Monday, March 28, 2011

Modular Character WIP

Dedicating so many hours into the Modular Character now. Here's a WIP shot:

The head's my favorite, which is why I keep showing screenshots of it. :'D

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Modular Character WIP

Just gonna post some WIP shots of an assignment for 3D class...
All of these shots were taken in Zbrush.

Close up of the eye

Armor progress

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Card Game Mod Updated!

Images have finally been added! Check out the page by clicking the tab above.


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Portfolio WIP

To show that I'm working on portfolio, here's a work in progress shot:

Hopefully, it'll get done soon. ^^;
Shrimp out!

The GDC Experience [Day 3 - Fri]

This was the last day of the conference. Hearing from the seniors that the career pavilion was going to be packed, we decided to avoid the expo all together and just hit up some lectures. Before that, Kez and I just wanted to get in the expo... one last time.
Good thing we did, because we met and chatted with the guys at Frictional Games, who made Amnesia: The Dark Descent! (Best horror game ever in my opinion.) Since they were a small company, they weren't looking for anyone to hire at the moment, but they were willing to look at portfolio work as a follow up. I also got to embarrass myself by forgetting the controls to play the demo of Amnesia, which they had on display. :'D

Leaving the expo, Kez and I hit up the Art Director/Lead Artist Roundtable lead by Seth Spaulding, Art Manager at Blizzard Entertainment. This was the first time sitting in the talk for me, so the main topic of their discussion was hitting up points they went over the previous day. Here are the notes I took:


  • send in more items than your publishers require. You want to build trust.
  • for sequels, base marketing on previous projects
  • embed marketing people onto the game development team
    • involve them in the prepro
    • show them composition, style, etc. (get them involved, teach them your lingo so that everyone is on the same page)
  • consensus building --> Art Bible
    • immerse yourself in the game's art style: put reference pics everywhere around you, always look at images to inspire yourself and keep yourself in that world
    • have someone create/update a wiki
    • screencap from movies and games (build your reference library!)
  • smaller teams can do more experimentation
  • speak so that everyone can understand you (be wary of your language)
    • how can you communicate your ideas so that your team can help create this idea
    • "prove that stupid is stupid"
      • know what doesn't work and say that it doesn't!
  • internal marketing: "establish unique marketing position"
    • try to expand the art to the marketing people (get them to understand your vision)
  • need to communicate, not just within your team, but also with your publishers and developers
    • build a relationship with the publishers (good to build casual conversations)
    • be social! be cool
    • learn how other people communicate
  • the desire not to compromise?
  • identify problems
  • always remind people about your goals - Be persistent!

Art Management with Programmers
  • build trust
  • need tech artists
  • get them [programmers] involved early
  • have and maintain constant communication with them
  • make sure that your vision can work with the scope of the project/engine
  • have mini-internal meetings with designers and programmers (get everyone on the same page)
  • figure out what each side of the team can/cannot do
  • arranged seating during official team meetings
    • force animators, programmers, and artists to intermingle with the other sides of the team
      • in the end, we all want the same thing
  • Always say thank you to the people you work with :)

Time Management
  • time block/box it (time sheets)
  • show new techniques that may help teammates during meetings
  • time it takes to complete a piece
    • how do you approach?
  • give artists appropriate tasks
  • when modeling/sculpting anything in a game, ask yourself "How big is it going to be in the game?"
    • manage time to optimization of game models
    • don't waste too much time on a sculpt if it's not even going to take up a large portion of the screen

The key point I got from this talk: communication is crucial to working on a team. This point was brought up so many times during this talk, even during the Production SIG roundtable Kez and I attended on Wednesday. Always keep in touch with other people on the team: programmers, animators, everyone! Make sure everyone is on the same page because in the end, you're all making the same product. Casual conversations and praising good work also helps build relationships between people on the team, so when you get the chance, go out and have a drink with other people on the team, even the publishers. Be cool and be yourself. Cuz if you establish a good relationship with them, they'll be happy to work with you on another project in the future.

