Saturday, 12 December 2009

Old, but oh god I really want to hate this game, Squeenix fan-pandering should have stopped working by now, I'm 20 years old jesus christ. I really want to buy this soap opera and complain about everything all the way through but secretly enjoy it. It looks so wonderfully badddddd! Also Sarah looks like one of the worst characters ever and I bet Lightning turns out to be one of those emotionless 'badass' female characters who no one can relate to, although yay female ff hero. I know they'll mess it up but I'll still buy out of curiosity. And maybe for Snow. don't judge meeee

Friday, 11 December 2009

My friend showed me this video last year and I thought it'd be super relevant to post considering the kind of thing that's been discussed lately, time management etc. It's pretty long, but the advice is really useful if you take it on board and have a lot of willpower. The part about how to deal with people who demand loads of your time when you're working was really interesting, though I personally don't feel grown-up enough to relate to things like coworkers and that type of thing, I'll definitely watch this video again before I go into that kind of environment.

Well I saw this lecture for the first time at the start of the summer break last year, and it really motivated me to work on 3d pretty much most days, and only give myself certain rewards like watching tv or playing games in the evening. At uni its been really hard to do that, especially living in a really social place I always feel very awkward about including people into the working schedule, I wouldn't want anyone to have to work around what I'm doing and for me to only talk to them when I'm not working because it feels rude to me and kind of selfish, even though its just self-discipline. There's so much persuasion not to work, so much more than there is at home considering uni is supposed to be a learning environment. Only when a deadline is approaching can I really work, because that's when everyone else is working. Though, I think I've improved a lot from year 1, I'm really motivated to get better at 3d now I have my foot in the door, it doesn't seem so impossible now that I have some clue what I'm doing. Last year I couldn't do anything, using Max isn't as much of a struggle anymore, the only bit I struggle with now is unwrapping, and that's because I have to think of the best way to do it rather than what buttons to press. Its more like certain skills I need to improve on, modelling and texturing individually rather than how to use Max as a whole.

Here's some stuff I made recently.

Bad time management with the self portrait means I haven't finished texturing yet. Took too many trips away from Leicester and wasted a lot of time, though I'm happy with how its progressing. 4th character including the man we made in the first year, I still have many many more shit character models to make before I start to get good!

Also I fixed the cataract eyes on my character, Del showed me how to do a specular properly haha. Eyes aren't really that glassy. Also the normal maps are making a weird seam down the face from some angles bahhh. Diffuse/normals/specular in this render, no lights in the scene.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Posting some of my work from year 2 so far...

My painting seems to be getting less realistic this year. Probably because I'm referencing from photos less and I feel bored of trying to do photo realistic digital painting. Its more fun to play around in Painter/photoshop cos it takes hardly any time at all to make something decent compared to using real paint, so I think you can take more time to experiment with things you usually wouldn't think to do. People can get good at digital painting very fast, just look at us second years. Everyone's really improved! Though I don't think any of this stuff is better or worse than what I did last year, I'm kind of at a loss...Though I do like my sketching better this year. Basically I learned that I want to draw/paint nature, all the time, thank god Chris makes us diversify or I wouldn't draw anything but rocks and figures.

The Masters project was fun. I wanted to do a Jenny Saville study straight away, because she's my favourite contemporary painter as of around 3 years, and my background is pretty much all modern stuff so I tried to teach myself a bit about art history. So, I like Saville's work because the subject matter of beauty/body image speaks to me and she's a little bit controversial. The technique of painting with oil on a large scale interested me because I tried it a couple of years ago, and the perspective of it really messes with your head even though my painting was only a fraction of the size of what she does, so I admire her to be able to do that

While trying to reproduce the painting 'Plan' I noticed that even though her work has a hyper-real look, the large brush strokes still only suggest detail rather than explicitly paint every skin pore and vein etc. It didn't take that long to do a relatively accurate reproduction in painter using a pastel brush, as it responds better to large strokes than oil which lags terribly. I really dislike Painter sometimes for that reason and I always go into Photoshop at the end.
So after looking what everyone else had done, I thought I hadn't really understood the task because Jenny Saville still uses a modern technique even though her work has a classical look. I wanted to paint a male nude so I was looking for a good subject and found a Neoclassicist painter Jacques-Louis David who's painted a scene of Hector's death from the Iliad. It reminded me of this scene where Hector's family see his body after Priam gets it back from Achilles and he still looks all fresh and beautiful and alive even though his body's been desecrated. I liked how Hector was basically one of the manliest and heroic characters but in this painting he kind of looks boyish and like he was a vulnerable person when living, so I imagine this is the kind of image the Gods gave his body at funeral. This painting took many more hours to reproduce than my other attempt, using the same tools in Painter. The skin has a glowing quality which is made by layering paint over and over getting lighter. There's no quick way to get the effect. When you zoom in mine looks so crude in comparison to the original even though I spent a lot of time on it. Digital painting seems totally contradictory to the old techniques because its so fast, and correcting mistakes is so easy. When painting this I started to paint over mistakes rather than erase them to get in the right frame of mind. Just building up the colours on the arm to show the muscle was a slow and tedious process and takes a lot of time to get the reward where yours starts to look a bit like the original painting. Whereas doing the Jenny Saville started to take shape within the first 10 minutes. It was really interesting to see how the work of the old masters can be replicated relatively quickly in a digital medium, these are techniques I want to apply in figurative art, in life drawing or painting texture.

For 3d work, I feel like I can actually make what I want in 3d though its still a struggle every time. Last year I couldn't do anything, but I practised over summer and made a character and vehicle which was really fun. Probably because I was making something I'd designed which I'm interested in, i.e. fashion and kitschy stuff like gypsy caravans. My aim over summer was to feel comfortable in Max by the end of it and start using zbrush/surface detail maps which I also did. By the end of year 2 I want to know what to specialize in, so I guess I should just make everything and see what I'm best at. Mortal Engines projects are really fun, but I'm rushing them because I'm so slow which makes it not as enjoyable because I don't have time to do what I want. Making the environment of the natural history museum was fun at first because it was something I'd chosen, but when I realised the scale of it, it wasn't as fun anymore and got really frustrating...Still need to finish it. The vehicle is harder because I've no real reference for it, but I wanted to see if I could make something purely from imagination and a few basic references. Have no idea if it will look good or not.

Monday, 27 July 2009


Oh god so cute I almost had a heart attack. I love this Bean Dog. Watch Mameshiba 10 for Lol Engrish and casual Japanese racism.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Generic 3d female body

Made a mannequin-esque female, so I can use it as a guide for part of my summer project. At first it ended up too mannequin-like, so I made the thighs and waist a little weightier so they looked less stupid.

