Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Reflection and Refraction - My journey through first year

Odd title but just bare with me, at the start of this year I started off walking in a straight line, I was happy with 3D and 2D and blogs where fine also. Then after the first week you see everyone else’s work and then that straight line suddenly refracts to somewhere out of your reach. So I have been climbing that line all year trying to get to a standard that I am happy with. Did I reach it? Honestly I don't think I improved enough, I can see my improvement from the first week but this course I so fast pased that you are constantly sprinting to get to the next level and when you get there you only find the finish goal was just a mirage and your journey continues. That is all very negative but I am glad I am on this course, it is pushing me to grow into the potential that everyone sees. I won't let myself down I will keep on sprinting until I get to where I want to be. I don't want to be a good artist to get into the games industry, I want to be a good artist so I can be proud in the art I produce and finally get those crazy disturbingly cute ideas out of my head.

This year has been hard not only with the course but in getting people to do their jobs. Sade and myself have went through hell in this house trying to get it to a living standard. We have spent all this semester and last trying to get the place damp proofed but no one can do their job. As well as that it took them 6 – 7 weeks to fix the shower, they didn't do a gas check, live wires were left uncovered...the list goes on. Our landlord doesn't have landlord insurance and so has to fork out lots of money and so is taking is sweet ass time in doing things. But it hasn't affected my work...much, apart from not being able to properly use our kitchen we are able to get by. But in all of this shit I have learned truly that if you want something done you really do have to do it for yourself. Anyway enough blabbing and back to the reflection.

It hardly seems like I have done a year of university, time has gone so quickly and now it's close to the time where you see if you get through to the second year or not. Recently I have been taking too many days playing games instead of doing work. One thing I will promise myself for the summer and the second year is to draw everyday. If I do that I will have a loads of drawings from just sitting 15 minutes to draw something and I will improve. I commend Tristan for his devotion and doing a still life everyday and it is something I plan to work into my everyday living.

Anyway all I ever do I slag myself and keep saying that I'm shit so it's positive time for a change. What I am proud of is that I have kept to schedule with everything...pretty much. Industry is all about time and if I can adhere to dates and schedules then I will do well in the work place. I am happy to have gone to university it has boosted my confidence (like you didn't think I had enough because of my pink hair but I am incredibly anti-social and shy). I loved talking about the course to the interviewees, it gives me a chance to talk to these people and give them an incite of the course but not to be cramped full of numbers and statistics. If you want to succeed in life you will if you have passion.

I think I have progressed most in 2D and I plan to do lots of summer projects to increase my ability to draw and also in 3D, although 3D on a laptop is incredibility annoying but hey I will cope. Me and Will are going to keep a blog together so I will also be blogging. You never know I might actually get good at this blogging business one of these days. I think I am ready to go in to the next year with a good attitude and with the improvements I WILL make over the summer I will aim for a First. If I'm the only child in my family to go to university then I'm god damn gonna make them proud.

First week final

Last week final

One last thing, this is Hilter eating a watermelon...that is all.

Sam's Law for creating awesome environments

First off is an environment all that important? Of course it is, films, books, games...etc. All media need to to work within an environment. You have to have characters to support the environments to give a sense of scale and mood. I will use scale a lot in this blog because it is my weakness, it's one of those things that makes my heart shudder, I love games that play with scale.

If you take books, if you have people talking without describing where they are it gives no visual aid to the audience and you can bet that the book will be soon shoved aside. As for films and games they highly rely on the environments to create a scene and present mood through lighting. Okay so I just basically pointed out the obvious...I do that a lot actually in life also...I also structure my sentences in life in a similar way too (keep reading it gets better I promise).

Films and games are the biggest sectors within the branch called “Media”. Environments play a big part within them. For me there are three things to make an interesting environment, scale, colour and lighting. If you nail all these things I will appreciate the film or game. So lets look at Sammy’s three elements of how to make an interesting environment... I will call it Sam’s Law...oh I just got shivers.

Lighting is one of the hardest things to get right in both media outputs and there are so very few that pull it off well. I find games that rely on light usually are beautifully lit as it is a main gameplay mechanic as well as an aesthetic element. Take Alan Wake for example, now I've never played the game but in researching games with nice lighting I came across this and it seems you have to banish the darkness by using light. That in itself sounds quite generic, all very cliché but they have executed it quite well. Below is a video preview of the gameplay.

