Friday, 23 December 2011

Happy Birthday Ubisoft!

Tonight was the 25th anniversary party for Ubisoft! I co-hosted the event with Akshay and so many things went wrong, but still had a great time. I tried to open the show in Hindi which failed – I couldn’t read the script because the lights were down too low..!

There were awesome dance acts worthy of India’s got talent (if it exists) and some great singing.

The cake was amazing too - Rabbids!

There are some very funny videos circulating around the studio now, and five or six people passed out. I can’t imagine anything more embarrassing than getting completely wasted at a corporate party, but that’s what happens if you give out free, unlimited alcohol I guess..!

The venue was pretty cool too – Area 51 is shaped like a flying saucer and is full of lights. At some points in the evening, the dance floor was severely lacking in females. Akshay said, “Looks like a German gay bar.”

Welcome to the games industry!

Saturday, 10 December 2011

2nd December

Today, Dad showed me a speech from Charlie Chaplin at the end of 'The Great Dictator'. I always thought of Chaplin as a comedian with great talent, but I never knew he wrote an entire movie based around this speech. This is one of the first times he ever spoke in a movie, and his words have affected me greatly.

"Greed had poisoned men's souls, has barricaded the world with hate, has goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed"
"...The machinery that gives abundance has left us in want. More than machinery, we need humanity."
"...You the people have the power - the power to create machines, the power to create happiness. The power to make this world free and beautiful."

I felt as if he was speaking directly to me, and I hope he had that affect on millions of other people too. It's time for change. The time we are living in now is the 'passing of greed', and we should not despair, but instead try our hardest to make positive changes to our world in whatever ways we can. I'm going to make an effort to give something helpful to a stranger every week. There's plenty of beggars in India to go around.

Maybe inspired by Chaplin’s words, I bought a weeks worth of food for a poor man on the street, and gave the rest of the money in my wallet to a another stranger, which I would never normally do. After all, I don’t know where that money is going to end up. I’m careful not to give money to children who look a state, or have physical injuries like burns - I’m worried their parents will do more damage to them to get more money. I take a notepad and coloring pencils with me for the kids instead, and sometimes I’ll get them a bottle of coke or some food.

All the beggars here seem quite genuine though. The woman I gave the money to was about my age with two young children. I can’t stand the fact that I have everything I need in life, while other women my age are struggling to keep themsleves alive. I’m an incredibly lucky person. Giving money to a stranger makes me feel worth something, and gives them enough to help with daily life – there’s no down side to giving things away, and I couldn’t have lived with myself if I had just walked past.

I hope one day my career will lead me to create a game which functions and relies on doing good deeds to help eachother.

I’m tired of shooting and killing. Even in games, it’s not that fun.

30th November

Dad is here now! Raj and I went to pick him up from the Mumbai airport; I was dreading travelling on that expressway all week after what happened last time. It wasn't as bad as I remembered it - mainly because it was daytime so you could actually see the lorries, and there were no rogue dishwashers in the middle of it.

Photos from the car - Horn OK please?

A building in Mumbai

We didn't stop in Mumbai because the traffic was so terrible, just had a quick break in the service stations and bought some chikki, which is awesome. Dad seems to be completely fascinated by the roads here - there is complete madness. Just finished putting together a video edit for him, (I'll upload soon!) finishing up with a clip in a rickshaw.

We went around Pune today. It's strange but I think its the first time I've explored the city on foot during the day. Dad seemed quite upset by the amount of pollution and litter around, especially on (and in) Mula Mutha, the river that runs through Pune. As he works in protecting the environment, he explained to me the process - they were attempting to oxegenate the water by running it through fast flowing concrete structures, but right at the end of the structure there were people dyeing their clothes in it, and the water coming out he described as already being 'dead'.

There's an operation to clean up the Ganges starting in the next few years that will bring fresh water to millions of Indian people, but what is needed more desperately is specific education - so many people need to be respectfully educated so they can work together to protect their water sources for long periods of time.