3972 tris including head. Is...This semi-decent? Its like 95% quads, a couple of triangles here and there. I think the shoulders/upper arms are the most problematic. Any crit would be treasured forever, as usual.
Blogs – Did slightly worse than I thought, I need to update regularly to improve my grade, I think. Need to improve self-discipline and time management, I’m terrible at this.
Game production – Happy with my result, but want it to be on a similar level to VD by end of next year. I’ve learnt a lot in the last few months, I don’t feel as desperately helpless as before whenever I open Max, but my 3d stuff has zero finesse. I’m still learning to build things.
VD – Happy with it, but needs much much more drawing. Should I upload work here still, or does it get tiresome to see it?

Got to the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy this Saturday with only an hour to see everything before the gallery shut~ I thought we could rush round, but it was so good we were pretty much escorted out of the Weston room by gallery staff. I think the theme was ‘making space’ this year – loved Anselm Kiefer’s Tryptique, it’s beautiful. I never get tired of natural materials.

Reminded me of this from the Turner Prize a few years ago, [bad photo of it] my favourite but it didn’t win. Shed Boat Shed did, lol. Also, one of Georg Baselitz’s amazing upside down paintings was there, but didn't have time to take photos. Lots of good typography stuff too, loved Michael Craig Martin ‘DESIRE’, though I can’t find a pic of that one he’s done things for the DLR, wow!

Also, this Liz Collini drawing amused me with all the little mathematical annotations.

The architecture room was interesting, but had to run round it to get a look at everything. Loved the miniature landscape designs and models, it reminded me of the 3d work at art college which I was always pretty envious of. I can’t build anything more graceful than oxo boxes tacked together.

Did not get chance to see the video room, which I believe is a new thing for this show. I feel bad, I always leave video/performance ‘til last/low priority, though the last piece I saw were a set of documentary-style things by Darren Almond which set me and everyone else off bawwwing in the middle of the Tate.
The show was lots of fun, but impossible to do in one afternoon, let alone an hour. Next year I want to go to the Biennale~

Sunday, 31 May 2009

Thursday, 30 April 2009

Feeling slightly better about 3d [maybe

Just posting a few things I've done recently. The 3d is still laaame but I wanted to redo some of the early projects.

I really needed to get better at both modelling and texturing...Even though they're simple things, I think I at least improved a little on building geometry that wasn't completely messed up on the inside. With my first house, I had no idea what I was doing. In the new one, even though it's smaller and less complex I can count the mistakes which I didn't know how to fix, the only problem I couldn't fix with the geometry was when you get two edges next to each other?? I couldn't figure out how to weld them into one edge, so the rim around the roof is technically wrong, I guess. There's also parts of the unwrapping I did wrong. But in my first model I did ages ago, there were loads of these types of problems which were pretty unfixable by the end of it, so it was pretty much untexturable. Making a rocking horse was pretty simple, my first one just looks terribly embarrassing now, I might delete it from facebook over the summer.

For the texturing contest...Got some help from Del to see it as a flat image, so I could see the shading on the texture more clearly...I don't like how Max shades things, its way too dark? So this is just a diffuse map. I did do some research into normal maps, but all the sites told me I needed a bunch of new software, some of which wouldn't install because I needed yet more software and plugins I couldn't find. Is there an idiots' guide to this somewhere?
Well anyway, i really liked this female model! I wanted to make a preppy-looking character rather than something grimdark. I'm really into salmon red and turquoise recently. The dress pattern is loosely based on this disaster of a 1980's swimsuit I saw in a vintage shop. Ah, I really messed up on the hair! But by the time it was all unwrapped it was too late to change it...Everything is planar, so in future I really need to do things seperately rather than trying to economise too much, I had something different in mind for boots but because I didn't unwrap them right, I had to improvise a little in the end...Anyway, I really enjoyed this project! Painting the textures is kind of really tedious and precise, where loads of little adjustments need to be made, but it's fun to see the end result.

Oh, and some 2d junk...

Gahh doing shitty sketches is much more fun than fully rendered digital painting. I might start doing those posemaniacs sketches again...Neeed to find a life drawing class I can go to over summer, or some kind of art class. I want to do this course so bad 'cos its a really good college, but I think I'm away for it...

Monday, 23 March 2009

Creativity, part II

This blog is a follow-up to our previous discussions on creativity. Last time, we established that creativity is a means of producing original ideas which have value, i.e. a purpose, or are highly skilled. It is something that applies to every role or career, and should be encouraged and nurtured to develop from early on in a person’s life. Applied specifically to art and design, a piece of work is generally considered to be 'art' if it either shows a highly refined skill, or evokes some emotion in the viewer of the piece. Then in theory, art should be accessible to anyone with no room for elitism, but we know that's not the case.

After doing some research as to what other people define as creativity, specifically within video games, I came across this article which cited Little Big Planet as a game which stood out concerning Sony’s creativity, as opposed to Playstation Home which wasn’t as successful as it’s competitors. I've only played LBP game recently, and although the concept of a side-scrolling platform game isn’t original anymore, there are small aspects that stood out such as the variety of minigames, and how you can ‘stamp’ your character and home with pictures or animated objects, or how you can control your character’s individual limbs and expressions. The whole visual style of the game has a sort of universal appeal which has attracted a variety of age groups of both genders.

I liked how the game tries to promote creativity, though the limitations do provide the easy option of making random choices rather than creating ‘original content’. Although this does seem to be possible, it isn’t the main focus or most accessible part of the game, and is more evident in games like ‘Drawn to Life’ for the DS. I also appreciated how LBP didn’t have an obvious bias towards either gender, which is a step towards getting rid of the mentality of ‘girls’ games and boys’ games [although, I think most of these are fine for young kids].

It’s also stated that the best ideas are ‘coincidental’, are usually simple, and have a tendency to stick with you. There is a problem with this theory when it comes to real life, as the ideas you come up with entirely off your own back, as a passing or reoccurring thought, are usually so personal only you yourself would find them interesting. There’s a very low possibility of these types of ideas actually appealing to other people and being recognised as valuable. Valuable ideas are formed by reworking these passing thoughts over and over, by doing research, and surrounding yourself with similar things. That’s why being surrounded by other creative people doing a similar thing to you at University is more motivating than being at home, and keeping up with the art scene and games industry is beneficial, I think, as it is usually quite inspirational. I think it’s important to be critically aware of the industry you want to go into [conerning games, this is something I need to work on].

On a slightly related note, if anyone’s interested in Superflat, I watched a short animation recently by Studio 4 °C, who are probably one of the best commercial studios right now, in my opinion. Their stuff has this amateur feel to it which reminds me of indie festival style anime. Thought I'd share!

Director is Daisuke Nakayama, this one really does look like a hiphop-influenced Imaishi [Dead Leaves, Diebuster]. I do spend quite a lot of time watching cartoons, so when something stands out from the 90% of rubbish Japan produces, I get excited. I’ve never actually wanted to be an animation student though, I know I get too caught up on the small details to churn out the amount of storyboarding, etc that’s required. Of course, Game Art is probably more difficult..!

