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Thursday, 26 April 2012

Task 24: Personal review of the second year: Where do you want to go, and how do you get there?

I realise that the entire 3 years I am spending at university are all leading me towards my goals. The university is giving me the opportunity to learn the skills I will need to get a job in the games industry. It is providing me with information about the industry and the knowledge of how it works. The whole point in Universities are to provide courses and degrees for students so they can go out into their working lives prepared and capable of the demands of the work environment in their chose profession. They train you with the specific skills that will be needed for the jobs you will be pursuing and they train you to think as well as develop your talents and improve on your skills in general. This course is giving me the necessary foundations for me to be a contributing member to the games industry. It is teaching me how to create in game assets, environments, characters, texturing and lighting, its getting me to improve on my artistic judgement, on perspective, composition, presentation and how to develop ideas in a process leading to the finished piece. It is opening my eyes to what is truly needed to get a job in this industry. With all the talks from industry professionals, the feedback from tutors and other students, the Skillset accredited structure and the proven success rates in graduates, I have everything I need to help me achieve what I want.

But, this education is a two way process. While there is all this provided in the course over the three years, its up to me what I get out of it. Its up to me to use what I have learned and apply it properly. I have to take into account all the skills and attributes, the things I have been told to do and how, and I have to realise how I learned these things and where I want to go with them. Reflecting back on the past is a good way of putting my current situation in perspective. I can look at the steps I have taken to get where I am, and then I can use that knowledge to continue forward to the future. I have to apply my creativity and my skills, and keep a confident and enthusiastic approach to my work, to ensure that I am more likely to be successful. Its all been a process in developing the way I think. Making me think more clearly and get the most out of my ideas.

The blog tasks have been doing a good job developing this. Over the 2 years, I have learned a lot about the game industry, the history of games, how games are made and what makes them good and bad, what it takes to create a game, about creativity and composition and all other factors required in the industry.
This year has been really fulfilling, I have learnt so much and I have really begun to understand where I am heading and where the course is leading me and where I want to go afterwards. I really enjoyed all the projects set for me and I am very proud to see my own improvements in my life drawings, modelling and texturing and also my writing within the blogs.

I think especially the group project helped me to improve on everything and was really rewarding. Working in a team was a lot of fun, I really enjoyed being an active member in a group environment and collectively working towards the same goal. I really improved on my concepting and painting in general and also my modelling and texturing. It also helped to improve my time management skills. Working towards the deadlines and seeing all of our work come together was really rewarding. It was also excellent in making me realise what it will be like to work in the industry. We all had different roles and we had to keep to constraints that we had set, each of us had an important job to do and we were all part of the project. Each of us had a place in creating our horror level, and to see the end result was very satisfying. I look forward to utilising everything I have learnt so far in the coming years and I hope to continue learning and improving throughout my working life!


Task 23: Life Changing or Career Building?

It is obviously difficult to teach skills needed in the game industry that will also be still needed in the future. I think that education needs to be a general thing, providing students with the skills that are currently needed. Of course, a lot of institutions will be teaching the skills that are currently being looked for in job applications, hoping to secure jobs for the students. But of course, that doesn’t necessarily guarantee a place in the industry by the time they have finished. Since the desired qualities may have changed over the years. Educators can’t be expected to know what will be needed in the future. But they can go on what they have known to happen over the years and that will help predict what will be needed.

