Creative Futures – Mini Brief – Ident Creation – Name Ideas

As part of our Creative Futures mini brief to create an ident, we were tasked with coming up with a name for our production house. This can be a difficult thing to do without a process, as you can pretty much guarantee that the first thing you come up with will either be terrible, already taken or both. To do this in the most effective way possible, I created a list of random words that came to my head. The list is as follows:

1) Altar, 2) Temple, 3) Shrine, 4) Sacred Place, 5) Reliquary, 6) Escapist, 7) Visionary, 8) Prophecy, 9) Divination, 10) Premonition, 11) Theory, 12) Progenitor, 13) Origin, 14) Complex, 15) Adventure, 16) Blitz, 17) Supersonic, 18) Flash, 19) Spark, 20) Glow, 21) Flare, 22) Manifesto, 23) Cutesy, 24) Arcane, 25) Arena, 26) Saga, 27) Sigma, 28) Gamma, 29) Alpha, 30) Omega, 31) Epsilon, 32) Fierce, 33) Motif, 34) Omen, 35) Cypher, 36) Digital, 37) Analogue, 38) Chopper, 39) Auto, 40) Ace, 41) Toys, 42) Spec

With this list of random words, I used a random number generator to put these words together. The following list is of the combinations I came up with. Within this list, I have highlighted the three names that I have chosen.

Omen Glow, Epsilon Arena, Analogue Fierce, Cutesy Shrine, Visionary Omen, Premonition Blitz, Supersonic Escapist, Premonition Spark, Spark Adventure, Escapist Glow, Blitz Adventure, Escapist Blitz, Temple Flare, Adventure Glow, Manifesto Prophecy, Temple Reliquary, Flash Spark, Sacred Place, Prophecy Visionary, Escapist Theory, Supersonic Divination, Glow Flare, Analogue Omen, Sigma Glow, Blitz Visionary, Premonition Saga, Ace Spec, Cutesy Glow, Gamma Adventure, Supersonic Altar, Digital Theory, Sigma Premonition, Reliquary Blitz, Cutesy Arcane, Alpha Ace

Of the three that I highlighted, I like Flash Spark the most. Therefore, this is the name that I will be using.

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Creative Futures – Mini Brief – Ident Creation – Typeface Research

For our mini brief which has been assigned to us as part of Creative Futures, we have been instructed to create our own ident for a production company. During the process of creating a name, I came up with a name that I really liked. This name is Flash Spark Studios.

The next part of this mini brief involves researching into typefaces that I may want to use or take inspiration from to maybe create my own typeface. The choice of typeface for a logo/ident is important as it becomes a large part of your brand’s identity.

My initial thoughts for the look of the identity is that the “Flash” portion of the text should look bold and easily readable. The “Spark” portion of the text should be stylised to look electric. Another thought tied in with this is that it should look as though it could produce sparks if it was a real life object.

With this in mind, I set out to try and find some typefaces that do this successfully.

Zeronero Font, Monofonts Font Factory

Zeronero Font, Monofonts Font Factory

What I really like about the “Zeronero” font is that it is very easy to read and very easy to see. It is very bold and, at least in my opinion, also looks like it communicates “fun”. I think that this may be thanks to its simplistic design. However, this font is as a result of its boldness, very chunky. It might be overwhelming if used on a lot of text in a given area.

Peppermint Font, Monofonts Font Factory

Peppermint Font, Monofonts Font Factory

I quite like this typeface. To me, it looks like it could almost have come from the future (think “Shibuya Crossing” style advertising screens and electronic billboards), especially when all letters are capitalised. It looks almost digital and this obviously would lend itself very well to both “Flash” and to “Spark”. However, I do also think that it maybe looks a little tacky, and therefore, would only maybe be suitable for one part of the identity.

Formation Sans Font, Steve Gardner

Formation Sans Font, Steve Gardner

This typeface, again, looks quite futuristic. However, I think that the problem here lies with the font itself looking a little too thin. There are a lot of gaps and blank spaces too, which might make it slightly more difficult to read and/or notice at a glance than “Zeronero” or “Peppermint”. It may however work quite well as a typeface for a small “sub-title”, perhaps the “Studio” part of the identity.

