Battle Arena "Sunken Robot Ship" - The Creative Process

Once I had planned out what my Battle Arena was going to look like and gotten the hand of how to model a bit better in Maya I was then able to build my battle arena!

Modelling Process

For this battle arena, even though we had to import it into Unity at the end and animate a camera around the scene, I decided to model my whole environment to scale within Maya, unlike my Game Walkthrough. I have already done a blog post on how I learned to 3D model in Maya, so look at that if you haven't already seen it, but I basically used these techniques to 3D model my environment.

I realised that I had made things hard for myself because I was trying to model everything inside a closed boat and wasn't too sure how the best way to go around this was but then I was told that the arena needed to be in an open environment so that made my life easier. Instead, I changed my design a bit to make the boat look old and rusted, as if it had sunken a while back. This also fitted with the steampunk look that I wanted to create anyway so I still stuck with my original steampunk / robotic design ideas for the windows, chest filled with nuts and bolts and other things.

I attempted to make very complex 3D models such as fish, underwater anemone and of course, the robot Josef from Machinarium. I also used ncloth to create a realistic cloth model over the table within the boat which I then combined into the table to make into a mesh.

Little did I know that these complex (and sometimes rather messy) 3D models would come to haunt me during the texturing process of this battle arena....

Texturing Process

I'm going to be honest here, at first I found texturing extremely daunting. Mainly because of the UV maps that I had created for myself during the complex 3d modelling of a lot of my objects. I had a lot of work to do, stitching them together and then using the outline image as a reference to create my own textures. I turned on the turtle option for baking and reset the settings and output file so that I could bake my UV map and use that as a visual reference to how it looks as well as exporting the UV snapshot for the outlines of the UV map. I could then open these both in Photoshop and start creating my own textures for that object. I usually did this by gathering lots of different source images, such as rock, moss and coral and overlapping them, making them tile and using the eraser at different opacity settings to blend them all together to make a completely new texture out of the combined ones. I also used the layers overlay settings to change how a layer could look when on top of others, either making it hardlit, or just using the colour from the image, etc. I found this technique extremely useful because I wanted to keep the Machinarium art style within my battle arena so a lot of the time I would look for images of the game and then copy a small section of the scene and overlap it over the whole of my image, choosing to only add the colour of it to the texture that I already had made.

This is the photoshop file for a barrel in my scene
What the UV map looks like after importing my handmade texture for my robot

To apply a texture to the 3D model I simply opened up my hypershader window, created a new lambert, gave it a relevant name and in colour added a file instead and then included the image that I wanted to use. After that it's just a matter of dragging the chosen lambert and dropping it onto the model you want to texture!

I only did that on the very complex and important models however as this was a very lengthy process, there are also other ways that i textured my assets within my game. One way was to select certain parts of the UV map and drag and drop a texture to the selected polygon faces, this way you can include more than one texture for the model and assign them individually. I used this method for models such as the boat, where the UV map was pretty fiddly but I only had a couple of differences that I wanted to be shown. 

Another method is tiling, either tiling just one image for the whole model or for the certain parts that you've chosen. By expanding the UV map over the image the image with then start to tile across the whole of the model which has turned out to be an extremely handy technique as at the very start I was trying to tile textures by hand which took a very long time! You can also make the UV map smaller to make the texture larger on the model and more detailed.

I made plenty of trial and error mistakes during this texturing process, including forgetting for a very long time how to automatically unwrap UV maps so whenever I textured them the textures would end up looking extremely stretched and unrealistic.
How textures were before automatic unwrapping
But once I started to understand the texturing processes above I found creating my own textures a very enjoyable task!

Creating Flyby Camera 
When I was happy with how everything looked in Maya I then imported it all into Unity using File > Send To Unity > All. To my horror it all came in as a greybox! But luckily the UV maps all kept their position and the reference to the textures were all there, all I had to do was import my image files and drag and drop them to the right components and it was all textured again in no time. Phew!

Now it was time to create the flyby camera in Unity to whizz around my scene, but first, I still wasn't happy with the way it looked. It still didn't look like it was underwater to me so I added a water ripple asset from Unity Standard Assets to sit on top of the rocks so that the camera to fly down through the water, emphasising that this was a sunken ship, as well as some lights around the scene to make it look more blue. I added a light above the water ripples which was a light blue colour which shone down on the scene and some blue and green lights dotted around the battle arena. This now made it look a lot more scenic and gave it the Rapture feel from Bioshock that I originally wanted to include from my moodboard.

