Friday, 17 December 2010

Blue Flames

There are some wonderful images on Boston.com from photographer Olivier Grunewald who has captured the blue fire of burning sulphur at a volcano/mine in Indonesia. The full article presents some 30 images of the remarkable scene at Kawah Ijen.



[Olivier Grunwald photographs of the Kawah Ijen sulfur flames via Boston.Com]

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I always like images like these, they make us question what things should look like or should be like and look at what they are actually like. This is a common issue in creating digital environments of characters and having to put what people expect rather than what would really be there...

Crysis2 Screens

Incrysis have some more gorgeous screenshots from Crysis2 up. Now that we have CryEngine3 running here in FBE we are keen so see how far we can push things, just look at the depth and quality on display here (follow the link to get the full HD versions)



[Crysis2 imagery via Incrysis]

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Into the Sandbox

Just a quick post to show I am back into Sandbox2 (CryEngine2) - here is where a few minutes of intro tute gets to. Now to dive in for real.



In the last few days I have also fired up Mudbox and had a play in there as well as 3ds Max 2011.

AGD Fin

While I had intentions of posting here quite often as I worked my way through Jesse Schell's The Art of Game Design - well here are my thoughts now I am at the end.

I really enjoyed the book, Jesse's approach to breaking down a large and complex field is well crafted and gave plenty of scope to introduce his lenses as we went along. One criticism would be that the last few chapters felt more like catch-alls giving us the miscellaneous bits not already covered rather than a grand finale that could represent the enormity of all that has come before. Perhaps some targeted application of the lenses to some existing game designs, bringing everything together.

The lens concept feels effective, distilling down the great depth in the book to a series of specific thoughts and questions we can all use to improve our design work. While many of the lenses can stretch to any form of game, there are quite a few of them that make much more sense in the context of a computer game. Right from the beginning Jesse delivered on the examples, this was one of the strengths of the story, fleshing out ideas with succinct examples from famous games and other media.

Apart from some super general principles, we are also treated to some real specifics. In chapter 19 he covers Third-Person Distortion, where rooms that work in first-person look crowded and cramped in third person and some ways people use to counteract the effect. We also take a brief dive into the uncanny valley, avatar theory, character collusion and the Hero's Journey.

All up a great read and beautifully practical as well - now to put it all into practice as I look at Moths vs Butterflies. One thing I need to decide quickly is if I can pursue both a narrative approach and a game approach to the idea and the setting.

Arkham City Trailer

Brand new trailer from Rocksteady for Arkham City - super:



Plus dont forget the teaser goodness:

Inception

I had been looking forward to this, Inception on BluRay looks and sounds incredible. Christopher Nolan brings all the intensity and cerebral thrill from The Dark Knight to bear on this story and world that blends ideas from the Matrix, Total Recall and Jason Bourne into a potent film. We are treated to an experience that has us thinking and wondering during and well after.



The super soundtrack by Hans Zimmer lends some real weight to things and stands on its own so well. Time is the quintessential track from the score which lends itself so well to the intense bass rumbling used in the soundscape of the film - shaking us about (imaging that in an IMAX theatre).

Plotwise, Inception delivers a compelling story that like the journey of the characters leads us in deeper and deeper. We are drawn in by the main plotline for sure, but it is the disturbing tale of the main character (Cobb) and his wife that really grabs us. There are a suite of little hooks that dont really play out or get the attention they might have deserved, taking a back seat to the main threads - I wondered if they might release a longer cut actually. Things like: is Cobb's world actually real in the first place, is the whole movie taking place in a dream, how can we tell; Ariadne's power to change the world isnt explored later on etc.

Check out (after watching of course) the FAQ on IMDB for heaps of theories around what is really going on. I thought the cast is great, the characters are a good blend of heroic typecasting and believability. Ariadne, our master of the maze is great and we all liked Arthur.

These Wallpapers show off the concept and characters of the film with real flair.



[Inception promo images via the official site]

The CG and effects work was first class, flawlessly integrated such that we really cant tell while watching where the boundaries are. Double Negative (DNeg) delivered all 500 FX shots for the film and CGSociety have a great feature article detailing the work: Imaculate Inception: Giving Birth to a Dream.

You should visit Paul Christopher's blog - one of the concept artists on the film, but he has much more than that to show and concept art is very cool stuff.

