Monday, 31 January 2011

Idiot Draws on His Face, Demands Video game Console

Earlier last week Ricky Lee Kalichun (pictured) decided he'd spent enough time waiting for his former roommate to return his Television, games console and games and that the only way he'd ever see these possessions again is if he demanded them back with a face to face confrontation.

Of course like any confrontation you prepare yourself, be it physically, mentally or emotionally and as everyone knows, when time is of the essence nothing beats applying war paint (with the highest quality marker pens) and equipping yourself with a medieval sword. Finally the most important part of all of this, down a bottle of whiskey.

After some how infiltrating the dasterdly roommate's new apartment, Kalichun start to unplug the electronics until he was caught and hustled into the hallway to which our hero reveals his weapon swinging widely in a form of a warning that he knows how to use this weapon.

Tradgey struck our hero though as he was eventually arrested after managing not to hurt anyone and is currently charged with Intimdation with a weapon and Public Intoxication.

Frankly I'm surprised Kalichun was caught, I mean look at the quality of that war paint! You'd never be able to find this hardned warrior in a nursery class room, and if his skills with a pen watch those with a sword we'd all better watch out!

Originally Posted on Kotaku

On a side note, this is the 31st post of the month meaning I've managed to complete enough posts for each day of the first month of 2011!

Game Environment Research (Part 4)

Once again following previous posts, I'm still looking at videogame concept art and levels to build up an understanding of what makes a good video game level. This piece to the right comes from the game "Resonance of Fate", my guess would be that it comes from a very early stage of the concept process as it's a very simple mix of photoshopped images mixed together with a silhouette places over the top, nonetheless the themes of the game are presented, such as a grim steam punk type world with what could potentially be a noir storyline. It's clearly set in a large metropolis of a city and gives the sense of winding streets. It's really hard to analyse this image further as it's quite basic and is potentially a promotional image for when the game was first announced but it's important in my research as it shows the progression concept art has in the industry ranging from basic imagery to detailed concepts used to express the atmosphere of the game and areas to finalised environment pieces then finally detailed floor plans and blue prints.

The other image below from "Resonance of Fate" follows the more traditional type of concept art I've looked at so far, with that same detailed/painted style as the ones from "Final Fantasy XII". It seems when it comes to concept art it's good to choose an art style thats going to suit the type of game you want to make, eg: "Kingdom Hearts" is generally a light hearted adventure in a 'Disney' fashion so it uses bold graphics with bright colours, where as "Resonance of Fate" is a dark industrial game with darker under tones so the art direction would require something similar.



Next is this piece from "Bioshock". The game takes place in an environment that is within the ocean, to enhance the feeling of being surrounded by water the designer has clearly opted for heavy use of blues and greens, but with carefully placed lights to break up the image and make it more interesting. The structures tell the player alot about the world they're in, clearly drawing reference from 1930's art nouveau.

It should be noted that conceptual designers can draw inspiration from a wide range of sources such as the artist has done where, mixing 30s art with a steam punk aesthetic mixed in with an aquatic theme, this really does give a sense of character to the scene. This piece is very polished in terms of concept art
and is clearly used as reference when it came to creating the final level. The piece below is much more rough but still translates a range of information about the game, showing that you don't always need a highly polished piece of work to translate the amtosphere and style across to the modellers.

Finally I'm going to take a look at the level of "Rabanastre" from the game "Final Fantasy XII". The level design for this city scene is vastly different from the one in "Mass Effect 2", as it features winding streets but sometimes with no shops or anything to interact with, including non-player characters which just seem to exist to take up space and not really offer more than a "busy street" atmosphere, it seems the main goal of this level is to try re-create a realistic market/city centre in a logical way with streets and offshoots where you can find certain shops or buildings. Whilst the layout isn't simply it's not too confusing but players could potentially get lost trying to find a specific place/person to speak to.

The texture and design work are immense though, when wondering around you really do feel like you're exploring a bustling metropolis, with larger than life buildings creating a sense of awe the first time you see them. The textures and designs all stay instyle with each other and really help emphasise that this is a desert town. Whilst this level is impressive and mimics a real life situation it could eventually be a chore for the player to traverse when they want to buy a specific item or complete a specific quest, it's good to want to create a realistic world but keep in mind that you're still designing a game thats meant to give entertainment.



With all the images I collected analysed I feel I'm almost at the last step of reasearch. Next time I'll be focusing my attention soley on finalised levels.

Stash your Cash

In this lesson of Creative industries we looked at managing cash flows, allowing you to keep track of your money by knowing exactly whats going in and out. This was done in a business model and applied to the concept of running a business and making sales, a simple chart was made to explain the process of a cash flow:

  • Update your cash flow Forecast(how will you spend your money)
  • Adjust your marketing to increase sales (market your productions to meet sales predictions)
  • Make contracts (Make sale)
  • Invoice your clients (recieve money)
  • Send reminder (if unpaid, send reminder)
This process is then repeasted over and over again, it should be noted that if your cash flow is down you should reduce costs and adjust your marketing to increase exposure.

We then addressed what exactly is a cash flow and what can you learn from it? well there are 3 steps to a cash flow:

  1. Receipts (This is your income)
  2. Payments (This is your Expenditure)
  3. The Blanace (The value of you income minus the value of your expenditure)
If when you work out your balance and it's in positive figures that means you have a "Positive Cash flow" which means a steady growth of figures on the bottom line and that you're earning more than you're spending, in your figures are in negative figures that means you have a "Negative Cash Flow", showing that you have a steady decline of figures on the bottom line and that you're spending more money than you're earning. Pretty simple, right?

It's important to make a cash flow forecast when starting up a business as it gives you a rough estimation of what you'll be spending your money on such as payment for employees, rent for your building and various other aspects that require money to run a business, always consider costs and groth and never be afraid to ask for help from a Certified accountant. Don't get confused as there are two types of accountants, Charted and Certified, more often than not, Charted accountants are very expensive but don't really do anything different to Certified accountants.

