Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Showreel 2012

Dan Emmerson: Animation Reel 2012
Music: Uprising by Muse.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Horror and hiding

So recent rumours about Dead Space 3 have hit the internet. Ranging from being set on an icy planet, to featuring customisable weapons, story mode co-op and even a cover system.
Obviously such a strong departure from Dead Space's dark, claustrophobic setting and gameplay not suited to combat caused a bit of a stir among fans. Me being one of them, I too was taken back by this potential shift. This wasn't unexpected news, as Dead Space 2 was more action-oriented than its predecessor, and it only makes sense for developers to aim games to a more general, action-loving audience. The Resident Evil series has been going down this path for years, including the upcoming Resident Evil 6, which has been made even more action-y than any other RE title. Why? Money of course. To big developers, it no longer seems financially viable to produce a Survival Horror game in its true sense. Resident Evil 5 sold more copies than Resident Evil 4, so clearly Capcom were doing something 'right'.

No, Capcom, you're right. There's nothing more terrifying than well-lit open spaces

However, we don't know that Dead Space 3 will take Resident Evil's path and become a full-on action cover-based shooter, this is based entirely on a loose rumour. The co-op seems like a horrible idea, though, as adding another player or brick-stupid mandatory AI will only detract from the isolated feeling of Dead Space - and horror in general. A cover system may not be such a bad thing for a horror game, however.
A critical element of horror is suspense - which in turn is a result of the relationship between two factors - Hope and uncertainty. The player hopes to reach their goal, be it reaching the end of a level, escaping a room or simply surviving. The uncertainty arises from the ambiguity of the player's ability to reach this goal.
Now, suspense is relevant to any genre, and even games such as Super Monkey Ball can create suspense using these factors. Recently I have been playing a lot of Deus Ex: Human Revolution, a brilliant game that is brilliant. The game discourages the brute force approach, encouraging players to sneak their way around. These are tense moments - hiding in an enemy stronghold, hoping that a passing sentry won't bother to look over the small piece of wall you're pinned desperately behind, alerting the entire building to little ol' you. These stealth moments are some of the tensest parts of any game I've played. This example, of course, only works when the player is vulnerable - when there is some risk associated with being discovered, be it Adam Jensen is understocked in weaponry, low on health or simply trying to get that ghost achievement. There is a tangible suspense and this isn't a game designed to scare. This needs to be put to horror use.

Tension. Also, robot arms

Amnesia: The Dark Descent, i.e. one of the scariest things ever made by human beings, lets the defenseless protagonist, Daniel (this scared me a little when the game seemed to be talking to me directly) can either run or hide. Hide around corners, hide behind doors and hide in cupboards. The game even gives the player the ability to peek around corners without coming out of cover. All this to avoid some guys with weird faces.

Pictured: World's most effective laxative

Now, I have had plans for a cover-based horror game for a couple of months now,'in the works', so to speak, so this is an idea that I've had to pitch to people. In this game, the protagonist runs and hides from his problems instead of facing them - it's in his character. With no means of combat or defence, he is pretty much done for once his cover is blown. Blown cover in Metal Gear Solid and Deus Ex generally results in a clumsy panicked attempt at a firefight, raising the tension from moderate to somewhere ridiculous. My horror game has an enemy monster which can follow the blood trail of the wounded protagonist right to where he is hiding. When this pig/dog/moth finds the player, it alerts all surrounding enemies to your presence.

So from this we could believe that cover in Dead Space 3 could be used to great effect. Encouraging the player to keep Isaac hidden from the necromorphs and new human enemies would be a great way to create atmosphere. Combining this with the gore and panic from the previous 2 titles, players could be given a truly horrifying experience.


On the topic of video games currently being designed, I'm also adding more details to Machina, a '3rd Person Puzzle Platformer thing with birds and Moais' video game idea I've had for quite a while. It occured to me recently that I haven't put much, if anything online about Machina, except for a few halo concepts. Over the next few months I'll be putting together a brief production bible for it, including characters, creatures, settings, designs and a basic story and themes.

It has occured to me while designing things for the two games is that most people may be rushing in with the visual, sound and kinesthetic models - i.e. the game - and leaving the story, themes and emotions to lag behind. People want to make games, not tell stories.
If any of these projects sprouts wings and takes off, I'll be sure to employ an actual writer to make sure that a good story with good wrtiting is told, and doesn't play out like a 5-year-old scribbled it down.

