Sunday, 2 December 2012

New Gaming Journalism

So for this blog entry I have been tasked with evaluating new gaming journalism.

I genuinely didn’t realise how much stress it is for a magazine journalist. I mean I’ve seen ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ and ‘Ugly Betty’, they are always stressed and running about, but I thought it was a dramatisation to make good television. After reading Kieron Gillen's manifestos I see that the programmes are not so farfetched.
Good o'l ugly betty
Kieron Gillen states that within the workplace an average magazine is written within 20 or so days. This doesn’t offer a lot of time for the reviewers to coherently write reviews. He also states that “We’re not perfect, because we haven’t time to be perfect.” I think that’s rubbish. Less time to write a game review would surely mean that what is written doesn’t make sense. But it does, the copy make sense, however the reviews seem to follow a pattern. Big up the games that invest a lot of money into marketing, mediocre review everything else.

Gillen used to work for pc gamer, its still a cool magazine and starcraft 2 is an epic game.
Granted there isn’t some formula you can apply to all reviews that show this pattern and there are always exceptions to the rule. But generally from my personal perspective that’s how reviews are going. For example the classic big up is Call of Duty (Sorryyy I know I know I’ll leave it alone. Eventually) that game hasn’t changed much since Call of Duty modern warfare. Granted they changed the packaging and made it a bit shinier but the core of the game is the same. Yet every single gaming review gives it a high rating. Why? Because that bad boy pumps so much money into marketing. Think about it. They had the biggest entertainment launch in history with modern warfare 2. They have actual actors for voices in game and fully fledged over the top action adverts on television. Halo 4 is  a magnificent game which I love dearly but that game doesn’t get off scot free either, there marketing budget alone was an estimated $30 million. That’s a lot of money man.
We're at war but i gott'a look cool. You gott'a look cool.

 Now I don’t know how much Brink’s marketing budget was but contrast that games success with the previous two and I bet it wasn’t as much. The game didn’t sell all that well and It got mediocre reviews. I think the game was an interesting idea and actual fun to play.But in its infancy it had flaws.What killed it is that too many people were sceptical about it and couldn’t adapt to game play that wasn’t call of duty based. That plus when a game gets a review of 5 or 6, it means gamers on the fence lose interest. Despite 5 being a halfway point of 10. People just don’t look for ok. One of the concept artist’s that came in to talk to us said “people have become hooked on hyper reality, HDTV’s and lens flares” and that sums up what I’m saying really. Once the audience has been exposed to ‘awesome’ they don’t really care for anything else.

This is reflected in how reviewers review games. At the end of the day the boss is paying the reviewers wage. To pay wages you need money. To get money you need to results. In order to get results you need to know what’s selling. And what’s selling are the games everyone is talking about. Online magazines also cover everything that printed magazines cover without things like cost of print. That cost is money, the boss needs to justify that spend otherwise they’ll start cutting jobs to save costs. If we chuck that back into the cycle you can see where I’m going with it.
Edge magazine is a fairly regular purchase of mine.

This is why I think new game journalism is a little biased. Ultimately editors will be looking to keep their jobs. To do that they need to have their magazines sell and make the boss happy. To do that, they need to encourage people with reasons to buy the magazine like exclusive content. That cycle probably, adjusts; reviews to entice games to allow the exclusive accessibility. I could be completely wrong; I have no actual experience inside a publishing organisation so my opinion is from the outside looking in as opposed to inside speaking out. Maybe it’s easier to speak about something being biased when you have no idea what it’s like?


To be honest I don’t really want to know what it’s like. I’m not a huge fan of writing. I prefer the language of tone and form.  And I think it’s difficult to be objective about something that is subjective. A review is a personal experience. When I play Halo 4 the experience is different, my Spartan is different. But there are certain key elements of wow or disappointment that resonate with other players. Finding those details must be hard as u become drawn between fact and opinion. The number 9.8 out of 10 is a fact yet the reasoning behind it is effectively an opinion. If in my opinion Halo is rubbish and I rate it a 4 it can’t just so happen that all other game reviewers rate it low, or can it? I mean game reviewers must look at each other’s reviews and think hmm, should we change ours a little. Or if an editor thinks a game is brilliant, he’ll tell all his other editor buddies at different magazines. Thus fudging the figures slightly.


