Reflection ♯10: Overwatch

Overwatch (Blizzard, 2016) is a team-based multiplayer first-person shooter developed by Blizzard Entertainment. I played it on PC but it was also released for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

It has very good playability with considerable and growing list of available characters. Its playing system have a very high and smooth curve of progress that gives good times to both, casual and hardcore players. In general the game is very polished and it has been a great success on the genre.
I have chosen to make an overview of this game due to the amount of references about Blizzard and others’ videogames that it has, linking this fact to one of the topics of the article I chose for my critical analysis, nostalgia.

First of all, it shares the game mechanics with the famous Team Fortress 2 (Valve, 2007) which was a great success and it is still played by a huge amount of players. Also, there are others elements inside the game, like the character selection screen with illustration of the character’s faces which portraits reminds character selection menu from fighting videogames like The King of Fighters (SNK, 1994). Moreover, inside the maps we found lots of references to other videogames, videogame’s culture and others Blizzard’s games. There is a map where we find an arcade full of machines as initial point, each one of them with references to blizzard’s characters in videogames that look like Metal Slug (Nazca Corporation, 1996) a classic space battle game like Halley Wars (ITL, 1991), Golden Axe (Sega, 1989), Arcanoid (Taito, 1986) and Street Fighter II (Capcom, 1987).  There are character’s designs that also have lots of references from videogames community, like D.Va which personality and phrases are related to videogames behaviour and jokes. Moreover, she wears a jumpsuit with Brand logos that remembers Professional Videogame players. There are even a direct reference to the Dark Souls’ Bonefire (FromSoftware, 2011).There are also gaming mechanics, like Soldier 76 or Widowmaker’s ultimate, which design have had inspiration on videogame’s cheaters behaviour like auto-aim or to seeing through walls.

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Another thing that I found interesting about the videogame is the animation of the characters and their design. Are very well characterised, the aesthetic have its own style and the animations are smooth and very fluid. It seems that they used a type of rigging that allows squash, stretch and deformation of character’s bones which allows a closer approach to how classic cartoons are animated.

Video from Youtube made by InorashiLoL (2016) about Overwatch’s Character deformations:

Conclusion

This game is so packed with Videogame and media references that I could continue adding examples for pages. As the article I read for my critical analysis say, it is obvious that part of the appealing of Overwatch is the use of references from other nostalgic videogames, thing that, at the least brings a smile to old gamer’s faces. The use of other videogame media or videogame world’s facts as references may bring appealing ideas to the design of characters creating new mechanics or concepts in some cases which can benefit the game as a whole. It is interesting to have this in mind when I am creating characters and environment designs so they will look more appealing to players. Also, it would be interesting to look how to make and use the type of rigging used in Overwatch which allows character deformation.

Bibliography

Overwatch (n.d.) [Online]. Available from: <https://playoverwatch.com/es-es/ > [Accessed 13/12/2016].

Overwatch Wiki (n.d.) Easter Eggs [Online]. Overwatch Wiki. Available from: <http://overwatch.gamepedia.com/Easter_eggs > [Accessed 13/12/2016].

PCGamesN (n.d.) Overwatch Easter Eggs – StarCraft, WoW and More [Online]. PCGamesN. Available from: <http://www.pcgamesn.com/overwatch/overwatch-easter-eggs > [Accessed 13/12/2016].

InorashiLoL (n.d.) I Have Seen The Face of Death [Online video]. Available from: <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-OMGog_W-2c > [Accessed 13/12/2016].

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Reflection ♯9: Zbrush Summit 2016 – Anatomy tools

I found a very interesting talk in Youtube (LINK) about anatomy modelling as part of the 2016 Zbrush summit that took place from September 30th – October 2nd at Gnomon School facilities in Los Angeles.
In it, Andrew Cawrse, founder of Anatomy tools, goes over his brilliant professional career trajectory as modeller in the Film industry working on films like Star Wars or Avatar explaining what it took to get there, how was the technology on that period and the incredible improvement that Zbrush brought to the model development in the industry.
After several years on film industry, having great opportunities of improvement, he decided to follow his own dream and founded AnatomyTools (2003), a company that tries to create the best anatomy physical desktop models available to give artists reliable sources of reference together with anatomy sources and courses to improve the comprehension and results of artist’s works. His human anatomy figures had a great success and then, he started to give courses to famous companies like Epic, Blizzard, Valve or Pixar. Nowadays, they are starting to work on more than twenty anatomy animal models.

