Saturday, September 20, 2008

Post the Nineteenth

Date: Sunday 21 September, 2008
Started: 1:35 PM
Finished (version 1): 2:06 PM
Finished (version 2): 6:01 PM

Hey, I didn't even realise how long I'd taken between posts here!

Well, the proverbial road has proved to be a rather productive one, it would seem, with the group members finally starting to get their acts together and become somewhat of a coherent body once again (although that coherent nature may have been shaken up somewhat by the onset of the holidays, starting two weeks ago as of tomorrow, their Terminus - we shall have to wait and see though). Although my knowledge of their holiday-doings is rather limited, apart from the fact that I know Kodie's been on-task, and Andrew's been in exile in, as he put it in his most recent email, "the land of Queens" (which I assume means either Queensland or England), I am assuming that we may actually be able to get a fully functional game (although not one as content-intensive as we were originally aiming for) together in time for testing (or, with hope, before our final presentations, although that's pushing it). Perhaps the one issue is that I am yet to be given anything to texture for the game. Sigh, but it's just brownie-points in the end, eh?

In similar news, the concept art mill has reopened for business! I have spent the past eight days or so, in between doing stuff for other subjects and just enjoying whatever spare time I have, cranking out conceptual art using the Wacom tablet (and, in doing so, having progressively developed a new and somewhat cleaner style - one that I think pretty much kicks all of those that I have used before in the teeth). Whilst I do not have these images up (and, indeed, I still have another that I am planning to complete today), I would like to state that, this time, they are weapons instead of characters, and that they take a slightly (emphasis there) more futuristic and, in some cases, industrial approach than we were originally intended (after all, that seems to be my thing when it comes to this game - gritty and industrial). Six weapons exist at present - a selection culled from a list of FPS essentials, one might think (including the rocket launcher) - and the seventh is going to be something more blatantly futuristic, perhaps being an experimental weapon that was hastily issued to elite troops in the wake of the mutant crisis. I'm really thinking I may just come up with exactly what is is on the fly, and include information in the .zip file that I'm planning to send to Kodie.

Website design is going... well, at a slightly slower rate, due to the need for me to do other things. But a couple of new elements have been devised, with Andrew and I currently debating on how to apply my sidebar design - no pics yet, but that should change soonish.

Lately, I have been looking back over the course in its entirety, I've come to understand a fair few things, both about our actions as a group, and my actions as an individual. Originally, we set out to see if we could make an FPS game with Source over the course of a single school year. Will we manage it? I cannot be certain here, although in the sense of a complete, fully polished and marketable product (as in an FPS with a visible start and end), that's clearly not possible, with the time left anyway. And the reasons for this, above all else, are as follows: busy timetables (that includes those other subjects that we all have), and human failing (many of us got lazy, I'll admit it). And, I think we can admit that we may have raised our expectations a tad too high, but in the end, I think many people in the course did.

And have I learned anything? Most certainly! I've learned to become much better with using Adobe Photoshop, for one - my recent website work shows that, as I've taught myself how to use things such as blending modes, in various combinations with filters, transparencies and layer styles, to my advantage, whereas before I, more often than not, found myself taking the long road and wasting a lot of time on the smallest of things.

I've also further developed my drawing technique, learning to make elements such as lighting look more convincing, and familiarising myself with the shape of the human form. I've also ventured into parts unknown in discovering new techniques, such as the Wacom style that I mentioned before (with the new weapon concepts), which has, overall, vastly improved my drawing skill. I've also learned, to some degree, how to use Audacity, although, as with any sound recording, it's really a "whatever sounds best" approach there.

And there's research tools - I've learned how I can use these to my advantage, even if just to keep track of anything I find that can help me (like, for example, texture guides). And I guess there's just generic teamwork skills too - at any rate, I'd say I've come out for the best!

Well, for now, I'd best be off - until the next post!

- N.

Trembling at the thought of feeling, wide awake and keeping distance...

Now playing: Amon Amarth - Fate of Norns
via FoxyTunes

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Post the Eighteenth

I let my focus shiiiiiift!
- Mikael Stanne,
from Dark Tranquillity's "Focus Shift",
Quoted because I haven't been here in so long and it seemed fitting at the time.

