Posts Tagged ‘games’

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Light Aesthetics in Games available as a book!

2013/09/21

Do you guys remember my master thesis, which I finished in 2011? It was recently released in paperback, which you can now buy on amazon and other bookstores! Here’s a short abstract of the contents:

Digital lights and shadows contribute significantly to the expressive value of graphics in a game. The lighting-process of a level for a game can take up to a few weeks, because the interactive nature of a game creates very different conditions for lighting compared to other media. Nevertheless, a well-lit environment can considerably improve a game’s immersive quality, which is crucial for the player’s “aesthetic experience”. In a state of complete immersion that involves concentration and mental undistractedness, a game will evoke the player’s emotions, which is a very high objective in game development. Entrancing the viewer has also been a goal of painters for hundreds of years. Advanced technique in lighting has been used to create the most stunning painted masterpieces in history, so this book makes an approach of exploring the phenomena of light and shadow in painting and applying them to today’s artistic challenges in simulated illumination for games.

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As you may see, this book has a very specific topic, but it does not exclusively focus on lighting. Topics like immersion, psychology, art history and colour theory are discussed thoroughly, so whether you are a concept artist, level designer, game designer or, of course, a lighting artist, or if you are just interested in how light in games can be used to deliver your story/ideas/features/etc., please have a look at this publication.

Also, if you know any colleagues or co-workers who are dealing with the challenges of light in games, please refer them to my book. And if you bought it, it would mean a loooot to me to get some feedback or a review on amazon, or, even better, get in contact and have a discussion on this creative topic. Come on, I can’t be the only one who is a lighting-geek!

Buy it here: Light Aesthetics in Games on Amazon

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Texture style development fun

2012/04/29

Last year I’ve been working on a nice little browser game, which was released some time ago.
It’s called “The Big Catch”. I played it for a few hours, and have to say that it’s nice light entertainment, and can be real fun if you are into fishing and familiar with the routine.

For this purpose I created various low-poly 3D-game assets and environments, which you can see in the game. I modeled the objects and, with directions and help from the studio I did the freelancing for (http://www.polygonfabrik.de) I developed a comic-like, easy-on-the-eyes texture style for the environment.

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Creating a distinct texture/shader style for a game, a short movie or just a still rendering is one of the most interesting and exciting processes for an artist. I decided to write about it because that’s part of what I do on my current job.

There have been written countless books about the technical aspects of applying textures to objects, about shader programming and brush painting, and making photographs tileable. But before all that, there are various other steps to take until you can really get down to work.
It always helpful to ask yourself the following questions during the creative process:

  • How will the style of the textures complement and suit the content I’m trying to transmit?
    First and foremost (as an artist) you will always have the exciting task to deliver a message through visual information. So with every part of the production (if it is a movie or a game or something else entirely) you must always support the content of your product via the graphics. This is a very basic rule, but not always easily to be followed! Once you make it your priority, your product has great chance to become more appealing for the audience. Of course, this also goes for the textures, as they play a big part in the visual information the viewer is going to receive. An example: In The Darkness II, a very distinct cel-shading look has been used, which emulates the aesthetics of the graphic novel namesake. It supports the dark and twisted nature of the game.
  • How will the textures work as in-game/rendered shaders and how will they interact with the lighting?
    A texture always looks different in your 2D graphics program from the actual end product. Keep testing various looks in the engine/renderer. Depending on the shader and light setups, small changes in the texture can have huge effects on the outcome.
  • When the texture is applied, are the forms of the objects still readable in the composition?
    Very often, texture that is too detailed or busy makes an image harder to read instead of making it visually clearer. If possible, go back and forth between working on the lighting and the shading/texturing the get the best results. Especially with games, a readable environment is very important when the player has to navigate her/his way through it. Of course it depends on the style of the product, but generally, you can depend on this basic rule to make your image clearer: Color contrast and saturation are the highest up close. The further away and object is, the less contrasted and saturated it appears. Manipulate your textures if needed to make the composition clearer.
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  • What workflow must be developed in order to create the texture look I want?
    In a commercial production (as well as most student projects) you only have limited time to work on textures. Try to find a production routine! If the look has to be “hand-painted”, as it is so popular nowadays, try to think of alternatives: Does every bit of texture have to actually BE handpainted? Or are there faster ways to achieve that look (perhaps with filters, modifications of photos, etc.)? Also, an easy way to speed up your workflow is to simply create some Photoshop actions. (Have a look at this tutorial if you are unfamiliar with actions: http://www.lightstalking.com/photoshop-actions )
  • What kind of resources are available?
    The actual resources you have will have effect on the look of your product. Do you own a library with countless licensed high-res texture-photos? Do you have a great camera you can use for texture-photography? Do you have great painting skills, which could be of any use? What supplies are needed for creating an authentic non-digital watercolor-look? (Colors, Paper, Scanner, etc.) This also applies to human- and time-resources: Is there a programmer to help you with shader-development or can you do it on your own? How much time is scheduled in your project plan for the task of texture development and the texturing process?

