UDK Platformer & UV Mapping

This weeks lesson on game engines covered building a platformer in UDK and using Kismet to add scripts to a level.

Programming events and such in Kismet was made easier to understand as we went through the logic step-by-step.

Before we got to building the level we had to make some additions to the scripts which run the program, which Tobe had thankfully prepared for us. If you are interested in how to do this then you can follow the instructions which are available from the Unreal Development Network website.

Once we had the changes in place we began by adding a few geometry elements and a player and enemy spawn location. Then we moved into Kismet, where we began creating custom actions for events; such as, giving the player and the enemy a weapon and adding behaviours for the enemy. This took us through past the end of the lesson but it gives me a solid ground to add more elements and really flesh this piece out to become a full level, which I will do sometime in the future.

I am getting to grips with UDK more and I don’t really find myself getting stuck or falling behind like I did in the first lesson, which is a great feeling.


Martin had us dive straight into texturing this week, using ‘Multi/Sub-Object Textures’ and ‘UV Mapping’.

A textured version of the bridge we made last week, using what we learnt in the lesson today.

I must admit; I’m still struggling to work with 3DS MAX. The program interface is not as familiar or intuitive to me as Maya so I find myself falling behind, often having to catch up when I should be practising or playing around with the tools.

We started out by creating a multi/sub-object texture and then we selected the different surfaces on the bridge and applied the corresponding textures which we had chosen from CGTextures. With these in place, we needed to resize, rotate and reshape them to look correct on our model. We achieved this by using the UV editor function, which I found was a lot more intuitive than using the texture editor.

Though I couldn’t get a perfect set of textures for my bridge, I know I will have plenty of time soon to practice these skills over the Christmas break. Which is when I plan to bring together everything I’ve learnt so far, to produce my own environment along with props.

Progress

This past week has seen a lot of positive changes and I have managed to put a lot of work into following my change manifesto. Last week I also managed to get my girlfriend – Becki – to draw up her own list of changes, and she has successfully begun making these changes this week.

Both of our lists were pretty similar and both involved overcoming bad habits and becoming more content. It is far easier to implement changes when working as a team, and it has been great working on them together. My list was as follows:

What must I change?
  • Bad habits; smoking, junk food, alcohol, drugs, excess spending.
  • Attitude towards loved ones; they need to be treat better, shouldn’t be wound up or toyed with for my own amusement, make sure I speak to or see them.
  • Work ethic; this is my dream, I need to work tirelessly in pursuit of it.
  • Time management; knowing how much time to spend, figuring out what is most important.

SO after my girlfriend had written her list, we discussed what our problems where and how we could plan, track and implement our desired changes. Here is how we chose to that:

  • Smoking – while I can stop cold turkey, my girlfriend is needing to cut down but she went straight to just two per day and is using an e-cig as a substitute.
  • Junk food – we have been tracking our diet using My Fitness Pal.
  • Alcohol – no alcohol has been purchased and I have avoided drinking at my brothers 18th birthday but I still need to get past Christmas without going crazy on the Long Island Iced Tea’s, heh.
  • Drugs – easily avoided because I don’t like ending up staying up till 6AM any more.
  • Excess spending – we have not tackled this yet as our spending is restricted by lack of disposable income but we have decided to use the money we save from quitting smoking to treat ourselves to some presents after Christmas.
  • Attitude towards loved ones – I am trying but also failing at this one, because I am not handling conflict and disagreement well; I need to remember to let people hold their opinions without trying to get them to see things my way.
  • Work ethic – I have put off everything else now so I can focus on my work, though I do feel the I need to start practicing my skills outside the college too; especially drawn art.
  • Time management – we have both agreed to use Apple iCal and Google Tasks to set reminders and plan our time.

Obviously, we have Christmas coming up but I am feeling confident going forward that we’ll be able to keep it sensible and avoid falling into any traps.

There have been other times in my life that I have tried to make major changes in my life like this, but I would quickly convince myself that I could do this anytime I wanted. This time is different because I have realised that I have never been so happy and content in my daily life as much as I am now, so there is more reason for me to continue than it is for me to quit.

New Classes & Semiotics

Yesterday was a bit of a surprise for me because the two lessons with Len which were rescheduled from Tuesday are now two sessions of Life Art with a tutor called Dave Gord.

He had popped up on Monday and asked us to bring some props, which I thought was unusual but made sense once we got to the lesson. Dave has an interesting plan, which is to get us to cover more traditional art techniques, to help us with our work in animation and modelling.

The selection of items my girlfriend put together for me.

In the session, we drew a series of different poses from a live model in creative and challenging ways. Dave kept us on our toes by getting the model to change stances at ever-shortening intervals and encouraged us to critically assess and adjust our drawings often. I found this helped me understand where I was going wrong and Dave was at all times giving advice on how we can improve our work.

