Friday, 26 November 2010

So how is the course going Sam?

A question that my parents ask often in which I reply “It's good”. In evaluation terms it doesn't mean much and so I am going to access my progression through the first term. The course is definitely fun, no doubt about it. This week having to design a vehicle is awesome, because we were always out drawing something from life, this is a great tester of out creativity skills and applying the techniques we have learned. I will get to this more later but firstly – week one. University seemed so daunting to me before I started the course and when we got our first task I really wanted to get stuck in there and get drawing. That week I was at the canal practically everyday drawing. The problem was I was developing my sketches too much, I spent too much time rendering them and hence wasted time. Non the less I still finished on schedule and produced an okay final. It's far from perfect, the perspective is a little off, I could have made the bridge smaller and more detailed, I tried to frame the picture in leaves but that also failed, the water doesn't look real, the trees farther away in the distance should be lighter but are actually darker than some of the trees in the Chris would say; apart from that it's fine.

Week two provided us with a chance to draw one point perspective again but with no visible horizon line, this meant using references within the image to get the scale right. As an artist I do like to experiment with a range of media, after doing pencil the first week I wanted to add style to this weeks. I tried adding colour into my sketches and took etchings to understand the texture of bricks to better understand drawing them. I do like my archway final, I do love my fine liners but I only used them to stylise my final. There is one major problem along with all the minor things that annoys the hell out of me and that's the bottom right hand of the archway, beside the light. It's faaaaaaaaaaaar too long, unfortunately I had fine lined it all before I noticed.

By this time we were also working on the bin with Heather. Fortunately I had done a year of 3D in my previous course and it came in very handy when doing the bin. Unfortunately last year I hadn't learned to texture properly, which is the hardest thing about 3D Max. I learned a lot with Heather and learning to properly texture is awesome, it actually makes your asset look feasible. Of course I am mad as a hatter and put a blood splat on my bin because I thought it was cute. But I also understand that I have to stick to a brief and so took it out and rendered a couple of shots of just a plain old manky non blood splatted bin * cry face *. For some reason I don't have any renders of my bin at home and so I will update this blog when I back up my files again.

Back to vis, week three brought with it the absolutely amazing super fun happy time project that is 2 point perspective...* cough*. Okay yes sarcasm but I just can't get a hold of 2 point, I dunno what it is. I tried and tried and tried and ended up doing 19 sketches or something. Most of them wrong, I was either placing the vanishing points too far from each other or too close. I kept at it and worked meticulously on a final, 1 million hours later I finished it. I used watercolours and fine liners to get the outcome. Again far from perfect but it was better than anything I had produced during that week.

After this was halloween I think...and week 5 the Space Centre. I paid to go in and it was actually worth it, the space centre has lots of interesting things, I loved the engines. Impossible to draw but they where beautiful. The final for that week I did on photoshop, I am not very good at photoshop and so I wanted to practice my skills also with the reflective surfaces of the rocket is hard to render in pencil.

 Now with Heather another task is set. The old building project. At first it seems easy, I ponder about with other tasks leaving it late. Wrong idea, the modelling is fine its just texturing the thing. Hours and hours and hours I tried to texture. I didn't use tillable textures because my building is full of graffiti and so practically ever wall is different. Unfortunately the pictures I took were not very good and it made the building really hard to texture. It looks fine from far away and so if the player couldn't get to the building then fine but when you go up close it's just horrific. Textures are blurry they don't fit and I am disappointing in them. Deadline is Monday and so I have no time to texture a whole building again.

Week five – cars. One word ; Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. I understand the need to draw cars, I understand the box technique in which to draw them but I just can't. Actually I'll rephrase that, I can draw cars if I practice more. Negative thoughts never did anyone any good. I will get better but as time presses I had to do a final. As you can see below it is simply put crap. Colours went wrong, perspective is wrong, wheels are wrong. And so I feel bad to make this a final and I'm currently redoing my final on photoshop because I can change things, I <3 Ctrl + T. Below is my final so far but it's still in progress.

Last week we got to travel to Bradgate. The place reminded me of home, they are some beautiful trees in Bradgate. It's such an interesting place to draw but it was ruddy cold. I have yet to do a final, I am bringing myself the courage to go back dressed as a stuffed bear to keep my temperature regulated in below minus Celsius.

