Saturday, 1 December 2012

Documentation in games

Documentation is an important (and annoying) part of the games industry. The reason there's documentation is for employees to be able and read up on guide lines , do and don't and idea's, plannings and goals.

And yet documentation is the most boring part of game development ! 

Depending on what department uses the document it can be referred to in different ways. One of them is: " Design document" . Each branch has its own document ( animation, art, programming, game design, level design etc) It's often the lead that keeps track of the document and makes sure everything is up to date. This is so the lead can keep track of progress , possible issues, limitations and such.

My idea for a game:

I would like to create a Community project before leaving university where people of different courses work together. It's something I've been thinking about for ages but so far haven't worked out yet.
This Assignment/post Could proof part of the foundation for this idea and i will there for treat it that way.

The way I would like to set it up is to give everyone a challenge yet make something achievable.
As I'm living with several games programmers i interact with them on a daily basis. Same so during the summer where one of them had his summer project making a simple 2D game. While thinking of game-play i mentioned how Super Smash Brothers has last it's time due to its appealing game play and being a "pick up and leave" game ( a game you can play for 10 minutes and then leave again )
Also working on a game like that would mean an easy set-up with plenty of opportunity to expand if there's time left as long as the basic is set where as with some other genre's this is not always the case.

Keeping this in mind I wouldn't like to make a Super Smash Brothers game if there would be a team of people but more a Hack and Slash type of game.

Diiieeeeee link !!!! 

but why ?

The reason for this is just like the one states above, It's fairly easy to set up and can be expanded with all the time that is left over. In fact most of the coding has been done by myself 3 years ago ( in a horrible way and I'm sure there is plenty that should be redone)
however just for a showcase during the pitch to other people this might proof use full.
(Of course everyone would get a vote in things but to set an idea I'd start of with how I'd like to see things. Considering this would be an educational project and portfolio piece for everyone we wouldn't necessarily need funding) Also due to the set-up I have in mind if people would leave the project or not get work done this project could easily be cut short at any time after the basic is set-up.

For this project I'd prefer to start with a minimum of 3 people ( Me on art and animation, a programmer and a game/level designer) but the more people join the easier things get and the more specialized people can get. Purely because I'd like to stick to art I will write a short " document" here on a start. ( unfortunately no concept art yet and I'm sure I will work things out once this idea becomes a little bit more concrete )

I'd like the game to start off in a house where a small event takes place driving the player outside to a dark, misty & medium sized Victorian village. This is where the player will first interact with other Npc's and slowly get's familiar with the controls / game-play. This will also be the place the first combat will take place. The player would have plenty of space to run around but with clever game design not be able to leave the town till Certain events are completed ( and in our case we have decided to continue the project after) This would pretty much be the foundation of the game as most of the game play is covered in this case. After this it can be expanded with more narrative and for example adding area's to the city and new area's/environments and such more NPC's and enemies.

It would be nice to add some form of fantasy in the game to practice my artistic skills in different areas such as Icy/crystal landscapes, particles etc.

Concept art for Final fantasy 13 ( Bresha lake)
As a guideline for the art it would be: Stylized ( but only where it adds visual interest), Custom made textures ( this due to a personal preference so I can practice this but also pretty much required for some of the fantasy settings), Grim & foggy mood This not everywhere but in the Victorian street's it would be a cold early winter night, there's some fog and in generally a grim mood)

A good example of the mood/setting i'd like in the village. Image has been found on:  and is unfortunately uncredited.

The main character: A young guy in his early twenties, average Victorian  clothing, Short dark brown hair, stubbles, average body type.
Tech spec: 7k triangles, 512 Diff, Spec, Normal map with possible extra 256 map.

NPC's: Depending on what NPC this is though for the starting area their all in Victorian clothes varying from High class to child workers.
5K triangles, 512 Diff, Spec, Normal map

Vehicle(s): Carts need to be made in a way so it can be used in several ways such as a broken cart blocking the way out of the village.
3.5k triangles ( with possibility of slightly more for the small adjustments) 256 diff, spec, normal

Environment: Victorian town, Interior room/house and possible shops etc in the town.
Tech spec: Unsure. Diff, Spec, Normal.

Props: Things like crates, Stalls, Lamp posts, Road signs and such
Tech spec: 400 tri's MAX depending on the prop. 256 diff and spec / normal where needed

Engine isn't decided yet as Unity seems to support the most flexability when it comes to game-play but not the best engine for an artistic portfolio piece ( proper research on this needs to be done)

I'll leave this post with a quote i found from David brinkley: “A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at him”. 

