Friday, 2 December 2011

Personal Gaming History

The first game that I remember playing was a castle game on the Commodore VIC 20 when I was VERY little, I can’t remember what it was called though! 
The earliest game I remember the title of is Hugo’s House of Horrors that was on floppy disk, I must have been very young as this game was released in the early 90s. 
I recently reintroduced myself to this game when I found it online as a Flash game, it was a text based game and after a while I got so fed up of it not understanding what I was typing, that I gave up – how did I ever finish that when I was younger? O__o' 

The next game that I remember was in a set of “Girls Club” CD-ROMs, called Stay Tooned!. This was by far the best game that I played when I was younger, it had a great storyline with lots of different things to do and surprisingly good graphics for a Windows 95 game. Eventually I found the wonders of the Nintendo 64 where I first played Banjo Kazooe, Poke’mon Snap/Stadium and Zelda. I then received a Playstation 2 for Christmas 2000 where I mainly played games like Spyro and a game called Dark Cloud (which was a lot like Zelda), I was too innocent for Grand Theft Auto! I played a lot more games on PS2, like Sims 1 and 2, and The Nightmare Before Christmas game, but some I won't really admit to *cough*HelloKitty'sRollerRescue*cough* … After years of playing my PS2 and the Warcraft trilogy on PC (World of Warcraft can go and die – it is NOT Warcraft). 

I then got converted into getting an Xbox 360 where I played Halo, Lego games and *cough*VivaPinata*cough*. Now I mainly play games with a good story-line such as Elder Scrolls 4 and 5, Fable 2 (Fable 3 was not good) and the Gears of War trilogy etc etc ^__^ I would say overall my favourite game would be Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion, mainly because I only played on it as a fluke and I ended up loving it! My boyfriend got a copy off eBay for £4 unboxed (probably stolen haha) he played it for about 30 minutes and said it was boring and I could have it, I agreed with him that the first quest was boring – escaping some sewers with giant rats and goblins attacking you while you have nothing to defend yourself with. 
But the rest of the game was really interesting and I hadn't played a game like it before, the graphics (at the time) were breathtaking, and even though it was full of glitches I didn't mind because it added a humorous edge to the game! I will admit that I prefer Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion over Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim at the moment, as although the graphics are AMAZING, I don't really like the menus on Skyrim, I am too used to Oblivion, so the fact that there are separate buttons to open up the Save/Quest menu and the Items/Map menu confuses me a bit. For example, I might accidentally open the quest menu when in the middle of a battle because I wanted to drink a health potion, but because I opened the wrong menu and got hit before I could open the correct menu, I have been killed. How annoying! >:( On Oblivion the Quest menu and the Items menu was on the same button, so it was ok. Skyrim in itself is a beautifully put together game and I am happy that there a marriage option on it, I kept saying that the only thing that Oblivion was missing was the option to marry – you could get a house and fill it full of items but it was still empty. I think in a few weeks / months / whenever I have the time to play on games D: Skyrim will probably become my favourite, once I become more used to it.

Pretty *_______*

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Film Review: The Mist

This is my first film review, so it is a shame that I am doing it on such a ridiculously tedious film. The story starts when you are introduced to a family that is forced to stay in their basement overnight because of a storm. The next morning they emerge to find that most of the surrounding trees have been knocked down, destroying half of their house, and there is a strange mist creeping over a nearby lake. Ignoring this, they decide to go to their local supermarket, whilst the mist spreads trapping everyone inside the shop. Most of the movie is filmed inside of the shop, so the location becomes a bit boring for the viewer after a while. Eventually we learn that there are monsters inside of the mist that obviously want to kill and eat all of the people in the shop (I mean, come on, why wouldn't they?) A few days pass and the majority of the people become brainwashed by an irritating Christian woman and decide that they would be a lot happier if they sacrificed the little boy from the family at the start. Learning this, the family escape unharmed with the only two remaining sane people (and just happen to have originally driven to the supermarket in a big off-road vehicle with lots of fog lights) so escape was easy of course, although everyone else that had attempted escape got ripped to shreds! In the end they run out of petrol and decide that instead of trying to kill some of the monsters to aid their escape, they would just kill themselves. 
Unfortunately there is only 4 bullets left in their gun and 5 people in the car, so the dad of the family shoots everyone and gets out of the car (expecting to be killed by the monsters) only to be greeted by the army that have cleared up all of the mist and destroyed the monsters. What a stupid ending. As you can probably tell, I didn't really enjoy this film as the storyline was silly and filled with really obvious things (see MS-Paint image) the music and graphics also didn't do it any justice. The monsters themselves weren’t very scary at all, some just looked like giant flies and spiders, but the main big monster looked like a cross between a gazelle and a tortoise with tentacles on its body. (If you can't imagine this, I have drawn you a picture. :D)
However there is one good thing about this film that I will admit: I tend to try and find continuity errors when watching films, so I counted the bullets after the man said “only ten bullets left” and they kept it to the right amount, they shot 6 bullets leaving them with only 4 in the end. It's nice to see a pistol that doesn't have over a hundred rounds of ammo!

