Next week will be my fourth Zine Workshop! Here are the details:
Saturday 29th July, 1 to 5 pm, £2 entry
@ THINQTANQ, Central Plymouth
Book online at: tcnv.re/zineworkshop
You can read about previous zine workshops here..
Last weekend, Plymouth College of Art opened their main campus to the public for a huge exhibition of work by their students. The college holds a Summer Show every year to show work from the students who are graduating that year. I try to go and see as much of the Show as I can because it is great to meet the artists and talk to them about their work, to learn about what the courses are like, and to see so many different styles and forms of artwork. I will be trying to cover as much of this year’s Show #BreakingThrough17 as possible this year but as there is so much I will be doing it across different blogposts. This one is about the Game Arts room on the first floor.
The projects on display range from interactive VR prototype games to character design work and projects with more focus on story development. I wore a VR headset and experienced being in a virtual spaceship as it flew around a space station and dodged meteorites as the creator, Jake Kay, piloted it using the keyboard. Jake’s simulation of being in space felt realistic and I could look at stars and a planet and asteroids all around me. I felt a bit unbalanced when I took off the headset but I would like to try out more VR projects because they really can give the sense of being in a different world.
Jake said his project took around four months to model and code and was inspired by other games he enjoys like Elite Dangerous and Star Citizen. He said he had “lots of fun” on the course and he hopes to find work as an environmental artist in the future.
There are other environmental modelling projects on display in the room. One is an interactive VR experience called House Vr by Lucy Kisielewska, where the player is able to move around with teleportation (in a similar way to Google Streetview) and pick up and throw objects like cushions and cans using handheld controllers which show up in the VR simulation as a pair of hands.
I also watched video of a 3-dimensional courtyard built by Amy Watson complete with houses, wagons and a well.
One of my favourite projects in the Game Arts room is Sarah Damo’s Wonder Seekers. She has some beautiful concept artwork on display as well as a 3D printed model of a robot, an art book, and a video of short animated scenes. Sarah told me that Wonder Seekers is about “the story of a girl and a parrot in a post-apocalyptic world full of marvels” and that she wanted to do something “a bit different” by creating a post-apocalyptic world that “isn’t dark”.
Sarah explained that her work is inspired by many things, including Romanticism, Impressionism and 90’s cartoons. She works using Photoshop and creates short animations with After Effects. She showed me how she had deliberately placed a three-dimensional robot character on a two-dimensional background drawing in order to make the character stand out.
Not all the concepts on display are for video games. Jack Challoner has created bright and colourful artwork for his card game design project The Art Of Restrict. I read through his detailed explanation of his decision making and artistic process designing monsters. He thought about real creatures in our world and incorporated some of their anatomical features into his invented creatures to make them more believable. He has thought deeply about colour, shape, environment, movement, and behaviour.
Another project I was really impressed by was Hero Brawl by Andrew Cole who has designed characters for a “team brawler” video game. Andrew has carefully explained every stage of his character design process in an artbook, including how he attempted to emulate the style of Norman Rockwell’s character paintings and how he has combined elements of Steampunk, Samurai, Medieval and Nazi armour and clothing to create his character designs.
The artbook for Hero Brawl really showed how much work goes into character design – Andrew identified an aesthetic style that fits the concept, did lots of drawing and painting exercises using stock images to get a feel for that style, studied history for ideas and inspiration, and painted characters and costumes from all directions. I would like to see more books like this one published regardless of whether the games are made or not as they are a really interesting insight into how the artist works and into character design. I hope that PCA is able to keep copies of these Artbooks for their library because I would like to have a much longer look at them.
There is lots more in the room to see but unfortunately I can’t cover everything and some of the work is interactive so it is best experienced for yourself! You can visit the PCA Summer Show until the 22nd June and the Game Arts room is on the first floor. The Tavistock Place campus is also having an Open Day this Saturday 17th June so if you are interested in their Foundation, Undergraduate or Postgraduate courses you should go!
I have added a Gallery page to my blog. It collects together a selection of my work as a young artist in Plymouth. There are examples of my illustration and game art work as well as examples of other types of creative work I have completed or participated in. Don’t forget to check my instagram as I add new work there regularly!
Last weekend I took part in the Global Game Jam 2017 with my brother J with support from my mum and Plymouth Game Devs. This is the third game jam that we have done as a team, KitiJenGames. The theme was “Waves”, it was a 48 hour jam, and our jam site was ThinqTanq.
The event started with a video about the Global Game Jam. The video explained that the GGJ is a massive international event involving over 600 jam sites and more than 40,000 people across 90 countries! We saw clips of people working in teams all over the world. Most of the people in the video looked like they were in their twenties and I didn’t see anyone else around our age but I hope that there are others out there somewhere! There was a welcome talk by the Extra Credits team. Extra Credits is a YouTube channel that gives advice and has discussions about game development, and me and J really enjoy their videos.