This post will be continued upon in a second part once things progress a bit more.

Friday, 30 November 2012

Level design

Much like game Design I used to think of level design as an artistic process of making a level look pretty. This though got crushed early when doing the game-design course at " Ballyfermoth college of further education"  when someone working in the Industry came over and told us about his job as a level designer. After the class I had a little chat with him asking about the difference between actually making the graphics and placing the objects/making a playable level.

The difference between a level designer and environment artist. The level designer only cares about volume while the artist worries about the way it looks.
The easiest way to describe the job of a level designer would be: Designing the path the player has to/ can follow to go from point  A to B.  How the environment looks like is not his job however the placements of assets, power-ups ( in any form from ammo to health etc )
Enemies, NPC'S, duration of the level are all part of his job.  A level designer often get's told what sort of level he will work on, the assets available , the purpose and story behind the level and  can then start blue boxing a level. Blue boxing is a term used for making a level out of basic shapes
to get a rough idea of where the players can go and how they will reach certain places it's much like an interactive blue print of a level. Most engines will have some easy way of  letting people blue box without having to start  3D software.(p.s people use different terms for this)

Some blue boxing i've done a long time ago.

Another possible job of a level designer could be to design certain obstacles that occur in a level. This could either be part of the Games design or part of a different reason such as slowing players down from progressing too fast through a level.
Valve is one of those companies that do their level design very well. They break levels up in arena's where players fight off monsters and switch them with puzzles to calm players down and give them some time to recover /restock. Another thing Valve has done really well when it comes to level design is in Left for Death 2. The artificial director decided when to spawn zombies to make players move faster ( or slower) what zombies to keep things interesting and challenging but is also able
To make small changes to the level by opening or closing parts of the level. this makes the level re playable and unpredictable. A good example of a game where this has been done poorly would be Diablo 3. The levels pretty much stay the same the variety in monsters is minimum after the first play through making it quite repetitive.

Depending on what sort of level is being designed there's a few things the level designer needs to keep in mind when it comes to a Single player level it's often : How hard is the level compared to the ones before / after.
What skills will the player require to complete the level ( have they been taught or do they need to be introduced), How much time does it take to complete, Is there a story involved and if so where ? is it consistent are there any glitches and if so how can they be fixed, where will the power-ups/weapons/health/items etc be and probably most important is it fun to play.

Multiplayer is equally as hard if not harder ( depending on the game) as there's a lot of balancing questions that need to be asked: Are both sides ( if there are sides) equally matched, What sort of level will this be ( in first person shooters it might be a sniper level or trying to prevent sniping in general, based on
the level design this can go either way) , is it repetitive and/or replay able, where will the power-ups/weapons/health/items etc and of course is it fun ?

It's an important thing to plan a level out carefully and do plenty of play testing to get feedback on what works and what doesn't as this often affects the end result.

Some small examples

Planetside 2 is a Free to play Masive Multiplayer Online First Person Shooter ( mmo fps)
It's an interesting example as it combines several level design decisions together.

As can be seen there's a lot of open space making it perfect for Vehicular combat ( planes/tanks etc)

And for snipers ( this guy did not have a good day )

However there's plenty of cover ( if he would have only used this) making it possible to both possible to
snipe and fight in close/medium range. these are several decisions made by the level designer.

The importance of composition

I'd like to write a bit about composition and why it is important. To start this off i asked myself a few questions: What is/Does composition, How to apply composition, what different types of composition are there ?

So first off, What is (visual) composition ? There's many different types of composition. it doesn't surprise that when looking in a dictionary tells:

"the act of combining parts or elements to form a whole."(

"The combining of distinct parts or elements to form a whole" and "Arrangement of artistic parts so as to form a unified whole."  (

the action of putting things together; formation or construction"

but the best example was found on:
"The plan, placement or arrangement of the elements of art in a work. It is often useful to discuss these in reference to the principles of design, as well as to the relative weightof the composition's parts."

So why is this so important ?

Composition should be applied to get the viewers interest , whether this is a game, a cut scene, a still or concept piece. There's many ways in which this can be achieved and many things that need to be though through. Balance, Focus point, Contrast, proportion and harmony.

A well composed painting: The silver goblet by Jean Baptiste Simeon Chardin 

What is important in composition ?

There's a lot of different ways composition can be applied as mentioned:

Harmony: Making sure everything fits together and nothing feels out of place.

