Tuesday, 29 October 2013

"Role" Concept Art & Visual Style Guide

Seeing as I couldn't start work on our level, I've spread out my time developing the visual style of the game, researching other styles, and creating a brief visual style guide. 

I've also just sent over some first pass art to our programmer as we want to have something that looks good for our Thursday meetings, and we can't wait any longer.

 I asked our producer to email Ken to ensure him that we're not lazy or unenthusiastic. Skully, Anthony, and myself are all extremely excited about this game, and are determined to not let this affect our final product. He tells me he sent the e-mail so they now know why we might not have been delivering excellent progress each week. 




Original Mock Up


Second Mock Up



Visual Style Guide
Computer Game Development Project  

Working Logo
Introduction
In this document the visual style and artistic requirements necessary for the accurate creation of the game project “Role” will be defined.
Role is a 2D Rube Goldberg inspired side-scroller. It is very interested in creating a simple, engaging experience which drifts between soothing and urgent gameplay.
Role is the story of day into night. The game begins when the moon falls from the sky directly into the level. The character moves independently, and the player must tap the screen to alter the game environment in order to vehicle the moon to the end of the level, at which point the moon rises as the sun and the level is complete.
The visual style will serve the simplicity of the game and support the games’ context to fully play to the story of the gameplay. The artwork should also complement the idea of stillness in the game.

Characters
The only “character” in the game is the moon. The Moon will have a wisp-like texture and should have a sense of “life” to it. Much like the character in “Thomas was Alone”, the animation and sound design will compensate for the simplicity of the characters’ design.



Storyboards 

User Interface
Because Role is designed to be a simple, calming game, the UI must therefore mimic this, and must not exist to bother or distract the player in any way.
Environments
The environment art for Role is the majority, and as such is incredibly important in affirming the atmosphere and ethos of the game as a whole. Primary colours have no place in this game; Rather, a de-saturated colour scheme based around highlights has been created to give the game the feeling of “sitting round the camp fire”. The player should hopefully feel unsure about the environment, but also intrigued. Overall, the environment assets should combine to instil a strong sense of nature and history.
Man’s presence in this world should feel minimal and also rustic. Modern technology would jar with the organic shapes and remove the environments’ sense of innocence.
To best emphasise the bitter cold and stillness of the night, blue hues have been used generously across the environments. By creating this strong atmosphere at all times, the rising of the moon to the sun at the end of each level should be a great contrast of visuals upon which to end on.
Shape
Shape theory is a strong influence on the narrative and impression of the character and environment art.
The main character, the moon, is a circle, and as such the design can better emphasise the situation or position of the character through a harmony or dissonance of shapes.

SAFE!

In the image above the repetition of circles enforces the idea that the player is currently early on in the level, the shapes are all relatively rounded and there are little or no sharp, threatening lines. The moon almost looks like it belongs in this environment because it harmonises with the shapes in the environment. When placed among sharp objects however, the player will definitely not feel safe.

Camera
Role will have a parallax system which will complement the art enormously. Games such as Rayman Jungle Run and Limbo served as inspiration for the considering of the scale and ambience which great parallax art can convey.
The background art of the environment should not distract from the detail of the midground. It should complement the ambiguous setting of the game and, like Limbo, help give a sense of remoteness to the world.
A zooming action also exists throughout the level, which will help draw attention to different parts of the environment and its mechanisms.

References

Placement Art
The images compiled in the mood board convey the sort of atmosphere that Role hopes to accomplish. The still from La Luna (Pixar, 2012) in the top left of the board demonstrates the still, calming nature of the moonlight. Stills from Rime, The Secret of Monkey Island, and Project 2 (3 middle images) illustrate the impression which can be captured through highlights and contrast. 

"Role" Moodboard

Thanks, 

Monday, 28 October 2013

ROLE!

There's been a lot of progress since my last post for Games Dev. Although not as much as we would have liked.

We are planning to be in our alpha stage by the end of this week. However, there has been a massive delay in our level design. We're currently in week six and we don't have any final designs.

There's only one level...

So far, all of them have been extremely convoluted and seemingly indifferent to the game's narrative, setting and ethos.

Unfortunately this shows little sign of improving any time soon. I suggested "Level Up" and a designer from another team suggested "The Hows and Whys of Level Design" among other things, and was kind enough to demonstrate some simple examples in a matter of minutes, which were simple, great, and captured the nature of the premise wonderfully.

