Saturday, 27 March 2010

Are You Happy?



Game Edu-macators…

‘There are three good reasons to be a teacher - June, July, and August.’ ~Author Unknown


Both of my parents are/have been teachers of Sociology/Psychology, and both grew tired of  their jobs.  Its not the students they dislike, in fact both speak of the joy they get out of providing knowledge and support. What grates on them is the mix of admin and managers. I can’t imagine how difficult it is teaching any subject and I have respect for anyone who chooses the profession. Kudos to you!

'Why spend three years teaching folk what we already know?'
Warren Spector, GDC 2006

Because, Warren, us folk don’t know. I have only just noticed what a pants art education I have endured. I ended up teaching myself how to render, how to draw in perspective and how to plan a project. In sixth form we had no teacher for our first year and depended on a temp to get us through. The most I have to thank my A-level art for is a small dose of colour theory, but that was only after I complained about having no teacher and asked a knowledgeable supply to show me the basics! I accept this is probably an extreme case, but I’m also guessing the average art student lacks most of the basic skills in drawing.

In Fine Art courses, you are encouraged to make art that is stylised. Unless you make it your task to learn the fundamentals of drawing and base your art around real life, you won’t gain the skill’s you need to be in the industry. So here lies a problem. If students are leaving college with limited talent in art, where do they learn how to technically draw?

A liberal arts education is a good thing to have. It can create a well rounded person with a strong mind. Having knowledge in a range of subjects, I believe, accentuates the imagination and creativity. It also equips the skills needed for leadership and problem solving, both of which are important in the industry. But it doesn't teach you to draw with accuracy. It doesn’t explain to you what the chaos of buttons do on 3DS Max.  It doesn’t teach you how to learn from criticism.

A quote from the Skillset website describing the DMU Game Art course:

“The course enjoys input from leading industry professionals to ensure that the experience is relevant, realistic and incorporates the latest developments. In year 3, students undertake professional briefs and a major personal project that fully prepare them for industry

Well that solves it then.

Thursday, 25 March 2010


Okay! So lets get the cliché out of the way:

Like many other people, this scene marked a major point in my gaming life. The tears flowed, not as Sephiroth speared her, but when the materia hit the floor. As soon as her music began to chime, I instantly felt like my mother had died.

The original "One Winged Angel" by Nobuo Uematsu still makes my spine tingle with anticipation when heard on my mp3. The adaptation for Advent Children was rather awesome too. The fight scenes in this film are so cooool!

Please excuse the cringe worthy American dub. But you may now breathe a sigh of relief as that finalises my FF VII appreciation.

The absence of music in games can also make a resounding impression. Ico created an atmosphere by using hardly any music at all. Often you are only accompanied by the murmur of a distant ocean, or the howling wind. This accompanied with the large baron levels greatly amplifies the feeling of isolation.

Amazingly, this is the only video I could find that hasn’t been tampered with. I don’t know why Yootoobers find it necessary to splat ill-fitting pop music over videos that that have absolutely no relevance to the topic. *shakes fist*

WARNING: Here is where I depart from the subject….

I recently discovered that the European and American versions of Final Fantasy XIII will have the original Japanese theme tune switched out for a song off of a Leona Lewis album. This irks me for a couple of reasons…

The song sucks.

Why could they not just translate the original Japanese version into English? FF XII had the English version of “Kiss Me Good-Bye” and it fit the game pretty well. Traditionally the themes are written for the game, but this song has just been borrowed off of her album. Come on, at least write a new one!

When producer Yoshinori Kitase and director Motomu Toriyama were asked why they chose the theme they said that it “would bring the game closer to the player and depart from the idea that Final Fantasy is a game that comes from overseas.” lol, wtf.

If they are that bothered about westernising the game, why keep the dudes with crazy hair and disproportionate weapons? Maybe try making the irritating American voiceovers more relatable. Or just accept that it’s a Japanese game and give us a subtitled version… please?

A storm is brewing…

All day the air in Dunstable has felt charged. It makes your hairs stand on end. This is one of my favourite feelings, the anticipation before the storm, and then when it hits, the pure exhilaration.

