Monday, 26 April 2010

Week 15

26/4/10 - I started the week by opening the dissertation again; I am working on compiling the (rather extensive) list of figures. I plan to complete this and the reference list for the end of the week, so as to have a definitive 'first draft'.

I also aim to look at getting a hold of more tech demos from the programmers, as well as thinking out designs for the poster and business cards.

27/4/10 - More work on the dissertation today. I started writing the reference list, and have completed the literature section. Next up is the *massive* games section to write; once this is over I will read the whole thing through again and see what else needs tidying up.

I have compiled a video which chronicles our programming progress between late March and last Friday; obviously this video is full of placeholders and tech demos, making it less attractive than the others; but at the same time it is more informative and interesting.


I will continue adding to this video until submissions, since we are still working on the game every Friday and it is important to show the context of my project.

28/4/10 - More dissertation work today, mostly concerning the video game reference list. I managed to complete it and will perform a comprehensive check on the entire document tomorrow.

29/4/10 - No progress today (I'm in London! I have an excuse), so I figured I would stick up this draft poster design that I've had for a few days but wasn't going to post.

I quite like this design, but since I shoved it together the honeycomb is a bit offset - obviously I will make a tidier version if I don't change my mind. I'm happy with the colour scheme and general layout since both the low and high detail models are present; the poster also reflects the technical nature of my investigation.

1/5/10 - Progress and submission checklist.

Dissertation: completed draft, needs to be checked but is passable for a 1st draft submission.
Videos: complete, but with room for more to be added if necessary.
Poster: draft design passable, but a final needs to be made.
Business cards: not yet designed.
Report, artist's statement and promo synopsis: not started.
Promotional DVD: cannot be started until previous works are complete and approved.

My aim for next week is to further refine the project work and dissertation, design business cards and write the artist statement and promotional synopsis.

2/5/10 - On the train journey back I wrote up the Artist's Statement and Promotional Synopsis for the Professional Practice module; I am not sure how long each one would be, but reckoned I should at least write something and ask about it later.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Week 14

19/4/10 - I spent most of the day refining the dissertation; I went right back to the start and proceeded to re-read, correct things here and there and add references and images. This 'second draft' should hopefully be finished by the end of the week, when I will start to look things over again. This evening I met with my group and we looked over people's submissions for the publicity showreel.

I also completed the Bea model, although she needs some tidying up:

20/4/10 - Continued to refine draft 2 of the dissertation, and also UV unwrapped and smoothed the Bea model.

This is a very basic texture map which I will add some shading to later; the colour scheme may change slightly so I will wait and see what Abi says. There are still a few things I'm unhappy with, like the part where her head joins the collar and the texture on the wings; but mostly I am pleased with how she's turned out - very cute!

I also created another icon in Illustrator; I decided to post a large image of the rest as well since they were not that clear from the screenshot. Learning Illustrator is a slow process, but it is fun. I need more practice.

21/4/10 - Following today's supervisor meeting I have been refining the Bea model; I also added a skeleton but since it is not much of a visual progression there is not much point posting an image. After receiving some constructive criticism on the HUD design and mock-up level, I am working on new ideas for those.

22/4/10 - I have re-done the first level based closely on Abi's storyboard - the biggest issue with the original was the matter of scale - and have taken a screenshot to test out a new idea for the HUD layout (see below):

The main criticism of the original HUD was concerning the analogue wheels at the bottom - they did not fit in well with the aesthetic of the game and looked very much like they had just been stuck on (which they had). We discussed ideas such as the wheels looking like flowers, a different colour scheme and to have some sort of horizontal flow along the bottom; so I have attempted all of these things! The pink and blue match Bea's colours and the leaves provide a nice border along the bottom of the screen.

The flowers are very large so I set their opacity to 50%; the bees will still be visible behind them. The centres of the flowers could act as 'sticks', so that when pushed they would move (like a top-down view of an actual thumbstick). Lots of iPhone games do this, and perhaps with the centres at full opacity it will be clear that those parts of the HUD are interactive - but I'm really not sure. This idea needs to be run past the team before I make clean versions of the flowers.

