Thursday, 23 May 2013

Task 24: Personal review of the second year.

Where do you want to go?
I don't know.
How do you get there?
No idea.

Not very inspirational or ambitious unfortunately, but true. Thinking too far into the future tends to overwhelm and scare me, which makes doing anything daunting. So I prefer to try not think much about where I'm going, I just try to keep moving forward.

This doesn't sound like a very good life plan I know but it seems to be working out for me so far. I didn't think I was ever going to get back into education until just before I went to college, there wasn't all that much thought going into it, I just went to an open enrolment and got the place. That lead onto doing a Foundation Degree at De Montfort and that led onto the Game Art degree. I didn't attend an open day or visit other Universities. It all just happened one after the other without much planning. So everything seems to working out for me so far.

I didn't really come to University thinking something amazing and magical was going to happen and I'd suddenly start getting awesome. I was actually really worried that I would spend 3 years at Uni (if I was lucky) and not improve at all. I was sure I'd fail and that is due to huge amount of self doubt and having no confidence. So the fact I'm still here is a sign that things are going reasonably well.

I've come to understand more each year that art isn't something that can be taught. You can't teach someone how to be good at drawing or making 3D stuff. You can teach tools, methods and software but everything is down to the individual and how much they want to learn. Anything artistic tends to be trial and error in my opinion and you need to work at something constantly to get better, you need to do things over and over again to really learn how to do something well and efficiently.

I think this is something I have struggled with through out the 2nd year. We're encouraged to do things over and over again until we get good at it. We're given longer than needed for 3D as the idea is to make the project a few times so by the time you hand in you've made it better.
This just doesn't happen.

We're also encouraged to do lots of prep sketches and multiple finals for 2d. This doesn't tend to happen either.

But that isn't for lack of wanting. I really do want to get better but the projects do pile up and they do get on top of you and there is only so many hours in the day. If I worked really quickly then maybe I could fit it all in, but working quickly tends to mean working poorly. And I would rather take my time and learn more, than go quickly and make loads of mistakes.

No matter how much work I do, there is always more. Always things that can be redone or improved. It just doesn't end. I find this really demoralising, there is very little time to reflect and take stock of the work and what I may have got right or wrong.

I was expecting the 2nd year to be very much like the 1st, I wasn't expecting it to be easier because I already had a grasp of 3D etc. And in that sense I was right. There hasn't been much difference between the 2 years, apart from the group project. I was not prepared for that. When we first started the course I was really excited about the prospect of the group project, I thought it would be awesome and couldn't wait to get to the 2nd year and get stuck in. However every month it got closer from that point made me more apprehensive. In the end I was dreading it, for several reasons, non of which are of much interest to anyone but a psychologist maybe.

The group project turned out to be stressful but alright, but heavily based on 3D and I know I'm not the only one who let most of their 2D work slip during the 2 months spent on the group project. This was really frustrating for me as 2D is what I really want to be focusing on. So all my 2D projects from the last few weeks/months are awful and I know my grade is going to suffer badly for it. But I did learn that I'm actually a pretty good team player in a group. I gave everything to the group project and worked my ass off to get things right. I really wanted our project to look good and did everything I could to make that happen, so I'm quite proud of myself for that. Even if the project didn't really end up how we wanted.

Anyway, the 2nd year is all done, there have been some ups and downs along the way and I can't really believe its finished. I'm sure it only started like 2 months ago, time is just flying by, worryingly fast actually. I'm going to be looking for jobs before I know it. Maybe I can just live in the office under the desk? That sound good? Awesome.

As for next year...I just don't know yet. I don't like to plan ahead remember. I'll just take it as it comes. In the mean time I need a break for a week or something, my head is fried and I can't think straight. I've got a whole load of stuff I want to do throughout the summer break to keep me busy and moving in the right direction. Maybe I'll try keep up blogs through the summer about the various art related things I'm up I get marks for that? If not, maybe I won't.

Good bye 2nd year, you were a massive pain in my ass.

