Thursday, 19 December 2013

The sun sets on Role.

Last week was the last one of teaching and since then it's been a blur of exam note taking and questionable sleeping patterns.

Last Friday was also the deadline, which we all agreed upon, for any additional art assets to be accepted by the programmer. It was pretty tough getting everything finished off for then, but at the same time it was a nice bit of weight of my shoulders.

I managed to get a fair amount of animation in, although, as always not as much as I would've liked. Not in a negative, putting myself down way or anything, just that I really like the game and I feel it deserved to feel a bit more alive. But I'm still delighted with it.

Using the THIRD DIMENSION. *Vincent Price Laughter*

About half way through term I decided I wanted to try and use 3D animation to a. save me a bit of time, and b. make the animation look better, for the boat propeller.

My first attempt was a little off. The full rotation of the propeller was 30 frames...

...And I originally took frame 0,10,20,0 screenshots over to the sprite sheet. However, this ended up being pointless as the frames were so similar that it sort of looked like the propeller was twitching, rather than spinning.

So then I decided to choose the frames which were all clearly different, and hoped this would create the illusion of it spinning, as best as possible with 4 frames to play with. (The reason I didn't just render out every frame.)

And this time it looked much better, but it was out of alignment.

So then I tidied it up a bit, re-aligned the whole thing to be pixel perfect, and I had my final animated asset ready to be placed in game.

It still doesn't look great, but I'll know next time to include more frames by alpha, and I'll be much faster as implementing 3D objects into my 2D art to help streamline my workflow.

Below you can see some beta footage of Role. Unfortunately the boat animation isn't in this capture, but hopefully I'll have an updated one by submissions.


There's still a couple of little things wrong in this video that I should probably point out.

-The rope seems to be missing from the well.
-There's a glitch which means the middle of the game is very hard to do and is extremely slow. I'm not sure why this has just started.
-The firework moves if you collide with it, which looks really odd.

But yeah, that's about all she wrote for now.

I'll be writing up my peer review for the next couple of days, and then organising my project diary, and then that's pretty much us for the first semester game.


Thursday, 12 December 2013

Child Motion Studies and Character Exploration.

I created one of these for the adult character a while back. And I also did one with both the Adult & Child version. However, it helped me flesh out the character more when I created one for the adult, and I love doing them, and so here's one for the child version.

These explorations of context are the fuel behind the module as far as I'm concerned. It's great exploring the history of the character, and getting a real sense of who they are. If I ever go in to animating without exploring the character, I have no interest in the work, and it becomes tedious. However, if I have a character I can picture in my head, then it's great bringing THAT character to life. I think that's maybe why I felt a bit lacking at the end of 4th year. Because of the amount of time I spent preparing characters, I had this huge urge to see them alive. I did plan to model and animate my characters after 4th year as I recall, but then I was lucky enough to get into Dare to be Digital.

Personality Board for Child.

Apologies - I don't have a better painting of the child yet. 

Left: Link (Windwaker Style)
Top: Young Goku
Bottom: Young Hercules
Right: Dash

I'm sure you didn't already know that...

Deconstruction and Justification of Inclusion:

Link (Wind waker)

Link's animations in Wind Waker really complement both the visual style, and the stylised character model. The animation lends Link a very innocent, but determined personality. I really dig the animation in the hair too. It's so simple and charming. This simple animation is perfect for the stylised feel of the character. I'd love to capture this in my character. Link's head bobs slightly while he runs, but it also moves from left to right, which adds this sort of bobble-head impression, which adds to the appeal of his over-exaggerated proportions. 

Young Hercules

In Hercules, the young Hercules is very stylised in his design, and the proportions are great. The proportions help emphasis his clumsiness and at the same time, his strength. It also feels like he's always struggling to balance himself, which again emphasizes his clumsiness. 

Young Goku

Again, with young Goku, innocence is a big part of the character. I guess it's more the personality of young Goku than the animation which helped me out. The resourcefulness and independent nature of him. I wanted that to be a big part of my character, with him growing up in solitude. 


In The Incredibles, Dash takes on all the characteristics of a track and field athlete. We see him stretch, jog on the spot, and generally keep his heart rate up for the entirety of the film. His love of running really doesn't let up, to such an extent that whenever he isn't running he's either complaining, sulking, or just being a general pain in the butt. Sure, this is great characterization, but, Rory, perhaps I hear you shriek, that's got nothing to do with this module. 

