The Art of James Teeple

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Leicester, United Kingdom
I'm 21 / DMU Art Student / British-American.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Game Engines

A game engine doesn't just determine how awesome a game will look, it is  merely the canvas which everything else is applied to. A good game engine doesn't create a good game, but it gives developers the tools to construct masterpieces if used correctly.

Current game engines - (I've used)

Cry engine 3
- Technically Cry engine 3 is a next gen engine, It boasts some pretty crazy capability and if you took a look at "Crysis 3" on full graphics, like I did when the beta was released, you would have seen its pretty... well pretty. With the release of "Crysis 3" for PC, Crytek are following their footsteps back in 2007 when they released "Crysis" and inadvertently created a new benchmark for PC systems for many years. From my experience with using this engine, I can say it does feel much more user friendly when compared to UE3. I particularly like the real time lighting controls and the ability to edit everything on the fly. Although it seems pretty untrustworthy and the crashed make me want to pull my eyes out.
I'm feeling in a mood for tech demo's today, so lets go for it.

Unreal Engine 3 - I haven't ad a lot of experience using UDK yet, I really only touched it when doing out Blitz building project. It definitely wins one over cry engine with its non requirement to be connected to the internet...
I was a huge fan of Unreal 3's first console release "Gears of war" back in 2005. I remember that game feeling groundbreaking, and like nothing else I'd ever played. which was true, not much came before Gears that was quite like it.
Looking back at it, its still a gorgeous game.
I found a tech demo of Unreal Engine 3 from 2007, it actually surprised me what it could achieve even then! I don't believe Ive seen a single game actually make use of all its features fully. Realy echo'ing that quote above.

Since then, more games than I care to count have been created using its development kit, and I tried to count them... Anyway, this Demo from back in 2011 just goes to show what the Unreal Engine 3 was and is still capable of. 

Since I've been thinking about what engine I would like to focus my time learning, I wanted to find a quality comparison of just what kinds of differences there are between what cry engine 3 can provide, compared to the and arguably more seasoned and explored Unreal engine 3
I found this good comparison video that demo's a an identical level in both engines.
It wont show here, so here is a link to it on youtube for those interested.

Next Gen Game Engines
It seem that most class A game studios are upping their game and keeping up with the fast approaching super HD future that will be, gext generation console gaming, and improvements on the already industry leading standards set by PC gaming.

Fox Engine
- I never played and of the metal gear games if I'm honest. But from looking at them, I can appreciate their caliber. With this new fox engine, I'm sure they amongst those who lead the way pushing graphical innovations.

Unreal Engine 4 - Ok, so this engine is made by Epic studios and no wonder... its freaking epic. I love the choice of theme for this tech demo, scream my kind of thing. I cant wait to see what games are made using this beast, and especially what kinds of RPG's will be able to come alive in this game engine. Also, Im really hoping that they will release the UDK 4 soon  so us newbies can start paddling in its magical waters... Having said that, The UDK we have now for UE3 is "technically" next gen already. I read on the UDk forums and many agree that current gen consoles simply cannot run a top end UE3 game, because it harnesses displacement, subsurface scattering etc.

Luminous Engine
  - Square Inix next gen game engine called the Luminous engine, just looks incredible. Its really closing the divide between pre rendered cinematic visuals and in game graphics. I would say its on par with what I've seen so far from Unreal Engine 4, though I have a feeling Ill be playing a lot more games built on UE4. 

Dream Engine - Created by a Bulgarian company called "Viya", haven't heard much about it but the video below showcases it and it does look stunning.

AnvilNEXT - The engine that powers the assassins creed franchise. It was developed by Ubisoft Montreal and now is bringing us a new game announced at E3 2012 "Watchdogs". Looks like we are to see a good showcase of this engines potential.

Frostbite 2 - Developed by DICE, the folks who brought us Battlefield 3 etc. Looks cool, though I can seem to find too much on it that interests me.