Date: Sunday 17 August, 2008
Started: Whenever. I forgot.
Finished: 6:47 PM

Wow, it's been so long since I've posted on here that the posting interface appears to have undergone some aesthetic changes (And have you ever noticed how the word "aesthetic" is quite similar to "atheist"? Do you think it originally referred to atheists with visually appealing characteristics, like me?). Anyway, I'm finally here, and I come with what is perhaps less news than I would have hoped for, although that's entirely our group's fault, collectively (for being lazy SoB's, and that's not "Sisters of Battle", for those versed in the ways of Warhammer 40K). I only really have one more sketch done this time, but it's an actual environment this time, and not just characters. And, without further ado, and with as little pretentious rambling as I can manage, here it is:


For this here sketch, the main focus was, like with everything I do, creating something grungy and gritty that echoed the despair of the run-down inner-city neighbourhoods that you'd see almost everywhere if you lived in my perfect (and I am using that term ironically) dystopia. I managed to slip in a few "in-jokes" too, such as the occurance of the numbers "9264" (here's a hint: if you can deal with vaguely offensive terms, or Asian words referring to a certain class of male royalty, then try decoding it by looking at those numbers on a phone keypad. If not, forget I mentioned it.), and the name of the fish and chip store (there's a fish and chip store named "Cripps" in Hobart, and I'd used the joke before in an old comic of mine, so I figured I'd reuse it to add that little "Sinnettine" touch).

In other news (but DIM-related news nonetheless), the site is up - the link is on the main page, and normally I'd tell you to go to the main page and find it yourself, and/or die in a fire, but because I'm such a nice fella, I have it here. I must congratulate Todd on his work on the layout, which I think adds a nice, professionally minimalistic quality (and I'm all about the minimalism, yoes) to it. It's really just "bare-bones" for the time being, and is on the opposite end of the scale to, say, The Lord of the Rings, when it comes to content intensity (there's not really even a group bio or a rundown of what we're doing or anything), but hopefully that'll change sometime soon. I am also dabbling in web design, having somehow managed to code my own portion of the site (although I need a fair bit more done on it yet). I'm also designing a theme for the subdomain that deals specifically with "The Project" itself (Todd's being a general Glassbiscuit portal), which includes a number of gritty details reminiscent of well-worn industrial architecture, and is thematically, in my opinion, in the vein of the old Doom and Quake games (you know, from the time before the pretentiously gorgeous graphics of Crysis). I'm yet to piece it all together as of yet, as I still need to work out proper measurements and so-forth, but I have a few samples here of some of the page elements that'll be going into it.

First, a navigation button, depicted in all three stages (yeah, we're all high-class and s***) of existence (normal, highlighted and pressed):


Then, a basic border segment (of which I do have other pieces, but who wants to see a corner when this gives a good idea already?), modelled after industrial girders and so forth:


And, finally, a rusty vent (presented on a grey background for preview purposes), which will be placed in the corner above the navigation bar to add a bit more of a neglected touch:


Now, I'd scan in the conceptual sketch for the final layout, but it's really little more than a loose scribble and a few notes that, from memory, include an expletive or two, so I didn't bother. Plus, no scanner here.

Another area that I've been focusing on recently is audio. Having had some experience with sound recording, equalising, and so forth in the past, I've started to familiarise myself with the audio editing program Audacity (which is open source, making it Rhys-friendly) so that I can get some voice clips done for the enemies in the game. As I've been practising to become a death metal vocalist on the side, I've put myself into "br00tal mode" for voice recording, putting on my best Opeth-style growl so that I can get the enemies sounding as bestial as possible. Although I haven't actually saved any audio clips yet (so no samples, sorry), I have been playing around with recording them through a cheap heaphone mic and straight into Audacity, which has generated results of surprisingly decent audio quality.

For those who have some knowledge of Audacity, or at least have an idea of what some of the tools and effects mean, here is the process I've been using:
1. Record the sound. I've just been recording regular audio tracks, as opposed to stereo tracks, since I have no intention of using any stereo panning or anything.
2. Noise removal. I just sample a segment of audio buzz (it's faint, but noticeable at regular volume), and filter the entire track slightly (about 10% on the slider) to cut it down.
2. Amplify. I only use a small amount here - not enough to cause any clipping, but just so I can hear it clearly, as the next stage knocks the volume down quite substantially. And yes, I could use the channel gain control to do this, but then I'd forget to turn it down.
3. Reverb (or, as the Audacity plugin is titled, GVerb). This is only a very faint reverb to take away some of the dry quality of the raw recording (I could use an equaliser to assist there, but I never set the EQ bands right) and to add a bit more "life" to it. The settings I use are as follows:


4. Another application of Amplify, although this time I just let it amplify to the recommended amount, which knocks it back up to normal.
5. Final step - change pitch! Since I'm still learning to balance depth and volume with my growling, I can't exactly get my voice as low as Matthew Chalk (Psycroptic's ex-vocalist) can without it being too quiet, so I pitch-shift my vocals down two whole steps, or four semitones (half-steps), which takes away from the humanoid sound and makes my voice sound more demonic and animalistic. This stage does degrade the sound quality slightly, but it's not too noticeable. And, the sound quality of some of Morrowind's sound effects is even worse (and I'd know, having browsed through the game's .wav files in the past), which probably makes me some sort of audio Jesus.

