The BOHM System: Motivation Pt. 4

So here we are, the final part to this four part series. [ Until I update it to a stable Beta Build ]. Only took five months to get here, but we did it. In this mini series I have discussed the serious risks of prolonged Burn Out, tips to stay Organized during production, and how to stay Healthy when you end up sitting for most of the day. However most of these can’t be done without our last step, Motivation. Without a good system or a basic motivational foundation most of the actions we took during the first three steps won’t amount to much. Motivation is the driving force that can help implement new habits as well as keep you focused through the rougher patches of life. Wether it be personal projects, work, or refusing to slam the snooze button one more time. Motivation is the power house for Determination.

Below of course will be some helpful tips and tricks on staying motivated, by tricking yourself into action, and discussing habits that are big motivation killers. [ Like the Playstation that hasn’t been turned on for a month, and well, you just got to check to make sure it still runs. ]

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Motivation Crash Course

There are a lot of tricks to help you keep true while trudging through your to do list. All tasks and projects have rough patches. Wether it be a person, process, or location you don’t like. [ Like my husky’s hatred for the vet’s office but, she absolutely loves car rides. ] There is always going to be a time in which you start second guessing yourself. It’s during these times where most goals go unachieved or projects die. This is where the joy and eagerness you had at the beginning fades away. And to be honest it’s real shitty.

While attending college I spent countless hours on “Rev-Share” and “Exposure” projects that never saw the light of day. Not due to the lack of talent but because there weren’t manageable goals and the vagueness of most milestone where so far down the road, that a lot of teams disappeared because they lost sight of the end goal. [ And I signed NDA’s cause the paperwork looked cool, felt official, and felt that I was really doing something. At least I can keep warm by burning my exposure dollars. ] 

So how can we go about preventing these sort of things from happening? How can we stick to our goals and push through those rough patches that are carelessly sprinkled throughout our lives? 

1. Visualize Your Goals

The first step to motivation is to visualize your goal. To sear a mental image of what the finished goal will look like into your brain. If your goal is to loose weight, visualize yourself thinner. If you want to work at a certain game studio, visualize yourself working in that studio. Visualizing your goals is the first step in achieving them. Don’t let your dreams be memes.

2. Manage Your Goals.

Breaking down your goals into bite size chunks can turn mountains into mole hills. We don’t want to sprint to the finish line. Doing so will cause exhaustion [ risking burnout. ] Or. When you get there, the fruits of your labor are sour and bitter [ unless you like those sort of things. ] So if your goal is pretty hefty, break it down. Jumping feet first into a AAA gaming studio straight out of college is safe to say, a very big and challenging goal. So maybe your first step would be to create a portfolio that matches the art style of your target studio. Maybe enroll with that studios QA Department and work your way up. [ As stated by many accounts and interviews posted over at Gamasutra. ] Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was any AAA Quality Portfolio.

3. Make it Fun

Set goals that interest you. Basically making sensible goals, as life shouldn’t be a drag. For example if you want to loose weight but don’t want to get involved with weights or power cleans, then just stick to the dieting and running. Or if you don’t like running then just the dieting. Essentially your goals should be enjoyable because, if you hate the notion of your goal you won’t reach for it or stick to it. For myself I like the nature parks, so my [ monthly ] exercising involves walking around national parks and reserves. Sometimes even taking the dog, if it’s cool enough.

4. Set Rewards

Who doesn’t like rewards? We have them everywhere. From Games to Movies, to even grocery shopping. [ With most stores you can download an app and get points for buying food. ] So why not add a reward system to your goals? Maybe you land that large goal of getting in with a studio. Go out and treat yourself. If it’s a smaller goal then take a day off, play a video game or travel. Really the goals should be something you will want and motivating enough that you will work for it. You carrot [ for me, french fries ] on a stick.

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5. Make Your Goals Public

Team up or find a social network. Maybe you need that extra pressure to reach your goals or an extra hand to make something great. Team collaboration or even a mentor is great to have as support. Two great support groups on facebook are Level Up! and 10k Hours. The are great groups of people that always provide great feedback and helpful tips. Also of course there is Polycount. Another great site to seek help and support, as well as motivation to keep improving.

