Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Personal Gaming History ~ Handheld's & the PlayStation early years

Around the age of 10 I was introduced to handheld gaming when I received a Gameboy pocket for my birthday, the idea of being able to play videogames on the go amazed me although the reason I got one was simple; Pokémon.  Probably the biggest game to impact my childhood, and regardless of the craze that swept the nation, still remains a solid game and one that I still play to this day.
The Nintendo brand of handheld consoles I would continue to buy with each iteration, for the sole purpose of playing each main instalment of the Pokémon series. Sure I’d play other games as well, but it was that damn electric rodent that kept me coming back for more. 

Super Mario Land 2: The first game I played on the Nintendo Gameboy, and one of the only Mario games I ever really played to be honest. Continued my love of platform games into the handheld generation. 

Pokemon Blue, the first Pokemon game I played. The very concept of forming your own team of monsters and going on an adventure with them blew my mind, and the fact that you could link your game with a friends Gameboy and trade and battle with them pretty much dominated my break time on the school playground. 

The follow on games to the original Pokemon games, Gold, Silver (and later Crystal versions) would not only continue the winning formula of the series they would live up to the hype of the original games and improve on them in every way. I always remember beating the pokemon league and finding out that I was able to travel back to the previous games map, and explore that all over again.....Classic

The PlayStation one was my first step into fully 3d gaming, and didn't disappoint. I got one a lot later than most of my friends, my mum actually bought the new PSone smaller model by mistake for Christmas, though was still awesome as i imagined. It was the games id play one this console that would cement my ambition of wanting to design games for a living.
Rayman 2: The Great Escape was the first game i played on the PSone, and was a solid platform game (they were still my favourite type of game at this point). I still love how people question everything about games today, yet back then no one raised any problems over the fact that this guy was running around with no arms or legs...ahhh, memories

Crash Bandicoot, back before he became an exhausted mascot that just begged to be killed off... 2 and 3 were awesome games that were genuinely fun to play, and made use of ridiculous humour to add to the experience

The Tomb Raider games were some of the first I played on PlayStation, and I was god awful at them. After awhile though, I really got into them, and loved exploring each new exotic location. I probably sucked so much at them to start with, because 3 was the first I played and that game just wanted anyone who played it to die repeatedly at every opportunity

Another awesome platformer, the first 3 Spyro the Dragon games are still some of the most fun I have played.  Had a wicked sense of humour that is still reflected in Insomniac's current games (Ratchet and Clank), and a random vendetta against sheep

Never really enjoyed playing racing games, though I loved the driver series on PlayStation 1, mainly because it threw you into an open world and just allowed you to drive about exploring and annoying the law. I guess it was the game that would get me into Grand Theft Auto when i eventually got a PS2

Tekken 3 was the first in the series i played, and i loved it despite never really being that good at beat em ups. I just loved the varied range of characters, they were as diverse as you could possibly get. And who didn't love beating up that bloody panda with Yoshimitsu? Animal cruelty at its finest, and most ridiculous

Actually had the first metal gear solid a few years before i properly got into it, on account of me being so terrible at this whole concept of stealth at first. Once I did though, I discovered a game who's story and characters would really stay with me throughout all my years of gaming. Hiding in a cardboard box whilst smoking never got any cooler than in this game

Final Fantasy is the most influential game series I have played, and has influenced my decision to work in the games industry; as soon as I saw the worlds these games opened up in front of you I saw the potential of what you could do with video games. FF7 Introduced me to the series, 8 showed me how each game could be so different and 9 would become one of my favourite games of all time, everything from its art style, epic story, diverse characters and incredible soundtrack demonstrates everything a game should be in my opinion

Around the time i started getting into the Final Fantasy series they began to re-release the previous instalments on PlayStation (with the exception of FF3). They gave me the chance to see how the series progressed, and each game was awesome in its own right even with their old school graphics. 6 is definitely one of my favourite final fantasies, its such a massive and epic game that continues to rival many modern day RPG's

Friday, 9 December 2011

Personal Gaming History ~The SEGA Years
The first time I remember picking up a joy pad must have been around the age of six. My dad had bought me and my sister a second-hand Sega CD System with a load of games for Christmas, and I always remember the first game I ever played; It was ‘Mickey Mouse: World of Illusion’, a side scrolling platformer full of colourful Disney graphics and cool level design. It really captured my imagination, and amazed me at how I could interact directly with these characters and worlds. 
From this point on I was hooked.

Despite having a Sega Mega Drive with the Sega CD expansion, I rarely used the CD part, mostly as the games were either absolutely dire, or direct ports of Sega games i already had (and somehow worse quality despite being on CD. It also crashed at every opportunity, making even casual gaming a pain in the arse.