There is also a conflict with religious practice and conservation efforts. India is predicted to overtake China as the most densely populated country by 2030, and it is deemed highly respectful in some religions if your cremated remains are thrown into a river, the most sacred being the Ganges. There is no way that western people can barge into a country and tell the population to discontinue a practice that has been holy for over 2500 years, but what else is an option in this kind of situation?

It seems too much money in India is going into the pockets of already rich, incredibly corrupt officials, and not into the health services and clean up operations that people really need. When I told my friends about the NHS in England they were totally amazed. They said, "We pay high taxes but have no idea what they are spent on".

This experience has opened my eyes a lot ; so many people in our country don't realise how lucky they are. We complain all day about how our neighbours dog was barking too loudly when there are children here starving to death.

21st November

The 'I'll write more tomorrow' strategy is failing badly. Tonight I got carried away painting Kali in photoshop - Hindu deities look really fantastic. I hope when this is finished it does her justice, she's such an awesome character.

Still a work in progress!

Today at the studio was full of meetings about LODs and the new online system for setting weekly sprints and deadlines for FPP, so I didn't get much work done. The founder of SquareSoft, Yasuhiro Fukushima was at the studio today but I didn't get a chance to meet him because of all the meetings. Damn.

I came back at 5pm and made some masala chai - I'm getting pretty good at making it and somehow it makes my headache go away instantly! Maybe I'm just addicted... I'll cut down...

Pauline, the studio head, doesn't like it when people leave the studio at 5pm sharp, she says we should have more dedication to the projects and stay overtime to make sure our work is the best quality possible. This doesn't usually apply to me as I almost always stay until 6pm, but I think her mentality is very important to what makes a games studio a great place to work. I know recently there has been many problems with games companies pushing their employees too hard to work free overtime, but this reminds me of something I learned in the presentation I had on my first day of university - you need passion for your work in order to be successful.

There's no obligatory system which pressures you to work yourself to death - no evil glares from anyone if you come in a bit late or leave a little early. There are a lot of myths about games studios been very stressful places to work, but there's no chance of any lawsuits in Pune like there was for Team Bondi. I hope all studios are this relaxed and friendly, but after discussing with Pauline how different this studio is in terms of pipelines and team structure, I'm prepared for something entirely different if I eventually get a job in the west.

What I think we need more of in this studio is motivation and passion for the projects we're working on. There is a pinboard for the game we are making which is looking empty at the moment - it just has our logo, but I'm making it my mission in my free time next week to fill it with motivational stuff. Most importantly I'd like to begin bridging the gap between the art and programming teams. Communication is key. The group projects at university really helped me to understand how important it is.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Hand Written Journals - 20th Nov

I'm getting carried away with hand written journal entries and forgetting about this blog, but I'm hoping that's all about to change. I've made ten entries to my diary since my last upload on blogspot, and now would like to share some of my experiences online.

20th November:
The clothes here are so much like my all time favourite game, The Legend of Zelda. I promised myself I would only buy four kurta during my time here. I failed.

They're a steal at Rs.200 (about £2.50) and even if they're not good quality, they last for a time and I can always get new awesome colours from Laxmi Road. I always feel bad spending any money on things I don't need though. There's a lot of poverty here. Last time I bought a coke I ended up giving it to a kid outside straight away, but I'm very lucky and this experience is helping me not to take things so for granted.

I get a lot of compliments from the local women about how I look in the traditional dress. One lady stopped her motorbike to introduce me to her (very beautiful) daughter. I also seem to get much better prices if I'm wearing a Kurta, and if I ask 'how much, brother?' in Hindi. I guess if you make the effort, you can reap the rewards. I'm always very concious in England about my appearance, but the locals find me very interesting.

This week I have to let Sulekha, (my HR manager), know if I would like to host the 25th anniversary show for Ubisoft. What an opportunity, but again, it's my confidence holding me back from making an instant descision. I'm pretty sure I'll say yes. I'll regret not jumping at the chance later in my life, I know it. Better to try and fail than never try at all. Not to mention I'll be presenting the show with Akshay, a good friend, so it will be less of a problem.

I have loads of work to do this week, but if I can spend a week making really big changes, next time someone tries it, the same process will take 3 days, and then 2 days. It's all about trying once and finding the fastest way possible, and then spreading the knowledge down the chain.

