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Tuesday, 7 December 2010

When Gaming began for me

My own gaming history all started when my step-dad bought a Playstation in November 1999. I was 8 years old. The first game I played was Ridge Racer Type 4. I think I remember that we had bought racing games at first, thinking that we would all enjoy them and they would be easy enough to play. At the time, Ridge Racer’s graphics were pretty good, and the controls were also quite realistic. I got the hang of playing the game pretty quick and it wasn’t long before I had completed it.

Spyro the Dragon was the first game that I owned myself. But from that point on, I played a range of games including the Resident Evil series as well as the Tomb Raider games.

The most influential game I think though was Soul Reaver. Having been one of the first games I had seen and played, and since I was quite young at the time, it made a very big impression on me. I grew up believing that it was the best game on PS1 ever and never got tired of playing it! To me, this game has an awesome story line, beautiful graphics, and fascinating gameplay. The gameplay had a great blend of clever puzzles and gory fighting. As far as I know, it was a pretty unique kind of game. I would describe it as an adventure, fantasy and horror game. I remember getting freaked out about certain underwater areas in the game. Even now, they still give me the creeps! The game didn’t have levels per sae, it was all one world, but as you achieved a certain ability, you could advance to a different area. I thought it was cool how you could run past all these areas of water, and then when you get the swimming ability, you can trace your steps and find secrets in parts you had gone past at the start. Another unique feature was being able to shift into the spirit world at any point, and as you do, the world morphs and bends around you and time stops. You sometimes had to use this ability to get further or complete a puzzle.

One thing I’ve noticed is how your thoughts on how good something looked changes over the years, and when you look at it again, you see it differently. I’ve experienced this for games, but also for drawings and films. For example, when I first played Ridge Racer Type 4, I thought that the graphics were amazing and I couldn’t see how they could possibly be better. But over the years, after seeing and playing newer games, when I look back at the game, I can see that the graphics are not as good as I first imagined. Obviously, the way you see things and what you believe is normal, changes over time as you experience gradual and continuous improvements. I remember when I was younger and was pretty bad at drawing dragons; I used to look at some sites where people had uploaded their dragon artworks. I used to think they were amazing, flawless and completely impossible to do. But not too long ago I found the same sites with the same drawings, and looking at them, now that I’m more experienced, I see that they have mistakes and are possible to do.

Although, the improving graphics of games can make them great to play, sometimes they lack the good qualities of older games. Like the story line, or interesting gameplay. When all the focus is on getting the most realistic looking game, characters, storyline and content quality begins to fall. Therefore, the kind of games I would love to play in the future would be ones that concentrate on storylines, gameplay, but also good graphics, just as long as there is a nice balance between them all. Amazing photorealistic 3D graphics does not necessarily make a game awesome to play. It can make you go “Wow” the first time, but after awhile, that impression fades, and you will end up looking for something more, and probably turn to memories of the good old classics you grew up with.

Friday, 19 November 2010

2000 and beyond!

History of Computer game, 2000s to today.

Of the sixth generation consoles, the PS2 was the most successful. It was released March 4th 2000 in Japan and October 26th in other countries. Over 150 million were sold, and that’s still increasing. I still see PS2s being sold in game shops. It also had the widest selection of games. Hit titles seen on the Playstation 1 had their series continued on for the PS2. Game companies took full advantage of what the PS2 was capable of. For example, the Tomb Raider series and the Resident Evil series had a range of games developed for it. Towards the end of the 6th generation, some amazing games had been created, pushing the boundaries of the PS2 software, examples like God of War 2 and Shadow of the Colossus.

The other consoles that were part of this generation were the Microsoft Xbox, Nintendo GameCube and Sega Dreamcast. The Xbox was released 15th November 2001. This console, however, was far behind the success of the PS2 for numerous reasons. It did not sell very well in Japan since they did not take well to non-Japanese controllers. The Xbox controllers were bulky and heavy. So Microsoft was forced to come up with a slimmer version that comes with the Japanese console, and as an add-on purchase for the US and European markets. This was down to poor research, as they did not check for global usability and were mainly concentrating on the US. The same problem went for the Xbox start up screen, which had to be redesigned in the European Xbox because they failed to realise that the German word einstellungen for “settings” would not fit in the same space! Epic Microsoft fail there! Xbox live was released November 2002, which was successful, though the PS2 still had online gaming capabilities as well which was free.

