Last Post

Just a quick little ending post about what I have done over the holiday before starting third year. I have decided to move over my blog to amberjamieson.wix.com/gameartblog for my final year so all posts I make from now on will be on this website.

Over the holiday I didn't have much time to do a lot of game art related things due to me getting my first job at the age of 20 (I know its appalling) at the retail store NEXT. It was an interesting experience and lets just say I have leant how to control my anger and stand up for myself at the right times; I will carry these soft skills over to other game art related things.

Over the holiday I did however make a portfilio website on amberjamieson.weebly.com but after moving my new blog over to Wix I fell in love with their customisation and have recently moved my portfolio over to this website too: amberjamieson.wix.com/portfolio. It was a bit of hassle but I feel that it looks more professional and now my blog and portfolio match. I also made my 2nd set of business cards over the holiday due to the older ones being out of date with website links; however now moving to Wix I'm doing to have to make new ones again. 

I did have sometime to do a photo study as shown below:
I have also being working on revamping a board game I made in year 9 called "Killing spree". 
This is still an on going project; I'm working with my partner and our friends to make it suited to us. I am in charge of all of the art in the game. Here's my character sheet at the moment until I find some time to work on this project a bit more;

After moving back to Leicester I got in touch with Unitemps and got interviewed to be a Brand ambassador, so now I get to work on open days and show potential students around the building and answer any questions they have about Game Art Design at DMU.

I also went to EGX over the holiday with the Games Development Society and got to play a lot of cool new games and talk to developers and industry professionals. I got a lot of feedback from Creative Assembly about my portfolio. However they wanted me to make it tailored more towards AAA work so I'm not 100% sure if i'm going to take their feedback on-board and change my portfolio as of yet.

That's everything for now, to see what I'm working on now check out my new blog (amberjamieson.wix.com/gameartblog).
Cherrio for now.


Off the Map: Update

Last time I was talking about all of the admin needed for the OTM submission; me and Denzil have been working hard and finally the group blogs done these can be seen at: http://thewonderinglandsofalice.blogspot.co.uk/.

I also spoke about waiting for the newest Unreal Engine 4 update; being 4.8.0. This version of the Engine came out recently and so I upgraded the level and decided to see if it would fix our flickering log problem. Unfortunately when trying to package the updated level there was a horde of errors; me and my flat mate sat down for an hour or two trying to fix these however some of them were to do with blueprints, due to newer updates. Thus I decided to stop trying to fix the errors because I wouldn't want to break anyone's blueprints. Therefore we will have to submit the level with flickering logs it's a shame but hopefully the judges will understand and can see them working in the video provided.
When anyone mentions my destructible logs.
That's it for OTM hope you have enjoyed it.
Cheerio for now.


High poly baking

In between lazing around for 3 weeks and working on admin for OTM I have done things! I know shock horror, I will not have a repeat of last years summer where I did no work what so ever. This year I am aiming to do loads of projects in my spare time.

I have recently been working on a horror project inspired by P.T., with James (http://jmbroderick.blogspot.co.uk/), Zhan√© (http://wearethinkingcritically.blogspot.co.uk/) and Hazrat (http://thegamesartlootchest.blogspot.co.uk/). Unfortunately we haven't been able to work on this as a group much because people are having to work on OTM full time, but I have been working on making a phone for the game; you use this as a flash light in the game.

I decided to take this as an opportunity to learn how to high poly bake. Here's how I went about this process:
 Firstly I created a low and high poly model in 3DS Max (as shown above) this was then put into x-normal where I generated an occlusion and normal map. I soon realised that my modeled didn't match up in max and fixed this so that the normal's would be in the right place. I then re-baked it and tested the timings of generating a cage to see how this would differ the bake, honestly it didn't make much difference but i ended up using a 25s bake.
As you can see the bake left artifacts so I fixed this up in Photoshop. I also didn't like the way that some of the bakes looked so I generated a height map in x-normal and made a normal map in crazy bump. I combined the parts that I liked of both of these maps and created a hybrid normal map. I know this isn't the way that high poly baking is meant to work but it came out with the best solution so I don't mind.
Here is the final normal map on the low poly model. The next thing to do was texture so I set off on making an albedo, metallic and roughness map. Here are the finished maps:
 and finally here is the finished textured phone in UE4:
Overall I'm very pleased with how this turned out, I have learnt a lot about how to bake models now and I will be using this for models from now on.