The biggest game I played on this system that I still regard as an all time personal favourite to this day is Sonic The Hedgehog 1 & 2 (I wouldn’t play 3 until later on). Me and my sister would play these games for hours on end, both on our own and in co-op (id usually end up with Tails what with being the younger sibling)

Golden Axe: another great game to play in co-op, loved the fact that you could ride creatures to use against your enemies. Though those bloody skeletons.... good job you could trick them into falling off conveniently placed cliff faces, though why they screamed like girls when you killed them is anyone's guess

LANDSTALKER: The Treasures of King Noel, the first RPG I ever played. Pretty much SEGA's attempt at competing with the Zelda franchise, though they did a good job at it as this was a solid game that really gave the immersive experience of entering another world and I lost countless hours playing it. (Also like that the dialogue shown above seems to have been influenced by Mr T)

Thunderhawk: Probably the only game I played on the Sega CD that was actually quite good,  the very fact that I could play as a helicopter pilot in first person really blew my mind at the time. Despite the fact that I cant really stand FPS today, at the time I would spend countless hours flying around, and basically having fun blowing things up (the times it wouldn't crash anyway....which was most of the time)

Other games that I loved during this time were Streets of Rage, Shinobi, Cool Spot, Toe Jam and Earl, Eternal Champions and others too numerous to mention. The Sega years would definitely begin my interest in games, and in particular the characters and the design that went into creating them.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Work Review ~Bradgate Park

Final Piece for Bradgate Park observational work. Took the same approach to this piece as I did my two-point architectural work, by focusing on a centrepiece in the overall picture to cover as much detail as possible. The tress in bradgate are amazing, which is why I decided to focus on one of them, and as the day was really foggy, they created an awesome image against the shrouded environment so I just had to draw one for my final piece. 
I think the detail I captured on the tree shows how much time I spent studying this subject as there was so much detail, that each tree had its own character, so tried to make this evident in my final. 
Like with previous pieces I wasn't that bothered about the area surrounding the centre piece (except the area in the foreground and around the trunk base), so this is probably an area i could have added shading to to show what was displayed around the main tree. 

Work Review ~Dinosaur Bones

Final piece of Dinosaur Bones from the New Walk Museum. Probably my favourite topic that we have focused on so far in Visual Design, as drawing anatomy is something im interested in the most and as it was Dinosaurs it made for a more intriguing subject. 
As I wanted to get as much of a full dinosaur into my final as possible, decided to choose this subject (as the one in the main room was too large and was difficult to fit most of it in my line of sight), and I also found the bone structure of this one very interesting to try and capture.
I think there a few inaccurate areas on this piece, probably the skull which should have been slight elongated, and also some of the small details around the rib cage are a little off. But apart from that Im quite happy with how this picture turned out.

Work Review ~Car Two-Point Perspective

This is my final for my Two-point perspective on vehicle work (mostly focusing on cars). 
I really struggled with drawing cars, not so much getting the perspective correct, more the actual shape of the car, though I tried to push myself as far as I could with this project by focusing on a lot of difficult cars (ones that looked as little like boxes on wheels basically), and is why I chose a car with quite a curved frame for my final to see if I could nail it.
I think in terms of lighting, and rendering, again these are areas im probably best at, though technically as an observational drawing of a car, there are lots of parts on it that are incorrect; Wheels are off balance, the wind shield isn't wide enough and not quite the wrong shape, and the back end of the car slopes down too drastically. 
Cars are definitely and area I need practice on more it would seem.

Work Review ~Two-Point Perspective

Final piece of two-point perspective observational work, I decided to focus more on refining my sketching style so that it closer resembled the tone and dimensions of the actual architecture, instead of being in a more sketchy style like previous final pieces. 
I think the way I focused on the building front helped in keep the eye focused on the most important part (so is where I focused all of the intricate detail), and as I gradually focused out the detail as the street went further away kind of gives the piece nice depth of field. 
One thing i probably should have done on this piece is add shading to the street itself, as i focused on just the architecture giving a 'floating' effect.
I also think some of my perspective lines are slightly wonky, and even though not a massive problem, still annoys me into wanting to get these important details spot on the next time i do two-point perspective.

