Thursday, 31 October 2013

Elements of Game Design, part five: Planning and Concepting

Within a game developing company, it is essential that there is a planned and very strict schedule to be followed at all times. For us on my course, we are learning how to plan and stick to these timeframes.

With each project we are set, we are given a brief which gives us the, genre/backstory, technical specifications and anything else we need to know about producing the final product. This will be given in different ways; whether we are producing work for 2D or 3D aspects.

Ultimately, these briefs are structured in similar ways. We are given the general outline of the piece before conducting research and finding reference. Then we look at silhouettes and idea generation which moves us on to a development of the concepting process and design exploration. Finally, you end up with the final conceptual idea, which can then be modelled, sculpted, imagineered, etc.

The time frame always depends on the product. For our visual design projects last year, we were usually given between 1-3 weeks, but this largely depended on whether we were drawing still life as practice or conceptualising a character or in game asset. With our Game production projects, we were given around 3-4 weeks; again, this was all down to the brief and final result we aimed for.

Already in second year, the step up is noticed. Although, there isn’t necessarily more work to do, or less time to do it in. A definite change in attitude and skill has improved everyone’s final outcomes with their work. The understanding of having a good plan is on my mind this year. I look to try and be consistent with each module, and to complete enough work to keep a balanced working ethos.

In Critical Studies we looked at the pipeline process that
an average game studio might follow. It follows a specific set of instructions throughout the process and always sticks to the brief. With our 2D conceptual projects, we usually just see it through to the final conceptual design and never all the way to actually building it in 3D space to put into a game engine. Because of this we have the developmental process, closely following that of a company’s design pipeline in game production, but less so if it’s just for a single asset/character.

The design pipeline for a company follows the entire process for creating a game. Although we don’t/haven’t made an entire game, we still follow these design aspects in order to explore and create the best ideas in these given tasks. Although there is one main structure, it largely branches out in order to focus on refinement.

For any game development team to function smoothly, the pipeline has to be closely regulated, giving you art directors and many other heads of authority keeping everyone’s stylisation and vision focused on the brief. This is an excellent way for directors to keep track of what the whole team are doing as the whole pipeline can be changed and shifted with the team still following. It is clear that without this structure and the development of all areas in the pipeline, games would be pretty pants. The clear focus of where they need the final product to be helps the development continue throughout the project, and not just at the beginning. This is how it should always be done.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Looking in the mirror and thinking… How am I still here?

So this is where my motor is reignited and churning faster than ever before. Second year of Game Art Design! It’s been a long break away from Leicester and I’ve had some time to readjust my body clock, learn some new things and earn some dosh.

This for me was a time of thought and reflection on my work and attitude to the course last year. I wasn’t as happy as I could be with my grades, and I entirely understand why. I don’t think it was that I fell behind, or that I missed deadlines. I think it was more my attitude and artistic history which had some things to do with this lower grade. Throughout school, I liked to think of myself as a bit of a “perfectionist” in Art. I didn’t learn a lot of theory and technique and so largely relied on my natural artistic ability. I liked to think that if I produced a piece of work that was 100% accurate when compared with the photo I copied, that it’d look better, and I’d be appreciated more.

However, since starting the course, I realised very early on that accuracy with speed is essential. Things need to be done to an extremely high standard and quickly. I guess it’s like flying a helicopter; you have to know how to do it well and constantly concentrate on your actions. Take your mind off it for just a second or neglect to plan ahead and it’s a downward spiral. Because of this “perfectionism” attitude, pictures took a long time to produce, which usually caused me to fall being on work quantity. But this didn’t concern me too much as I would work extra hard to complete work to the best of my ability. Although I did not always complete as much work as my fellow art students, I still got similar high grades to them from terms of effort. This always spurred me onto doing better pieces of work and that’s why I’m in Leicester… to improve my skill at the most rapid rate possible.

It’s hard to think that last year was about 8 months of learning the fundamentals of the game art world. The work load was an enormous step up, and already in the beginning of this second year, it’s obvious that the bar is going to continue to get higher. Having looked more into anatomy, form and lighting over the summer, I feel a little more confident about the year ahead .I wish I could’ve done more personal work, but work was essential in being able to afford the course. I aim to develop and stick to a tighter working schedule, as well as focusing more on what I am doing in order to be most efficient in as little time as possible. This year, is about me developing my skill. I hope that by the end of the year, even if I have a rocky first semester, that I have something to show for it.

Let the games begin!