Mr Genetic Blue
I'm a Game Art & Design Student at NUCA.
Posted in Uncategorized on May 21, 2012
My brief for BA8 is the continuation of my previous project BA7 to further refine my idea and bring closure to three years of academic and practical study of concept art. What I hope to achieve through BA8 is a set of complimentary concept artwork for my developing game Arc.
My game ‘Arc’ last project was used to establish a foundation for consistent concept designs and artwork set within the game-story universe. This is in order to replicate the type of work that I hopefully will undergo once I have a place within the games industry as a concept artist. What I hope to demonstrate in BA8 is the knowledge gained from BA7. Upon this, I hope to expand into other aspects of concept art such as better improving my painting/drawing skills. One area in which I lacked during BA7 was environment art, the reason for this was the work load I had set myself was too much. As a result of this I felt that I could only learn the basis for environment painting in BA8.
What I also hope to practice in BA8 are a range of techniques used by industry recognised concept artists to speed up development. By doing this I will be setting a target for the amount of finished concept pieces I finish in a week. This target will be based on industry practice and a workload I can cope with. The object of this is to adjust myself to the workload of being a concept artist working as part of a creative development team.
The subject that I concentrated on in BA7 was narrative. The reason I put a lot of focus on narrative as it embellishes the world I had to design. The narrative became highly detailed as to set a template for the imaginings of my concepts. However, in BA8 I plan to use the setting of my narrative to introduce multiple scenarios that can possibly take place within the set theme template. In short, The core narrative of a space fairing human flotilla with the intention of colonising an alien planet will be the template for many different scenarios that will not necessarily be placed within the same game-story universe.
For BA8 I have invested money into buying new equipment and sketching programmes to improve my work and expand my understanding of other digital applications for drawing.
What I hope to achieve through BA8 is the understanding for methods to keep a consistent work flow. The aim of this is that by the end of BA8 I will have a full understanding of techniques that will enable me to keep up with the fast pace of being a concept artist. The reason I place this with such importance is due to me realising that my work output might not be up to scratch with becoming a concept artist. The realisation came upon working on my Reflective Report on the practices of concept artist. As becoming a concept artist is what I would like to do in the games industry, I’m using this opportunity to develop my skills.
After some research into the average concept artist workload I’ve found the usual turn out of work a day is two to three pieces of artwork. However this depends on the level of finish you want to achieve. After speaking with my tutor about the subject he recommended three pieces of art work a day, with other sources roughly recommending the same amount.
Personally, with the addition of documenting my progress and getting to grips with the fundamentals of creating dynamic scenes, my aim for time being is one completed painting a day. As the project goes on I hope to heighten the bar for amount of work produced in one day covering 7 days. After this I will allow time for the academic side of my study and research possible solutions to any problems that may arise.
Day 1, Friday 3rd:
I started the course of production paced painting with my first scene.
This piece took around 8 hours to get to a level of finish I was comfortable with. Much of the time spend painting this was struggling. spending a long time on a piece of work requires a lot of attention, enough time to deal with the fundamentals of blocking in basic shapes. I found that I became complacent which came from jumping to details, I mistake of feeling that progression comes from refining objects.
Overall I feel the scene works up to a certain extent. The presence of thick dust is apparent, in combination the stance of the distant drones implies an ambush has taken place, as has the stance of the soldiers. What I feel doesn’t work so well is the midground, of which I’ve recently changed to correct it.
Primarily what’s missing in this painting is the lack of a mid ground. The Rule of Thirds is a universal rule of composition, The Rule of Thirds allows the viewer to relate to the distance, makes a piece more aesthetically balanced, and makes a image more organic.
In the painting sample I’ve highlighted the pieces i’ve gone wrong in. The vehicle has been pushed out by bringing up the brightness, which makes it more pleasing to the eye as it starts to create the mid ground.
The focus on this painting was the inclusion of the man-like drones, newly introduced to the ‘Arc’ project.
Day 2, Saturday 4th:
The second piece that I started on this day was to give a much more warmer feel whilst retaining the dry atmosphere of the previous painting. This painting focuses on the concept of an agricultural shuttle that didn’t see much development during BA7.
The above image took roughly 6-9 hours (I wasn’t recording). As is developed I started notices places where I felt wasn’t as natural as I would like such as the landscape itself. I would like to attempt this painting again as I’ve felt I’ve learned enough from the compositional mistakes I made in this one. Although it works up to a certain extent, there are conflicting factors that make the image not look quite right.
One of the main conflicting elements of this piece is the lens flare which is pointing away from the point of focus. This may lead the eye away or can viewer to become unsettled in the flow of the images. I feel the strongest asset is the ridge as it achieves a sense of distance and direction, enforcing the point of focus.
Day 3, Sunday 5th:
My third painting I began blocking out shapes without a definite concept in mind. Ultimately I decided to go for a landscape that contrasted with the previous painting, creating a cooler wind swept landscape.
The main focal point is the aircraft which flows away from the image. I think what this painting lacks is a substantial asset to draw the viewer in, such as the one above. What I feel this could benefit from is more direction from implied lines leading to the focal point.
Day 4, Monday 6th:
The quick sketching of the aircraft flying away from the scene inspired me to paint what it could look like from another angle.
Using the back of the aircraft as a reference point I detailed another view point to further understand the typology of the object. This design wasn’t too taxing and perhaps because of that it wasn’t greatly pushing my boundaries. However I did experiment with painting different materials, keeping to a high gloss silver or metallic body.
After producing a rendering of the aircraft concept, the next step in asset design is to produce an orthographical sketch. Orthographical sketches are primarily drawn up in the later stages of pre-production after a design is accepted and given approval by lead creative director. In designing assets for use for 3-D modellers and animators, an orthographic sketch is often the final stage.
Day 5, Tuesday 7th: This day was left free as to catch up on the academic side of this project. At this point I felt it was a good idea to revise the methods that are employed by concept artists to keep a standard flow of work. One method I hopefully will be trailing is multitasking, meaning painting two paintings on the fly. Hopefully this will resolve the ability to speed up work flow and keep a fresh look at a painting that otherwise might become too ingrained , preventing me from seeing obvious mistakes.
At the moment, in self-critiquing I found that my biggest problem is pushing forward with a paint before I’ve completely established the foundations. Which in a knock on affect I spend a lot of valuable time correcting the painting. Hopefully by paying more attention to both the focal subject and the surrounding environment I will overcome this.
Day 6, Wednesday 8th: This day was more productive, although I feel I’ve improved compositionally, I still must keep in mind the building process of making a good painting and avoid the same trap of progressing before I am able to.
The fault I can see with this is that I’ve moved on refining the details without much thought for representing the true form of the designed vehicle. Due the the complex typology of the aircraft, I found it difficult to paint at this angle.
However its strongest points lay with a stronger composition than my previous drawings. The unbalanced slant gives a impression of movement, whilst the dust clouds draw your eye into the focal point.
Creating A Visually Dynamic Painting
I have looked into perspective and what makes a dynamic viewpoint. Viewpoint seems to be a greatly important factor in determining the exact location of the viewer. For example, are they at a high altitude or is the viewer low to the ground. This generally is established by the horizon line which in itself it just a line, however the placement is extremely important to create the desired atmosphere. As well as creating what I feel to be a dynamic scene visually (if used correctly) it can create a sense of spatial awareness.
Comparing different types of perspective to analyse the benefits of using them in varying types of concept design sketches. The aspects I would like to look at is how perspective should be used in thumbnail sketches, orthographical/model sheets, and illustrations.
I intend to cover the subject of concept artist that inspire me of whom themselves have had a large amount of experience. As my subject covers a primarily sci-fi themed world I will research artists that have demonstrated an understanding for design in this subject area.
John Harris: Information from his web site “John was born in London, July 29th 1948. He began painting at 14 and entered Luton College of Art at 16. After completing a foundation course, he entered the Fine Art course at Exeter in 1967 to study painting, and he graduated from there in 1970.”
“n 1976 he began to produce paintings which expressed the preoccupations with scale and space that remain with him to the present day. His first exhibition was a shared show with the artist and architect Nicholas Gilbert Scott, held at the Northcott Theatre in Exeter University in 1977.”
“What eventually arises, may, or may not be exactly what was originally seen. But in this equation is the possibility that something unexpected may occur, which could be more magical than the artist might have imagined. And always, his guiding muse is the sense of scale, the atmosphere of being in an unknowable and unlimited space.”
This section is also for the documentation of aesthetic design decisions such as clothing, vehicles, characters etc.
As the game is primarily about the collection of resources through mining, I have begun to design the uniforms the miners would have. Looking as real world examples such as work clothes for hazardous environments. I have looked at Hazmat suits and fire fighting equipment for inspiration.
The miners clothing will resemble and high visibility suit designed to work in hostile environments. The difference is that the suits will look a cross between astronauts suit and medieval armour. The medieval design aesthetic comes from the idea of being able to protect the wearer’s extremities from falling rocks or materials. This was the initial idea that carried through to the final designs.
First I began with the preparation of making a template to create multiple designs in a short amount of time, a technique I have seen in books such as ‘The Art of The Mass Effect Universe” and “The Skillful Huntsman”.
