Thursday, 29 April 2010

The Group Project - My thoughts

Despite the amazing level that we created, I think it's fair to say that the group project didn't go as smoothly as we hope we would. We were plagued by sickness alot, leading to some of us not showing up for ages, it's odd how much bad mojo, we were a decent lot of people, there was little conflict and what led to any conflict was due to our unbelivably bad luck. Now I'm not making any excuses, we should have prepared for the worse, and I'm sure everyone takes responsibility for their own personal downfalls but it does feel we had the odds stacked against us. Our biggest concern really was communication, we barely communicated outside the blog and labs and that's where I think a good deal of our problems lay (it was particularly bad for me, as my phone doesn't seem to work anymore D:) so I'd like to see how a project would result if we used a much more active platform, looking at other groups the forum approach worked wonders.

With that said, I'm pleased with how the level turned out, I didn't have much involvement outside of brainstorming some minute ideas, modelling and unreal effects but I still did enjoy the experience despite my lack of contribution which I sorely regret (personal complex must sort that out later). It was refreshing to work with a team and is an experience I'd like to try again with a brand new outlook that learns on our past mistakes.

As for me, I'm still not entirely sure I've done enough when I look at other groups contributions, but there was only so much I could do in our small level and with my particularly low skill level, but I do feel things like the pipes make up I guess considering how I made them into a kit of sorts to be implemented around the level and my sexy badass fire. Though I do wish I did more but that's my own fault for not being vocal enough. Which leads to what I would have done differently in the project, I guess in hindsight, set up the forum, be more vocal with my ideas and generally interact and work more with other team members, working in a group was a big hurdle for me, and while I may not have been the most engaging it does feel like I've made a huge personal leap.

2nd Year Round up

With the End of the year arising, I've taken the time to look back at this year, and it's fair to say, it's been a pretty bad one mind you, what started as a clean slate, something I could jump on, I was a damn enthusiastic guy at the beginning of this year, I was doing work on time, I had everything scheduled so I wouldn't fall behind, then BAM unforseen circumstances completely threw me off my game, I was a wreck of anxiety and stess, work piled up on me and I couldn't keep up with it, fair to say it's pretty much been the same up till now, while I have been doing my share of work, due to stress and being sick a lot of some odd reason, my mind and work has been all over the place. These past few weeks, have been somewhat a haven for me, it's the first time in ages I feel I have had a steady production rate of work. It's also where I've started to become more comfortable with 3d work.

The group project while sketchy due to our lack of focus has come out well, and has left me with a better understanding of 3ds Max, I've managed to speed up my work time, and while my work isn't the best, when comapring with how I was at the start of the year, it may not be much but I really have improved. I also have a fondness for Unreal, after playing with particle effects and water effects and playing with my assets in game I couldn't help but feel giddy and want to make more. It's truly an amazing engine, intimidating at first for sure but when you have used it for a while, it's like a dream, still it's a bitch to handle at times.

I'm awfully unsure of how well I will do come assesment time, though whatever the case, despite many problems I've faced, I've come to the realisation that I desperetly want to work in the games industry, it's not just OMG GAMES GLEEEEEEEEEE~ now, it's something else, watching my friends play games, seeing how such amazing things are coming out of the games industry, the innovation, the engines, the styles, it just makes me want a piece of that action. Hopefully I have what it takes to get there, whatever route it may be, I want in.


I'm sure a majority of you have heard abouut the recent controversy surrounding Activision and Infinity Ward, as someone who has yet to enter the industry don't you feel somewhat unnerved. Back in the day you would always see in movies the supposed inner workings of companies, being run by greedy fatcats and so much underhanded business that you feel dirty just hearing about it, but to me that just felt like a gross exaggeration for entertainment's sake, hearing how activision has acted as well as the nefarious dealings of Bob Kotick, I fear that it's a rather striking truth.

For those not in the now the incident involved the unfair departure of two of Infinity Ward's top honchos, a dick of a move by Activision who had just received an amazing reception to Modern Warfare 2. It turns out it was due to creative differences with Activision wanting more COD games and basically cheat IW out of the Modern Warfare Brand, but Activision being the greedy trope lovers they are decided that instead of accomadating IW, they simply cut them loose unexpectedly, abruptly firing the two studio heads.

I know the games industry isn't exactly the safest industry in the world, and I should really expect this to happen at least once in my career, but I thought the games industry was above this petty stuff, cutting off one of your best devs for such a thing is both an rnderhanded and immature move. Hopefully it turns out alright for the IW staff involved, and thanks to other IW staff leaving, that Activision learn how to better treat their Devs.

