up not only losing the lawsuit but they also had to pay legal costs.

Because video games development made such a sprint
in innovation and releases new genre's and title's
appeared. A few well known title's are: Battlezone(1980)
,Zelda(1986) and Galaxian(1989)

1992 Wolfenstein

developed by Id software became a breakthrough for puzzle shooter games. 3D flat shaped 3DGraphics, simple textures were something new. Apogee also released the first episode ( 10 levels) as shareware making everyone play it for free and giving the player the choice to purchase the rest of the episode. This is a marketing trick still used today.

1992 Dune II

In 1992 Westwood released Dune II. It wasn't the first RTS but did pretty much set the standard for RTS games such as warcraft / command and conquer. Several new elements in this game were:
A World map where you can choose your own missions, resource gathering,  mobile units that could be changed to buildings, different factions and a mouse that changes  depending on what it's located on.

1996 Diablo

In 1996 Blizzard entertainment decided to release Diablo. It pretty much set the standard for point and click RPG's and sold over 2.5 million copies. World wide it recieved near perfect scores.

1997 Goldeneye 007/ half-life

1997 was an important year in the games industry. several big titles were released and 2 of them battle each other claiming to have had the most influence on FPS to come ( after). Goldeneye developed by rare was originally going to be an on rail shooter however they decided to redesign most of it to become a free roam FPS. with the redesign also came a few new elements not seen before such as: The sniper rifle scope that can zoom, stealth and multi player deathmatches on consoles Howe
ver people also claim for Half-Life ( a game i personally favor) to have had the most influence. Half-life, made by Valve had no new elements of game play but it got over 50 pc game of the year awards and sold a total of 20 million copies proving it to be a great game ( More on Half-life in a future blog)

1997 final fantasy 7 

Squaresoft which is now Square enix released Final fantasy 7 in 1997 as well. Originally square only released their games for nintendo but because the nintendo 64 sticked to cartridges instead of discs causing it to have a lot less storage space Square decided to move over to Sony & PC. Final Fantasy 7 became a breakthrough and enhanced the popularity of RPG's in the west.

So in the 20 years there has been a massive increase in performance causing the graphics and game play to improve and making games into a proper industry. especially when 3D games became popular the amount of games but also the costs of games became more. Consoles weren't being created for 1 specific game only and there were only a few competitors on the console market ( Nintendo, Sony and Sega).  Also the fact that more and more people had a personal computer at home helped the industry to grow. It's funny because several days ago i was thinking back to what my dad used to say back when i was six years old. he said that we were going into a "Computer era" which sounded very impressive by the time. especially considering i tough you had to be either really rich or lucky to have a computer ( most of my friends didn't had one yet) and here we are today everyone has it's own computer and often one or several consoles either an Iphone or Android phone.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

The history of computer games, part 1 1950 - 1970

Like most subjects studied going back to the origins of its subject is always a good idea.So for studying game-art where did this start off ? When did the first video game emergeand how did they evolve ?
To begin at the first sign of a true computer game (  Games on themselves existed far before this and would cover a whole new chapter) we would have to get back to 1958. Even though people have different opinions and arguments for what would be the first true video game I would personally acknowledge "Tennis for Two" as the first true video game.  It was produced by William Higinbotham and represented a by that time spectacular tennis match it was a machine the size of a Microwave oven had an oscilloscope as display with controllers. The reason for acknowledging this as the first video game rather than Spacewars ( 1962) is the fact it's the predecessor of pong. it had a clear win/los condition, graphics therefor making it a game and most important earlier in its time.

1962 - Spacewars !

In 1962 Stephen Russel at MIT developed a game called Spacewar. Unlike Tennis for Two you were a space ship trying to avoid the star in the middle and shoot the other player.  Both ships had fuel and ammo to take down the other while avoiding collision with the star and being hit
by the other.

1966 - Chase

Chase was a game made by Ralph Baer and Bill Harrison. the reason this was a breakthrough was because it used the television as display and a lightgun as controller. later on in 1968 they also brought table tennis and target shooting to their console.

1972 - Pong !

Still to date one of my favorite ( type ? ) of games came from 1973. Pong created by Bushnell and Dabney ( founders of Atari) . It was the first Arcade video game and became a great success. It was based on Table tennis and both players need to try and score and/or prevent the "ball" from slipping through. Due to its success Atari decided to bring a home version of pong in 1975 only sold in Sears retail stores. Because of this a lot of copies and variations of the game have been made and led to the birth of the video games industry.

1977 - Video games crash

In 1977 there was a video game crash. This was mostly due to all the obsolete game consoles ( mostly Pong clones) at prices that were below profit

1978 - Space invaders

After the video game crash in 1978 Taito released a game called Space invaders. this became a big success and caused arcade machine to be placed in more public places like shopping malls, restaurants and stores. Due to the success of Space invaders several other manufactures dared to enter the market leading to new and innovative games but more of that in the next chapter .

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Side tracked in Leicester

First of all my apologies for falling behind on my blog. I've been very busy and ill for the last few days
( Cold, Flu, Headache and insomnia all at the same time) but have recovered quiet well. Either way

Last week during visual design study we had a walk through the city center of Leicester. We had to find a building and draw this in 2 point perspective

<Image will be uploaded shortly>

2point perspective
However after a while we ended up in the shopping center. And as we walked through the shopping center we found this very old and broken down building. And these are one of my big interests.
Beside cathedrals and ruins i really love to see broken down buildings. as you can see the "skeleton" of the building, because it tells a story and makes me curious what would have happened.
here are some of the pictures:

As you can see there must have been a fire or maybe even a small explosion considering the side is completely gone.

Next to this building was a small interesting looking church with a lot of detail so ofcourse i couldn't resist making pictures of this.