Balance:  If your main subject is on the left side of the screen do you add another object to fill up the empty space to make it more interesting ? Not doing so can give the viewer a sense of imbalance

The chess pieces are placed in the frame in a way that makes the image in balance.
(Photo found on:

Focus point: The point where the viewers interest should be leading towards to

contrast: The differences between dark shades and lighter and/or the way colors are applied.

A good example of a photo with contrast made by: Siddharthan Raman

proportion: How would things be displayed, far away or really close by and how do they relate to other objects ?

Background:  a good background can make the focus point stand out more easily and/or lead the viewers eye the path it should follow.

Small tricks that can be used:

there's a few things that can help out on making a composition

Rule of thirds: In the rule of thirds it's all about the placements within frames.  The screen is divided in a grid of 3 by 3. If then the object of interest is placed aligning to either of the crossing lines it should make a much more interesting to the eye as having the object of interest in the middle looks dull and boring( even though it's called center of interest it shouldn't actually be in the center)
Counterpoint is when you place a secondary focus point on the diagonal opposite of the other  this makes an image even more interesting

A good example of how the rule of thirds is applied in a photo by:

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

No time left to loose

From what I've noticed in the years of art related courses i have had is that most art students ( and maybe even professionals) have poor structure and planning. Very often ( and i won't deny i'm part of this neither) assignments get left till the last moment and suddenly you see people being online till 5 o clock in the morning. Unfortunately this often won't give the best result and obviously in a paid environment isn't very desirable.

So how could this be changed ?

Planning.. having a reasonable planning where there's a good buffer for things that might either need further investigation or things that go wrong / need improving is very important. It's fairly obvious and i'm sure i'm not saying anything world shocking here yet it's something that can best be learned by experience. With my summer project I've made several plannings only to see each of the plannings didn't work out due to unforeseen problems and/or not having enough buffer. more towards the end of the project I've started to get a better view on things and better idea on how much work i'd realistically do on a day and how much information i would be able to absorb in one go.  Also being able to look critical at my skills I've started to understand and accept that things like texturing would
Take a lot more time than i was happy to admit.

What would the best way to go be ?

My personal time distribution would most likely be different than that for other people. Mainly due to having different pipelines and things i would like to focus on in certain projects. For example we have an Environment project where there are 2 buildings premade and we have to make a matching building in between. This is without having given any limitations other than make it blend in/match the other 2 buildings.  A rough planning i made for this project was making sure the research of existing buildings / assets was done the same day. So i know what i'm dealing with. Knowing what to deal with is important as this way i understand roughly how to model and texture. This was done the same day. The next thing i wanted to do
was looking for reference pictures. So the same Tuesday and Wednesday I've spend walking around town making pictures of buildings or parts of buildings i think would match the style.
Also looking in the library and on the internet for idea's on what to do. After having a folder full of possibilities i wanted to have the modelling done within the first week. It's the easiest
And least stressing part of the whole process. Having this done my next step would be unwrapping on Tuesday and the next set of days spending texturing so i have the last week to spend on importing things in UDK. Messing around with assets and/or maybe do some tweaks here and there. It would give me a full buffer of a week as I've used UDK before and am familiar with the whole process. Even if it would give me issues having a buffer of a week seems enough to catch things up.
I expect in a professional / 8 hour work day environment to have less time and trying to improve my workflow is therefor very important to me so whenever i work on project i always tend to think things out before i start. Some little tricks I've discovered to help me are making a quick sketch( blue box) in 3D on where i want to place things and blocking out what it should be without having the intend to instantly over complicate things. while texturing i color code so i know my unwraps will be on the right places and then slowly start building up layers checking often back and forth to see if it matches my expectations. and finally depending on whether things stay in 3DS max or in an engine i use my references to see what sort of feel it should represent and if it matches.

all this helps me to get used to a better and better planning and working more and more efficient.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

 A busy summer - part 1

Over the summer I've been really busy doing my summer project.
I decided to make a level. However rather than just go crazy on making a level i set myself some goals.

- Get better in texturing
- Learn how to bake textures properly
- Get a decent and playable level
- Aim for the current texture quality in games
- export the level into UDK.

Unfortunately the last point didn't work out due to the complex shapes of the level and struggle to make a bounding box for it and getting the texturing right. But a lot has been learned through this. If I were to make a level again I would make this in a more modular approach making small chunks and separate assets so I can puzzle it all together in UDK. However the brief said it had to be handed in in a max file so this wasn't an option to start with.