So that concludes my thought on new games journalism.


Thanks for reading my rambling.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Week Of Waiting

So this week I have been waiting in anticipation for my first semester results. Brilliant! Or so I would have thought. Instead this week has allowed me to slowly become paranoid about what results I will get. I’m confident that my 2d work is to a good standard, but I have only learnt 3d since being here I’m not sure how good it is.

If I reflect on my first semester here I am actually amazed my head hasn’t swollen from all the information it’s taken in. 
This is how my head feels
I mean from struggling to make a cube in 3ds max, to creating fully rendered and textured houses is amazing. Especially when you think how I have learnt it in 2 and a bit months. That little bit of knowledge has already changed how I look at games. Before starting this course I was like “I wonder how they made that, it’s so cool, look at all the dents and stuff how’d they do that?” Now I say “oh that’s probably a normal map with specular lighting”. Granted there is still some stuff I don’t know, ok a lot stuff I don’t know, but if I think of the rate at which my knowledge is progressing, the fact that 3rd years can produce such stunning pieces isn’t as daunting.

The funny thing is though I’m starting to see 3ds max as second nature. I opened the program in the library to quickly check my house loaded and all my friends were like “WHAT THE HELL IS THAT?! Mate that looks so complicated, how do you know what you’re doing? There’s too many buttons man!” I found it so weird hearing people say that again. Now when I open the program my overall feel for the software has changed, rather than seeing gibberish I know where to navigate the interface to create what I need. Like when I draw and the pencil listens to where I want it to go, 3ds is listening to me, a bit. It’s still a stubborn piece of sh...oftware when it’s ready.

That’s not to say that only my 3d skills have improved, thanks to my tutors my understanding of fundamental elements within drawing have been reinforced. Since being here I have been to some interesting places. I particularly liked Bradgate Park; though the weather can be unreliable I like that sense of calm. Being in natural open spaces relaxes me for some reason, I hate landscape drawings though. Too much bushes and bushes are so uninteresting to me, I prefer the elegance of human form. I haven’t been given the task of any life drawing yet but I still enjoy visual design regardless. I particularly liked drawing the Lotus Evora as I got a chance to visit the Stratstone dealership. when I walked in they asked what I’d like to buy, I felt so rich and slick. Then I told them I came to draw and reality depressingly came back to me.

Ah well.

It’s been an interesting ride so far but I’m definitely enjoying myself. I just hope that my skill and enthusiasm pay dividends in my marks.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

My personal gaming history

So we finally arrive to the part of gaming history where I am conceived and have picked up my first gaming pad.

Original SSX cover art
This would be around about November in 2000. That’s when SSX the original was released and it was one of the first games I ever played. SSX for those who don’t know is a snowboarding game that allows you to pull off insane manoeuvres, in unrealistic ways to score points. I loved that game, I would spend hours playing it trying to bust the ‘phatest’ trick and achieve the highest score on the scoreboards. But the franchise lost its way over the years and it died for me at SSX 3. However the latest instalment went back to the roots of the game to dig out what made it good and made it better. It’s a little poetic how the newest version of the franchise coincided with my enrolment on this course. Maybe it’s a sign that this is where I’m supposed to be?
The new SSX cover. Incidentally 'Mac' is the character in both versions. look at the progress in 12 years.

I mean if I think about it in the space of 12 years I have grown from wanting to be part of the games industry, to being on a games industry accredited design course. If I think back to what gave me the urge to be part of the industry it would be SSX, not just because of its fluid and addictive gameplay but because of how it made me feel to play it. If you liked the creativity of music, it was there. If you liked good visual aesthetic, it was there. If you just liked to have outrageous fun and enjoy a game for being a game, it was there. You could bust a crazy trick, the music would fade and filter to the movements of your character, who in turn would blur into this complex form of colour and motion; and before you even touch your board back on the snow again you think to yourself. WOW. That seamless infusion of creativity produced such a memorable experience for me.
Try this in reality.

