PHASEgaming

Jason Pook's Games Design Blog


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Year 1 Challenge revisited- Low Poly Guitar

In the Year 1’s session today they was set the same task we had last year, to model assets with a restricted polycount to make them aware of polycount limits in games also known as a budget.

They proceeded to model the items they had drawn by card and by the end of the session handed in what they had got. Paul then proposed for the guitar controller to be done by next week in 128 polys to everyones disbelief and shock, operant conditioning was applied to this of a reward of a sausage roll if someone could complete it in half of that so 64 poly’s…challenge accepted. Realising i did the guitar last year i did it in 188 polys, now i thought it would be beneficial to myself to try model it again as fast as i could in as low poly as possible.

In around 5 minutes i had a 88 poly guitar, loosing some loops and strategically placing certain edges to create a similar shape without the loop i managed to get it down to 68. Not much could be seen to do, then i realised i still had my reference image underneath my model for shape…this cut it down to 48. So i had won id done it, but i didnt stop there i wanted to optimise it to the lowest possible it could be still looking like a guitar.

Fully optimised I managed to get it to 39 poly’s by this time a had the majority of first year surrounding me.

lowpolyguitar_39polySo in around 15minutes i had a 39 poly guitar, which was modelled in 5minutes then it just took some thinking to how i could keep the shape but lower the polycount. In comparison to last years 188 which admittedly i loaded up and it was horrific topology I can clearly see how much i have come on since this time last year. The 1st years now dislike me as I have proved it can be done and in very little time giving them no excuses…sorry guys!


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Year 1 Reflection

This post will be an overall reflection on Year 1 Games Design and how i feel i did well and where i could improve in places.

This year for everyone was seen as a toolbox year, a year to build our skills in the programs that we would eventually be using in the next years and industry. Programs that in most cases for myself was completely alien, the likes of 3dsmax i had never come across before but it was the program i felt i would need to advance in the most. The beginning of the year i dont think most of us had any idea on what we would like to do in the profession due to unexperienced views on the work and generally being gamers rather than games designers.

Personally i felt that progress along the year was huge, i couldnt draw very well to begin with now i am at terms with perspectives and improving in the field of life drawing. This was much thanks to the creative futures module, my adaptation brief i believe was my strongest in terms of creativity on my behalf and it really made me figure myself a design process out for how i would go about conquering my work. Other things i felt i improved on was definately the 3D aspect of work, first i struggled to grasp the concept of modifiers, texturing and modelling in general but with practice i can now model low poly models as long as i sit and think about how to go about the topology of it. If i was to be critical of myself i would definately say i could have done alot more to improve my work, due to certain circumstances in my family and friends i struggled coping with towards the end of the year and this did see a drop in my productivity.

Determination will be a key factor for next year and i intend on focusing purely on my work but allowing myself social time aswell but not if it will jeopodise my work rate. This year things i wasnt so pleased with was my use of flash, yes i got a working timeline, game and animation but i was never confident in the program it was used because we had to i felt and thats not how i should have looked at it. When i nfelt that way what i should have done was asked for maybe some extra tuition on the area or taken time at home to really get a grasp of the program, so this is reflection on that.

The main thing for the future is to keep on top of work dont be that guy who says “oh ill do it next week…its not in for another 4 weeks” get it out of the way and sorted so that im always 1 step ahead of the game. Currently im unaware on my marks but im hoping that i have done well asd i really want this to work for me.

Over the summer me and a few colleagues have planned to do a small group project that we have been discussing throughout the year and really keep on top of what we want to do for a profession, you cant just sit back over the summer and relax otherwise it will hit you like a ton of bricks when the work starts to come thick and fast again. Alongside some self initiated projects id like to set myself to focus improving my skills and looking into 2nd years blogs to see what we will be going into and focusing on getting a head start on that.


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CATS- Critical Perspectives Essay

Jason Marc Pook
Games Design (BA)
Hull School of Art and Design
Hull College
28/03/2014

Critical Perspectives Essay
Psychoanalysis of Dead Spaces main character Isaac Clarke and Outlasts main character Miles Upshur.

