Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Final Major Project: Character Bios

Before starting my research I had defined the base story and characters here, I'll be going over the characters to just define and round them off before starting to design them and giving them life.

In the game there are 3 main characters, 1 minor character and 4 enemies. Below I'll be giving the descriptions of the characters and their role in the game, this will give me a better idea of the characters I have to visualise. Things to remember during the design stages is that the game is based in a Medieval Fantasy setting so the art style and characters should adhear to this base concept but should also try add something new to the mix.

Game Story:
In the Kingdom of Fantasia on a beuatiful summers evening, Princess Fairly is taking a stroll on the balcaony over looking the vast land before her. Suddenly a crack of lighting fills the air and a thunder booms, the Evil Wizard Devioso appears before her casting a spell and making a cage appear around. Devioso summons his pet dragon to lift and take the Princess back to his home in the forest. As the dragon flys away with the Princess she let's out a cry of help as she does Sir Gutsy hears whilst guarding the castle gates and gives chase to save the princess from the evil wizard.

Player Character: Sir Gutsy
Sir Gutsy is the bravest and most loyalest knight of the kingdom. Strong and quick with his Sword Sir Gutsy is always prepared to rise to any challenge for his kingdom. Devoting his life to protecting the royal family Gutsy is determined to make sure no harm comes to them, skilled in battle from fighting beasts and monsters Sir Gutsy is the best knight to take on any adventure.

Player's Goal: Princess Fairly
Princess Fairly is the kindly Princess of the kingdom, beautiful and gentle she is the heir to the throne of the kingdom. Always dressed elgantly and kind to animals, she secretly hopes that one day Sir Gutsy will notice her.

Player's Enemy: Evil Wizard Devioso
The Evil Wizard Devioso is wicked and hideous. With strong abilities in Magic, Devioso can create almost anything at his will, through long periods of living in the woods lonliness has warped his mind and made him selfish.

Minor Character: King Noble
The good King Noble, is ruler of the kingdom. Being a Kind and gracious King the people love him and he cares about his daughter more than anything in the world.

Whilst these descriptions arn't that massively indepth, they give a fair description of the characters such as their personalities and their roles, whilst this doesn't narrow down an exact appearance for the characters this does allow me to develop a range of designs. I also kept the character bios more simplitic for particular reasons, Gutsy isn't more indepth as he acts as an avatar for the player to participate in the game and put the player in the role of gutsy. Fairly is merely an objective for the player, explaining that she is the princess of the land and he is a loayl knight of the land gives the whole motive for the game, ergo there is no further need to try add character to the princess as she is merely the objective. Finally Devioso is as he is due to the fact his only ole in the game is serve for the purpose for the objective. Yes there will be a cutscene in the game but only to set up an explanation as to what the player's goals are. The reason I chose to develop my characters in this way is that I follow (the creator of the katamari series) Keita Takahashi's method of building a game as mentioned in "The Meaning of Videogames" by Steven E. Jones (Routledge, 2008) "Takahashi's stress on smplicity and fun as elements missing from most of today's games gestures toward non-gamers and casual gamers". Takahashi is also quoted as saying "games can be as stupid as they like as long as their fun." I also agree with this.

I feel that this is a good approach as the game isn't that indpeth in terms of story and really focuses on the gameplay and artstyle. Overall I'm confident in these characters and can't wait to start developing them visually.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Final Major Project: Self Illuminating Textures

During my research into current video games and the techniques they use in their textures. Whilst looking at the textures used in Super Mario 3D Land one of the techniques used to give the game this constant bright and colourful look was the use of a Self Illuminated Shader. When researching into Self Illuminated textures I found out several things, first was that the shader is a part of the Unity Family meaning that it's applied in the game engine rather than the modelling program (in my case maya), secondly there are a variety of types of Self Illuminated Shaders. As described by Unity the Self-Illuminated Shader works as such:

This shader allows you to define bright and dark parts of the object. The alpha channel of a secondary texture will define areas of the object that "emit" light by themselves, even when no light is shining on it. In the alpha channel, black is zero light, and white is full light emitted by the object. Any scene lights will add illumination on top of the shader's illumination. So even if your object does not emit any light by itself, it will still be lit by lights in your scene.

Below here is a list of the different types of Self Illuminated Shaders and their properties:

Self Illuminated Vertex-Lit:
Assests Needed: One Base Texture & one Illumination Texture with alpha Channel for Illumination Map.

This shader is Vertex-Lit, which is one of the simplest shaders. All lights shining on it are rendered in a single pass and calculated at vertices only.

Because it is vertex-lit, it won't display any pixel-based rendering effects, such as light cookies, normal mapping, or shadows. This shader is also much more sensitive to tesselation of the models. If you put a point light very close to a cube using this shader, the light will only be calculated at the corners. Pixel-lit shaders are much more effective at creating a nice round highlight, independent of tesselation. If that's an effect you want, you may consider using a pixel-lit shader or increase tesselation of the objects instead.

Self Illuminated Diffuse:
Assests Needed: One Base Texture & one Illumination Texture with alpha Channel for Illumination Map.

Diffuse computes a simple (Lambertian) lighting model. The lighting on the surface decreases as the angle between it and the light decreases. The lighting depends only on the this angle, and does not change as the camera moves or rotates around.

Self Illuminated Specular:
Assests Needed: One Base Texture with alpha Channel For specular map & one Illumination Texture with alpha Channel for Illumination Map.