I have also been messing around with a website called sketchfab and I have recently just posted my Sloth chacter on there, as shown below:

I have also spoken to a tutor and a third year about what they think we should do over summer and what people wished they had learnt over summer before starting third year here are a few things that were brought up in conversation:

  • Learn zbrush, xnormal and UE4 (lighting and vertex painting).
  • Get faster at modelling.
  • Do dioramas and things for your portfolio.
  • Write a CV and cover letter and make an online portfolio.
  • Make sure you have made your FMP before (meaning make sure you know how to do it, if you are doing an environment make sure you have made one before).
  • Look at professionals work and work towards their level.
  • Find ways to be unusual and interesting.
  • Do the professional practice breifs from the year before
  • and finally GO PLACES AND SEE THINGS
The last thing was something that James and myself were going to do anyway and Chris suggested to look at: Swithland woods, The out woods, Bradgate park and Beacon hill. I am looking into going to all of these places to gather reference. Hopefully you will be seeing more work soon,
Cheerio for now.

Off the Map: Extras

As you know we have handed in our level at DMU but we still have a few things to do for the official submission. I advised my group not to work on the level anymore because it was finished, if we were too add anything else it might change the feel of the level. I also want to work on personal projects as I felt I haven't learnt a lot from this project and wouldn't be learning anything new by continuing it. 

There is along list of things needed for the British Library and Game City hand in first being a logo for our group; I asked Braden to design this for us and he got to work straight away, coming up with this:
Initial logo design 
I loved this however I felt it would get lost on the video and documents so I asked kindly and Braden came up with another 2 designs:
2 more logo designs
I adore these and decided to choose this one for our final logo:
Final logo
We also have to send them a presentation showing a quick overview of how we made the game. I did all of this and wrote notes on each slide to tell the judges exactly what happened. Here is a screenshot of the slides; It had to be 5-10 slides long:
It starts of with an introduction to research, concepts, level design, planning, Alice, Modelling and Texturing, Engine, User Interface and Final Level.

We also needed a group photo which is a problem considering that some people have gone home; so I have made a quick image, hopefully Denzil can find the one he took at the start of the project.
Group photo
I have also packaged the level into a game! I have even sent it to a friend to play test it and it works fine EXCEPT from my lovey destructible logs. They flicker when broken, yay! This has been looked into by the people that make Unreal Engine and have fixed this in their newest version. So I just have to wait till 4.8.0 comes out and upgrade the level; fingers crossed this doesn't break anything else in the level, if it does we will just have to submit flickering logs.
Screenshot of broken logs
We are also graded on our file structure in the competition so I have organised the files to exactly how the want them, as shown here:
File organisation
Our group blog (http://thewonderinglandsofalice.blogspot.co.uk/) is still looking very sparse and I have set Denzil the job of writing up these blogs for everyone's individual blogs. So far this is going very slowly and I will be helping him with them now as I have finished all of the other admin.

Finally we also needed a new video with specific logos and timings.
Here is the finished video; with fancy editing and a new matinee made by me:

That's everything so far, I will update you when the group blogs are done and when I have tested out the level in 4.8.0.
Cheerio for now.


Off the Map: Post-mortem

Off the map is now handed in for the DMU deadline and its just polishing and documentation to do for the official hand-in on the 22nd of June. Its the end of second year and this project has had one of the best outcomes so far; I am really pleased with how it looks and I'm extremely proud of my team and how we worked together throughout this project.

Just a quick recap; Off the Map is a competition set by the British Library and Game City. You can have up to 6 people work in a group and you can either make a 2D, 3D or text game. This year the theme was 'Alice's Adventures in Wonderland' and you could either do Oxford (focusing on the architecture and the area of Oxford), Underground (focusing on the rabbit hole and Cornish mining) and finally Gardens (mainly based on gardens from the 18th century and the ones in the book). Our group decided to do a 3D side scroller game sticking to the underground theme.

The project started in February and to tell you the truth I have lost track of the days and weeks spent on this project (I've been told it was 3 months and a week). I'm glad that its finished but that doesn't mean that I didn't like my team or the outcome; overall its been a great experience and I learnt a few things along the way. When the project was first introduced to us there was a massive uproar due to some disagreements between tutors and students; honestly this made me really reluctant to do this project and as a year it felt that the tutors had just left us alone to fend for ourselves. Our group wasn't very even either; there was 3 character artist 2 environment artists and a UI artist, this left us with no concepters or engine people; this meant that everyone had to do concepting and I was made head engine person for our team. After the rocky start our team started to take shape; me being team leader 3D artist and engine, Freddy being lead texture artist and art director, Braden UI artist and environment artist, Denzil character artist, 3D artist and engine, Luke 3D artist and engine and Dan being lead character artist. 

