Friday, 17 December 2010

It gets better... right?

I don't like 3D. Not a good start for someone on this course and it's making me a little nervous. I SHOULD be throwing myself into it and yet I just aren't. I hate it, it's so monotonous.
Extrude, click, extrude, click, bevel, click, target weld, target weld, target weld, cut, cut, cut, cut... strangely the unwrapping part is somewhat therapeutic and I can get through it rather solemnly.

In the spirit of being honest and blunt: I took 3D because I had to. Due to the odds of me getting a job as a 2D artist are slim to none, even with the addition of 3D are they still slight. Still, it's something.
I so badly want to be a character artist, a vehicle artist – shit even a landscape artist would make me happy. I want to draw, I want to learn how to use watercolours properly and I want to understand Photoshop and get used to drawing with a tablet. I want that dual-monitor setup that so many artists have, I want a room filled with books containing all manner of references. I want to look at a game and say:
'See that? I designed that.' Yet now I'm looking at it and just seems to be: 'See that? I designed that... and spent a few days of my life getting fucking frustrated with it trying to model it into 3D. Why can't someone else get paid for this shit? I'm the imagination, they can do the boring part.'

I do 2D because I love it. I do 3D out of necessity. Maybe it's too early for me to be hating this as it's probably just the initial frustration of learning something from scratch – god I hope so. I refuse to fail this course, fucking out right. It's a matter of self-respect that I finish this course.

This is a complete whine post and I just need to get it out there. With any luck, I'll look back next year and see this as a nothing more than temporary bout of fuck-wittery.

I trust my honesty in posting this doesn't affect my presence here; just something I wanted to get off my chest.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

So you want to draw, eh? I can tell you about drawing...

So after a few of these guest lectures we've been havin' and some words from the 2D lecturers themselves; I've come to some level of understanding about both drawing and me as an artist.

It never really sank in before, about being confident with lines and strokes, no matter how many times it was said. I've always been quite stubborn when it came to drawing and where I wanted it to go. When my tutor at college told me that copying other artists ideas wasn't going to get me anywhere I waved him aside in contempt and carried on; but he didn't stop telling me and finally after months of droning on it, subsequently it sank in.

Now, upon reflection I cannot believe how much of an idiot I was. Copying other artists work? To think that was only a year and a half ago.
Since then I've started to listen more to tutors and any criticism albeit with a pinch of salt. I can still be quite stubborn however due to past iterations I have to remind myself they know exactly what they're talking about. The tutors anyway.

So the sudden epiphany I've had is this: Fuck it.
If my drawings suck; so what? I'm a first year student. If I was drawing flawlessly then why would I be here? All I need to do is simply remind myself that somewhere in the future I WILL be a good artist. Simple.
It's surprisingly freeing to not give a shit about the state of your current drawings; it allows you to focus on simply drawing more and seeing the flaws as more of a learning curve than a hindrance. So many get demotivated by poor drawings, I myself was guilty of this however it just goes to what Warner Brothers animator Phil Dimitriadis said:

You have to get the bad drawings out before you can get the good ones in.'

Also a quote from Del Walker was helpful for focus:

'Think of someone who does loads of bad drawings; then think of when they starts doing good drawings.'

From this I've come to understand that I should focus more on speed than polishing a piece off. Someone can take eighteen hours to complete an amazing piece of art showing exceptional skill in all aspects of art however they're not going to get employed. They can't use someone who takes that long to do one piece. Alternatively, someone who takes one hour doing speed paints showing an adequate enough level of skill to communicate the idea would be a more lucrative asset to the company. Eighteen ideas against one. Though the other guy isn't nearly as good, they offer more to the company in terms of production.

All of this can be summed up somewhat by what Chris Wright said in an enlightening gab to his cohort about him having to break our minds, then rebuild them. We've grown up in a schooling system that teaches us to deal with things logically and simply. What colour is the sky? Blue. What colour is the grass? Green. We draw things with a big black line around it despite there not being one there.
This is all one big learning experience for me. As a stubborn ass of a student I'm can feel my mind being altered already. I already KNEW to see things in shapes, but I didn't really bother. I already KNEW that there wasn't a black line around anything, but I didn't change that. Only now have I started employing circles to draw things, even if they're square; Why not? Shapes within shapes.
Let's not even get started on how everything can be constructed with reference points: Complete mind fuck.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

What a long, strange trip it's been.

