Tuesday, 13 December 2011

More trees :O

Felt kinda lazy doing the four trees. So did 2 more, got it down to a one hour process from start to finish. My last two trees.

Feel like I'm doing alright in 3D, the trees could of been better as always and I did want to add some extra bits around them, but didn't know if I could/should with the texture budget.

We haven't got a 3D project over X-mas but I know I'll probably forget things if I don't try keep up with it over the break. So I'm planning to do my own project or something from the 2nd year set to keep me busy and challenged. Doing something from a later year would also give me a good chance to get ahead, so by the time we do it, it should be pretty easy.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

3D - Trees and an evil bunny

I put off 3D again *sad face*. So I have been working on it for the last few days solid, the way I work best!
The fruit of my efforts has been 4 trees and an evil looking bunny.

The tree project brief only required 2 trees, but I'd given myself several days to do it, expecting some problems only to find it was relatively easy compared to the house. So I did 4, pretty quickly I might add.

Which left me with enough time to have a bash at the Guru project. I was rather disappointed with myself in regards to the guru project. I haven't been engaging in it well and ignoring it somewhat. I was pleased I got to have a go at it, but found it difficult. All projects to date have used textures that you 'plaster on', coming up with your own model meant I couldn't do that, so texturing became alot harder. I did what I could and this is the result of 1 days brain waving in 3D. I know 1 day isnt alot, but I didn't rush it I had several days to do it, that's just all it took. It could be improved but the texturing was annoying me ¬.¬

The life drain of the MMO...

So its 10-something in the morning and I've not long got up. I cleaned up the house abit, sat down to my PC to check a few things before starting 3D where I left off last night and the thought occurs. Just a few years back I would of done something very different. I, like so many others, was absorbed into the life drain of the MMO, namely World of Warcraft (WoW). A few years ago my morning would consist of, waking up, then immediately sitting at my PC to spend the entire day playing WoW. Hours, days, weeks would float by and my characters would level up and get better items, that was it.

Looking back I find it really hard to understand how or why WoW became everything I did for those years. The game in itself isn't the best or most enjoyable I've ever played and yet its the one game I've devoted the most time out of my life for, why? I'd like to know that myself.

The concern over World of Warcraft is far spread with addictions to it being contributing factors in some deaths. These people will be the extreme cases but its been estimated at least 40% of people who play WoW are addicted to it, having played it myself I would think that's a hefty understatement.
It doesn't take much looking to find news about people who've died due to causes apparently linked to WoW, like this story from the Daily Mail's website -

"An Internet computer game has been condemned as being as addictive as cocaine after a teenager who played it 24 hours non-stop had convulsions. World of Warcraft has been hugely successful in capturing the imagination of players by drawing them into a virtual universe of battles and quests.
However, it is at the centre of a growing problem of computer game addiction. Many players will sit alone in their rooms for hours at a time, immersed in the lives of their fantasy character creations - or Avatars.
Some 11milion around the globe play World of Warcraft - making it the world's most successful 'MMORPG' - massively multi-player online role-playing game. However, a report from Sweden's Youth Care Foundation describes it as 'the most dangerous game on the market'. "

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1157362/World-Of-Warcraft-addictive-crack-cocaine-teenager-suffers-convulsions-24-hour-long-game.html#ixzz1g808eX2N
The media does tend to exaggerate and overlook other factors and put more blame on something than is due, but there are websites out there to help people overcome WoW addictions and the thousands of members telling their own stories means its a wide problem. Not everyone is going to play till they die but just how does WoW manage to pull in 11 million players worldwide and keep them coming back for more?