OK, maybe not; but maybe it does. This idea of a belief influencing the character is something which could be interesting. I know there's another character somewhere in my head who also does something similar. I think an action point should be to take a skill of my character, which in this case would be building and fishing, although of course there's room for expansion, and do pose tests which emphasize these skills. 

Honourable mentions:

Light, bouncy walk cycle. 
His rucksack should affect his run cycle.

So yeah, I've got a good amount to work on for the next few weeks or so. 

Bye for now, 

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Animation Feedback and Next Steps.

I just had a great chat with Lynn about my remaining work load for this module. It really hit home how little reading I'd done into the specific animation properties which would benefit my characters I'm currently working on (the adult and the child). I've been to general. Sure it's been great doing motion studies and tons of scenario sketches to flesh out my characters, and the generic cyclic tests, but I've become guilty of not doing what I've always preached as a hugely important thing:

Looking to a massive range of existing sources for influence. 

So that was a wake up call I was glad to get. I guess I'm just adjusting to the whole interpolation of the two modules. I mean, I've done this module before, albeit to a lesser criteria or whatever, but yeah, it's thrown me off a bit in terms of delegation. 

Feels aside, I now have a bit of direction. I'm going to take my characters, and create a sort of "personality board" which represents the sort of character they are. Pretty much a mood board. And then deconstruct and analyse the way these characters have been animated, and from that see if I can perhaps direct my own animation from these studies. 

I did this sort of thing last time round on this module. I think I actually started off the module by creating a mood board of characters. Although I don't believe I looked into motion at all. So my animation sucked even more than it does now. Although the design was relatively strong. So hopefully from this new approach I'll have the best of both.

Influence/Personality Board for Adult
Top Left: Ozymandias (and Bubastis) (Watchmen)
Top Right: Li Shang (Mulan)
Bottom Left: Howl (Howl's Moving Castle)
Bottom Right: Altair (Assassin's Creed)

Deconstruction and Justification of Inclusion:


Although he's yet to be animated in a film or games, Ozymandias was an inspiration to the character by means of demeanor. In Watchmen O is always in control. He's always a step ahead of everyone else.

O is also an example of the perfect fighter, and this confidence and prowess comes across in his battle scenes in Watchmen. However, his calm confidence shines constantly, not just when fighting, and that quality is something I think is a strong testament to his intelligence. 

Li Shang. 

In Mulan, Li Shang is also a very experienced fighter, and the strong poses which support his animation give him a strong, confident demeanor also.

In my animation, I'd love to have this sort of feeling to the adult character, but with a bit more exaggeration given to the follow-through of the motions.


I really admire the animation of Howl in Howl's Moving Castle. Throughout the film Howl's animation helps support his confident personality by giving him a very organic, elegant sense of motion, like wind or water moves.

Because my character is a deity, I think this idea of fluidity in his animation will help seal him in with the rivers and the mountains of his world through harmony.


Altier is an obvious one. I hope it doesn't seem to obvious or lazy to include him in here, but I feel he's very relevant, and especially since I'm creating cyclic animations for games.

Altair's animations are some of the most appreciated in contemporary games. Obviously, considering the circumstances, I won't be aiming to complete animations as remarkable as the ones in Assassin's creed. But I do hope to at least have a strong confident personality evident within my submissions.

I think it's also important to note the attention given to specific areas of his body. For example, in areas where he wants to stay low, he keeps his head down and focused. And when he runs his body dips and streamlines, etc. I'll go more into this and the rest of these in my report.

Next up I'll do the child version, what inspired his personality, and how and why it differs from his adult self.

PS.This is what happens when I remember GIFs are a thing.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

ZBrush and I

Since my post the other day I've been focusing on 3D work. And I've been loving it.

Yesterday I started a digital tutors video which focused on the Maya & ZBrush integration. The tutorial is great and I'll be continuing on with it tomorrow or next week. 

Basically the tutorial showed me how to take low poly models into ZBrush for sculpting, and how to navigate the ZBrush UI and take advantage of its insane power. (Something I'd only ever done in Mudbox). 

So I made a simple rowing boat because of the boat my character is shown sailing in as a child in concept art from a couple of months back. I then took it into ZBrush and subdivided it a ton of times and began going through the different brushes and also messed around with Alpha, noise etc. I left off just about to UV the boat and create a normal map and a displacement map. 

D'oh. I forgot to take snaps of the boat. So I'll hopefully remember to put one up here after I grab one tomorrow.

UPDATE: I remembered. Here it is below. 

Maya > Zbrush 

Then today I decided to start something from scratch just to sort of get warmed up and to get more used to the controls before I started on a head. 

