Starting on characters

All games need characters, and I need quite a few. I have tried modelling from scratch, managed quite OK, but decided, its not for me. One can´t tackle every job in Game Dev and expect high quality results. However, as a professional film-maker, I know that taking shortcuts is not only an OK thing to do, but the “pro” way of doing things. Its only amateurs that have the luxury of crafting everything by hand. One way is to outsource. Cant do that, got no money. The second is to find a set of tools.
Finally I have found a pipeline I think is going to be OK. The results are very high. But I have some issues.Screen Shot 2013-10-14 at 12.15.49 AM (2)

1.Too many tris.. not MUCH too many, its within the larger bracket of modelling detail. But I must try to reduce it.
2. Part of the pipeline involves Blender, so its time to dive back in there, but I wanted to anyway, as I would like to work with open source software.
3. Clothes, although I can pretty much make any character type and model, I will have to model the clothes by hand. Im imagining some kind of nudity for my “monsters” (Theres no monsters in my game, but there is… well can’t say.. ) so mostly IM good. But for the 4 MAIN characters in my game, I will need to model clothes, and then I need the “cloth” to conform to the body morphs as they are… But I think I know how…
Screen Shot 2013-10-14 at 10.14.10 PM (2)
As for now I have made a few character and gotten them into Unity, and retargetted the rig to the simple UNity rig, and thats good enough for me… unfortunately Im going to have to learn how to make a custom rig that is 90% standard, but includes the mouth (I need some gutteral noises).
Screen Shot 2013-10-13 at 11.23.15 AM

And now I got her into Unity, dumped a bit of MoCap on her, and “She lives”
I cant say what role she plays that would be too much of a spoiler, but, the fact that she has the face of a child, but the height and body of an adolescent, should give you a clue that.. shes not completely normal.
I tried to screen capture her, but running Quicktime and recording at the same time as playing in Unity broght the frame rate down horribly from around 30-45 fps to about 10 or worse, but here it is anyway…

The Girl in the rain from Mark Francombe on Vimeo.

Grand Theft Auto 5

I must say right out that I have yet to play this game, I probably will, maybe, one day, if I get around to it, but the controversy surrounding it, its violence, its treatment of women, not to mention its biggest USP being that “its the most expensive game ever made” has made already made it something that I as a part time (lets say “would-be”) game developer, cannot ignore.
I must also say, that the GTA franchise, previously has not interested me in the slightest. The setting of hard, US streets, rap music, drugs and prostitutes, is not the fantasy worlds that I prefer to play in. I’m more into surreal, weirder games, where anything can happen, where the whole world is an invention of Sci Fi, fantasy, and some cleverly played out horror.
I have read a bunch of stuff, both for and against GTA-5 and agree in part with some of what I have heard on both sides, but the degrees of importance in the arguments seem to sway so heavily on the side that the writers are obviously pushing for, that I can’t get a grip on who is right.
I think in writing this I want to figure out for myself what I think about these issues, as a game maker, a hopefully moral feminist(ic) man but also as a parent.

The Violence
I should say that I am NOT a fan of violence in games, not to say that there isn’t any in the games that i play, as the foremost feature in a game. Killing as much as possible, as the ONLY interactive device between non-playable storyline cutscenes, I think is boring and depressing. I like stories, but I also like some level of freedom to play as I choose, without HAVING to play one particular way.
Violence in game writing is of course easier. If the assumption (a wrong one IMHO) that all stories are about conflict, then the most basic of conflicts is killing one another, and so its pretty simple to come up with a plot that involves killing. We humans are pretty good at it too.
The arguments against the violence in GTA (not just this one but all previous GTA´s, indeed ALL VIDEO GAMES) is that exposure to the violence, indeed dealing the violence interactively, is corrupting to children, and ultimately sensitizes us to it and makes us more likely to commit similar acts in real life. Specific criticisms of GTA5 revolve around many grim and unpleasant acts one is called upon to complete, the most controversial of is a torture scene, where one HAS TOO (there no getting around it) be the torturer.
The arguments FOR the violence, are that, as a story, set in a violent environment of gangsters, criminals, prostitutes and drug addicts, its HAS to be there as that is what it is like to live in that environment. The people that the game is based on, in real life, ARE violent, horrible individuals and as such must be shown as such.