I've been doing my best to create assets, but we don't have the final asset list for even the first 15 seconds of the first (and only) level. Yes, there has been a list of mechanisms provided. But anyone could have done this. It's just a generic list of Rube Golberg/LBP items with no context or hint of clever cohesion in terms of the development of the players' enjoyment.

Our programmer is working tirelessly, doing fine work, and also doing his best to test his progress with the level designs that we've been given. I really can't speak highly enough of him.

I have created a visual style guide and defined many asset designs (as best I can, which I feel fit the context) and environments. However, I am very wary to begin working on assets, when I have no idea which will make it in, and not even as polish, but as BASIC level assets.

The basic level should have been completed within the first 2 weeks with time to spare, and I should have been able to hit the ground running with the asset creation. However, we find ourselves in week 6, and even if I found out exactly what I needed to create today, I'll likely become very stressed (unnecessarily) to get it done in time.

I feel this game is a level designers' dream and I've fallen in love with the whole idea. I really want to deliver with this game and make a great impression upon my peers. However, I feel (and I am not alone here), that we may just be rather unfortunate.

I can't write this post without addressing the language barrier, because it is naturally playing a key role in this lack of progress. Most of the time when one of us is trying to explain something to the designer, she says she understands, when clearly this is not the case, as she will go quiet and then move onto another problem. The original problem is then left unsolved. The cycle continues.

So perhaps the language barrier is more to blame for the lack of understanding. But at the same time, the concept art, mock-ups and mood boards convey the context, and Skully's (programmer) physics tests and mechanic mock ups crystalise the properties and physics of the game.

From there it's just applying basic level design theory to it, and then iterating.

Naturally, this has me really worried, as our game is faltering. But hopefully we can find a solution soon and save our end product.

Thanks,


Friday, 25 October 2013

Low Poly Modelling - Explained!

Good news everyone, 

we've been assigned mentors for our projects and I've refined my idea some. 

I've updated my PDP slightly since last time as I hadn't drawn enough attention to the concept art side of the project. 

Core Discipline: Character Concept art and Modelling for Games. 

Area of Enquiry:  Remains the same.

Agreed Action points:

General:
Remains the same.

Design and a contextual relation.
Experimenting with pose and proportion. (Traditional/digital sketchbook)
Design methodologies to enhance model topology and quality. 
Designing through 3D – Emphasis on topology budget. More interest in designing in low poly opposed to high poly sculpts > low poly. 

Agreed Deliverables:

Appropriate Visual Development (in the form of traditional/digital sketchbooks) for the creation of 3D character assets for both low poly and any high poly models.
Digital sketchbook should include the understanding and exploring of necessary topology. 

All Maya files for 3D models created and their corresponding texturing, mapping and rendering images. 

Blog in the form of a .PDF

Transcript with personal mentors in the form of .PDF.

Mentors.

So this is very cool. For this module we are assigned mentors from industry, who we should remain in regular contact with. It's quite awesome. 

The mentors are relevant to the area you chose, and the mentors I've been assigned are fantastic. 

To cover the concept art and modelling side of things I have been assigned Alex Ronald - a brilliant artist who has worked in many areas across the entertainment industry. From Comics to Crackdown, his career so far is fascinating at a glance, and so I'm very much looking forward to meeting him. 

Mike Cummings is my other Mentor. He won Dare the year I started my undergraduate back in 2009 with "Shrunk". Since then Mike has worked at Travellers' Tales as a technical animator. As a kid, and even now, I was a huge TT fan. Puggsy was one of the first games I ever player - and played it I did. A LOT. Sonic R and Sonic 3D also provided many a fond memory. Nostalgia aside, it'll be incredible having a professional , from a company whom are such a huge inspiration to me personally, to help me out with my work. 

Pose and Proportion. 

Today I decided to create a character sheet for what could potentially be my first 3D models of the project. I've created a lot of 2D designs so far and they've been a great help for developing my skill, but this is the first one which I believe can serve my 3D practice well. 

I was thinking this morning about the 3D modelling of a character as a child, and then also as an adult. Typically, peoples personalities and physical appearances tend to change with age. So I thought it would be a great idea to establish one strong character profile, but at different stages in his life, and then move onto the topological and animation considerations.

As you can see in the development sheet below, I've also included some simple vehicle designs. I find that including things like vehicle designs and environment sketches helps me find context in my process. Hopefully I'll have time to do some quick models for these vehicles as props for my final models. 