Creating properly nice textures for your models can be time consuming, and sometimes there’s a lot of trial-and-error involved. But that’s also what makes it so much fun. In the end, the look of the textures and shaders and their interaction with the light setup will have significant impact on the whole aesthetic of your product.

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Portfolio Do’s and Don’ts

2011/06/22

Today I read a gamasutra article by Rachel Nador that has so many good and valid points, I just have to post it in here. Rachel is a freelance 3D artist with tons of experience, and has reviewed many portfolios. Some of the information she gives is common sense, some of it really can’t be internalized without some application experience.

Here are 15 points that should be like a pattern to go by for your portfolio. I have added some personal comments beneath each point:

1. No Focus/ “Generalist” Reel. If you can actually be a generalist, that’s great. But that means you have to prove you are good at multiple things. Most student reels I see that are “generalist” in reality contain an unfocused body of work and just prove that they are bad at multiple things. Have a focus to your portfolio. Make that clear– if you want to do game environments, have a portfolio full of game environments. State this on your resume, on your web site, whatever– and then follow through.

You have to understand that for the development of a game, there are many specialized people working together in a team to create the best product possible. Generalists are more often needed in the area of advertisement or very small companies.

2. Too Redundant. I don’t want to see the same work in different places on your web site or many times over on your reel. I don’t need eight different slow pans over the same simple model. If I see work repeated, I assume it’s time to stop watching/browsing because you have no new content to show me. I also don’t want to see out of date work. It’s better to leave the viewer wanting more than to let them know where your skill set ends. I also feel this way about most “in progress” work I see– if it’s weaker than the finished pieces, leave it out. And even if it’s not weaker… just finish it!

Pretty self-explanatory. Often students feel pressed to have a longer showreel and therefore show stuff twice or even three times. If you feel like doing that – just don’t. A shorter showreel is better anyway.

3. Too Low Resolution/ Too Low Poly. Nobody is hiring anyone to make games for the original PlayStation. Even companies that require low-poly work are impressed by higher resolution work. Models should always be clean and efficient. But when I see students claiming their work is “low poly”, it’s often visibly faceted with blurry textures– and that impresses no one.

In fact if you want to apply for a modeler-job you should be able to model in any resolution. At the moment I’m working on environments for a facebook game and at this I have to model VERY low-poly. Make sure you do understand the process of creating game environments and characters – your boss will tell you how many polys the model should have.

4. Caring Too Much about the Stupid Stuff. Students often spend way too much time on the things that don’t matter: music, titles, branding, fancy flash stuff, or “trying to tell a story” with their reel. Nobody cares about the music on an artist’s reel: often reels are watched on mute. In a reel or web site, I feel like simple presentation is the best– let the viewer focus on your work, not fancy fonts, flashy animated intros, logos, etc. If your reel is so polished that you have time to spend on all that stuff, great. But for most 3d artists, myself included, the time is better spent on actual portfolio content.

