Category: Lynne – Working to a Brief

SWOT Analysis Retrospective

Original SWOT analysis can be found here

Essentially, nothing has changed. One could say that my organisational skills have improved somewhat, though I still find myself panicking come deadlines.

My knowledge of texturing objects have improved slightly. I still really, really hate the entire process though.

I found out however that my “Working knowledge of game engines and technical possibilities/limitations” isn’t as sound as once thought. I learned and grew my knowledge of game engines with Source engine, an engine released in 2004, so I found that my knowledge was very dated. I kept referring to and using a style of texturing that isn’t even used by modern developers anymore, but was common place with Source.

Graphic Narrative – Evaluation and Processes

My comic book was uploaded and it received some pretty nice feedback, mostly about the graphics, but honestly the graphics are the only generally engaging feature anyway.

General Personal Consensus


Graphics

The graphics were certainly the strongest part without a doubt. Like the vast majority of my work, I put a disproportionate amount of effort in when it comes to making things look visually appealing, and it’s nice to see that people noticed and appreciated that with the feedback I got. Someone even said “As soon as I saw the cover, it reminded me of the old Marvel comics I used to read as a kid”. That’s not exactly the vibe I was going for but I’ll happily take it.

Narrative

By far, the weakest part of the product. There’s no human characters, no dialogue and no emotion. I would have really liked to include a real human element into the comic, but various things stopped me from doing that. Partly me wanting to keep the age rating down, and mostly me being completely incompetent at drawing human characters.

I was aiming for a more artful approach if you will, trying to convey a story from just still images with zero speech what so ever, but because of that I felt that nothing that occurs in the comic has any particular weight or depth. It’s a shallow story, and it’s made even worse because of these faults.

Conclusion

Pacific Steel: Moonlit Wings is a success. At face value. What it lacks in depth, emotion, story telling ability, length and general setting it hopefully makes up for with the visual aspect.

I’m starting to see that’s a re-occurring theme with my work. Pretty graphics but no more than a hollow shell beneath.

Production Process


This module wasn’t without it’s difficulties. I’m really not a fan of drawing. So much not a fan of drawing that I decided to simply write my storyboard out with some descriptive writing, so at the very beginning I found the production process very difficult. It was hindered further by the fact that I decided to use Paint.NET, a program that I was very familiar with, and a program that isn’t available for me to use at college.

Concept and Planning 

The nature of Moonlit Wings was directly tied to my animation concept for Pacific Steel. And if really wish I hadn’t come up with an concept with such a mundane setting.

I really love history, but a lot of people really couldn’t care less, and it would be extremely hard to convince people through my work that history is engaging and exciting without disregarding historical facts. A benefit of using a historical setting however is that all the visual designs for characters, objects and vehicles have already been made for me. T

Production

To save myself from the absolute torture that is drawing, I took a slightly sleazy but ultimately effective route. After contact with my tutor to confirm that this was okay to do, I decided to trace over 3D models. Some ripped from other games and some created by myself. This spared me a boatload of time, time that was rather limited.

I was able to manipulate these objects into suitable poses, perspectives and lighting conditions, and then simply trace over them in Paint.NET. For the ship and the aircraft I used models ported into a game called Garry’s Mod, and for the ship interior I modelled that myself with Cinema 4D.

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The initial picture of a the model, ported from World of Warships

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Final image created in Paint.NET

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3D model of the bridge created with C4D

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Final 3D Render

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Ditto, final product

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The simple technique of using layers to slowly draw and build up the image. The final results in around 5 or 6 layers for each object

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I experimented with a few different graphic styles before settling with my chosen style. A more in-depth look at that can be found here. 

The style was easy to produce and visually effective.

The rest is simply various techniques in Paint.NET, then compiling the individual assets into the comic book panels that come together and compose Moonlit Wings.

Constraints/Problems 

The main issue (other than time and lack of talent) was inexperience. I’m not a writer nor have I ever produced anything like this before. The whole time I was just throwing things around to see what stuck, I didn’t really know what I wanted it to be up to the very end when I was started composing everything together,and by then it can be considered too late to change anything.

Creating the narrative was also very difficult. My initial idea was for Moonlit Wings was more in-depth, with human characters with interactions, dialogue, and personal motivations. After realising I couldn’t draw people, I couldn’t 3D model people, and couldn’t write a convincing conversation between two people I gave up on the idea.