One of the best things to do is make sure that the curriculum being taught can also be applied to other industries. And this is something that courses are doing more and more now. It brings me back to the article I linked before entitled, “You don’t want to work in the games industry”.
Quote: “The training industry has jumped onto exploiting the wannabe. Lots of colleges and universities have jumped on the bandwagon. There are now hundreds of supposed game industry courses in the UK. Yet amazingly only 6 of these are accredited by Skillset! There are now more people in training for the video game industry than there are in the industry. The vast majority of these people are wasting their time and money.”
I thought having 6 accredited by Skillset was quite a good amount! But anyway, he goes on to say a lot about how there are many wannabes trying to get into the industry and that its swamping it. Also, his point about how there are more in training than there are in the actual industry, well I don’t really see this as a problem, if you take into account that the industry is booming and constantly growing and developing. The games industry is something that is not going to die out, because games are so popular in culture and society nowadays. There are multi million dollar companies that are making games all the time, and they show no signs of changing their pace or the quality of their productions. Also, the games industry’s lines are starting to blur, it is becoming a part of film and television, and other industries. It can no longer be ignored, and its not going to suddenly disappear. The same goes for educators and the students leaving colleges and universities with different degrees, most of the skills they learned will be applicable to other industries.
But yes, you could concentrate only on the current demand on technical skills, but that does not mean that once these aren’t needed, you will never find a job. Once you are in the working environment, you may find your job role changes slightly as the time goes by. You may originally have started out as a character artist, but you may find that you have been given opportunities to work on different aspects. You develop and evolve, and can move up the pipeline. Different experiences can go on a CV and you could use your work experience in one area to land a job in another.
Comparing the views of companies wanting creative students with Liberal Arts backgrounds, and then others wanting trained artists and programmers, I believe it depends. This is why there are so many courses, all claiming to be game design related, and yet they have totally different modules and ideas on what they should be teaching their students. There is such a variety of roles in the industry, and a bigger variety of companies, all looking for certain types of students with certain qualifications. This of course makes it difficult for educators, but as said before, if they concentrate on teaching skills that work now in the currently demanded areas, but that also could be applied in others, they are doing the right thing. The proof that a course has the right structure and is equipping students with the relevant job qualities is in the amount of students that receive jobs after graduating and what and where those jobs are.
This article briefly highlights the problems in the courses in the UK, that the majority of them are Mickey Mouse degrees. Its difficult to not be biased though, because I know that our course is not an example of one of these. Its Skillset accredited and has a structure that industry people agree with and many companies look to employ students from our course. But we are only one course, so I can’t speak for all these other courses that are not at the same standard. In their cases, the structure of teaching needs to be changed, the educators need to think about the fact that their students are not getting the jobs they want after doing their course.
The last part of the article says that its down to the individual institutions to decide on course content. Maybe a problem is that there just aren’t enough experts in the industry who are willing to teach students what is needed to get a job, or not enough who are willing to give feedback on course structures, and just look elsewhere for potential employees.

Task 22: Creativity, the Talent Myth and Craft

Creativity is a medium where we can express ourselves. It is a way of thinking, and it can be a very individual process. Creativity can be viewed in many different ways, from creative thinking, to creating something unique with your hands. Creativity can also be the way you approach a problem. You may approach it differently to someone else, in a more creative way perhaps. It can also be down to your initiative, and how you apply yourself to a given task.

Talent is a particular ability to do something; again it could be unique and therefore classed as a talent. It is an ability to do well with a particular thing. You could have a talent for singing, for writing or for any number of different activities. Talent and skill can be interchangeable. It depends on the situation. But often skill is a usually described as an effective way of performing a task. So they could have a talent for drawing, and their skill is the way they execute that talent.  

I don’t think that craft and skill hinders creativity and talent, only stimulates it and helps it develop. Craft can be a way of expressing a talent. Skill can be the way the talent is performed in the quickest and most efficient way possible.