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Week 19

I think it’s very easy for people in our creative industry to dismiss the whole idea of Liberal Arts/academics because they don’t have to deal with that curriculum anymore. For most people who have being aiming for this industry, academic subjects and accolades are just a means to an end which you can easily label as illogical and crap and stifling for creative people, whose talents and interests should have been recognised by educational institutes instead of repressed [one of the main points in the intriguing TED video clip we watched today]. I see the liberal arts and the whole process of compulsory education as a means to attempt to make well-rounded individuals, and the institutions I went through communicated that. I’ve never had any bitter feelings towards the methods of education, and I don’t think studying mathematics and humanities is pointless even if you’re not going to be using those skills in your future career.

I don’t think creative subjects are exactly stigmatised, as my schools have always encouraged me in those areas; my art teacher had blatant disregard for the idea of assessment, and his own work and teaching methods was so concentrated on traditional techniques he was way more focused on getting us to make pieces that looked visually impressive rather than what fitted the mark sheet, thus everything we made was basically extremely shallow, and 6th form graduates from that school had practically zero chance of getting into an art college. My art teacher at a different 6th form college was the opposite, the creative process is supposed to be about reworking ideas until reaching a final outcome, and the marking structure was completely set around supporting/sketchbook work and was meant to run parallel to the actual process of making a painting or sculpture or dress etc. Similarly, in Foundation Art, one part of the course was keeping a creative journal to discuss contemporary artists and their work which might influence you. So while a lot of teaching methods are disengaging and plainly bad, I don’t think the ideas behind marking and grades are' wrong'. I also think that those who’ve worked harder for their studies deserve to be recognised, so I do like the idea of University being a more exclusive thing that only hard workers are able to get to. The problem is what schools value as hard work.

I do have a personal attachment to the values of the education system which makes me biased, mainly stemming from the fact that my working-class parents and grandparents paid for me to go to ridiculously overpriced private school; which was not the pinnacle of effective teaching methods, but it got the results and it was probably an overall step-up from the alternatives. After going through public school, my Dad went back as an adult to get English and Maths GCSEs because he wanted to be acknowledged as an intelligent person as well as the better job prospects, and thus he has this unshakable high regard of the values of academic degrees. To brush them off as worthless lines on a CV, I think would be a disrespect to what my parents did and what they did for me and are doing throughout my own educational process - which is constant support, funding, and reward but never pressure. They’ve always known I was going to study art, and always encouraged me to work for whatever I wanted, and I chose the option of picking up as many good grades as I could along the way because you only have one chance, and my Dad always says he regrets not going down that route. Would he have been happier if he did? I don’t know, but the least I can do is value what’s been given to me when many other people’s creativity is not nurtured or valued by parents or institutions. I think I’m an extremely lucky person in this respect to be from such an encouraging background so out of principle, even though I agree that there some things that are seriously wrong with the system, I take pride in what I’m able to put on my CV even if others think it’s worthless. I think it would be ungrateful, in my own circumstances, not to be even a little bit proud.

I realise I sound like a square, but it’s more just an emotional reaction to what we talked about today. Also, I despise the idea of spending so many years of your life doing something, only to think of it later as a waste of time. I think that’s really negative, and there is always some value in anything. Just watch me eat my words when I end up as a bitter, snarky old lady..!

To actually address the task, I don’t see why you can’t have a highly-trained individual who also has a good liberal arts background. The whole process of going through school is to give you that background, and I see university as the process of training one specific thing. Though I suppose if you think of it that way, it’s best to have a good idea of where you want to end up early on, otherwise three years just isn’t enough to start from scratch. That’s why I think, can I really get to industry-level in 3Dsmax in just 3 years? Well, more like two now. We’ve had our whole lives to practise our traditional art skills; can I really get to the same level in such a short time? I suppose I must think of it as just a different way of applying those skills. I think by a ‘good liberal arts background’, employers want well-rounded individuals who are aware of the world around them. Really, I think there should be much more emphasis in schools on the subjects of cultural studies, debates, politics, current events, morality, that kind of thing, which in my opinion when taught well would be a better way to produce intelligent, aware people rather than the divisions of ‘faculties’ from so early on.

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Dreams, art, me me me

This morning I had a dream about going to sleep with some kind of rotten meat next to me. No idea why I didn’t just get rid of the meat before sleeping, but I didn’t and when I woke up the next morning there were all these flies and bugs on the walls, including some weird coloured ones but I couldn’t bear to look at them too closely, or my imagination didn’t want to stretch to thinking about insects as I really hate the look of them. Anyway, dream-me knew the meat must be really gross but I didn’t smell or see it [can you imagine smells in your sleep? I don’t think so..] but still knew it was there. So, my Mum happened to be upstairs [we were in some house I didn’t know that resembled a hotel, but my room was the same as here] and I asked her to get rid of it all. Kept saying I can’t do it, I can’t look at it etc and she didn’t really say anything but I knew she’d fix it for me anyway. So, when I woke up for real I did so unpleasantly, looking for something rotten.

So, fortunately I don’t have anything rotten here, apart from maybe the drain which needs a good bleaching, but I was thinking about the dream for a while. Maybe something to do with the massive guilt I had when I broke the hard drive my parents got me, and I knew they’d still pay for it to be fixed/buy a knew one even though it was my fault for always being clumsy and careless. But I think...It’s more to do with that feeling you have when you ignore something for a while, until the point where it’s unbearable and you go crying to someone else to fix it. I don’t think I’m too guilty of that, though everyone must experience that sort of thing to some extent...Usually I don’t think dreams have meanings or anything, but it’s been a while since I felt so emotional over a dream so it must be quite important. I guess the thing I’m guilty over...Is neglecting 3d. Its said that you can do anything if you try hard enough, and generally that’s applied to me, in everything but driving [cannot get my head around it, it’s like I’m mentally disabled or something], and I’m scared it’ll be the same thing with 3d, that I have no hope in hell of ever being good at it. But I doubt it. With some help, I really liked the tree I made, even if it’s just a small accomplishment. I suppose I’m the type of person that expects to be able to do everything art-related straight away, and it’s really not the case. What an irresponsible attitude...

A-Anyway, dreams are a silly topic, so I’ll put something relevant here before posting week 18! It was nice to see Chris’ work on Wednesday, I expected just figurative sculpture for some reason, but seeing the installation work and larger-scale things was very enjoyable...It’s been a while since I looked at fine art at all, last year I was really into it so it was really good to see work which had that emotional quality to it, a nice break from purely commercial stuff. I’ve always said I liked commercial/low-brow art more, but Chris’ stuff reminded me of what the fine art students last year were doing, well more like how they were thinking, basing an idea on something really small and developing it to the point where it’s only traceable back to that point if you’re able to see the whole process.