Can’t agree more. Your showreel is a showreel and not a fancy product advertisement. Your work alone should be good enough to stand for its own without a lot of flashy stuff supporting it.

5. No Porn Elves. Porn Elves are what I call the grotesquely modeled mostly or completely nude women with pointy ears. Somehow students think these badly-executed creations are fine as long as they have pointy ears, wings, etc. With nudity, please err on the side of realistic life drawing and not some twelve year old boy’s fantasy. If you have nudity in you portfolio, it better be well-executed and should not make me question your ability to work with men and women in a professional setting.

Please don’t do porn elves. Just don’t.
No just kidding, the choice of the motif you create actually is entirely up to you. And I don’t completely agree with the reasons Rachel states, NOT to do porn elves. The real reason is this: The people that have to review your portfolio literally see ARMIES of porn-elves every single day. They are bored. They sigh every time they see them. Just picture it. What you want to do is to surprise them! They expect you to send them porn elves, that’s why you shouldn’t do it.  Create something nobody else ever has thought of!

6. Don’t Prove You Can’t Draw. I used to think I could draw. Then I worked with professional concept artists in California who work for both the game and movie industries. Those people are amazing. I realized that while I might impress my friends, my high school art teacher, and my mom, I am not a concept artist. I do not have any concept art in my portfolio. If you’re not really, really good, neither should you.

Same with anything else. If you can’t do a proper lighting setup for the life of yours, don’t do it. Because if you are not applying for a job as a lighting-artist, you actually don’t have to be capable of working with digital lights. Makes sense, right? Plus, just because you can’t draw or do the lighting in a scene doesn’t mean you aren’t very good in modeling or texturing. Show off your real skills!

7. Have Substantial Content. As I mentioned earlier, portfolios should contain a related body of work. I see so many student portfolios consist of one environment, one car model, and a character… not enough of anything to get a job. I personally feel that any portfolio should contain three realistic pieces. I can’t emphasize enough the use of photos as reference and as texture source too. Many jobs want you to model realistically. Also, if you can model something complex that is photo-realistic, chances are you could model from concept art.

While this has a valid point, it isn’t true for everyone. It really depends on what you apply for. If the company you apply at does social media 2D sidescroll car racing games, it’s actually a good idea to include mostly 2D low-poly cars rendered in a 2D-look. You know what I mean? But it won’t hurt to show a range of skills.

8. Stylization as a Crutch. If I see a portfolio full of nothing but weird creatures, I wonder if the artist could model anything realistically or from concept. Creatures are fine, great even, as long as you have enough realistic content in your portfolio to prove that you can model anything that’s thrown at you.

Your portfolio should contain both stylized and realistic work, but again it really depends on the company and their type of games you want to apply to work at.

9. Wear and Decay. If you’re trying to get a job in games or movies, wear and decay are very important.. I see a lot of students who want to be environment artists with scenes that look like architectural renderings (which is fine– if you want to go into architecture.) A good, old, realistic environment though has hardly any true hard edges, straight lines, or flat colored surfaces, or crazy amounts of reflectivity. A sidewalk, for example, isn’t just the color of cement. It might have patches of tar, uneven grooves, cracks, chewed gum, bird crap, cigarette buts, age/water discoloration patches, and edges/curbs often crumble or wear down. You should have textures on everything in a scene and use both textures and geometry to break up the hard edges that don’t usually exist in real life.

Very true for environment artists. This also includes a very important hint for your everyday life: Learn to observe the things that are going on around you. Watch closely what materials and textures in the real world look like, and include that observation in your work.

10. Show Wireframes. I would never hire anyone without seeing wire frame versions of their models. Models that are clean and efficiently built means that someone more senior won’t have to spend tons of time cleaning up your work.

Do it! 