6. Complete One Task A Day

Completing one task a day is progress. Even if it’s a small task it’s one more task than yesterday and one more step. The best habit is to jump straight into work and limit the amount of distractions you deal with on a daily basis. One example would be to not check your emails until noon, instead focusing most of your morning on breakfast and work. This should be catered to you. Some people aren’t functional until noon while others are most productive after the sun goes down. You want place the bulk of your work during the time where you are the most productive.

7. Be Flexible

You know, shit just happens in life and you need to be flexible. Frequently adapting your goals to whatever life throws at you is a great habit to practice. If you can’t adapt your goals to fit within your circumstances, they become stagnate and eventually forgotten. For an easy example if your goal is to run every morning, but it begins to get cold outside or even snows. The goal is now difficult to do. Running in snow isn’t fun for most people. So in order to keep with your goal change it to run in the afternoon [ when it’s hopefully warmer ] or change it to a treadmill until it starts getting warmer. Having the idea to wait out the cold, is a slippery slope. As a day without running, turns into two, which then turns into week. So by the time it is warm outside again, you have either gained weight or hate running.

8. Make a list of reasons

Last tip is to write out reminders as to why you are setting these goals. Sometimes the reasons you set a goal often get forgotten on the road to achieving them. So whip out the sticky notes or set phone reminders. Plaster your reasons where you can, like the fridge, mirror, or on-top of your game console. Share them with friends who can keep you on track or share with your parents or significant other [ as both of them wont ever stop nagging about it. ]

Motivation Killers

Now for two biggest things to avoid when trying to achieve your goals.

1. Negativity

Negative thoughts and people are the worse things to keep around yourself when you are trying to achieve your goals. [ And in general. ] But don’t get negativity confused with criticism. As good criticism can serve as a reality check and actually help steer you back towards your goals, if you start to wander. However, in order to achieve your goals and to stay motivated you will need try your best to remove negative thoughts and even people on your way to achieve your goals.

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2. Imperfect Scenerios

Focusing on the negative and mentally creating the most unlikely of scenarios only feeds into the sense of hopelessness. Causing you to feel defeated before even taking the first step. Imagining these negative outcomes can be very debilitating. A lot of goals I started off for 2018 never come to fruition because I focused on the worse outcome, so they never made it past the sticky note phase.

Wrap Up

To keep motivated you need to be positive in many situations and cut out the negativity. Setting fun and manageable goals will remove the dread that is sometimes associated with “setting goals”. Helping you take the first steps towards major life changes or even smaller changes. Like repotting plants or upgrading the coffee table from a alcohol and fast food stained, cheap college grade plywood table to a elegant mid-century modern heavy duty table, with matching coasters.

The BOHM System: Health Pt. 3

In this third installment to the developmental BOHM System we will be discussing the Health related risks to sitting at a desk. Again check out the start of this whole system here. ] As part of the job sitting and staring is the majority of what we do. Sitting in meetings, at your workstation, during your commute, at your home workstation, etc. While sitting we generally stare at computer screens, phones screens [ during the sitting part of meetings ], reference images, snack machines, and occasionally the outdoors. [ The irl outdoors. ] Probably for many developers the starring part is done in dark or poorly lit rooms.

Surprisingly about 68% of desk related injuries go untreated or are simply ignored. Causing the issue to compound and fester to an expensive operation, trip to the ER, Shrink or Chiropractor. The physical health risks of working a comfy desk job include [ but not limited to ] Carpal Tunnel, Tennis Elbow, Lumbar Sprains, Strains, Lower Back pain, Muscle Spasms, Tendonitis, Joint Dysfunction, and Cervicogenic Headaches. That, on-top of the added mental stress caused by managerial pressure, lack of rest, and crunch experienced in some game studios. Your personal health is under constant barrage.

In this post we will go over some common place bad practices and habits that can affect your health and how to improve your habits so you don’t develop chronic back pain at 25. All of this is documented and well-known by now in the game developer community [ some documents and GDC talks date back to 2010 ] so the following will include summarized descriptions and information, along with helpful links to further your own inquisitiveness.