It's important to know the types of documents you'll be handeling when running a business, often these documents will be invoices and statements:
  • Estimate (Quote)
  • Invoice (Bill, has name, date, items/service and total cost)
  • Statement (reminder for any missing payments)
Next heres a list of terms and conditions, it's important to apply these when making a sale as it gives you benefits such as protecting your rights and interests, it lists costs clearly in a legally binding contract aswell as delivery arrangements and payment terms. Important Terms and Conditions are:

  • Cancels and Returns
  • Risk/Title
  • Payment
Accounting is a very important part of business as it allows you to keep track of spending and who owns the money. It's important to see the money coming in and out and that you don't spend more than you earn, as well as using accountants you canalso use software programs to keep track, whilst they do cost money it's generally a good idea as if you notice you're losing money somewhere along the line it might be too late to fix it.

So what do businesses spend their money on? more often than not there are start up costs, overheads (fixed costs) and direct costs, tehese are listed below:


Start up Costs:
  • New Equipment
  • Website
  • Company Name
  • Logo/Signs
  • Aesthetics
  • Launch Party (Optional)
Overheads:
  • Bills (rent, power, wages)
Direct Costs:
  • Any spendature realting to the project (this is a variable amount, eg Computers for designers)
As well as keeping yourself informed about your business it's important that you keep your bank informed. The usual information that they require is:
  • Marketing plan
  • How much money needed?
  • How much money do you have?
  • How will you spend your money?
  • (If borrowing) How will you pay the money back?
With all that said the main lesson that should be taken away from all of this is that when starting up a business the most important thing is that you should hire a certified accountant.

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Game Environment Research (Part 3)

Following my research of looking a video game concept art I now turn to some used for the game: "Uncharted 2: Amoung Thieves". Thie piece to the right shows a himalayan type sctructure thats crearly falling apart. The use of clouds in the background do two things, show us that the building is obviously in a high place but also allow us to focus soley on the central structure. This image (and the others below from the Uncharted) is a mix of the concept art we've looked at up until now, showing all the requirements to express the type of atmosphere using high detailed images but it also shows the sceneray in which that the character will appear in, this is definetly just a step below a detailed floor map. The paitning style is much tighter and detailed but this piece is obviously for use nearer completetion of the design process as thought has gone into how a character might explore/traverse the area. Much of the artwork for Uncharted is like this and it's a great example thought and skill put together.





In this next section I decided to look at an actual level from a game, for this I chose the "Zakera Ward" from the game "Mass Effect 2". In the futurisic world of Mass Effect, Zakera Ward is the market place of an intergalatic meeting point known as "The Citidel" for the whole galaxy. In the level the player comes in contact with many different characters of different species, what should be noted is the high quality of the texturing in this area, everything is very clean looking but fits the atmosphere of the area, the neon lights help create the mood of a slightly shady area.

The most important part of looking at this level is that we get to see a level in it's finished stage. First the layout for the level is quite simple, spread out across several floors the designer has used a central podeum surrounded by a walkway. Around the walkway are alcoves that lead off to shops, stairwells and on one floor a cargo area, there is also a bar. Each floor has it's own theme, one being the entrance to the nightclub, one is just a collection of shop and the final one is a food court of shorts with some traders. In one area there is also an instant taxi like service to allow players to be transported to different parts of "The Citidel".

What makes this a great level is that the place is in habited by a variety of different aliens, the atmosphere fits the setting and tone of the game and the texturing creates a very classic sci-fi look. There's also a great amount of personality in the area itself that really makes it a treat for players to explore and keep coming back to also the amount of things you can interact with is impressive ranging from shops to people and even newstands. The layout is great as it's really quite simple but due to the various off shoots into shops and the detail of the area itself it really gives the idea of a very complex area, a clever trick that should be noted for when I design my own game environment. Below is a video of the Zakera Ward area that I found via youtube.



I'm still looking at game environment concept art but I'm going to start looking at more finished levels, start tuned for more!

Ken Recommends: Advice From the Professionals

There are many people out there who dream of performing their music to a crowd of thousands, often they struggle getting their feet off the ground or once they have, they don't know where to go from there. Whilst making my rounds on various Forums I came across this great post by Golden Globe Winner musician Trent Reznor on tips on how to give yourself exposure and promote yourself.

The post was originally imspired by a new move from The Beastie Boys to offer a new type of service for distrubuting their music. As you read through the entry originally posted on nin.com's Forum it's clear that Reznor has a firm understanding of the changing music industry and how the advent of the internet has brought about the ability for many people to promote themselves. This entry is full of links to useful sites which can help emerging artists grow, even if you're not a fan of Reznor, if you create music and you want to get out there read this post because if full of so much useful information that is so vaulable. It's rare that a well established musician gives such clear advice on the music industry and how you as a musician can mature. Below is the post with it's links all in full use.


I posted a message on Twitter yesterday stating I thought The Beastie Boys and TopSpin Media "got it right" regarding how to sell music in this day and age. Here's a link to their store:

[illcommunication.beastieboys.com]

Shortly thereafter, I got some responses from people stating the usual "yeah, if you're an established artist - what if you're just trying to get heard?" argument. In an interview I did recently this topic came up and I'll reiterate what I said here.

If you are an unknown / lesser-known artist trying to get noticed / established:

* Establish your goals. What are you trying to do / accomplish? If you are looking for mainstream super-success (think Lady GaGa, Coldplay, U2, Justin Timberlake) - your best bet in my opinion is to look at major labels and prepare to share all revenue streams / creative control / music ownership. To reach that kind of critical mass these days your need old-school marketing muscle and that only comes from major labels. Good luck with that one.