This week it's vehicle design, as I said earlier this is a great opportunity to show some of the creative flare. So far it has been good, I try and think outside the box as much as possible but try and make it work as well. I am working on three concepts and trying to develop them into feasible machines.

Overall the course is going well, I am learning a lot and having constant work is making me better. The blogs are making use of my cognitive abilities, hopefully my spelling and phrasing of sentences will get better during the three years.  

Friday, 12 November 2010

My Personal Games History

Even though I'm like a bijillion years old I only became a true gamer about a couple of years after the PS2 came out. I remember telling my mum I wanted only two games, Final Fantasy X and Yugioh - Duelist of the Roses. So she got me those two plus Eyetoy, Simpson's Hit & Run (which is a ruddy hard game) and Buffy. This was the first time I had a console all to myself, as you can imagine being a twin I had to share everything which is a pain in the ass tbh. I remember playing the games and it was awesome, raising my hands like I just don't care trying to clean windows or playing the weird card gameplay of yugioh. I had a deck full of harpies and power ups, seriously no one could beat me, by the time I was finished my harpy sisters had 9000+ hit points – it was epic. This is when I grew my love for Final Fantasy X. It was the first game I ever immersed myself in a game completely. I connected with the characters, loved the gameplay, loved the storyline. I just loved everything about the game and it's still my favourite game because of that connection. I will admit the new Final Fantasy's are rather shit, and the storylines seem to get more and more complicated. But with FFX the storyline seems much easier to follow, the Aeons were just amazing, I remember being in awe when I summoned them for the first time...*drools* I envied Seymore for having Anima, I was like HOLY SHIT I want that aeon NOW. Damn it now I have to play it, but I have work to do. Although by doing so I'll probably notice every seem and every bad texture in the game.... ahh fuck it, I do love it so.

Previous to this I had played other games, the first game I ever played was probally pong, which I think I mentioned in another blog. I can't remember the consoles name but it had knob controls, so simple but so fun. After that I think the next console brought into the house was the SNES, OMG the many hours I wasted on that. Donkey Kong Country, ahhh it brings back so many happy memories I fucking loved that game, I loved the animals you could ride on, the ostrich was my favourite, god I get so passionate that I want to play it, but unfortunately I don't have my SNES with me =(. Mario world was also epic, actually anything with Yoshi in it is just class. These old games are soo cool, this is the golden age of gaming where they were original and fun. I miss these games.

Once the SNES had run it's course it was time for a new console to enter the family home, the Sega Mega Drive. The hours I would spend simply because you couldn't save. For example hours and hours of playing Sonic trying to get as far as I could. It was all futile because I either died or became tired and collapsed from dehydration. My favourite titles for this console was Golden Axe and Streets of Rage. Whatever happened to good co-op games like this?

After the old classics came the PSOne, in which I have regaled the story of me being scared of the first tomb raider because I'm shit. But I had very little games on the PSOne, my favourite game for it was probably SimCity 2000. All I did was load pre-made cities and start spamming them with disaster after disaster. Even though I said I love FF, I didn't have the ones everyone loves like FFVII or FFIX for the PSOne, I had seen people play it and it's still a game have to buy...I'll get there eventually. I suspect I'll play it because it has awesome pixelated summons.

After the PSOne I then finally got the PS2 in which I have already told you about. FFX is my favourite game but I have do have others. For example Shadow of Colossus, X-Men Legends, Persona 3, Fahrenheit, MagnaCarta...etc. The list goes on but I like odd games with different gameplay. Like I love playing X-Men Legends because it's a good co-op game, there are so few off-line co-op games its frigging annoying. I think on-line gaming has destroyed the social interaction with actual physical people. I much prefer playing with people off-line as I can annoy them in real life, so much funnier. Fahrenheit is an awesome game because fight scenes are based on the reaction of the player and you go through the game making choices. I like different games, not mainstream ones, granted I do like Assassins Creed and Devil May Cry and such but I still prefer the odd ones. MagnaCarta is the game Jolyon Webb showed for the example of beautiful anime art. I was like AWESOME he recognised this game as having anime style but also being beautifully drawn. Shadow of the Colossus has epic monsters, a game with only 16 enemies, they are massive and just so cute and awesome (as I said I love cute things, but I will admit I have a distorted view of cute).