Specular computes the same simple (Lambertian) lighting as Diffuse, plus a viewer dependent specular highlight. This is called the Blinn-Phong lighting model. It has a specular highlight that is dependent on surface angle, light angle, and viewing angle. The highlight is actually just a realtime-suitable way to simulate blurred reflection of the light source. The level of blur for the highlight is controlled with the Shininess slider in the Inspector.

Additionally, the alpha channel of the main texture acts as a Specular Map (sometimes called "gloss map"), defining which areas of the object are more reflective than others. Black areas of the alpha will be zero specular reflection, while white areas will be full specular reflection. This is very useful when you want different areas of your object to reflect different levels of specularity. For example, something like rusty metal would use low specularity, while polished metal would use high specularity. Lipstick has higher specularity than skin, and skin has higher specularity than cotton clothes. A well-made Specular Map can make a huge difference in impressing the player.

Self Illuminated Bumped:
Assests Needed: One Base Texture & one normal map with alhpa Channel for Illumination.

This shader allows you to define bright and dark parts of the object. The alpha channel of a secondary texture will define areas of the object that "emit" light by themselves, even when no light is shining on it. In the alpha channel, black is zero light, and white is full light emitted by the object. Any scene lights will add illumination on top of the shader's illumination. So even if your object does not emit any light by itself, it will still be lit by lights in your scene.

Like a Diffuse shader, this computes a simple (Lambertian) lighting model. The lighting on the surface decreases as the angle between it and the light decreases. The lighting depends only on the this angle, and does not change as the camera moves or rotates around.

Normal mapping simulates small surface details using a texture, instead of spending more polygons to actually carve out details. It does not actually change the shape of the object, but uses a special texture called a Normal Map to achieve this effect. In the normal map, each pixel's color value represents the angle of the surface normal. Then by using this value instead of the one from geometry, lighting is computed. The normal map effectively overrides the mesh's geometry when calculating lighting of the object.

The Normal Map is a tangent space type of normal map. Tangent space is the space that "follows the surface" of the model geometry. In this space, Z always points away from the surface. Tangent space Normal Maps are a bit more expensive than the other "object space" type Normal Maps, but have some advantages:

  1. It's possible to use them on deforming models - the bumps will remain on the deforming surface and will just work.
  2. It's possible to reuse parts of the normal map on different areas of a model; or use them on different models.
Self Illuminated Bumped Specular:
Assests Needed: Assests Needed: One Base Texture with alpha Channel For specular map & one normal map with alhpa Channel for Illumination

Using the same qualities as the bumped map with these properties on top,

Specular computes the same simple (Lambertian) lighting as Diffuse, plus a viewer dependent specular highlight. This is called the Blinn-Phong lighting model. It has a specular highlight that is dependent on surface angle, light angle, and viewing angle. The highlight is actually just a realtime-suitable way to simulate blurred reflection of the light source. The level of blur for the highlight is controlled with the Shininess slider in the Inspector.

Additionally, the alpha channel of the main texture acts as a Specular Map (sometimes called "gloss map"), defining which areas of the object are more reflective than others. Black areas of the alpha will be zero specular reflection, while white areas will be full specular reflection. This is very useful when you want different areas of your object to reflect different levels of specularity. For example, something like rusty metal would use low specularity, while polished metal would use high specularity. Lipstick has higher specularity than skin, and skin has higher specularity than cotton clothes. A well-made Specular Map can make a huge difference in impressing the player.

Self Illuminted Paralax:
Assests Needed: One base Texture & one normal Map with alpha channel for Illumination Map and Paralax Depth combined.

Parallax Normal mapped is the same as regular Normal mapped, but with a better simulation of "depth". The extra depth effect is achieved through the use of a Height Map. The Height Map is contained in the alpha channel of the Normal map. In the alpha, black is zero depth and white is full depth. This is most often used in bricks/stones to better display the cracks between them.

The Parallax mapping technique is pretty simple, so it can have artifacts and unusual effects. Specifically, very steep height transitions in the Height Map should be avoided. Adjusting the Height value in the Inspector can also cause the object to become distorted in an odd, unrealistic way. For this reason, it is recommended that you use gradual Height Map transitions or keep the Height slider toward the shallow end.

Self Illuminated Paralax Specular:
Assests Needed: One base Texture with alpha channel for specular map & one normal Map with alpha channel for Illumination Map and Paralax Depth combined.

This Shader combines both properties from the Paralax and Specular.

Each of these Self Illuminated Shaders have nice qualities that would add a little more professionalism to any amatuer work. When looking at the examples on the Unity website the best ones that would suit the aesthetic of the game would probably be either Diffuse, Bumped Specular, Paralax or Paralax Specular. Of course until I see the effects of each one I don't know which one would work better then of course there's the render time to factor in. so choosing one will have to be both a choice of what looks best and a compromise of rendertime.

Final Major Project: Texture Test

I mentioned a while back whilst looking at game textures I would try create mario-type textures myself. Well I finally got round to it and created a bunch f variants (the first one shown here to the right).

Using tips found in the the book, 3D Game Textures by Luke Ahearn, I created these mario blocks to try emulate their look from Mario 3D Land. I'm most proud with how the brick block turned out as the texture gives it false depth in the cracks of the bricks. I did several variations on the yellow bricks, from having black borders to having lighter or darker yellow edge borders and it's really a choice of style of how I would want mine to look (if replicating mario; black if emulating 2d games, lighter yellow if emulating 3d games). Obviously these blocks don't look quite like the ones in Mario 3D land but that's because they lack the proper shaders and lighting but once that is applied (especially the all important self illuminating texture) they should look much better.