For the flyby camera I selected the main camera which was already within the scene and opened up the animator window, I could then use keyframes to change the cameras position and rotation around my battle arena at different times so that it could animate smoothly around the whole arena. Because my sunken ship is the most detailed object within the arena I made the camera pan slowly around and over that and then back around the whole arena to end up facing it straight on.


Overall I'm very happy with what I was able to achieve. I was very worried about the texturing of this arena after I realised that I had overcomplicated a lot of the battle arena assets as we're not make characters until next term but I had already attempted to make one, my little robot. But I was determined to make it work and make the underwater scene become something that I'm proud off and I think all of the hard work paid off in the end! I am still not too happy about the surrounding area of the boat, I was hoping to create perhaps squid tentacles coming out of a crevice and other things but in the short time that I had I had to make it a lot more simple than I originally intended. There are also still some textures that I feel need to be tweaked as I can see that some of the objects have parts of the texture that still stretches out.

"Coma" Walkthrough Game - The Creative Process

One I had created my storyboard, one sheet and walkthrough game map and interactions the next step was the fun part, to make the game!

The Look and Feel

I started off creating the3D models in Maya using the skills that I had learnt previously, by making just one model at a time I was then able to import this separately into Unity and have more freedom to move bits around within the Unity game engine instead of worrying about modelling everything to scale within Maya.

For this walkthrough game brief I was allowed to use basic materials to colour my assets but no textures so I made sure to be able to colour most things individually, making leaves green and bark brown, etc. I also added a skybox. This would help to add to the atmosphere of the game as that's what this whole unit is being marked on.

I also added lights and particles to add to the effect of the game as I had modelled some lantern lights to line to stone pathway, including both a light and a flame particle effect added to the realism and the old-age feel of the game as well as making it a great light source for the game as it was set at night. I added a script to enabled these lights to flicker when the player came close to the light to make it seem even more realistic, as if the flames were flickering in the wind. I could change the radius of these lights so that they shone brightly only on the objects nearby.

We needed audio within our game so I chose to have an old-style radio show to play on the speakers of the game, lined along the pathway to play an eerily happy country tune. By changing the 3D sound settings of this audio I was able to make it so that it went very loud when the player was near and quieter as the player went further away from the object. Having this knowledge was then very useful as I used it on a lot of different objects, such as the trees rustling, the fire lanterns crackling and, of course, the crying sounds coming from the well.

I sourced this music and the sound effects that I used from both YouTube, using the creator studio where there are loads of royalty free music and sound effects to use, and a website called Free Music Archive. So all of this audio is royalty free, meaning that if I did want to make money form it then I could. Once I had downloaded the music I had to alter a lot of it to make it the same volume level and sometimes shorten or lengthen the sound clips. For the radio I had to completely make the audio from scratch as I had a very clear idea of what I wanted the message coming from the radio to be so I used Garageband to piece together white noise and muffled speech until the final: "Wake Up".

The Interactivity

For this game I used C# to code the interactions that I planned out during the storyboarding phase within it. We needed to have at least 3 interactions within our game. The main interactions that I had planned to use were: Doors opening and closing, being able to pick up an axe and use it to destroy the well within the game so I could jump down into the cave below and then interacting with the radio found within the cave as the source of the crying to play an audio clip that tells the player the "Wake up".

At first i was worried that I might have been a tad too ambitious, but with the help of the Unity forums and the internet (thank you Stack Overflow) it didn't take me long to start getting my head around the basic syntax of C#, especially since I have worked using Javascript before, and I went a little overboard on the interactions, adding the flicker script to make the lights flicker as well as scripts to trigger sound effects such as white noise when the player is in the beginning of the game in the house and triggers a light flicker and in the cave near the end. I also added more immersion to the game overall by adding a text UI to show the protagonists thoughts throughout the gameplay, from his bafflement when he first realises he doesn't know where he is, to his shouts down to the 'woman' crying in the well. I started the game by disabling the players movement and adding a dark image on a panel so that the player has to focus on the text that displays on the screen as the protagonist wakes up groggy, thinking he is in his own house and then gasps as he realises that he's not in his house anymore; the dark panel is destroyed and the player is then able to move again to progress through the narrative of the game.

When I knew what I wanted to create through code I would first think of what the process might be, for instance, I didn't want the player to be able to destroy the well until they had hold of the axe so I wanted to check 'if axe picked up = true then on mouse down destroy well'. Thinking about it like this helped me to be able to google and use Unity forums to find out the exact bits of code that I needed to put together to make this work. If anything went wrong or was unresponsive the I would add 'Debug.Log ("something worked") into my code after whatever interaction I was trying to check to see if it was registering as well as checking to console log to see if any errors had been logged. Usually it was something small and silly such as forgetting a semi colon or something, it could get very frustrating at times but when the code worked I felt like God, it is AWESOME!

