Wednesday, 20 October 2010

It was a Triumph (The History Of Computer Games)

Unfortunately, being the teeny-bopper that I am, I’m too young to remember the very start of gaming (My friends reminiscing of the ‘arcade years’ that somehow seeped into the nineties in Northern America, are the only basis I have for things like: Donkey Kong, Space Invaders, Pac Man and the very first run of Street Fighter). I’ve seen vague cave paintings of pixel games and heard the elusive fairytales of ‘Pong’ and ‘Atari’.

Of course I know the facts (What little you can really discern from the inconsistencies of any source on the matter); that gaming as we know it started in the 1950s and grew exponentially, resulting in the console wars of the 1980s, until it became the graphically enhanced retellings of Pacman and Space Invaders we know today.

Space Wars

The first game, that I can find, that’s classed as such, was ‘Tennis for Two’, created in 1958 by William A. Higinbotham (All hail, the almighty gaming god) to play upon an oscilloscope attached to an early analogue computer. It was designed as a means of education, albeit an entertaining one, as the user interacted with the ball’s trajectory on screen.

Of course, as all great inventions of the past, and ever to come, someone just had to go a step further. In 1961 ‘Spacewars!’ was created - hailed by many as the first ‘real’ video game. It took a concept that was impossible in real life, and made it possible on computer. It was a labour of love, born at MIT, to the creators Steve Russel, Wayne Witanen, and J. MartinGraetz.

But it wasn’t really until the late 60s early 70s that computer games, as we envision the term, were truly created. Finally ‘personal’ gaming was available. Admittedly it was still large, clunky and you couldn’t have had it sitting in your living room (unless it was the size of a warehouse.. Perhaps I over exaggerate? Just a smidge?), but it was there, and it would grow.

By the eighties, it was war. On a global scale.

Console after console duked it out, some crashing the moment they were launched, others living for years before fading into obscurity. Lack of trading standards meant that pirated games were every where, each console mimicking, and trying to out do the others, until only the most vicious were left.

I, as I said, am too young to remember the carnage and bad adverts, but I’ve no doubt Mike shall subject us to them. Personally, I didn’t start gaming until I was ten (heck, we didn’t own a TV until I was seven or so), my first console being Nintendo’s hand held flagship the Game-Boy Colour. I, like many mindless minions of Japanese TV, owned several Pok√©mon games. They now sit at the back of my wardrobe, never to be seen again.

After that, it was a PS2 - that I ultimately adored, but lacked any friends who were into gaming, and was subsequently lost - constantly buying ‘bad’ games. It wasn’t until I went to Canada that I started to game in a serious manner. It started with Ocarina of Time, delved into the entire Zelda series, then flitted over to Final Fantasy (I through XIII) taking various meandering roads to things like Mass Effect, Fable - and, of course, Portal.

Remember, it’s in the basement…

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Ah, Introductions...

Alright guys, here it goes. An introduction post - the very bane of my existence. ‘But why?’ I don’t hear you ask, ‘Surely they are the easiest posts in the world to write!?’. Lies, I tell you, all of it. I’m primarily a fiction writer, and would much rather have people pry into the lives of my characters than be forthcoming about my own, boring meander through the world.

If things become a tad droll, you have been warned…

My names Jessica - please, feel free to call me Jess - and I’m currently a first year game art student at De Montfort University. Of course, its been a long hard trek to get there: knee deep in snow, and up hill both ways.

I’ve come armed with a foundation Art and Design diploma, which was preceded by a two year stint studying Animation - both traditional and three dimensional - in Saint Clair College, Canada. There, I gained a fundamental knowledge in 2D skills and basic 3D modelling and animation, as well as the some what strange and distorted sense of humour that you have to develop when dealing with Animators.

My Life pretty much revolves around my love of gaming, movies and cartoons. I can sit in front of a screen for hours, so long as what I’m watching or playing is captivating enough to hold my attention. As far as games go, I must guiltily admit an undying love for RPG’s, fantasy, and anything science-fiction. However, besides my art, I also enjoy writing - both silly little scripts, and short fiction pieces.

I suppose, really, I stumbled my way onto this course - half blind, and confused. I’d known for a while that I wanted to work on games - on bringing them to life, on realising a writers vision through art or movement. But, it wasn’t until I put serious consideration into it as a career choice that I found the multitude of art courses, specifically tailored for games.

Choosing De Montfort really wasn’t hard - it had everything I wanted, would teach me everything I needed, and the most important thing of all, when I met the upper years and the lecturers, I felt comfortable. And of course, that is something I’ll need if I’m ever going to achieve my goals.

My ideal job would be to become a character artist (One day, in the far future, hopefully a lead character artist, or even an art director). It’s something that I’ve been looking into since I started my animation course, four years ago, and I know that in order to achieve that position I’ll have to work hard, developing the skills I’ll need in the industry.

From the research that I’ve done, I know that I’ll have to have in depth understanding of anatomy - both human and otherwise - as well as extensive knowledge in expressions, bone structure, body language, and know how to convey a characters personality simply by the set of their jaw and the stance with which they hold themselves. I’ll also need to develop my colouring skills (a weak point of mine, as it stands) to be able to choose thematic and corresponding colours for the characters that I create.

Many of the job descriptions I’ve looked at ask for excellent concepting, modelling, texturing and lighting skills. It’s the last three that worry me most. I’ve had prior experience with 3D programs, and find it to be one of my weakest abilities. In order to over come it I’ve already planned out several side projects to complete along side my course work, so as to practise the skills that I’ll develop until they’re an ingrained reflex. I also found that the two main programs they ask employees to be fluent in are 3D Studio Max, and Maya, so in turn I shall endeavor to learn both these programs to the best of my capability.

Though it probably sounds excessive, I also wanted to learn scripting for 3D Studio Max, as well as take up a couple of language classes, to make myself a more desirable employee. Hopefully, somewhere while doing all that, I’ll retain (or possibly develop) a personality that will mesh well with the industry, and a sense of humour wouldn’t go amiss, I’m sure.

At the end of the day, this is my future - I’m not just playing games any more.