A long summer and a busy first week…

After my degree I knew I was going to head towards Birmingham to start my next step in my education and my preparation for work in the games industry. What I was not expecting to happen was to move to Derby within a week, it has been an exciting journey and nice to settle into a new city I hadn’t even visited before. It’s a welcome change from Wales, there is more going on in my new city that matches my interests and I have good friends nearby. Consequently I have not spent the summer as intended and have instead been settling into a nice new house and exploring the nearby area. At the start of August it felt as if I had all the time in the world to do that, but it has gone by very quickly and I have just finished my first proper week of my MSc.

Gamer Camp at Birmingham City Uni is worth every penny of the large loan and the 6am starts every morning so far. After some ups and downs on my undergrad degree I feel energised again after the first week here. The workload is very different from the very creative focused undergrad degree, and the pacing already feels similar to my BTEC when it was at it’s peak. (I had a fantastic tutor during that course who pushed us to do a lot more than was asked of us!) I was very busy on the BTEC course and found that the fast pace and intensive work schedule something I thrived on. It is something that I am going to have to get used too again! 🙂

As with all my varied education/work experiences none of it has ever been in vain, there is always a lesson to learn from every encounter and every experience. As I recover from a nasty bout of ‘freshers flu’ I keep that in mind as the next year is going to be an intense one!

However I will be unable to post about my Gamer Camp work here, as there will be live briefs being worked on and a public progress blog will not be appropriate. Instead I shall endeavour to ensure that this blog is updated with any work done outside of my course and other gaming industry related thoughts as and when I have the time to do so.

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Summer Update

I am aware that it has been some time since my last update, for me it feels like only a few short weeks have passed, but it has instead been nearly three months! A lot has happened in the past couple of months, and it has been a rushed but much needed house move that has warped my sense of time. 🙂

The final major project for my previous University course was finished on time and handed in. I am still working on the game in my own time now out of curiosity and pleasure as I want to try and make it well rounded little title. Despite the stress of the third year I enjoyed creating Chaotic Kiwi a lot, but it is still my first proper game with Stencyl and I know that it is still quite basic.

It is playable via an upload onto Google Sites (I’m having size distortion issues when uploading it to Stencyls showcase area at the moment.) Click on the image below to head over there and play. 🙂

Chaotic Kiwi Logo Screen

This little demo (and accompanying documentation) along with my dissertation and hard work over the last couple of years all paid off in the end. I have had my results through and I am very happy to say that I now have a First Class Honours in BA(Hons) Computer Games Development.

It has certainly taken a lot of work and some sacrifice to achieve this, my proudest project has been my dissertation, but more on that in another post. 😉

Now the last month of the summer holidays for me is going to be spent catching up with friends and working on Chaotic Kiwi some more and preparing for the MSc in Video Game Enterprise and Production at Birmingham City University. The next big step which fills me with excitement and nerves right now. 🙂

The Little Touches

At times the first thing that gets forgotten when working on a project is the recording of that project. I have been working hard on the final major project for my University course since handing in my dissertation. It is odd that the two aren’t a) linked b) the project is afterwards. It makes sense for my Uni as the project is what is showcased at the Graduation Show that the whole University puts on. Instead of exams this Uni has an art show…

Anyway I am progressing well on this project that has been a pain and full of pitfalls along the way. A bit of catch up (just in case): It was originally going to be a small game based on the Mabinogion, however technical issues and my own limitations soon made me realise that this is not the right time nor place to attempt a project like that. It is not something that can be done easily by one person and I do not excel in art or code so was not the right person for the job. So after the dissertation was written and handed in I started brainstorming for some ideas over the Easter Holidays. The game I am working on now is vastly different but similar to things I have done in the past. I found myself wandering back towards New Zealand for inspiration, as it is a place that has been an large influence on me for most of my life. (That and after my trip there in 2008 I had a lot of photographic material to utilise, some of it originally taken with the idea of  using it for reference and use in this context.)

Needless to say I now have a little slice of a game idea up and running in Stencyl, it is something that has been half planned and has half grown organically as I have learned how to use Stencyl. I am now enjoying the creation of it immensely and am learning and practicing more and more on the way. I do find it slightly concerning that I haven’t felt like this since the first year of Uni, and to get to this state again I have been avoiding Uni. (It’s a shame, but visits into Uni are fraught with stress and tension due to the atmosphere in the classrooms and on campus.) Which is not the best atmosphere to create a game that has become a labor of love for me, and something I want to continue expanding on after the final submission at Uni.

The one key thing here was someone pointing out to me that though I may not be able to draw to a high standard, I am good at image manipulate and have a basic understanding of importing assets from scans and photographs. So for this project I have gone about creating the majority of the game assets via using photographs I have taken previously or directly for this project, scanning items in, creating my own textures and generally using the skills I have to create the visuals, rather than getting frustrated with the skills I don’t posses. It has been an interesting test of my laptop as well as I have had Photoshop and Flash open at the same time a fair amount recently. 🙂

Anyway here is a small teaser of something I have created today:

A New Zealand theme...

Score table screenshot.

After uploading it I realise that there are a few tweaks that are needed here and there, but overall I am quite proud of it. Especially the sellotape, not something that can be scanned in really. So the paper from double sided sellotape was scanned with a black background, then edited for transparency and luminosity. A small detail, but is something I take great pleasure in doing, the little touches here and there and finding different ways to do things. 🙂

The little details  is mostly what I am left doing on this project at the moment. I have enough of it built to be able to just tweak areas of the level and flourish here at there. Well I still technically have the core backgrounds and the ‘scenery’ to dress. Which is going to take some serious hours to complete, but the bit that I have been struggling the most with is the code, and that is stable right now and working! Stencyl has been a cruel task master in some cases, but now I am enjoying using it and finding that I am only getting stuck because I don’t know to put an expression together in it’s code, a visual form of Action Script, but I am getting better and searching out answers. (I have not been using much of the ‘in-built’ code behaviours as they aren’t often customisable enough.) I am no where near the level of some people that use the software, but I am so much more confident in it than when I first started I am amazed and proud of myself for getting to this point with it. 🙂 A lot of that is down to some really smart people that have made tutorials for the program or made their work available for use on StencylForge which I have been reverse engineering. (My thanks section is going to be long…!)

Right now though my priority is getting the level tweaked, the jumping code is still a little sketchy I think, but that might be because I have played it so many time now I am aware of it too much. So I am going to send it out to some people to test and then go from there. 🙂

Just over a week to go and I still have a 30sec trailer, promo art and a dev diary to finish off too. Yep a LOT of coffee is going to be needed over the next couple of days, but at least I shall have a playable ‘slice’ of my game ready for the submission date. 🙂