I’ve completed my second year at Bournemouth University doing Computer Visualisation and Animation. I haven’t had the time to post updates on what I’ve done and what I’m currently doing on here due to the sheer amount of time being taken up by all my assignments and exams. So, I’ve decided to create two posts: one about what I’ve done this year and the other on what I’m going to be doing over the course of the Summer. So, here we go! 

Cinematography: The Hobbit in the style of Crime-Thriller

Our brief was to choose a genre of cinema, examine its conventions and characteristics, choose a segment of film that doesn’t belong to that particular genre and reinterpret the segment using the conventions of the chosen genre. In this reinterpretation you had to change everything except for the story.

The assignment was really useful in developing the skills for analysing and researching in-depth within a particular genre, specifically looking into all the different elements that create that particular genre.

I wasn’t particularly happy with my final piece since I had to complete it in a very short amount of time due to there being a Game Jam on the weekend before the deadline (I’ll go into that a little more next). However, I still got an okay mark but I can agree that Cinematography isn’t one of my strong suits and something I definitely need to work on.

48 Game Jam: A Fox’s Tail

We (me and 8 other friends on Computer Animation courses) entered in a 48 Game Jam apart of the BU Games Development Society. The Jam was meant to have a prize but sadly the sponsors of the event had to pull out at the last moment. Still, this didn’t stop us from participating!

We were given the topic of “Animal Warfare” and our group decided to address Fox Hunting and follow in the footsteps of a fox leaving its den and exploring the forest he lives within. I was the only programmer and also worked on the game mechanics, where as everyone else worked on the visuals, characters and animation etc. We decided to use Unreal Engine 4 due to our previous experience using the Engine.

We didn’t get anywhere near as much completed as we wanted to do, but it was a huge learning experience for all of us to work together as a team. The importance of working together in the same room, bouncing ideas off one another, asking for feedback and tips on how to approach different tasks became obvious to me. It’s definitely something I value much more after this Game Jam.

Essay: Discuss the so-called ‘animated documentary’ form in light of Peirce’s Index, and theoretical ontologies of documentary film-making

Our brief was to choose one of three questions and to write a max of 4000 words on said question. I chose the above the question because I predominantly thought that it was the most interesting of the questions available to us, and something that I knew I could write in good detail to get the marks necessary.

The assignment was really useful in expanding my ability to understand and contextualize the existing theories in the field of “animated documentary”, and also in developing academic arguments based on my research.

Post Production: Compositing and Nuke Test

This was a theoretical test which tested my knowledge and understanding of the core skills in Digital Compositing and the basics of Nuke. The test consisted of a series of multiple choice questions which were based on the practical workshops we participated in, and from the book “Digital Compositing for Film and Video” by Steve Wright.

Character Design: To Build a Fire

The purpose of this assignment was to gain an understanding of creating a design “to order”, meaning that it replicates the professional scenario of working to a client’s requirements: it implies the use of inventiveness and creativity within constraints. The aim of the project was to familiarise us with the pre-production, concept development and iterative design practices.

You were able to choose any section of text from a wide range of specified books from the lecturers to resemble this design “to order” idea. I chose a quote from Jack London’s book “To Build a Fire”, which I really enjoyed reading.

Drawing and designing is definitely not one of my strong suits, however I felt I did a pretty good job overall. I’m a lot stronger at creating landscapes than characters. However, I found the assignment to be very educational and really enjoyed all the skills and techniques I learned about character design.

Group Project: “Arcanum” Game Project

A team of five of us created a game called Arcanum for our second year group project using Unreal Engine 4. The premise is that a shipwreck of a large cruise vessel was discovered at a depth of 3000 meters. No shipwreck of this size and model had ever been recorded and you, the player, are sent to dive into this wreckage to explore how it came to be at this record-breaking depth. You realize the ship isn’t anything like you could have imagined and that you may not be the only living thing on this ship.

I was the Director of this project with my secondary role being rigging. A large portion of my work was setting up a pipeline for the content being produced by all five of us. I also had to deal with setting up a content management system using Perforce to allow for us to all work on the same project files simultaneously. I also worked on blocking out the ship design interior, creating a basic real-time Inverse Kinematic system for the Dybbuk (enemy creature), cloth simulation for the Dybbuk dress using Nvidia Apex, some small amounts of modelling and texturing as well as some code using Unreal Engine 4 Blueprint. The project was an amazing learning experience: to work with people you don’t have much repertoire with and establish a means of communication along with precise planning for a project was really vital in creating a successful project.

Overall I was very happy with what we completed for this project: there was a lot of work that wasn’t completed on time and a lot of features that we wanted to include but there is only so much you can do in 4 months. You can find out more by checking out my portfolio page here.

Specialist: Designing and creating a 2.5D, blocked out, side-scrolling platformer level for a sample game using Unreal Engine 4 focussing on enjoyable gameplay through level design.

With this assignment we were allowed to choose any area of Computer Animation production as long as we: applied specialised knowledge, showed an ability to evidence through investigation and analysis in this area and were able to critically evaluate our own work with both its successes and failures. I chose to explore Game Level Design and focus on designing and creating a simple side-scrolling platformer level focusing on enjoyable gameplay. My main focus of the project was learning how to effectively use Unreal Engine 4 to design and create levels for games as well as researching how to create enjoyable gameplay through research into the area.

This assignment was an excellent learning experience: learning about different ways of evaluating and analysing levels, exploring how pre-existing games attempt to create enjoyable gameplay thorough level design and using Unreal Engine 4 to design a blocked out version of a level.

I was really happy with the outcome I created for this piece and it really leant itself to increasing my understanding of the field that is Game Level Design.

Computing: Level of Detail (LOD) Generator

My final assignment of the year was to create a program and develop a set of C++ classes / data structures and algorithms that provide a high level OpenGL object/scene management. You could choose to do any project idea as long as it could meet the marking criteria. I decided to create a Level of Detail Generator which creates a Progressive Mesh using edge collapses using a triangular mesh.

I learnt a gratuitous amount in this project: the use of the C++ language and OpenGL, OBJ file formats, progressive meshes, and proper data management using pointers. I also learnt how to use Qt in a computing environment and how to make cross compatible code on different operating systems.

Overall, I was very happy with what I managed to create although the final code I submitted was a little buggy. The outcome that is created is limited to only working on Triangular meshes with no holes but creates an accurate, simplified representation of the mesh using the code.

There we have it. Second year CVA all finished, and what a ride its been! I must say that my experience at University has been one I would never exchange. It’s allowed me to meet so many like-minded people, learn amazing skills and help me realise that I really want to work on making games. It was tough this year, and it’s going to be tougher next year but I’m motivated to work harder and produce some amazing work.