The two video games I will be comparing by using psychoanalysis will be “Outlast” and “Dead Space” on the characters of Miles Upshur the reporter on Outlast and Isaac Clarke a space engineer in Dead Space both are the main protagonists.

In this essay im am going to use the main characters of the games Dead Space and Outlast to psychoanalyse both the characters and the effect they have on the player. I will talk about player to character connections with the assistance of Jane McGonagall and her theory of “epic win” connections, the different forms of survival how they design the game to scare the player, the use of mental issues to create different ways of getting inside the player’s head, the alterations of experiences in 1st person and 3rd person, , and then compare and contrast of the two. The main discussion will be the 1st person against 3rd person perspective of horror games as these define the franchise and have a wide context of debate. Theories I will use to analyse the piece after playing them first hand will be my own experiences and then research into experiences of others to balance the points made so the piece has depth and variety.
Outlast is a first person horror game set in a mountain asylum, you the player are a reporter who has received a tip of suspicious goings on at this location anonymously. By the time you realise to abort this case it’s too late your trapped and have to find a way out through many jump scares and monsters or crazy people running around. The story behind it is contextual to the real MKUltra experiments conducted by the CIA in the 50s, 60s and 70s in the U.S. and Canada. Those experiments, which are still shrouded in secrecy and that some think continue to this day, dealt with drug use, torture and some form of mind control. Instead of a narrative to the story the game is run by individual investigations throughout by the player using his video camera which engages you in the story to try solve the madness. It’s purely designed to make the gamer suffer as you only have three options told to you at the start of the game “Run, hide or die” no combat skills or weapons to assist you which just fuels the fear. The “Walrider” is the main antagonist of the game who causes the sacrifices of the mental patients and worship as it is all-powerful apart from the machine which allows it to live and host a body.
Dead Space is a 3rd person futuristic horror game set in space on a malfunctioning mining ship called the usg ishimura which is used for new resource gathering planetary methods called “Planet cracking”. Isaac Clarke a space engineer is sent to fix the ship, to find the ship is thriving with an undead species called the Necromorph. Isaac is also looking for his girlfriend Nicole who is assigned to the ship, he received a confusing message of “I wish it didn’t have to end this way”, throughout the battle of uncovering what’s behind the Necromorph he is also going through his own battle with sanity as the “marker” which controls the Necromorph also causes Isaac’s hallucinations and visions which constantly freak out and confuse the player. The psychological battle with the church of unitology the cult behind the Necromorph’s and his nightmares are the driving force of the plot. You fight to fix all this and your own problems it’s a truly on edge game with plenty of jump scares.
I have chosen outlast and the main character Miles Upshur as I want to analyse how the character is used to make you feel as a player like you are in the game. You never see the face of the character you instantly place yourself due to the 1st person view as the character despite the name which is easily overlooked.

“That’s the thing about survival horror: if you’re empowered, then the threat is not as big…you feel you have to be proactive to fight back. But if you know there is no way you can fight back, then that’s when I think the horror is most effective.”

This is a quote from co-founder of Outlast Philippe Morin describing the mindset behind the mechanics of the game, I read into this further and found out they got inspiration of this from a game called “Amnesia” this game released in August 2010 was a clear inspiration for outlasts game play style of a huge focus on psychoanalysis and how they can engage the player into the world of horror, with quotes like this.

“I think it is safe to say that Amnesia is the most successfully frightening game to have been made.”- Rock, Paper, Shotgun

So basing the game on this was a solid bit of context for a successful horror. With that in mind it really helps assist the player’s engagement with the character, you feel his vulnerability, his fear and his desperation throughout various escapes and pitch black navigations. The feature that supports this the most effectively I feel is the 1st person view, this places you immediately in the mindset that you are Miles Upshur, you experience and consider all the notes and video clips he records throughout the game like a detective to try figure out where to next or what’s around the corner. The use of 1st person is supported by the camera you use to record the happenings of the story, but the battery life on this camera is reliant on you finding batteries which are scarce causing missed clues and some scary no night vision glowing eyed enemy moments. Its features include whilst running away you can look behind to see how close your pursuer is, if you approach a corner your hand will rest on the wall so you can peak round and the options to bust open doors or be silent in your stealthy movement depends on the situation it’s truly immersive and slowly engages your connection with the characters physicality as the game goes on, not forgetting the increasing audio of Upshur’s breathing if people are spotted or noises are made which automatically engages you to do the same.