Sunday, 13 November 2011

The History of Games 90's to Current

The indication of a new decade is the fashion and music scene, here we are introduced to well-known bands such as Nirvana, Public Enemy and The Prodigy, and the Goth fashion begins.

In 1991 there was the collapse of the Soviet Union and the first Gulf war, and consoles such as the Commodore CDTV, Phillips CDI and the Super Nintendo were introduced. Sonic the Hedgehog was brought out into the gaming world and most importantly, I was born! Hahaha! ^__^ The 90's finished off the arcade scene as people could now play their favourite arcade games, like Street Fighter, at home. A few more consoles around in the early 90's were the Atari Lynx, Sega Game Gear and the Atari Jaguar. In 1994 the Channel Tunnel was opened connecting England to France underwater, Nelson Mandela became President of South Africa, and the first PlayStation was released to the public. The overall quality of games increased dramatically after this time, to the point where it became uncommon to be playing a pixelated, non-3D game. The Nintendo 64 was the next big console to be released along with still familiar games such as Resident Evil, Golden Eye and Zelda (which changed the whole Game Art scene, creating popularity for disproportioned characters with big eyes and pointy ears!) The next big console was the PlayStation 2, released in the year 2000, which brought on the rise of multiplayer games. In 2001 Microsoft finally realises the potential in the gaming market and releases the first Xbox with the first Halo game which boosted sales of Xbox's and created the top 3 consoles = Microsoft's Xbox, Sony's Playstation and Nintendo needed to respond. The Nintendo Game Cube was released, personally I never liked the Game Cube, it was really boxy and ugly and the games just seemed like the ones you could get on N64 just with slightly better graphics, but after all I was biased - I had a Playstation 2 :) By 2006 all three of these competing companies had released another console, the PlayStation 3 offered a built in blu-ray player, monthly film streaming, and a lot of memory to store games on. 
The Xbox 360 offered a larger range of games (as Microsoft bought out the rights to a lot of them), all profiles require an “avatar” that can be dressed up however you want (mine has a Gears of War 3 Locust head ^^) and the graphics are as good quality as the PlayStation 3. The Nintendo Wii introduces wireless motion sensor technology at the expense of good graphics, when you move the controller to the left, your character moves to the left, the Wii offered a range of it's own games that were aimed at families and that are not really recognised as “real” games by “real” gamers, but the technology that was introduced to the gaming market cannot be ignored. In 2010 Microsoft responded to the Wii by bringing out Kinect which was the same sort of concept but no controller was required, just a camera. I would be surprised if all three consoles don't merge together some time in the future to create one master console called the Playtendo 360 or something like that, they could all put their good ideas together and there would be no competition!

