My first of many showreels, which will be shown at my final year exhibition this week. It includes a couple of bits of never-before-seen animation.

For some reason the video’s frame-rate has ended up as 22fps instead of 25. And yet it plays at the original speed. Odd.


Client Project – Final Covers

I’ve now handed in the final versions of my covers for ImagineFX.

Deus Est Machina

Thanks to the addition of some blurring, textures overlays and image adjustments the final image looks really awesome. My brother was especially impressed, and asked if the machine depicted was a Necron C’tan (a being from Warhammer 40,000). I’m rather glad that my Kodak printer is really good with colour handling, because the CYMK preview in Photoshop wasn’t looking good if I’m honest.

Draconic Shaman

This one errs more towards my usual art style. The initial version didn’t have such stark lighting in it as this one, and there are extra details added to the outfit. I was very pleased to be commended by my client on how good my rendering and design of the head dress though, because if there’s one thing I pride myself on, it’s attention to detail.

Client Project – Both Covers

I’ve sent off both covers to my client for feedback. Here’s the small, water-marked versions of the two.

Some cosmetic changes will need to be done obviously, but the question is whether I need actual prints to hand in or not. Hopefully not, it would be rather awkward trying to find a print shop that could print A0 in time.

Also, in the process of making sure I have evidence to show my work on these, I’ve lost count of the amount of file versions I’ve made of these two (and that’s not including aborted ones). It’s a good thing my filing system is the only thing of mine that’s reasonably organised.

I’m currently going through my artwork folder to find images for the exhibition package. It’s a bit odd that some of them are a couple of years old, but they actually still demonstrate my skillset. And I haven’t even gotten started on my 3D work (I need to rig the 3D minifig I’ve been working on for that, shouldn’t take too long – I can practically rig in my sleep now).

Quick Client update

One of the covers is nearly ready for sending off to my client for a final once-over – the other I’ve started from scratch by revisiting one of my original concepts and so will take a little longer.

I found some really neat cloud brushes on DeviantART, so I’ll be using them on the nebula. Also, ignore the grey box, that’s a guide fot the space ship.

Client Project Update 2

First off: following last week’s PRP lecture, where the research project being discussed was practically the same as mine with a different title, I’ve done a rethink of my current and upcoming artefacts and come up with a game plan – however, this did leave me with not as much time as I’d like to get responses for my current artefact, so I’m planning on proposing my presentation till next week. Also, I’ve caught a chest cold which has rendered it a bit difficult to talk for prolonged periods without getting wheezy and start coughing. I really want to get this right, and if that means pushing things back a week then so be it.

Onto Client, and I will admit it’s been a little neglected due to the PRP (my brain goes into a certain mode and doesn’t come out of it for a few days; it gets a little tiresome at times). But I am entering the final stages before sending them off to my client for a final once-over, so you’re getting a backlog update.

My client thought the second cover design was the strongest of the two, but was a little concerned about the religious imagery being a little too overt. So I went for the idea of it being a huge machine of some sort in a nebula billowing gas and creating new stars. I also added in a spacecraft to give a better sense of scale (i.e.: this thing is huge).

I always seem to lean towards to the surreal when it comes to things like this, and as I was sketching a design for the machine I decided to make its face resemble The Scream, with the open mouth having gas pouring from sort of like the “breath of life.”

I started blocking the shape in for the robot which is coming out really well. But at some point, I’m not sure when exactly, I looked at it and thought the composition was off, so I shrank everything so that it wasn’t taking up most of the frame. The colour of the robot is bothering me a lot though, and I think I need to make it blend into the colour of the nebula more since the idea is to have it mostly shrouded in gas.

