Life changing or career building?

It is simply a question that has been repeatably asked through out the educational world; what skills should we teach our students?

Well now being at university the way we are taught is completely different. Back in the first years of school, we were taught everything we need to know from basic maths and how to read and write. But as you get older, learning changes. In secondary school, my school basically spoon fed us what we needed to do to get the marks in order to pass a class. At university that is not at all the case.

On this course I am grateful for the way I have been taught. I am glad that I have struggled with things, if I didn't struggle then I wouldn't have the need to look up my difficulties in order to solve them. I learn my own way. If there is something I need to achieve and that I don't know how to do it, I do not go running to my teacher and complain that I haven't been taught this. I go out and find it out myself. You are learning all the time, but I suppose that university is the first step in teaching you that you don't get given everything that you ask for. Just stop being lazy and do it yourself! it is a big world out there and there is going to be things you need to know.

Within this course you get taught the basics but other than that you need to find it out for yourself. We need to learn the software and be able to adapt in it when it changes. We need to keep up to date. (I'm finding this really hard to explain) In some cases it means, playing around with a software and getting things wrong but how else will you learn? I have learn't alot of things via the internet as I can't ask someone to help.

I have learnt skills in which I can expand upon and with out this I wouldn't be able to be where I am today.

This year has flown by...

Well it's the end of my second year and I can tell you with confidence I have struggled. Not with just the work load but with life in general. It really has thrown everything at me.
I feel like this post is going to rather open so you can understand maybe some of the difficulties I have encountered this academic year.

So the year started horrible. A week before everyone was due back at uni my life flashed before my eyes. Not really the encouragement you need when going back but it did. I commute to university unlike most people who live there and the week before I go back, my poor little car dies. Well actually it fell apart on my way to the station as I was taking my boyfriend to university. Driving down a country road at 60 mph my car makes a loud 'clunk' sound from under me and the next thing I am doing is pulling my car into the curb from the on coming traffic. So stuck in the rain for 3 hours waiting for the pick up truck. My car that is meant to take me to and from University decides to rust to pieces, in a result of this the entire bearing/ball and joint socket on the passenger side rips apart. My car now only has 3 wheels. Everything was simply going wrong before I had even started. So no car.

After having to buy a new car, uni had started and I had an extra person in the car. My sister is now at the same University. At first I thought it would be fine but I was wrong. The stress of taking someone back and forth and the responsibility was not something I wanted or needed during my second year. Everything just got over the top and I fell behind in my university work. As I fell behind I had to ask for extensions of several of my Game production projects. This was awful as unfortunately you get capped at 40% :( I am really worried that this has completed buggered up my chance of getting a decent grade for me.

Through out this year I have fallen behind and I have taken for granted time. I have learnt that there is time aslong as you don't fall behind, keep your head down and just push yourself. You will not always get a second chance at things. You are paying for the degree so do the work!

This year has been very challenging for me for various reasons. One of these reasons was the group project after Christmas. Looking forward to it from the start, it isn't always what it is cracked up to be, depending on the people you are grouped with. You need to make sure you have a strong team leader and a structure to follow. None of this happened for my group and the end result was upsetting and very stressful, something I would never wish on a upcoming second year student. All of these emotions just knock you out and kill your motivation. I have learnt the hard way that people are out for themselves and do not care about the other aslong as they make themselves look good above the rest.

I have also learnt that time in essential when at university. Time management has never been a strong point for me and in all honesty, I have none. I have learnt that setting out plans and stages for work, actually works and help me. Seeing it down on paper and working out what I need to do to accomplish a final piece helps alot, yes that means lots on lists for me, but if it works for me then fine :)

I am not satisfied with what I have accomplished this year as I feel like my work produce is very weak and that I have struggled. This also gives me the concern and that I have not passed enough to reach the final year. It is something that has been on my mind for the past 2 months and I have attempted to pulled and push my work up to hopefully a standard that is acceptable. Fingers crossed.

Not all is negative though, I really have enjoyed this year with the various projects and work. I am alot more relaxed and confident with my 3D modelling and engine work. Also I am very pleased with my visual design, especially with life drawing and understanding the anatomy. Overall everything has improved and I can see the result.