I think both sides seem flawed. To argue against the detractors for a moment, there are some quick responses. Firstly, its an adult game. Yes kids will play it, and it being a game, and games being a childs realm, they will consider it their RIGHT to play it, but, I’m sorry… those days are over. When computer games came out, they were aimed at kids, ME, to be precise. I was in the first EVER wave of kids to play computer games. Its replaces TV for us, no longer would out parents shout, “Turn that damn TV off!” It was, “Cant you do anything USEFUL on that computer?”. Well now we have all grown up (I’m nearly 50 goddammit!) I’ve been playing computer games for 35 years! And now, the budgets of computer games is EASILY up there with a big budget hollywood movie. And people are still surprised when a grown up game comes along? WHAT THE FUCK? Im grown up alright? I WANT some serious issues in my films, why not in my games. Ahh… but kids get to see them…
OK BUT THEY SHOULDN’T!!! Im sorry, but I think stores should be prosecuted for selling to minors (maybe they can be already) and I would be VERY happy if parents could be prosecuted for letting their kids play rated 18 games. All these fucking stupid parents lining up to buy a copy for little johnny.. do they let their kids watch violent films? I suppose so… disgusting! Idiots!
Thats it… the categories are there for a reason.
That they lead desensitize you to violence, or make you more likely to commit violence?. Hmm.. more tricky to discuss. There has been no conclusive proof that it does. I have checked for studies, and although there have been some, they all seem to be biased from the outset, based on the authors pre-conceptions, and they seem to have gone both ways. A quickie run down of the points seem to be: 1. Violent games relieve stress and make you less likely to commit violence. 2.Violent games increase stress due to heightened awareness and lack of motoric function while playing (apparently if you jog while playing you will be less stressed). 3. Violent games teach you explicitly that human life is worthless. 4. Violent games teach give you insight into the morals and problems of human existence, therefore increase your understanding of the worth of life.
As for leading to copy-cat killings… I dont know.. maybe.. but you know, if you are gonna kill someone, you might just use a method you have seen on TV, oh wait, no one watches TV anymore, its games now… so yes.. sure it happens, but… I can’t speak for any your you, but I’M not gonna kill anyone cos I just saw a game. Never gonna happen. I might if I go crazy one day, or maybe if my government puts me in a uniform and forces me too, of if I become a drug dealer and mix with the wrong crowd, or even if I lived the most un-loved and dejected and soulless life with terrible parents who beat/hit//rape/hate/torment me.. Oh yes.. then I might… but a game, make me… nah.. Im sorry… just don´t believe it… Juries out.. Ill read some evidence, but nahh… still don’t believe. it.. I admit its a tricky one though.
Hmmm…

But then, those IN FAVOUR of the violence in GTA, say that its parodic, ironic and that by forcing you to feel uncomfortable about torturing this poor fellow, you come to learn something about yourself, and understand that THIS IS BAD! Oh and they LOVE to point out, that immediately after this scene, you as the torturer HELPS the torture (?) to escape, and gives him a long speech as to the pointlessness of torture as a method of information extraction.
Well excuse me, but I just HAD to rush to YouTube upon reading this, and sure enough, the said torture scene is there, together with this long denunciation of torture. So, yes.. it WAS uncomfortable to watch, and I suspect MORE so when you are pressing those little plastic buttons (“Press X to extract tooth” for example). However, it wasn’t as bad as ANY TORTURE SCENE IN ANY MOVIE. (Marathon man for example – to name the most famous Dental scene in history, with messrs Hoffman and Olivier no less) BUT.. this speech afterwards.. What tosh!!! It made no sense whatsoever that THE SAME GUY who was being so mean 2 minutes before (an loving every minute I might add) should be expounding such guff about how naughty torture is to his new found (and toothless) friend as he took a lovely scenic ride to the airport to a new life of anonymity and freedom. What rubbish!
A fucking excuse for a gratuitous bit of nastiness. Keep the fucking character IN character PLEASE!
Having said that, I think.. actually I’m sure of it, that the makers genuinely believed in this vehicle. Imagine WHEN this game was written, 5.. maybe 6 years ago (they say 5 years in the making, but ideas come first right?).. Guantanamo still all over the place… the shock, from the outside world of what the US was doing, and the relative NON event in America. To me I couldn’t understand why people, fuck PRESIDENTS weren’t on trial?.. There wasn’t even a “hush-up” much… they just did it, made lame excuse, strung out a few scapegoats, and got on with it… AN THIS IS REAL STUFF; REAL TORTURE!!! So I DO think that some people at Rockstar games, MEANT that this could say something, make some point, force us to be in a position like those stupid soldiers that “just followed orders”. They couldnt NOT do it, and neither can we.. but… sorry… it didnt work… it came across as gratuitous filth, followed by a lame excuse.
They should have cut that scene… unless…
Its just Rockstars way of getting GREAT publicity… and thats it right?… thats the truth.
Shame…
Sad…
Pointless…