Being part of the industry means I will be able to help shape the directions video games take in the future. But at the same time the future is undefined and things like technology will advance in ways that I cannot imagine. I want things go like Star Trek and for ‘Holodecks’ to become a reality. That to me would add another aspect to video games and what u can do to them. For example let’s take halo 4. I am a big halo fan, love the visual design and concepts of the world. I know when the designers come up with ideas they think to themselves, ok how would this fit in the world , what atmosphere does this place have, how does this gun handle, what protection and mobility can this armour provide. However as the player there is only so much interaction you can have through a screen. 3D brings us closer to the game but it is still a screen. Imagine being able to hold that signature battle rifle, hear the growl of a warthogs engine beneath your feet, smell the air of a Forerunner installation , see an actual elite de-cloak with his energy sword and piss yourself. All these things add dynamism to the game. And I would love to play games in such a personal way.

                                                                         I feel so high

Yes being a Spartan is bad-ass but how does the armour feel on you is it tight is it loose does the heat irritate the skin and make your concentration falter. That would add emotional aspects to a game, if you’re in a cold world alone you really want to leave that planet and get home. Then again that deep connection to a game could cause problems, people would lose sense between what is and is not real. I mean how does it feel to actually take a life, alien or not the psychological repercussions could cause people insomnia. When time comes to actually work for your fortune 500 employer all you can see is that pinnacle moment when u broke that Jackal’s neck. When a colleague starts stressing you out and being confrontational about it, you remember the moves to take down a Jackal and the urge to apply them to the person stood in front of you is there. Would that mean that we start teaching people to be soldiers, footballers, street fighters? That’s a scary thought.

                                                             Heres your damn sales report

Ah well let’s hope it doesn’t come to that, till then I want to enjoy a form of entertainment that engages me and impresses my eyes. Peace.
                                               My halo reach spartan.I wonder what its like in there.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Video Game History Part Tres : 2000's

Wa’hey finally we have reached the 2000’s. My generation. I have actually played the games of this time and on consoles that don’t have freakishly weird names. Enough about my personal gaming history I’ll get to that later. The 2000’s to me represent a time of technological and financial advancement. Granted video games have continuously evolved since its original conception in the 1950’s, but I wasn’t alive to witness them.

Think about it, it’s now coming to the end of 2012 and so much has happened. In just over a decade we have transitioned from regular coloured television, to HDTV and then 3D HDTV’s.  We have had multiple console releases and upgrades. Video game titles have broken record heights for both sales and financial investment. Celebrities have both endorsed and acted in video games. The lines between film and games have subtly blurred. But even greater still, is the fact that the video game industry has overtaken the film industry as the largest form of entertainment. How amazing is that.

Let’s rewind a bit though and look at each of those points a bit more in depth. It is coming to the end of 2012 and if superstition is correct, the end of the world. If this is the case I need not bother with this blog entry really...

I a first year aswell FML

Ha if only. Anyway I remember when the first HDTV’s hit the market. I would wander through John Lewis and look at the insane prices. Contrast £5,000 with the £200 you can pick one up for at Tesco’s today and it really makes the first guy look like a sucker. But price aside HDTV offered video games the chance to be created in high definition. However that’s only one half of what it takes to play games. The release of seventh generation consoles meant that the technical constraints of previous iterations could now be bypassed.  This allowed games like Halo franchise to be fully realised. Speaking of which the new halo 4 came out a few weeks ago, it hit $220 million sales on launch day, that topped its predecessors release sales of $170 million.  Not too shabby considering it took $60 million to produce. But that’s nothing, if you know and love GTA, the 4th instalment cost a total of $100 million to produce. Considering the game has sold 22,000,000 units, if we imagine they sold at $40 each that’s, *gets out calculator* $ 8,800,000,000, basically 8 BILLION! Dollars. I think it’s still the most expensive game created but I’m not sure, it was at some point.

