Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Thank You Lee Piper

As always I was very exited to attend the talk today that we have from people in the industry. Today was Lee Piper who currently works for Codemasters and was part of the team who worked on the just realised Dirt 2 racing game. Its a real golden opportunity to see into the lives of professional game developers, and to see how they got were they are today. It was nice to see what influences he had when he was a kid especialy the cartoons he showed us as they were my favourites too.. I was very interested in the free lance non game related 3D work he showed us. I can only hope these opportunities become available to me if it proves difficult to get a steady job within a development company. I could also relate to Lee when he said he prefers realism over science fiction. I was even more relieved to hear that the industry prefers artist who show a strong ability to produce realistic looking artwork. I would love to work on a racing game or even a game like Codemasters realistic war sim Operation Flash Point as I love to see how well realism can be produced in a game, and as the technology become better and better, games look more and more real each time. I've been very interested in dirt 2 lately as its one of the first released games to take advantage of direst x11. DX11 was released on window 7 and is now available on vista through an update. ATI only just released DX11 GPU's in October so its a surprise to see it so soon in a game. So well done Codemasters for taking advantage of cutting edge technology and lets hope to see more beautiful looking games just as good as this from you in the future.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Game Technology

There's nothing better than how well your favourite game plays, than seeing how good it looks to be played. As games are released they get ever more realistic to look at and new innovations and creativity in game play keep them fresh and interesting. But what about the thing we take most for granted? The hardware itself.
Since the early days of consoles we have seen controllers evolve and become more comfy to hold and allow games to be controlled with pin point accuracy among all game genres. Is it safe to say the controller has evolved to it full potential. Look at the Xbox 360 and PS3 controllers for example. The shape may be different but the layout is the same. Its only the wii as per usual to try end revolutionise, and evolve how games are played not only by the games themselves but by the way in witch we play them. Making the player use there whole body instead of there fingers stops us all becoming unfit. As ever with anything you can buy these days style and aesthetics are important, but in my opinion non more so than the interaction between the player and the game itself. New technologies now make it possible to control things with brain waves and I see this as the future for the way we play our games. I also believe one day virtual reality will in fact become a reality and these innovations will make the need to use and device to control the game redundant.
I personally prefer to play games on my PC. My favourite style of games are first person. For a pc gamer these aren't played with controllers, there controlled with the keyboard and mouse. This allows for better control and accuracy that can be achieved with the control sticks found on a controller. For your more hardcore gamer. Style and aesthetics take a back seat as getting the edge over your opponent with faster responses and better accuracy is the most important thing. So were do I see the future for PC gaming? To be honest I a m happy playing with what I have got.

Art directors

The horror stories you hear about Art directors usually entail very early mornings and very long nights or even staying over at work. Requiring vast amounts of commitment and tight deadlines to get games on the shelves. Sadly it seems this is the case, but that's what it takes when you consider the amount of work needed to complete a project. It must take a lot of talent to be able to keep a clear head and overview of what the finished game will turn out like and be able to direct every department and direction the game goes in. Its not hard to see why games end up being delayed. Especially with how gigantic the process is. There's departments for Coding, sound fx, music, game assets, art direction and style, concepts art and animation. All overseen by one job title. Its no wonder that the large list of requirements I have seen for jobs applications are so huge. Not just in the game industry but some are expected to have experience in TV and film.
I would also think they would need to have a very strong, traditional art background. As they would need to have a keen eye for lighting, colour, perspective, scale, and composition to allow precise judgement over all the work produced by the team. Its not hard to see why its important as these skills apply to all art styles produced for games.

