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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!