     Asking an avid gamer 'what's your history of games?' is like explaining why England will never win the Eurovision Song Contest; it's going to take all day. So instead of bombarding you with a list the size of Bono's head, I'll briskly go through what consoles I played followed up with a list of my favourite games.

In order:
Sega Mega-Drive
Gameboy Colour

     Now that's out of the way, let's get onto the games, or lack of. Having been playing games for a very long time I was actually pretty shocked to see how short my list of favourites was. Does that show something about the industry? Or just me being a picky bugger? Probably a little of both, really.

     So let's begin with the Mega-Drive:
Streets Of Rage 2: The first console game I remember playing. The basic rundown of the game is you play as one of four characters: Axel, Blaze, Max or Skate. You then use said character to whack, smash and quite possibly, stab your way through ten levels of endless grunts, peons and peasants until you finally come to the end of the level and go toe-to-toe with Mr X's finest. (Mr X being the bad guy. Go figure.)
However that wasn't what was fun about the game. The fun part was joining up with your friends, family or even panderers in co-op mode to churn out some indiscriminate justice on the faces of your foes as a team. Yeah, go team!

Golden Axe: I loved this game, completed it like once, but still love it! Just hearing the theme music today brings memories flooding back of flying headbutts, pommel stabs and the craziest death sound effects ever. Just like the aforementioned Streets Of Rage 2, this games was also co-op.

That about wraps up my favourites from the Mega-Drive days. I chose to miss out Mickey Mouse: Castle Of Illusions to save myself the embarrassme-- wait. Unread that, please.

Moving along swiftly. The Playstation:
Metal Gear Solid: Feel I should put this one first on the basis that it was, in my opinion, the greatest Playstation game out there. Back then the level of detail was considered exceptional. Ok, so you could count the pixels from ten feet away but for back then it was damn good. The thing that interested me most about this game and got me to play it was hearing my friends talk about the different bosses: Sniper Wolf, Vulcan Raven, Psycho Mantis. The names alone made me giddy!
I was only twelve, get lost.
Then to play this game with such a deep story line, grand sense of narrative and the most intriguing characters when all I was used to was laughing at people on GTA 2 as I set them on fire.
Having not played it in years I'm relying on my memories of it – however I was twelve so a 'grand sense of narrative' could have been anyone going emo. Which is kind of what Snake did... and Meryl... and Grayfox... and Naomi... and Liquid.. oh man, that game was made of pussies. At any rate, I really enjoyed that game however I cannot say the same for any of the sequels. All I'll say for them is that Kojima is in dire need of an Editor.

Duke Nukem: Time To Kill: The phrase: 'They don't make games like they used to.' Has been tossed around quite freely these passed few years. However I hold that statement to this game. It didn't care what people thought, it didn't care if it was insulting people. All it was, was Duke Nukem, being a pig-slaying, gun-toting, buzzcut wearing sexist motherf**ker. But man, was he badass. That about sums up the game. The theme music was equally as epic.

Final Fantasy 7: Oh yes, you were waiting for this one to rear it's ugly head. I'd like to start off by saying: Yes, the story was emo, I didn't really care for it. In fact, I didn't even pay attention; having mashed the 'O' button into the controller every time that 'life-story' music started playing.
So 'Why then?' you might be asking yourself 'Is this one of your favourite games?' Well, I can tell you that even for a guy that appreciates narrative over game play. I actually didn't really care about this tear-filled pussy-fest of a story line and opted more for the jrpg style of play instead.
Just to show how much I didn't care: I was happy when Aerith died. Don't understand as to why we didn't just pheonix down her though... guess Cloud didn't love her after all.
The music was also unforgettable.

That's it for Playstation. Almost can't believe it given how many games I played.

Playstation 2:

Dynasty Warriors 3: Oh man, this one brings back good memories! Was my first PS2 game and man was I pumped to play this. Me and my brother would play this all the time, getting every character their best weapon and to full stats. We spent all summer one year doing that. Some may say that was wasted time, but I say time you enjoyed wasting, was not wasted time. Loved that game. Pity the sequels paled in comparison to this. Wish Koei would get off their arses! They have no idea what such a grand idea they're onto.