Painting a template provides a quick and time-effective means of producing multiple designs in a short amount of time. First step is creating the final character design then to duplicate the accept design and redesign colour schemes. Upon the benefits of time management, the freedom to experiment and choose the most suited colour scheme for the design.
I experimented with different mediums to produce a body template and chose pen. Although I’m familiar in tradition mediums such as pencil and pen, I have rarely included this in my work. As a result I wished to include development stages done in grey-scale pens.
The first sketches were more a warm up and provided a chance to get to grips with the style I wanted to achieve.
The stance was important to achieve a correct anatomical pose. The idea was that miners would need heavy equipment for the task that they would have to perform. A stance that could reflect the the weight distribution of heavy equipment on the human frame was the objective of my sketches. Since the equipment was an important factor in positioning the anatomy, I sketched out what appearance and dimension it would have in relation to the figure. I planned to scan the pen templates and render them in Adobe Photoshop, my primary tool.
After sketching a pose I was happy with using, I continued to use pen to sketch potential uniform designs. Design for clothing was based around, like much of the designs, on functionality with emphasis on a futuristic aesthetic. For this I applied a relevant visual library in designing.
Ubacs is a type of shirt used by runners and military personal alike, used for their ability to ventilate the wearer in warm environments. What I found particularly interesting visually about Ubacs was the sections in material. In my designs I would draw similar material patterns at different parts of the body.
The above image is the digital copy of the sketched and inked template I drew on paper. When I felt I was at a level of finish to continue I duplicated the template and lined them up on a 2500 pixel by 6000 pixel plain. I believed I achieved the desired stance that gave the indication of heavy machinery. In the early stages of designing this concept, I found that the Equipment was integral to the overall design. What I had hope to achieve for this particular asset concept, was to make it distinctive in silhouette and distinguishable from a military grade weapon.
Later I was able to establish a gas canister and sharpened protrusion out the muzzle that resembled a harpoon.
As part of BA8 I must produce a showreel highlighting my work in a presentable 2-3 minute video. What I hope to present through developing my showreel is a showcasing of my ability to produce high level concept art and display aptitude in directing a showreel that enhances my artwork. In consideration to directing my showreel an understanding of cinematic flow, music, length and timing and ultimately the capability to construct all of these elements in a harmonious composition.
The whole purpose of a showreel is to display your work as industry to potential clients and employers without the showreel being time consuming. The reason for this is, most of the time potential clients time is valuable and often in the games industry time is a commodity that is rarely afforded. As such the capability to show as much of your work in a short amount of time is a good idea.
However, what I would like to do with creating my showreel is to strike a balance between introducing my art in a fast pace setting and creating a dramatic mood complimentary to my work. The reason I want to create a dramatic introduction is to convey the direction of narrative I’ve taken in my concept game ‘Arc’.
I have decided that a trailer like introduction to my showreel will yield the best results. The idea of the trailer is to encourage curiosity in the viewer and ultimately find our more. The trailer is a montage of video, audio, and text of the full version of the product you are trying to promote, in my case it will be my art for my game concept ‘Arc’.
The music would play a huge role of achieving the desired feel that I wanted to convey. The first section of the trailer I wanted to convey a sense of vast emptiness and loneliness that would fit the theme but also provoke intrigue in the viewer. What I felt was necessary was to achieve this was the use music in synchronisation with the images shown i.e. my concept designs. The two songs I had chosen for my showreel was the theatrical and epic sounding ‘Adagio In D Minor by’ John Murphy and the fast-paced and futuristic sounding ‘Bladerunner end theme’ written by Vangelis.
In using these compositions I will need to obtain permission from the labels that own their copyrights. Adagio In D Minor is owned by FoxMusic where as the Bladerunner End Theme is owned by Warner Music Group. In gaining Permission it is important to understand the rules that apply to your showreel. As the Music in my video is synchronised to the display of my concept art, I will need to obtain synchronisation rights with possibly performance rights.
“The use of music in film, TV, video and webcast production involves two aspects of copyright law: synchronization
rights and performance rights. Performance rights come into play when a production is shown to the public — typically
via broadcast or cablecast. Performance rights are primarily of concern to film distributors and TV and cable stations.
Synchronization or “sync” rights, on the other hand, are involved whenever recorded music is used in combination with
visual images in a production. It is important for producers to understand what is involved in obtaining sync rights.”
Performance rights might have to be obtained to display my showreel with audio in public spaces such as its possible show case at the upcoming degree show.
I’ve sent the follow e-mail to Warner Music on permission to use the blade runner end titles track.
“My name is Tobias and I’m a third year student gradating this year with a BA Hon in Games Art and Design from Norwich University College of The Arts. With permission I would like to use the title ‘Blade Runner (End Titles)’ for a non-profit personal showreel for my upcoming degree show. Upon request, I can send a copy of my showreel via e-mail. If preferred, after event it will be withdrawn from public domain. The showreel itself will use synchronisation rights and performance rights.
Context Through Concept Art & Presentation
I’ll be researching ways to contextualise Arc’s game world through developing concept art and presentation. Examples such as the 1982 film Sci-fi film Blade Runner and digital game Mass Effect are cases where in order to create the sense of believability a great amount of detail was put into creating the world that the story took place in. In order to make the story world believable (should that be the desired outcome) assets are designed to hold relevance to how everyday life is lived. This is known as Set Dressing. In the illustration book ‘The Art of The Mass Effect Universe” is a chapter on miscellaneous technology.
“Some concepts for machinery were used on the main worlds as set dressing, while others were made for the uncharted worlds where Shepard retrieves technology lost on the surface of the planet.”
“Given the size of the Mass Effect universe, we needed an enormous amount of set dressing and ambient machinery like chairs, beds, storage, and mechanical equipment to make the areas look lived in and believable. They aren’t the most glamourous pieces, but if they didn’t exist, players would feel something was missing.”
As mentioned above, the designs weren’t extensively developed as the primary designs. An example of Set Dressing concept from BladeRunner and Mass Effect. What I have found different than most standard concepts was the presentation.
As seen above, the concepts are presented as clearly as possible through measurements, notes, and possible animation descriptions.
Tools of Industry
Early in Ba8 I wanted to expand my skills by using other applications that could help communicate my concepts. I’ll be looking at resources to help understand the desired traits in a concept artist.
“Breaking in as an artist is next to impossible without a portfolio, and this is one of the things schools and universities can help you develop. Tim Coman, Art Director at Day 1 Studios, said, “It’s important to have a strong portfolio that shows your work is on par or better than the work the company is currently doing.”
“It is especially important for aspiring artists to be able to use one or more of the 3-D modeling software programs. Game Designer Tim Fields said, “Master as many different types of content building software as you can. Every one you learn will make learning the next one easier.” The hot new tool may be obsolete by the time you get your first job, so you need to be flexible, adaptable, and eager to learn new software and hardware.”
I’ve looked at what multiple requirements are listed in concept artist job descriptions. I’ve put asterisk’s next to relevant requirements.
Skill-set required for the role:
• Excellent traditional art skills.*
• Strong concept painting skills in a range of styles.*
• Experienced with 2D and 3D art packages.*
• Some experience of user interface design and.
• Experience of creating in-game art work 2D implementation/3D.
• Enjoys working in a team environment and willing to pitch in and help out others when necessary.
• Able to work to deadlines and schedule own workload.
• Has worked on at least one shipped title. (console or mobile)
Skill-set required for the role:
- Excellent life drawing sketches*
- Advanced understanding of colour and perspective
- Demonstration of a concept’s evolution from rough ideation to a final tight drawing or “blueprint”
- An excellent understanding of the principles of design
- Good verbal and written English skills
- 2+ years industry experience
- Design and define visually striking art styles for our games
- Rapidly create concept art for pitches and prototypes
- Concept, design and create original game characters, backgrounds and worlds
- Create high quality production art assets, animation and UI for use in games
- Work closely within a team to build super high quality games
We’re looking for creatively driven artists who are overflowing with ideas and passionate about gaming. These are the key things we’re looking for in candidates:
- Super strong art portfolio of 2D vector work*
- Excellent design skills, including effective use of colour, form and composition
• Expert level with suitable art package (Photoshop, Painter).*
• Strong environmental and character artistic skills.
• Relevant university or further education qualification.
• 3D package experience (Maya, 3ds Max, SketchUp).*
• 1+ game cycle experience.
• Excellent organizational and communication skills.
• Ability to problem solve.
• Flexibility to adapt to specific styles.
• Eye for quality control.
• Graphic design or motion graphics experience a major plus.
– Strong concept painting skills in a range of styles.*
– Experienced with 2D and 3D art packages.*
– Some experience of user interface design and implementation.
– Experience of creating in-game art work 2D/3D. Versatile in both realistic and stylised artwork.
– Enjoys working in a team environment and willing to pitch in and help out others when necessary.
– Able to work to deadlines and schedule own workload.
– Has worked on at least one shipped title. (console or mobile)
“Autodesk® SketchBook® Pro paint and drawing software enables you to transform your desktop computer, laptop, or tablet PC into the ultimate sketchbook. With professional-quality sketching capabilities and an intuitive interface, even new users can be productive within minutes.”