If you're forging your own path, read on.

* Forget thinking you are going to make any real money from record sales. Make your record cheaply (but great) and GIVE IT AWAY. As an artist you want as many people as possible to hear your work. Word of mouth is the only true marketing that matters.
To clarify:
Parter with a TopSpin or similar or build your own website, but what you NEED to do is this - give your music away as high-quality DRM-free MP3s. Collect people's email info in exchange (which means having the infrastructure to do so) and start building your database of potential customers. Then, offer a variety of premium packages for sale and make them limited editions / scarce goods. Base the price and amount available on what you think you can sell. Make the packages special - make them by hand, sign them, make them unique, make them something YOU would want to have as a fan. Make a premium download available that includes high-resolution versions (for sale at a reasonable price) and include the download as something immediately available with any physical purchase. Sell T-shirts. Sell buttons, posters... whatever.

Don't have a TopSpin as a partner? Use Amazon for your transactions and fulfillment. [www.amazon.com]

Use TuneCore to get your music everywhere. [www.tunecore.com]

Have a realistic idea of what you can expect to make from these and budget your recording appropriately.
The point is this: music IS free whether you want to believe that or not. Every piece of music you can think of is available free right now a click away. This is a fact - it sucks as the musician BUT THAT'S THE WAY IT IS (for now). So... have the public get what they want FROM YOU instead of a torrent site and garner good will in the process (plus build your database).

The Beastie Boys' site offers everything you could possibly want in the formats you would want it in - available right from them, right now. The prices they are charging are more than you should be charging - they are established and you are not. Think this through.

The database you are amassing should not be abused, but used to inform people that are interested in what you do when you have something going on - like a few shows, or a tour, or a new record, or a webcast, etc.
Have your MySpace page, but get a site outside MySpace - it's dying and reads as cheap / generic. Remove all Flash from your website. Remove all stupid intros and load-times. MAKE IT SIMPLE TO NAVIGATE AND EASY TO FIND AND HEAR MUSIC (but don't autoplay). Constantly update your site with content - pictures, blogs, whatever. Give people a reason to return to your site all the time. Put up a bulletin board and start a community. Engage your fans (with caution!) Make cheap videos. Film yourself talking. Play shows. Make interesting things. Get a Twitter account. Be interesting. Be real. Submit your music to blogs that may be interested. NEVER CHASE TRENDS. Utilize the multitude of tools available to you for very little cost of any - Flickr / YouTube / Vimeo / SoundCloud / Twitter etc.

If you don't know anything about new media or how people communicate these days, none of this will work. The role of an independent musician these days requires a mastery of first hand use of these tools. If you don't get it - find someone who does to do this for you. If you are waiting around for the phone to ring or that A & R guy to show up at your gig - good luck, you're going to be waiting a while.

Hope this helps, and I'll scour responses for intelligent comments I can respond to.

TR

TopSpin Media info:
[topspinmedia.com]


(disclaimer)
This was written on a bumpy Euro-bus ride across the wilderness - may ramble a bit but I think the point gets across.
TR


UPDATE 1:
Thanks for the insightful comments already - when I get a moment (and a reliable internet connection) I'll respond to some of your very valid points. Please keep in mind - these were just some thoughts I quickly wrote down and posted and not meant to be a complete guide by any means. I've neglected to get into publishing and some other things. I'll update pretty soon.


UPDATE 2:
Here's a message from Ian Rogers of TopSpin
[forum.nin.com]


UPDATE 3:
Here's a few responses - more to come when I get time.

Bandcamp
[bandcamp.com]

This looks excellent to me. I have not used it but it appears to be great. This would cover your digital distribution of files and the collecting / amassing of your database. Looks like you'd still need someplace to handle fulfillment of merchandise / physical goods (like the Amazon link above).

Pay-what-you-want model
This is where you offer tracks or albums for a user-determined price. I hate this concept, and here's why.
Some have argued that giving music away free devalues music. I disagree. Asking people what they think music is worth devalues music. Don't believe me? Write and record something you really believe is great and release it to the public as a "pay-what-you-think-it's-worth" model and then let's talk. Read a BB entry from a "fan" rationalizing why your whole album is worth 50 cents because he only likes 5 songs on it. Trust me on this one - you will be disappointed, disheartened and find yourself resenting a faction of your audience. This is your art! This is your life! It has a value and you the artist are not putting that power in the hands of the audience - doing so creates a dangerous perception issue. If the FEE you are charging is zero, you are not empowering the fan to say this is only worth an insultingly low monetary value. Don't be misled by Radiohead's In Rainbows stunt. That works one time for one band once - and you are not Radiohead.

Why put something on iTunes for a price fans can get it from your site for free? Won't it piss people off?
Do it and don't worry about it. Lots of people apparently shop at iTunes exclusively and that's where they get their music. They are generally not the people that would be mad to discover they could have gotten the same record (at a better bit-rate) for free elsewhere. We put The Slip up at nin.com for free at all fidelities and STILL sold a fairly large amount of copies at iTunes for $9.99. At the time iTunes did not allow variable pricing (I don't know what the deal is now).

My Flash comments
I don't hate Flash, just go easy on it and avoid anything that takes time to load - ESPECIALLY your front page.

Managers / booking agents / small labels
Any or all of these may be good for you - or not. Here's a truth: nobody knows what to do right now, me included. The music business model is broken right now. That means every single job position in the music industry has to re-educate itself and learn / discover / adapt a new way. Change can be painful and hard and scary. If any of these entities we're discussing are interested in you, ask them about their strategies IN DETAIL. None of them know for sure what to do. Some of them have an idea of how to negotiate these waters. Most of them don't. If you are young and use the internet, you know more about your audience than they do - for sure. This is a revolution and you can be a part of it. The old guard is dying, if you have good ideas - try them.
Bottom line - before getting involved with anyone else, ask yourself what it is they can clearly bring to your table and is it worth their cut. Do they know what they're talking about, and does their strategies match yours?

