Nov19
2014

By: Elyse                Categories: 3D AnimationAnimationBooksGamesGeneral

Roger’s top 10 reasons why you can’t select your object


MY GOOD FRIEND Roger Cusson is, like me, a longtime instructor on 3ds Max. One day we got to talking about the challenges of teaching such a large and complex program, and we agreed that the biggest barrier new students have is confusion about selecting objects.

Roger proposed that since we go over these pitfalls in every class, he should publish a list of Roger’s Top 10 Reasons Why You Can’t Select Your Object. The list never actually got published until the first edition of this book. Here is the list, printed for the first time in the first edition of this book and back by popular demand, including a cutout reminder list that you can tape to your laptop or monitor for easy reference.

(more…)

No Comments

Oct27
2014

By: admin                Categories: AnimationBooksGames

The following is an excerpt from Stewart Jones’ Digital Creature RiggingDigital Creature Rigging gives you the practical, hands-on approaches to rigging you need, with a theoretical look at 12 rigging principles, and plenty of tips, tricks and techniques to get you up and running quickly.

A lot of 3D packages create bones as a “special” sort of object/node, with specific bone-only properties that no other node in the application has. One of the unusual, but very awesome, features of 3ds Max’s bone system is that any object can become a bone, grab hold of all the properties and attributes that make it a bone, and behave exactly the same. I still prefer to use bones when creating a skeleton, but the option to use anything we want is sort of cool. When it comes to currently selecting the joints and bones that make up our creature’s skeleton, it is a bit cumbersome, as we have to select through the mesh. As we do not have any controllers in place or an actual rig setup just yet, that is really the only thing we can do for the moment. However, as bones are not classed as a “special” sort of node within 3ds Max, we can edit their appearance to make selecting them easier.

Of course, we could jump into the Bone Tools options and turn on “Fins” adjusting them to better fit the mesh, but this would be a waste of time, as we can do something much better. With a bone of your choice selected, head over to the Modify Panel and add an “Edit Poly” modifier to the bone. With the Edit Poly modifier applied, we are able to go into all of the parameters, attributes, and options for the modifier and edit the look of the bone. What this means is that we can reshape every bone in the skeleton to fit our creature very closely.

Make sure to keep this as a very low-poly edit so the bones can evaluate quickly in the viewports. By doing this, not only has this made selecting the bones easier, but it has also created a low-poly “cut” version of the creature. In later stages when this creature is placed into an environment, the skinned geometry may cause the scene to slow down, and this can make the animation process incredibly difficult, as if it was not difficult enough already. By having this low-poly cut skeletal version of the creature, the animator can hide the geometry and use this instead. Obviously, this will not give the animator access to view the deformations of the creature with the geometry hidden, but it should speed the viewport up and give a very good representation of the size and mass of the creature as it moves and interacts with the environment. I usually leave the fingers out of this bone reshaping step, both because it can end up taking too long and because it is not overly beneficial for the animators at this stage.

Oh yeah, and you can mirror to the other side too! Simply copy the “Edit Poly” modifier from a completed bone, paste it to the other side, then add the “Mirror” modifier and adjust the parameters so it fits correctly.

FIG 4-44 An Edit Poly modifier added to the bones of Belraus and reshaped to fit the geometry.

Reshaping Bones

To reshape the bones of your creature, simply add an “Edit Poly” modifier to each bone and edit away. You can easily mirror to an opposite side by copying the modifier to the other bone and adding a “Mirror” modifier and adjusting the parameters so it fits correctly.

To complete this reshaping, it is a good idea to color the bones using our coloring convention. Although these bones may not be seen at all when we introduce the animation rig, we still want them to be easily distinguishable while in this base rig phase.

Excerpt from Digital Creature Rigging: The Art and Science of CG Creature Setup in 3ds Max by Stewart Jones.  © 2012 Taylor & Francis Group. All Rights Reserved. Digital Creature Rigging can be purchased Amazon.com, BN.com, and wherever fine books can be found.