For the other cover, my client was concerned that the two were too similar in theme (he was right; as previously mentioned my brain goes into a certain mode and refuses to come out of it), and gave a few suggestions to explore. One of them was “if dragons developed a society what would a member of a religious order look like?” There are no prizes for guessing what happened next – especially after I realised that I had already been playing with the same idea for the past few years in my spare time. I’ve been actively avoiding dragons in my work these past three years (not counting my Norse myth board game which had a couple), but by this point I’ve really begun to miss having the opportunity to paint huge “badass” dragons so I leapt at the chance and immediately sat down to work through the idea in my sketchbook:

It ought to be noted that when it comes to dragons I tend to avoid giving them armour and such – I’m rather logical with these kinds of things and the question keeps popping up as to how they would craft them in the first place seeing as they haven’t the hands for it. Also, much like a stag or gorilla, it makes sense that they would more likely grow any signs of status as part of their biology rather than use adornments.

I tend to have problems with foreshortening in my art (I’ve never been able to judge distance very well), so I make use of DAZ Studio to act as a reference model (no pun intended). The tie into the religion theme is that it’s pulling itself out of a temple (maybe it’s been stuck there, maybe it’s its cave with a fancy entrance; it could be either), hence the doorway visible at the back.

Also: DAZ Studio is the only program I have ever encountered that saves backwards. I’m not joking, the progress bar actually goes the wrong way at one point.

I was a bit annoyed with the pose I originally decided on, seeing as I’ve actually seen it a number of times in artwork. So I altered the angle (note: it is very hard to get any sort of sense of motion in these models). I did like the idea that it’s also using its wings to pull itself out of its hole, so that stayed in. Originally the mouth was closed because dragons with their mouths open are, to put it mildly, a bit overdone. But it just looked too passive, and passive isn’t a word I’d associate with a dragon of this design. So I did a reference with the mouth open as well.

The next 4 shots are various stages of the blocking (Wings 3D was used to create a rough horn as it was a pain to judge the perspective on it). The statues are very obviously a copy-and-paste job, but the head on the far one either needs reworking, or it gets hidden by the far wing (the latter is looking increasingly likely). The open mouth is still only half done as it’s rather tricky to sort out the angle of the bottom jaw. The neck needs reworking to add more tension into it, as does the far paw – I need to change it so it’s digging its claws into the step. I think I’ll also add in the remains of the head of the near statue as well to add something to the bottom of the image as it’s looking rather bare.

For the doorway, I’m currently looking these for reference:

The idea is to make the detail on the door look like it was carved with claws – meaning the detail isn’t as fine as the images here.

SPP3 – Assignment One

So, for the first assignment for SPP3 I have to find four full-time multimedia jobs, four full-time post-graduate courses, and “mock” apply (as in write out the paper work but not actually send it) to one of each.

Task A: Multimedia Jobs

This was tricky, seeing as most jobs usually ask for a couple years of experience; if you’re good at searching though, you can find ones that don’t have it listed as a firm requirement. I narrowed the results down to four via a combination of realism (no “Senior” positions for a first-time job – I learnt that when I attempted to apply for a job at Linneys Design near where I live about 4 years ago. Obviously, I am older and wiser now).

After careful consideration – and realising that the fact I don’t have a passport would be, to put it lightly, problematic (yes, I know we aren’t actually applying for these, but it’s still something to factor in considering how many jobs are overseas), I “applied” for the role of Game Artist at Playfish. Since I obviously don’t have the previous experience it lists as being a plus, I did my best to make my covering letter as interesting as possible (you’ll be glad to know that it’s a marked improvement from the last one I did – this time I actually have some idea of what I’m doing).

Task B: Post-graduate Courses

This one is somewhat unfair considering I’m an overly curious academic at heart, meaning there are a lot of courses I would be interested in studying. But I did eventually narrow it down to four.

Of the courses, I decided I would mock-apply for the Escape Studios Animation course. Not only would it make it even more likely I would get a job, the subject matter it would teach would be invaluable; I already know a lot about 3D modelling and texture, so I would really like to focus solely on the animation instead of having to construct my characters and rig them first. The downside, of course, is that it costs £8,750, and whilst the reaction of my parents would be amusing, that’s not something I’m about to tell them.

Another thing that’s come out of this:- my CV has improved ten-fold. I found the old one I had uploaded at the other day, and lets just say that it did seemrather amateurish (mind you, it did get me an interview for a position in the local paper’s main office, so it can’t have been that bad).

