Block B: finished!

I am grateful I had no retakes from previous block. So, SO grateful (well, I only have myself to thank for that I suppose..).

Anyway, block B brough on animation, texturing, Python/MEL scripting as well as graphics theory fundamentals. For 3 of those 4 I had major deadlines last week and managed to come away with things worth being proud of.

Animation

There is something magical about discovering why animations work as they do, and learning the basic principles of it. Animation comes as a close second to texturing as a favorite subject for me, so we’ll see if I can do something else with it! :)

Here are the assignments I did for animation, compressed in one video for your convenience!

Texturing

It’s really cool when you get to delve into what make games so fascinating. This course revealed a lot of tips and tricks to the look and feel of the games I love, and I’m looking forward to texturing more in future projects.

Here are a few renders of my texture work.

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Render_02

Render_03

Render_04

As I’m still learning, I see things that could be improved, but have to move on to other things. I might want to revisit a few of these, or experiment with the rigs we received for AN1 whenever I have the time just to practice. Fun times!

And that is pretty much it for the things I can show. I did create a few scripts for modeling workflow purposes during the AN2 (scripting) course, but that’s not really showcasing material. :)

I have this week fully off, finally. Planning on visiting a spa and spending a weekend in the middle of the forest with my darling and my camera. Who knows, there might be something worth uploading there…

Onwards to block C!

10 things I’m wishing for right now

And now for a round for something (almost) completely unrelated to IGAD.

Even though it’s still a moment until the next gift-giving occasion, I like looking at shiny new things. Life’s full of temptations. I drool at new gadgets, beautiful clothes and gorgeous, way-out-of-my-price-range furniture.

Then there are the “small” things I’d like to have, such as…

10thingsiwishfor

  1. The Crit Happens T-shirt. (Source: ThinkGeek)
    I am an avid reader of Forgotten Realms and always found the concept of a critical failure VERY amusing. I mean, who of us hasn’t once stumbled in the most comical way possible and broken something very precious? I do this all the time. Another shirt I wouldn’t mind wearing would be the one thats says “The dice are trying to kill me!“.
  2. Netherlands type map. (Source: Stoer in Style)
    I love good typography and this map is made of pure genius. I’d be quite excited to have one of these things hanging on the wall!
  3. A riding lesson / outdoor hack in the summer.
    Nothing quite like bright sunshine, wind blowing through the trees and a horse under you. This picture is from our trip to Greece, and that beach ride was quite something!
  4. One of these things, whatever they are.
  5. A Wacom Cintiq 22HD.
    I’ve been dreaming of this one for very long. Right now it’s out of my price range, but I’m considering splurging on one when I can. I’m still working on my Intuos 3, which still works fine, but could really use an upgrade (the word “upgrade” here is probably the understatement of the year, though..).
  6. A signed copy of Vengeance of the Iron Dwarf.
    I am a big fan of R.A. Salvatore and have been ever since my mom bought me a secondhand copy of the Starless Night from a flea market without knowing what it was. These books have, no kidding, changed my life (forgive the corniness, will ya?) and I wish that in one of these days I could meet Salvatore face-to-face and shake his hand. Because shake I would! 
  7. Such an organized pantry. (source: Shanty 2 Chic)
    Our food supplies are scattered throughout the kitchen and the small pantry/closet under our stairs. That closet also serves as a stashing place for a lot of other stuff like packing tape, toilet rolls and so on, and it never stays nice and organized. Sigh.
  8. A Silhouette Cameo.
    I’ve been drooling at this piece of gadgetry ever since I discovered that Jen from I heart organizing uses it to create labels and other pretty things. So far I haven’t been able to justify buying one. A Silhouette machine can be fed different materials, such as sticky vinyl or fabric, which it then can cut into shapes input by the user.
  9. This outfit.
    Because owls! THERE ARE NEVER ENOUGH OWLS.
  10. Time to play Witcher 3 when it finally gets released (in like May, but damnit, I am looking forward to it!).
    I know I will eventually make time for it. I was pretty patient for Dragon Age: Inquisition too, but I should NOT try playing that stuff unless I really have the time. I squeezed DAI into 53 hours of feverish gaming (not in one long marathon, mind you) but felt quite guilty afterwards..

What about you? What are the (some, or all) of the things you are wishing for right now?