I skinned and posed the Bea model, made some adjustments and fleshed out the texture a little. Unless any more refinements need to be made, her model is finished so I will design a plinth for her in the meantime. The pose is based on Abi's concept painting, minus the gigantic happy smile since that would mean changing the face! Bea still looks very happy, which is the main thing.

Another update!! I designed a plinth for Bea (obviously a flower was the perfect choice) and rendered a scene with all the fancy lights. I will hold off from rendering turnaround until I get some feedback on the model, since changes might have to be made.

23/4/10 - Today was development day, so I spent some time re-exporting assets and creating new ones for the game - just small things like rocks. I also had time to place the characters in the new level layout, and I will render a video overnight. I created the new analogue wheels in Illustrator and conjured up an iPhone demo screen, complete with HUD.

I think these flowers could perhaps be quite visually confusing, although it might look better once the images are moving and the flowers are still? I can create an overlay for the level video tomorrow and test things out. The screenshot is not terribly indicative.

Small change: the leaves are opaque but the flowers transparent. Not sure if this is better, worse, or just different without addressing anything. I used a different scene as well, one that is busier. Once again I feel that a video is the best idea since we will see the whole level in motion.

24/4/10 - Level video with HUD overlay.


I took the level layout and replaced all the 3D characters with 2D rendered images; I will render the video at some point to see how it looks in motion. Below is a still capture.

The bees look really nice here, but the ant looks rather flat; it's not helped by the alpha blending which has given him a lovely white outline. I think this is something that we would have had to deal with in the game as well, but hopefully it is less noticeable in motion.

25/4/10 - I wrote up a definitive list of deadlines and tasks so that I can plan my work in these last few weeks. The deadlines are as follows:

10th May - draft dissertation
14th May - Professional Practice submission
17th May - Honours project submission
18th May - end of year presentation
21st May - final dissertation
21st May - launch of Degree show

The closest deadline is for the draft disseration; at the moment I have it all written up and have checked it once over but I need to write the bibliography, which will be something to focus on next week.

The Professional Practice submission consists of the work we will submit for the show - in my case it will be 3 videos, up to 5 images and a poster - as well as a press pack including business cards, artist's statement and promotional synopsis, 1000 word report and relevant promotional material (such as a DVD in an appropriately labelled case). This is by far the most extra work to submit, since I have not been in a position to do any of the written work yet and have not designed business cards or a poster.

The Honours project submission will probably consist of the work I submit for the degree show along with the weekly diaries, learning contracts and a link to this blog. My project submission videos are nearing completion: one video will be the character collection (complete but needs approval), another will be the level fly-throughs with low poly and rendered characters alternately (90% complete, needs approval) and the last will be a collection of tech demos and gameplay videos (need to be collected from the programmers).

These are the main things I am working towards right now - polishing off the material for the videos, refining the dissertation and starting to plan the press pack content.

I now have drafts for two of the three videos which I plan to submit: the character showcase and the level mock-up comparisons.



Since the video layouts have all been set up, it will be easy to tweak and replace content (eg. re-posing a character, changing the HUD, adjusting the level). I expect that some changes will be made yet, but it's good having something to act as a progress piece in the meantime.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Week 13

16/4/10 - This week's post is quite late, seeing as progress did not start until today. I managed to animate the low poly model for Bea, and tested her and the other bees (which I had to re-rig for UV mapping reasons) in Unity. I also animated Harry the jet-plane ant; I'm hoping to render each of the low poly character animations and show them alongside the static turnarounds of the high poly versions for my showreel submission.

17/4/10 - I made some videos! Rendering takes a long time.


Quick collection video of everybody's idle animation.


A fly-through of the level without any characters.

Having created these videos, I have thought a little more about what will be in each of the final submission film clips. At the moment I am aiming for one video of low poly characters, one video of high poly characters, one video which shows fly-throughs of the level comparing low and high poly characters (either side by side or one after the other) and another which shows a compilation of tech demoes. Of course, this is subject to change as some clips could perhaps be strung together or played simultaneously.

I will be submitting my high-poly character turnarounds and perhaps the level fly-through for the first showreel submission.

Today I also decided to sketch out an example HUD for the game, based on other iPhone games such as Assassin's Creed, Inkvaders, iDracula and Castle of Magic. Below is a lovely sketchy depiction of a possible layout, and the images I used as examples.