At the start of this project I decided i would really like to make a level inspired by the Half-Life 2 level called Nova Prospekt. This is an abandoned prison which is now being used by the Combine and through the level it get's over run by ant lions ( spoiler ?? )

So the first step was gathering inspiration. Coincidentally the steam sales were coming out and this gave me a good opportunity to buy some new games that could set the standard for my texturing.
a few games I decided to buy and look at were: Max payne 3, Bioshock 2 and Rage. I already owned all of the Half-Life games but decided to do a quick play through and make several screenshots.

After researching these games i started listening to the developer documentary of half-life learning how they have done their level design and why they made certain decisions.  Because the tri limit was amazingly low I'd have to be very efficient with scene's / game play and optimalize the assets as much as I could so looking at these games i notice how scenes were being re used quite often. Making the player walk back and forth over the same area. After writing down plenty of notes and little sketches i started up UDK only to figure out that the program has changed quite a lot since I've last used it ( 3 years ago ? ) removing the option to make subtractive levels. After looking things up on the internet people recommend making the level first in max and then bringing it into UDK. So much for blue boxing in UDK then..

Once in 3DS max I've started lay-ing out a path puzzling what would be an interesting route and how i would like to make things. When I was satisfied with the lay-out I've started modeling this process took long and was pretty difficult due to the low triangle budget and high expectations I've had. A lot of assets and plans had to be scrapped because of it and will unfortunately not see the light of day. However the difficult part had yet to come.

Part - 2 soon

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Reflection of year one , and ambition for year two.

Last year it was all about the fundamentals. For those who had never used 3DS Max to get familiar to the program, for those who hadn't had a background with drawing .. oh wait.. let's not go there. This year however things will go a step further., with trying to enhance what has been learned and trying to reach a decent level of expertise in the area desired. For me it is still unchanged... 3D is my thing and becoming an environment artist is my aim/dream. As I'm currently writing and will continue to write in my blog through the summer I have spent quite some time improving my skills, and even now I'm still working on things. so what has been improved last year and what would I like to improve this year ?

 Last year I learned how to unwrap properly, I already knew how to make normal maps but I've learned how to make them more efficiently and apply them. I also like to think my modelling has improved slightly as in a little bit more efficient and a better idea of distribution.

Then through the summer with help of websites such as: , and good old I've improved my texturing, learned how to make better specular maps and bake textures.
Baking textures...

I think this year I would like to keep improving on my texturing, get a more efficient/faster pipeline, learn about lighting scenes ( no ! not just the skylight !!!! ) and get a good idea of triangle/texture budgets for assets. I hope this year will give us a little bit of freedom to make stylized and/or different assets/content for the area we would like to work in, in the future, as I can already imagine my future employer sitting behind his desk seeing 400 darleks / transit vans etc, etc.
Darlecs from the tv serie DR Who

To reach all this my first goal would be to finish my second summer project: "The decimator" The Decimator is a project based on the character with the same name of Privateer press Warmachine. I set it up as a project to improve my texture baking and texturing but haven't had the time to finish it yet. The baking has worked out quite well however there is still plenty that needs doing. and through the year I'm planning on working on it every time I improve in key areas. For now it's these small little projects that set me apart from other people and will hopefully get me noticed in the industry.

Privateer press:

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Movie review: The Cabin in the Woods

After high expectations from seeing the cryptic website I had high expectations. A short trailer that ( especially after seeing the movie) doesn't say much and avoided ANY spoiler. Not because there's none in there but because there's none needed.

One of the reasons I decided to have a rant here.

The story is basic... a group teenagers go to this little cabin in the woods they find a room and horrible stuff happens. Now I have to give them the cudo's for at least doing a little bit more effort than keeping it with that but  cliché's haven't been avoided. Yet incase anyone wishes to waste their time on this movie I will not spoiler but warn. A simple minded movie that might as well have been another episode of scoobie doo. People that are EASILY satisfied by movies will love it and it there for really surprised me to see so many good reviews on this.  I might have to see it again...and again... and maybe again to find more...interesting things about this movie but it feels like director: Drew Goddard ( cloverfield,lost and alias etc) decided it was time to put in EVERY single rejected idea in the movie so it should hopefully scare someone in the audience every time something pops up.  The effects are okay-ish there is nothing TOO shocking in the movie no real moments that made me sit on the edge of my seat but I guess I survived the movie.