After this, He starts what I consider the most interesting part in the talk that is the tips and advices on anatomy and 3D modelling that usually people do wrong.

First, the use of a correct Field of View (FOW) is necessary when sculpting in programs like Zbrush due to the distortion and deformation it cause in the final product. So he recommends an angle of view of 28 on Zbrush equivalent to the angle of view of humans (70-80 mm). He also recommends restudying all the muscle connections to the bones and sculpting from a living model as the optimal reference.

Second, He goes throw several mistakes made by artists like make cross-eyed characters (the model should look at a distant point at 10-15ft), The non-linearity of the muscles shapes “there are not horizontal lines in the nature” and the need of mastering the proportions of the skull, the ribcage, the hipbone and the scapula because they determine the shape of the rest of the body.

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The most interesting tip is the use of a modified Leonardo Davinci’s magic measurement technique consisting on taking the measurement of the width of the head (five eyelid width) and using it to track several important anatomy points no matter the position of the model. You then can use this measurement on Zbrush as unit of measurement and quickly determine the correct proportions of the model having a very quick, reliable and useful tool to assess your work.

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From the Question and Answer, it was interesting the tip about working on Zbrush in low resolution as far as you can to save time smoothing the model and the reference of Carlos Huante as a good artist that mixes different animal’s anatomy to create new creatures.

Carlos Huante’s work:

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Conclusion
In my opinion the part where he talks about his career trajectory was interesting as a reference of what to do to be promoted inside the film industry and also, even after achieve such goal, be able to consider changing job being brave and trying to success following your own dream it is also inspirational. It is also interesting to know about the anatomy physical desktop models they offer and the type of references some professionals use to make its own work. Regarding the utility of this talk in my own work, I will use the techniques and tips explained on it in my future work to improve them and have my character’s proportion right using a very reliable tool to assess my models.

Bibliography

Pixologic (n.d.) Official ZBrush Summit 2016 Presentation – Anatomy Tools [Online video]. Available from: <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i6KKp8UpjYI > [Accessed 03/12/2016].

AnatomyTools.com (n.d.) [Online]. Available from: <http://www.anatomytools.com/ > [Accessed 03/12/2016].

ZBrush Summit (n.d.) ZBrush Summit 2016 [Online]. ZBrush Summit. Available from: <http://summit.pixologic.com > [Accessed 03/12/2016].

Carlos Huante Art (n.d.) Artwork [Online]. Carlos Huante Art. Available from: <http://www.carlos-huante-monstruo.com/ > [Accessed 03/12/2016].

Critical Analysis: Videogames as Remediated Memories Commodified Nostalgia and Hyperreality in Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon and Gone Home

SLOAN, R.J. (2015) Videogames as Remediated Memories Commodified Nostalgia and Hyperreality in Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon and Gone HomeGames and Culture10(6), pp.527-528.

After seven generations of videogames, companies have started to detect and satisfy a growing consumer desire for nostalgic references in their products. Robin J. S.Sloan, who is a lecturer in Game Art and Design at Albertay University in Dundee, United Kingdom, makes an insightful analysis over the commercialisation of the player’s needs for retrospection and the consequences that this simulation may bring to the historical perception of the periods they try to emulate. Furthermore, a case study research was conducted where Baudrillard’s theories of consumer objects and simulation were used to analyse two highly representative of commodified nostalgia videogames: Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon (BD) and Gone Home (GH). This article was published in the 6th issue of 2015 on Games and Culture, an international journal that supports innovative theoretical and empirical research about games and culture within interactive media.

I have chosen this article because it reveals the importance of using commodified cross-media references in videogames design to make them more appealing to consumers, helping me to be aware of the inclusion of such material on my own work. Furthermore, this article is a valuable and trustworthy resource due to the author’s background as an experienced worker on videogame industry and having a PhD in animation, with a specific focus on videogame critique. Also, he has participated in several International conferences, publishing his articles in media research and study related journals like Computer Animation and Virtual Worlds (2010), Participations (2013) or Computer in Human Behavior (2014) among others.