All studios need good communication to function properly. At the moment in this project there seems to be a bit of a barrier between the programmers and the artists which needs to be broken down so we can make a great game. Weekly meetings are helpful, and now we have an online deadline system which will be invaluable.

An online blog is no substitute for an hand-written journal really - you can see how many times I've moved about as my handwriting changes, and how as I've got more tired it's got progressively 'more worse'. I'll try to write as much as I can, whenever I can.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Exploring Ajantha and Ellora

Wow. What places I've been to this week. We hired a driver and went to the ancient Buddhist and Hindu caves at Ajantha and Ellora. We took over 900 images, but I condensed them down to some of my favourites! I also did some quick sketches which I'll upload in the next post.

I got so close to these guys I could pick the seeds off their back!!

So damn awesome.

This trip will definitely help to inform my final major project, I took reference photos of everything. Maybe Hindu deities are not such an unrealistic idea now for my FMP, I'd love to replicate some of the things I saw this week in a digital format.

I have internet in the apartment now so I can finally continue with my personal 3D work and keep more up to date with blogs, hopefully the next update will have some actual artwork in it... XD

Monday, 24 October 2011

Exploring India

Visiting the temples and the markets this weekend definitely helped me in the decision for the final major project, but for reasons I hadn't expected. I wanted to create some Hindu goddesses in the form of 3D sculpture, but this weekend proved this will be a problem – cameras are banned from places of worship. I don't know whether this is because the idol is easily damaged by light, if it is seen as disrespectful or simply because they want to make profit from postcard sales, but all I know is that it will be a problem to make Hindu Deities as my final major project.

Inside the temple of Ganesh at Laxshmi was incredible, but unfortunately there is no way I can show you. Sketchbooks are permitted, but I feel it is disrespectful to sit amongst people paying their respects and being a distraction from the ambience.
Here'a a photo from Laxshmi, it was amazing:

Seriously, how is this tree growing out of a house?

Regardless of the difficulty in finding reference, I’m still planning to replicate the goddess Kali in 3D as practice for my portfolio. Mahanirvana Tantra says: "Just as all colors disappear in black, so all names and forms disappear in her". Kali is free from the illusory covering, for she is beyond the all maya or "false consciousness." Kali's garland of fifty human heads that stands for the fifty letters in the Sanskrit alphabet, symbolizes infinite knowledge.

I feel very attracted to Kali as a goddess, her infinite power and primal nature are wonderful concepts, breaking almost all expectations of femininity. Her sword is the destroyer of false consciousness and the eight bonds that bind us, and her three eyes represent past, present, and future, the three modes of time — an attribute that lies in the very name Kali - 'Kala' in Sanskrit means time. (Excerpts from Wikipedia)

The creation of Kali will have to be only a side project for my portfolio, but perhaps I could use the sculpture as a basis for an original Dinotopia creation – perhaps I could make her into a new saurian goddess sculpture, which I could create from concept to game ready 3D. I need to stop being so vague and finalise my ideas soon though. She is such an inspiring and awesome female character, so many of the Indian goddesses are!

Due to the limitations of gathering my own references for the Hinduism project, I’ve decided to work on the Black Fish Tavern from Dinotopia. I feel in all three of the main Dinotopia books, this scene has the most atmosphere. There are not many paintings that evoke so many senses in the observer, but in this image I can almost hear the lapping of the waves, and feel the cool breeze and the warm lighting from inside the tavern.

I could use the trinkets I have collected and the overall cultural style of India to populate the interior of the tavern, for example by having bronze deities behind the counter. The interior of the tavern has never been concepted by Gurney so this can be a job for me to fulfil in the Visual Design section of my assessment. It would be very interesting to try and maintain the atmosphere and dramatic lighting of the tavern from the inside whilst creating an entirely new area.

I would ideally like to create two human characters, two to three dinosaurs and an environment. I think this will take me a long time to perfect, and I will concentrate on making it look as good as possible while maintaining a painterly style. I would like to maintain the style of James Gurney as much as I can through this project, making the textures relatively stylised but still sticking to realistic lighting and anatomical structure.

