Wednesday, November 18, 2009

UDK Screens

I thought since the last few posts have been quite heavy on the wording I'd add a few images for all you image happy people out there!

This is a level I'm working on which directs the player through the level using light and also light puzzles. It is supposed to show how a player will complete the level quicker through subconscious light guidance rather that the whole level being fully lit without the subtle hints. We'll see whether this backfires in my face but for now here are some screens. I should also mention these are all meshes and textures found in the UDK and non of my own which i have used purely for the ease of mocking up a working level in a 2 week time frame.

Identifying game play

As all of my blogs seem to have only included the contextual side of the course i thought I'd add some of my own research about identifying game play and what tools can be used in describing the patterns that emerge.

Patterns in Game Design

A formal definition to describe a pattern would be a reoccurring part(s) that directly affect game play.

Game design is more difficult to define than most other design subjects because of the simple reason that games are artificial objects rather than natural ones. They are also entirely designed by humans which makes the process of creating a game with immersive and exciting game play difficult to understand. Designing interaction is they key to creating game play. No other medium provides interaction like videogames. If people are able to interact with a game successfully then game play is born. Most aspects of creating games are predictable, using the same engines along with the same formalized modeling and textures techniques. However, that is just the surface of game design and we explore the subject more it becomes clear that there are a lot of elements to a game that are impossible to anticipate.

As a core rule, if you think of game design as interaction design, the process becomes much clearer, the interaction being the usability between humans and computers. The three main areas to identify when looking at patterns in game design are the creation of patterns from problems, following on patterns and editing patterns. When creating a pattern from a problem the designer can identify a core issue that is wrong with the design, however this technique used on its own only removes the unwanted effect and does not tackle what the design is trying to achieve. Using following on patterns can be applied to multiple patterns when a certain pattern does not work when confined on its own. Editing Patterns can be useful when a designer wishes to introduce, remove or modifying existing game play however the designer has to be careful when using this tool because if a pattern is edited too much then it may completely alter the feel of the game play.

If so many potential problems can be caused by the three main areas of pattern design why do designers still use these techniques? The reason we use these tools is because patterns in design do offer a good model for how to structure knowledge about game play that can be used in the design and analysis stages. The key is not to isolate elements but bring together many different techniques in order to get the desired effect.

Semi-Formal descriptions are what patterns rely on for a general description of a specific area of game play without using quantitative measures. This could include anything from open doors, jumping, navigating levels, anything that is directly affecting the game play of the game is given a semi-formal description. The reason why designers do not use quantitative measures is because they are too precise for solving ill-defined problems of design. The presence or effect of design cannot be measured and for this reason it is an impossible technique to implement. However patterns do have a structure and relationships that can be identified. This therefore leads to patterns a semi-formalised concept to be applied to their intended use.

After looking at semi-formal descriptions the designers then move onto interrelated descriptions which means that all the patterns can somehow all be related in someway. Although it is common that some relationships are more popular than others depending on the game type. The 5 main relationship types that emerge, the first one being instantiates which applies to a scenario has an existing pattern and then causes the next to be present after that. The second are modulate patterns which is when the first pattern affects aspects of the second pattern but does not have to affect the entire pattern. The third relationship type is ‘instantiated by’ which is when the pattern can be instantiated by ensuring the presence of the related pattern. The fourth type is ‘modulated by’ which applies when an additional pattern can tune a patterns affect on game play. And finally, the fifth relationship type is a ‘potentially conflicting with pattern’ which can make presence of other patterns impossible. Although there are 5 different relationship types this does not mean that it has to be an either or situation in which only one relationship can apply to a certain type of game, sometimes multiple relationships can exist in games because of how the game is intended to be played is not necessarily the way a player plays the game and other unintended relationships may form through this type of play.

Which leads us on to intentional or emergent presence. This is when a game design pattern may be found in game play that was either intended by the designer or an unplanned consequence of the configuration of the game. The unintentional patterns in games are often classed in a hierarchy at the highest level meaning that the patterns are harder to design. This is common sense if the player has unintentionally found a pattern as the designer did not plan this design whereas a lower level would include a core set of rules the designer has laid down.

Modern Art in the hills of Wakefield

We decided to take a trip to the National Sculpture Park in Wakefield on Friday 30th. I was not entirely sure whether it would be a worthwhile experience when I should be putting my head down and concentrating on my MA degree. It was an hour road trip in the car so decided to drive there instead of going on the coach from UCLAN. The sculpture park is located just outside of Huddersfield

On Friday 20th of October I visited the National sculpture park in Wakefield, just outside of Huddersfield. It was a trip organised by the head of the MA courses so as the story goes I was reserved on whether it would be a worthwhile experience for me, or whether it would in fact inspire, invigorate and ignite ideas so that I could implement what I experienced into my own design work.