I feel that this texture style will be great for my art style and that the two should work perfectly together if I created my texture maps with painstaking accuracy.

Final Major Project: Art Sample

In terms of artstyle for the work I'll be creating for this project the drawign the the right is a pretty good representation of the style I'll be completing the work in.

As you can see from this the focus is more on trying to portray the character's traits (Like Ramos and Maduriera's art) through visual communication. The artstyle is highly stylised in terms of videogame concept art and is a development of the style I established for myself in my last project.

This character to the right was meant to be a type of mountain man, perhaps an ex-warrior who wanted to settle down so obviously he should have muscles and large hulking arms. I added a beard and greying hair to imply that he's aged and the rest of the design is based of a viking-esque inspiration.

For the piece I used large bold lines and heavy blacks (as advised by an industry professional). There are still somethings to be touched upon such as shadows and highlights that need adding to this work in progress. There should be more little colour highlights and the likes but overall I feel this is a good representation of how my work will appear (for character design).

I feel that when it comes to developing my characters I should take a page out of the Clone War's designs books (and general animators) and draw a range of dynamic poses for my characters including an emotion range for the character's face, but I felt that this is a natural progression as in my previous project I began to draw more dynamic poses for my character designs. Either way I feel that this art style will be good for the game and the target audience as it's cartoony but could also be seen in a game, especially with more all ages games appearing on ios devices that have bright colourful graphics.

Final Major Project: Professional Design Sheets

When it comes down to creating concept art it's not really a question of how you do it, but more how you present it. Initially I thought there was a specific way to present them but after researching into various pieces from top studios it's hard to say which method is the "proper" method, but one consistant property in each piece is the inclusion of the project logo, the title of the piece and finally the artists name.

Ofcourse there are different methods but to have this look professional when it comes to the final stages I should have a logo to use and atleast one basic, consistant lay out to use for all pieces, maybe even a date stamp.

There are also different types of concept art such as concept pieces for enironments and character designs both can use the same type of sheet with the same information on them but I think the main difference is the character design sheets are a lot more informative and have more information on them where as the concept sheets are to give more of a feel of what the scene/character should look like.

Whilst there are some movie and games that have a very sterile layout for the concept and production art with boarders and labels beyond, title, purpose and artists I feel that aslong as all pieces are labelled correctly and presented in a clear manner would be suitable for the project in terms of presentation and organisation of the art. Obviously by the time comes to put all the pieces together I should hopefully have a logo to use to help solidify that professional feel.

Final Major Project: Art Influence (Pt. 4)

Citing one of my main influences in terms of art style as Star Wars the clone wars made me seek out the the book, The Art of The Clone Wars. Compyling the art from each episode of the first series and characters designs this book is a nice insight into how some of the animators for the show work. Such as seen here to the right a character design/comparison, whilst it's not complex what should be noted is that its fairly simple illustration, just pencil lines but includes a heavy amount of annotation. This type of thing should be used when designing my characters, although I have nothing more to base my characters off than a description of them so I should atleast try to annotate all the variations until I start getting to a more finished result.

Another Thing I liked about the clone wars book in their development stages werethe inclusion of skecthes to get a better feel for the character. These skecthes too the left of Obi Wan where made for two reasons, 1 to give animators a feel for the characters, how he would look in dynamic poses and the type of poses he would be in but to also helpo the lead artist get to know his subject more. I've so far never really done extensive drawings of a charcter once the design is complete so I feel this is something I should do more espessially in this project as my character will be coming to life in a way my characters have never done before. The book also shows an emotion range drawn for one of the characters, this two is a great exercise to not only become more familiar with my character but it can also be used for animation purposes should we want to add facial animations.

Finally the book contains loads of environment concept art. Showing that the use of certain colours can really change the way a place can be portrayed and what vibes it gives off, the piece done to the right was clearly made using a painter program but the results are just as good as anything else as it really does translate what a villian's hide out should look and feel like, right down to the tiny details. This is clearly an important part with a show like clone wars as their are many environments in which the characters must travel to. This kind of element will be very important to our game as I'll be incharge of trying communicate the atmosphere and design of the levels.

The clone wars team do a fantastic job at creating the characters and worlds for the show and it's almost a little intimidating that I'm the sole creator in charge of giving these worlds life. The art of the clone wars is a great book in the sense as it gives a good look at how the creators made the show and the elements inside (although there's not that much annotation) and is a good reminder of what I should include in my work such as annotations on sketches and dynamic skecthes to get a feel of a character, also about getting the feel of an environment right too.

Final Major Project: Art Influence (Pt. 3)

One artist I recently came across through my weekly comic shop is Joe Maduriera, currently Working on the series; Avenging Spider-Man. When looking at Maduriera's work it's similar to Ramos' in that it has exaggerated proportions but everything is a bit more testosterone charged. Maduriera's work has a little more credit behind it in regards to this project as he work as concept artist on the game "Darksiders" as it shows that his large exaggerated characters can leap from page to screen.

Again, much like Ramos' work Maduriera's does capture a character's traits in visual form, spidey is portray as leand and skinny whilst characters like the Hulk are larger than life and buldging with muscles that may or may not exist. Then there's his original designs, when i first saw them I thought he had worked as a character design for "The World of Warcraft", in that the way he draws armour and accessories really gives of an influence to that. There's a definite anime influence in his work but when comparing his earlier stuff to his later it's clear to see his broken away from that and has developed his own style.

