Week 1: A Welcome Return / by Valzorra

It feels amazing to be back. I’ve been looking forward to starting Year 3 for the longest time and our first week back did not disappoint. Coming into the Launch Session on Monday, I was not fully sure what to expect, but I was itching to begin work. It was really helpful to hear about what is considered good Professional Practice as those tips and techniques would be useful throughout my design career, especially when establishing myself and applying for positions in different studios. Additionally, I was feeling a little lost when it came to designing my website, so it was great to have a few terrific examples of what an excellent online portfolio is. My main takeaway was that the work should be displayed front and centre, while the website itself should not be too busy, so as to not distract from the portfolio. Based on that section of the presentation, I have attempted to apply most of the tips regarding online portfolios onto this site.

What excited me most about the upcoming year from the entire Launch was likely the Brief itself. I found it quite helpful to have a deconstruction of the entire semester and what we would be doing week by week as that would allow me to make a more accurate working schedule. Although research and ideation is not necessarily my favourite part of the games design process, I understand it’s absolutely crucial towards creating a good game. Dozens of ideas need to be generated and analysed before it is even worth exploring any of them further. That’s one of the best ways to ensure that a designer is not investing too much time and effort into an idea that was not great to begin with. Therefore, it’s great to know that we will have as many weeks to figure out what topic we would like to explore and what themes we would like to incorporate within our games. Overall, Monday was quite busy, but also very productive as now we knew exactly what it was that needed to be done and how we are to proceed over the next few weeks.

Deconstruction of Semester I by Adam Procter

Deconstruction of Semester I by Adam Procter

Tech Workshop and Building the World

The Tuesday of Week 1 was centred around our first Tech Workshop and Building the World Sessions. I quite enjoyed James’s lecture on the A* Algorithm as it was very informative and made logical sense throughout. Additionally, the A* Algorithm has a wide range of applications, especially when it comes to movement and path-finding within video games. I did find it rather challenging to translate the A* Algorithm to pseudo code, however, I had a few solid attempts at it and I felt as though I did get at least close to the solution.

The very first page of my handwritten notes on Deconstructing the A* Algorithm

The very first page of my handwritten notes on Deconstructing the A* Algorithm

The main part of the lecture with details on the key formulae for this algorithm.

The main part of the lecture with details on the key formulae for this algorithm.

My attempt at pseudo code for the A* Algorithm.

My attempt at pseudo code for the A* Algorithm.

After digesting the A* Algorithm, we had our first Building The World Session that afternoon, which I found rather fascinating. We were exploring Linear Congregational Generation, the Percentile Mechanic, as well as the Binomial Distribution Formula, all elements related to Chance and Probability within games. I absolutely loved the idea that as designers we have a variety of methods to ensure true random chance and to calculate the probability of every outcome of a situation. This gives us sufficient control over player experiences and thus can help us ensure that they have a great play through, even when presented with elements of chance. It also opens up a series of possibilities when it comes to level design, environmental design, enemy positioning, and so much more as it gives us the option to introduce multiple solutions to a given problem within our games. Additionally, these formulas are also extremely useful in helping designers predict what players are most likely to do when presented with multiple possibilities of different chances. What interests me even more so is how players would react if they are presented with the opportunity to change the outcome of chance-based events and how that would influence game-play.

Hand-written notes from the Building the World Session.

Hand-written notes from the Building the World Session.

The example Rubi and I came up with featuring a changing weather system.

The example Rubi and I came up with featuring a changing weather system.