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and just for fun, here is the guys at from howitshouldhaveended.com taking on Inception:

WoW Cataclysm

The next big thing in the World of Warcraft is Cataclysm. Though much of the content has been released in the leadup to the go-live date we are now finally completely cataclysmic.



We can now create characters using the new races (Goblin for the Horde and the Worgen for the Alliance). They both look great and should prove very tempting for players.



The world itself has seen dramatic changes which should reinvigorate peoples interest, and it needs to. One of the things about MMOs is that they are highly addictive, yet the players can be fickle and like to try new games - at some point another will come along that will lure players away for more than a fleeting look at the competition. For now Blizzard are delivering in this genre of MMOs with significant resources being poured into the mighty beast that is WoW.

Here are a few of the concept art pieces on the WoW site for Cataclysm - lovely emotive work that must inspire the digital artists:



[Concept art for World of Warcraft Cataclysm via the official site]

Friday, 10 December 2010

Transformers 3 teaser and concept work

The teaser trailer for Transformers 3 Dark of the Moon is here:



Michael Bay give Collider a long look at how things are going on the new movie that is looking great and such a cool concept (hook) to lure us in even without any of the characters we know.

Here is a bit of concept art for the film by Frankell Baramdyka -great detail of how the bots work and feel.


[Transformers 3 concept art via Super Robot Mayhem]

Getting started with Sandbox2 for MvB

While we are working through the licensing and server for CryEngine3 I decided to get a start with Sandbox2 which I havent really looked at for over a year now. So I installed Crysis Wars and then the Editor in the way we use them in FBE with the students.

The game, Mod tools and such installed fine but the Sandbox 2 Editor just failed on startup every time once it got to "initializing views". After trying a heap of the usual things (compatibility, admin, UAC and more) under Win7.64 I got some help which led me to this great post by one of the students who had the same problem. Rosemarie Still's blog for BENV2423 covers how to fix the conflict with the Wacom windows services (Tablet PC Input Service) which after stopping it things are alive. Now I just need to choose Sanbox2 or the tablet, this is ok as I dont use both at the same or similar times.



While I have big plans for environments and interactivity in the engine, to start with I will just create some practice maps to get the hang of things while I do a heap more design thinking and concept work for Moths vs Butterflies.

I did find and fractionally fix up this short description of the world of MvB:
The Moths and Butterflies have been in perpetual battle for as long as either can remember with atrocities, victims, and heroes on both sides. The vast valley network has seen war waged through Moth and Butterfly settlements alike with each new generation emerging into the world with new threats on their way of life. Indeed a vast new threat is emerging, flowing from the toxic caves, mutations spreading from plant to creature to creature. Will any see past the history, propaganda and prejudice for long enough to bring their unique talents together - and thus stand a chance against this peril now threatening all life in their rich and remarkable environment.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

3ds Max 20 Years Trailer

I just installed the Crysis Wars and Sandbox2 kit onto my machine, I was going to wait until we sort out the license server for CryEngine3, but this will keep me going for a little longer. We are experimenting with how to work with the various versions of 3ds Max, Collada exporters and Sandbox2 to get a workflow that we can endure for all our models. Older versions are nicely supported, but that is no fun, so we are playing with ideas on this.

In the meantime, here is Autodesk's 20 years of 3ds Max showreel:



I like seeing how far things have come, in some ways these things can seem painstakingly slow, flooded with tiny incremental improvements. When seen on a larger timescale we certainly have come a long way and also have a long way to go (there is still too much pain and translation and micromanagement and re-creation and such).

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Eclipse BR

Watched Eclipse, the third film in the Twilight series on BluRay and while it might not completely satisfy as a film, some of the effects and colour treatments are cool. The wolves are even better this time around and the interaction with their fur is beautiful.



The CGSociety article on the effects work done for the film looks at the wolf fur, the vampire death shattering, snowy additions and plenty of compositing. Image Engine and Tippett Studio have important work to do in integrating the beastly look and movement of Vamp and Wolf alike with the humans. These mythical races are crucial to the telling of the story and their otherworldly natures need to relate to Bella and feel integrated to the world.


[Eclipse CG imagery via CGSociety article]

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Firefall

Firefall is another ambitious attempt to bring the FPS game type to the massive scale of the MMO. Planetside was the only real success in this endeavour previously and Red 5 Studios look to be making a fair stab at it again. While still some way from a release, Firefall is looking beautiful, with its modified version of Intel's Project Offset engine and the semi-cel-shaded look to things.