The hardest part of the coding interactions for me was the whole interaction for picking up the axe, having it physically showing in front of the player, and the using it to explode the well. At first I wasn't quite sure how it was going to work or even what the syntax might be for this but after searching the Unity forums I found that I could use Destory (gameObject); to completely remove an object out of the world and instantiate as a way to create an explosion in the wells place as a game object to make it appear as if I had blown up the well. But of course I couldn't have the script on the well as this object would then be destroyed and I needed the same script to start the radio at the bottom of the well play the crying sounds so that it would sound more realistic and eerie once the player jumped down there so I attached the script to some rocks just below the well and make the collider box a lot bigger so that I could still click on the well for this all to happen. It might not have been the cleanest way of applying this interaction but it's the best way that I could think of.

I also used a 'my globals' script to store all of my global variables so that I could reference them in different scripts, so for the axe being held in front of the player I wanted the position of the axe to be updated for every frame of the game so that it followed where the player moved but only when the player had actually found and clicked on the axe. So I had to check if the axe = true then change the position of it. But then I realised that I was destroying the axe along with the well when I was destroying it and the script still wanted to reference the destroyed axe, coming up with errors in the console log. So I simply added another global variable of axeDetroyed = false and set it to true on the rock script when everything had been destroyed and the checked if axe == true && axeDestoryed == false then show the axe in front of the player.


Overall I'm very happy with the walkthrough game that I've been able to produce. I feel that the atmosphere is created very well with the mix of visuals, sounds and interactions and that the game narrative flows very well. There are some bugs still within the game that I'd like to smooth out if I had more time, such as the explosion plays even after the well has been destroyed once the player clicks on the rock triggers and the axe positioning in front of the player could be much smoother, but overall I'm very proud of my first attempt at an atmospheric game!

Introduction to Digital Art

Digital art is something completely new to me, I've always enjoyed doodling on paper before going to bed or to pass the time on boring coach journeys but doing it digitally without the physical pen and paper, without having to constantly rub out my mistakes or even worse, stick with them when drawing in pen, it just didn't feel right!

So before diving in with my digital art projects for Visual Design, I wanted to get used to using my shiny new drawing tablet by doing some of usual doodles on photoshop and simply seeing how they turned out.

After a frustrating first hour of getting used to not having to look down at my pen I was hooked! Digital art is so much simpler than having to draw on paper, ctrl-z makes everything a whole lot easier and quicker by deleting my mistakes in no time at all! I quickly learned how useful drawing on different layers can be when merging outlines with colour and blending in different tones.

Granted, my artwork is certainly not the best there is, not even relatively close! But I really have enjoyed just doodling on photoshop and seeing what I can draw. Using layers and different brush types really opens up the possibilities of what I can create in a much shorter amount of time.

My plan is to draw for fun at least once a week to keep practising these skills and see them progress as well as using it as a nice break from my normal studies. Something productive yet really fun!

Life Drawing

I hadn't drawn with charcoal from real life for a couple of years until starting this course so am still very rusty at life drawing but I find that attending these classes once a week has helped me to understand my drawing style and become more confident.

This confidence develops by having a very short time frame to draw the person in a certain position until they move into another one, so I have no other choice than to trust my instincts and draw as I see the person stood in front of me, not worrying too much about the details. My charcoal strokes tend to be quite timid and raspy but I am working on building up my skills to make more confident, fluid lines.

Life drawing often is also great to help me understand proportions of a human body in relation to itself as well as it's surroundings. I didn't realise that I naturally draw heads a bit larger than they actually are, this is probably because of my love for doodling cartoonish characters! I have made a conscious effort to correct these proportion errors when doing my life drawing.

We use plenty of techniques other than charcoal within these life drawing classes which take me away from my artistic comfort zone such as using different mediums of drawing and techniques such as drawing simultaneously with both the left and right hands or using a rubber to show the highlighted parts of the model on a totally blackened canvas.

I feel that these life drawing classes are helping me greatly with my understanding of proportions and drawing styles.