SketchBook Pro software offers the sketching software capabilities and quality results expected by professionals:
- Graphic arts
- Industrial design
Mead, S.M, 1996. Oblagon. 1st ed. U.S.A: Columbia lithograph, Inc.
Vaz, M.C.V, 1996. The Art of Star Wars. 1st ed. U.K: Mohn Media.
Khang Le, Mike Yamada, Felix Yoon, Scott Robertson (2005). The Skillful Huntsman. California: Design Studio Press. p1-160.
Simpson, J. (1989) The Oxford Dictionary. 2nd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Hudson, C. and Watts, D. (2012) The Art of The Mass Effect Universe. U.S.: Dark Horse.
No Author (2008) Bladerunner Sketchbook. PDF edition [e-book] San Diego: Bill D.Schanes. p57.
Unknown. (2012) Artist Insight: Making Great Compositions . Imagine FX, Iss. 80 p.p78-82.
Feng Tzu. 1999. ArtbyFeng. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.artbyfeng.com/. [Accessed 20 November 11].
The Gnomon Workshop. 2000. The Gnomon Workshop. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.thegnomonworkshop.com/about.html. [Accessed 20 November 11].
Skillset. 2011. Concept Artist. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.skillset.org/film/jobs/productiondesign/article_4680_1.asp. [Accessed 19 November 11].
http://www.sketchsoftware.net. 2011. Syd Mead Speaks About Sketch Software. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.sketchsoftware.net/syd-mead-speaks-about-sketch-software. [Accessed 08 January 12].
Will Terrell. 2009. How do I become a freelance illustrator?. [ONLINE] Available at: http://talentmonkey.net/?p=110. [Accessed 15 January 12].
Ars Technica. 2009. Gaming expected to be a $68 billion business by 2012. [ONLINE] Available at: http://arstechnica.com/gaming/news/2008/06/gaming-expected-to-be-a-68-billion-business-by-2012.ars. [Accessed 24 January 12]. 5
AlisonEldred (n.d.) John Harris. [online] Available at: http://www.alisoneldred.com/artistJohnHarris.html [Accessed: 08/03/12]
usa.autodesk.com. 2012. Autodesk SketchBook Pro. [ONLINE] Available at:http://usa.autodesk.com/adsk/servlet/pc/index?id=6848332&siteID=123112. [Accessed 18 May 12].
Gnomon: Thumbnail Sketching and Line Drawing, 2008. [DVD] Syd Mead, U.S.A: The Gnomon Workshop.
. (2010). 2019: A Future Imagined. [Online Video]. 03 December. Available from: http://www.fastcodesign.com/1662813/syd-mead-blade-runner-concept-designer-envisions-the-future-video. [Accessed: 21 November 2011].
FZDSCHOOL. (2012). Multitasking . [Online Video]. 09 January. Available from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=iPzEKlT7EKI. [Accessed: 16 January 2012].
MegentaFilms (2011) The Secret History Of The Earth. Available at: http://vimeo.com/27249779 [Accessed: 08/03/12].
Blade Runner, 1982. [DVD] Ridley Scott, U.S.A: Virgin Interactive.
2001: A Space Odyssey, 1968. [DVD] Stanley Kubrick, U.S.A: Roc.
Millard, Sean. (2012) [Interviewed by Author, 20 Jan 2012].
Posted in Uncategorized on November 27, 2011
Research, development and reflection
This brief is aimed at the learning and understanding of Concept and Reproduction, in order to refine our skill sets in our chosen field of expertise within the media and entertainment industry. With this brief, I’ll be writing up my own Learning agreement, which is to say I’ll be setting a goal that I can reach before the designated deadline. The learning agreement will contain what I hope to achieve for my final year project. By the end of the brief I hope to have successfully achieve creating a design document for my game as this will underpin and reflect the blueprint for my game concept. This blog will act as a reflective design journal for the development of required elements of my game such as, Concept Synopsis, Theoretical tenets, Storyline or Theme, Concept Art Storyboards, Game Play Blueprint Technical process guides, and limitations and tests. However I will primarily focus on the elements that concern concept art development such as narrative and theme. Only briefly will I touch upon game mechanics because these are the elements that don’t effect concept design.
Outlining Concept: The participant plays the part of a Planet, not a ordinary plane,t but a living organism full of life. You are in control of the forces of nature that influence the balance of life on your planet. You influence weather, orbit and how the tectonic plates shift, changing the diversity and balance of life. The aim of the game is to survive, your biggest challenge is when an unknown alien arrives on a ship to colonise the planet, naming you Tabula Rasa. You survive by either two options, you accept the alien race or to eradicate it with the forces of nature and the provocative actions they cause.
Initial Concept: The initial concept was that the planet you took control of was Earth, of which you controlled natural disasters. Much of the core concept has stayed the same, however the decision was made to change it from Earth to a Earth-like planet was done out of sensitivity to past and emerging world events. In the worse case scenario, reflecting tragic events too closely will lead to an abrupt halt on further development which also may be reputation damaging. Another reason why I changed this initial concept was to enable me to broaden the scope for narrative and design creativity.
Genre: Choosing this concept has a lot of early consideration to take in to perspective, such as genre. At this stage in the development, I’m thinking that this game will work best in a turn-based strategy format, although this is not set in stone as of yet. At the moment I’m looking into gameplay methods that work best for this type of game as well as the far reaching implications that it may have on it’s target audience. In all games, the rules and boundaries enable you to classify a game genre. However it’s important to understand the effects that certain rules have on a game, as they can change the final outcome. As a designer, every decision must have a reason and must be fully understood, as a poor judgement will have a long term affect on the final product and ultimately the game will not become what you wished it to have become. In many ways a game’s genre also defines how it is perceived. Mentioned in the academic book on games ‘Understanding Video Games’, goes on to explain this affect.
“They [games] are everything from an instrument that influences culture to a body of knowledge that is influenced by the cultures surrounding it; they interact with media and other cultural trends in complex ways. But we must also acknowledge the culture of people who make the gaming industry possible – The gamers themselves. Men and women, young and old, poor and rich – players don’t just play these games; from the merging of a game (or genre) its the players that spring many different cultures and subcultures, each with particular interests, values, norms, and sometimes even languages.”1
This rings true as we see a lot of game titles and genre synonymous with certain subcultures. If one was to mention MMORPG, it conjures up the commonly perceived view on such subculture. This isn’t the only example, First Person Shooter (FPS), Real-time Strategy (RTS), and Turn-based Strategy (TBS), to name a few, all have the same rule apply. The reason why I’m looking into this so intricately is so I perhaps understand the design path my game would take.
Narrative, Philosophy and Influence: For all of my projects I pay close attention to the narrative, this one more so. I’m a firm believer that games have the ability to hold a greater sense of meaning beyond that of play. As a result, I always like to include relevance within narrative and concept to the participant, extending intrigue to a heightened level of cognitive interactivity and prompting an awareness of a message behind gameplay.
Limbo: One of my all time favourite games and one of which is the biggest influence on my game’s narrative, is the game Limbo by PlayDead Studios, a small Danish indie games company. Limbo in design is very unique, there are many variables in which this uniqueness is achieved. For example it had it’s own independent game engine programmed specially for its gameplay, which I feel was interregnal to the design of the game. The narrative of the game is what I take influence from the most. The overall theme of Limbo is dark, it starts with no indication to whether or not if the game has started. Almost out of confusion you’ll push buttons in hope of beginning, after which you’ll begin to notice a boy laying on the floor. Upon awakening you’ll notice there’s not a tutorial to be found either, no emerson breaking subtitles describing what to do. Instead your first impressions are that of cold isolation and bewilderment, you have become this character in this bleak and dangerous world. With this in example the philosophy is that the first impressions are the lasting impressions, where less is more.
*Sorry, there are spoilers*
The story of Limbo is perhaps what inspires me most. It has no right or wrong way to interoperate the ending, however for me there was a realisation at the end for what it could mean. The only information that is given to you is at the start of the story, a simple sentence explaining, a boy enters Limbo to find his sister. There is an automatic presumption that the nameless boy’s sister is lost or maybe even dead, judging from the title. Suddenly towards the end I realised that perhaps his sister wasn’t lost or even dead, there is nothing that confirms this after all. For me it was the sparking idea that maybe the prominent and violent deaths was not how we universally see deaths in games. What I mean by this is that in games death is a sign to indicate that you have failed to achieve the goal and that death was a simple restart – it never happened. However within the world of Limbo perhaps it wasn’t a restart but representative of the grim world that you occupy, where death and life isn’t the end or start, just multiple events in the game world. Upon that realisation you begin to see that maybe this nameless boy you control is dead and trapped within Limbo in desperation of finding his sister, who is alive. The video below is the ending of Limbo. At one point it shows the boy being launched through what seems to be a barrier, an event of importance represented by the slowing of time. The boy is tossed through a barrier upon where he collapses and lays and awakes in the same manner as the game started. Another interesting point as this is a reoccurring theme of the game, which supports that he is in the world of limbo. Upon being reunited with his sister the world remains bleak and the feeling of un-resolve remains. Maybe the boy is a ghost? Maybe his sister was in mourning when she felt his ghostly presence?2
Resources to help understand narrative: On the 7th to the 10th of November 2011, I will be visiting the Bradford Animation & Games Festival. For the Bradford Animation Festival I attended Adrian Hon’s ‘New stories for new platforms’. Adrian Hon is director of the game ‘Zombies, run!”, a new game for Android and iPhone. Based on a running exercise app with the twist of designing it to be more game like by adding a theme and narrative.