I only wish more developers would release there engine development kits for free non commercial use, like Epics games did and Crytek. However, im sure each engine is as different from eachother as Cry Engine 3 is from Unreal Engine 3, which might be a bit too much for us to handle. I for one strougle to find enough resources out there to tackle Cry Engine, mostly because its still quite new

Next gen Game engines compilation video

Sweet Unreal Engine 4 tech demo comparison for PS4 vs PC

Friday, 15 March 2013

Level Design

"Every decision in a level’s design is a conscious act by the level designer.
Levels aren’t made by placing walls; levels are made by planning. Once a level developer is accustomed to the tool-set at hand, and the underlying game engine, emphasis shifts from placing walls to placing rooms, and from placing enemies to designing encounters."

Level design encompasses a lot of different elements, such as lighting and layout etc, but as most games involve (you) the player interacting with levels in one way or another, it really just means planning how that experience works. At its simplest, it involves specific decisions by the level designer which impact the playable environment for the player. Usually it this process begins very early on in the games development pipeline, even before final level/ environment concepts are drawn up. The designer will first sketch some some idea's for the level to use for block out;Usually a top down view.

Next an untextured 3D level block will be laid out that can be explored early on so the level designer can identify what works and what doesn't, and get a sense of scale and flow of the level. This is known as white boxing, yellow boxing etc. The level designer will usually use simple 3D primitives to do this and so it is a very dynamic stage in the design process; because of how fast changes can be made. It really is one of the most important stages in the planning process of any game.

The goal behind this is that it helps inform the developers how the player can traverse the game space. As anyone who has played a game with flat non interesting level designs will know, this is kinda important to get right!

Through work on our off the map project, I have become familiar with how important the white box stage is when designing a level. As a team we all contributed to this stage and made sure it was spot on before we began finalizing models moving on with the design pipeline.

I found a good video tutorial that discusses level design to a strict timeline day by day, check it out -
Most separate game franchises are widely different in how their game actually performs, how the AI interact with the player, and their philosophy in general. This is usually why its unlikely you have ever played more than one title that uses the same level design philosophy. Take The elder scrolls 5 Skyrim and Darksouls for example; Both games have deeply rich and immersive RPG elements, but neither plays even remotely the same. With skyrim there are no boundaries to the player, meaning they can go literally anywhere they can see.

Where as, with Darksouls, its level designs are more enclosed, and they more or less guide you specifically to a set destination. Perhaps that wasn't the best example but its highlights what I mean.
Even if you take two slightly newer games, such as Bio-shock infinite, and Dishonored; games I felt had a very similar look and feel, other that the obvious contrast in color scheme. They may have a very similar look and feel to their UI and art style, but the philosophy used in their respective level design with differ hugely.
This want of individuality in design across titles is often very intrinsic to their success. Nobody likes a copycat!

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Group work 1

This is a post to document my progress through our group (Triumphant Goat's) project, recreating the Southwarke area of London per-great fire 1666, using Cry engine 3. Most importantly here I want to highlight the development of one of our feature assets, 'The Bear' Tavern which I am in charge of re-imagining for our level. It sat right at the foot of the bridge entrance to Southwarke, our chosen area of interest!

Aside from contributing to reference collection, research and, conception of our plans and ideas in the first few weeks; I set about work on Inn.
To start things off, here is some research that I did initially after Liam discovered text hinting to 'The Bear's existence and its prime location! I was actually hoping to include a public house in our location, so  I was super happy to take charge of imagining this building.

I found a few resources for research  on the Southwarke

Here is some text I gathered from various websites freely hosting texts that may hold reference to things of this period.
Here are some extracts I found,

 > Bear Tavern. Or "Beare" as they sometimes spelled it at the time -

"- Evidence in abundance might be cited to show that the inn was a favourite meeting place with the wits and gallants of the court of Charles I and the Restoration. "The maddest of all the land came to bait the Bear," is one testimony; "I stuffed myself with food and tipple till the hoops were ready to burst," is another."