A (Game Lab) day in the life of a VA student

You’d be surprised how much stuff can fit into one day. I manage to do a lot more than I expect, but sometimes it feels I don’t manage to do enough!

If you’re curious how an IGAD student’s day is, this should be quite descriptive of what an average game lab day looks like for me!

06:30 My alarm goes off and I slowly scrape my still-sleepy self out of bed and into the shower. After that I chomp down on a small breakfast I prepared the previous evening and quickly check that I stashed everything I needed in my backpack last night, including small lunch. Due to the day being a day during which I will need my drawing tablet as well as my laptop, a sketchbook, pencils, and lunch, the weight of my backpack is around 8-9 kilos. I could veritably smash someone’s face in with the thing, and I suspect I look ridiculous with so much stuff on me.

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07:15 I head out to get my bicycle and spend about 15 minutes getting to the central station in Oss. Depending on the weather conditions I might look like a pile of clothing with a bulging backpack on a bicycle.

28 Station Oss

07:35 I squeeze my way into the train that is full of people going to work and school, having to stand until the train arrives at ‘s-Hertogenbosch. The whole trip with the train to Breda takes about 45 minutes, and I am fairly lucky to have a direct connection to Breda (not having to switch trains at any station). The train is quite comfortable once you get a decent seat and a good pair of in-ear earbuds. Ahhh… music.

08:20 Time for the bus! Since the 2 buses that drive by NHTV also pass other schools along its route, the thing is packed full of students. Long live personal space creator backpack?

08:45 Arriving at school, I make my way to the second floor and to the Game Lab room my group calls home this block. I plop down in my favorite spot in the corner and set up my laptop, drawing tablet, and other things. While waiting for my group to arrive I also update my files, check for updates, and review what needs to be done today.

NHTV_Gamelab2705_2014

09:15 Most team members will have arrived and started working on where we left off the previous week. On this particular day I’m dashing about, checking the current progress of a certain animation, popping by a designer to verify the control scheme, and setting to work with in game tutorial screens that needed to be redrawn.

11:45 Ravenously hungry, I chomp down on my lunch and spend a moment just checking in with my fellow artists and prodding them to take a break (newsflash, they are really bad at taking breaks!). I also run downstairs to get a cup of tea and after a brief chit chat get back to work.

15:05 Our team lead checks in on progress before heading off to the meeting with teachers. Yes, most things are progressing as planned, though a few bugs tend to appear right before crucial checkpoints. One bug gets fixed and 5 more take its place. Sigh. Time to make a build and test, test, and test.

16:30 Once the team leads & teachers heart-to-heart is over, our brave lead comes back with feedback. Feedback is discussed and fixes planned. Last round of bug fixing and polishing touches to something requiring a bit of work, and the day is a wrap!

17.10 Finally on the train to Oss, I resist the urge to nap. I would be home in another hour, and still have to do groceries and prepare dinner. I would also have to try and get at least 30 minutes of homework in before I ooze into bed. Time to squeeze out the last bits of energy for the day!

Chameleon Cancellation is finished!

The game is finally “out of the door”, if you will, and the whole team is satisfied!

We had everyone working strong but steady through the whole development and despite the switch in leadership halfway through, finished the game with flying colors. There is something supremely satisfying with rounding off a 14-week project and feeling good about it!

chameleonsplashscreen

Anyhow, without further ado, I present to you: the trailer.

I also put up a Behance project gallery, if you feel like having a look at some of the assets we produced for Chameleon Cancellation. Will work on adding more info on and off. :)

Now to have a glance at the overall success of Game Lab for me:

Game Lab 1 – The good, the bad and the ugly

Game lab is the most amazing thing I’ve experienced at IGAD, to be 100% honest.

No, seriously.

This is what game development is about: you’re thrown in a group with a bunch of people you don’t know and you work your darnest to make a game like Chameleon Cancellation out of it. Luck of the draw was on our side – we had a balanced group of a few utter newbies as well as someone who’d already made games before, and a few techy people who could make it all work. All in all, I could not have asked for a better totally random group.

It’s an authentic experience through and through, let me tell you that!

That said, there are downsides to being tossed in a pile, given a random theme and being told to go make a game.

It’s almost like playing sports in a team.