“While there’s rarely any let up in the tension, it always feels like you’re in the hands of a developer at the top of its game, revelling in making the player uncomfortable, but never forgetting to delight at the same time.”- Edge review online.

This quote from edge’s review rated 4.5stars of 5 sums up the intentions of the designer they love-making you believe it’s you but don’t neglect some breathers so it’s not overwhelming tension. Although everyone around him is mentally unstable with signs of dementia and insanity miles manages to keep mental stability until becoming the host of the antagonist the walrider in the end when he disconnects its original host’s life support system causing Miles to be in the end the cause and reason behind his investigation so you the player are essentially mentally stable but end up the cause of the insanity through digging into something you shouldn’t have. The player never loses touch with the game as there are no cut scenes in the game so you are purely playing and stopping the take notes then back to the madness, no breakages in the plot means smooth game play that doesn’t disengage you at any point and never reveals the appearance of Miles.
I chose Isaac Clarke the main character in dead space as I want to question the player’s engagement into another person’s journey of both mentally and physically how they use realism of the story and back story with cut scenes to emotionally attach you to this character. Isaac had previously been living with Nicole Brennan prior to her assignment to the usg ishimura 2 years before the blackout of communications, so when assigned to go fix it the mission became much more personal and also engaging as despite an alien outbreak there is focus to be achieving that “epic win” that Jane McGonagall talks about in her TED talk on “gaming can make a better world” as you the player want Isaac to succeed, you bond with Isaac across the narrative as you want to escape as much as him due to you are experiencing it aswell. The developer does this most effectively with the game introduction giving you a back story and context to Isaac. Only to be dragged along his path of insanity when he contracts dementia, you are witness to this man’s mental torture which the ‘marker’ uses Nicole to haunt Isaac despite the actual truth being she died at the start of the outbreak taking her own life which is the end of the video clip that he is sent, so the marker uses her to try destroy him and you which several frightening hallucinations and very eerie voices in his head. This powerful narrative really drags you deep into someone’s mental instability and you connect the protagonist Isaac strongly creating your own mistrust and views on other crew members when separated who also seem to use “We will find Nicole” to manipulate Isaac further into helping them. The key to Isaac’s recovery was acceptance and letting Nicole go after the shocking realisation of her suicide, you the player witness all this as a 3rd person party this gives you the opportunity to derive your own theories on what has actually happened and what hasn’t, in some cases you are wondering what is a hallucination and what isn’t, this psychological journey is of Isaac’s mentality but also your depiction of the actual events. By designing the game in this way you the player naturally try to predict what is coming next or who did what, as soon as that kicks in the writers grip you with many twists and shocks you never saw coming like Kendra a crew member betraying Isaac trying to escape on her own to her own peril. As the 3rd person view with many means of killing these necromorphs it gives you chance to appreciate the world around you more you pay more attention to the finer details in the scenery for example in one of the elevator hallucinations where Nicole’s eyes look like they are beaming right through you the effect you can see on Isaac really immerses you in his feelings of what horror he must go through and how you have to get him out.  Also 3rd person allowed me to see the physical exertion going into the character when taking hits or dealing damage, he hobbles on low health grabbing his stomach breathing heavily that engagement of visuals supports the emotions you are supposed to feel for the protagonist further supporting his cause. But they do not give him a voice,

“the original which features no voice acting for the character and is only seen out of his helmet at the very beginning and ending of the game” (giantbomb.com article)

So by doing this you the player make your own assumptions on his personality and all of his features due to the majority of the game he is just a suit.
I want to contrast the differences between the user experience of 1st person in outlast to 3rd person in dead space and how it makes you feel. This is a much debated topic in gaming culture of which is better for a horror genre game 1st person or 3rd person. Multiple blogs I have sourced have different views here are some.