I have not gotten into the basics which I believe are self-evident: believe in what you do, do the best work you can, work hard, practice, practice more, find your voice, hone in on it, take chances, play live (if applicable), practice more, keep believing in yourself and prepare for the long haul.
I hope you found that useful, it's not often that established artists give the time of day. What's particularly important in Reznor's post is that he draws attention to the Radiohead's use of "pay what you want" scheme for their album In Rainbows noting that it will not work for just anyone.

Reznor is known for his vast understanding of the internet and savy business schemes, when it comes to promoting his music Reznor has caught on with his last two albums being distrubuted in a variety of different manners, the first one "Ghosts I-IV" starting of with free samples, different prices for different editions, then offering "The Slip" as a free download, then a limited edition "Physical copy" was offered at a price.

Reznor notes that lesser known independent artists can recieve the same amount of success that he's experienced since becoming an one himself (following his departure from Interscope Records in 2008) is through hard work and effort, and in the end I believe that the tried and tested method of you only get out as much as you put in truely rings through all parts of the creative industry.

Originally Posted at nin.com

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Game Environment Research (Part 2)

Continuing my look at game environment art I next analyse this piece from Final Fantasy XII, it features a very stylistic approach to concept art. It displays Non-player characters intereacting with a market scene. the style of painting is mich similar to that of classical painting. The amount of detail here is very impressive and really tells you alot about not only this market but the artistic style of the world with a slight inside look at it's history. Much like the Resident Evil ones this image portrays the sense of the atmosphere and colours that the level should have. Getting the feel of an environment seems to be the main aspect of concept art where as a more detailed image showing the level would probably fall under the classification of a floor plan.


This piece comes from the game Kingdom Hearts 2. This features much brighter colours than most of the other pieces up until now with a more finished polish than some concept art it's clear that it's still be made digitally. What seperates this one from the others is that it shows a little more information about what a game level might look like. Whilst it's still a limiting view it shows a scene that perhaps a player would progress through rather than just a point of reference for the colour or textures. Another important part is each object in the scene keeps in the same style as the others which helps make this level seem more plausible as there isn't anything out of place in the scene. This goes for the other Kingdom Hearts 2 concept art. It all keeps in the same style as each other and shows an understand of an environment a character might be placed in to explore.




This piece of concept work comes from the game Halo 3: ODST. A much more sketchier piece than the others and offers not an environment but more a design for a building in the game. I look at this to see the contrasts of styles that concept artists use. This design is a simple pen and shader marker but it's still informative of the environment the game will take place. This piece is just as detailed as the others and has clearly been thought of in a more lateral way in that the designer has clearly considered the logistics of a thriving metropolis. No colour has been used so it's suggested that this was created some time after the colour scheme was decided and that the design team decided it was time to focus on the wider range of design aspects such as looking at the environment outside the immediate game environment.



Next I'll be looking at so video game levels in action and more concept art!

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Highscore 001: Wii Fit


I started this little 4 panel comic a few months back and had forgotten about it until coming across it when sorting out my picture files. The comic is really either little things I find funny in/about video games or little vents about them. I'll be posting them every wednesday so keep an eye out each week, theres atleast 3 weeks of comics already done so I should be able to stay on top it all!

(Also if you look at the amount of posts I've made this month my goal is to try have the same number of posts as their are days in January)

Baby Left for Dead as Man plays Video games

On January 11th, 5 month old Mikara Ranui Jarius Reti died from internal bleeding as Trent Owen Ngaruhe Hapuku (pictured), whom was responsible for her safetly was too engrossed in a Playstation game to notice the baby was in pain. It was reported that the mother, Jamie Reti left the child in the care of the 21 year old for 45 minutes as she tended to her other child (such as bathing and feeding).

Upon returning, Reti saw that Hapuku was holding the baby whilst playing a playstation game. Mikara was reported as looking pale and had vomitted over Hapuku's shoulder, at this sign the child was taken to hospital immediately where she died within minutes.

It was revealed that within 45 minutes Mikara had suffered a blunt-force injury to her abdomen, which in turn fractured 4 ribs causing the internal bleeding. Hapuku later said to the police that "He knew he would get the blame, because he was the only one with the baby." Hapuku reports that he does not know how the Mikana recieved the injuries.

During the autopsy it was revealed that the Mikana was suffering from rib fractures that were weeks old.

To be honest this seems like a general case of neglect and not one really related to video games specifically, it's hard to tell if there was any foul play here on the part of Hapuku or on the mother with the revelation of previous rib fractures. All that said though Hapuku should have been aware if there was any problem with the child as it would have been noticable if was. We may have to watch this case and see how it pans out, but my money is on general neglect and it's a shame that it's caused the death of an infant.

Game Environment Research (Part 1)

When it comes to doing environment art in any sense I'm the first to admit it's no where near a strength of mine. Theres more to just drawing a scene and hoping it turns out alright, because I'm designing an environment that will be used in a 3 three-dimensional space I have to think carefully about design choices and aesthetics, including floor plan layouts. Most importantly I have to consider how my character is going to interact with their environment.

For these reasons I'm going to look at existing Environment Art and analyse it, following from there I will also analyse finalised video game levels to help progress my understanding of what makes a good game level.

This first piece is concept art for an opening level in 2005's "Resident Evil 4". What should be said about this piece is that is automatically gives you a sense for the atmosphere the game is going to have, the dark shadows and colour palette really give a sense of foreboding. The un-modern architecture really gives the sense of eeriness needed to translate the theme the game will present. This piece is also much more finalised and tighter artistically than some other concept art I've seen and it's also contains a look of texture that will probably be used as reference for the final game, but it is still concept art as it doesn't show a layout, just a scene from a fixed perspective just the give an idea of what an environment is like.