The selling point of the game is the narrative as there is a niche for story-based games for the growing popularity of phone games, and this is what the lecture was about. The BAF describes the lecture, “Stories in PC and console games are nothing new, but handheld and mobile gaming platforms are more likely to test your reflexes than your emotional intelligence. Adrian Hon examines how we might bring extended stories to these new platforms, who will make these games and how they will be funded , while exploring how player-generated stories can gain wider appeal on the new gaming platforms of today and tomorrow.”
Now as I attended this lecture I managed to gather quite a bit of useful information. Although as the title suggests it doesn’t directly focus on my subject area, as I’m not likely to choose iPhone or Android for my gaming platform. However Most of the issues raised were on the topic of narratives in games as a whole cultural movement. I’ve managed to record most of the Adrian Hon lecture however the sound quality isn’t great so instead I’ll use the BAF Podcast which recorded the same lecture.
Concept Art Influence: In the conceptual design side of my game I will primarily looking at assets and environments to bring my world to life. For influence I will be looking at Conceptual Artists, Feng Zhu, Francis Tsai, and Syd Mead. All of the mentioned artist are industry recognised and have have worked on both asset and environment concept art for major productions. Hopefully either through twitter is other such methods, I will be able to contact at least one of them, most likely the two former. My objective is to ask for tips on the creation of concept design.
Feng Tzu: Feng Zhu is a veteran concept artist and has worked on many projects a lot of which are very notable. Feng Tzu also began his on design studio aimed at teaching students in concept art and design. On his website there are many free design tutorials ranging from how to get inspired, how the industry works, and how to better improve your photoshop painting skills. A method he pushes is working fast, he goes on to explain how this will be beneficial in the working design industry. Explaining that clients can be quite vague and as a result there is no clear direction, it’s best to draw a lot of loose concept pieces than one intricate time consuming piece that may not work. Another reason to do more loosing paintings is to ensure it looks alive. A over detailed painting can look frozen in time and the important organic aspect can be lost. Personally I feel my paintings are too intricate and as a result the feeling of concept is lost. This is something I’d like to look at and practice. Fortunately for me these elements of technique are subjects researched by Feng Tzu on his website through free tutorials. Here are the two tutorials that bore the most relevance to me.
2001: A Space odyssey : All good concepts as fantastical as they are all remain rooted in reality, A prime example of this is the film 2001: A Space Odyssey made in 1968 during a time where space was the ultimate goal of super-powers. Bearing in mind that mankind had not set foot on the Moon until a year later. Much of the core designs within the film are highly regarded as being very realistic even by todays standards. The reason being is that Stanley Kubrick had connections with NASA at the time, of which he could gather reliable information on vastly unknown elements of space. A prime example of these advanced concepts shown in 2001 is the centrifuge. A huge cylindrical film set in which some of the most memorable scenes from the film took place.
The idea that centrifugal forces could be harnessed to create artificial gravity is a compelling theory that stands well in concept design. However in reality this would not work for various reasons. The problems with such a method of artificial gravity would be for it to work, it would have to be impractically large. Obviously this doesn’t make it a bad concept, whatever the actual physics will work or not, it’s still rooted firmly in reality to pass the initial test of believability . So what influences me about 2001, was that the design was influenced by real factors.
As this section implies it’ll be about the development of my concept art for my game. This will be documenting everything design related.
Theme and narrative: The backstory for the game will be kept vague and ambiguous, a storytelling method inspired by Limbo. I believe this will induce a range of interactive responses in the player. The four interactive modes mentioned in the book ‘Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals’, by Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman, explains these functions and it’s relation to a game and the player.
Mode 1: Cognitive interactivity; or interpretative participation. This is the psychological, emotional and intellectual participation between a person and a system. Example: the complex imaginative interaction between a single player and a graphic adventure game.
Mode 2: functional interactivity; Functional interactivity; or utilitarian participation included here: functional, structural interactions with the material components of the system (whether real or virtual). For example, the interface? how “sticky” were the buttons? what was the response time? how legible was the text on the high-resolution monitor? all these elements are part the total experience of interaction.
Mode 3: Explicit interactivity; or participation with designed choices and procedures. This is “interaction” in the obvious sense of the word: overt participation like clicking the non-linar links of a hypertext novel, following the rules of a board game, rearranging the clothing on a set of paper dolls, using the joystick to manoeuvre Ms. Pac-Man. Included here: choices, random events, dynamic simulations, and other procedures programmed into the interactive experience.
Mode 4: Beyond-the-objectivity; or participation within the culture of the object. This is interaction outside the experience of a single designed system. The clearest example come from fan culture, in which participants co-construct communal realities. Will superman come back to life does kirk love Spock?4
These are the interactive modes established within the study of games. Some of the four interactivity’s occur naturally in human experience, such as cognitive interactivity. Although such interactivities do occur naturally, it’s possible to strengthen the cognitive nature of a story by designing it to encourage the participant into bridging gaps in the narrative. although this method I’ll use cannot solely depend on the lack of narrative, rather it depends of the placement quality of information. What I hope to achieve through my narrative is a heightened awareness of the deeper narrative, upon this I hope this will encourage Beyond-the-objective interactivity. How the game Limbo uses its narrative is much in the same way. Due to its secretive and minimal story telling it achieves beyond-the-object interactivity, as seen in online forums with discussions on Limbo’s possible meaning. I have myself engaged with researching possible meanings. Another well renown game that facilitates the forth mode of interactivity is the Halo franchise, such engagements are not solely exclusive to games; for example if we look at Star Wars.
The narrative for my game is based on a self-aware planet where life flourishes. This planet is young in terms of planetary age, and like a child is learning to control its functions. This unnamed planet is a oasis in the dark, cold vacuum of space, very much like Earth. However my imaginings of this planet is that its smaller than Earth and its weather and tectonic shifts are more violent and rapid. In this sense its behaviour is much like a child. The planet’s awareness works in a way that’s incomprehensible to humans, it does not see or hear but rather it feels. Perhaps the best way to describe this is that the planet senses.
This is where the narrative becomes deeper. The Nameless Planet senses something in it’s orbit, this information will be kept vague showing illustrations rather than written information. An alien flotilla of space shuttles begin to orbit the planet. Upon this, the planet can hear them, particularly a word that evidently becomes your name – You have been named Tabula Rasa.
Choosing the planets name: There are a few reasons why I chose the name Tabula Rasa. One of the reasons is that like most decisions I take, I like my ideas to have a connection to a wider cultural background. Tabula Rasa is a philosophical theory that states that people are born without moral perceptions or other such understandings and that anything information gained is from experience. The word Tabula Rasa derives from latin, translating in English ‘Blank Slate’. The following will be purposely vague due to the nature of the story. The Alien species is in fact the human race and the reason for this is to greater the impact of the underlining meaning, of which one of the elements is perspective; For example the human race would be alien to the distant planet. This relates to the name as the english translation for Tabula Rasa is blank slate, which is to give the sense that the human race has made Earth uninhabitable and had to flee in order to find a new home – a new start, or a blank slate.
Other reason I chose Tabula Rasa is that it acts as a double entendre to both the indication of the desperation of human race’s situation and the literal philosophical meaning of Tabula Rasa. What I mean by the latter, as mentioned before the planet is young in planetary age and there-fore acts as a child. Tabula Rasa will reflect the players growing understanding of the game’s function and storyline.
The definition of Tabula Rasa according to the Britannica encyclopaedia.
“tabula rasa, (Latin: “scraped tablet,” i.e., “clean slate”), in epistemology (theory of knowledge) and psychology, a supposed condition that empiricists attribute to the human mind before ideas have been imprinted on it by the reaction of the senses to the external world of objects.”
Comparison of the mind to a blank writing-tablet occurs in Aristotle’s De anima (4th century bc), and the Stoics as well as the Aristotelian Peripatetics subsequently argued for an original state of mental blankness. Both the Aristotelians and the Stoics, however, emphasized those faculties of the mind or soul that, having been only potential or inactive before receiving ideas from the senses, respond to the ideas by an intellectual process and convert them into knowledge.
A new and revolutionary emphasis on the tabula rasa occurred late in the 17th century, when the English empiricist John Locke, in his Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690), argued for the mind’s initial resemblance to “white paper, void of all characters,” with “all the materials of reason and knowledge” derived from experience. Though Locke himself fell back on “reflection” as a power of the mind for the exploitation of the given “materials,” his championship of the tabula rasa signaled even more radical positions by later philosophers.5
Why is the interactive elements of narrative important to concept design? The reason I feel narrative is a important aspect to concept design is because I think it influences some of the decisions taken in designing assets, environments, and even characters. Like in film or theatre, the theme is the set for multiple narratives to take place. Obviously Theme is essential to the overall design but it’s the smaller narratives that evoke the details in designing concept art. Take a spacecraft for example, we will probably realise that it is of a sci-fi theme; However the circumstances of that particular sci-fi story universe can be told through how the spacecraft will look. Is the spacecraft of Human origin or is it Alien in appearance? do the species that own the spacecraft have a home world or are they refugees?