The last lecture we hit was "How Art Was Used to Create a Unique Experience in Heavy Rain", lead by Christophe Brusseaux, the Art Director/Graphic Manager at Quantic Dream. Here are the notes:

Art Direction
  • built the design team like a movie team
  • used color keys for the environments
  • environmental storytelling (key element!)
  • moodboard and placeholders
    • like a greybox but with props and materials
  • Character Design Process
    • Process chain: actor casting --> fashion design and moodboard --> final art validation
  • Character Creation
    • casting --> photo shoot --> resurface --> brought into Maya --> fix effects --> rigging --> animation
    • 20,000 polys
      • 10,000 for head
      • 10,000 for body
    • face and body animations separate from each other to achieve dynamic and spontaneous motion

The Rain
  • different rain moodboards
    • explored different types of rain and sky
  • diffusion of light
  • rain effects aren't only composed of layers or particles (you need many layers to achieve the right effect)
    • 2D layers and sprites --> atmospheric effects --> materials and spec adjustment --> secondary effects
    • had animated UVs and normals (on props)

In Conclusion...
  • the game had High Quality data
    • rain is tricky animate in real time
    • challenges avoiding the Uncanny Valley
  • communication is crucial; talk to your team! (as noted from the Art Director talk!!)

At the end of the Heavy Rain talk, we met up with a guy we saw before the lecture (at that time we were all trying to figure out where this Heavy Rain talk was). The guy ended up being an artist at Blizzard, Chaz Head! (You never know who you meet at GDC.) So we got to have a sketchbook review with the guy at the end of the lecture, which was extremely helpful. I even went back into my sketchbook and wrote down all the notes on every page he critiqued. Overall, the advice he gave me was:
  • Your characters need strong silhouettes. Artists tend to achieve this by putting weight on the top or bottom of a character. Enhance proportions and gestures. Make your characters recognizable!
  • Vary your shapes. Make your overall design interesting.
    • On this note: repetition is key. When you have interesting motifs spread well throughout your character you know you have a good design.
  • Break up character poses into (at least) 3 planes: foreground, middle ground, and background. This prevents confusion in reading the pose. For a back plane, just block in a form. You don't need to geek out on the detail for something that's heading towards the back of a composition.
  • Bring the eye back to the main focus of the character (for instance, if your character has a tail, draw the tail curving back towards the body. Control the direction of your viewer's eye.)
  • If you're constructing a concept art portfolio, you should make separate portfolios for character and environment art. The two are different fields!

At the end of the day, I hung out with more Ringling peeps, Ben, and Dawn (from the alumni party) at Japantown! WOO! But more importantly, that ends the epic GDC experience. In conclusion, GDC was amazing. Definitely the best experience I've ever had. And if I have the $$$, I will no doubt go again next year.

I end this writeup with the self-proclaimed mascot of my adventure: Jidi, the GDCat. He came from the epic adventure to Japantown on Saturday. :D

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The GDC Experience [Day 2 - Thurs]

I was so worn out from Wednesday that I didn't do much at the conference today. I ended up hanging out at the Expo for most of the day. I got to draw with Wacom's Syntec tablet for a while and hoping that one day I'll be able to own one. One day. Hopefully.
Other than that, I visited more booths and got more constructive feedback for portfolio:

Telltale Games
  • overall, strong concept art. If you're looking into becoming a concept artist, build a concept art portfolio. Specify!
  • known to be stylized, so lean more towards style. Still include realistic.

WB Games
  • couldn't get a portfolio review
  • managed to get a contact for the division that made Batman: Arkham Asylum

High Voltage Software
  • couldn't get a portfolio review
  • managed to get a contact in case an internship position opens up
  • looking for a technical artist

Activision (again)
  • revisited here because I forgot to get a contact name yesterday.
  • got another portfolio review from a different person
    • strong concept art
    • suggest leaning towards environment art
    • add depth to the environment concept I have. Break up the space between the foreground and background.
    • models looked decent. If interested in prop modeling, I was suggested to look into an internship at Treyarch.

