I think my portfolio has been long due a redesign. A lot has changed since my last post, which was nearly 3 years ago now! I thought I would simplify the website a bit and go for a minimalist look as the previous design was quite cluttered.
Since my last post I currently have a job at Sofology creating 3D sofas for web images and TV ads, which is slightly different to my original intentions to be a games artist. Nevertheless the two are still relevant as I still get to 3D model and write scripts on a day to day basis. Below is a recent TV ad that me and my team provided 3D sofa assets for.
I have recently been doing a lot of high poly work on 3D interiors and smaller more detailed props. The Xbox Controller is one example where I intended to make this asset for a roomset but got carried away in putting large amounts of detail. This turned into a bit of a seperate portfolio piece (image below - 4K resolution so you should be able to zoom into it to see the details).
Apologies for the late work update for February, it's been a bit of a hectic month!
At the start of February I got the chance to be apart of the Balancing Team for Microsoft's studio 'Rare Games' on their upcoming title 'Kinect Sports Rivals' for the Xbox One. This was a very enjoyable experience, and it was a pleasure to get the chance to work alongside a very professional games development team.
I have been applying for other Art and QA jobs as well hoping for a studio to give me a chance to prove myself. Over the next few months my portfolio should become much better, as deadlines for my next 3D art modules draw closer, so hopefully this will increase my chances of landing a job in the games industry!
My Hotel del Salto project is progressing nicely, although a lot of the past couple of weeks having been dedicated to iterations of optimising my model, to adding more detail and unwrapping. This was something that needed doing as my original model's tricount was far too high (around 70,000 tris). The newly optimised model is under half that amount, with more optimising still in progress. I have also put a post up on the Polycount forums to hopefully get some critique to improve the overall final quality of the model.
Alongside my dissertation I have a 3D animation module where I am required to create a game trailer that lasts under a minute. I have chose to produce something similar to the opening scenes of the TV series 'The Walking Dead', where a guy wakes up in a derelict hospital during a zombie virus outbreak. Below is a bit of a work in progress of the scene, which is being made in UDK.
Over the next few weeks I shall hopefully be able to get both of these scenes fully textured to a polished stage, ready to show on my portfolio!
The past month has been a bit hectic with university work and other events hence me not having much time to post an updated blog.
Next week I will be at Rare Games in Twycross taking part in a focus group doing a week of games testing, so that should be an interesting experience. It will also be something valuable to put on my CV along with my other experiences.
I have progressed well with my Hotel Del Salto art piece, and i'm now at the final stages of modelling before I start sculpting smaller details and begin to unwrap ready for texturing.
I also took a trip to Copenhagen, Denmark to socialise with other game developers within a different country. I managed to meet a few people who attend ITU, which is a big university that hosts game jams every year such as the Nordic Game Jam. It gave me a chance to see what projects are happening over in Denmark and how the games industry is growing there.
I am currently also working on the Bolton Games Development project creating assets to be used within the final game. This is to provide some extra work that I can display on my portfolio even if it is just a couple of detailed models.
I spent a bit of time sculpting a detailed high poly chair in Zbrush, which was nicely retweeted by the guys at Marmoset Co.
Last week I helped volunteer on behalf of the University of Bolton at the GMEX - UCAS fair in Manchester. It involved talking to college students who are looking to go to university and giving them more information about the courses available at the University of Bolton. Luckily it was all creative art related, so I didn't have to talk about a completely random course. It also gave me and Andy (the other artist on the Dare to be Digital team) the chance to get some new people testing our game 'Fix', which went down well with potentially future students at the university.
This week I submitted my portfolio module, which is essentially all of this that I am writing, along with my website and CV. It was quite an enjoyable module as we got the chance to talk to a lot of experienced people within the games industry.
My vehicle is going well and the submission for that is creeping up aswell. I have learnt a lot from this module and have definitely stepped up my game when it comes to producing better artwork, which I am happy about. I have decided to jump right in with Marmoset Toolbag 2 after its release yesterday and I think it was a good decision as the new Toolbag is amazing. It allows me to do a lot more with materials to produce a better end result, and its good to see that they sorted out the alpha issues from the last one.
By next week I should have a fully complete vehicle with some nice renders and a turntable to include in my portfolio. I will also be showing wireframes, textures and just generally breaking down the process on my post apocalyptic vehicle page.
