2 Week update

So it’s been around 2 weeks since I’ve started all this, and I’d like to share some of my initial thoughts…

  1. C++ is both beautiful and frustrating… I’d like to say this is because I’m new to it, but I’ve read a lot about experienced coders pulling their hair out over the most minor things. Yet at the same time, it seems to have such a rythym and flow.. again this perception might fade as I become more familiar with it.. time will tell I guess.
  2. I have a new and immense respect for indie game developers… When I was younger I might have looked at the lesser known games and thought they looked rubbish and put together badly. Now however, I’m on the other side of the fence and I can see just how much effort and time it takes to put together, and it makes me very excited to get going.
  3. I’ve found some incredibly helpful guides online, by people who obviously spend their life doing this, and I admire those those that take their own time to help other people get learning.
  4. I’ve got heaps of ideas rushing through my head about game ideas, I just want to get them all into code, and it’s infuriating not knowing how to do that yet, but also is a fantastic motivator to keep me learning.
  5. I’ve started looking into internships; as I’m out here in New Zealand it’d be fantastic to look at getting some experience before I head back home to give me some hope of getting some work! 
  6. Progress is horribly stifled by my job… Working 45 hours a week gives me precious little time, and with my girlfriend working 50 hours a week, any spare time it’s nice to see her, but then I feel guilty that I’m not getting the work done! That’s just life though, I shalnt complain, and I’ll simply do what I can.
  7. Having a Twitter feed full of indie game devs is a huge boost of inspiration, seeing what can be achieved makes me want even more to have that for myself.

I’ve started work on a text based game in c++, to help me understand fundamentals. It’s a great way to learn, whilst still heading in the right direction of game design.

All in all, spirits are high. Motivation is strong and I’ve working my way through multiple tutorials, keeping my drawing up, and writing music, all of which should get me closer to a game design job In the distant future! 

In my next post I’ll have some concrete game development stuff to show, hopefully on my way to my first game!

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My Progress So Far

So its been around a week, and I’ve tried to get the ball rolling as fast as I can; build up some momentum for getting a portfolio together for jobs further down the road.

Having done a fair amount of research into the gaming industry already, it seems clear there are a million ways to land yourself a career, so i’m trying to cover as many bases as possible to make myself more employable.

As it’s design i’m mostly looking to, i’ve taken up drawing again. I used to do it quite a bit in school and at the start of university, but it kind of fell by the wayside when my university workload got heavy.

I have always been a big fan of Game of Thrones, so thought i’d start by sketching a couple of the characters to get a feel for it again before I move into game character sketching and working with photoshop.

I also thought it would be a good idea to start building some audio works to add to my portfolio. While not necessarily the work of the designer, it can’t hurt to show prospective employers that I can do extra things.

I used to write a lot of music when I was a little younger, using Cubase mostly. I’ve played instruments for most of my life and writing music comes pretty naturally to me, and soon i’ll try my hand at writing some game themed music for certain scenarios/atmospheres.

Finally, and most importantly, is the coding. No self respecting game designer can get by without knowing how to code. Although it’s not strictly the GD’s jobs to do the coding, knowing whats going on behind the scenes is vital, and being able to communicate with the coders in the language they use can help everything run smoothly. So I’ve been learning c++, and its going great. Of course, it’s difficult and time consuming, and with a full time job, progress is limited but definitely there. I’ve began writing a small text based game just to get a feel for how c++ works, and soon, i’ll begin adding some visuals and hopefully my first (definitely rubbish) video game!

first-game

The game that made me want to pursue a career in game design

Every gamer has those games that make them go “wow..”; those games that stick with you, those that make you feel a bit lost when you’ve completed them, or leave you desperate for more.

Some games for me personally, I can’t stop returning to. Even though they may not have aged particularly well, there’s something about them, that “x-factor” that keeps you coming back.

In my opinion, these are the truly successful games, and these are the games I one day hope to be able to create. For me, it’s not about making big bucks. Sure, CoD and the like are all incredibly successful; they sell millions of units and hold value well, but nobody I know has ever said to me “I can’t put it down”, “I cant stop thinking about it”. The stories in these huge blockbuster titles are great, and the multiplayer is world class, but for me, they lack this “x-factor”; this element that grips you and won’t let go.

So here I will explain to you my top choice, my “x-factor” game.

 

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Released in 2003 by Microsoft, Freelancer is that game. I first played Freelancer when I was around 12, and boy did I love it. It was the first game I ever completed the campaign for and the first game I felt a little bit empty after finishing.

Freelancer had its roots in the old Elite game from many years before (what has now been redone into the new Elite and Elite Dangerous). For me it was the father of the space exploration genre, and every game in the genre since to me has been some weaker version.

Why Freelancer? First and foremost is the storyline. If ever you wanted a masterclass in story writing this game is it. The plot at first just seems like another of “those space stories with space pirates” and the like. But it grows, it twists and turns, and I don’t wish to give too much away for anyone out there who hasn’t played it, but the character interaction is fantastic The plot feels organic , you grow to feel like you know the protagonist and rest of the characters as you go with them through the story.