This week I will concentrate on writing up a strict schedule of deadlines, which encompasses my 8 – 6 weekly working day and (hopefully) enough time to explore India at the weekend. I feel this is a once in a lifetime experience and I have to make the most of it while I’m here.

I had such a brilliant time yesterday, we managed to get lost on the bike and ended up in a really beautiful rural area. I think most of the children had never seen a western person before, and they were all so polite and desperate to practice their English and have their photos taken!
On Saturday I went to Shivaji Nagar market so my housemates could buy some crabs – as a vegetarian it was a pretty horrible experience, but still character building I guess! It was a beautiful area with lots of interesting people. Also the species of crustacean and fish on sale were cool to look at, I just had a moment with the live crabs which wasn’t so fun.

So much colour D:

The animals that were alive were AWESOME!

Cute kittens live in Shivaji Nagar market :)

I’m having a fantastic time here, but I can’t keep slacking off like I did this weekend. I feel once I write down a fixed plan I will work harder and find any free time I get so much more enjoyable. So, on with writing up the schedule! Heres some photos:

From outside the apartment

Random cow outside work

Happy Diwali everyone, thanks for making me feel welcome in your beautiful country :)

First FMP Ideas

I am torn in the decision making process for my university Final Major Project. For the past year I’ve been attracted to the idea of creating a small scene, characters and creatures from James Gurney’s ‘Dinotopia’, but now, living in India, there is so much culture and vibrancy that I can’t ignore as a potential project.

The only problem would be choosing the specific characters, creatures and possible environment to replicate, it would have to be awesome to ensure I would maintain interest for the entirety of 5 months. I will keep uploading images from my Indian explorations here, this weekend we’re planning to go temple hunting with one of the locals who works with us so I’m sure we’ll see incredible things. The rickshaws and food stalls outside work are interesting as it is, so imagine how the places of worship look! Maybe these trips will be enough to help me make my decision between the two project ideas.

I’m sure that creating a scene, a human character and some dinosaurs from Dinotopia would be a sufficient project to keep me busy, not to mention interested for the 5 month period of production. Look, it’s beautiful, not to mention I have a strong emotional tie to the world from my childhood:

I could also make studies of Gurney’s art to keep up with visual design, there’s so much to learn from his style and use of colour. I already own all of his books so I have plenty of reference and artistic guidelines from his ‘Imaginitive Realism’ and ‘Colour and Light’.

I am not so confident that replicating items and people from reality would be as interesting for me. I think this project is my last chance in university to be really expressive before I become a full time studio employee - it’s a shame but I barely have time for personal work and I’m not even in crunch time! It may just be down to my own working ethics, but though the deadlines aren’t so demanding I feel the need to work to my highest standard in the shortest possible time to prove myself capable. Maybe after a few weeks the feeling will fade, but hopefully I can work hard and open up more opportunities for the university, and for myself.

I finally found some English tea so I'm more awake at work! Hopefully skype will help with the homesickness, but there’s still no internet in the apartment. They say it’ll be up and running by Monday, so maybe we’ll get it this time!

Friday, 14 October 2011

Namaskar from Pune

Hello and welcome to my Final Major Project blog!

I’m still a third year Game Art student at De Montfort University, but I’m working an internship for Ubisoft at a studio in Pune, India for the next six months. I thought I’d make a blog about daily life. I'd love to talk about the game we are working on but of course it’s all top secret and I'd rather not get fired! I’ll be uploading any personal work I get time for either here, or at but I’m working 8 – 5 Monday to Friday so please don't expect much!

Phoenix Wright on the DS kept me pacified during the nine and a half hour flight, I had a momentary panic when I arrived in the chaos of Immigration control but the Ubisoft taxi driver was waiting for me as planned.

The taxi drive was madness. They paint lines on the road but they have absolutely no meaning… people fly out of junctions, go through red lights, and stop at green (sometimes). It was pretty funny, I had a smile on my face for most of it! There were oxen, dogs, cows and people wandering through the death-trap, and most of the Lorries on the motorway didn’t even have lights on the back - I understand now why that stretch of road has the highest death rate in the world. There were some really beautiful vehicles which kept my eyes focussed elsewhere, and kept my mind away from the realistic fear of a crash.

