Wednesday, 22 May 2013

And it's done...

I can't actually believe I'm saying this but I have completed all of my university assignments. With the hand in of my major project work for the game Echoes I say goodbye to uni work all together. It seems like only yesterday I was convinced I would never get into uni at all and now it's finished. Really surreal stuff.

Overall  during the final major project I think it went surprisingly well, although it wasn't without it's problems. A lot happened during the production period, which is to be expected over such a long time, that threw me off course and distracted me, but in the end I managed to keep focused and keep on top of it all. The work never overwhelmed me as it did in last year's major project as I worked hard right from the beginning rather than taking it easy and leaving too much until the last minute.

The order in which I did my work and how quickly I completed my work relied almost entirely upon what the team needed, I always tried to get everything out by when someone wanted it or when a director set a deadline, even if I had to have multiple projects on the go at once. The team members that needed my work seemed to be pleased with how quickly I completed it and I didn't get any negative feedback from the team.

The project started out with me having to quickly model, unwrap and create a high poly scuplt for two characters so they could be rigger, skinned and animated. This was quite a challenge as I would not consider myself a quick or strong character artist but I managed to get them done within 2-3 weeks and that allowed the rest of the team to get their parts done with plenty of time. The Centaur character which I made first turned out quite nicely, it had a pretty basic design which made it easy to make quickly but I also had a lot of fun making it as it took interesting aspects from humans and horses, allowing me some variety. My biggest problem with it was the high poly sculpt as I only had 1 day to complete the sculpt and I had never used zBrush prior to this character. This was a large task for me but I feel I did quite well considering the circumstances. Unfortunatly I was unable to do some of the finer work such as skin detail and some of the main forms looked a bit lacking and I would have liked to have been able to change that, but by the end of the project I ouldn't go back to change this. The textures worked quite nicely although I struggled getting the skin to look realistic again even though I think this is the closest I have gotten.

The next thing in the project I needed to complete was the Fae, the player character for the game. This was a big project as he was the central character to the entire game but I still had very little time to make him in, this was made even more difficult by the fact that I hadn't completely nailed down the design in pre-production and the team constantly suggested changes. This is good as the group feedback really helped to strengthen the character and we all got the character we wanted but at the time it was quite overwhelming and confusing. We got there eventually though. Similarly to the Centaur I only had a day to produce the high poly and although it was stronger this time round as I had more practice with zBrush it still could have been much better, high poly sculpts are certainly going to be quite a big focus of my work over the next few months The textures themselves could have been better, it seemed a bit bland simply having the bark texture and although the late addition of the moss helped make it more colourful and interesting I feel it still could have been more exciting. When I handed the mesh over to be skinned there didn't seem to be any major problems with the topology or scale of the model and it was nicely rigged and skinned by the end of it.

The props varied quite a lot in my opinion, things like the books, the church ruins and the staff I really enjoyed making and thought they turned out really well, but some like the Tholos ruins and the bow were not as strong. Most of the props took no longer than a day to model and I made sure I had lots of feedback from the team and the art director to make sure everything worked together within the environment and created a believable world. Although I had quite a few props to do this was the period in which I slacked off the most. After the initial rush of the characters and some personal issues I lost some of the motivation I had at the start, I still kept up the work but didn't work as much as before, sometimes as low as 6 hours a day, and the time I spent working didn't feel very productive. I consider texturing to be my weakest point and I think it shows on the props where textures are so important. They were acceptable but not very strong and I felt this was a shame as it was a bit of a weak spot in my work.

The Unity work is the most difficult to judge, I believe I got quite a bit done, some of it quite important to the overall feel of the game. I had to create the camera for the game which was essential and hard to get right. There were many bugs in the camera that I had to get ironed out before it was in a workable position. This took up the majority of my time in Unity and left only a small amount of time for the particle effects. I was not very pleased with what I had done but camera's are always a difficult one to get right, even big triple A games often fail to get the camera right. I believe if I had another week or so in there it would have been much better. The particles were much more successful than the camera in my opinion and they made a large impact on how the game worked especially the boss fights. The dust particles around the dragon helped sell the size of it quite a lot and my personal favourite was the Bark Basher snow particles as they worked really well with the animation to sell the weight of the Bark Basher and his shields.