Research has been going on for some time, notably in the field of 3D texturing and graphic design. In order to increase my skills with Photoshop and prepare for the actual process of texturing, I have looked online at a number of game texturing and graphic design tutorials, which have helped me to increase my understanding of Photoshop and textures substantially (and you can see some of the results in my website design work above, which would not have been possible without the research I have conducted). I have been using to take note of a number of sites that I have been using, amongst other things, although I still have less than a dozen tags on there so far (having not exactly documented everything that I may have looked up, although I'll get to changing that). I'm yet to actually skin a 3D model, mind you, although you can blame Rhys for that, as he encountered an issue of data loss when initially building the base character model, and then put off rectifying it for some time. I should be able to get started soon, however.

As for keeping up to date with video game news, not being the most avid gamer out there, I have, as per usual, been following the newsposts of Penny Arcade, which is, essentially, one of the cornerstones in the world of game-related webcomickry, along with Ctrl+Alt+Del and PVP (neither of which I actually read at all). My casual following of gaming news has paid off, as it's allowed me to partake in a discussion related to Crysis (and its excessively fancy visuals), over on the new forums. Good stuff.

In-class… a few more presentations from Roger (one of which was quite interesting, as it related to Ancient Egypt, which is just awesome) have gone by, and have helped me in my research… even got me using, which boosted my ratings substantially. I also got my marks for Digital Interactive Media a few days ago - A, A, A, and B (the B being for accountable research), which are as good as I hoped for… or, at least, hoped I'd achieve, in that fancy netherworld where I'm an A-grade genius who has six gorgeous girls hanging off my arms at all times, and drinks with Mikael Stanne on weekends at some sort of high-society bar that reeks of mod culture. Alas, that netherworld may have relinquished some of its eau d'awesomeage, for once!

Apart from that (which is too much, considering my poor expectations for this journal entry), I don't think there's much to report on the DIM front for me, apart from the fact that I've been "tricking out" my Firefox with a bunch of plugins. Oh, and Kodie's still being uber-1337 with his modelling "skillz".

On the non-DIM front (personal life information, for once!), I turned eighteen in my absence, which means parties nearly every weekend now that I'm legally of-age. Been doing a lot of work for other subjects, and am currently planning to try and change my relationship status from "painfully single" to something less crushing… there's a funny little fact about the girl that I have my eye on now, but I'll refrain, seeing as how I most likely don't know everyone who's reading this on a very personal level.

Oh, and I also got a Gibson SG Special (that's a guitar, and a very fancy one too) for my eighteenth birthday. Suck. It. Down.

Now, this post has got ridiculously long, so I'll end it now. I still have a project submission to tackle.

Until we next meet,

- N.

Guilt keeps me alive at the bottom!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Notificatum [This is not an entry for assessment, Roger!]

Hey, me again. Yes, I haven't posted in over a month, but I must be forgiven, because this site is technically defunct now. We've got some stuff to report, but that'll be happening when we've moved everything over to the new server. For now, you can do nought but salivate over the yet-unheeded promise of my honey-sweet vowels, over my pearl-glossed consonants, and over the untold vales of knowledge that surely reside deep beneath the outer facets of their delicate silk shrouds.

Peace be with ye, until we do meet upon the mountain-cas'd walls of heavenly Clouddeep, in the transcend'nt angel-realm of Mi, far beyond the revealing reaches of known colour and thrice-damn'd geometric wizzardries.

- Charles Tenet*

Surrounds and drowns and washes me awaaaaaaaaay…

*That's a pseudonym, made up of letters harvested from my full name.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Post the Seventeenth

Date: Tuesday 13 May, 2008
Started: 7:15 PM
Finished: 7:56 PM

And so I now return, albeit a few days late, although that's really because I've been waiting for something worthy of reporting to happen in IM (and also due to the fact that I spent Friday night with friends, and breaking my usual rut of semi-nothingness in the process). We seem to have slipped into a state of malaise as far as group work is concerned, although I hope we can change that.

