Thursday, 23 January 2014

Professional Specialisation

Having just left our introductory lecture on this module, I can't help but be incredibly excited about it. This module follows the same path as Low Poly Modelling, however, a much deeper, broader understand of industry practice needs to be demonstrated. In the module I will be reading into the practice and roles which exist, and more importantly, what they entail and where I fit in, specifically.  

In my honours year I interviewed two concept artists for games, which was great. With this module it is expected that we also get in touch with industry professionals specific to the role we are aiming to, and present them with informed, relevant questions which I will no doubt encounter over the next few months. 

The module submission is on the 12th of May, so I'll be creating personal milestones to deal with this module as best as possible. As I mentioned in a previous post, a lack of self-structure in the first semester meant that, although I was putting in the hours, I wasn't ticking off enough boxes each week, which ultimately meant that what I handed in was nowhere near my ability, which I guess is another way of saying that it was to my ability, because that's what I handed in. But whatever, I know that I can do better, if I just get organised.

So with that in mind, I'll be refining a schedule over today and tomorrow, or the weekend at latest, so that I have a starting line on Monday to take off from. 

Unlike Low Poly Modelling, this module is only interested in the specific area I want to work in - concept art and development. 

Concept piece from first semester.
Despite not having applied for any positions yet, in recent months I have spent some time looking for available concept art positions across the UK in anticipation. The available entry level positions are spread out between games studios and concept art-specific studios. The number of available positions is encouraging, but as is the case with concept art positions (and all games industry positions), the competition is palpable.

I'll touch more on these things in future posts, as I've become aware how easy it is to turn these blog posts into monotonous walls of text. So I'll try and wrap things up. 

 In the coming weeks I'll be covering: 

-my planned trajectory for the duration of the module - week by week.
-who I'll be attempting to contact from industry and why.
-my PDP. 

The PDP is expected to contain the following elements: 

·         A Portfolio of related work along with any associated development work.
·         A synopsis of the work being submitted. - I may do this through my blog. Perhaps a website would serve better, will be considering further. 
·         At least three personal extensive dialogues with industry practitioners, as well as evidence of research and subject engagement in keeping with Masters level study.(Critical, informed responses, opinions etc.)
·         A report of no more that 2500 words, detailing the course of the project and the challenges presented by the chosen specialisation. Evidence of an awareness of any particular issues that arose, and how these were overcome, are of particular importance. - Self-reflection.

Coursework Tasks:

1)         Demonstrate evidence of a detailed investigation and awareness of a chosen area of specialisation within Video Game Development.

2)         Formulate a rationale as to why they feel a particular area of this discipline is best suited to their skills and sensibilities.

3)         Deliver an approved portfolio of work in line with professional expectations in that chosen area, after discussion with module staff.

One final thought being a reflection on something Ken said during the lecture: The games industry is not constant, that is to say, the roles differ from studio to studio, and this should naturally be considered in all of my work for this module. 

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Scribbles of recent.

We don't get assigned to new projects until Monday, and so I've spent Monday and today just trying out different styles, and doing various tests and sketches in PS/iPad (without reference - which explains some of the wacky anatomy). However, I really need to start incorporating full body designs into my concept work because I often ignore it and this hasn't served my 3D models extremely well. 

Character Design Tests

Proportion/Weight Test

Topology draw over sketch.

Female sketches.

I have no idea.

iPad sketch
iPad sketch

Monday, 13 January 2014

3D Progress.

I didn't manage to completely finish my adult character. I'm happy with where I reached considering my terrible time management this semester.

Ultimately, from the sculpt I aimed to capture the essence of my 2D design work. I could possibly argue that I spent too much time in 2D, but I think the problem is rather that I work too slowly in 3D, as my pipeline knowledge is rather limited in 3D as I've always been a 2D artist. However, the amount I've learned this semester is crazy. I can now use Zbrush for one. I can work with Dynamesh, I can retopologise meshes, I can project the detail of my high res models onto low res ones for game engines. 

As a whole I feel the strong 2D personality I created for the character served very helpful when realising it in 3D. Although I made some errors in the projecting of the model, through some amateur retopology on my part, I will be able to append these errors next time round. 

Not only that, but my understanding of Zbrush now means that the designs I can brainstorm are much more effective. One of the main errors I made in this project was the lack of extracting, or extruding, for new parts of the mesh. So for example, his rucksack, etc. are all part of one mesh, when really it would have been much more appealing to sculpt these as seperate sub tools. 

Textured with Polypaint.

3 Million poly sculpt projected onto low poly mesh in Maya for game engine. 

Maya Test & Sculpt compared

Here you can see the errors of my normal mapping by not effective retopologising.

Retopology process.

Friday, 10 January 2014

Updated Aim & Objectives.