The importance of game play

Game Documents are said to be in most cases very poorly written documents. Filled with ramblings about back stories, describing only som,e not all of the games elements and being “to thin and ellipsis!” or being to informative and descriptive that they insult the intelligence of the game artists. Its hard to imagine that a games entirety can be implemented into a single document, especially as a game can change dramatically over the course of its development. If this is the case then who is responsible for its content. I believe game play should be documented in a way that it should inform the very basis and core elements of the idea of the game, but be vague enough to imply changes and improvements to be made. For example, describe the characters feel and moods. There behaviours and character. Not give them names and history.
I don't think the story is the most important aspect of game play. For me the importance of game play is its ability to entertain, by being illusive and rewarding. That's why there's been a sudden trend to add achievements to games. Its hard to find a game on any platform these days that doesn't include them. It gives the player a reason to come back and play the game again even if they complete the single player story. Its even more rewarding when there included in multilayer as this entitles you to bragging writes among your friends. Better still some games (team fortress 2) allow items and weapons to be unlocked as you accomplish more achievements. Not many games offer this yet but I see it as being more popular with upcoming titles. Ubisoft now have Uplay. This allows you to collect units across Ubisoft games and use them to unlock additional content. Assassins creed 2 allows the player to obtain Altair's outfit from the first game as one example.
With internet connection now being a lot faster for most homes this also enables developers to add downloadable content or explanations for games. Allowing ideas and elements of the game the developers wished to have included, but didn't have enough time or resources to implement before the games deadline. These thing in my opinion are how the future for game development is evolving and opens new doors for game play and even more importantly, better value for money!

Game reviews and there influence

As I said in my game history I owned a N64, this was before many people had the internet so it was hard to hear about games and new releases without buying any magazines. My influence on games I would buy definitely had a big affect on reviews and headlines that I would read in a magazines. When I had my Megadrive I didn't know one game from another so I would buy it because of how cool the pictures looked. As I bought more and more magazines, my knowledge of the titles would get better and ones that would be talked about most would have more appeal to me, especially if they hadn't even been released yet. The main thing that would sway me to buy a game (especially in the N64 magazine) was the list of every game released would have a small list of bad and good points in bullet form and be given a grade out of a 100%. I remember buying Zelda because I think it was given about 98% and I didn't even know much about the game. By no means is this a bad thing in my opinion. Zelda is arguably the best title on the N64, and rightly so. But I may have never played it had it not been for reviews in magazines. I can't agree there right all the time though. I take reviews as only a guideline. With the internet so popular these day threes a lot of biassed opinions on not only games but also the film and music industries. Recently I saw IGN post there top 25 games and mass effect came in at no1. I would put money on almost every person I know tell me any other game as there most favourite. You could argue there being other reasons for the choices in the list, but who am I to point the finger.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

History of computer games take 3

So we've seen how game have come to be a household name amongst not only children but now evermore so, older gamers .Even the likes of pensioners thanks to Nintendo's innovations. But with so much changing in only the past 30 years were do we go from here. Has the visual impact of game visuals reached a limit of can we expect to blur the line between what's real and what's virtual? I believe virtual reality is not so many years into the future and may take over this new idea of revitalising old 3d technology that's becoming very popular in cinemas and even more so with computer game now that new monitors have the ability to hit 120hz refresh rates and Nvidia's vision glasses. Not so many weeks ago I watched Ortis on the gadget show to a piece on “the future of gaming” . If games got so real could we expect to see a ban or restriction on graphical content or would the evolving mature of what we as humans see, pass judgement on what we now call inappropriate. Look at what would have been classed as scary back in the 50's and 60's (the blob 1958). In 50 years time can we expect a life like war simulation as close to real life as it can get without actually being on the front line nothing more than entertainment. Or how about fooling our brains into different senses like smell and tough. What about the training implementations for example, firemen could do drills on real life locations. Actually feel the heat from the flames and feel the force of the water coming from the hose. Or people could experience flight like superman and have the sense of the air blowing past them.
So were does this take the industry and what can we expect it to demand from us in the future? In the last 20 years the learning curve for developing game content has got higher. New ways to add realism involves more work, but does that create more jobs? Games today rival some of Hollywood's biggest films. The integration of cinematography for example. I was reading an article on a website, Gabe Newell from Valve was talking about how the Team Fortress 2 shorts had helped Valve develop there ability to create film. Then how its applied to there intro of Left for Dead and now in my opinion even more impressive is the intro for Left for Dead 2. They look cool and are entertaining to watch, but there purpose is nothing more than a tutorial for game mechanics when playing the game. In a different light the developers of the new red faction game made there physics engine so accurate that the mapping team had to almost learn to become architects when they were designing building because all the structures in the game can be destroyed. But if the structures weren't able to support themselves they would simply fall to the ground before the player was able to do it themselves. So are these drastic measures games company's need to do to keep the industry fresh and exiting, or is it a natural progression of development for artists? If it is then us budding, new game artists have a lot of catching up to do!

