My favourite Retro-style video-games

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Shovel Knight

Graphics

Shovel knight is a game that was created as a modern day call-back to classic retro platformers and tells a story about a character called Shovel Knight on a quest to rescue his partner, Shield Knight from an Enchantress and a group of themed knights, who also serve as the game’s bosses for the end of each level.

I particularly enjoyed Shovel knight for it’s retro, 8-bit aesthetic that didn’t feel out-dated as it had an upgraded polish and more colour variety, thanks to modern technology. The characters are also charming and occasionally funny due to inventive and unique character designs such as a knight who’s armour is based on a deep-sea diver’s uniform and has a Mortal Kombat-style grappling-anchor as a weapon. As a result I really looked forward to each boss-fight, and also because each boss-battle was different and offered a unique challenge.

Gameplay

The gameplay was very much based on retro games from the 80’s, so it attracts gamers who played the video-games that were released back then, but, thanks to updated controls, it is also accessible to more modern, current-gen gamers. You make your way through the variety of levels by using your shovel-based weapon to slice and jump on your opponents Mario-style, and also to bypass obstacles to find hidden Treasure chests containing music papers to unlock tracks in the soundtrack you can listen to whenever you want in the hub-village, and different weapons and abilities, such as a pair of gauntlets that let you destroy breakable objects faster. These are especially useful, as with them, you can access secrets that you couldn’t before.

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Sonic the Hedgehog 2

Graphics

Sonic’s graphics have usually been very bright and colourful, using mostly primary yellows, blues and greens. This, combined with the fast-paced and cheerful music gives the game a great sense of energy, which really compliments the gameplay. Each level’s backgrounds give the game a real sense of depth, for example, in Casino night zone, the background gives you the feeling you’re in a brightly lit, Las Vegas-style city at night, when really you’re simply playing on a 2D plane. It doesn’t seem like a pixel is wasted.

The game’s characters have entertaining and colourful designs that fit their respective play-styles. For example, since Tails is more air and flight-based, his character has 2 tails that let him fly and hover for a short time. The titular villain Dr Robotnik ( or Dr Eggman) has an inventive futuristic, mad-scientist aesthetic, complimented by the fun, animal-inspired designs of the non-boss and boss enemy robots ( He even has a futuristic air-craft with a high-tech wrecking ball under it!) . These make each encounter fun and put a different spin on each boss-battle at the end of each level.

Gameplay

The various levels in Sonic the Hedgehog 2 are very fast-paced and fun to play, thanks to the extreme speed of the protagonist and his quick dodging and bouncing skills, which he will use to defeat minor enemies and boss-enemies. With Tails, the levels have a verticality to them and so have secrets and hidden rings (points) that you can only discover using Tail’s flight ability.

Each level, much like Shovel Knight, ends with a boss-battle, in this case, most likely Dr Robotnik. These boss-battles each test your game-skill in different ways, like dodging trails of flames fired out of a lava machine and hitting it at the right time. The way that Dr Robotnik always has a new robot for each level ending give the bosses a new twist every time so that they don’t feel so same-y, and so you look forward to every one.

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Wario Land: The Shake Dimension

Graphics

Wario-land uses a bright and colourful hand-drawn and hand-animated 2D art-style for it’s environments and characters, giving the game an almost anime/cartoon style that is very entertaining to look at and play through. The backgrounds keep that same hand-drawn feel and these, combined with the well animated NPCs (Non Player Characters) make you feel as though you’re playing within a Studio Ghibli or Disney production, and one that’s entertaining to look at, at that!

Every character is animated in such a way that they feel like they were animated in a 2D digital stop-motion fashion which gives the same impression as a game with animated pixels and sprites but still keeps that cartoon-ish art-style. This was a clever way of making the game stand out from among other Nintendo titles and gives the game a definite charm while playing it.

Gameplay

In a fashion similar to Super Mario Bros, you play through a certain amount of “worlds” (5 in this case) by playing the world’s levels and facing a boss at the final level of each world. Each level has it’s own secrets and treasures to unlock, which require you to use the game’s controls in creative ways to obtain them.

