Thursday, 29 November 2012

Game Journalism

Having read through the two Kieron Gillen essays (here and here) that we were told would help us with this assignment I have come to the conclusion that the views he talks about in “How to use and abuse the gaming press and how the gaming press wants to use and abuse you” are fundamentally true of any media based press. One of the first things he mentions is that the game journalism has very little time to produce what they produce.

“We are not perfect, because we haven’t had the time to be perfect.”

Kieron I’m afraid you aren’t alone, that one statement can be applied to everything and everyone. It will also be true forever. When you think about it, the word “perfect” is a strange one and the concept of perfection is something that plagues humanity on a worldwide scale and an individual scale. The concept in its own definition is proved to be... impossible to put it simply. Google’s dictionary defines it as “Free from any flaw or defect in condition or quality; faultless”. Nothing is “free from any flaw” we can learn to love flaws or learn to accept flaws to create an almost perfect perception of something but nevertheless the flaws still exist. And I touched on my next point here too “perception”, perception is all we actually have (very philosophical I know but when you think about it enough this what you get to) we can only work things out based on how our brain, with all its memories and preconceptions, perceives things. After realising this it is easy to understand that game journalism is “corrupt, lazy and...fundamentally stupid” so is everyone and every industry compared to another person or industry or compared to the concept of perfection.

Having gone through my philosophical points on this topic I want to get back to “we haven’t had the time to be perfect”. The entire media as a whole is rushed, incomplete and “corrupt”; by “corrupt” I don’t necessarily mean bought up and running on bribes. I mean being swayed by personal or cultural views which every piece of media is whether by the journalist themselves or by the expectation of a certain publication. The concept that one could write a review on a game that would both be interesting enough for every single potential consumer to want to read thus making money and be completely objective and factual is just as farfetched as the concept of “perfection”. The scoring system put along side these reviews is just as far fetched and essentially pointless, all it means is the marketers have something to put at the beginning or end of their game trailers. The marketers after all simply pick and choose which reviews they will quote and for viewing alongside the article all it does is make a really simple conclusion that means nothing but can be understood more easily, opposed to a written conclusion which involves reading more than 3 numbers. Can you assess the "Mona Lisa" out of 10? I don’t mean to be a snotty ideological teenager or a boring pessimist, I feel that reality and looking, observing and thinking rationally and clearly about the reality of the world/culture we live in leads to an understanding that. Granted, reality is different for every single person on the planet but nevertheless there are certain truths that exist with the way our culture is. My hope is that by observing and thinking rationally we can cease this obsession of thinking that we need to reach perfection, an idea which can more often than not end up making the only life we lead a miserable one. At the end of the day I would prefer journalism to accept that everything they say is subjective to a degree and often a larger degree than desired.

Games are reviewed or talked about by such a range of people nowadays and all these thoughts are very accessible on the internet its almost like the art world but if the GCSE students art essays were available in the same place as the world famous art critic’s essays. Talking of art critics its interesting to see what an art critic thinks of games an article here is a simple idea of how an art critic can infact start looking and reviewing games in a different way to what we are used to.

I would like to mention now that Kieron Gillen’s essay here is essentially entirely common sense, everything he says in there you could work out yourself if you just took the time to think about it. Now, over 7 years after Kieron’s essays about games journalism were written, games journalism seems to have improved and is less “fundamentally stupid” than then but people may still see it as an industry full of “fundamentally stupid” people, that is for each individual to decide but there can always be improvements.

Cube and Cube 2: Saubraten

A game I had forgotten about until today which I played far too much was “Cube” and “Cube 2: Saubraten”. I rarely get on with Indie games but these two games were amazing for content, ethic and impletmentation. The games were incredible they contained almost everything I wanted from a game. Singleplayer (granted a very primitive “DOOM”-like and over 10 year-old style of single player), multiplayer similar to “Quake” or “Serious Sam”, and a very in depth in-game map editor. In my opinion the game is simply “Minecraft” but good and “Cube” was initially released in 2002 7 years before “Minecraft”.

The main feature I played with was the built-in map editor which was incredibly detailed and allowed you to infinitely play with the engine. A pretty quick but cool example of using the “Cube 2: Saubrauten” map editor can be seen in this video. Unfortunately the sped up nature of the video makes it a bit tricky to watch.

Adding more awesomeness to the game its available for PC, Linux and Mac... open source freeware ends in awesome things...