Maduriera's style is very dynamic and captures characters in the right way but I feel it's not quite my cup of tea but it does re-enforce what I learned from my analysis of Ramos' in trying to visually introduce/explain my characters so that there would be no confusion.

Final Major Project: Art influence (Pt. 2)

Touching on my influences for the last project, I'll be taking a further look into the style and art of Mexican Comic Book artist, Humberto Ramos. Ramos' art often has large exaggerated poses and body parts for high impact in seens, his character designs are often help show the qualities of not only the characters traits (ie powers in super hero comics) but also their personalities.

In his work there is not doubting how a character feels as Ramos works in a sense that's more akin to animation then that of the static comic book art, over exaggerating the facial experssions is an excellent way to not only convey the scene and emotion behind it but also intensify it making it come out of the pages. As with some comics theres a heavy influence of the use of blacks for shadow, but without these bulking in Ramos' illustrations I feel they would feel empty some how.

Of course then there's Ramos' own designs for characters. Most recently Ramos has been working on the Amazing Spider-Man series and has created new looks for the Hob-Goblin and Dr. Octopus. These designs when you look at them scream Ramos all over, The Hob-Goblin stays in tune with the idea of a goblin being associated with halloween and has ramped that up to 11 with a mix of medieval armour coming in with a slight bit of goth-chic (most notably on the gloves and boots). Then there's his new doc ock design which has super-charged the technological element in the character, making his suit deisng look like some kind of mech out of a japanese anime but whilst holding in a weird western presense. These designs are really unique and stand out in my opinion, along with his ability to really bring out a character's personality and traits. Ramos has to be one of my most influencial artists to date.

When working on my designs I'll be thinking about how I should be trying to show the audience the character's personality and not just telling them through some kind of description in a manual or some convoluted cutscene. When they see their character on screen they should know exactly what kind of character they are.

Final Major Project: Art Influence (Pt. 1)

In terms of style, a huge visual influence recently has been the "Star Wars Clone Wars" series that chronicles the adventures of Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi during in the period between Star Wars Episodes II and III. I first came in contact with the series in it's 2D form back in 2003 when animation super star Genndy Tartakovsky (of Samurai Jack fame) was commissioned to create an animated series to bridge the gap between the two movies. several years later the show was revived as a 3D animated series by Dave Filoni.

Firstly what I like about the designs of the characters and the show overall is quite minimal in places but creates quite striking imagedry with it's angular designs and stylish approach. Although the core base of these designs were established in Tartakovsky's clone wars, they're given a step closer to a video game type feel in Filoni's version.

I previously looked at the clone wars in my last projet as a source of artistical inspiration and have since worked on my style more to try create something more unique on my part. Looking at the way the characters are built you can see a wonderfully stylistic blend of smooth lines and shape angles to create this final product which mimics what a 2D animation would look like, the body parts arn't over exaggerated but are still not quite accurate to human anatomy and it's really in the alien species that the most fun in terms of design lay. Much like the Zelda games with their advances in technology, the Clone Wars shows that a concept artists unique style can be imitated for three dimensions.

When looking at the original 2D series, it's art design follows the same kind of rules in that most features have exaggerated features but the main cast are not as over styised lest alienating the character's familiarty from fans. There are subtle differences such as the way the character's bodies are presented, in the 3D series characters have bodies that are much more fragile/agile looking in comparison to the 2D version but both still have this sleek polish to the design which I really like.

This gives me hope for our game as we want to create a fun, easy and yet stylistic game that people can play and enjoy.

Of course looking at the final models used in the Clone Wars the textures are not what we would want to use as their more in tune with reality, most likely to link it to the star wars universe and create a sense of familiarity. Ideally in my mind our game would look like a blend between Star Wars clone wars models and Mario 3D land/ Zelda Windwaker or Skyward Sword textures.

Also after some research I found out that The 3D version was created using maya which means that models and environments on the same level of qualitie as the ones found in the Clone Wars wouldn't be to hard to reach given the time and effort. Overall with each new look into something I learn a little more and become more confident in the project's success.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Final Major Project: Game Influence (Pt. 8)

I wanted to take a look at "The Legend of Zelda: The Windwaker" before coming to an end in my "Game Influence" section. The legend of Zelda series has been known for it's varied art style but it wasn't until The Windwaker did the artstyle shift dramatically.

In Windwaker, everything is much more stylised and looks more like an abstract cartoon than a video game. Using cel shading and other shaders on the models creates this very bright and colourful game. The over exaggerated art style lends to this drastic texture change well and helps pull it all together. This style may be interesting to try replicate as the celshading and self illuminating shader does create a very unque look that makes the game look friendly towards all audiences which could boost the likelyhood of people wanting to play our game.

Ofcourse this style change was backed by the zelda franchise but since this games release (back in 2003) the game industry has developed into a large variety of art styles, ofcourse the more realistic stlyed ones such as Modern warefare series sells well and pushes the limits of getting away from the uncanny valley and into photo realisim.

The world of Windwaker is heavily stylised and the cartoon textures lend themselves very well to it and the cel-shader just makes things pop, especially as the game is now 8 years old and looks like it could have been made yesterday, this kind of style could be very beneficial to our project and it'll be interesting down the development line to start experimenting with different types of textures.

Final Major Project: Game Influence (Pt. 7)

When looking at game textures it's interesting to see the differences between games in the same series. One such series is the mario kart series, spanning 7 games (plus 2 arcade ones bring the total to 9), I'll be looking at the two most recent games in the series and their textures; Mario Kart Wii and Mario Kart 7 (Released for 3DS0. Developed and Published By Nintendo EAD and Retro Studios (Mario Kart 7) are games in the same series for different consoles, firstly the Wii version was released 2008 and the 3DS version being released in 2011.

