Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Gamescom 2013 Review ^__^

So this was the first games convention I have ever been to, so I thought I would do a review. As I absolutely love dressing up, I decided to dress as Harley Quinn from Batman: Arkham City (Harley Quinn's revenge DLC), and my boyfriend dressed as The Riddler, also from Arkham City.

On the reasonably tiresome walk from the train station to Koelnmesse (where Gamescom is held) I overheard a woman saying that she comes here every year and this is the busiest she had ever seen it. 
In a way, hearing this filled me with a bit of dread, I generally don't like lots of people, especially thousands and thousands of them, even more so that I couldn't see many of them dressed up. I could see a handful of people dressed as anime characters (possibly, I don't know as I'm not really interested in anime, so I couldn't recognise who they were supposed to be!) However, as soon as we got into the first hall, with all the brightly lit up game banners, loud music and so many interesting things to look at in all directions, I knew that this was definitely what I had imagined a game convention to be like, it was overwhelming.

There are some very exciting game titles coming out this year including: Thief, Fable Legends, Killzone: Shadow Fall, Call of Duty: Ghosts, Grand Theft Auto 5, The Sims 4, Titalfall, WWE 2K14 and last but not least Elder Scrolls Online. Not forgetting a sneak peak into the next generation consoles as well of course!
Some of the upcoming titles that I am personally looking forward to are:
Batman: Arkham Origins, Saints Row 4, and Lego Marvel Superheroes - and I got to play all three!

Batman: Arkham Origins
The graphics on this game looked even more spectacular than before, if that's even possible. I was already quite enthusiastic to play this game as me and my boyfriend got to skip the queue, as we were dressed as characters from the previous Batman game released. :D We even appeared on the official Batman: Arkham Origins webpage ( amongst other Batman Cosplayers, but our outfits were clearly the best.. The game itself is quite similar to Arkham Asylum and Arkham City as it is a prequel so the controls are the same, there are some new gadgets and obviously a different storyline, but other than that it doesn't seem that much has changed from the last game. This however isn't in any way a bad thing, as the Batman Arkham games are very well made and an interesting play.

Saints Row 4
Another Saints Row title! Amazing. In my opinion Saints Row has always had what the Grand Theft Auto games have lacked over the years. - Saints Row is purely for fun, yes it's ridiculous, but it's also brilliant! Sometimes you just feel like dressing your overly-musculer male gangster character in a small pink cocktail dress and catapulting people out of a cannon that's attached to a car shaped like a cat, or equally, hitting the general public with a ludicrously phallic looking weapon. So ultimately I am super excited for this game! Having had the opportunity to play this at Gamescom, I found that it looks and plays just like Saints Row 3, which is disappointing in a way, as there hasn’t been much improvement...except the fact that you now have SUPERPOWERS! Awesome idea! You can run super fast and jump the height of buildings, it's so cool! I also really loved the addition of the Dubstep Gun, and the Black-hole Gun, both are as the titles describe, and are both just fantastic. I will definitely be buying this in the next few days.

Lego Marvel Superheroes
Lego and superheroes, what could be better? I am definitely a huge fan of the previous Lego games, and a huge Marvel fan, especially the Avengers, so I am really looking forward to this title. Ok, I know it could be argued that Lego games are pretty much all the same, but with different characters in, but Lego games are great, there is absolutely no need to change them! In my short play-through of this particular title, I was controlling Thor, Wolverine, The Human Torch and Captain America and our little team had to save Thor's home-world of Asgard from the invading Frost Giants who were invited in by Loki. I'm a little bit disappointed that they didn't use Tom Hiddleston to voice Loki, I am a bit of a fan girl for Tom Hiddleston and I'm sure he would have been up for recording his voice for it! (he did for instance do most of the narration for the Thor game.) But I digress.. The gameplay was very similar to the previous Lego games, except now with the introduction of superheroes a lot more abilities are available, (like with Lego Batman 2) this will probably be a bit confusing with all of the different characters at first, but I'm sure I will get used to it!