Website and Portfolio Building

I find portfolio building personally difficult. The act in itself isn't hard obviously, but what it represents. Making a portfolio of work is to show yourself off, to put yourself out there and really advertised your talents. For someone who has very little self confidence this is really hard to do.

I became very aware that if I want to show case myself and what I could do there would be no point putting in rubbish pieces. I'm trying to sell myself and I don't want to showcase my work as being crap. So only the best stuff should be displayed. This is damn near impossible when you hate everything you do. I never like anything I do, threes always something wrong, always a way it could be better, so I didn't feel comfortable including anything I've done in a portfolio.

Whats also hard to consider is what pieces should really be in there anyway, no matter how good they are. If I'm trying to create a good looking portfolio that will make people interested in what I can do, do I really want to be putting a stunning digi paint of a naked lady on there? That's likely to put alot of people off and maybe even offend them, but if it really showcases how good I am at anatomy, the human form and painting, shouldn't it be there?

By making a portfolio we are effectively starting to create our online and professional persona. This is the beginning of who we might start to be known as and what we are known for. This was difficult to get my head round seeing as we're still only just finishing the 2nd year at Uni. I am no where near ready to be creating my professional identity!

Tips on making a portfolio -

I did make an online portfolio as horrible as the task felt. I haven't published it online so no one can find or see it unless I link it muhauhahaha. So at least for now I can hide my professional identity until I think its worth sharing.

My website can be found here - - -

Digi Painting

Digi Painting is pretty much something I have always condemned, I think theres something very impersonal and dull about it, even really stunning pieces. Apart from a few artists that I know of and can generally recognise their style, its almost impossible to tell one piece from all the thousands of others. This might be down to the tools, thousands of people have Photoshop and Corel painter, everyone has the same tools, the same colour palettes and probably the same ideas of whats 'awesome'. So it all ends up looking pretty samey and crap.

This is why I have tried to steer clear of getting too involved in Digi painting, I dont want to rely on a piece of software to be able to create something that looks half good. I'm rubbish with colour and I don't mind admitting that, I also have no clue AT ALL what I'm doing when it comes to actually painting. So everything I did would be so awful it wouldn't even be funny. Digi painting is almost a way to hide that. I can't paint with real materials but I'm alright-ish at digi, so its in a way a lie.

I prefer good old fashioned drawing, that cant be photoshoped or edited, thousands have photoshop, but no one has my hand and my pencil. So what I do is going to be different.

Having said all that....I feel photoshop is something that we have to do on the course. We need to learn how to be semi proficient in it. Partly because it lets us create nice pictures which looks good and partly because it increases the speed at which you can work dramatically.

So I started the year off pretty crappy at digi painting but I've tried to stick with it and work it into various projects. Thought I'd briefly share some of my digi advancements.

Task 23: Life Changing or Career Building?

I think University in this sense, for courses such as ours, are massively over-rated. If we're honest doing this course isn't going to be monumentally life changing and it isn't going to build me a career either. I couldn't just turn up to every class, absorb it like a sponge and then suddenly be awesome, have an epiphany and go get employed. It doesn't work that way, which may not be what you want to hear, but I'm sure you understand.

The University in our field, in my opinion is largely pointless. This is probably largely down to the sheer amount of other sources information is readily available from. If I wanted to I could learn 3Ds Max, Zbrush, the basics of drawing and digipainting from the Internet. There is a wealth of short online courses that aim to teach you things like this and also hundreds of thousands of general tutorials online. It is feasible to imagine that I could do an equally good job, home schooling myself, rather than spending lots of money and going to University. Everything I could possibly want to know is online somewhere.

Also I think it is worth considering that when looking for jobs in the industry I have never come accross a job requirement asking for a degree or qualification in the subject. I don't know if degrees are often something that is required for art jobs in a America or elsewhere in the world. But from what I can tell its not that big a thing over here in the UK. I think its fair to say some people will be leaving the Uni with a degree that they just don't deserve, so if all it took was a degree to get the job there would be a lot of pretty rubbish people filling the industry.

