Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Back! With an update: The Stanley Parable

Hey folks,

Its been a crazy couple of weeks, and between games coming out that I wanted to play, and things heating up at work, I opted to take a full 2 weeks off of my art, have some personal time, and relax (read: work more).

Anyway, those two weeks are up, and I wanted to talk a bit about playing the Stanley Parable. A great Half Life 2 Mod. Forwarned, if you have not played it SPOILERS AHOY. I truly encourage everyone to check it out. Its free with source 2007 SDK and not long to play, but a great experience none the less.

More about it here:  www.stanleyparable.com

Ok. So hopefully by now you have played it. I won't be summarizing it much, but I will say it is a short multiple choice narrative experience where the player must choose whether or not to interact with the narrator.  I actually went in expecting the game to be something completely different (I went in and played it completely blind). I was pleasantly surprised by 3 different aspects of the game, and those are what I wanted to talk about here.

First, what caught me off guard, was the state of the experience in terms of presentation. When I say the it was a mod, I truly mean it. The world is bsps with tiling HL2 textures thrown on there, and a few props scattered around. Not much more. I was actually expecting something much more visually. The thing is, it wasn't really needed. The experience was such a good one, and the message was so well delivered that literally everything else wasn't necessary. No good lighting, composition or anything. Now do I think that it couldn't benefit from it? That's a different question, but what it did remind me of, was that narrative is and can be it's own pillar. Someone could sit down and explain the narrative of a good story without any game, and it would be just that. A good story.  It was a good reminder, and it got me really into the writing mood. I ended up chasing that idea with a friend of mine, but that's another story.

The second thing that threw me for a loop, was the actual narrative focus. What I was expecting was a brilliantly told mind fuck of an experience, maybe something like Antichamber, but what I got instead, was relatively simple writing with good jokes. The thing was, the jokes hit home super well, and the contextual delivery made things ring even more true (nothing like making fun of choices in games by having the player make them, then mocking them for it).  It was a breath of fresh air in an age where many narrative games push for a higher narrative, and forget that even simple things, done well, kick ass.  Gone home (another topic coming soon) is a great example of that.

Finally, the last surprise was the enjoyment factor. I was expecting to be tested, or forced to use intellect, but what I got instead was, to me, a ride. A short narrative based experience that left me thinking (and it really did). It was the second title I have played recently that reminded me how much I love narrative driven interactive experiences. That idea will probably influence me a lot in the years to come, especially as I start to tell some of my own stories. I would challenge people to think about their own favorite stories in games, and ask themselves how they would hold up with no gameplay. Would the story still have weight? I know it made me think quite a bit.

Anyway, that's a short update. Paintings start tomorrow, and I have some new look dev exercises to get into (aside from the render analysis stuff). I will also be starting work on a new fun shader trick to share with everyone, as well as do a quick writeup about my paintings so far (long overdue)

Bit of a long writeup, but I'm back. Full speed ahead.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

A bit of an update

Just wanted to say that for the next few days, posts will slow down as I work on some more intense stuff at work, and taking a bit of a break after the 100th painting. Still, lots planned


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Daily Painting #100 And some thoughts

So around 4ish months ago I started doing these daily studies. Today marks the 100th set of these, and something somewhat special for me looking back on what I have done. Today's painting took a bit more time, but more thought went into what I made, with specific effort to some of the things I have learned over the last few months. I know that it's taken more than 100 days, and I have, to be fair missed around 4 weeks worth of paintings due to crunches at work and other various commitments. Sometime in the near future I will be posting a bit more from the start, and to talk about what I have learned so far.

Anyway, above is my 100th set of daily paintings. I am pleased to get this far and by no means will stop!


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

LookDev Analysis #1

LookDev Analysis #1
(Portal 2 Spoilers)

High Rez here

This is a practice exercise I want to start doing more and more as I go forward. Essentially, what I am trying to do is look at screenshots from games and movies that I enjoy and am familiar with, and break them down a bit and look at different elements. Those elements will change depending on the shot and my conclusions are my own, but always welcome to discussion. I would encourage anyone with their own opinions to contact me and chat about it :)

Here is a quick breakdown of what I see in the above shot :


At this point in the story Chell (the player has fallen to the lower and older parts of Aperature Science. This is helped reinforced with the older 80's style logo change from the Aperature that the player has seen so far. Overall the scene is a mix of browns and blue/greys which I think helps to instill calmness in the player to help reinforce the sense of exploration which is taking point at this part of the game. The browns and grime help reinforce that the area hasn't seen light in a long time, and the traditional Aperature white help show that the area is still Aperature through and through.  The blue also is used slightly as fog which could be to help hint at a larger space, or that the area is bigger than it really is (sometimes a goal in confined play spaces, and something Valve is very successful at).


Compositionally I think this is a strong shot. I cannot remember if this shot is pointing the way of the gameplay or not, but the high contrast of shadows and light help direct player view towards the recognizable logo (establishing location further) and to a lesser degree, towards the area of interest (the white walls which are important to gameplay, and the platform which the puzzle is integrated too).  The noisy ceiling helps bring the player's eye down to the central part of the room, and the relatively strong contrast lines help establish the space everything is taking place in.


The lighting here is a great example of the source engine used well. The main shadows and light create believable play in the main area, while darker shadows blend into the less important background elements of the scene. The bounce lighting and environment mapping does a nice job at making certain details really pop, adding value to the geometry in some of the piping while the nice blend of materials on the ground creates seamless transitions between varying colors.  Bloom is present in this shot, but not overdone, and creates just enough of an effect to push the realism of the scene a little farther into surrealism and wonder without overdoing anything.

Favorite Aspects:

Personally the backwards words give viewers just a little bit more thinking to do before putting all the pieces together. I also do love the lack of true functionalism in everything Aperature. Pipes, but for what? Scaffolding, but not for anything specific.

Anyway that was LookDev Analysis #1. Probably going to do a couple of these a week on top of everything else.

Thanks for reading,