Sunday, 28 July 2013

The Stanley Parable

Originally a mod for Half Life 2, developers Galactic Cafe have just released a full, stand-alone, version of their seminal game, 'The Stanley Parable', on Steam. It could be argued that it's not a game in the truest sense of the word but more of a virtual installation, that questions the very nature of gaming and the way we experience the medium.

Without spoiling the experience it has quickly become one of my favourite games of all time. You play as Stanely, an office worker that has spent his working life pushing buttons, then one day the code he has to input stops. Stanely finds himself alone in the building and must find out where everyone has gone, and thus his adventure starts. The whole game is voiced over by a narrator, every object you interact with and every turn you take is commented upon with a Monty Python esque quality. The game never seems to end, with hundreds of variations on the way Stanely's adventure plays out. For example you can close the door to your own office at the very start and that's it, the narrator comments that Stanley waited there until he dies and the game restarts, that was just one of Stanley's stories. The game constantly breaks the forth wall with the narrator talking directly to the player and questioning their motives, eventually question the very nature of gameplay and even more philosophical matters.

I certainly recommend it, even if you just download the demo from Steam, in fact the developers have made the demo a completely different experience so you don't spoil the full game. The developers also released a video, based on a letter they received from a player, who was criticising the game. The player clearly doesn't understand what Galactic Cafe were trying to do with the game, but the video really showcases the sense of humour that the Dev's have, and which is prevalent in the game.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

UVW unwrapping practice

A major aspect of 3D modelling that I hadn't had much experience with was unwrapping, and laying out UVW's to help when it comes to texturing. Previously I've just assigned individual materials to selections of my mesh or used multi/sub-object materials to texture my models, but I knew that this was more of a brute force method rather than the way models are prepared for game engines, or if you want to paint directly onto you model.
I knew the fundamentals but didn't know the process very well in Max, so I strove to teach myself over the summer. I followed a tutorial by Digital Tutors called 'Introduction to 3DS Max 2014', even though I know the basics I thought it would help with UVW unwrapping but also introduce me to the new features in Max 2014.

I'm really pleased with what I've learnt, UVW mapping is a lot of work that unfortunately is not apparent to those without modelling experience, but it will show in the final texturing, and I'm now pretty proficient with the UVW tools in Max. After building, then unwrapping the Assault Chopper, I've laid out all the UVW maps ready for texturing. I intend to take the model into Mudbox so I can paint it directly in 3D, and teach myself the software. It seems to work really well in combination with Max so I really need to incorporate it into my workflow.

Monday, 1 July 2013

Rezzed 2013

We travelled down to Birmingham for the weekend as we had tickets for Rezzed 2013, a PC and Indie game expo hosted by the 'Rock, Paper, Shotgun' crew and Eurogamer, at the NEC.

Rezzed is a more traditional gaming convention with playable demos on the show floor, when compared to the more business orientated Games Horizon. I was really excited to see Chris Avelone talk about their upcoming, old-school RPG, Project Eternity, as the Baldur's Gate series of games are still some of my all time favourites. There was also playable, early code for Rome II: Total War, so I was interested to see if Creative Assembly had learnt their lesson from earlier TW release disasters.

The show floor was a little smaller than I thought it would be, filling only a small section of the NEC, however there were plenty of games on show and the atmosphere was very friendly. The first panel of the day, 'Is Storytelling in games getting any better?' was worth the price of admission alone, hosted by John Walker (RPS), it featured a host of industry experts and their opinions on the future of storytelling in games.

On the show floor I got to play, The Mighty Quest for Epic Loot, Heart Surgery Simulator, Space Hulk, Splinter Cell, and Rome II among others. Funnily enough the Rome II stand was surprisingly empty and my first attempt at the battle demo didn't instill me with confidence as the troops I controlled scattered everywhere after giving them simple move commands. On the second day I tried again and things had improved but the game seemed far from ready especially with the release day looming.

The Second day was rounded off with a talk by Chris Avellone on the development of the hugely succesful Kickstarter-Backed RPG, Project Eternity.

Whilst I really enjoyed Rezzed it certainly wasn't an event for networking like Games Horizon was, and the travel to Birmingham was quite lengthy. There was talk of moving the event to Manchester and if that was the case I'd certainly go again but Birmingham is a bit of a trek. The developer sessions were extremely interesting, the atmosphere was great but one thing i thought missing was the lack of game merchandise stores, I think next time I'll load up a van with merch, register for a stall and make a killing!