11. Detracting From Your Work. The main offenders of this are crazy roller-coaster cameras, bad/too dramatic lighting, and low-resolution textures. An animated camera should be barely noticeable, not a version of Disney’s Space Mountain. Lighting should emphasize how great your model is, not make the viewer squint and wonder what they are seeing. And I’d rather see no texture than a bad one that obscures the detail in the geometry with badly laid out UVs or giant pixels. Also, object-specific textures are much better than generic procedural shaders.

A piece of good advice that my teacher gave me: Don’t do camera movements. At ALL. It needs years of experience to handle a camera, even in a digital environment. 

12. Licensed Properties. I don’t want to see licensed property in your portfolio unless someone has paid you to work on that game/movie. It makes me wonder if the model really belongs to you, and if you would respect any licensing/legal issues of my company.

I don’t really see anything wrong with creating “fan art” for a franchise you are a fan of. Your application to Lucas Arts should most definitely include STAR WARS related work. But of course you have to be careful with that, especially if you are going to send your reel do many different companies.

13. Other People’s Work. One of my biggest pet peeve’s is reviewing a student’s portfolio, noting the highlights to myself– and then seeing them credited to someone else at the end. Yes, professionals often use pieces they collaborated on in their reels but if your work wasn’t the most noticeable part of the scene, don’t include it. Often including another person’s work in your portfolio either detracts from it because it’s worse (thereby lowering the overall presentation of your portfolio) or emphasizes that your own work is comparatively weak. So act with caution here.

This is probably one of the most important points. I know a lot of students who tend to do this, simply because they don’t have enough content for a showreel yet. So they include shots where they didn’t do major parts of the work. This is fine, as long as you state very clearly what you did and didn’t.

14. Including the Results of a Tutorial. We all do tutorials. The point is to obtain skills and apply them to your own projects. If you’re too lazy to do that, I don’t want you working with me.

Use what you learned in a tutorial in another concept or with another idea of your own. That way you learn AND have something for your portfolio.

15. A Word About Web Sites. Web sites are probably the best way to show your work. They are easy to view and accessible by many people at once. Make sure yours is simple to navigate. Don’t’ bury your content many pages deep, don’t make me watch a slide show, and don’t make me download some weird plug-in. Keep your work your work and your blog someplace else, because you only risk offending someone. Finally, if you have animation on there, make sure it’s big enough that the viewer can see what’s going on.

Rachels own website is a very good example for a portfolio. But more often than not, 3D-artists are also perfectionists and want their website to look fancy with a pretty individual design. (At least I do.) Make sure it’s accessable and easy to navigate.

Although the whole article has some kind of negative connotation on it, don’t lose hope for your own portfolio. Even if it isn’t that KILLER showreel yet, remember, you probably have everything you need to improve your skills. Show the work you are proud of with confidence. There is always something that can be done better, right? I hope this article helps!

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Making Games Talents Day – Munich 2011

2011/02/20

Today my friends and I attended the Making Games Talents Day in Munich. We took this amazing chance because it’s very rare that such an event would take place so close to our university. The event was held by the national magazine “Making Games”. The companies that attended were:

After a quick introduction of the developer-studios, there was a discussion and Q&A on how to apply properly, when looking for a job in the games industry. It was very interesting. Although I had heard most of the tips before, I think it’s very important to hear as much on that from as many different companies as possible, right? Here’s the concentrated information I got on the topic APPLICATION today:

A correct self-estimation is essential when you prepare your application to a company. Do you see yourself in an internship- or permanent position? How much experience in the industry do you already have on your resume? Is it enough to work as a senior in a team or are you just starting off as a junior? Be very precise with that in your application. If the company doesn’t agree with your self-estimation, that’s not a big deal, they are going to tell you that. Just be sure that you evaluate your own skill and experience and base your application on that estimation.

Secondly, don’t underrate the importance of the cover letter and resume. Although many companies put their focus on work samples, they also have a look at your application letter for many reasons: They want to know if you can communicate clearly and state your motivations for working in their team. The resume is important to get a quick overview over your education and experience, as well as language- or any other skills that might be important for the position you are applying for.