Misogyny
Yes, Girls. Nasty stupid slutty whores, filthy crack addicted ugly old women and stupid big titted bimbos.. Thats it for women in GTA 5.
I dont have much to say about this, many of the arguments for and againts a the same as for violence.
You know… Our kids (specifically boys) will learn to treat women with the same scorn and misogyny and you know… Thats how it is, in the valley, Men treat women badly, there are hookers and crack whores and gold diggers, so we are just being truthful. Oh, and remember..
ITS NOT FOR KIDS… we told you.. PEGI 18 remember?

This one is so obvious its stupid. The game is aimed at men right.. men like porn and are a bit afraid of clever girls, so we’ll put some porn into the game and won’t scare them with clever women? Well.. I dont think games HAVE TO cater for women too, I guess if you think porn is ok, it SHOULD be ok putting it into an ADULT game, right?
Sorry… no. Its ok to DEPICT these issues, comment on them, even allow the player to go to a strip club as a backdrop to a scene in a story, but to allow them to actually have sex with them, THAT IS PORN…
Im not going to complain about Leisure Suit Larry style, stupid sexist fun, with a nice little CENSORED box that come up just when you dont want it too.. course not.. BUT this is like going to see a big blockbuster film, oh I don’t know, something with a love scene.. lets say “Titanic”, then just when Leonado D´Caprio finally gets it on with Kate Winslet on the car deck, instead of the steamy window, we suddenly HAVE TO WATCH him flip her over, do her in the ass, and come all over her face! I DONT WANT THAT!!!! UUUGHHH!! Not in Titanic!! Not Kate!!! Not Leo!! OMG NO!!!!
Again gratuitous.. stupid and catering for teenagers (who aren’t supposed to be able to see it.. ADULTS REMEMBER!!!!) OK 18 to 30 year old boys might want it… but I dont want it OK?
Im not going to go into the obvious feminist argument here… Its silly, of course we shouldn’t treat women like this, its horrible, but again, in this world… there are prostitutes and I think thats OK..
BUT THERE ONE THING THAT ISNT!
Why no STRONG women?
Why no female playable character?
Thats not on!
Really… really not on!
But it all goes back to them WANTING to put porn into it… If they put a character that girls could play, you know, sleek and sexy super killer, or tough, seen it all, ex girl marine gone bad.. or.. I dont know.. Lara Croft? THEN It would have catered (maybe) a bit to women, BUT THEN THEY REALLY COULDN’T PUT THE PORN IN!!! But they wanted the porn, so the ruled out women players, took a risk that their $256,000,000 investment could still earn then a few bob despite excluding the fairer sex, and.. that way… THEY COULD HAVE PORN!! YAY!!