The whole experience of Gamescom was overwhelming in a great way, there were some amazing live bands promoting various games, loads of cosplayers dressed as characters from games, films and anime. 
There were loads of people wanting to take photos of us as well which was fantastic as they recognised who we were supposed to be! I would love to find some of the photos people took with us, but I've had no luck yet unfortunately! We also found the Saints Flow Can guy! Yayy! <3

So all in all, I would definitely go again, I really enjoyed myself, I loved dressing up and I loved getting the opportunity to play games before they are released to the public. 

Here's some of the swag that me and my boyfriend got from the convention. :)

Self Set Summer Project 1 ~ Joker’s Hideout [Post 4]

Where has the time gone?! I have had too many distractions, all I wanted to do this summer was to get this project out of the way, and maybe do another self set project afterwards. 
I managed to finish the 5 Visual Design projects that I was set, before the deadline, so I had enough time to prepare myself for my holiday to Germany which I have had planned for months. 
I went to Gamescom, dressed up as Harley Quinn, acted like a complete loon and had a fantastic time! XD But now FINALLY back to this project!! 
I wanted to get my Joker project finished before going to Germany, but recovering from my laser eye surgery and having 5 extra projects piled on top of me got in the way of me progressing as quickly as I planned.

Having a look over my level, I realised that I have mainly concentrated on the factory and maybe wasted my time a bit with lighting etc, that can be done after everything is built. 
I decided to concentrate on the sweet shop, as I hadn't done anything for this, and this is supposed to be the starting area. So I started building the walls and a few of the bigger assets that would be needed, like a display counter and some barrels filled with sweets. Soon enough, once I had made the textures, it started to look like a sweet shop. 

I decided to use the purple and green colour scheme to hint at The Joker, and I wanted to add a few signs around the place as additional hints. (e.g “Service with a Smile!”) 
The floor tiles are supposed to look like chocolate, and I think I succeeded quite well with this, but once I have made a normal and a specular map for this, I think it will look a lot better.

On the back wall, I was considering making a large Joker face that vomits out sweets, a bit like the one from Harry Potter, in the Wesley's shop, but a bit more creepy. I'm not sure if I would actually animate the flow of sweets to look like they are being vomited out, or to just have it stationary. 
Obviously it would be easier to have it stationary, but I could probably figure out how to make it animated, (like the glowing beakers in the science room of my group project level.)

I created the bags of sweets by taking photos of some sweets I had at home, the bags of strawberry laces look a bit like actual hearts in my opinion, but maybe that's OK as it adds to the unusualness of the level. I will keep the sweets as they are for now and if I have some spare time at the end, I might change them. There is still a few things in this room that needs addressing, like the windows and the texture on the ceiling and the jars of sweets on the counter, but other than that everything is looking as I expected it to. Some more sweets and signs need to be added and possibly the giant Joker head that I mentioned before, but overall I am quite happy with how this room is.

I am glad that I can get on with this project again, as I was feeling a bit annoyed that I had to abandon it for a while.

Friday, 19 July 2013


My eyes have just about healed from my operation now, which is why I haven't posted on here in a while. They have been incredibly sensitive to light and even with the brightness turned down fully on my computer monitor, I still had to wear sunglasses in order to see without squinting! I am a lot better now, I am off my medicated eye drops and only have to use the “fake tears” drops when my eyes go dry. The only remnants of the surgery is a blood splodge on each eye where the “hinge” of my lense was and a semi-circle of pink under my eyelids from the machinery. 

I think I underestimated how much time I would need to get over my operation, I thought I would be OK the day after and I wasn't worried at all, so I had the operation the day before my parents went on holiday. My boyfriend had to stay with me for about a week to look after me instead as I kept walking into and tripping over things, I felt like such an invalid! 
The operation itself was pretty traumatic, I don't actually think I have been so terrified in my life, as I am generally quite brave when it comes to medical things. I went blind for a few seconds which scared the hell out of me and then once I could see again, everything was incredibly blurry (this must have been when my lenses were removed) so I didn't know what was going on. I was then asked to stare at what I can only describe as a load of miniature disco rave lights, and I could hear a loud ticking noise and smell burning. Once that was over my lense was obviously replaced as I could see a bit better than before and noticed a plastic trowel type tool being scraped over my eyeballs. Once that was done, it was all over, I must have only been in there for about 2 minutes, but it was horrible! 

