2019 Rewind Time

Well it’s that time of year again, were I recollect all the shucked responsibilities and dead projects that I have let fall by the wayside. Giving me the opportunity to clean up and reorganize projects for the new year and attempt to plan some out for 2020. During this time I also managed to get organized and created a fun board! Attempting to follow a SCRUM mock-up, the process below is self-explanatory. Just move a sticky note through the pipeline to track the progress of various projects.

Looking back, last year I gave myself three simple goals to stick too. More Artwork, more reading & writing, and more healthy life choices. Pretty simple…right?

Artwork

This year has been pretty slow with personal projects. I managed to get one project sorted, organized, and posted. My Store AR Development which was done as a look-dev for a competition hosted by Magic Leap and AT&T earlier this year.

Portfolio

Other projects however haven’t made it as far. Handful of Rev-Share opportunities have abruptly ended, due to either project management or life just eating up all the down time. But two projects that I was apart of earlier this year were quite fun and enjoyable to work on while I had the time to!

First up was helping the Bloody Mary team develop a mobile thriller based off the folklore legend. I was able to contribute a handful of props during my time with them.

“Return to elementary school where you confront the girl of your nightmares. A horror tale taking place in 1993, experience the lore, atmosphere, and fear as you learn the unsettling truth about her, and yourself. But whatever you do, stay out of the bathroom!”

Bloody Mary Game Design Document

Another project was Bladedawn. A competitive MMO designed by Jeroen “Naro”. For this project I contributed even more 3D props to be utilized in a top down environment. While Naro handled the web and game design.

And some additional freelance work I did all the way back in February!

The only personal project that I have managed to work on here and there is recreating the tanks designed by James McDonald. Which he used for the mobile game Battle Nations. You can find his twitter here.

This project actually started last year at the begging of December and as you can see it has taken some time to get this project where it is now.

With one tank left this project should be wrapped up at the beginning of the new year!

And, of course, my Art Test for Phoenix Point. Which you can check out at the link below for images.

Postmortem Art Test

I mostly stuck to 3D work this time around. I did attempt to return to traditional and digital drawing using CtrlPaint‘s free library of tutorials. However I quickly discovered I don’t have much time to sit down, decompress, and draw traditionally. If I want to re-pursue traditional art, I’m going to need to figure out a more streamlined process.

Writing & Reading

As for my writing this year, I was able to manage but one post. My Art Test for Phoenix Point. Other than that not much on the written side of things, minus a few Game Design Documents and Templates that I have been working on throughout the year. [More on that later.]

As for reading, I have stuck to mainly articles and blogs posted by Artists, Designers, Programmers, and Animators. Below are a few of my favorites. Timothy Dries has been providing consistent weekly updates with great analysis, breakdowns, and tips. Pauh Paulinlo has great video tutorials on basic concepts that I find myself continuing to go back to and Ricardo Bess’ post mortem is a great insight into the game development processes.

Which I highly recommend following and reading through!

Diet and Exercise

Ha, well, can’t say I didn’t try this out! I did get a gym membership, so that still counts right? I joined up with a local community kickball league, in which we played for about 3 months. We ended the season 1 and 9 so not bad for a first year team I say. I can positively say I was more active this year than last. Even if it wasn’t much, it was still fun and better than no fun.

2020 Goals

I think keeping to these goals is the better option, but, I’m going to slowly add to them over time. Through leveling up my goals throughout the year, like you would skill-sets in an RPG. Add some creative fun to it! This also gives me the opportunity to main as an artsy type or make a pretty balanced build.

As shown last year, thanks to the Scrum Plugin “Burndown for Trello”, I was projected to finishing my goals around June 20, 2021. Well I manage to shave off about an hour for my daily burn down for the year (working less hours on average overall), which is shown through barely working on many personal projects.

So with that, I have wrapped up 2019! Here’s to a new year filled with growth and art! Hope you all have a great new year!

Phoenix Point : Art Test Postmortem

Well I finally got around to posting and sharing my experience with Phoenix Point. I went through some big life changes and this post had been placed on the back burner for a good amount of time. But now that the dust has settled a bit, here is my experience with their Art Test.