The game’s subtitle “The Shake dimension” is a reference to the fact that Wario can pick up enemies and certain objects in the game and shake them until loot falls out of them. You do this for health and extra coins, and for, every now and again, progressing in a level by activating switches using a ground-pound attack by shaking the Wii-remote and using a shoulder-charge attack.

At the end of each world, you’ll face a unique and challenging boss enemy that tests whatever new abilities you’ve learned in the world’s levels, for example, a giant Aztec-inspired robot or a race-car driving daredevil you fight in an upgraded unicycle! Each boss-battle makes for a rewarding and fun challenge, especially when you defeat a boss with all the level’s extra achievements completed.

 

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The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

Graphics

Unlike the other games that I’ve mentioned, Zelda ALTTP does not have you play it from a 2D perspective. Instead, it situates the camera top-down, so you can explore the vast world that Nintendo has created. However, much like Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and Shovel Knight, the game has a bouncy, bright Sprite/pixel aesthetic, and this charm gives the game a euphoric feeling throughout gameplay.

Because Nintendo only had limited console power to run all of the game’s pixels, not once piece of the environment feels out of place and a majority of the objects are interactive, leading to new dungeons and secret items.

The design of the characters make each NPC and playable character feel as though they’re part of a lived in world and yet also really help give the vibe of a Japan-style fantasy tale. Because every object and NPC has a reason for being where it is, nearly every character you come across has their own problems and small, contained story to tell and brings the world to life even more because of it.

Gameplay

As I said before, the story takes place in a large world full of secrets, dungeons and quests. These, you access through different abilities and items, such as a grappling hook which you can use to get through a dungeon full of pitfalls that you couldn’t get past on your own.

Every dungeon and quest leads to a multitude of rewards and treasures and are ultimately, usually completed by defeating a boss-enemy at the end. Each of these offer the challenge of using a well-timed sword swing or use of an ability to defeat (ala the Dark Souls series) and make for a great way to test out your items.

Interacting with the assortment of environments is necessary to discover hidden secrets and Easter eggs (an inside joke or hidden feature in the game-world), such as a chicken where, if you hit it enough times, a whole flock of chickens will fly in from off-screen and attack you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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3D modelling: basic shapes

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Topology

Polygonal: Digital 3D shapes made up of faces, created using vertices (Corner points)

NURBS: Non-Uniform Rational Bee Splines

Vertex: corners of a 3D shape

Extrusion: extending the shape to create a new shape

Sub-division: Dividing shape to gain more information on that shape.

Valence: Number of edges from a point

N-gon: A shape with 5 points or more, making the shape uneven and hard to work with.

Cartesian: Maya’s grid system

Controls

Q= General selection

W= Move tool

E=

R=

F= Focus on one shape

A= Focus on all objects

3D modelling Industries

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Gaming: Modelling characters, environments and objects in game

Geology: Used for simulating earthquakes and different landforms such as Deep-sea trenches.

Entertainment: Most blockbuster films and television shows use 3D modelling for CGI (Computer Graphic Imaging) to create artificial characters and environments in their film that they cannot use practical (non-digital) effects for.

Publishing: 3D is used in publishing to let publishers show environments or flora and fauna in their book that may be difficult to depict in their writing. Especially in fantasy books that contain environments that do not exist in real-life.

Different programmes used for 3D publishing include TurboCad, 3DCad, and Architect3D.

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Autodesk Maya

Maya has 2 main file types

  1. .MA: Maya Askey
  2. .MB: Maya Binary

 

 

K for knight: editing

1: Fire-breath effect

Editing was more of a challenge as it was difficult to find the write kind of letter K and to successfully create a convincing fire-breathing effect for the Dragon.

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creating the dragon’s fire-breath

In after-effects, I begin making the fireball by first making an orange solid composition to create an orange template for the fireball.