As with everything discussed so far, it’s about finding a balance. The Balance between work and home, diet and exercise, health and stress. It’s not always the same per person so take time to find the right balance for you. What works for others might not work for you.

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Workstation Etiquette

Odds are most of us don’t know how to sit correctly. Aside from being told to remain in our seats when an adult is talking since pre-k or your parents telling you not to slouch so much. Outside of that there isn’t much being taught. Now before I continue, I’m not a doctor so the health solutions that I mention should be looked into further and as always consult your doctor if needed. [ Or check webMD. If you do, it’s cancer. My condolences ] 

Ergonomics

This word is thrown around a lot when discussing workstation health. The dictionary definition is “the study of people’s efficiency in their working environment.” Thus, if you are working at your healthiest, you are working efficiently. So what are some free ways to improve your desk etiquette?

324259281_9899a2ee66_o.jpg[ Photo Link ]

First thing to start doing is to avoid situations that put unneeded stress on your body and joints. This will take some self-correcting and awareness over time but to start off;

  1. Don’t lean forward.
  2. Don’t place your monitor above your head.
  3. Don’t sit in a rigid and fully upright position.
  4. Don’t work long periods of time without moving or adjusting.
  5. Don’t use a wrist rest while typing. Try to avoid using any general supports while typing.
  6. Don’t tilt the keyboard tray. You want your wrist to be in a natural position as best as possible. 30-60 degree curled down, with flat thumbs. [ Why even put the tilt on the device to begin with? ] 
  7. Don’t keep your feet stationary or completely flat, move your feet around under the desk.
  8. Don’t bend or twist our torso frequently to spin around, utilize the chairs swivel features. [ If needed ask a coworker or friend to spin you on their way by. ]
  9. Don’t go without water. Ensure you stay hydrated throughout the day.
  10. Don’t bend over with your back when petting your doggo. Pivot at the hips.

[ As of writing this I’m currently criss-cross applesauce in my chair. Not a good start on my part. ]

“As a rule of thumb the best type of posture is the one you haven’t been in for the last 15 minutes.” – Adam Martin, GDC 2013

Now we know what not to do, what is there left that we can do? Glad I asked!

  1. When typing, keep your elbows at the same level as your wrists.
  2. Adjust your chair height so your feet rest flat on the floor. Keeping the back of your knees about 1-3 inches from the edge of your seat.
  3. Adjust your monitor to a height and distance so you aren’t slouching or straining your neck. Roughly 20 inches from your face.
  4. Periodic breaks. The “perfect productivity” is taking a break every 52 minutes. Essentially an hour of focused productivity in exchange for a 10 minute mental break.
  5. Set the refresh rate of your monitor to a minimum of 70 Hz to limit any flicker.
  6. Ensure your office is moderately bright. Equal to a nice sunny day where you don’t need sunglasses.
  7. Keep your mouse next to your keyboard. Ideally if your rotate your arm from the elbow the mouse will fall somewhere in that arc.
  8. Lean back slightly. 100-130 degrees from parallel form the floor. Relieves pressure on the pelvis.
  9. To reduce stress on the eyes you should look away from the monitor every 10 to 20 minutes or try to focus on something that is 20 ft away.
  10.  Shake out your hands and arms to relive tension periodically.

That’s all the free stuff we can do, now how can we go about pimping out our workstations and flexing our ergonomic health on our coworkers? First thing is to check with you HR rep or boss and inquire what they offer in terms of supplies and support. Check to see if your company is involved with OSHA. [ Pretty sure most companies have to follow OHSA Standards. ] Occupational Safety and Health Administration sets regulations for companies to ensure a safe working environment for their employees. This can help you afford or acquire a healthy work station with little to no out-of-pocket expenses.