First off, Game Lab starts from the beginning of the year, meaning that you might have a tiny bit of education when it comes to SVN – version control – as well as Unity before you need to get started. However, it is not a lot of time that you get, and the group needs to be organized in their approach. If everyone is not committed to the success of the game, the group could be split into workers and slackers and the project will fail from the get-go.

Another thing of great importance, right after being organized, is the creative drive the different specializations bring to the table. The designers need to dream BIG, the artists need to stretch beyond their comfort zones (style as well as subject wise), the programmers need to be innovative and the indies.. well, they need to be all 3 of those.

All in all, Game Lab 1 has been rounded off and we’re already heading towards Game Lab 2 with a pre-made team. Let’s see what the next GL bring us, shall we? :)

Battling study stress

You know how it is.

It’s like a neverending story.

Last week of lessons before stress and panic runs amok – also known as deadline crunch! I’m trying to rein in my stress, but it’s hard when the air reeks of tears and sweat (totally mostly sweat though). It can be really hard to stay focused when you realize that you’re not quite as far along with your projects as you initially thought. Or maybe you forgot an assignment. Or maybe you were given last-second homework that screwed up your planning. Or maybe you are a procrastinator (with a heavy side serving of denial), like this guy.

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I have a few trustworthy ways of lowering my stress levels, though! Maybe these will help you too:

  1. Writing deadlines down and prioritizing. This works especially well if I get overwhelmed and can’t really see the forest for the trees anymore. I also tend to write down the amount of work I have done (hours or percentages, whichever floats my boat at that point) and also the amount of work I still need to do. This might seem like procrastinating but it helps me put things in perspective and not lose the track of importance of the different assignments anymore. The document gets revisited every time I make progress, and it makes it feel like I’m getting somewhere with all this running around!
  2. Taking a break and listening to music. Turns out there are hours upon hours of relaxation and meditation music on YouTube. Instrumental, classical, nature, chill, lounge, whatever suits you. Make a cup of tea, close your eyes and just breathe. This is one of the tracks that I like to listen to..
  3. Talking about assignments with someone when stuck. Don’t understand something? Awesome, go talk to someone (a classmate, sibling, parent, whoever has the time to listen) about it. You get a different perspective to the challenge when you say it out loud (sometimes I solved something by just saying what I needed to do out loud!). I like to do this especially with the scripting assignments we get. Luckily I have someone who has a good understanding of technical issues and some Python knowledge.

When it’s all said and done, the last resort question would be “What’s the worst thing that could happen?“. Sometimes we need to put things in perspective and realize that usually (like when someone’s life isn’t on the line) the struggles we’re facing today are actually quite small in the big scale of things.

In other words, what doesn’t break you, makes you stronger!

On another note, I’ve been really enjoying painting stuff for my texturing assignment. Pity all of the other assignments take time away from this one. :<

Stained1

 

painting

 

wood

So.. wish me luck! Time to turn on turbo mode and finish some assignments. :)

New year’s visitors and deadlines

Happy 2015 to one and to all! Hope your 2014 was as amazing as mine was. :)

My 2-week vacation has been, in one word, rad.

I indulged in gaming (Dragon Age Inquisition, to be exact), enjoyed family company and great food. I also got my little fingers on a bigger hard drive for my laptop – a 1 terabyte SSD that boots faster than you can say “cat. Oh, yes.

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Thank you, N. <3

So besides that, I’ve been working on a DAI tarot-esque card for my Dalish inquisitor – Toene Lavellan. Sorry for cross-posting with Tumblr, but I’m starting to adore this piece and I hope I won’t screw it up. :D

WIP

Drawing has been SO much fun lately. I can’t get enough of it because of DAI. I’m brimming with ideas right now. Artistic goals for this year: draw more. Experiment with color. Draw more non-humanoid things (more landscapes, vehicles, animals etc).

With the end of the vacation in sight, I managed to finish the robot rig (I’m not religious, but this elicited a hearty “HALLELUJAH” from me) and now proceed onto polishing my animations and texturing. Time to turn on turbo and finish them off with honor before block C shows me what’s what.