Lightning Volt Font, By "Honey & Death"

Lightning Volt Font, By “Honey & Death”

This typeface definitely fulfills the “electric look” that I was looking for. It does also look like it could be producing sparks. However, it does perhaps almost look too stylised. Still, I think it would definitely look good on the “Spark” part of the identity.

Galaxyface, By Honey & Death

Galaxyface, By Honey & Death

Whilst this typeface looks more like it is made up of stars in the shape of letters, it gives me a good idea as to exactly how you could incorporate the sparks themselves into a typeface. As far as this font goes, at least in my opinion, it looks fairly tacky. I think there is too much going on with this typeface. Because you have to follow the shape that the “stars” are making, it takes a while to read the text, which is no good for an ident. However, in terms of using this technique for the “Spark” portion of the ident, you could perhaps have the “Spark” text literally spark away and leave the world “Spark” burnt into a background object.

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Creative Futures – Mini Brief – Ident Creation

As part of our Creative Futures module, we have been given a Mini-Brief which instructs to create our own ident for a production company. This is something that is common place within industry, as previously discussed in other blog posts on the subject.

This exercise is to be carried out in three parts. The first part is to develop a name. I will be doing this by creating a list of words, numbering them and using a random number generation to make combinations of these words.

The second part of this will involve researching typefaces and experimenting with these to see what would work and what doesn’t work. This will be accompanied by a blog post on the research process.

The third part will involve sketching out ideas for the ident. These are purely to be in sketch and storyboard form only.

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CATS – Critical Perspectives – Environments in Horror Games

Introduction
For my critical perspectives essay, I intend to compare two horror games. I will be looking at how they use environments and environmental effects to fully immerse the player. I intend to look at them through the perspective of psychoanalysis. More specifically, I intend to look at the introduction scenes of the games.
Introduction scenes are generally important in horror games as they set the tone for everything that is to come. In my experience, horror games tend to be a little more intense at the start. This is because the situations which the characters find themselves in are very unknown to us as players. This can be backed up by a quote from the official blog of Frictional Games, developers of Amnesia.

“In most games the player usually starts out in some strange and not very normal situation. In our own game, Amnesia, the story takes place in early 19th century and has the protagonist waking up in gothic castle. Not something very easy to relate to. Other games see the player has some secret agent, has them trapped in a spooky town/village, etc. All of these are very abnormal situations, and something few of us will ever find ourselves in.”
– Frictional Games Blog – “10 Ways to Evolve Horror Games”, 26th April 2012

However, it must also be said that Freud’s concept of “The Uncanny” can quite easily apply here. The concept of “The Uncanny” can be described as a feeling of familiarity and unfamiliarity in equal parts. Silent Hill plays on this quite considerably. Freud describes “The Uncanny” in the following quote.

“The uncanny is something which is secretly familiar, which has undergone repression and then returned from it. Everything that is uncanny fulfils this condition.”
– Sigmund Freud – “The Uncanny”, 1919

I intend to look into the introduction sequences from both games from the perspective of psychoanalysis, exploring what exactly makes them scary.  I will first look at Silent Hill in relation to the Freudian concept of “The Uncanny”. I will then look into Amnesia in relation to the opposite of the uncanny (I shall call this “The Unexpected”). Once I have explored both of these games, I then intend to compare both and see where they are similar and where they differ. To conclude, I will reflect on this discussion and resolve it.
A glimpse into Horror Games
It is well known that the horror genre is very popular amongst gamers. It is important therefore, before we continue, to understand why this is the case. It is certainly true that, for some people, it is seen as a challenge to sit through something thoroughly unpleasant. However, it also seems that there is a scientific component to the question of why people are attracted to the horror genre, as Dr Robi Ludwig explains in the following quote.