Straight from the opening shot of the cinematic trailer we see the style here, with the dramatic comicy feel to otherwise deep and detailed graphics. We get a range of classes and playtypes with PVE missions, resource collection and duking it out in PVP.



If they can pull off everything, this could be an interesting addition to the MMO shelf - coming sometime in 2011. Here are some stills and concept work:



[Firefall imagery via the official site]

NIDA Exhibition

The DanceSpot concerts are on at the Parade Theatre at NIDA again this year. The foyer has an interesting exhibition of work by NIDA students in things like the design of costumes, sets and productions. Here are a few pics I snapped:


Saturday, 27 November 2010

COFA Annual

Spent a nice morning at CarriageWorks where the COFA Graduation Exhibition (Annual) is in full flight. It was wonderful to see all the various programs exhibiting together and intermingled, digital media next to painting, next to video art, photography and more.

First it was great to see James' FiT-iN, having its own little stand and looking good. Other people graduating that I spent time with include Kylie and Natvatoo,

I really enjoyed exploring some of the painting and digital photography works, but one of the key reasons for going was to see what my fellow Digital Media students achieved. Sabrina was the only one with a real-time immersive digital environment of some kind. So I am confident that Moths vs Butterflies will still be pretty unique. It looks like many of the digital media students struggled to complete their works given the low numbers on display.

Here are some images I took on the day of the place, markets and works:


Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Unity Uberstrike

This game doesnt appeal to me, but it does look like a pretty exciting development running on Unity3D across a whole range of platforms including Facebook, Mac, Windows and more. Uberstrike is an FPS with a suite of items and such that may well keep masses of people busy if it catches on. Either way, it looks like a classy use of the Unity 3D engine and shows what the current engine can do...

Prince of Persia - The Sands of Time dvd

I had been looking forward to seeing this movie adaptation of the game, the production values and the team behind the The Prince of Persia - Sands of Time gave me high hopes. Well, after two viewings and some special features I am still enjoying this one.



Jerry Bruckheimer with Disney have created an incredible world for the events of the film to live within. The huge sets are wonderfully detailed, bringing out the character of each city/location and their inhabitants. Creating a world like this delivers a much higher level of immersion, we are taken away to this believable place that hits all the right notes for our imaginations. This is all supported by Harry Gregson-William's score and lighting that really shows off everything.


[Prince of Persia posters via keeping-it-reel.com]

The costumes and physical propwork is a delight to behold, seeing the detail and flair of every piece of armour, dress, armband and saddle really lifts the cool factor for me. There is CG and special effects work of course, the battle sequences and other-worldly elements require them, but for the most part the screen is filled with real things.

It was great to see our hero bringing so many computer game moves to the screen, they bring things to an almost superhero like level, but making it still believable - he is just that good. The whole experience is like seeing a fusion of The Mummy, Pirates of the Caribbean and Tomb Raider = pretty fun.

The movie isnt flawless, but there are so many cool bits that it holds together for me, it is a huge extravaganza bringing us mystery, betrayal, vast empires, snakes, crumbling temples, vast deserts, curved blades, cavalry, heroics and ostriches. It may lack a little charm in places and doesnt offer up any plot surprises or really unique character concepts or moments - but I still found it good fun and it looks superb.

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I like this kind of film. I was going to rant on a little here about being in the right mood for different types of movie before donning a critic's hat. Maybe it isnt just a mood thing, but rather allowing films to live in their scope and enjoying them for that. Can a comedy win the Oscar for best picture or a comedic actor get one - I think not. Are they harder to make or require more acting talent?? Complex...

Toy Story 3

I already mentioned some of the nifty Special Features on the Toy Story 3 BluRay, now for a quick look at the film. John Lassiter and the gods of animation at Pixar deliver us another wonderful tale from the Toy Story universe. The animation itself is remarkable in many places, such style and precision even under very complex scenes. Each character's movement reinforces their individuality and when characters come together in combat, dance or otherwise the contrasts are lovely to see. I loved the interaction between Jessie and Buzz (in his various states) and the animation is a standout for me.



The tale we run with brings us new antagonists and really makes me feel for the characters. The toys are actually quite tragic, their fun is derived from being played with, they struggle to have fun outside that (with only a few exceptions). With this premise there are many causes for their conflict as their world is so tightly bound to human foibles and we humans dont know there are feelings to be hurt.


