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!