Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Masters Overview

Semester 1

So...Where to begin! My MA journey has been a long one that's for sure! I started out with basic knowledge of Maya and UDK, I had never created a hand painted texture or a piece of concept art. I had no real idea about the professional work pipeline that goes into being an environment artist. All I had was a good eye for art and design and the drive to further my practice and learn!

I started out wanting to explore how environments provoke an emotional reaction from a player, it was a good place to start and it allowed me to understand the importance of colour and lighting in this process. It was pretty much a dead end direction as I had worked out the vital factors are game flow, lighting & colour, level structure and sound. These factors dictate the type of mood your environment will evoke from a player. The project also allowed me to further my skills in modelling and UV mapping, it also helped me understand UDK a lot better. 

Semester 2 

After the conclusion of my findings in semester 1 I turned my attention to the emotive quality of texture work combined with colour theory and spent time learning how to paint textures. I wanted to direct my project towards creating a unique visual style through hand painted textures. 

Through my texture painting exercises I learned the importance of Tonal value, dark and light details, bounce light and complimentary colours. It also provided me with a good professional workflow when it came to texturing. To my good fortune my work aroused the attention of White Paper games, where i became the 2D and 3D Environment Artist. This meant my project was now a live brief and I was creating a visual style for a game already in production. I managed to develop a Visual identity that stood out and also gave the illusion of a cell shaded post processing effect. It was by pure accident, but I had manage to find a style that looked good, was quick to produce and had real character. 

Semester 3

I am now part of an Independent game development company and we have moved into our own studio. This means I am working on my masters in a proper development environment with all the benefits of communication and collaboration this brings. I am also working alongside really passionate guys which helped boost my work ethic and drive. So..... back to the MA! The previous semester was focused on creating that unique visual style through emotive texture work. Now my project is aimed at trying to further this visual style, whilst developing a professional work pipeline of a working Environment Artist. Working 8 hour shifts 5 days a week helped me focus on developing all aspects of my practice, from concept art, to 3D modelling, UV mapping, Light Mapping, UDK, Material Editor, Level Flow, Lighting and Design. I was also able to teach my texturing knowledge to degree students at Future Works, this provided a great insight for myself to see how far I have come on my MA. 

Teaching my knowledge of Texture Painting to Future Works student.
 Creating 3D worlds using professional processes. 
 Providing Concept Art for early Idea generation stages of development.
 Creating and Building a variety of environments using a unique visual style.
Living the Dream and making a Video Game for a living! 

I can honestly say that pursuing my Masters degree was the best decision I have made in my life. The amount of knowledge and experience I have gained on this course is crazy. It has helped me lay a solid foundation of knowledge for my career and opened my eyes to the possibilities of Independent game development. Thank You for sharing my MA journey with me! Look out for Ether One in Q2 2013!

WPG: December - Development of Sci Fi & Conception

The work in December consisted of fleshing out the prologue to Ether One and working on the hub world for the game. 

The shot above shows the hub world in a very bare form. Me and my fellow artist James sat down and planned out how we could make the environment more interesting.  We discussed how a large structure in the center of the dome would help bring the environment together. Like a sauce for linking Jeans memories with the player.  

The images above are quick silhouette concepts James drew up.

The images below show 3 stages of creating the concept for the hub world.

This is how we intend the level to look once it is complete.

The Ether Institute and other Science Fiction environments are based in the 1950/60s so all of the reference images for computers and technical equipment come from that era. Me and James also visited the museum of science and industry in Manchester and found some really nice circuit boards and old computer systems.

Below are the texture sheets for the Electric equipment.

The shot above shows a test scene I created to demonstrate how the environments could look in game. I also created some placeholder textures for the walls, floors and ceilings, these textures will be finished at a later date.

Texture Sheet for Lights.
Texture Sheet for Ether Chair Top section.
Texture 1 for Silo in Hub world.
Texture 2 for Silo in Hub world.

The shots below are high quality renders taken from a level in Ether. This environment is some kind of institute so it has a sterile cold feeling to it.

The Ether Chair that was textured at the Future Works presentation is the focal point for this room.

The shots Below are taken from the living quarters I was working on in the last post, this time they have the right textures and assets in place. These environments are still a work in progress, but none the less a step in the right direction.

This concludes the work completed for Ether One in 2012 and the end my Masters Degree Project.
 Development of Ether has another few months to go, but my MA project has reached its conclusion.
I'm sad its over! The road had been long! with many a winding turn! Check out the next post to see my MA Evaluation.

WPG: November - Gameplay Trailer & Guest Lecture...

In November the Harbor area was finished completely and this time it was 100% complete. It had gameplay,  music, sound effects and narrative flow, the deadline was hit for the gameplay trailer. Below are some high quality renders taken of the environment.

Check out the Gameplay Trailer Below, when we first uploaded it to youtube we had some compression issues so there are 2 versions of the video up, here the HD version. In total the videos have pulled in around 17,000 views. 

Featured Websites

This time around we had a lot more exposure and because we released a gameplay trailer, we received a lot of feedback from the gaming community, this helped us understand what we need to do to improve the game The links below will take you to some of the articles written about Ether One. .

Here are a few quotes I took from two sites that featured Ether One.

'Ether One reminds me of an enchanted painting taken from a C.S.Lewis Narnia Chronicle; I expect to be swept away into the picturesque fantasy world by just looking at it on my screen.' 

Han Cilliers

'upon witnessing the four minute gameplay insight as you will below we were left touched and confident that Ether One is bound not only for great things, but for areas that games rarely touch – our hearts and minds.'

Chris Priestman

'Indie game 'Ether' mixes Dishonored's visual style with Amnesia's atmosphere, first gameplay footage'

John Papadopoulos

It was wonderful to see journalists understand our game and enjoying the direction we were taking with the project. It was especially great to have Ether compared to Amnesia's atmosphere and Dishonored's visual style as these games are both successful products. I took a lot of inspiration from Amnesia as they created tension well; but I had not heard of Dishonored whilst developing the visual style for ether so that was a pleasant surprise.

Texture Work

Below are some texture sheets I created for the finished Harbor  they are not yet complete as they need line work and some overlay textures.

Creating an Important Area

After the release of the gameplay trailer I got to work on a new environment, it was a 1950/60s Science Fiction living quarters. The shots below she me using existing textures and assets to create an initial pass. The wall textures and furnishings would soon be changed.

Putting Back in the Pot

I was invited by Ken Lau head of Futureworks in Manchester to give a guest lecture to his 2nd year degree students. He wanted me to give a small presentation followed by a tutorial of how i create my hand painted textures for Ether.

The image above shows me in the presentation explaining my learning process of hand painting textures. I then moved on to paint an important model that is going to be used in Ether, i thought it would be interesting for them if they could watch me paint an asset that would be a focal point in Ether.

 I textured the Ether Chair for the class, showing all of my processes and steps to creating the Ether style. Below you can see the finished chair on the Steam Greenlight icon, a Reference image sheet and the texture sheet.

After my demonstration the students where able paint the texture for the Axe and Shield that I created in January 2012. 

Here is a shot of me pointing suggestively at a screen.

The Texture Sheets below where created by the students at Future Works. They where kind enough to email me their texture sheets, special thanks goes to those who took the time to finish the textures. Thank you to Nial Tailor, Beckie Heaton, Alan Taylor, Robert Whitehurst, Liam Roberts, Joe Grainger, Josh Moran and Sean Barron.