” Experts know it’s not uncommon for people to want to push the envelope just to see just how much fear they can tolerate. There is a great sense of satisfaction when we can prove to ourselves we actually can handle more anxiety than we ever imagined we could.
There’s also a hormonal component when it comes to fear and enjoyment. The love of being scared. The moment we feel threatened, we feel increasingly more strong and powerful physically, and more intuitive emotionally. This charge to our physical and mental state is called an “adrenaline rush,” and as humans we are apparently hard-wired to be drawn to this type of feeling”
– Dr Robi Ludwig, Today Health “Why we like to be scared: The science behind the scream”, 26th October 2013

Horror games have been very popular for a number of years. With the release of Resident Evil in 1996, this spawned a new style of horror game called the “survival horror” game, which lessened the emphasis on combat and increased the emphasis on giving the player more of a feeling of helplessness, achieved by giving the user nothing to not much to defend themselves with.
These days, horror games seem to have transcended beyond the realms of what we would have thought possible five years ago. For instance, the Kinect technology from Microsoft enables games to read your heart rate and effectively tell how scared you are and use this information to alter how intense/scary the game is. Whilst it is still the case that horror games are advancing rapidly in terms of complexity, the ingredients which make a horror game scary have pretty much stayed the same. With the added layer of realism, this further enhances the experience. It could be said that this is a great example of where “The Uncanny” comes into play (more realistic graphics causing people to actually look real and exhibit real looking emotion).
Silent Hill/The Uncanny
The first game I am going to be looking at is called “Silent Hill”. It was released in 1999 by Konami on the original Playstation console. The game itself is set on a small lakeside town. The main character, Harry Mason loses his daughter after a car accident whilst approaching the town. It is important to note that the town is, for the most part, deserted. Very quickly, you get the sense that not all is well in the town and immediately, you will notice that this occurance could quite easily happen within a real life situation. This, paired with the fact that you appear to be alone in this unknown, abandoned town, gives a feeling of fear. This is a very good example of where Silent Hill uses “The Uncanny” to create fear.
I think that it is possible for anyone, no matter who they are, to think back to a time when they felt alone. This is pretty much always combined with a feeling of vulnerability, and this sense of vulnerability is a big part of what makes these kind of things scary. More importantly, this feeling is what is so familiar to players when they experience the stepping out into the town for the first time.
Quite quickly during the introduction scenes of the game, the player is put into situations where they will be moving and the camera will jump to a nearby wall. As the player is moving, the camera will pan around the environment, following you along. This is a very powerful effect, as it gives the player the impression that they are being watched by something perhaps perched up on a wall or hiding behind something in the dark. This voyeuristic point of view is incredibly powerful.
Another interesting area of the introduction is where the character wakes up after his first ordeal in a “Cafe”. This cafe is notable as it does not have any enemies or even anything particularly gruesome or horrifying in it. This is a “safe house” of sorts and serves also as the main area where the game can be saved. There are also several items which can be found in this cafe which can aid the player.
Amnesia/The Unexpected
The second game I am going to be looking at is a game called Amnesia: The Dark Descent. It was released in 2010 by Frictional Games for the PC. It is said to be one of the most intense series of survival horror games in existence. John Walker, a video game critic with “Rock, Paper, Shotgun” said the following:

“I think it is safe to say that Amnesia is the most successfully frightening game to have been made. It feels perhaps a slightly over-obvious observation, but the compliment is utterly valid… [Amnesia: The Dark Descent is] Unrelenting in its scares and jumps.”
– John Walker – Rock, Paper, Shotgun Review, 07/09/2010

