Thursday, 29 November 2012

My Personal Gaming History.

So, me, what is my personal gaming history? Well to be honest with you, I’ve never actually been a massive gamer. I of course have played games and love them, but I’ve never been what you might call a ‘hardcore gamer.’ I will try and discuss what my games history is like, although I’ve probably got this all in the wrong order, here goes. 

I guess the first game I can recall is probably Barbie Adventure Riding Club (I sounds like such a girl!) This was one of my all times favourites, I remember playing this over and over again, I would get in from school and just play this. I just stumbled across the opening sequence on youtube as well, so much nostalgia! (

The next game I remember was when I was in Primary school. I used to go to after school club every Monday, Tuesday and Thursday. Thursday was the PC gaming night. As well as the usual my little ponies, barbies, action men, lego and other toys that were dotted around, we could go into one of the class rooms and play on the PC’s. There were a few titles installed on there along the lines of Theme Hospital, Roller Coaster Tycoon, SimsCity, Catz 5 and Dogz 5. My personal favourite being Catz 5 where you could adopt a cat of your choice, name him/her, dress them up and then care for them in a partially 3D world with lots of treats and toys.

Tomb Raider has always been one of my all time favourite series, but my first memories of her were when I used to watch my Dad playing Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation on his PC in the study. I would later in life play this game and then fall head over heels for my dear Lara, wanting to be her so very much (I guess this was routed in watching my Dad play it when I was younger.)  It’s funny because I have this game sat next to me at this current moment; I guess it’s the game that really got me to love PC gaming.


I never really had a console until 2002 when the Nintendo Gamecube was released in Europe. This was defiantly the definitive point where gaming became a bigger part of my life (I still play it today!) One Christmas morning, I come down to unwrap this, not entirely sure what it was at first, with a copy of Pikmin, Super Mario Sunshine and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, and the Gamecube filled a massive gap in my life that I didn’t even realise existed. My whole family loved it, with the release of Mario Kart we would all sit around after Tea to have a few games. My Dad investing in Enter the Matrix, Resident Evil 4, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time and various other titles. We had one at my Mums shop for when we went over the summer; Dad even installed one in the car for long journeys places. There was no escaping the GameCube. My little sister and I would play endless hours on Sonic Heroes, Mario Kart, Super Mario Sunshine, Billy Hatcher, Shrek 2, Mario Party 5, Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Chaos Bleeds, Shark Tale, Mario Power Tennis, The Urbz: Sims in the City, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, I could go on forever! The Gamecube stayed with us right through till 2006 when the Wii was released.

Because I never really had a console or handheld before the release of the GameCube I missed out on a lot of things some of my friends were into, like Zelda and Pokemon. Which I would eventually come back to as I got older.
The next stage was when we got the Wii, I was introduced to Zelda there, playing Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess numerous times. I also got back into my passion for Lara Croft with Tomb Raider: Anniversary and Underworld being released on this platform, many hours after school, sat in the back room wishing I was an awesome post-feminist archaeologist adventurer. 
I also got into the Guitar Hero franchise, spending a stupid amount of time getting to expert level by the time I was 15 (amazing to think I had that much time back then.)  Again, Mario Kart Wii was a massive hit on the whole household, kept us all sat around the TV screaming at each other as well all fail miserably to get around the course without spinning out of control. 