"- It was probably the best-known inn of Southwark, for its enviable position at the foot of London Bridge made it conspicuous to all entering or leaving the city. Its attractions were enhanced by the fact that archery could be practiced in its grounds, and that within those same grounds was the Thames-side landing stage from whence the tilt-boats started for Greenwich and Gravesend. It was the opportunity for shooting at the target which helped to lure Sir John Howard to the Bear, but as he sampled the wine of the inn before testing his skill as a marksman, he found himself the poorer by the twenty-pence with which he had backed his own prowess."

"- Under date 1633 there is an interesting reference which sets forth that, although orders had been given to have all the back-doors to taverns on the Thames closed up, owing to the fact that wrong-doers found them convenient in evading the officers of the law, an exception was made in the case of the Bear owing to the fact that it was the starting-place for Greenwich."

"- Pepys himself incidentally explains why he had so friendly a regard for the Bridge-foot tavern. "Going through bridge by water," he writes,

"- my Waterman told me how the mistress of the Beare tavern, at the bridge-foot, did lately fling herself into the Thames, and drowned herself; which did trouble me the more, when they tell me it was she that did live at the White Horse tavern in Lumbard Street, which was a most beautiful woman, as most I have seen."

Cool poem about the Bear! -

"- There you shall find the wit and wine
Flowing alike, and both divine:
Dishes, with names not known in books,
And less among the college-cooks;
With sauce so pregnant, that you need
Not stay till hunger bids you feed.
The sweat of learned Jonson's brain,
And gentle Shakespeare's eas'er strain,
A hackney coach conveys you to,
In spite of all that rain can do:
And for your eighteenpence you sit
The lord and judge of all fresh wit. "

"- Nearly a century and a half has passed since the Bear finally closed its doors. All through the lively years of the Restoration it maintained its reputation as a house of good cheer and a wholly desirable rendezvous, and it figures not inconspicuously in the social life of London down to 1761. By that time the ever-increasing traffic over the Thames bridge had made the enlargement of that structure a necessity, and the Bear was among the buildings which had to be demolished."

> Research

I did some research to gather what images I could that would help give me a good idea of what this Inn could have looked like! That would help me to the start conceptualizing and begin the modeling phase.

These etching on above are gold dust! Top left - The George Inn, one of the oldest surviving public houses from the 17th century

Before some of our members visited York to gather reference, I used Google Maps Street view to grab some great images of The Shambles, Full of original architecture from the period!

This, along with all the other great research our team pulled together helped me to get some idea's for what 'The Bear' might looks like, but also housing and buildings that would have shared very similar architecture and design.

White box & Concepting!

 Before I started conception on any details, I wanted to get a feel for the location we were building. I started to create a extremely basic white box, based of one drawing of London Southwarke in particular that I found. It seemed one of the most detailed so a good base to start...

Here are some quick screen grabs of the whitebox which Intended to use for concepting.

Here are some initial paint-over concepts to visualise idea's

An idea View of the market street facing london bridge gate house 1
This is simply to illustrate an idea I had to create a first person model holding a lantern for added immersion! probably too lofty however and unless we have lots of spare time near the end, don't expect to see it :(

Moi Concepts!

Here is a initial concept I made of  'The Bear' tavern, I quite liked certain aspects of it so you'll see them carried forward into further work...

Since we are undertaking so many modular houses, I wanted to do some quick concepts for style of house variety we could aim for in the 3D models. Also to demonstrate some scale of the buildings relative to a human character.

Modelling! currently still working on this stage but will be wrapping it up soon is my hope. I had to set aside more time to catch up on other work so inevitably fell slightly behind the curb here. Still, steam ahead!

In order of progress, here are some images of how 'The Bear has been taking shake withing 3ds Max.
I have been concepting and making changes on the fly so its seen a fair few evolutions so far.

Realy early on

Working out the court yard! This is where Archery was said to have been performed.

Final form is taking shape

Back here I will be placing benches and smaller assets to give some clutter and life to the courtyard. There will also be archery equipment and a nice tree back here.

Im going for a lower floor stone and timber construction,because I have seen it used in larger buildings of this kind. And then a mostly timber and plaster upper floors. Should look great!

Currently where I am at.

So its not done! but... it will be ;)
Im quite happy so far. Team rocks, keep it up. Yup, lets do this.

Take care!