Technical issues only came with Paint.NET’s limitations, mostly over having to create the art at a ridiculously high resolution so it wouldn’t look rough and blocky when displayed at normal resolutions.

Regarding time, to my surprise I actually finished 2 days early. In an ideal world that would have given me 2 days to fine-tine and add more stuff but that wouldn’t be the case. I couldn’t think of anything to improve on as I’d created it to the best of my ability.

Feedback

The general feedback for Moonlit Wings was very good. I scored 5 across the board from 18 individuals for the most part, and tied for the lead as the highest rated product in the room. A few individuals just looked at the first page and instantly gave me a 5 star rating, which was flattering, though very strange.

From these results once could assume that the product would be commercially viable. Though the pool of people for the feedback was quite small, and generally all share similar likes and dislikes when it comes to media. A more in-depth collection of feedback can be found here. Unfortunately, at the time I created that survey I was too deep in development to make any changes based on the feedback I gathered.

I’ve heard from someone, and I totally agree with this, is that it’s very generic. It’s nothing that hasn’t been done in one form or another before, and I’ve been really struggling to find ways of making it unique, original and ultimately more interesting. I refer back to my previous statement; “I really love history, but a lot of people really couldn’t care less, and it would be extremely hard to convince people through my work that history is engaging and exciting without disregarding historical facts”

Others say (again I totally agree) that the scenes jump too far forward, and often too fast to create a cohesive narrative. I should have added interim panels to help ease the visual flow, and given more time I certainly would have.

Conclusion 

Through this ordeal though, I have found various new skills with Paint.NET and Cinema 4D, and learned that I can avoid drawing anything if I try hard enough. In the end I’ll have to say that, though I am disappointed in a few areas, I surprised myself and achieved my intentions.

 

 

3D Animation Process 2 – Oooh, Shiny

A small test to see how my ship looks under my cinematic render settings. I think it looks heckin’ cool.

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I also experimented with Bumpmaps, but with these very ‘soft’ lighting conditions it didn’t show up too well.

I think I’m going to abandon UV mapping for the ships. I really would like more texture detail, but I don’t know if I want to put myself through that again.

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I’ve heard of a program to use called Crazybump that professional developers use to quickly make effective bumpmaps. I’ll probably try it out soon.

Graphic Narrative – Various Considerations

Costs

Luckily for me, I have all the resources I need to start production on my graphic narrative. However, if I were to take a more professional approach to this, I would considering acquiring the following;

  • WACOM Intuos “7 graphics tablet – £57.00
  • Adobe Photoshop/Illustrator – £191.00

This would allow me to create more professional seeming artwork for the comic, as opposed to using standard mouse and Paint.NET.

Audience/Target Market


Pacific Steel aims to take advantage over what is currently popular in the media markets.

The setting of Pacific Steel takes place in the Pacific Ocean, 1941. Unsurprisingly that period of time (1941-1945) remains a relevant subject in the minds of the public, especially in America. The war in the Pacific Ocean has lead to countless game, film and novel adaptations, notably;


Midway (1976) (43.2 million USD)

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Pearl Harbour (2001) 449.2 million USD

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And an upcoming film ‘Greyhound’, in which Tom Hanks plays the role of a Destroyer captain in the Pacific Ocean.

This era of history is hardly restricted to adaptations in film, however-


War Stories (Sales data unknown, but it must have been good to warrant 4 series and 11 issues)

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Considering the successes of these older films, and how currently popular titles such as World of Warships are, it’s clear to see that Pacific Steel could follow the chain of success. Especially when it’s presented in the incredibly popular comic book medium.


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Comic book sales are on the rise, and look to be come increasingly popular in the future due to the immense popularity of superhero movie genre.


Contingency

Should the worst happen and I’m unable to draw up the artwork for the comic in time, I will use the ported 3D models I’ve been using as reference images and use various post-processing effects in Paint.NET and apply a toon shader to them. This is a very quick way of getting the desired comic-book effect, but doesn’t look nearly as good as the hand-drawn method.

Post Production/Delivery 

My graphic narrative will be delivered digitally, accessed through the Pacific Steel website, where the game is also situated. Putting the comic book online ensures that everyone who has access to the game Pacific Steel, will also have access to the comic book series. Many incredibly popular games such as Team Fortress 2 and Overwatch have a running online comic book series.