Is talent a skill you are born with or something that is learned? This is a difficult question, since there are so many examples of skilful and talented people being described as having a natural talent, and that from an early age they were already great in their type of creativity. I believe that it is something that you learn. While there is plenty of evidence that intelligence and other traits can be passed down in the DNA and genes, I think in general, creativity and talent are something that you develop usually from an early age. I believe that if a child has an interest in a subject, and they constantly work at it, through repetition and their enthusiasm for the subject, they will develop a talent for it. If they focus their time on this one thing, they will become better at it. I think this kind of enthusiasm also depends on parents and teachers feedback to the child. If they create something and get praise for it, they are more likely to do it again to get more praise. Therefore, with the correct encouragement from the key figures in a child’s upbringing, they can develop a great talent for something they enjoy. Often there are only two or three children in a class that would have a great talent for something. For instance, one is good at drawing, one is good at playing a flute. As for the other children in the class that apparently don’t have a specific talent, this could be down to the way they were introduced to certain things and also their own choice. If they didn’t enjoy playing an instrument, it could be that they just had no interest in doing so, or perhaps when they were told to play, they felt like it was a chore and therefore they come to the conclusion that its boring and some kind of punishment. Where as, if they were presented with a task, and told it was a fun activity, given lots of encouragement and then praise with the outcome, they begin to feel that they are able to do that thing well, so they will do it again because it was more enjoyable and the praise they received from adults and maybe peers too was worth it.
Of course there are times when someone could be forced into a specific role, maybe they are forced to learn piano from a young age, and they become good at it because they are told that they have to. Here they could still have a talent for it that has been developed, and they are skilful in it, but they wouldn’t usually be happy in such a situation. And likely they would have an interest in an entirely different subject.
Creativity can manifest itself in the way someone performs a task. It is the way someone approached a problem. The way they solve it can be judged by the uniqueness, the imagination and the application.
In a game industry environment, I believe that everyone in the process of making games does some form of creativity. Considering it covers a range of meanings and applications, most people in this environment will be applying their form of creativity in their work. It can indeed be hindered by technical constraints. But, it could also be part of the creativity, by finding the most creative way of sticking to the constraints and yet completing the work to a level of creativity you are satisfied with. It can show off a lot of your skill if you can show your employers what you can do under the given technical constraints.

Games can manifest creativity in a number of ways. They can show it in the story, how unique and fitting it is. It can be shown in the environments and the colour schemes of the environments. It can be within the characters and their personalities, it can even be within the AI of enemies and NPCs. Creativity could be shown in the way a puzzle works in a game, and how a player can discover the clues and right down to the result in completing the puzzle, which could be a door opening to a new area or a key/treasure could now be within reach. The entire gameplay can be showing off the creativity in a game.

I think that Ubisoft is a creative company, particularly in their Assassin’s Creed games. They have taken historic events, people and places, and recreated them in a way that fits a new story. They used certain events to justify their imaginative and unique story that the games tell.

For me, I show my creativity through the way I complete tasks. I try to keep to constraints but still make my work have a personal touch. I would hope that others would see the personal touches I make to my work. In my drawings, there’s a style I use that could be recognisable as my work. I believe that I have a skill for shading and rendering within my pencil drawings. And I believe that I have a talent for drawing something that is in front of me. Since from an early age I was always drawing from looking at books that had paintings of birds in them, and also from things I saw outside in the garden. Because of this, I know that I need to develop better skills in drawing from imagination. There are some things I can draw from imagination, and generally its easy to think of something new, but its down to actually drawing it how I picture it in my head, which is not always an easy task. So I believe I need to develop skills in that aspect. I also know that I need more development on my perspective drawing skills and my use of colouring and rendering in a digital painting.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Task 21: An introduction to the Game Industry

Most roles in the games industry are very specialised now. From art director, environment concept artist, sound effects designer to GUI designer. Therefore, when looking for a job in the industry, there are many kinds of roles that you could work in, and they are all part of the pipeline for shipping out games. Back in time, there could have been only three guys working on a game, and they would all take up several roles each. However, nowadays looking at big companies like Epic Games and Ubisoft, there could be over three hundred people working on a single title. So from generalist to specialist, the games industry has evolved and matured over the years and continues to do so.

Not everyone working on games will be a full time employee of the company. Some will be outsourced or freelancers that will work on the project as part of a short term contract. Sometimes developers need more people working on a certain part of a project, either to cover for incoming deadlines or absent employees or even just to get in some new styles for certain things. It could also be a cheaper option than employing someone full time. But working free lance is not an easy job. There are many free lancers looking for work, some are extremely good and experienced, and yet there are so many applying for a single job, they can’t get in anywhere. Generally a freelance concept artist has to depend on luck.