When we arrived at the park I was surprised at how vast the area was and how many sculptures were planted around the surrounding landscape. The 1st place we decided to visit was the underground gallery to take a look at Peter Randall-Page's exhibition, at first look it was a bunch of shapes carved out of different types of rocks. However the more I started to look at them the more I started to appreciate them for what they actually were. The sculptures were placed in large open spaces with plainly painted white wash walls; this gave the room the added feeling of space which in turn added made the sculpture the focal point of the whole room. When I focused my attention on the sculpture and all the groves carved out of it I started to think about what gave Peter Randall-Page the idea of creating such a piece of art, and also how he went about carving it and even down to the logistics of moving the huge stone carvings into the gallery. The sculpture also reminded me hugely of HR Gigers work and whether it was at all inspired by the Giger series of work.

After the underground gallery I made my way through the grounds of the park and looking at all the other different designer’s interpretations of their work. There were some very interesting pieces of work and some of the Iron work pieces were particularity inspiring for my work on one of my level ideas with a Mayan/Industrial back theme. There were also some weird sculptures of human bodies with Rabbit and Fox heads on them, which showed just how out of the box designers can be to make things work and functional.

All in all I thought it was a really interesting and enjoyable day out and would recommend it to anyone to go down and take a look and see what’s on show there because there are some very different experiences in the park that you may not be able to experience anywhere else.

6th November Lecture

This morning we had a lecture from the head of the Trans-disciplinary MA design course at UCLAN. The lecture was on a city brand project that a group of people have set up to try and rejuvenate the city and bring some more culture in to make it into a city that we can all be proud of. I thought that the topics raised in the lecture were very interesting and have a lot of real world relevance which can potentially have a huge impact on society.

I think the need for people from different courses to come together is crucial. Different design disciplines would bring something new to the table and with all the creative minds working together the possibilities could be endless.

When people make the argument about the project being a waste of money and how the money would be better spent elsewhere I would say this. The only way in which progress can be made is through pumping money into projects like the city brand project. Creating a brighter, cleaner city with imaginative design would give the public something to be proud of and to care about. Of course there are the obvious arguments of vandalism, but that can be said about any city. If you push hard enough, and keeping cleaning up the vandalism, or create some sort of anti-vandal design the idea could work. Also as part of the design project maybe there could be an concept where the council installs a big wall which gives people the chance to express, visualize and design their own ‘vandalism’ for the public to see. This is just one of many ideas to create a better society and I think more people should be involved in this process.

The idea of the sculptures in the town center of Preston where there are benches welded into the floor that appear as though they have been peeled back from the floor, I think are particularly inspirational are amazing pieces of design. It gives off and sparks so many ideas about the history of Preston and what is under the layers of pavement as well as the history of the city. Also this design is screaming to be replicated all over the North-West and possibly even the UK. Taking this idea and running with it can create many different everyday useful tools that people can use and interact with, such as the bike stand that was shown in the presentation. You can also apply this idea with things from signposts to lampposts and telephones boxes to bus stops. Integrating this type of design into society is the starting point so as to not scare the public with outrageous designs, instead bring them in a bit at a time so people become used to the sculptures.

The main point to take away from this is that everything is in the mindset. If no one wants anything to change and are oblivious to the obvious problems that cities have with crime, vandalism and a general lack of care for their cities well being, then nothing will change. However if people start to take pride in their city and its surroundings we can potentially create a place which is visually stimulating as well as being a safer place to live. I realize that this isn’t going to happen over night, and planning permissions along with contracts have to be put in place first, but if one group of people makes that first push then the bricks will start to fall and progress will be made.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Friday Morning Lectures

Today we had our first decent lecture for the whole semester. I think it’s a great idea to allow lectures from other specialisations to be able to come and speak with us. Although Fiona (the lecturer) was not 100% prepared to do the lecture and forgot her script, I think the free flow of the entire lecture and what she was talking about was inspirational to us all and we can incorporate many aspects of the lecture into our MA course research.

Although I had already seen the Anthony Gormley statues planted on the shores of the UK on the news, I had never really appreciated them for what they were. I just saw it as an artist’s expression of whatever he was doing and kind of stopped at that. Seeing them again and seeing Fiona’s incite to her thoughts and feelings of the statues and what they represented to her allowed me the view them from a different angle and really open the can on viewing things from a different angle, which is what I feel the MA is about exploring? Or am I wrong there? The exhibition was called 'Another Place' and I would highly recommend viewing it for anyone that hasn’t done already and it would be interesting to see what the exhibition means to other people?