Releasing online also removes extra costs associated with physical materials, printing and transportation.

Conclusion

Both aspects of Pacific Steel, the historical setting and comic book medium, are incredibly popular with the public. Taking the action and stories that happened throughout World War II, and combining it with the release of a mobile game (see market research here)  I feel that Pacific Steel will appeal to people of all ages and interests. More importantly, creating Pacific Steel for a comic book will allow for as much consumer exposure as possible. With this information, I could produce Pacific Steel knowing that it has the best chance of being a success.

 

Pacific Steel – Graphic Narrative Proposal

Synopsis

Pacific Steel is a game set in the pacific ocean, 1942. The United States Navy (USN) and the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) are fighting for control of various islands in the pacific.

The graphic narrative for Pacific Steel is a short comic book aims to encapsulate but a small portion of the struggle for naval supremacy at that time. The brief blurb of the comic book would go like this;

“It’s the dead of night, 1942. A lone American patrol boat, USS Erie quietly patrols the shores off a top-secret naval base in the pacific ocean. Suddenly, out of the night appear two silhouetted shapes, familiar shapes. Are they friend? Or are they foe?”

To get the whole story, you can read my storyboard here.

The narrative is more about setting an atmosphere, action and artistic style, than any real story/plot. It’s designed to be a running series, with “TO BE CONTINUED” being the last panel.

Objective

This graphic narrative plans to provide Tall Boy Studios with it’s proposed “Online graphic-narrative series” that complements the release of the mobile game of the same name. Pacific Steel, both the game and comic book series takes place in a time period and location that is widely popular and recognisable with the public, the Pacific Theatre of the 1940’s.

The narrative will be both visually engaging and action-packed as America and Japan fight for supremacy on a variety of different military fronts. The narrative will be split up into separate “chapters” depicting different, historically accurate scenarios. Each chapter lasting 3 comics each.

Structure/Constraints

More detail on Legal/Ethical constraints can be found here.

The assets/panels will be drawn using Paint.NET, using very simple techniques. I will then compose all the assets and environments into various “sheets” and present them in a comic book style panel setup.

Copyright constraints aren’t particularly an issue regarding games based around history, as all of the designs/schematics and blueprints are now open to use by the public for educational purposes. Ethical issues however, are an issue.

To avoid any ethical/racial issues, I will not be portraying any disrespectful/negative stereotyping or have one country superior over another, even if these things did occur in history. For example, I won’t be portraying the IJN using kamikaze/suicidal tactics. The main reason I chose the year 1942 was a period where the IJN and USN were on (mostly) equal footings, and the kamikaze had not been developed.

Visual Design

The overall design/aesthetic is traditional of your typical comic book. The style of bold shadows/lighting is present throughout almost all comic books. Part of the reason for this might be simply that the style is quicker and easier to do, but it also lends a far more dramatic and sharper feel to the scenes.

This style is also, massively popular with comic books. Every major comic book uses this style, so it’s clearly effective. The actual designs of the assets are all historical, so they will resemble their real-life counterparts are much as possible whilst keeping within the chosen art style.

Look and Feel/Technical Specifications 

Here is a fantastic example of the sort of style I would love to emulate, depicting a similar scene/setting to my own comic. The striking dark shadows really make the scene seem more dramatic and harsh. The effect of the scene wouldn’t be as potent if a softer art style was used.

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I will adopt a similar, though far less detailed technique to achieve an exciting and dramatic look for my graphic narrative.

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Here is a quick test I did to see if I could pull of this style. I did, to an extent. It’s far from perfect, but it was relatively easy to make.  Not only did this style take less layers, time and effort to make that I thought, I reckon it resembles the comic book style well enough.

Legal and Ethical Considerations 

When it comes to copyright, the normal issues apply. As far as I’m aware (since these are designs dating back to the 1930s) copyright/creative license does no apply to the vehicles used. I will however be refraining from using company names such as Grumman, Kure Kaigun Kosho, or Mitsubishi to avoid any complications, as these names/brands are still in active use today.

Ethical considerations are always an issue regarding games based on war. As I said, to avoid any racial/ethical issues, I will not be portraying any disrespectful/negative stereotyping or have one country superior over another, even if these things did occur in history.This is simply not to offend anyone or limit my target audience by ways of discrimination.

