I’m no longer here! Visit my new blog!

My name is David Smith. I am 23 years old and I am from Hull, now officially the UK City of Culture for 2017. I am currently studying Games Design at Hull School of Art & Design.

I do not actively maintain this blog. This blog contains work from the first year of my degree and is therefore not current. If you would like to keep up with my work, please feel free to follow me at my new blog, which you can find by clicking here.

Thanks and see you soon!


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Game Maker – Introduction

As part of my self initiated work, I’ve been spending a lot of time using a program called “Game Maker”. Game Maker is a piece of software which allows users to make games with very little code required, but also provides a fully functional and simple to learn programming language. What makes Game Maker so great is that it allows users to prototype ideas much faster than with something like Flash because it allows you to drag and drops instructions in rather than coding them in. This saves a massive amount of time in the prototyping phase. The software can also be used to make fully featured games, which is obviously great as it is very easy to use.

Game Maker - Main Screen

Game Maker – Main Screen

The above screenshot shows the main screen. As you can see, everything that is used to build the game is organised into folders. When you wish to add a resource to the game, you just add it to the relevant folder and create an object for it. This can then be put into a “room”, which is what the software calls a “level”.

Game Maker - Object Screen

Game Maker – Object Screen

The above screen is used to create and edit objects. As you can see, you can add events (which work just like “Event Listeners” in ActionScript) on the left hand pane and drag and drop actions from the tabs on the right hand side. It is entirely possible to make a game just using these drag and drop actions, but it can be expanded on with code.

Game Maker - Code Editing Screen

Game Maker – Code Editing Screen

The above screen is used to write and edit code in Game Maker’s language, GML. As you might be able to tell, the above code is some code that I wrote to make the GUI on a game that I have been working on with a friend of mine on and off over the past year. One of the great things about GML is how easy it is to read. It is fairly simple to read the above code and decipher what it does exactly.

Game Maker - Room Screen

Game Maker – Room Screen

Finally, the above screen is used to edit the levels/rooms of your game. This is also a drag and drop screen, so it is very easy to throw things down in the software and chop and change things as necessary.

Game Maker is a very good piece of software to use for games that are not very intensive. For games which make use of more advanced features, an engine like UDK or Unity may be more appropriate, but they are not as simple as Game Maker. I intend to use Game Maker a little more during the course of the coming months to work on some personal projects.

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Creative Futures – Production Design for Entertainment Media – Architecture as Inspiration

Architecture is obviously a fairly big part of day to day life for pretty much everybody. The buildings that we inhabit and the buildings around us serve to create an impression of our environment and, more importantly, serve a very specific purpose. This is no different within the realm of Games Design. As we look to make more realistic worlds and environments, in-game worlds start to mirror real life more gradually.

First of all, we were given an example of a text written by H.P. Lovecraft, which has served as inspiration for many people that have tried to emulate the look and feel of his universe.

“a coast-line of mingled mud, ooze, and weedy Cyclopean masonry which can be nothing less the tangible substance of earth’s supreme terror — the nightmare corpse-city of R’lyeh …loathsomely redolent of spheres and dimensions apart from ours“.

“…hidden in green slimy vaults… In his house at R’lyeh, dead Cthulhu waits dreaming.”

– H.P. Lovecraft, The Call of Cthulu and Other Weird Stories

Many have used Lovecraft’s descriptions as influence to create monstrous, dark and dreary environments. We were given a few examples of people that have done so, which include John Coulthart, Marc Simonetti, Marc-Andre Huot, Jason R. Roberts, Eduardo Rivera and H. R. Giger.

The aim of this session was to explore how you might develop the knowledge to design buildings in scenarios you might not necessarily be familiar with. The examples that were used are as follows:

“But what if it was a medieval bakery? A fantasy world set in a dystopian future? A well established mining colony set on the red plains of Mars?

Which architects or architectural styles would you have used as reference?

– Gareth Sleightholme, Apophenia Inc.