I then gave in and finally bought a Xbox 360, yes its visually better than PS2 but as I said they just keep repeating titles but changing the assets. My favourite games for 360 is probably Fable, Portal and Prince of Persia. Pop is one of them game, it's really easy to play but it's visually stunning and it's stylised. The art direction for that game is just amazing, I love stylised games if they are done well but it's hard to get right. Portal is made amazing by GLaDOS, she is a stroke of genius. She made me laugh so much during the boss fight I was like Shut up, I'm trying to work. What makes her so epic is she has a human personalty especially nearer the end of the game. Some of my fav quotes are as follows;

"There was even going to be a party for you. A big party that all your friends were invited to. I even invited your best friend the companion cube. Of course he couldn't come because you murdered him. All your other friends couldn't come either because you don't have any other friends because of how unlikable you are."

"Remember when the platform was sliding into the fire pit and I said 'Goodbye' and you were like 'No way' and then I was all 'We pretended we were going to murder you'? That was great."

"If you love it so much why don't you marry it?"

"That thing is probably some kind of raw sewage container. Go ahead and rub your face all over it!

*destorys orb* " That made shoes for orphans "

Recently I haven't really been playing anything, I do love a game for the PC called Machinarium. I'm going to do it for my game review but its dead cute and such a good game.

Oh and one last thing I totally forgot, my amazing shitty gameboy and my epic Pokemon game. I heart Bulbasaur <3, I'll leave you with some awesome Pokemon concepts, それを読んでくれてありがとう

History of Computer games Part 3: 2000's

Games in the 2000's...most of them are shit to be honest. With the top of the range consoles and HDTV why do I feel like every game being made at the minute is the same boring crap? It's either another first person shooter with added pee on the wall feature or another cliché fighting, driving or repetitive Wii game. It seems if I play any game released 10 years ago I'll get more enjoyment. This could be the fact that I'm a moany bastard and white hairs are finally showing from the pink, or it could be that the games industry has hit a stand still. For me go stylised and you'll hit the right buttons. Anywho this is becoming more of a blog about what I wanted gaming technology to be like and not the way it actually is.

The industry is in disarray since “Oh lets give tax breaks to the games industry because we finally recognise them” to “Oh lets not give them tax breaks because they are worthless twats.” With this added with the whole shit economy the games industry suffered a great blow. It's not cheap to make games, plus to see years of work just shut down completely before your eyes is kind of disheartening. Because of all this companies haven't strived in the UK, they either close up shop or just move to a different country.

Luciana Berger (young labour MP) asked Cameron

Before the election all three parties pledged to introduce a video games tax relief to compete internationally on a level playing-field, Why has the government reneged on that promise?”

So we have got to take difficult decisions,” David Cameron responded, "I think that tax break relief, which was not particularly successful or targeted, had to go. Those are the difficult decisions we have to take.”

Oh so well explained, in other words “The games industry is a load of bollocks even though two years running it has produced more revenue than the film industry and has proved itself as a valuable part of the UK”. The future looks bleak in the UK, to be honest you'd be better off setting up a games studio on the middle of ocean, you'd have more luck. Oh and one more interesting fact;

Data is hard to gather, but TIGA’s [previous] 2009 survey found that half of studios’ lost jobs went overseas, 72 per cent of them to Canada.” I need say more?

Once again I have strayed from my point to bash the government for their blind attitude toward the games industry. Anywho the 21st century has brought us new technological advances like kinect and the Wii. These have revolutionised gaming and brought it to a larger audience. But before all that we got the PS2 and the Xbox. These consoles brought the games industry into mainstream territory. New graphics, new HCI, new console equals money. New ideas like Singstar, Guitar hero, Eyetoy brought more audiences to gaming, yes they were shit (except of guitar hero cause I'm awesome (but not really, just awesome enough for hard and maybe a little extreme =3)). The seventh generation of games consoles brought the Wii, Xbox360 and the Playstation 3. As of September 2010 the Wii has sold 75.90 million units, the Xbox360 has sold 44.6 million units and the PS3 has sold 41.6 million units. That's a hell of a lot of people playing consoles. And as I said the kinect is out now so it's a jazzed up the eyetoy...repeating ideas...get your own brain, argh. In saying that we we're at the hospital with Sophie the other day and she was playing it, the little monkey dog thing is so cute.

