Wednesday, 31 March 2010

A Personal Milestone

Not work related, but life related.

For various reasons, I decided at Christmas, that as of boxing day, I was getting fit... Just like the other 10,000 people that panic after seeing themselves in a mirror after the season of eating.

However, I've still not 'biffed out', and with help from my trusty book 'Fighting fit' by Adrian Weale I've been hammering out the runs.

Now, no goal is achievable unless it is SMART (oh god someone actually listened in those lessons). For those who didn't this acronym means that a goal must be S-Specific, M-Measurable, A-Attainable, R-Realistic, T-Time bound.
So, after boxing day I took a good look at myself, and decided that my fitness goal would be to be able to run 10 miles in under 60 minutes before I'm 23. When I started I was 20, so this gives me a good length of time to achieve this goal. Its wholly measurable and very realistic.

So, when I started I was weary, I'd never really run more than a mile before, and setting myself the quick goal of being able to run 3 miles seemed like a monumental challenge. I won't lie, I thought it'd take ages. But, after a few weeks of pain and commitment, I finished a 3 mile run without any walking breaks, I was ecstatic, a happy man indeed.

To compliment my runs, I decided (the book decided) I'd swim twice a week, on 'rest days'. Swimming? I fucking suck at it, but once again, I set a small scale goal, to be able to swim for 30 minutes continuously (front crawl) and, after teaching myself to swim (you laugh, I looked like a drowning retard when I started), I slowly increased from 15, to 25 to 30 minutes! Wham, I now knock two of these out per week.

the runs were the important part, and I was still stuck on 3 miles, I'd run these for about two weeks, and was still finding them a strain, but I needed to press on in order to reach my goal. I upped the mileage from 3 to 4.5, and then ran 6.5 on sundays... 6.5! once again, the feeling of improving hid the pain, I'd just ran 6.5 miles without stopping at 2am in the morning, and no one was taking it away from me. I broke my strict diet and bought an early Easter egg to celebrate.

But what of this Milestone?

Now I'm back home, I've increased the 4.5 mile run to 5, as the new route is 100% flat. 5 miles, 4 times a week, that's half of ten, my final goal! By this point I'd given up on timing myself, it was laborious and generally didn't yield many results worth getting exited over, but as I left the house today I glanced almost subconsciously at the clock, a quarter past 1PM. I set out for my run, naturally run quite fast, and slow down for the long mileage runs, but bugger that, this time I'm going to keep tempo and push, I feel like punishing myself. After what feels like an age, I finally pop the keys in the lock to the front door and begin making my way to my Bergan in the hallway (off for a weighted walk across the fields). I notice the clock, think nothing of it... Wait, its exactly a quarter to two... That means I was out for almost bang on 30 minutes... 5 miles? 30 minutes? that's 6 minute miles! I'M HALF WAY!

I've given myself till I'm 23 to be able to run 10 miles in under 60 minutes, and today, under four months into my fitness routine and I'm statistically half way. I smiled hard, slung my Bergan and boots on, and headed for the fields.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Work Update

As mentioned in a previous post, I set myself a tree project. During working on the tree project, a friend of mine asked if I could make him a tree for a cartoon-styled game he was making in XNA. Putting two and two together, this study had some useful timing!

using saturated colours and sticking to a rather basic palette I was able to make this tree look cartoony. I was also asked to make a stump to go with it (It could be chopped down by a robot in the game). If I were making this tree, and aiming to make it realistic I'd have used much less saturated colours, introduced more blemishing to the leaves, and stretched my texture budget to allow for the use of texturemaps with leaf-less branches on.

What did I learn form this study? - I quickly realised that the placement of leaves on a tree is paramount to making it look... well, like a tree. Previous to this study I'd throw leaves on rather 'willy-nilly' without paying much respect to the reality of tree growth. After examining the trees in Cod, and other games, I was able to make mental, and diagrammatic note of the placement of leaf planes, and place mine with reference to this.

One stark realisation made during the study, is the differences between the tri and texture limit I am taught to use, and that of the current, and previous gen props. While I don't see this as a flaw with my education, it is frustrating to try and re-create excellence with only half the resources available to me. However, my interpretation of this, is that the lecturers imposing these restrictions, are doing so in order to maximise the efficiency with which we as students work. However, I shall talk more on this subject in just a little while...

Anything else?

As any student or lecturer reading this will know, we are in the process of our group projects. With every team frantically working to get more props into their scene and fix the problems of the de-moralising artillery barrage that was our formative assesments, I have not been exception to this, and have been working hard. After being told we needed more rooms, I've taken it upon myself to produce as much office (the rooms are office rooms) props as I can muster, in order to bring some life to the new rooms. A lot of these assets won't be used, and I accept that, but its better to have them right?

To start things off, here's an old office plant. Withered and drooping, I wanted to bring some 'life' to the scene. Our level is chock full of man-made props, but nothing living, nothing that suggests that its really on planet earth. I created a plant to fix this. While not a thriving plant, as people haven't been looking after it, it's instead drooping, and slowly going black. "Why black? Don't plants go brown when they die?" - I did a little research on the world wide web, and in humid environments or environments where there is much moisture in the air, plants tend to rot rather than dry out. Here it is:

Is that all?

nope, afraid not. I've been sketching up some VERY QUICK character sketches for my interesting character project with a Planetside theme. I already have a final for my interesting character project. But personally? it just doesn't go, I can do better. So I've been doing a few quick sketches slapping down basic colour schemes to see what I like. Both of the following images have huge flaws, but you know what? I don't care any-more, this is my art and I like it.