Artefact One

My research topic is “how do you convey a sense of believability and narrative in virtual environments?” Now admittedly this is an odd area to perform research on. What exactly do you investigate?

Just over a week ago, however, it occurred to me that how an environment is set out is rather important in making it believable – if you’re not inclined to stay and look around a place, then any effort put into the buildings and other elements goes to waste. The originator for this thought came from an old “God game” called Populous: The Beginning that my brother used to play the demo of and the way that, particularly in the first level, he would set out the houses in a neat grid pattern. This always bothered me for some reason and when thinking over it for this artefact it made me think back to my visit to Coventry last year, which I didn’t enjoy at all. And over the course of the week, I realised why.

Coventry was extensively re-developed after the Second World War, and one of the results was that the main shopping part of the town centre is laid out something like this:

It’s all straight lines and tall buildings with few landmarks to tell you where, exactly, you are. And as a result I got rather horribly lost when I was there. There was also something about it that I just didn’t like – I’ve always loved going to cities like York and Durham and Lincoln because of how much there is to explore – in two trips to York, I’ve lost count of the number of side-streets I walked down, and I still haven’t covered more than half the city centre.

And then I remembered what it was like going through Ravenshead when I was young – it actually took me years to realise that there were side-roads going off the main road and I actually thought that the village only consisted of that road, because we always drove straight along it.

So with this in mind and going back to my old Geography lessons, I located some free building models (found on this site) and using a program called Role-Playing City Generator (which generates village, town and city layouts), 3DS Max and Adobe Director, I constructed examples of a linear settlement and a nuclear settlement (not sure of the correct term) that could be navigated in Shockwave and put them as a download on a page of this journal with questions to gauge people’s reactions to them. Then a friend kindly offered to host them on his server so that people didn’t have to download it (click on the images to load the simulations).

From the top, the two “villages” look like this:

Some of the responses I got I was expecting, particularly those saying that they spent longer going around the second village. With the first village, as one person pointed out, you’re likely to just walk straight through it and possibly not notice the side-road, as is what happened with me and Ravenshead. It occurred to me that linear settlements are the environmental equivalent of the long corridor in games – you just want to get through it as quickly as possibly. It also reminded me of a chapter in The Art of Game Design by Jesse Schell where it talked about if you placed a line on the ground going straight ahead or to something, people would go straight along it.

Several responses were gained whilst in an IRC chatroom. Whilst this didn’t garner many individual results, it did raise a couple of points that I hadn’t previously considered. There was a consensus that the second village was more interesting “because it has these twists and turns in it” (Bert Loos, although he also admitted to nearly getting lost in it), and a couple of others said that they preferred it because they were adventurous people. One person, Aaron Bulger, gave the most thorough response:

I immediately began by following some of the paths in the hills, then returned to the village, in which my navigation was more of a meandering. I spent much more time off the beaten path in the second and was interested to see how the paths fit together.

The Art of Game Design addressed this as well; by adding more lines on the ground, people were more likely to veer off in different directions.

However, there was some difference of opinion as to the reason why Village Two was preferable, and it unexpectedly fed into the narrative part of my research topic.

One person, who went by the username “Dog”, said that the second village looked “more friendly”, and gave a rational for why this was: “Order+uniform=bad. Zigzags+non-uniform=good.” Another person, who went by the name of “Blub”, preferred Village Two for a very different reason: “[it] gives you more possibilities to escape,” whereas with the linear one “it seems to be that you can only escape in two directions.” This was because they were a really paranoid person, and it wasn’t something I hadn’t even thought about. If you were in a linear settlement there isn’t many options for you to hide yourself if you needed to, but in a place like Village Two you have far more corners to duck around and lose someone. But the reverse could also be true – someone could be hiding in the second village and ambush you, and in the first one they would have little opportunity.

The results of this artefact were far better than I expected. Without any prompting from me, some people inferred some kind of narrative on the environments, and their reasoning for their choices was very insightful. To build on this unexpected outcome, my next artefact will quite possibly look at how the sizes of buildings can induce a sense of foreboding or welcoming, such as with Coventry, being surrounded by tall buildings on all sides was somewhat claustrophobic.