I am hoping to make the results from this vehicle module as an absolute minimum standard of quality benchmark for any future work that I do. Each and every module I feel that I am improving a lot as an artist and I want to keep continuing to do that.
Will the use of a second screen that acts as a companion during gaming be successful on the next gen consoles? My answer would be yes, as it gets you interacting with the game in a different manner. Some people think differently and find it annoying when you get mission objectives through fake phone calls. Others just are entirely undecided upon the whole concept and think that it may affect player immersion.
Xbox SmartGlass set up with an Xbox 360 (Sage, 2013).
Mark Rein from Epic Games recently done an article about this, and voiced his opinions on SmartGlass and companion apps.
"I think we've yet to see the real value of the second screen idea, if you're talking about SmartGlass and companion apps and things like that. But that doesn't mean that it won't be big one day. I don't really know what it is yet," Rein commented. "Where it fits into gaming, I don't know. I'm not sold on picking up my tablet to choose my play and then putting it back down and picking up my controller. It's kind of a wonky way to choose a play, so I don't know if that's how it's going to go or not." (Brightman, 2013).
SmartGlass is becoming a very popular feature with the Xbox One, as it hits a massive userbase who own an iOS or android devices, whether it is a tablet or smartphone. Figures from Microsoft already show that the SmartGlass application has been downloaded 17 million times by users. (Figures from July 2013, so it is probably a lot more).
In a presentation at Build 2013, Microsoft principal program manager Rosa Thomas revealed that the Xbox SmartGlass companion app has been downloaded 17 million times since its launch in October 2012. She also said that 89 percent of users returned within the same week, with users spending 16 minutes on average with SmartGlass per application. Thomas said that partners can use SmartGlass hooks to deepen engagement, expand their audience, improve discoverability, and promote more social connections. (Williams, 2013).
I can see developers being open to the idea of using smartphones and tablets to add another element of interaction to their games. I think the games industry is just waiting for someone to take it to the next level and come up with something amazing and unique that involves using SmartGlass.
Dead Rising 3 is a really good example of how it can be used well, with a lot of nice features that assist you during gameplay. Features such as; maps to direct you around the world, mission objectives, and a store to buy items. This possibly stops you from having to constantly pause the game, but at the same time you aren't looking at the screen to do these extra features, so I can see why people say that it could break player immersion.
A screenshot of how the SmartGlass application works with Dead Rising 3 (Destructiod.com, 2013).
Brightman, J. (2013) 'Epic: "We've yet to see the real value of the second screen" ' Available at: http://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2013-12-02-epic-weve-yet-to-see-the-real-value-of-the-second-screen' [Accessed: 5th December 2013].
Williams, M. (2013) 'Xbox SmartGlass downloaded 17 million times' Available at: 'http://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2013-07-01-xbox-smartglass-downloaded-17-million-times' [Accessed: 5th December 2013].
Sage, S. (2013) [Image Online] Available at: 'http://cdn.imore.com/sites/imore.com/files/field/image/2012/11/SmartGlass-hero.jpg' [Accessed: 5th December 2013].
Destructoid.com (2013) [Image Online] Available at: 'http://cdn.destructoid.com//ul/266163-ZZ112.jpg' [Accessed: 5th December 2013].
I had recently had the chance to try out the new Xbox One, which I have been looking forward to for a long time. The console currently costs around £430, which is higher than the PS4 due to the Kinect being included.
The media build up to the Xbox One release wasn't the greatest, as their focus wasn't just on gaming whereas the PS4 was. Having a console that will act as an entertainment system covering all aspects is a good idea in my opinion and I think it was unfairly criticised.
An image of the Xbox One console and accessories (Baines, 2013).
The Xbox One's design is another side that came under a lot of criticism with people comparing it to an old VHS player. I disagree and think that the design is nice and simplistic, as consoles dont always have to be crazy and futuristic looking to look 'cool'.
The controller hasn't changed that much, but they didn't need to change it as the Xbox 360 controller was almost perfect for gaming. The minor upgrades to the Xbox One controller has made it better again, and I like the fact that they have moved the Xbox home button to the top, as I always used to hit that by accident on the old controller.
A close-up image of the day one Xbox One controller (Haupt, 2013).
The Kinect adds a lot towards the console experience allowing you to give the Xbox voice commands, which is only really useful if you buy all your games digitally. By saying 'Xbox on' the console will switch on without you having to move across the room, which may sound lazy but the Kinect encourages you to get on your feet and play movement based games.