So after Dave was kind enough to lend me a 101 on Dynamesh I was off. (Thanks Dave!)

I started with a sphere and ended up with a gargoyle!

I actually quite like the way this guy's hands turned out. Arms, not so much. 

As I was basically sketching in 3D with no huge intent on creating anything specific, I kept my PDP in mind and really tried to push the proportions. I think this again really helped push the design and actually lends a nice sense of balance to the sculpture. The hands for this guy were so much fun to sculpt. They're supposed to look like he's holding on to something, and I think that comes across quite nicely. Obviously I didn't want to spend too much time on this guy, because I promised myself I would begin sculpting my character, and so there's quite a few issues. His front profile is really weak and it's hard to distinguish his mouth and (poorly sculpted) goatee-beard-thing. The side profile works much better.

So for the character I knew I needed to refer to the front of the sculpt more often and not get too focused on the side view. 

Again I started with a sphere and after a couple of hours I had the basic sculpt down and had some hair thrown in too. I liked the way the lips were looking here originally - besides being a bit to perked and narrow, and the trimDynamic brush was letting me convey the sharp stylised facial features I strived for in the concept art. I accidentally destroyed these lips and they never quite returned to their former glory. I'll sort 'em soon, though. 

One thing I did during this sculpt (but didn't actually mean to) was not actually look at my concept art once. I had stared at it so long while doing the character painting that I could just picture it in my head whenever I was unsure. Dave showed me spotlight and all, but I just never felt like I really needed it. So the sculpt is really more a likeness of the concept art, it's not exactly a direct 2D-3D translation. Like I said I was sort of just playing to the nuances I pictured in my head. 

Although I think the silhouette from my initial sketches has actually survived rather well. 

Despite my efforts to keep the front profile as interesting as possible, I think I still might've failed. Although, I think tucking the hair in just above the ears should do a great deal, and I might also make them larger. 

The side profile again with this is so much stronger; I really love the balance and the way the rucksack sits on the sculpture and gives the sculpture so much more intention and sense of life. 

~3 hours work.  
So I'll continue work on this soon. I've been neglecting a couple of other modules, so it might be a few days. But I'm excited to see where it goes. 


Ps. Here's the sculpt in Sketchfab so you can get a better feel for it :)

Monday, 2 December 2013

Work on the side: Quick Style-driven Concepts

Between trying to get the hang of ZBrush/Maya integration I decided to do some brief 2D work to remain of sane mind.

Focus on Proportion & Suggestion
The main challenge I've enjoyed through my 2D research has been in the suggestion of the line work. Less is more. I think this is something I started appreciating through the focus on the silhouette at the start of the semester.

As I stated in my PDP, I wanted experimentation with pose and proportion to be a big part of my practice, in the hope that this would make my designs far more interesting and varied. So far it would seem that it is leading my sketches to be much richer in character and appeal. At the moment however, it's unfortunate that my 2D work outweighs my 3D practice a great deal. After all, the justification for this project is the way they are captured in 3D, and how their appeal stands afterwards. So I really need to get a move on with 3D if I want to have something to evaluate. 

Cheers for now, 

Friday, 29 November 2013

Stylised Character (Adult)

I decided to spend some time yesterday taking my sketches into a final character design paint. It ended up being a lot more difficult than I expected. Originally I ran into a few problems regarding anatomy. 

The whole nature of the exercise was to create a detailed stylised character whom I had developed through preliminary sketches and studies. But I found it difficult not to pander too much to real anatomy when designing. It felt like a bit of a juggling act most of the time as I tried to play to realistic anatomy, while tuning it to fit the illustrative style I was going for and of course the personality of the character. 

This is one of the first character paintings where I have asked for, and received a fair amount of critique from classmates. Most of the critique I received understood what I was going for; some didn't. For example, a few people mentioned some of the characters' features were wrong, when really, they're just stylised. For example, the nose doesn't exactly look like a proper functioning nose, but it does at the same time; it fits a certain style. 

Features can be abstracted to help the character design.
I'm reasonably happy with how the final design turned out. I think this should provide an interesting platform to sculpt/model from. I'm not going to create a front/side/etc view because that would defeat the purpose of this exercise also. I want to sculpt something purely from the essence of this stylised concept. 

As for my personal critique, I think a few things stick out. I really need to get better at painting clothes and fabrics. I also think the hair looks off and the face could use some extra features to help make the character more memorable.


Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Thumbnail Exercise Cont. / On Style

As I mentioned previously, I wanted to take (what I felt was) my strongest environment thumbnail, and block it out quickly in Maya. After this, I would begin the process of lighting the scene in the most interesting and effective way. I'm still messing around with lighting, but I did block out the scene. Tomorrow I'll be testing different camera angles and lighting.

Quick thumbnail block-out for lighting tests. 

While reflecting on the 2D designs I'd been working on so far for the project, I became aware of the lack of stylised presence. The main point in the project is the development of stylised artwork and the effective translation into 3D. 

So I spent a lot of time looking at 2D artists who are really known for their distinctive style. I wanted to find inspiration in 2D work which wouldn't typically fall into the realm of concept art for 3D modelling, and really bring the stylised aspect straight back into the forefront of the pipeline. 

Rob Laro is an artist who I've admired for quite some time. Laro's illustrative style is very strong and recognisable - as you can see here

He is also a prominent 3D artist and some of his techniques are loosely explained throughout his blog. I also managed to find a time-lapse recording of him sculpting one of his 2D (stylised) characters in ZBrush. 

 I think I'm going to alter my PDP having seen this. I know I said I wouldn't, and that the intention would be to model in Maya, but I can't hold off the urge to attempt some awesome sculpts any longer. 

So my next step will be attempting to sculpt my character in ZBrush!

Also, because I didn't think my original concept art was stylised enough, i decided to do some more sketches of my adult character with bolder lines. You can ignore the top-left corner, that section was more an ease-into the style practice beforehand. Hopefully the Laro inspiration is strong with this one. 


Monday, 25 November 2013

On Gamification

Naturally, I've given a great deal of thought to the importance of potential gameplay within this project.

Last week I completed an informal case study which I made to compare the ways in which digital adaptations can be handled, and to hopefully better understand where they shine or perhaps fail to shine, and more importantly why.

The two adaptations I chose were The Story Mechanics' steam-available The 39 Steps, and EA's Alice: Madness Returns

The 39 Steps

It's seems to me that TSM are possibly testing the water with The 39 Steps. This adaptation is all about the original story. It is very much interactive, and there are gameplay elements scattered throughout, but ultimately there's a lot of respect paid to the original text. 

The 39 Steps is a digital story adaptation by The Story Mechanics

And that's cool. I like the idea of giving these classics a new filter. Especially if the artwork is strong and plays to the charms of the original prose.

 The artwork here really seals in the changing moods of the different acts and lends the whole experience a sort of torch lit under-the-bed covers reading atmosphere. That's the best way I can think to describe it. If you can't relate to that, well, your childhood sucked. 

Motion Graphics. 

I think I mentioned motion graphics in a previous post. Either way, I mentioned them in my presentation last week (which went fine) and how they're something that I didn't experiment with enough during honours, and as they work so effectively in The 39 Steps, would like to properly try out this year. 

Art Style(s).

This is something that I really didn't see coming. About 2-3 scenes in, there is a flashback/anecdote in the story. At this point the art style completely changes to a very simple, silhouette-based style. 

The way the shift in style plays to the literary technique here is very effective. It keeps the story fresh and emphasizes the flashback nicely. This is something that's been done in movies (and games) many times. I love the use of style shift here. 


The way this adaptation assigns itself is something to be noted also. In it, the player controls the narration, and other areas such as letters, locked doors, etc., and the characters' monologue and dialogue are subtitles at the bottom of the screen.

Alice: Madness Returns

Alice is an adaptation in the traditional sense of the word. I guess you could say The 39 Steps is a direct adaptation to a visual-interactive form. Alice takes the original story of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, and molds it to suit a desired audience and transports it into a fully realised game narrative and world. 

Alice: Madness Returns

Art Style.

(Aesthetically) The characters in The 39 Steps are (arguably) no more realised or fleshed out than the novel. And this is of course intended and relevant to what they wanted to achieve. I'm not trying to judge anything. I'm merely noting everything for my own practice. 

In Alice, the creators obviously wanted to create a solid 3D world and art-style synonymous with Madness Returns. The finished art style is very stylised and strongly expresses the psychological horror nature of the game. 

Concept Illustration - Joy Ang
In Game

Nothing special here, you play as Alice throughout the entire game (as far as I'm aware). I still have to play the game. But from the articles I've read, the Art of book, and play-through videos, it would appear this is the case. 

I can illustrate a point; We have the technology.
Moving swiftly on


...Is totally a word - and a great word at that. 

I stumbled across this video this morning - and it sent me on a tangent. I've not really gotten all that far with the thought yet, but bear with me. 