The playability is incredible, although some missions between the main storyline feel a little repetitive, the plot is so deep its enough to spur you on through those tedious side missions. The game felt ahead of its time. Even when I play now, the content doesn’t leave me wanting. It has everything a space explorer could need and does each aspect brilliantly. The variety in ships is there, the choice of ship modding is there. The one thing that these newer games had that Freelancer would have benefited from in my opinion is interactive cut scenes with dialog options to help shape the story, but this was far ahead of Freelancers time, and should a sequel ever be made, i’m sure will be included.

Finally the atmosphere that’s generated in this game is one of the best I’ve ever experienced. The soundtrack fits so well with the feel of the game it immerses you in the universe fantastically. Tense scenes are incredibly tense, and the scope of the galaxy is beautifully captured for an older game.

Of course no game is perfect, and Freelancer is no exception. Sometimes the lack of variation in the interior design detracts from the overall feel, and as mentioned, some of the side missions do become tedious. However these points are overshadowed completely by the positives this game has to offer.

The proof that this game is timeless is in the strong modding base this game still has after 14 years. Complete overhauls of the games graphics and even new storylines have been developed by the modding community to keep the game alive, one of the latest being crossfire 2.0 which is a must use mod for any Freelancer players.

This game was the first game that made me realise how beautifully done games can be when care is given to them. The designers, the artists, the audio tech guys, they all cared, and it showed, and it made me realise; can I do this? I want to learn how this is done, what makes this game the wonder that it is? What keeps players interested enough to spend hundreds of hours of their times modding it to make it even greater?

This is the kind of designer I want to be. This is the kind of game I want to make. For 10 years this game has stuck with me, I have completed it more times than i’ll admit to, and spent hundreds of hours enjoying every aspect of it, and I hope in the not to distant future, I can give other gamers the same joy.

 

 

Comparing video games and music, and why I’m choosing a career in game design

So, before I get into what this blog is about, a little about myself.

Born and raised in a small city in the north of Wales/UK, I spent 18 years there, where there was little to do, so I took up video games. Moved to Brighton,UK at 18 for university where I did a master’s degree in mathematics, and now, a year on from that I find myself in New Zealand on a working visa.

I remember one of the first games I ever played when I was about 5 was GTA2, (a little mature perhaps, fun nonetheless), but the first game I properly sunk my teeth into was Unreal Tournament, the original, I’d play for hours after school, and, pretty much constantly on the weekends.

It was around 12/13 I got hooked on gaming, along with music.

I took up the guitar and drums, and trained classically. After a few years learning (and when I was a little more mature) this allowed me to see music in a new light, more for its components, it’s depth, complexity, structure, and how to differentiate well written music from poor.

More recently, within the last 4 or 5 years I’ve started to adopt this mentality towards games, after all, it’s just as much a creative process with many of the same themes and structures. With music you can look at each musician, how their instrument helps build the music, how key changes, and major and minor chords influence the atmosphere of a piece. With a game you can do the same; how does the UX designer get me engrossed, how do the artists emerse me in the worlds? How do Foley artists make seemingly familiar sounds for items or animals that don’t exist? Taking this critical view has given me a desire to learn, just as I did with music, how video games are born.

The end results for both is, to me, the same. Good music envelops you, if you find a piece of music, or a song you can really connect with, it stays with you, personally it can occupy such a large part of my mind with its moving parts, I don’t need anything else. Good games do the same, but on a larger scale. And no, I’m not talking about shiny graphics or blockbuster titles (nor am I excluding them) I’m talking about the story, the emersion, the music, the creativity that drives deep in to the players mind, the aspects that stay with them.

This all seems perhaps a little exaggerated you might argue, after all, when the song is finished or you’re done gaming, you just go back to being you, doing your chores or heading to sleep, nothing has changed? But look at it this way, what if everything  has changed? Music and video games are with us now from such an early age, it shapes many of us, and helps define many aspects of who we are and what we do. So I don’t personally believe what I have said is an exaggeration, when to me it is so much of who we are.

What I personally believe is, there is very little to separate music and gaming, just cause the latter is newer and its roots arebt as established. It shouldn’t deduct from its impact, which is undeniable.

This, all of this, is why I’m choosing this career. At the end of my life, chances are I won’t be world renowned, I’m not trying to move mountains, but I will hopefully be able to look back knowing I contributed my little bit to the world, in a positive way.

My journey from square one…

 

It’s such an important question when getting to know someone, to the point where it’s almost reflexive; ‘what do you do?’
People sometimes love to talk about their career, their projects in the office, their antics, anictdotes and the like.. but it’s not often people tell you their career origins. Sure, people might ask ‘so how did you end up there?’ and most people might reply ‘i had a friend who knew a friend etcetera’ and sometimes the long and short of it is, it’s just not that interesting.

However not for me, I hope.

So I’m going to be blogging my journey from start to finish, the finish line being my new career.
So my career? It’s nothing that’ll make you gasp or silence an audience, but it’s something I’m passionate about and I can’t wait to begin sharing my progress.

Game design.
A bit nerdy? Perhaps.. but to me it’s intricate, and dazzling. I’ve played a lot of video games and I’ve grown to admire designers and developers and writers who have been able to make such an art of what they do, story lines that rival classic novels, artwork that could turn heads in galleries, music that can make your heart skip. Video games have the potential to invoke the deepest emotions, and I want to be a part of it.

That’s all for now, throughout the course of this blog I’ll be sharing all my work, my hopes, my dissapointments on my way from square one until I’m in that studio.