Update: It just got better... HTML 5 Browser based version being worked on... try the demo here, press "e" to enter map editor. Works pretty well in Chrome but sound is being fixed, doesn't work in IE.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

From Mouzy to Kobalt Kiwii... the development of a screen name

Slowly, quietly sneaking up to the door frame of my brothers room, I could see through a small crack between the door and the frame. Maybe around 8 years (if so I was around 4) old my brother was there sitting on the floor tinkering with an old laptop given to him by some friends/neighbours. He was playing a game called “Jill of the Jungle”.
That is probably the earliest memory of computer games that I have. I probably played the game for a minute once, but being the annoying little brother I wasn’t really trusted to touch his technology, a phenomenon which still hasn’t quite gone away and likely won’t. When I told him I was writing this he reminded me of a ton of games which started everything off. I have no clue what order these games came in and their release dates don’t help me in the slightest...

“Spy Fox in Dry Cereal” the point and click exploration game was definitely where a large portion of my time went when I was really rather young. If you so desire you can see the experience here. Moving on to “Gizmos and Gadgets” a game I would have completely forgotten about if it weren’t for my brother. After watching a YouTube video of “Gizmos and Gadgets” I realised where another large section of my time went when I was 4 or 5 and I kinda want to play it now...

I think “DOOM 95” now came into things every now and then. Along with “Theme Hospital”, “Theme Park World”, “Myst” and my Mum’s copy of “Starship Titanic” signed by Douglas Adams (whether we had 2 copies one signed and unopened I'm not certain) I think this was also around the time that I played the “Tomb Raider III” demo over and over and over and the legendary “GTA” and “GTA London” come into play. Since “GTA 3” I kind of lost interest in the series. Here’s an interesting set of “reasons” London won’t be the subject of a GTA game again, not sure if I totally agree with them though...

I was told by my brother today that “Micro Machines V3” was the initial reason he saved up and bought his network starter kit which led us shout between the kitchen computer and his room to continually attempt to get “Micro Machines V3” working over the LAN, we did get it working many times but there were always complications.

We have some family friends in the Lake District, we would see them almost once a year and my memories of when we went to see them are a collection of Goldeneye on the N64, being introduced to “Counter-Strike” and being told how and why “Team Fortress Classic” was a far better game by one of the kids who was a year or two older than my brother. He competed playing “Team Fortress Classic” and had won tournaments and money a plenty. The next thing to come from our visits there was the first time I would touch 3D modeling software... I was probably between 7 and 10 when I played with the 3D software and made a futuristic bike (I think). By this point the “Half-Life” addiction had set in and I was often sitting in my brothers room playing “Half-Life” on a randomly pieced together computer my brother built for me and so that we could play LAN games such as “Half-Life”’s multiplayer endlessly, “Quake 3” and “Micro Machines V3”.

During school at the age of 8 (I'm uncertain if this is in chronological order, my memories are incredibly scattered) if we were good we would occasionally be allowed to play “Wipeout” on the class’ computer and then from the age of 9-12 we would play LAN games of “Age of Empires 2”, a game which I would continue to enjoy sporadically for years, in the IT lab without our teacher knowing. We also had “Theme Park World” installed which was endless fun. I still have my (or my brothers) copy of “Red Alert” with a demo for “Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun” at home and every now and then have to play it just to see the pixels dance about...

Enough of the distant nostalgia as it is endless and list-like after all. At the age of 12 I had saved up to buy myself my first non-handed-down computer well half of it anyway the other half was for my birthday. Before this I obsessed over it being able to play “Counter-Strike: Source” comfortably as this was my benchmark for the most intensive game of the time in 2005. My brother and his friends set up a LAN-party in 2006 when I was 13, it was time to test my skills against a bunch of 18 year-olds a healthy obsession with "Counter-Strike:Source" and "Quake III" led to me not doing badly at all. During this time my screen name was Mouzy as I was nicknamed Mouse and well you know EVERYTHING sounds better with Zs in it (or so I thought). Along with “Counter-Strike: Source” and “Quake III: Arena” definately my obsessions at this point came “The Elder Scrolls: Morrowind”. With these three games and the “Half-Life 1” mods as my collection of games I started to play around with mods and mapping. Not being allowed the internet on my computer I would go downstairs to the family computer and spend hours downloading skins, maps and other various mods and then with a large collection to try go upstairs and try them all out. It was at this point that I was also playing around with 3D as... well... my brother was so I followed suit. Between making loads of glass things, setting the renderer to mental ray, pressing f9 and finding something else to do while my AMD Sempron struggled through my pointless tasks and playing games themselves I dabbled in modding myself. Modelling for “Quake III: Arena” mapping in Valve’s Hammer for “Counter-Strike: Source” and “The Specialists” and just general tinkering with the Elder Scrolls Construction Set for “Morrowind” and later “Oblivion”. I have something to share with you all, below is my first model ever put into a game. I wanted to make a hooded face for Anarki a character in “Quake III: Arena” this is what happened from me replacing the games files with mine... the texture wasn’t found the size was incredibly off and I lost the original files... all in all a great success! I will say now that my mapping endeavours and later modeling endeavours were more successful. I did continue to play with Anarki as Big Headed Anarki and the success here became a running joke with a friend of mine. I may have to install Milkshape 3D (a cheap and primitive 3D modeling program) and give it another go sometime...