In the two selected pages (p.527-528), after pointing out several examples of commodified games and marketing designs of videogames the author asserts that the strong necessity of consumer nostalgia for videogames could have been predicted due to the quick evolution of videogame technology and design in a very short period of time (40 years), changing the product design very fast and creating the game consumers’ need for fulfilling a nostalgic yearn for old videogames. Nevertheless, the author forgets to explain why it was not predicted ahead of time or if it was a premeditated game industry’s strategy. He continues his argument pointing out that not only old popular videogames references are being used to satisfy this nostalgic need but also cross-media referencing like music, TV or films. To support his argument he uses Jenkins’ (2006) theory of convergence to link users between different media periods and Bolter and Grusin’s (1999) theory of remediation to explain the industry strategies to appropriate older media to create the new one.  The author claims that using the techniques and rules of other media that were typical of a period, especially the late 20th and early 21th century, which are the most valuable for gamers, is a usual practice in the videogames industry to recall that time. The author proposes Bioshock Infinite (Irrational Games, 2013) as an example, where the music of the 80’s has been taken and adapted to suit early 20th-century music style. The author does not delve into if with the passing of the time, this period will change to fit new generations due to the lack of interest and knowledge and newer periods will take their place. According to the author, “historicity is replaced by an ambiguous image of the past” where this appropriation and modification of old media creates a distorted perception of history by the player that later on the article the author will coin with the term hyperreality.

The author takes BD and GH as reference videogames due to its wide use of cross-media nostalgic references in their narrative, world and promotional materials, are representatives of different scale production (AAA and Indie) and the remarkable success and acceptance they had. Both games have a very deep nostalgic background, nevertheless, BD cannot be considered a good AAA game representative as it is almost an official mod, a skin of Far Cry 3 as the author admits “…was a modification of the recently released AAA title Far Cry 3”(p.528) more than the actual AAA game. There are better options as AAA games with regards of acceptance and sales, like some of the other examples that the author already use in their article, like Bioshock Infinite which was more successful than BD but, for the needs of the author’s thesis it was easier to use a videogame intentionally packed with 80’s action film references and premeditated design as a “nostalgia game”(p.528) not a regular one.

In the case of GH the author established the videogame success and acceptance after only a month after the release which may not be sufficient to get a conclusion, as we can see in the Metacritic game’s website where the user score barely obtains an approval with a 5.4 out of 10 and have more negative users reviews than positive which contradicts the argument that was well received by consumers and critics alike.

The fact that the selection of the two videogames was made by the author decision instead of a more empiric system like analyse the games with the best critic and user score or a more random method, may be perceive as the author’s self-convenience strategy to support his thesis. Furthermore, the scarce variety of analysed examples may create doubts about if this thesis is applicable to most videogames or only are isolated cases.

In conclusion, Sloan has made a very persuasive argument giving factual examples and research in two representing videogames that support his thesis. The use of commodified nostalgia through cross-media referencing in videogames is becoming a more interesting area of development in game industry due to the attractive implications that these additions bring to the commercialisation of a product. The author statement is valid with regard to the appropriation and transformation of the representation of period consumer culture, but I think that the design of a videogame is not bound by history and its aim is to entertain the consumers through a compelling background, plot and playability and benefit from the provided entertainment. Finally, the analysis of other videogames without such an evident period media reference as BD and GH, so convenient for the author thesis, would be of interest.

 

Word count: 1018

 

Bibliography

BAUDRILLARD, J. (1994) Simulacra and simulation. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press.

BAUDRILLARD, J. (2005) The system of objects. London, England: VersoBooks.

BOLTER, J. D., & GRUSIN, R. (1999) Remediation: Understanding New Media. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

JENKINS, H. (2006) Convergence culture: Where old and new media collide. New York, NY: New York University Press.

MARVRIDOU, O. and Sloan, R.J., (2013) Playing outside the box: Transformative works and computer games as participatory culture. Participations: Journal of Audience & Reception Studies 10 (2): 246-259

SLOAN, R.J., (2015) Videogames as Remediated Memories Commodified Nostalgia and Hyperreality in Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon and Gone Home. Games and Culture, 10(6), pp.525-550.

ROBINSON, Brian, Ken Scott‐Brown, Fhionna Moore, Malcolm Cook, and Robin JS Sloan. “Choreographing emotional facial expressions.” Computer Animation and Virtual Worlds 21, no. 3-4 (2010): 203-213.

TINWELL, A. and Sloan, R.J., (2014) Children’s perception of uncanny human-like virtual characters. Computers in Human Behavior, 36, pp.286-296.

Metacritic (n.d.) Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon [Online]. Metacritic. Available from:<http://www.metacritic.com/game/xbox-360/far-cry-3-blood-dragon > [Accessed 18/11/2016].

Metacritic (n.d.) Gone Home [Online]. Metacritic. Available from:<http://www.metacritic.com/game/pc/gone-home > [Accessed 18/11/2016].