Since my Research Proposal is drawing to a close now, I figured I'd throw my refined Aim & Objectives up here. With added Bonus Research Question! +++

Research Question

Can art be used to more effectively complement traditional story arcs found in games, and does this practice lend itself to the interactive intent?


With the recognition of traditional story elements in contemporary games, the aim of this research project is to further understand the relationship with art and this traditional model of storytelling, and ultimately scrutinize and demonstrate the subjective effects which it can bestow upon the aesthetics, and interactive nature of games.


Following an analysis of relevant literature, case studies, and methodologies behind the visuals of narrative-centric games, the study hopes to establish a detailed critical framework which aligns with the monomyth.

- The framework should serve the practice-based research of the project and allow for broad, intelligent designs to be contemplated and further developed.

- The project will then address the further implications of the visual arrivals, in the form of analysis and comparison specifically to the context of an interactive game environment.

- Ultimately, the project hopes to deliver an accomplished visual personality which plays to the traditional storytelling model, and is potentially relevant to engaging gameplay.

So, as you can see, in the past week or so the project has evolved enormously. Basically I realised that because traditional story patterns like the monomyth are present in seminal artistic games, I could use this as a parallel to creating my own artwork by using the pattern in my framework, and my analysis. 

Friday, 3 January 2014

Guests, Proposal, and other thoughts.

Before I get into the real topic however, I just realised I never put my preliminary Aim and Objectives on here. I decided these in week 9 (the week of my presentation), and they are as follows:


To visually experiment and understand the different ways in which literature can act as a malleable and beneficial tool for developing interesting conceptual artwork and development intended for interactive media.


1. Create an array of visual style tests supported by relevant literature to scrutinise against a predetermined critical framework.

2. Research dynamic artwork techniques and speculate different methods of application

3. Demonstrate a collection of dynamic visual interpretations of literature with a strong consideration of their interactive possibilities and consider further implementations.

Now, on with the show -


Over the course of semester one there were several guest talks from a range of people with backgrounds in both academia and industry. The final talk of the semester was from The Story Mechanics founder and - go figure - story enthusiast, Simon Meek.

 In his talk Simon covered a lot of ground. From his own beginnings as a civil engineering and journalism, to Dimmer - a revered short story by author Joy Williams, to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.

Unfortunately, Simon was unable to stick around for a chat afterwards, but nonetheless, his talk was extremely helpful in providing me a truckload of food for thought for my research proposal.

The talk was basically a crash course/101 in narrative design, and the scope of the narrative designer was quite the eye opener.


I'm still whittling the old argument for this. I'm definitely getting there, but time is running out. This happened in honours too. I had to be separated, take some distance, from my Proposal, which was wayyy off the map, to see how misguided I was.

Nonetheless, I'm positive that because of this awareness, I'll avoid some of naive mistakes a bit better. I've found quite a number of good sources, and it's been interesting to see the range of points I've stumbled across in terms of year and location.

The main struggle has been the balance of research to interaction, and art work. As I said, I spent my honours working on illustrative styles, and visual development, so I've written a ton on that. But, that's sorta' what this project was to be heavy on - Art. But then the art needs to backed up with reading, and I'm sorta going back on myself.

A lot of this might not be making too much sense. But hey, blogging thoughts as the pop up can be good for making me say or realise what I might not be able to by being precious about my posts. So I'll stick with it for now.

Other Thoughts

I purchased "Gone Home" today, but haven't had the chance to play it properly yet. Because of the relatively opposing opinions on cinematics and story in games, I think it should make for a great case study, and if not, a ton of fun and hopefully inspirational.

Finally, although the nature of this module sort of suggests the practical work begin in the second semester, I've done some sketches anyway.

Light Tests (Photoshop)
I didn't use any reference photographs for any of the lighting in these tests, and so I'm real happy with how they turned out. For me adding in the light helps the characterisation by adding context. I feel this is best illustrated through the bottom left sketch and the sitting down woman and the woman wearing the mac on the right.
Sketch (iPad) Paint Over (Photoshop)
 This was a first for me. I often sketch on my iPad (about as much as traditionally), and it's great. But this is the first time I've liked a sketch enough to want to paint it. This was a fairly quick exercise, and you can see the majority of colour is just thrown on, especially for the dungarees dude.

Walden/Misc Sketches (Photoshop).
I did these way back in week 7 or 8. I was thinking about designing an avatar for Henry D. Thoreau in Walden; or Life in the Woods. And when I was doing the original sketches I began to wonder how the skeletal structure of these characters would look, and maybe my sketches would be better if I got some not-realistic, but at least believable skull anatomy to build on. It sort of helped, but it meant I was real restricted when it came to shape and proportion.