“First person, hands down. Instead of being some bodiless entity floating over the left/right shoulder of main protagonist, you ARE the protagonist seeing what he sees through his eyes.”- (horrorgameforums.com)

That is in support of 1st person but on the other hand,

“I feel third person would be better because you can see your character, which makes you more immersed in the game and feel the horror that the character is experiencing. Also, you can see yourself get attacked”- (yahoo.com reference question)

But then there is the middle ground of,

“I think that 3rd person tends to emphasize the player’s sense of vulnerability via the visible exposure of the player character, whereas 1st person emphasizes the sense of viscerality by situating the player as the direct recipient of attacks. 3rd person horror = exposure, 1st person horror = enclosure. Each perspective has its respective strengths, but given that ‘horror’ tends to encompass a range of emotions, it’s hard to say any one is better than the other.” (idlethumbs.net/forums Walter).

Many views can be taken on this from let’s say quote 1 the capitalised “Are” emphasises his point that you are the character you see through his eyes so you experience his fear. Whereas the contrast quote 2 references to having a connection to the character and seeing pain through emotion or physicality it’s like you’re on a journey together. Then quote 3 sums up the differences and how you pick specific ones to portray specific styles of horror game exposure or enclosure. My personal view is that 1st person is lots more engaging so I was a lot more scared of outlast than i was of dead space purely down to it felt like I was the main character throughout you could be stood still in a narrow corridor thinking im not going down there and have no idea that a 8ft hulk like monster is behind you towering over your body that’s the mindset I was in. Yes I did feel a connection to Isaac as a protagonist and that I was there to guide him with weapons but I can’t think of anything more scary than 1st person realistic horror with no means of fighting back relating back to outlasts co-founder quote o,

“That’s the thing about survival horror: if you’re empowered, then the threat is not as big…you feel you have to be proactive to fight back. But if you know there is no way you can fight back, then that’s when I think the horror is most effective.”

The comparison of the two games I would have to go down the path of the usage of mental instability to drive or coincide with the storyline. Outlast uses it a lot being set in a ‘mental asylum’ but it did have some contextual reference to it as explained before in mysterious CIA conspiracies of mind control and dementia. Whilst your character isn’t mentally unstable everything around him seems to be crumbling all of which you are trying to get to the bottom of with many scary obstacles and strange sacrificial occurrences going on. I feel the use of mentality in outlast is key to capture it correctly in the game if they hadn’t have possibly gone over the top in some cases with the doctor taking a few of your fingers you might not have believed the scale of the madness which then loses interest.
Whereas in Dead Space not only is Isaac fighting an alien outbreak you are being affected by the ‘marker’ which caused the outbreak and is now making Isaac lose his sanity taking the form of Nicole his loved one in hallucinations a side effect of dementia. It’s a real exhausting journey for you and Isaac slaughtering countless necromorphs and dealing with what is real and what isn’t as his condition escalates. This is vital in the storyline you really gain connection with Isaac it’s like you are on this journey together but you’re not sure what is what or who to trust as nobody seems to be trustworthy as they use Nicole as a driving force for Isaac to keep going thinking he will find her and repent for telling her to take the job here in the first place. Most people said on the blogs I read for 3rd person horror vs. 1st person that the 3rd person narrative does sometimes heavily rely on strong narrative and dead space really pulled it off,

“An incredibly atmospheric and disturbingly gruesome deep-space adventure that will haunt your dreams and leave you begging for more.” – (Lark Anderson on October 13, 2008 gamespot.com review 9/10).