Work Review ~Archway

This is my final piece from my observational work of the old archway. As I spent so long trying to capture all the details on this piece as accurately as possible, I decided on keeping it just line art as I think if I did some rendering on top of this a lot of the detail would be lost. I think that by focusing on all the key shapes and perspective, I was able to have everything in the right place as I saw it on the street.
I think there are several areas on this that could do with a lot of improving, the main one is I think I need to do a version with some sort of shading. I was thinking of making a copy of the original, to then experiment on in ink or something then I’d have one copy demonstrating my detail skills, and one demonstrating my shading abilities.
I also think that by focusing on the archway alone, I neglected detail elsewhere on the piece (such as the walls and trees closest to my viewpoint) and makes these areas look a bit bare. They probably would benefit from shading, or toning when I do another version.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Work Review ~River One Point Perspective

This is my final piece done for the practices in one point perspective, drawing the river. Focused a lot on rendering in this piece, tying to balance the shading so darker shades were closer to the eye than further, though found it difficult to balance this with the dark shadows cast by the bridge. 
I also think a few areas could be improved, such as making sure ALL lines follow the vanishing point accurately (probably because I didn't make use of a ruler for this, which is a bit daft), particularly the middle support in the middle of the river, its a bit wonky to say the least. Need to pay attention to EVERY line when doing perspective pieces like this...more practice is needed so I don't have to make little mistakes like this later. 

Videogame History Part 4: 2000 ~ Now

The games industry and market today is now spilt into the three big companies: Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo, all of which have solidified themselves as the cornerstones of gaming today. The costs of making videogames in today’s market are at an all-time high, with the cost of most high profile titles being in their millions. Today each company strives to compete with each other on every level, as has been seen with both Sony and Microsoft’s attempts at tackling the motion control market that the Nintendo Wii has had since day one. As more and more ways at creating games are being explored so is the platforms, so not only do we have console, pc and handheld consoles but also now most major smart phones are having games produced for them, fully developed games that are a long way from ‘Snake’ seen on the mobile phones I had when I was in school.

The issues of big business and mainstream company management means that today, even though the creative folk that actually make the games we know and love still do so, the people at the top are those that ultimately make the final decisions on the end product because they make sure that a game is going to make them money; at the end of the day they don’t care whether the game they make is the same as so many of its previous releases or those of the competitor, so long as it makes them money that’s all that matters. And yes, this is of course important, but it’s not the whole reason games are made, and I think the way the economy is being hit in today’s modern world, means that a lot of developers are too scared to take the chance on more original ideas in favour of choosing the safe option that they know their target audience already likes.

A popular example of how some companies like to play it safe to guarantee their success, the Modern Warfare series had such an impact on the games industry that instead of evolving from it, the series has remained near enough the same up to the latest release 

I think that as someone who wants to be a part of the industry in the future, it’s necessary to understand what skills that I will need to make my way in such a fickle business. The ability to not only have the passion for doing it, but also being able to adapt to the ever changing landscape that seems to be the case in modern gaming are also vital. It would be awesome to see some of the risks that used to be taken, by giving some of the power back to the game creators themselves, but unless the landscape of the current market takes a change for the better (which is unlikely to happen anytime soon) unless those producers are responsible for IP’s, then the power will continue to lie in the hands of those without the creative vision.

It’s intimidating to look at the future of gaming especially with where it is now, but I think from my perspective of someone with the passion to want to be a part of it, and the potential to develop my talents to industry level, then it’s more of an exciting prospect than anything else.

Videogame History Part 3: 1990's ~ 2000’s

Pokemon took the Handheld game market to new
levels with its unique feature of 'trading' Pokemon
between players. 

As the gaming industry headed into the new millennium it was already picking up a massive head of steam from the last few years of the previous century; throughout the nineties games would take another area of the market by storm in handheld consoles, and led the way by Nintendo’s Gameboy would mould how we play games today. It was also where we started seeing games that would either introduce game franchises that would revolutionise the industry, or create them anew. 
The likes of Metal Gear Solid, Resident Evil, Pokemon (pretty much the only reason I owned a Gameboy), The Legend of Zelda, Golden Eye, Sonic the Hedgehog, Tomb Raider and Final Fantasy VII (which is a game that practically opened the doors in the west for every other Japanese RPG that wouldn’t have seen the light of day over here, had it not been for the success of this instalment). 

Final Fantasy VII: The first instalment to make
it to the west, leading the way for other major
Japanese games to be released overseas
Its also interesting to see that a lot of these important games came along with the introduction of Sony in the games console market with the Playstation, a system that solidified itself as one of the major three forces in the console market in the future. Though the Nintendo 64 and Dreamcast were the Playstation’s rivals, it would only be Nintendo that would make it through to the next generation of games consoles, with poor sales of Sega’s Dreamcast meaning that Sega had to drop out of the console market and just stick to producing games instead.