 What I have failed to mention as of yet, is a game that has spanned across my whole gaming history has been The Sims. Yep, I was addicted to The Sims. When it was released in 2000 I got it for Christmas that year, and spent the whole time collecting all the various expansion packs they released. I couldn’t get enough of it. The excitement I felt when the first advert for the Sims 2 came with my copy of The Sims Unleashed was so large I felt like it was the day before Christmas again when I was 5. With the release of the Sims 2 in 2004 I continued to collect all the expansion packs, The Sims being the only titles I have ever pre-ordered, the difference with the Sims 2 is that I seriously got into creating custom content for the games.   
So 2004/2005 I was 12/13 just started secondary school, and I would rush home every night to play more Sims. My Dad gave me a copy of Photoshop Elements and I got cracking on making my own clothes for my Sims using the included customization tool, giving me a basic understanding of meshes, diffuse maps, normal maps and alpha channels. Throughout the whole period of the Sims 2 (up to 2009 when Sims 3 was released) I would make things for my Sims and I enjoyed it so much I would hardly play the game and just create things for them instead. I had gotten more out of the habit of this with the release of the Sims 3 as my studies had started to take up most of my time (and actually getting a social life.) But even now I still play The Sims every now and then, I would also say that it helped me to get a place on this course, and because I started Photoshop so young I have a very good understand of it now that I am 19!
More recently, I have seen how limited my gaming history has actually been, and in meeting certain people I have been exposed to such titles that I wish I had played when I was younger. The last few years have consisted of me catching up on Zelda titles, Pokemon games, which I downloaded on my Blackberry, The Elder Scrolls (Morrowind, Oblivion and most recently Skyrim) and Portal/Portal 2.
But even more recently, like since starting the course I have come across even more titles I am ashamed to say I have never played. So steam has recently received a lot of my money and I have started Assassins Creed, Dragon Age, Bioshock, Dead Space and other notable titles.

So to summarise, my main gaming history belongs to Lara Croft, The Sims and my Beloved GameCube. Give me a year or so and my games library will hopefully be a bit more sophisticated.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Games History 2000s-Now.

This leaves the final period in Game Art history – the one I can actually remember, the noughties!
So, a lot has changed from the 1950’s to today. The move from the arcade to the home entertainment systems, more recently the innovation that is the internet, has changed everything. A once purely scientific and mathematical process is now wide spread and has so many creative elements. Most recent changes have even been encouraging  the players to get so involved with the games that they have started to create their own ‘modifications’ (mods) of the games.  This trend began in the Wolfenstein 3D and Doom-era and has proceeded to grow in popularity spawning forum based websites purely for modifications for specific games. 

More notable cases of this were in Unreal Tournament, which allowed players to import 3dsmax scenes to use as character models, and where I first came across modding in Maxis’ The Sims, where players were able to design and create their own objects and clothing for the 3D human simulations. As game designers realized the potentials of mods and custom content they started to encourage its creation, a great example of this is when games started to include mod managers and for example when The Sims 2 was released a specific side program calls ‘The Body Shop’ was included with the program to make custom content creation even easier! The one thing they didn't anticipate is the amount of peculiar mod's that are now in cirulation, a few of my favourites being the swearing mudcrabs on Elder Scrolls: Skyrim and the numerous naked, over sized breasted women that now walk around every modable game.

The main change in console gaming in the noughies was the start of the ‘console war.’ The now sixth generation of consoles consisted of the Nintendo GameCube, Microsoft’s Xbox and Sony’s Playstation 2, with SEGA’s final console being the Dreamcast which went out of production in 2002. Now with the market left down to the ‘big three’ the competition began. The GameCube was initially criticised for being too ‘childish’ that it lacked the adult content that was now more desired. With the release of Halo on the Xbox it drove its success and offered that more mature gaming style that the consumers wanted. Other titles like Grand Theft Auto III and Resident Evil 4 released across all platforms pushed the industry ahead. This established the trend towards complex, sophisticated and adult-orientated game play.
Another important aspect of computer gaming development in this period is with the availability of affordable Internet connectivity, a lot of publishers turned to online gaming. The rise of the Massively multiplayer online role playing game (MMORPGs) was inevitable. Already touched on in the 1990’s with games like Runescape and EverQuest, these games were now developing, the graphics improving and game play and connectivity becoming better and easier.  Other titles being World of Warcraft (stemming from the PC title Warcraft) and Ultima Online. 

Another advancement of the MMORPG is that now there are whole websites devoted purely to the various different games out there, a lot now are free to download and play for a limited amount, then draw you in with introduction fees. The recent rise of free to play MMORPGs with titles like Guild Wars/Guild Wars 2 and the highly anticipated release of Elder Scrolls Online is likely endangering the sales on monthly payment based games.