Now that the pressure of getting work done and completed I feel I have nothing to do and it feels damn weird. I need things to do, so I have decided that I am going to aim to do some miniature projects over the summer and keep practicing with 3DS max. (Unlike last year)

Documentation (Task 17)

Realising I have actually missed some tasks out, oops. Throughout Game production it is a required part of the marking scheme to produce a 'Design Document'. These are to show everything you have done throughout a set project.

A design document gives you something to follow, to guide you along the process instead of getting stuck after five minutes of doing something. Firstly you need to create a brief; the initial ideas and what not, for example; the technical spec of poly count, texture sheets, platform it is for. (xbox, ps3, wii) These are the main things you should look at when within game art to look at. But after recently finished my group project design document, it's not all about that.

A design document is everything that you have encountered through out a project. You should talk about everything; from the good, the bad and the ugly. Problems that you have had and how you have solved them, or even if you haven't solved them and say why you haven't.
Within the design document I like to have alot of images to show work and how everything had improved along the way. It is alot easier to explain what you are doing than just using words.

Within a sketch book there is alot of documentation, such as the sketches. This is documentation of what you see, you are putting it down on paper. Just because it isn't words does not mean that it isn't documented. With alot of my sketches I have little notes dotted around for me to remember things. They don't always make perfect sense but I understand them as I know that it is my sketchbook and people aren't going to read it :)

Just simply write everything down, in the future it really helps, as I have found over my second year at uni.

Life drawing.

Some Life drawing studies from this terms sessions. I am really pleased with these two tonal pieces, I am
glad I pushed myself to try something completely new to me and surprisingly the turn out is pretty good. Using the brown paper as a mid tone, I used white and brown drawing pencils to show the highlights and the shadows on the body.

For some quick warm up exercises to help get started, the class had to use their opposite hand. I love this technique and to be honest I think these drawings look better than my actual drawing hand. I like the looseness of the lines.

It's all over.

So I haven't written anything for over a month due to this 3D group project. Just thinking about it sends shivers down my spine and anger. Luckily it's all over now.

The aim of the group project was to give everyone the experience of working in a group and to build a level together. Well it was defiantly an experience. Unfortunately our group was not a group. We had so many problems through out the entire time together and because of this we didn't even finish our level. The problems weren't even work related it was the people, well person. You wouldn't think that one person could pull the group down but wow, it did.

Ok so at the start we were all split up and put into groups of about 5 or 6, it was all random. This meant that most if not all of us were with people we hadn't actually spoken to in the year group. We had the choice of the Queen's building project or the off the map London project. As a group we chose the Queen's project. This was to recreate one of the buildings on the university campus and change it into a 'resident evil horror shoot-em up'.

After a fair few meetings over the first 2 weeks we all finally decided on a theme: Abandoned Asylum. This was my idea as I thought it was very cliche as I thought everyone would have a basic idea about how one might look like on the inside, this meant it should have been easy to create some ideas to expand this even further. I don't know what it was but the group just didn't budge, didn't do anything, maybe people were scared to speak up about their own ideas. At this moment of the group project we should have given each member roles within the group. But being us, we didn't think we needed any or even a group leader, except one person just sat in the seat and thought they were above all rest. Anyways, we had gotten an asset list together but it wasn't scheduled, results lead to no work being done by anyone. So Easter arrives and we scheduled a Emergency Meeting.  Our supposed group leader just dropped everything and said they quite and laughed. So putting myself forward I said I would do the job but would prefer a second leader as with the work load it seemed more logical. This became a great advantage. 7 weeks had passed and no work had be produced. Taken into my own hands I made a new asset list with the assets we had all put together and created a time table, giving people assets and dates for when they needed to be completed for. We had about 4-3 weeks left to get everything made and finished. This didn't even involve actually creating the level.

Each group member was given a role, everyone was fine with this. The technical artist did alot of work but thought that they were still group leader, which caused more than alot of problems. But In the end we all got some work done and the level was almost presentable.

Ok so these are some screen shots of our level. First image is with out any light effect and the second is with all the effects. We used the engine UDK as we found out that this was more suitable for interior scenes rather than Cry-engine which is more suited for outside environment.