  • strong concept art, especially in the characters
  • include silhouettes and process work! Show more concept.
  • current environment art piece is lacking.
    • needs depth and atmosphere
    • overall looks airbrushed. The lighting on the subject is too strong - push it back. Be bold with the brush strokes: use sharper edges!
  • textures on the individual props models look good
  • treehouse screenshot of the living room interior should be removed from the portfolio
    • can see many flaws: no contact shadows, lack of transitional edges
    • needs more attention to detail

The Ringling alumni party happened at the end of the day, which was very fun! I met up with my TAs back in precollege at Carnegie Mellon's National High School Game Academy program: Ben Taylor and Dawn Rivers, which was a blast! It was an overall great social event, one that I know I'll never forget. The party was going to continue on at another bar, but I couldn't go... (cough age cough).

So ends the second day of GDC! :D

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The GDC Experience [Day 1 - Wed]

First day at the convention was a blast! I met so many people in the industry that I never dreamed I would meet in person. I hung around with Kez for most of the day so starting from there...

The first thing we did was hit up the IDGA Production SIG roundtable. We originally wanted to sit in the Art Director roundtable - lead by Seth Spaulding from Blizzard Entertainment - but it was full by the time we got there. Seeing that the Production SIG was next door and also led by a Blizzard person: Dennis Crow, we took the opportunity to listen in on the discussion.
Of course, the room was packed with people, mainly producers from game companies. The main topic of the discussion was addressing some issues about the producer's job in the game development team as well as marketing a game. This "roundtable" discussion was great: everyone in the room was split up into small groups of 5 - 6 people. Kez and I ended up in a group that included the producer of Big Huge Games, Patrick O'Kelley: the producer at Bungie, and our teacher's brother-in-law?! (sorry, I can't remember the name) Here are some quick notes I took during our discussion:

Producer's Role
  • The differentiation between design and production
  • It is the producer's job to help the team move in the right direction
    • Does this include feasability? Not exactly
    • Convince the team of the possibility of the product
  • Holes in game docs
  • What's more important: the art direction or the gameplay?
    • Art direction is a good hook for people not familiar with games
    • Gameplay defines the game - makes it FUN
      • (we agreed that gameplay was the most important, however...)
    • Not really a question of art and programming. You need design.

  • Box art usually falls on the publishers
    • You end up having different takes on your game: publisher vs. producer
      • Producer has been closer with the team - understands vision
      • Publishers tend to be distant from the team and their work
      • Try to include these guys in the team meetings to get everyone on the same page
  • Craft: marketing or do you really care
    • The difference between actually making a "game" or just another sequel 
    • Batman Arkham Asylum (for example)
      • Many Batman games out there, but this one stands out well
  • Does is become the studio's responsibility to prevent/control game addiction?

After hitting up the roundtable, we headed to the Expo. Here, we traversed through the many booths of amazing game companies and obtained portfolio feedback. Overall, the advice I received was helpful and constructive. Here's the rundown of the booths I hit and the key notes I took from each:

  • can't work there unless you live in Canada :(
  • did not get a portfolio review, but I asked questions concerning what would they want to see in concept art/modeling portfolio
    • For character modeling, they prefer to see a hi-res sculpt as opposed to an optimized character
    • Environment art: I was directed to look at Gustavo Mendonca's work

Guerrila Games
  • get an iPad (texture maps show up better on a screen, plus it shows that you can use technology)
  • specify what you want to be. I showed a general portfolio - figure out what you want to do!
  • as for the props I had, indicate the polycount (show numbers). Looking at the wireframes I showed, the polycount of the prop models in my portfolio were too high.

  • looking for an environment concept artist
  • they are known for being stylized, so they are interested in looking at stylized environments in your portfolio
    • doesn't hurt to show that you can do both realistic and stylized environments. Include both.

  • if you're looking to concept art and/or modeling, have two separate portfolios for each category
    • more importantly, however, figure out what you want to be. Concept artist or modeler?
    • have your website show what you're most interested in, then have a link to the other portfolio if whoever's looking is interested
  • for modeling, they're looking into props, so include more of that
    • also pointed out that the polycount was too high for my props, looking at the wireframes
  • the concept art is strong, however, show more of the process work
    • first image in the portfolio looks like an illustration
    • show off your exploration! Silhouette work, sketches, color keys, turnarounds, modularity. Process, process, process! Definitely the silhouette work.