I am definitely glad I went through that though as I CAN FINALLY SEE!! 
This will last me for the rest of my life until I get properly old and my vision deteriorates like everyone else's. I have wanted laser eye surgery since I first heard about it when I was in my early teens, I have had bad eyes since I was very little and it has always been an annoyance, but now I am finally normal! (sort of...) I am very happy with my vision now, and I would definitely recommend the operation to other's with bad eyes. It is very scary when it's happening but it's only for a few minutes and you don't even feel anything because of the anaesthetic eye drops. 
So yes, I am happy so EVERYBODY DANCE NOW!

Aaaanyway.. unfortunately I have had to postpone my Joker's Hideout project because of my surgery and I will have to postpone it further as I have been set some Visual Design projects to do. I'm not very happy about this as I would much rather teach myself more about UDK and I hate that I have missed my self set deadline but I HAVE to do these projects. I will definitely carry on with my Joker Project in the near future, once I have got these additional projects out of the way.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Self Set Summer Project 1 ~ Joker’s Hideout [Post 3]

So I'm back from my holiday now, I had a great time, but now it's back to work before I have my eye operation! I have made a few more assets for my level, but the most important thing that I had to sort out was the floor. I was using the existing UDK floor in my level, meaning that the vent couldn’t be crawled through as it went underground. I decided that I would make separate floor pieces for each room, as I may want a different texture on each of them. I made a new floor just for the factory, and just applied my basic tileable dirt texture to it to get an idea of what it would look like. I would like to create a concrete or slab flooring for this room eventually. 

After I made the floor in the factory, I played through my level to test it and found out that now every time I tried to crawl through the vent, I would automatically die. I thought that this might be a glitch with my flooring, or maybe the collision boxes, but I managed to solve the problem by selecting everything and moving it up. I figured out that as the vent was lower than the floor, UDK was seeing it as the player had fallen off the edge rather than crawling through a vent. So I have learnt that the player cannot go down past a certain point so things should be made above the default floor, this may be able to be changed through one of the menus, but I'm glad that I figured this out.

Most of the new assets I created are various parts of machinery just for the factory. The factory is my main focus at the moment, but I will make a few assets for the sweet shop soon. I experimented a lot with lighting on the machinery, and I would like to make some kind of animation of liquid chocolate or sweets being transported in the pipes of the machines. 

I have put some basic walls in to get an idea of the size and scale of the rooms. I will match up the textures later on, but I think I have a good idea of what it will look like and the amount of assets I will have to add to it to get the look I am going for.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Self Set Summer Project 1 ~ Joker’s Hideout [Post 2]

I designed a few layouts for the level, deciding on which rooms I wanted to make, and decided on having a small shop at the front which will be the starting point, leading into a corridor where most of the doors will be locked, maybe you can see something creepy through some of the doors. Then the one room you can get in, the door will be locked or covered in rubble so you cant get through any further, but there will be a hole in the floor that you fall down into a vent, you crawl through the vent and end up in the main factory. The factory will be full of weird machinery making sweets, and they will have faces on them and a purple and green colour scheme.

Using my floor plan, I make a basic block out on 3DS Max and then started making separate walls from this. One thing that I wanted to make in my group project was a vent that connected two of the rooms together, that had to be crawled through. But I didn't have a lot of time to figure this out before. However for this project, I made it a priority for one of the days, I now have a working crawl space to get into the factory. 
Once I had made this I realised that it is quite similar to the vents on Arkham Asylum/City, but this wasn't intentional. It took me a while to figure out how to make the player actually crouch on UDK, I didn't have to enable this feature on my group project as I was only building things on there. Eventually I found out that the game mode had to be changed in one of the many menus, but it wasn't an easy find as I didn't know the exact words or phrase to be searching on Google.