All in all I think the project went quite well, it could certainly have gone better but at the same time nothing went particularly wrong. The game came out much better than I ever thought it could have been so that was a great surprise and really shows off how well the team worked together and the individual skill of everyone involved. I think this project has set me on the perfect path and I shall try my best to continue like this after uni. Getting more game projects under my belt and working on my weaker areas I feel I will eventually be good enough to get out there and get a job.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Final Renders

There are a few final renders coming out of my major project work now as I prefer the marking showreel for Friday. Not all of them are finish, some still need ambient occlusion and some have unfinished textures but this is where they are so far.

I have rendered them out as still frames to stop it from getting compressed twice and will not be putting them into a video until the showreel so I can only show still at the moment.

Here are the books:
The bow and arrow:

The Staff

Church ruins:

There are a few more props and the characters that still need to be finalised and rendered but it's coming along well so far, I've managed to pick up my work speed by spending as long in uni as possible so I should be all set to have my showreel rendered out by Friday, and then that's my 3rd year completed.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Inspirational Companies

As this project, and indeed my time at university, draws to a close I thought I would mention some of the companies that have inspired me to get in to game development and eventually to the point I am at now.


I was first inspired by Crytek when I first got a computer especially to play Crysis as I had heard amazing things about the graphics within the game. When I finally got around to experiencing this myself I was stunned by what they had achieved and I was inspired to one day be able to produce works out art that matched this game.

Since then they have continued to astound people with the level of detail they can squeeze out of current technology and their work with CryEngine has made so many game projects possible. Having a company that is so firmly grounded in amazing art work backed up by some of the best technology in the industry makes Crytek an amazing company that will continue to innovate for many years.

After first experiencing Crysis I have always been a fan of their games, both as a gamer and an artist so I am always eager to see what they are working on next.

Epic Games

Epic has always been a major influence on my work. Unreal was one of the first PC games I ever played and although I was young I knew it was something special. I also played a lot of Unreal Tournament games throughout my childhood and was also a big fan of Gears of War. The art produced by Epic had an amazing quality to them that always caught my eye and impressed me and some of the high poly sculpting work that was produced for their games remain at the top of my inspirational images which I aspire to be as good as.

Another major factor in my love for Epic is the Unreal Engine which has been used to create some of the best games out there. I first used this engine during college and finished my first collaborative university project 'Mongols vs Ogres' in Unreal. The use of the Unreal Engine got me into the more technical side of art and originally got me looking more into coding.

Lionhead Studios

The unique fantasy art style that Lionhead has used in it's previous games such as the Black and White and Fable series was originally what caught my attention during my earlier gaming days and I found the worlds they created fascinating. I always look forward to new games being produced to see what new style they might bring to their games.

The strong fantasy focus of the art team is quite similar to my own work which has so far been primarily focused on a similar setting in both the 'Mongols vs Ogres' and 'Echoes' projects in which I was a tech artist. Whilst I would like to improve my skill set and add more variety to my work, the opportunity to continue working on my current focus would help reinforce that area of expertise and I would be able to hit the ground running.

Valve Software

Over the years Valve has created some of my favourite and most played games ranging from Half-Life to Team Fortress 2. They also created the Source Engine, the first game engine I ever used to create level designs and learn some of the more technical aspects of game creation.

I like the way that Valve runs it's company with the freedom to work on any project that they want and they generally see all of the staff as equals allowing any of the team members to voice their ideas and concerns and giving them the freedom to choose the projects Valve carries forward. It is the ideal working environment and as Valve have managed to get it to works it allows them to keep producing games that gamers want, rather than the ones that will gross highest.

Creative Assembly

As a big strategy gamer I have always looked at big RTS companies like Creative Assembly to see what is possible in this field. I have owned every Total War game they have made and it has been interesting to see how the genre has developed over time. The art work produced in the later titles like Shogun 2 and Rome 2 have surpassed what I have thought was possible due to great work by the tech team in keeping the game playable.

Getting to work on some of my favourite titles would be a great experience and being at the forefront of strategy development in the country would be an amazing experience.

Monday, 6 May 2013

2 Weeks and Counting...

It's been a while since I last blog posted as I haven't had time to render or screen record any of the work recently. I will begin rendering turnarounds of some of the finished props tomorrow so it won't be left until the last moment. I cannot render them out on my laptop as it doesn't have the memory (cant wait to go home and use the new computer) so I have to wait until I'm in uni before I can do that, it is a similar case with texturing.

I can screen record the unity particles and how I have them linked up to the animation but it will have quite a low frame rate so I will be rendering them off also when I can get on a decent computer.

As for now I have a few renders:

I'll update with turnarounds over the next few days.