Before we could import any of our assets into the level we had to make everything 'engine ready'. This meant that everything needed to have;

  • a diffuse and specular map
  • Pivot point was centered
  • Had a collision mesh  
  • Named correctly
  • Had a 2nd UV channel for a light map (this is because UDK can not read smoothing groups)
Here is a quick image of all my assets in a clean level in UDK;

After so many emotions and troubles through the group, I found that no one wanted to work to their full potential let alone work at all. This was all because of one person and none of us knew how to get by it. It is really hard to even think about what we could have done to improve our level as anything we suggested would get tossed aside and ignored. As one of the group leaders it was harder as you would of thought they would listen to you. In the end we just carried on with what we had left, it was just about enough. I made a little extra as I found the level so boring and to be honest the level is just a photo realistic model of the building. There is no fun! 

I made a doll to represent each of the teachers on our course. I found this alot of fun to do. Yes they're small and simple but they added a little something extra to the cells within the level.

If I was to do the group project again, I would approach it completely differently. Preferably having everything structured and set to a time limit. Also I would listen to everyone and set every a role at the beginning and make sure everyone sticks to it.

But for now I'm glad it is over and hopefully I will not have to visit that experience again, too stressful and emotional for me.

Like omg, drowning in green tea...

So assessments have been and gone. wow. what can I say... OH SHIT?

That kinda covers the thoughts, assessment was complete uselessness (is that even a word?)
I literally need to make a butt load of work within this 3 weeks easter period and be like; here you go chris! I am good!

So projects for the Easter;

  • Add and adjust all work from term 1
  • Complete all projects from term 2
I want to be able to show more of my own style and creation in my work but also work along the lines of the brief. Yeah I can do this. Personal timetable has already started and it looks so full on and messy. I love a good challenge. 

(I did not draw this)

Oh I found this artist, I think it is really clever and pretty. Take a look;

This and that...

 So it's that time of year again, hand in time. Well it was last week anyways and now sometime during this week we have a chat with our lecturers about how they think we are doing and some what.
I really do hate this time of year, I look back and realise I haven't done as much work as I think I have. But does that matter when I have enjoyed myself doing the work I have done :)

So I started a piece of work, self portrait a week or two ago and I wanted to stylize it. (Mortal Engines self portrait) So blocked colours and only using 3 tones for each colour, but as I got to this stage my brother turned round to me and asked if I was doing a study of Lara Croft...* face-palm*

I really had no intention of myself looking very similar to Lara but it is quite flattering when you are feeling down in the dumps.

I really enjoyed doing this piece  just getting sucked into it and painting for a couple of straight hours, kinda of soothing in a stressful way. It still isn't finished but because I am passionate about it, I don't want to rush and wreck it.

On the whole Lara Croft thing, I am really interested in the new game, it visually looks amazing but after viewing some of the game play it does not look anything like the concepts of her. Maybe once I have actually played the game myself my views my change. It is interesting seeing the difference between the concept art work and the game footage and realising the differences and the similarities.

Concept artwork.

Game play footage.

Creativity and talent, are you real? (Task 22)

Growing up, I have always been told that I was talented. Talented in art that is. My mother is an art teacher, so being brought up in a creative environment probably helped push my creativity. I was always doing things, painting, drawing, sculpting, paper mache and so much more, but I got the chance to do this because my family has a passion for art.

If you haven't got the facilities does this stop you from being creative? I don't think it does. If you have a passion for something then surely nothing would stop you. I love to draw, I draw on anything that I have infront of me weather it is a piece of paper to a tissue, it doesn't really matter.

It is a hard question to answer; is creativity and talent real? They are two separate things in my eyes. Talent is something you as a person have, it's part of you. I feel that creativity is something that anyone can have aslong as they can pursue it. I feel that there isn't any original idea, it just depends if you pursue it or not. That is the creativity. The journey in which getting there and creating your ideas.

Talent; A special natural ability.

Both Talent and creativity come under passion surely? Anybody can learn skills and techniques if they set their mind to it. I remember back in school asking a friend why they couldn't paint. They answered with, they had never had the chance. I literally thought everyone could paint but apparently that isn't true. So I guess that is talent, being able to do something without realising, that it is a certain standard at a certain level. It is alot easier to see talent in a child than it is in an adult because we all have our views on what a child should be able to do depending on their age. If they surpass something for that age then that could be seen as talent. For example, being able to draw a stick person with fingers at age 4 is probably seen as talent. A child being able to understand and see something and putting it down on paper at that age would be amazing, it's something you wouldn't expect. Is this talent though?