The title for my game was made as to resemble an arcing shape to fit with the game name ‘Arc’. The name ‘Arc’ was decided to indicate the fate of the human race’s home-world, Arc is in reference to biblical stories of punishment and survival. Originally the game was going to be called Exodus, meaning “a going out; a departure or emigration, usually of a large number of people: the summer exodus to the country and shore.” This was in direct reference to the tone and theme of the story. However the name Exodus has a solid meaning which is turn leaves no room for interpretation which is the intention.
Going in the same direction, I decided to name it Arc in reference to the biblical story of the ‘Ark’. For design reasons I changed the ‘K’ in ark to a ‘C’. The reason for this is to keep the title ambiguous and to give it a double entendre. Changing it to ‘Arc’ gives the impression of an arcing motion from one object to another e.i a planet; All whilst maintaining the Biblical reference to the Ark.
Designing the title so that the ‘A’ in Arc was an arcing shape was an idea that I wanted to keep. This I felt could effect the legibility of the title, however in the end deciding the clarity outweighed any concerns over design.
Unmanned Excavation Vehicle Concept
Following Syd Mead’s Gnomon workshop tutorials I begin the process of creating my concepts through silhouettes. The idea behind drawing silhouettes is to create a sort of scope for your imagination to fill in the blanks creating something that you might not of been able to create consciencely. This is a thumbnail technique in wide use in concept art.
After this thumbnail sheet I’ve decided to pick on of the silhouettes that I like most and further define their shape.
At this stage I knew I wanted my Unmanned excavation vehicle to resemble an insect of some sort. This thumbnail sheet varies very little
This rendered image is to further refine my choice. The more I worked on the three renders the more I became convinced that the mosquito-like UEV was the better design. Generally I found it more pleasing to look at as it covers a large portion of values making it seem more three dimensional.
These sketches were drawn to aid me in distinguishing the shape, function and movement. From this I gathered than the rotors would fold enabling it to walk freely
Salen, Zimmerman, K.S, E.Z, 2004. Rules of play: Game Design Fundamentals . 1st ed. United States: MIT Press.4
Nielsen, Smith, Tosca, S.E.N, J.H.S, S.P.T, 2008. Understanding Video Games. 1st ed. UK, US: Routledge.1
tabula rasa 2011. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Retrieved 07 November, 2011, from http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/579900/tabula-rasa 5
2011, 18 November 11, Adrian Hon, Six to start, new stories for new platforms. 1. 10 November 11, http://soundcloud.com/nationalmediamuseum/new-stories-for-new-platforms. 18 November 11.3
Limbo, 2010. [VideoGame] PlayDead Studios, Denmark : PlayDead Studios.2
Mead, S.M, 1996. Oblagon. 1st ed. U.S.A: Columbia lithograph, Inc.
Vaz, M.C.V, 1996. The Art of Star Wars. 1st ed. U.K: Mohn Media.
3DTotal.com, 3DTotal.com, 2009. Digital Art Masters. 4th ed. Oxford: elsevier LTD.
Feng Tzu. 1999. ArtbyFeng. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.artbyfeng.com/. [Accessed 20 November 11].
The Gnomon Workshop. 2000. The Gnomon Workshop. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.thegnomonworkshop.com/about.html. [Accessed 20 November 11].
Gnomon: Thumbnail Sketching and Line Drawing, 2008. [DVD] Syd Mead, U.S.A: The Gnomon Workshop.
Gnomon: Value Sketching, 2008. [DVD] Syd Mead, U.S.A: The Gnomon Workshop.
Blade Runner, 1982. [DVD] Ridley Scott, U.S.A: Virgin Interactive.
2001: A Space Odyssey, 1968. [DVD] Stanley Kubrick, U.S.A: Roc.
Unit Brief Description
In this project you will collate and present the finest examples of your work via a considered and well presented website. You will motivate the theme of your website in one of two directions; progression to Year 3, or progression to employment. You should have by now chosen an area of specialism in the field and be intent on highlighting your importance as a game artist.You need to address issues surrounding the best presentation of your work, making use of formats suited to the Internet.
Statement of Intent
What I intend to do for my BA6 Project Two is to create a clear and well presented website showcasing my best work with a range of art disciplines to achieve the best possible outcome. I will focus on presenting my portfolio for employment in the games industry, of which I will demonstrate to the best of my abilities essential creative assets and a cannon of knowledge of industry practice.
As stated in my brief I must create an online portfolio that showcases my best works and demonstrates my knowledge of industry practice. The website design must also be taken into consideration as itself is a showcase of my creative abilities. Gathering information of good web deign is essential, as such I will analyse good design assets. For me a E-Portfolio as such should be engaging and simple to navigate.
Being new to web building I’ll have to search for a web building application that will be simple enough for a beginner to use but allow enough creative freedom to get the desired result.
The first web builder tool I look at is the iWeb application, which usually come free as standard when you purchase a mac along with iLife. iWeb is an incredibility simple and easy piece of software to use and would be perfect for the beginner. However completely unsuitable for what I need. The reason is for this is although simple to use, leads to very limiting creative input leaving you stuck with pre-made templates to choose from. When using iWeb I had the impression that it was more for the casual blogger than an actual means to create a professional website. Using a credible source such as Macworld as a basis for information about the pros and cons of certain apps.w
Pros & Cons according to Macworld: iWeb
- Easy to use
- Great new widgets
- Easy to Update
- Easy to publish via FTP
- Maybe inappropriate for some professional sites
- No e-mail masking
- Templates limit design flexibilit
After finding out iWeb May not be really suitable for building my E-portfolio I stumble across RapidWeaver, another web-building application. Described as a cross between Dreamweaver and iWeb is terms of the user-friendliness offers more room for creative design. After playing with RapidWeaver it has become apparent that with the time frame in which the project must be completed I may not have enough time to teach myself to use RapidWeaver. As RapidWeaver is a lesser known application than, for example than Dreamweaver, there are a limited amount of tutorials in comparison. Although may be a viable option in the future.
Pros & Cons according to Macworld: RapidWeaver
- theme-based approach enables instant customisation
- Easy to use
- Supports a variety of page types
- Blog commenting requires external hosting
- Power users could find themes limiting
After choosing iWeb as the application to build my site I began to look at popular design navigations. Navigation is a vital part of building a site, a good design will allow visitors to navigate your site easily without confusion. My next step is to make a navigation map, a visual demonstration of the layout of the site. Like a storyboard would, it’ll help pick out problems before they arise.
The site’s welcome page will be minimalistic with only a enter hyperlink connecting it to the other pages. Initially I was contemplating this as a viable option as it gave a sense of intrigue. Later I decided against this idea as it seemed pointless as essentially the viewer would have already been interested enough to visit the site without having to go through another gateway if you will.
In Junes 2011 edition of ImagineFX there is a section devoted to providing information and tip on the dos and don’ts of creating a portfolio, giving insight to what employers look for.
Kevin Jenkins an Art director talks of the over complications that can put a employer off, saying, “No Flash websites. Keep it simple and make sure it’s large enough to view at a reasonable size. If it’s too small, I can’t see what the work is like.”
William Stout, a well established artist within the industry emphasises, “Presentation, presentation, presentation. I’ve been handed creased bits of smudged paper with pencil drawings – not even finished pencil drawings. Be professional! If you’re not presenting your art in a sleeved portfolio book, the at least matt the art that you’re presenting with nice mattes and replace them if they get dirty.”
The name of the domain can offer an insight into the domain’s owner’s professional stance. There are two parts of a website name that need to be considered, The name itself and the domain.
Name: The name itself is an insight into what the site is about. The most practical for portfolio usage would be to use the name of the artist as it would promote awareness. However a short or snappy name could also benefit as more often than not they are memorable. As the aim is to introduce your work, the use of a memorable name would be a valuable asset. I’ve decided to go for something along the lines of ‘T-portfolio’.
Domain: The most popular domain is .com and as its the most desired domain it can be subject to a limited availability. I’ve decided to purchase a .co, a recently emerging domain for public use. Described as a land grab in most cases, the popularity can be attributed to the fact that co is an abbreviation for Company, Commerce, and Corporation in the same way .com can be for the two former. Another factor that it is new, the driving factor that people will rush for. The main issue with purchasing a newly established domain is that it’s future is uncertain, leaving it a chance game to guess the future popularity of such domain.
According to the site ‘BusisnessBlogsHud.com’ the future of .co is looking positive. “It is estimated that more than 1 million .CO domains will be registered in 2010, and during the next 3-5 years it will be one of the top 10 top level domains worldwide. Whether the .co domain will be the next .com remains to be seen, but we do know already that we’ll be seeing a lot more of .CO links after Twitter purchased the t.co domain. This URL shortener aims at improving short links by keeping them meaningful and short at the same time. This would also help Twitter analyze the popularity of a link and roll out features based on it.” adding “Without a doubt, early adopters of .CO will benefit the most from this launch – the value of registering popular domains should not be underestimated.”