Below are more examples of Resident Evil 4's environment concept art



Each one of these really help to communicate the qualities each level should have, including colour palettes, features and general aesthetics. When it comes to my environment though I should also consider what will fit well with my character.

This next piece of concept art comes from 2009's Resident Evil 5. The first thing that should be noted is that the style for this concept art is much looser and only the most important aspects of the scene are shown. I may be that this is not a final piece as it doesn't give me a sense of the game atmosphere, but instead shows characters interacting with the environment. This piece also show what type of game you'll be playing, either an adventure/thriller type, this is due to it's outside setting by what the characters are doing in the scene also builds upon this. This piece is also from a fixed perspective not giving you an extensive look at the level, instead only giving you a taster of what it would be like.

This piece (Also from Resident Evil 5) shows the contrast in environments a game can have, where as the previous piece has a palette of warm colours, browns and reds this piece uses cool colours such as blues and greys. This differentiates the moods these environments have. Where as the first is warm it could mean that it's more action orientated and hostile, where as this cooler area could be one of rest where players will not be attacked. It's important to know the differences a colour choice can make a huge impact on the feel of an environment.

The most common aspect between all of the art shown in this post is that none of it shows how the player is going to interact with the environment, it seems to have all be create just to translate what the environment will look like, so I may have to look into find more "blue print" type designs.

When it comes to creating my own concept art I think I'll like to work with this more loose brush style as it means I'll be able to get more concepts done quicker hopefully.

Stay tuned from more analyses of Environment concept art!

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Check This Out: New Trailers from Square Enix

Earlier this week in Tokyo, Square Enix had a Press conference in which they revealed several trailers to members of the press under a Media Blackout policy, meaning they can talk about it but just not show any pictures. Obviously these things never stay hidden and of course a clever youtuber has already uploaded them(and had them taken down, so there are links instead now), I'm going to be looking at these trailers both from a fan stand point but also a learner, looking at modeling texture (trying to make sense of it all), finally wrapping why modern games industries feels the need to organise press events such as this one.

The first trailer is for the next upcoming installment to the Kingdom Hearts franchise on the Nintendo 3DS. Titled "Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream, Drop, Distance" the trailer shows the two main characters from the series Sora and Riku talking to each other on the desert island, cutting to King Mickey talking to Yensid, they seem to be discussing something ominous for our heroes. The trailer continues showing game play featuring both younger and older versions of the two heroes, whilst the world "Dream", "Drop" and "Distance" appear on the screen.

The Kingdom Hearts series has already tackled the theme of memories so it seems likely that this game might focus on dreams. A new world is spotted in the trailer being the one from "The Hunch Back Of Notredam", it's clearly planning to cover untouched ground. As a fan of the series I'm quite excited to see what this new game is about and what adventure I'll be taking the heroes through next.

Now, let's talk about the graphics. Square Enix has been known for creating some of the best looking video games in the last 15 years, their follow their own art direction rather than focusing on how realistic can they make a character look. The Kingdom Hearts series has been known for having this weird mix of good looking and yet simplified art style when it comes to graphics, this is done so that the characters can blend easily from one Disney world to another (with the exception of the Pirates of The Caribbean world). I really like they way things looking this game which is smooth and stylistic, cartoony but not. The levels seem to follow this same art style, not too texture based but more of a painted UV map look, this was the type of style that I want my character to have so further research into the texture mapping techniques used for these games might be beneficial.



Next is the trailer for "Final Fantasy XIII-2" for PS3 and Xbox 360, following the trend of making Final Fantasy games last longer, this one seems like a direct sequel . The trailer follows off directly from the end of XIII, with Lightning monologuing over the top. The scene then changes to Lightning dressed in knights armour, bowed before an altar of some sorts, she then unsheathes her sword and clashes blades with a new character dressed in similar attire. To be honest the setting for "Knight Lightning" completely throws me I can't figure out what this game maybe about, I didn't hate XIII but it wasn't the best game I had ever played, I'm going to keep this on my radar just to learn more info about where they're going to take the characters.

The graphic textures for this game follow the same as the last, semi realistic yet stylised. This pro level texturing with some amazing attentions to detail, I can only imagine the amount of man-hours that went into creating the textures to make this game look as good as it does, the animation is also smooth and well considered. I have all the certainty that I would never be able to create something as good look at my current level of skills.

Watch the Trailer for "Final Fantasy XIII-2" on Kotaku here!

The next trailer that Square Enix presented was for the upcoming "Final Fantasy: Type-0". Previously known as "Final Fantasy Agito XIII", Square Enix has since decided to try evolve the game into it's own "spin-off" series. The trailer depicts four waring fractions, focusing on the one that follows a Phoenix emblem, the trailer also shows game play which follows the "Action RPG" trend Square Enix have been having recently, it's not a bad thing and actually makes the game look dynamic and exciting, I'm getting quite excited for this game as it also seems you can control a range of characters. This looks to be one of the games to look towards for the PSP this coming year.

The texture and graphics follow the same stylisation as the other Final Fantasy games and looks just as gorgeous, these textures definitely need looking at further and I'm going to do a post on them later.

Watch the Trailer for "Final Fantasy: Type-0" on Kotaku here!

The final trailer is for the long talked about "Final Fantasy Versus XIII", with development starting in 2003 and the game itself being unveiled in 2006 that's a pretty long time for a game to be in development but the fruits of labor are finally beginning to show. The trailer shows of a realistic based world with the main character seemingly being of a high social status attending a party until it's disturbed by an attack from the military (or a similar organisation), it seems you play a character who is targeted for a crime or reason unrelated to him.