I think that both talent and creativity are real, but you just have to push and find them, work and build at them. Sometimes I feel that talent can be seen as laziness. Just because you are talented at something doesn't mean you shouldn't try. Use your talent and push at it more. This is such a hard to question to understand and think about, I don't think there is any right or wrong answer to it.

Interaction design (Task 20)

How do games interact with us the player? There is so much out there that companies have put forward to help with your gaming life, of course depending on what platform you play on.
My first game that I found more interactive back then was; Bitmap brothers; Gods...

I found this game amazing not just because of the game play but because you had use joystick! Interacting with this game was more fun just because you used a joystick rather than mouse and keyboard. You needed intense skills and concentration and rapid reflexes. Well I thought that then, if I played it now I'd probably end up ripping my hair out. 

I think this was the first interaction with games for a desktop user back then other than mouse and keys. As the gaming generations developed so did the interactions. Companies wanted to expand and interest more people into wanting to play games, for example hand-held's have changed so much, they have had to change with the times to keep the interest and fun. Starting with a Game Boy there was no colour but to be able to take your game with you where ever you went was a luxury  and now compare them to today's hand-held's. They are full of colour, touch screen and even 3D. It is quite amazing to see how far they have developed in the last 10 years. 
Instead of sitting with a controller wired up to your console, everything now is wireless, making it easier to move around and decreasing the danger of strangling or tripping up your siblings when playing games. 

Look at the Nintendo Wii, it was the first out of the three giants to use the interaction controllers to help play games, it was designed around that. The Wii pushed forward the idea of the player/audience to part of the game. Well it was the first one to actually sell the console because of this. It has opened so many new doors and in a way steered the new generation gaming in a more interactive direction. Since the release of the Nintedo Wii, the other game consoles have been pushed to compete against this and to include it in their consoles to keep their audience. 

The Ps3 brought out the Plastation wand, which interacts with the camera to play games, this widened their games as you could now move about. I find that this is just a copy of the Wii remotes, even though Playstation originally released the eye-toy back in 2003 with the Playstation 2. Maybe everyone forgot about that...

The real interactive prop has to be for me the Kinect for the xbox. This is such amazing technology. It reads your body depending on how near or far away you are and your motions. You will never have to use a controller again! Even better it has voice recognition so you can say a specific game and it will play it for you. 

Musical notes (Task 19)

Music and sound play a huge part in games and films/TV. We might not always notice it as we are trudging through the game and trying to complete it in a record time but it is there in the background.
Music is there for a reason, it helps to create an atmosphere, a mood set for the player. It can help give extra depth to a particular area. For example in a horror film, when something bad and scary is about to happen, I find that usually you get deep quiet tones to help build the suspense, nothing over dramatic. But asoon as that 'bad thing' happens the music hypes up and is loud and extreme.

I find that games have a slightly different approach, for example; The Sims. Everyone knows the Sims music or has heard it before, and to be honest it is pretty annoying. And because its annoying its memorable, and you find yourself with the damn theme music stuck in your head for the rest of the day. You remember the game because of the music. It's the same with that silly game FIFA. In FIFA there are back ground songs as you flick through the menu and set up your teams. I think this is music that hasn't got out into the world yet and actually gets known due to the game. I find myself singing or knowing the song being played in a shop because it triggers a memory. Yes that song was played on FIFA. (or you cant remember where you heard it and it just frustrates you until your brains fall out) Just to clarify I do not play this game, it's silly and does not have any interest of mine what so ever :)

It is clever how music and sounds help you remember what games you have played and enjoyed. Also through my gaming experience I have found that sounds are used to help illustrate something, for example in children s learning games. Also sounds are used to help praise children when they have done something right.  Through out the games by 'Living books' such as 'Grandma and me' (these were my favorite as a child) each item you click on has a select sound that connects with it, and when you have done something right you are praised with a star sound or something like that, can't quite remember.