Unit Brief Description
This project builds and explores the difficult task of transposing game assets, design and narrative into an interactive format using both high-end computing and restricted resolutions (Apple handheld devices).
You will need to consider varying technical requirements of two platforms and conflicts that may arise from possible limitations and disparity, ultimately choosing which direction you will continue in; high-end computing, or more restrictive hardware, or examples of both.
Statement of Intent
What I intend to do for my BA6 Project One, focusing on 2D work, will create an interactive novel using both stills and animation to create an engaging narrative. I will to the best of my abilities create an in-depth analysis into other entertainment mediums to create the best possible outcome for my own. In order to create a concurrent and smooth flowing story I will look at existing successful methods of storytelling. I will look into interactive and non-interactive narratives such as novels and film to provide a greater understanding for narrative flow. Bringing influences to design I will create an interactive graphic novel that brings into consideration cultural context and understanding. I will be looking into the formats that my interactive narrative can take and which platforms will be best.
My initial idea for the story of my interactive narrative takes influence from Quentin Tarantino’s genre distortion style by applying a theme to an uncommon genre. What I mean by this is, taking Quentin Tarantino’s latest film ‘Inglourious Basterds’. Although themed around the Second World War, the ways in which the scenes were directed are of a western genre style.
My initial story idea is based around a spaghetti western style depiction of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, about a group of Iraqi wannabe mercenaries in a bid to find a high value target before a group of brutal blackwater mercenaries do. Before I start the process of painting the scenes I must make a storyboard as to visualise the scenes flow and prevent problems from occurring when it comes to the final product. The interactive narrative will take a comic book style layout with frames representing the scenes.
My next step is to research what makes a spaghetti western. I can introduce various techniques used within that particular sub-genre. Upon this I can also make some scenes a sort of tribute to the iconic scenes that that characterised such films. For example such elements as a mexican stand-off that can enhance the intended theme. As defined by spaghetti-western.net “Most of the films were made with low budgets, but several still managed to be innovative and artistic, although at the time they didn’t get much recognition, even in Europe.”. Spaghetti Westerns were innovative and artistic primarily in the way cinematography was used which were often minimalist. As they were often low budget, what it lacked in its ability of acquisition of materials it made up for with cinematography techniques.
Dialog in such films are often kept to a minimal where possible where understanding and narrative will not suffer.
As seen in the clip above such examples of minimalism, not only in the camera work but the dialog is clearly evident. Instead facial expressions and the eyes express tension which charges the scene with emotion. The use of music is in strong contrast to the camera work, playing in perfect audio to visual harmony to produce a master class scene. Of course some techniques that work in film necessary won’t work or cannot be achieved using a comic book style layout.
A factor that has occurred to me, with the given time and the complexity of each painting I will have to develop a short story. The layout of the story will be designed to be somewhat disjointed, as if designed like a film trailer, show casing the overall story.
I’ve been working on producing the title for my narrative, feeling it carries a lot of weight on initial perception on said work.
The interactivity element in my graphic novel will primarily take the roll of navigation from one scene to the next. I’ll be focusing mainly on the cognitive interactivity between participant and platform. Like any successful film there is a degree of immersion involved, a diminished sense of self awareness attributed to the participants viewing or reading of said media. I wish to achieve a certain degree of immersion through my comic book style digital paintings and hopefully the dialog.
I’ve discovered an application that allows to build a digital comic book style. Upon this is allows to select screen resolution to enable your digital comic to be uploaded on restricted resolution hand-held devices such as iphone as well as high end resolution. However I’ve found the software very unintuitive with next to no tutorials online or anywhere else for that matter. Another problem I ran into was the fact that I couldn’t import mov. files into the app which will greatly restrict what I’m enable to do creatively. As Journey maker became more and more impractical option to use I thought of using iWeb to build my interactive narrative, combining my web portfolio with my second project.
On the issue of resolution, After having some problems with one of my animated scenes with RAM usage been too large, I have choose 640×480. I felt it was the optimal resolution to enable my after effects animated clip to run smoothly, currently I’ve managed to reduce it down to 95.2Mb from 255.4 Mb.
I tried to incorporate an iPhone like frame into my comic as to give the impression it could be developed as a iphone app. However this idea became impractical to finish. The main problem was that the images I had uploaded were sized at 640x 480x. Together with the size of the page, it was too large to enough accommodate the iphone frame. To resize all the comic images and animations would of been an ineffective utilisation of time.
For my interactive 2d graphic narrative I’ll be experimenting with aesthetic styles that bests suits the overall mood of the narrative. What I think I’ll experiment with is a sort of comic book style of painting. Evidently there are many comic book styles all very different from one another.
I’ve decided to introduce a secondary aesthetic style to the interactive graphic narrative, Combining a film noir visual style to act as a divide between scene location. This stylistic approach to visual narrative is often used. Usually this occurs in comic books as separate artist draw up scenes for separate narratives based in the same story-world. As presented in comic novel ‘Fiends of the Eastern Front’, there are three separate stories each drawn up by their own artist applying their own aesthetic style. Examples can be seen below.
I’ll also be introducing animations into some scenes using after effect and final cut pro for sound before combining both scene and sound in iMovie. For sound I’ve used the site ‘Soundsnap.com’, a credible sound effects library used by entertainment industry giants, such as Pixar and the BBC.
Type in Comics
There is much more than meets the eye with the application of dialog in comics. A comic must be able to grab the participant in the same way a film can. Obliviously the exact process cannot be replicated, but instead incorporates it’s very own method of showing expression with dialog. The way communication is expressed is primarily with speech bubbles. Following the guidelines of this site I should be able to create more expressive dialog.
Scene 1: Shot of an isolated vast arid landscape. Snaps to a black screen where the text appears, informing the viewer of the location.
New scene: Black screen fades to the next scene, A Radio is broadcasting a news bulletin in arabic.
Scene 2: A shot of two young Iraqi’s. One explains to the other of news that war has broken out and that the Coalition of The Willing has put a bounty on one of Saddam’s officials. A high one.
Scene 3: Shot of the other farmer who shows reluctance to the others proposed idea.
Scene 4: Close up shot of the first iraqi farmer insisting, he has news on a potential lead. “I have good information regarding our man’s location”
Scene 5: close up shot of the other, gesture suggests a question is being asked. “Are you sure?”
Scene 6: Sam angle as scene 4, he holds a folded piece of paper, a map. “Very.”
Scene 7 Close up of the unfolded map with dialog continuing off-shot. “Alright, you know where he is… who else will be after him?”
This Que will serve as the dividing point in the story where the aesthetic style will change indicated the change in location and mood of the scene. This will also serve as a answer to the question “Who else will be after him”, in the previous scene. This is a stylistic approach to scene development.
Scene one: Scene one will be the introduction of the graphic narrative, opening with the title ‘Cry Havoc’. The title was inspired by the slang term for mercenaries, ‘Dogs of War’. However ‘Dogs of War’ already exists as a title for a film. Instead I wanted to give a element of greater cultural meaning whilst retaining the general theme with the title. For this I chose the title ‘Cry Havoc’ in reference to Shakespeare’s phrase used in ‘Julius Caesar’, In full “Cry ‘Havoc!’ and let slip the dogs of war”. The title ‘Cry Havoc’ refers to the full phrase which is in direct reference to the theme of Dogs of War/ Mercenaries and war. The music I’ve selected for the clip is ‘Man with a Harmonica’ by Ennio Monnicone, mainly because of the mood it provokes for the story but also because of it’s connection with the spaghetti western genre.
Scene two: scene two is also to be a animated scene. This scene shows the location of the story, Iraq, showing symbolic features that have come to be associated with the Gulf Wars. Burning oil fields, vast desert plains etc. The main animation will be scene transactions from the previous scene. As scene two is a stark contrast of light to the pervious scene I’ve added a blinding light effect as adjusting eyes would do given the sudden transition. Sound also plays a role, the sound of fighter jets in the distance, intended to add a level of immersion to the scene. At this point I decided to add a prologue, informing the participant of location, setting, and background detail.
Scene Three: Scene three started with a crackling radio, the crackle indicating it is in fact coming from the radio. This is where the text first appears from one of the Characters, Hamzeh. The radio scene is to give information on the surroundings.
1. For A Few Dollars More, 1965. [DVD] Sergio Leone, Italy: Alberto Grimaldi.
2. Fiends of The Eastern Front, 1980.
3. Morricone, E. (1968) Once Upon A Time In The West (DVD) Italy.
I’ve been presented with a notion that the entertainment medium of digital games have the ability to contribute to society, extending influence beyond that of simple entertainment. That is to say that games have the ability to change and shape the culture, society, and the world that we live in with the foundation of entertainment. The truth of this is it can, weather used for commerce, politically or to educate, there are sure results that indicate that it does indeed have the ability. Not but ten years ago, this would of been considered a radical notion however with the advancements of connectivity through technology with emphasis on interactivity, is completely in the realms of the possibility.
