Art, reviews and thoughts from a young artist in Plymouth, UK.

Posts tagged ‘Plymouth University’

Talk from Jack Gill at Central Library

On the 19th of January I attended a Careers talk by Jack Gill from So Good Studios in Plymouth Central Library.  So Good Studios is a games development studio based in Plymouth and Jack is the managing director.  Jack set up the company with two of his friends, technical director Sam Hession and creative director Will Hosgood.  The three of them studied Computing and Games Development at Plymouth University together.

Jack was interested in studying programming from an early age but he didn’t get to learn about it much in school.  Luckily his dad was a programmer and would talk to him about it, and bring home games which they would play together.  At sixteen Jack went to college and studied computing alongside english, chemistry, and maths.  He was also interested in and learning about cryptography and making Android apps, and made his first game, which was a text adventure.

Jack then decided to go to university to study computing and games development. He said that on his course he met many people from different backgrounds and with different skills, which is important when working together on projects.  Jack explained how his course worked at university.  Students would choose a module, study for six weeks, then be evaluated on their work.  He met Will and Sam on his course and they became best friends, and realised that their different skills worked well together, so they formed So Good Studios and made their first project, Bath Tubb Pirates.

Three days after their final exam, So Good Studios set up their business in the Formation Zone, which is an “incubator” for start-up buisinesses.  They made their first commercial product, a multiplayer game called Tap Tournament.  Jack said that there are many business and tech networking opportunities in Plymouth, including SOUP crowdfunding events.

Next, Jack talked about the Plymouth Game Devs which he described as a community to foster collaboration and cooperation and involves lots of local developers including So Good Studios, Brainy Beard, Sizeable Games and others.  Plymouth Game Devs organize game jams, and I have been able to take part in three so far; Ludum Dare 36, Games for Better, and the Global Game Jam last weekend.

Finally, Jack gave us “Jack’s Super Cool Advice for Aspiring Game Developers”:

1. Education!

  • Work hard on your studies while you are under 18
  • Studying at university or college is not a necessary route to get into games development but it can be extremely helpful!
  • Learning to find information and teach yourself new things is a vital skill for games developers.  You also need to enjoy learning new things.

2. Community!

  • Joining and building a community with other game developers allows you to show off your games and get support.
  • A community will also help you find people to collaborate with.  This is important because different people bring different skills to a project and splitting work makes it easier and faster to complete a project.
  • Being part of a community can help you to promote your work.

3. Portfolio!

  • Create a portfolio of your projects as you make them so that you can share your games, art, code etc.
  • A portfolio is crucial to your CV to show employers, colleges and clients what you can do!
  • It’s easy to make a portfolio online, for example you could share your work using WordPress, Patreon, YouTube, Tumblr, ArtStation and Scratch.

At the end of the talk Jack answered some questions from the audience.  The room was almost full and I think that the talk was really good!  I’m going to check out ArtStation and I want to get more involved with the Plymouth Game Devs and meet and work with more young games developers.

The Science and Technology Showcase at Plymouth University

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Freebies! My Explore Discover Achieve lanyard, my Event pass, a Plymouth University notepad, and our 3D printed tags from the Electronics stand

Yesterday I went with my brother to a Science and Technology Showcase for secondary school students which was held at Plymouth University.  When we arrived we were given our Event Passes and after a short wait we were shown to a lecture theatre for careers talks from four different speakers.

First was a talk from Grant Cole (Twitter) to talk about the work of being a Geologist.  His work involves studying rocks and fossils, and he has been all over the world, including Iceland, Death Valley, and a salt mine in Sicily.  Grant said that he does lots of field work on his own and he has done his research from the air and off-road.  Parts of his job sounded really exciting – lots of travelling, glacial walking and making new discoveries.

Next was Kathy Redfern (Twitter), who is a nutritionist.  Her work is researching the “impacts of food and nutrition on the health and wellbeing of humans (or animals)” to give advice for the prevention of illness.  She specifically works with pregnant women, and she says some of the benefits of her job is that no two days are the same and she gets to travel around the UK and to Portugal.

The third speaker was Jon Waters who is studying Mathematics and is part of the Theoretical Physics Group.  His current research is in lasers and he explained that normal torches contain a wide band from the visible light spectrum but lasers only contain a narrow band and can concentrate energy to a fine point.  Jon said that his work involves getting used to not knowing the answer.  His work involves coming up with mathematical models and performing theoretical tests and he learns new things every day.

The last talk was from a psychologist called Leonie Cooper.  She has worked at the National Marine Aquarium and now is working with an intelligent robot called Snap.  Her research is in using mental imagery to train people to have healthier behaviours.  She says that people seem to find that robots are less judgemental to talk to than other people.  Leonie is also interested in how games and apps could be used to reach thousands.

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The Basic code I tried out on the BBC Microcomputer

After the talks were finished we went to a big marquee filled with stands from different university departments.  It was split into three sections, and we were given thirty minutes in each section.  First I went to a stand where I took my thumbprint and compared it to one from an imaginary suspect that I lifted with powder and tape.  There was a psychology stand where I did a lie detector test.  I had wires attached to the finger on my left hand and my left ear, and I had to pick a card out of five.  They were shuffled and I had to lie about which card I had as they were turned over one by one. The wires measured skin response (sweat increases conductivity) and heart rate.  The lie detector didn’t pick up my lie I think because I was nervous throughout the whole test!  I also had a quick look at other chemistry and biology stands.