Firstly when looking at the two games, several factors must be taken into account, the hardware and age but these are all surface factors when looking at the way a game has been textured.

Firstly when looking at the Mario Kart Wii textures there's that cartoon texture that's a familiar staple in the franchise series but everything has this gloss over coating, which I personally think makes things look a bit off but when you're playing the game everything is whizzing past so quickly you don't really notice as much, but still compared to newer games this gloss texture is quite an odd choice.

When looking at Mario Kart 7 there's a hint of the gloss texture but it's used sparingly, but ofcourse this is could have been a limitation in the hardware's ability to render. The textures used in Mario Kart 7 have a much soften look to them and much more akin to Mario 3D land but theres still this shine to the textures similar to how models look in maya, this could be because of a lack of self-illuminating shader or some other type. Either way it's curious to see the texture techniques used in games within the same series just a few years apart and it's going to be interesting to see what kind of textures will be used in our final game, this does also lead me to wanting to research more into the techniques of using textures and shaders together.

Final Major Project: Game Influences (Pt. 6)

One of the most recent games that I've been looking at is the Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D. Like Super mario 3D land what I really love about this game is the textures, (as you can see from the image on the right) they're bright, colourful and crisp.

Most importantly what I like about the games artstyle both in terms of modelling and texturing is that it highly reflects the concept artist's work. Looking closely at the textures it's clear that this game uses a different texturing method to Mario Kart as there isn't an added gloss shader, what's hard to tell is if there is a self illuminating shader of the models as models do seem to have a shading on the texture but that could just be a painted texture with an ambient lighting in the areas.

Overall the presentation of Ocarina of Time 3D gives a wonderful and accessible aesthetic in a way that anyone can look at the visuals and be intrigued and pick it up to play. The designs for the game give a fantastic representation to the player of allies and enemies but also envoke a world of mystery that players would want to explore. Ofcourse, we're not making an adventure games so that kind of thinking doesn't really apply in this situation but what does, is learning the balance in a design when less is more and when little details are more important than one large one.

Regardless, Ocarina of Time 3D features textures that are painted with shadows, set in environments with ambient and probably Spotlight lighting. It also better projects the concept asrtist's vision for what the characters look like. It's interesting to analyse games and their textures for the work further down the road and I feel it gets me more readily prepared for the task before me.

Final Major Project: Game Influences (Pt. 5)

One of our largest influences for gameplay is the game "Mini-Gore". Developed by Mountain Sheep for ios systems, Mini-Gore is a simple shoot 'em up game with loads to offer, players control John Gore as he shoots enemies that spawn from the edges of the screen, the game offers a 3 lives and up grade system. Most notably with each new "episode" that is released adds more playable characters, weapons and levels.

What's interesting to note is the way that the player controls the characters, using two (touch screen) analog sticks players move the characters around the space and rotate them with the other. Players destroy enemies and gain points via their weapons which fire automatically as they move and rotate. The game also impletments C0-operative play via wi-fi, which could be a very intersting route to try take our game if it's doable within our time frame.

What we liked about Mini-Gore was the way levels are set out in vast open areas and that the enemies constantly appear. We liked this alot and wanted to implement it into our own game.

Another thing we liked about Mini-Gore is the art direction, everything has that cartoony bright feel and the story is simple, focusing on game play, with the actual premise is "Can you survive the onslaught of furries in the dark wilderness of Hardland? Help John Gore avoid his enemies and fill them full of lead in this action-packed arcade shooter." We love that it doesn't need an extensive background for people to play or enjoy it and thats what we want for our game, a simple pick up and play experience.

Mini-Gore is an excellent source of inspiration for our work as we want to develop our game for some sort of digital distribution, ideally ios as we have the dev. kits at the uni and it would look expectionally good in a portfolio to have a complete game on the App store.

Final Major Project: Game Influences (Pt. 4)

When thinking of game play Will and I knew we wanted to create, a fairly simple hack'n slash game that would be accessible to all ages (predominately 7+ though). When thinking of basing our game play on several games, two true hack'n slash games, "Devil May Cry" and "God of War" but also a shoot 'em up game; "Mini-Gore", but we considered our interface limitations and the complexity for our project and are still trying to settle on how our gameplay would be presented.

In Devil May Cry (developed by Capcom), players control the sword and gun weilding character Dante (from a third person perspective) as he fights off hordes of demons, the main objective of the game is to complete a level with the highest ranking based on a graded system of E-S. To get higher rankings players must complete levels as quickly as possibly whilst getting higher scores, this is possible by pulling off combos when attacking enemies by entering combinations of various buttons, the better/longer a combo is the higher the score. Along the way players can pick up new weapons and upgrades that may increase attack power or player health and ofcourse through the course of the game difficulty gets harder (the series is known for the level of difficulties a player can select before playing). Another thing that should be noted is the HUD (Heads up Display) in the image above, you can see the health of both Dante (top left) and his enemy (bottom of the screen) and the ranking the player is currently on with how long the have to go till the next level (left side). There are other factors such as the number of orbs a player has collected (top left). All of this information is nicely displayed and leaves plenty of room for the player to see what he's doing.

God of War as a game, follows a very similar gameplay style with players dispatching enemies with combos along levels whilst getting upgrades to dispatch stronger enemies. Both games are game play oriented but do feature an over arching story.

