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Sunday, 21 April 2013

XB2178 - Final Piece Done

Thought I would upload the final renders since some lovely people view this blog. The end result was rendered within 3DS Max using 3 omni lights. Will hopefully upload a video turnaround tomorrow as well as a close up of how the animation went.

Friday, 19 April 2013

XB2002 - Video Game Assets

We were given a new assignment which was to create a level using modular assets as well as a few unique assets which we were to use in conjunction with XB2001.

As stated in XB2001, I went for a sci-fi horror game that took place within a massive tower-like structure and I looked at a range of different material and produced a couple moodboards.

Initially I began modelling right away without really thinking and just winged it more or less and ended up with something a little bit dull and something that was very star wars-y which wasn't something that I wanted to go for.

So I then began modelling simpler more square like things with right angled corners etc, which produced some interesting results that I eventually went with.

At one point my level had a wall that had been damaged by an explosion so I had to then merge t2 walls together and then cut through them.

Red object is the custom collision for use within UDK

Doorway Tests

I ended up with 3 levels of wall models, bottom, middle and top as I knew my level had varied wall height, and with all these pieces I would be able to create the majority of my level and so quickly did a couple of tests to make sure they were all snapping together properly.

After which I then realised I had stairs within my level which I then created using 2 Doorway models and slowly linked the 2 together with steps.

You can see the ramp which I used as custom collision for exporting to UDK

Stairs are really really hard to make as it turns out however I feel that they turned out quite alright.
I was also able to use these stairs as a template for any other ramps or wide star cases I had to make later on.

Again you cans see the red object which was the custom collision for UDK.

After I had created the my modular assets that would allow me to add my custom models to my level in XB2001 I then textured these assets and created some extra ones which I am quite proud of.

Note that I just textured the underside of the floor so it could be used as a ceiling as well.

The Tower building which can be seen from the outside and how much bigger it is in comparison to the other models, only 6 tris as well.

I was quite happy with the amount of assets I created for this project however I felt that it was a bit too much and that I aimed too high and would have been better off creating a shorter level and including a shorter asset list as I unfortunately wasn't able to bring all of my own assets into the game's level in time for the hand in.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

XB2001 - Environment Moodboard

I created a sci-fi moodboard before I began creating my modular assets for my level as it is very important to get this nailed down as it must feel at home with all the other assets I've made as well as looking to suit the area.

Above is a an initial quick model of the general shape I was thinking of for the corridor, however this reeeeeks of star wars, not that I'm not a fan. I'm a huge fan, but it isn't at all what I wanted to go for as I was after a more uniform and square approach to match the rest of my assets that I've made.

Although my tutor told me to take a step back and take a look at it and it did look very generic and quite dull and something that has been done over and over and over again. he then linked me to many different sites about architecture and design which I was very thankful for and they were very interesting, however it's hard for me to stop and want to put that much effort into one area when I have soo many other things to do.

Maybe I will though, maybe I will put in that extra little bit of thought into the assets I create, maybe I won't. One can dream though.. one can dream.

If any one is interested in some of the links they can be found here

XB2001 - Further Development

I firstly created a block map of my udk level just so I could gain a better understanding of how the finished level would look but also so that I could get working kismet into the game and actually make it playable.

Additionally I was able to build lighting and start to think about how I should use my lighting to direct players and attract their attention etc.

A video playthrough of the level can be found here

XB2001 - 2nd Game Developement

The last playable level I made was a great introduction into UDK and I learnt a whole lot and hopefully it will help me in my next assignment.

My next assignment was to create a first-person game that had to have modular assets as well as an internal and external environment. This assignment was set recently after Aliens: Colonial Marines which is why I chose to create a horror game. Additionally I am quite a fan of horror titles such as Amnesia and thought it would be an interesting assignment as with a horror game, lighting, pacing and level design are all very important.

I began this assignment by creating  moodboard to help generate some ideas as to the environment that it is going to take place in and what exactly is going on in the level.

I rather liked the thought of creating a barren environment with little or no human contract with the exception of some isolated settlements in the form of spires or towers. The first idea that came to me storyline wise was that the player is a traveler and comes across one of these tower cities that is in ruin and everyone is missing and so the player must navigate throughout the level and investigate what has happened

XB2001 - Solo Game Developed

After looking at some quick reaction based games such as Temple Run and Doodle Jump, I decided I would create a fun casual game that would be aimed at the mobile market.

The game was simply titled jump and featured a character in 3rd person perspective where the player played a ninja of sorts tasked with getting from A to B by jumping between pillars or tree trunk and if the player failed on assigning which tree/pillar to jump to next the player would would to their death.