The third one is an easy deal: Before preparing an application for a company, get every bit of information about what they actually want you to send, that you can get. Most companies have detailed info on that on their websites, but don’t be afraid to call or ask about that via e-mail beforehand. Studios and their HR-Managers will appreciate this.
A neat and, most of all, complete application, shows that you care about the company’s requirements, help them save time and know how to present yourself.
What also belongs into this category is to make sure you apply in the right language. Is it an international team that only accepts applications in English? If your mother’s language is different from the one you apply in, let a native read it through.

In some cases, annual reports as well as marks you got during your apprenticeship or studies, really matter. Most of the time they don’t (for example, for graphics artists or testers) but if you want to get into PR, Management or Marketing, your marks can say a lot about your work. So make sure to send everything that could be of importance to get a better view on your skills with your application, or bring it to the interview.

In case your written application was successful and you are invited to an interview, the following is very essential: Know your company. You want to work there? Play their games, check their website, read their blog and forums, know what the company does and what you are going to do there once they employ you. You don’t have to be a hardcore-gamer or know the CEO’s blood type, but it makes sense to have your basics down.

Another question that arises quite often is: Do game developer studios prefer generalists or specialists? There is no single answer to this, because it really depends on the company you apply to, the position you want and the project the team is working on. It’s actually the company’s task to decide whether or not they need your set of skills right now. Just make sure you are very clear on what you are able to do and express your will to develop in a direction that will help the project/game become a success (if so).

One thing I actually heard for the first time was about a problem many applicants appearantly have: They are not entirely sure about game-industry-specific terms and the labelling of job positions. I might do an extra entry in this blog about that topic, if needed, where I can get this basic information down.

How about work samples? In any application for a job in a game studio, the work samples are the most important part. When you chose these samples (may it be Concept Artwork, 3D-Screenshots or Source Code), keep in mind: People who look at your application have a job to do, probably as the lead of a department. To save their time, chose only the best examples of your work, and less is more. If they want to see more, just attach an URL to an online portfolio with all your best work. Keep that website up-to-date!

Lastly, I’ll give you a simple piece of common sense: Ask yourself: Where am I going to apply at? The content of the application has to be adequate for the philosophy and work of the company. You like to draw aliens and weapons? Maybe CRYTEK is the studio of your choice. Can’t live without creating cute little characters and assets in a comic style? Maybe ZYNGA, who released FarmVille, would be best for you. It makes sense that a well-thought-through application gives you a better chance for success than one that may be good, but not aimed correctly, doesn’t it?

I hope you found one or another valuable information for your future applications in this entry! Please don’t hesitate to contact me if there are any questions. All those facts are directly from professionals in the game industry, it’s definitely not something I made up myself, so I’d like to credit the people who held their presentations today for their information and knowledge.

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Singapore Day 4

2010/10/14

First of all: I updated my post from Tuesday with pictures! Please check them out!
Today was, just as expected, another great day with a lot of different interesting experiences. This post is going to have a different structure than the other ones, starting off with the most important thing: The food. (Just kidding, but seriously: Eating here is the best.)

So today I had the normal breakfast at the hotel restaurant with danish pastries, coffee and roasted egg in the morning. For Lunch it was waffle fries, then I had Guava Fruit as a snack, which I‘m especially excited about, because Guava Juice is my favourite drink. In the evening it was a Moroccan vegetarian plate, which I shared with Amir, another Participant of the programme. Everything was so delicious, I really am going to miss the great food when I leave… : (

Now a short cover of today‘s program: We went to INFINITE FRAMEWORKS and saw a very interesting and cool presentation there on what projects they are working on, how they handle their business and much more. These people are super passionate and professional.

After that we had a presentation at the RAINBOW  MEDIA Studio. This is the company that developed the WINX CLUB franchise, it‘s very popular among young girls in Europe. We learned a lot on how to build an IP and how to establish it.