I think, that’s why a lot of fine art is hard to ‘understand’; either because people go in to a gallery expecting a visual treat or some kind of intellectual explanation, when more of it is based on quite a small idea or feeling, it’s the expression of it which gives it value, and at some point down the line the tools of traditional craftsmanship become unnecessary when it’s abstracted. The artist may still be a good craftsman, but their work might not need those skills to express the idea. For instance, in the fine art group at Leeds last year, for their first project they had to make a collection of every day objects that were interesting in some way, and draw, film, and record them. My friend in that group chose soap, and did things like drawing with them, looking at the textures, and making a kind of shell of the soap out of tracing paper and thread. Recording the sound of soap was pushing it. A lot of those people were pretty good painters and sculptors, but the ones who weren’t did things like video and performance. A lot of people in my graphics group thought it was a load of crap, but I liked all of it! The fine art exhibition was the one of the most interesting at the end of year show. Well, all the groups had good exhibitions, but that one had the most story to it. My first graphics project was making a hundred variations of a backwards letter ‘n’. God knows what Mike and Chris thought that was all about. I didn’t think my portfolio showed enough actual skill, so I stuck a few digital paintings in at the end while my Leeds tutors weren’t looking. But now I understand the projects that we did now, and even though I took Graphics and not Fine Art they share the same processes in the end. That’s why I think it’s good to look at galleries and contemporary art even if you think its crap, because there will be some things that you find interesting and impressive!

Also, I’ll post some of my character work here. Why not?
The descriptions/explanations are all on Facebook so I don’t re-iterate myself here.

Friday, 20 February 2009

Week 18 - Sound and music

Sound and music is as important in games now as it is in any other form of media. Like film, the sound of games has evolved from virtually silent to multiple channel orchestration. Old console games of the 70s and 80s had to keep sound and music to a minimum, the Atari 2600 only capable of generating two notes at a time. Sound effects were very basic and often the background music had to stop so the effect could be heard. Into the 80s, music became more of a specialisation and famous video game themes and composers emerged, such as Koji Kondo [Super Mario, Legend of Zelda] and Koichi Sugiyama [Dragon Quest], and of course Nobuo Uematsu. The short opening theme to Super Mario 64 is one of the most nostalgic pieces of music for me, despite never actually owning an N64. It was always something my friend’s brother would play and I’d sit and watch and long to own it myself, so I always feel vaguely excited and optimistic when I hear it, partly because I got a Playstation instead!

The DragonQuest games I feel are highly underrated, and totally overshadowed by FF as the long-running JRPG. Thinking of the world map theme in DQVIII has this similar nostalgia for me, because even though the game’s not that old, when I finished it I kind of just put it down and forgot about it. When I think of the music, doing mundane things in the game while having the hyperbolic orchestration in the background and the chirping of the dawn birds made it seem like I was this super important hero. In a way it’s similar to Elder Scrolls IV, it’s easy to loose track of time and wonder around at night thinking you’re awesome, until you’re kicked in the head by an imp or a mudcrab wanders up to you, etc. Anyway, the game has this really charming Japanese take on Western Fantasy and the music fits with that; it has a feel of mid 90’s anime of the same theme such as Slayers and that kind of thing.

Nobuo Uematsu on the other hand, has many fantastic compositions [Zongyi described it the best] of which I couldn’t possibly choose a favourite [okay, it’s Melodies of Life, and it’s also my favourite game because it takes itself the least seriously out of the PS-gen games and has Knights and Rogues and Princesses. Japanese vocal version because this was the only one I could find to download on the internet way back when. I only heard the English version once or something!]. The other games’ music, specifically FFVII themes just don’t have the same nostalgia factor for me anymore, as they’re constantly brought up again and again, and have never been laid to rest in peace without some fanbrat reminding us all that it is the best game ever made. I also used to love praising the game, you know, ten years ago.

Uh, bitterness aside, other MIDI-type music that had a lot of exciting atmosphere were things like the Doom and Wolfenstein 3d themes. I still think they’re some of the scariest games even though the baddies look like lego, because the imitation-heavy metal BGM holds the memories of me and my friends shrieking when shot from behind, then deciding it was way too tense and going to play some Rayman instead. That was probably the last time I played FPS. Around that same time I was really into DDR, which had tons of disposable pop songs that were popular at the time, but also some original Konami classics. If you were lucky, you might find an American import machine and get to listen to some garbled Engrish Jpop or the opening theme from Gundam Wing, which was pretty much pee-in-your-pants level of excitement for me at the time. From there on I was really into rhythm games, and the idea of playing a game based around music rather than music just being there for background and sound effect purposed was a pretty foreign concept. The most recent music-based game I’ve played is Patapon on the PSP, in which you act as a God and make a drum beat to command your cute little tribesmen. It’s really incredibly cute!
Here's a rather old article that goes into the purpose of game music in more detail.

Video game music has a kind of cult status now and has developed into its own culture catalysed by the internet, with many of it’s own artists and events, such as Blipfestival. The actual chips from older games can be emulated and used to make music in a technical approach, or famous pieces of music from games are remixed, sampled and covered by other artists. Amateur game developers also write original compositions, wherein all the actual game content is usually made by one person, sometimes masquerading as a ‘team’. A notable example is horror/murder mystery ‘sound novel’ Higurashi no naku koro ni/When they Cry by 07th Expansion [composed of 3 people]. The atmosphere is created with background music and sound effects, where the player has to collect hints and solve the mystery. The original features some pretty appalling artwork, but it just makes the various bloody scenarios even more disturbing. I wanted to find a translated clip to show, but Youtube only has Japanese. Here’s a good example of the cicada chirping sound effect, which never fails to give me the creeps, as does the psychotic Rena interrogation. Also, that high pitched white noise kind of thing is constantly there. Shudder.

Oh, the Good Times song! I listened to it and didn’t really recognise it immediately...But it’s been used in lots of songs, one of the most sampled pieces of music of all time. This makes it a very important and influential song. Isn’t it in Rapper’s Delight?

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Week 17 - Game Engines

A game engine is a piece of software designed to render 2d/3d graphics, sound, animation, AI, and a physics engine [ to simulate Newtonian physics and approximate effects and conditions in a real life or fantasy world], among other features. To economise game production, they are typically used over and over when creating different games, falling into the category of middleware as they provide reusable tools purchasable for different companies, reducing the time and cost of development.

Key technologies include a rendering engine, the mathematical process of creating an image from a 3-dimensional model containing geometry, texture, lighting, shading and viewpoint. The word can be compared to how a traditional artist ‘renders’ an image. Scene graphs in games are used to describe logical and spatial relationships between objects in a scene, and can also be useful in reducing memory budget and increasing speed. Recent trends are favouring accessibility, and engines are being developed more for devices such as mobile phones and web browsers, e.g. Shockwave and Flash.

