Tuesday, 3 May 2011

In All This Chaos




Team Reflection..

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The trials and tribulations of Team Drowning Fish didn't actually involve much water…

One things I want to discuss was my teams decision not to appoint a leader. It was a big’un that had both positive and negative outcomes. Giving us equal power in the team meant that we made decisions in unity. Everything was discussed as a whole, so the final level had all of our input and personalities in. This point had a drawback however. Having numerous weekly meetings meant we spent too much time talking and not enough time getting the work done.

One point that was made was that the whole team had big personalities, so we should all have an equal say. I think, to a degree, this worked out. Having confident team members meant the ideas kept churning and problems were always dealt with head on rather than skirted around because of shyness. This however had a huge drawback.. Big personalities mean there will always be an element of competition to have your say. Unfortunately this was very evident in our team. Members often found it hard to communicate when it came to certain aspects of the project and this often lead to disagreements. At the height of this friction there was a big argument in the labs that left all of the team split apart and we never really mended after that.

I think I am fairly good in social situations and as both of my parents are child psychologists (imagine growing up in that environment) I’ve been taught from an early age how to deal with different people and act appropriately when an individual is angry or unhappy. This knowledge helped me and awful lot in the team project. Working in a team is all about compromise and  communication and our team had problems with  the former. Half of the group believed we should go one way, the other half disagreed. Often this resulted in two separate paths being taken and having to patch up the mess in the end, which wasted time and patience on all fronts. A leader would have been much better in this situation, as the final decision would be up to them, and the team could work as a whole again.

In conclusion, I think it would have been better to have a team leader appointed. Towards the end, one member acted as leader anyway as is natural when a group of people have to work in a team. It would have been easier to appoint this member as team leader in the first place, as they would have gained respect rather than having to lead from a sheltered point constantly being berated for any decisions he had to make on his own! This would have added structure to our meetings too, as we ended up going on a tangent for hours on end about something off topic.

I enjoyed the social side of this project. Having a group there to discuss ideas and problems with really motivated me into getting my work done. The support structure a team provides really leads to quicker growth, I could feel myself absorbing everything my team mates told me like a sponge. It was lovely working with such knowledgeable people, and the stress of deadlines really brings you closer as friends. On the other hand, working with other students is HELL . It was certainly a useful experience in preparation for the industry though, even if I have lost most of my soul in the process.


Where on EARTH did that last year go? No seriously, it flew by!

The last 6 months have been the strangest I have ever experienced. So much has changed and I feel like a completely different person! In January I broke up with my boyfriend of nearly 5 years, which completely changed my out look on everything I done. At the start of the year I found my self at a loss. I had built up this personality over those years that was appropriate to my circumstances, and here I was, thrown in to the single life without a life belt. I felt like I had no identity. So I made one up.. What an emotional rollercoaster those first few months were. I am just so glad I didn't just give up on uni all together.

I spent the start of the year going a little wild (in my books anyway!).. travelling up to Coventry on most weekend’s to party with my friends and then coming home and isolating myself from my house mates (one of which being my ex.. oohh complicated!) and spending most of my time out of the house.  I’m not sure how.. but I kept up with the uni team project quite well.. Everything else just sort of.. fell apart.

When March came around and the Blitz open day loomed it dawned on me that this is what I wanted.. That was that really. I have paid for those months of partying though, I have had a lot of catching up to do.. But here I am!

I swear my life is so dramatic sometimes… Which is strange because I’m really not a dramatic person. I just find myself in strange situations that I deal with by laughing and just seeing the funny side of  it. What else can you do?!

Moving on..

The team project was just… STRESSFULL. That is the only word for it really. Despite this I learnt invaluable lessons and worked with some really inspirational peers. Working in a team definitely had its perks! The sense of humour in our group was really brilliant, I've had some hilarious conversations and it was great getting on so well with people I would have otherwise hardly spoken too. It was also brilliant have a support system there for you 24/7 (literally, game art students never sleep). It felt so much more easier to work in that environment rather than sat along in your room constantly worrying what you are doing is wrong! I think I’ll write a blog about the team project actually.. I have a bit to say on the matter!

Moving on.. again..

The Blitz open day gave me exactly the feedback I needed to shift my focus away from partying and back on to my work and future career. I had some truly great feedback on that trip, it was possibly the best experience of the year. The advice given was priceless. I went in with little to no confidence in my work, and left feeling positively ecstatic about the future. Sounds like overkill right? But all the way back I couldn't stop talking about  what a great day I had!

I now have two professional opinions on what I need to do to strengthen my portfolio. I have met some inspiration people in the industry and also some of my potential peers I may be pitching against! And let me tell you, the quality of work was astounding. But strangely, I didn't feel intimidated! I just felt this almighty push towards my final goal. I finally felt like all of this was achievable… and its ALL on my back. But I’m strong enough to take it. Easy peasey, mate.


Life Changing or Career Building?

This course is the best thing that has ever happened to me. Since getting a place my artwork has improved at an incredible rate. My 3D modelling skills have gone from absolute zilch to moderately good in two years. I am so very proud to be part of it really, and I’m proud that I am still here, despite the mahusive cull of last year.

Even if I don’t pass this year, I have learnt one incredible lesson. Practise is the key. Whatever the tutor’s teach us, whatever the industry thinks it wants you to know.. if you show passion, dedication and promise, you will be employed. If you get turned down by the first lot of suckers, just keep at it, keep polishing those skills and eventually someone will spot it in your work.