The game play shown in the trailer shows the same type of game play as "Type-0", in that it seems much more action orientated. This trailer just oozes with style from the sleek aesthetics of the city scenes to the character designs, the texturing seems to be on the same level as "Final Fantasy XIII" if not, a little more impressive/detailed. Even though this game is currently for the Playstation 3, if it stays that way it might be the reason that I'll buy one.

Watch the Trailer for "Final Fantasy Versus XIII" on Kotaku here!

With the exception of "Final Fantasy XIII-2", each game shows scenes of it's game play all with an "Action RPG" motif, and it all looks very exciting. The various narratives in each all look interesting but "Type-0" and "Versus" seems to be the most exciting, with no further info on the characters or the settings it's still hard to judge but considering Square Enix made a huge financial loss last year 2011 is already heating up to look bright for both the company and gamers.

So why do companies like Square Enix organise huge press conferences just to reveal some trailers for games that won't be coming out until six months later, at the least? Most obviously I believe it's about promotion, this helps spread information that these games exist which will hopefully increase sales once they're released.

It's seems the game industry is becoming more like the film industry with each passing year and games are soon becoming more of a consumer product rather than just entertainment, they have to make and sell these products to make a profit, take for example 12 years ago a sequel to a Final Fantasy game seemed illogical but in the world of business it happens more often with spin offs and collections.

As a product they also need to show examples of their work and proof that it's of a high quality to reassure current investors whilst also enticing new ones. Ultimately this is all to help the company grow larger and you can't blame companies for doing this, the only backlash that might happen is an over saturation of "Final Fantasy" games in the market, maybe Square Enix needs to consider creating a new IP to help grow? In the end all the promotion surround a game(s) is just to boost sales and strength of the company and by scaling the hype around press conference interest in the subject will increase substantially resulting in more sales.

The most important thing though is that for fans of RPGs is that Square Enix seems to have 2011 sorted out for us!

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

New Project: Creating a Game Level

With the game character out of the way a new project approaches, this time I'm to develop a game level (mcuh like the one in the image, but in three dimensions and with map textures and not really like that one at all) that will correspond with the theme and basic design motif of my character. For this project I'll be using the programs Maya and the game engine, Unity.

For this project I plan to research exsisting game levels including their development from concept to finalisation. taking notes on things such as textures and design based on genre of the game. From there I'll develop my own concept art to present at an intrim crit. along with my research, explaining my concept. Next I'll use the remaining time of the project to create the level.

During this time I also have to write a 1,000 word essay on the study of contemporary video games development, for this I'll research everything I can on the process of making a video game in the 21st centuary ranging from concept to development and even including marketing strategies. This will then be written in an informative format for my essay.

Finally I'm also going to use some of my time to revist my game character and make the proper adjustsments to it to reach a level of quality that I'm much more happier with.

With the intrim crit on 18th of Feburary and the deadline on the 18th of March I have plenty of time to complete this project, considering my last experience I plan to use this time as effectively as possible. I'll first start by doing a week of research of game levels and design techniques, then between then and the 18th of Feburary I'll develop the concept artwork whilst researching and writing my essay. After that date I'll start making the actual level and reworking my character, using two week to make the level and two weeks to make the textures and other attributes.

I'm determined to improve my character and make sure I don't repeat my mistakes from the last project.

Leadership & Management

In this lesson of Creative Industries we looked at roles within companies and their roles, focusing on the role of a leader. We initially looked at Meredith Belbin's "Team Role Chart", which outlined the 3 role variants that can be found in the working place, these being: Action Orientated roles, People Orientated roles and Cerebral Orientated roles. It's good to first Identify what type of role you work within as this will help you decided what role you would be sorted for a company.

When going in for a job straight from university it's always best to apply for positions as a junior or for an internship as this will give you the professional experience that you need to aim for better paid positions.

When looking for employment you also need to consider where you're heading, do you want to head all the way up to management? What makes an effective manager? well these do: Listening skills, being informative to colleagues, being a good communicator to get the best from your workers, innovative thinking.

It's always a good idea to include these types of statements in a personal statement in a CV, but remember management roles can be difficult and are more difficult to fill.

We next looked at what makes an effective leader, these qualities being: charismatic, a visionary, will question everything, ability to network and expand horizons, make coalitions between other companies, management skills and the ability to see things from new angles.

When writing your CV think, what can you offer the company...simply choose one or more of the above. The easiest ways you can research your future job is by checking their website such as a news section (if the have one) you can also research the type of skills their looking for this way too.

So, what you've got a CV to inform the company you're going to work for, but what should you know about the company? well, their status for one, how secure is you're job going to be? is the company going over, are you getting on a sinking boat? etc. Next consider their structure, is there a chance for you to progress inside the company? and finally consider their geographic location, are you prepared to uproot your life for a £40,000 + paying job? ( I would...), consider the opportunities as well, the community, are they well connected with other businesses of the same trade? Finally, consider their values and ethics, you don't want to work for people who clash with your lifestyle and belittle your beliefs (I don't quite understand this part but whatever it's something you should consider).

We next looked at setting up your own company looking into shares and how they're distributed between Share Holders/Directors. If you are the owner you can divide the 100% of the shares in any way you see fit, for example by: roles, equality and so on. You can also divide shares but this also diminishes their worth. For example you can take 20 shares which is worth £200 and divide it into 20,000 shares making each share worth £0.01. This is usually done when changing a limited company into a public one, meaning that eventually the public can accumulate enough shares to out buy you from your own company, but it also means you can have more investors.

Returning to the idea of a company's status you're probably thinking, how is it determined? well quite frankly it's determined several things, thie first being, what they do with the profits, do they put it back into the company? increase peoples wages? etc. Next their legals Status, Limited, public partnership, social enterprise?

Legal statuses can effect a range of things such as how much tax they pay, how much the owner and you are payed and their ability to borrow money.