In the video, Chris speaks about the need for gamification in certain games. At one point he mentions Super Mario 64, and explains that players often had the most fun just running around the colourful environment as Mario in 3D. 

The nostalgia is tangible with this one.
The way the game felt and played to your senses was enough. By taking simple elements we are all familiar with and juicing them in certain ways, the player could enjoy themselves. No score/points. Just inherent pleasure within the way the game felt. 

Sand. Fun for the whole family.
Just like the way Journey takes advantage of the players' imagination with sand. In Journey you slide elegantly down the sand dunes as you cross them. This isn't what happens in reality. But if you asked eight year old you what should happen, it would probably be a safe bet to assume something along the lines of the above. (Somewhat paraphrased from a Jenova Chen presentation)

Basically all I'm getting at with this is that because it's easy to take an idea, run it through a gamification machine and hey presto! you have a game, I want to take elements from the story which would sing through clever gameplay. Don't just go for the obvious in adaptation for interactivity. Films certainly don't; rather, play to the stengths and tease these everyday things like playing in the sand and let your imagination run wild.

Bye for now, 

Thursday, 21 November 2013

New pipeline. Step 1: Thumbnails.

It's been a really long time since I last used thumbnails (Honours). So I really enjoyed working with them again. It's incredible how useful they can be for getting ideas down quickly and comparing them.

So in the above thumbnails I brainstormed scenarios for my warrior character (adult version).

This Guy

So as I mentioned in my previous post the reason behind these thumbnails was to take them into 3D software and block them in, including lighting, and then take into PS to create a final concept piece.

However, with the first few thumbnails I went a bit off-focus. You can clearly see in the first 2/3 I was more interested in scale/narrative/etc - basically focusing wayyyy too much on the details.

I realised this was becoming an issue during thumbnail 3. And so with thumbnail 4 I totally stripped back the styling, and only focused on values. However, I was still thinking pretty big in scale, and so with the final two I brought the scale right down, and ended up with two thumbnails I'm happy with.

Thumbnail 5: Has a nice sense of motion, and this streamlined valley could have some interesting lighting going on. However, the only materials in the picture are rocks - with a few structures in the distance. So this would probably be a very bland final composition.

Thumbnail 6. I think thumbnail 6 is the most successful of the thumbnails. It's fairly simple, ties in nicely to the character, and most of the image is in the foreground. There is also a broader range of objects/materials (grass, water, clouds, stairs, house, etc) which would make for a much more interesting rendered composition.

The next step is to begin blocking out the scene in Maya. Hopefully I'll remember to screencap this, because I want to not only work on my time, but watch it back and maybe pick up on any dumb things I did. I'm no 3D expert.


Mentor Advice.

I've heard back from two of my mentors this week: Mike (Traveller's Tales), and Alex (2000AD).

Both have provided great insights into their professional practice, and as such I now have a few experiments I want to try out over the next few days.

I won't go into the detail of the e-mails for obvious reasons, but Alex did explain his production methodologies. He explained his process at the beginning of a project, and went on to describe inspirations, and general practice.

All this can be seen across on his blog.

So from his advice I decided I would explore the 3D side of early design benefits. In my PDP action points I addressed an interest in "Designing through 3D" and so I hope this will help me in that part.

From Alex's advice I think I'm going to attempt this pipeline:

Thumbnails > 3D staging & lighting > Final paint.

This is something I've never tried before, and so I'm really excited to see how it turns out. It probably won't be great, but I'm sure it'll benefit my research.

Mike also gave incredibly useful advice. He referred all his practice to the famous LEGO series. His perspective is from the role of Technical Animator, so this actually ended up being a great help to further connect my project for this with my animation module.

Action points for the next week

- Thumbnails for my character.
- Select thumbnail to mock up in 3D with an emphasis on speed. No point sketching in 3D if it takes all day.
- Create effective lighting in scene.
- paint over and replicate lighting in Photoshop.
- Analyse work.

Play Test (Alpha)

Yesterday was a cool day.

After weeks of working on our own games, we all went around and playtested each others'.

One thing that really stood out was the diversity of the games. The fact that I could go from game-to-game-to-game and not see one pirate or zombie, or whatever, was such a delight. So I really hope the feedback I gave to the few games I actually managed to play will be helpful.

As for Role, I was happy that, although the game was praised, the other developers were being critical and clearly wanted to help make our game better.

Critical/Negative Feedback.

- How did I get the points?
- Was stuck at the dominoes for a while. Although that's not really a complaint
- Not much gameplay
- Didn't quite understand why I failed at the house/elevator part.
- The final part of the level drags on.