I decided to write at least an honest review on the movie rather than a biased one. Hopefully this will prevent another one of these poorly written movies from being released in the cinema.


Sunday, 29 April 2012

Year Review

The time has finally come to end this year and a lot has been learned.
I've split this "Review" up into three pieces just because each class has had its
own impact on the course. so here comes:

Critical studies.

I have really enjoyed the critical studie classes. A lot of interesting discussions and/or information has been given and even though I already knew a lot of the things it's good to have them confirmed or build on top of.  A few things I found most interesting for example were the classes about interesting characters. It's been unfortunate that the DVD player didn't work and no one had the ability to bring in a: DVD player of their own, Laptop,Xbox,PS3 or anything that can play a DVD player ( god I'd say coffee machine's can even play them these days).
The choice of movies have been interesting though I think it was a bit of a shame there haven't been many real lectures beside Blitz, Mitch and the simulator one. I think it would be pretty valuable to get a 3D artist ( rather than only concept artist as the course really seems a bit too focused on this ! ) from the industry in and talk as well.

Visual Design.

Through the year I have struggled a lot with visual design. Even though I have drawn a lot of manga in the past it didn't help me at all due to the big difference in style. There was a lot to get used to and catch up on and even though I did really enjoy it with all the trouble going on in this year after Christmas it was hard to concentrate and get things done the way I wanted them to. During this year I have discovered that I really enjoy digital painting and painting with ink a lot. I'm definitely planning on keeping that up and improving these skills.  I enjoyed going out every week doing research making reference images and seeing more of Leicester/England. It has definitely broaden my knowledge and skills and taught me the most this year.

Game Production.

With the experience I've had with 3DS max I think the least I would have learned in these classes yet the improvements I've made have had the biggest impact. This means that some simple things like unwrapping, getting the normal maps to work properly ( rather than barely or sometimes messy) and a bit of improvement in texturing have all been small things compared to the big learning curve I've had before but yet have made a lot of impact on the quality of my work.  I've also learned to be a bit more neat with my work and not to accept projects as done too early as there's often small things to improve. These are things I think people learn over time and by trial and error ( when handing in work and then getting feedback) With 3D as my main interest I'm very glad to have made these improvements and kind of wonder how things will improve from now on.

I have really enjoyed this year. Making games is definitely something I want to do and that has been a dream of me for years and years. The communication could be improved a bit more, for example the Game production blackboard looks a bit messy and needs a bit of a guide to get through rather than a clear interface such as critical studies. For example:

- Assignments & tutorials
- How to hand in your work
- Other info

Rather than have big and different colored text all over the place and the link in small etc.

The feedback has also been a bit inconsistent ( some people ARE allowed to redo projects and others are strictly NOT allowed to redo things)

As someone who wants to become a 3D artist it also feels the course is leaning a bit too much towards concept artist however this might be just me. 
I have learned a lot this year and enjoyed it and am thankful for the patience the teachers have had .

Plans for this summer.

Last year I've made a prototype for an RPG/Hack and slash game in an engine. Because I'm not specialized in programming I was able to get some basic things working but the more advanced programming not. So was the player able to walk/run fight and there was even a simple AI controlled enemy. However I wanted a combo system in the game which I couldn't get to work for example and there were some more features I couldn't get to work.  Looking back on this I would like to pick this project up again. I know a few good programmers that might help out on the coding side while I focus on the graphics and maybe ask some other people to join me in this too. It would be a small scale community project with low expectations ( not expecting a triple a game) but a good portfolio piece.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Character design

Project Fun

After long thinking and trying several sketches, coming up with idea’s I decided to get rid of the old idea’s and start a new project. Reason for this was that it felt it wasn’t just quite working out character ,story and game play wise. So being back at start I’ve started to develop New idea’s  writing down small words of parts of sentences I came up with linking them together as I went. It happens often in the industry that idea’s get scrapped, genre’s change and/or whole projects get stopped. One of the most recent examples I have heard was with Skylanders. Which is a resurrected IP of Activision. Activision gave Toys for Bob the opportunity to resurrect one of their old IP’s and release it and they chose Spyro.

At first they wanted to make the game more mature by adding blood and violence but as they went they figured out it wasn’t quite working for the older fan base that was still used to the more adventurous Spyro games.

The reason for bringing this up is I’ve had a complete overhaul of thoughts ( Old idea can still be read but will not be updated.

New project fun !!