The Big Boys

Another high grossing game was Killzone 2. It cost $45 million to produce and remains one of my favourite games. It successor however wasn’t as good, I still like it but it lacked the ‘je ne sais quoi’ of its predecessor. What’s interesting is how the technological changes between 2 and 3 affected the gameplay. The original Killzone was released in 2004 on the Playstation 2. The graphics were good at that time and it had moderate success.  Killzone 2 was released in 2009 on the Playstation 3. The advancement in graphic capabilities from PS2 to PS3 is clearly visible and all made better by the fairly new HDTV’s. Another 2 years later and Killzone 3 is released along with the ‘new’ (such a relative term) 3D TV’s. The visual palette of the game is stunning; add that to the capabilities of a 3D television and you end up with a gorgeous looking game that is embellished with particles flying in your face and small embers gracefully flowing down the screen. That shows how the technology available helps shape the limitations of video games. Almost like a symbiotic relationship they affect each other in many subtle ways.

>> Link To The 10 Most Expensive Games Created<<

It’s not only the technology that has changed; the popularity of games has increased as well. Video games started out as something a few programmers would do. Then it grew to underground subculture. Then it was something frowned upon “aww you play video games, you don’t go out and have a life”. Now the very celebrities that people brainlessly obsess over endorse it, and that makes everything “cool”. All jokes aside video games have become more popular than ever and I think that’s because games have tried to broaden their target market. The launch of the Wii marks the involvement of whole families playing together.  Portable gaming has grown especially with the App-store’s launch. The idea that the old quick time killing games like snake could turn into the interesting ones on the app store is something I find rather cool. Take angry birds for example a simple concept; a basic story line and clean vector graphics turn into one of the most successful mobile games so far. Infinity Blade is another mobile game, completely antithetical to Angry Birds the game is all about “look at me”. The graphics push the boundaries on what a small 115 mm by 59 mm piece of hardware can process. Those are two completely different approaches to mobile games, both successful in their own right.
Good O'l Angry Birds
Infinity Blade In Action

Another great fact is that VIDEO GAMES are BIGGER than FILMS! Yes that’s right it’s been official for a while since about 2009/10 or so but it still makes me feel part of something great.


That’s one of the pressures that the industry faces though. As there is such attention on games they have to perform. In order to perform they require investment and investors like to see return on their investment. That’s why the price of games is rising and rising. The consumers also desire for more, which means that games are released like rain left right and centre. That’s a lot of work stress to be put under, especially when the game title you’re working on can be squashed with little notice. Despite all these releases how many of them are genuinely different? Yes there will always be the standard genres like Beat-em ups and First Person Shooters, but I want games like REZ to also make it to the forefront not only the commercial waste of space’s like Call Of Duty. That’s a personal pressure I apply to video games. However there are other pressures from external sources like the increasing concern over violence and sexism within games.

So that pretty much sums up in my own little way games from then to now .You can see that a lot has happened and is still happening; and In two and a bit years time I will be part of what shapes the industries future.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Video Game History Part Deux : 1980's-1990's

After giving my brain a week’s rest from writing, I return to continue the story of video games history.
The 1980’s was when the “golden age of arcade games” finally reached its pinnacle. This age has resulted in many innovative, technological and genre-defining games. The Legend of Zelda, created in 1986, established the genre “Action-Adventure”. It was the first game to combine elements of from different genres and use new innovations like back up saving. If it wasn’t for this invention, 26 years later we would have to complete our games in one go. One death would result in starting the game from the beginning and I doubt people would have interest in such realistic games; I mean look at the success of Call of Duty.

Ah the old kill cam
As well as combining existing genres new genres spawned during the decade. One of my favourite genres, beat-em up’s, started with “Karateka” which was created in 1984. It paved the way for future side scrolling beat-em up’s. So in essence I have that game to thank for modern day kick-ass fighters like “Mortal Kombat”. That wasn’t the only good genre to appear, “Donkey Kong ” is considered the first platform game  and that was created in 1980. Who would have thought that in the space of 24 years platform games would evolve to the unique and innovative quality of games like “little big planet”.
Karateka Cover Art