The article I linked below entitled “You don’t want to work in the video games industry” highlights all the bad points in working in this industry. It stirred up a lot of comments and arguments, a lot complaining that half the points made are not true. And it reminds me of the saying “its not what you know, its who you know”, implying that you need to have the right contacts to get to where you want to be in your working life. While this may be true, I refuse to believe it’s the only way forward. One of the points made in that article is that enthusiasm is not a qualifier for anything. I believe this needs to be looked at. While yes of course if someone applies for a job as a programmer, and is only enthusiastic about it but their work is lacking and they have no examples to prove there work, their enthusiasm of course wouldn’t be enough alone to land a job. However, enthusiasm is still a quality that is needed in most cases, along with skills and relevant qualifications. Since you could employee a 3D modeller, who is so unenthusiastic, they may quit the job in the first few weeks. This would be time wasting and loss of money and hours for the project. An enthusiastic worker is more likely to get the work done on time, be an active member of the project, and also their enthusiasm would in general lead them to have a great interest in the subject and therefore they would likely have more knowledge of it from them finding out more about it.
Another thing he mentions is the crunch time, with hours of unpaid overtime. Well if you are passionate about your work, crunch times shouldn’t be too much of a problem. Of course it will require hard work and time, but so does most things.

Task 20: Elements of Game Technology, Part Three: Interaction Design

The designs of consoles has varied much over the years, from old cartridge playing consoles to disc playing ones. Generally they have always been quite large machines, though not the size of a desktop tower.

I think the design of the first Playstation console was very nice and intuitive. Almost symmetrical, it had the disc placement on the middle of the top of the console, it wasn’t bulky either. Then the four slots in the front, two for memory cards and two for controllers, again these were pretty symmetrical and placed in the best possible way. You had the on and off button placed to the left of the lid, which was a big round button with a small light leading from it, this was again similar to the button placement on the opposite side which controlled the lid for inserting and removing games. And there was also a smaller reset button, handy for all those demo discs that required a reset one you were done playing each game.

Sony’s PS controller was also a wonder. Originally with fourteen buttons, it was a sleek design and a big leap from the Sega Genesis controller. It had the directional buttons on the left side, and the now famous X, square, triangle and circle buttons on the right side. Also four buttons on the back of the controller; L1, L2, R1 and R2. There was also Start and Select in the middle of the controller. It fit well in your hands, all the buttons were easy to reach, and it was very light. But a little later, another controller was brought out and this had 2 analog sticks, which many games used from that point on. A lot of people preferred to control the game with these sticks rather than using the D-pad. It also allowed 2 extra key presses which were L3 and R3. The controller design was such a big success that they didn’t change it at all for their next console, the Playstation 2.

Moving on to the PS2, this was a much larger console compared to the PS1, but it made up for its size, not only in the power and the new games it could play, but with its ability to be placed on its side, and there fore stand horizontally. It was down to preference which was you kept it, and it could save space depending on where you placed it. It had a slide out tray for the games, some small buttons placed nicely at the front for reset, power and tray control. It had the same placement for memory cards and controllers as the PS1. Its overall shape was basically rectangular. Much later, there was a slim version brought out, and this was much smaller than the PS1, which was quite surprising, and yet it run all the games perfectly. And it was literally a miniature version of the first PS2. I would also like to mention about the game boxes for the PS2 games, most of them had a memory card holder placed above the disc’s space, which was very handy, providing you had the right sort of memory card to fit in the holder!

The amount of buttons on the Sony controllers was definitely needed, since as games advanced, more and more button were needed. Games began to get more complicated and realistic, so user input had to be more diverse. More and more games required multiple presses to perform different actions within the game. This is the same for today’s consoles.

The PS3 kept the same controller design, but with wireless options and a tilt sensor. The console itself however was a giant of a thing! Bigger even than the original PS2, it was accepted that its size was needed because of its vast processing power. But again, Sony brought out a slimmer version of their new console.

On Microsoft’s Xbox 360, the console is again rather large, but I think we are used to it at this stage! The controller is similar to the PS controllers already discussed, except where the shape buttons on the PS controls are, they are named A,B,X and Y. And the back buttons are called RB, LB (bumpers), RT, LT (Triggers). I had always wondered at the placement of the analog sticks though. The left stick is much higher, and the D-pad has replaced where it would have been on the PS controller, next to the right stick. While you can still access it easier, it seems that they only did this to avoid similarity to Sony’s placement of the sticks.