For me the exhibition demonstrated separated and lonely feeling, how everyone is individual although we all look the same. By this I mean that all the statues were casts of Anthony Gormley and all look the same. However when they are spread out and looking towards the sun it gives them a different atmosphere than if they were all stood in a line or in some kind of group. The fact that Fiona felt the need to cloth them relates back to her fashion routes and how every civilization wears something to cloth their body, whether fabric or Ink. However I personally didn’t see the need to clothe the figures, I didn’t even seem them as people although they obviously resemble the human form. I think what I took from the exhibition was the fact that we're constantly looking for new horizons, looks towards the setting sun, always looking for something more than what we've already got, and what we’ve got always wanting more. I don't know if this is me just thinking out loud or whether this imagery pops up in other people’s minds?

The downside to the Friday morning lecture was the group project. I felt that maybe now that the module, originally weighted at 20% of our grade now weighting 0%, Alan would maybe make a group apology and try and think of some sort of reasoning behind them changing the syllabus. However this did not happen. The result of this being that my group project has now disintegrated before my eyes. My group that originally started at 9 people from all different courses two weeks ago now has 3 people. On top of that the 3 people remaining now don't feel motivated or passionate enough to continue with the project, so 8-10 hours of my MA research is now down the drain. I wonder if we will ever see an apology or a reason for this happening apart from one lecturer simply not caring enough about our MA course to fully think it through and prepare half ass lectures created the night before in 15mins after a heavy drinking session followed by a skim through of the ‘Dummies guide to Microsoft PowerPoint’. Maybe this is what we should expect for the next 2 semesters of MA life, or maybe enough people will voice their opinions resulting in a more structured course with different Art and Design lecturers giving us their knowledge and input and inspiring us to do more and want to push ourselves. I only hope something changes in time for us to regain the reigns on what the MA course is about and allow us to achieve the highest grade, because as it stands I’m running low on motivation… And caffeine.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Shaking the summer cobwebs

I’ve been throwing round idea after idea for the last week or so now trying to find a direction for my exploration in to game mechanics and how to attract and maintain the player’s concentration through challenging them in different scenarios. I’m asking myself questions such as ‘What can you, as the player, do in the real world?’ and ‘Now what can I achieve in the game?’ By this I mean that players tend to follow certain game logic in what they should be able to do and not what they can actually do. With this in mind I want to create a range of different game play challenges allowing the player to think outside the box they are contained in and explore the ‘what if’s’ within the environment. I will start to develop a feel for the puzzles, if you will, by exploring what’s already on the market with games such as Portal, the Tomb Raider series and also Half Life, Doom and other games similar to these titles. This ideology should lead to ideas in my own head of what does and doesn’t work and also allow me to develop my own ‘outside the box’ thinking. I am aiming for a few different playable scenarios created in UE3.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Group Activity

Today we started our group modules for the Friday morning lectures. After a tedious lecture we then split off into groups where I hoped things would get a little more involved. My group consists of other MA students from a range of other courses and has 7 other students; Frank, Andria, Mandula, Jenny, Simon, Laura and Carmel. The brief is to explore Preston and create something, which could be anything from a brochure to book or a model, and present it to the entire MA course in 6 weeks time. We all threw around some ideas and dismissed most but elaborated on a few until we came up with a solid idea. The next task is to ‘Gang Bang’ ideas on Preston which basically means we all gather different research and see what we come up with by next Friday. The group project is a great way to see what other course thought pattern is and how different groups of people think in different ways and allows me to think outside of a game design perspective and maybe look at things through the point of view of say an Advertiser of even a ceramic designer.

Ice Breaking

Just kicked off the MA Games Design course with an Ice breaker project where we had to design a character united with a message about the character and who they are and what they do. I started off with a few sketched ideas and then developed them in 3D using Maya. As I am not a character artist I find even the simplest organic drawings difficult and do not receive the results I am aiming for. With this in mind I kept with a clean looking mechanical style character and came up with a back story which included a young boy who created a robot toy to go on adventures around different environments. This robot would seek out different spots around the house and snap pictures to create a virtual scrapbook, in which the robot could upload through antennas located on his head, on the boy’s computer. The way in which the robot can upload the pictures is through locating Wi-Fi spots around the environment and being within 5 feet of them, then an automatic upload would commence. The robot also has an upturned coffee cup for open areas to hide underneath so that he doesn’t get noticed on his adventures. I decided the robots name would be Scrappy, as his missions include uploading pictures on to a ‘Scrapbook’ and his message is ‘Because the world is too big to see with your own eyes’. The different parts on the robot are a Webcam for his head, antennas for the Wi-Fi signal. Scrappy also has feet from a chattering teeth boy and suction cups on his back to climb up walls and other inaccessible locations.