GTA: Vice City: Tommy Vercetti, a generic gangster goes on a drugs trade only to be ambushed mid-mingling by some rather questionable fellows. Barely escaping with his greased back hairstyle and losing the money, and the drugs, in the process. Big Boss isn't best pleased by this disturbing turn of events and has Tommy go about finding the money. Mr Vercetti feels the best way to do this is to monopolise the entire city, gain huge infamy amongst the populace and live in the biggest house. I don't understand how 'Get my money.' translates to 'Kill everyone of importance and buyout the place.'
Whatever, it's a GTA game. The only thing that matters is you, your ride and your hoes. In that order.
As to why it is here, on my list: The game was generally just so fun, so few parts of the game were frustrating and it was the epitome of entertainment for a young lad like myself. Even when I completed the story I still played it loads, just to mess about with the police or to see how far I can get before my car blows up, or how far I can get before my car blows up IN MID AIR! Was so much fun! GTA 3 wasn't, because it was frustrating at times, the cars were generally lousy and there were no helicopters to get around. Ok, so Tommy couldn't swim – but that just made playing as a pirate even more fun! Hijacking peoples boats trying not to fall in the water. Arr, a fine game it be indeed.

God Of War: When I first played the demo for this game, my brain was struggling to cope with the sheer amount of bad-assery this game metes out!The first thing I killed, I didn't just slice it with my swords – no; I grabbed it and RIPPED IT IN HALF! This was just the right game for me. Gorey, but fictional. Unlike the game Manhunt which seemed a bit too close to reality to fully enjoy.
For a game that focuses around some of the most violent deaths you'll ever see – it still managed to pull off a damn good story, with a fucking brilliant twist at the end. So it might not have been a twist to anyone else, and that I should have gathered by the title 'God Of War' as to what might have happened but there are few games that end so well. Few films too. So when you see one it just has to go on your list. Even though I enjoyed the sequels, I believe that they should have stopped after the first one to preserve that. As with the second and third instalments the motif went from 'grizzled warrior gains retribution' to 'LETS SEE WHAT PART OF GREEK MYTHOLOGY WE CAN KILL NEXT! HERP!'
As I said, I enjoyed them. Just... killing a titan. Really? Oh sorry, two titans! Silly me!

Resident Evil 4: Having never completed a Resident Evil game before, depsite countless attempts. I was so damn proud of myself for completing this one. Likely due to the easy to use over-the-shoulder aiming that the employed for their series here on in, instead of the infamous camera angles.

The story goes: Leon Kennedy, a veteran of the zombie outbreak in Raccoon city (as played in Resident Evil 2) now working for the president has been sent to some far off region in Europe to retrieve any inteligence on the whereabouts of the presidents daughter. Having been in this village for no more than five minutes, he gets flailed at by some rabid peasant and his taxi-service dies in a fire. Good start, I'm sure you'll agree. Though I think it was a bit much killing the first guy you see because he attacks you, in his OWN HOUSE, which you are TRESPASSING IN...
So anyway, to cut a long story short **SPOILERS** Leon finds the girl, destroys an ancient cult and has biscuits... one of those might be a lie.

Hard to say what drew me to this game. It was the new Resident Evil, it had a new, innovative look and much hype behind it. As to what kept me playing: probably the will to complete a Resident Evil game. Glad I did, the boss fights were all interesting although the game got a little weird when the cult became more prominent. Like that midgit in the crazy getup.

Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance: The town of Baldur's Gate has fallen victim to strange happenings of late, you the prospective hero can play as either the Dwarf Warrior, the Dwarf Warrior or the mighty Dwarf Warrior. 'Cus there aren't two other classes as the only one that matters is the Dwarf. The Dwarf is all that matters. Kromlech's his name, kicking ass is his game.
Alright, there might have been two other squires there to choose from, heaven forbid why. Ok, they were the Arcane Archer (ooh, pretty sparkly arrows) and the Elven Sorceress (this game was made by Midway so guess why people chose her).
The story is that the, as said before, the town is in a spot of bother and you offer to give a hand. Naturally you start off by killing rats and then move onto more bigger fair; such as globs of slime, skeleton archers and who can forget spiders!
This game would have been pretty dull however the fact that it had co-op made this one of the greatest games I had ever played. Me and my friend were actually SAD to complete this game, we wanted more, damn it! I was the devastating Dwarf Warrior, charging in and stealing all the loot while he was my faithful servant, the Aching Archer- or something- who cares?! 'Cus I was the Dwarf Warrior!