Using the existing design from the Batman Vault book, I modelled the “chocolate machine” and started texturing it with a basic tileable metal texture and a separate texture for the features. I will make the additional pipes and metal poles when I am happy with the walls and overall space that the machine will need to fit into.

I made a few designs for other machinery that could be in the factory part of the level – as this will be the main focal point. I wanted to reflect the real-life machinery that would be in a sweet factory, so these designs are for ovens that conveyor belts will go through to transport the sweets and heat them. I don't think that all of the machinery will have faces on, but I decided that an oven might be quite a creepy thing to have a face on.

It could be turned into an Adam West Batman style trap where Batman is captured, tied up onto the very end of conveyor belt, left in the room on his own and just as he’s about to get cooked alive, he escapes using a ridiculous gadget that he just happened to be carrying on that day.

So far I have made most of the walls, the crawl-able vent, the chocolate machine, the oven without conveyor belt, a tileable brick texture, a tileable metal texture, a tileable dirt texture, and a texture for the chocolate machine. I think I am working at an ok pace, I don't have a lot of rooms to do so I should get it finished by the time limit.
However, I have just found out that I am suitable for laser eye surgery and am having the operation on 5th July, so I may not be able to work around this time unfortunately as my eyes will hurt a lot! I may have to extend my set deadline because of this, but I will try and work harder before the surgery!
eye drops are weird :/

Monday, 3 June 2013

Self Set Summer Project 1 ~ Joker’s Hideout [Post 1]

I absolutely love Batman, the films are some of my top favourites (except the George Clooney one, but that is entertaining in its own way), the Arkham Asylum, Arkham City and Lego Batman games are amazing, and I still love watching the old cartoon series and Adam West Batman series. So I decided that as a project to do over the summer, I would design and make my own playable level building that would fit in the Batman universe. I think that I will use the dark, dingy style that is in the most recent films and games, with possible hints back to the Tim Burton style in the late 80s/early 90s Batman films.

This is a more stylised project so I’m hoping that it will reflect my creativity and ability to keep to a theme, I will be using 3D Studio Max 2013, Photoshop CS2, and the Unreal Development Kit. 
I’m giving myself 5 weeks for this project, I will create all of my own concept designs, layouts, assets, textures, and put it all in UDK myself. My final “hand in” date will be Monday 8th July and I will be using my blog as a design document. I have one holiday booked in this time, between 17th and 20th June, but that is my only expected distraction.

I had the idea to make an overly Americanised sweet factory, sort of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory-esque, but as a hideout for the villains Joker and Harley Quinn. A lot of Joker’s hideouts are set in abandoned theme parks and chemical factories, I found some concept drawings of a possible hideout made from a sweet factory in The Batman Vault book (Robert Greenberger, Matthew Manning). But there were only a few basic drawings, and they were used for the cartoon series Batman Beyond which from my memory didn’t show a lot of detail in Joker’s hideout. I may use these concept sketches as a starting point, the outside drawing was used in the cartoon, but was changed quite a bit.

After doing a bit of research I found that a lot of sweet factories have large machinery with big metal tubes and conveyor belts leading into large ovens or metal vats. There are production lines of workers making, decorating and wrapping individual sweets. A lot of the results of my search ended up being sweet shops rather than factories, so I think I will need to include a shop at the front of the factory. 

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Second Year Review

Last official post of second year! :D 
My main goal is to be a part of a good team in a successful games company, I didn't initially know what I wanted to be when I first joined this course, but through a process of elimination, I have come up with the idea that I would like to go into making 3D environments and props for games.

When I was in college I decided I wanted to do the 3D side of games, which spurred me on to do a foundation course and then join university.