This game art that I was dabbling in during this time was always what I wanted to study and do. From the second “Assassin’s Creed” was being talked about I was latched on to it, this was because of the concept art I had seen, and so for the next 4 years I would continuously harass my art teachers with artists they’ve never heard of for my artist analysis. Anyway between the age of 13 and 17 I continued to play games exclusively on the PC. Being at boarding school meant that me and my friends during these 4 years would endlessly (often playing through the night or at least until 2am or 4am) play LAN games of any of these games:

Counter-Strike 1.6
The Specialists
Quake III: Arena
Counter-Strike: Source
Dawn of War
Track Mania Nations
Halo: Combat Evolved

and many less important others

We also used to get games and play through them for example most of us had “Far Cry 2” and played through the game at different speeds trying not to give things away that people hadnt got to yet. “Spore” did cause me and a friend to be almost an hour late to a biology lesson after lunch...

After this time I seemed to focus on Art and didn’t have much time for games, I would play “Quake Live” every now and then and if there was a particularly exciting game I would give it a go but I was unlikely to pay much attention to it so between 17 and 19, 2010 and now, I haven’t really played many games. “Mass Effect 2” I played and thoroughly enjoyed, “Skyrim” I played a year after its release after starting this course and realising I should update myself on these things and I’m looking forward to “Far Cry 3” and getting the time to play “Dishonored”...

Apologies for the placement of images, can't get my head around why bloggers editor seems so bad for images. Its also quite a long post... sorry

The History of Video Games - Part 3

Just before the turn of the century “Counter-Strike” was released, a mod for “Half-Life” allowing players to play as either terrorists or counter-terrorists in a team based struggle. Although modding had been happening since “Wolfenstein 3D” the success of “Counter-Strike” showed game developers what they could get out of their games. Valve later hired the two independent programmers who created “Counter-Strike” to create “Counter-Strike: Source” which would be released in 2004 and become the benchmark for what components I would need to build the first computer to be my very own. Epic Games realised the potential of modding and so with their release of “Unreal Tournament”, a game released 10 days before “Quake III Arena” which plays in almost an identical fashion, they gave the ability for 3Ds Max models to be imported into the game to use as characters. I wouldn’t have spent so long tinkering with “Quake III Arena” had I known this when I was 14. Modding would become a huge part of PC gaming and those games that lent themselves to modding would often become favourites among the PC fanboys(and girls) often mods would be more popular than the original game often because of better worked out multiplayer. “The Sims” also implemented this ability to make your own objects into the game. Let me get back to the side of games that I have to research, I’ll come back to this...

By 2000 the MMORPG genre had gained popularity setting the path for games such as “Dark Age of Camelot” to be released in 2001 and then in 2004 the genre would explode into “World of Warcraft”. 
This was where the Tolkien-esque imagery of the early MMOs and RPGs became replaced by over colourful, impractical, anime/manga-like, spikely armoured brutes and scantily clad Lolita-esque warriors. Granted the scantily clad side of the artwork can be seen on “The Elder Scrolls Arena”’s box almost 10 years earlier and in “Everquest” in 1999 but “World of Warcraft” took it one step too far. Nevertheless the game was a massive hit and became the flagship of the MMO genre with millions of users. In 2008 the game had 10 million subscribers and was thought to hold 62% of the MMO subscription market this figure seemed to rise to 10.3 million and then decline as seen in this article. It has won numerous awards including an Emmy for advancing the art form of MMORPG games. Now so far I have only talked about PC games when in actual fact this era is when console gaming became the norm, its almost accepted that every family nowadays will have some games console or another.