No Comments

Sep08
2014

By: admin                Categories: AnimationBooksGames

Unfortunately, certain serious mistakes tend to be made during the development process. Some of these errors are caused by inexperience. Others may be fueled by the team’s admirable intention of making something remarkable, yet being unable to rein in their ideas and set reasonable limits. And quite often, problems arise because the creative team is eager to plunge into preproduction and is too impatient to invest sufficient time in planning. Based on my own experience and on interviews with experts, here are five of the most common and serious errors that occur during the creative process.

Photo by Amanda Hirsch

(more…)

No Comments

Aug11
2014

By: admin                Categories: Games

We are are at one of the  premier gaming conferences – GDC EUROPE! It is our favorite time of year!  We are excited to meet and spend time with Focal fans old and new.  This year, we are co-exhibiting with CRC Press – Come by our BOOTH #162 and check out all of the new releases, receive 20% discount (25% discount on select titles!), enter for a chance to win free prizes, and say “hello!” to the team.

This year, we have teamed up with AtGames and are giving away a load of free prizes, including:

– 1 Sega Mega Drive Classic Game Console

– Atari Flashback 4 Classic Game Console

– 5 copies of MXGP on PS3 and 360

– 5 copies of MotoGP on PS4, PS3 and Xbox 360

We hope to see you soon!

Here are some of the books you will see at the conference:

Can’t attend? Well you see have a chance to win some free loot. Sign up for our newsletter, and we will select one person to win a free book of their choice. Also, feel free to take advantage of our 20% discount! Use discount code FOC20 when ordered directly through www.focalpress.com.

No Comments

Aug04
2014

By: admin                Categories: AnimationBooksGamesGeneral

At Focal Press, we believe that learning, improving your skills, and enhancing your careers is often a team effort. We are dedicated to helping animators of all skill levels take their next professional step.

As part of this commitment, we are have made a selection of our books freely available to view during the month of August. Simply click on the book you would like to read – then click on the “View inside this book” button on the book’s page and become a master in your field today!

Here are some of our titles that are free-to-view:

For a full list of our full-to-view books, check out our catalogue!

Loved the book and want to read more? Receive 20% off your order of the print version with discount code FTV14 when ordering directly through www.focalpress.com. Valid until September 15th.

No Comments

Jul30
2014

By: Elyse                Categories: BooksGamesGeneral

Remember: most video game agents don’t rep writers; they rep development studios, and “we’re approached every week by studios” looking for representation, says Minton. “We’ve frequently had publishers call us up and say, ‘Hey, we just had this studio come in and pitch us. They have most of their stuff together, they’re just not quite in sync. [But] if they had an agency like you who would help them, they could be rock stars.”

On infrequent occasions, video game agents may represent a particularly high-profile writer, but this is rare—although not for writers’ lack of trying. Many agents are approached by writers with ideas for story-based games, and agents have to discourage them from pitching. First of all, most writers fail to understand that video games aren’t about story, they’re about gameplay. And unless the writer has invented a new technology—or has the technological know-how to engineer a groundbreaking technique—a simple story-based idea isn’t usually sellable. If you’re Christopher Nolan or J.J. Abrams, you can get some meetings, but unless you have a name that’s a marketable brand, you’re probably not getting through the door.

(more…)

No Comments

Jul28
2014

By: Elyse                Categories: BooksGames

No matter how much experience you have with coding, there are some errors that will drive you insane and take many minutes if not hours to debug. While logical errors will allow a program to run but function oddly, syntactical errors will stop you dead in your tracks as the program will refuse to compile. The former requires a lot of play testing and code tracing to debug, the later just requires your own understanding of proper coding syntax. If your program will not compile here are the ten most likely common errors.