The workstation has, however, been the recipient of a makeover recently, with the addition of zip drives and a trio of graphiques cartes (did you know I spoke French? Neither did I). There's still been some problems with getting the group's server fully functional, although this has evidently not stopped a fairly large percentage of the group from indulging in a slew of games for what they will be defensively calling something along the lines of "research and evaluation".

Kodie and Rhys have still, however, been very active lately, with Rhys' base character model and Kodie's shiny new UZI looking top-notch - as I have said before, these will be great to texture, considering the high amount of quality that they clearly exhibit. I myself have had a tad of a setback in that I've had to contribute more time to other subjects lately, although I managed to whip out a sketch last night, to give myself an idea of the architectural designs of our first level, and to practise with drawing architecture (as it's never been a strong point for me). I haven't decided whether I wish to include it as a conceptual sketch, so it's not up here yet - I'll be making some more along similar lines though, and these should be finding their way to the Wiki directory, and to your screens, within a week.

We are still having problems with accquiring the new domain, as Rhys has discovered that all of the easily affordable routes may inevitably result in us being screwed over, given the terms and conditions of the companies that we would be dealing with. It seems that we may have to dig deeper if we want quality and no risk of abuse or loss of intellectual property, which could be a problem, seeing as how expensive some services in said field can be. Plus, I haven't had any money to spare for a while now, although I've been able to start saving up as of this week.

As soon as I can (read: as soon as I can financially manage it), I'm going to be looking into purchasing the Orange Box for mineself too, so that I can get more familar with the machinations of the Source Engine… and also since I'd like to get some new games.

Oh, and last week we engaged in a mentoring session as our weekly project, where we learned how to go about guiding and assisting those around us in their own projects. The actual task of mentoring was a tad dull, considering that, when split into groups, it turned out that Ian and Kye are very much lacking when it comes to their project (which really didn't leave much room for suggestions, apart from "Get to work!"). However, the information that was learned was still valuable, and may be able to help exand on our group dynamic.

Well, that's about all. I now leave you to savour this:

¡La muerte a la gente del mulo!

- N.

Who are you to raise your finger, you must'a been out your head…

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Post the Sixteenth

Date: Sunday 4 May, 2008
Started: 11:52 AM
Finished: 12:22 PM

Yes, yes, I know, the log entries are getting delayed, but they're getting done!

Might as well start off with the Thursday before last (considering that the "Sunn-Dae" is, by the Gregorian calendar, Day 1 of Ye Olde Weeke). As Dan had returned by that point, we were finally able to pull off our presentation, albeit with a lot of last-minute preparation that resulted in Todd's (?) laptop Blue Screen of Deathing a couple of times (or so I remember). However, we managed to pull off the presentation rather smoothly, with quite a heartening and ego-swelling response from our gracious audience (although we try to keep that second one in check). A few went as far as to actually question us, although I can't recall most of the questions (although there was some stuff about distribution of our game - which we cannot do, at least not for monetary profit - and Open Source music). Even I gained some knowledge from this - mostly, how much I have to feel sorry for the programmers (or would have to, if I had any lingering shreds of a conscience), considering all that code they have to sift through, and some extremely rudimentary knowledge of how Kodie went about constructing his Katana of Awesomeness and Doom. Come to think of it, I really should check in with Zoe (who was kind enough to film said presentation) to see what she's doing with the footage.

Tuesday saw a new level come into being, with Dan, Todd, and, to some extent, myself, mapping out what will turn into some sort of high-society, out-of-the-way clinic (think Rancho Relaxo from The Simpsons, but with celebrities getting facelifts) that's been ravaged by the mutant tide. From memory, not much else happened on that day, apart from Honni returning to photograph our nerdly exploits, and Kodie adopting the position of team maid (being sent to the shop to bring back edibles and that nice glass-bottled Coke). This (apart from Honni's photography and Kodie's manservantry) continued on into Thursday, with an extra layer (in the form of a secret underground bioengineering lab, which actually has, from what I could see, a very nice and compelling structure - not that I'd contribute this to Andrew taking Dan's place on said day) being added onto the clinic level, heralding a wave of plot progression in its wake. Rhys and I also took some time to discuss character proportions, drawing up some rough concepts (over images of a Half-Life 2 model, so that we had a human template) so that we could capture the proportions for some of the models.