Censorship
So, should we be able to censor games with too much violence and sex? How is that gauged? In this country (Norway) we have a film censor, do we have a video game censor? I honestly dont know? Is it one and the same body? Is an interactive experience MORE engaging therefore MORE damaging?
I certainly think that if we believe in film censorship, we should also have a game censor, certainly to gauge age groupings for titles. I do think its dangerous to take it too far though. Who is going to decide for me, what I watch, play or read?
But lets face it, the violence in games is MUCH MUCH worse than in films. A horrible scene in a film will stay with you for the rest of your life (I’ll never forget the American History X scene or the Casino Scene(s)) But decapitations, blood splatters and dismemberments are ten a penny in games, and now they are getting to look more and more like real people… (remember the people in films are NOT real either however… its called acting darling!)
However, after all the engagement and interactivity of a game, I have yet to cry while playing one, whereas any old film can have me blubbing.
Why is that?

Taste
For me, I think it all comes down to taste.
Good Taste.
Gaming companies, in my not so humble opinion, need NOT be the purveyors of good family values, morals or messages, no, they shouldn’t HAVE to be. But I kind of wish that they would not stoop SO low as to drag the bottom of the barrel for any bit of crass crap that will sell a few more copies, either to too young, sperm dribbling spotty pale boys, or lonely geeks, who want to feel important as they wield biggest fucking gun in the game.
I do think its ok to tackle hard issues, and I think we are long past (in films also) the time when all villains have to have their come-uppance, proving once again, that Crime doesn’t pay.
No… but there has to be some understanding of the moral argument, and IF (as they say it is) GTA-5 is an ironic view of a world where bad is good, and that the moral message is a subtle one, where as the player you slowly learn and become horrified with the world that you are playing in, so that your reality is to NOT be in that world and live good and law-abiding lives, then the game has to BE CONSISTENT. You cannot tell a moral message about women, and what tough lives they lead, and at the same time, revel in their abuse.

Final thoughts

I played GTA 3 for a while, and it really bored me, I hated the music, the idiotic American Street language, and I hated the one dimensional storyline, where failure only meant HAVING to replay the mission. Im sure I play 4 hours MAX, before giving it up.

GTA, 5 However, despite the criticism I have levelled at it, seems like a different game altogether, and I am almost certain to buy it sometime. (I have not focussed ONE iota on the positive aspects and what an achievement it is visually) I will be playing it, as an interested party, and not a core audience player… I will be playing it, with my tongue firmly in my cheek, I’ll be playing it, late at night with NO KIDS around.
AND I WILL remember, the whole time, as if I can forget it, that this game is for BOYS, and MEN!
And as such its all about. Guns, Girls, Cars, Girls, Guns, and Cars… of and apparently golf.. you can even play golf in this game…

GOLF I ASK YOU?????

GOLF!!!!!!!

Cos thats what US MEN like!!!!

FPS grumbles.. And nice church!

Unity 5

Well the church is certainly getting somewhere now, nice lights, moonlight shining onto the floor, (I love using spotlight cookies)
a few flickering candles (hand made particles?… and pretty ok light map..
but WHAT THIS?? 4.9 FRAMES PER SECOND.. DAMN IT!!!
Unity Geeks… Please come with suggestions?
Lower textures res?
Theres about 1000 trees that you cant see outside… Is that a problem?
Is the church too heavy at 8600 tris? (built in quads of course!)
Theres some serious snowing going on outside, so more particles?
Or.. is it all the terrain?
Or simply time for a new computer?

Time to test…

The Church

Things to do: need a pulpit. a small kneeling rail at front, and to stop the snow and rain falling through the roof…, also want to do a sound thing, so that when you are inside the sound of the storm is muffled, have to see how I can interact with the built in sounds of UniStorm.

Beginning to look quite spooky outside the church now... this is a good thing... no zombies though... not in this game... I think

Beginning to look quite spooky outside the church now… this is a good thing… no zombies though… not in this game… I think

The church interior, now with altar!

The church interior, now with altar!

Operating Theatre Update.

OperatingTheatreI have been working on the Operating theater. Adding physics to all the furniture in the room. The Operating table stays still when you bump into it. The ECG machine moves but slowly, and the little silver trays roll about on well oiled wheels. Adding sounds to the collisions next. I also added cube map reflections to the trays, so they look all lovely and shiny… Just wait till there is an autopsy in progress however… Wont be so clean then I can assure you!