The seventh generation of consoles, the current one we are in, for home consoles, started in 2005 with the release of the Xbox 360 on November 22nd. Sony released the Playstation 3 November 11th 2006 and the Nintendo Wii came out November 19th of the same year. For handheld, it started in 2004 with the release of the Nintendo DS on 21st November. It featured a touch screen, built in microphone, Wi-fi and can connect with other DSs and the Wii. Sony released the PSP on 12th December of the same year. It was the first hand held console to use an optical disc format, using UMDs (Universal Media Disc). It could also connect with other PSPs, internet and the PS3.
The Wii was a whole new kind of console idea. With the motion sensing controls, the focus was on interactive fun for the whole family. I definitely see it as a family targeted console, not really for serious gamers. Also, the range of games for the Wii shows clearly that it is targeted at families with young children and more casual gamers. It has a uniquely shaped controller, complete with wrist straps, since someone realised you may accidentally throw it at your TV when playing bowling for instance! Games like Wii Sports and Wii Fit are very popular, along with the Mario games and many others too.

The PS3 offers full 1080p high definition graphics and Blu-ray disc technology. The system makes use of the cell microprocessor, features a new graphics card from Nvidia and has seven wireless controllers. There are consoles with 40, 60, 80 and 160 GB HDD, with Linux pre-loaded and also free online gaming through the Playstation Network. The 40 GB and 60 GB ones are able to play PS1 and 2 games.
“The processor has 234 million transistors which is more than Intel's Duo Core Extreme which just breaks the 200 million mark. This means the PS3 is faster than the most powerful desktop computer processor since 2005…The PS3 contains an RSX graphics card which was designed by Sony and Nvidia. The RSX graphics card is based on Nvidia's GeoForce technology. The RSX graphics card contains 550-MHz, 300-million-transistor which is more transistors than the Xbox, GameCube, and PlayStation 2 combined.” Quoted from:
The Wii sold double the amount of consoles that PS3 sold, mainly because of the price difference. Playstation Move came out 15th September this year. Kinect for the Xbox 360 came out 10th November.

Because of where the game industry is now, with these high end technology consoles and accessories, I think that this generation will last for quite some time. Considering that Sony and Microsoft won’t be planning on making new consoles any time soon since they have only just bought out these motion sensing gadgets. I think we will see continuous improvements on games specifically designed for Kinect and Move. Game companies will be constantly trying to make new and better types of games for them, pushing the limits of what the technology can do. Eventually though, it will become too repetitive, and then it will get to a point where there can be no more improvement on the software. It’s at that point that either new accessories will be made or new consoles, but not for at least 5 years I would think. 

Also, it’s interesting that Microsoft hasn’t had a go at making there own hand held console yet…  I wonder how long it will be before we see Xbox Mini? I doubt they will be able to compete with the PSP or the DS, unless they made something truly unique.

As for the future of gaming, maybe the next generations of consoles will be mind controlled? Where you can virtually control what happens on screen. Or even simulators, taking 3D to a whole new level and you can virtually walk and fight by thinking what you would like to do, and the images could either be viewed by a special visor you can wear, or maybe projected around you if you are in some sort of room.

Since games and technology is always improving, it’s difficult to say exactly what the future will be like. And just think, the creators of the first consoles would never have imagined what was to come years later. Who knows what will be coming up?

Friday, 5 November 2010

Its getting better!

History of games 1980s to 1990s

This period of game history saw the emergence of many different types of genres of games. Fighting games, adventure games, platform and racing games are just some of the types that had begun to form a trend that would continue today.

In 1980, Mystery House was released for the Apple 2, the first graphic adventure game on home computers. The commands were by text, and this continued to be used for games until about 87, until a game called Maniac Mansion, by Lucas Arts, built the SCUMM system to allow a point and click interface. And now point and click is the standard for flash games today.

Donkey Kong was considered to be the first platform game, where the player must jump over obstacles and gaps. These games continued to use and develop scrolling graphics. Jungle King by Taito had scrolling jump and run sequences. Namco took it a step further with Pac-Land in 84, which was the first to feature multi layered parallax scrolling, setting the basics for the Super Mario games.