Overall the gameplay styles of Devil May Cry and God of War may be a bit more complex to not only code but to also allow all players from all audiences enjoy our game. A potential solution to this may be to create a basic combo system that is based on enemies killed in a row without being hit or a one button combo system where in if the player hits the attack button several times in a row. The exactly style of gameplay beyond the term hack'n slash is still being decided as Will is incharge of gameplay elements as it's his skills that will be maing the game part where as mine is to create the art but this could be a good solution rather than a more complex system found in these big title games.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Final major Project: Game Influences (Pt. 3)

The other game that really impressed me recently was "The Legend of Zelda: The Skyward Sword". This was because it blended two artstyles from previous games together, with models similar to those found in Twilight Princess and a model shader/texture found in Windwaker.

I feel that this art style captures the essence of a light hearted adventure game that any audience would be able to sit down and enjoy. Again there's the wonderful self illuminating texture used in conjunction with the bright colours and a Cel-shader, which helps players distinguish areas from characters easily. The textures have a very matte painting feel to them (like Mario 3D land, with no real world textures used) and whiles are not as bright as the ones found in Mario 3d Land still pop out at you. With an artstyle like this is makes the game very marketable to whole families.

Ofcourse when looking closely at the designs it's clear that the game follows the heritage of it's ancestors of the green capped hero, but at the same time something new is presented. It's good to keep this in mind as it's familiarlity that keeps people interested as sometimes something too new doesn't seem interesting, but I don't think Will and I have to worry about something such as that yet.

Much like Mario 3D Land and Windwaker, Skyward sword features a much more stylised art aesthetic (although not as stylised as Windwaker) with characters ranging in many different shapes to better portray their archetype visually to the player, this is much betetr than just explaining "this guys is a bully" or "this girl is the love interest", and it reallys adds to the visual element of the game otherwise you might aswell be reading a book. It's really the breadth of interesting designs in this game coupled with the beautiful textures that makes this a great example of how a game should look.

The gameplay for Skyward Sword stays true to the series legacy in terms of controls, but again like other nintendo games, it's incredibly easy to pick up. What I love most about this is the method in which you control your sword, by simply swinging your wii-mote, Link's movements are perfectly translated from yours in real time with (as far as I can see) no delay. Previously in the series there was one button for the attack ability and pressing this several times alnog with the directional pad in certain combinations created psuedo-combos which in my opinion would still work for a game today, so I may pitch this idea of easy attack combos for our game as I feel it would keep it accessible to all players. Another thing I like about the legend of Zelda series the way things are animated to be more like a cartoon than something life like, there's something about the movements of the characters that is just so unique and to try capture a similar look and feel is going to be an interesting challenge. For a better representation of the game's graphics and animation check out the video below.



As for the overall artstyle, I love it and feel that I would love our game to look similar to this but a little more western-ised, as when looking at it with an educated eye it's clear to see it's a japanese/eastern game, from the way the hero is portray and the way eyes are drawn. I would love to see what a design by myself would look like if it was modelled and textured by the people behind Skyward Sword. The main thing that should be taken away from this though is the use of the self illuminating Shader and the Cel Shader (used sparingly in the game but, still used!).

It's interesting to look at these games, 3 years on from when I started this course being more wiser about the overall production process of how these games come to be as I'm more interested in the overal process rather than just one aspect of it. I feel that with a little more research into textures, this game will be one of the nicest looking pieces of work I've ever completed.

Final Major Project: Game Influences (Pt. 2)

What got me really excited for this game project was two games that came out recently. For our Game I want to give the audience a very unique and stylised game for as little cost as possible, drawing from my last project I want to push this heavily stylised art into a more developed direction. This push will come in the way of trying to turn my concept art into a better rendered model than my previous project's final piece.

Since then I've been constantly looking to games to see how to create models and textures which would create the look I'm after, one of these two games is the recently released Super Mario 3D Land.

What first impressed me about the game was the quality of the visuals, everything is so colourful that it almost has a bloom lighting effect on it (it doesn't, rather an effect of clever texture mapping such as a self illuminating Shadder). In a time when there is a constant need to created storybased/reliastic looking games it's such a refreshing feeling to see games like Mario 3D land focusing on gameplay and providing entertainment to all ages in a method that whilst is simple but also addictive and fun. Another point that should be made about the textures used in Mario 3D land is that they are made up purely of painted textures, there are no real world hoto textures added here and that is part of what adds to the cartoon charm of the game.

The art style of the Mario series also adds to the reason why anyone can pick it up, with bright colourful cartoon characters there's very little room for disagreement amoungst players. Also most of the detail (where there is detail) in the game models comes from the textures, so I will be experimenting with my own work to see if I can sucessfully create similar like "mario" textures. One of the best things about Mario 3D Land is that you immediately identify what everything is, you can tell mario apart for the enemies and backgrounds, you can see where you're supposed to go. The gameplay it self is particulary hard but offers up a challenge in some places, which in my opinion is a brilliant method to get people to keep playing your game, make it winnable but with challenges along the way.

Ofcourse the mario series has becomes incredibly famous and instantly recognisable to most people so trying to create our game to be on this same level may be a bit of a challenge but with the right thinking it isn't impossible. Ofcourse being an established franchise this Mario game draws heavily upon the art style of "Super Mario Bros. 3", most notably because of the return of the Tanooki/raccoon power-up but also other nods such as the background blcks being the same (see above picture). In fact there are many call backs to the series in general such as the ones pointed out in this video below, this probably is why (to me) it feels like a perfect blend of a 2d and 3D mario game.



