Monday, April 23, 2012

Reflection of Year 2

Reflection of Year 2

Yet again I have to reflect upon the past year. Well, finishing the second year was quite a bit more challenging than the first year. A great deal more work and growing up does have a lot of responsibilities. The tasks which we were given and had to complete were one of the issues I faced, and the other was figuring out what I will do in the future.

To be honest, that question is still open and the answer lies somewhere in the future, so on that subject I have nothing to say. But there was also the question of the purpose of universities and what do they teach us. Universities are a big place where you give thousands upon thousands of pounds with the idea that after 3 or more years you will finish and get a piece of paper that says you have a diploma, hoping that it will help you get a better job, because nowadays jobs are something precious, and when you get one, it’s over. Till the rest of his life a person will work to support himself and his family.

Universities are used also to gather lots of different people together, and perhaps that’s the only good aspect to them, but to what expense? Giving thousands of pounds just to hang with some people and teach each other? Hmm that gives me an idea, why not with that amount of money, gather lots of talented people, try working with then under one roof, teach each other and make something that will profit for everyone. Why give so much money to universities when most of the time you see no point to them aside from the diploma.

But let us think of them in a different light, maybe they gather people together away form home so they grow independent, responsible, and actually sit and do their studies. That is good, but I ask why at such a big expense? University fees are growing everywhere. How in the hell can you ask for a student that most of the time he will support his own ass, doesn’t even have the right to have a good job, and then charge him 9000 pounds or more per year for that?

That’s the major question: is there a point to studying in university? Why not just sit on your ass, get tons of books, try getting some people to help, and make a man of yourself. It would certainly be less expensive if you know where to look. But enough on that subject.

What I want to get from university studies? A diploma that will get me a good job. Why? Because the world revolves around money, and you can’t survive without it.

As I said I still have no idea what I want to be, and if I do, that’s personal. But what I want to make of myself is different. As most people, I want to improve and become better, because the other way around is just suicide.

But let’s see what I learned from second year. I am glad that the people around me are nice, and the help they can give is very much appreciated. But there is the fact that everyone stands for himself, especially in these days.

There is also the fact that a company will hire you if you are a work machine, if you can do what they tell you to, make you sit on your ass all day and work. If you are that kind of person and you actually like that, well, the future is bright for you.

Life Changing or Career Building

Life Changing or Career Building

Studying something for three or more years that you can study from your own bedroom and giving thousands of thousand of pounds for it does sound a little bit weird. This raises the question: do I really need to? Why am I doing this? Is it going to be of any use to me? This is a question I can’t answer, because who knows, I have been studying math and chemistry for half of my life and I didn’t need it once to help me with something. So who knows if I need to study this so that one day it can help me?

There is also the thing that a person these days has to know a lot of stuff to make a good future for himself. But why is it like that? I am not talking about life lessons, but knowledge you would have to have in a business area. Wouldn’t it be a lot better to focus on one thing you are good at and keep going at it, become better and better, instead of trying to learn several things at once?

I’ll provide myself as an example. I want to improve my skills in drawing and sculpting, but at the same time I have to learn 3D software like 3Ds Max, Zbrush, Maya, and game engines like Unreal Engine and Cry Engine. If I learn all of them instead of focusing on one thing, would that help me? Let’s say for instance that I attempt to learn all of them combined for two years. At the end, would I be good at all of them or average at all of them? Wouldn’t it be better to focus on one or two things for that time period and become completely fluent with them? But then again, you never know what your employer will want from you. He might be searching for a person with skills on all of those programs, or on the other hand, a person that is very good at drawing. But there are thousand of ideas that came to mind about this. Who knows, somebody else might want to employ you just because you are very talented. It’s never bad to have lots of skill though, if you can keep up with them.

The question yet again comes to mind: why do we need education within an institution? Why, when with a subject such as this, I can obtain all the help I require from internet tutorials, or just people form the industry? Do companies still prefer a person with a fancy diploma and education than one with the same talent, or better, but with no institutional education? Do they think that if we did this sacrifice to study and give lots of money that we would be better workers? Most of those questions I can’t answer because it doesn’t depend on my opinion, and I can’t say how the people within the industry think.

