Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Up! Down! Left! Right! Siiiiiidewayz!! What way where we heading with this again?

Knock, knock. Dougal again. Today we be discussing the direction of art! ...or something. Left!
Er... Right..

(I'm not in the best of physical states right now. Been ill for a fair few days. Expect it to show through in this entry... No sleep and no tea has a negative effect on Dougal. *nods*
Also, Internet Explorer keeps crashing!!
Meh, I'm not in the mood for this. [EndRant.] )

Art Direction for games!


Mister Bob be an Art Director. He works very hard...

Bob is the person in charge of the game in an aesthetic sense. i.e. he will decide how it looks the visual tone, quality and style and also getting the best possible results from the artistic capabilities offered.
Bob has a lot of heavy responsibility on his shoulders. Every object, every character, every level - right down to the texture of that rock that no one would even really notice - are all indirectly linked to him. He also works closely with many other members of the team...

For instance, he teams up with the Miss Maria, the Creative Director to lay down set stylistic and artistic guidelines for the game in production. Bob then puts his head together with the Art Manager Mister George to see is those set goals are doable with their budget and time schedule.
Bob also helps the guys over in recruitment with selecting the most skilled people for the art team.

Bob is a creative soul. He has an eye for detail and he can envision how a character will look when placed in the game - decide if it fits the style... etc. Bob also has the soul of a manager... He can organise people in his team, solve problems and make educated decisions. Bob was once a simple artist and he drew a lot. However, these days he is forced to sit in his office shuffling through various paperwork. He gets paid more now though! :D


Personally, I don't think I'd like to be an Art Director. Too many decisions! And I don't like telling people what to do... Noes, Dougal could not do Mister Bob's job.
If I were to change my mind, however, then there are a few skills I would need (and a few others that would be recommended) to get the job:

- Firstly... EXPERIENCE! Both in anything Game Art related and in the industry itself. Maybe I worked as a concept artist for five years and then got promoted to Lead Artist on "Death From Below".

- Secondly. PASSION! (No, not that kind). I'd need to have an intense love of games and gaming in general and be enthusiastic about them. (MMOs in particular).

- Thirdly. SKILL! As demonstrated in my awesome portfolio bursting with awesome art! ...or rather my advanced traditional art skills - knowledge of light, colour, perspective, scale.. etc.

- Fourthly. MORE SKILL! Knowledge of 3D and game engine technology.

- Fifthly. MORE SKILL!! Photoshop skills. To the point of expertise.

- Sixthly. SKIL- No, I'm kidding. LEADERSHIP! I would need to be able to manage a team and communicate with them. Also be able to listen to my team members and encourage their artistic ideas.

- Seventhly. DECISIONS! I must learn not fear the task that is decision making! I would have to know how to communicate! And solve those annoying problems that get in the way.

- Eighthly. REFEREE! I need to be able to resolve conflicts that arise within the work place.

-Ninthly. TEACHER! I would need to know how to share my awesome skills and teach those artists less skilled than me.


This entry seems so short!
But my head is actually pounding.
And I sense zombie-mode activating...
So, I think I should at least -try- to get some sleep tonight.

I'll possibly look at it again at a later date…

-The dougalBUG.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Play the Game! ...Lose the Game? (DAMMIT!)

Right, there is way too much sugar in my tea so expect randomosity and gobble-de-gook! Also, my head is still pounding from a couple of close encounters with the floor so lets take things slowly, 'ey?... *coughs*

Straight in then. What is meant by gameplay? *fires up Google*

"Gameplay: Ambiguous term for the total effect of all active game elements. Refers to the holistic game experience and the ability of the game to command the attention of the player." - http://game-research.com/.
...Say what now?

That's a pretty ambiguous definition if you ask me! I take it that gameplay is the experience that a game has on the player, mentally, physically and emotionally; and the way it allows him or her to interact with the game world.

For instance! (LFG: SFK!)
World of WarCraft's gameplay is notorious for its soul-draining effect on the player. Am I heading the right way with this?