We next looked at Taxation and threseholds, the first thing being that you don't pay tax in the UK until you earn more than £6,475 a year. Next we looked at Tax bands, if you earn the following you have to pay the respective percentage from your yearly income:
£6,475-£37,400 = 20%
£37,401-£150,000 = 40%
£150,000+ = 50%

Next comes payment to National Insurance, if you're (class 2) self employed you pay £2.40 per week (or monthly debit), if you're (class 4 self employed) 8% is collected annually from profits up to £4,875 and an extra 1% if you go over. If you're (class 1) earning under £6,475 annually 3.7% is payed by your employer on your behalf.

We next looked at the various responsibilties and obligations for company types, then going on to look further into tax, but the main bulk of this lesson was looking at leadership roles in companies and what you're expecting of them and what their expecting to do, after this lesson I can say that I'm much more informed about applying for roles in companies, and taxes.

Monday, 17 January 2011

Final Show Reel and Impressions

Between this and the last post a fair bit of drama has happened, but I eventually got a texture made and started to animate my character, unfortunately the texture wasn't anywhere near the quality I was hoping for, as I didn't have enough time to sort of Alpha channels for the skirt and hair resulting in a very lackluster appearance. Once I have some more time I plan to go back and re-do the texture.

Animating did not go to well either as I still have a remedial understanding of animating in Maya, this resulted in a very jerky and horrifyingly bad moving character, again once I have more time I plan to go back and fix this problem aswell.

The end result (video below) is something that I'm only half proud of, the texturing and animation have really let me down but now I'm out of time to fix any of these, the lesson to take away from this project is to not rush everything at the last minute and give myself plenty of time to finish my project.



And with that the first half of this Game art & Design project is finished.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Check This Out: Final Trailer for "Love"

In 2006 Tom Delonge of the Pop Punk outfit Blink-182 decided to try his hand at a different type of music from what Blink fans were used to. Teaming up with Atom Willard, Matt Wachter and David Kennedy, Angels & Airwaves was formed, a band that Delonge ambitiously said would change the face of music, whilst certain ambitions made back in '06 may not have come to fruition there's no denying that the band is a success. Since the release of their second album ("I-Empire" 2007) Delonge has boasted that an Angels & Airwaves movie will be made, there had already been a documentary under the name of "Start The Machine" but Delonge insisted that a narrative based movie would hit screens eventually.

4 Years later with less than a month until it's premiere, Angels & Airwaves have proved that it can rise above music and join bands such as The Who and The Beatles in making not only music but also films. Judging by the trailer this film could either be heavily narrative based or massively conceptual (perhaps a mixture of both?) all context aside the quality for this film seems to be on the same level as big budget Hollywood movies, and I do hope that the film is well received as it would be a nice change to see a film such as this receive the same level of regard as "Tommy" and other music inspired films.



Angels & Airwaves also plan to release a double album along with the film so keep an eye out for it's release. In the mean time read more about the film; "Love" and download the album of the same name for free from the band's website.

Angels&Airwaves.com

Check This Out: Megaman Legends 3 Modeling

Whilst checking on Video Game News sit: Destructoid, I happen to come across a link to the Developer's blog for Megaman Legends 3 in which there are several entries from Mr. Koike of Capcom (famous for modeling characters in games such as "Monster Hunter" and "Zack & Wiki") taking us through (a basic) process of 3D modeling.

What's hard to believe is that the image to the right is actually a 3D model for the game.

Currently Megaman Legends 3 is being developed for the Nintendo DS so by that nature the model it's self will be made of a fairly low polygon count. Just looking at the process and taking into consideration the speed of Mr. Koike's work shows a inside to the industry standard.

I suggest that anyone who is interested in making video games check out these blog posts: I've posted them below:
Megaman Legends 3 Modeling part 1
Megaman Legends 3 Modeling part 2
Megaman Legends 3 Modeling part 3

What I really like about this model though is the stylised texture map and the simplicity of it, but it really makes a powerful effect, game character wise. What's truly impressive though is that to get a complete and finished model it only took Mr. Koike 10 days to complete, currently I'm on day 8 of my model, If I can get my own model completed by Monday 4pm that means work speed I can match industry standard (but not necessarily quality).

Rigging: Set Driven Keys & Reverse Foot Set-Up

A Set Driven key is very much like an attribute eg: "Rotate x" with the exception that it's made by the user and can effect any aspect of a joint they like. In my model I used set driven keys to allow me to use the hand controller to make a fist. I first create the Atrribute in the hand conrtoller's attribute menu and adjust it's limits and starting points (eg, max: 10, min: -10, start: 0), I then link the joints in the figures at their resting position by selecting them and the controller and connecting them in the "Set Driven Menu", I then move the joints and connect them the the movement valur of either 10 or -10 on the hand controller and set the key. Through this process I can now control a very basic level of movement in mt characters hand.

Since I only had a limit number of joints in my hand the movement it's really all that impressive, but should be enough to help the character emote when it comes to animating it.


Next comes the process of setting up the Reverse Foot, this will allow me to animate a much more human walk cycle that will hopefully seperate my character from the uncanny valley in animation terms atleast. Setting up the reverse foot manipulators is very much like setting up the Set Driven Keys, first setting up several new attributes in the foot controller such as "Peel Heel", "Toe Twist", "Heel Twist" etc. I then group joints upon them selves and move the pivot back into places, the equip these new groups with the set driven keys. Once this is all set up I now have four objects (feet and hands) that can now move much more than they could previously. The benefit of the Reverse Foot Set -up means that if I animate my character well enough it should walk perfectly.

With the Model and the Rigging complete all thats left is to animate and texture my character, the end is within sight, I still have to fix the bugs with my UV map but with my new deadline of 4pm Monday 17th January I feel that I can complete this task in time.