The best idea is to try and improve yourself at everything, but if you enjoy something and you are good at it, keep going until the end, but don’t get full of yourself. Compare to other people, try getting more critique on yourself and your work in order to find out what’s wrong, and fix it. That’s one of the best ways to improve.

From Generalist to Specialist

From Generalist to Specialist

As with everything else, the game industry is mainly developed and organized to make money. Everything is about money, and even people that have the love of video games and make something with only the help of their friends, they still have the idea to generate money from that. Like an old saying goes: there’s no such thing as a free lunch.

While you are growing up, the world progressively shows you its ugly side, and it sticks with it until the very end. When you are young and naïve you think that there still is something fun for you to do as work. As for me, I thought the game industry was made out of jelly beans and gumdrops, and working for it is going to be so much fun. But it is in its core an industry, a company, a place with lots of people doing lots of work, and demanding money for it.

But let’s take a look or a guess on what it is built upon. To start from the top, there is the major company producer that gives the money to the company to produce the game. Let’s take for an example the biggest money demanding douchebags –EA Games - that owns companies that own more companies. Lest say EA works with People Can Fly studios and they have to make a new game. Well People Can Fly create and have a vision for that game, but EA wants to make money out of it so the idea is to make it more suitable for more people and make a big commercial out of it. Why not put some horrible dubstep in it, since that’s the mass-produced fad nowadays, and it always works.

But when you look at it, the company isn’t just at one place. They have lots of different branches all around the world just because there is cheap labor all around. Lets take for example India, where you can just pay them 5 dollars a day and they will do the same amount of work as a US company that want 12 dollars per hour. That’s because money everywhere has a different value. As stated prior, the game industry is made out of companies that want money. No wonder everything we buy is made in China – cheap labor, and a large amount of people to do the work.

To be honest, I have no idea what the best way to get to the top spot in a game company is. Perhaps it requires lots of luck. Even if you are good, somebody might want to screw you over so he can have a better spot. Nobody in this world would let you take his place if he is happy with it. For a person to aim to be a great concept artist or art director, a good dose of luck and lots of balls is needed, in order to do what you have to do with success as your only goal.

There isn’t much to say on this subject, a person like myself or you, who want to get in the game industry, should think of himself as a labor donkey. You have to be able to do lots of shitty work all the time and deal with it so one day you might get somewhere, only to do the same thing again, to get a little farther ahead.

Interaction design

Interaction Design

From the very first monster-like machines, with a basic joystick and single button controller built right into the console itself, to the free use your body as a controller, the way in which we interact with a game has changed dramatically. Controllers for a game come in many shapes and forms, from the console’s gamepads, to a computer’s mouse and keyboard, and to the new motion tracking devices. Typically, the most popular form of controller was the gamepad, and it has become compatible for use with computers as well.

With technology constantly growing, the consumer’s needs grow as well. People constantly want more and more potential from the experience of a game and the console they are playing on. On one hand, there are people happy with the controllers they already have, they are used to them, and they serve their purpose and the idea is if it isn’t broken, why fix it? On the other hand, there are the people that want something new, something with which they will fully interact with the game. I am one of the guys who like what they have. It would be nice to see something new, but at times like these, new technology has ridiculous prices, and the fact that you know that thing is designed to break so you can buy a new one, giving the company more money, makes you stick with what you have.

There are all kinds of consoles nowadays. From the very first machine that allowed you to play games, the computer, to absolutely everything now – Xbox, PlayStation, Nintendo - they each have so many attachments such as different controllers and what not that it gives the consumer so much to choose from. But as we know, not all of that is to the liking of most people. There is also the fact that companies develop technology like the motion tracking Kinect, claim it is something new and polished, put it on the market and the thing is absolute crap. Or the Nintendo Wii that made lots of sales, but at the cost that the games for it look like they are 20 years old, and you have to swing like a madman to interact with the game.

Prices on consoles are big as well in most countries. Most of the time they are overpriced because when you think about it, a console is just a computer; motherboard, video card, RAM, processor, and an operating system. Basically, that’s all there is to it. The rest of the price is, of course, from other requirements to even play the game. You will want to buy a good TV and a sound system so you can get the most of a game, but is it worth it to spend around 1000 pounds for something you will just waste your time on? Well, I guess that’s a different subject.