Overall I think the controllers are very intuitive. For games like Call of Duty and Gears of War, they work very well. Developers always have a way of linking controls and making it easy to play games. And most games copy each other. Using the same buttons for the same actions, only to make it easier for people to get into playing a new game. I remember trying to get my grandmother to play Driver 2 on the PS1, she complained that she wouldn’t be able to use the controller while looking only at the screen, and I said that you just have to get used to it, and she almost got it before she lost interest! But it shows that games and controllers are designed in such a way as that you don’t have to look at the controller at all once you know what buttons to press for certain actions. Plus, games always have a tutorial or beginner level to teach you the controls you’ll be using.

With the Nintendo Wii, PS Move and Kinect for Xbox, games can now be played with more physical interactions than just your thumbs. Wii was great for all the family to join in and have fun with the silly sports games, but even the respectable fitness games allowed adults who would otherwise never play games to give it a go. The same goes for Move and Kinect. The effect that these motion controls have had on games has been quite dramatic. Obviously most of them had to have specific games made just for them, but there are also a few games that have the option of controller or motion controls. Move and Wii is great for sword fighting games, since you feel more like you are in the game when you are actually slashing your arms and controlling the sword on screen. Also, since there is limited amount of actions you can perform and stances, games that are motion controlled have been made a lot simpler. They are quite intuitive, with actions that you perform being obvious choices for actions in the game.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Task 19: Elements of Game Technology, Part Two: Sound for games

Sound is so important in games, that without it, they wouldn’t be half what they are today. Since TV, film and music in general hold such a big influence in society, it would be strange to have video games without any kinds of sounds, particularly when these other big powers depend so much on it as well. Sound can be used to provoke emotions, change mood and atmosphere, it can make you react, it can make you relax, its influences are endless.

In terms of games, sounds are extremely important to the gaming experience. From the very first games that had only basic beep sound effects, to next-gen games today with surround sound booming around your head. Sounds can make a game seem more realistic. For instance, in FPS games, the sound of a gun being loaded will make the situation feel more real. It can get quite technical as well, with different gun loading sounds being played, since a lot of people complain when an in-game gun sounds nothing like the real life one, or that it sounds like a different type of gun entirely. Also, player footsteps can also make it seem more like you are in the game, a more real time effect, when you can hear things that result from you running forwards.
Most of the sound effects added to games are all there for the purpose of believability. Lets say you are in a flooded basement, and you are running down a corridor part because there’s several monsters chasing you. Automatically there are a number of key sounds that are needed here to make it seem more like a real event that is happening to YOU the player. You would need water dripping sounds, to emphasize that the basement is wet and flooded, there will need to be splashes from your footsteps, also from the monsters approaching, there will need to be echoing sounds, since noise would travel up and down such a corridor, and would be especially distorted with water. Add in some breathing sounds from your character, screams from the monsters, and we are getting a more realistic setting.

In games such as Resident Evil and Amnesia: Dark Descent, there are a lot of sounds that are added in to make you look around. Such as crashes and creaking noises. These sounds are added to make you feel unnerved and wary. It can give you a sense that you are not alone, that you are being followed or that other events are taking place elsewhere but you cannot see them. Sounds can make many suggestions, and these suggestions can have the desired fear effect on the player, without there having to be a physical thing to scare them. The noise of someone walking in a room in the dark can tell you just that, and there doesn’t even need to be anyone there. So you can cause a player to jump to conclusions. Often not knowing what is making the sound is a much scarier situation than seeing the cause first hand.

In games such as Dead Space, they use stingers, which are sudden blasts of sound to make you jump when something happens. Like a monster suddenly appearing, a sharp high pitched noise is played to emphasize the shock you get from seeing something suddenly move. Games like these, if they were played on mute, you wouldn’t jump at half the times when things pop out or appear behind you.

Music is also a highly influential part of games. Music can also provoke feelings and emotions. They can tell you when a situation is exciting or sad, or they can say you have entered a new area. Classic moments would be when you enter a boss zone, the music changes and you know what’s coming. Especially if it’s the same boss music each time, you will recognise it and be prepared for whatever is about to happen.
Music can also be tied to a character. They can have their own theme music, so you know when they enter the scene or who is responsible for something. For instance, the character Sephiroth from the Final Fantasy games has his own very recognisable theme music.