Things to note.
- Over-tapping often.
- Focus on the moon means people don't notice the lanterns which lay in the grass.

So I'll just quickly address these points.

- How did I get the points?

This is an obvious problem straight away when you start the (alpha) game. This all comes down to the polish of the player reward system. The placement of the lanterns is another reason. At the moment the lantern positions are very punishing in the way that you either get no points if you don't understand what's going on, 10 points occasionally, 20 points if you're a natural, and, well, I've had 30/30 points twice.

We're currently adding in new lanterns, and polishing the reward system. At the moment the score system works (which is all we really needed for alpha) and so we just need to make it clearer than some small number in the top corner. We're certain that after these improvements have been implemented the objectives will become much clearer.

- I Was stuck at the dominoes for a while.

This was something I loved watching. One of the developers tried and tried to get past the windmill launch part, and kept falling short because they were out of sync with the windmill blades. After about 4-5 tries he clicked going up the elevator and realised he could time the collision. This was a total thrill to watch, as he managed it first time upon realising this. Because time is supposed to be a crucial element in this game, it was just great to see someone understand this and go on to complete the challenge.

- Not much gameplay & The final part of the level drags on.

With great game design, comes great gameplay. This one came as no surprise, although it was less frequently mentioned than I had predicted. We're going to cut out the long rolling sequence towards the end of the level very soon. Because this section leads up to the (likely) drop into the ditch, which is already horseplay, it's like a double whammy of "Seriously..?" It also comes straight after the difficult lantern/catapult section which people can miss first play through. So this awkward gap in gameplay becomes overt. Although I think it should be noted that I don't think this would be an issue if the moon was say a character you controlled. There are many long running sequences in Limbo which totally fit with the whole exploration side of the game. But the input makes it acceptable. Because our moon rolls independently it's a drag.

- Didn't quite understand why I failed at the house/elevator part.

Same issue at the dominoes one above.

In summary, I'm optimistic about the currently trajectory of the game, and looking forward to addressing the issues my fellow devs had. At the same time though, we don't want to make the game too obvious or patronising; and so we won't pander too much to the players' first few tries - great games rarely do; and we can hopefully make something that stands out by remembering this.

(Some of the) Positive feedback. 

- Awesome art style. (I can sleep easy)
- Paces well. 
- Music & atmosphere immersed me in the experience

I guess I don't have too much to say about this. I love that people are getting into the game, and enjoying it for the reasons we are aiming for. For now we'll just keep our heads down.

Cheers for now

Monday, 18 November 2013

Role Meets Alpha.

So it's been over two weeks since my last (game dev) blog post, and there's much to report.

Where I left off:

- Approaching Alpha
- Compromised level design implemented.
- Asset Designs

Approaching Alpha. 

We managed to hit our Alpha target which was great. I'm really happy with what we managed to get done, and with this in mind, I feel confident that we can deliver something we can stand by.

Promotional Composition
So the above image is something I put together quickly to demonstrate  the games' ethos in one image for reference/presentations etc. 

Below you can see a quick screen recording I took of our Alpha. As it is Alpha gameplay footage, the animations and assets in general are still to be refined. There's merely "Something" there for every asset we will have in beta. By beta the game will play and appear much stronger. Also a lot of the assets are slightly out of position, which may cause the footage to be slightly confusing first time round. 

Final Boat Asset.

Compromised Level Design Implemented.

I don't think I generally need to go into this part of the development, but I'll say a bit about it anyway because I love the theory behind it.

Below is the template of the level we had to quickly devise the other week. I'm no expert level designer, but I'm quite delighted at how it turned out. 

We decided to blend the game's tutorial into the beginning of the level. Because we've been going for the whole simplistic/expressive approach throughout, it made sense not to clutter the game with words and diagrams. Afterwards, the player is introduced to the cause and effect nature which is where we had originally hoped the level design would evolve around.

The Level Template I worked from.
Step One: "Tap the screen to begin". The player taps and straight away they're aware that this is your input.

Step Two: You are halted by a barrier in the form of a bolt. The player taps again - the moon rolls on, and the player recognises the ability to alter the environment, not the moon. In addition, there seems to be a lantern hovering just above this bolt. Hmm.

Step Three: The player again taps to be moved up the lift and is then thrown onto a pulley system by a windmill, and the cause and effect notion is first witnessed. The player sees an object propelled across the screen. If the player taps then two lanterns float up into the sky. If these are released at the correct times the player can take them out, gaining a score of 10 for each one. Ah, the lantern at the beginning makes sense now.