However creating a constant moving character who would automatically fall die die after there was no player input after a couple of seconds was rather hard to do, although I was still able to create the game and simply hold down the W key and have the player jumping from the tops of the pillars which worked fine.

A video of the game can be seen here

XB2001 - Level Design

The next process was to do the level design work and plan out what was going to happen within my level, what the gameplay features were going to be and what horror elements I would introduce.

Above is the level I aimed to great where the player would start at the bottom and work their way up and explore the area whilst finding clues and hints that would guide them to where they are meant to go next.

At the moment I am thinking of approaching the level design as very open and free and allowing player's to choose where to go with multiple ways of getting to point B or C etc. This means however that I will have to be thoughtful when it comes to placing lights and assets to direct the player where they need to go.

However I may alter this as it could be quite difficult to successfully direct the player and so I might close off some doors just to limit where the player can go a little bit.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

DD2000 - Future in Industry - Prep. Work

As I said in my last post I have joined, twitter, tumblr and the Polycount forums to try and interact more with people in the industry and even with people who have the same interests in 3D as me. I'm very glad that I did as it has given me a great insight into what people are modeling both professionally and causally and seeing what level everyone is at. It seems that there are 2 main groups, people with little skill who are however trying very hard and who are motivated to keep on improving and people who are very skilled and create very high poly models. The 2 groups or "classes" are very distinct and there is a very large gap between the 2, much like the social classes of old. There doesn't seem to be much of a middle ground, where I'd like to think I am now I suppose, then again it could also just be down to the presentation of work and whether it is presented professionally or casually.

Although there is a small class of people who I see very now and then posting on the Polycount forums and to me they are the ones who stand out and the ones who, were they all competing for a job, would come out on top. These people, are people who are creative. They don't model something that someone else concepted, which happens surprisingly a lot, and it really frustrates me when it happens. How can one call themselves a designer when they are modeling off someone else's designs? Then again I suppose it is important to remember that Polycount is a public forum for all to post on and that many of its users 3D model in their own time and also for fun or as a hobby.

Designing is something that I really like to look out for, I'm not impressed if someone makes a million poly door handle, nor would an employer I imagine. The most impressive work, is the most interesting and it's when someone comes up with their own design of something new and designing new things is definitely something I want to look out for.

That's not to say that many people on Polycount are unskilled by no means, however I can't help but find that employers are more interested in seeing something new modeled well as opposed to seeing something they've seen before modeled well, but possibly not as great as someone else has modeled it. If you're interested in seeing what people at Polycount get up to you can view some of their work in the links below.

The Polycount forum has also been a great source of first hand research as there are people who work within the industry and I get to hear straight from the horse's mouth, how they entered the industry. The forum post can be viewed here. It's a very interesting thread with different people coming together and saying how they got into the game's industry and how they landed their first job which is a great source of research but additionally very comforting having that knowledge now. What I took from everyone's experience was that it is important to work on your portfolio in your free time and constantly improve your skills as you work at a mundane job during to keep feeding yourself and paying bills and you will get to a point of being hired. Although this is from people or make switches from one university course to the next and possibly didn't have as strong a direction at the time, whereas I'm a little more direct and I am studying Game Design which is aimed at getting me a job so perhaps I'll have more luck and perhaps I will not. So where am I right now?

My Position

Currently, I feel that I am at a bit of a middle ground between starting 3D and producing professional 3D work, which I am quite happy about as it really was only up till the the end of summer last year (2012) that I fully decided that I wanted to specialise into 3D as I was quite equal with 3D and 2D art. I am fairly skilled in 3DS Max where I find that I very rarely run into problems or have to stop and think how I would go about modeling something, and I keep topology in mind whilst creating organic things for good practice. Although I still do have lots and lots to learn within 3DS Max with such things as the human anatomy as I struggled a little bit at producing my character models for XB2178 and did need some reference materials for it. Specifically I found the head and the feet surprisingly different as even with digital painting I never really drew faces or even feet and shoes and I feel that that difficulty or lack of education has transferred over to 3D as I did need to literally sit with a jpg of a low poly head model as I worked and replicated it. However once I had the base of it I was able to easily manipulate it, rescale it and make it lower poly to fit my style a bit more.

Texturing my 3D assets went very well as I am fairly competent with Photoshop and digital art as I stated before which I am very happy about as it means I may not necessarily need someone to texture my work for me, which could also be quite important if I were to be working within a small indie company.

