A month or so ago I received a message from an old lodger of ours, Stephen Whitson. Several years ago my wife and I put him up in our flat over Christmas as he was working as an actor in the Southampton panto. I did some work on projection for the panto, (which impressed him) and so, years later he contacted me to ask if I would help out on his latest work.
It turns out that Stephen is now a director of both short films and plays. Check out his company’s website to find out more.
Currently he is associate director on Cameron Mackintosh’s production of Barnum and had a seven week break from that show, which he wished to fill with a small project of his own. The two-handed play is called If Only… and is by the Canadian playwright Michael Tremblay.
Instead of writing this post I should be working on the projection asked of me for the last scene in the play. If you happen to be in the Clapham area of South London from the 6th do go and see it. It is a very small fringe venue so tickets will be scarce.
Time has been fragmented of late. I teach at the Southampton Solent University once a week as an associate lecturer on their Computer and Video Games BA course. I really enjoy keeping in touch with students who are learning all this games malarkey for the very first time. I hope I help them with my experience, but I also know I get a lot back too. Just being with them can sometimes give you a fresh perspective. Anyway, I digress.
The much delayed Unity Asset Store Sci Fi environment pack is nearing completion and should be ready for release in a matter of days. On top of that I’m looking at what platforms outside of the previously mentioned Ouya can be exploited for publishing my forthcoming driving game, tentatively called Racer X.
The Ouya is so accessible it is begging to be a lead platform. Beyond that it seems silly not to publish on the Android marked generally with the Google Play store and Amazon. But there are other exciting possibilities too.
First of all there is nVidia’s Shield. Also an Android-based device but games can be deployed via Steam. I need to do a lot more research, and get my hands on some hardware, but it is so close to Ouya (Tegra 4 chipset etc.) that it seem silly to ignore it.
And perhaps even more exciting is the recent announcement by Unity that they are making PSM (PlayStation Mobile) publishing a free option. So I’m now registered as both a Shield and PS Vita developer too. Hurray!
It’s a little like coming home as a few years ago I worked as Lead Artist for Curve Studios in Islington, helping to develop the PSP versions of the hugely popular Buzz! quiz games in partnership with Sony themselves.
So my shopping list is getting longer: nVidia Shield; PS Vita; Time Machine.
You may not have heard of the little Ouya console, lost in the whirlwind of hype and marketing of the other two new game consoles. It is never going to compete with Sony and Microsoft but while it lacks their power they cannot compete with its openness. In fact its accessibility to indie games developers is almost too much, as a quick perusal through its roster of available game titles highlights. There are some grim offerings for sure. But also some great games, from established developers and talented individuals.
Why do I bring this up? Well for two reasons. Firstly, I quite like the console name. It has grown on me, despite being quite silly. And anyone of my generation who thought that Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds was wonderful will also immediately think that the console was named after the terrible noise emitted from the striding Martian tripods. “Oooooouuuuuyyyaaaaaaaaaa!”
And secondly I’ve gone and bought one. Primarily for a bit of game tinkering but it can also be a great little media centre (Playing more video codecs than my PS3 can). So I’ve been recently distracted by putting my existing sci-fi assets on the little console. I have a test room running and I’ve got a first person camera wandering around the environment. Fun!
I was alerted to a new piece of hardware and software tech from nVidia recently by a friend of mine. It’s called Shadowplay and with a combination of drivers, application and nVidia cards (650 and above) it is a super-slick screen capture utility.
I just happen to have a Shadowplay compatible card in one of my office Unity machines so I’ll be making use of this very soon.
Just in time to help me promote my wares.
Blimey! I’m bad at this blogging malarkey. I’ve never kept a diary so I’m finding it a habit that needs to be cultivated. I’m going to experiment with scheduling some time on Friday mornings for some exclusive blog love. We’ll see how it goes.
Anyway, I have been making progress but, as always, it seems to take longer than expected. This time it has been those pesky elevators again. I had taken them to the point where they worked, after a fashion, and I recently decided that I needed to add some polish before release. Well, that opened a can of worms and I’ve burned several days on completely re-writing the C# code.
It turned out that form, as always, follows function and the features of the elevator code dictated how they would look; what buttons and interface to include and so on.