To give us a better idea as to exactly how this might work, we were given several examples of different types of architecture and their defining styles, as well as several different architects with very different styles. One thing that I noticed as we went through all the different styles is how little I actually know about different types of buildings. To be able to know, you have to first experience. This, once again, reinforces the importance of observational drawing!

I would highly recommend reading Gareth Sleightholme’s post on this subject, as it gives the exact examples we were given in session.

After covering this, we went further into detail on “who would need to know this”. Within the field of games, it is fairly clear that Production Designers and Art Directors would need to know this stuff, as it is of paramount importance that people covering these roles would need to have at least a basic understanding of all the processes. Where it is also important however, is for Games Designers who wish to get into 3D Modelling or Concept Art, as it is increasingly more important to achieve a high level of realism in the content that you create in these fields.

As I mentioned earlier, the only way to really pick these things up is to observe as much architecture as possible and draw it. This can only develop over time, but there are plenty of means for me to be able to go out and do this within the city of Hull (Hull Urban Sketchers group etc…).

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Creative Futures – Creativity & Creating a Personal Micro Culture

Creativity, or more accurately, how someone comes to be creative, is something I have heard being talked about by many people, whether they be merely acquaintances or people close to me. Most commonly, I tend to hear that creativity is a skill that you’re born with. This, obviously, cannot be further from the truth. Creativity is something which is honed from repeated creativity and repeated practice.

This is, in a sense, creating a “Personal Micro Culture”. A culture of working constantly on creating, but also developing your own design process, learning what works and what doesn’t, being observant of the world around you, constant practice, creating or working from pre-created briefs/mini-briefs/challenges, reading lots of different types of material both related to your subject area and not related. These things, and more, will all contribute to developing your personal micro culture as a creative.

When asked how you might enable yourself to be more creative, a lot of people may think that the use of technology is equally as important. One thing that we have learned over the course of this past year certainly is that there is no button labelled “Make Something For Me” on any software. Whilst technology is a powerful tool in a creative’s arsenal, it is important to understand that it is not a replacement for traditional skills.

Here are a few quotes from Milton Glaser’s “Art is Work”, which covers this exact topic.

“The computer and the devaluation of drawing skills have undoubtedly changed things. We are living in a “collage” world. The extraordinary availablity of historical and contemporary imagery means designers can find and assemble anything on screen.

You can take images from any moment in history, assemble them electronically, distort them, shift them, stretch them, colour them, and make them your own to some degree.

But you’re not starting with material that you have invented.”

And also;

“Certain skills have become irreparably lost. People have lost the motivation to draw because drawing seems unrelated to their vocational life. Drawing is the path to observation and attentiveness, Technology makes old standards irrelevant and creates its own aesthetic.”

– Milton Glaser, “Art is Work”

On brainpickings.org, Glaser also said the following;

“The computer is dangerous because it shapes your capacity to understand what’s possible. The computer is like an apparently submissive servant that turns out to be a subversive that ultimately gains control of your mind. The computer is such a powerful instrument that it defines, after a while, what is possible for you. And what is possible is within the computer’s capacity. And while it seems in the beginning like this incredibly gifted and talented servant actually has a very limited intelligence — the brain is so much vaster than the computer. But, the computer is very insistent about what it’s good at, and before you know it — it’s like being with somebody who has bad habits, you sort of fall into the bad habits — and it begins to dominate the way you think about what is possible. … [Counter this] by doing things that are uncomfortable for it to do.”

– Milton Glaser, brainpickings.org

Another interesting quote which stands out is from Saul Bass when asked if he had any advice for aspiring designers, which can be found in the below video;

As you can see, whilst technology is an important tool, it is important to understand that in order to develop your own creativity and own personal micro culture, you need to make use of traditional tools and, in some cases, remove yourself from the technology!

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Flash – Introduction to Object Oriented Programming/ActionScript

ActionScript is the programming language which is used when working with Flash. ActionScript is based on JavaScript and as such, is much simpler to learn than C/C++ or C#.