Additive or subtractive environments describe the process by which objects are created within the engine. An attitive environment exists as an empty void, in which the game world is created and sealed off without the void space leaking into it. The Quake engines, MaxFX, and Half-life are all examples of additive engines.
A subtractive environment is the opposite, as in there is an endless solid instead of a void, and objects are created by removing parts of the solid and the game world is formed from negative space. As additive enviroments are easier to manipulate, a large cube can be removed from a subtractive space and things can be built within it, emulating an additive environment but without the problem of the void leaking in. Some popular engines to use subtractive environments are the Unreal, Dark, and Serious engines.

Using middleware engines can be a big advantage to developers as mentioned previously; it prevents ‘re-inventing the wheel’ – why recreate something that already exists unnecessarily? Engines also are becoming more and more complicated, and creating an original piece of software would be extremely demanding requiring vast amounts of expertise. Also, engines that have been used in successful games are naturally attractive to developers.
However, the licensing of the third-party engine can also be costly, and may require modification to meet the developer’s specific needs. Creating an in-house engine may produce totally unique features for the games using it, with the opportunity to re-use it and sell as middleware in the future. Considering these disadvantages, a safer choice with less risks of failure would be to use pre-existing software, although it would be interesting to see more original engines being developed for specific purposes.

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Obvious fakes

...Of the game and console variety. BEHOLD:

Dazzling 3d DRAPHICS, huh?

Remember Metall Slug? Best game ever am I right?



Nintendo 64
Compact Disc



I think I've seen this on a market stall before.

Superior to the Dreamcast

OH GOD POLYSTATION 2, with Goku and Jigglypuff SHIT YES

Help, it won't stop..!

Er, have you played your SexBox 3600円 today?
Costume x1 Igniter [???] x1 Lotion x1
...And those must be the games for it above. Also, Microchinco - chinco - chinko = Japanese word for penis. Okay, I laughed. Unfortunately it's not a real console, but some crazy sex kit in disguise, probably a typical example of what you'd find in Akihabara.

Also, what the fuck, Japan? Are those mini-hamburgers and broccolli on pizza?

The Shrimp and Mayonnaise Roll Winter Double King Pizza from Pizza Hut. This amazing amalgamation is filled with crab, shrimp, beef, scrambled eggs, onion, broccoli, mayo and a demi-glace sauce. And the exterior crust is filled with shrimp filled with mayonnaise.


Friday, 6 February 2009

Week 16 - Gaming Cultures

Gaming culture is so rich and varied because it is just another representation of real life; there are games and communities to suit almost everyone’s tastes. If games themselves are a form of escapism, then the cultural aspects that surround them are the grounding ties back to the real world. They are the thing that makes playing games more integrated with every day life; the friends one makes in an MMO often cross over into becoming ‘real’ friends, not just digital representations of people. Gaming communities are able to give the solitary act of playing games a little more meaning.

In this aspect, I think they’re a good thing, although not quite for me. Games for me remain as a solitary hobby, pure escapism which I’m happy with as being completely separate from my real social life. For one, I’ve never really played the sort of games which favour community in the same way, apart from maybe certain RPGs with large online fanbases; where we discuss everything apart from the actual gameplay. Somehow I don’t think this sort of thing counts, as there’s no competitive aspect, only discussion that could apply to any other medium. Another reason for my game shyness is probably the same reason for my general internet shyness. For about 5 years I was extremely active online and keen on the idea of online interest-based communities and friends. A while ago I found myself becoming less and less active, and quite jaded with the whole thing, I didn’t see it as necessary anymore, and not that fulfilling as there was always a distance between you and these people that limited you to little more than glorified small talk, which you can do in real life anyway. Another thing is when you’re younger, you seem to have the insatiable craving to find others who are similar to you because you feel so isolated all the time; it’s a fairly natural part of teen angst, isn’t it? Now I know there are in fact many thousands of people with similar interests and opinions to me, it all seems a bit redundant. I’m not particularly special or unique, and I’m happy with that, whereas 4 years ago most of the things I did were motivated by the drive to be different from everyone else. So now more than anything, I prefer to be an observer or do things anonymously, and right now that’s fulfilling to me.

I’m sure there are many people with MSN contacts full of people they’ve never met and have very interesting conversations with, but I have 2 or 3 people who I’ve met online and meet up with regularly in RL too. If I meet someone online who I have good conversation with and it’s possible to meet in RL too, I’d definitely want to meet them! I think, with gaming communities, it seems to be more about having many, many friends to have game-related small talk with, and that kind of thing doesn’t appeal to me anymore. Give it a few years and I’ll probably have different attitudes again, but sometimes I just need to crawl away into peace and silence and be content with doing what I want to do and having my friends in RL. Also part of escapism, there’s lots of opportunity to recreate yourself as an avatar in a game as there is on the internet as a whole, and a lot of people do blur the boundaries to lie about things with no repercussions.

As for games being the new literacy, I don’t know if I like the idea of it. If games are part of your culture, then yes its good to play many different games, but also watch films and read old books and books of your time too, I think everyone needs to read more and seek out what they’re interested in! Though I spend most of my time watching children’s cartoons, so it feels wrong to pretend to give advice...!

Here's a pretty cool example of something productive coming from gaming cultures, PSP design club [although I think part of the site is down right now].

Friday, 30 January 2009


Part 2

S-s-stupid elephants, it's not like your video made me cry or anything.

OH GOD ;_;
Anyone have a joke or something?

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Stupid laws

More badly thought-out laws that will probably never get passed. Could this be any more vague?

“The Government defines an "extreme image" as any "grossly offensive, disgusting or otherwise ... obscene" moving or still depiction of someone any "reasonable person" would think real being sexually injured or engaging in sexual activity with an animal or corpse.”

Why the hell are people worried about comic books? No “reasonable person” would think they’re real, unless they’re part of the Australian legal system*. I don’t remember Batman going around raping animals either.

“"A kick in the balls or a--- would constitute this, and a kick in the balls is a well trodden part of humour."”

Did they miss the part where it stated images “solely or principally for the purpose of sexual arousal” would only be affected? This is such a load of rubbish. You can say the only people worried about this are the guilty ones, but these fascist laws just encourage censorship and stupid fucking paedophile fanaticism. Catching actual criminals is the most important thing, and it’s never even been proven that looking at drawings is linked with real crime, so it would probably be wasted efforts anyway.

Disregarding the content of that kind of material, the difference between fiction and reality is the thing here that seems to be getting confused more and more. 'Extreme, disgusting images' is so subjective it makes me uncomfortable to think that what would fall into that category would be totally dependant on the personal tastes of one person. God, just stop the circulation of images of REAL children and real exploitation before worrying about what Kaworu Watashiya writes next. This kind of thing really pisses me off because it just seems like obvious scapegoating.