  1. Get a chair that has a high back that supports your shoulder blades if possible.
    • This is our current work chairs. Again, best estimate but roughly $300
    • Our beta chair, currently being tested by one of our unity devs, $100
      • [ Which this one gives you a superiority complex when you sit high above everyone else with a pleasant cushion to it. Safe to say that this chair might be the one. ]
    • My personal chair, which isn’t that great but it works, $40
  2. Utilize a standing desk, but make sure its the best fit for you.
    • This was our first workstation test for roughly $190
    • And our current workstation desk at roughly $520. Now this isn’t the exact model we use but it has the same functionality and buttons.
  3. Trackball mouse [ This one you can probably live without. ] This one is best suited for those who make a lot of erratic mouse movements. Again you want to rotate and move your mouse from your elbow and shoulders not your wrist.
    • Shiny blue mouse [ although I prefer shiny red ]
  4. Lastly a footrest. This is best for sitting down and a decent substitute if you can’t get a standing desk. It helps relieve pressure off you feet while you sit. It’s the right…..step…. in sitting healthy.

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Desk Exercises

Bottom line to staying healthy is to stay active throughout the day. Even small movements can go a long way in maintaining a healthy balance. [ If that hasn’t been stressed already. ] The bare minimum that you can do while working from your desk is to at least stand or stretch your legs for about five minutes for every hour you sit. My personal method includes doing an hour of focused work, then adjusting my desk to stand for about 30 minutes. I usually take about 10 minutes of this time to read some articles, Gamasutra, or blog posts for my mental break. Then rinse and repeat. Generally around lunch I exchange my standing for walking a lap or two around the building. [ In which I criticize the bad pixelation. ]  

You can also invest in “fun” devices that can turn your work station into an exercise machine for those random urges to peddle that tend to creep up on people. Or you can try some desk yoga manuevers whilst taking your 10 minute mental break. I do a lot of these throughout the day and have yet to spill my coffee over my desk.

This blog has some good examples and illustrations in which I highly recommend following some of these routines. -> [Blog]

Diet

Everyone cultivates mass when starting off. It’s the combination of high calorie cheap meals and a stationary position for 9 hours a day. The lost track of time and bottomless snack bar can really sneak up on you.

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Obviously the things to avoid are going to generally be the most delicious. Snacks, takeout, sweets, and heavy caffeine usage. [ One cup of coffee is okay. Just don’t go cold brew on me. ] Personally I have done calorie counting by limiting to just shy of 2,000 calories a day. Currently I am doing a Ketogenic diet. Which is a large reduction in Carb intake and like seriously, everything has “just to many carbs” for this diet. [ Neither of these options are fun. But there is no fun in Diet, only death. ]

The easiest way to curve mass cultivation is to start off by drinking more water. This can prevent headaches, fight off fatigue [ cause we are cutting out caffeine ], cut back on your snack urge, and allow you more time to walk to refill your water bottle. Now if you can’t beat your snackage then join them and replace them. Best candidates are Dried Fruits, Nuts, Dry Popcorn, Beef Jerky and Te to name a few. As we are on the topic of snacks, the next best thing from a snack is a meal. In which you should start packing a lunch and in some cases even dinner. Some light lunch meals can include Vegetable Chili, Salads, humus wraps, Tuna sandwiches, and a light burrito bowl [ very light on the rice if you are avoiding carbs. ] 

You should take the time to design your diet for your needs but definitely consider cutting back on the junk food and soda. No need to forsake it though, never hurts to treat yourself.

Mental health

The game industry is a very stressful job to be in. Stress can make you less productive, less coherent, irrational, and even uncreative. If gone untreated for long periods of time individuals can develop depression, anxiety, self doubt, and a growing sense of isolation. Especially for any remote freelancers, this is something to be aware of. However a lot of these mental illnesses develop slowly for most individuals. Sometimes it is very difficult to spot early signs of stress and symptoms of depression.

So the best thing to do when starting a new project or job or even now is to establish an emotional baseline. Taking the time to sit down and self examine your mental state. The way it works is that you think of a time in which you were the happiest or most relaxed. You picture the environment and the actions you were doing at the time. Then you compare those feelings to what you are feeling now. This then serves as your baseline and first check up before starting your next venture. When working in a high stress job it’s always good to periodically check in and course correct as needed or seek help.

Early physical signs can include insomnia or too much sleep, poor appetite, easy fatigue, and frequent muscle tension. If you or someone notices these changes always assess the situation, don’t wait it out. Find the cause and confront it, passive aggressive notes won’t work this time. The longer it goes the worse it gets. As stated before you can always check your Health Insurance Plan or company OSHA as some plans include access to a psychiatrist or psychologist, depending on the needs.