Its a difficult thing to try understand and break down, people are going to be addicted for different reasons so all I can do is think about why I was so absorbed by it.
I was addicted to WoW pretty quickly after starting to play, I didn't know anyone else playing and didn't bother interacting with alot of the other players so it wasn't about social interaction with me to begin with. What got me was the reward system WoW uses. The way you play, quest, level up, get better stronger gear- and repeat. Then you start getting into guilds and raids and even when you are the maximum level there will always be better gear and items out there for you to get, and they don't make it easy to obtain. Even if you somehow managed to get all the best gear, your sucked into playing with guild members and helping them out and showing off how awesome your character and gear is. Then Blizzard release a new dungeon or expansion and all those months you've spent becoming the best are wasted because there is better stuff out there, and now you need to go get it! Its just never ending there will always be something you need to do or need to get inside WoW. The world in itself is massive with different races and classes to play giving it masses of re playability. With accomplishments and feats of strength to try achieve theres even more to do. I played for a few years and I didn't really scratch the surface of how much there is to actually do and complete in WoW, I never even played the Alliance faction, which is essentially half the game.

Blizzard have managed to nail WoW over the years into a perfectly formed, money generating life drain. Everyone will have their own reasons for playing WoW but the way in which it manages to addict so many of us will be the same. There are warnings to take breaks in it and the options of parental control, but we should be able to control ourselves. WoW seems to take that away from us, it plays on our weaknesses and addictive habits as humans to the point some people's lives really suffer.

I no longer play WoW, its about the time I stopped playing that my life starting moving forwards again and I went to college. I do miss WoW, being able to waste the days away questing and raiding, but life is infinitely better without it. My advice to people playing WoW, stop. My advice for people thinking of playing WoW, don't.

Interesting piece on how World of Warcraft works - http://electronics.howstuffworks.com/world-of-warcraft1.htm

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Uncharted - Awesomesauce

I've recently managed to play and finish Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception and I wasn't disappointed, I thoroughly enjoyed the first two games and had been looking forward to the 3rd instalment for sometime. The Uncharted games are arguably one of my favourite gaming series of all time and are true masterpieces.

The original Drake's Fortune had stunning visuals and set the bar for third-person adventure games. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves greatly improved on that, added multiplayer and got a Game of the Year award in 2009. Uncharted 3 however has gone even further and improved on an already winning formula and manages to seamlessly merge game play and story telling.

Uncharted 2's clumsy stealth parts no longer exist. Running through levels and taking cover doesn't get old because Naughty Dog has done so much to merge the game play with the story, perfecting the pacing and making everything look fantastic in the process thanks to cutting edge graphics and excellent cinematography. The way Drake moves and acts impacts you and you can feel him more as a person than a character in a game. You struggle with him and push him up when he falls to the ground in complete exhaustion.

The characters in the game are compelling, funny, interesting and most importantly they sound and feel real. They are believable and that's so important in making a game feel enjoyable to me. The cut scenes blend with game play and you can't help but love each character, their back story and the way they banter with each other. It all makes for a thoroughly enjoyable experience that matches, if not betters that of a cinema.

Naughty Dog have nailed this game in my opinion, and looking at reviews its highly thought of by most.
"IGN defines a 10.0 -- a masterpiece -- as "the pinnacle of gaming, a masterpiece may not be flawless, but it is so exceptional that it is hard to imagine a game being better." That's Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception. From start to finish, single player to multiplayer, this game sings. The characters, the graphics, the sound, the story – they’re all top notch. If you’re willing to skip Uncharted 3, be prepared to miss one of gaming’s finest moments."
IGN Review

If you love games, you'll love Uncharted, its simply stunning.

Moving forward.

So we had another review just 2 short weeks after our first. The first assessment was somewhat of a shock to everyone but highlighted just what was going wrong. Over the last two weeks I feel I've made some positive changes and altered the mindset I approach work in. Not calling it work is a good start. 'Work' immediately implies its something you don't want to do, its effort and hard, its work. I don't want to see the course this way because it wont be as enjoyable and I'm therefore less likely to do my best at it. I want to enjoy the course and do well and I think that's what I'm doing.

I've spent the last two weeks drawing mostly, visual design is my weakest area and that's been highlighted in my assessment. I think I've improved since the beginning of the course but I still have a way to go. I've been doing still life sessions most days, doing a series of quick 1 to 5 minute sketches followed by a single longer piece. I've also spent several days at the space centre, our drawing assignment for the week. I wasn't really sure what to draw and starting looking to other things that caught my interest to sketch, like the people around and the cafe or gift shop. I have improved my mark to adequate for visual design, which I'm pleased about but I know I need to spend more time practising to get that up further.