The next step in the noughties was moving to the seventh generation consoles. Hand held consoles being the Nintendo DS and the PlayStation Portable, the PSP boasted better graphics and power whilst the DS stuck to more basic graphics but with a novel interface which included touch sensitive screen. Each aimed s slightly different audiences kept both in the market. The major consoles, which are still in use today, are the Wii, the Playstation 3 and the Xbox 360. Both the Xbox 360 and PS3 featuring the high-end graphics and large hard disk based storage, on-line game playing and integrated networks.  The Wii was shortly released after the PS3’s launch and it’s appeal wasn’t through graphics or online capability, but again Nintendo were trying to be innovative about in, incorporating motion control, which got the gamers out of their seats and jumping about (even Grandma wanted to get involved, after seeing the whole games console development herself, she finally found one she was interested in.)

 As for today we are still anticipating the arrival of some eighth generation consoles. The introduction of 3D technologies spurred the release of the Nintendo 3Ds which has 3D graphics using parallax barrier technology rather than the traditional glasses based technologies.
Sony also have release the PlayStation Vita which has a 5 inch OLED screen, rear touch pad, two analog sticks, 3G and WiFi connection.
The current anticipation is for the Nintendo Wii U which will be released on the 30th November 2012. The console features a 6-inch touch screen controller that allows some games to be played without a TV set or to add extra details to the game to help immerse the player within the game.

As I’ve already stated the games world has significantly changed from this time 50/60 years ago. Gaming is now a much more personal experience, games are becoming more customizable, we are developing online gaming personalities with the use of Xbox Live, PlayStation Network and Steam. We have games suggested to us, our own personal ‘Avatars’ which we use to represent ourselves online, we are so much more immersed with our gaming experiences. (slightly terrifying after watching Charlie Brookers ’15 Million Merits’ from the Black Mirror series, if you haven’t already watched it you must, quite the brain teaser …
The challenges that the industry now faces is to keep up with the consumers high expectation, the games industry need to keep innovating, coming up with fresh ideas. Gamers have seen nearly everything already, the development of technology is what keeps the industry going, science is still there in the background, spurring out the new directions that the industry can take, who knows what’s next, life may become the game, completely immersing ourselves in these escapism realms.  Potentially I might be one of the people taking the games industry to that next level. Exciting stuff really.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Games History 1980-90's.

While I touched on arcade gaming in my last post it is normally said that the Golden age of arcade games was 1978-1986. With the release of ‘Space Invaders’ in 1978, it’s success encouraged other manufacturers to join the market. In 1979 ‘Galaxian’ was released along with Atari’s ‘Asteroids.’ Between the three games they sold over 400000 arcade cabinets worldwide! 
During the golden age you would find arcade machines in all sorts of mainstream locations like shopping centres, restaurants, convinces stores and in a traditional arcade centre.
Colour arcade games also started to emerge. With the release of ‘Pac-Man’ in 1980 the popularity of colour games increased. The arcade gaming industry reached it’s peak in value in 1982 when its quarterly income was $8 billion which is equivalent to $18.5 billion dollars today. This was just arcade gaming alone, combined with the home video game industry in the same year the was $11.8 billion for the video game industry (equating to about $27.3 billion in today’s money.)

During the late 70’s and early 80’s there was also a revolution going on in the home. With the appearance of home computers in the late 70’s it allowed their owners to be able to program their own simple games. The majority of these programmers were creating clones of popular arcade games and hobbyist groups were forming which was followed by PC game software. The spread of this hobby was through source code in books, magazines and newsletters. This worked by giving somebody a code which they would type on the computer to make a game work.
My Dad used to be a big fan of doing this himself. I remember when I was a lot younger when I got my first Gameboy one Christmas and my Dad telling me how he used to play PC games, and it had seemed so alien and so much effort. He told me how him and his friends would meet up to sit and type code out to play a very basic game, they would trade source codes and would save them to floppy disks, cassette tapes, and ROM cartridges to distribute between his friends.
The next milestone was in 1985 when Nintendo release the Nintendo Entertainment System. The first sight of classic consoles games such as Super Mario Bro’s, Metroid and the Legend of Zelda came with this console. The NES swiftly breaks all games sales records and tops the best-selling console in video game history. By now arcade games had well and truly lost their popularity. The home console was the next craze. Nintendo shortly release their next big thing, the Game boy. With titles such as Tetris and Super Mario Land making it an instant hit! The same year the Atari Lynx and Sega’s Game Gear being released also, the arcade golden age was well and truly over.