 Horror survival games usually have nice lighting but I just finished Silent Hill: Homecoming and I must say I found it too dark most of the time. I know it's to build suspense but when I can't see my hand in front of my face then there’s a problem. I had to adjust the brightness of my TV just so I can play the game. Granted I'm not the best at playing these games in the first place because I am easily scared but there’s a difference between low-key lighting and nothing. The monsters where beautifully rendered though, they had this lovely matt texture to them and I spent most of the fights always admiring the speculars. Now low-key lighting is only one lighting technique used, these terms are normally used in film making but the same is used in games. There is so many different types from background lighting, fill lighting, flood lighting to mood lighting, high-key lighting...etc. Angel-a had some beautiful shots and lighting, it shows the work of a talented director with a keen eye. Now even though it has no colour and Sam's Law states to make an interesting environment you need the three elements. Technically this film only has two, the scale of Angela herself puts her on a higher level than man this emphasises her status. And the lighting is down beautifully I find he uses a lot of background lighting and soft overhead lighting to set the mood of the film. It's a fantastic film and hey I never said Sam's Law was perfect.

Colour is one of those things that you never think is that important or large but it really is. There is so many colours and saturations of colours and knowing how to put them together is a hard thing. Film wise Hero is a perfect example of it's use in colour, it uses four main colours in the film green, white, red and blue. Each symbolise different characters stories, I'm just after reading an article on the colour usage within the film. http://www.helloziyi.us/Articles/Hero_Color_Code.htm .

 Tim burton is always an interesting director to look at especially with Edward Scissorhands the use of colour was amazing from suburban 1960's theme neighbourhood to the old rotting away house with beautifully green hedge sculptures. Another film that plays with colour is The Cell, it is a surprising awesome film that tries to portray inside the mind of a killer and it's weird and cool and crazy. I love it because it plays on the demented, the film uses colours to shift back and forth from good and evil. I will post video links below for ya mike and again in researching I found a film very like The Cell called What Dreams may Come. It looks awesome and weird and I will watch it now...not illegally or anything cause that would be wrong...yeah. Two hours later...well that was interesting, to sum up man meets woman they fall in love, kids die, he dies, she dies and heaven and hell. To be honest it was kindof a naff film but it did use colour so in a way I got what I was looking for. The film used purple as a representation of memories or connection or that's what I got out of it, they also used red a lot for travel so it might be something to do with movement or transitions, green was another strong colour I'm not sure its meaning. There were some nice shots but overall quite disappointed, here’s a trailer anyway.

God this is going to be a long blog sorry I'm getting carried away, I'll try speed things up. Okay so what about colour in games. Well Prince of Persia is one of the first games that pop to mind it is a stunning game with vibrant colours...once you restore it that is. This beautiful over saturation of colours work because it is fantasy and the environment helps that with it's weird architecture and layout. Another video, I'm gonna spoil you with vids Mike.

Okay last but not least is scale, I love scale in games and I can't mention that word without thinking of Shadow of Colossus. One of my most favourite game because of it's scale. I won't even add a video this time because I'm sure you have heard plenty off it. It is a beautiful game and this is why I still prefer PS2 games over any off these next gen ones is because they may be low poly but they are more fun and longer than any of the games produced today. I know you're sick of me mentioning FFX but let me say this, I love the scale usage of that game, the temples...orgasmic, the environments...orgasmic...okay I'm shutting up, you already know I love FFX without having to visualising me orgasming to it. Why do I put these ridiculous statements in my blog...because I care.

Anywho scale in films is hard to find, LOTR is an obvious choice as with most fantasy films they play with scale a lot to give a sense of unnatural and grandness. God try watching the extended versions of all three films in one day, it is draining but I had to do it. It's the initiation test to transition from nerd to super nerd.

So what games and films incorporate all of Sam's Law? Games wise I'm actually going to say two games that aren't even on the market yet and that is Bioshock: Infinite and Alice Madness Returns. Why these, well take a look for yourself (more videos omg).