"The goal that I had in bringing a lot of the packaged goods folks that we brought into Activision 10 years ago was to take all the fun out making video games. I think we've definitely been able to instill in the culture the skepticism and pessimism and fear that you should have in an economy like we're in today."

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Hold Right to Move

So I was watching my housemate play Nier the other day, and I was surprised to find the manly Square Enix game had a plethora of 2D game modes, much akin to the scrollers or vertical shooters. One Level especially got to me, it took place in an underground bunker, it was full of robots and what not doing their "I'm going to kill you" business, while watching my housemate skilfully dispatch these bots she hopped onto a mine cart triggering a top down view and the game proceeded to play like a virtual shooter, even the projectiles enemies shoot are so simple looking that you swear that you've entered a weird amalgamation of an adventure game and Ikaruga.

"The only damn screenshot I could find of 2d nier"

While that did surprise me then, in hindsight it's not that odd, developers have started to really take a liking towards 2d scrollers once again. With the dawn of networks like Xbox Live Arcade and PSN, smaller developers have used the size limit to create truly inspiring side scrollers, even larger companies have used this to their advantage, such as the Retro 2D Megaman 9 and 10 games and the upcoming Sonic 4, even Lara Croft is taking a step towards the world of side scrollers.

"Old Nu skool?"

In a world where gaming has gotten awfully complicated and complex (looking at you heavy rain) it's no wonder that they would return to a more simplified state, though I suspect that it really is just a phase the industry is going through much like that cool hat you use to wear with Megaman 10, despite being quite good, has begun to make gamers clamour for a departure from the retro world. Which I hope results in Megaman Legends 3, which I need...BAD!



The Wii is often met with criticism in the gaming industry, from the hardcore gamers to people in the industry, it's fair to say that the Wii's image in the public gaming eye is not that great. However despite that it retains a fairly respectable lead in sales, now why is that? To look at it, we must look from the viewpoint of a casual gamer. As you know, the wii has a fair amount of shovelware, games that are simple spunked up minigames, there are countless amounts of these buggers floating around, and despite the whole premise of these quick buck games, they're snatched up like hot pies.

The Reason? It's not the games themselves that attract these casual gamers, it's the novelty of a motion controlled gaming's the innovative nature of the wii that keeps causal gamers playing as well as being a main interest in the gaming community when it was announced all those years ago. Despite how it's treated now with companies like Ubisoft giving a massive meh, The Wii is a revolutionary piece of kit, sure graphics wise it's nothing but a souped up gamecube but the idea of a motion controller was something that had only previously been a novelty, a passing trend (oh poor gametrac).

"We hardly knew thee...."

It successfully brought Motion controlled gaming to mainstream entertainment, and its impact is surely felt in the industry with Microsoft and Sony's latest ventures of Natal and Move (Move especially those cheeky gits) which aim to take the experience offered by the Wii to a next generation. Hopefully unlike the wii these ventures won't turn into a shovelware bonanza.

So all that's left to say is speculation on how it'll go from here. With kits like natal coming out, is the age of the simple controller passing on? Will it turn into something like eXistenZ with its full on Virtual Reality environment. Only time will tell.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Self Motivation and Time Management

First of all, I apologise for the rather personal outlook I put on this journal, but its been a subject that I've been meaning to get off my chest for a long time.

Self Motivation and Time Management.
These are two aspects of work that I find myself having a lot of trouble with, over the years I have become awfully complacent, procrastinating at every end, and I think to a degree I have become somewhat addicted to the internet, in all I really get distracted easily from the tasks at hand, which in my case would be university work.

I don't think I'm alone when it comes to lack of self motivation and time management, after doing some research leading me to some self motivational sites, I found some sites where their reasons for the lack of motivation, certainly rings home. Here's a list of reasons I found on one particular site:

1. Lack of Confidence

2. Lack of Focus

3. Lack of Direction

I think these describe where I am at the moment quite well, looking back at how I was when I first started university, I was enthusiastic I believed I could do great things, I was doing work on time and learning, however as time passed and I find myself not being so articulate with the likes of 3dstudio max say compared to my peers, I feel like I have barely accomplished anything. I understand that being in the game artist field I shouldn't really be thinking that, and I really don't want to but at times it really does cloud my mind.