It's always been my dream to have my work out there, in the past few years it got refined into: I wanted my work to be in a successful game and when people play it I can say, “Yea, I made that chair!” or “I made those trees over there in the distance!” and have my name in the credits of a game … It's kind of a sad dream I have always had since I was younger, like a claim to fame sort of thing, I never wanted to be a singer or an actress or anything else small children dream of becoming, I always had the idea that I would make something that would be famous. 
That is my dream and my life goal and what I hope coming to university will help me achieve.

I am honestly terrified of my own future, I keep thinking that I am not ready to be successful because I feel that I rank quite averagely in my year. I remember that my first year of university didn't go very quickly at all, but second year has flown by! I feel that I'm not ready to be in third year, I was quite scared at the start of this year because I thought that the first years would come to me for help and I wouldn't be able to answer them. But it seems the first years that I've seen are at the same level as me anyway, as they've been taught UDK quite early on.. a little bit of an unfair advantage, but I guess they are paying more. Anyway, although second year has flown out of the window, I don't think I realised how much I learnt in this year. I absolutely loved the group project, I was with a bunch of guys that were completely different to me, but we all got on really well. I think that we were the only group that didn't actually have any major problems, so I think that counts for something! I learnt quite a lot of new things in UDK and I was so proud of our level. :)

I'm really hoping that after I have done the projects I have set myself over summer, and once I get back to uni for third year, I will feel like I am on track. Currently I feel like I'm behind although I've done all the work, I'm scared and I'm not ready. But I'm going to work really hard to get where I need to be.

Changing Lives or Building Careers

Universities are constantly trying to improve their courses based on how the industry changes, but as the industry changes so rapidly, how can the universities keep up? The answer is, they can't, but they can offer students the basic knowledge needed to get into the industry, the rest is up to the students. 
I think that university students on a game related course would have a better idea of what the industry is looking for because they are given a time frame for each project, like in the industry. People trying to teach themselves the skills needed would only concentrate on one aspect, like 3D characters for example, so they wouldn’t have a knowledge of any of the other aspects that the game companies would be looking for in a potential employee. There are some things that you may not have thought of by yourself that you could learn from an education.

Technical skills are a must for Game Art teachers, they need to keep up to date with what's happening in the games industry. Students rely on the tutors to give them guidance and get them correctly prepared for graduation, interviews and first jobs. It is up to the student to pick the right course which, in their mind, offers the same sort of standards as the industry, but it is up to themselves to create that level of standard in their work. It isn't really possible to teach someone to develop their skills and be creative, but in a way being made to feel like you're one of the smallest creatures on earth and constantly in competition with every single person on your course is a good way to force people to improve, which is kind of how I feel our course is.

Games companies should have views on what skills an artist should have, traditional skills are important for all of the jobs that we will be applying for in the industry. We need to have a basic knowledge of perspective, shape, form, colour theory and anatomy, because they will play a part in everything. Even anatomy would be useful for 3D vehicle and environment design for example because otherwise they wont fit in with the characters, like the seat is too big in the car or the doorway isn't tall enough for the player to get through.

I think that games companies will be looking for someone with all the necessary technical skills and some traditional knowledge, what they cannot be convinced about is creativity, the possible employee may have a creative portfolio but they may not work in a creative way, so their best bet would be to look for skills over everything else. Ideally they would be looking for someone that works fast, is very creative, has a good knowledge of traditional skills and with a large technical understanding.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Talent and Creativity

So this is my last push to get everything finished for Second Year! I handed in all of my Visual Design work yesterday which I was reasonably happy with, and now I have to address this blog that I have sorely neglected! I might upload some of my Visual Design and Game Production work that I am most pleased with on here once the tasks are finished..

Right so here goes.. Talent and Creativity.

Talent is a term to describe someone's skill in something, for example, some people may be described as having a “natural talent” in drawing or playing an instrument. But they weren't actually born with that ability, they didn't come out of the womb wielding a pencil or a guitar, they put the time in to learn that skill.
I believe that everyone can do anything, providing they put the time in to learn how to do it. It's like on the Sims, if they haven't read up on cooking, your Sim will burn the toast and set fire to the whole house, but if you did the research first then there are no fires and they can create many new dishes!