In Malaysia, thunderstorms are far more intense. The rain that pours down in sheets feels warm against your skin and the lightening display is always fascinating to watch. Tropical storms happen so often over there that no one notices it take place. I stop whatever I am doing and stare at the sky.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Game Engines

I have several fellow geek mates that programme games, but when they have tried to explain what that actually involves, my mind starts to shutdown, and my eyes go blank. If I’m honest, I’ve never thought about how a game works… technical areas like that have always stumped me, maybe it’s because I am a pretty visual person, I can’t get a hold on numbers to save my life.

My boyfriend is in the midst of completing a physics degree and is currently ploughing through pages and pages of code. I have sat there previously, eying up his furious typing suspiciously. I am now convinced that any human that can make symbols into games must be a wizard. Or a Cyborg.

So now I sit, researching game engines and how they work. I’ll admit, this is fascinating stuff! When I sit playing a game, I have never pondered on how the shadows are being cast; how the AI is being emulated or even how the clouds are moving above my head. This is all created using a game engine.

To create a level, the designer must first create an environment. An additive environment consists of an endless void. To create a level you must seal out the void by creating a hollow object to contain you world. The Unreal Engine uses a subtractive environment. In here exists, instead, an endless mass. To create a world, the solid must be chipped away to reveal a hollow, which is then manipulated to form your world :

Companies can choose to use a pre-existing game engine, or develop one themselves. A personalised engine creates the prospect of a wholly unique game. But developing such an asset is complicated and involves a lot of the green stuff resulting in the majority of small companies opting out. And so the big companies win again: in the end the games industry will be lacking in competition, variation and motivation.

Btw, how incredible would it be to see your own artwork implemented like this?!:

Cooli ooli.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

A little something…

Sculptures created by Melissa Hirsch out of fishing line…

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Gaming Cultures


Hi, my name is Kerris, and I have never played a game online… Nor do I go on MSN.

On the other hand, I can see why some people find multiplayer attractive. It allows you to play against friends from all over the country, gives you new experiences every time you log on. It seems a lot more competitive than casual gaming, more about honing your skills. I can imagine it could be quite a laugh. But I've never joined that culture, I've never had friends who game and in turn have never felt comfortable playing against strangers.

I miss the days when games came with offline multi-player with bots. Time splitters two? Fantastic. Recently though, if you want to play anything more than the campaigns, you need at least 2 x PS3 + 2 x online compatible game = expensive and boring.

I worry a little about the social consequences of dedicated online gamers. Playing online, with others you have probably never met, ebbs away at the healthy experience you gain by talking to people in real life. I find it tricky to understand people my age who find it easy as fudge to talk over Facebook, but in the real world avoid all eye contact and become nervous jittery wrecks at the first sign of socialising.

We need to find a healthy balance. I see no harm in the odd hour of game play, stuffed in our dark student rooms eyes locked on to the screen, but once in a while, we need to venture out, absorb some rays, talk to our Nan’s.

More often then not I find myself amongst people that have no clue about who I really am… I have a boyfriend and flatmate that happen to be my complete opposites. They find it hard to do anything if it has no reward for them, and scoff at most things that they see as incorrect or boring.  They are the two people I spend 75% of my time with, and I can feel myself getting progressively lonelier.

Enough with the ‘woe is me’, what I’m trying to say is that I found a game. It’s called Flower. Recently the games I have been playing involve complexities that that create big ass decisions that shape your character and/or the opportunities you receive. I have enough of that stuff in my real life.

Flower just let’s me relax. I played the first level for an hour, though it could be completed a quarter of that time and 10 minutes in to it I felt physically lighter. I couldn't help smiling, and occasionally giggling to myself, as psychotic as it sounds. It is such a simple game. You are a single petal that floats on the wind. As you fly you pick up other petals from different flowers, in the end becoming a cloud of colour. The landscapes and music make this an unbeatable experience.

When my housemate started to play it, all he could think of was how to get all of the trophies for his collection.

…Some people just don’t get the point.