In terms of hardware the Xbox One is lacking slightly behind the PS4, but at the same time it has its advantages and disadvantages. There are some features each console have or dont have so I think it equals them both out. The only disappointing side to this is that it may struggle to run some of the newest games in full 1080p instead of a lower resolution that has been upscaled.
Other than this the launch titles that are available for Xbox One are very impressive, and the console looks like it has potential to do very well. I am looking forward to getting my hands on one in the near future.
Baines, J. (2013) [Image Online] Available at: 'http://www.modvive.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Xbox-One-With-Kinect.jpg' [Accessed: 4th December 2013].
Haupt, H. (2013) [Image Online] Available at: 'http://www.vamers.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Vamers-Gaming-An-Overview-of-the-Xbox-One-Controller-Banner.jpg' [Accessed: 4th December 2013].
Ryse: Son of Rome was the second Xbox One game that I most keen on playing. All the build up and demos of the game looked amazing so I wanted to see for myself what all the hype was about.
An image banner of the game Ryse: Son of Rome (Snyders, 2013).
Ryse's graphics are amazing, even if the game is only available in 900p and upscaled to 1080p. It is a great game to show off exactly what the Xbox One is capable of when it comes to the visual side of games. The frames per second could also be better at a constant 30fps instead of 60fps, which is what people expect from next gen console games. This put aside I found myself staring at 3D models and textures, more than playing the game at first because it looked that good!
The power of the Cryengine always amazes me, and this is just another example of how powerful it actually is. From the impressive lighting to the well made animations, this game will visually please anyone who decides to play it.
In-game screenshot from Ryse: Son of Rome (Ragatz, 2013).
Ryse incorporates gameplay elements similar to Assassin's Creed, which is something they had to get right as Ubisoft have spent a long time perfecting the Assassin's Creed series. I think the combat system in Ryse works very well, and provides a good challenge instantly when fighting different armoured enemies.
The camera could be improved, as I found this to be very close to the player and it wasn't possible to change that. The cut scenes are also well made and fully compliment the storyline of the game. One of the main user criticisms of Ryse was that it was very repetitive, which in some degree there is repetition but it is a enjoyable and doesn't seem to bore me or put me off playing the game.
Unfortunately I didn't get the chance to play the online mode but apparently it is similar to Gears of War horde mode where you kill waves upon waves of enemies, which sounds fun.
In-game screenshot from Ryse: Son of Rome (Bogos, 2013).
Graphics - 9/10
The graphics are stunning, but the only thing that stopped it from getting a 10 was the fact that they had to upscale from 720p.
Gameplay - 8/10
The gameplay is very enjoyable, but the overall game doesn't last that long (around 6 hours) based upon user opinions.
In my opinion a metacritic score of 60 is a bit harsh. I would have probably given it a score within the high 70's or possibly 80, as it is a genuinely enjoyable game to play.
I am looking forward to when I can get my own Xbox One and play through and experience the whole game completely.
Ragatz, J. (2013) [Image Online] Available at: 'http://nerdsontherocks.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/Ryse-screen-1.jpg' [Accessed: 1st December 2013].
Metacritic.com (2013) [Image Online] Available at: 'http://www.metacritic.com/game/xbox-one/ryse-son-of-rome' [Accessed: 1st December 2013].
Snyders, O. (2013) [Image Online] Available at: 'http://www.el33tonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/Ryse-Son-of-Rome-Banner.jpg' [Accessed: 1st December 2013].
Bogos, S. (2013) [Image Online] Available at: 'http://cdn.escapistmagazine.com/media/global/images/library/deriv/600/600651.jpg' [Accessed: 1st December 2013].
I recently got the chance to play Forza Motorsport 5 during trying out the Xbox One console. Forza 5 has set a benchmark of what to expect from racing games on the new generation of consoles, with it being a launch game and an Xbox One exclusive. Driveclub and Gran Turismo 7 are Sony's exclusives, and they will definitely be keeping a close eye on how well the public receives Forza 5.
An image banner of the game Forza 5 (Koch, 2013).
Forza 5 is as visually stunning as ever, with 3D vehicle models and environments having more detail due to the power of Xbox One. The game has included the 'Forzavista' again, which allows you to look up and close at the cars and learn more about them. This section of the game shows you how much care and detail has gone into each vehicle model made for Forza 5.
