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.