An example of WOW's art style - image found here.
The Playstation 2 (PS2) was released in 2000 and became hugely popular, alongside the PS2 came the Gamecube from Nintendo and the Xbox from Microsoft. The PS2 is certainly the most successful of these consoles as right up until 2012 games are being released on it even though the PS3 has been out for 6 years where the last game to be released on the Xbox was in 2006. Notably a port across all 4 machines (PS2, Xbox, Gamecube and PC) wasn’t very common but was a great way for smaller companies to make money, a notable cross platform game was “Big Mutha Truckers” released in 2003. The game was made by Eutechnyx the company had just come off a contract where they exclusively made games for the Playstation and the PC and so wanted to hit a larger audience with their free-roaming style game “Big Mutha Truckers”. The company worked on the game in a way that would be easy for programmers to work with allowing the game to be ported without too much issue. The system was to stream ALL the data instead of the stream being only for a certain section e.g. music or speech or models, this meant that reading the files was performed in the same way for all the files whether it was on a CD, hard drive or over a network allowing the programmers to use the same interface of reading for PC, PS2, Xbox and Gamecube. There is a fully in depth postmortem here.

A notable game which didn’t come anywhere near being cross-platform was “Halo: Combat Evolved”, “Halo” is almost a household name now and a multi-billion dollar franchise. Initially intended for release on PC and surprisingly Mac OS, Bungie (the creators of the game) were bought by Microsoft and the game became the big launch title to be released with the Xbox in 2001. Later released on PC and Mac OS X in 2003. The second game in the franchise was also later released for the PC 3 years after its initial release on Xbox. Since then there are now 7 games in the franchise along with a series of books and comics. The silly machinima web series “Red v.s Blue” was started using “Halo: Combat Evolved” as a tool to act out the sketches, you can see the first episode
here. The series is still being made now and Season 10 finished on November 5 2012. The project is quite impressive when you compare the first episode to this episode from the last season here.

The next generation of consoles are the current generation of consoles the Xbox 360 released in 2005 and the PS3 released in 2006 along with the Wii. The PS3 and Xbox 360 implemented new technology in many aspects of their designs, they both implemented analog triggers to their controllers and put a lot more work into the online side of their consoles creating a massive boost in multiplayer console gaming. The hardware used has also stood the test of time a great deal better than that of their predecessors, of course the technology behind the consoles was likely from a couple of years before release and they are now 6 years old and so the performance is far surpassed by even a budget PC. Their longevity is still greatly impressive.

The Wii veered towards the casual players as Nintendo always does and managed to do very well from this although often scoffed at by people interested in games the Wii is doing very well and has implemented many new technologies and has broadened the audience of consoles to a HUGE market completely missed by its competitors. The younger and older generation are at home with a Wii, the motion sensored controller and interactivity of the games create a far more trivial and family feel to a console. The innovative games/products such as Wii Fit have made the Wii focused on a separate market to the other two consoles.

Children have been found to stop using Wii Fit after only 6 weeks
Example of Wii styled Graphics - Image found here.

Something that has to be mentioned about this decade is the N-Gage and what it picked up on but unsuccessfully implemented, mobile gaming. The concept has been around since 1976 with Mattel’s “Auto Race” and has been continually developed into the Game Boy, Nintendo DS and PSP. Throughout this time mobile phones have developed and from ports of “Snake” and “Tetris” the games on the phones have developed so that now a phone can even run the Unreal 3 Engine (article by Epic Games). This is often referred to as the future of games, in my opinion that is just another market of games like the Wii finding a separate market to the 360 and PS3 the Mobile Games market is expanding but it is unlikely to take customers away from another market and more likely to share customers with another market, the play style is so different to that of the consoles or PCs. The gameplay of a mobile game will never hold the attention for as long in one go as a console or PC game for its platform is a very “on-the-go” platform and so its unlikely to have your attention for too long.

Anyway back to Valve... In 2004 Counter-Strike: Source was released two weeks before Half-Life 2 and the world of games was happy again... still waiting for Half-Life 2: Episode 3 for the world of games to return to equilibrium. More of that in the next post...

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

History of Computer Games - Part 2

It is claimed that by 1982 approximately 8 million homes in America owned a game console and the home video game industry was making only half that of the arcade video game industry. Until 1986 the arcade video game industry was in a “golden-age” during 1982 the profits of the industry reached their peaks and the industry was surpassing even the pop music and Hollywood film industries.