Games continued to have better 3D graphics and also cinematics were introduced. The survival horror games were a major break through at the time. Haunted House, 81, was first to intentionally have elements of horror fiction. Sweet Home, 89, by Capcom was an influence for there later release of Resident Evil, with gameplay involving terrifying monsters and difficult puzzles, also the opening door loading screens and mansion setting, was a great start for future horror titles. Alone in the Dark, 92, was also another inspiration for Resident Evil, it simulated 3D scenarios by mixing polygons with 2D backgrounds, also introducing a more investigative style to the game play. You were able to click on parts of the environment and read information about what ever it may be. It set the standard for future survival-horror games.

At this time, PCs were developing into better machines. Their graphics were being improved, along with their sound quality. But whenever something new came out, like a better computer with more bit capabilities, it was always quite expensive and most people had to wait a while to buy it.

I had never heard about the video game crashes before, so it was interesting to read about them. In 1983, the game industry completely crashed due to a number of companies going bankrupt and a lot of poor quality games being produced. It brought an end to the second generation of consoles. Supposedly there was a landfill in New Mexico full of E.T games by Atari that were never sold.

During the 90s, graphics transitioned from raster to 3D. Arcade games started to become less popular, as home consoles advanced. Sonic the Hedgehog came out in 91 on the
Sega Mega Drive
. Also online multiplayer games were still becoming popular, leading to the first MMORPGs, including Runescape. The Sims PC games were very successful as well during this time. Id Software’s game Quake was the leading first person shooter game with online multiplayer and new 3D graphics technology.
With 16 and 32 bit consoles, the popularity of arcades began to decline.

In 1995, the Sony Playstation was released, which out sold all its competitors. The Nintendo 64 was released a year later, and it set the standard for 3D game like Super Mario 64. Resident evil came out in 96 and sold over 2 million copies, and is still considered one of the best games on the PS. It was during this 5th generation of consoles that games became mainly 3D, with games like Crash Bandicoot, Tomb Raider and games that were unlike others before such as Golden Eye 007 and Soul Calibur. CDs were more popular, and most games used realistic graphics and large environments for the game world.

So after reviewing this period, I can see how games and consoles had changed throughout. They became more realistic, emphasis was on better graphics, pushing the limits of what could be done with games at the time. They transitioned from cartridges to CDs and from basic raster, 2D graphics to realistic 3D graphics. Also, gaming was focusing more on home entertainment and less on arcade games.

I will next review the games from 2000 and onwards, and also about my own personal history of the games I’ve played.

Saturday, 30 October 2010


History of Video Games, 1950s-1970s

Before we think of the future of games, we must go way back to the origins, the roots of the genre. By starting at the start, it may become much clearer where the game industry is heading…

There seems to be a lot of confusion as to who created what around the 1950s. A S Douglas, who wrote his PHD degree at the University of Cambridge on Human- Computer Interaction, created the first graphical computer game in 1952. It was a version of Tic-tac-toe, programmed on an EDSAC vacuum-tube computer which had a cathode ray tube display. However, this didn’t exactly go into production as these kind of computers were only used in some universities and cost a lot of money at the time. Another name is William Higinbotham. Some people credit him with making the first video game in 1958. This is not true, as what he created could not be considered a video game in the first place. He used a small Donner computer, hooked up to an oscilloscope, with a switch attached to the analog computer for user interaction. The cathode ray tube display was a dot that was programmed to move like a ball bouncing. This was only meant to be a physics demo. This set up was the same kind of displays used during WWII for missile tracking.

A video game is classed as a game that can be played on a normal TV set. Ralph Bear is there fore considered to be the inventor of the video game. He worked for a television company, and was given the task to make the best TV set in 1951. Baer came up with the idea of being able to play games on standard TV monitors, but his idea wasn’t able to be taken further at the time. When he was working at Sanders Associates, a military electronics firm in 1966, he went back to his idea and created a game called Chase. He built several prototypes including the “Brown Box”. Eventually his design called the Odyssey was released by Magnavox in 1972 as the first commercial game console.

As for computer games, Steve Russell had invented Spacewar! in1962. It was the first game intended for computer use. It was on an MIT PDP-1 mainframe computer, which was the size of a large refrigerator. Quite a lot of games had started this way, made by students at MIT as side projects and they became popular and were being shared on an old version on the internet at the time.