Games have a way of evolving and changing in unpredictable ways. For me it has always been fun to play on your own and to immerse yourself but I personally enjoy the satisfaction of owning someone online. The 1980’s was the time when Dial-Up systems were created. They were still around when I was a child because I remember the ol’ dial-up noise and the screeching you would hear when picking up the phone. Maze War is considered one the first network games written. I’ve never heard of it before now but it seems like an early precursor to the modern online FPS game. 
                                          >>>>A Link To The Famous Dial-Up Noise <<<<

The Nintendo DS’s great, great, great granddad was also created in the 1980’s called the Game & Watch. It looks effectively the same as the DS just less powerful and has no 3D aspect. But that little box of joy spurred many other companies to make their own portable games. The Game Boy Color didn’t come out until a good few years later but that was my first gaming console. That little cartridge playing wonder started me on my journey towards game artist. So you can see the impact that game history has to this day. Despite my inspiration the Nintendo Game & Watch wasn’t the first handheld game, that was the Microvision. The handheld was released in 1979 but unlike the Game & Watch, it didn’t survive very long. This was due to lack of games, poor design and the video game crash of 1983.
                                                           The Nintendo Game&Watch

Speaking of which, the video game industry experienced a second crash at the end of 1983. This resulted in the bankruptcy of several companies that produced home computers and video games consoles. It also brought what was considered to be the second generation of console video gaming to an end.  The crash is believed to have been mainly caused by poorly designed games, amongst other things.

As we cross into the 1990’s the shift from the arcade to the home starts to occur. Gaming consoles were now reaching 16-bit and 32-bit processors. The level of graphics seen in arcade games was now matched at home. This meant that players started waiting for the arcade games to come to consoles rather than going out to play them. This is the times when the legendary third and fourth generation consoles were created. The NES and its successor the SNES are names that still resonate with the gamers of my generation. Raster graphics transitioned over to 3D graphics. Game publishers grew, design teams enlarged and the budget of games increased. Even mobile gaming started up in the 1990’s.

                                                                                      The SNES
These developments completely contrast the slow beginnings of the 1950’s. In the progress from 1980’ to the 1990’s, the industry grew to become a mainstream form of entertainment as opposed to the underground subculture it was. The games industry at this time was starting to bloom.

That’s it for my blog this week, until then. “To the Batmobile , let’s go”!

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

A history of computer games, part one: 1950s - 1970s

Wow 1962 was long before my time. In fact I think before my parent’s time too, but that was when the first computer game “space war” was created. If this is the first time you have heard of it that makes two of us. At a glance it reminds me of games like asteroids and defender but more primitive. I think that’s also due to the fact that technology plays a part in the visual quality of a game. Think about it, if we tried to run uncharted 3 on a PDP-1 it would most likely overheat the processor and explode in a blaze of fire. PDP-1 as a name doesn’t even flow off the tongue nicely, it sounds as complex as the amount of components it takes to make a PDP1, and PDP-1 is short for a “Programmed Data Processor”. Imagine if we gathered friends after school and said let’s play the Programmed Data Processor. I don’t think I would be as interested, but who knows, without the PDP-1 there would be no PS3.

So let’s fast forward 11 years and along come pong. I wasn’t even born and yet I know pong. I could go through the app store today and still find it for sale. I guess it shows the success of the game. Unlike Space War, Pong was the first commercially available game. The graphics are as basic as the ones used in Space War. However the game play must have been far more interesting for it have nostalgic appeal years after its creation. Pong was played in arcades, markets, fun fairs and other entertainment venues. Contrast this to the little known PDP-1 with Space Wars and you can see that good publicity contributes to the overall success of a game. I think that is something that still applies today.

Along with the creation of pong the 1970 see’s the introduction of early household gaming consoles. The Magnavox Odyssey was released in the USA in 1972 and the Atari VCS 2600 released in 1977. Both consoles had reasonable success and paved the way for future gaming consoles. Granted, they weren’t the first recorded gaming console. That was something called the “cathode ray tube amusement device”, even more long winded than the Programmed Data Processor. Whoever created the names must have been thinking practically as opposed to creatively. The names sound like unit designations as opposed to machines designed for entertainment. I guess that’s because games were down to just programmers instead of the vast departments that exist today.