Target Audience/PEGI

As documented in Look and Feel/Technical Specifications and in  Graphic Narrative –  Style Considerations, my art style will be the essential action comic-book style. The graphic narrative won’t feature any blood, gore, sexual themes or even any human characters.

After researching PEGI’s rating criteria, I can say that Pacific Steel will fall under the PEGI 7 rating.

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Any game that would normally be rated at 3 but contains some possibly frightening scenes or sounds may be considered suitable in this category.

Pacific Steel might be considered PEGI 3, were it not for the requirement of; “The child should not be able to associate the character on the screen with real life characters, they should be totally fantasy” Pacific steel is a fantasy/fictional story, but it’s themes and visuals are based on historical fact.

Delivery

The end result will be a short digital comic book, showcasing a brief encounter between opposing American and Japanese forces in the pacific ocean.

Graphic Narrative – Ethical Considerations

With any media production, various legal and ethical issues must be taken into account to avoid breaking laws, and to avoid offending a certain group of people.

Legal Issues


Blasphemy 

Blasphemy is law that essentially limits freedom of speech, and is thus considered somewhat antiquated in modern societies. Blasphemy laws prohibit the expression of hate/irreverence to toward a religious belief system. This can be though speech, actions or through the media. Some religions consider blasphemy as a serious crime. As of 2012, anti-blasphemy laws exist in 32 countries, and some of those countries carry death penalties.

With countries that still operate laws against blasphemy, developers producing work that may contain blasphemous material may choose to edit, or not release certain material at all in these countries. An example of a game that contains potentially blasphemous material is the Devil May Cry series, which plays on Christian lore/beliefs. In the remakes of these games, a warning is displayed at the start that the game may contain religiously offensive material.

Relvence to my project:

Pacific Steel is a war game, set between two opposing factions. Even though historically a certain amount of religious systems were involved in WWII, I won’t be portraying any of them in my animation, simply due to it’s sensitive natrue. Time periods such as WWII are still a sensetive subject for many people, it’s important to tread lightly.

Hate Crimes 

A hate crime is where an individual, or a group of people feel prejudiced and/oppressed because of their religion, sex, gender, race, ability or identity. The cause of the hate crime can again be through speech, actions or through the media. Not all hate incidents will come to criminal offences, but those that do become a hate crime.

Media publishers and developers often have to be very wary of these issues, as anyone offended/upset by the content (depending on the content) will reduce the products potential audience and this reduce sales. An example of a “hate crime” within a video game would be Bioshock Infinite. The game takes place in a period in which black people were considered 2nd class citizens, and are treated as such in the game. Though it makes sense with the story/setting of the game, a portion of people refused to buy the game as a result.

This isn’t a crime as such in the eyes of the law, but many may consider it a hate crime against them personally.

Relvence to my project:

Avoiding this is difficult considering the setting of my animation. Ideally I don’t want to discriminate race/nationalities, but that’s nearly impossible. This portion of war was when two opposing nations fought one another, and one nation did it far better than the other, creating a clear divide on “who was the better nation”. It depends on your point of view.

Though not historically accurate (along with the dangers of straight up denying historical fact), I will be portraying both opposing forces as eaqually as possible. One of the reasons I chose 1941 as my time period is because the Japanese and the Americans were on more or less the same footing. It works from a hypothetical gameplay perspective, and from a simple ethical/non-discriminatory point of view.

Breach of Confidence 

A breach of confidence is simply the release of  information that was to be legally contained between two or more individuals, such as trade secrets, government documents or private, personal information. This breach of information can happen through word of mouth, or through media distribution, and both are equally prosecutable.

Breaches of confidence/sensitive information leaks can happen fairly often in the games industry. Leaks of upcoming projects or business decisions from a developer may be leaked to the public through either hacking or more often, an internal employee. VALVe, a software development studio was being rumoured to be working on a new, sensitive project. A few of the project’s details were of course leaked to the public, resulting in a breach of confidence from within the company.

Relvence to my project:

N/A

Ethical Issues


Representaion

Represention (regarding animation) simply means the inlclusion of different races, sexes, ages and genders in the material. Representation is not enforacebale by law, but is seen as morally correct to include (and thus not discriminate agaisnt) all varieties of people. The inclusion of all people helps them feel more represented and accepted in socitey, as they tend to be the minority of the population.

