Tom Clancy’s The Division Gameplay Footage

One of the games that doesn’t appear to be getting the attention it deserves in the buzz surrounding the impending release of next gen consoles is Tom Clancy’s The Division. Developed by Ubisoft and Massive, the players take up arms as members of an elite unit activated in the wake of a biological weapon unleashed on Black Friday. The gameplay looks engrossing, and the graphics are convincingly realistic. This isn’t a game about huge fireball explosions and overdoing gun play Hollywood-style. It looks gritty, with a no-nonsense esthetic that covers a vast urban landscape that displays a painstaking attention to minute detail.

This game has my attention.

3D World interview with 3D artist Alex Telford

This 3D World interview with Alex Telford has a few insights into what makes the man tick.

One item in particular seems worth the share:

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3D World: Could you share a technical secret on how you work?
Lose the undo key. Tweaking should be reserved for when you have finished the stage of the project you are working on, an extrude should take 1 second, not 10 minutes.

Try to work in passes, start by blocking, then refine the whole thing, refine it again and repeat until you are happy.

If you create amazing landing gear on a blocked out plane, when your supervisor comes he will see a blocked out plane that took hours to make. I say this because we never finish a project to perfection, it is simply taken away from us because of time.

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I guess I’ll stop my unfortunate habit of modelling photorealistic nose hairs on otherwise undefined blocks immediately.

The making of Halo’s “Spartan Ops” – lessons learned

More 3D World goodness about the making of Halo 4’s cinematics.

The artists that put together this video are incredibly talented. The lighting and photography is gorgeous. There is so much going on with this bit of CG. Of course, that appears to be one of the problems that the development team ran into. They put too much in, more than the eye can perceive on screen. This must have come with a commensurate cost in terms of budget and production time, something that the producers have to keep a very close eye on to avoid scope creep. It isn’t because a particular technology allows you to do more that you should.

Having said this, I am blown away by the piece. It is visually pleasing, and manages to create an emotional attachment with the characters in a short time span.

Turning the tables: Aaron Diaz’ Zelda as a a protagonist

Dresden Codak artist Aaron Diaz explores Zelda as Link in this stunning illustration inspired by Anita Sarkeesian’s Video Game Tropes vs Women.

I think this clearly illustrates that there is plenty of potential to create strong, engaging characters that can appeal both to men and women in games. Exploitation of the female form in games is a crutch, not a mark of talent. It may certainly drive sales in a certain demographic, but undoubtedly turns off many more players (a hint for dudes: it’s the other 50% of the human race.)

It’s time for the entertainment industry to move beyond trying to appeal to the inner teenage boy’s sex drive and start delivering stories and games that can stand on their own thanks to substance rather than T&A.

Equity Crowdfunding, highlights weird and wonderful nature of investment

Crowdfunding has by now emerged from obscurity and is garnering mainstream awareness as the likes of Kickstarter and Indiegogo begin to churn out record-setting projects that have gained the attention of major media outlets.

A new development I was completely unaware of until reading Frank Cifaldi’s article on Gamasutra is Equity Crowdfunding, a European service which appears to be gaining steam as a platform for Venture Capital (VC) investing in game development. When I first started using Kickstarter, I recall thinking that it would be great to have the ability to establish such a cooperation mechanism, as I really have no use for extra USB keys or a new fanboy mug. Cifaldi efficiently explores some of the pros and cons associated to the concept.

What I did find interesting, and wholly unrelated to the article’s game development aspect, are the issues relating to VC in North America. In order to take part in such investment, one needs to be registered as a “qualified investor“. Key criteria for a Canadian to be deemed as such are:

  1. an individual who, either alone or with a spouse, beneficially owns financial assets having an aggregate realizable value that before taxes, but net of any related liabilities, exceeds $1,000,000; or
  2. an individual whose net income before taxes exceeded $200,000 in each of the two most recent calendar years or whose net income before taxes combined with that of a spouse exceeded $300,000 in each of the two most recent calendar years and who, in either case, reasonably expects to exceed that net income level in the current calendar year; or
  3. an individual who, either alone or with a spouse, has net assets of at least $5,000,000; and
  4. a person, other than an individual or investment fund, that has net assets of at least $5,000,000 as shown on its most recently prepared financial statements.

Basically, one needs to be rolling in dough to be deemed capable of funding an activity with the hope of making money from it. This certainly reinforces the adage that it takes money to make money.

I guess I’m going to have to up my game at the lemonade stand this summer.

The Beautiful Design Direction in ‘The Last of Us’

The Beautiful Design Direction in ‘The Last of Us’.

This video from “The Last of Us” is a wonderful find by the Gaming Grad. Work like this highlights game development’s inexorable move towards an art form and demonstrates that one can find beauty even in the deepest of horror.

Lost in Thought – an awesome game design blog

I came across the Lost in Thought game development blog this evening.

If you’ve got the slightest, mildest case of interest in game development, this blog is for you. A small development team is giving us a running insight into the creative process behind the design of a 2.5D platformer.

Here’s one of the shots from their site:

’nuff said.

Requiem for LucasArts

Old game companies don't die. They just get discarded by Disney.

It’s been a good run, Lucas Arts.

Yesterday we learned that LucasArts will soon be no more.

Although the company certainly hasn’t produced a game that lives up its glamor of old, I can’t help but feel a sense of loss at its passing. The games it made in its early days and middle years played a key role in developing our sense of what a game should be. They were master storytellers, comedians, and character designers. Who can’t help but smile at the loony greatness of games such as the Day of the Tentacle? It also kept us playing countless hours as X-Wing or Tie Fighter pilots.

This fondness remains despite many of its more recent releases generating a resounding “meh” at best.

Gamasutra has just released a collection of thoughts from leaders from around the game industry Why are we still talking about Lucas Arts? Many poignant thoughts emerge as to the impact it had on game development. The most important thoughts come from Lucasfilm Games alum David Fox:

“When I first started working at Lucasfilm in 1982, we had a heavy burden to bear. How could we create games that were as compelling as the Star Wars films but without mining ideas from the Star Wars universe? While other game companies of the 1980s had to rely on the income from their games to survive, we had the unheard-of luxury of taking our time to get our games right, with years to experiment, try new things, push the envelope, and with no pressure from marketing, focus testing, or even George Lucas. We also had time to develop our company culture, starting where the Lucasfilm culture left off.

So we’d spend months thinking about our games… brainstorming with the other brilliant designers, refining, reworking, revamping, tossing out the parts that didn’t work (or the entire concept) and starting again. One of our edicts was “don’t ship shit” and we wanted to make sure we never did.”

I can’t help but suspect that the degradation in the quality of the games they have been publishing may have resulted from a shift from such a pure ideal towards the quest for the almighty dollar. Regardless, if the loss of LucasArts does but remind us of but this one principle, then it was not for naught.

A glimpse into Star Citizen’s modeling pipeline

Star Citizen's Hornet Fighter

Star Citizen’s Hornet Fighter

I love the transparency that accompanies the development of many crowdsourced games. For an aspiring game developer such as myself, seeing updates such as Star Citizen’s Hornet WIP gives me all kinds of ideas and tidbits to incorporate into my own processes.

In the case of Roberts Space Industries’ most recent missive, it’s the opportunity to see the design work that goes behind the development of the beautiful space craft and character models that will populate an epic space opera. The quality and quantity of work that has to be done behind the scenes to deliver such cutting edge graphics are humbling. I can only imagine the mountain of programming that has to take place to make this magic come together.

A great deal of sweat and tears have to be shed to bring these creations to life!