From 1977 with the creation of “Adventure” the home computer game started to take off, initially in a genre called “adventure” later renamed “interactive fiction” whereby the player explores a text-based ,typically Tolkien-esque, world. Memorably the trilogy “Zork” created by Infocom has been named a classic. The depth of the worlds in interactive fiction games was far greater than any other game at this point and lays the groundwork for the RPG genre’s success. In 1984 “The Hobbit” was made, it was an interactive fiction which started to have a graphical nature to it, the interactive elements were still typed but there were images as seen in the image to the 
right. This genre of game had a focus of not being the like the violent games that were out there during this time on the consoles and arcades. The text-based interactive fictions stopped being published before the 1990s but the genre carried on in the form of “Myst” and one of the games of my childhood, “Starship Titanic”.

Akalabet: World of Doom Screenshot

The two genre’s of adventure games and the typical video games were mixed up with the “Dungeons and Dragons” style games and “Akalabeth: World of Doom” was released in 1979 with pseudo-3D graphics and a first person perspective. The first RPG to appeal to a larger audience is thought to be “The Bard’s Tale” which was released in 1985 you can see an hours worth of commentated game-play if you so wish here. “The Elder Scrolls: Arena” was born in 1994 with a mix of story, exploration, adventure, and violence which had often been avoided by the text-based interactive fictions. The game, developed by Bethesda Softworks, was initially going to be arena based combat but the company shifted their focus towards the RPG genre. This series of games is a really good place to look at the development made in game culture, game technology/graphics and mechanics for story telling. As the series of games is continuing to this day, 20 years after the work started on “The Elder Scrolls: Arena” in 1992, unfortunately (in my opinion) Bethesda has finally given in and changed the game type with the development of “Elder Scrolls Online” to become a MMORPG (herein refered to as MMO) and has completely changed the style of game to become an MMO based in the Elder Scrolls world. Before this change all of their games maintained a very similar ethic and feel but the story and location was the thing that changed. Probably the first MMO was "Neverwinter Nights" which was an "Official Advanced Dungeons and Dragons online computer product" released in 1991.

Siouxsie Sioux of Siouxsie and the Banshees
Meanwhile on the streets of London in 1982 the birthplace, or nurturing place, of the British goth subculture was opened “The Batcave”. Hosting regular new wave or post-punk bands the club became a meeting place, Specimen, Alien Sex Fiend, Bauhaus, Siouxsie Sioux and many other of the forerunners to deathrock or gothic rock would often perform. A couple of years earlier The Sisters Of Mercy were formed and are still touring to this day. The industrial music movement which came after this would surprisingly influence me via the games I played as much of the music for Quake III Arena was written by Front Line Assembly a band formed in 1986 after a split from Skinny Puppy.
Skeletal Family formed in 1982

Back to the games, 1992 sees “Wolfenstein 3D”’s release with all the basics of the game set up for “DOOM”’s success id Software released “DOOM” in December 1993, earlier that year I was born. I imagine “DOOM” is often incredibly overstated as one of the most important games in the history of computer games however having endlessly played “DOOM 95” and “Quake III: Arena” I’m ever in debt to id Software.

We are now looking at a period of time where the industry has expanded so much that talking about all of the different branches of the games world would be near impossible. Handheld games such as the “Game & Watch” by Nintendo have been widely available since 1980, consoles have expanded so that there are more than 2 companies dominating the market, personal or home computers have a large range of suppliers. The third-generation of consoles was released between 1983 and 1995, being the NES (Nintendo Entertainment System), Commodore C64GS and Amstrad GX400 also the Sega Master System but this was less commonly available. During this generation PCs were competing with consoles a great deal however the NES dominated the US and Japanese market. One of the most famous consoles to this day was released in 1996, the Nintendo 64. Surprisingly 64bit CPU architecture went from super computers to consoles missing out personal computers, where the x86-64bit CPU was released in 2003.

Games themselves developed into all the different variations of genres which we now have to day during the 90s, for example from the MUDs (multi-user dungeons) came MMORPGs (massively multiplayer online-role-playing games) such as “Everquest” and “Ultima Online”... a genre to later steal The Elder Scrolls universe. RTSs (real time strategies) gained popularity and developed to form games such as the “Warcraft” and “Starcraft” series and the turn based “Heroes of Might and Magic”.