History of computer games take 2

So its the 80s and the console era is just on the cusp of world domination right? Well no not just yet, as games come from arcades into the homes games company's like Atari saw this as a massive cash cow. For example PAC man would be the first major game to be ported onto the Atari 2600. Now a prototype was sent to Atari by Tod Frye who worked for the company, but Atari wanted the game out for the holiday season and actually released the prototype. But that's not best of all, after the release of the film E.T, Atari obtained the right for the game and gave the developers only 6 weeks to release, market and produce the game. As you may have guessed no one liked the it and most demanded a refund. Atari even sent them to a land fill and poured concrete over them. It wasn't only poor games that almost destroyed the game industry, the were simply by this time too many consoles to choose from. Some even had add-ons to play games from other consoles. Not only this but Atari never kept tabs on publishers releasing games and almost anyone could create titles. This flooded the market witch left consumers with absolutely no confidence in the game industry. This is known today as the North American game crash of 1983 which most people may not ever realised happened at all. It was only really apparent to the industry as consumers still played games at arcades witch were just as popular as ever.
It wasn't till 1985 that we saw the release of the Nintendo Entertainment System and shortly after the Sega Master System which mainly dominated the Europe, Australia and Brazil market as the NES was extremely popular in America. This is were the console wars truly started as Nintendo and Sega were now the major players in the game industry the 8-bit war had started. It was then that Sega retaliated with the Megadrive (or genesis for those over the pond) which was a 16-bit machine. Sega had it in there heads that being faster was better. They released the Sega CD and 32-bit add-ons but Nintendo still had better game with the likes of Mario, Zelda and Metriod. That's were Sonic came in and became Sega's official mascot. With Nintendo's hardware becoming more and more dated and Sega now taking a larger part of the market, Nintendo's 16-bit next-gen console was released, the SuperNES. This console would see Nintendo claiming the crown.
Until he beginning of the 90's, this gave birth to CD consoles and 3D graphics with the release of the Sega Saturn and Sony getting a peace of the action with the Playstation. This saw the end of the SNES and after many delays gave birth too (in my opinion and help from local developers RARE) the most revolutionary console to hit the industry was non other than the Nintendo 64. I could make lots of points about why I think this to be true, but it would probably be best in its own post as this one has gone on long enough as it is but the one thing that I hated about this console was the decision to keep cartridges. OK, so it eradicated loading times but there were very expensive, and put off lots of developers. Also the target audience seemed to be aimed primarily at kids unlike the broader scope that the Playstation offered. By this time it seemed like a three legged race, but no-one could have for-scene how the industry would pan out as the next generation of game consoles were on the horizon.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

History of computer games take 1

When asked to think about the year when the first game was made, many of you may not go as far back as to say 1952. This was the year A.S. Douglas wrote his PhD degree at the University of Cambridge on Human-Computer interaction and created a humble version of Noughts and Crosses. The game was programmed on a EDSAC vacuum-tube computer, which had a cathode ray tube display. Tennis for Two was created by a guy called William Higinbotham in 1958. The technology consisted of an analogue Donner computer linked to an oscilloscope used as a display. Next in line was a game called spacewar. Three students of MIT, Martin Graetz, Stephen Russell, and Wayne Wiitanen were the creators of the game in 1961. Then 1966 it was Ralph Baer who worked again on his 1951 TV game idea and designed a series of seven prototypes that played several video games. His first game was some sort of chase game, were two squares chased each other... Sounds like fun don't it!

I think that actually my first game I ever played was pong! It was a friend that had what ever console it would have been on (I remember the swizzler knob and the stick with the red button, so it was probably a 2600.) I use to go round his house after school and we would sometimes play computer games. I think they were his brothers? At this point I wasn't really into games. I got the first edition game boy for my birthday and use to play it to death. This was the point I really fell in love with games. The next was one Christmas when a friend next door got a master system. You know the one, it had Alex the kid built in and came with sonic the hedgehog. He then got a mega drive and not long after I got one for myself. I had a few games for it one of my favourites was Toki. The main character was I fire spitting monkey... which was nice. After the mega drive I got an N64 as all the PS1 were sold out but after playing on it and becoming a fan boy I loved it and wouldnt have traded for a PS1 for a million dollors. I got it with extreme g, diddy kong racing and turok. This was the first transion onto 3d games and to say the least I was left astounded.