Then of course there was the development of arcade games. In 1971, Nolan Bushnell, along with Ted Dabney, made the first arcade game called Computer Space, though it wasn’t a success. Nolan created the arcade game Pong in 1972 and this did a lot better. Bushnell and Dabney also started Atari that same year, and in 1975 released Pong as a home video game. The arcade gaming era was best in the 80s when games like Asteroids and Lunar Lander, both released by Atari, and also Pac man were out.
Also, at about the same time, the genre of Interactive fiction was going on. A company called Infocom released many of those types of games, an example would be a series called Zork. The original idea of these was to make the game like reading fantasy books; it was seen as a more imaginative alternative to the increasing violence of visual games. Originally they were just text, but the started to become more graphical.
Looking back over the history of games, I realise that I have learned a lot about their origins. They have been around almost as long as technology itself. They developed and advanced along side computers. Its amazing to think that games started off as side projects done by university students and others on giant computers, and now they are made by large companies, with sometimes hundreds of individuals, on complex game engines on much smaller machines. Next I will examine the 80s to the 90s era, when games became more centred on PC s at home and less in the arcades.

Monday, 25 October 2010

All about Films!

I would just like to talk about some of the films I have seen recently. Firstly, about a documentary called Human Version 2.0 and another similar documentary which I don’t remember the name of. The first was about the future of technology and how humans will be able to interact with machines on a whole new level. It discussed some really interesting issues. After seeing the film, it made me think about what the future might be like. Technology is always advancing, this is obvious enough when you compare the size of old computers that did very little in the past, to the size of simple computers today that can do so much more.  It does make you wonder what kind of technology will be common and everyday for us in 50 years time. One of the issues was about being able to completely decode the human brain and be able to download our thoughts and even change them. I’m not too sure about downloading thoughts, but working out how the brain really works is something I can see happening. Also, there was mention of super computers being created that are way more intelligent than us. The guy who talked of these called them “Artilects”. This just sounds like the Terminator films. Machines becoming self aware and deciding that they hate us. No one can know the future for sure, so you get peoples visions instead, in the form of these kinds of sci-fi films. Virus was another film that had similar ideas, the machines thought that humans were a virus, and come to think about it, that same thing was mentioned in the Matrix films as well. This goes to show that we are all aware of the possibilities of super intelligent computers and machines turning against us. Whether or not it will happen, I have no idea.

The other documentary was about machines and how we interact with them. One of the issues was how we feel more attached to machines that have personalities and are more human in some way. I think this is a very true issue. Seeing little children playing with those robot dog toys and similar things, they treat them like real creatures. When you see those robots that people can talk with, you can’t help but feel as if they have a personality or even feelings. Just like in the film I-Robot. I remember when I used to have a remote control dragon, I used to love playing with that and I remember getting upset when it broke.

Then there was the film Airplane. I had seen this film once before, a few years ago, and I laughed my head off pretty much the whole way through. I think that a lot of old comedy films are funnier than some new ones. Classics like Police Academy, The Pink Panther and The Blues Brothers were all very good films and are still funny today. But there are still some new films that are hilarious. The Scary Movie films are extremely funny to me. There’s a new film coming out soon called Vampires Suck, a spoof on the Twilight series, and I think that is going to be very good.

And the last film I saw at university was Memento. I had never seen this film before, but I thought it was quite good. I do like the kind of films that make you really think hard to work out what’s going on. I like how they set up confusing scenes and twists and how in the end, all the pieces fit together. It reminded me of some of those split personality films like Three and Identity. In Three, there is a man who is the main character, and a woman who is the second main character. Then there is also a third person who seems to be trying to kill them. In the end, you find out that all of them are in fact the same guy. In Identity, there were about 9 people, and they got stuck in a motel, and are getting killed off one by one. All of these people were in one guys head, and it was just one of his personalities killing off the others.  Memento was a very interesting film. The scenes moved backwards. So each time you see something happen, you are unsure how it came about, and then the next scene will clarify why that happened, but then you get confused with the new information. It was good for it to all fit together in the end. It was shocking to find out that Leonard had deliberately invented some facts just so he can continue his search for John G.