1. No semicolon at the end of a statement

If you leave a semicolon off the end of a statement, the compiler will consider the next line to be part of the same statement. This will cause compiler errors. Errors will appear in the Console window and at the bottom of the Editor window with a red exclamation mark as shown in Figure 2.7.

When a semicolon is missing the error does not necessarily reflect the exact line where the semicolon is needed. You will need to inspect the code above and around the error to locate the missing statement end marker.

FIG 2.7 Errors in Unity

(more…)

No Comments

Jul23
2014

By: Elyse                Categories: BooksGames

We are going to create a simple but elegant particle system in Unity. To do this, we will create a game object with a Particle System component attached, and then use Unity’s Shuriken editor interface to customise that particle system to our requirements. Specifically, we will create a trail of ‘magical dust’ – something that could come from a magic wand, or from a spell book, or from any similar spell-casting entity. Though the system itself will be ‘simple’ it will nonetheless use a wide range of Shuriken features, demonstrate the power of the editor and equip you with the crucial knowledge you need to build your own systems for your own projects. Like many issues in game development, there is no ‘single correct way’ to create and configure a particle system. For this reason, don’t be afraid to experiment and to deviate from what I am creating here, especially if you prefer your edits and amendments. The basis to work on is: if it looks right, then it is right. So let’s get started.

1) Create an empty Unity project and save it, naming the current scene. Details on how to do that can be found in Chapter 1. Following this humble beginning, let’s import some graphical assets that we can use for creating our particle system. To import these, select Assets > Import Package > Particles from the main application menu. From the Import Dialog, accept the default values and click the button Import to add the assets to the current project in the Standard Assets folder, viewable from the Project panel. It should be noted that these imported assets are not essentials or prerequisites for creating particle systems generally – particle systems can be created without them. Nonetheless, the imported assets do feature a range of convenient pre-made textures and materials that we will use here for creating our particle system.

2) Create a new Particle System object in the scene. This can be achieved in at least two main ways. The first method (the one-step method) is to select GameObject > Create Other > Particle System from the application menu. The alternative two-step method is to first create an empty game object with GameObject > Create Empty, and then to add a Particle System component to the object with Component > Effects > Particle System. Either of these two methods achieves the desired end result of creating an object in the scene with a Particle System component attached. (more…)

No Comments

Jul09
2014

By: Elyse                Categories: BooksGames

When in need of a writer, most developers turn to the small community of game writers who started as designers, or have worked at studios and understand the processes, the language, of game making. Others call contacts in agencies’ digital media or interactive departments. If they’re looking for writers who already have game experience, digital/interactive agents may already have the perfect person—or be able to find them.

Photo by Drew Coffman

(more…)

No Comments

May19
2014

By: admin                Categories: AnimationBooksGames

THE GREAT DEBATE

One ongoing and intense debate that has been raging among game scholars and game developers is the question of whether or not games can even be regarded as a form of storytelling. Two warring groups have squared off on this issue. On one side, we have the narratology camp. They say, yes, of course, games are a form of storytelling and they can be studied as narratives (the term “narratology” simply means the theory and study of narrative). Janet Murray, the author of the classic book on interactive narrative, Hamlet on the Holodeck, and a professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology, is a leading advocate of the narratology position.

A screenshot from Deus Ex, Invisible War. The game tells a complex story involving global conflict and intrigue, and falls into the action genre. Image courtesy of Eidos Interactive.

On the other side of the battlefield, we have the ludology camp. Espen J. Aarseth, a professor at the University of Bergen, is the most vocal proponent of the ludologist camp. The term ludology comes from the Latin word ludus, for game. The ludologists argue that even though games have elements of narrative like characters and plot, this is incidental to the things that make them a distinct creative form, such as gameplay. Thus, they assert, games should be studied as unique constructs. This debate has an emotional undercurrent to it, because the ludologists suggest that the academics who espouse narratology are elitist and fail to recognize games as worthy of study on their own merits. Clearly, if sides must be chosen, this book is most closely in allegiance with the narratologists.