After long and careful preparation I came up with some sort of story driven game. The player will make a lot of choices through the game ( either by actions or by dialogue ) that affect the rest of the game.  Reason for this is that it has become very popular to do so in games and I personally am a big fan of the freedom and characterisation it gives. However the plan is to end with a guided ending but have several differences depending on decisions made ( and about 10 times better than the mass effect 3 ending ) The genre would be hard to define but probably closest to adventure/survival horror/action. However not action as in a Street fighter or call of duty kind of way but more subtle. For example killing someone will raise direct or indirect alarm ( like in real life this would get noticed too.. ) and get the player noticed a lot faster than when making “an accident happen” or simply avoiding confrontation.

The game will be set in about 75 years in the future, there’s small differences like communicating through a small device in glasses or Bluetooth rather than phone, More populated cities etc but NO space ships or too sci-fi gadgets. It would have a day and night cycle that has influence on mood, events and play style. It would also be a semi sandbox game much like GTA where the player has the freedom to explore yet is limited to a big area till later on in the game. Because I would like the game to stay as much away from a no brain action game it would have no health bar but rather 1 shot = possibility of death. That or wounded which needs to be taken care of and is expensive. This would force the player to think his actions through and make the player more aware of action and reaction.
* Has been changed to an undetermined time in the near future

I haven’t completely though the story through yet and know this wasn’t the assignment neither however it would start by the player waking up being all confused wondering where he is. Knowing his name and who he is but not where he is ( and no communication devices ) the first part would mostly be about how he got there and why and how come the authorities are after him ( possibility of gang/mafia type of organisation too ) Early in the game a giant riot breaks out putting the city in chaos and making moving around for the player a lot more difficult. In the story I would stay away from Cliché as much as possible ( I know waking up confused is one... ) and make it as good as possible. There for I’ve chosen to stop here and start making some sketches I might develop the story in the future.

One requirement for this project was to come up with a few rules for the environment.
these would be:

The environment should be

- A big urban area with either natural or explainable borders ( I hate invisible walls) that could be passed by as the game progresses ( blockade could be moved, or a closed bridge could open for example)

- It should be able to support a day and night cycle ( Street lights for night and such )
- The city should have several areas . Some crowded some less crowded and depending on the area the type of people change too.
- The player should always know what the next place to visit is preferably through smart level design but environment art could do a good job as well.  This is very important due to the semi sandbox nature of the game.
- The city should feel alive. The player should get the feeling people live in this city rather than have a few models of building and running past them as fast as possible.
- Random events this might not be so much an environment thing though indirect related to where it happens events happen.
- The game is in about 75 years from now so a little bit of sci fi is ok but not TOO abstract.
- There’s a lot of buildings close to each other
- the player has the ability to enter certain buildings so skyline and overview are important.
- The environment could be quite big but it’s important for the storyline not to spend too long travelling from point a to b.


As a platform I would prefer to ship it on PS3 with the possibility to port it to Xbox360. Reason for this is that Playstation has always been a favourite of mine. If there would be a demand ( Which is something that would be researched during the development) it could be released on Xbox but the main aim would stay with Sony.

Style of the game:

The style of the game would be aimed at photorealism. I hope to achieve this through clever use of texturing ( i.e. Normal maps, Pre baked shadows/reflection. Ambient occlusion etc) The game would be moody and sinister to keep the player on the edge and wondering what could happen next.

While I was sketching I noticed how I kept on sticking to a more near future style. I ended up decided to keep the time undetermined to give me a little bit of space yet have something to work towards too. Low poly modelling is very important due to the size of the environment. Prioritizing meshes needs to be done carefully there for the texturing is going to have to make up for this.

Moodboard style:

Here are the sketches of a few characters.
Main character:
Riot police:

Rioter 1:

Rioter 2:

And here is a small glimpse of how the game would look like:

Moodboard for game

This became the moodboard for the game. 

As can be seen on these pictures the game will be played in 3rd person

By now i had also decided i wanted to make the game for the ps vita due to the nature of the game.The reason for choosing the ps vita over PS3 was the fact it's a handheld and can be played everywhere. I also like the way the ps vita can be controlled ( touchpad on the back motion sensors etc) and considering the ps vita has a huge upgrade from the old ps the technical specs aren't too bad neither.