*This Neil Gaiman blog entry explains some things. I’m fond of this line:

“And, I should warn members of the Australian judiciary, fictional characters don't just have sex. Sometimes they murder each other, and take fictional drugs, and are cruel to fictional animals, and throw fictional babies off roofs. Crimes, crime everywhere.”


Week 15 - The Industry

The fact that our course exists is indication that roles in Industry require specialisation, now that it has begun to mature over the years. Companies need a wide range of skills to function, and must have people that are very good at a certain thing; e.g. a games artist, rather than someone who can design a game, make the artwork and write the code averagely. That may have happened back when console games first began to compete, and even into the early nineties where production teams remained relatively small, with may of the staff were multitasking; but the games industry is now fully comparable in scale with other commercial entertainment identities.

Although our course is specialised for this Industry, many of the skills we’re training are transferable. With the current climate the future of getting jobs is foggier than usual, but I’m trying my best to counter that by developing my traditional art skills. Courses such as illustration and fine art had appealed to me before I discovered this one, but I’m very happy to be here because it seems that I share the tutors’ sentiments about the importance of drawing and uses of Photoshop, etc. In other words, I’m keeping my options open but still dedicating myself to what we do here. After spending some actual time on Max during the last project, I don’t feel quite as intimidated by it, but I have a lot of catching up to do – although everyone seems quite relaxed about it, so I don’t feel pressure in a negative way; perhaps because I’ve always had my traditional art to fall back on. That’s kind of arrogant, isn’t it?

I’ve been quite worried recently about the negative atmosphere surrounding the employment issue. I can understand why people are worried, and I’ve been trying to take an interest in it rather than my usual ‘it doesn’t affect me right now, everything’s peachy’ attitude. I think, generally, worrying too much about anything is bad for one’s mental health, so recently I’ve become a more ‘take it easy’ kind of person. But, when a real issue that has a possible chance of upsetting things gets too close for comfort, all the worry I didn’t have comes all at once and motivates me to get things done in a whirlwind of neuroticism; but usually all that applies to is deadlines for things I haven’t done. I’ve had bad working habits in the past and it shows. Anyway, last week’s session with Mike did put my mind at ease about it, that we already are specialised and don’t need to concentrate that much on one really specific thing, that companies are always seeking out graduates, and so forth. It was comforting to me, although that probably wasn’t the primary purpose of that talk..!

So, despite everything I’m still fairly confident that I’ll be able to find a job, although that positive attitude may come partly from the fact that I utterly despise and fear the idea of failing at anything [though I’m not the aggressive, overtly competitive type, perhaps you can tell]. The situation the industry is in is likely to fluctuate even more in the next few years, and as a result, I’d say its logical to presume that to preserve stability and prosperity, they will continue to pick out the very best and refine this even further, and that’s why abilities of being able to meet deadlines and be highly productive are so necessary.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

In which I talk a lot of shit about men and women

Warning for male nudity, NSFW. Serious discussion of rude bits will follow.

Oh god, Mikel Marton is awesome. This article [not work-safe!] made me happy. I'm so glad his work is getting more gallery exposure, especially after all of his cameras and computers were stolen a year or so ago. It’s funny, after about 4 years of browsing the site DeviantArt, there were only a handful of people whose work made me think something else other than ‘that’s cool’ [but maybe I’m just a bit shit at appreciating art sometimes], especially in the photography section; which is mostly just macro pictures of flowers and underage tits. In Sixth Form, me and a friend of mine became pretty obsessed with Sarah Lucas’ work, in that period when I was only beginning to understand what fine art was, to realise that the things she makes are all about bawdy sex and vulgarity, and those things are cool. Or rather, challenging the idea of a woman [‘Eating a Banana’, 1990] and gender roles really got me into reading about feminism and a lot of the ideas struck a chord with me and made me really passionate [I won’t go into detail, some guys are following this blog and I wouldn’t want to bore them to tears].

While keeping this contemporary art journal for foundation course, I realised I actually liked photography quite a bit. I’ll have to dig out the journals to remember the names I was into [the sheer amount you had to talk about was intimidating, so you become forgetful], but I do remember feeling vaguely uncomfortable about the overwhelming number of female subjects in nude portraits/erotica. At first I put it down to immature, prudish heterosexualness, but I don’t think I’m all that prudish. It’s mainly the fact that pretty much all of this genre is pictures of tied-up women, and I don't see the irony to these kind of photos. Women are physically vulnerable compared to men, and have been/are oppressed, and I don't see any reason to celebrate those terrible things. This kind of imagery is never morally questioned and I was quite frustrated about that as I could never think of anything to say that didn’t sound like I had double standards, as you can easily reply with ‘you’re no better just because you’d rather look at cocks’.

But I so completely agree with what Mikel is saying. Male art is taboo because we are still scared of showing the strong white man as a sexual object, because that is something completely associated with femininity or homosexuality, and of course, neither of those are any good for what we demand a man to be.
I’ll be very happy to see change, really, so I was extremely happy to find Mikel's work as the photographs are beautiful and the ideas behind it I think are important things.

In before 'lol, that guy has a huge penis'

On the topic of naked people, life drawing yesterday was great fun! It was my first time doing it properly, as I’d only drawn clothed models before...Not entirely happy with what I produced, I was trying to get the drawings as accurate to the three dimensional person as possible, and I didn’t really put any boldness into it. I think it’s a matter of confidence. I now know I can draw the human body reasonably accurately, so that gives me more room to experiment technically. Sometimes I think my stuff has zero visual impact, so I’ll try harder.
Also on the subject of female bodies, I’ll link to one of my favourite painters, Jenny Saville. I love her work.
So that the next entry isn’t entirely worthless, I’ll post the drawings we did with Chris for the laugh.

Saturday, 17 January 2009


1. • Creativity is defined as the tendency to generate or recognize ideas, alternatives, or possibilities that may be useful in solving problems, communicating with others, and entertaining ourselves and others. (page 396)
• Three reasons why people are motivated to be creative: 1. need for novel, varied, and complex stimulation 2. need to communicate ideas and values 3. need to solve problems (page 396)
- Human Motivation, 3rd ed, Robert E. Franken.

I like the ideas presented in this article, particularly that creativity is not limited to the arts; instead it is a requirement for everything we do that needs independent thinking. Problem solving of any kind requires creativity, I see it as the formulation of ideas which is necessary for an intelligent individual. And since all of us humans are intelligent, as well as some animals, we are all creative. I think it’s sensible to gauge a person’s creativity by how much of that energy is put into use. Using arts as an example, a productive person who fills a sketchbook a month will be said to be more creative than someone who keeps their ideas in their head, but doesn’t act on them. Objectively, I think its fair, because we can’t see inside the heads of others. Their own ideas have to be expressed, creative ideas in the form of drawing/fine art, music, poetry/prose if the individual is interested in those things. Equally, science and mathematics both require creativity to progress. It’s a part of the brain we’re born with in order for us to live, e.g. attaching sharp rocks to sticks to make tools is a creative process. So in answer to the questions in the task description, everyone on a team must be creative individuals, moreso than the average person because their own creative skills are essential to their job and success.