The game is set in the early to mid 1800s. The lead character, Daniel, wakes up in a castle. The opening scene of the game shows Daniel trying to remember who he is. When the player awakens, he does so in a room which is under very low light. Initially the corridoors are lit by daylight coming through the windows and candles placed around the corridoors and rooms. However, the deeper the player goes, this changes to just candlelight. This is very important to set the tone of the game. The deeper you go, the less light there will be.
As the rooms and corridoors get darker, the player starts to lose his sanity, which the developers turned into an actual game mechanic. The more sanity the player loses, the more the player will start to “see things”. This is delivered to the player by blurring and distorting the vision of what is up ahead. I thought that this was a very interesting, literal use of the environment to enhance the game, and definitely makes it feel more intense and definitely scarier.
At this point, the player enters the “old archives”. Straight away, it can be noticed that initially, this room is a lot brighter than the others. This changes very quickly however, as a door blows open and extingueshes the torches and candles providing light. This leaves the user in almost no light until they find the room which contains the lantern. This certainly seems to be done to catch the player off guard, and is a tactic used in many horror games to achieve the same effect. It all happens very suddenly, and whilst it doesn’t leave the room in pitch blackness, it certainly imposes the fears of claustrophobia and paranoia. These are common feelings experienced when you are placed in a room with little to no light.
Comparison
Comparing both of these games brings up a few interesting points. Both games were released 11 years apart. I believe that this reflects in the fact that both games are very different, despite being of the same genre. First of all, I’m going to take the most obvious approach by highlighting that both games use different means to scare the user. Silent Hill’s environments are completely relateable, being set in a fairly modern looking town.  It is entirely plausible to consider that, however unlikely, you could be in a similar situation yourself. Whereas Amnesia’s environments aren’t quite so relatable to a gamer in the 21st century, being set in the 1800s in an abandoned castle. The following quote from Freud made me think about this a little more.

“The Uncanny is something hidden which ought to have remained missed but which is brought to light.”
– Sigmund Freud – “The Uncanny”, 1919

I think that this means there are feelings we occasionally have of “what if this bad thing happens?”, which leads to worry, paranoia and fear. We opress these feelings, but understand fully what it is to feel that way and this is what is familiar to us whilst playing the game.
Another aspect to look at here is the how technology of the time when Silent Hill was released  would not be able to handle anywhere near what Amnesia achieves. More to the point, how does this affect the environments of both games? The first thing we can obviously point to is graphical capabilities. Whilst this is an obvious point, it is worthy of note as you can see by looking at both games exactly how far we’ve come in 11 years.
In this respect, Silent Hill is obviously much more limited. However, it must be said that, for a game that is as old as Silent Hill, it does a very good job at making the environments work well without having much graphical horsepower at its disposal. In fact, a positive outcome of the technical limitations is that Silent Hill utilises the low draw distance the Playstation can provide to enhance the fog effect whilst outdoors. An article in EDGE Magazine in which the Art Director for a game called “The Secret World” (Joel Akerman) was questioned about how the fog was designed in the game puts this into perspective.

“The fog itself is very much a story element. I’ve been on the project for four and a half years and Kingsmouth has always been foggy. I guess it ties into the Lovecraftian idea of something lurking out there in the mist. Draw distance is obviously an added benefit for us on the optimisation side, but that’s not the reason for it.”
– Joel Akerman – EDGE Magazine – The Art Of… The Secret World, Issue 248, Christmas 2012

Another area in which these games are different is that Silent Hill uses the environments in the game to substitute for game menus. Amnesia does not really do this, and I think that as a result, the level of immersion suffers. For example, to save the game in Silent Hill, you go to the cafe and approach the log book which is sitting on the bar. This helps to keep the immersion constant and can therefore keep the player in the mindset that is enforced on them by the game.
This also affects the pacing of the game as the cafe also doubles up as a “safe house” where the player knows they will not get attacked. Amnesia does not really have such a thing, forcing the player to just “brave the storm”. EDGE Magazine features an interesting article on the subject, specifically referencing the Raccoon City Police Department from the Resident Evil games, which serves a similar purpose.

“Outside, it’s all exploding tanker trucks, zombies and gun store owners with jumpy trigger fingers. In the RPD [Raccoon Police Department], there’s enough tranquil security to slow down, check your green herbs and figure out what the hell happened in town.”
– EDGE Magazine – Places: Raccoon City Police Department, Issue 241, June 2012

Conclusion
In conclusion, I think it is fair to say that both games deliver their horror very differently and this reflects in the choices of environment. Silent Hill goes for a fairly realistic looking town, playing on the player’s familiarity with these elements, whereas Amnesia goes down the route of taking the player way out of their comfort zone. I would say that the comparison of these games really shows how far the survival horror genre has come in the space of 11 years.
Both games use environments to scare the player to great effect, but in very different ways. Both are completely valid and both have their own strengths and weaknesses. Horror games which make use of the concepts of “The Uncanny” I feel would make better games in terms of immersion, which in the perspective of a horror game, makes for a more terrifying experience because you feel as though you’re in the game. However, games that make use of the concepts of “The Unexpected” could be more intense and play on more extreme feelings that aren’t necessarily realistic but utterly terrifying to think about.