A picture from the Forzavista mode in Forza 5 (Allen, 2013).
One disappointing side to the visuals of the game is the crowd, which doesn't seem to have had as much care and attention as the rest of the game. They are still using 2D planes that face in the direction of the camera, similar to John Carmack's original Doom GUI programming 20 years ago. This is a bit disappointing to see, as you would have thought that games have moved on since then.
The one thing I noticed about Forza 5 was the change in car physics, especially the steering. In previous games the car has felt a lot 'lighter' due to steering and braking sensitivity. In Forza 5 the cars feel a lot more heavier, which definitely adds to the driving experience. In my case I had a large Ford Mustang Shelby GT muscle car, which looks heavy and felt that way when I was manoeuvring it.
The game modes are very similar to the previous game with career, free-play and online modes to choose from. The interestingly new addition is that each racer in the Career mode is based off a real-life person who is also playing Forza 5 (rival). Your rival's chosen car will be displayed in your race, and the AI will encorporate their racing style. You get a share of credits when your car has shown up in another person's race online, which is quite a cool feature.
Screen grab from a Youtube demonstration of the Shelby GT500 in Forza 5 (BussDriva DH, 2013).
Graphics - 9/10
I mainly gave graphics a high rating because it's a stunning looking game. I probably would have gave it 10 if it wasn't for the 2D crowd technique they used.
Gameplay - 9/10
It is in my opinion the best racing simulator out there at the moment. The detail they put into the cars, and the physics behind them is phenominal.
Image taken from the metacritic website displaying Forza 5's score (Metacritic.com, 2013).
I'm surprised to see the user score on the metacritic website being so low with a lot of people complaining about lack of vehicles and that there isn't many more features since Forza 4. In my opinion it is definitely a step up from the last game and the 82 metascore is more of an accurate representation of how good the game actually is.
BussDriva DH (2013) [Video Online] Available at: 'http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DckVxj4AH2A' [Accessed: 1st December 2013].
Allen, J. (2013) [Image Online] Available at: 'http://www.teamvvv.com/assets/js/ckeditor/kcfinder/upload/images/FM5_Pagani_Huayra_Forzavista.jpg' [Accessed: 1st December 2013].
Metacritic.com (2013) [Image Online] Available at: 'http://www.metacritic.com/game/xbox-one/forza-motorsport-5'
Koch, T. (2013) [Image Online] Available at: 'http://progressbar.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Forza-5-Banner.jpg' [Accessed: 1st December 2013].
It is exciting times for gamers as the next generation of games consoles is upon us. Playstation 4 will be my focus of this review, as I want to give my opinions on the console after having a chance to play about with it.
An image banner of the Playstation 4 console (Mileson, 2013).
Visually the console looks very nice with its slim futuristic design, and new and improved dualshock 4 controller. Black seems to be the only colour the new consoles are using, but Playstation 4 have near future plans of having red and blue controllers, and i'm sure Xbox One will also follow suit.
The standard purchase of a PS4 costs £350, which includes the console and one controller. If you want a bundle console with a game then expect to pay around £30 to £50 more. The sad thing about the PS4 release is that they didn't force people to buy the camera with the console like Xbox One did. This would have given developers of Kinect and Playstation Move games a much larger target audience and might have increased the amount of interest in these types of games. (They are very fun games to play if you give them a chance).
An image of the PS4 console with the camera and dualshock 4 controller (Agnello, 2013).
The new controller is a huge step up from the PS3, with its new design and features. Ergonomically it feels a lot better to hold, and the analog sticks are further apart, which is huge improvement from the PS3. It also includes new features such as a small speaker and a touchscreen, which are both really nice and i'm sure will be used a lot within future developed games.
The share features still leave a lot to be desired as the Twitch streams and screenshots don't output in 1080p. With the console only recently being released this will hopefully be something they plan on implementing with the future. The menus aren't that much different, but neither are the menus on the Xbox One so i'm thinking they are sticking with it due to familiarity and ease of use.
With hardware in mind the PS4 is a well crafted and powerful machine, and this may heap benifits within the future of games development, as every developer wants less performance limitations when making games.
Overall the PS4 has been a massive success since its release, with it outselling the Xbox One with all of its media hype. I will be sure to get my hands on one in the near future.
Mileson (2013) [Image Online] Available at: 'http://whatsyourtagblog.files.wordpress.com/2013/08/channels4_banner.png' [Accessed: 1st December 2013].