The PS2 had so many games however not many left their mark on me, sadly. I'm a massachist like that.


Fable: Halo was great, Halo 2 was great. Not good enough to get on this list however despite enjoying them. Especially the co-op.
The only Xbox game to make it on here will be Fable. As in the first one. Not the poor excuse for a sequel.
Synopsis: The Hero's family was murdered and village burnt to the ground by bandits when he was young. The boy was saved by a mysterious wizard who then took him to 'the Guild Of Heroes.' A training academy for would be do-gooders. The boy trains there until he becomes of age and flies the nest, ready to begin his life of killing bandits, rescuing damsels in distress and generally looking like a smug bastard. The story unfolds at a digestible rate, bringing in a few twists here and there as regard to his family as well as a mad man with a penchant burning things. Namely the world.
I can't think of anything I disliked about this game. I liked it all: from the complete RPG feel of buying, selling, upgrading, property development, marriage, books etc to the all-to familiar Midlands accents of the populace.
Then there was probably the most beautiful part of the game: The vibrant colour palette, the exaggerated playful look of the people/player as well as the fairytale score by Danny Elfman juxtaposed against the sad tale of the heroes life and the hardships he must endure.
I got through all of that without even mentioning the alignment system. This was no one-trick pony of a game and out of all the games you'll see on here, Fable is probably my most favourite I would describe simply as a game with a lot of heart, as hammy as that sounds; it's as dear to me as Linken Park is to teenaged boys.


You hear a church bell ring in the distance, as it echoes across the hills the wind wisps passed you bouncing a tumble weed across your path.


I suppose it is unfair to say the PC has harboured the majority of my favourite games as it does not succumb to will of generations as Xbox and Playstation do and as such, I should count Sony and Microsoft as a whole when compared against it.
So with that said, lets finish this.

Age Of Empires II: Hours. Wasted. I would always play as the Japanese just so I could get out their Samurai. Whoa, yeah! Not really much to say about the game. I mean it was pretty dire for an RTS however there weren't many others out there other than Starcraft, Warcraft and Command & Conquer of which I had never played nor really heard of; with the exception of C&C.

Theif 2: The Metal Age: You play as Garrett, an experienced thief who had previously (Theif: The Dark Project) gotten in with the wrong people ultimately costing him his eye and a good part of his patience. Now, he hopes to get back to the simple stuff: Casing joints and taking it easy. However he soon finds himself knee-deep in pigshit as the Sheriff wants Garret, in particular, dead. Upon pursuing the answers to this sudden vendetta against him he unravels a nefarious plot that threatens the entire city.

One of the first PC games I ever played. Looking back now I cannot believe this game wasn't more popular, I mean it just broke the norm like a bunny boiler breaks relationships; it was so good!
First of all, I don't think there were any other stealth games, secondly it didn't just bring in the stealth idea but absolutely excelled in it. The play style of Splinter Cell, a successful series, is pretty much based on the that of Thief’s.
It wasn't just the brightness/darkness in the game, but the innovative new ideas. Water arrows to shoot out torches. Fire Arrows that acted like missiles, gas arrows, moss arrows for quietening your footsteps, noise-maker arrows for distracting guards. You also had a blackjack to knock out guards or a sword to kill them. As I say, for a game back then this was pretty fucking exceptional looking back at it. I mean Looking Glass Studios really pulled it off here. I'm genuinely amazed it wasn't a best seller. Sad too, that this was Looking Glass Studios final game, as it only appealed to cults and hence they went under.
Spose I should mention Deadly Shadows, however I only played a bit of it. It seems they were competing with Splinter Cell and that their best idea to get around it was to copy what they've done. 3rd person stealth sucks. Didn't like it though I feel I should give it another go for the sake of the Metal Age. Oh, sounds like a musical revolution. DOWN WITH BEIBER!