One of the key moments to do with sound in my own experiences with games would be the intro movie for my favorite game Soul Reaver. The intro was my first impression of the game, and the music was quite amazing. It drew me in to the story and the events happening in the cinematic. Also, the music from that game was very influential as well. There were different ambient tracks for all the different areas of the game, and then different versions of the area’s music defined by combat, suspense etc. Also there was always a set music for the puzzle rooms, and each time you entered one of these places, and that music faded in, you knew immediately that it was thinking time! The composer of the Soul Reaver sound track was Kurt Harland. He is best known for being the lead singer in Information Society. He composed other game soundtracks such as The Godfather on PS2 and Gex: Enter the Gecko on PS1.

Another game that I would like to comment on in terms of its sounds is Shadow of the Colossus. I remember the first time I played the game, I just spent about an hour and a half traveling around the different areas, (not realising yet how to find the Colossi to kill them), but as I explored, I was in a trance like state because of the beauty of the environments, and they were made all the more great from the quiet music and sounds of the wind. One of the best moments was after I was traveling across a wide plane, that was quite barren and not much sound other than the horses’ hooves and the wind, then I entered a large dark forest, and it all changed. The horses’ galloping sounds were muted slightly, and there was a noise that crept up and it was the sound of the wind rushing through the trees. It was a very memorable moment, the effects were great for really throwing you into the environment changes; it felt like you were there.
Also there were different music pieces for the colossi and certain points in the fights with them. One of the tracks called “Silence” was particularly good in my opinion, since the first time I heard it was when I was fighting the bird colossi. I had managed to climb on to it, and the music had changed in to a dramatic tempo, and the bird was diving and turning in the air, and I was struggling to hold on, then I lost my grip and fell, and landed in the water far below and everything went quiet as you saw the bird silently fly away over the lake, and then this “Silence” track was played and it really fit the moment. The Shadow of the Colossus music was composed by Kow Otani. There was a soundtrack album released called “Roar of the Earth” and won an award for soundtrack of the year by the US game magazine Electronic Gaming Monthly.

As for Nile Rodgers composition “Good Times” being the most influential recording of the 20th century, yes I think I do believe that is true. Since you hear it everywhere and it has been used in so many films and adverts!

Task 18: Elements of Game Technology, Part One: Game Engines.

The Unreal Engine was developed by Epic Games first demonstrated in the game Unreal in 1998. Unreal Engine 3 is the third generation of the game engine. It supports for DirectX 11 computers, PS3, Xbox 360, WiiU, PSVita, Android, iOS and Mac OS X.  Its renderer supports high dynamic range rendering, per-pixel lighting and dynamic shadows. Gears of War was the first console game released that used this engine. This game received an average score of 94/100 at Metacritic and IGN called it "the most gorgeous looking game on the Xbox 360”. It also supports games like Batman: Arkham Asylum, Mass Effect 3, Borderlands and Bulletstorm.
One of the key things with this engine is that Epic released a free version of it to the general public in 2009 and this was called Unreal Development Kit. So now anyone can use it to create games and levels. It can now even create iOS games. It has even been used for non-gaming means, such as creating simulations for construction and design to film storyboards. It therefore has a very wide market and has many games from different companies using it.

Source Engine was developed by Valve Corporation, it released with Counter-Strike: Source and later Half-Life 2. It supports Windows, Mac OS X, PS3 and Xbox 360. It has a range of technology advantages, from Direct3D and OpenGL rendering to high dynamic range rendering. A full list of its features are here:

It is also extremely popular in the modding community. Garry’s Mod, although considered a stand alone game that uses the Source engine, it required users to have at least one other source game and then allows players to manipulate objects within the physics of the game and create odd contraptions and chain reactions. It is often used for creating Machinima movies using assets from other Source games and creating scenes and stories. A famous one of these is War of the Servers.
Other games that use this engine include the Left 4 Dead games Zeno Clash and the Portal games.
Also, Valve Software released Source SDK which can be used to create mods and maps for the Source Engine. It was however criticised for being outdated and difficult to use. 