PS Vita spec's:

  • CPU: ARM(R) Cortex(TM)-A9 core (4 core)
  • GPU: SGX543MP4+
  • External Dimensions: Approx. 182.0 x 18.6 x 83.5mm (width x height x depth) (tentative, excludes largest projection)
  • Screen: 5 inches (16:9), 960 x 544, Approx. 16 million colors, OLED (Touch screen) Multi touch screen (capacitive type)
  • Main memory: 512MB
  • VRAM: 128MB
  • wireless / Bluetooth 
As i was walking home from doing some shopping i was looking at people and got inspired by 2 guys walking in front of me unfortunately i didn't had my camera along . One of the guys was really skinny with a jacket on and the other was quite big and tall wearing a hoody and cap busy with his bluetooth headset. The idea got stuck and i really liked the idea of changing them around into main characters so i started looking around seeing how they could fit in getting myself inspired by characters like:

Up here are: Abe from abes odysey. I really like the originality of the characters they have created in abe and would like to somehow make mine as original.  Jack and daxter, seemed like a good choice for a duo main character example and the simplicity and timon and pumba as they seem to fit really well together and the style of humor they have.  Combining these characters with the original idea i had i started sketching.

Project fun

Project fun

The purpose of this project is to make concept art for a game of choice. Genre, console and style are completely open. So I started thinking of what I would like to do and why and somehow my thoughts got stuck on a platform game. For some reason they seemed the most fun and achievable as a platform I was in doubt between the psp and ps3. I'm a big fan of Sony's consoles / gaming market and would like to stick with this when possible. and so the brainstorming started about - Gameplay ,psp or ps3,viewpoint and style.

To make the environment we would need a few rules. Points that environment artists and level designers should keep in mind.  a few of those would be:

- A game worth exploring due to small hidden pick-ups, jokes and/or hints on how to progress
   this keeps the player sharp and makes it fun to stop for a minute and look around and makes replay      ability more likely

- Multiple paths towards the same point rather than 1.  Constantly following 1 line to go from a to b is pretty boring so i would like to give the player at least a few paths to give the player more control over how it wants to progress. Though the game would have certain checkpoints to for example show cinematics, have boss fights, pick up/hand in quests or complete the level.

- Environment guides the player. Even though there will be multiple paths there is nothing more annoying than getting lost in a level and/or not being able to see how to progress. Even though i wouldn't want it to be too obvious.

- It should be for all ages. speaks for itself.
- the environment and props should match each other.  I would really like the environment and enemy characters to match each other. So even though the setting might change at least things look consistent and in place.
the environment should match different themes. though for this project i will make only one environment the game will contain several. in this case it will be "futuristic / urban"

the Props shouldn't be in the way of game play or be a visual distraction. 

Having set these rules i started to make the moodboard

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Characters in games

Character design in games is another point that can make or break a game. An un interesting character that doesn't look appealing can ruin a good game.  Ofcourse Character design is subjective to the individual player ( This doesn't only have to be the protagonist by the way but could also be NPC'S and or the antagonist.). Good game design however promotes earlier emersion and more realism/believability.

Here you find some bad character design

* Would you really go into combat like this ? Beside making a fool of yourself it's also way too easy to stab yourself and/or to fall over because of the high heels.

* I admit i havent played the game ( Zelda apparently) but it makes me wonder what i'm looking at... ?

An example of WAAYYYYYY too much details making it looks cluttery

Stereotypes are also beside overdone a way too easy excuse for originality

*Panics*What is this thing called good character design then ????

Right here goes, good character design is:

- A character that goes with the story
- A character that blends in with the environment

- One that can tell you a story of it's own rather than depends on text ( It's often the small things that do it)
- Talking about small things.  Adding a ton of details won make your character design a lot better, infact it makes it look messy and "hard to read" 
-  An original character. Noone is looking for another character based on Mario, Gordon freeman or an overly ( and exagerated) bulky marine... Oh wait.. kids can't have enough of those these days ( * cough* gears of war * cough* )
- And a last personal one.... static characters. If there's anything i hate more it's static character's that have no emotion or anything to it. Animate your character different, texture him different or if you have to remove an arm and add a second head but anything to prevent it from looking like the other characters. ( To me it often becomes a blur and i start confusing names and such)

Here are some examples of good character design. It's based on my opinion and therefor can be argued. However i will explain why they are good character designs in my opinion.