Considering how a character changes with age. (Click for High-Res)

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Innovation and Professional Development.

So we're now almost at the point in this module where I can now make (hopefully) informed and (hopefully) interesting blog posts.

So as I'm sure I mentioned in a previous post, this module is basically an honours project in itself.

However, unlike the honours project, we were given the option to choose a research topic from a list devised, and I think influenced by the respective tutors' area of research. The option was still there to devise your own project of course. However, some of the pre-determined project questions really stood out to me and so I e-mailed Dayna straight away to try and justify my place on the projects - which you can see below.

---------------------------------------------

1st Choice: Interactive Classics: Adapting Old Texts for New Audiences and Platforms. 

As visual development for story adaptation was my honours project I was naturally excited by this one as it remains an area of great interest to me. My previous study established a framework of design theory within adaptation and used this as a catalyst for my own adaptation artwork. I've also followed the work of The Story Mechanics for some time now and am very interested in the work they do. 

In this project I would be able to provide a strong understanding of design methodologies specifically for story adaptations and of course a great deal of enthusiasm to expand my critical and reflective approach, especially to better understand the interactive potential of adaptation. 

2nd Choice: Exploring the use of abstract visuals and audio to drive the design of game mechanics within an experimental computer game.

This just sounds so awesome. Abstraction in imagery is something that has always fascinated me. And the idea of exploring abstraction interpolated between visuals and game mechanics just sounds like something I could get on board with. I'm unsure if my skills are as suited to the brief as others may be, but in terms of personal interest I think I would be a good fit and could adapt well. 

3rd Choice: Strangers in a Game.

Like many people I'm a huge fan of Journey and the way in which it handled the spontaneous interaction of genuine strangers. I would love the chance to explore the workings of this idea in greater depths. I think the psychology and existing games related to this area would be an excellent means of rapid development for innovative ideas.  

---------------------------------------------

As I mentioned in the E-mail, I already have a backbone of research in terms of aesthetics and composition theory in visual development specifically for story. However, the interactive side of things was something I payed relatively little attention to. Stepping into this brief excites me because it could potentially result in me having this body of work, relative to an area I would like to work in, with which I could demonstrate and expose to potential employers.

Having had a quick chat with Ryan, who will also hopefully be involved in the project, it looks as though the concept art output would be extremely heavy, which works for me. I think working with others will be a nice change of pace, as the solitary research nature of the honours project can become disheartening and ambiguous in, well, all manners. Of course I don't mean that to sound as negative as it perhaps did (as I loved the honours project), but the thought of having regular contact with someone working in the exact same context I imagine will be so much more exciting and will undoubtedly result in questions, approaches, and discussions I, otherwise, might not have had.

I also loved Lynn's project as abstraction is something which fascinates me. However, I knew I wasn't the best suited for the project and so that, and my third choice, was more of a risk.

However, I've been assigned to the digital adaptation one so I'm looking forward to starting that. Two other students have also been assigned to this task, so it should be interesting to watch  the different ways our research paths develop.

Dayna mentioned there would be potential to go along to one of The Story Mechanics story labs. The labs are something I've checked on frequently. The next lab is in November and it's focusing on "The Protagonist", which sounds like it should be really cool. So hopefully we can all go along to that and get the ball rolling.



Monday, 21 October 2013

Animation: consuming all my time since this morning.

I've animated the first couple of seconds of my 11 Second Club entry. This scene has taken me a number of hours to animate, and it still only has a block as the second character. Because the scene is very close to the face of the Male character, it was crucial that he didn't look rigid or lifeless. Currently, by industry standards, it still falls short. However, I feel it's heading in the right direction.



Thanks,

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Getting back into Animation.

The animation I did over the Summer for Dare to be Digital was farely minimal, and not particularly well executed. The last time I really spent any real time on 3D animation was in third year and I loved it for the most part. Maya, right?

I was disappointed in myself for not completing the optional task of creating a dance animation the other week. I did actually start one, and it was going well, but I got side-tracked on other modules, and never managed to finish anything.

So today I've spent some time creating a walk cycle in Maya using the 11 Rig. My 11 second club plan doesn't include a walk cycle, but I figured I should practice a bit before diving straight into my animation.

The 11 Rig is awesome, and so I've had a great time just focusing on animation principles, without having to worry about my lackluster Maya prowess.