Unity is a new, up and coming engine. It can be used to create 3D games and visualisations. Its development environment runs on Windows and Mac OS X, and the games it creates can be run on Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, iPad and iPhone. It can also run browser games with its plugin Unity Web Player. It supports games such as Dead Frontier, Battlestar Gallactica Online and Tiger Woods PGA Tour Online. Unity is great for indie developers, and it offers different licenses for different consoles. There’s a free version of Unity and also a Pro version with added features.

CryEngine3 is the third engine from the company Crytek. It runs on Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and Wii U. Crytek also released a free to use version of the engine called CryEngine3 SDK, used as a level editor and for modding purposes. Games that support this engine include all the Crysis games and Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2. One of Crytek’s main games, Crysis had somewhat of a reputation of requiring serious amounts of power to run on PC. But with the visually stunning graphics, it still hit home as an amazing game, and engine.

Task 17: Elements of Game Design, Part Six: Documentation

Project Outline/Brief:

This game is a James Bond style spy game, with stealth elements and close quarter combat experiences. There will be many levels in varying locations across the world. The target audience for this game would be from ages 15 and up, for fans of other spy/stealth games, action movies and thrillers. There will also be some role-play elements, where the player can choose different courses of actions, resulting in varying consequences.
The platform for this game is the PS3.


3D Studio Max, Photoshop CS5, Unreal Development Kit, Z-Brush.


High End computer with fast processor and graphics card, able to run all these programs smoothly. Decent camera for textures and references.

Aims and Objectives:

My aims are to create a successful game in the style of genre specified. I also want to keep within the technical specifications, and to have everything completed in time for all the dead lines. I hope to have something to be proud of by the end of the project.  Objectives are to complete the research, concepting, modelling and texturing on time. To have the levels built and playable, for sound to be edited accordingly and special effects and lighting to be added to finish off the game. Also to have this game shipped on time and to have covered everything in the brief. Also by the end of it, I hopefully will have learned a lot more about the process of creating games, the amount of time it takes for all the different stages, about the sizes of models and levels, and about how it should all fit together in the end.

Lead Character Specifications:

The lead character is a 25 year old white male, height is about 6 foot. Well built but not heavy weight wrestlers build. His name is Neal Torvick, code name is Harper.
He has short brown hair, a scar on his chin, skin is pale in complexion and brown eyes. He will have varying outfits, from dive suits, to pilot suits. Most of them will be various tones of black to dark grey.

The triangle budget for the lead character is from 7000 to 8000. The model must be proportionately accurate, the mesh should flow nicely and not be untidy. Must be rigged with a biped 28 bones. The texture budget is two 1024x1024 sheets, that is diffuse, normal and specular maps. One for clothes, the other for skin and accessories.

NPC; General Specifications:

The General is a 40 year old white male, height is 5 foot 9”. He is well built, but walks with a limp from a leg injury. He could be described as angry and stern, a no nonsense type of character. He has typical military style short hair that is greying in places. He wears either a military camo suit, or a dark blue business style suit with his badges on display.

Triangle budget for this NPC is 6000 triangles and a 1024x1024 texture sheet, D/N/S. Rigged with a biped with less than 28 bones.

Vehicle: Submarine:

A Virginia class submarine. This will be a controllable vehicle in one level, where you commandeer it for a mission. This will be a brand new sub, so in good condition, no marks or signs of wear. Its generally a dark grey colour. It will be seen from a first person and third person view, where the camera can pan around the sub.

Triangle Budget for the sub is 10,000. Texture budget is 2048x2048 D/N/S

Environment: Underwater/Sea bed level:

This is the environment where the submarine vehicle will be situated. The lighting is going to be washed out and dark accordingly since it is underwater. So filtered sunlight, depending on how deep you are. You should be able to surface, therefore there will need to be a skybox for the level. The sea bed should be rocky, with an almost mountainous feel to it. This would make it more difficult to navigate once you are in control of the submarine.

Triangle budget is 20,000. Texture budget is 2048x2048 D/N/S

Prop/scenery objects:

List of objects and props needed; fish, sea turtles, sea weed, coral, crates, weapons, rocks and trash. Each of these will be used in various places and throughout the game. So varying textures would be required.

Each of these should be under 200 triangles, and texture sheets should be 512x512 D/N/S.