It was the dawn of the new millennium that would shape the current market of games consoles; the Playstation 2 (2000) which would become one of the best selling consoles of all time, the successor to the N64, the Nintendo Gamecube (2001) and Microsoft’s first foray into the console market, the Xbox (2001).

Rise of Massively Multiplayer Online games

World of Warcraft, whatever your opinion of the game,
pretty much sums up how MMO's have taken the gaming
world by storm. And its hard to argue with its success,
recently celebrated its 10 year anniversary and still
going strong
With the new millennium came the rise of the MMO, games that utilised the internet to allow gamers to enjoy massive online worlds and games with thousands of others from around the globe. The game that would lead the way was Ultima Online (1997), a concept created by Richard Garriot, where he would create fantasy world that many players could interact with one another, basically setting the benchmark for all future games in the MMO genre. 

Many other games would follow, some matching the success of Ultima Online, whilst others fell by the wayside….The likes of Everquest (1999), Final Fantasy XI (2002), Phantasy Star Online (2000), and of course the ridiculously popular World of Warcraft (2001). Final Fantasy XI and Phantasy Star Online were games that showed that games consoles had advanced so far that they were able to run online games, and cross-platform MMO’s at that. Though Phantasy Star was fated to fall alongside the Dreamcast, and the Playstation 2 version of Final Fantasy XI practically didn’t sell outside of Japan due to the terrible nature of the PS2’s network adapter, they both showed what was possible on the generations consoles and what was to later come. 

Monday, 14 November 2011

A History of Computer Games Part 2: 1980's ~ 1990's


The decade that spanned between the 1980’s and the 1990’s was one of the most important in gaming history, not only because of the publishing companies would start to establish themselves in the industry (Electronic Arts), but because of the pushes in technology both in arcade and personal computing. It allowed for truly original games to be produced that were able to be unique and experimental due in most part to the low publishing costs of the time.

With the success of Space Invaders in 1978, the arcade machine would begin to spring up all across America, and early figures would show that the arcade videogame industry was generating a revenue of $8 billion in quarters at the peak of its popularity (1982)….which is interesting to note was more than both the annual gross income of the Pop music and Movie industry combined at the time.
Crazy stuff……basically was a good indication of where the gaming industry was heading in terms of sheer scale and influence on the entertainment industry as a whole.

Not only were arcade machines taking over in the 80’s, but this decade also saw the evolution and rise of the personal computer, which alongside the continuing development of home games console would more and more bring the magic of the videogame into our home. Though the technology that was being pushed for the creation of these computers was impressive at the time, pretty much every game that first appeared on a home game console was 1) Pong. 2) A variation of Pong. Or 3) some other game, that still managed to play like Pong. 
As the gaming evolution started heading into the 80’s however, genre-defining games would be developed that would not only inspire a generation of gamers (like me), but would also be a major influence on all future games. 
The likes of Action Adventures, Role-Playing Games, Beat-em-Ups, Platformers, Racing and even Survival Horror Games (amongst many others) would all begin to be defined with the release of original and classic games; The legend of Zelda (1986), Dragon Quest (1986), Prince of Persia (1989),  Street Fighter (1987) and Donkey Kong (1981)….and well, the list just too long to stay within my word count limit. Basically any major game you’ve heard of today was either created in this decade or was influenced by a game that was, showing why it was known as the ‘Golden Age of Videogames’.

1983 ~the Great Crash

As successful as the decade was, it was also when one of the biggest setbacks in the games industry occurred, with the 1983 Crash that would last for two years and was so serious that most people at the time doubted that video games consoles had the long-term viability that they originally thought. 
There were numerous reasons that caused the crash, but the sheer amount of poor games and consoles that were fluctuating the market at the time, as well as increasing competition from ever-advancing home computers were a couple of the main reasons that led to the main companies going bankrupt. Also the fact that one of the leading companies, Atari lost its publishing control after legal battles with Activision, only led to further degrading of their products.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

A History of Computer Games Part 1: 1950's ~ 1970's

'It is important that we know where we come from, because if you do not know where you come from, then you don’t know where you are, and if you don’t know where you are, then you don’t know where your going. And if you don’t know where you’re going, your probably going wrong.'

I thought id start off this latest blog entry with a quote that’s one of my personal favourites by the author, Sir Terry Pratchett. Its relevant, as im going to be looking into the history and origins of videogames and the technology that was critical in laying the foundations of the games industry we know today. Knowing the history of something is pretty much a must if you want to work in the industry of your chosen profession, and so here I begin with my look into the Videogame history 1950’s - 1970’s.