When creativity manifests itself visually, it is usually linked with ideas that seem original in comparison to the rest. Something that is plagiarised has a less creative process to it than an idea that has been fully developed and researched, despite the technical skill. Although it’s fair to argue that nothing is original any more, I don’t think there is a limit to ideas which are different from anything that has been done before. It’s just harder to get to that level. In my opinion, an idea which consists of both research and imagination is extremely creative even if it’s been done before, as it’s very unlikely the two will be that similar, as long as the idea has been refined by the creators own unique imagination, to avoid cliché.

Creativity in games, is something you feel when you get excited about playing, or you notice many things in the game which stand out to you as being interesting, as well as the overall ambiance of the game. From there you can try and guess the creative process of the artist, as however loosely, ideas are based on something real, that is, your own experiences. Some companies I think are particularly visually creative are
Monolith, Atlus, and Oddworld Inhabitants. I’ve always been fond of Devil May Cry’s Bosch-inspired architecture and environments, fused with modern day cityscapes.

If it’s been done before and if I’m just being ignorant please tell me, but I’d really like to see a game with graphics in a more painterly style [I know of Ookami, though I’ve never got to play it]. Kind of like what Toei did with the Mononoke tv series, which is basically a moving Ukiyo-e, or A Country Doctor by Koji Yamamura, based on Franz Kafka’s short story. Imperfect, hand-drawn images work so well with animation I don’t see why it’s not the same with games. Perhaps the games industry thinks it looks pretentious? I hope not. I think many of their artists will start to come from a background more rooted in fine art with an understanding of periods and leading artists in history, who are more critically aware in general, like on our course where we’re shown films and learn about genre and movements. I love it.

As an artist, you show your creativity by the process that leads up to your results. Explaining that process is helpful sometimes, but usually visual development does not need much annotation, in my experience. When having your work acknowledged, having the technical skill to back up your ideas seems to be important. As long as the progress of your ideas is interesting and easy to follow I’d hope that it would be acknowledged. Some kind of instant appeal that makes an impression like stylised images or bold colour can make work more memorable. But I’m being really vague here.

This essay is quite an interesting break down of the components behind creativity; the un/importance of talent or ‘gift’ has always interested me particularly.

Friday, 16 January 2009

First impressions, fanart, etc

So I'm playing Tomb Raider Underworld as slowly as possible, so I can make a short game last. From looking at the promotional renders I was kind of apprehensive of what they'd done with the character, but I've liked everything Crystal Dynamics has done with Lara so far and it turns out I wasn't disappointed. The ps3 model is more natural-looking facially than ps2 versions, they've definitely gone for realism in that respect. It was hard to get used to. She no longer has an impossible body shape, and actually looks powerful in form and movements. In the first part of the game you get to wear an amazing wetsuit, its a conventional suit from the waist up but has no legs to it, like a swimsuit. She looks so cool swimming around wearing it with the equipment belt over the top, I was so impressed considering all the previous dodgy fashion mistakes of the earlier games, where the only considerations were to show either as much skin as possible or cling to it as much as possible, and it made for some pretty terrible designs that looked more like a tacky cosplay of Lara rather than what a Countess would wear [even though the official bio was different at the time].

In TR: Legend one of the most fun parts of the game were the unlockables. Concept Art and alternate outfits were the most interesting for me along with the Director's Commentary in Anniversary. Legend had a bunch of colour variations and novel things like an Amanda skin and gothic Lara. Highly entertaining, and the choice was probably more appealing to females because they were mostly quite demure, with the exception of *that* dress which was great fun to run around in. One thing I'm kind of disappointed about in Underworld is that a lot of these are gone, there's less than half as many unlockables and no alternative outfits, woe. The in-game ones are slightly plain in a bad way. I love simple design but its hard to pull off, and I was looking forward to seeing some optional extravagant things. It just strikes me as a wasted opportunity to design interesting clothing! Even though its Underworld and the tone is different from Legend, I think a lot of people miss it. However, lucky 360 owners get to download and prance around in a Marie Saint Pierre jacket! Why doesn't Playstation store get this kind of thing? So much woe.

Here's something I drew today. This kind of body shape...Is really hard! So excuse my anatomy. Must practise.

There is a swimsuit already in the game, but its basically a recoloured wetsuit with the sleeves cut off. I thought it'd be kind of cool to have a 1930's style bathing suit, I've always liked the simple elegance of that period and it keeps coming back. In the level, Lara wears no shoes which is pretty amusing considering you have to climb sharp, pointy rocks and kick vases for treasure. But I thought it looked cool in the game. The belt is still there because I think its more challenging to integrate it with other clothing, and also the game's physics/animations wouldn't allow it to be removed, as far as I can imagine...I've always wanted to get into modding TR, but have so far only dabbled with 2d. Well, I want to do some more of these, it was great fun.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Various things I watched over the holidays in the early hours...

I’ve made this habit while being at home of falling asleep on the couch around 11 and waking up as a film on tv is starting at 1 or 2am. It started out with rather bad Nicholas Cage movies, Face Off and the one where he jumps out of a plane dressed as Elvis. Ok, I did like that one. Last night I watched Carry On Camel. Or something. I don’t know either, but I felt pretty bad for smirking at every joke, similar to what happened while watching Hairspray [2007], except I didn’t think it was bad. I thought it was pretty good in a way that it rehashed John Waters’ film for today’s audience. My friend who loves Divine and all things camp would slaughter me for saying this, but it was still delightfully camp, just in a 00 way instead of an 80s way. But I’m probably biased because I love musicals [Oklahoma on Christmas day? Oh yes], even though it is not at all cool to love musicals.

Yes, I was highly disappointed when no one would go and see High School Musical: senior year with me [so much woe], and I never understood why those films get so much hate from my generation. They’re for kids and should be watched as kid’s films. Maybe its confusing because the characters are meant to be older, and when I watched for the first time I thought it was being somewhat satirical, because I didn’t realise the actual target audience until I visited EuroDisney that year and saw how young those kids where. As a kid’s film I think it’s a good film, I don’t really understand what people are expecting for a low-budget Disney live action aimed at 5-10 year old girls. For the record if I had children, I’d rather them watch a week-long HSM marathon than read Twilight. That’s not aimed at me, but I can still hate it because the message is quite backward. But that’s my opinion. Does loving kids’ films make any more sense than hating them? Probably not, but maybe for those idiots still infatuated with Disney [read: me].

