Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Game engines, whatever they are...

Game engines consist of multiple components that combine to form a playable game; such as graphics, physics, sound, lighting etc. Instead of starting from scratch for every game, the other option is to buy and customise ‘middleware’ therefore saving a lot of time. Producing sequels is a clear way of saving time and money by re-using the same engine and just updating and improving from the previous game.

The Unreal engine is popular for next-gen development and has been used successfully to produce memorable games such as Gears of War, Bioshock and Mass Effect. Companies don’t always want to use another engine so if they choose to create their own, it may allow greater flexibility but is obviously more time consuming.

On the other end of the scale are more simple and accessible ‘point and click’ engines. Game Maker is an example that I know of. They are currently using this on the Dmu Games Programming course to teach basic coding, but engines like these are very limiting as to what can be achieved. You can, however, create games quickly and as we all know, sometimes the most simple of games can be the most fun and addicitve.

When it comes to expectations for next-gen engines, there will always have to be compromise to what can be achieved because, as said, players will never accept slower framrate over better quality.
Looking at a feature on a next-gen engine, it seems that the improvements are being implemented through shaders, speculars, normal mapping, motion blur and (body)physics. These improvements are even better complimented with the advancement of technology and the shiny prettyness of HDTV, hoorah.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Diversity or distraction?

Gaming culture is a large part of modern society and can be overlooked by outsiders as a lazy, anti-social hobby. It is far from that. As technology and the internet is more available to us than ever before, we find ourselves plunged into a network of friends and gamers alike. Any other form of entertainment is saturated with media, and gaming is now, no exception.

Adverts, celebrities, bus banners; gaming is a significant part of pop culture today. It has more widespread appeal with innovations that allow you to attempt to get fit, have fun with your family or play handheld during your lunch break. You can also just talk to friends or make new ones.

Of course, the point of anti-social behaviour is one that does exist but I believe it not a responsibilty that gaming culture should carry, it is that of the individual or indeed, the parents.
Cultures have spawned new ways of interacting such as LAN events, machinima teams, clan competitions and so on. What other form of entertainment brings people together in so many ways?

I think gaming culture is like any other, with levels of submersion which range to the extreme. It doesn't occupy too much of my life but it is my main hobby. I watch machinima from time to time and read gaming based online comics. All in all, it's better than watching Eastenders, but then again, what isn't.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Weather to be afraid of

The Mist. This makes two films which have affected me recently. The other one was The Orphanage.
The Mist was beyond what I ever expected from a film named after a weather effect. I'm not even sure what to say, the ending was just completely and utterly heart-wrenchingly tragic. It was the type of ending where you just sit there thinking - and so on for a few days.
As for the creatures, they almost took a back seat compared to the violence of the people. It was about half and half by the time the others took off in the car.
It seems to be a film concentrated on the varying pschology of human beings, our reactions in extreme situations and the influence of others.
The decision whether to put your life in the hands of others or your own in this event came with questionable reasoning. It was shocking and unbelievable at times but that's what makes for a good film when it comes down to it.
I really want to watch it again but, I really don't.

I recommend watching the orphanage aswell unless you have a tendancy of paranoia when it comes to horror films, like myself.
Again, an ending not to be missed, but a disturbing path along the way. I won't go into details because I feel the paranoia coming back lol, just watch it.

The Games Industry in all its terrifying glory

Despite the boom of console sales rocketing in the past couple of years and the alleged invulnerability of the game industry in current economic climates, it is becoming apparent that this is not the case. People who have worked in the industry for even 10 years are finding themselves job hunting without success after whole studios have been closed.
The slightest differences can tip the scales in interviews now, with it being as small as personal interests.

Whilst we feel sorry for the professionals, just think what it means for game related graduates this year and maybe next. Not only do we have to compete with the thousands of other graduates, we may have to compete with much more experienced and trusted professionals.
Then there's outsourcing; from what I have found, it seems there are both advantages and disadvantages from choosing this option. While it may be cheaper, it also takes longer to communicate because of distance and language barriers. This is only from the companies point of view. From our p-o-v, however, doesn't that mean a lower rate of employment for us? Tell me if I'm wrong.

Outsourcing is also more probable in sequels because of the knowledge workers already have of the previous game and even in games from films because the style can be more easily established from the film itself instead of starting from scratch and taking a risk which is the last thing companies want to do at the moment.

Outsourcing will continue to grow in the future and so may the recession, so the only thing we can do is work damn hard!

Wednesday, 14 January 2009


When I first found out about courses on game design, I thought 'brilliant, games and art, how good is that?' I was enthusiastic, thought I had finally found what I wanted to do in life.

Don't get me wrong I still do but I have to admit I was the kind of person who just liked the idea of working with games without truly knowing what it involved, forgetting that they have strict deadlines too. I had literally no idea about the 3d side and I should've done more research.

I'm not making excuses for myself, I just feel like I wasn't prepared for this, for the amount of work, for anything. University is anything but fun. I think these three years are going to test me mentally, emotionally and physically! My hands are falling apart from the cold :/

I really do want this though. I still primarily love character design so when I finally get the hang of anatomy, I want to create my own. I like painting in photoshop but I need the confidence to stop using my sketch in the background just to hold my pieces together. 3ds max, well, what a bloody learning curve, but I have just caught up. I must've put at least 15 hours into my medieval building so you can't blame me for lack of trying. Or is that not enough?

I don't think I can bare being told how crap we are again and how little jobs there are for us and how many other people are competing with us and so on. I know it's for our own good though and in some respect I appreciate that. I can't help feeling low. Being proud of work makes you feel good however so maybe I should keep that in mind.

I actually used to want to design clothes despite my lack of interest in fashion, what a joke. I then realised I was afraid of sewing machines... and that was the end of that. I've tried playing drums, guitar, keyboard but virtually given up on everything for lack of effort.
I'm too nonchalant about life and I'm going nowhere with that attitude. I need to relight my passion for being creative and successful and learn to take critisism in my stride.

Anyway, this has been a bit of self reflection and critique, I think it helps to write these things down sometimes.

Monday, 12 January 2009

Creative in writing

"Creative individuals alternate between imagination and fantasy at one end, and a rooted sense of reality at the other".

This sentence is a good starting point. I feel it is the core definition from which to build upon. There are many defining characteristics of creative people yet it lies in all of us; for those who can use their imagination at least.

It is a characteristic that is applied in many ways. Often associated with art & graphics and the likes, yet it is prominent in so much more than that. The 'creative industry' just has a lot more freedom because that is its speciality.

Intelligence and mental health have been connected to 'theories' of creativity, so to speak. It makes sense that the more you know about the hows and whys of the world, the more plausible creations you will produce. As for mental health, manic depression has been present in famous poets, writers and artists. This may have affected their work in a strong emotional or delusional way, I can't be sure.

There are so many ways to look at the term creativity, from originality and level of detail to efficiency and design etc., and these all have different levels of importance depending on what the situation calls for.

Creativity can produce nothing of worth yet this world would be nothing without it. Without the desire to create, how would we progress as a race?

Because creativity is often adressed for its uniqueness, games described in this way are ones that appear to think out of the box, even if marginally. It can show itself through any aspect of producing a game - colour design, characters and how they move, narrative and so on, yet they are rarely all unique in one game alone.
Technical constraints are an issue but not neccessarily a bad one. They force us to find another way to think, another way to solve a problem. Many creative people are acknowledged so because they think differently and in the Game industry it's a sorely needed breath of fresh air.