Task 16: Elements of game design, Part Seven: Level Design

Level design involves just as much artistic judgement and compositional skills as any other forms of design. Perhaps even more so. There are many things that have to be considered differently compared to other forms of work and therefore it is slightly more difficult to get composition correct. You have to take into account that this will be a playable level, therefore there are thousands more factors to be considered, because a player can walk anywhere, can look anywhere, so its difficult to know what will happen. You have to think about how certain objects could be interactive, how certain pathways may be blocked for whatever reason. You have to keep them interested in playing the game. For example, if there was a single room and a corridor leading out of it, and then that’s all for that level, you go through the last door at the end and then get a loading screen, that would have been quite a boring stage in a game. So instead, breaking up pathways can make it more interesting, block certain areas and make it an objective to unblock it, either by throwing objects out of the way or finding a key, or blowing something up. You would need to make sure that tasks to be completed are indicated, but also not blindingly obvious. For instance, if a level is quite big, in order for the player to not get lost, you can use light to lead them through the level. Even certain colours of light could mean different things. Objects placed in a certain way, plus lighting can make an area more interesting. It could entice the player to explore more in that place, if that is the desired effect. Perhaps there is something important there to pick up. But at the same time it can’t be too obvious because then there would be no challenge, and that is the main concept of games. They have to be fun and challenging, and a level that has a big sign saying walk forward and go through here would be rather boring! 

Let’s say you have made a special side room, with bright blue lights, and they are highlighting a key card on a table, while you may assume this to be enough to lead the player’s eye to that point, but they may not be interested. Depending on where the door to the room is, they may decide not to explore that part, regardless of lights. Perhaps they decide to go a more linear path because they want to get out of this area. And even that feeling of wanting to leave could be down to the composition and atmosphere of the rest of the level. If there was no incentive to explore at any point, then likely the player will not. Another thing that could be more difficult to consider is that what draws one person in, may not draw in another person. But obviously a level cannot be designed to a specific person. Therefore, you have to go with averages and mediums.
Most developers will make alpha versions of the game and have testers play through it. These would be very basic versions, perhaps only whiteboxes of the layout. But this would allow the game to be tested early on, before the rest of the game is put in. It’s a great way to see if you have the levels designed in an effective way. Feedback from the testers at this stage is invaluable. 

Task 15: Elements of game design Part Six, Visual Composition.

One of the key things to consider for composition in games is the player’s perspective. The way elements are based in the level will all come down to how the player looks around, how you want them to react in your world. This of course is a difficult task, since you do not know how someone will play a game. Everyone sees the world differently and has different motives and feelings. Therefore, you have to consider these factors while designing the composition of a game. 

Another important thing to consider is where you want to place important elements, like hero assets or things to pick up. They must be placed in such a way as to show off their purpose. For example, for a hero asset, a key element in the game, you want the player to discover it in the best way possible. They could walk out of a small confined space like a cave, and then it opens up in a burst of light to the wide expanse of the outside world, and in front of the player could be a giant mountain or a tower. Those kinds of series of events lead up to that point, and it can only be achieved by carefully placing the elements in the game to create these effects. 

The way composition develops is important, whether its within a 3D game environment or a 2D concept piece, it is always a key thing to consider. With regards to 2D work, let’s say that you are going for an interview, looking for a job in the games industry, and your portfolio has many 2D pieces within it. One of the key things they will be looking for is your artistic skill, defined by the composition of your work. Factors that will be examined will range from the colours, to focal points, to objects in the scene, right down to how the overall piece works and where the viewer’s eye is led throughout each individual work. These will be the things they look for to decide whether you have the technical skills and good artistic judgement. These things will land you a job if they are obvious in your work. 

As for 3D work, the main things still apply. You have to consider the objects in the scene, perhaps it’s a level, you have to also consider the focal points, the way you want to lead someone through the scene, is it crowded and confusing? Are there too many objects and clashing colours and themes which could be causing the area to be too crowded? While it is nice to have some form of a visual feast, with many points of interest, you have to be careful not to go overboard. If you go over the top with objects and lights etc., you risk making a busy scene, which would not be pleasing to viewers, and it would also not portray very good compositional skills. There must be order to the chaos. If you find this order and balance, the composition will work and it will make your art look all the more interesting because of it.