A recent skill that I intend to carry on developing at least to some small point because I really enjoyed creating slight animations for a diorama for XB2178 as it really really brought the characters to life to the point when I was tempted to do some Sim style voice recordings. Although I seriously doubt that it would be something that I would go into in any real depth as it is hard and challenging, and whilst I do enjoy it, it isn't what I want to be doing with my life, and so my time would be better spent modeling something new rather than creating a whole Animtree.

I work very well within a team as I am a very friendly person who's always happy to meet new people and indeed me and a group of friends have gotten together on occasions to work together on projects outside of uni. We have gotten together and formed a little indie company called Nice Face Games working on a project called Convicts which was great fun. More recently we got together and did our own little Game Jam as a little test run almost and tried to create a game and it had huuge problems and we did come across some difficulties as working within a team which we now know to work on for next time. For instance our 2D artist couldn't quite read my unwraps from time to time which I now know is something I should work on. The aim was to create a dinosaur game where you had to generate speed before you could attack and jump and you had to eat insects in order to grow up into a bigger dinosaur and with that you could then jump higher and eat bigger things. Obviously the first thing is that we were aiming way way too high, as it required us to have 3 custom dinosaur models with rigging and animation, both of which I had never fully used and understood so it was quite difficult and we only ended up with 1 playable character. So in addition to aiming too high I learnt then that I shouldn't attempt anything new at a Game Jam, and whilst you do learn lots from it, it's not usually something as big as rigging or AI scripting etc.

The result of our Game Jam
I was very glad we did a little private Game Jam though as is meant that we had a good practise run and we didn't embarrass ourselves in front of any indie devs who may have actually made something good whereas ours barely functioned.

Lastly I am also very confident in created my own complex materials for my 3D models by using photoshop to generate Specular Maps and using nDO2 to generate normal maps.

Job Research

3D modeling is a fairly flexible job in that you are able to work within a studio as a full time employee, however you can also be a freelance 3D modeler and indeed I have found many talented 3D modelers such as the lovely Polygoblin and Daniel Dexter-Taylor, both of which are also very active on twitter and are a great help if you have any trouble.

From looking at several freelance websites it is apparent that they all do their own texturing with a few exceptions which to me make a lot of sense as sometimes an unwrap might not make a lot of sense but it will to the person who created it.

Alternatively I could also work full time within a studio and be creating models for a certain game and do nothing but that line of work. Which could possibly become quite dull and boring however it would still mean a steady pay which would be comforting as coming out as a freelance 3D artist whilst there already are plenty who are much more talented than me could be quite scary.

Interestingly enough there are plenty of 3D jobs out there although they do seem to be mostly from employers I've never heard of and could very well lead to creating 3D models for an educational game that I wouldn't really want to be doing.

Lastly however is an interesting look at 3D modeling jobs in the past and how they've changed, which can be seen here. It's quite comforting to see that there are many jobs out there and that the pay is slowly rising, (from 2011 at least).

Additionally I have thought about starting an Indie company  with some friends and creating games that we would enjoy making and the most exciting thing is that it could actually be quite possible as we all have a range of skill sets. My role within the company would be to create 3D models and possibly more specifically character models and animations as I am becoming more and more interested in creating living, breathing characters.

Course we would require funding for licenses and creating the game itself or else make the money ourselves, to which there are a number of ways to do such a thing. I know that Invest N.I for instance can over support to starting businesses and can even receive a £1000 grant to which I'm sure England has it's own counter-part. Additionally there is also the Indie Fund, which backs certain Indie games that it deems would be able to pay the money back once the game has been released which would be very helpful. Additionally there is also the rise of crowd funding projects such as Kickstarter, or even done privately as Chris Roberts has done through his own website which he has done for his space sim game Star Citizen which looks very impressive and was able to raise over $8 million which really is great and really shows what people can do if they really want to see something be created. It also guarantees sales for such a product as the consumers have already bought it and no doubt people who haven't backed it can still buy the game once it is released.

Also what is quite inspirational and comforting is to look at something some of our tutors have been making in their free time which really does look great, Ether One. And what's very comforting is that I've seen some very very early stuff for their game and it really really has come a long way. Like miles away! Which is as I said inspirational, as they no doubt have learnt a lot from this experience and they have become better game designers because of it. Also as they don't have a publisher breathing down their neck they are able to take their time and really really work on something until it's perfect, and if it's not, they'll go back and reiterate on things they've already done.

What will I do after uni?

I have had a couple of ideas for what I would like to do after uni, initially it was just to pretty much work on a game on my own whilst working on some dead end job to get by whilst outsourcing things that I couldn't do like music.