Art Imposter syndrome is something that plagues a lot of junior, student, and professional artists. Basically a heavy dose of self-doubt, creeping feelings of shame, and feelings of not belonging. This manifest and results into constant over exertion. This overworking is internalized compensation for the fear of being exposed as a fraud. Professionals suggest that with a positive attitude and mindset you can reframe those doubts and nagging feelings in order to overcome it. Even just faking a positive attitude when working on projects or personal artwork can help overcome those negative feelings. Adding a new level to “fake it ’till you make it.” Also strive to make what you love, don’t create art based off what is trending or popular. Now some self criticism isn’t all that bad. As a little dissatisfaction can be a great motivator as you continue to correct your artistic imperfections.

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[Artist Link]

It also helps to have a hobby that isn’t associated with your career or passion. The ability to disconnect from your 9-5 can greatly reduce your stress. For the game industry about a quarter of individuals don’t do or have anything outside of video games. Which quickly leads to Burnout and just feeds most of these mental illnesses.

Exercise

From the light exercise to the intensive weight lifting, any form of exercise or physical activity is good for you if you are stationary for nine hours of the day. It can be anything you truly enjoy. If you love it or like it you have a higher chance to sticking with it. You could even make it your hobby. For remote freelancers having an activity that takes you out of the office / home and puts you with a group of people can greatly reduce those feelings of isolation and loneliness. Jogging and Running are the most recommended activity for those who sit /  stand at a desk all day with yoga being a good runner-up. [ Due to all those funny names that make you giggle on the inside. ]

Support Networks

With all of this, it can be dangerous to go alone. So listed below are two support groups that focus on mental health, that may be useful to some.

  • International Game Developers Association (IGDA) – A good source to get in touch with other developers as well as providing of resources and links to information relating to Crunch and other Industry topics.

 

  • Take this – An organization dedicated to helping people in the video game world talk about and manage mental illnesses. They provide guides on coping with depression as well as resources for mental health.

 

The Induction Blade

This project started off as a quick-lunch break test, that eventually evolved into a full game ready asset. It was a nice break from my environment piece [ which you can find here in which I learned and experimented with some new techniques.

So here is the original concept art by Fernando Correa. I suggest following him as his work is pretty damn cool. Great color palettes, line work, and compositions. Will probably end up recreating another one of his amazing pieces. You can follow his Artstation over here -> Fernando Correa 

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As part of my pre-production steps I took the image and generated a color palette to later use in Substance Painter as a jumping off point. I ended up losing the original color palette through my light rig, post effects like AO, and the 50+ layers in substance painter that were used to recreate this piece. I completely forgot to check my palette throughout the process. It was a kind of use once and put away kinda mind-set and never came back until I realized I needed to generate the final comp palette. Definitely keeping note of this so that in future projects I will remember to always check back to the palette. With that, here are the side by side of the two. As you can see my rendition [bottom] is darker than the original.

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My workflow for this piece was your standard process. It went from Block Out > High Poly > Low Poly > Bake > Paint > Render. With the most time spent in Zbrush and Substance Painter. Over all I went through 9 variations, as shown below. The transition is due mostly to the amazing feedback that I got from the Polycount, Level Up!, and various Game Industry discord communities.

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For a quick breakdown, 1-3 was experimenting with colors and beefing up come components like the straps and handle. After that, 4-6 has very subtle changes but that bunch was working on roughness, emissive, and pushing the colors some more. Then 7-9 was adding gradients, pushing my metal map and emissive map, and finalizing my light rig.

Out of this I learned a new technique to push the stylization in my textures. Just as a word of caution don’t get to crazy with the filters as you can really ruin a piece and make it look over the top. [ Unless that is the style you are going for, then use as many filters as you want. ] 

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The Oil filter in Photoshop is a very subtle filter that smooths out your colors, giving it well, an oil paint feel. The top image has the filter applied and the bottom does not. Again very subtle but helped smooth out the redness in the blade.

So here are the final renders!

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Update : Also it made it to Polycount’s front page, which is a huge personal accomplishment.

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