Designing the Website and Logo

Over the next few days I spent a substantial amount of time creating my website based on the methods we discussed that Monday. I went onto my chosen platform, Squarespace, and took a look at the array of templates they offer to get me started. Although they had a variety of options available, I went for Forte. Forte’s bold design showcases visuals beautifully with one massive central image, and then upon further inspection, users can view other similar work or pieces from the same project. I quite prefer this structure because it showcases the best pieces first, it stands out from other sites, and the layout is much more dynamic than Avenue, for example, which I felt echoes Instagram too closely. After choosing my template I then proceeded to gather my best pieces of art and photography in order to showcase them on the site. As I intend to make an individual page for each project under the Work section, I gathered these pieces into a collective Photography page and a collective Art page for all separate works that don’t fit into a dedicated project. I have yet to add a project page for DARE, the project I led in Semester 2 of Year 2, but I intend to do so soon. I am also really looking forward to filling this site with a variety of materials for my FMP.

These were some of the templates I considered when starting to create the website. I was tempted by Flatiron as well, however, I do not have enough work to make the best out of that template.

These were some of the templates I considered when starting to create the website. I was tempted by Flatiron as well, however, I do not have enough work to make the best out of that template.

In addition to including my best art and photography onto the website, I also made sure to write up a short description of each individual piece in order to provide some context for the pieces and my thought process. I figured that if anyone were to visit, the site should look as complete as it possibly can at this stage, which meant I needed to provide enough clarity on my work. Overall, when all of that was ready and described, I was quite happy with how it turned out as it started to look like a professional art and design portfolio. I had never seen my work presented in such a manner, so I felt quite motivated to work and add more pieces throughout this year. It was also at this stage that I started to appreciate how important presenting your work in the right format is, as that can make the difference between professionalism and mediocrity.

In addition to creating my website and online portfolio, I thought it would be rather useful to create a logo for my practice. It would be used on the website itself, on business cards, leaflets, and most crucially on my artwork as somewhat of a signature. The logo needed to be clear and also representative of me, which is why I chose to go for an abstract and geometric design as it is the predominant style of my artwork. I wanted to make sure that the letters V, L, Z, and R, were in some way featured within the design, even if it was primarily through abstract shapes and lines, as those are the key letters in my pseudonym Valzorra. However, once I started sketching, I thought it would be great to incorporate some three-dimensional elements into the logo as well. Although I am currently primarily a traditional and 2D artist, a lot of my work features three-dimensional shapes. Additionally, as a games designer, I am quite passionate about 3D and Low-Poly Projects, so it is more than likely that my work in the future will feature more such pieces. Therefore, incorporating both three-dimensional and two-dimensional shapes into the logo not only made it more exciting and intricate, but also made the logo more representative of me, my interests, and my future work. In terms of colour, I went for different shades of grey in order to give the logo a sleek and professional look, while also ensuring it gave the illusion of volume.

Different iterations and sketches of the logo, while trying to incorporate the letters V, L, Z, and R.

Different iterations and sketches of the logo, while trying to incorporate the letters V, L, Z, and R.

Incorporating 2D and 3D elements into the logo. The outline on the far right is the final outline.

Incorporating 2D and 3D elements into the logo. The outline on the far right is the final outline.

The completed and coloured logo for Valzorra.

The completed and coloured logo for Valzorra.

Thoughts and Reflection

All in all, I was quite happy with the work I did on both the website and the logo during the better half of Week 1. I thought those were valuable pieces to have done now, while there is still some time to spare on them, rather than during November and December, when deadlines are fast approaching. It was a great learning experience as I familiarised myself with Squarespare and now feel confident creating and editing websites using that platform, which is why I have chosen to host my blog on valzorra.com as well. Additionally, I had a lot of fun designing the logo, because of all of the freedom I had to create anything I wanted to, to represent me and my work. It’s a fantastic exercise in branding, figuring out how to best market myself as a designer, and making sure that the logo is solid enough to look good in a variety of settings. As I am also aware that we are to learn more about branding oneself later on in the year, I am not married to these designs, and I appreciate that they may change later on. I was also really inspired by the work we did on Tuesday and I was already thinking of chance and probability as potential staring points and areas worth exploring further. At this point, I was ready and prepared to continue with ideation, jogging down things that interest me, and working on those starting points to derive an idea from. All set for Friday’s workshop.