Refering to the story of Super Mario 3D land, the game follows the same template as the others, Princess Toadstoll/Peach has been captured by Bowser/King Koopa and it's up to Mario to rescue her again. There are minor differences such as this time Bowser has got his hands on the tanooki leaf power-up and has shared it amoungst his minions, so amoungst your journey with mario to save the princess you'll see Goombas and Thwomps with Tanooki tails. Oddly enough this is another cultural reference to Japanese mythology, with the Tanooki, being a Racoon-dog species that is reviered in japan for many reasons in folklore such as wealth and good health, in response to this when players select Luigi and use a Tanooki leaf he will turn into a Kitsune (fox) variant, which is another animal that is well respected in japanese folklore.

Like Mario and Ghosts'n Ghouls, I want to create an artstyle that will instantly be recognisable as "that game", for the better part of this I feel with a mix of influences in art from both series and my own work with a texture/model style similar to that found in Mario 3D land I feel that the game, as a product could do very well for itself. To prepare for this I may begin to create some "Test-Textures", with that said I'll be continuing my research a little longer before beginning anything such as that yet.

Final Major Project: Game Influences (Pt. 1)

For Mine and Will's game we're looking into creating a game that has a very gameplay oriented feel, this is what we set out to do from the beginning. We also decided we wanted some type of medieval themed hack and slash game, immediately the classic game Super Ghosts'n Ghouls just to mind for the aesthetic. Whilst the game has developed as a series I'll be looking at this installment specifically as it's what I'm reminded of most when anyone mentions the series.

In Super Ghosts'n Ghouls players control Arthur a Brave knight who must rescue the princess of his land as she has yet again been kidnapped by demons so that they can learn the location of the Goddess Bracelet, the only item capable of defeating them and their leader once and for all.

The game is a medieval themed side scrolling where in the player traverses 8 themed levels, defeating various monsters and picking up and using the various power-ups there is to use. The player starts off with the standard grey armour and lance. There are 3 types of armour with each upgrade adding a magical effect to Arthur's weapons, there are also various other weapons which are all upgraded with magic when arthur is wearing the other sets.

Developed by Capcom and released in '91 originally for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, Super Ghosts'n Ghouls is known for it's challenge and difficulty. Along with it's unique sense of art style it's clear to see why it would leave such a memorable impression on anyones mind. Obviously with the development of graphics it'll be interesting to see how this 2D game will influence our own 3D game, but it's really more about the way it's presented, nowhere looks boring or safe and constantly makes the players stay on their toes. At the end of each section the player has to face off against one larger creature to proceed to the next level.

The controls for the game are also relativey simple too. Using the directional pad and two buttons, one for jump and one for attack, Arthur can double jump with a double tap of the jump button and can crouch to get to low enemies. This simple interface combined with challenging gameplay is probably what makes it a successful game, (it also makes sure you don't have to add a tutorial level) by making sure anyone would be able to play it, anyone with enough time and practice can master it.

For the storyside of things it's a relatively simple story but it should be noted that the way it's presented is in a very short animation at the beginning with little music and no dialogue. The player knows exactly what they have to do. Check it out below:




Ofcourse this being a game based in Japan there are several regional difference for it's release firstly there's the name, originally titled "Chōmakaimura" which means "Super Hell Village" probably wouldn't go down so well with western audiences but, there were also little things changed to the game such as the crosses on the coffins in the first level were changed from christian crosses to ankhs and the final boss was renamed Sardius rather than Samael (Sameal being the name of an angel whom is task with jobs on the same level as acts commited by satan but for righteous reasons). It's interesting to see how localisation can change a game but I don't think these minor changes affect anything thats at the core of Super Ghouls'n Ghosts.

With a simply story and interface but addictive qualities in the gameplay itsef it's clear to see why Super Ghosts'n Ghouls became so popular, o
verall in ways of how this classic will be influencing mine and Will's game is a strange mix, it's part story, part aesthetic and part gameplay. We want people to be able to pick up our game and enjoy it for it's visuals and it's gameplay, I personally believe that gameplay should come first in a game and that's what people should talk about more rather than the story.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Final Major Project: Time Management

For this project Will and I sat down to discuss how we'll manage our time as this is the largest project either of us have taken on thus far, so the key to it's success is obviously good time management.

Ideally by the 6th of February we want to have the all Research and Development completed, this includes concept art, game layout and a white boxed prototype of the game in unity with models and basic textures.

This breaks down into something like this:
12th Dec - 23rd Dec: Research
27th Dec - 14th Jan: Conceptualising (whilst Will test script in Unity)
15th Jan - 6th Feb: Modelling & Rigging
27th Jan - 6th Feb: Textures, basic animation and a Game Bible.

Once we reach the 6th February and complete our intrim crit. presentation we will create a new time management list. I've found that this system works best for me as it helps me keep track in a way I'm comfortable with as it leaves time and space for cramming sessions should I fall behind. I plan to create some kind of graph to help visualise this and keep it with in view of my work area as a constant reminder.

Final Major Project: Developing a Story

Before Will and I started any research we sat down to discuss our roles and what the story should be. We separated the work load so that we can work towards our skills, with Will doing scripting, animating, game design and controls, I'll be completing the Concept Art, UV Textures, Music and Game Graphics. Together we'll be working on the Story, Modelling, Rigging and Design Interface.

When comes to designs and generally my side of the work load I will be sending Will my work for approval to see what he likes and doesn't like and adjust my designs accordingly.