After the 1983 video game crash in 1984 the computer gaming market advanced to over take the video game market. Computers had the same game playing capability and were just as easy to use. With the release of Windows 1.0 in 1982 as well as the Apple Macintosh arriving in 1984 making personal computing more readily available to the consumer, meaning more people had PC’s and were open to PC gaming.

The 1990’s brought lots of change to the games world, with the introduction of 3D graphics being the biggest change. Also we were introduced to new genres such as first-person shooters, real-time strategy and a long with the introduction of the World Wide Web came the Massively Multiplayer Online games. Home consoles where now the most common form of gaming with releases of consoles like the Sega Mega Drive, Super NES, Atari Jaguar and later after 1993 The Sega Saturn, Playstation and the Nintendo 64. The Playstation and Nintendo 64 are most noted for the rise of fully 3D games, many games considered to be miles stones were on these consoles, for example ‘The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time’ on the N64 is considered to be one of the most critically acclaimed games of all time. Other notable titles being Final fantasy VII (Playstation), GoldenEye 007, Lara Croft, Super Mario 64, Crash Bandicoot, Spyro the Dragon and Resident Evil.
The transition from Cartridges to CD’s was also starting as CD’s offered more storage capacity than what was previously possible.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Game History 1950-70's. SCIENCE TIME!

So, video and computer game history. Which clever blighter do I have to thank for making a future in the games industry a possibility? And what made them decide that the computer should be used for entertainment purposes?

Well after a little bit of research, it wasn't that clear. Information is not always stored too well, or there is limited recorded information on this topic. After a bit of prying it would appear that the very first concept of a video game came from a guy called Ralph Bear who came up with idea in 1951. He was working for Loral a TV company and he was asked to create the world best Television. So his concept was to create a television that you could play video games on, something that had never been done before. But it wasn't until 1966 that he actually went back to this concept and started to produce prototypes of this 'game machine.'

Other notable games from this period were in 1952 a cathode ray tube version of ‘Tic-Tac-Toe’, which was created by PhD student of Cambridge A.S.Douglas. The university had an EDSAC vacuum-tube computer which used a cathode ray tubes which were organized as 35 by 16 dots. The purpose for Douglas creating a Tic-Tac-Toe game on this (in the time) High tech computer was to do with his thesis on the human-computer interaction. He used this simple game to illustrate this. 

As technology advanced more basic and conceptual ideas for games appeared. In 1958 the next notable program was conceived. A Willy Higginbotham employee at the Brookhaven National Laboratories used an oscilloscope used as the display linked to an Donner Model 30 analog computer. His program was know as ‘Tennis Programming’, but more commonly referred to as ‘Tennis for Two’.  The program was for two players both using hand controls. 

It was then in 1961 that three students of the MIT invented a game on a DEC PDP-1 vector graphics computer which consisted of two spaceships shooting at each other. This was the original ‘Spacewars.’
These three programs were more notable prototypes of what the video game was to become. These were not created for commercial reasons, mainly all for science. I guess that’s a very important point to consider, that what now a day has been given somewhat of a bad reputation and is seen as a none academic and ‘brain numbing’ pass time, that it should be born from many intelligent peoples minds. 

It wasn’t until 1966 that the first potential commercial video game was conceived. Ralph Baer came back to his 1951 TV game concept and designed several prototypes. This first being a game consisting of two squares chasing each other, ‘Chase Game.’ His final prototype was the ‘Brown Box’ which had several games such as ball and paddle games, target shooting games and more. This was the product he presented to the TV manufacturers and he signed an agreement with Magnavox in 1971 that lead to the release of the Magnavox Odyssey in 1972, the very first video game system.