Unfortunately, I forgot to take any pictures of my work but trust me, I didn’t discover any hidden talent. I did, however, find that I can still throw down some good lines and shading, even if I hadn’t done any drawing for the past ten years. This single lesson was a lot more fun than the whole of what I remember doing for art class back in college, that’s for sure!

It was also refreshing to get out from behind a computer and I am looking forward very much to next weeks session; which will require us to take a carrot and a stick.


Today’s final lesson was with Lucy, where we went through some more work which I also covered in Media Studies, ten years ago at college; semiotics.

We did a brief discussion about encoders and decoders then used what we had learnt to analyse film posters. As a class we broke down posters for The Dark Knight and The Truman Show, then we went on to choosing our own poster to analyse on our own.

The first movie poster that sprung to mind was this one for American Beauty.

I found it difficult to find the words I needed to express the thoughts I had about this poster and with the end of the lesson approaching I found myself with little written. We did have time to go through one example, an analysis of the poster for the film 300. Though there was some disagreement between the class most people did manage to justify their points well enough and the lesson was successful.

I do still feel the problem with semiotics lies in the interpretation of the different elements and I believe a lot of the meanings people read into are just circumstantial or where not intended by the author. Probably best to act intellectual and waffle on anyway, heh.

Experimental Video Games

Yesterday we only ended up having one lesson – in the morning with Lucie – because Len is now the course leader and his two lessons have been moved to Friday, with another tutor.

Shaving can be hard enough, never mind deliberating over feelings about your job!

Lucie had us first research interesting historical facts about the city, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. She then asked us to think up and write down a brief explanation of a game idea, based on the information we had collected. Here is a little of what I wrote;

“As you build the city over time you encounter problems outside of the daily management of the city, so you may have plague outbreaks, invading forces and socio-economic issues among others. The aim of the game is to build the city to a better standard of living than is possible today; though you can play beyond the current day to build into the future.”

We then read out our ideas and Lucie wrote them down on the board. She then asked us to play some of the games found on the Molle Industria website and explained that these games are the work of Paulo Pedercini, an experimental games maker. After playing Unmanned we where asked to think of how we can reduce the scope and ambition of our original game idea, to turn into something similar to what we have played. Immediately I began writing and here is what I came up with;

“Tyne bridge builder with 2D sprites which involves simple physics simulation, resource management (people, materials, etc.) and dealing with the environment (tides, landslides, etc.) to successfully build a working bridge. Each level has you build bigger and more expansive bridges using more complex materials and with more frequent environmental problems.”

This was an interesting lesson and it made me think of how I can make smaller games, where before I had always written my idea’s as something I would look to do with the help of at least a programmer and an artist. I may even look into making the ‘Tyne Bridge game’ someday, as I think it’s a cool little premise for a small game.

Oh LOD!

Yesterday’s final lesson was with Martin, where we looked level of detail and how it affects props in video games. I understood what Martin meant, having noticed and read about this before.

Oh LOD have mercy on this child!

Basically, a prop or model may have a few different versions of itself, each designed to be viewed at different distances by the player. So while the highest detail model will be used when the player is near the object, as they move away the model is replaced by the reduced quality one, to free up computing power for the rest of the scene.

Martin tasked us to create a bridge, using 200 polygons. He then asked us to create the same bridge three more times, each time reducing the polygon count by half.

Lowest to highest detail from left to right.

I feel that I achieved the target of reducing the level of detail on the bridge, by removing some unseen polygons, the handrail supports and supports under the bridge at the lowest levels. I also feel that, if I was more familiar with 3DS MAX, that I could have achieved a much better-looking result in this exercise because the player would see pop-in of the supports when approaching the bridge. Though I have seen this in games, I often feel it can be forgiven when it does not affect gameplay directly, as you’re trading off visual fidelity at a distance for the benefit of the overall graphics.

I am happy that we are given challenging tasks like this in Martin’s lessons and I respect that he is being honest with us, about how this works into the role of a modeller in the industry.

“Riiidge Racer!” & Giant Enemy Retail

I came in late to the start of today’s first lesson, where we learnt about the history of video games. It was a fun lesson and I especially liked going over the video below, after seeing it last year and it reminded me how Sony can drop the ball like the best of them.

Sony’s E3 2006 conference wasn’t just perceived by many as a flop, it enriched gaming culture with so many great meme’s.

Later into the lesson, the tutor expressed two opinions which I disagree with, on the XBOX One’s game sharing feature and the role of retailers in the industry. Continue reading ““Riiidge Racer!” & Giant Enemy Retail”