 Team fortress

Team fortress is a good example as each character has it's unique silhouette and are therefor easily recognizeable.. The style is nice and suits the environment, the fact that each character has a small rim light makes it easier to see the characters in dark environment and therefor makes hiding a lot harder and the game more dynamic ( Solving gameplay issues in character design ! )

Gordon freeman / Halo
Gordon Freeman just like halo are 2 "faceless heroes" there are more examples than just these two but having a faceless hero in a game is another way of emerging players. Due to the lack of personality the player has an easier time identifying itself with the character. I.E Gordon Freeman never talks and you never get to see him. There's a picture of him in the half-life main menu and somewhere a small photo ( VERY pixelated) but beside these things you wont see or hear him. He doesn't make decisions for him so the only way the player get's identified is when NPC'S actually talk to you however this enhencing the story elements and there for been a good decision. It's the same for Halo except for this time your a marine and wear a mask and who is under the mask is unknown ( as far as I know)

* Gordon Freeman being a badass ! And master chief both heroes without a face 

This character was chosen for a specific reason. Shell is not a faceless hero. In portal 1&2 you CAN see shell due to the portal mechanism but the way she has been designed really blends in with the environment.  Considering in portal you sometimes have to make long jumps and am a "test subject" she wears a suit that can't get in the way during acrobatic stuns and has 2 sort of jump pads attached to her boots to enhance her ability to jump/fall. Valve has clearly thought this through and i can appreciate that.

When i said a character doesn't have to be overly complicated i think this would be the best way to show it. One of the most simplest character designs. An Italian plumber that became world famous in no time.

Mass effect
I chose sheppard from mass effect not so much for the character itself as this is customizable and changes through the game but for the gear. When designing a character it's important to think what environment it would be in/going through and what actions it would need to perform.  Mass effect has an efficient yet elegant armor design that suits it's purposed well and i think is there for a good example.

Sex sells !??!

This has been a discussion on facebook a while ago and i think applies to character design.
Does it make good characters ? No.. however as a character designer your often paid to design certain characters and if the target group demands or has a large interest in overly big breasts and poor armor design ( cause after all going into battle in your lingerie would make sense wouldn't it ? ) you're going to have to life with it.  Even though it has its charms there's plenty of other ways to make people look attractive female. Here are some examples of how it could also be done.

Meet the art director

So who is an art director and what does he do !?

An art director  is generally an artist that has been with his/her game company for a longer period of time ( generally 3 / 4 years) and has proven it's worth. That artist that then becomes the Art director get's the leading role in the development of art within the game.

 this means that every asset need's to go past this guy and needs to be approved as it's his job to ensure consistency in the style. Together with the lead director and sometimes animators the art director decides on a style and makes sure all the artists stick with this. Another important thing the Art director does is setting time limits for each asset, poly/texture limits. These are very important things as the end product needs to run smooth and blend in with each other where other elements might have to jump out a little.

Everything fit's together in the heavy stylized ( and awesome) game Alice Madness returns.

I think to be an Art director you need to be creative. Beside the fact you need to know what you're talking about you should know the industry, look around in different area's ( movies, comics, paintings etc) and be able to come up with different styles before anything is set in stone. This is all important as you have a leading role over artist that do happen to know what they're talking about, so in order to correct or help them you should be at least 2 steps ahead if not more.

No such thing as too much information !!! 

The art direction in Games is almost the same as that in other medium except for the fact your now stuck with tri and texture budgets. Also the fact that the player can often move freely and is less on a "rail" than when it comes to movies could make it a bit more demanding. But overall the idea is still the same due to both directors making sure the scene's look consistent with the original idea's within a timed work environment.

What is required of an art director ?

An art director needs several qualities. He needs to be able and fill a manager role. Set reasonable deadlines that are achievable for the artist but at the same time keep them sharp while making sure the assets get delivered on time. He needs a good artistic judgment considering every asset needs to pass him before being put in the game, he needs to be able and motivate and/ or inspire the artists while at other times put them to work and tell them off and then the last one probably the most important be able and communicate with the team. If he can't spread his idea's or isn't able to tell why these models are too high poly etc artist might swim in the deep and start getting idea's of their own slowing the production down costing a company a lot of money.

The art director is a very important part of production and should be chosen carefully.
A few games where i found the art style were really good are:

Prince of Persia

I'm a big fan of cell shading though it's easily overdone. I think in Prince of persia they have done a GREAT job with this.

Final fantasy 9

Final fantasy 9 has a really nice art style when it comes to urban environment. I like it in general but the details make it really feel cozy and come to life.


The original way of using a "cell shading'effect ( game play reasons as well)


I really liked the bright contrast in this very very dark game. Though the game, the originality and fantasy has gone way beyond any other game I have seen so far.