You would think that it was only upwards and onwards from here. Well it wasn’t. In 1977 the market crashed.  This was due to the fact that Atari pong consoles and cheap clones were being sold at a loss. This was being done to clear stock of the obsolete consoles. The result of the sales meant that the newly released Atari and Magnavox consoles suffered significant losses. Thankfully the crash came to an end with the release of “Space Invaders”. The success of the game is similar if not greater than pong which means that I and my generation still know about it.

The good thing about Space Invaders is it inspired many manufacturers to enter the gaming market. This meant that arcade machines became prevalent in mainstream areas thus spawning the golden age of arcade games. The sales of arcade game machines increased in North America significantly, from about $50 million to $900 billion. That is a serious jump and if you were to calculate how much billions were then to now that’s an eye watering total. Technology also improved in this time, colour arcade games were released. This happened in conjunction with titles like Pac-Man and its addictive game play. This meant colour arcade games became quite popular.

As time moved slowly towards the 1980’s home computers began to crop up. This allowed owners to program their own simple games. And soon these games were being distributed through various print channels such as source code printings and newsletters.  Eventually games were distributed in a physical manner with the selling of floppy disks, cassette tapes and ROM cartridges. Those are all the old school ways of distribution, before our days of one click downloads.  Now I’ve actually seen some floppy disks first hand. I was young though so I found the name rather amusing and assumed the disk would literally flop. It doesn’t, it’s called floppy disk because the inside was a thin, flexible, magnetic storage device.

This concludes my little segment on gaming history from the 1950’s-70’s. I hope you enjoyed the read.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Fox's Bones

This is a drawing of a fox's skull and body bones.
This was created using graphite pencils.

Two Point Persepective

A two point perspective drawing near the DMU student union building.
I used only graphite pencil to create this piece.

Single Point Perspective

This is a drawing of a nearby canal. I used a variety of graphite pencils aswell as a graphite stick to create it.

This is some prep work to familiarise myself with single point perspective

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

A Simple Introduction

Welcome to my little corner of the cosmos. My name is Naim Simeon and I’m a first year student studying Game Art Design at De Montfort University. It has been an interesting few weeks since arrival but I’m managing to balance work and play fairly well. I use my initials NS in my blog name to create the word NSane. This is because I, along with my design work, can be a little crazy at times and I want a name that defines me and my work.

I’m from a small town called Harpenden, which is in Hertfordshire. There I attended Oakland’s college studying Graphic Design. I like graphic design because there’s something clean an efficient about it. Creating interesting pieces of work using colour, typography and layout is something I enjoy still. Just because I want to be a concept artist doesn’t mean I waste the other talents I’ve learned, especially if I can get paid for it *big smile*.

Moving to Leicester wasn’t really a big deal for me but I was definitely excited to be going off to university. Once I arrived I quickly orientated myself with Leicester and attended various fresher’s events. I’m an outgoing person so I like to go clubbing, not only to enjoy myself, but because it’s a place where the creativity of music, fashion and design meet seamlessly.

This brings me to why I chose this course. I have always liked creativity, I like being involved in it and I like viewing others work.  I especially like the creativity within the games industry. The concepts that one can come up with are limited only by their imagination, which allows for some unique, bizarre and downright gorgeous looking games. Games can have some fantastic design and when coupled with artistic wonder the end result is magnificent. I want to be a part of that magnificence and this course seems to be the one to help me reach my aspirations.  By the end of this year I want to be closer to my target of concept artist, with hopefully a first. With those skills I will hopefully end up in my dream job as an art director at a games company like Rockstar.  

Enough about games though you’d think that’s all I think about. Outside of games I like to play multiple sports as well as create music. I also do graphic design work and occasionally some video production. My skills in these fields aren’t as refined as my ability to draw but I still enjoy the recreational aspect, it helps me unwind. I also listen to an eclectic range of music be it Jazz or Dubstep I like a little bit of everything.

So that’s me more or less summed up in a few words. Now all I can think about is the future, the three year veteran version of my noobish self. I cannot tell you what he’s like, but I know that I have to conquer the next three years of stress, late nights and hollering with a first degree. No biggie right?