Before looking at how games can change people’s behaviour, it’s important to look into interactivity and how people react to it. With the ever expanding face of social networking sites we can see overwhelming evidence of change in behaviour and the way people engage socially. Although not strictly entertainment, interactivity plays a huge roll within entertainment such as games. The question that we’re posed with is “Why is interactivity such a successful means of engaging with a participant?”. Although there is no simple answer for this, there are multiple elements that can help understand why. One element is a widely accepted learning theory that is in use in both education, business, and politics. This is the Fleming’s VAK/VARK model that categorises three learning methods, visual, auditory, and kinaesthetic learning. The latter meaning learning by physical touch. Examples on how this method is applied can be seen everywhere, Often applied as marketing technique of connecting with the consumer, for example car sales. Giving the potential purchaser the Car’s statistics, giving them a chance to hear the car’s engine, and letting test drive. This gives the experience of all three methods, hopefully striking one that bodes well with them. Another example would be the all successful Barack Obama campaign for president. By using such platforms such as Facebook to promote candidacy he was able to gather much more support from a generation relatively uninvolved in politics, the younger generation.Whereas such other more traditional platforms are still effective, it was the interactive nature of the internet and social networking sites that boosted support. The importance of the peoples involvement in such events is to be considered above all, weather for commerce, politically, or educationally.
Interactivity can change and engage on a social level just as well. The Fun Theory, a well recognised project that combines explicit interactivity and game-play mechanics to change the way people behave socially for the better. The Fun Theory is a competition based around encouraging people to become more environmentally, health/fitness, and safety aware by employing game mechanics. Multiple tests have been carried out since its lunch, all of which have shown positive results in the public’s behaviour. A test called ‘The Speed Camera Lottery’ with its aim to encourage drivers to keep to the speed limit did particularly well, resulting in a 22% reduction in speed since the test became active. Another test was to encourage people to use the stairs rather than the escalator right beside it. By installing a piano key like appearance and touch sensitive speakers into each step that replicate a piano note, shown that 66% more people used the stairs than normal. All of these tests showing astonishingly positive results in peoples behaviour, not only this but proves irrefutably that games can alter and influence.
The reason games could be so effective is that it utilises all three VARK methods of engaging which seems to have the ability to make us grasp a concept. Another question is beckoned to be asked, “What is the relationship between games and the human race?”. It’s clear looking at history that games are a large part of culture and often reflect the society that we live in. The earliest game recorded dates back to 3500BC Ancient Egypt, known from the depiction’s in hieroglyphs. Extraordinarily a game that was depicted 1000 years later. Board games aside, games such as sports have been a long standing tradition in history, dominating huge venues and attracting mass crowds to observe. The Olympics for example have been held for millennia and to this day nations invest vast amounts of money into hosting an awe inspiring spectacle. Although the games above are not or not strictly digital games, they do however use the fundamentals of games design, utilising gameplay mechanics with differing platforms. Although the mechanics for game design are the same it’s the platform that makes all the difference. As radio was the platform of choice to broadcast news, T.V. replaced it for primary news source as the internet is surpassing Television in order to keep up with a rapidly changing generation.
Clear evidence points to the fact that games can influence the behaviour of people. However, is this to be considered a good thing or something to be feared? If so, are there moral or ethical implication in designing a game? A debate waging since the creation of video games with violent or explicit content is, “do video games cause violence in people?”. There is an array of topics in question, but simply the answers are no, yes, and no. The advancements in digital gaming should be welcomed and embraced, as it enriches and provides a level of interactivity needed that to hold relevance to the culture of todays generation. Although it shouldn’t be feared it should be approached as entertainment, the deeper meaning lies with the narrative and the message it intends to broadcast to the participant. As mentioned above, the society and the times that we live in are reflected in games and the attraction for anything that may hold relevance to us. The renown time shift featured in the highly successful game ‘Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare’ is most likely a reaction to this. Lastly, the much disputed question, “Is there a connection between digital games and violence in its participants?”. Although much disputed, has been debunked multiple times in government funded investigations. The blame placed on digital games for violent behaviour seems to be apart of a long re-occurring event of complaints about entertainment by conservative thinking people. To conclude, Games can persuade and enrich every part of society and is doing so now.
By Tobias Jones
Posted in Uncategorized on February 20, 2011
In this brief I must choose an area to research and evaluate in advertising and marketing and the significant procedures that projects a games presence to its target audience. There are a lot of contributing elements that guide a game to success, of which is not necessarily just down to the quality of the game mechanics or an immersive narrative. Equally or more so important are the marketing and advertising tactics that can make or break a games success. In which a game achieves this publicity can be of several different tactics. There are the usual effective platforms for advertising such as T.V. adverts and Radio Adverts to more contemporised methods such as the use of social networking sites such as ‘facebook’ to connect with the target audience, that I’ll explore. Upon this I’ll explore what is unique in game marketing and why as such should be approached differently to other entertainment systems etc. However my main focus will be looking into using game demonstrations as a method of advertising digital games. Generally I feel games are fully appreciated for all its worth, as game demos can be statically important in the selling of a game. Upon being an effective platform to reach out to potential customers, it also serves as a feedback system for participant to designer if game mechanics is in need to be tweaked. Among this, game conventions such as E3 reply on company participants to show their latest upcoming games. The most widely used method for display is to prepare a demo and generally receive more attentions for it. Advertising is nothing new to games, especially to be used as a platform for advertising. This is called In-Game-Adverting or IGA, obviously a form of adverting exclusive to games. Perhaps an insight to the diverse nature to games as en effective means of marketing.
Game demos play a valuable asset of games culture, keeping gamers up to date with upcoming releases whilst giving an insight of what the said game will be like. The first game demos were released in the early 90’s through digital distribution, of which meant that only some digital game systems were able play them. Due to the cheap manufacture, the game demo could sell for such, as the only cost was to cover the packaging, this method became popular of distributing and publishing games as a result. However before this the earliest form of the demo came in the form of digital distribution. However most game ‘demos’ were downloaded through bulletin board systems, of which were simplistic in design and often came entirely free, not as we know demos today. The Bulletin Board system is the Internet in its earliest form in which users could login and download software. Of which many game developers could capitalize on, such as American entrepreneur and game programmer and later lead developer Scott Miller of game company Apogee. Scott Miller is a prime example of how a change of business tactics contributed to the modern model of game demos. As the former business model didn’t provide any income, the new one was to offer some of the game for free and providing the participant wanted the full version they would have to pay. This is a successful marketing tactic for the selling of games as it has expanded and modified to other realms of gaming, such as the hugely successful facebook game ‘Farmville’. Farmville, as mentioned earlier, owes its financial success to the kind of tactic, providing the player to play but enable them to progress at a much faster rate by purchasing in-game assets such as virtual recourses with real currency. Although not technically a demo as the full game is free, it is based around the same method that an ordinary demo uses. This demo model is usually only exclusive to online multiplayer Internet games, as the interaction with other players seems to fuel a passive competitive nature of the participant. However this alone cannot determine the success of a game such as Farmville as many other games have used this method long before Farmville’s arrival. Such games as Gaia and Habbo Hotel use the same method of financial income, which were out long before Farmville. The difference is the target audience of these games, which differ significantly. Where as Gaia and Hotel was aimed at a teen audience and advertised as a social hang out for teens, Farmville was aimed at a wider spectrum of people. Usually a clearly defined target audience will allow more focus on that audience and thus a clear idea on development on said game. In the case of Farmville it is the fact that it has ridden on the back of Facebook’s success. Zynga, the company that made Farmville picked up on certain trends on facebook and capitalised on them, making them into game-play aspects. As shown below you can see what trends have been taken into consideration.
Although it is aimed at a wider audience, it is the kind of audience that separates the success of social gaming sites such as Habbo and Gaia to Farmville. As Habbo hotel and Gaia is aimed at a teenager audience with little income opposed to the older audience with a disposable income that Farmville attracts. According to a survey done by ISG (Information solutions group) that in the US and UK, the average user of Farmville are women in there 40’s.
Another method, and a more traditional demo type are allowing specific features to only accessed through membership of said online game. It is the initial free part of the game that draws potential customers into buying it that makes it an effective platform for advertising. A popular online game that uses this method is Runescape. Runescape is a MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game) that has gone to strength to strength since its creation in 2001. Originally it started as a free online game however later introduced a subscription based system for people that wanted to become members and subsequently reap the benefits of bonus membership material. Since in order to be a member you must pay monthly payments, providing the company Jagex a constant flow of income in which to evolve and develop the game further. According to the Guinness Book of Records, Runescape is the most popular free MMORPG. This is a interesting factor as this means there is a large exposure to the games bonus multiplayer features. The more people that enjoy its free play will most likely become members at some point. The reason for the popularity of the free play is the fact it is quite large, as the site states it is up to 15000 hours of game-play for the free part. Although the site states this there is a clear effort to show how much larger the membership part is.
Another form of game demo that increases the profit that a game can put out is game add-ons or DLC (Down loadable Content). These are usually exclusive to online games but have made a more recent appearance as a single player element. The usual tactic of increasing the games value and the profit it makes, is to hold onto the extra content a few months after release before releasing it as DLC. An example of this would be the new Call of Duty: Black Ops as they have deployed this tactic as of late.