Horror genre (Fear, Silent Hill etc.) games scare the player, messes with his or her head and gives them nightmares for weeks... as do fluffy pink bunny games, though for entirely different reasons I'm sure!
Er. Moving on!

So I went around a few of my friends and asked them what their favourite games were and why. After I got past the "-Game Name Here- because it's AWESOME!" I actually discovered that there were some recurring reasons for their love of seemingly totally different games. Almost everyone said they liked said game for the 'gameplay' though when pushed; few could elaborate. "...y'know? The controls... battle system? That sorta stuff!"

The Resultz!:
1st. World of WarCraft (Most likely due to my vast number of MSN contacts met through the soul-trap).
2nd. Assassin's Creed. (People like the avatar control it offers).
2nd. Final Fantasy(s) (Long, involving plots, character development etc.)
3rd Fallout. (Post-apocalyptic setting and the battle system)
4th. Legend of Zelda (Solving puzzles)
4th. Sonic the Hedgehog. (Retroooo, love of platformer games)
5th. The Jedi Knight series. (Lightsabers, 'nuff said - Thanks for the enlightening input, Jonny. T.T)


The leading lights in Game Design! The lights at the front. ...Game design has headlights? ^^; Surely this means the big-shots in the industry. EA? Squeenix...
Hmm. *looks back at the survey results*

- Blizzard Entertainment must be doing something right to have so many subscribers pumping money into their game.
- Ubisoft know how to make a game with engaging controls and an assassin that can scale walls and shank Medieval guardsmen.
- Squaresoft (now Square Enix) have always known how to make a game with an involving plot. Kingdom Hearts and the (Never) Final Fantasy being prime examples.
- Nintendo and Sega are just giants.. or at least were.
- Black Isles Studios (Fallout) and Lucas Arts (Jedi Knight), however, are pretty unknown to me.


Where does game design take place in the modern developer? Hmm, well that makes little sense in my semi-concussed state. Let's take developer to mean development company...

Where does game design take place in the modern development company? ...Well that'd be the design department surely? Lead Designer, Game Designer, Character Designer, Environment Designer... or am I reading this wrong?

On the other hand, if the modern developer is the Game Developer (as a person) then game design takes place in their imagination?
...No. That doesn't seem right either.

Rarely is the game design left to one single person. Usually it is split among the design team with each individual taking responsibility for a certain aspect of the overall design - characters, story, environment etc. (Yay, tangent!)


Imagine, if you will, the development team from "Barbie's Magical Adventures in Pretty Pink Land" set to work on "Death From Below: The Rising." (Typical zombie game, shoot them or get your brains gnawed.) What horrors would we face if the guy at the top decided they weren't going to adapt to suit the atmosphere of the game? Zombies dressed in pink? Bows in their hair? ...Ponies! Ugh, the very thought of such a game makes me nauseous. T.T

Of course, it works both ways. What would happen if the Death From Below team worked on a Pretty Pink game without changing their style... Not only would it be totally lacking in pinkness but you would face awkward questions come Christmas morning: "Mummy, why are there maggots falling out of the pony's ear?"

I fail at explaining. Can I write a story instead, pl0x? *puppy-dog eyes*


My favourite game... is a tough one. I like a broad range of genres and play styles. From World of WarCraft to Sonic the Hedgehog and Pokémon: Emerald to Unreal Tournament... Kingdom Hearts too.

When I play, I want the game to suit my mood. If I'm not in the right mood for a game then I'm not going to enjoy playing. If I'm ill and feeling sorry for myself then I am -not- going to sit and play Unreal just to watch myself get blown into flying giblets of bloody flesh. Likewise, if I'm in a competitive mood I'm not going to sit making a little blue hedgehog collect golden rings for hours on end...

I like games that engage me. I don't want top-notch graphics or senseless, never-ending violence. Just good gaming is all I ask. Give me a plot, something with a bit of involvement and I'm all set to play for hours.

And that’s enough rambles for today.

-The dougalBUG.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Dougal Reviews Reviews! Yay!