After the birth of the video game system in 1972, the 70’s were the start of Atari, in 1971 co founder of Atari Nolan Bushnell is convinced of the commercial viability video games possessed. he left his job to work full time on producing an Arcade version of 'Spacewars.' But after it's not so well received release in bars and other entertainment venues, Bushnell realizes that the games have to be easy to understand from the off, no half-pissed local in a bar is going to want to work out how to do something seemingly complicated. In 1972 when Atari was incorporated Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney hired Al Alcorn to help programing their latest project PONG. PONG fulfilled the simple game play and controls so that it appealed to a wide audience, and after brilliant marketing sold very well. This started the arcade revolution from 1974-1976 sees 110 arcade games hitting the market! It is also important to highlight in 1975 when two young computer enthusiasts Bill Gates and Paul Allen saw personal computing as the way forward and formed a partnership called Microsoft. This was going to start a movement from arcade to PC gaming in the 80's and 90's.

Going back to my comments earlier it is important to consider why it was decided that computers would be used to have fun. It seems the people who have decided this are all from a scientific/technology background, and maybe didn’t necessarily plan to use these for fun. Most games stemming from scientific projects or to meet a brief set by an employer.  I guess this shows a major change in the games world comparing the 50-70s to today. Games in this period were all created with knowledge and with purpose, plain maths and calculation, unlike now when the games have the fundamentals based on maths (programming) but there is now a much more artistic and creative side. For example, I am on a course to get me into a career in creating games, I am no mathematician my background is all fine art and design work. It is significant as it shows a massive change since then. Most importantly how it has turned into an art form with the birth of the Game Artist.
So I guess I have (once again) to thank science and technology for the things that make my life better, and in this case, even my careers future. Good ol' science eh?  

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Week 1

Well I am officially struggling to get into the habit of this whole blog thing. As this blog has been started a few weeks into the course I decided that it may be a good call to do a few brief posts outlining what I have learned each week so far. So, our first week was our introduction to 3D Studio Max. As a 3Ds virgin the program did look somewhat intimidating. SO MANY BUTTONS.
After a quick tutorial on how to create a basic 'blocky' church we set off on our journey to '3Ds Enlightenment.'
Using a simple box we extruded faces to create a basic structure of a church. Admittedly as this was a relatively easy task, naturally we grew quickly bored of this and started to experiment with the program, making our churches more intricate and even making other simple block shapes - like ladybirds and even a goblins head. Pretty amusing really, whether this is what Heather intended for us to do - I don’t know. Either way it helped me to quickly understand the basics.

Our next task was where Heather threw us in at the deep end. Our week brief was to create a 3D model of a Dalek. Our limitations were that it had to be fewer than 1500 triangles. Looking back, this was so intimidating, and seemed like such a challenge, as it was only our first week. I guess even just 6 weeks in, now I already feel so much more confident with using 3Ds Max. However intimidating this task was I was enthusiastic and threw myself at it. I managed to create 2 Daleks in the week we were expected to do this in. Once I started to get used to the layout and the tools in the program and with lots of help, I felt so much more comfortable with the program.
This was a pretty successful first week in terms of Game Production, I had a little bit more hope that I will actually be able to create nice 3D models as I was initially worried that I would be completely useless. I think what made me feel most confident was the amount of help available. If you're ever stuck just ask anyone in the room, whether that be a tutor or a fellow student. Everyone has been so friendly and happy to help!

So, onto Visual Design, the first week we went right back to basics. Apparently these were basics I never covered at any point in my past education. Seriously, I don't actually know what I've been doing for the last few years. I was always aware of stuff like one point perspective, horizon lines and vanishing points. But I never actually recall going over them properly in the past. So our first week focused on one point perspective, setting up a scene properly and getting the composition correct. We went down to the canal running by my halls, all got comfy and produced a series of images of the canal considering perspective.

I was pleasantly surprised by the outcome. After looking at my first image from the week to the final A3 image. I could see so much improvement. My perspective was much more correct and even my rendering techniques improved somewhat. I found myself experimenting with different ways of shading, different ways of setting up the composition, and always using the techniques that Chris had outlined to us.  I was pleased with it but could still identify problems that were there (being my biggest critic and all that jazz.)