I was really pleased with my mark for 3D. I put alot of effort into my building project and think I did well at it. There are still areas I could improve and should of. Although the project has been marked I'd like to add more to the model during the Christmas break to make it more interesting. I will also have the freedom to add as much detail as I like because I won't have to worry about the tri limit and I can try some other features/methods out. I think 3D is probably my strongest area at the moment and I think with more practice and understanding I could get really good at it. Just need to stick with it and do more things with it, even if they aren't part of any projects!

I'm also pleased with my critical studies mark. I've been doing more blogs and enjoying them but I know I could still do more. I'm going to try not forget to write about stuff and keep things flowing and up to date and I'll hopefully keep the marks going up to.

So the x-mas break is coming up soon. Alot of people are going to be looking forward to going home and having fun. Although I will be going home for X-mas day and boxing day I'm still going to be working. I'm not really considering the holiday time as a break but just time we aren't in University. I'm still going to keep up drawing, 3D and blogs. I find it difficult to not do stuff when I know I probably should be and I'm not a fan of Christmas anyway! So hopefully I'll use the time well and improve as much as possible. There is alot of things I want to get done over the break including revisiting alot of the 2D from the first 6 weeks and improving on them. Maybe play some games as well! :D

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Films of Games and Games of Films

I find it somewhat difficult to start this blog without simply raging at the pile of useless video games of films. But I shall endeavour to keep the raging to a minimum.

Lets begin with video games that get turned into films. Its an interesting concept and one that hasn't been shied away from in recent years. I think the film industry can be somewhat stale at times with little innovation and the constant regurgitation of the same story formats, so the fact they are branching into other areas to get ideas for films isn't a surprising. Films based on books can and have done extremely well, but I have slightly different opinion on films based on games. I think the difference between books and games is the fact that games are already a visual experience, an interactive one at that. Books are storeys that you just follow, creating an experience in your mind but you don't get to control your character or the story you are just living it through the words. Films are a visual representation of this and if done correctly can be fantastic, like Lord of the Rings for an example.

Video games are different however, they are already a visual experience with added interactivity, you get to play through a story. Games done well can feel like a cinematic experience in themselves, with games like Heavy Rain and Alan Wake being great examples. It feels somewhat pointless to me to then reduce this back into a simpler form of visual entertainment like a film. However I can see the draw of seeing games and their stories in an interesting new way.

I think that's the main point to be made however. The difference between the games and their cinematic counterparts. You aren't watching a film of someone else playing the game and you aren't watching a film that just duplicates the games main story line, that would be pointless. Your watching a new interpretation of that game's world, characters and plot. In this respect I think its best to count them as completely different things, or I tend to just get irritated. Some films manage this much better than others and are received very differently by different people. The Resident Evil films are a good example. The films themselves are horribly inaccurate compared to the games and this annoys alot of Resident Evil fans, however they seem to do quite well with the general public because they aren't horribly bad films. So your better off just not linking the two.

Films such as Silent Hill, Hitman and Doom are also based on games which I personally enjoy. The films themselves aren't always accurate to the games but are enjoyable. So the quality of the film and how much they chew up the games original story is important to how its received. The fact alot of games are turned into films simply for the money is very annoying for us, the people who enjoy the games, who don't want to see our beloved games turned into cinematic rubbish. The potential for merging films and games is awesome and if more films were made of games because the people making them have a real passion to the game they could be so much better.


So talking about money generating rubbish, we move into the world of video games made from films and I can't recall a good one. If a film does well and has the potential, its probably going to be turned into a 'game of the film'. They are made for making money and thats it. The games aren't properly thought through or made well, they tend to play poorly and look like crap. But the companies don't seem to care, they just want to churn it out, take advantage of people, especially kids, and just produce them. I struggle to even consider them games. They aren't made like proper games, they don't feel like proper games and they don't play like proper games. I don't think I'm ever going to enjoy them unless something changes with them. There is potential in the idea of converting a films story line into an enjoyable game. With the right amount of effort it could be a great new way of experiencing and expanding worlds and ideas. But until that happens games of films are still going to be abit rubbish in my opinion.