In the next section was a stand for the South West Retro Computing Archive, where I did some coding in Basic on a BBC Microcomputer from the 80’s, and J got the hi-score on Pac-man.  I have been to one of their events before and they have a huge range of retro consoles to play and learn about.  On the BBC computer there is a “return” key instead of an enter key, a “break” key to reset the whole computer, and you have to write your code in numbered lines for the system to read in order.

We then went to the Computing and Games Development stand where me and my brother played Pirate Panic, a game written by some of the students at the stand.  Pirate Panic is a multiplayer game where the players have to work together to keep a ship afloat and moving until it reaches land.  It’s a really fast paced game which encourages you to panic, just like the pirates!  I thought it was exciting and good for teamwork.  I also tried a VR game using a headset and I had to shoot lasers at robots.  It was a lot of fun to play but my arm was aching after a few minutes because the shoot button was on the headset.  We also met and spoke to Nicholas Wade who is in his final year and is working to launch his own games studio called Nikomus Games.

Next I went to the Electrical and Electronic Engineering and Robotics stand.  I watched people play with some of the university’s robots and J used a red ball and a sensor to control LED lights that were on the stand.  There was a challenge to find the right frequency on one machine by turning a knob and getting a turning circle on a small screen to stay still. We were told that the shape the green light was making was a visual representation of the frequency it was on.  J was able to do it but I ran out of time, and we were both given 3D printed tags for taking part.

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Some flyers I picked up to learn more about the courses and events at Plymouth University

In the last section there was a Geography stand where I got to try an HTC Vive VR Headset to explore London using Google Earth.  It was brilliant and I loved using the handheld controller and that you could still see it in the virtual space!  We then went to the i-DAT stand where they had a small black dome which we entered.  Inside there was a film projected onto the dome ceiling about being an astronaut. A voiceover explained that there were different levels of G-Force as we watched a CGI representation of a G-Force training machine.  We heard how astronauts need to keep exercising while they are in space so they aren’t too weak when they get back to Earth and we saw an astronaut using an exercise bike.  We also met Luke Christison who works in the Immersive Vision Theatre (in the Planetarium) which we have tickets to visit in a couple of weeks.

The last stand we visited was about meteorites and the Solar System.  I looked at a rock from Mars and compared it to a rock from Earth under a microscope.  A woman working on the stand explained to me that the Earth rock had formed in a volcano, and I could observe that both rocks had been made the same way, so at some point there must have been volcanoes on Mars as well!  There were some pieces of meteorite on the table and a few of them looked alien.  A man from the stand talked to us about the scale of the solar system.  He said if we used a scale of 1 metre to 1 Astronomical Unit (AU), and imagined the Sun was right in front of us, the edge of our Solar System would be in Taunton and our nearest star would be in London!

I really enjoyed going around the marquee and the talks in the beginning were interesting.  My favourite parts were the Retro Games area and the Games Development area, and I really want to try out more VR gaming and exploration technology and learn more about how it works.  I would also like to do more study in electronics and robotics, geology and geography, and psychology, and find out more about Leonie Cooper’s research.

 

Games for Better Game Jam

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My ‘cover art’ for our game Infection! showing my final designs for the white blood cell, antibiotic and bacteria characters.

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.

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Dr Mathew Upton showed this image of resistant bacteria and I used it to design my bacteria character.

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.

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My initial designs for the bacteria character

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.

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My initial designs for the antibiotic character.

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).

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Me and J are on the left eating pizza, Jack and Oli are in the middle.  This photo was taken and posted on Twitter by Eleanor Browne twitter.com/incubationeb

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.

 

Plymouth Art Weekender 2016 Day 2, Part 1

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Chrissy Vale’s character designs at Masters 2016 (Plymouth College Of Art) – chrissyvale.co.uk

This morning I went to my second week of NA&DSC and we went on a trip to see the exhibitions at the Plymouth College of Art and Plymouth University.

First we visited the Masters 2016 room and it was full of intriguing work.  The highlights for me as a young artist interested in illustration were Chrissy Vale’s colourful comic characters which have a clean and simple style and Ashley Turner’s Onnen Design prints of animals and plants in pen, pencil, watercolour and gouache.  I also liked Tim Gundry’s drone photography photos, which give an unusual view on ordinary buildings so that they look like they came out of a videogame.

Before we went to Plymouth University, we stopped by PCA’s This Is Now exhibition which had retro TVs showing videos from the 1980’s.  Some of them were catchy music videos which I really enjoyed.

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Clare Thornton’s sculptures at Edge Of Collapse (Plymouth University) – clarethornton.com

Our group then headed to the University’s Peninsula Gallery which had an exhibit called Searching for Genius by Douglas Gordon.  Most of the art was quite creepy, especially the photographs of people with the eyes and mouths burnt away.  Upstairs there was another exhibit called Edge of Collapse which featured art by Clare Thornton, Victoria Walters (her page was unfortunately offline when I checked) and Jamie House, who was my film tutor for my art group last year.  Victoria was there when we visited so she talked to us about the different pieces and explained how her sculpture was inspired by ground swells in the ocean.  Clare’s work only used only a few different colours in clay and leather but they looked beautiful.  My favourite piece of hers was made using jelly moulds!  Jamie’s piece was made using an electrical drawing machine, and the result was a unique pattern scorched into paper.

We went back to the pre-degree centre where I met up with my mum and the two of us headed straight back out to more Weekender events, which I will cover in my next post as I have seen so much today I can’t fit it all in here!

If you haven’t read it yet, here is my post on Plymouth Art Weekender 2016 Day 1.

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