Not to long ago [ Mid-january. Told you, it has been a while. ] I was given an art test and instructions to create a small environment in less than a week. I needed to create heavily modular buildings that would fit a top down tactical game while dwelling in the universe of Phoenix Point. Focusing on a specific faction I had to make at least three buildings with various ground elements that could be arranged into a small environment and rendered in their preferred engine, Unity. I also had to utilize PBR and the metallic workflow. Deliverables included obj files, textures in Targa format, and a rendered fly through camera of the build. [That should have been my first red flag.]

Now given the allotted time, this is more than enough time to generate a small amount of assets to create a good base environment. Something just pass a blockout mesh or simple stand-ins. What actually happed however is that I unwillingly turned it into my own game jam. Going 20 hours straight to produce three buildings the day of the turn in.

As expected, it did not go so well. I highly recommend never to rush Art Tests.

But before we go into details and showcase my result. Lets go through and breakdown the art style. Including the faction design I was tasked with recreating and a general “rule-of-thumb” for top down modularity and asset specs.

All images of Phoenix Point used in this blog can be found in their press kit, various social media sites, and Trello pages. Nothing presented here was contained in the Art Test Package.

What’s the Purpose of an Art Test?

Now when you are given an art test, it’s usually done so to gauge whether you can work with little to no guidance and to determine what your work process is. If you’ve gotten an art test, it generally means they like your portfolio. So give yourself a pat on the back!

The art test will generally gauge how fast you work, how you pace yourself, and how you prioritize your work. Essentially they are testing how well you can perform without any micromanagement. Most art tests come with tight deadlines, which is there just to gauge if you can meet deadlines. So if you don’t finish an art test, at least submit what you have.

“Every shot not taken, is a shot missed.”

Some old saying my parents taught me.
Google credits hockey player, Wayne Gretzky

Lastly, don’t be shy to ask for compensation for your time. [ Something that I myself don’t do much of. ] For freelancers, dedicating time towards art tests means taking time away from paying gigs. Or if you work in a different industry, taking time off work to focus on the art test. [ Which I have done while working at TRU.] Your time is valuable and you should be compensated for it. Especially if the test requires you to submit source files. NEVER submit source files. [ For this case I only handed in three out of twelve assets, as they wanted source files to “review” my topology and modeling. Why do you they need all of it? ] One way or another the company will use it in a stage of production. If source files are required, politely ask for compensation. Until then just send rendered watermarked images. In my own experience I did a lot of art tests when I graduated college. Pouring hours of work and complete weekends [ had a regular 9-5 retail job at the time ] into art tests to never hear anything back.

Lastly, always ask for feedback. Most companies will ghost you, but there are a handful that will provided reasons and breakdowns as to why. One case it was simply another candidate had better traditional art skills than me. My art test was great and well done, but the other candidate had a better traditional foundation. [ Yes, that did hurt a little. ]

Art Style Background

My art test focused on the Disciples of Anu, one of many Phoenix Point factions. Now according to their Trello and Website, the Disciples are an impoverished zealous group that worships a sun like god. Demonstrated by a pristine and imposing temple amongst the slum like dwellings. This sets up some great contrasting themes with the rigid, hard edge, and structural tones of the temple to the organic, lumpy, and filth of the worshipers.

Generated color palette

Per usual, I run the concept images through some color generators, and create a simple color pallet to base my texturing off of. So the art test should contain these color elements within three buildings that demonstrate organic modular shapes. These buildings also need to invoke a feeling of filth and squalor. Simple to do with the darker colors in our pallet. As a bonus building, we should also include a temple to completely incapsulate what the Anu faction is.

Modelling

Again, the genre that this game is aiming for is a top down turn based strategy game. Which falls in line with games like XCOM, Into the Breach, Banner Saga, and Battletech. So taking a look at how those games are built along with provided concept art will help establish a solid conceptual foundation to create our modular assets.

So first thing first, we want to knock out the easy tasks. Allowing us to focusing most of our time on assets and components that will be seen by the player. For example, trash models can be done quickly as the player wont spend much to any time thoroughly analyzing the garbage textures and mesh.