NARRATIVE IN GAMES

While the narratology versus ludology debate may rage on through infinity, no one can flatly deny that games, on the whole, do contain story content. This content includes, among other elements, developed characters, plot, character-based goals, challenges that characters must overcome, and dramatic conflict. The amount of story contained in games varies hugely. Some games contain no story at all while others offer richly nuanced narratives. And in some cases, the story content is formed by the choices the players themselves make, rather than being built into the game. This is particularly true of sandbox games.

It must be acknowledged, however, that the kinds of narratives found in games differ from narratives found in other media. Designer Greg Roach, introduced in Chapter 4, puts it this way: “Novels tell; movies show; games do.” In other words, games are all about the things you do, about action. Games are performance experiences. But this focus on action has a downside, as well. Game designer Darlene Waddington notes that “games tend to be all about the ‘hows’ and not about the ‘whys.’” She feels, for instance, that they are good at getting the player into a combat situation, but are less good at probing the psychological or human reasons for getting into combat in the first place.

Waddington’s point about the focus being on action while giving scant attention to motivation is a criticism often leveled at games. While games now offer more fully developed characters and storylines, they generally lack the depth of older forms of entertainment. With few exceptions, they do not look deeply into the human psyche or deal with a full spectrum of emotions. How often, for example, do we encounter or play a character who is motivated by shame, love, compassion, guilt, grief, or the dozens of other emotions we humans feel? Yet such emotions are the underpinnings of dramas we can fi nd in movies or the stories we read in novels.

Most game developers will argue that the story is only there to serve a functional purpose rather than being the prime attraction, which is good gameplay. Yet, without a story, the gameplay lacks a context to be meaningful. Story provides the game with objectives and challenges, meaningful victories and defeats, and an overall story world to play in. Thus, even a minimal amount of story content serves a functional role in a game.

Game writer Christy Marx made an interesting observation about storytelling and games many years ago, in an article she wrote for Written By magazine (December 2003). She noted that games began as a programmer’s medium, and since they were text based, they didn’t require a writer or artist. The one essential element these early games did require was code. Marx theorizes that this early game culture, with the dominant role of the programmer and the non-existent role of the storyteller, continues to permeate the game development world. Nevertheless, the game industry is increasingly aware of the importance of good storytelling in games, and top Hollywood screenwriters are often hired to work on games. But even today, many of these screenwriters are only asked to write dialogue, thus bypassing their abilities to make significant contributions to the projects they work on.

Veteran Hollywood writer Randall Jahnson, who successfully made the transition between screen writing and game writing, told the Hollywood Reporter (November 23, 2005) that the process of writing for the two media was like apples and oranges. He compared writing for games to writing haiku, because the plot points and dialogue had to be far more compressed than in a screenplay, where you don’t have a player itching to jump into the gameplay. On the other hand, he found that games gave him the opportunity to explore subplots and tangents of the story that there would be no time to develop in a screenplay.

NOTES FROM THE FIELD: WRITING A GAME IS LIKE WRITING AN OPERA

An extremely savvy game professional recently compared the job of writing a game to that of writing an opera. Why? Because in both cases, the stories are painted with a broad brush and the plots often lean toward the melodramatic. But, even more importantly, the storytelling in opera needs to leave room for the music and performance, and the storytelling in games needs to leave room for the gameplay. This observation, quoted in the UK version of Wired magazine (March 4, 2013), was made by Margaret Robinson, managing director of Hide and Seek, a UK game design company. She said: “the libretto shouldn’t have to tell you everything you need to know about the character or the setting or the underlying scene … There’s a little bit of that in games, to leave space for the action and the player.”

_________________________________

Excerpt from Digital Storytelling, 3e by Carolyn Handler Miller © 2014 Taylor & Francis Group. All Rights Reserved.

No Comments
Older Posts »