The narrator explained some of the different reasons people take part in GGJ, like making prototypes for future development, to share their passion for making games, and because they love developing new games. They then gave advice on taking part in a game jam:
At the end of the video there were lots of short clips to introduce the waves theme. We weren’t allowed to talk about the theme on social media until the next day because everyone has to wait until the last timezone (Hawaii) is told the theme! It was just after 5pm on Friday when we found out the theme.
Me, J and our mum had a short brainstorming session together, and we talked about different kinds of waves e.g. sea waves, waves of monsters, sound waves, seismic waves… We talked about what ideas we had related to them and about different game genres, and decided to make a game where you had to save as many people as possible from an earthquake using a giant claw to take them to a safe zone before the timer runs out. We planned it out on paper and made a short video with our little sister. We would only have until Saturday evening to make the game because we had plans for Sunday (visiting the Eden Project with friends), also we couldn’t work on Saturday morning because me and J both have regular Clubs then. We knew that we had very little time so we worked for a couple of hours from home that night, I worked on the art for the main character and J started to code for the shaking background and the people to rescue.
In the morning we couldn’t do any work because J had his Code Club and I had my NatSatClub. I had a workshop on using Photoshop to make animations. I got back to ThinqTanq just after 1pm to start work on our game again, but my mum had lost the stylus for my drawing tablet! Luckily Viki (ALittleRedPanda) had one spare and lent it to me. J was responsible for the coding and music, I was in charge of making the art assets, and our mum supervised us to make sure we were on track.
The art assets I had to make included the character in peril, the claw to pick them up with, and the safe zone to drop them in. I made all of them in Manga Studio 5 in a pixel art style. The character has their hands in the air, and has a little animation which makes them look left then right, to give the impression they are running around screaming. The animation only uses two frames. I designed the first sprite, then for the second frame I flipped my design and edited the t-shirt on the flipped version so that it was correctly aligned. I only had time to design one character, which my family all say looks like me!
Next I worked on the claw, which has an “open” design while empty (and looks a bit like a propeller), and a “closed” design when holding a character. I did the “open” design first, inspired by the claw machines in arcades. This was another two frame/costume animation, for the second frame I erased the outer joints of the claw. I am happy with my design which does look like a mechanical claw from a birds-eye view.
I designed the “safe zone” as a white square with rounded edges and a big red cross on it like a cartoon ambulance. I also hand-lettered “SAFE ZONE” on the digital image using my stylus and big, black and blocky letters, to make it easy for the player to identify.
By then J had got most of the game code sorted out, so I sent him my finished sprites so he could add them into the game (he was using plain rectangles which my sprites had to replace). I still had to make the background and the start screen, but my hand had started hurting after making the first few sprites so I took a short break and tested the game. J had managed to also make the game music in BeepBox which he said he wanted to sound like an earthquake. We were laughing over the music and the little screaming characters running about because it was quite comical and ridiculous.
I got back to work and started making the background. We had decided to use a road and pavement setting and I dotted rocks and rubble all over it to give the impression of an earthquake. These small elements are also necessary so that when the background shakes or a character moves around it you can imagine the movement and it seems like a real space rather than a flat background. I learned about doing this when we made our last game, Infection! I designed one pile of rocks and rubble and I cloned it to dot around because I was short of time to make lots of different piles of rubble.
The last thing I had to design was the Start Screen. A Start Screen is important to explain what the point of the game is and what the player has to do. I chose a colour scheme that made me think of dirt/earth to go with the game theme. I chose not to use a ready made font but instead I hand-lettered the game title and instructions using my stylus. I didn’t want to use a font that someone else had made as I wanted our game to have its own original look to it. I tried to give the letters a messy but simple look. I wanted to also make a Game Over screen but my hand was hurting too much to do any more drawing and we were running out of time. Finally, my dad, my mum, me and Jenson all recorded voice clips for the game for when the player saves the little people. We used an Android phone to make these wav files (and the Hertz app) and we tried to make funny silly voices to fit with the feel of our game.
It was really fun making ‘Quake Rescue and being part of the Global Game Jam. It felt like I was part of something giant with all the other jammers around the world. The other teams at our site and Jack (SoGoodStudios) the organiser were all friendly and supportive. I think our final game works well and I would describe it as a fun minigame. I think we have definitely improved our skills since our first game jam and our teamwork is better too but it did get hard later on Saturday when we were tired and J wanted to finish up before I did. I am looking forward to doing more game jams through this year!