Here's a quick step by step of how we went about this project:
  • Started doing mind maps of ideas we had
  • moved onto moodboards and narrowed down a style; paper crafts
  • started concepting, through drawing and photo bashing
  • Braden's concept was going in the right direction so him and Freddy worked on a level design
  • After deciding a style and a level I did a block-out
  • these were painted over to make up the final concept of the level
  • I made an asset list and everyone got started working on modelling or engine stuff whilst Dan was concepting Alice and Freddy and myself were working on finalising a style
  • Braden moved onto UI
  • We continued finished assets as I put the level together and the technicalities
  • We finished everything and got it in engine
  • polished until finished

Here's the final renders of our level:
And here is the final play-though of our level:

Right lets get onto the Q&A part of the post-mortem;

Q. Did you stick to the brief and your overall style?

A. I believe that we stuck to the brief given; we have created a playable level/game that is themed around Alice and the underground. I feel that we followed our concepts pretty well and didn't stray too far, however the whole 2D aspect of our level could have been pushed further; if it was mainly planes I feel that our level would be more visually appealing.

Q. What was the most stressful thing during the project?

A. Definitely being team leader and not having an engine person; being leader was a real strain on me. I got very irritated when people didn't listen to instructions or being asked what to do every couple of hours. When it comes to engine work it wasn't necessarily hard, I love engine however it stressed me out this project because I didn't have enough time to learn anything new due to me having a hard enough time getting a functional level together.

Q.  What strengths have you found; what skills have you learnt?

A. During this project I haven't learnt a lot technically but when it comes to soft skills I have sky rocketed. I feel that I am now a competent leader and that I could lead in any project to come. Braden has also taught me how to use the RGB channels in Photoshop to save texture space on grey-scale maps (e.g. roughness, metallic, specular and emissive). The main thing that I have found to be a strength is organisation; in this project I organised everyone and myself to make sure that everything was getting done on time and correctly.

Q. What weaknesses have you found; how could you improve?

A. A weakness that I found in myself was being able to control my anger; if something went wrong or someone didn't listen to my instructions I had to leave the room or in worst cases shouted at the person. The only way I am going to get better at this is to continue working in groups and trying to keep a cool head. As a group though I felt that unwrapping was our weakest stage; Freddy had to redo a lot of peoples unwraps, including a couple of mine due to them not being the easiest way for her texture them. Me and Freddy went through these and I have picked up a few tips and tricks when it comes to giving an unwrap over to someone else. For everyone else I feel that they need to just practice unwrapping and texturing as this was the weak spot for a few of our team mates.

Q. What went well?

A. Overall our whole project went well, there wasn't a lot of problems at all. If I had to pick the stage which we did the best in it would be modelling; this was done extremely quickly and meant that I could start putting the level together whilst things were getting textured.

Q. What didn't go well?

A. I would say that as well as unwrapping and people not listening to instructions that the last week before hand in didn't go very well. This was due to a few people being slow which meant that I had to stay up all night finishing up the level. This could have been avoided if people kept to the timeline I gave them; however problems arise without hindsight and the only thing you can do is work through it and that's what I did. 

Q. What project changes happened?
A. The main changes that happened to our level was cutting it down; our initial level design was double the size and looking back now we would have never have finished it if we hadn't have cut it. We also changed the style to transition from sepia to bright colours where as originally the level was going to be mostly sepia with a tiny hint of colour towards the end. These were both decided early on in the concepting stage so it wasn't a massive deal; we didn't have to change models or anything etc.

Q. What would you do differently?
A. If I was to do this project again there isn't an massive amount I would change; I might have done more concepting at the begining rather than settling on an idea fairly quickly. I might have also explored doing a 3rd or 1st person game rather than a side scroller because they tend to look more impressive, however I do love what we have come out with. One thing I would do differently would be to set up a measurement guide and naming convention as this caused fair few problems later in the project.

Q: What can you take from this project and apply to others?

A. I will be taking my leadership and organisational skills with me to other projects and also the RGB channel maps, as this is a great way of saving texture space. 

Q: Was this project successful?
A. This project was certainly a success, there is no doubt about it. We managed to create a functioning game that looks good and came out of our head; that's amazing and it feels great. Obviously there as a few thing I would change but I am extremely happy with my team and what we managed to achieve. 

In conclusion our team has done amazingly; our level might not win but I am very proud of what we have made and I know that other students love it too. I fell honoured to have had the opportunity to lead our team and I would gladly work with them again. 

From now all we need to do is fix up a few things in engine such as a few assets and combine maps. Dan also wants to keep on working on Alice; We also need to get all of the documentation for the official hand in ready so that the level can be submitted as soon as its perfect. I will be speaking to the team about what's left to do and hopefully get it all sorted soon.

That it for now, here's the rest of the teams blogs in-case you want to check out their awesome work:

Braden: http://bradenmay.blogspot.co.uk/

Dan: http://www.danbullockart.blogspot.co.uk/

Denzil: http://denzilfordegameart.weebly.com/

Freddy: http://cantoncreates.blogspot.co.uk/

Luke: http://lukethomasdaygart.blogspot.co.uk/

Cheerio for now.