This weeks blog is set in two parts, with this being the first. My task this week was to create a piece of art in the style I chose (for me, obviously a game), that reflects on myself as a creative practitioner. Please note that a link to the art piece in question is located at the bottom of the page.
Island of Embers is a High Fantasy RPG set on the shores of an island in Dracon Interactive’s “Eternal Ember” series. This project was created as a reflection of myself as a creative practitioner, and to explore and examine my current abilities and how they have grown.
Speaking practically, Island of Embers was a chance to visit many areas that I have worked on for years. Terrain Creation, Animation Controllers, AI Programming and Camera Control. I have grown significantly in these areas, learning to mesh my code and design as cleanly as possible. A large part of this is due to a change of view over the last year. Early on in my game design career, I believed that I could single-handedly create masterpieces on the scale of Kingdoms of Amalur, or Skyrim. Harsh experience has shown me that compromise is not only an option, but absolutely necessary until I can secure a position creating games with a team. Thus, Island of Embers was created in a miniscule amount of time (10 hours), with the help of premade assets.
A factor that I have begun examining more closely after my exploration of it in my Creative Practitioner unit is the iterative element of my design and production. Due to the limited time frame, there was very little time for planning in this project. Thus, it was more of a single push to find and implement ideas, rather than my usual recursive process. Production contained elements of iteration, mostly in the mechanic implementation process. Using my usual technique of applying basic mechanics at the beginning of a game (walking, interaction). This proved to detract from this particular project, as I eventually completely replaced the movement system with an Animation based Root Motion technique I have been attempting (and failing) for a while. Once this was implemented, I then solidified my interaction, and combat and looked to the Quest system. I have long had trouble with the concept of a quest system, but a chat-bot I made a couple of weeks ago actually cracked this for me and this project seemed the best time to see if I could implement this. While I initially had a bit of trouble, I kept revising until the system worked, and I am quite happy with the result, as I will almost definitely include this technique in the production of Eternal Ember, my major project.
On a more creative note, a number of things contributed to my decisions about setting and genre for this project. My work on my major project Eternal Ember was a large part of this. Started around 4 years ago, Eternal Ember is a Fantasy RPG of somewhat unrealistic scope (wildly, wildly unrealistic scope if I’m being honest). My work on this has been the crux of my development, and personally embodies the concept of creative research for me. Focusing so much of my research on a single project has influenced my preferences and biases when it comes to projects. I feel the most comfortable when working on Fantasy RPG’s, and this can alter my projects and ideation process to reflect this.
There were two main areas where my aesthetic choices came into play in Island of Embers. The first was the texturing and models used to create the island, from the trees, to the grass colour. For this project, I chose a pseudo-realistic texture style, applied to low poly models. This created an okay type of ambience. However, had I had more time on this project, I probably would have opted for higher poly models, with a custom shader for the basic environment. The colours of the environment were your basic yellow, green, browns and whites. I did make these a bit lighter, as I wanted to create a “harsh colours after being stranded on an island” effect. This was tempered by letting the player be actually able to see, and not feel too uncomfortable. I finally applied a series of Post Processing techniques, from Anti-Aliasing to Ambient Occlusion.
The second aesthetic area was within my choices for the games User Interface (UI). Initially, I had a very prototype-y, programmer art type of UI. Basic boxes, Arial font for everything. Colours either white or black. However, as a developer, I like to work on projects that have a bit of effort put into appearance, so when I got a chance, I imported an asset from EvilSystems User Interface Systems, and integrated it into my existing systems. This manifested mostly in the Quest Log UI. Should I work more on this project, I would then extend this to the Screen UI (health bar, action bar, unit frames, etc).
The setting of this project is representative of both my practical and creative areas of development. On a practical side, forming the island took work learning to understand the algorithms used to form landmasses. I then took these, modified them and configured until I was happy with the result. However, the end goal for this was created through my creative processes, considering what kind of atmosphere I wanted for the player, and the area.
With more consideration to why I chose to create Island of Embers, it is because this project allowed me to explore more technical points relating to my main project, Eternal Ember. Work on this has continued for a significant portion of my career, and almost all of my projects allow me to learn something that will be useful in the construction of the project. Island of Embers feeds into my main goal, and resembles my main goal, portraying a large part of what helps me identify myself as a game developer.
Lastly, Island of Embers is a marker of how much I have grown in my game development journey. Creating a full scene and limited mechanic RPG in 10 hours is a feat I would have considered impossible 4 years ago. Growth is a large part of game development, and my own journey, as I am consistently learning new tools and techniques.
Download Island of Embers HERE.
To start; a question I can not google.
This was a quick thought for me, as for years I have had a ridiculously frustrating thought stuck in the back of my head; "How did Time start?". It makes no sense. We use time to measure things, and to define where things start. So, without time, how did time start. Its not like there could have been time passing before time began... So we then move onto whether time has been around forever, and thus, has the universe been around forever, etc, etc, my head hurts. One thing is for certain, while google may give me many opinions on the matter, there is no answers.
The TED Talk by Chris Wire talks about curiosity, and its link to creativity. On the whole, I am in total agreeance with the concepts proposed by Chris. Curiosity today is less than it has previously been. This is affecting our cultural identities and our individual identities. There were a few points that I disagreed with however.
The first, that technology is responsible for this decreased curious activity. I am in direct opposition to this in fact. I believe that having such easily available fact finding facilities at our disposal, will increase our curiosity. When I was younger, and I was curious about a fact, I would have to ask my parents, my teachers, or find it in a book. This led to many facts remaining unanswered. And after a while, I would forget the question and go about my life. But by the time I was reaching year 4/5 at ~ 11 years old, I was beginning to ask less questions. Not because I was being told "be quiet", or berated for my questions (I was, but that didnt stop me), but because I wasn't getting any answers. With the advent of smart phones, google and all that came with them, my curiosity resurged. Because now all of my questions could have answers. And I believe that this was not just the case for me, but a global phenomenon. Thus, I reject the proposal that we were all so curious before technology, as Chris hasn't given me any evidence or reason to believe that this statement is true.
The other point is that children are naturally more curious than adults. As a STEM (Digital tech) education provider, my day job is to go to schools and teach kids to program, to make a circuit, all the fun tech stuff. However, on the whole, my kids aren't bursting full of questions and curiosity. I show them a new piece of technology, and often I will not get any questions. At most, a "cool, how does it work". Kids arent interested in the broad applications of software, or the different things they can do with it. Kids like to find a single use for an object and slam all their attention into it. Give a child the internet, and they will not spend time on google asking questions, they wont even go looking for new activities. They will go to the same activity they did yesterday, and every day before.
Which, if my experience serves me well, will be some sort of gaming. Or pictures of cats (kids seem unaware of the irony of just using the internet for kitten pics).
In regards to the creative quiz at https://hbr.org/2015/12/assessment-whats-your-curiosity-profile, my results came back in 3 categories.
I like to think in my own way, and my own way is often different from those around me. However, I believe this is true for many people, and I don't believe it really makes me unconventional. I am not one of those people who makes wild leaps of thought to strange areas (I think). In my life, it has been the direction of my thought, not the variability of it that has been different.
I can agree with this. Learning and progression are large parts of my personality makeup, and are aspects that are often forwarded into my work. They are possibly what makes me enjoy my work so much, as progression of character and player is one of the greatest aspects of game design.