So in both games this feature is a key factor of the narrative and has been pulled off successfully enough to make the different interpretations of dementia and insanity believable for the player so that they can truly engage in the game.
In conclusion the topics I have discussed behind the psychoanalysis of main protagonists of Dead Space Isaac Clarke and Outlast Miles Upshur is that both games have different styles of engaging the player into the horror by means of either game play realism or gripping narrative throughout. If I have to pick my choice of which did the better job of getting into my head it would have to be outlast purely on the basis of the 1st person view I can’t help but feel that when the character Miles is attacked that I sit there and say “that monster just hit me run!” emphasis there on ‘me’ whereas with Dead Space it was “Isaac run keep going its behind you” or “he’s dead” not im dead so it was more a personal engagement to believing it’s me that made it more scary. But to keep it neutral ground for their different but also similar styles of horror game you can’t say either one had done a bad job at making the player engage with the game in some way that would grip them to the screen begging for more.

References
Butler, M. 2014. Interactive Nightmares: A History of Video game horror. Kindle ed. Amazon.
GameSpot. 2014. Dead Space Review. [online] Available at: http://www.gamespot.com/reviews/dead-space-review/1900-6199349/ [Accessed: 30 Mar 2014].
Giantbomb.com. 2014. Isaac Clarke (Character) – Giant Bomb. [online] Available at: http://www.giantbomb.com/isaac-clarke/3005-1197/ [Accessed: 30 Mar 2014].
Horrorgameforums.com. 2012. First Person vs. Third Person?. [online] Available at: http://www.horrorgameforums.com/public.html/showthread.php?95-First-Person-vs-Third-Person [Accessed: 30 Mar 2014].
Idlethumbs.net. 2014. Horror games, 1st person or 3rd person? – Video Gaming – Idle Forums. [online] Available at: https://www.idlethumbs.net/forums/topic/962-horror-games-1st-person-or-3rd-person/ [Accessed: 30 Mar 2014].
Krawczyk, M. and Novak, J. 2014. Gave Development Essentials: Game Story & Character Development.
Official PlayStation website. 2014. Outlast. [online] Available at: http://uk.playstation.com/ps4/games/detail/item620625/Outlast/ [Accessed: 30 Mar 2014].
Official PlayStation website. 2014. Outlast. [online] Available at: http://uk.playstation.com/ps4/games/detail/item620625/Outlast/ [Accessed: 30 Mar 2014].
Outlast Wiki. 2014. Miles Upshur. [online] Available at: http://outlast.wikia.com/wiki/Miles_Upshur [Accessed: 30 Mar 2014].
Polygon. 2014. Outlast is a stealth horror game designed to make the player suffer. [online] Available at: http://www.polygon.com/2013/6/19/4444548/outlast-is-a-stealth-horror-game-designed-to-make-the-player-suffer [Accessed: 30 Mar 2014].

Appendices:

Outlast-2

1st person outlast found hiding

Dead-Space-2-Nicole

Dementia, Isaac’s hallucination of Nicole gets scarier the worse his condition is

3rd person Dead Space

3rd person Dead Space Isaac Clarke

1st person Outlast

1st person Outlast found hiding


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Adaptation Evaluation

ADAPTATION – EVALUATION

What aspects of the process – artistically or technically – prompted the greatest satisfaction and why?

In this process my greatest satisfaction was finishing my final concept art piece, due to this being the piece i left until last and worked the hardest of the level of satisfacion was much more than the rest of the work. Also the concpet art was done in Photoshop, i have been trying to increase my skills in Photoshop across the year and especially recently over the easter whilst making final touches on work so having a piece come out as nicely as i felt it did was very satisfying. finalI used textures for the floor, stadium and sky aswell as hand painttextures for extra detail or shading so it was a real bonus when done. i also enjoyed the write up of my story enjoying literature at A-level played its part there.

 

 

 

What aspects of the process – artistically or technically – posed problems or difficulties, and how were they resolved?

For adaptation id say that again the concept art was the hardest i had layering issues to begin with when applying textures and making sure i had multiplied one layer to overlay another to get the effect i wanted required alot of tweaking and experimenting, it wasnt just a paint and done project it took alot of time and really testing my artist eye for detail and colour. Other aspects would have been the storyboard, i am unfamilar with storyboarding and have not personally drawn them alot so this was a difficult task for me as a storyboard should speak for itself and trying to make mine portray that was harder than expected. I resolved the storyboard issue by researching into storyboarding gathering references to see how a fight scene (my focus) would be storyboarded, this helped alot and my final storyboard was a good one. Storyboard

 

 

 

 

 

As a consequence of thinking about these former questions, what can be identified as the core strengths and weaknesses of the approach to and execution of the project?