Watch my video about contrasting shadows on YouTube:

Understanding Maya - 3D Art Production & Gameplay and Interactivity

A huge part of Computer Game Arts is 3D modelling through 3D computer graphics software. The majority of games nowadays have moved on from the art style of 2D pixels on a screen, with technology being far more advanced and enabling players to experience more realistic and true-to-life gameplay visuals. This is done through 3D modelling and these models aren't only used for games but can also be a means of creating 3D animation and special effects in films! So, with all of this in mind, I am very excited and determined to not only understand how to create these models but to put in a lot of effort to do it well so that I can have fun using it and be able to experiment with how my models can be used. (I've even noticed that 3D environments can be used to produce 360 YouTube videos, but more on that in the future...)

As I am creating both a Battle Arena and a Walkthrough Game simultaneously for this course I needed to create 3D models for both of them. The software that I'm learning is Maya, a well known 3D computer graphics software which is widely used to create interactive 3D applications ranging from games to animations and visual effects.

When I first started using Maya it took me a while to understand and remember the keyboard shortcuts and overall techniques on how to build object from blocks, extruding and manipulating wire meshes. It's entirely different from drawing in 2D art and because of this I found it difficult to start from a blank scene and create what I wanted from my mind.

So instead I started with a tutorial! I built this cartoon house from a series of YouTube videos that I had found and got to witness first hand the commentators thought processes as he was creating the house which helped me to understand how to go about customising the shapes and using the different tools as well as some very useful time saving tips such as using the outliner tool to group everything together instead of having to combine meshes all of the time just in case I still wanted them to stay separate to add changes, but was then still able to move things around as a group instead of individually. This also taught me to think ahead when creating my models to think about texturing and what will happen if I need to import it into Unity3D. For example, in the house above the door has a separate panel to add some depth to the texturing and I had to make the door separate from the house if I wanted to import it and animate to open and close for gameplay in Unity.

Once I had created this house I found it a lot easier to begin modelling the rest of my environment assets (the environment below is for my walkthrough game). I could reuse shapes I had created before and simply modify them to suit another asset that I needed instead of having to start from a basic object every time which saved a lot of time. Below I have made a gate, fence, cobbled path, well and a speaker in half the time that it took me to create the house (which was a day) just by reusing parts of it.

Josef from Machinarium - Character modelling
I wanted to give myself a challenge after having grasped the very basics of modelling and tasked myself with creating a 3D model of the robot protagonist Josef from the point-and-click game, Machinarium. (It's a cute and overall awesome game for those of you that haven't played it, and if you haven't, go do so, NOW!  :) )

I started from his tube body, changing the width divisions lower than 20 to make him look a little less smooth and more clunky to keep with the old steampunk art style and created the shape of the protruding pipes by extracting different layers out and repositioning them to make them thinner or wider, then redoing that over and over and over, the whole time being careful to try and create the curves that I wanted when I reached his head. I then used the multi-component select tools to select either points or lines of the mesh and move them around individually, or created more points and lines by using the multi-cut or insert edge-loop tools. For the eyes, arms and legs I created them separately using the same extruding method and then placed them where I wanted on Josef's body and merged the mesh together to create one overall object.

I'm really happy with what I was able to create and think he looks pretty spot on, a little chubbier, but a little podge is cute!

I became inspired by the first YouTube videos that I watched on learning how to create the cartoon house and how much it helped me to just see someone's thought processes when learning Maya and so have uploaded my own video on creating a ladder to YouTube. It's a simple object to create but through watching the video you can much easier see my techniques and understanding of the different tools within Maya to create the object as well as when things go wrong and how I go about fixing them, it's much easier to watch me create something that read about me babbling on about my learning processes through Maya (although you already have done so THANK YOU!) so if you need more information of how I have learnt to 3D model and how I create my models then have a watch :)

Coma - Walkthrough Game Map and Interactions

Above is a rough sketch of the layout and main interactions that will happen within my walkthrough game, Coma. I want the game environment to seem open and vast, but with the player being restricted to  path and between fences off areas. When the player descends down below the well the environment will be small and claustrophobic so as to unsettle the player, darkness will surround them as well to increase the tension felt within the game. 

The main interactions within the game will be:
  • When the player wakes up in a cramped cottage and exits through the door to find the cobbled path leading them through a small village outside lined with speakers.
  • When the player noticed the well and hears the cries for help below, interacting with it will tell the player that the well is boarded up and they need to find something to break to boards.
  • A little further down the path they will find the chopped up logs and be able to interact with the axe, holding it within their hand (this should be visible within the first person camera view).
  • They then get to use the axe with the well and descend into the dark, cave-like place below to follow the cries for help.
  • The last interaction is when they find the old record player and press the interaction button to make the record stop spinning, causing them to be surrounded by darkness apart from the words "Wake Up" appearing on the cave wall.