Besides the usual Christmas shenanigans, a few of my friends decided to pop by for a few days. We watched The Penguins of Madagascar at the movie theater at Bijlmer ArenA and had a great night filled with sushi at Ichi-e Ichi-go (if you want a modern sushi experience with contemporary versions of traditional Japanese dishes such as miso soup, go check this place out!) and Finnish banter.

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Insert crazy eyes here.

With them the ladies brought a pile of Finnish candy I must do my best to resist devouring RIGHT NOW.

Now to turn my gaze to next week – the last lesson week of this block, and the week after that which will be a study week dedicated to rounding off my assignments and studying for the written exam of Graphics Theory Fundamentals. Not my favorite subject, but I’ll do my best to do well in the exam.

2015 has started well for me. We’re pretty much halfway to the end of my first year at IGAD – scary thought indeed if you look at it this way! – and I have a fairly good feeling about the rest of it. I keep on finding ways to improve my workflow and making it all easier for myself, which is good. Learning new things is challenging but fun! Getting my propedeutics will be a worthwhile battle indeed.

2014 in short

Holidays (and the newest Dragon Age) took a hold of me to the point where I wasn’t really spending much time looking back like I usually do. And today I realized I needed to absolutely put in a final last posting for this year.

2014 was amazing.

Photo from Unsplash.

 

I broke free of so many chains this year. I realized I needed a change, took a massive leap of faith by applying to NHTV and, somehow, landed on my feet. In so doing, I left a job that had been making me unhappy for some time now.

In short, I’d daresay this year has been long coming!

My highlights from every month of 2014:

  • January: Visited my mom in Spain and went horseback riding with her.
  • February: My friends from Finland visited me and we went to the Efteling. I also went to the open evening of NHTV for the first time!
  • March: I played Elder Scrolls Online beta and wasn’t amused. I also started working on the intake assignments for IGAD.
  • April: April is always birthday time. I turned 26 and gardened away like spring always demands.
  • May:  The intake assignments were finished, finally! We also visited the zoo with my better half’s mom. It was a fun day!
  • June:  I played Final Fantasy: A Realm Reborn and Wildstar until I dropped.
  • July: I redrew one of my old art pieces from back when I just got my first tablet. I also visited a friend who had moved to London and had a kickass weekend! On July 16 I also heard I was accepted at IGAD. I could not believe it…work_in_progress____don_t_say_a_word_by_sissadora-d7rrye7
  • August: Last days at work, and frantic preparing for IGAD ensued in August. Books, art supplies, laptop – everything was bought and prepped.
  • September:  IGAD started off hectic! Block A is tough for visual arts students, but I really enjoyed getting to do all the things. Also, Game Lab was, IS, amazing. I also cut my hair short and donated the cut-off piece to Stichting Haarwensen.
  • October: I turned our guest bedroom into a full-time study/office for myself for distraction-free place to work.
  • November: Me and my better half’s 6th anniversary came and we spent it at a private sauna in Belgium. I still miss that jacuzzi!
  • December: December is usually my favorite month due to gingerbread cookies, christmas trees, glittering lights and the general coziness. This December will be extra special since I get to spend two last days of the year with my Finnish friend again!

This year has been one big adventure, and I’m thankful for all the people I have been allowed to share it with. I’m also deeply thankful for everyone’s love and support. Don’t think I would have dared to take the leap of faith if I hadn’t had the people around telling me to just give it a try!

Now here’s a song to round off this year, and carry us onwards to the next:

Thank you for reading my blog! See you in 2015!

On tackling problems and 3D illusion WIP

You know, being an older student has it’s advantages and disadvantages. We have a set of learned discipline and a different way of looking at the world around us than the peer-pressured state of mind the younger folk seem to have. We might already have a kickass knowledge of Photoshop and quite a bit of Vegas and Premiere experience. Deadlines are certainly not very scary.

But there are also preconceived notions about how things (are supposed to) work or how I expect other “adult people” to act (newsflash, some of them act like kids!). I’ve found myself reeling several times from something that I assumed was the truth just to find that my expectations were not true at all!

Recently I’ve been thinking about ways to help me to think “outside the box” and look for other ways to look at a given problem instead of shuffling in place when the deadlines are looming ahead.

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Some people learn the best from observing: watching and listening intently, these people seem to solve problems in their heads instead of on the paper. And others prefer to do with their hands, to write things down or draw charts. For some people it’s hard to figure out how exactly they learn the best, but once that’s figured out you seem to settle into a kind of a rhythym, using it as a go-to method for problem solving.