Reflection ♯8: Project “3D Printing”

The topic for the last week was “3D printing”. We had to make a 3D model and prepare it to be printed in a 3D printing machine. In the classroom we had a presentation of a functional and led illuminated Iron Man helmet printed on a 3D machine as an example of one of its uses, in this case to make films props. It also came a University member of the 3D printing department to make a presentation of the several types of 3D printers that the university have at our disposal and the specifications needed to print a 3D model on a 3D printer (STL file, minimum thickness of 2mm, hollow inside, maximum size). After the presentation we went to the 3D printing studio where we saw the 3D printers, several 3d printed examples and the different possible materials that can be used.

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As this project was very open and It was all about modelling I decided to focus on learning properly how to model on Zbrush and using the Dynamesh tool since it was necessary to make proper models. I had already issues in previous projects due to have not enough knowledge about this programme .

I started learning through a series of tutorials named “Introduction to Zbrush 4R2” made by Ryan Kingslien, founder of Zbrush Workshops spending two-three days watching this tutorials (around 30 hours of videos).

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Meanwhile, I was thinking what type of model I should do, a famous comic or videogame character or a mythological creature.

Some references from Google Images about several famous characters I was thinking to do as 3D printable model:

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As always I loved to draw dragons, I finally decided to do a bust of one. I took my own drawings as reference and selected the design I liked the most.

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I also looked for some reference of dragons on Google Images but I already liked my own drawing as they were so I didn’t make any change to them based on others work.

Other artists’ work on dragons:

After learning how to use Dynamesh, I really started to enjoy the process of sculpting in Zbrush. Finally, I could do what I had in my head and projected it on my model. Nevertheless, there were some issues with Dynamesh. Dynamesh is a tool that redistributes the polygons on the surface of the model depending on the resolution chosen. As you go up in detail is recommended increasing the amount of resolution. It is great when you do big deformations or add shapes. Nevertheless, it tends to blur or even wipe out the detail and texture having to retouch the detail each time you use it in order to not lose more and more detail each time. Alongside Dynamesh, I also used different brushes and techniques that I learned on the tutorials like creating teeth or the neck of the dragon with the Curvetube brush, cut surfaces with the Slicecurve brush or masking surfaces. I started by doing the skull of the dragon because the head was the most important and detailed part, then the jaw and finally the neck. After having the main shape, I started to add details like the teeth, horns and scales. Arrived to a point where I can’t achieve more detail with Dynamesh, I started then to subdivide the mesh, thing that  I used to use from the beginning of the process forcing the limits of the programme and my computer resources limiting the quantity of detail I could get.

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After having the model finished, I added a base to the model and started to adjust the model to print. First, I  I scaled the model to a 100mm size (the high of a standard mug that was the recommended size for the printing) then I created a reference image of a 100x100mm square on Photoshop with a 98x98mm centred on it so I knew the thickness that the model should had to have between the exterior and the interior of the shell then, I used the deflation tool and the move brush over a copy of the model till adjust it to the 2mm reference. One of the problems I had not into account was that, not only the shell had to have 2mm thick but also, the thinner part of any part of the model should be 2mm. Therefore, I used the inflate tool to try to fix the model but, as the fangs have a cone shape it was impossible to maintain that shape because it ends into a point. I liked the look the fangs I had at the beginning but, as it wouldn’t print properly, I also used the inflate brush on them.

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For the presentation, I made the postproduction using Premier 2015 (Adobe) using the videos of a turn around of the model in Zbrush and  a recording of the skyfolding process using Preform (Form Labs) with the “Main Theme” of Baldur’s Gate (Bioware, 1998) as background:

 

Conclusion

I still have to ask to the 3D printing department if my model is a viable model to be printed but, I should have chosen a better type of model to do from the start due to the 2 mm thickness printing requirements. I imagine that the best option should have been a rounded shape without borders or pointed protrusions (like fangs or horns) for example a bust of a bold human or a rounded cartoon character. Nevertheless, as my aim in this project was learning as much Zbrush modelling as I could and understand the use of Dynamesh till the point to have certain control on the model’s resolution, I think I have accomplished my objective. Of course I have still a lot of things on Zbrush to learn but understanding the use of Dynamesh has been a great step in the good direction.

 

Biblyography

ZBrushWorkshops (n.d.) [Online]. Available from: <https://www.zbrushworkshops.com/ > [Accessed 13/11/2016].