Coma - Game Walkthrough Storyboard

For my 3 minute walkthrough game I have created this simple storyboard for me to refer to when creating the game. As this game can be no longer than 3 minutes I made sure to keep it simple, however I did include at least 3 different interactions within the game for me to create through using C# in Unity3D.

The game will start with the player waking up in a small, cartoon-like cottage, preferably with some oddly upbeat music playing that the player can optionally leave on or turn off before leaving the cottage. Upon leaving the house they will then find a cobbled pathway with speakers and other cottages aligning either side, like a small quaint village with no people. The player can hear muffled commands coming from the speakers but can't quite make them out and the protagonist will have some text pop up narrating how he wonders where everyone is. Walking a little further down the cobbled path the player will then hear distant screams coming from a boarded up well marked 'Danger'. To open the well and see what the source of the screaming is they have to carry on down the cobbled path until they reach a fenced off forest with some cut down tree stumps, where they will find an axe and be able to pick it up and use it on the boarded up well. However, upon descending down the well into a dark and dingy cave they realise that the noise is actually coming from an old record player. The atmosphere in the cave is to be a lot more spooky and unnerving than that of the village to make the player nervous about approaching the record player and why these cries for help are being played. Once the player approaches the record player and stops it playing all goes suddenly black and a voice calls out saying; 'WAKE UP'. That is then the end of the walkthrough and the introduction to Coma!

Coma - Walkthrough Game One Sheet

For the Gameplay and Interactivity unit within Computer Games Art I am going to be building a walkthrough game using my own modelled assets and scene in Maya and then importing it into Unity3D to create at least 3 different interactive elements within the 3 minute walkthrough game. The aim is to create a certain atmosphere using only the greybox assets, lights, audio and of course the interactions themselves.

The game I have decided to make is called Coma. Above is the One Sheet for the game which explains in detail what the narrative if the game is as well as the more technical aspects:

The X (simply the blurb of the game):
When trapped inside your own imagination there's no knowing what lays around the corner. Can you follow the voices of your loved ones to find your way back to reality?

The 4 Pillars (What defines the gameplay of your game):
  • No weapons to be found or used within the game.
  • No health meter so cannot die. However the player can 'get lost within the coma', never returning to reality.
  • Can't hold more than one object at a time.
  • Collect drawings within the game to help the player recall how they got in the coma in the first place. These pictures can be viewed in the pause menu.
Story / Goals:
Being trapped inside your own mind is far from fun and games. Decipher reality from imagination to delve deep into your subconscious and find out how you became trapped within a coma in the first place. The voices of those from the real world will guide you. Collect pages of drawings of your past to help jog your memory. Only once you face the truth will you truly be able to wake up to reality, or risk becoming trapped as a prisoner in your own mind forever.

Gameplay Mechanics
  • First person gameplay so that the player is constantly immersed in the narrative as much as possible.
  • Space bar to jump (or X on PlayStation, A on Xbox)
  • Left click to pick up / use (or Square on PlayStation, X on Xbox)
  • Esc to go to the pause menu (or Start)

Other Information - Theme, aesthetics, technology:
Coma will be created for PC and consoles. It will have dream-like graphics, using vibrant and garish colours but still keeping it relatively resembling real-life graphics. This will give it a more exaggerated, dark cartoon-like feel and ultimately create an unsettling and eerie atmosphere. Using washed out colours will help with the dream-like aesthetics which will stay in line with the narrative of the game.

The Players Piece (about the game protagonist):
The players name will never be mentioned as it is not important, only his memories and the narrative that plays within his subconscious and 'reality' matters. When he is drifting away from reality he sees himself as a well-kept man, healthy, clean and shaven; as he was before entering the coma. However, once he starts to accept reality nearer the end of the game he realises that he is actually in the hospital, wearing a hospital gown, messy and unshaven as he has been there for quite some time. He will never be heard speaking within the game as I believe that would take the player away from being truly immersed in the game and remind them that they are a third person viewer within the unrolling narrative. However I will include narrational text every now and then for prompting the player in the right direction and giving clues as to his emotional state. 

Game Arena Scamps

Using my moodboard as a reference I scamped out my game arena to visualise it before I start the 3D model process. I decided that I definitely wanted to make my arena underwater because I know that later on I will be animating elements of it and adding a statue; having the arena underwater offers lots of potential for animation by adding fish, bubbles and seaweed in the sea, swaying to the motion of the waves. I also still really like the idea of mixing the eerie elements of Bioshock with the simple and endearing cartoon-like design of Machinarium and feel that having the arena underwater will stay true to Rapture as I can play around with the exaggerated shadows like they did. Making a mechanical ship was more influenced by Machinarium as the game includes a world dull of robots and, because I wanted to copy that style of design, I wanted to make a robot-like sunken boat!