The most common type of demos and most widely funded are those to show off up coming games, the ones perhaps most people are familiar with. Originally they were distributed through leading game magazines in a CD format in the mid to late 90’s. The reason this was a favoured method of distribution is that fact that online compatibly wasn’t developed enough. The CD often came with multiple demos, screenshots, and trailers for upcoming games; this was the biggest way of the distribution of information to the games culture. Although still a successful way of information distribution, the development of the Internet and Online capability for consoles such as Xbox 360 has led the demise as leading information broker. With such advances within Xbox Live (For example) there is a constant feed of information about the changes, developments, and announcements of upcoming games and news to the audience. Since such advances have take place the games culture are become a lot more involved and fast paced. Full Games can now be downloaded through online to console as well as a constant stream of game demos and trailers with a feedback system for participants to rate them by. Essentially what has happened within the gaming culture is a large focus and effort has been put in to inform people, the use of the demo to do so has played a great roll in this.
Since games have been a major market there has always been a need for demos, not only for the public but to allow funding company’s insight into their investments. Subsequently this is how the first game conventions started. As the games industry started to pick up speed in popular culture it saw entry into trade shows which it shared with everything electronic in the mid 80’s. In it’s infancy the games industry would be apart of the ‘Consumer Electronics Show’ or CES which first made its debut in 1967.
As mentioned in the video above, the game Tomb Raider, which was introduced to the public through CES which enjoyed a lot of attention from the audience. This largely being evidence to the wide spread influence and trends in entertainment culture and the growing popularity of games. By 1995 the popularity of games would allow it to stand alone as a major industry sect enough to start a trade show purely devoted to games. So in 1995, E3 or Electronic Entertainment Expo was the year it was first held. The event was pitched and organised by Patrick Ferrell in partnership with formally IDSA, now ESA (Entertainment Software Association). The very first E3 event was a huge success that drew widespread attention. E3 became the proving ground for many new games and their companies, as well as the centre focus of gaming culture. This is where the games demo came into its own as game demos were an effective way of showcasing not yet released or finalised games. This was the main attraction to the public to E3, the idea that they could play new and exciting games that had not been released. The attendance of which became record breaking in 2005 and 2006 as attendance was at an all time high of 600,000 to 700,000. This was just as a marketing attraction to the public but as just as important to industry insight. Since the beginning of E3 there has been a rise in gaming conventions such Games Convention first held in 2002 plus Games Convention Asia funded by the same companies. More recently Euro-Gamer Expo in which in 2010 I had the pleasure of attending and witnessing the effect of game demos had. Evidently this is a trend spreading to many locations across the globe as we can see a rise of shows starting in the US, Europe and Asia.
When I attended the Euro-Gamer Expo in 2010 it was clear that the games that had a demo or had some form of interactivity drew more attention from the crowd. Here I’d like to address how the industry has, like in film, adopted a framing method for what they wish for the public to see. What I mean by this is that as seen in film trailers the developers will edit and frame the subject to give a sense of what the film will be like whilst embellishing what they do show. In game demo terms this could mean reconstructing a level to suit what kind of experience they desire the participant to have. An example of this is the resent release Dead Space 2, which made an appearance at Euro-Gamer 2010. I had the chance to play the Dead Space 2 demo, which happened to be longer than the one available on the xbox live market place. The portion that was missing was a cinematic and climatic ending. Such tactics of framing an experience shows us the level of development that goes into using a demo as a platform of advertising and marketing.
In conclusion to the means of using game demos and other similar branching methods, we can see how it has evolved to suit the rapidly expanding games industry. Evidently through games development, demos have been essential in the use of enabling small companies to expand and large companies to broadcast and create hype for their games. Through game demo’s framing, we see it is in par with cinema as an industry. Not only are demos important for large companies but important for the small time developing game designer as to showcase their abilities. As a whole game demos are just as, or even a more effective method of advertising as other more traditional platforms such as TV or radio. From free digital distribution to how we commonly see the game demo structure, evidence of its influence within the games industry is profound. It would be correct to say that what constitutes as a game demo is diverse, not subjected to a single business model, but an interchangeable one to the needs of the subject it is required to demonstrate.
Posted in Uncategorized on February 16, 2011
This is the second part to my current brief of Game concept art development. As the first part gave us the objective to explore and produce vehicle or environment concept art this part we’ll explore character design. Essentially it is the same with the exception of what the subject matter is. So as had the previous begun, I’ll begin this with drawing 100 shillohettes and develop the ones I like. There are many options and methods It which I can do this. As with the first section I must demonstrate an understanding for the development of concept art. Whilst creating concept art for my game I’ll be looking into the formal elements which guides the quality of all art.
My first step to organise what kind of characters will be in my game. I may devote fifty of the shillohettes to human characters and the other fifty to animal characters. As I did my last shillohettes in photoshop, This time around I wanted to explore doing them using more traditional mediums in my sketchbook. My primary tool I’ll use is the biro pen.
As I’m now sketching human shillohettes I have to be more refined than I was in my last project so I’m looking into proportion to make sure I can salvage something from it. I have quite a few books on human anatomy and proportion so it shouldn’t be too much trouble getting to grips with. A useful book on this subject is ‘Anatomy Drawing School’. Written by Gyorgy Feher and illustrations by Andras Szunyoghy, of which is clearly illustrated and explained.
Of course understanding anatomy can be vital to producing realistic work. There are many other techniques to take into consideration when creating concept art work, all of which vary depending on the chosen subject. Thankfully there is a wealth of resources at disposal to help aid developing art. At the shillohette stage I feel all I need for time being is anatomy. As mentioned earlier I’ll be experimenting with what mediums I use to do my shillohettes as to get a more varied outcome.
I felt using a biro pen has been perhaps the most fruitful in terms of outcome. Other methods such as using black ink and sepia tone felt pens I felt didn’t work do so well which were clumsy for such drawing. The Silhouette I’ve chosen was the one that I felt had the most character, I could see it being a big burly bear like Scottish soldier. So upon creating a sort of character for this silhouette I began to develop it based on this. As mentioned before, an effective technique is used by concept artist of creating silhouettes of the same character to create a diverse range to select from. A recent article in Digital art magazine ImagineFX demonstrates how this technique can be used in developing concept art.
Bearing these methods in mind I began the process of silhouette. How I imagined my NPC character to be is a quite aggressive soldier of the Scottish Black Watch regiment. A big bear of a man and to demonstrate this I drew him with a heavy looking weapon lugged over his shoulder. His stance needs to be dominating, as if commanding respect. Naturally large legs and broad shoulders to give the appearance of a strong build. Prospective is an important aspect to take into consideration, it can either make or break the desired appearance of your character. How I need it for mine is as if you are looking up at him so pretty much how the character is above. Flat feet will give this effect.
The next step is to create a model sheet for my character. Usually model sheets can be quite vague, for the purpose of clarity it’s a profile front and side drawing of a character you wish to create as a three dimensional model. An example found in the development sheet article of imagineFX can be seen below.
After I’ve finished my model sheet I can progress on to painting the pose I have chosen my character to be in. An important aspect of painting concept art is to summarise what mood you wish to give off. Elements like lighting, colour and composition are all contributing aspects of a good painting and thus should always be considered. One way of looking for the desired mood is to look at how other artist’s have achieved such in their work. As my character is quite a dark and menacing figure I felt strong lighting contrasts would suit the style. An artist I’ve always favoured for the strong contrast between light and dark is renaissance artist Caravaggio.
Here re two examples of Caravaggio’s paintings, as you can see he uses dramatic lighting to effect the overall emotion of the painting. Personally I’ve always felt this a thought provoking feature in his work. This is an element I wish to incorporate into my work.
Generally I feel the lighting and composition could be better but I felt this was more a show piece to show a characters mood, which the lighting gives a sense of a dangerous character. After this piece I felt compelled to do more mood and atmospheric digital paintings rather than a showcase. This is where I started a more mysterious character design, although a short one I felt it could really help with the understanding of what makes a painting work. My first atmospheric painting was to paint a tranquil painting of one of my game characters, James Gibson whose a friend of the protagonist. How I imagined James was a young soldier boy caught up in war with a naive sense of patriotism quickly dashed by the brutal reality of war. A sense of longing for home was perhaps the main aim for the painting.
Composition wise, I was going by the rule of thirds to make the scene appear more natural by off setting the Oak tree to the left. Thew lighting in the painting I felt needed to appear quite a violent red whilst the darkened silhouettes I wanted to give a feel of a darker nature to the painting. Another area I wished to touch upon was james’ character, I wanted to give a sense that he no longer wanted to be where he was but would rather be daydreaming or reading a book under a large oak tree away from the fighting.
Upon finishing this piece I felt compelled to do another, one that would show the uncomfortable nature of the trenches. Initially what inspired me to do another was the works of artist Jeff Rowland, his focus on creating an environment that you can almost feel is something that made me want to achieve the same result.
This is what I came up with. I quite liked the idea of creating strong lighting as I did with my last painting. What I wanted to achieve was that the light of the lamp illuminating the dark was to some comfort to the soldier, countering the warm glow of the lamp is the dark cold colours in the shadows. The light also serves as to illuminate the rain and droplets that bounce off and drip from his helmet, adding to the overall atmosphere of the painting.
The composition I feel had a strong presence in this, off centred it appears the soldier is turning his head to the lamp, maybe for warmth. By follow the rule of thirds it enables me to allow a background and give context to the painting that is vital to the overall feel.