Before we even begin modeling we need to determine the relative size of the assets. Most turn based games rely on a grid system. As shown below. So most if not all 3D assets need fit within a certain grid space. Whether it be a 2×4 or 5×3. We don’t want to create abnormally large assets like 16×8 grid spaces, as that will take away the modular use of the asset. With tactical games there is also a lot of elements that allow for stealth and cover, as well as vertical travel, so we also need to incorporate that into the design of the village.

In order to create buildings that would fit into their world we need to match their scale and determine the grid spacing. For Phoenix Point it’s very easy to see that scale in their more human environments. By looking at their tiles, we can approximate their grid spacing. We can determine rough height and width ratios, as well as the complexity of meshes and transfer that info into our own representation of the Anu.

This link is to the XCOM 2 Art Dump that has great examples of how the props and components where broken up and made.

ArtDump

Tasking

We need to first create a set of Modular assets for the Anu dwellings. By either creating smaller unique buildings or environment elements like guard towers or houses. The other option is to create individual components like walls, floors, and barricades. We need to prioritize less important assets [ which generally are the quicker ones to create ] over more crucial assets that take up more visual real-estate.

A list of tasking would look something like this.

  • Background and ground elements.
    • Something that can be generated very quickly and is then hidden by our created buildings.
  • Modular Building Components.
    • Simple Wall, Floor, and Roof components.

At this point we don’t have to worry about texturing. We just need to quickly generate meshes and get them into the scene to determine silhouette and composition. This pass would focus on the Anu Dwellings at the time, given that was the first requirement on the Art Test. Focusing on the temple components last. Once everything is in the scene, we did a quick lighting pass, and a good base is generated, we can then focus on textures.

  • Simple Props.
    • This would be assets like trash, small decorative components [ like a string of lights or potted plants ] and other components that helps break up the silhouette and composition of the building but isn’t paid much attention to by the player.
  • Larger Props.
    • This would include buildings and features that are more recognizable, used frequently by the player, or complex. This would include barricades, level defining props, or any intractable components.
  • Clean Up.
    • Then lastly we would want to clean up and get some good lighting done and set up our fly through camera.

My Submission

Now that we went over how to do it, here is an example of how NOT to do it. Now this was a pretty bad submission. My priorities and tasking were backwards due to very poor planning and not much forethought for the outcome. I created three texture sets for the whole thing, attempted to create a ground level, and cobbled together three building from twelve static meshes. [ It’s one of those “do as I say and not as a I do” kind of hypocritical moments. Really should listen to myself more. ]

I reached out after submission [ as I was put in direct contact with a member of the hiring team ] and inquired of any feedback or comments on my submission. As of April haven’t heard back yet. [ And pretty sure I won’t ]

Post Mortem

So what could I have done better with my test?

  • Don’t cram 7 days of work into a continuous 20 hour sprint.
    • You overwork yourself, don’t get a break from it, and really loose track of how things are going.
  • Good Lighting
    • This is pretty bad lighting. Doesn’t set a mood, doesn’t evoke a feeling. It’s pretty bland.
  • Nothing screams “filthy”
    • Need to push more on the silhouette of these buildings. They are too rigid and clean, for the “hovels” of the Anu.
  • Silhouette & Composition
    • Again, this obviously screams “rushed production”

To many errors were made on this one that culminated into a final product that was other than what was needed. Doing this has allowed me to identify my mistakes, and as soon as the dust finishes settling I will come back to this and make it a proper portfolio piece.

2018 Rewind Time

2018 has come to an end which means it’s time to frantically rush through many unfinished projects while reflecting on this years accomplishments. Having started this blog about five months ago there isn’t much for content on here. But I wanted to reflect on some accomplishments that haven’t really been shared publicly.

Big Life Update

So first thing up, Meet Flick! One of the biggest surprises of 2018 was the new addition to our small little family.