I feel that games need sound and music to help develop them further and help expand them, it is what makes a good game. If the sound is rubbish and the graphics are good, the sound can make the end result of the game terrible therefor both need to be equal to help each other to make an epic game.

Creative story

Ok so this set project I really enjoyed, it was so much fun to do and silly. Chris said some random words (15 I think) and we had to write down any words that came to our mind when he said a word. Any word or things we thought of we had to put down even if it was unrelated. So by the end of all the writing we had a piece of paper full of words. For example; Trees; green, autumn, stick, branch, leaves, seeds. With each word we then had to create a sentence with the words we wrote down. Once you had sentences the task was to then create a nonsense story and illustrate it, even if it didn't make sense.
So here is my weird and silly story...

 The Stone giants walk.

The stone giant left footprints in the mountain snow with his big cracked feet.

He walked to the snow park, to watch the mermaids tease the pond sharks as Peter Pan made Captain Hook walk the plank.

 As he watched, the children laughed and smiled as their bouncy castle shaped presents flew into the sunshine by balloons.

As the day grew colder and darker the stone giant walked along the sand to watch his friends the elephant and turtle as they played together.

The elephant then placed a feather and a letter in an envelope for the bird to carry up into the wind and the sky.

The bird flew through the starry night sky, whilst Neptune the God fired shooting stars at the aliens in space.

I hate the way the scanner makes my watercolours look all weird and wrong :( it is so much better in person. Anyway I really enjoyed this project and it felt like a let loose sort of exercise.


So it's finally come down to it. Through out being a first year there was the whispers and scares of the group project within the second year, well its here.

I approached it with an open mind, knowing that the group were going to be random and you would get the chance to work with people in the class that you probably have never spoken too. Well in my case, that has defiantly happened. Yes of course there was some sort of up-raw where it put our teacher to screw the made list of groups and let everyone choose their own, but no one could actually be bothered to change, apart from a select few.

So keeping to the original group, well its been interesting. We as a group had the choice of the competition of London for Crytek, OR the traditional Queens building horror. We went with the Queens building and are pretty excited about, well that's what I felt from the group.

When it came down to actually generating ideas about what theme or style we all wanted to do for the building, everything came to a hault. We all had ideas but they weren't very strongly pushed. Everybody came to the agreement to do my idea of an asylum. We started to research about abandoned buildings and what an asylum really is. So moodboards! We don't actually have a team leader but someone has taken it upon themselves to be it. After finally deciding on the theme we then explored the queens building and made a route that we could use, for the player to walk through in game. I found it very complicated as after we walked it through it seemed harder to visualise where the person was going without being there. (more images are needed through out this project)

I feel that there should be a constant making of concept art within the early weeks of the project. A couple of weeks have gone by and I think the group is struggling but that is just my opinion. I have a fair few ideas to bring up in the next meeting but I am very conscious about being to out spoken. Meetings are so useful! But not enough is said with the time we are there. Maybe I am being too over the top and I'm worried and stressed about the end result even though its not in sight yet. (STRESS!)

The new year.

So it has been a while since I last posted on blogger, it's so annoying because I told myself I would blog more often as I love blogging, it's great!

So three weeks have past of the new term and I feel like I have done barely any work at all! There have been disruptions due to bad weather and the fact I have to drive in and my car seems to slide into my driveway hedge, but all is ok on that front. I'm feeling the flow of life drawing. I just love it! being free with the lines and markings I make on the paper and the fact that my teacher loves my pen work :) (I should do alot more of this). I scanned one of my pictures in just to mess about with it in photoshop;


Photoshop without lines

Original sketch (30 second time limit)
Without any photo reference I have had to guess the colours, but I did use some of Lucian Freud's work to get some of the right colours for skin. I wanted to expand and make it more abstract? I am missing the fine art element that I used to do and trying to bring it back. 

Over the weekend I went to the local gallery and found some inspiration. Two artists caught my eye; Jennifer Collier and Zoe Hillyard. Two very different styled artists but are both sculptures. 

Their websites;

When I first saw Zoe's work I didn't quite realise how amazing it is. Without making it sound boring she finds old pots and smashes them up and then stitches print fabrics into each broken piece and then re-assembles the pot. This makes it look completely different and into her own work. 
I don't quite know if she actually makes the pots herself and screen-prints the silk herself too, if she does then there is so much time and passion in each peice of artwork she makes. They really are quite interesting to look at. 

