Sunday, 30 May 2010

Who was the man in the gasmask you were so excited about and why were you taking photos of Pete?

Ahem, yes, well, his name is Marx and he was part of the second half of my project for this semester and Pete was a reference for drawing my orthographical poses. This probably needs further explanation…SO, the second part of my project was looking at the design process – I don’t come from a design background, so even though this may seem elementary to some, but it was learning think in a different way in terms of designing for me. With the first part of the project and the Atombots, I didn’t really develop their designs all that much. Most of them were ‘as drawn’. After writing a list of genres/styles that interest me I settled on a Cyberpunk theme for these characters and did a couple of initial drawings of characters. After talking to Josh about them he suggested taking the gas mask and developing it – spend time drawing out lots of different designs for the gasmask; picking out bits I liked and further developing them.

We also talked about the character being in game and how in a 3rd person style game you would be spending a lot (LOT) of time looking at his back. In a couple of sketches I had suggested there was a backpack of some sort so I then spent time developing the look of it. Even the most throw-away sketches, comments and ideas have a place in this process as they could in themselves become a strong idea or concept or inspire new ideas.

Once I had worked on the designs and pulled them together to create a final ‘concept’ for the character. After that came the photographing of Pete – to whom I am very grateful (thanks Pete). There were basically photos to be used as references for drawing the orthographic outlines for the modelling of Marx in Maya.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

That’s ALL you did? Really?

Part 2 then – Theory! A word that strikes various types of fear in the hearts of various types of people. So ‘they’ say (who are ‘they’ by the way? ‘They’ have a lot of opinions often conflicting ones and seem to stick their noses in everywhere?) Back in the early conception of this project it was all started by reading an article (Characters in Computer Games: Toward Understanding Interpretation and Design). It was (grossly simplified) about the importance of characters in games and in the design stages and included a table adapted from a book called “” that identified 3 areas of development for a character – Psychological, Sociological and Physiological. I decided to use this table as the basis for developing some characters and continued with reading up on character design in books and articles by various authors
Overall it gave the impression of two areas of character design – the appearance and the personality – both of which are important to game characters and have influence (or will be influenced by) overall game design and mechanics. Through my readings there were different types of characters identified such as Iconic characters – the kind you want to be such as hero characters (e.g. Superman) and Blank State characters that you can protect yourself on to. Interestingly, Spiderman was highlighted as being both – Iconic and a character you want to be, but because of the mask, he becomes ‘blank’ and you can project yourself on to it (not that I’m a fan of Spiderman really, Batman is WAY better – I like my heroes disturbed. That way I can relate to them ;) ).

Anywho, I applied the table to my main character Doordle and tried to cover as much as possibly in each – I read in one article that it is important to have lots and lots (and LOTS) of information on your character even if hardly any of it gets used. This is because it will give you as the designer a tremendous amount of knowledge to draw upon when figuring out what your character can and would do in different situation and keeping this consistent.
It has just dawned on me that the description will make more sense if you have the context for the game he would be in so here is a brief summary:


Game Idea

Set on a Military base in a 50s Americana inspired robot world. An accident with a nuclear warhead has destroyed most of the base and knocked out communications and nearly all of the robots on the base. Doordle, a maintenance ‘bot, survives and must set out across the base to a bunker on the other side that has a working radio to call for help.

But there appears to be other robots moving about; robots that Doordle does not recognise. Who are they? And what are they doing on the base? Doordle will have to investigate on his way to the bunker!

Trying to keep in mind the theory and context I devised the following character description for Doordle.



· Male, 5years old, Level 3 Maintenance Robot

· 7’ tall, Red body and gray joints

· Fluid Pressure and energy function display on his front. Front access panel for storage of small items and access to circuits.

· Doordle is a robot built with fully articulated arms and legs to allow ease of movement and access for maintenance work.


· Doordle is a top tier Level 3 maintenance robot. He is hoping for promotion to Level 4 soon and then he will be running several teams of robots within an area of the base.

· Doordle has a small and small childbot at home and has always wanted to join the military, but fear of being dropped out of an aeroplane (especially the hitting the ground part) got in the way. Instead he joined and trained as a Maintenance robot and specialised in Communication Systems and Ray Gun calibration.