Aaand it seems I neglected this once again. Honestly! No wonder I always struggled to keep a regular diary as a kid. ^^;

Well on reading the topic for this I got all excited thinking: YAY! It's about writing for games. Plots! Stories! AWSUM! FUN! *reads a bit more of the brief* ...Aww man!

So yeah, after I got over my initial disappointment and helped myself to a nice cup of tea, (<3) I sat down and thought... Have I ever actually read a game review?
Conclusion: No.


Then Dougal finally gets to the task at hand; a.k.a reading through 'How To Use And Abuse The Gaming Press And How The Gaming Press Wants To Use And Abuse You' on Kieron Gillen's Workblog. A rather long and wordy title if you ask me... and I'll admit it gave me an unpleasant feeling in the pit of my stomach - as did the size of the scrollbar.

Nevertheless, I sat down and I read. ..and I re-read.... and I read once more just to be certain of the fact that I barely had a clue what the heck the guy was talking about. Maybe it's the lack of sleep, maybe the fact that I'm in the middle of a mad eczema flare-up *scratchscratch*... or perhaps the article was just badly-worded. Either way, I could not make heads nor tails of the thing!


So t'old Kieron claims that a typical gaming magazine is put together in just nineteen days, then work begins on the next issue. Seems like pretty steep deadlines to me, considering they have one hundred and fifty pages to fill in that time! (And I thought my deadlines were worrying.) The poor overworked journalist has to find time to play the game, think about how it played out, write the review and then get it to the office before his boss goes crazy. Sounds like quite a task. And it only gets harder as each year budgets are cut and staff sacked.

Final Fantasy XXVI comes out and all the gaming magazines race to write their reviews. But wait! They only have nineteen days to play said 'Final' Fantasy... Oh noes!
What does the smart, time-efficient journalist do?

“Okay, okay, 'tis Square Enix, characters by Nomura, music by Uematsu.. a million and one fans all hung up on the franchise... Let's give it... er... 8.5/10. Scribble a few random notes about the controls. Spin a few tales about the plot. And hey presto! C'est fini!”

In the next few weeks everyone reads these 'reviews', goes out and buys the game, (because let's face it; it is FF after all).


Personally, I think a good review needs to be unbiased though it is obvious that this can prove difficult. You play the game. (I lost T.T) and you either enjoy it or you don't. It's hard to see past your opinions and write a good, solid review on the game as a whole. Let me think of an extreme example to try and elaborate...

Say you give 'Barbie's Magical Adventures in Pretty Pink Land' to a seventeen-year-old boy, ask him to play it and then write a review. If he actually agrees to play it - and doesn't forcibly remove your spleen with a spatula - you'll find that the finished review would most-likely be quite scathing, (I'd be concerned if he managed to write a positive review). …Or how about you give GTA to your dear old great-aunt Mildred? How do you think her review would pan out?
To the other extreme. Go to a gaming convention, single out a guy cosplaying as Solid Snake and ask him to write a review for Metal Gear Solid...

You see where I'm going, right?


Some magazines and websites will give a game a ranking. Be this a percentage or marks out of ten. To be honest, I don't see how this could work. I mean, how are you supposed to 'mark' a game. It's not as if it has questions to get right or wrong. Let's see: Woman with large chest: Check! Big guns: Check! More than five explosions in the opening sequence: err.. no check. Sorry this game only gets 7/10.

If GTA gets 10/10, 100%, FIVE GOLDEN STARS! Where as Barbie's Magical Adventures only gets a meagre 4/10.
…And I'm going to buy my six-year-old niece a game for Christmas?

Have I lost anyone yet?
Still with me Luke?
(You promised you'd read this ^-^)


So back to the point.
I must say, New Games Journalism (NGJ) is an interesting way to pass the time. Such reviews as light, funny and very personal... more about the writer's thoughts and feelings than the game itself. They can be useful to a certain extent… but not everyone feels the same about things.

And I'm rambling. Yay.
*stabs the blog entry with a blunt toadstool*


Dougal shall try to make her blog weekly and not monthly from now on! *nods* ...well actually bi-weekly so I can catch up. ^^;

-The dougalBUG