The boat will include objects such as a treasure chest of nuts and bolts, a bar area, barrels and oil containers, pipes and even a secret hatch leading the player to the sea surrounding the boat if I get enough time. I love easter eggs in games as they are a reward to players who spend time exploring and really getting the most out of games so I think it would be awesome if I could include one in my game arena (being the secret hatch).

When I include my statue in my game I'd like it to be sunken within the sea just outside of the game arena and in view through glass windows. The statue will look like it has been sunken for a while, with moss on parts and perhaps a little broken too.

Perspective Drawing


I drew this simple one-point perspective drawing to demonstrate my skills when drawing with perspective in mind. One-point perspective drawings are created by drawing everything from a point on the paper by using straight lines protruding from the point.

I decided to draw a sci-fi scene from inside a space ship, with a window looking out to a nearby planet on the left and multiple doors columned on the right hand side of the drawing. Lights align the ceiling and arrows are aligned along on the window. This scene worked very well to show the different perspective of the corridor as I drew everything to become much smaller the closer it reached the point, staying true to the straight lines I drew from the point in the middle of the paper.

I then added a character within my scene to exaggerate the different perspectives even more as the robot is walking out of the foremost door.

Using water colour pencils I was able to add colour to the drawing, however I feel that I should have added more shading to exaggerate the perspectives more as that would help it look more 3D and realistic.

Game Arena- Moodboard

For 3D art production we are using Maya to create 3D objects and environments to eventually use in our game worlds (and even animate). Our first project is to build a battle arena, or some sort of enclosed game environment. So, the first objective is for me to think about what sort of environment I'd like to create. I've put together a moodboard of games that inspire me:

This moodboard include the games: Beyond Good and Evil, Bioshock, Machinarium, Portal and Botanicula. I have particularly focused on water-based environments as I've always been fascinated with underwater worlds and think it would be really fun to create one. I am also a huge fan of anything dark and sinister as I love the suspense that thrillers create through their detailed environments and atmospheres. Both Bioshock and Portal build up this tension well in my opinion as, even though Portal isn't meant to be a scary game, the scenes where you find rat mans dens are always slightly unnerving, they show a part of the narrative that hasn't been explained fully and leaves the player guessing what happened to the poor lunatic who leaves nonsensical scribbles along the walls. I've always loved little details like this within games because they do not need to be found but feel like small achievements when they are finally uncovered by the curious player. Other elements that help to keep tension within these games are the gritty, contrasted colours that are used throughout them which emphasise things like shadows which are tactfully positioned in the game to make players aware of another person (or creatures) presence and fear what could be waiting for them around the corner. However, I also adore the art style of point and click games such as Machinarium and Botanicula, I think it would be fun and unnerving to mix the tense and scary atmosphere of games like Bioshock with the sweet and innocent art style of these games to create a morbid kind of irony about the game environment. 

Designing a Robot


My Mission: To create a bad-ass original design for a robot!

The first place I looked when gaining inspiration for my very own robot was, of course, Machinarium! I've always loved the style of this game and fell in love with the little robot himself as soon as I set eyes on him, he's just so simple yet so freakin' adorable! I love how Amanita Design have cleverly used different rust-like colours to give each robot some depth and character about them, such as with the main characters girlfriend robot, who appears to wear a striped dress. This made me realise that I didn't want to go over the top with my robot design as it's the simplicity that draws me to these robots and, in my opinion, gives them more character as a lot of them are worn and rusted, with some even falling apart!
Machinarium robot sketches

I also sought inspiration from on of my favourite Disney Pixar movies: Wall-E! Very much like the robots in Machinarium, Wall-E himself is very old and rusted, with his only colours being dull and thoroughly rusted. However, EVE, the newer and more shiny robot, is very smooth and slick with a shiny white coating, much different to Wall-E. But I was always more partial to the old, bulky and rusted look of Wall-E, it's these imperfections that made him a lot more endearing and cute, making the audience sympathise and form an emotional attachment with him more. 

After researching into these influences I began sketching some robot designs of my own, focusing on simplicity and the old, rusted look that I so love in a robot; I wanted to create a robot that people would instantly want to know more about, be intrigued by it's antique look and, hopefully, find cute and therefore be more willing to form an emotional attachment with it. 