Ryan Kingslien (n.d.) ZBrush 4R2 Tip # 1: DynaMesh / Remesh [Online video]. Available from: <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SzCBQoD55y8 > [Accessed 13/11/2016].

Reflection ♯7: Project “VR-Zen”

The last week project’s topic was “Virtual Reality-Zen”. The objective was to create a 3D environment where the spectator feel a sensation of relaxation, tranquillity and meditation through different simple elements, slow animations, light, colours and transitions that induce relaxation and themes related with Zen thematic.

We had an introduction to the Oculus head set, a new technologic device that allow the user to visualize and play within virtual environments with a total immersion. We also had examples of virtual reality beyond this type of device like the Hatsume Miku concerts, where the singer is a holographic projection of a anime cartoon.

As the topic cover so many possibilities, I started by doing a list of relaxing things that I could include in my project:

-Fish pond, crickets and slosh sounds.
-Sea scene.
-Beach.
-Slowly geometry movement.
-Rocks flying around and maybe colliding.
-Butterflies flying.
-Rain.
-Some structure deconstructing itself and constructing again.
-Clouds in movement.
-Aurora Borealis
-ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response). This refers to a biological phenomenon caused by a series of sounds, like whispering or tapping the nails on a surface, that triggers and causes tingling and relaxing sensations that are felt only by a percentage of people, not everybody.

Finally, I decided to use geometric shapes that move and transform themselves slowly. I took geometric wood games, rubic’s cube and geometric origami references from Google Images for the dodecahedron and pyramid shape and movement. I also took the Tamara Kvesitadze’s “Man and Woman” moving sculpture as reference to make a cylinder made of different layers that join together to make new shapes and planetary spinners for a concentric circle figure.

Images gathered using Google Images:

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I did the modelling and animation of each piece on Maya, baked the animation and exported it to Unreal Engine. I did first all the process with the dodecahedron and I found an issue with the timeline playback on Maya, where the baked animation was slower than the previsualization playback. This was because as default Maya playback speed doesn’t come as “real-time” speed. I fixed the problem for this animation on unreal by speeding up the animation and setting it to “real-time” speed on Maya for the rest of animations.

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I decided to use a spaceship environment because I have always found the space very relaxing and it fitted very well with my slow, floating geometry figures. I modelled the spaceship room on Maya and looked for a tutorial on internet about how to change the sky sphere to a space full of stars and nebulas. I found and followed a very interesting tutorial  on FRAG Level Design Youtube channel that introduce to Spacescape (Alex Peterson), a free application that generates a good quality space skybox and how to use it on Unreal Engine.

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I duplicated some models that were not big enough to fill an entire side of the room (like the dodecahedron or the cylinder). Nevertheless, I had some problems with the size and space of the room because the animated figures went through the ceiling or the floor in some parts of the animation. Therefore, I made some adjustments on the room’s height on Maya and re-imported them to Unreal Engine.

As I wanted that the figures cast shadows while they move, I put Spot Light lightning  on each figure from above and below of each one so they cast shadows on the floor and the ceiling. I also added some yellow illumination on each one of the corners to lit the room a bit more using the last week’s recommendation of using a multiplier node on an emissive material.

I wanted to use one material for each geometry shape like metals, plastic and glass. I wanted very shinny and reflective materials that interact with the light.  I took a look for first time to Substance (Allegorithmic) and took some default materials like plastic, aluminium and gold  from it and, as I didn’t find any option on Substance that allow me to create a transparent material I looked for a tutorial on Youtube to create one directly on Unreal with blueprints. I found one on MetalGameStudios Youtube channel but after complete the tutorial the material didn’t convince me because was too transparent and it did not look as I wanted. Therefore, I started to tweak the different nodes trying to adjust the transparency. Finally, I ended creating a holographic material from the tutorial’s original glass material which fitted perfectly with the scene theme. I applied it to the spinner and two of the three cylinders.

I finally figure out how to record properly with Matinee (Unreal Engine). The problem I had was that in the Play details of the Matinee Camera Actor I had to check the option “Play on Level Load” so the camera follows the path once the recording is launched instead of stay static. I made the post-production on Premiere (Adobe) and added the song “Rainstorms and Rainbows” by Jake Chudnow to the background because its relaxing electronic music reminded me the space and fitted perfectly in the scene.