I think the fundamentals of art and modelling are the most important aspects of the course to me. In order to find passion you must understand the thing you are studying. Once you are proficient enough in the basics of everything you can specialise on your own. If a student has found a love of concept art, for example, they will spend all of the time they are willing to give up on the skill. Which will turn them into a skilled artist. They won’t be able to reach this point if they haven't got a good grasp on the fundamentals of art!


In terms of being taught technical skills that are only relevant here and now, what on Earth is the point?! Surely by the time we graduate those skills will be halfway towards worthless. Our time would be better off being spent on how to understand colour theory or how to handle foreshortening! These are the skills that will be useful when the next software update comes out and you find your old technical knowledge dismissed as old news. True traditional art skills will never be worthless to employers. Time and time again I hear how important it is to make good visual decisions, these don’t come naturally and must be learnt through practise!

Now, don’t get me wrong. Having a good up to date knowledge of the technical skills that are being used right now will always useful, this is a game art course after all. The modelling part is extremely important, but it is also dynamic and ever changing. It seems like a waste of time constantly catching up with the new craze when the slightly older one is very similar. Especially if it still teaches you the necessary skills just with a different set of buttons! I think finding your way around a 3D space and getting used to the different processes you will be using in the industry is more important than being the big boy with the brand new toy.. Or big girl, for that matter.


Oh.. Hullo again creativity. What is it, the third meet already? I think your stalking me.. go away.

I refuse to look at my first creativity two posts, I’m scared those words will bounce around my brain and subconsciously gloop  into this blog. Here goes..

creative quote

“We are the facilitators of our own creative evolution.”

-Bill Hicks.

Get ready for a decisive blog.. I'm in that kind of mood.

Everyone is creative. No one is any more creative than the next person and if they appear so it is simply because your own view of creativity is different to mine. Some may say that a fine artist is more creative than a mathematician, but maths is a creative pursuit in itself. It takes an incredible grasp of pattern and logic to handle numbers, you have to think outside the box to solve problems and equations. Isn't that just as creative as putting pen to paper?

Is a dust bin man any less creative than a composer? I don’t think so. The dustbin man has chosen to pursue a career that doesn't involve much creative thinking, but were he to come across a problem with the truck that needed fixing, he would show far more creativity than the composer would if he were in the same situation. The dustbin man would fix the problem with skill he feels comfortable and practised in. The composer would stand on the road side dumbfounded.

How do I show my creativity as an artist? By creating something that's from the heart despite having a fear of criticism and rejection. Simply by expressing myself through art I feel like I show creativity. Every time I pick up a pencil and draw, no matter what the outcome looks like, I have gone through a creative process. By being passionate and consistent with this creativity I think I am beginning to show talent. How would I expect it to be acknowledged by others? If I thought too much about that, I don’t think I would be an artist.

I think creativity requires confidence. And once that confidence is found, anything you put your mind to will seem like you do so with a creative flare.

This is also what I think the fundamental difference between creativity and talent consists of. Creativity is having the confidence to pick up a pencil and put it to paper, anything you produce will display creativity whether your 3 and drawing a spud with legs, or 29 drawing an illustration for a magazine article. Talent, however, shows itself with practise and passion. The more you practise, the more talented you appear. The more passionate you are, the more you practise.

This music..



…makes me want to draw.

Game Engines

Game engines appear intimidating to the naked eye, but when you open up the software and have a gander… they continue to intimidate. Opening up Unreal gave me the same feeling of being out of my depth that 3DS Max did on my first day at uni. But here I am, handling Max like I’ve been using it for years. Over the Summer, I am determined to make UDK like me… or at least tolerate me having a tinker with its settings.

Engines are pretty darn important, they provide the tools to blend all the different elements of a game together. They..err.. drive them, if you will. There are a fair few out, as you can imagine, each with their very own list of perks.

The Unreal engine is the first example that comes to mind (I wonder why). It’s a very popular engine that has been around since 1998. Since then it seems like piles and piles of companies have used some element of unreal to run their game. From Bioshock to Brother bear. It’s even used by companies who already have their own in house engines,for example BioWare, Ubisoft and EA have all used a modified version in some games.  This is possibly because it works out relatively cheaper to use than creating a game from scratch.

Cryteks, Cryengine makes absolutely beautiful games and can be thanked for visuals such as this:


Unlike most other engines, the Cryengine does not need any middleware and can support its own physics, sound and animations.  Always a plus.

The RAGE engine ( I enjoyed typing out that work in capitals, I need to get out more) which created Red Dead Redemption seems to be exciting new blood. This newborn engine has the ability to handle large worlds, weather effects and a range of game play genres. And of course, the fact that is still growing shows promise of bigger, badder things to come! Here's some purdy pictures:



I’m going to finish off on a favourite. Naughty Dog Game Engine. Uncharted 2. Om nom..

I talk about this game waaaaaay too much, but I think it demonstrates exactly what the games industry can do. That game is just so visually stunning, it’s one of the only games I could sit and watch someone play for hours on end. I think it just shows what a good engine in the right hands is capable of.



The environments just look so crisp and believable, the animation on the vegetation is ultra realistic and the mood they have created with the lighting and colour schemes just hits you each time you enter a new level. Every single aspect has been put together perfectly to create an environment that invigorates your senses. That sounded like a herbal essences campaign but you now understand my passion.  I WANT TO MAKE GAMES LIKE THIS ONE.