What I realized is that sometimes it’s not the studying style, but the way you approach and tackle a problem, that needs to be modified.  You know, chopping a problem into smaller pieces and such?

I need to do that waaaaayyy more. :)

Meanwhile, I’m many hours into texturing by now and liking it more and more. Here’s a little screenshot of my progress!

render

 

I have been working on painting tiling textures, fiddling with different things and getting a hang of bump and specular mapping. It’s much more fun than expected, and I REALLY enjoy seeing my handiwork: filling up my scene and making it come alive.

And in case you’re wondering, that moon is a placeholder…. ;) My scene will be a night scene with a few candles, a hanging lantern and a street lantern in a sort-of medieval style. I’d estimate I’m at about 40% of the target amount of work for this scene, which means that I will have a busy Christmas vacation indeed!

Things to do by the end of block B:

  • Illusion texturing
  • Polishing animations
  • Finishing rigging Hexabot
  • Scripting
  • Putting together a visual package for Chameleon Cancellation so that District 18 members can put something on their portfolios for this project

Trying to get everything cleared out before block C while I’m at it. It’s going to be tough, but I’ll make it work.

Good luck to IGADers with their assignments, and happy holidays!

Games-less winter and bookworming away

Since I have been on a post-writing roll recently, this week’s cup of care is here for you to read! :)

I just realized I’ve gone through the last 3 months without much more than a quick session of Guild Wars 2 here and there or an hour of Final Fantasy 6 on the tablet. And to be honest, it hasn’t been too bad at all.

Do I miss it? Of course I miss it. Especially since I see my better half gaming away at Warlords of Draenor and I have to dash through social media to avoid any spoilers for Dragon Age!

But there’s one, much repeated line to be said about this…

Making games ≠ playing games.

I’ve learned about 3D modeling, animation, texturing, color theory, fundamental engineering drawing, composition and Unity instead. There’s something deeply satisfying about gaining these new skills… especially knowing what I’m aiming for after all is said and done.

Games can take a lot of time from your daily activities if you’re not careful, too. I had a habit of slipping into a comfortable gaming coma for the better part of MANY hours for the maximum satisfaction. Many people I know fall into the same category. Everything in moderation, right?

On the 6th of December I got to spend a wonderful day with my better half’s family (the occasion known as the birthday of Sinterklaas, a figure quite similar to Santa Claus), exchanging gifts and eating good food. I scored two new books on this occasion!

The Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction by Philip Athans

The Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction by Philip Athans

I devoured half of this book before I got home that night. It is just that well-written with a careful focus on the important bits like world building, general story crafting, research and publishing books in general. I think one of the tips the author gives about a book needing to stand on it’s own, whether it’s a part of a series or not, is one of the more important ones. This is very evident in the Drizzt series, since I started that series in the middle – I started with Starless Night, the 8th book of the whole storyline, after all!

Imagining my little space in the world without fantasy stories is simply impossible. I occasionally write little blurbs of my own, too. Most of them stay well-hidden though. While I have a few stories in my head, I find it hard to even get started with publicizing them.

The second book of the evening that made me prance in little circles was this one.

How to draw and paint fantasy combat by Matt Stawicki

How to draw and paint fantasy combat by Matt Stawicki

This book made me want to dash home and get started with drawing right away, because it covers things like different weapons, how 2-handed weapons are being held in combat, the human figure, armor designing and creating dynamic poses. There’s even little tidbits about creating different effects with traditional media. Traditional media! It’s been a while since I touched an actual paint brush, but I should definitely try it out and make some something new.

IGAD-wise, the stress level is slowly climbing and I am losing hope of actually relaxing during Christmas vacation. Partly due to bad planning, part due to the workload, I know the time I will spend with relatives I will itch for my laptop and assignments. Ah, well. Block C is going to be a tough nut, so I better mentally prepare for that, huh?

And since I promised I would post my work-in-progress pendulum animation….

Ever since the making of this video I made a few improvements, but haven’t taken the time to render it all out just yet. I do have another animation in the pipeline, about an adorable ball with a fluffy tail and his bouncing….

BallWithTail
but that video will be posted as soon as I get the time for it. :)