Friday, 29 November 2013

Elements of Game Design: Planning and Concepting

The process of beginning a project is key to understanding the likely standard of the end product. It is incredibly important to make sure that the brief is clearly set out and that there is an element of structure to the design/creation process. Referring primarily to my own work I can start to pick apart the processes I underwent to realise the project and whether this helped or hindered the end result.

For every project the first stage should be research, collecting ideas and images from appropriate sources to aid in the design process. The research is often in various different areas:

Visual Style
Accuracy/Believability (anatomy, scale, pre-existing examples)

Studying the design process of other artists is also greatly helpful in coming to a successful design process of your own. I have recently been admiring the work of Paul Richards and I have been analysing what makes the work so successful to me. So far one of the overriding points that makes the work successful is the way it achieves its goal, concept art is about explaining and describing it a design art-form. Design is the root of what makes these sketches work. The next thing is simplicity, not necessarily simplicity of design but simplicity of readability. Readability being key for a design, do people understand how they should react to it? If its a medical bed, as below, people can quickly read that its a medical bed and know how important that is to them at the time.

Above linework is really important but material definition isn't necessarily important as the bed is made of mostly the same type of material however with the heads below you can see a really nice and simple demonstration of the different materials, skin, hair and metal. This simplicity and easy readability means that the designs can be understood without much deliberation, this is ideal for concepting.

See more of Paul Richards work at
This kind of research has really helped me understand how to improve my concepting abilities and so I'm always on the lookout for how to communicate my designs better. All of this research put together means that you spend less time later on reference gathering, changing ideas or simply not knowing what to do. This initial research sets the project up. Without enough research the project is likely to become more of a strain and less of a smooth design process.

The silhouetting or idea generating stage is as important if not more important than the later stages. Just as the proficiency of the initial sketch greatly affects the proficiency of the end painting no matter the skill of the painter. At this stage of the design process I've found it both incredibly difficult and incredibly important to leave my preconceptions behind and look at what I'm actually working on. Focusing on the design process rather than the finished project often manages to keep my focus on the project for longer.

I find that my more successful projects haven't necessarily been those with heaps of silhouettes more the projects where an idea has managed to continue from the start of the project to the end of the project. This often means not going with the idea that jumps out at you at first but the idea that makes the most sense and fits the brief the most. Subtlety at this stage helps me later on, not choosing the explicit more extreme choice but rather choosing the believable.

Organisation of files is also very important, below you can see the groups of my latest concept for my mortal engines character. You can see that all the groups are labeled with what they are so that if I were passing my files around to other artists to work from they could find everything they needed easily and within one file.

Lastly numbering of ideas is just a very simple but very essential part of concepting, this just allows people to pick out which idea they want to talk about. Below is the figure concepts for my mortal engines character and you can see that if someone wanted to talk to me about them they could easily tell me which idea they are talking about.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Reflection on first year...

Well uploading this is somewhat late considering the date. Having experienced the first section of second year my reflections on first year have been somewhat solidified.

If I think back to how I was when starting the course I am very pleased with my progression not only in ability but in mindset, thought process and ambition. The work I produced in first year is definitely nothing to impress anyone however it gave me the fundamentals of what I'm doing now. First year was a year which really showed me what I enjoy doing and what aspects of art I enjoy. My brothers influence on me is still overwhelming and I am drawn to the technical and logical. I also am starting to realise that what I really enjoyed doing at A-level and before was Design and Technology, Art had just seduced me. I am still happy with my wheelie bin but realise the issues with it. I think I may have to give it another go sometime soon. With the first years coming up to their tree project I think I may try and revisit the tree assignment which was most certainly my worst project last year. I need to improve on making foliage...

I feel that, being brutally honest, the 3D skills that I learnt last year could have been learnt in a significantly shorter time and because of this I'm slightly annoyed that I didn't teach myself anymore outside of University work. I am trying to take this thought process and apply it to now. With every project there are a couple of things we will be taught by the course and I want to try and learn as many other things which are related to the project as possible. Even with projects that aren't explicitly directed towards the area of the industry I want to enter I want to make sure I learn as much as I can. With the current Vehicle and Character project I am trying to learn elements to use in other areas. For example my whiteboxing ability and understanding needs improvement and so with the vehicle project I am trying to work on this. The modelling of the vehicle has helped my modelling speed. I'm going to try and continue this.

I am incredibly keen to do all that I can to get into the industry, it is because of this that I am going to build my portfolio as much as I possibly can. I am also going to apply for as many internships as possible and try to get my work seen by people in industry. I do not want to limit myself to the games industry but at the moment that is the area that I am most keen to explore. With the BMW art test I am doing all I can to make this an environment that I can both use for portfolio and to enter into the art test. For this reason I am trying to stick to AAA game type budgets so that I am still being considerably restricted with tris and texture sheets but I am also making something impressive.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Orthoplex - Alternative Nightclub

Here are the final renders of Orthoplex's exterior... maybe I'll make the interior someday.

Friday, 1 November 2013

An Update on Orthoplex!

So I've been really enjoying this project and I've been learning a great deal. We went through a tutorial on modular construction where rather than model the meshes and then texture them instead you create a texture and then apply that texture to a plane and detach faces which are the sections you want... That sounds more confusing than it is. Here is a more detailed version of my concept which I'm working from.

To start off I worked out from the other buildings that I was going to need a texture along this lines, so I spent some time creating this texture making it tile and griming it up.

I then applied it to a square plane with 16 rows and columns because I had made all the lines of the texture line up to a grid of the same amount of rows and columns in Photoshop.

Then detaching the faces I wanted and deleting the excess triangles.

A little extrude from the border gave some depth to the asset and then I reset the pivot point.

Above you can see a selection of the different sections to the building and below you can see the parts that I imported into UDK.

Below is a screen shot of the assembled building with place holders for the floor and walls. I am going to make windows and a piece to cover the corners tomorrow.

Here the pillars look far too clean and so I wanted to apply some dirt as if they had been around for a while but this wouldn't have built up around the top of the pillar so I had to tackle that challenge. I ended up unwrapping the pillar on the 3rd UV channel to give me a completely different unwrap to the one I initially had. This meant that I could make a grime texture which would make its way up the pillars rather than be applied uniformly. So far I have only done this for the main pillars at the front which are both the same mesh however I will do this for the side pillars tomorrow. Below is the result of a couple of hours of tweaking, googling, getting confused and finally understanding.