Another important aspect of these two decades was the decline of the arcade games. That and the release of “Half-Life” in 1998 by Valve and Sierra. “Half-Life” was at the center of my childhood and so I feel it cannot be forgotten in the timeline. The game that would be modded to create “Team Fortress”, “Counter Strike” and the lesser known but equally as awesome “The Specialists”, even “Ricochet”. Here are some images of the good old days and a video of “The Specialists” all the diving, slow motion Matrix themed fun you can have (unfortunately not very good footage).

Needed to be said.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Painting and Painters

Recently I have done some digital speed paintings in my free time as an attempt to keep up colour work and painting techniques while we study drawing and rendering in grayscale. I wanted to talk about two incredibly influential painters who have helped me develop my painting style a great deal and who I briefly looked at again to help me with the paintings.

Firstly, Nathan Ford, a portrait artist primarily working in oils, has had his work displayed in the GP portrait award exhibition every year since 2009 where I first came upon “Paul”. Before seeing this I couldn’t stand any of the work I had produced and really hadn’t had a great understanding of colour use and painting techniques. “Paul” like many of Fords paintings showed off an amazing understanding of colour and technique it also grabbed me because it emanates a certain quiet yet powerful feeling, a feeling that I couldn’t put a finger on and still can’t. I’ve slowly come to think that perhaps the work allows you to understand the subjects thoughts a great deal more than a photo realistic painting or a stylised illustration or a impressionist piece. It was this humble insight into the subjects thoughts that kept my attention focused on Ford and has my focus still. I had also been fascinated by the abilities of concept artist/illustrators speed painting techniques and the end result being stunning as often you see all you need to but no more. I subconsciously latched on to this style of painting where speed and an understanding of what is necessary for the viewer to understand the image are quite obvious this is very much the same with Ford’s work. Below is a painting by
Ford below a painting by an artist know as Izzy (Image found here).

Izzy's "Surviving"
"Joachim" by Nathan Ford

Transferring elements of Ford’s technique to digital painting seemed like it would have been easier that it was, having often worked digitally and in oils I thought the colour strength and brushes of oils could be quite easily emulated digitally at speed. The main issues I had when I produced the upper image was that because I was working digitally I could zoom in and fix elements and I ended up spending far too long on the areas which I shouldn’t have and in the end took me a good few hours and can’t really be classed as speedy... The lower image was produced from some drawings at a pose workshop conducted by second years on the course and was painted in around 30 minutes. I don’t really want to show this off because of the errors. The lighting is somewhat problematic as the dog has a separate light source to the person and for such a small quick image this isn’t explained and so just looks wrong furthermore the arm holding the dog is out of proportion to the hand. The image is also incredibly washed out. Suffice to say I am going to try again.

Painted March 2011

Painted November 2012

Oil and Ink painting Painted in early 2011 while heavily studying Nathan Ford

When on my Art Foundation course in Bournemouth I visited a couple of local galleries and came across Bill Bate. Where Ford varies the detail across the image Bate uses a very undetailed approach to painting for much of it. The colours of the painting “Freedom” and “Mysterious Dip” really grabbed me, another thing to interest me greatly about the images was the transparency of the subject, some areas having mere hints of flesh tone. I found the silhouette of the subjects were skillfully broken up by elements of the background coming through which gave an “airy-fairy” feel to the image, somewhat mystical and calm.

"Mysterious Dip" by Bill Bate, Image found here
"Freedom" by Bill Bate, Image found here

(blogger's editor is really annoying for images!)

Sunday, 4 November 2012

History of Computer Games - Part 1

The computer as an analog device can be considered to have during invented during the time of Ancient Greeks approximately 1st century BC with the Antikythera Mechanism. After this Heron of Alexandria (born in 10 A.D) is said to have invented a mechanical play which lasted 10 minutes, powered by a “binary-like system of ropes, knots and simple machines operated by a rotating cylindrical cogwheel” this can be seen as the first form of entertainment using a programmable mechanism. Granted one has to stretch the definition of computer rather too far away from processing mathematical data to apply the label computer to the mechanism or automaton but nonetheless its easy to see how quickly humans create entertainment from what was initially complex mathematics. Also Hero was an amazing engineer and makes me wonder if some of the puzzles Lara Croft comes up against couldn’t in fact be possible... Heres a video and a simple Gif showing one of Heron’s inventions.