Agnello, A.J. (2013) [Image Online] Available at 'http://www.digitaltrends.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/playstation-4-controller-sensor.jpg' [Accessed: 1st December 2013].
This weeks guest lecture was from the vastly experience Ian Williams who is currently a senior artist at an Activision studio called 'The Blast Furnace'. His guest lecture was aimed at how small and large studios work, with it reasonably being more aimed towards artists.
An image of the Blast Furnace games company logo (Martin, 2012).
Ian started off doing mainly freelance and concept artwork for a range of companies before joining EA as a senior artist. During his time at EA he worked on games such as; Need for Speed Underground, Strike, Battlefield Modern Combat and Roadrash. He then moved to Juice Games for a short while working on Stormbirds, and then to a company called Playbox. He then turned his attention to smaller indie arcade games, and iOS development with his job at THQ working on Warhammer 40k: Kill Team. Since then he has been at a number of other smaller companies with EA Criterion being another one standing out on his CV. Interestingly he has also lectured at my old college in Liverpool since I have been at the University of Bolton.
An image banner of the game Burnout Crash by EA Criterion (Venables, 2011).
John Carmack was well mentioned in Ian's lecture, with his successful time at id Software recently coming to an end. Ian mentioned that John was a massive influence within his life due to his inventive programming techniques implemented on the original Doom game. John produced the illusion of a 3D game within a 2D plane by using some interesting GUI programming.
"Doom was the great technolocial leap forward, both in terms of the game it delivered and the engine itself. Its version of mock-3D was pioneering; the actual game can be played perfectly well through the map mode, with the FPS version merely a glossy GUI interpreting a 2D plane. Because of this slight fudge, players couldn't look up and down and levels could only be one storey; there was no way of going on top of areas you'd already been in. All enemies and objects in the game were also still 2D, albeit on a plane facing you; they would have animations that mimicked their appearance from particular directions by simply replacing the sprite." (Griliopolous, 2011).
Some of these techniques are still implemented in next gen titles. Forza 5 is one game I noticed that still uses this 2D plane feature for their crowd. The crowd will always face and rotate with the camera, which is the technique John used in the original Doom game.
Ian used terrain as an example of how a piece of artwork can be heavily modified throughout the development process. He mentioned that your 'beautifully' sculpted terrain won't look the same once the programmers and designers are done with it. Things such as material tags, which define how the player will interact with different surfaces is one reason why parts of the terrain would be split up into chunks. LODs are also a factor that needs to be taken into account when creating a terrain as you don't want a heavily subdivided mesh throughout, as you won't notice any small details in the distance. He linked LODs with texel density, which is also a big part of optimising a 3D environment. For example, a 2048x2048 map wouldn't be used on a building in the distance that you'll never get close to. If is only taking up a tiny portion of the screen then you would get away with smaller sizes such as 256x256 or 512x512 maximum.
"Things closer to the camera will always have the highest texel density such as the common FPS genre, the guns and hand will always be the highest detail on screen. Things can also be scaled upwards, usually if they are important such as characters or interactive elements such as buttons or pickups." (Elphick, 2012).
He also touched on art tests that artists may have to take to secure a job within the industry. His example being the Bizarre Creations building test, which I had a go at when I was vastly inexperienced in college. He mentioned that there could be art tests involving you making things such as; a prop, a small environment, or a character. It all depends on what role you are applying for and what exactly the company are looking for. It is amusing to look back at what I made for my attempt at an art test back in college, and how much I have progressed as an artist since then. Below is my terrible attempt at this Bizarre Creations art test made in Cinema 4D. (You don't want to see the topology).
Griliopolous, D. (2011) 'A History of id Tech' Available at: 'http://uk.ign.com/articles/2011/04/28/a-history-of-id-tech' [Accessed: 29th November 2013].
Martin, M. (2012) [Image Online] Available at: 'http://images.eurogamer.net/2012/articles//a/1/5/0/4/6/5/5/450-679bt4.jpg/EG11/thumbnail/360x200/' [Accessed: 29th November 2013].
Venables, M. (2011) [Image Online] Available at: 'http://www.wired.com/geekdad/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/Burnout-Crash-banner.png' [Accessed: 29th November 2013].
Elphick, M. (2012) 'Texel Density' Available at: 'http://michaelelphickart.com/texel-density/' [Accessed: 29th November 2013].