The Elder Scrolls: Morrowind/Oblivion
Hours were wasted on both of these games, the sheer open-world expanse of the was such an incredible notion that I needed to change my pants. Twice! Starting out with a mere mortal shell, nothing within it, just a dumb look on the face to then customizing it just to your play style. Well, that innovation was really wasted on me I generally pick up the biggest weapon I can find and swing it until something happens.
The games weren't altogether that incredible in terms of story, as there was so many different quests that sticking with the main story was about as likely as Britain having talent. So you got somewhat lost in what was going on. Here you were helping an Orc find a book, there you were helping a Nord find his pants and over yonder you were killing the Orc and the Nord because someone wanted them dead. Sorry, someone was PAYING. RPG's, got to love the soulless creature that is the hero.
'Kill them.'
'I'll pay you.'
Caaan do!

Arx Fatalis: This was another game I simply cannot believe wasn't more popular. With an original casting system via the use of drawing runes with your cursor allowed for an immersive mage feel to the game that no other has come close to touching. On top of that the melee combat mixed in with this rune-style casting made for quite an interesting play style. I'm sure the runes would have discouraged lesser skilled players as we've all been guilty of fucking up while under the pressure of a cave trolls behemoth arse.
On top of that the narrative was, although not altogether original, it wasn't too riddled with cliché, albeit you are the chosen one who uses a plot device to bring down an evil lord bent on your demise. Nope, not at all clichéd!
A worthy side note to this game would also be the cooking system they had. Instead of going into your inventory and clicking 'cook' or whatever the game developers make you do these days. You had to physically drag the item from your inventory onto a fire. This could then be used for other avenues. For example:

Confectionery affection
Hello, and welcome to Confectionery affection with me, Scott Bennett.
Today, we will be baking a red wine apple pie! Oh, naughty!
What you will need:
1 bag slot of flour
1 vial of water
1 apple
1 vial of red wine
Rolling pin and an open fire.

First, add the water to the flour to make the dough.
Then, flatten the bugger with your rolling pin. Show it how you deal with goblins, tenderize the sucker.
You should now have a lovingly crafted pie casing, so why don't you go ahead and pop that apple in. Don't worry about slicing it, this is just a game.
You're almost ready to get cooking, however you first need to add that little treat; the red wine. So go on and do that before I lose my patience.
Whack it on the open fire for about 5 seconds


I guess you can tell I'm tired.

One final note. I think this was the only game where you could kill absolutely everyone, just for fun.
...and fun it was. Quicksave is the damnedest, isn't it?

I feel I should add Diablo II, Warcraft III and World Of Warcraft as I spent a very long time playing all three. However they were just addictive and in itself, not exceptional games. Maybe Diablo II.

Oh well, there you have it. My personal gaming history in terms of my favourites. I'm sure there were some I missed out however I'm rather content to lay these down on my blog as favourites for they really were the greatest games I've ever played and hold them in high regard. Which is why Lionhead have really dissapointed me with Fable 2. It's a pity I have no current generation favourites as the graphics on these games is truly remarkable, like Uncharted 2 for example. However I will never forsake narrative and a good story just because oo0o0o0o it pretteh! Which is pretty much Uncharted 2 in a nut shell for me. Now I know games are fiction but if a game is based in the real world it needs to have a very solid clutch on reality. Climbing out of a train in a below 0 degree climate that is hanging off the edge of a mountain after just being derailed rather violently with a hole in your side created by a Desert Eagle then only to fight against elite soldiers with said bullet wound and said freezing cold in nothing but your jeans and jumper is NOT realistic... look, fan boys, I know he's Nathan Drake and all, I think that's great, I really do... but it's just not cricket. The very fact he survived the train crash in the first place was miraculous. Oh, be he had a seat belt on, uh hur!
There is plenty wrong with that game. Visually stunning, a marvel of game design in terms of that. Just the whole Hollywood feel to it... I find that discouraging.

I get the inkling that developers have put story on the back seat and put priority on what the game looks like. Coming from a prospective game artist this must sound pretty ridiculous, however it's not just the visual side I'm interested in. It's not a good feeling to know that the pixel parade are winning over good, solid story-telling and I would dearly like to see an improvement on this in future games.

Well, I guess there's always novels...