After Lunch we had a short tour around the Singapore Botanic Gardens. It has 63 hectars of exotic plants, trees and… a lot of scary insects. D : Nevertheless I enjoyed myself and I can see myself spending time there  reading and relaxing if I‘m actually going to move to Singapore someday.
The GAMBIT Gamelab was next. This is a five year research initiative, where games with new approaches in Gameplay and Technology are developed. I talked to a nice young artist there and we got to play the latest games they developed. THIS is their website.

Last for today was the Interactive & Digital Media Institute, which is part of the National University of Singapore. A lot of interesting research is going on there and some groups of workers/students have demonstrated their projects to us. It could be interesting to go there someday in the future. Get more information on the institue HERE.

In the evening we went to the Moroccan restaurant like I mentioned. There we also got a nice glass of wine and smoked Shisha, it was the perfect night to  a perfect day. : )
Now I need some sleeeeeep! I‘m probably extending my stay for one more night, so more on that tomorrow. Thanks for reading!

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Singapore Day One

2010/10/11

Hey everyone,

I arrived safely in Singapore after a looong and exhausting flight with lots of boring movies and pretty good food. : )

This city is really completely amazing, it blows my mind how awesome everything is here. The architecture, the food, the people, just the whole state of mind seems not only to be very different from Middle-Europe, but also lighter, friendlier and simply more positive.

singapore skyline

Singapore

singapore
City view

The weather is nice, very humid but not as bad as I expected, because the inside of every building is nicely climated.

The hotel I’m staying at [GALLERY HOTEL] is clean and lovely, the service is great and the breakfast too good to believe. (Yes, I’m talking about food in every sentence… it’s just so yummy, I can’t help it!)  I’m sharing a room with Laetitia, a nice french girl who is a genius with Design and Marketing. The other participants seem nice, too, as far as I got to know them on the first day. Everyone has very different backgrounds and goals, so that makes it even more interesting, in terms of networking. : )

gallery hotel water
Free water from our room at th Gallery Hotel.

Today we visited various places. First we went to  the iExperience centre, which provides information on the latest developments in technology in the fields of interaction, entertainment, work and education.
For more information about that, look HERE.

After that we got something to eat (Again, I know…) at the financial district, which is really busy and buzzing at noon time. I had an indian vegetarian meal, which was just a little too spicy for me.

Singapore food

Singapore food

Next we visited UBISOFT, the famous game development company you are all familiar with. They did an interesting presentation and answered many questions, mostly about applying to them and in general. I got it aaall noted down, but this important information should get its own stuctured entry soon.

fusionopolis

ubisoft

We then went to the office of… here it comes… Double Negative! I have some kind of connection to the London based studio of D-Neg, because many MMA-Graduates are working there, some even come to visit our university in Salzburg to give lessons in Rendering, Lighting and so on. So it was interesting to see the Singapore office. The people there were really nice, explaining to us in detail what they are doing (which is not new per se, but it’s kind of comforting to know that in Asia they cook with the same water as we do… haha.).
Plus there were like more than 50% of female artists in the office! The feminist in me thought that was great.

seafood

The day ended with the welcome dinner at a famous Sea Food Restaurant. The Organsation of the programme had taken special care for me, since I don’t eat meat or fish, I really appreciated that. Again, it was delicious.

We strolled around the city a bit and then got back to the hotel. I have only slept like 7 hours since Thursday, so I really need to catch up on sleep.

A few more photos:

Singapore

building

shoes
My shoes. Yep.

This gave me the creeps:
oktoberfest
It’s Oktoberfest-Advertising! Having lived in Munich during the famous Festival was enough for me, thanks… haha.

fountain
A nicely lit fountain in the city

dancer
Beautiful Persian bellydancer

ufo
The UFO we landed in… just kidding. It’s a giant ceiling that was close by where we had dinner.

I’ll find the time to write more tomorrow!

Thanks for reading~