However, the composure was short-lived. Halfway along the motorway, there was a random dishwasher in the outside lane – the driver didn’t see it so just smashed straight into it! The taxi was wrecked, the front passenger tyre went flat and it was generally all bashed up. He pulled over to check it and it was state, but he just carried on driving! I turned on my company mobile phone just in case I needed it, but the battery died instantly... great start!

Eventually got to the flat. I didn’t know which room was mine so I roughed it out on the couch until I got bitten by a mosquito and thought I’d rather risk waking someone up…

My room is great! Nice sized bed, good view, TV and plenty of storage space. However, check out the 'free towel' I was graciously provided with… I wouldn’t even dry off a dog with it! Haha:

This is my room :)

I’m living with 3 French people, two boys and one girl, and they’re really lovely. They speak English very well and have looked after me. When we went for breakfast on Saturday morning, I tried masala chai, (spiced tea) for the first time, and then went into the residential area to meet one of their friends; he’s a local who makes wooden flutes. The way they live is so incredible, I’m taking my camera next time - even one of those houses would make a fantastic Final Major Project.

Back at the flat we set up a system link network with our laptops and played Left 4 Dead 2. It's good to know my housemates are into the same games as me, and it’s great to have a few home comforts. Here’s a quick sketch of the view from my apartment. All the environments here are awesome:

Today I’m going to the market to buy a Kurta (Indian long dress), my own towel (I’ve been using Laurens’) and some plates. We haven’t got any plates, bowls spoons or anything. This morning I ate cereal out of a plastic cup. Can’t complain though, I’m still having a great time!

The local bat is a fruit bat with a wing span of up to a meter and a half, I’m going to stay outside through dusk tonight with everyone and try to see one. The bird species are also very interesting; here are a couple of photos and a painting (when I can upload it):

My camera works really well sometimes

The heat is not as unbearable as I had feared, it even rained yesterday and the lightning was amazing, it looks like someone is taking photographs – the entire sky lights up. The sound of the rain against the window is beautiful. I was lucky to be in the monsoon after the rainy season, and it was a great experience. I've never got soaked so quickly - it was like someone tipped a bucket over my head. During the rain we went out for dinner at a traditional open air restaurant where we sat on the floor and had apple Shisha. The food is spot on too, bring on the Delhi belly!

I’m feeling a little sick already but that’s common, I always get ill when I go abroad, even just to France. Hopefully in a few weeks I’ll be settled in completely. So far the hardest thing to get used to is the language barrier – I’m having to ask people several times what they are saying, and it’s strange that nobody speaks English as a first. My housemate Florian asked me, ‘What do you call the string to hang the clothes?’ It took me a while to remember the words ‘washing line’. I think I’m forgetting English...

The studio is open plan and encourages interactivity between the different working pipelines. They’re testing the new game ‘Rayman Origins’ which I played at Eurogamer, it’s fantastic! Good to mess about on in lunch break. Working in a studio is not how I had imagined it, there are a lot of people asking me for help and tutorials, whereas I always imagined it the other way around. I think this studio in Pune is mainly occupied with brilliant 2D artists, and they’re just beginning to move into 3D game production. This studio is great for people like me, I can really develop as an artist and help people learn 3D at the same time.

First time I've voluntarily worn corporate wear

I love working with creative people! Working is so much different to university, the main difference is that I know that there is so much more expectation and reliance on the standard of what I produce. In university I was only letting myself down when I made something half-arsed. The game I’m working on is much more advanced than I was preparing for and is testing my limits, but I’m working to the best of my ability and hope to make a good impression.

I really am missing home, saying goodbye was very difficult, but I think I will be okay here. I know when we get the internet set up in the flat I can always go on Skype. I can’t find any English tea, which was one of my worst nightmares… How can I function for 10 hours?! Tea is like my life blood. I gave it up for a week in England and got the shakes. Must… find… caffeine…

3DS Maxwell makes his debut in Phoenix Wright XD

Overall my first few days have been quite the culture shock, but I don’t think it’s anything can’t get used to!