Epistolary writing

I have just discovered a new term that heavily relates to my work with “Fragment Storytelling” and indeed much storytelling in games.
An Epistolary Novel is a Story that using letters of documents to tell the story.
Maybe the most famous of the genre is Dracula but I am also a fan of 84 Charing Cross Road. I also have an amazing “Whodunnit” book, called Murder off Miami weirdly by Dennis Wheatley, where the letters and documents are fully reproduced on different papers and types. Including photographs from the Crime Scene and an envelope at the end that contains the solution. HE produces 5 of these and I must try to collect them all!
51G2DGRGG2L._SX285_
Murder off Miami
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0863501184/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0863501184&linkCode=as2&tag=wwwmarkfranco-20
In games letters or books are often used to tell the story. A good example being the Elder Scroll series, Morrowind, Oblivion and Skyrim being the most recent. Some young gamers probably dont bother with all this reading material, but I love it, and devour all!

In “Somewhere on the road to Hell” I will also be using this technique extensively, especially as I want to keep dialogue to a minimum (both for technical and atmosphere reasons). The game starts (usually) with a letter of introduction to the valley in Norway, from your employer. during the game there will be many subtle hints that can be read or discarded. INdeed, if there is a goal at all to the game, its to find out as much as you can. The actual game mechanics (which can´t really be revealed) will mean that it is in fact impossible to play the game once and learn everything, how ever much you try, and you will have to play again a number of times to kind of see the events from other angles… One play may even contradict another play, so coming out with a defining “this is what happened” will be impossible. More that “This is what happen this time”.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epistolary_novel

Making a game is like playing a game.

The more I think about the process of making a computer game, the more I think that its like actually playing a game!
A game like World of Warcraft, with quests and sub quests, involves receiving some instructions, and going off to find the solution. Before you know it, you realise that you dont have the right sword, or magic spell, so you must take some other quests to build XP, or gain some knowledge, these mini quests involve getting some more stuff, take you to new places, where there are new quests, that need new items to succeed, and you easily lose track of the original main quest you embarked on.

Right now, for instance, after having build a lot of content, a village, a cabin in the woods, a hospital, a church, a research Station, both interiors and exteriors, I have finally begun to stitch them together in game-play.
I start with the intro sequence, important for me because after a short film, the user should press a button and actually join the game, so the intro is like the game launcher. However, the intro sequence needs weather and lighting, so I need to figure out some stuff. I discover that these effects are best held by the main camera, but if I’m cutting together cameras into a sequence to create a “filmic” edit, I must add these effects to all the cameras in the scene, or else one camera angle will not have the required visual effects (fog, leaves blowing, darkness) This is a lot of work, so now Im thinking about making the camera angles and movement animations with dummy cameras, then using their positions as “pointers” that the Main Camera (the one with all the shit on it) will “snap” to. Now THIS MEANS, that I must finish my weather system. This is a bought system, so its not too much work, but due to updates and errors, needs some fixing. THEN I must figure out this camera following thing, then the order that things load after that.

Right now Im having lots of problems with fog just disappearing after a few seconds, I think I need to completely delete the system and rebuild it… to I’m wondering if I can just copy all models into a new clean scene without any programming, and start again…

But this is like a HUGE multi-player WoW Raid, and need to set aside 5 hours uninterrupted to do it…

And thats never gonna happen!

“This is the construct”

This is the construct… with Bob-1

Here is Bob, as I design my character and camera controller. I Spent all day on zooming the mouse wheel, but when I come to think about it maybe my game is best as 1st person? The thing is that I dont really like the feel of 1st person controllers, I much prefer a 3rd person, but zoomed in, if you can understand the difference… not so…er swimmy…
Still I have to have a model for the view that your competitors/colleagues will have of you, as its a multiplayer game, But then I can just do a “Photon View Get Is Mine” and turn off the the mesh… no need to zoom ever… Oh well.
Anyway, heres Bob in “The construct”.. my simple programming level before he gets moved over to the game, oh god.. frightening…