What companies over here want and find valuable is experience and quality. The people who get hired straight out of Uni are the ones who are really good at something and despite having little or no industry experience manage to catch people's eye with their outstanding ability to do something. This will be down to their hard work in a specific area and becoming good at it in their own time, not the University deciding 'this is what they were going to do'.

So why bother with Uni?

I'm not going to say its about having fun, getting to meet new people and getting pissed, that is definitely not what Uni should be about. To me University is a chance to take some time. We're basically given 3 years to not have to work, to spend focusing on getting better at our art and that's an amazing opportunity. Its also the chance to have more immediate input and get involved with other artists on a more realistic level. I could of learnt everything I know about 3Ds Max online, but I enjoyed learning it in person with everyone else. Sharing our stress and new found ways to do things quicker.

Art fundamentally is about communication in one form or another and going to University gives us that. I don't think it really matters what the University says you have to learn, the degree won't matter in the future anyway, and its your own personal time and effort that makes you good enough to get hired. No one is ever going to know what the industry wants and needs in the future, so no University or course provider can aim to teach people what they'll need to know to get a job in the future. All everyone can do is try be the best they can in their choosen field so when the time comes they stand out.

The Spider and webs

My contribution to the group project, along with the main idea, was mainly webs and the spider. I spent the first god knows how many weeks making webs and was getting pretty bored and sick of it. I'm never going to get a job as 'the web guy' so I was basically wasting a lot of time that I could of spent doing other things. But we wanted/needed webs and I was the only one who really understood what we wanted, so I had to make them all.

I made something like 30 different webs in total, here is just a few.

Although figuring out how best to make the webs was a bit awkward at first, I'd be lying if I said making the webs was particularly difficult, challenging or interesting.

What I am proud of, is the spider. We had been hoping and planning to put one into the level but were running out of time. Megan and I were asked to do in the last 2 weeks of the project, which was cutting it pretty tight. I did some concepts, modelled most of the spider in Zbrush (arrrrrrgh), unwrapped and textured it. Everyone seemed to like it and give good feedback when they saw it during production of it and I was pretty chuffed with it in the end. 

Task 22: Creativity, the talent myth and craft

Foremost I think creativity is a difficult thing to pin down. It will mean different things to different people.
But; cre-a-tiv-i-ty  
1. the state or quality of being creative   
2. the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations, etc.; originality, progressiveness, or imagination  
3. the process by which one utilises creative ability

When thinking about creativity in quite obvious and basic terms, to me it generally means people being able to think up something cool. To create some amazing artistic piece, game or music that really catches my attention, makes me think 'wow that's awesome'. Given that music, art and now games have been around for quite a good while and my life to date has been full of all 3, it makes it really difficult to get that reaction any more. So much has already been designed and created that most new things just make me think 'oh that reminds me of ....' or 'ah that really looks like.....but they did it better'. Creativity is often lost these days. What may seem new and ingenious to one person, some else has already seen or done.

When it comes to talent and craft? I'm not really sure. If we were talking about proficiency or skill level at doing something, then yes I would say you can have talent or you have to craft. For example I think some people are naturally more talented at drawing, so they don't have to work for as long or as hard to get good. Whereas others will need to work much harder to reach the same level and put a lot more effort in. That doesn't mean the person who isn't naturally talented can never be as good as the talented person, it just takes much more graft to get there. So I believe in talent and craft, but I don't know why and I'm not sure if it really applies to creativity.

Its definitely true and fairly obvious that some people are more creative than others, but I don't see this as 'talented at being creative' that just doesn't make sense. Nor do I think it makes sense that you work really hard at being creative. Creativity is something more,  something inherent.

I couldn't write a book about it, but I generally get what creativity is, but in order to try understand why some people have it and some don't I started reading around. What I found was really quite interesting.

"Creativity is akin to insanity, say scientists who have been studying how the mind works.

Brain scans reveal striking similarities in the thought pathways of highly creative people and those with schizophrenia.
Both groups lack important receptors used to filter and direct thought.
It could be this uninhibited processing that allows creative people to "think outside the box", say experts from Sweden's Karolinska Institute.
In some people, it leads to mental illness.
But rather than a clear division, experts suspect a continuum, with some people having psychotic traits but few negative symptoms."
"Creativity is uncomfortable. It is their dissatisfaction with the present that drives them on to make changes.

