Thursday, 29 October 2009

Call of Duty 4: MW2 Pushing the Limits

Ok maybe this is going slightly off topic from my honour project but Infinity Ward are definatly pushing the limits of character and user relationships. They have just revealed that in their new game in a part which would usually just be a cinematic they make the player control a terrorist around an airport and they have to shoot un-armed civilians. Now even though everyone has seen many movies and game cinematics with violence, here IW are making the players carry through this scene and feel really emotionally connected with it. There has been a lot of debate online where this is right or wrong but I think it does bring the player into the game more if they want that. IW have been forced to make it so users can skip this level if they choose though but in my opinion it adds another level to game play. Very interesting...

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Whats the next step?

Added some more images to my sketchbook last night. Got a hold of the fashion magazine Dazed and Confused and took some good inspiration from this. This was mainly just inspiration for my actual character designs but I should really start looking at some character editors. I've had trouble finding some pictures of character editors as of yet so I'm just going to have to take the few games I have with them in and take screenshots, won't have that many though. Still have to work out how far I can actually take the making of a character editor because I don't want to plan a fully made one if I know I can only make something very basic, anyway I want most of the emphasis to be on the character and the subtle changes, not the actually interface of the editor. Came across and article talking about spore and its character editing process so will have to write something about that up here when I get chance.

Managed to find a youtube video of the fallout character editor, might be better posting videos up here rather than trying to find seperate images:

Spore has a very unlimited customisation process, but it is link in extremely well to the game. But in my own opinion it would be better that the creature evolved not how you choose it to, but depending on your actions during its life. This again would put the character artist in the driving seat and let people play a game instead of a simulator:

APB is the most recent character editor and one I should probably refer to a lot, it is very powerful and gives the users endless control over their characters, at the moment I don't want to give my users endless control, I just want to give them control over my final ideas which I feel fits into the gameplay. A video worth watching on it:

This video of Skate shows a bit from the character editor, a lot of sports games tend to have them I guess intending the users to create themselves, does anyone want to be themselves to an exact match though?

Yesterday I was talking to the Pre-Production tutor Mark and he made an interesting point about how game developers today allow players to customize their characters to generate income, buying things like armors and hats etc for real money. What are these people who spend their hard earned money getting in trade for it? Does it really add that much to the gameplay? Or just make them a bit more original than the people who don't spend their money.

From the post Craig made before I'll add the image here, it makes a good point about how all the suits of armor are basically the same but allows the player to make subtle differences to stand out.

Started a discussion on to see if I could get some comments from some professional artists, didn't get a massive discussion but got some good input. Here's the link anyway just to check it out:

Not sure if I quoted this before, but I came accross this again and beleive it sums up one arguement of my project very well:

"the more input a player has, the less character there is for them to beleive in".

Monday, 26 October 2009

Monday (original title day)

So over the weekend I've been doing some research on the connection between character and user. I think this is important to look at to see if the user requires a character editor to help make or break this connection. I was reading about an interesting game (the name of it escapes me for the moment) where the user controls a character and makes decisions for good or bad, but the more negative decisions the user makes the more rebelious the character becomes and harder to control they are. I thought this was really interesting as it adds another dimension to gameplay.

GTA was another interesting game to look into, it's one of those games most people would expect to have a character editing screen at the start but doesn't. I read about this slightly but still need more evidence to back this up, but part of the reason they don't have a character editing screen and why the main character doesn't have a great connection with the users is because of the violence in the game. If you had an emotional connection with the main character then you'd have an emotional reaction to the over-the-top violence in the game which can't be to good effect. Machine gunning down police officers as a russian mob member is a bit different than doing it as yourself I'd say. But a lot of that is based on opinion so should research that some more. The only GTA games I've played are the brilliant first ones, with the pixel characters and the storyline which noones bothers to follow. In the new GTA though they have a much stronger storyline so character development for this must have been a very detailed process.

I feel like crit week is catching up on me a bit and even though I feel like I have a question, I need to go about writing it down in an easily understandable manor. Want to get my scrapbook done and dusted aswell so I can begin on the fun part... concept art.

These "masked" chararacters really appeal to me now. There has been a few small appearences of them more recentely with next-gen games. I wish I could find somewhere where I could veiw the discussion the developers had when deciding not to have a full character, but a suit which the users can place themselves in. I beleive a suit can have a story attatched to it aswell, so its like a bridge between users and storyline which feels like a win win to me.

My final product is shaping up in my head as a character editing screen (as far as I am able to take that anyway) which a character I've designed (probably masked as my research is taking me) which gives the user limited options to make the character their own, but without any effect of the visuals which would effect story. Sounds confusing but for example, if the story relates to the main character being in a fire as a child which led to this gameplay then the character will have to have some burn marks on him/her whether the user likes it or not. One thing I am hoping to do is make a character the same, but one female version and one male version as I feel this would be a fun experiment to do. Usually aswell even the characters hidden by a suit you can tell from their appearence if they're female or male aswell.