Story Time…

Probably the luckiest kitten I’ve ever meet. One night, my significant other and I were driving home. She saw him crossing the road as two [ TWO! ] cars swerved in front of us. Slamming on the breaks, my fiance immediately jumped out of the car into 6 lanes of traffic in order to save him. After scoping him up, she then frantically tried to cross those six lanes to get to the sidewalk instead of, you know, just returning to the car. We ended up taking him back home with us, as all shelters were closed for the night and the only open Vet ER refused to see him as he was possibly feral. [ It was around 10pm by this point. ] After about a week or two of bottle feeding him we ended up naming him Flick [ not for the irony of him being flicked out of the back of a car, which is the only way we could theorize him ending up in the middle of the road. ] but because our senior kitty is named Meeko. Named after the raccoon from Pocahontas. At the time we both thought the humming bird’s name was Flick. [ It’s actually Flit. ] It wasn’t until after we gave the Vet that name did we realize it was wrong. But that name was already on all the paperwork. After that he, well, just stayed around. Although we were “actively” looking for a foster home. [ One Facebook Post made at 3am. ]

2018 Accomplishments

1. Built a PC

After working on and starting my career with a 2014 Macbook Pro, after four years I have finally made the switch to PC. A very basic and somewhat limiting build that has a few hiccups here and there but it was my first attempt at machine building. Which really was just me altering a few parts in a already built PC, nothing to complicated however it did cost more to upgrade the pre-built model than it would have if I had just bought the parts individual and built it myself while crossing my fingers that everything went correctly. But from this experience I learned a lot about PC Builds, subscribed to some cool content creators, and learned a valuable lesson. Sometimes it’s just easier [ and cheaper ] to risk failure and do it yourself.

This right here is my current build [ but covered in random Red Bubble Stickers. ] With a few minor upgrades, which include :

  • A new Samsung 860 EVO 500GB 2.5 Inch SATA III Internal SSD (MZ-76E500B/AM)
  • Additional G.Skill Ripjaws X Series 16 GB (2 x 8 GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM Desktop Memory (1600 MHz, PC3 12800) F3-12800CL10D-16GBXL. Allowing for 32 GB RAM
  • And a new coating of ARCTIC MX-4 Thermal Paste, as my CPU was reaching 70F while running Chrome.

2. This Blog

I started writing again! After seeing so many amazing artists start blogs and give informative insights to their careers and jobs, I decided to join the ban wagon and do the same. Hopefully in doing so something will come out of this that will give back to this amazing community that I find myself in.

3. Polycount Front Page

A personal highlight and accomplishment for me! One of my projects made it to the front page of Polycount. If you want to see the breakdown of that sword you can do so here -> Induction Blade

Honorable Mentions

  • Throughout 2018 I managed to accomplish a lot for my career as a freelancer, that I yet can’t discuss yet but hopefully soon!
  • Finished one personal Prop from start to finish. [ Better than 0 props! ]
  • Got a little farther on my personal environment. [ Which I really need to wrap up and let go of this perfectionism I’ve indirectly applied to it. Like seriously the project is like 2 years old now dudes. ]
  • Finished Six Books, ranging from Game Design, Autobiographies, and Programming books. [ Mostly for the Pi and possibly cool robot builds. ]

2019 Goals

And of course following traditional cultural practices, going into the new year means creating new goals. [ To later break after a few months. ] Given that this is a “new” blog [ new me ] my 2019 goals are made for the purpose of having small stepping stones. Hopefully in a good direction.

1. More Artwork

Literally anything goes with this simple goal of just making more art. Whether that be doodles, traditional drawing, props, environments. Art is art, and I plan to make more of it.

Image result for art meme

2. More Reading & Writing

So far I have managed to keep to about two blog posts a month, but just barely. With the new year reworking and producing more written content would be a huge improvement.

3. Diet & Exercise

Honesty what new year’s resolution would be complete without the foundation of a change in one’s diet and exercise? But we have to start with baby steps. So first things to completely get rid of are soda and fast food. We tried the Keto Diet but it only lasted a few months before we caved. Also things got really busy leading up to the holidays that our will cracked and we got pizza one time. From there it was a down hill slope to pasta and breads. Lots. Of pasta. And bread.

With that and the many other goals and projects I have left, thanks to the Scrum Plugin “Burndown for Trello”, I wont be finishing my goals until around June 20, 2021. Which should be fun to see that time estimate get smaller in 2019!

And that’s a wrap on 2018, cheers!