Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Elements of game design - Planning and Concepting

If you don't iron out the kinks in your designs or push them as far as you can, be it characters, environments, story or the way you progress through the level etc then your game is not going to be as good as it could be. If it's not at it's best when shelved (if shelved at all) then you're going to have problems. Not stating it would be unsuccessful, merely that it isn't doing as well as it could be.

This reminds me of an illustrator by the name of Iain Mccaig, best known for designing Darth Maul. While drawing he constantly takes an eraser to his work (another traditional artist), this is usually frowned upon as we're often taught to learn from our mistakes by leaving them in there and trying to adapt them (within reason), however he has a saying for this:

“If it's wrong, take it out.”

It's an obvious thought but Mccaig practices this statement with utmost zeal in his drawings. If it's even slightly off, say the arm is just so that it doesn't quite convey the exact feeling he's trying to achieve (despite being anatomically correct), then he'll chop it off without a seconds thought.

In his GNOMON DVD – Visual Storytelling he frequently quoted the literature saying:

Murder your darlings”- Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch

Basically what it means is sometimes you create something that you're rather fond of however it might not fit in the grand scheme of things so in the end, to get the best result out of your painting/writing or whatever, there may come a time where you have to 'murder' it for the greater good.

In a previous post (I believe it was the one on environments) I described the different ways in which level designers go about creating environments using techniques such as silhouette, function and storytelling. These are all part of the planning process for a level, and as such, the entire game.

One of the most common parts of achieving a good or believable design are to use references, this goes from Google images to the real world. The use of Google images gets knocked a bit by artists because it’s apparently ‘shit’ or ‘cheating’ but that isn’t a reasonable argument, if the resources are there to use a reference from then why would you give yourself MORE work in finding something in person when it is right there in front of you? I’m not backing Google images I’m merely arguing why it’s seen as wrong to use it; probably a pride thing.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t go out and get real references, in fact I’d encourage it more than Google for the obvious reason that it’s better to see something up close and really get a feel for it. On top of that your photo references will be a lot more tailored to what you need instead of trudging through page after page of non-helpful images on Google. Still don’t think Google is wrong though, and you’d be an idiot to think it is.

Simply, using references will make your designs accurate as appose to bringing them out of your head which are likely hazy at best if not practiced regularly.

Process and planning is the part of design where you get it all right before you even begin the final piece because no one likes spending forty hours on something only to realise it failed right from the start due to poor planning and conception.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

'Ere we go.

So I scored 51% last year.


Ah well, not like it was a surprise. I mean, I did the bare minimum if I'll be honest. Not intentionally of course it's simply been my mentality towards education for years. The only part of the course I seemed to do well in were these blogs - which I'm quite proud of.

Throughout the first year I was constantly warring against 3DS Max, convincing myself I hated it and would rather just do 2D, as to that, I was sure my 2D was complete balls as well. Whether it is or isn't, is hardly the point - it's more about the mentality. A defeatist attitude will just hold you back. Whilst you're moaning and wollowing in self pity you could be jamming out some really poor sketches or models. Poor or not, it's something and that's what counts.

So long as you're actively trying to fix your negative attributes, you're on the right path. Sitting there and moaping about it will just keep you down and inactive. As Mike said, if you're getting at least twenty sketches done in an hour, or spending thirty minutes a day on something you don't understand or struggle with in 3DS Max or another program then that's good. Extra-curricular of course. This is appose to spending eight hours on something boring and then burning yourself out on the first day, not to revisit it for a week.

Little by little.

That's my reflection on last year, now that I've had a summer to think about it. The work wasn't the hard part, it was my negativity which led to a lack of motivation and consiquently affecting my results.

As to this year; well, I'm sure I speak for everyone when I say 'I'm going to work harder'. Sounds pretty clich├ęd – 'yeah, yeah, we've heard it all before.' This is akin to new years resolutions. Still, doesn't hurt to try and of course, if I don't, I'm screwed... so, not like I have an option.
That said, I'm quite enthusiastic about this year, group project aside, I'm eager to just go for it and I think the key to this is a system.

My feelings towards 3D last year
For 2D I will do more than the measley twelve thumbnails, instead going for several pages as well as artifact study i.e. if I'm to paint a landscape then I'll study the trees and other foliage as well as other little doodads such as fences, benches and bins etc. It's that extra mile that'll really push my grades I believe. On top of that I'm not going to do just one final; I'm going to do one traditional and one digital piece. Combine that with all the sketchbook work and I'll have done 15-20 hours a week easily I recon.

For 3D, it's simply a case of being more proactive; Get the model finished within the first couple days, within reason, get it unwrapped and textured asap (not to be confused with rushing) and once that's done, if I have time, which I should, then I'll do it again. I aim to do every project at least twice, three times would be preferable but with all the 2D work and blogs I'll have to assess that on the night.
On a side not, I want to actively seek out new tools and modifiers etc just to get the best results. Just push, push, push myself to make the best work I can.

Lastly a quick word on blogs. I did pretty well last year, as I said, and so have a pretty good idea of what is expected of me. Though this is a pretty boring post, with a severe lack of humour, my other posts (moreso personal ones) should be more entertaining, or at least that's the idea.
Review games I play, review movies I watch, write about game-related subjects I find interesting (or just for practice), whack up some of my work and maybe... maybe, a tutorial here and there. Not that I feel confident to give tutorials I merely think the activity of simply learning to do tutorials could be beneficial; making a tutorial requires you to basically review the way YOU work, something that we don't naturally do... to us it's near second-nature so when someone asks us 'How did you do that?' we often stare into space for a few seconds trying to compose our thoughts and processes.

One final note. Feedback: I'm now convinced this is the best way to improve and as such I will be getting my work critted often, all of it.
I appreciate your feedback.