Monthly Archives: November 2011

“From Dust”

I recently downloaded a trial for this strange little titbit on PSN and I am very tempted to buy it.
“From dust” is a luscious, original and strangely addictive game. At first I thought it was going to be a kind of mix between “Black and White” and “Age of Empires” (The former I was no good at, the latter I found boring.)
What I got was a huge surprise. The game begins with a tribal summoning, forming a bubble that explodes into the “Breath of the World”. Your job is essentially to protect the tribe that summoned you and create their world out of different kinds of matter. These include Sand, Water and even Lava.
The expansion of the tribe depends on the Breath’s movement of matter to create rivers, islands and stop tidal waves from completely eradicating the village.

My room mate likened it to Minecraft. Although Minecraft is revolutionary and yadda yadda, I couldn’t help being a bit irked. From Dust is a beautifully intuitive and tactile experience. The terrain is deliciously organic and reactive to the player’s whims. The world feels like it’s living and the textures and animation reflect that beautifully and the villagers grow their village structures and crops through music. The moving of matter is also interesting, as the sand or otherwise is sucked up like a vacuum and forms a flowing sphere that can be deposited at will.

Although it just sounds like excavation, there is a certain magical air to the world and a wonderful, fitting soundtrack that compliments the almost aboriginal art style perfectly.

The other amazing thing is the way the earth reacts to other elements, like water, like sinking, eroding and falling like real sand. I know as a prospective developer I should be able to fault this game, but as of yet I haven’t found anything to negatively critique. If I complete the full version I shall come back to it then.

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Kinnectimals

While at BAF game this year, the Frontier game development team was represented by two of its head animators, who helped create some of the animation for one of the Kinnect’s most famous titles to date, “Kinnectimals”.
There were over 200 separate animations that each cub could perform and each animation had to blend seamlessly into each other.
The characters themselves are adorable and are very true to the playful nature of cats, but the animators at frontier also looked to dogs for a source of reference and even themselves.

The demonstration above may be a bit sickly sweet, (like the tiger’s namesake) but it really does demonstrate a complex range of commands and sensitivity to interaction on the part of the Kinnect.

Reverse foot lock and rig testing

The ultimate pain n the backside so far for me in Maya has been rigging. Rigging is essentially the process of giving skeleton and joints to your mesh and allowing it to move, much in the same way a marionette does.
although some rigs can be simple and tend to share common structures (in a humanoid characters especially) they can be as bespoke as the characters themselves.
My rig, however, follows a basic humanoid structure with two extra joints at the clavicle and an extra one to allow turning at the neck.

Because Screen captures are static, boring and don’t demonstrate movement well, I decided to use Quicktime and show people my successes (and failures) with video. Not only is this an easy way to record play blasts and demonstrations within Maya without having the render out a sequence, it also records work and creates concrete copies of work in progress that you can look back on and use in your portfolio.

So without further ado, here is Theo’s reverse foot lock, that I happen to be very proud of, mainly because his feet and legs are most probably my favourite part of the build. The reverse foot lock caused a few problems for me, mainly because of all the numerical values that had to be reversed on the opposite foot…. That I didn’t realise I had to do until it was too late.

The Rig testing video here was an impromptu play blast that was created for demonstrating my progress for the creative networks exhibition. Annabeth had a little play about too, so he ended up doing the robot. As a result of this test, I spotted a problem with the right shoulder.

Gif Jump

jumpgif

Gif made by breaking down the Jump cycle in my video(click to activate.)


After breaking down some images from my reference video, I can finally get a clear view of the stages in Theo’s jump animation. From what I can see, it consists of a bending of the knees, a spring front the back of the foot parting the calves in a triangular shape, and he then straightens his legs before swaying and stumbling a little while landing. while this is going on the arms flail with a “Pinwheel” motion while trying to retain his balance.

Video Reference for Theo: Walk, Jump, Idle.

As part of the animation process, it’s important for animators to get into character and know how their character moves and reacts to situations, as often it can be as individual as the character’s looks, hair or wardrobe.
It is also useful to be able to take reference and work from it, so I stepped into Theo’s size 10 shoes and tried my best. This was tricky, not only was I not 5 inches taller, I also wasn’t a dope or a man, which obviously affects your walk and demeanour. You can see some of the issues I had during the video, but for the most part it worked.
Now all I need to do is break down each action into manageable (and usable) segments.