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Batman: Arkham City Review

I know that it may be two and a half weeks later than the release date but I would like to share my views on Batman Arkham City (wasn't sure if we could review games on here or not!) Ok, well the gameplay has been improved tremendously from Arkham Asylum, as I will admit I didn't really get into that game as I felt that I was being forced into following a set path to complete the levels, it might as well of been a film rather than a game as there wasn't a lot of choice with what you could do. However Arkham City feels more like a free-roaming game with lots of side quests, so lots of things to do!
I was really impressed by the graphics, the whole game has a really dark feel to it so it mirrors the style of the Dark Knight film quite well, and some of the bad guys look really quite scary! For example, Penguin has the bottom end of a glass bottle wedged in his eye socket for a monocle, creepy stuff! The characters themselves are also quite realistic compared to most games (of course characters like the Joker still look a bit weird, but I think that is acceptable) 
I like that the female characters have almost believable shaped bodies, although they don't have an ounce of fat on them except for in their breasts! (But nowhere near as bad as Lara Croft or most Japanese games!) and apart from Batman and Robin, the male characters aren't unbelievably muscular. The buildings are extremely texture heavy and there is a lot of detail all over. Obviously you play as Batman most of the time so you can just glide up onto a roof, and on that roof you will find some grimy mould, cracked cement or some bird poo splattered on some gravel, I love the amount of detail!
It has become quite annoying with most games that I play lately, as I keep seeing how things have been put together now that I have started using 3DS Max! Batman however is an exception, it's one of those games where it is quite difficult to spot whether “that wrinkle in that guys t-shirt” is just texture or part of the 3D model for example, I am guessing it is texture so I think a big round of applause goes to the texture artists! (I would still like to know the triangle count for some of the things though! :P) 
Nevertheless I would say that there is one quite annoying feature of this game, and that is that you can't just run/glide/stand around the city without getting attacked by someone/something! You could just be stood there trying to figure out how to get one of the Riddler's trophies and all of a sudden you hear “It's the Bat, get him!” ...for goodness sake, let me figure out the riddle!! D': But other than that, the storyline is good, the graphics are great and I haven't found any glitches yet, so it is a well built game! I give it a 4 out of 5 :)

Visual Design Update

This is just a quick update on what I have done for my Visual Design lesson so far. After the preliminary sketches of the archway, I managed to finish the final drawing in good time, I used pen on brown paper to achieve an aged look. Plus I love working in pen and it created a different affect. 
I found the car project to be the most challenging. I have never drawn a realistic looking car in my life, so being asked to draw one alone was a scary thought and the fact that I had to draw it in 2-point perspective was even more frightening! My first attempts at preliminary sketches were pathetic but I got the hang of the technique eventually. When sitting in my bedroom flat, I just happened to glance out of my window at the car park, and I saw the perfect car! It was really round so I was a bit reluctant at trying to draw it, as although I had got a hang of the 2-point technique, I had only tried drawing boxy cars. I loved the look of the car so much that I forced myself to be able to draw it!  
(it looked a lot like Pikachu to me) I created my 2-point box and started drawing, and it just worked! I had some quite decent sketches of a car in front of me, I was so proud of myself! I took a photo with my phone while I was sketching the final as it was starting to get dark and I was losing the highlights on the car (my camera was charging, as I was going out that night) I finished off the final drawing of the car the next day using Indian ink for shading. 

All in all, I think I have learnt some valuable new skills and these projects have given me the chance to re-introduce myself to some of my old skills. I will do another update when I have finished / scanned my other pieces.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

The History of Games 80's to 90's

When most people think about 1980’s they automatically think about the music and fashion scene which admittedly is a good place to start. As decades go, the 80’s sounds like a scary one full of nuclear warnings, the cold war, the Faulkland war, and strikes. House interiors were brown and grey, and mobile phones cost £2000! But it was a good time for the growth of computer technology. The music of the 80’s even started using computer technology to create unusual sounds and affects which gave birth to Electro music. 
The main technology advance was the move from arcades to home computing, consoles and computer systems such as the Coleco Telsar, the Mattel intellivision, and the Atari 5200 were brought out and surprisingly aimed at the adult audience. It seemed that video games were never intended for children to play with (which means that people have no right to tell me to grow up!) Unfortunately in 1983 everything went wrong, the end of the U.S dominance over the computing industry began, there was an oversupply of different consoles and home computers (many being dead on arrival) which lead to the bankruptcy of a lot of companies. Arcade games were becoming less popular as well; people could play the same games in the comfort of their own homes without needing the correct change! One console that survived the American game crash was the Atari 7800 featuring proper characters, colour display and games from still well-known companies Activision and EA games. The big change in the game industry was the sudden move from second to third generation gaming so companies that are still producing popular games today were just starting out. 