This is the final result:

 

Conclusion
In my opinion, this project has redeemed me of the bad result I think I had in the light and shadow’s project. I liked the lighting and the cast shadows I have achieved in this one. As in the Light and Shadow project, I feel that I have learnt a lot (animation baking, unreal lightning, animation, materials and skybox and also substance). I still feel quite a bit lost with the Unreal’s blueprint system. On one hand, I am not a programmer and I don’t intend to be one in the future so I feel that knowing how to use it would not improve my design skills or models as a character artist. On the other hand, Unreal engine gives a great look to the models and would be very good to know how to use it for presentations. I will learn more about it in the future because is a programme required for this course and for games in general.

 

Bibliography
Love Anime (n.d.) Let’s Go… Shake It! Hatsune Miku Live Magical Mirai 2014 in Osaka [Online video]. Available from: <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JqJgwYSh4Co > [Accessed 02/11/2016].

Oculus (n.d.) [Online]. Available from: <https://www.oculus.com/ > [Accessed 02/11/2016].

VIVETM United Kingdom | Discover Virtual Reality Beyond Imagination (n.d.) [Online]. Available from: <https://www.vive.com/uk/ > [Accessed 02/11/2016].

FRAG Level Design (n.d.) Unreal Engine 4 Tutorial: Space Skybox Creation [Online video]. Available from: <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JSRsQpRfDlk > [Accessed 06/11/2016].

Alex Peterson | Spacescape (n.d.) [Online blog]. Available from: <http://alexcpeterson.com/spacescape/ > [Accessed 06/11/2016].

MetalGameStudios (n.d.) Unreal Engine 4 Tutorial: Glass Material (English) [Online video]. Available from: <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sRQ5z8i_SV8 > [Accessed 06/11/2016].

Reflection ♯6: Project “Light and Shadows”

The topic for the last week project was “Light and Shadow”. In this project will be only assessed the lightning and effect of shadows in the scene with special interest in the projection of long shadows, silhouettes shaped by very bright lights and anything related to lighting and shadows that improve the atmosphere of the scene.
We had the chiaroscuro’s Dutch painters of the 17th and 18th centuries, like Gerrit van Honthorst or Rembrandt van Rijn, as well as several films like Casablanca (1942), Sin City (2005) or the Hitchcock’s films as examples and ideas of what to do. As examples of videogames that have an extensive use of shadows and lighting as part of the aesthetic of the game we had Limbo (Playdead, 2010), Inside (Playdead, 2016) and Metro 2033 (4A Games, 2010) among others.

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Game references:

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I am not very confident whit the area of lightning since I am not very acquainted with it. Also for doing this task it was almost mandatory the use of Unreal Engine for the light rendering part. I had not used it yet so I had to expend several hours studying the programme which delayed a lot the development of the project.
I started by gathering some references of L.A. Noire as well as old noire films shoots. I was interested in the the street props, wanting to recreate a 50’s American street where an accident or a crime happened.

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Then, I started to modelling this props of the street, like the buildings and lampposts trying to do modular elements that I could easily multiply to create a big scene. As the modelling part of the project wasn’t going to be in consideration I borrowed some models from internet that helped to save time. It was incredibly difficult to find free models that fits on my project, for example, I wanted a private detective dressing a gabardine and a fedora for the main character but I could find anything similar so, I ended taking a police officer instead, Policeman (frugurt, 2013) from TF3DM website. I also took the models Revolver (3dregenerator, 2012) and a car, Ford Thunderbird (alex38, 2013) to complete my scene, both from TF3DM website.

I had not to much problem with the revolver and the car but, for the policeman, as it did not have a skeleton I had to put in position, holding the revolver and having a more natural pose, by hand. In order to do that I used the smooth selection tool in Maya and move each part at a time (fingers, arms, shoulder,…) selecting and rotating the correct vertexes each time with a trial and error process.

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I exported my street elements to Zbrush in order to give them some protrusions to the surface so they cast shadows when they will be lit. Nevertheless, I had some issues trying to export the normal maps due to the High subdivided mesh that made crash the programme each time I tried to create them. As I was short on time, I decided to go on and do the lightning and leave the Zbrush model.