Step Four:  The ending to the level is something I really think turned our great (with regards to gameplay). At the moment the art for it really sucks, but bear with me - it's just alpha*.

So at the end of the level the moon is rolling along in the grass, and there appears to be nothing in sight.

And then you drop into a ditch.

This mechanism I feel is our biggest nod to Limbo. You re-spawn a short distance back, immediately. So the player knows they have to do something between this point and the ditch. So they tap again. They might tap straight away, at which point the spring comes to light, and it becomes clear how to get over the ditch.

And then you fly under the firework display into (currently) oblivion. There will be a layer of trees at this section and the player will be re-spawned at the same point as the ditch death.

You then need to tap again, and eventually the player figured out that you have to tap to spring the moon at the right time, to land in the firework display, to then tap again at the right time to set off the firework and tow the moon into the sky, thus completing the level as the moon transforms into the sun and turns the night into day. The players' score is then displayed.

I feel this final mechanism works well as a final challenge as it allows us to demonstrate the idea of time as a crucial skill element in the game, and in terms of difficulty is by far the most difficult task in our little level.


*For Alpha the quality of the art was no important. we merely need to be certain it could be programmed in to the game. The actual artwork can begin to be implemented now.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Modelling with a low budget.

Having done several concept development sheets for this module, I decided to begin some low-poly modelling practice.

I decided to do one of the Digital Tutors 3D tutorials focused on modelling with a low budget. The tutorial ties in nicely to my PDP as the reference image is rather stylised:

Not my work.
In the lesson the artist is not supplied with a model sheet.

Instead he uses basic model sheets which aren't directly from the character, and only uses these to directly reference the early stages.

After that it's all about looking to the concept art, and throwing in your own creative nuances to define/flesh out the model. Ultimately however, the final model stays relatively true to the original concept.

Early propotions

Beginning to refine.

Current State
When creating models at a low budget it's crucial to consider if something can just be normal mapped instead of modeled in. The tutorial drew at attention to the idea that if the strength of the silhouette of the character is affected by leaving out extra polys, then it makes sense to model them in. This was the reasoning behind the armor topology you can see around the torso of the model. From the side angle the armor, even when mapped would seem strange.

I'm going to continue working through this tutorial (it's taking me longer than I would like to work through than I would like) and try and become more efficient in my modelling. After all, one of the core interests of this project for me was to scrutinize sketching in 3D. And if I'm taking too long then it defeats the purpose. In the meantime, I'm also going to experiment with the costume design of my child/adult character and consider the modelling restrictions of the costumes, allow the concept art to fuel the ideas for cyclic animations for Lynn's module, and begin a high quality piece of concept art for the adult version of the character in a dynamic pose.

Bye for now :)

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Motion Studies.

Below are some motion studies for the adult version of my character (who you can see again here). 

The adult version of the character was designed with an agile, confident figure in mind. And as such I've attempted to capture and emphasize that nature in these studies. 

I'm pleased with the way the bottom action sequence turned out. I tried to make the poses as dynamic as possible. I wanted the contours of the character to follow the line of motion as tightly as possible, and I feel that that really highlights the fluidity of the characters' actions. 

In the other sketches I've attempted to cover as many animation principles as possible (anticipation, solid drawing/weight, arc, follow through).

 I think the next thing I'm going to do is some animation tests for this personality with a suitable rig. And also some motion studies for the child version of the character. 

Creating Cyclic Animations for Video Games.

So I wasn't able to complete my 11 second club submission. Very depressing.

My terrible time management skills are mainly to blame for this. I really need to establish some sort of timetable for working on each module, because I'm finding that by meandering between modules on a whim I'm often left spending too much time on certain areas.

But anyway, back to animation.

As I think I mentioned before this coursework is focused on creating cyclic animations for video games, and as such the animations should pertain to ones you would expect to see in games, and should be realised through an appropriate video game character rig.

Now, the other week I had my first mo-cap session. Mo-cap is something that has interested me since the VFX trip to London I went on back in 2012. Then recently, I attended a talk by Jonathan Cooper, the lead animator on Assassin's Creed 3.

The talk was titled "Animating the 3rd Assassin" and in it he detailed his mo-cap & animation process for the Assassin. The quality of animation that can be achieved blew my mind. Johnathon explained the process, which involves skilled actors and state of the art suites, and how he directs the mo-cap process, applies it to a mesh, and then tweaks and refines the data it to create one awesomely animated character.