My Robotic Doodles

I started off with some basic shapes, focusing on how a robot might be put together; what it uses to move around, what it's made of, where it's CPU board would be, etc. As I have already explained, I wanted my robot to look old and worn, with a history behind it, so I couldn't have it flying as that would be much too modern for what I was going for and the material it would be made of would have to fit with the look as well, not be new and shiny like that of EVE's. As you can see to the right, the robot is wearing a large nut for a skirt and has an old-fashioned antenna on her head to help her transmit frequencies and communicate with other robots.

I also thought heavily about the story behind the robot that I was creating because narrative is the most fun and important part for me. I wanted my robot to come across as having a personality that perhaps people could either relate to or become intrigued by, and ensure that it did not look like just another generic robot. That's when I came up with the robot below! He's definitely one of my favourite doodles because he's rather abstract and unique, not only in the way that he looks and what he's representing but also because I have drawn the robot in one continuous shape, with his body resembling that of the infinity sign. I envision him  having wheels behind his long, dragging arms that he can lean back and roll along on when walking on his short two front feet gets too much for him, quite like R2D2! His hair would be metal spray painted black with a crude white stripe to resemble a 'shiny hair' look and a home-made jagged piece at the end to great the curl. However, his mask and and cape would be real, made of cloth and foam, just like what human children wear when they're playing dress-up as kids. Because of this the robot is a lot more relatable and will evoke the emotional attachment that I want the viewer to feel when looking at this particular robot. It also shows that he has a personality as he has wishes to become a superhero, just like most children do!

Complete Robot Design

Luckily, just in time, I came across a story of a real robot. Although, she was from the future of course as there are no advanced robots in the world today (unfortunately). I only got a glimpse of her CPU board, which was in the shape of a heart, and an explanation of her build so I must apologise if the details of her story are a bit flakey.

She comes from a land where humans are long gone, we cease to exist. You want to know why? Because we killed our land. We fought against nature for so long, destroying forests and polluting the land for our cattle farming and precious oil among so many other things until one day nature just fizzled out; it gave up the will to fight. Only then did we realise that without nature we cannot survive. But within this world starved of the beauty of nature and life, mankind's creations were the only ones to still exist; robots rule the world! Long story short, these robots are very well manufactured, with mankind perfecting the art of implementing freewill and replicating human emotion into the framework of a machine. The piece of technology that held these human-replicated emotions was designed into a heart, kept within the robots chest. How very typical of us eh? For robots to form emotional bonds with one another all they had to simply to was swap this hardware with another and process their partners emotions, past experiences and thought processes in with their own circuit systems, how very romantic!

But this one robot was different from the others, she had been handmade from a genius robotic engineer who had enabled her to feel human emotions more strongly than any other robot before her. Unfortunately though, the engineer died before any more robots could be made like her. She was one of a kind, and she was alone. But this made her special, so special in fact that her extra power enabled her to bring back the nature that human kind had stolen from the world, so that Earth could start anew. The details get fuzzy around this point...

But it's pretty cool!

A you can probably tell, it's the narrative behind this robot that I love the most, but the influences from Machinarium and Wall-E are both present in the design, with rust-like colours being the only ones used to keep a simplistic theme. The heart is designed to look like a CPU board (because that is the main piece of hardware running the robot). The small details such as the atenna, nut shorts, rusted cheeks to look like they're rosy and plants and vines running across the robot are the main focus; they help to tell the narrative and give her character, showing her gender and showing some depth to the character that I have drawn. Overall, I'm very happy with the way that my robot has turned out!

Transition from Digital Film and Screen Arts to Computer Games Arts

Originally I was studying Digital Film and Screen Arts, with a strong passion for film in a new-age sense. Living in a world where reaching out to the other side of the world is just a keyboard click away I see the film medium as the best way to reach out to these people, through websites such as YouTube or Twitch we can easily reach out to one another, influencing and connecting with others lives through a screen and hopefully having a positive impact on them. This is the kind of film that I have a passion for; it's the social side, the interactive nature, the communication and impact that happens around the video itself.

However, since starting the course I began noticing that the interactivity that I so craved to learn and innovate with does not reside within the film industry already and so cannot be taught by a film-based course. As it's not the professional quality that I'm looking to delve further into, it's the impact that I can have on viewers and the community that I can create through offering a more interactive and immersive experience with my videos.

I love games. I've always loved games. They offer what films never have, a chance to become the starring role; to become truly immersed in the narrative by developing emotional attachments with the in-game characters and ultimately controlling the flow, or even nowadays, the outcome of the narrative itself.