However in my opinion it is the last two points which I think mostly lead to the lack of self motivation. Focus in particular, a lack of focus is a huge problem it leaves a person without a cause, making them believe their actions to be useless in the process if all they are working towards is nothing. In the case of our game course it's to become professional game artists, which I think helps with the overall focus of students, but there is a down side to this, one site described the lack of focus on ambitions due to a person focusing more on the failures of such ambitions. Using the course as an example we have "I will Fail and become a useless artist" "My skills are poor, how can I thrive in such a business" or actually in some cases "Can I handle the Game Art Industry with all its harsh conditions" which is only backed up by news of millions of workers being made redundant. While it may not necessarily affect me in the long term since I still have years to go, I feel like my goal of becoming a game artist somewhat wander, it does not help that becoming a game artist is my first truly strong ambition, for someone like me where for the majority of my life I had only thought about becoming an artist in whatever field, sticking to a career choice was a hard one yet one I'm willing to uphold.

I'm one who can be easily removed of his focus if I have other things in my mind, when my grandmother died I was distraught and the thought still makes me feel empty, these kind of thoughts almost make me lose focus instantly, worrying more about changes in my life as well my family and how they'll cope with the loss. While I do not blame it for my lack of self motivation, I can't help it when such news moves me so and take up most of my focus.
Which leads to how such things could be averted, at times I try to be optimistic, but usually it comes off hollow and mute, but the key to keeping focus is to aim for the grander things in life and as corny as it seem believe in your abilities to do so. Like in my case I should be focusing on my career goals, I should put aside my fears and really put all focus into what I want, the idea of going in with the idea of no defeat can be attributed here into the mental state I should use to approach work where I cannot focus on the failures but on the positive outcomes of my work, if my work is bad I should think about how to improve it, if I fail, think of a way to get you back on track. The key point here is to not accept defeat.

This brings me to the final point in the list, Lack of Direction, even if you have optimistic ideals if you go about them wrongly it will not lead to the desired results. If you have no idea of the importance of certain activities it can often lead to procrastination, something I am awfully guilty of. The site where I got the list from has an interesting take on how a blogger can lose focus when aiming to having a popular blog, they read more about how to make the ultimate blog than spending their time in actually making the thing. I guess this can be attributed to artists in that they can spend hours upon hours reading up on the latest techniques but in the end getting nowhere as they have failed to attempt to even practice these techniques. This is where it is important to prioritise your activities, because as it is, it is very easy to be distracted, in my case the internet itself where I spend more time ogling other people's work than working on my own or doing filler activities like checking my emails or replying to messages on facebook.
It is here where it is important to always have your important tasks on mind to avoid forgetting about them and leading to procrastination. For university students such as I the main priority will always be university work, which is something I too often forget. In fact so that I am reminded of so, these are what an artist in general should hold in priorities hierarchy;

1. If any work is to be handed in, be it university related, or even a commission or work, if there's a deadline, you must finish that work.
2. Practice, The more you practice the better you can be at providing quality work.
3. Everything else, this may seem vague but when my goal is to become a game artist I believe it's my work that will get me remotely anywhere in the industry.

I think not having such a complicated list is perfect to tackle this, it leaves your focus to be clear and precise. Which leads me to the next topic at hand, time management.
After all that, while you may have the motivation to do something, dedicating time to the wrong things or losing your focus because you have no clear time scale can lead to procrastination. I guess in a way it puts your priorities into perspective. It would be no good if you spend all your time working, while productive can lead to poor results because of fatigue, and well general burnout, there is only enough work one can handle and at times you should take a rest. This is where time management comes into play, you should organise your day around your priorities, create a timetable of sorts for you daily routine. This is where I have faltered in the past, I do not plan my days, it's always do what I do when it happens, which isn't a healthy lifestyle at all, there must be some degree of planning or else things like work can be overlooked.
To begin with recognise and understand your priorities, work should really come first in my case so I should dedicate the majority of my free time after classes to do some extra work, practice my skills etc, after I have planned that I can set aside time for other things like socialising or playing games. There is also the 80/20 rule, this rule states that 80 percent of our typical activities contribute less than 20 percent to the value of our work, so if you do the 20 percent of important activities you will get the most value out of your work. To follow the rule you should look at important urgent tasks first, ones that are more likely to get you into trouble or cause future problems, once they're out of the way you look at important long term tasks, if you work on these over time the quality of your work will be much better than if you prioritised these over the urgent tasks, and what follows is as I said before all leisure.

So in short to prevent a lack of self motivation and time management, one must have a clear grasp of goals and ideals and prioritise and balance the work that is needed to achieve them, it's no use going all out with work as it can lead to burnout, if you are aware of such things it can prevent wasting time and procrastination as you'll have a better grasp and control over the time you spend towards your goals.