The crysis suit here shows very modern character design strongly relating to anatomy. Even though the colours of the character point to him being quite dark and evil the stance is a very positive very human stance. I guess because it's a war game its veiwing war as dark and evil whichever side your on. Maybe all you'd want to edit on this character if your playing him is the sex?

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Early Morning Post

Just came in for a lecture this morning, so not to much to say so far on my project. Last night I did some more anatomy studies, feel like I'm really coming along strongly with these and learning tones from doing them. Wish I could redo my Life Drawing classes because I have a much stronger appreciation for them now. I am doing lots of life drawing from photos... but it's not really the same. Added some more 2D characters to my scrapbook last night, mario is a really interesting one because his design was based around large limitations which created the character in itself.

I also have been playing around a bit with fallout 3, maybe they were thinking along the same lines I am (though I should broaden my thought process)? So far my own opinion doing research is that characters need a strong history before even designing them, and this is hard to show when creating your own character (unless you create yourself but then maybe you don't belong)but Fallout 3 starts off with you being born, and you build up your own history which still might not fit perfectly into your appearence but you get the general idea.

On another note I've been reading the new Hitch Hikers guide to the Galaxy book and I completely forgot to mention the strength of characters in books and how they let the users know everything about the character but still make up their own image based on this in their heads. Maybe a lot to learn here? Or maybe I'm gonig off on a tangent because I'm not use to 9am starts.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

The following day...

Last night I took a step back and decided to start looking at a few different games again, will start making a list on here just to keep myself on track. Also had a talk with Inga about my project idea and it went well. Brought up the idea of actually creating a character editor for people to use, the idea sounds perfect but I'm not to sure how far I'd be able to take it. Would be far better than just having three characters on turntables. Will have a talk with some programmers (my brothers...) and see what they can suggest seen as my programming knowledge is zero. Also going to print off some 2D characters for my scrapbook, definitely an area worth looking at.

Game List: (character editors)

Fallout 3 (character editor is very smoothly introduced)
World of Warcraft (basically most MMORPG)
Skate (same comment as fallout 3)
Wii (avatar systems, similar with xbox)
Lots of sports games...

(strong story games)

Gears of War
Call of Duty 4
Final Fantasy
Dead Space (faceless character like master cheif, will look more into him)

That wiill do for now..

I forgot about Half life... how could I forget about Half Life? Sorry Gordon Freeman

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

The Beginning... 4 weeks in...

Ok so about time I started a project diary for my honours project, guess I just wanted to get things clear in my head, but that may never happen. That sounded depressing but it was ment to be jokey....

Basically when I finish uni I want to go into the inudstry working on characters, preferably modeling them so the best way to go about this is to do my project on character creating (for games).

It is common knowledge that a character is a very important aspect for a game and during my research through lots of jounrals and books I noticed almost a catch 22 situation with designing for games. Basically, if I can explain this right, my idea for research is that users want to control the game, eg control how their character looks to get them more immersed in the game, but artists say the way a character looks depends on the history of the character which affects the story of the game and effecting the story of the game negatively effects the immersive expereince. That might of made no sense what-so-ever, I don't even want to read back over that, but hopefully you get the general idea of where I'm heading.

To quote a book called 'The Art of Game Characters' "A player will be more engaged by your imagination than by their own".

So whos right? Should we A) Ignore the users and create a character based on background and story.

B) Let the users create and character they want even if its homer simpson in a Call Of Duty game?

C) Create a character that doesn't tell you much, and let the user just use their imagination to creating a character in their heads or to place themselves in the characters body? (To make sense of this just think of Masks)

Ok so theres my focal point.

As far as Modules go - Done lots for concept development, been basically destroying my large collection of magazines for a scrapbook and printing out images for inspiration (mainly the amazing models on Dominance War and the great guys at Polycount). I also took a trip to London last week and went to the V+A to take photos of sculptures, these artist project character into their creations superbly so I got lots of ideas there. Also on a seperate note I went to fashion exibitions (yes that sounds odd, but my girlfriend is a fashion designer so it wasn't my idea to go) and had a good insight into how they project character through clothes, so photos of clothes will be going into my scrapbook soon enough. Some of these clothes gave me wonderful ideas for crazy characters too (some fashion designers minds are in such an insance place) so thats something im going to look into more. Alongside the scrapbook im working on a book of anatomy, something I wished I had worked on years ago because it is so vital to character creation, so that will be another hand in I guess if it contributes to my final output. As for the concept sketchbook... still havent started this yet, but I guess it comes in an order of scrapbook to sketchbook, but I have had a few moment of madness with good ideas so Ill sketch some things out tonight.

For the dissertation modules I've just basically been reading lots of books and journals and making notes on the idea I described before, not much I can say on that for the moment.

With the Pre-production module I'm having a hard time seperating it from concept development in my mind, specially because my final output is going to be along the lines of three different character models in realtime (not sure animated slightly or not) and I know the pre-production for character creation is mainly concept development...

I need to get a bit of a move on with Professional Practice, mainly just need to start filling in all the helpful sheets we got for this one, would clarify my thoughts more.

Anyway I've typed enough for the moment and I'm hungry.