Bioshock looks absolutely amazing, it is very steam punky and stylized it's definitely going to be a big seller. The use of colours is amazing with added awesome scale, floating city it's all been done before just not quite like this. And the lighting looks, well as my sister would say “lush”. Alice is another game that is beautifully stylized with high focus on colour and the world being demented like a nightmare. They use scale awesomely, even as a gameplay technique with Alice and the lighting looks awesome, I think they used the CryEngine. As for films that use Sam's Law...I cannot think...oh wait I got one Avatar. OMG that tree in the centre of their homeland made my heart flutter, it uses beautiful colours and lovely night time and daytime lighting.

In conclusion I have learned I get excited about Sam's Law, possibly a bit too excited. I probably could have went on even more but I need to end it sometime and I just remembered I didn't mention A series of Unfortunate Events for it's amazing environments or Assassins creed for it's large scale and beautiful lighting.

 Environments for me are the most important thing in media, if you nail that all you need is pretty characters and if you have a story then that's just a plus. And if you can ever get me to stop talking I will gladly draw you diagrams of my excitement, it would look something like the following.

P.S. Just one last picture on real life inspiration - Oh world I love you

Monday, 25 April 2011

Machinarium was released in 2009, it's a fairly new game but one that you probably haven't heard of. It was developed by a small Czechoslovakian company, they specialise in flash games and had small releases before Machinarium came out. It's a point and click game and is deceptively hard, but what makes this one different from all those other generic point and click games out there? Well two main things are the length of the game and the art direction. It's a good length game with puzzles at every corner. I frequently had to look for web help in order past the most of it, for me it reminds me a lot of Hitchhikers guide to the galaxy text game. That game was infuriatingly hard and to pass the game you have to think of the obvious but this is thrown out the window when you enter space and normal rules no longer apply. Machinarium is like that in a sense but it has the visual stimulation to keep you playing the game and not throw your keyboard out the window.

The story revolves around this little robot who has no name and can't talk. So how does the audience relate. Well firstly he is extremely cute but he communicates to us by showing us memories. As in many games there is the hero who has to go save the princess from evil, Machinarium takes this and changes it a bit. Symbolism or personification is an approach that uses objects or animals as the main characters instead of them always being human. So instead to make them more believable they are giving human traits. In Machinarium the protagonist is given a girlfriend, emotions and a task, to go rescue her from bullies, you'll also see if you leave him for a moment he will think of the times he spent with her in the mechanical world.

This game has a lot of character, the environmental back drops are beautiful and its style is so quirky, I don't think there is a single straight line in it. The colours are all quiet desaturated to give this look of a rusty and mechanical city. The game is linear for example you can explore but you might need a key to get to the next area in which you will find if you go the correct way. So it directs you through the level with items like many games do.

As an artist I obviously had a good rummage on the web to get a hold of the art for the game and I find it inspirational. Below you see the sketches  these are beautiful that I only wish I could do, you see they are trying to portray scenes and going through the design process. They are probably only quick 10 minute sketches but that's all they needed to get an idea of what they wanted.

As well as this the artists did a walk through of the game, normally these are done in text but with Machinarium they have used art to depict what you have to do, these are so awesome, they are trying to stray from any text as they could and this is what make this game different. The art direction is very strong and it hold the hold game together from the ambient sounds to make it feel like an actual world to the art book walkthrough that is in the style of the game itself.

The game plays well, apart from it being quite hard and is definitely a game I would recommend everyone to play. In saying this I do have a high tolerance for games that are different and I end up being determined to complete them, whether they are good or bad, hard or easy. I love different and this is where I love stylized games over realistic as they are­ more visually interesting to me and I get a lot more enjoyment from them. The niche market of gaming has always interested me and I do go on to flash websites to play the odd game every now and then as they are just purely to waste time and have fun, nothing else. Games these days have too much focus on achievements and making everything real and this is where they fail to do the simple thing of making the game fun. Machinarium is not only fun but it presents itself as a kids game because it is cute and look easy, a misconception about point and click games, its visual style appeals to everyone and the protagonist has character. It may be a robot that can't talk but it has more character to him than any playable avatar in COD, Gears or War or any other generic shooter game out there. Below is a trailer off the game, you can try out the first three levels on their website so do go check it out; http://machinarium.net/demo/