 

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When I had all the components ready, I used Unreal Engine to establish the scene by copy and pasting the modular elements to create a street in “T” shape to cut the depth of the camera shooting. After this, I put the police officer and the cars in position. Then, I started to lightning the scene by using point light (spherical projection) for the lampposts light and spotlight (cone projection) for the car lights which aimed the police officer, creating a long cast shadow and a shadow silhouette seen when the camera was behind him. I have some problems and doubts on how to make the source of the light bright since the light tools on unreal don’t make the source to be lit, like the glasses of the car, the lamppost or the street’s windows, it only give the projected illumination effect. In order to solve this problem I had to create the UVs back on Maya and create an Alpha layer to select these parts exclusively. My original idea was not create UVs and use the same material for everything as it was going to be a sort of black and white scene but due to this problem I had to go back and spend more time creating the UVs. Back again on unreal engine, I create emissive materials with the alpha layers added to each object (lamppost, building’s windows and car’s lights). I have also problems with the colour of the illumination of the building’s window because I wanted a light similar as the light going throw curtains but I could not achieve the attenuated level of light I wanted, it was too bright, so I ended using a yellowish colour instead the dark reddish colour I wanted.

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The last day I had, I tried using the Matinee tool to record a walk through the scene for the project’s presentation,   but I couldn’t figure out why the camera did not move while recording so I gave up on that. I will give it another try on future projects.

Conclusion
I am not happy with the result, but to be the first time using Unreal engine I think I have learnt a lot so, while I am not happy with the result, I am very encouraged by the process to continue learning this programme. I also lost too much time on the Zbrush modelling the wall not being able to use it at the final project. Moreover, I didn’t have in consideration that the modelling part was not going to be assessed so I could have used the time better  in things that really matter instead. After the presentation of the project, they recommended me to apply a multiplier node in the blueprint of the alpha material to create an emissive projection of the light. So, for future projects I have pending using this technique, learning how to use Matinee and improve my lighting skills on Unreal Engine.

Bibliography

Policeman – 3d Model – .obj, .c4d (n.d.) [Online]. Available from: <http://tf3dm.com/3d-model/policeman-28689.html > [Accessed 28/10/2016].

Revolver – 3d Model – .obj, .dae (n.d.) [Online]. Available from: <http://tf3dm.com/3d-model/revolver-67457.html > [Accessed 28/10/2016].

Ford Thunderbird – 3d Model – .3ds, .obj, .blend (n.d.) [Online]. Available from: <http://tf3dm.com/3d-model/ford-thunderbird-77027.html > [Accessed 28/10/2016].

Reflection ♯5: Project “Memory and nostalgia”

For this week’s Media Project assignment the topic it is about “Memory and Nostalgia”. In order to get some ideas and examples on how to get ideas to this project the lecturers suggested us to think in the deepest memory we had, the first we can recall. Mine was playing at nursery school with sand of different colours taken from different parts of the playground. For game art and design master’s students they also suggested to take some game that remind us our childhood or bring us good memories and make our own version of it. I decided to use this last resource and gather some games that not only I remember as good games but also had some memory associated to them.
I took Simon the Sorcerer (Adventure Soft, 1993), it was one of the earliest games I recall to play, The curse of Monkey Island (LucasArts, 1997), which I first time played with my sister and replayed it lots of times, and Baldur’s Gate (BioWare, 1998), which was my first contact with role playing games which I love since then, and Grim Fandango (LucasArts, 1998), the last graphic adventure I really enjoyed playing (I used to play almost only graphic adventures). From this list I chose Monkey Island because was the one which I had the fondest memories about.

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I’d started gathering some references about the characters and the different games of the saga instead of doing my own sketches first because, as the project is redoing or reconcepting a character game that already exist I thought was better to start from the source.
I decided to give the design of the characters a realistic approach to try bringing it to a more present graphic style, I took the 3D animated Tintin film, the adventures of Tintin (Steven Spielberg, 2011) as reference on how a 2D character becomes a realistic 3D one. Nevertheless, I decided to maintain some cartoonish features like proportions and  stylized design.

I draw the concept art of the two main characters, the hero, Guybrush Threepwood using the The curse of Monkey Island design and the villain, LeChuck, this last one using the design of Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge (LucasArts, 1991) with a more frightening, zombify and evil looking but maintaining the essence of the character.

 

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The result of the concept art:

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I decided to continue using Zbrush to try to get better with it but, this time starting with a high poly 3D modelled character to try getting more definition. In order to do that, I used the character “Blue” I already had from the “red chases blue” project as base because both characters share a slender body and cartoonish look. First, I modified the model in Maya to adjust the ears and head shape. Then I imported the obj. file to Zbrush and started modelling it in a more realistic way and approaching the design to my concept of Guybrush Threepwood. During the process I followed the tutorial on Faolinfalalay’s youtube channel to learn how to create cloths in Zbrush with Panel Loops.