· Doordle is generally liked by his fellow robots and is not the type to get in to an argument. His dedication and pride in his work and in working for the military has been noticed by his superiors and his impending promotion to Level 4 is an indication of this

· Doordle is living the ‘American Dream’; loving his family, friends and job and doing his bit for his country when others abroad would try and take away that freedom.

· Doordle’s hobbies include restoring old ray guns, playing with his son and following the Portis Bay Titans football team


· Doordle has a positive outlook – he likes his life but takes his job very seriously (too seriously at times according to some).

· When he was younger he could be a little rash and quick tempered at times, but since the arrival of his son he has developed a much more patient and thoughtful demeanour.

· His colleagues joke at his obsession with things being neat and tidy – especially his tools!

· Doordle is outgoing and extremely knowledgeable about military communication systems and ray guns

· If Doordle can’t do it, then he will probably know someone who can.

There we have it then. I think if I settled down and did this for every character in the game world (of note) then each would continue to develop as characters are identified that have interaction with each other – specific relationships and dynamics could be developed. Also, as the game design progressed and mechanics were identified and developed I think this too would influence the character development and likewise the characters would be influencing the game design.

Friday, 21 May 2010

So REALLY, what have you been doing?

Ok, so part 1 – Adapting Design. I had decided to focus on character design and inspired by Josh’s Tin Robot project, I decided to do some 50s Americana inspired robots for my first set of characters. I sketched and drew out some (admittedly without much thought to developing my ideas – something I focussed on in the other part of my coursework). So I designed them, drew them digitally and modelled them in Maya. While doing that I overheard a conversation about zooming out on your model to see what it would look like ‘actual’ size on a screen e.g. a PSP or a mobile phone. Sounds like a good idea I thought, so I zoomed out and low and behold my lovely little robot almost vanished. Significant features were essentially invisible – like the eyes and mouth. Also, the arms and legs were almost indistinct.

From there I set about adapting the design for use on a smaller screen using my main character Doordle. Firstly enlarging the eyes and mouth so they remained visible when the model was shrunk down, I also made the arms and legs wider – I did not make them ‘larger’ over all because I didn’t want the model to become disproportioned with arms and legs that were too long just make them wider so they could still be seen when the model was shrunk down.

During this process I also considered that systems such as the DS and many mobile phones still make good use of pixel art style graphics (mainly because I have been playing Theme Park on the DS at the time and the characters walking around in my (awesome) theme park were all done in pixel art style. A software download later I was working on a new version of Doordle based on my original design and then an adapted version of that using enlarged features such as eyes and mouth, widening his arms and legs and using darker colours on the joints to make them stand out and widening some of the shading and highlighting to make sure their effects were still visible.

Whilst doing my end-of-semester presentation someone (I forget who now – it came from the direction of Pete and Kaile) asked if I felt I still needed to detailed texture in the bodywork on a model that was going to me small and not seen. I said I suppose not at the time, but I think upon reflection I would probably keep that detail in the texture map. I would maybe do another map instead of the one I had used with less detail, but more emphasised with the scuffing it did have so it would be visible. The level of detail in the original texture was rendered pointless when the model was shrunk down, so I feel that still scuffing up the paintwork would be important, but that a different approach to how it was drawn would be needed.
Overall I’m pretty pleased with this part of my work – I managed to develop my Maya skills and create work that had relevance to real world practices.
Below are some of the other robots I modelled for this project as I didn’t include them on the presentation for people to see.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

What the HELL have you been doing since January?

So, Semester 2 is over and this is my summing up do-da. This semester I have mostly been making coffee... no, that’s not it – I have been mostly concerning myself with Character Design. I say ‘concerning’ because there was moments when I was very concerned – such as at 12am one night when it dawned on me I was going to have to delete the damn head and start again. Still what doesn’t kill you will most probably scar you for life.

Anywho, Character Design. I split this project in two – first part was looking at adapting design and applying theory. The second part was exploring the design process and developing ideas. I’m going to post up some summaries/reflections – probably split it in to three: Adapting Design, theory and Design Process. If you’re not on the edge of your seat now, then you clearly don’t live with a cat!