However that was in first year and I've matured and learnt a lot from then, mostly that you can't do everything yourself and that even after uni I will still have lots to learn such as efficient pipeline's and how to work efficiently within a team. I'm not so big headed possibly either, I have some ideas of games and I will always have them and think about them and how they could be improved. Although I am much more content with other people's ideas and working with them and improving upon them and altering so it's more of a group idea than a single individual's idea. All of which has made me liken the thought of working within a studio after uni, as I would be able to contribute to something I could get behind and still be proud of my work for it, to be able to step back and say, see that 3D thing in that game, I made that. Especially as it would mean I would be able to learn from more experienced people and I would be able to improve my skills and learn from others.

Alternatively I could go on and do an MA in Game Design in Preston with some friends and we could each specialise into the areas we're interested in and futher improve our skills. My tutor Pete Bottomley seriously recommends it as well as you do learn 5x more things than you do from the 3 years of Games Design.

Furthermore it could give us the education and the skills to set up an Indie company and create our own games, which is what we all would like to do. The year together would not only allow us to further develop into our skill sets and become better at what we do but also it could improve how well we worked together and give us a year to think how we should go about setting up our company, how it would work out etc.

On top of this as well I would obviously still need a job to pay for food and so I have thought about how I could still possibly work within a studio and work for our Indie company. However that would mean no free time essentially as Indie work would become my free time so we shall have to see how I feel about that at a later date.

What are employers looking for?

From looking at a lot of different job applications to places such as Red 5 Studios, creators of Firefall, a lot of them ask for 3D modelers who are capable of modeling high-poly and being able to create a normal bake from it for a lower poly model. Unless it is a mobile game developing studio low poly modelling is a must as well in addition to the standard most be efficient and helpful whilst working within a team and giving aid and expertise where you can.

Rather irritatingly however quite a few studios asked hat you had at least 2 years of industry experience which I can't help but find a bit unfair, as so many studios are asking for this it really is hard for someone to get into the industry.

Rather interestingly quite a few smaller studios also asked that you were capable of 2D artwork and that you would be able to create your own textures for your 3D model if need be. Which I can thankfully say I am quite confident in my 2D skills and very happy with that requirement.

An interesting thing I observed was the mixture in software studios were asking for, some were fine with 3DS Max, whilst others asked for Maya, and some were fine with either one of which. The same could be said with Mudbox and Zbrush, although less studios were asking for experience in either of the 2, although I would be happy learning Mudbox regardless. On the use of different programs such as Maya, although I am not familiar with it, both Maya and 3DS Max have been becoming more and more similar with each update and I am sure it wouldn't be too difficult to get used to a different UI on another program and be able to work after some time.

Portfolio-wise employers were looking out for a variety of different pieces ranging from simple props to character design and models to environmental pieces, with smaller studios asking for people to be more multi-talented.and to be able to fill multiple roles.

What skills do I need to develop and how will I develop them?

I need to improve my skills within 3D modeling as I have found that from time to time I will have to pause and think how I could do a certain action or else I would plough on and have to go back and edit my model slightly before proceeding.

I have next to no experience with Mudbox or Zbrush and I feel that it is something I should seriously invest time into which I fully intend to do over summer as it is a very handy tool even for painting textures straight onto the model and creating organic models with.

Additionally I would like to create more interesting designs and try to be more creative whilst modeling so I can create more interesting objects that will truly be unique, as opposed to having to give credit to someone else for creating the design.

I also could do with creating an online portfolio that I can update and that people can view on my very own website. With this people will be able to see my work very easily and it will also look very professional and it would also help get my name out there in addition to using tumblr and twitter and even deviantart to get my work out there and to get noticed.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

XB2178 - A Slight Hicup

Initially I had planned on importing my work into UDK however there was a problem with either exporting or importing the animations and they completed ruined the crew models as can be viewed below.

Kinda looks like a necromorph
Alternatively I then tried to download a custom shader called Xoliul for 3DS Max to render my work although after lots of messing around I still couldn't quite master it and so rendered in standard 3DS Max.

XB2178 - Base Made and Textured

By this stage I had most things created and ready, however I had noticed that I didn't actually have a base for my diorama and so I set off to create a base for everyone to be on.

Firstly however I wanted to do some scene research rather than going in blindly and making the first thing that comes to mind, especially if it came out as being something not terribly good. I mainly just looked at 40k dioramas although I think this is perfectly fine as they closely resemble what it is I am doing. Below are some pieces that I looked at.

The main thing that I found that a lot of these pieces had was that they weren't just a showcase of someone's skill but rather they were also telling a story or at least some short action scene or some form of dialogue.

Well I knew that I wanted a ruined city sort of look so I knew that I wanted