Wherefore art thou Planetside?

Or more importantly, "Why did they bastardise thou Planetside".

Just recently, I decided to check out the Planetside universe again, for old time kicks, nostalgia and all that parp. I've played thousands of games, wasted countless hours, some not so wasted. Games come and go like bad lovers, and like bad lovers, are forgotten pretty quickly. But just like in life, there's always one you never forget, long to go back to and re-live the experience, one you compare current experiences too but is never beaten. Yes.. I fell in love once, with a game called Planetside.

For those of you who went through a stage of delinquency and have no idea what this game was all about, I'll briefly, and with a biased point of view, explain.

Planetside was an MMOFPS, you levelled up, and unlocked new toys, but when you killed someone, it was your personal skill that did a lot of it. No WOW stat bashing top trumps going on here. It was a universe at war, with tanks, planes, dropships, power-suits, nimble backstabbers, snipers, cars, bases shotguns... etc. Three sides fought for war over different continents of a planet, there were no winning conditions, and continents changed hands daily with a flood of people fighting at all hours. basically, Planetside was the balls...

This story doesn't have a happy ending though. Just when Planetside was losing a few players, Sony decided to spread the battlefields out even more with a shitty cave fighting environment. This turned major conflicts into smaller skirmishes spreading an already thinning populace out even further. Not the end of the world, us players still found fun ways to fight, and then. When just players started coming back, Sony dropped the final hammer blow... MANGA ROBOTZ. Giant shitty unbalanced Noob raping robots, stomped around the battlefields with shitty ainmations. Fueled with rage that Sony had defaced and raped my beautiful lover, I hopped on the band wagon... and quit.

The history of the game aside, I've been thinking a lot recently about the character and vehicle design of planetside, and how, at the time I thought everything looked amazing.

Of course, like any old game, when looking back, everything look pretty pants. But rather than pointing out flaws and handing out negative criticism, which does no one any good, wouldn't it be fun to re-design some of the characters and spaces? I'm finding motivation hard at the moment, so I'm going to combine this new angle with my work. Lets see what I can come up with.

Friday, 26 March 2010

A Just Cause?

10,000ft above a beautiful rainforest, I jump out the pilot's seat of my stolen harrier jet, and freefall towards the dense green canopy. As I sail suicidally though the clouds, I spot a civilian single prop plane flying below me. As I sail nearer to the plane, a grappling hook fires from my wrist, and within seconds I'm standing on the cockpit of the plane staring at the unaware pilot.
Without securing myself, I lift open the cockpit and throw the civillian out - Ha! Take that, as he falls towards certain doom.

I fly the plane towards a large city, the lights emmisive in the nights sky. I see tracers, balls, must not have lost that army chopper, it just took its time. I Jump out the plane, leaving it careering towards a built up skyline. As I fall I accidentally press the space bar and a parachute pops out of no where. Fuck, its a long glide from this height. I detatch the parachute, choosing to free-fall, after all, I've got unlimited parachutes to save some time, after all, I've got unlimited parachutes, its 3:00am and I don't have time to mess around... Wait, its 3:am? Fuck, I'm up at 9, I'd better save.

And that was my first exeperience of the far-fetched experience that is Just Cause 2. And this for me is unusual, as I'm a self-confessed realism geek. Someone once described as 'allergic to fun' choosing rather to simulate a long flight to Chicago, or get into a realistic firefight and shit my virtual pants.

Just Cause 2 is the complete opposite of the realistic games I've conditioned myself to like. For example, on one freefall session, I used 6 parachutes in one drop, but wait... My character doesn't even have a backpack! You come equipped with a grappling hook that will attatch to anything and ninja skills to go with it. You can hijack a commercial Jet mid flight, all in within 4 minutes of each other. And still have time to admire the scenery.

And here's one of the main sticking points of this game for me, the scenery. Some of the views I've experienced within the short time I've played this game have been absolutely breathtaking. Jungles rich with vegetation, sunsets that reflect across shallow seas. haze, fog, volumetric clouds. Its pretty fucking good.

The models look awesome, and the technical skill of the artists is un-disputed. Some of the Normal maps are fantastically sculpted. But I can't help but not quite like the style of some of the vehicles. Some very bland, some tasteless, some just look shit. Its a strange kettle of fish, by trying to make (espeiclaly the militairy) the vehicles unique from any in the real world, the designers have hit a barrier. The style can only be explained as rather boring, big chunky vehicles without many details, and laden with flat surfaces, liek real army vehicles? Hell no, real army vehicles are laden with bits and bobs. But then thats realistic, and this game? Ok so maybe it gets away with that one...

However lacking in taste some of the vehicles are, the game is a beautiful fun fest, guarenteed to keep you occupied like a child for a few hours, and well worth £26.00!