Rigging: Binding the Skin & Weight Painting

When it comes to binding the Skeleton with all it's Handles to the joints, it's a fairly easy process taking about 3-5 clicks of the mouse. By first selecting the Mesh followed by the root joint and going to Skin > Bind Skin > Smooth Bind. Making sure that the "Bind to joint hierarchy" option is selected I can then choose the level of which the joints will effect the mesh. The by hitting that's the Skeleton and Mesh bound, meaning that when I use the handles to move the skeleton it should also move the mesh. After testing the joints it seems that my skeleton and handles are fairly well set up with no major adjustments needing to be done. But there are adjustments to be done. As when the right leg moves it effects the skirt on the left side too much, the method of which to fix this is called "Weight Painting".

"Weight Painting" mode turns the model black and by selecting joints shows the extend of the area on the mesh that the joint will effect. This is shown as a white gradient on the black mesh, by using the weight paint brush I can highlight or deselect the ares that I want the joint to effect. Luckily for me this step was fair low stress as my model moved fairly coherently with very little warping to the mesh. The main parts that had to be weight painted was the right leg and the skirt on the left side.

This whole process was extremely quick and easy to complete with no problems, weight painting was interesting but I admit I was nervous to start messing around with a bit too much but luckily as stated the binding worked extremely well. With this step now sorted the only things left to do on the rig are add set driven keys to the hands and feet.

Rigging: Making the Rig and Attaching Handles

After a recovery from my minor break down, I'm back working on my model, I've decided to leave texturing till last and get rigging out of the way first as it's an easier task to fix if I encounter any problems they should be easier to fix. Also my tutor has placed a full and extensive tutorial to the complete rigging process, this should also make it easier to complete.

Before giving my character the ability to move, first I have to give it a Skeleton made up with joints. First I create a new layer to build the skeleton ontop of and use the joint tool to create limbs such as the arms and legs then a spine etc. thinking logically about where joints would go and how I want my character to move. The most important part about building the skeleton is to have everything parented to a "root" joint that's centred some where in the stomache area, it's also important to note that the hip joint should also be snapped to the "root" joint for ease. Ideally with the skeleton set up transforming the potisions of the joints should replicate movement of a real one.


The next step is creating handles to move the skeleton with. The first one I start with is an IK Handle on the leg, I attach this to the skeleton which will allow me the bend the leg at the knee when the handle is manipulated. Next I create a Nurbs circle and manipulate it to the shape of a foot, snapping it to the heel joint, creating the controllers is essentially this process repeated over and over, creating nurbs circles and parenting them to the correct joints with either the parenting tool or the constraint parenting tool (which limits movement to allow for a realistic and logical animation set up). There are exceptions such as the handles for the hands which are made of CV Curves, but the principal for attaching them is the same. Once all the handles are attached I test each of them to make sure they work properly.


With the handles built and attached all thats left to do it "clean up" their attributes. This means lock and hiding anything that might interfer with the animation., essentially only leaving attributes that will be adjusted for animation. This is done quite simply by selecting the attributes that you longer with to be effected going to edit and clicking lock and hide. This is important for adjusting things such as the elbow and hip movement.

There were a few problems that cropped up whilst creating the handles such as the IK Handles in the legs bending the wrong way and making sure this were parented correctly, these were minor problems that were easily fixed though. With the Skeleton, handles and cleaning up complete next it's time to bind the skeleton to the skin to allow me to move my model.process complete

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Realisation

...I aim beyond my goals. Far beyond what I'm possibly capable of. I did not know how I was going to model my character when I designed it and I had no idea how I was going to tackle it as I went along. I learned quite a bit that even with an extension I was still stupid enough to think I could complete it to a competant level. Turns out I was wrong. After years of aiming high and scrapping and the edges this is the time when I finally didn't make. I've got to the point of exhuastion when after a week of staying up late to try and complete the project I've ultimately failed it, I've spent so much time at the computer in the last week my arms are in physical pain from leaning on them too much. I've tried to cram so much information on how to model this and join and animate that in Maya that I can't take any more. I have an extremely painful headache, sore arms and extremely tired. I can't figure out what I'm doing wrong anymore in terms of completing the model and I really can't figure out how to fix my problems. At this point I don't know what to do, I'm going to go to bed so that I can get to sleep early to wake up in time to find out what do they do with cases such as mine?

Obviously the kicker is it's all my own fault for not starting it earlier and thinking I could get it completed in a week but, also the fact that I delude myself into thinking that I can complete work of a much higher quality than I'm capable of. I really have no idea what happens next after this.

UV Mapping & Texturing: An Attempt, a Failure

There was quite a lot of trouble surrounding do a UV map for my character as there were quite a few problems that occurred along the way. The first being I had great difficulty projecting the UV map at first. Realising I was missing out the Planar projecting section of UV Mapping, everything suddenly began to slip into place. The method of which I was used to create my UV map was pretty much like making my model in reverse, I would cut the UV map along one seam of my object, select the opposite scene and click the selection conversion to a UV edge, after that I just unwrapped using the unfold tool in the UV texture editor. Unfortunately because of my ignorance of how to do this correctly I wasted far too much time trying to get it right. Once all the UV maps were unwrapped I then placed then all in the UV map editor and adjusted their size to fit on the page.


Another problem that cropped up what that I had modelled the hair completely wrong and had to redo it all again by rebuilding the skull and out fitting the character with new hair made up of planes. Another problem was separating the different components as I had apparently done that wrong too, meaning I had to waste more time finding solutions to my problems and spending the time fixing them. But after all the trouble I finally got a good looking UV map or so I thought.....


I exported the files to photoshop several times as it was far too small until I had reached a big enough format to work on it competently, after starting to do some skin tones I tested the texture out in Maya and it just didn't work, the only thing that matched up was the body, everything else showed the white parts of the uv texture and what not. Also whilst I was painting I realised I'm terrible at digital painting and that it takes an age for my to do anything good. I suddenly came upon a realisation....