Week 01

Week 1: Good Starts by Valzorra

After completing most of the work on the online portfolio and website, I was all ready and prepared for an intense session of idea generation that Friday. We began the day with the Good Start/Bad Start Workshop, which I found quite useful overall as it gave me a good outline of the way I could go about coming up with my starting points. Due to our proximity to each other within the studio, Richard and I teamed up for the first part of the session and started answering the questions Adam had asked us. Below I’ve listed the six questions and the answers I gave to them at the time as well as an image of our work with Richard.

  1. What makes you laugh?

    • Funny Cats, Comedy Shows, Puns, Good Company, Memes, “Space Arms“, “Sounds Like a You Problem“

  2. What makes you cry?

    • Burnout, Sleeping For About Two Hours Weeks on End, Lack of Confidence, Animal Cruelty, Abuse, Bullying, Destruction, Myself

  3. What gets you excited?

    • Great Artwork, New Music Albums, Releasing/Completing a Game, New Video Games, Projects To Work On, New Art Books, Design Work

  4. What gets you angry?

    • Late Trains, Ungrateful People, Injustice, Arrogance, Abuse, Destruction, General Rudeness, Ignorance

  5. What stimulates you intellectually?

    • Visual Culture, Tough Design Problems, Poetry Analysis, Challenges, Mathematics and Coding, Abstract Art, Projects to Work On, M.C. Escher

  6. What interests you?

    • Animation, Art, Poetry, 3D Modelling, Card Games, Innovation, Technology, Geometry, 3D Printing, Data Visualisation, Coding, Design Thinking, Video Games

The six sheets Richard and I crafted together.

The six sheets Richard and I crafted together.

After everyone had set up their posters on the walls, the room was filled with hundreds of staring points to get inspired from and to consider looking into. I quite enjoyed walking around and taking a look at what everyone had come up with, because they gave me a few staring points and ideas I hadn’t instantly considered. Some of those topics include irregularities, interior design, mental health, virtual reality, uncertainty, existentialism, absurdism, space, anatomy, photography, cinematography, manipulation, loneliness, and loss. Once I had taken a good look at everyone’s posters and after some guidance from Adam on what types of topics are likely to lead to exciting research avenues, I realised that a lot of the answers I had given to the questions above would not be worth researching any further as they would likely lead to dead ends. For example, some of my answers such as Injustice or Abstract Art have a a series of different interpretations and ways to be explored because of their generality and people’s different takes on them. Whereas as Funny Cats do indeed make me laugh, they are quite unlikely to lead to anything much more productive than that. That’s why when Adam asked us to pick a few topics and analyse them further, I had a much better idea of what is likely to be an exciting theme to look into.

Based on that knowledge and on a few conversations with Sam C. and Emily, I decided to look further into the Virtual Reality, Mental Health, and Anatomy. After that, I narrowed down the topics further and decided to analyse Virtual Reality in the most detail on that day. Virtual Reality has always been an exciting concept to me as it holds the potential to transport the viewer into a different space. It is the most successful tool for immersion, and manages to convincingly occupy the senses of sight and sound. This also begs the question of what human perception is, and how easy that is to manipulate, which can be an exciting research topic by itself. Below I have attached notes and questions I explored during the session on all topics, especially VR, which was my primary focus from the entire session.

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Questions and analysis of the three topics I focused on.

Questions and analysis of the three topics I focused on.

A deeper dive into VR by answering the questions Adam recommended within the session.

A deeper dive into VR by answering the questions Adam recommended within the session.

While answering the questions, I was sure to take out some of the key themes and ideas that came out of my answers. Those by themselves can be new starting points.

While answering the questions, I was sure to take out some of the key themes and ideas that came out of my answers. Those by themselves can be new starting points.

After narrowing down my research and thought process onto VR and considering what makes VR exciting, what some opportunities within the field are, and how Leonardo da Vinci might view VR, it was time to take my research and thinking into a more visual format. It was at this point in the day that we went out to the park close to WSA in order to take some photos of objects and events that represented our theme. I was initially a bit confused about how to represent Virtual Reality within the real world, however, the moment I went outside, I realised that reflections are a form of virtual reality. When one deconstructs the term, virtual reality simply means something that’s quite close to reality, but not quite the same as it. A reflection is the mirrored image of reality, but not quite what is real, it’s a representation. Additionally, reflection can also be a very exciting topic to do research on as it has been a significant part of multiple cultures throughout history. Not only that, but there are a series of myths about mirrors and the reflected image. Below I have posted the photos I ended up taking, most of which are significantly related to reflection and reflection as a form of virtual reality.

Once we were back in the studios, we carried on with our visual research, this time by drawing a series of panels to represent the theme. I found this exercise a bit easier than finding imagery related to VR outside, as it allowed to me to represent objects and actions that were not directly in front of me. In the first of my six panels, I decided to cover a more indirect aspect of VR, which would be what you see on the inside of kaleidoscopes, which is a form of primitive VR technology. The second panel represented the inside of a modern VR Headset, which the third was dedicated to a handled accessory for the HTC Vive. My fourth panel attempted to visualise a 3D environment that may be associated with VR, the firth one showed someone using a VR headset, and the last panel referred to the famous roller coaster VR Experience. After the poster was all ready and up on the wall, I was really surprised to discover that the images I had drawn did not immediately scream VR to those that took a look at it. The themes that they wrote down on my poster were Patterns, Geometry, and Music, which were all fantastic themes I hadn’t really considered at that point and will be sure to include in my list of starting points.

The poster I created with the notes from course mates that took a look at it.

The poster I created with the notes from course mates that took a look at it.

The wall with everyone’s posters and notes, which was quite inspirational.

The wall with everyone’s posters and notes, which was quite inspirational.

Thoughts and Reflection

Overall, I thought the session on Friday was rather useful for getting a series of starting points and things to consider looking into. I especially enjoyed the fact that through the collaborative process and looking at what my course mates had come up with, I got a bunch of ideas of potential research avenues myself. I was gained a much better understanding of the types of staring points that might be worth looking into, as they need to be quite general and abstract, and not too specific. Additionally, a good topic will also have a series of different points of view and ways that it could be explored. I also found the questions Adam presented us with quite useful as they gave me a way to focus my thoughts and come up with starting points based on a specific prompt, as otherwise I was feeling a little lost. I was also quite happy to go through the process of starting out with dozens of research points and then narrowing them down to one, which was Virtual Reality in my case. It was a great miniature version of the process we would have to go through over the first three weeks of the semester and it provided me with a way I could approach the process if I am ever feeling stuck. In addition to the workshop itself, I also found the Action Plan quite useful as it outlined some fantastic ways to do further research once the four key topics have been decided on. At this stage I had a very clear idea of how to approach the process, what sort of research needed to be done, and how to go about doing. All in all, I was ready to begin the process of picking my four starting points.

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.