Jennifer Collier makes everything out of paper. From shoes to full sized sewing machines. I found this artist not as interesting but I like the way she uses certain styles and bits of paper in all her works. 

I find the objects more fascinating than the garments due to how unique each one is. It must be so fiddly to cut out each piece perfectly and then re-assemble it all to make the final outcome. 

Note to self; experience more galleries, there is so much inspiration out there.

Game Engines (task 18)

So over the past couple of weeks I have had my brother peering over my shoulder whilst I am trying to attempt to do some sort of 3D work. I start to open and use UDK and as soon as it is opened he blurts out why am I not using Cryengine 3? And there he goes, rambling on about how it is so much better to use and easier. He is 14 and he knows about all this stuff and there is me, the uni student, feeling like crap.

Those two examples above are just two of the many types of game engines out there. Game engines are the foundations that allow you to run the game. 3Ds Max is a 3d package that you can use to create the 'stuff' to put within the engine. The engine gives you the ability to move around your assets that you have imported from 3ds max or other 3d packages.

But you can't just import objects and think everything is going to work, as I found myself with quite a slap in the face. You have to add collision messes; these are invisible geometric shapes that are set around the assets to stop you from walking through them. Have you ever played a game where you have gotten stuck between two objects but you can see a gap that you could actually go through. Well that's the collision mesh. (annoying buggers, but they do have a very good purpose).

After fighting with, sorry, learning about and coming to understand the basics of Unreal Development Kit, I started to look at what games actually use this engine. I didn't realise how popular it was: Bioshock being one example.

Such a beautifully made game. I like the stylelisation and the colour palette through out.

My other brother got an xbox kinect from Santa... After trying it out for the first time, I am very impressed with the outcome of it and the games available for it. It is very clever how it recognises you the player and how you interect with any of the games (Fruit Ninja has given hours of fun, especially for a game that started off as an app for the iphone).

The game that you get with the Kinect, Kinect Adventures was also made using UDK. I found that quite impressive for the type of game that it is, simply because of the amount of player movement required in the game.

Level design (task 16)

Level design could be seen as an off-set to environment art. It's the creation of the level; when the designer pushes the player towards the level's goal. Obviously every game gives the player a goal to achieve.

Firstly a designer might start off with mapping out the area you explore in (the level). What the terrain is like, where the river goes and if that hill is in the way or not. That sort of thing. To help kick start this, some may find it easier to create a simple geometric blocked layout to see how everything might look. This section would come under environment design.

In my opinion, the main body of game design is the goal; the purpose of why you are playing the game, that thing you're trying to get to. Most games have a story line and set achievements throughout. This gives the player some sense of accomplishment, and keeps them interested throughout their progression. Not all games have a set storyline, though. As games have developed, optional story lines have become more and more common. Back when I got my first PlayStation, I couldn't take Crash Bandicoot out of the jungle run and play on mini games. Now, on games such as World of Warcraft, Skyrim and the GTA series, players are allowed a free reign and can take their characters in what ever direction they like. A Warrior on Wow could be a herbalist, alchemist and first aider for example.
The set of the goal fits in with the story, it should be unique, original and interesting. It has to drive the player to want to play the game and to continue, otherwise you have an unsuccessful game that just won't sell. (it's all about the money...)
The goal has been set but it should be made specifically to pace the player through various activities in which the player is pushed and progressed towards the goal. (initially this is the game)

Below, are games to give a basic idea of what the heck I'm talking about. For example; Gex the Geko for Playstation 1 was a fairly simple game. The sort of, kill the badies get the remote controls to unlock new television levels, then kill the big baddy that stole your hot model girlfriend. So you complete all the mini activities which are the levels to get to the end of the goal which is to rescue your girlfriend. Simple.

But in these new open world exploring games such as; world of warcraft, diable 3 and skyrim. It is all the same for them. There is still a set start and finishing point towards the goal. Except it is different in the fact that you aren't pushed to do everything in a certain way. You can ignore the main quests and run around doing your own crazy thing but in the end you will have the option to complete the goal/endgame. (yes i'm finding it really hard to explain what I mean)