In between visiting Guerrilla Games and Insomniac, Kez and I sat in the Dead Space 2 Art Direction lecture, lead by the art director, Ian Milham. What I liked most about this talk was that he covered the positive and negative attributes of the franchise's art direction. Here are the key points:
  • Art direction for Dead Space 1
    • Aimed to create a noticeable style for the game
      • dark, almost no lighting
        • (I was reminded of when I showed a concept piece from Dead Space 2 in Prepro class. The class agreed that the concept art was strong and had visual complexity, however, the details were washed out with darkness in the in-game result. Ian seemed to point out that the darkness was a part of the style for the franchise.)
      • environment was influenced by gothic architecture (ribbing of flying buttresses, etc.)
      • also tied that influence to the character design (have him fit into the world)
    • What went wrong: lack in variety
      • if you take screenshots of each level and put them on the same page, you can't tell a difference between them. The color keys were too similar.
      • you were an errand boy. Characters in the game kept telling you what to do and you obeyed without question. Boring and repetitive gameplay.
  • Beyond horror (Dead Space 2)
    • Added variety in art direction and gameplay
      • improved color schemes for the overboards. Now you can remember which level was which based on the colors (i.e. greenish tones = hospital). Color also indicated progression in the game. I think it started with saturation and desaturated until the end.
      • varied the character design. Changed the helmet into a more interesting shape.
      • also put more emphasis on the character. Gave him a voice. 
      • Overall, a more story-driven game.
    • Highlight epic moments
      • this helped add variety in gameplay
      • emphasized in the beginning of the game. Main example was the first time you see the necromorph transformation.
        • over emphasized the transformation sequence. Dramatized it so that the next time the player sees a person turning into a necromorph, you remember what that looked and felt like.
        • building an emotion so that later in the game the player can experience the same feeling without having see the dramatization again.
        • leave an impact on the player.
After the lecture, we got to chat and ask some questions with Ian. I asked about the mindset behind designing the RIG and Ian replied it was solely for removing the HUD. Originally, however, he envisioned the RIG to be something that the player character can peek over and see behind his back, but the design of something like that would interfere with the gameplay. They had to be careful to balance the action during gameplay with always seeing the RIG on the character's back. There were also challenges with the RIG placement and preventing it from colliding into the character model whenever his torso turned a certain way. 


At the end of the conference, we attended the IGF and Game Developer's Choice Awards. Definitely have to say: one of the most amusing and exciting experiences at a con ever. It was fun, especially listening to what the Indie game developers had to say when they received their awards. It was improv at it's best. Tim Schafer was an entertaining host, too.
Favorite highlights:

  • MineCraft got the most awards in both IGF and Game Choice
  • Limbo was nominated a number of times and finally achieved the Game Choice visual arts award 
  • Amnesia: The Dark Descent won two awards, one of them being Technical Excellence in Audio (totally agree with that one)
  • Game of the Year: Red Dead Redemption (aww yeah! Great game!)


And so that concludes Day 1 of GDC. Also, this was the best freebie I grabbed:

It came from the Capcom booth. :D

The GDC Experience [Prologue]

I had never been to San Francisco. The moment Kez and I got off the plane, I couldn't comprehend how excited I was for this trip. We arrived a day earlier, unfortunately close to midnight so we couldn't see the city and all it's glory under the sun; but through lights that scattered across the city (like billions and billions of stars), I could tell: GDC is going to be awesome.

I learned something, not even on the first day of the actual convention:
  •  Don't take a taxi ride to the city. It's expensive. 

Like they say: you learn something new everyday, right?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Game Design and Plushies?

Added a new page about a card game I created in Game Design called 3 Demons. It was a mod of the Yu-Gi-Oh! trading card game. Check out the page to see images of the game and cards. :D

I'm also thinking about adding a page with images of some of the craft stuff I like to do. If I can't find creativity in Photoshop or paper, I go to fabric or clay. Sewing's always been a relaxing hobby for me.