Monday, 14 May 2012

Modelling a monster

In some spare time, I've been working on a model of a creature from one of my dreams about a year ago.
The scavenging Skewer:

"Me and some others were looking into a large mountain lake on a blue rock dam. The sky was a soft lilac and the rocks of the mountains were a greyish blue. We looked over the rail into the dam lake to see a manatee with ribbony extensions that rippled with the water as it swam towards us. It stopped at the wall of the dam and looked up at us through the water, rolling playfully.
I say to the person next to me that it's a manatee. They disagree because "it doesn't have hoof caps, so it can't be a manatee". There was a dark shape appearing below the manatee in the water. As the mass got closer, the 'manatee' sensed its presence and swam off. And not a moment too soon. From the deep indigo water erupted an enormous, shaggy beast. When the water had settled from the air, the beast was showed to be a massive brown bear holding an equally scaled fish-like creature, about ten stories tall from the water, and that was just from the waist. It gave a deafening roar, took a bite from the already butchered fish-thing and discarded it. It landed with a fleshy thud on the dam.
I would have inspected the corpse, with its fleshy exterior and protruding bones, but the bear seemed angry and took swipes at the now gathering crowd. High in the air a burning whirring sound got closer. Two 'skewers' were flying up overhead.
They had leathery black skin, striated down the body for aerodynamics. Near the back were two angled bony struts, one on each side of the body, and each with a large organic jet engine at the end, each with small fleshy fins to assist stability and giving out a burning roar as the power the creature's flight. A smaller engine whirred below them further down the struts, taking the total engine pod number to 4. Halfway along the body are the creature's eyes. Grey/brown/green irises and constantly looking around independently, they are set upon 2 flat skull panels that project rigidly from the main body. The eyes are set facing upwards. Below the skull on the bottom side of the body is a micro-serrated feeding blade, with lots of liquid-absorbing holes.
Terminating the strong, flexible neck the front of the creature is the sonar head/intake grill. The skin of this organ is a shiny, leathery texture, with the front end of it a jaundiced yellow and fading to the black of the rest of the body at the tip of the neck. The sonar was just audible, and was a constant, grating sound. Sort of like the sound of unzipping a zip, increasing the frequency and putting it through overdrive filter.
One skewer turned its sonar head towards the corpse, briefly inspecting with its sonar (and possibly smelling the carrion with the intake grill) and banked down and descended. The other followed. By the time they approached the giant fish carcass, most of the crowd had cleared. Only when they slowed and landed gently on the corpse, was their true size visible. They were about the length of a train carriage. At the sight of these creatures, the bear gurgled and retreated back into the water.
Once on the corpse, they both shuffled to work their feeding blade into the flesh. Despite their enormous size, they both only just covered the fish body."

The dream - 24th June 2010
Here is doodles and description of the rest of the dream.

Here's my progress so far:

The orthographic diagram
The 'barrel' technique I adopted from a video about a chicken.

This basic planar UV projection worked okay, but I'm in the progress of smoothing the mesh and unrwapping it properly. I've had a tinker with RoadKill, an auto-unwrap tool, but I've had no luck with it yet. Once it's unwrapped I'll bring it into mudbox for detailed sculting and painting.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Biggest planet cracker in her class...

So the USG-Ishimura (my new fancy computer) has been allocated rendering duty.
However, while the computer is pretty beasty for everything else, rendering seems to be what the mining vessel seems to struggle with.
I guess planet cracking is more its thing

It's taking the my computer 25-30 minutes to render each frame, and despite tweaks to protocols, added scripts to clean up texture referencing and scene clean-up it still struggles. After rendering on and off for a few days, though, the shot is finally rendered.
Almost. The remaining few frames are being delegated to other people because their computers seem to do a better job.

So, in somewhat related news, I recently bought Dead Space 1 and 2 on Steam (because they were cheap) and I finally came across myself.

And subsequently came across myself. Sorry.

In between working on projects, I've been working on my website. This is the design/layout I'm thinking of using for my home page.

The hazard lines seem to be a running theme, which I quite like.
I added a monster me to the background.

I need to update the 'under construction'page I have for my website at the moment, as I imagine that blank page will put people off. So that'll be the plan for today. I'm trying not to make the design for the website too busy.

I gave up on the Photoshop filters for LoveHate, so instead I went back through and re-drew each frame.

It takes a while, but it fits with Alice's sketchy style she's using for the film.

The lines are all scribblified, now I just need to go through and colour it, which won't take long because it is in Flash and Flash is lovely with colouring (K -> click). None of that manual drawing as seen in ToonBoom and TVP.

Now finally, before I get back to work, I have been setting myself a challenge. have a Word of the Day app, which brings you a new and fancy word each day to help expand your vocabulary. This in conjunction with my recent efforts to get better at logo design resulted in the 'Logo of the Day' challenge. Inventive, I know. The challenge involves thinking of a company/brand/product with the word of the day name, and then see how that would affect the logo design and what message it should convey. Hopefully it will force me to try new styles and techniques.

The first day was May 3rd, Numen: "Divine power, especially one who inhabits a particular object."
This made me think of powerful AI systems residing inside a machine built body - an almost ethereal concept like consciousnesses contained within a mortally-constructed object strikes me as very similar to the genie in the lamp.

The drops line up to form an N, but what I didn't realise (and I was pretty pleased with this) is that you can use the N lines to make the letters A I . I'm just so smart even I can't keep up.
I've already failed the 'daily' aspect simply because I don't have the time to make them all neat like this one, but I have done designs for the latest 3 which I will upload eventually.

Now, you may watch some things.

Gundarr: A-Shuckin' and A-Hivin'
"Stop laughing at Gundarr!"


This song is strangely hypnotic.

Prometheus trailer

Just. Wow.

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