"Creative people, like those with psychotic illnesses, tend to see the world differently to most. It's like looking at a shattered mirror. They see the world in a fractured way."

All this seemed to make immediate sense to me and seemed true when you think about it. Creativity is basically sparked by brains being different in a way that means they don't filter information and this makes you see the world in a different way than non-creative people. How awesome is that.
On a very basic level people who are creative are wired different and to them what they are doing probably just seems very normal, yet it astounds and amazes others, who's brains just don't work in the same way. Its no uncommon for people to ask creative people 'how did you come up with that, what made you think of it' and creative people more often than not just don't know, it just comes to them.

So you can't be talented at being creative. If it really is caused by brains being wired differently then that's not talent, you either have it or you don't. I therefore think that makes it almost impossible to craft at being creative. We can all train our brains to work in certain ways with time and effort, and its possible you could put a lot of effort into being creative, but its not the same as someone who really sees and understands the world in a different way.

The apparently mini pyshos know as the creative people.

Interesting reading about the link between creativity and crazy.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Task 21: An introduction to the Game Industry From generalist to specialist?

Generalist to specialist? Both terms worry me in equal measure. The game industry has been expanding really quickly in recent years and with the advancements in technology so has what people come to expect. You don't tend to expect and awesome AAA title from a small start up company that to date has only made iphone app games, which means they can get away with making a shit game or 100. People won't notice and its relatively cheap for that company to keep trying, it could even be only 1 or 2 people doing it in their spare time, which would take people who generally know what they are doing in all areas. When they get lucky and make something that does well, like Angry Birds, they are sorted.

How to make a successful video game apparently.

 Big game companies however, can't get away with rubbish games. As games have become so much more realistic and complicated in practically every way, it takes a lot more money and man hours to get the game done. They employ huge teams of specialists and generalists to get things done. If it does well, great they may break even or if they are lucky make a profit. But if it doesn't do well, the company is lucky if it can afford to try again. In these situations people will get fired or the company goes completely bust and there becomes lots more people out there looking for jobs in the industry.

I think its difficult to think which of the generalist or specialist is really better. I remember in the 1st year I, and I think most others too, had this very issue. As 3D deadlines loomed and 2D got left by the wayside everyone was asking 'should I spend more time one on subject and focus my efforts into that and get really good OR just spend equal amounts of time on each and be an all rounder?'. We didn't get an easy answer. It feels the way the course is set up is designed to make us become an all rounder. We don't have the choice to not do 3D and focus all our time and energy into 2D, we'd fail. Only putting the minimum effort into one subject would still look bad on you and your grades would be rubbish. We have to become all rounders in order to do well. The reasons are fairly obvious, the course cant be catered for one subject or the other, everyone needs the chance to learn everything they might need. But even the 3rd year forces you to do both aspects, so you never really get the chance to become a specialist.

And then you go straight into work, if you're lucky anyway.

People are always going to be better at certain aspects than they are others. I think I've always been better at 2D than 3D, but I can still generally do 3D and I wouldn't consider myself a specialist at 2D. I haven't got the time to try to be honest. If I got a job it would end up being a generalist as I think most people would.

Saying that is hard to understand what companies really want. Given money is tight they might prefer to have a smaller team of people that are fairly balanced in all areas, rather than needing a specialist for each area. I would personally consider 60 people that can all actively move around areas of development of more value than 80 people who can only do 1 thing. But that is my opinion.

I guess having the majority of a dev team being generalists, free to move around and help out where ever things need doing, but a core team of specialists who really know what they are doing and can 'run the underlings' would work out best. And this seems to be what happens. One thing I have come to accept in the world is, there is always someone better than you. Always. And with that in mind I don't really fancy my chances at being a very good specialist. Its easier to get a job as 1 of 20 generalists than it is to be the 1 specialist. Bring on mediocrity.