In 1989 the Berlin wall came down and Nintendo released their first Gameboy, I love the quote from their original advert: “You don’t stop playing when you get old, but you will get old if you stop playing” I think that this means if you stop playing the games, you will be out of touch with technology and feel old as technology is advancing so quickly. I think this is evident with my parents, my dad has kept up to date with technology and even shows me new things, but I have had to teach my mum a few things like how to use eBay etc! However neither of them are up to date with the games industry and were quite surprised when I told them I wanted to pursue a career in it!
I feel that the 80's was an important decade for gaming as it started the growth in popularity of consoles however the quality of the games were still nowhere near as good as today.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

The History of Games 50's to 70's

Video games were founded on the invention of computers and there has been some conflicting information over who invented the first game, some would say that the first game invented was Pong, others would argue that it was Spacewar! created in 1962, and if you would count an oscilloscope as a computer, then the 1958 Tennis for Two game would be your first choice. Personally, being born in the early 90’s I was quite surprised to find that games hadn’t been around before the 1950’s and had improved in such a short time. Admittedly the graphics in the original games are incomparable to current games on the market, but the advance in technology is astounding! 
Computers were developed by the military to enhance communication and weaponry, the development of using a computer for entertainment was just a fluke; After-all Spacewar! was created by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology just to show what the PDP-1 computing machine was capable of. Original computers were the size of a small shop and required tapes to store information on, looking back at some of the old pictures of the computers I personally feel like I would like to see one fully working. 
I feel quite intrigued on how a big boxy keyboard with a cassette tape player that plugged into a television is even capable of displaying a virtual game that you can control. Computers of today would never have been a thought before the cathode-ray tube was invented and patented in 1948 by the U.S (which was a vacuum that allowed electrons to pass through to a fluorescent screen to produce an image) so I think that is worth a mention! In 1966 Ralph Baer created the first video game using a television screen and a handheld gun controller named “Chase”, which was made available to the public thanks to a company called Magnavox who packaged the whole thing together and sold it as the “Magnavox Odyssey” console. In 1972 Atari was founded by Ted Dabney and Nolan Bushnell, and they released the first coin-operated arcade game. Overall, I think that arcade games started the idea of playing games for fun in the early 1970’s, but I don’t feel that the creator’s of these games would have even dreamt how much games have grown in quality and popularity over the years. From just the invention of computers, billions of games have been created making people spend hours of their lives playing them and even inspiring people to want to be a part of creating them. After all, look how upset this boy gets over his Xbox! If that isn't someone affected by games, I don't know what is! :3

Here is a boring timeline about games/consoles, yay!

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Visual Design

Oh dear, I think I am a little behind with writing stuff on here -__-‘ I will do my best to catch up though! It is a bit difficult I suppose as I’m really not used to writing a blog. OK, so I will write about my first proper Visual Design lesson. 
Here we were set the task of creating many little sketches of the local river and a large A3 final drawing. I found the perspective side a bit difficult as I haven’t done about perspectives since AS level Art (3 years ago) so it took me quite a while to create something that looked remotely like a river. After a few days of traipsing back and forth from my uni accommodation to the river, I found that I had got a hang of one-point perspective and I was actually quite proud at what I had achieved, I finished my final piece for the next visual design lesson. 

However as I don’t know how our work is marked I expected to hand in my sketchbook like I had done in my foundation course to receive feedback. We just went straight on to drawing an arch and I found this a little unusual because of what I have been used to in my past education, I don’t really know how you could prove that everyone has done the work on time. Anyway the arch was quite a challenge to draw because it wasn’t clear at first where the horizon line was and the vanishing point appeared to be through a wall! I was glad that we had started with something easier like the river and then moved onto the arch, as there was a lot of detail in the arch itself, let alone all of the trees and the cobbled road surrounding it, so I was glad to have had some practice with perspective first. 

After this I realised that maybe we aren’t handing in our work after each project so that it will be apparent on how we have improved with the different techniques at the end of the term as we will probably be given more difficult tasks each week. I was a little disappointed however with the summer project as a lot of people had put great amounts of effort into their work and it was explained on the sheet we were given to be an “introductory project” so I assumed that we would present or discuss what we had made with the class, as like an ice breaker.
Instead we just sat their with our work and then put it on a table and didn’t discuss it further. I had been stressing a little to finish this project as I had received the brief the day before I went to New Zealand for 2 weeks (3 weeks before the uni term started!) so really I only had to a week to create my paper project. I portrayed what the highlights of New Zealand were for me out of card, including the kiwi bird, the Punakaiki (pancake) rocks, their amusing road signs, (including a platform 9 ¾ sign at the train station!) Sauron’s armour at the Weta Cave, Hokey-Pokey ice-cream, the little one-storey houses that everyone lived in, Hooka falls, and the pretty maori tattoos and symbols etc.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Boring info about me! ^__^

Argh! I only just realised that there were specific questions to be answered, so here is some information about me that hopefully answer all of the questions!