Before the idea of videogames was even comprehended there were those who were already making steps towards early computing devices; one of the most important being what is called the ‘Difference Engine’ Created by Charles Babbage in 1849. This wasn’t technically a computer, more a mechanical device powered by nothing more than a crank handle, that’s main purpose was to remove the human error from calculating mathematical tables.

It wasn’t until nearly 100 years later until other notable devices started to appear that each focused on more specific areas, but would each show early signs of computing. The HP Audio Oscillator 200A was a device that was experimental at testing audio levels, though was only really utilised by the entertainment industry (Walt Disney being a big client who used these devices). This device was notable at being the first creation of Hewlett & Packard, a well established company in today’s computing market.
Many inventions were being pushed between 1940’s and 1960’s, though these were aimed at government and military matters more than entertainment. Failed flight simulator ‘Project Whirlwind’ (1943), the now famous ‘Colossus’, a code breaker utilised to try and break the enigma code during World War II, and the UNIVAC (1951) the first computer to allow users to store and retrieve data on magnetic tape.

The 1950’s were an important decade in the beginnings of computers as a form of entertainment, as in 1951 Ralph Baer who worked as a TV engineer at the TV company Loral was challenged with creating the best television set in the world. As designing TV sets was an easy task to Baer, he decided to take it further, and implement playing games on the television set. This was the first instance of the ‘Videogame’ concept that we know, though wasn’t created at the time due to Baer’s boss refusing the idea.
In 1958, another computer game was created called ‘Tennis For Two’ by Willy Higginbotham, which could be played by two people using hand controls, a sign of things to come. Then in 1961, what could be called a ‘proper’ precursor to videogames was created at the MIT (Massachusetts Institute Tech), ’Space war’ utilised vector graphics to create an authentic space themed environment with which you had to battle it out against a rival spaceship.

Many innovations in the next few decades would lead up to what we know as the ‘golden age’ of the videogame industry, such as the streamlining of computers to form the first ‘desktops’ (HP 2115 - 1965), Computers aimed at hobbyists (TV Typewriter - 1972) and computers that enabled the use of image processing (Super paint - 1973). 1972 Was the year when ‘Pong’ was created, and became the trademark game to all new ‘Games Consoles’ that would go on to be created in the following years. As Soon as Atari entered this new market became instrumental in bringing games into our homes, on such consoles as the; Atari VCS Prototype’ (first games console) and the Atari 2600, as well as the classic game ‘Space Invaders’ (1977).

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Introducing Me!

Hi everyone! For those that don’t yet know me, my name is Daniel Hill and I hail from a tiny village in Stoke-on-Trent called Scholar Green. Born on 24th January 1989, even though im no longer in my teens I don’t really act that mature; don’t get me wrong, I can be serious when I need to be, but I find it easier and a lot more fun to enjoy myself as much as possible through the medium of obscure noises and even more obscure conversation.
I enjoy drawing, playing videogames, spending time with friends and family, reading, walking, throwing mean shapes on nights out, eating pizza, and using some/all of the above to fuel my imagination to create original ideas and stories. Ive been drawing since I was old enough to hold a pencil, and observational work has definitely always been one of my strongest skills and has driven me down the educational path of art and design. Ive done a lot of original work and Fan art as well, as its kept me in drawing and I find it a really amazing way to just zone out from the chaos of the world in my own little artistic bubble.
I started to get into videogames from the Sega era onwards, Sonic the hedgehog being the game that first truly captured my interest in them. I always struggle when people ask me what my one favourite game is, there’s been too many that have inspired and captured my imagination over the years. I think the series that has pushed me in the direction of wanting to work as an artist in the games industry the most, is the Final Fantasy games; I was never really into RPG’s before them, and when I first played FF7 it completely blew my mind that games could have such an amazing focus on story and character that these games had, to the point where you felt emotionally connected to the characters you were playing as. My favourite out of all of them id have to say is FF9 though, as to me, it captures the very essence of what these games do best (and was one of the last that had all of the ‘key’ creative people working on it that made the series what it was in the first place). Other games that I love are Okami, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, Kingdom Hearts 2, and….others too numerous to mention.
I come from a Graphic Design background, having studied it for four years prior to starting Game Art here at Dmu, and even though it was something I found that I was really good at, I didn’t really have the passion for it as much as I did for anything game related. Pretty much every time we were given an open brief, id always choose to create a games concept, a sure sign of what direction I really wanted to head in.
I think I want to focus on improving my skills at observation, perspective and anatomy the most, as my dream goal is to become a Concept/ Character Artist, and I think these are the abilities in which I want to really hone during my time on this course.
Also, learning how to use 3DsMax wouldn’t go amiss either.