Towards the end of the motion capture session I was allowed to direct a dying animation - which I really enjoyed. And the almost-immediate feedback you receive with mo-cap really lets you iterate like crazy.

I'd like to book out the motion capture suite sometime soon, but before I do that, and this was heavily pointed out, I need to meticulously plan everything. Just as a producer for a game of film considers time and budget, it's great to get into this mode of thinking and practicing professionally.

In class we were shown Johnathon's showreel, which included a walk, a sneak, a run, and a breathtakingly impressive quasi-free-running sequence.

This array of animation really makes sense for the Assassin.

That's what I feel made the showreel really pop. The animations are so strongly rooted in the context and personality of the character.

So, to begin an interesting workflow, and also allow me to use my time as cleverly as possible, I'm going to be tying in this animation module with my Low Poly Modelling class.

I've never actually done this before, although it's often suggested. So I guess I'm quite excited about, because it means I'll be more focused on mutual assets, which I reckon can only be a good thing. Quality over quantity and all that.

So yeah, the reasoning for tying these modules.

Well, for Ken's module I'm interested in the translation of both the transition of stylised concept art to 3D, and also the way in which a characters' adult character model compares to the child counterpart. I think this leaves a nice scope to take the 3D model of the child and the adult and use cyclic animation to convey their individual personalities. It would also provide a good chance to provide context to the characters animations. I think using the characters' back-stories, which would be devised in LPM through the concept art, will provide interesting situations which can in turn be animated for this module. Hopefully I'll get around to re-wording this as I feel I might be rambling or perhaps unclear.

I guess for rigging I'll need to look into using Mixamo or something similar to get the rig. If not, i'll just use the essence of the characters, and a downloaded rig. Naturally I'd prefer to use the actual models.

That's all for now, folks.

Monday, 4 November 2013

The First Meeting with Dayna and Co.


At the end of last week myself, Mus, Kayleigh and Sam all met up with Dayna to have a chat about the Interactive Classics project. 

The meeting was really interesting and I think it would be nice if we met like this regularly. This was suggested during the meeting, so it looks like that will probably be the case. 

Dayna was switched on to the project idea after reading a book by French renaissance writer, Francoise Rabelais. The book was Gargantua, and is a fine example of 16th century satire. One of the sections in the book describes the protagonists' plight to find the perfect item to wipe his butt with - and this was the section Dayna favoured most:

I have', answered Gargantua, 'by a long and curious experience found out a means to wipe my bum. The most lordly, the most excellent, the most convenient that was ever seen. I have wiped my tail with a hen, with a cock, with a pullet, with a calf's skin, with a hare, with a pigeon, with a cormorant, with an attorney's bag, with a Montero, with a falconer's lure. But to conclude, I say and maintain that of all the torcheculs, arsewisps, bumfodders, tail-napkins, bunghole cleansers, and wipe-breeches, there is none in the world comparable to the neck of a goose, that is well downed, if you hold her head betwixt your legs. And believe me therein upon mine honour, for you will thereby feel in your nockhole a most wonderful pleasure, both in regard of the softness of the said down and of the temporate heat of the goose, which is easily communicated to the bum-gut and the rest of the inwards, in so far as to come even to the regions of the heart and brains.

The Story Mechanics

I've signed up to the next Story Mechanics lab session. I'm really looking forward to this because I haven't really got any idea what it'll be like. The session is titled "The Protagonist", and is going to be held near the end of this month, but the date is yet to be confirmed.

Personal Thoughts

I previously expressed an interest to focus on the interactive side of the adaptation process; but I didn't really have any real thoughts on what I wanted to achieve.

During the meeting I began to think about the way "O' Brother, Where Art Thou" was created. I love the indirect idea of adaptation, and the way in which the story is taken and applied in a completely different context. So sort of using the original stories' events as a vague guide to tell your own story.

That lead me on to thinking about folk tales and the way in which they were spread because of the important strong life lessons they preached. And then I started to think about how interactive story telling could harness these lessons. So say if I was to take something like the original tale of Cinderella from the Grimm collection (which differs greatly from the Disney adaptation, and can be read here), or at least the purpose/lesson from it, and weaved it into a new context, in which you make the decisions. Basically a half breed between an adaptation and a Choose your Own Adventure! book. I think this idea is still pretty crummy, but I normally need to go through a bunch of these ideas before the good ones start arriving. So I'm not too worried as I have an avenue to start looking into at least.

That's all folks.

Friday, 1 November 2013

Various Life Drawing.

Here's some life drawing from the past few weeks that I thought turned out OK.