As stated prior, companies are putting more and more tracking systems on the market. Examples are the Nintendo Wii, or the PlayStation flashlight-looking tracking controller, to the Xbox Kinect, and the soon to be released WiiU. So the market and the future is aiming for something with interaction, the power to move your body in a room, and to manipulate the character you play which will do the same in the game. But it does look silly, and many are still being developed. They’re out there now, but they are still slow, and you need to have a nice big room with a good TV, and maybe no windows so nobody will look at you doing ninja bullshit. Old-school gamers or people just want to have some fun with a game stick to a computer or a console with a normal gamepad.

Interaction is used also in military and medical uses. From applications such as flight simulators, big machine simulators for military tanks, ships, cranes, and something that is easier to teach yourself on without the need to risk your life. Medical simulators calculate everything that the future doctor might be calculating incorrectly, and giving feedback. But there is the fact that those simulators literally cost millions. They can also be used for cosmonaut training. Still, it’s a lot cheaper to train a cosmonaut in a controlled environment than risking sending him into space untrained.

People do have the ambition to create something new that will immerse the player in the game. For instance, a room filled with motion tracking rollers on the floor and cameras all around you to know every single move you make, so that it will calculated where you shoot or look, and project it on a room filled with screens…but when you think about it, that will cost too much for a normal player to buy and make a whole room especially for that. When you think about it that way, it’s a lot more fun to spend 20 bucks on a simple paintball match.

There is also the 3D aspect of games. More and more games have the setting to display it in 3D so you can see your favorite character slightly different with the cost of getting your eyes damaged. We’ll end that discussion short, because in my opinion, 3D should be burn and be banned forever.

Technology will evolve more and more, someday we might just put a helmet on our heads like those old sci-fi movies and merge into a world we make with our minds. Or you could just go outside and play with your friend, for crying out loud.

Level design

Level Design

A good level design is a crucial element for a good game. Level design in its basics is the area you shall play in, explore, and interact with. You need several key elements for a good level; good concepts for it, so the level is interesting for the player’s eyes; intractability, so the player can physically interact or change the level; and enough space for the bad guys.

In the early years, levels were plain and simple, mostly built up from lots of corridors and several rooms, all of which were simply repeated hundreds of times. But that’s a thing of the past now, and with advanced engines which people can freely use, the demand for an interesting level design is high. People do complain when a new game is released, and it is nothing more than a plain box, with no open spaces or anything to really interest the player. Although there is the fact that most of the players don’t even know how the level was constructed and simply use other games as a reference point. Comparison is the favorite thing for every person with low imagination and understanding.

A lot of the times every level has its own coloring theme, sound, and feel. Even if it’s a vast open area, different elements have a different feel to them. Let’s take the game S.T.A.L.K.E.R. as an example. It was an open world game and it was quite interesting, and at the same time scary to go through old abandoned villages, especially for me because I can relate to lots of those building.

The level must be interactive as well. It can get quite boring if all you have to do is run through the levels without doing anything to it; opening a door, destroying a building, or anything at all. Lately people tried to do exactly that. Take for example the newer Red Faction games. The amount of stuff you can destroy there is insane. The new Battlefield games as well where cover can be built and destroyed quite easily.

The feel of a level is the most important thing for me. For example, while talking of a game with friends, everybody will have their different part, or level of the game which they enjoyed. Let’s take Half-Life 2. Shooting Combine amongst the streets of my home country was fun as hell, but when I got to Ravenholm, it was a totally different story. I hated that level because it scared the crap out of me. The lighting, the sound, the colors, the enemies - everything was there to make you feel unsafe and scared.

We came across the challenge of making a level in this year’s group project. The idea was to make a level based on the Queen’s building and give it a nice horror feel to it. In the beginning, it was quite challenging to lay out some rooms, mainly corridors, and later on realizing when you have too many it just gets too damn boring. For the final level design we did is quite interesting, and at moments you feel that you can put that in a modern game and it would look awesome.