Creativity is a broad term explaining someone's ability to have unique ideas, sometimes a random idea that makes hardly any sense or a well thought out idea that will be of use. I think I good example of creativity is shown on something like Dragon's Den for example, you have a panel of rich business people judging the public's business and product ideas.. Some are so stupidly ridiculous that they get sent away with no funding, others seem quite boring but will be useful so might get funding, and others seem so comically absurd and amazing that they also get funding because they're funny and might actually work.
Again, creativity isn't something that you're born with, it is influenced by your personal experiences, environments that you have grown up and your interests. Some people seem to have more of a knack for coming up with interesting ideas, but I think anyone can be creative in their own way.
So creative! XD

I think that both creativity and skill play a big part in the games industry, most of the roles in the team creating the game should have both. Initially the Concept Artists will need the creativity to come up with the ideas of how things should look and the skill to present their ideas to the Game Artists and Level Designers, who will then have the creativity and skill to develop the initial ideas into a working game. I don't think there would be a lot of creativity needed for the coding side of games, but definitely the skill would play a massive part in it.
I used to be able to write in HTML and very basic CSS, but game coding looks like it has a lot of maths in it, I'm not great at Maths (saying that, I lack the skill because my Secondary School teacher was pretty boring so I couldn't be as bothered as I was with Art and ICT) so I understand that there is a great amount of skill needed for coding, but I would imagine there isn't much flexibility with ideas.

Monday, 8 April 2013

Book Review: Warm Bodies – Isaac Marion

It's quite unusual for me to read a book, I only read Mortal Engines because of the course and before that I hadn't read a book in about 10 years (not even exaggerating!) My sister recommended this book to me a few weeks ago and when I went to visit her this weekend, I managed to read the whole thing on the 3½ hour journeys between her house in Aberystwyth and my parents house in Stourbridge. So on the front cover it has a teenage couple, the guy is a zombie and the girl isn’t, it looks like really cheesy teen romance trash, especially as it has the caption “who says romance is dead?” by the side of this image. I wasn't very hopeful that this would be a good read, but I was pleasantly surprised – I guess “don't judge a book by it's cover” is very relevant here! (lol)

This offered an alternate view of zombies, normally I dislike zombie things, the films scare me and I cannot stand the games – it's all too real, but this book was comforting and ended up with the zombies actually curing their curses very slowly.
There is an element of romance in the story, but it's not overpoweringly soppy which is good, because I generally hate romantic things. Me and my boyfriend of 5 years don't celebrate Valentines day for example except maybe to take the piss, it's pointless, this is the card I gave him this year:
but I digress. I don't want to put too many spoilers in this review, but I found it very interesting reading through the zombies' point of view. It offered an explanation on why zombies only feed off living humans, and not each other or animals, once they turn into zombies they lose all recollection on who they are. They don't even know their own names, they are just lost and only have primal instincts, they also get visions of the person they are eating's life, so they feel more alive when they are eating as they feel human again for a few seconds. Something I always wondered about zombies is if they were humans that went back to primal instincts, like animals, why weren’t they trying to mate with everything as well? The book also explains this, they are primarily dead so they don't have a proper blood flow, but they do still have urges, resulting in them just standing there naked and staring at each other, as they don't know what to do and even if they did, nothing would happen!

This book has been made into a film apparently, which may explain the characters on the front cover of the book, as no where in the book does it say that the main zombie guy is wearing a hoodie and jeans, he's meant to be in a fitted shirt and tie which is why he cannot guess what he was before he turned into a zombie. I don't think that the film would be as good as the book, I can imagine that the directors would have played more on the teen aspect aiming at the kind of people that enjoy Twilight (I can gladly say I have never read or watched anything to do with Twilight, hearing about the sparkling put me off!)

So all in all, I would recommend this book, it's an easy read and good for people that enjoy post-apocalyptic things, zombies, and interesting stuff, it does have very descriptive violent scenes in places so it's not for the squeamish though!