I think with the next generation of consoles will bring new ideas hopefully mind and 3D technology will be available so we can totally immerse ourselves into a realistic game world. Of course there's lots of ethic issues with this but it seems like the next step forward in gaming evolution. Gaming technology is becoming part of daily life and soon will be used more and more in educational means and not just for spare time gun raping each other.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Ludology versus Narratology

The ludology versus narratology debate has been going on since the start of games production. The idea is that narratologists believe that games have narrative that coincides with the other components of the game wherefore ludologists believe that a game is primary a game through its actions; rules, gameplay and user interface. I will look at both sides of this debate and express my opinion on both behalves.

The ludologists think of games the same as everybody, they're for entertainment purposes but they believe that the rules and gameplay is the key to a successful game. This is true and in the sense that rules determine what a player can and cannot do. Also gameplay is the largest component of the game that creates the series of interesting choices for the player to suspend their disbelief for a period of time. But I would argue that in games like Final Fantasy or Zelda the story is strongly related to the game. With a story the player develops a personal relationship with the character they play, this enhances the gameplay. I could also say a story is set in stone, a straight line and the player cannot interact with it which is the definition of a game. But there are games that include multiple endings according to what the player does throughout, for example Fahrenheit, Heavy Rain and Fable.

Also if I explore Final Fantasy X-2, the story is not linear instead the player can go to the end goal immediately, although they would probably fail because they don’t have the experience to defeat the end boss. Although this is restricted sometimes as the game is trying to tell a story, but it’s linked with many other smaller stories. Also a core part of a game is a back story; again I go back to the comment that the player develops a personal relationship with the characters. This is enhanced by a back story.
Games like Call of Duty I don’t see as narrative though, for me I go about just completing the objectives. Yet another person would be completely immersed in the war time story. This emphasises that people are different and have oppositional views to that of another person, so therefore supporting the uses and gratification model of game design (whao I totally forgot what this means but I remember that basically it's when you do something in the game you are rewarded and so you are encouraged to keep playing).
But again in the act of saying that the ludologists are correct, what about games like chess and draughts, how does a story enhance the gameplay within these games? In the package of these games they don’t contain a story; they tell us the rules so the player can play the game correctly, objectives are different than a story.

The relationship between the reader/viewer and the story world is different from the relation between the player and the game world” (Jesper Juul)

This quote expresses how different mediums tell stories. In novels and in films the story is linear, we read from A to B with no interaction and consequence on the story. This is different for games because of the interactivity; a player has to control the avatar in order to achieve the next part in the game. Interactivity is the biggest difference between that of games and other media.

So if games aren’t stories then why is a department of game design story writing? When someone asks you about a game normally the first thing you do is tell the story, as it is the most memorable component they find important. The industry recognises the importance of a story so why can’t ludologists?
In another debate Michael Mateas and Andrew stern believe that in order to have a successful game it must have “player agency”. This can be spilt up into local and global, what they refer to when talking about this is the effect the player has on the game world. Local agency means the effects right at this moment in the game, so for example flipping a switch causes a door to open. Global means the effects the player has in the game over a longer period due their choices before, a great example of this is Fable 2 in which the avatar disappears from the main game world for ten years and they return many changes have been made depending on what the player did previously. Overall they support a position in between the debate so neither think ludologists or narratologists are correct. This is where I lye in this debate, the integration of gameplay and stories are both significant in order to create a good game. For me I suspend my disbelief in the story and immerse in the game world. The gameplay provides the series of interesting choices that makes me continue and so it’s the combination of the both that makes a good game for me. 

Why are they arguing in the first place? Well as an example I will use Fairy Odd parents. Timmy wishes everyone was the same because he was bullied about his weird butt teeth. Wanda and Cosmo grant the wish which turns everyone into grey blobs. Timmy then confronts his bully in which he still gets bullied because apparently the bully is the grey-est of the grey and ends up picking on him once again. Long story short it is in people's nature to argue, this issue won't be resolved because they are as stubborn as each other. Even in a perfect world it would be imperfect because there will be someone who still wants to pick a fight. I was out on the street the other day, I crossed the corner and almost bumped into a guy but I swerved to miss him. I walked on and then he shouted after me saying "Did you say something mate?" I turned around and was like "What?". Again he repeated the question and I replied "no", in which his super smart brain came up with "Aye you better not'n". In conclusion people are dicks.