Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Task 17: Elements of game design, part six: documentation

OK well as far as the Final Major Project goes im still quite unsure for what I would like to do but for the sake of this exercise I will invent a Project outline and see how I would go about doing it.

Project Outline, an example:
Design and model a small group of modern day pirates complete with a barren island.
The pirates after surviving a violent storm find themselves washed up on an incredibly rigid and dangerous island with a captive dragged along with them. Exploring the shore trying to figure out where they are and what their plan of action is. Eventually the Captive escapes and the group become separated, the player takes the role of the captive and goes on the run for survival.
The target platform is Xbox 360,Ps3 and PC and acts as a 3rd person adventure/survival game. Quite a dangerous scene it would be target more towards the adult audience. Would be using the unreal engine along with Photoshop and 3dsmax for asset and character creation.

Technical Specifications
The lead Character is the Captive, in game the gender and appearance will be user defined but for the sake of the project a Middle aged man. Battered around by the Pirates with tattered casual clothing (for use in colder environments) with a festival of wounds and scrapes.
As a main character the limit would be 9000 Tris, 2 Diffuse 1024x1024 texture sheets complete with 512x512 normals and specular sheets, rigged with no more than 28 bones.

A small group of 4 modern day pirates each individual wearing worn casual/gang clothing, armed with Rifles and pistols with a few tattoos and custom accessories.

There is 1 major "Captain" who would be given the same technical specifications as the Main character, 9000 Tris, 2 Diffuse 1024x1024, 512x512 Spec and Normals, 28 Bones.

3 Other "drone" pirates that would have less tris than the main characters, 4000 Tris each with 1 1024x1024, 1 512x512 For clothing and Face/skin.

As the characters are survivors of a storm the vehicle would be the pirates ship, battered and in pieces on the shore.
1x1024x1024 Diffuse/Spec and Normals, 4000 Tris.

The environment is A rigid, Rainy Island; Shore, Forest area and Cliff face would be accessible with a human crafted sign nearing the end of the level. Run at 25 fps.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

War of the Worlds Radio Broadcast

The other day we started our WotW project where we get to design and concept our own Tripod Machine which Im quite excited about - always liked War Of The Worlds and have seen it in an elderly and more modern film as well as listening to Jeff Waynes Musical.
Always liked it and the idea is British which makes a nice change..

Anyway yeah I heard and read about the radio broadcast which drove panic in America with some of its population believing it and trying to escape the alien invasion (I thought this was excellent!)But I never had the chance to actually listen to it until now and I was quite interested in how it was done.

It sounded authentic to how radio stations have been/are still done with news reports and musical numbers inbetween, I was surprised to how quickly it seemed reported and the "journalists" going to different areas of the country (whether it was just edited into Youtube sections or not im not sure) quite quickly but still kept its "Nah nevermind, heres something we hope you REALLY like!" which was quite fun.
I could imagine being frightened by this in that era (back then not being as sophisticated as modern times) with people not really understanding the media or how things work (no offence to them its just how it was).

Yeah it was done quite well I thought that the "reporters" still tried to keep their cool about the situation, quite amusing to hear something to the effect of:
"Wha--Whats that comming out of the cylinder, a--- a WHAT IS THAT? Whats that nozzle comming up? AHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!"
"Sorry we are experiencing minor technical problems (*insert Spanish Flea Jingle*)"

Quite funny in a dark way for me being the listener in this modern era.
Yes I was glad I managed to hear it as it was quite interesting and entertaining.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Simon Reed

Quite an interesting talk we had today, someone who works in the industry as a game interface designer. Im fairly interested in this as I had touched on this a bit during my game modification days, was changing the original splash screens/menu images, colours and also icons which were used in game. Its good thinking about how things are designed, things such as cashpoints and mobile phone menus etc. Although I already realised that design goes into these its easy to take it for granted, usually its done very well but there are some points which are a bit confusing with certain designs. One example is that i recently bought a new phone and while txting was trying to select a person to send it to but I was confused to what was actually highlighted. All that you seen was what looked like a white background and a blue selection area, scrolling up and down looking for what was selected on the blue but in fact the selection was in white and the background was blue, after realising this it became very logical but at first sights I was unsure. (Also on my old phone the selection was in blue on a white background) The thing about interface and HUD's is that it must be easily understood and have a certain logic to it from the first sight.
I studied a course in graphic design (and also knew about it as my dad's a graphic designer) so I get the jist of how things work, at some points doing graphic design seems like a natural talent to me. Although its not really a skill im wanting to go into buisiness with creating things such as interface, DvD/Game covers is sometimes quite enjoyable.
Anyway yeah the talk with Simon was quite informative and reminded me about interface design, one thing which I thought was interesting is that technologies are changing and so will the interface. Rather than boring old text in 4 corners of a screen its constantly evolving to be a lot more innotive and creative, seen in the presentation was the use of the 3d menu's as if the screen is your head turning and looking for things (like in a FPS game) which adds a lot more interest to simply finding the "Start Game" button. Another interesting example I seen in the talk was about in a 3rd person shoot-em-up where rather than the health being a PNG/ALpha overlapping everything it was actually visible on the back of the characters themselves. This was a sci-fi shooter where things like this would work rather than a game such as Crash Bandicoot where basically 1 hit and you die.
I would be interested to see that interface in action. Yeah it was a good talk and had a lot of insights, he originally worked in 3d but didnt want to stop there, kept his options open but sort of a contradiction in the fact that as 2nd years we are meant to have a goal thought about and go towards it, but I believe Simon was referring to in the professional world outside of education.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Task 16: Elements of game design, part seven: level design