Here's what I've managed to get in the last few hours.

video


video

So now I'm going to block out my ESC animation, and should have more to report on that later in the week.

Thanks,

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Low Poly Modelling and Textures.

Low Poly Modelling and Textures is a module which places interest in the appropriate topology for specific 3D model applications.

For the module we've to create low, and high polygon models for a character, a vehicle, and an environment.

The first step of this project was to complete a Personal Development Plan (PDP).

So this is what I wrote up last week, and is in no way final:

Student Name: Rory Erskine-Jobson

Core Discipline: Character Art for Games and Animation.

Area of Enquiry: Stylised conceptual artwork and an efficient transition into 3D assets for games.

Agreed Action points:

General.
- Module Blog
- Life Drawing Classes each week. (Subject to demand)
- 2-3 Digital tutors videos per week.
- Study of relevant industry professionals for each area of development and where applicable/available study the pipeline from 2D - 3D art.

Design and a contextual relation.

Character: Experimenting with pose and proportion. (Digital Sketchbook)
Vehicle: Experiment using existing methodologies. Focus on theory behind (Mechanisms).
Environment: Ongoing study of architecture and nature and how they correlate.

Agreed Deliverables:

Appropriate Visual Development (in the form of a digital sketchbook) for the creation of 3D character, vehicle, and environment assets for both low poly and high poly projects. Digital sketchbook should include the understanding and exploring of necessary topology.

All maya files for 3D models created and their corresponding texturing, mapping and rendering files.

Blog in the form of a .PDF.

I should hopefully have some artwork ready to show by the end of the week.

Cheers

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

3D Character Animation.

The version of this module that I completed back in the third year of my undergrad was the module that really got me working hard and making great work. And someone once said you only make great work when you're doing work you enjoy. So I guess you could say I'm excited about this module.

Ok, perhaps the work I did in third year wasn't exactly great; but it was a module in which I feel I progressed the most, and without which I might have been less devoted to my work present day. 

The module has come a long way since then which is very exciting. And it I think this new setup of dailies and external competitions will be an even greater vehicle for the students of the class to hone their skills. 

 For the coursework, the Computer Arts students can choose to create an animation(s) for narrative purposes, VFX demonstration, or Games. 

Because I'm doing Games Development we've been asked to focus on creating a polished showreel of animation for games. 

However, before we dive into the coursework I'll explain the external competition I mentioned previously. 


So we're all making submissions for the 11 second club. Awesome. 

The clip for this years participants goes like this: 

Voice One: "Oh, no, everything's fine."
Voice Two: "But the animal is inside out. And it exploded."
Voice One: "Hold please."

Originally, I figured the clip would be more ambiguous than this. It seems strange that a competition which receives so many applications would use such a specific audio clip. Then again, maybe it's a good thing; maybe it helps animators to become more creative in their search for story. 

My Interpretation. 

So initially the audio clip made me picture some guy, who's animal has just exploded, on the phone to some disillusioned customer services worker.

So I went away and did some sketches to get the ball rolling. I know these character development sheets are in no way required seeing as I'll be using an existing character rig, but they're good for moulding and brainstorming your characters personality. And they make good portfolio pieces. 


However, after some more thinking I started to picture something of a buddy-movie theme in the clip. Almost like a sort of Kick-Ass & Hit Girl relationship.

Characters:

Blue Jasmine (Superheroin) (Voice One)
Hal - (Teenager) (Voice Two)
Monster.

Premise:

After winning a competition, local teenager has the chance to see his favourite superhero(in) - Blue Jasmine - in action. However, she is not as excited about this opportunity as he is.

Beats:

1. Camera is focused towards a terrified Hal, hiding behind a rock.
2. Blue Jasmine lands next to him. "Oh, no, everything's fine."
3. While Hal says "But the Animal is inside out." Blue Jasmine does some stretches, completely care-free and ready for the challenge.
4. Explosion sound is heard. Debris flies across the screen and past the characters. We see Hal duck and hide behind the rock. Blue Jasmine appears completely nonchalant to the explosion and catches a piece of the Animal which hurtles towards her.
5. Blue Jasmine hands Hal the object: "Hold please". Then leaps off screen to fight. Hal and the Creature look on in Awe.

Storyboards:


So the plan for the next post for this module will hopefully have the basic animation blocked out.

Cheers









Friday, 4 October 2013

The Computer Game Development Project and Keeping it Simple.