Well my strengths in this prject was definately the visuals and ideas i was generating, the thought process behind it and level of research really put me on the front foot to begin with acting as a platform for the rest. Then by tackling each part one by one i felt i got work out of the way instead of half done then moving onto the latest one given instead it was done then i progressed. And finally the time and effort put into the concept art piece was pleasing especially with the outcome. Weaknesses would be that i didnt digitalise alot of my work which would have been better in some cases, for example the character design sheet in multiple views would have been great done in photoshop aswell as the storyboard. So my approach to moving my artistic drawings into digital work wasnt as good as it should have been as the concept piece was the only one and looked the best by far.
What are the key strengths and weaknesses of the final outcome of the project? What aspects have been successful and why? If it was possible to change something, what would it be and why? The strengths was my final concept piece, also the drawings i did for props, environments and characters i felt was very strong. Weaknesses would be not enough digitalised versions of those drawings limiting my range of work in some areas to just sketches. The successful aspect of the project was how i tackled it one by one not moving on until i have finished the previous one and then later i added to previous ones when i had the time e.g. props i did helmets orignally then i moved onto characters but came back to armor,gauntlets and boots. If i was to change anything about my work it would be that i would have given myself more allocated time for digitalising all my adaptation work to show before and afters from drawings to digital currently i can only do that for the concept piece.

What set of “recommendations” can be drawn from evaluating the project, which will be useful on another occasion? i would recommend myself to be more experiemental and not avoid using programs i may not be used to, when i did adaptation photoshop was fairly new to me so a digital version of most things was something i put off when i did my concept later on i had gained skills in photoshop from my tutors in lectures so that showed alot of progress but i never went back to do the others. other than that i felt i tackled the brief well.

 


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Identity- Design Part 3

Previous work: blog 1, blog 2, blog 3, blog 4.

As explained in the last part of this project i was moving onto the design process of a logo for both black rose and rusty tank being undecided on which to choose. Using different typography, style, and size to try fine tune what i want my ident to look like.

Here is what i got for Black Rose:

Black RoseThese are some of the designs that i came up with as you can see i followed the path of an elegant look to the black rose to complement the beauty of a real rose. My favourites were the bottom left with the inverted text font and rose stencil and then the two in the top left with the elegant flow to the font, I particularly liked the rose joined onto the end so i tried to implement that in other designs.

Moving onto Rusty Tank:

Scan 36These designs i was really pleased with the army stencil path focus was particularly a favourite of me and my peers, i tried to implement army military related themes to the ident with the actual rusty tank drawing but specially the army star for the letter A which was a nice feature.

After this i took both into Photoshop to have a digital version of them so i would be able to import into adobe after effects when eventually making the ident.

ident photoshop

 

 

 

Here is my black rose final ident digitally, i am pleased with it as it has met my original objectives of being elegant and representing a roses beauty with various features from different ident designs.

rusty tank ident photoshop

 

 

 

This was my rusty tank ident, it came out exactly how i wanted implemented stencil font with the army star for the A but with a rusted eroded edge effect added to it around the edge, i then also added a filter->noise->dust & speckles to add extra speckles to the font to enhance the dirty rusty image. Deciding im going to go down the route of Rusty tank I wanted to develop further on the logo so i placed a rusted metal texture into Photoshop put it over the top of the ident turned down the opacity to show the rust texture over the top then used the background eraser and magic wand to remove the rust texture everywhere but the text. this was the result:

rusty tank ident photoshop added rust

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I also added a branded style box around the font to try implicate that this ident might be indented or embossed onto a vehicle, then rotated it to a slight angle and added a painted shadow to the left of the font. This was my final ident for rusty tank, now to storyboard the ident before i put it into after effects.