ActionScript is an “Object Oriented” programming language. Object Oriented Programming is a method of programming which centres, as the name suggests, around objects. Each object is a class, and within the object, there may be other classes. The benefit to this is that each object can be coded within its own class and can be called as and when needed, thus reducing time spent coding.

For example, if we were creating a car within flash, the car would be a class. Within this class, there could be classes for the engine, the steering wheel, the wheels and passengers. The engine class may control exactly how movement works (which direction to go in when accelerating etc…), the steering wheel class may control how to change direction and the horn and the wheel class may control movement and tyre degradation.

Some examples of Object Oriented Programming languages are C/C++, C#, Java, ActionScript 3, Perl, Python and PHP. For working with Flash, we are currently learning the basics of ActionScript 3.

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Flash – Introduction to Flash

Flash is a piece of software which is used within many different fields. Games Design is obviously one of them, but it is also used quite widely within Animation and Web Design to name just two. Specifically, within Games Design, Flash can be used to create games with relative ease compared with having to code an engine from scratch within C/C++/C# or use engines such as the Unreal Engine or Unity.

Flash CS6 Window

Flash CS6 Window

The above screenshot is a typical workspace layout within Flash. The main scene area allows for the user to draw directly onto the scene. Below this, we have the timeline, which allows users to animate, as well as set up specific properties depending which frame is loaded. To the right, we have the properties tab, which allows the user to define the properties of the file. The main toolset of the program is located to the right of this, and features standard tools such as the paintbrush tool, text tool and pen tool just to name three.

An important thing to note is that things which are drawn within Flash are created in vector. This means that anything drawn here in Flash is a mathematical projection of what you are drawing, rather than a bitmap (pixels). This means that anything drawn here can be resized with no loss in fidelity.

Flash also features a programming language called ActionScript. This is obviously very important for creating games within Flash as it will allow us to use the advanced functionality required to make a game work. I will discuss this in a seperate blog post.

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3D Realisation – Issue with TGA Bitmaps

Whilst working with 3DS Max, I came across an issue with using Targa (TGA) bitmaps as materials. When I applied these images to my model, they appeared to be very washed out and incredibly bright.

After I did a little bit of research, I learned that the reason that this happens is because 3DS max is trying to apply alpha to the model. As the images I was using is not transparent, this caused the material to appear very washed out/bright.

To fix this, when applying a TGA file to a model, you need to set the “Alpha Source” option within the material to None (Opaque). This makes the material appear normally.

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3D Realisation – Street Project – Building Proposal

Street Project – Building Proposal – David Smith – Year 1 BA (Hons) Games Design
Building Type An amusement arcade. Aimed at gamers and passing tourists. 3 storey building. Only ground floor is used by the business. Flat roof (some workers worked on the roof during original use, lifting of boxes etc…).
Period Built 19th Century Converted Warehouse, with modern features.
Contemporary Changes Ground floor is completely modernised. Electric doors. Glass windows on front. Entire floor filled with varying arcade machines and there is an 18+ area with slot machines, 18 rated games.

1st and 2nd floor are not used by the business and exhibit features typical of the period. Fishing warehouse. Doors with no landings/staircases, hooks originally used to lift boxes, shuttered windows.

State of Repair Ground floor completely modernised. 1st and 2nd floor is not exactly in disrepair but have been unused for over 100 years. As such, they’re starting to show their age.
Important External Features Hand written signage in the windows, advertising items for sale from the public. Arcade sign professionally produced. Enclosed area fenced off from rest of marina with bench seating.
Problems to Solve Creating interior without modelling it.

Modernising the ground floor, without detracting from the aesthetic of the rest of the building and also preserving the rest of the warehouse building (warehouse would be a listed building).

Additional Notes Building would need to be 15m wide to accommodate for the large number of arcade machines and slot machines on the premises. Additionally, this would be a space where a lot of people may meet up and would therefore need enough space to accommodate a large number of people.
Street Project – Building Proposal – David Smith – Year 1 BA (Hons) Games Design
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