So perhaps I've been following the wrong route and instead of trying to bring new interactive elements into the already well-established film industry, I could take what I so love about film and bring it with me on my journey through understanding and experimenting with the interactive and immersive elements that are offered to me within the gaming industry.

Plus, being able to create 3D worlds, draw 2D characters and put them all together using object oriented programming to tell an immersive narrative is pretty darn cool!

Photography Inspiration - Ransom Riggs

Photography is something that I have little experience with; a medium that I haven't explored. My areas of interest are usually fixated on evoking emotion through the interactivity of digital media, so where do I start when producing a photography project? Look for inspiration!

Starting with what I know:

The author of one of my favourite books, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, is my first stop for photography inspiration. Although he is known for his writing skills, fictional novels and film content by creating book trailers and YouTube videos, the inspiration for all of this stemmed from photography, more accurately, found and forgotten photos from the past.

Mama and Grace - 1953. Where Daddy was killed.
Riggs published a book called 'Talking Pictures', documenting all of the photographs that he has collected over the years, from car boot sales, abandoned houses and other places where the photographs might be seen as trash. These photographs are accompanied with written text, giving a quick insight into the moment that the photo was taken and unleashing a small part of the subjects forgotten personality and life.

"Riggs' book is not exclusively devoted to the aesthetics of the snapshot image, but rather touches on the humor, romance, drama, or tragedy of life via the accompanying handwritten text. These photos reveal something profound about our shared humanity in all its varied forms and are a poignant reminder of why we take pictures. None of us who love snapshots will ever look at them the same way again."

These photographs inspire me because of the emotions they evoke within me. They're not all perfectly shot, lit or exposed. Most of them have faded with age and are taken by amateur photographers, such as myself, without intent of the photograph being used for anything other than personal use. Because of this it makes observing the photographs and their handwritten text feel like a very intimate experience, as if intruding on somebody's diary. When I look upon these pictures, witnessing people's life experiences; happiness, sadness, friendship, family and even eventual death, I can't help but feel a mixture of emotions, with an overpowering loneliness. These people and their pictures would have been lost and forgotten forever if it wasn't for Riggs creating this book, and even though their pictures remain, their names, lives and experiences are lost. It reminds me that time can never stand still and that one day my experiences and pictures too will be lost.

Ransom Riggs also does his own photography. He's an avid traveller and takes his camera with him wherever he goes, his images can be found on the Mental Floss website under the category 'Strange Geographies'. Riggs likes to take pictures of sceneries that are quirky or haunting in their own right, forgotten places such as abandoned buildings and towns are often present within his work. Because of this the style of his shots are often dark and grungy, keeping with the mood of the environment that he's photographing. The natural light helps Riggs to produce these moody tones and highly contrasted light and dark shades within his photography.

I like how Riggs stays true to the environments that he's photographing, showing their true beauty and depth. The environments that he travels to can speak for themselves so I believe that editing these photographs too much would ruin the natural essence of the photographs.
Boat - The Salton Sea
As well as environments, abandoned buildings and ghost towns, Riggs also travels to cities and towns where the life styles are drastically different to that of the Western culture. For instance, the below image is from 'Village Life in Vanuatu'. This collection shows how the Vanuatu civilisation live in harmony with nature, sleeping in beautifully decorated straw huts, eating fruit, raising cattle and enjoying the simplicity of life in the village. My favourite image from the collection (below) struck me mainly because of the darkness of the photograph, it seemed very mysterious and made me question why the boy was hiding away from Riggs. The quality is a little blurry on the edges of the photograph which shows that the photograph is not staged and makes the image feel a lot more raw. It's hard to determine the expression on the boy's face which leads the viewer to question whether he is hiding or has been shunned into the darkness. I love the tint of green that pigments to boy's skin from the leaves at the opening of the dark hole, making him seem one with nature. Overall the mystery of this photo intrugues me and leaves me to question many things about this photo: Why is the boy hiding? Is he muddy or is he bruised? And overall, is that a weapon he's holding? 

Village Life in Vanuatu

"We found this boy smiling at us from a hole in the jungle. A nearby adult explained that he'd just gone through his circumcision ritual, which meant he had to wear anamba (a huge penis-sheath), mud makeup, and hang out in holes for a week or so (this guy's English was about as good as our Bislama, so I'm not totally sure on the details)."
-Ransom Riggs 
By reading Ransom Riggs explanation of the photograph it seems a lot less sinister and upsetting, this shows how interesting interpretation can be as I was under the belief that this boy was upset and hiding. 

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