EDSAC, Cambridge University, Image found here.
In the 1950s a similar thing happened when, 10 years after the Zuse Z3 (the first electrical Computer), the first computer game “OXO” was programmed by A.S. Douglas in 1952, a version of Tic-Tac-Toe or Naughts and Crosses on the EDSAC at Cambridge University. Although I can’t find any information to support the claim that the game used one of the first forms of modern Artificial Intelligence it is true that the player played against the machine and therefore the machine would need to calculate where to play in order to win. The EDSAC was a unique computer and therefore very few people will have known about the game.

The next game to be created was “Tennis for Two” by William Higinbotham which simulated tennis incredibly well. Whilst researching for this I found that many people seemed to brush over “Tennis for Two” when I found a video of the game I was very surprised as the game is far more impressive than “Pong” or many of the other games in terms of its playability and the realistic simulation of gravity, especially for 1958. Take a look at the video which shows you both how the game was played, a couple of shots of the hardware used to make the game work and of course the screen of the oscilloscope used for the graphics here.

A couple of games were programed during the gap between “Tennis for Two” and “SpaceWar!” although referred to as interactive graphical programs, “Mouse in a Maze”, “GAX” and another version of “Tic-Tac-Toe” all programmed on the TX-0 machine at MIT. In 1962 “SpaceWar!” was created by a group of students led by Steve Russell at MIT on the new PDP-1 Mainframe. “SpaceWar!” was a two player game which involved two spaceships circling a planet, the idea was to shoot the other spaceship. The game was apparently distributed with the new DEC computers and gained popularity enough that it was “traded throughout the then-primitive internet”.

"Spacewar!" Image found here

The first Video-Game (often defined as a computer game played on a television screen) was conceived by Ralph Baer in 1951 but it took until 1967 for it to be written and until 1969 for Sanders (the company Baer and his team worked for) to produce it and show it off to manufacturers. In this same year Ken Thomson wrote a game called “Space Travel” which saw many different versions because of the expense of running it on the General Electric 653 mainframe. During the rewriting of the game the team ended up creating UNIX and “Space Travel” is seen as the first UNIX application.

1971 Saw the beginning of coin-operated video games/arcade games with both “Galaxy Game” and “Computer Space” being created. “Galaxy Game” was installed in Stanford University student union during September, it was based on “SpaceWar!” and cost 10 cent for a game or 25 cent for 3 games. “Computer Space” was the first mass-produced video-game, it was created by Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney (the two founders of Atari) and 1,500 machines were produced by Nutting Associates, the game never took off because of its difficulty. In 1972 the pair had much greater success when they created Atari, inc. and produced “Pong”, the game had widespread success and is often misunderstood as the first video game.

Ralph Baer’s aforementioned invention was eventually licensed by Magnavox and so the first home game console, the Magnavox Odyssey was released in the USA in 1972 selling 100,000 consoles in the first year. Frank Sinatra featured on the adverts for the console. In 1974 Phillips bought Magnavox
The Atari VCS, later Atari 2600, Image found here.
and brought the Odyssey to Europe. During 1977 there was a crash in the videogames industry, as “Pong” was so easy to copy there were “Pong” clones flooding the market and being sold at a loss. This meant that Magnavox and Atari were the only companies in the home console market despite suffering losses during 1977 and 1978. After Nishikado’s initial game for Taito “Gun Fight” was ported to be used on the intel 8080 by Midway, the original inventor of “Gun Fight” used this idea and later used a microprocessor for “Space Invaders” which was released in 1978 and managed to bring the industry out of the crash it had suffered. “Space Invaders” was licensed on Atari’s VCS or Atari 2600 soon after and became a huge success.

From the beginning, games have been made and created by the inventive intellectuals, the first game “OXO” was created by a PhD student writing a thesis based around Human-Computer Interaction. It is important to realise this when playing modern games, games nowadays are so refined that it is easy to forget quite how much your PC or Xbox or PS3 is doing. How many calculations its making every second, how much information it stores and interprets and how many people have been involved in the industry and the technology behind the machines which allow such beautiful incredible worlds to be created from nothing but light and maths.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Quick Drawings and Uncertain Models

         Since starting the degree course I feel I’ve learnt so much in terms of both drawing and modelling but I’m struggling with a few elements of the work. Firstly the multitude of different techniques and ways of doing things on 3Ds has often confused me and made me question the way I’ve been making things. I feel quite uncertain that I’m doing things right and, although the models end up looking pretty much as I want them to, I continue to think that there may be something wrong or problematic which I can’t see or don’t know about. I’m dreading getting to Year 2 and being told that I’ve been doing one thing the wrong way all along. Hopefully this is just a lack of confidence instead of the truth but only time will tell. The architectural project is quite exciting considering the decisions we’re allowed to make and the somewhat high tri-limit.