My name is Samantha Lees, I don’t particularly like my name (as people tend to shorten it down to Sam. Sam is a boys name) so I prefer to be called Maffy (which is what I used to call myself when I was younger and couldn’t pronounce my own name!) I am 5”4ish, have blue eyes and long purple hair (naturally dark brown).
I come from Stourbridge (the dying town!) which is the other side of Birmingham and most famous for making glass, although there is hardly any glass being made there now, it’s more famous for charity shops and chavs! Yay! … :S
I chose this course as I have always wanted to work in the games industry ever since I was very young and first played on Banjo Kazooe on my N64, I’ve always wondered how the games were made and grew up trying to make my characters glitch out of the maps just so I could work out the construction of the levels.
Another positive of this course is that it is only an hour and a half away from my hometown, and as I have a long-term boyfriend, he can come and visit me every weekend! (and also I can go home if I’ve forgotten to bring anything!) Finally the biggest reason for me to study this course is that it is Skillset approved, and I had previously done a lot of research into which courses would make me look better in the eyes of the games industry :P 

My main ambition for this year is to make it to year 2 I guess! Haha.. I would like to make friends with more of my peers, but there is a lot of people in my class so I know that it won’t be like the foundation art course that I have most recently done, as there was only 10 of us specialising in Digital Applications so we were all good friends.

My interests other than my lovely Xbox and my boyfriend consist of going to concerts and festivals, I love metal music, Avenged Sevenfold is my favourite band and I’ve seen them once at Birmingham NIA and once and the Download Festival, although I must admit I prefer concerts over festivals as they are a lot less violent and I don’t end up looking like I’ve had a domestic! :D I have seen many other good bands most recently including Iron Maiden. 
I’ve also seen a few comedy acts including Ross Noble, Jimmy Carr and Lee Evans, which were fun! I like travelling to new places, I've been to a lot of different countries, my favourites being China, New Zealand, Norway and Finland, and my Grandad lives in Spain, so I've been there loads of times. 
I also actually like working! :O I don’t currently have a job but I’ve loved my previous jobs! I’ve volunteered for two local charities to get some experience and the people I worked with were lovely. I worked as Christmas staff for my local Gamestation last Christmas and more recently worked for a small company called Battlestorm HQ which is an indoor army-themed laser combat arena with replica P90 and M97 guns but I had to leave there to come to university, I will still go there to play though! Yay shooting children with lasers!

I guess I don’t really have a dream job title that I would want to be, I know that I don’t want to be a concept artist and definitely not a coder, but I definitely want to be in the games industry (and not in the retail side, as much as I loved working in Gamestation, it’s not really a dream job) so I will probably just carry on learning new skills until I realise what I am particularly good at and then try and get a job in that area. I think I have picked up using 3DSMax quite quickly, so maybe I am destined to be a 3D artist? At the present I don’t know. But here is a picture of a cat that is clearly Batman.
 That is all.

Monday, 10 October 2011


Hello and welcome to my first blog. (Yes I’ve never done one before, so bear with me!) Here I will portray what I have learnt during my 3 year BA (Hons) Game Art degree and share my feelings about how I have progressed.

Ok, so where shall I start? I am in quite a large class which is very daunting for me as I am quite a nervous person when introduced to new people, but hopefully I will get to know people a lot better! In our first proper lesson we learnt how to create a simple church in 3D Studio Max, I thought this was brilliant as we didn’t have any of those boring “ok so this is the start button” tutorials, we were just shown how to create the church and then were left to our own devises with this scary scary program! (I am a kinaesthetic learner so this suited me fine!) I seemed to pick up how to use the program very quickly and I was very impressed with the final outcome:

However, then we were set the “homework” task of creating a Dalek with no proper instructions rather than how many triangles it must be etc (no step by step instructions!) I managed to create the lower body on my own but then I got stuck on the neck and head, as I didn’t know if and how to piece different shapes together, after-all the church project was the first time I had used this program and I had previously tried to teach myself Blender which just resulted in a blob! This was another situation where my social skills failed me, I asked for help on my Game Art Facebook account and was told that the second years would answer our questions if we went into the labs. So I forced myself to go in, only to be faced by more people that I’d never met before, argh! In the end I unwillingly managed to ask for help in person and got my Dalek finished to a good standard.

You're probably bored to death if you read all of that, sorry! :p