After our first week of work I felt really enthusiastic and so happy with my choice to do this course. I had learnt so much even in just one week compared to say a few months on courses I have done in the past. A lot is expected of me, but I feel like the workload is manageable. At this point I was looking forward to the next project to get cracking with.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012


Well, I've never been any good at starting this kind of thing, sitting at my desk, staring at the screen, trying to think what I should write about myself. Do I just go for the usual boring crap? Try and make myself appear to be something that I’m not?
In reality, I was a fine art student who was fed up of doing the same thing for the last 4/5 years of her life; Get art supplies. Get ridiculously indirect brief. Paint a picture. Come up with some sort of pretentious, woolly justification as to why you decided to stick a shit tonne of skittles into the shape of Obamas head and pass it off as artwork. 
Ok, admittedly I never did that, but I did find myself stuck in a rut of watercolours, fine liners, ink and bleach. As much as I loved the style I was developing, it wasn’t taking me anywhere.

Initially I guess I thought I would stay with this and go on to study Illustration or Fine art, but something just didn’t feel right about that. I then found myself having an interest in animation after seeing my boyfriends flat mates animation work. The 3D characters fascinated me and seemed so impressive. After looking at a few universities I eventually ended up at a De Montfort open day to go see what the animation course was like. The course was really interesting and ticked some boxes, but I felt at the time that the course wasn’t based on design enough. So, I looked around some other courses, and -mainly by chance- sat in a Game Art Design talk on my own.
As I sat there my little list of what I was looking for slowly got ticked off. This course offered the more traditional side to design, most importantly refining our skills and a completely new venture for me to explore, 3D Design! When it came to what they were looking for I felt I fit pretty well into their expectations as well, plus I also had a little experience in texturing 3D models at a basic level.
When it came to my interview and Heather, with a current third year student, had seemed so enthusiastic about my work, it kind of just sunk in that this was the university I was going to, this was my course.
So I guess that now makes me Kathryn Unsworth, Game Art Design student at De Montfort University Leicester. Exciting stuff eh?

Well if you hadn't picked this up already, but a love of games didn't bring me here. I like games, but admittedly I haven’t played that many. More notable ones I have played are Skyrim, Oblivion, Final Fantasy, Sims, Portal, Lara Croft, Legend of Zelda, Professor Layton, Spore and various Mario titles. My gaming history has mainly been Nintendo and PC. As I played games I always found myself drawn to the design side of them, and as a PC gamer I got into creating downloadable content for games, using meshes and models previously made and customising them with my own textures to create what I desired for in-game. I would spend way more time doing this kind of thing rather than actually playing the game!

My other interests are mainly Music, Reading and Films. I have a very strong interest in music, some of my favourite Bands being; Sigur Ros, Radiohead, Bjork, Brian Eno, The Twilight Sad, Jonsi, Portishead, Pink Floyd, Vessels, Four Tet, Caribou, Interpol, Mogwai, Kate Bush, Hella, Grimes, Efterklang, The Mars Volta, Grizzly Bear, Giraffes Giraffes!, Warpaint…. And I could keep going. Music is a large part of my life, and I can’t imagine what it would be like without it. I am also a regular gig and festivalgoer. In my opinion there is nothing better than live music with people you love. (oh Kat you sentimental bugger.) I also draw a lot of inspiration from Music, I always work listening to music.
Films and Books also are a source of great inspiration, in a similar way that Music is.

Enough on my interests, I should discuss what I aspire to achieve this year.
I guess my main hope it to develop my skills as an artist so that I start looking at the world around me in a different way. I want to refine my sketching and rendering skills so that I am on a par, if not better than, traditionally trained fine artists. Then, adding the skills I hope to obtain in using 3D programs to extend my skill range and greatly increase my employability.
After doing a little research into jobs available in the games industry I came across a few jobs that would interest me, all quite varied, but within the creative side of the games world. I think that after I have done a bit of work on all areas on the course I will then be able to see what direction I wish to take with my studies, how to tailor it to a specific job.