[Toy Story 3 images via fanpop.com]

The CG is flawless, while still completely cartoony, every element is refined to that aesthetic. The effects and fur are beautiful, like seeing the raindrops fall on Lotso. The rigs inside all these characters must be very clever, empowering those animators with all the controls they need to deliver the body and facial animations that reveal all the character's emotions and physical gags.
All up another superb movie from the Pixarians and their biggest franchise. It loses some of its edge from being another sequel, but still wonderful to join these characters again.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Net Geo Photo Comp

A great photo can deliver great punch, such majesty and drama. I wont spoil the great joy you will get looking at the National Geographic's Photography Contest 2010 by showing more than one. The set has stunning images of people, animals, places and more. Below is Sean Harvey's photo of a supercell thunderstorm rolling across the Montana prairie at sunset. I also like Steve Irvine's long exposure of flying moths image - wonderful.


[Sean Harvey's supercel image via National Geographic]

Toy Story 3 : Setting a Story in Motion

The Toy Story 3 special features includes a wonderful little piece, Beginnings: Setting a Story in Motion where Michael Arndt, the screenwriter, walks us through what he has learnt in his time at Pixar about setting up a story. He looks at the first acts of Toy Story, Finding Nemo and The Incredibles to demonstrate the ideas for how to setup a memorable tale. The whole doco-bit is a voice-over with a cute animation (not 3D) that further illustrates his structure which goes something like this:

Begin by setting up the main character, by showing them doing what they love most. Then we need to see the characters flaw (not known to them), that comes out of their passion, a good thing taken too far in some way. Then we establish the storm clouds on the horizon, something that could mean change or danger. Blam, their world is rocked by some event that takes away what they love most, followed up with a demonstration of how unfair their world is. Then we come to the fork in the road, one choice is the healthy responsible one, the other (the one we are rooting for) is the unhealthy irresponsible choice that somehow leads to a crisis. This crisis sets up the journey for the hero, which takes them on into the rest of the story and act 2.

Here is how Michael sums it all up:
So your story is coming out of your characters deepest desires and their darkest fears. The thing they love is taken away from them and the world is revealed to be unfair. To put things right they have to make a journey, that is the rest of the film. By the end of the journey, hopefully they will not only get back what they lost but they will be forced to fix that little flaw they had when we first met them.
great stuff, classic, but lovingly demonstrated in 8 mins.

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Here is the train from the opening sequence in all its glorious Lego form:

[Toy Story 3 Lego train set via Collider.com]

More on Toy Story 3 soon.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Unity3D Asset Store

Picking up the logic from the Google Warehouse, here we have Unity3D givign us the Asset Store. For quick design visualisation, this sort of thing is key, being able to rapidly flesh out ideas with greater levels of immersion is something we all want.
What this needs then is the community to grow beneath the idea, an empty store isnt much use to anyone of course. I doubt we will get such things for CryEngine3 though - how nice would that be.

Unity Asset Store from Unity3D on Vimeo.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

LA Auto Show Concept Car Comp

Concept cars are very cool, they bring a fluid forward-thinking style to bear on a ubiquitous piece of machinery. The LA Auto Show has a competition, the Design Challenge, which sees top-flight car manufacturers putting their creative talents to tackling this years theme.

While I like themes, they really need to do better than this:
The theme this year addresses society's shift toward minimizing consumption of the earth's resources. The objective is to envision an efficient, light-weight, four passenger vehicle (not to exceed 1,000 lbs.), that is both comfortable and safe, while delivering satisfactory driving performance without sacrificing the styling consumers demand.
Anyhow, the entries show off some rather gorgeous thinking and a freedom to design with the architectural swishy frame-like curvy swishiness. Check the site for much more information and imagery for each entry, but as we can see there is some real class in the conceptualisation as well as the rendering and visualisation of those ideas and the complex geometries.


[LA Auto Show 2010 - Design Challenge entry by GM]


[LA Auto Show 2010 - Design Challenge entry by Honda]


[LA Auto Show 2010 - Design Challenge entry by Maybach]


[LA Auto Show 2010 - Design Challenge entry by Mazda]


[LA Auto Show 2010 - Design Challenge entry by Mercedes-Benz]



[LA Auto Show 2010 - Design Challenge entry by Nissan]


[LA Auto Show 2010 - Design Challenge entry by Mercedes-Benz Smart]



[LA Auto Show 2010 - Design Challenge entry by Toyota]


[LA Auto Show 2010 - Design Challenge entry by Volvo]