I am pretty sure we'd be using dual analogue controls for moving and shooting; I will run this design past Abi for any suggestions as to colour scheme, shapes etc. but I think this looks okay. It's the first time I've tried interface/HUD design and it was very exciting! I am keen to use Illustrator for the final graphics, which should be fun :)

18/4/10 - Here is the first level demo video, complete with moving bees and enemies:


I can take this video, put an HUD on as an overlay and publish it as the example of low poly characters. Once the high model of Bea is finished I will render a second video of the same level, replacing the models with renders.


This is a mini version of the video I will be submitting tomorrow for the short showreel. I sped up the flapping of the bees' wings on request from Abi; also note that Bea is not present in this video since her high poly version is not yet finished.

This evening I spent a little time in Illustrator creating HUD items. They're not all done yet; the more complex shapes might cause me some difficulty. Here's a little screenshot demo:

Yay, clean shapes! :)

Monday, 5 April 2010

Week 12

5/4/10 - I completed chapter 5 of the dissertation draft; now I just have the conclusion left before going back over the entire thing and starting the long tidy-up process. I also rendered the last two characters on their plinths. Below is a montage video which I threw together in Movie Maker - low quality win! Of course once I have the final character I'll make a slick sexy video with all the bells and whistles.


6/4/10 - Today Abi and I met to discuss creating assets for the first two levels of the game; she agreed to take on everything in the tutorial and a few items in the first level. I have the rest of the assets for the first level. They are all static, and some will go in the game as low-poly models whilst others will be seen as renders. At the moment it is not important that they be textured.

Left: chopped grass stump (to be rendered).
Middle: lilypad (to go in-game).
Right: flower (to go in-game).

7/4/10 - Most of the day was taken up with the degree show meeting, where we discussed progress as usual. I had some time to do more assets for the level as well.

These leaves will be placed at assorted points in the level as renders. The vines will also be rendered and serve as climbing poles for enemies.

8/4/10 - I created the last two items on my asset list, the checkpoint tent and the pansies.

The tent will be an actual model in the game, whereas the pansies will be rendered in the background. Over the course of the evening I managed to UV unwrap and assign very basic textures to each of the level items, before creating the bare bones of a level mesh (which will be edited accordingly tomorrow).

9/4/10 - We started building the level in Unity today, and I created a low poly version of the lead bee based on Abi's concepts. We didn't get very far with level creation, so I set up my own mock-up in 3DS Max. The rendered items are not in yet, since I was unable to get clean transparency today; I plan to fill things in a bit tomorrow.

Low poly Bea (WIP name but I love it!) with a very basic colour texture applied.

The full mock-up of level 1-1. There is still a lot of scenery to be added but the low poly 3D models which will feature in the level are all there.

Zoomed in shots at various points in the level indicate how the game will look when being played. There are probably some scale issues at this early stage.

10/4/10 - I added some scenery to the level, which has ended up becoming quite a bit longer as I expected. Now all I have to do is add enemies in at the points specified on Abi's storyboard, and take comparison screenshots with the mixture of real 3D cgaracters and rendered characters. The screenshots below show the sequencing of the level.

I am pleased with how this is looking, aside from some annoying issues with transparency on the grass billboards. I'm not sure whether it would be a nicer idea to have some sort of fly-through video than just comparison stills...shall have to think on that one.

I also rendered out each low poly character; with Bea complete and textured properly now, we have a full roster of low poly characters - rejoice!!

11/4/10 - I wrote the conclusion of my dissertation draft - next week I will strive to re-read and tidy up what is there, and perhaps start adding references. I am not expecting to get much work done in the first half of the week however, since I will be away Monday through Thursday.

Today I also made a start on the high poly model of Bea and rendered each completed high poly character to a plain, before arranging some of them in the mockup level; I also arranged some low poly ants in the level as noted on the storyboard, for the purpose of comparison.

The beginning of mid-poly Bea.

Low poly ants in their enemy positions.

A collection of rendered characters just to show how they look.

In a higher quality picture, these little rendered characters would probably look really nice. The low poly ants look nice too. I shall have to set up some proper comparison images shortly and put them side-by-side. I will probably have the characters in the exact same positions in each picture, so as to draw a better visual comparison between the two methods.