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Creative Futures – Typography

Typography is the art and technique of arranging type in order to make the language it forms most appealing to transparent learning and recognition. Typography is more important than you might think. I myself have believed for the longest time that type is literally a means to an end and merely a vehicle to deliver information to its intended recipient. What Typography is able to do however is deliver context and meaning to the words that are printed.

First of all, I looked at the following image that I found online called “The Ultimate Typographical Cheat Sheet” by Martin Silvertant.

The Ultimate Typographical Cheat Sheet, Martin Silvertant

The Ultimate Typographical Cheat Sheet, Martin Silvertant

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The first thing I thought when I saw the glossary of terms and the diagram to the left of the image is that there is so much more to type than first meets the eye. One letter can be made up of several different components, and this image has definitely opened my eyes to that. It is going to be important for me to learn these, so as to have a basic understanding of what typography is and to be able to get whatever it is I might need from a typographer in the future.

Another thing which I noticed is that certain type is used for very specific things. For example, the type that you are reading now is displayed in a font which is very easy to read. It serves that purpose very well. However, there are also specific types which are designed purely to look good. This font would not work so well in a large body of text, but might look good as a header or a title, displayed in a large size. This is where Semiotics come in. For example, headings in the story of Alice and Wonderland could be typed in a fancy font such as “Edwardian Script ITC” to imply that the story is about a delicate girl, but the main bodies of text would probably be typed in “Times New Roman”.

Below is a very interesting TED Talk from Andrew Byrom called “If h was a chair” in which he finds typography from every day objects.

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Creative Futures – Logos, Brands and Identities – Semiotics

Semiotics is something that we have already covered within CATS (you can find my original blog post here). Just to refresh this knowledge, Semiotics is the study of signs and symbols.

The main components of Semiotics are as follows:

Signifier

The signifier is the material component of the sign (in this case, the logo, the brand and the identities themselves).

Signified

The signified is the concept of what the signifier stands for (an ident implies that the company shown on the ident had some involvement with the creation of the content).

As part of my research, I have been tasked with finding some examples of these within idents.

This is Intel’s most recent ident. At the beginning of the ident, you can see a processor die, which is how computer processors are made. This then zooms out and forms the dot on the letter I which makes up the name “Intel”. This implies that Intel are a company which makes computer/technology components. Looking at this more symbolically however, you could say that the die becoming the dot in the letter I could symbolise that making these components is a very important part of their company.

This is the opening ident for Channel 4’s “Come Dine With Me”. The ident features dishes being prepared and presented very well, which symbolises what the program is about (competition, being the best etc…). At the end, you can see four people around a table toasting, which symbolises the get togethers that occur at the dinner parties in this show.

I think that these are both very good examples of how semiotics can be used to further enhance a brand identity. Not only do they both get their points across efficiently, but they also give a very good idea as to what it is that they do.

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Creative Futures – Logos, Brands and Identities

As part of a Creative Futures session, we had a fairly brief session on Logos, Brands and Identities. Within the context of games, these can be seen used on the front of game covers, promotional materials and idents before games. Idents are used at the beginning of games to showcase the company or companies that were involved with the making of the game. These are usually short little animations that tell the player who made the game. This is something that has been taken from Movies, TV and Animations and brought on over into games.

As part of a new brief that we have been given, we were tasked to research into some identities that already exist within the real world. Here are a couple that I have found which I think are quite good and serve as good examples.

The above example is the famous Sega ident used before the Sonic the Hedgehog games. The Sega sound became one of the most iconic idents in the history of games. I think that this is the case because it is simple. This helps it become memorable as there isn’t really much to remember about it. The vocal part of this ident is very much like a jingle, and is strangely catchy despite how short it is. This also makes it very easy to remember.

The above example is the ident used by EA Sports before all EA Sports games. This ident incorporates the company’s slogan within it, and has since become synonymous with sports games. The ident does not feature any kind of music, but is memorable simply because of the voice over.

Here, I have decided to grab a few examples from other medias.

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