I would agree that level design is not only visual, but more like stage design as it is creating an environment which characters can interact with, but only what is available to the players. During my attempts at level design in previous years the key thing is that you as the designer have to think about the limitations of the game engine, for example having a large area where every single side of the models have a texture on where you wouldn't necessarily see or want the players to be able to see is more cost effective to frame rate and general compatibility.
Like in stage design there are many things in the background, underneath the simulated floor boards and walls/environment which are not meant to visible to the audience, but can aid in keeping the environments/props up. With the engines iv been using the way which you can reduce frame rate, rather than drawing every side(even if meant not to be seen) is by using shaders - known as the CAULK shader as seen here: http://www.richdiesal.map-craft.com/tutorials/gc102lsn1.html
Basically a texture is applied to a mesh or a model and then you select the areas of the model which are not to be seen by the players and apply this shader which tested in games doesn't draw these sides, if seen behind the model (areas players aren't meant to access) the sides would be completely transparent where you could see in but players couldn't see out.

Yes level design is very close to set design in films, areas need planned based on;
-The size of the player in game
-Whats meant to happen in game
-Triggerable events.

Its very hard to specify exactly what level design is, its very technical compared to the concept artist where the designers have to figure out where/how to place objects, to work out the lighting and general game physics, and to be able to do things which a game engine can understand. Its a way of working out how to do things which Iv experienced myself, for example;
In a previous level I worked on my task was to suggest to the player that a stone door doesnt work, the opening mechanism is operational but there is a mechanical problem i.e a large piece of debris on the other side which has crashed into the door and the door cannot open.
The way I did it quite simply was to have a trigger where I wanted the door switch to be once pressed (simultaneously)
>It would play a sound which I edited, in this case a Stone door attempting to open upwards, and then a piece of machinery giving way - out of sight
>It would activate a timer which at the precise moment in the sound effect where the machinery gives way a "Trigger_Breakable" would self destruct.
The result is an interpretation of a door refusing to open.

Where this is very long winded to explain its basically solving problems based around the limitations of a game engine. Its a large area where you could go on and on giving examples of how to suggest things in a game but its taking a concept, thinking about it and translating it through the senses.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Task 15: Elements of game design, part six: visual composition

Well yes visual composition is perhaps one of the most important thing in presenting work either for a portfolio or in the gaming universe and I think it takes certain skill to be able to judge this and to be able to use the "artists eye".
If im honest im not that confident with my artistic judgement. While working/ giving crits to other peoples work, there are a few things which I notice to look "wrong" but that is mainly just about finishing the image but to be able to say to myself something to the effect of "oh perhaps if i put a few cans of beer on that street corner it would help" a basic example but at times I feel like I have a few problems with it. I dont think im able to easily recognize areas that need improvement or to be able to suggest things that can be done. I believe this judgement will develop in time - as anything it needs practice and I would need to immerse myself in different pieces of artwork and be able to analyze them properly and professionally.
Composition can do a lot for a subject/asset, for example in producing a 3d model/drawing which I am not terribly pleased with, it can be set up in such a way that makes it interesting to look at, almost like designing a portfolio. To the general public visual composition is usually taken for granted and they often dont realize why things work, but contrary to this they can usually tell when something looks obviously wrong (I believe its partly to do with the media-based era we are living in). In one of the previous blog tasks where I looked at that 40 page essay on concepting and planning, it made me realize even more how important this is. My final piece for the Bradgate park had evolved more than I thought it would as I spent a little bit of time doing very quick sketches of what I wanted and also trying to work out how things flow in the final image. During my first year I didn't really do this and I think some of the reasons things worked was because of this "random chance". This year I realized that for things to look at their best - even if the subject matter isnt that interesting - planning the composition is the way to go and if the concept is visually engaging more interest will spark in your artwork which also acts as the driving force to get you producing more interesting and exciting work.
I believe that this year the quality of my work has increased and am able to put more hours into it without getting tired/bored of them as opposed to last year. Though I wouldn't say I am particularly strong in my technical skills, brush strokes - easy texture construction etc, because I have more of an understanding of how things work together visually and compositionally the work Im producing has been enhanced. For these skills to develop I basically need to continue to really look at produced things and differentiate the good points and the bad points.