It was also bothering me that the system I had in place was very inflexible. Fine for a demo, in principle, but if I needed to change anything then it was like unpicking a very woolly sweater. So in my re-write I’ve aimed for a stripped-down but powerful, flexible system. One worthy of selling on, which is the whole point. In fact, it occurred to me that I should really offer it as a standalone package for purchase on the store. Having put in all the work it would be a shame to not get the reward.
So the plan, moving forward, is to include it with the Clean Sci Fi assets in a demo (or two) and also offer it for sale to anyone who doesn’t need the whole graphics package but may need a decent elevator solution.
Wow! Has it really been almost two months since the last post? This really needs explaining.
I’ll spare you the details but obviously I’d have hoped to have published my sci fi assets on the Unity asset store by now; ideally before Christmas. Plainly that didn’t happen and for the simple reason that I succumbed to illness.
On and off for over three weeks I had to take time out to just rest and recover. I did manage to do some more work on the project but progress was slow due to dwindling energy and fragmented time. As the juggernaut that is Christmas loomed I just had to throw up my hands and admit I was never going to be able to get anything out there before the break.
Christmas with a young family is tiring but at least I’d recovered. Unfortunately come New Year my lovely wife came down with the same thing that had blighted me! Since then I’ve been helping to nurse her back to health and look after our daughter, who is not sleeping through the night. All this makes me one tired bunny.
So there you go. Sorry about the delay but sometimes life just does this to you. We’re gradually getting back to normal and I’m hopeful that in a week or two….
Ah, I won’t jinx it.
A quick note today to say that work is progressing, with the elevators nearly finished.
The code and rigging for the elevators are fine, but it’s the visuals that have been causing the trouble. I started out making something quite elaborate; then I received some good feedback and decided to tweak the design. If you are ever feeling a bit lost the rule is to go back to your research or, if there is a hole in your knowledge, do some more research. Never design in a vacuum. It’s fine for fine art (perhaps even required) but game art, especially sci-fi, needs to follow some kind of hyper reality or at least a convention of sorts. So in going back to my sources (Trek etc.) I saw that elevators usually follow the closed, safe, but rather dull closed box model. After fiddling in that direction I just couldn’t go through with it. I love what people like Valve manage to do with things as seemingly as mundane as elevators. So I rebelled against convention and went back to following my instinct and decided to make the elevators an ‘event’. They might be over-elaborate, but they should be fun.
I’m still knee deep in the process but visuals will follow.
I’ve been struggling with the elevators visuals and so I’ve done tweaks, then left them to work on something else, then gone back and done more tweaks etc. They are a challenge and also kind of fun but I’m feeling the pressure of time and the need to publish this environment pack. So I may actually fally back on the trusty, but dull, box elevators for purely pragmatic reasons and finish the ‘event’ hero elevators for a future update. Watch this space. I may change my mind two or three times again before release. Sheesh!
Elevators! Or ‘lifts’ as we call them here in Blighty. That’s what I’ve been ‘up to’ today.
Ahem! Sorry about that.
In all seriousness, I decided a day or so ago that I really need to include elevators for my sci-fi interior environment pack. I feel the added dimension of up and down will really make the pack much more useful.
Not only that, I’ve seen game sci-fi interiors containing stairs, of all things! Do we have stairs in the future? Perhaps, in order to keep those pesky Daleks at bay. My benchmark is Trek, of course, and you never see Kirk or Spock running up stairs – unless it’s the steps outside Starfleet. In space it’s elevators all the way!
If anyone has taken the time to follow this blog they will have been seriously disappointed. I must apologise for the lack of news. I’ve had this site for some time now and I’ve only managed a measly couple of posts. There are several reasons for this but chiefly it is down to being very busy with client work on top of helping to raise a (now 18 month old) daughter.
Well, now that should change soon. I’m gearing up for the launch of some games assets in the form of an environment pack for sale on the Unity Asset Store. Here’s a link to my other post, with a couple of preview pictures.
This is a change of direction in my freelance career: a change back to games art. I’ve missed it. Of course I’ve kept my hand in, what with teaching on the Computer and Video Games Art course at the Southampton Solent University as an associate lecturer, and I’ve done some small freelance bits and bobs, but I’d really like to get back into it full time.
So I’m hoping that the launch of my first games assets for the store goes well. To support this I’ll be blogging a lot more and using the usual social media outlets to promote my wares. Wish me luck!