“Advergaming” and interactivity as promotional tools…

The advent of Through the line” advertising or “Viral” marketing has quickly shifted the way that the public receive information about the latest products and also the way that we as creative practitioners are expected to work.

http://emerging-advertising-media.wikispaces.com/Advergaming

The ways in which advergaming can be implemented can range from more solid and conventional methods like puzzles and CDs free with magazines and newspapers that relate to promotional content and freebies to the newer QR code readers that will take you to a website and possibly some flash games or an app that is free to download and is fun to play.

A personal example of this was when my mum purchased an iPod touch and was looking for apps to download. She found a promotional version of “Angry Birds” which was in partnership with the animated film “Rio”. Although she wasn’t inclined to see the film, the advergame worked in the sense that after completing the free version of Angry Birds my mum then went on to download the full Version of Angry Birds, Angry Birds Seasons and the “Eagle” app for an additional 69p.

Tippex bear

Although not strictly a game, the Tippex “Hunter… A bear” campaign really intrigued me. It consists of giving the viewer a choice: Will the bear live or die?
Despite what you pick, the hunter won’t kill the bear, but then it directs you to a site that resembles youtube and you can choose what you can do with the bear, including hugging, dancing, playing rock-paper-scissors, brushing his teeth, playing the harp… you get the idea.
What I really like is that they probably turned one of the blandest products in history into something that now represents boundless possibility. It also uses the “Not Safe For Work” video tag to rope viewers in and believe that it is a true viral video, like Chris Crocker or Star Wars guy.

Have a go and enjoy it… you’ll lose the rest of your afternoon though.

Weetakid

Speaking of bland products with exciting campaigns, here is the clever little character of Weetakid. While in class, Annabeth brought in a stack of iPads… and a box Weetabix.

If you scanned the QR code through your iPad or iPhone, a little 3D representation of Weetakid would pop up and inhabit our world through the camera, standing against the scene on the box. I think this is a fantastic idea because from personal experience in recent times, I can’t find a child who can’t work their parent’s iPhone. One gripe I do have is that it doesn’t work for Android.

PETA

Some of the games that the PETA website (People for Ethical Treatment of Animals) are shameless re-skins of classic games (Super Mario, dress up dolls, super meat boy and cooking mama to name a few) but they have been cleverly made to inform players about the cruelty of animals by way of unlocking achievements and high scores. They also occasionally link to shock videos so I won’t be having any turkey for a while…

http://www.peta.org/interactive/games/default.aspx

super 8

After seeing a teaser trailer several months ago during a late night Youtube crawl after college, “Super 8” ;eft a lasting impression on me because of its secretive nature.
A brain child of film creating legends Steven Spielberg and J.J Abrams, “super 8” promised to be a very sci fi feature, even with the limited information provided about the plot previous to its release.
I saw this film today and as expected I didn’t know what to expect. The setting was very E.T, the props and scenery very accurate to the era and the costumes were impeccable.
The cast (in Spielberg tradition) comprised of children, with some excellent performances from the leading roles: Mary Elle Fanning portrayed a convincing role as the daughter of a local trouble maker and expressed fantastic emotion with a great sense of pacing and comedic timing, as well as having the ability to cry on cue.
Joel Courtney played a fantastic young hero and had the face of an angel. He really got into the character of an introverted and talented artist who was misunderstood by his father and liked the “bad” girl regardless of her father’s reputation.

The effects were incredible, the real time ballistics would have put Michael Bay to shame and the computer generated sections integrated seamlessly with the footage.

However, there was one slightly annoying event that kept cropping up in terms of suspense and surprise: I noticed a pattern that went along the lines of…

Mild Action.
Silence.
Beginning of a line.
Cut off mid way by bigger action.

I wouldn’t have minded if this only occurred once, but five times was just a bit excessive.

Another credit was to the actual concealment of the creature’s identity, similar to the Cloverfield beast but with better implementation. What also set this film apart was how dark it was, both in plot and in visuals, mostly due to the night time setting, you increased use of violence and the language of the cast, including plenty of cussing from the children and an unexpected use of the “f” word.

Overall, “Super 8” is definitely a “Spielberg” masterpiece, with excellent effects, a talented cast, an interesting plot and emotional musical score. The ever present bikes and water tower usage were staples throughout but seemed to work and there was the added bonus of seeing the alleged “Super 8” film made by the children themselves. Although in parts the film was a bit disorientating it is definitely worth a watch and thoroughly enjoyable.

Just make sure to have a lid on your drink.