Once we had outlined the roles we would take in the project we sat down and began to discuss the story for our game. We knew right from the beginning we wanted a fun/stylised hack and slash game where you played as a knight defeating various creatures but to what end? why was he doing this? Will and I sat down and started brain storming, we decided we didn't want anything to complex to mess with the integrity of the game play so we kept the base plot simple by having the knight rescue or retrieve something of value. After playing around with some ideas we got our first draft completed for the story.
In the medieval Kingdom of Faranway on a quite night, the Kingdom's beautiful Princess was taking a night stroll on the balcony of the castle. With a Crack of thunder an evil, hideous wizard suddenly appeared before her and kidnapped her so that he may finally have a bride. Just as the Wizard is escaping upon his dragon with he princess, the Kingdom's bravest knight; Sir Gutsy, sees and gives chase.

Sir Gutsy must fight his way through three dangerous areas to reach the Wizard's lair and rescue the Princess!
From there the Player will have to control Sir Gutsy as he fights his was through several areas to reach the Wizard's lair, defeats his dragon and rescues the Princess. We decided to call the game "Gutsy's Quest". As it flows nicely and fits well with the ideal of fairytales but familiartiy to fit the audience.

We discussed how we would portray the story in the game and we decided that instead of rendering cut scenes with 3d models we would use illustration slides to create a storybook style. We felt this would make things easier but make the idea of a fairytale setting more grounded with this type of presentation, we're still discussing whether we'll add voice overs to give a more dynamic feel to these potentially static scenes.

For this game we cited our main influences as classic, pre-2000s games that focus more on gameplay but specifically our main visual influences are "Super Ghosts'n Ghouls", "Legend of Zelda" (specifically Ocarina of Time 3D and Skyward Sword) and "Super Mario 3D Land". we chose these games for the stylised and simplistic artstyle and that it can appeal to everyone. For Gameplay we cite influence "Legend of Zelda", "Mini Gore" and hack 'n' slash games like the "Devil May Cry" series and the "God of War" series, we're not sure quite how technical we want to get with gameplay, either one button for attack with 3 different animations of some kind of combo system. We're still ironing out our ideas for gameplay.

After our first official meeting about the game I feel we've made fantastic headway, we've establish a story that can be developed further, characters, our audience and a name. There's still some details we want to iron out but I think we're ready to head into the time management and research stage.

Final Major Project: Briefing

For my final major project I will be creating a short video game with a fellow classmate, Will Farrell. The video game will be aim towards all ages but focusing on a 7+ age rating, the basic story is a classic tale of a knight rescuing a princess from the clutches of an evil wizard.

The player (taking on the role of the knight) will hack and slash their way through 3 levels of enemies to reach the princess. The game will have a cartoon/stylised art aesthetic inspired by medieval/fantasy settings. Ideally at the end of the project Will and I want to release the game on a real platform, ideally we want to release it on IOS for the chance to work with the IOS dev. kit but we are also keen to release it on other platforms such as steam or Xbox live Market Place.

For the project Will and I will be separating out the workload to works to our strengths, I will be taking care of the art side whilst Will takes care of the technical aspects.

I'll be researching other games and stylised animations to get an understanding of the art stlye I want to create aswell as researching the textures and the techinques the artists used to get the final look in the game. Will and I will be using a variety of programs to help use achieve our final goal such as maya, unity and photoshop.

Overall I'm confident about our project considering the level of our skills and ability to work together, but a key part of this will be the organisation time. With the right planning Our project will go incredibly well.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Get Into Gaming

Get into Gaming is an event held in Leeds every once in a while (with the next one rumoured for January) where in it seems each event is like a mini celebration of video games with presentations and talks from people within the industry. Essentially this looks like the perfect networking oppertunity as people from the video game industry come as guests aswell.

The previous event focused on Co-op and multiplayer games with loads of activities to get to know the other attendees. I just wished I had know about this earlier before the last one as it wouldn have been perfect to have made some contacts at with, especially since the ticket prices as so cheap.

Whilst the site doesn't really give a fantastic description of what the event is about I believe that it probably is an excuse to have a fun networking event and I'll be keeping an eye out for the next Get into Gaming event.

For more information check out the website: http://www.getintogaming.co.uk/

Monday, 5 December 2011

Creative Development Prelude

During the coming months I will be working on my final project and my dissertation. During this period I will be trying to define myself and build connections for future employment.

First I should Identify what it is I'm looking to be and how I would label myself for an employer. Ideally I would label myself as an illustrator/concept artist but I also have texture painting and modelling skills so more roughly I'd describe myself as just an "artist" if I were to apply this other skills. At the completion of my course I would like to enter the games industry as an artist of some sort completing either concept art, texture maps or even modelling.

Knowing where I want to go in the future is a good start from now I have to figure out how to get there. Firstly there's keeping up to date with all the events and news going on in the games industry via all the usual methods such as websites and magazines, more specifically industry targetted magazines such as "Develop Managzine", "Imagine" and "Edge". I will also be keeping an eye out for events where I have the chance to network with people within the games industry or even enter competetions.

During this project I will also be working on self promotion such utilising networking sites and building a successful portfolio based on my research, again this is all for the benefit of making myself more employable once I leave university.

On top of this research that is to be done I will also be trying to develop a character a week to help build my portfolio at a faster rate than just work from previous projects and my final major project. It will be interesting to try build these connections and start joining in on networks, over the next few posts I will post my research of events and experiences of the people I've mett as well as anything else I'll learn along the way.