Representation in video games has always been an issue. On one hand, some games feature simply white characters and the protagonist is simple a while male character. These games have been met with some backlash due to the lack of strong female characters and/or race varitey. On the other hand, regarding the recent shooter Battlefield 1, the game features a varitey of different protagonists from varying countries and racial backgrounds. The game features a black protagonist, which can be seen as progressive as far as modern shooter games go.

Relvence to my project:

I’m not concerned about representing race, sex or gender in my animation simply because it features no human characters at all. Representation of nationality is however an issue to consider. Two countries will be represented in my animation, America and Japan. Though other countries did participate in the pacific war (England, Germany, China), these were the two main players, and I simply don’t have the space nor time in my animation to include everyone else.

Offensive Material

Offensive material refers to things that people/certain groups of people may find disgusting, insulting or even blasphemous. What is and is not offensive can vary wildly from culture to culture. Generally warnings are given to content that may contain “offensive” material, but it’s mostly up to that individual what they do and do not find offensive.

Offensive material can be found in every form of media, but as I stated, something that is offensive is purely subjective. There are people who are rarley offended by anything, and people who are offended all the time. Repeat offenders regarding offensive material are MMORPG games (Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games), providing hyper sexualised female characters in an effort to lure in the male playerbase. Games like these are always on the receiving end of various forms of hate.

Relvence to my project:

Again, war is a sensetive subject. I won’t be portraying any human characters in my animation, and there is only one real implied “death” in which an aircraft explodes. As I stated before, I will be portraying both opposing forces as eaqually as possible. Early in development I considered replacing the Japanese fighter aircraft with Kamikaze, which would have provided an even more desperate and lethal profile to the animation. In modern day however, the Kamikaze doesn’t sit well with the Japanese people. And I don’t exactly want to offend my target audience.

 

 

 

Graphic Narrative – Storyboard

I think I can better convey my idea through words rather than drawings, so I decided to set out my storyboard like this. It’s aimed less at action/story and more at impactful atmosphere and visuals. The storyboard also takes into account any animation that might be present, just to help me remember.

Opening

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The setting is 1941. It’s night, over a dark ocean. A lone American Gunboat, USS Erie is on patrol as it glides silently through the calm sea. The only lights are the moon, and few lights atop the Gunboat’s mast and lights from the windows.


The camera moves to a bow shot of the Erie, the displaced water sprays from the bow. The camera switches to a view of the Bridge interior. The small room is filled with warm light and the ship sways gently from side-to-side in the waves. On the control stands and boards a collection of instruments and dials display various information.


The camera moves over to a shot of a radar scanner. It’s green arm rotating on a circular screen. The radar does 2 rotations, and on the 3rd rotation appears 2 dots.


The camera switches to a binocular view. The binoculars zoom in from the bridge window and view the shape of two approaching Japanese fighter aircraft. Alarms and sirens wail. The warm-orange light of the bridge is replaced with menacing red flashes.


A spotlight on the ship’s deck is turned on, and the two approaching aircraft are illuminated against the dark night.


The camera cuts to a shot of an Anti-Aircraft gun firing, it’s muzzle-flashes lighting up the deck of the ship.


Cut to a side-shot the two Japanese aircraft flying beside eachother. Tracer rounds fly past them. A few rounds hit the furthest aircraft.


The camera cuts to a front-on view of the approaching aircraft. The furthest plane has exploded into a fireball in the night sky, but the second plane continues to speed towards the Erie.


Another side-shot of the incoming plane. The camera quickly pans down to see the aircraft drop it’s torpedo. The torpedo is then released.  Tracers from the Erie continue to fly past.


The camera cuts to the deck of the Erie, looking up towards the mast. The Anti-Aircraft guns fire at the speeding aircraft, but to no avail. The Japanese plane soars over the mast and escapes. There is silence for a few seconds, until a new, different alarm sounds.


The camera moves to view a top-down angle of the black waters, and through it moves the white tail of a Torpedo.


The camera cuts back to the bridge, looking from where the captain would stand at the wheel. The ship’s wheel is turning fast, and the bearing gauge on the wall rotates as the ship turns tightly.


The Alarm slowly starts to quicken, as does the flashing light on the bridge. The camera cuts to a final view of the ship. The Erie is turning hard, but the torpedo is on course for a direct hit. As the alarm reaches it’s apex and the torpedo is about the strike the Erie, the screen fades to black. And ‘TO BE CONTINUED’ is shown in white text, and slowly fades, this concluding the video.