Ive built the controllers o far as five different FSMs in PlayMaker. ONe for Walking and running animations.. with the shift key causing the run. I have a small bug. When you press shift to run, he runs, when you release you finger from W (forward) he stops… fine… but if your DONT release your shift key too, and then just press W again, he walks, not run…but this FSM is not actually causing forward movement, only animations.
I have on FSM for Movement. which, lone just causing the character to slide forwards.
I have one for rotating. Now here I have gone for A and D causing a rotate, Im still not sure about this. Its less “gamer-y”. A “Proper game” would have A and D as Strafe, walking sideways while still facing forward. (needed for shooting games) and using the mouse to handle turning… but.. in a game with no shooting, it is really right? But maybe there IS shooting… anyway havent decided yet…
Then a Jump FSM… a tricky one this, cos it should look different depandant on whether the character is running or standing still. SO hI have a swithc that detects whether thecharacter is moving forwards, if so, when you press jump (space of course) it dos a kind of running jump, if hes standing still he jumps on the spot. This one has a bug where it gets stuck on the last frame of the jump before going back to running or walking, and just slides along. Im sure this must be a simple fix.

Thats it really. Its working well with physics… slide down 45 degrees he will jump onto a moving platform (slide bug here when a platform slides into him… legs… soft..)prob need a physics collider somewhere..

Now I just want to add some shuffling animation for when hes standing still but you want to turn.
THAN I have to get him into my Photon project, getting him working multiplayer, changing the msehh for 3 other characters, and THEN adding it to the main game…

Lots of fun stuff to do…

Bob Bug Report

The bugnotesDone or not?
Jump height bugHis standing still jump is not really working, his feet dont touch the floor,a dn he seems to creep higher each jump, untill WALK is invoked, which seems to reset it
Jump animation sticking buglast frame of jump animation sticks when running/walking
Jump height bugNot really jumping high enough, not sure how to adjust that,
Jump collidor bugThe collidor needs to move up as the animation does, and needs him to push up, so that if he jumps onto a higher surface, the jump works, right now its really only visual.
No Camera rotateNeed to implement
Running bugNot running if you keep run pressed when you go stop and start againDONE!!!

AUNTY UPDATE

After a while of inactivity in the Aunty project, due to other projects taking precedence, Suddenly a few things came together.
Firstly I finished the first rough model of “the House”. (It should have an address? (69 Acacia Avenue, Hemel Hempstead seems nice… hope it isnt a real place)

Can’t really show a pic cos it would be a bit of a SPOILER.. Oh ok, then, if you insist.. but from a long way away, in low quality ok? Deal!
house

AND, Even more exiting, James came up with the first model of Aunty herself! She has excellent hair!
auntygazette

aunty

Hill Designs

Each Hill will be totally different, some urbane, some in wonderful wooded glens. Some will have elements that will move, like sliding blocks, or moving staircases. Some will be surrounded by fire, or water.
There will always be the hint that “you are being watched”

Here are a few Hill designs I’ve been tinkering with.
hill2
Lovely and Pastoral – Birds singing, music, classical..

hill3
Screw Head Hill, always turning, screwing upward… music, crazy circus organ…

hill4
Moving Blocks, Constantly rearranging themselves… music.. techno…

hill5
Slippery spikes in the sea, “What are there loads of duplicated spikes, fall in water if you don’t CONSTANTLY run up the hill, music: ???

hill6
Shit Hill… Just fucking grim, wet.. rain, barbed wire,

It Lives! It Lives!

My Golum is finally in Unity I basically followed the Mecanim tutorial to add some animations, and do blend trees for walks and runs, a jump, but I dont have any punching animations, gotta get one.
BUT, I dont know what to do next! I cannot get this to work with the old character controller (WASD Space) and although my character Idles (oh yes an idle animation) when in game, I have NO IDEA how to get that linked to keyboard strokes.
It seems to be more aimed at console users, cos then you need SPEED as a controller, as the stick has a varied position from stopped to running, wheras on a PC, its usually an extra key that causes a run.

Golum from Mark Francombe on Vimeo.

I notice my mans feet are going thru the floor… hmm… is that bad?Autodesk Maya 2010_ _Users_markfrancombe_Dropbox_King of the Hill_Maya_KOTH010.mb