The Computer Game Development Project is the heavyweight module of the Games Development Course. Spanning three semesters it consists of two University briefs, and ultimately, one professional client brief.

The module is not so much interested in your area of discipline, per se; rather the accuracy and focus in which you pertain to the exact overall design aim of the group, and the avoidance of personal work/style habits which may not serve to benefit the clients' wishes.

 So far we've been placed into groups and assigned desks.

The brief for this semester is to create a game inspired by the following:

Impact

A New Day

The Few

We had an excellent brainstorming session yesterday morning in which we watched a ton of gameplay videos of recent games we each admired and that consisted of innovative mechanics and distinct art styles.

Naturally, because the game is to be completely by January, keeping things simple and straight-forward is crucial.

A game I suggested for inspiration which I felt captured this essence were:

A Ride Into The Mountains. - Chia-Yu Chen and Lee-Kuo Chen

the beautifully fresh and tranquil visuals of ARITM go over great on tablet.
A Ride Into The Mountains is one of my favourite short games. As a demonstration of what can be done in mobile games in regards to keeping things simple, while demonstrating a high standard of "fun" it succeeds, for me, in many aspects. 

The Game

So in ARITM you play as Zu as you travel through a cleverly rendered pixel-art world on his trusty (seemingly rotoscoped) horse. The fact that this is one of my favourite mobile games says a a lot about the gameplay and visual design because normally pixel art games, on a purely aesthetic level, do not grab my attention, and sort of get "thrown in the pile".

The game begins in the woods and as you would imagine ends in the mountains. Throughout the game you experience a full day cycle and as such this allows the game a great sense of scale and adventure. The night-time scenes especially, harness a very fresh colour palette, which translates very confidently into the pixel art. Unlike many pixel-art games which, in terms of artistic style, can come across very poorly due to a poor understanding of colour theory and pixel-art fundamentals.

The gameplay revolves the usual "angry birds" slingshot mechanic (and this does feel great on the iPad's large screen). However, where the game comes into its own is through its added dynamics of this mechanic, and others.

To start off with, almost the entire game is a frantic gallop, and as such grants it a very urgent, immediate feel. Which is awesome because this gives the player a strong sense of purpose. You don't get the chance to put it down. The player can also tilt the device to speed up and slow down.  As the enemies circle around the player this becomes an exciting addition to the game play and also a nice balancing act of dodging and striking.

The Art

Colour, Scale, 

Colour (and mood) plays a strong role in this game and at times reminds me of the critically applauded "Swords & Sworcery". As I touched on before, the desaturated colours emphasise the grandeur and importance of the games narrative. This is no place for primary colours in this game. Except for the bright red horse of course, which acts as a great contrast to the environment throughout.

Game Ideas. 

So the game idea was a fusion between my own idea, and the idea of our programmer.

So because we only have a few weeks to not just create this game, but hopefully apply some level of polish, we took a very a "Less is more" approach to both the game design and proposed art style.

Basically we all admired the cleanliness of games like ARITM, and in turn wanted our game to also have a sophisticated, fresh feel to it.

The gameplay transpires from the Rube Goldberg idea of cause and effect mechanisms. The games' character will move independently and it will be up to the player to alter the Goldberg influenced environment to correctly guide the character to the end of the levels.

Their is only one "character" in the game at the moment.

-The Moon.

At the beginning of the levels you see the moon resting in the sky. The player witnesses the Moon fall from the sky into the level - and the game begins.

The goal is to clear a path to allow the moon to roll effortlessly through the level and rise as the sun upon completion. 

As for the length of the levels, that remains to be decided. And our designer is currently working on creating interesting level structures.

There are a few artistic methodologies/theories that I would like to consider for the art creation and level design of the game.

The first one stems from a diagram in Chris Solarski's book "Video Game Art and Drawing Fundamentals", which notes the idea of harmony and dissonance in video games.



“Soft, rounded shapes are the obvious choice for designing an environment of natural, organic beauty. But you need an element against which to measure this beauty”

I feel this could benefit our levels as our character is simply... a circle. And it would quickly become obvious the sense of dissonance if our environment began to evolve as the levels progess.

So for the past few days I've been experimenting with visuals styles and shapes to try and find a nice environment for our games' context.

Early Visual Development

So aside from the moon, everything else is purely for test purposes - nothing close to finished.

Also the "Move" is just a working title I came up with. More on that later.

I think that should do it for now,
more to come soon.



Followers