Sculpting process:

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After modelling the cloths I used Polypaint to paint the character in Zbrush trying to use different materials (like sketchToyPlastic for the eyes, MatCap skin05 for the skin, etc.)  and using different hue to bring up life to the face and hands, using red and orange to colour the forehead, nose, lips, cheeks and knuckles. I also used more bright colours on the borders and protrusions to give more sense of depth on the whole. I Used Premiere (Adobe) for the postproduction and “Introduction & Main Titles” of The Curse of Monkey Island (Lucas Arts) as background music.

This is the final result:

Conclusion
I like the result of the project, it was a good idea to start the modelling with a model previously worked on Maya. Nevertheless, I still have some problems getting all the resolution I need to create parts like the cloth with all their folds and creases, having to increase too much the subdivisions to an extreme that the computer struggled to hold it. I think that would be good idea to give it a chance and study how DynaMesh works since I know it is related to give a sculpting approach to the modelling process giving more resolution in some way. It would be interesting to study it in depth in future projects.

 

Bibliography

faolinfalalay (n.d.) Creating Clothes & Armor With Panel Loops in Zbrush [Online video]. Available from: <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hGqMYhueyLc > [Accessed 22 /10/2016].

Bibliography ♯15: The influence of solitary and cooperative violent video game play on aggressive and prosocial behavior

JERABECK, J.M. AND FERGUSON, C.J., 2013. The influence of solitary and cooperative violent video game play on aggressive and prosocial behavior.Computers in Human Behavior29(6), pp.2573-2578.

In this source the author addresses a very studied topic: the violence on videogames affecting players’ behaviour but combining it with the aspects of cooperational games to asses if two supposedly opposed  videogame behavior influential aspects (aggressive-negative versus prosocial-positive) may counteract each other or on the contrary, one stands out from the other. The author emphasize that the majority of previous analysis have been analyzed with an invalid test (TCRTT). As a result of using a more suitable test it was determined that violence content had little impact on players behavior and the aggressive behavior decreased due to the cooperational components but it did not increase significantly the cooperative behaviour. Nevertheless, it was found that a component of relaxation was associated with cooperative play.

As creators of massive media content that may reach and influence a big number of people within a wide range of ages, we need to be aware of the impact that our design and development decisions may have on the society through this type of studies.

 

Web Source: LINK

Bibliography ♯14: An investigation of the effects of game difficulty on player enjoyment

ALEXANDER, J.T., SEAR, J. AND OIKONOMOU, A., 2013. An investigation of the effects of game difficulty on player enjoymentEntertainment Computing,4(1), pp.53-62.

In this text the author presents a study about the behavior around game difficulty on casual and experienced players to verify if some of the beliefs about this two groups are true or not and to give a deeper understanding about their difficult needs and preferences to the game development community. As a result of the research was found that the chosen difficult depends directly on the game style, a feedback is needed to make acknowledgement for the performance of the player and take in consideration the consumer target to match the learning curve and challenge needs of the consumer. There are several factors that diminish the reliability of this test such a poor number of participants or inconsistency in some data. Also, there are factors that have not been taken in consideration such as game genre, type of control, duration or competitive elements.

Taking in consideration the main customer target of a game, their needs and behaviour may help me in the production of a more suitable and enjoyable product and therefore, it would be more successful.

 

Web source: LINK

Bibliography ♯13: Measuring the level of difficulty in single player video games

APONTE, M.V., LEVIEUX, G. AND NATKIN, S., 2011. Measuring the level of difficulty in single player video gamesEntertainment Computing2(4), pp.205-213.

In this paper the author make a study of the concept of difficulty in video games and try to give useful definitions for challenges difficulty in the game context as well as a system to measuring the level of difficulty through a virtual player which would give feedback to game developers to adjust and modify different aspects of the videogame difficulty. With this system a series of data can be known, such as the probabilities of success depending on the difficulty and time, the level of ability learnt by the player in one skill, the relationship between this skills and the success of a task, the use of diverse skills in the completion of an objective.  All this information would allow the developer to adjust the difficulties without depending on real playtesting and thus, saving time.

Having a well-developed curve of difficulty is very important in the experience of a player; it allows developing its skills in the game at the same pace that the game adapts to give a suitable level of challenge. Knowing which factors affect the difficulty of a game and which in-game skills allow to surpass a challenge would help me in the development of more entertaining game mechanics and to improve the playability.

 

Web source: LINK