Recently, I have been experimenting with using a Wacom tablet. Although I have had experience with them before, I'm trying to work with new techniques and larger scales, which resulted in this piece of Penny Arcade fan-art (which I shall be using for Graphic Design work) that I am quite fond of:


I stumbled across this sketchy and vaguely graffiti-like technique by complete accident, and I'm actually so pleased with the results that I may do some conceptual art for The Project in a somewhat similar style. I'm thinking it will probably look quite fancy with architectural concepts, although I'll be taking a cleaner approach in that case.

Anyhow, I may come back to this entry in the future if I think of anything beneficial, but, for now, keep watching the skis!

- N.

Give away the stone, let the waters kiss and transmutate these leaden grudges into gold…

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Post the Fifteenth

Date: Tuesday 22 April, 2008
Started: 9:10 AM
Finished: 9:14 AM (excluding edits)

Hello again. I apologise for the late update, offering another player character sketch - the "quick guy", I guess (excellent for sniper and scouting roles).


The past week has mostly been focused around things such as the final revisions to the submission document (which has finally been sent off to all of the gun companies - here's hoping for a yes on all fronts, or at least the vast majority), as well as the presentation that our group was meant to give to the rest of the class. With each of us assigned specific roles, we were asked to give a 15-20 minute (from recollection) presentation about our project, explaining its different aspects, as well as the less prominent stuff (behind-the-scenes work, Phase system, etc). However, this had to be dropped on short notice this morning (which is when it was supposed to be done), as Dan was trapped up in Melbourne due to some technicality with his plane flight (having been up in Byron Bay for a week to see an old friend of the group). I personally found this to be quite a disappointment, not only due to the fact that I'd put a bit of stuff together in advance for the presentation, but also as I had been looking forward to getting some informed feedback from the others in the class. Whilst I, personally, feel that the whole team structure we have is quite well-organised and efficient, it would have been great to get some opinions and suggestions from the others as to how we could improve our group dynamic, or even for things that we could add into the project itself.

There has been one small issue on the forums due to a conflict of opinions (as to whether the characters and enemies will receive names or not), although I wouldn't say it's anything monumental. In fact, it's only a minor issue until at least Phase 2 (see the Phase system page for more information), although if we can get it out of the way sooner rather than later, it'll save having the conflict merely resurrect in the future.

As far as research is concerned, I'm still looking over Warhammer Online and Penny Arcade, as far as researching the progression of others in our (approximated) field. For conceptual art inspiration, a friend of mine has suggested looking at the Fallout games, and the imagery behind them - something which I had already considered, and am now planning to do with, as they say, "gusto". Or, perhaps not that enthusiastically, but you get the spin of it. In addition, I have also been looking into the conceptual art behind other projects, such as Mark Gibbons' work on the "Primal" games, and Ian Miller's "Shrek" preliminaries. Which reminds me, some environment-related concepts, as well as the rest of the characters, are about to be started.

We also scored some more computers for our workstation today, which will be vital for playtesting, as well as for when we get well into making the first version of the game. I'm pretty sure Roger and Dirk won't mind.

On another topic - Kodie's been hard at work on the cutscene, although we have yet to see all of what he has done so far. He has not been able to complete it due to commitment to Maths and lack of time, but an even better version should be coming in the somewhat distant future. Judging by all of his other modelling I've seen, it's going to be absolutely sweet, and I'll be looking forward to when I get to texture some of his work.

- N.

Days away, I still feel you, touching me, changing me…

Monday, April 14, 2008

Post the Fourteenth

Date: Monday 14 April, 2008
Started: 10:55 AM
Finished: 11:00 AM

I am come again, this time with a new piece of "arts-work". This one is, and will continue to, remain an enigma to you all, at least until we see fit to divulge more information on the matter. Does it even have anything to do with The Project? Does it have everything to do with The Project? Should Nick shut the [EXPLETIVE DELETED BY THE INQUISITION] up and let you get on with it? You decide. Suffice to say that it's open to interpretation on the part of you, the viewer, until the meaning is released beyond the confines of the Glassbiscuit "krew". Anyways, here's the damned sketch.


Anyway, I really should be doing Graphic Design work, considering I'm in Graphic Design right now, so I shall depart with this warning - watch where you aim your gun, because whatever you point it at may come back to haunt you.

- N.

But I'd trade it all, for just a little… peace of miiind!

P.S. I just noticed that the last post (the thirteenth) was posted on the thirteenth day of the month. Excelsior!