I watched Pan’s Labyrinth last night, and this reminded me about films that are foreign or subtitled. A lot of people don’t like subtitled films, they say that you spend your time reading the words and missing what’s happening in the scenes. I don’t agree with this. I don’t mind seeing films that are subtitled, when I watch them, I don’t even really think about the writing. I have seen The Passion of Christ and Apocalypto, and I enjoyed both of those films. Once you get into them, you completely forget that they are speaking in different languages. I had seen Pans Labyrinth before, and I think it is a very good film. Its interesting how it incorporated fantasy but also a lot of violence and unsettling scenes.
Anyway, that’s some of my thoughts on films. I will write some more on any new films I see in the coming weeks.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Full Circle

My name is Samantha Wise. I am originally from Birmingham, although I have not always lived there. I moved to Scotland in 2002 and lived there for 3 years. I then moved over to Kildare in Ireland in 2005, and then up to Leitrim in 2006. I finished school over there in 2009. So, I have moved around a lot! I’ve lost count on the amount of times I’ve been on a plane or a ferry.
 Once I had finished school, I was still uncertain about what to go for as a career. I had always loved art and games, so when I found out about Game Artist jobs, I realised that that was the area for me. It seemed like the perfect combination of my passions.

I chose to do a 1 year foundation course in art and design, which would broaden my skills and develop my way of thinking as an artist, and it also showed me how to develop a portfolio.

This game art course matched all my interests in what I would like to study. I was glad to find that it incorporated traditional 2D media as well as computer software. Studying just one area would not have been for me. From a young age, I had always loved unlocking the bonus features in games, where you can view the concept art and mesh models for the scenery, characters, creatures and all other aspects of the game worlds. At the time, I had never really considered being able to do such work myself, but then, I was only about 8 years old! I used to watch my step dad play the Playstation from when I was about 7, and I quickly learned how to play a range of different types of games, from Resident Evil, to Spyro, to Ridge Racer and Medievil!

Before I applied to this course, I searched the internet for information about what Game Artists do. The aspects of working in a team and collaborating with game directors to develop and produce game content really appealed to me. I looked through some of the websites of the artists who had worked on a few of the games I liked and they became some of my favourite artists.

Now that I am on this course, I feel that I am starting on the path to my dream career. After the first induction week of talks and presentations, I was really excited to get started on the work. I am enjoying using 3DS Max, I did get stuck a few times when building the church, but I got there in the end. I know it’s all down to practice. Now I am trying to make the Dalek, hopefully it will look recognisable and not like an amusing tube! Also, the perspective drawings are going well. I’m slowly getting the hang of drawing the horizon line at the right level and the angles of other lines.

My ambitions for this year are to work hard, learn new skills, develop a good understanding of the game art industry, and enjoy it! I will make sure not to fall behind on assignments and work. I hope that by the end of the course I will be able to use 3D software confidently, be able to create accurate drawings/paintings of people and landscapes, and have acquired the skills expected in a successful game artist. That is my dream job, and I know that I will work hard to achieve this. Here is a job description for a company called Rainbow Studios. They are looking for a concept artist who will work closely with an art director and skilled art team, making awe inspiring concepts each day for a fantasy title.  This is a summary of what they want in an ideal candidate:
  • An avid gamer who understands what it takes to make great games.
  • Someone able to work to tight deadlines.
  • Artist equally strong in character and environment design.
  • Can switch between concept and production art.
  • Sketch quickly and explore different approaches to a problem.
  • Excellent communicator/excels in team/thrives in group discussions.
  • Good drawer AND painter. “and can belt out tight orthographs, storyboards, marketing paintings, and mood pieces alike”
  • Passionate and imaginative world-builder.
From this, I can see the kind of skills that is wanted in a game artist. I believe I know some of what it takes to make a great game, having seen lots of “Making of” videos for games. I hope to get a better understanding of this however, by producing lots of quality work and examining how games are developed from scratch. I am good at working under deadlines. I’m equally interested in character and environment design, though I am not exactly strong in those areas, but that’s why I am here, to learn! I hope to develop skills for doing concept art and production art. I can produce quick sketches, and I am able to solve problems, though not very quickly. I enjoy group work, I am good at listening and I like to hear other people’s ideas and opinions. I have done paintings in water colour and acrylic before but I hope to get more confident with paintings. As for “orthographs, storyboards, marketing paintings and mood pieces”, I hope to learn more about what they are. This job is offered in America. I love to travel, so I would not mind at all getting a job in a different country, which would be an awesome experience all together!

Anyway, in conclusion, I am really happy to be on this course, I know that I am very lucky to have the chance to study Game Art. I am very enthusiastic about getting stuck in to the assignments, getting challenged and learning new things. I look forward to seeing how the coming weeks fold out!