On the weekend of 30th September to 2nd October KitiJenGames (the games development team consisting of me and my brother) participated in the Games for Better 48 hour game jam. The game jam was organized by Jack from SoGoodStudios and Oli from Sizeable Games because they believe that games can be a good tool for educating people about issues in the world. The game jam theme was Antibiotic Resistance.
On the Friday evening before the jam we went to Plymouth University’s Babbage Building to listen to talks from experts. The first speaker was Dr Victoria Hurth (Twitter) who is an Associate Professor in Marketing and an expert in sustainability. She talked about sustainable consumption and explained how animals are being bred (for food) in poor environments and they are given antibiotics to keep them healthy. Because of this more bacteria are becoming resistant to antibiotics leading to the creation of ‘superbugs’. The second speaker was Dr Mathew Upton who is an Associate Professor in Medical Microbiology and he said that “Resistance Is Inevitable” when we use antibiotics and explained about bacterial conjugation. The third speaker was Dr Richard Ayres (Twitter) who is the Lead of Population Health at Peninsula Medical School and a practicing GP. He explained that sometimes doctors don’t get a lot of time to assess their patients and this can lead to prescription of antibiotics when they are unnecessary. The talks were really interesting and I didn’t know a lot about antibiotic resistance before them so I learned a lot.
As soon as the talks finished the game jam started. It was late on a Friday night so me and my brother J went home and talked about game ideas. We decided to make a game where you play as an antibiotic and you have to defend the white blood cells from bacteria. As you play, some bacteria would become resistant and you would have to power up with extra different coloured antibiotics, causing the bacteria to then become even stronger! The game would be impossible to win and the goal would be to get the highest score possible. We worked as a team to make a plan on paper and we decided that J would be in charge of doing the coding using Unity and I would be in charge of all the art. J didn’t know much about using Unity yet but he thought this would be a good chance to learn more. I decided to go with a cute pixel art look and that I would use Manga Studio 5 to make my files.
On Saturday morning J went to his Code Club (Twitter) and I went to my Art Club so we couldn’t get started on our game until the afternoon. The list of things I needed to design was the bacteria, the power-up, the white blood cells, the antibiotic, the background and the border. I began working on the main character designs, sketching on paper. My antibiotic character was a blue pill with a smiley face that would have a little rocking animation. My first attempt at a bacteria character looked too much like a little sun (very jolly!) so I redesigned to make it a bit more evil, and came up with a ball with angular spikes and a mean face, which would wiggle as it moved. My white blood cell characters were dopey-looking spheres,and in our game they wouldn’t defend themselves but would just hang around until they were killed by bacteria.
J asked if I could provide my designs as a sprite sheet. I learnt how to make one from a tutorial and then drew the different sprites for their animations using my Wacom Bamboo tablet and Manga Studio. After I sent a sprite sheet of the antibiotic over we needed a background. We used a basic plain one at first but it was difficult to tell if the character was moving around, so I made another background with rectangles of different sizes and similar colours, and for the border I used the same pattern but with darker colours. It was a simple design (supposed to represent the inside of a body) but I really like how it turned out. I created the sprite sheets for the other characters and sent them over to J’s computer for him to add in to the game, and I designed some ‘cover art’ to put on our itch.io page (and at the top of this post).
We had to haul our computers to the Babbage building on campus on Saturday night because J was struggling with making the animation work, and Jack helped us out with that and him and Oli gave us some tips. We arrived just in time to share the free pizza which we ate while listening to video game music and chatting. My mum had to start helping J with his side of the gamemaking and they spent a lot of time searching online for tutorials and help, but I think he learned a lot about Unity during this project. We had to give up the idea of power ups and new levels because we ran out of time, and there are a few bugs with the scores, but overall I think our game is fun and cute.
Our finished game is Infection! and you can play it in a browser on your computer. You can see the Twitter feed for the jam (and discover more of the games) at #GamesForBetter. I really like Lumberjack and Chickens by Lisoo and I like the look of Dr. Swiperson by @CantGetOurName.
Jupiter Hadley played all the Games for Better games (including ours) for her YouTube channel Jupi Plays (support Jupiter on Patreon) and the judges sent us some feedback to help us improve our gamemaking in the future. J has signed up to a Unity course to learn more for our next project. I have signed up to a course on Pixel Art so that I can improve my skills and make more detailed sprites. Our courses are both on Udemy and if you look around online you can find big discounts on them. I am also researching game cover art because I would like to improve my cover art illustrations.
I really enjoyed this game jam and I’m looking forward to the next one, and though 48 hour game jams are really hard work they are well worth it because you have to push yourself and so you can learn and improve your skills a lot in a short amount of time. Follow the link for my post about our first game jam.