Final Renders of My Wheelie bin

When it comes to drawing I find it extremely difficult to make myself take time over things, I’m used to working quickly and this has led me to draw slightly impressionist-y - “as long as you can understand what it is then all’s well!” Now being on a course which takes pride in accuracy and skill I feel like I’m not working hard enough because I draw quickly or because I don’t spend that long rendering images. This is something that I really want to change, I’ve been trying to work everything out lightly and continue working methodically and purposefully so that the end result is successfully accurate. This will allow me to create accurate drawings and the more I create purposeful and accurate drawings the faster the drawings will be; at the end of the day its better to get it right from the start when I can spend the time on these things than get to the end of the 3 years and be told that my drawings aren’t accurate enough.

Final A3 drawing rendered in comparison to initial sketch above.
This took under 45 minutes and I don't think I could have spent any longer getting it more accurate or rendering it more effectively.

There's also the element of visual design which is slowly turning into an angry icicle, which doesn’t make spending time over drawing any easier.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Kobalt Kiwi So Far

I’m Kit (Christopher by birth and Kiwi to some), I’m a 19 year old art student now studying Game Art Design at De Montfort University. I did a Foundation Year in Art and Design at the Arts University College at Bournemouth before that I lived in rural Hampshire unable to get to a town or settlement with any form of ease.
The traditional forms of art taught on Game Art at DMU grabbed me; being taught the skills that can be taken into an industry always seemed like what art at school, college and foundation should have been. When asked what my dream job would be I find it difficult to answer as I don’t only want to work on characters or environments or vehicles and I don’t want to only work in 2D or in 3D. Furthermore the start of the course has changed my ideas quite drastically as to what I enjoy doing, I also want to get the most out of the course so am trying to think about now and stay in the present to improve my skills as much as possible. Having said that I would love to be able to understand what a client wants and go out create some concepts and then model from my own concepts; despite that Character Artist as a job highly appeals to me and the skills required are some that I feel I can strive to achieve throughout this course. Working as a team and collaborating work although strenuous at times is something really I enjoy because of the interaction and pool of ideas.

Cliche and pretentious as it sounds the two worlds of Art and Games have been central to my life almost since I can remember. From a very early age I watched my brother tinkering with computers and exploring the technical and scientific side of everything; me being a typical irritating younger sibling wanted to do what he was doing and know what he knew and how he knew it. I wasn’t permitted to test my understanding of computers with components for the chances of me breaking it were almost certain. This is were Half-Life comes into play, the Valve game released when I was 5; I can’t say for certain when I started playing it as that's all merely fuzzy memories. I can however say that, according to my memory, we played endlessly. I have maintained my initial interest in technology and electronics although it has remained as an interest.

Science and technology only interested me so far. I have always been transfixed with art, but it was always accepted in the back of my mind as a hobby. I dabbled in modding games and modeling between the ages of 13 and 15 but never thought it would amount to anything. Don’t get me wrong, I dreamt it would! Realism just kicked those ideas right out of my waking thoughts. If I asked 14 year old Kit what he thought I’d be doing right now he would likely think I would be in my second year of studying Anthropology.

Instead I’m finally being properly artistically educated. I found the emotional/conceptual thought processes seen in “fine art” style courses easy to comprehend and understand and I’ve never wanted to be taught how to question or make a statement. One of the main reasons being, when you question too far there is no meaning... to anything. And making statements, well why would anyone care what I have to say, my statements mean nothing to those who hold opposing or differing views. Art is a one way form of communication which has always seemed fairly permanent to me where opinions and feelings are far from permanent. I try not to shout my opinions in the faces of those around me for they likely don’t agree. Instead a dialogue whereby you can show how and why you disagree suits the topic of opinion and feeling to a far greater extent, as a dialogue allows your opinions to evolve and become more refined.

This has gone rather off track, and sounds quite hypocritical as after all this is going on a blog, commonly a one way mode of communication...

Aside from games and art, music is a continuous undercurrent to my life. “Darkwave” and “Deathrock”, two genres which evolved from the 80s post punk and new wave era are at the center of the music I listen to. Perhaps as a result of these musical leanings and my interest in cultures and anthropology,  fashion is definitely an interest of mine. I am currently halfway through making a coat having designed it and made the patterns myself.

Don’t think theres anything else to know...