Overall, level design is the world around the player, so it’s of most importance to make it as interesting as possible. Imagine in real life that everything was the same everywhere, and repeated thousands of times. It would look boring, and surreal. Well, you do see it here with the streets filled with the same house over and over…. It just gets confusing and annoying

Game engines

Game Engines

The game engine is the horse that pulls the stacked up carriage. The most widely known and commercial base engines are the Unreal Engine and Cry Engine, but not every company releases their engine for commercial use.

The game engine is the component that combines everything together and makes it work. For lack of a better term, it’s the tool that you use to make a game function. Without it, you may have all the assets, effects, textures, and what not, but without the engine, you’re not going to get anywhere. Engines can be quite tricky as well, depending on how user-friendly they are.

The engine we use and which most people know is the Unreal engine. Its use depends on the user, and as such, some people might like it, or they might absolutely hate it, as every program and game engine has its own unique advantages and disadvantages. Furthermore, it’s only a program, a tool that you put to use, but it can crash for no particular reason, but that’s how computers are.

Each engine has a different feel and look to them. For example, you just know it’s made with Unreal Engine from the soft light and shadows it gives to the game. And the Cry Engine makes everything look real, maybe too real, which just makes the game look too polished and boring.

Nowadays engines are so developed that they can run basically everything with ridiculous amounts of polygons and texture sizes. The potential is there, but to be able to show that to a normal player depends on his machine, and that being case, not every machine can run the package, so you also have to take your consumer into consideration. So companies do have limit on polygons and texture sizes so a personal home machine can run it normally. The thing is, loading in games is the time that it takes for the computer to load the package; the entire level which you will step into. A game that kind of overdid what they accomplished was the Crysis series. When it was released, the graphics were amazing, but it took a heavy toll on personal computers because the requirements for it were quite high. But with time comes newer and better video cards, RAM, and processors. To think that 20 years ago games were nothing more than a basic 8-bit side-scroller or a really plain 3d shooter.

As technology advanced, game engines had been used not only for gaming purposes, but also saw use in the medical field as a visual-aid for studying, or in aviation for flight simulators, as well as for combat simulators.

There is also the difference between the work that a game engine must accomplish between the one used for a single player game and for a massive multiplayer game. The one for the MMO is a lot more complex.

A game engine is self-explanatory just from its name – it is the engine that runs the game, combines all of the elements in one place, and allows them function. With technology advancing rapidly, soon the possibility to play a game that looks like a high budget CG film is ever so close. But for my personal liking there will always be some beauty in crude looking elements of a game.

Sound for games


Every time I hear the song from Super Mario or SEGA’s Sonic, I can not escape from the thought that those melodies are the soundtrack not only to my childhood, but to a whole generation of children. The music from those games is so catchy and memorable that it is easy to be separated from it’s real meaning, which is to serve the game. This is why nowadays one of the main goals in the entertaining industry is to create sound tracks and sound effects which will be the new emblem of the next generation in gaming.

Sound forms music, and it can make us cry, has the power to reduce our anger or to make us incredibly happy, or fill us with power or rage. If sound possesses the power to play with our hearts, how much more will be accomplished with it when it is used to tell a story in which the main character reflects the person playing? In my opinion, sound takes a major role in our emotional experience while we are playing a game. Mainly because it is expected to bring an equivalent experience to our ears while we are simultaneously being stimulated visually, otherwise an important part of the soul of the game is lost. The experience and feelings are just not the same. It is like muting a horror movie, or watching Tom and Jerry whiteout the classical music.

Sound is so important in a game that without it you just have lots of assets in a room and characters around you. It is the factor that can make you scared or pump the adrenalin in you preparing you for a big battle. It can guide you as well. It is quite often that when you hear that the music growing more rapid or intense, that a battle is upon the horizon.

The other huge part of sound design in games is the soundtrack, especially if the game is expected to be a blockbuster. The music from movies like Star Wars or Indiana Jones has such a strong impact on your culture that they live a life on their own. For example, every time I hear the Darth Vader intro I do not even think about Star Wars, I just get goosebumps. In the long run, I believe that this effect is the proof that a game will be successful, and leave its mark in the hearts of many.

In conclusion, sound design in the gaming industry serves a function, a function which cannot be compensated by really nice graphics or story. It is the foundation of which the experience of the game is built around.