New Game Journalism

The first problem I face when trying to write about New Game Journalism is coming to terms with exactly what it is. I've been an avid reader of video game magazines since I've been a gamer. I've moved through various magazines over the years such as; Games Master, Edge, games, PlayStation, Xbox 360 Gamer and have most recently been a subscriber to PC Gamer for the last 4 years. I've always been aware that those reviews and previews of games aren't necessarily going to be the best or most reliable form of information about a game, but what else to we have to go on?

The issue with any game journalism is going to be the same anywhere you look. How do you know its unbiased towards or against the company that made the game? You are just reading someone else's opinion on a game which is ultimately going to be biased from their perspective anyway. I used to watch a lot of videos on the website GameTrailers a few years back. Those videos would have an affect on which games I bought, but not because of what they said, but because I had a chance to actually see the game footage, something magazines couldn't show me as clearly. I noticed a shift in the way GameTrailers responded to games in recent years, most noticeably big title games. That and the new feature of massive advertisements all around the pages gave me the impression they had somewhat, if not entirely, sold themselves to the game companies. Their reviews and previews at that point just began to irritate as they would overlook huge gameplay flaws in some games while nitpicking at tiny ones in others. The chance to see game footage just wasn't enough of a pull to overcome this new heavily biased feel of the website.

Games journalism is always going to be inherently flawed as your viewing something through someone else's opinioned writings. A list of what the game is, isn't, has and hasn't got wouldn't be much fun to read, nor give a good impression of the game and it would still be biased. One might say a game has a good story line, another person could buy the game on this reasoning and completely disagree. The way we view the world and games is always going to be biased so taking everything at face value, including games journalism, is just foolish. I still buy gaming magazines, of various titles because I'm interested in what people have to say, and the chance to hear and see what people have thought of the game. Its never going to massively impact on my purchases, its just nice to read about.

So good games journalists need to be neutral, well as much as possible. I think that's a fair assumption, not one that is always going to be adhered to, but we can hope that what we're reading is generally done from someones fair point of view. You wouldn't want to read a review of a new real time strategy game, from someone who can't stand the genre, because its likely to paint the game in a grimmer light. Equally someone who loves the genre might overemphasis how awesome it is. So there needs to be some middle ground clearly, a sense of objectivity to it all and fairness.

I think a ranking system for games or a criteria to mark them against helps in this sense. All games are different of course and I'm not talking about some written list to compare the game against with a simple - yes/no. Its more a guideline for reviewers so you know what your reading is tackling some of the main aspects games should have, within relevance to the game type. I personally don't see the problem with a score system for rating games, its a sort of summery to the reviewers whole opinion and a way to quickly compare games. You don't have to agree with them or even pay attention to that little 7/10 at the end of the page but its just an opinion and a guide like everything else.

I think that's the main point on reviews and how you absorb the information and its relevance.
Understanding that it is and always be someone else's opinion. Its not always going to be honest and its not always going to line up with your own but nor is it the only opinion of that game. One magazine/online journalist might adore a game another might hate it, there will always be a differing of opinions. As long as they can and do justify those opinions then its up to you to digest that information and take what you will from it. I've never let a bad review of a game stop me buying it if I personally thought I'd enjoy it. Nor have I bought a game I don't have interest in just because of a shining review. When I want to read about a game before buying it, I look around, I spread the net and gather many different opinions and formulate a general understanding of how the game is perceived by the others that play it and if I'm likely to enjoy it or not.

Games journalism is always going to have flaws and differing opinions because we all have them and we are just reading someone else's opinions. You've chosen to read someone else's opinion not fact when you pick up that magazine or go onto that website. Read it for what it is, an opinion.