One of the interesting things that happened to me with the falling asleep on the couch thing was waking up at the start of a film called Journey through the Night. I think it was a film festival piece, 10 minutes long. A man on a sleeper train finds himself in the same cabin as a cannibal, who proceeds to describe in some detail how he would go about eating him. The man could easily change cabins any time, or alert someone, but instead forces himself to stay awake and continue the conversation of how to go about eating the human body. Suddenly everything changes to animation, A Scanner Darkly sort of thing but more painterly. I did not see the point of this, it doesn’t really do anything more than add a bit of visual intrigue and perhaps emphasize the disorientation resulting from lack of sleep. The conversation led into questioning some of the morality and philosophy behind cannibalism. The whole situation implied the man was somewhat fascinated with the idea of it, just staying there long enough is playing with death until he comes to his senses at the end and you see the cannibal being thrown out of the train.

I really liked this film. Its interesting, while being confronted with a situation where you could leave any time, something so horrific can begin to make sense even if you’ve never thought about that thing in no more depth than ‘this is wrong’, before your reasonable part wakes up and you realise there are some things you shouldn’t question, or possibly shouldn’t think about too much. I’m quite a squeamish person, but I’m fascinated by horrible crimes and terrible, strange things. I think it’s the same for a lot of people and it’s not particularly weird. Usually after indulging in crime/horror novels I find I can’t sleep much afterwards, but morbid curiosity/masochism continues to make you seek out more shocking things. I like the idea of seeing inside the criminal’s head before saying, ‘that’s evil’. Of course, everyone knows murder is wrong so perhaps it’s pointless to think about these things at all? I don’t think so. Understanding crime is important even if the physical outcome is the same.

Oh, I’ve written a lot already. There were other things I wanted to say, but I’ll leave you with some highly amusing anime.
Possibly don’t watch if you’re at all offended by claymation gore.

Also, I was so disappointed I didn’t get to see The Mist today! I love horror films so I’ll seek it out on my own. I’ve had a bit of a nasty illness.

Monday, 5 January 2009

Week 11 - Gameplay

I really liked what this article was saying about games having both local and global modes, and the tactical and the strategic styles of gameplay. This seems like a good method to analyse the type of gameplay present, and immediately RPGs came into my mind as having these two levels. There’s the whole overworld exploration where the story events are usually triggered, where the game focuses more on exploration and item collecting, as well as managing many other tasks which are controlled in this level, earning the description of a strategic element to the game. The tactical, local part would come from the battle screen, which traditionally has a very different interface and functions which the user must learn in addition to the global play.

More recent RPGs such as FFXII have tried to integrate these two modes of gameplay, and from the looks of the PS3 offerings it will end up visually seamless. This kind of decision was probably made in favour of ‘realism’, and thing like the gambit system made it possible to have real time battles, something that I found hard to imagine in a FF game, probably due to being so used to the old system.

However well the modes integrate visually, as long as they are still there underlying the player’s experience the game is quite likely to be more interesting and enjoyable, as long as the learning curve is effective. As nice as real time battles are, for a tactical traditional RPG battle I prefer things like Dragon Quest where its all time-based selecting commands for each character, and you’re always very much in control of everything, as well as the game making the transition to battle very distinctive in a way that seems so old-fashioned now.

Will add to this one later.

Saturday, 3 January 2009

Week 10 - characters and story

If games are here to stay as an stable medium, developers need to do things to grab a hold of their potential audience who are thinking along the lines of ‘why play a game for the characters or plot when I can watch a film or read a novel’? Games don’t yet have enough historic or critical weight to be compared with these other mediums to any great extent. Writers are only a small name in the credits of a game, whereas for films and books, it’s considered reasonable to consume them based on the writer or director’s name. I don’t think this is feasible for games right now, as there hasn’t been enough time for game writers to gain credentials which would be noticeable to mainstream consumers.

The principle of character is has underestimated power. People often claim to be following something for the plot, but the plot should come second to good characters, because without them the story wouldn’t have any appeal no matter how complex or ‘deep’. Every type of drama is based around the characters and conflict, the foundation for the story. We’re still unfamiliar with the concept of ‘buying’ characters or seeing them as consumables, when the selling points of games over the years have always been the characters – they are symbolic of their franchise.

Unlike film, games provide us with the opportunity to be the character and not just observe them. There is an element of projecting yourself onto the character you control which is probably why we can feel close to them after spending however many hours playing a game. It’s a different type of feeling compared to an emotional connection, which is how empathy with characters from non-interactive media works. The connection via gameplay can make even cliché, shallow characters endearing if its fun to play as them. A few years ago I found it surprising when I recognised that the characters I used to really love weren’t actually that deep or developed or even likable [certain characters in the FF series], but I hadn’t recognised that at the time because I was so absorbed in the game. Or I was naïve and easily infatuated by long haired men with big swords. Now my preferences have changed, and as I grew up I now find myself more inclined towards short-haired men with big swords. Or guns, or eyepatches, or beards, or mullets. What I’m trying to say in a really shallow way is that stereotypical character design is really effective at pulling people in, but some companies just exploit that way too much to the point where it doesn’t work anymore. Or it really shouldn’t work anymore. Why is FF7 still making money??

Something I don’t really understand is how people can say things like ‘but...they’re not even real’ in response to your fondness for a character. Just...What? I really like Heathcliff and Mr Rochester and no one has even found that particularly strange. I don’t see why it should be different for any kind of fictional person. It’s pretty funny how loving a character from a game/animation is strange, whereas obsessing over real life actors is practically encouraged. If the things that make up a character is at the least a description, or an image, or a voice, or some combination, the two dimensions really aren’t that different to me. Stay with me before this starts to sound insane. On the surface, there’s not much difference between a Photoshopped photograph of a celebrity and a painting. Both are unattainable, because what you see from actors is invariably different from their real selves. If anything, a 2d representation of a person is a purer way to satisfy our needs to admire or idolise others. Its easy to say ‘I know the difference between real and imaginary people, so there’s no need to think about it anymore’, but I like to think about it quite a lot.

The kind of archetypes I like are most definitely the slightly broken, emotionally vulnerable males who still have this air of strength about them. Bonus points if they’re either slightly arrogant or selfish as well, though I also like the gentle type who’s secret tragedy is revealed later on [Suzaku from Code Geass, if you know the show]. When the theme suits it, I also like hotblooded manchildren just for entertainment factor. Generally I love tragedy and melodrama when it’s done well, and still like it but pretend not to when it’s done badly. One of my favourite clichés is timeskips, when you get to see the hero, or the heroine’s lover come back as a different person, and it’s gradually revealed to you how he came to have changed. Ah, I love it when we get to see blind Mr Rochester in Jane Eyre, such a tear jerking moment which made him a very endearing character to me, it set my protective instincts to full power!

[Also, I apologise if this post seemed to be all opinion, no fact. Finding the balance is hard, and I'd hate to sound forceful.]