Then in “effects and presets” I input “CC particle world” and dropped it into the composition to create an orange particle effect. Then, in “effect controls” I changed the particle type to “bubble” to change the shape of the particles, then changed “animation” to “directional axis” to have the particles shooting right. I turned down “inherent velocity” and “resistance” to condense the particles into a more flame-like formation.

In “comp 1” I added a motion blur effect to make the fire seem more believable, then in “effects and presets” I searched for “gaussian blur” and added that into the composition, going into “effect controls” and turning up “blurriness” to add realism to the fireball.

Back in the effect controls for particle world, I made the “birth colour” a light yellow and made the “death colour” a dark red, to add a colour gradient to the fire, after which I then played around with the different effects and composition settings until I had the “fire-breath” effect I wanted.

2: putting it all together

In After-effects, I imported all of the frames of my animation that I had received from the camera I used, put them all in a composition and imported my fire-breath effect.

 

After-effects: Duik animation

During an after-effects lesson, we installed a plugin called Duik which allows people to create animations easier by having control over one joint of a limb for example, and having the other joints follow automatically. To practice this, we were asked to animate a basic arm.

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HOW?

Before starting, you must name each piece/joint of the arm otherwise there will be spaces in the animation, for example, L_arm = left arm.

Then, we create a controller to control the different functions of the arm. e.g. one for rotation, X-axis and Y-axis. Be sure to change the size and colour of the controller. In this case, we put the controller in the place of the hand, as then the other joints will follow what the hand does. (Note: you will only need to see the controller’s layer and not the other joint’s layers, so click on the “shy-guy” on the layers tab to hide the separate layers

When making the animation, make sure you work reverse from the controller, so from the controller an arm would be 4=controller, 1=forearm, 2= elbow and 3= arm.

For each frame, simply move the parent part of the limb you are moving, and the rest of the limb will simply follow the controller. This creates more natural looking movement in the animation and is far easier than having to move each part of the arm frame-by-frame on it’s own.

 

 

Animation introduction: 2D

In our first lesson of this week, we were introduced to animation in after-effects and were given a tutorial on how to do a basic 2d animation of a spaceship.

I uploaded this one onto After effects and created a new composition using this image, along with a galaxy background.

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Spaceship (from Clipartfest.com: 09/01/2017)

Then after I uploaded this, I imported this composition into the preview screen and activated the different key-frames in the key-frame window.

Then, using the position key-frame, I moved the UFO frame-by-frame until it reached the edge of the scene, making it look as though it were gliding through space.

A sense of hope animation assignment: Evaluation

Task 1: What went right and wrong?

Here is my final animation:

Research

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Doing the research for my animation I also feel went well as choosing the Lion King and Treasure planet made for effective research as I know those films well. Also, using different sources such as behind-the-scenes videos on YouTube, gave me some good ideas for my animation such as how I drew my storyboards.

It also gave me a better idea of how professional animations are made, and inspiration for my own animation, specifically how I went about doing the art and design aspect of the assignment.

Animation history timeline

Creating the animation method timeline was fairly simple as I had to find out about a type of animation from a significant period in history, and along with an image of the new development, include some writing about it.

This gave me a good indication as to how animation techniques have evolved and changed ever since Walt Disney created the first full-length animated feature film, Snow-white.

Task 2: Ideas generation: What went right and wrong?

Brainstorming: With some friends of mine, I went over my and their ideas in video form, like a meeting session. This went well because we were able to bounce ideas off each-other and give our opinions on each-other’s ideas. However some of our initial ideas are very different from the ones we ended up using.

Storyboards: The storyboards went well as I was able to flesh out my idea well, using a storyboard template from google and a drawing pencil. This gave my animation visuals along with the written idea. However, due to time constraints, I could not do my storyboards much justice in my final animation.

Written treatment: I felt like I managed to produce an effective written treatment outline  each act of the animation, for example, Act 1: Dove flies in tree and finds the nest. This gave me a better understanding of what I was planning to do as it gave a more summarised version of my animation.

Animation assets: Using the programme Photoshop, I created varied background art for each animation scene, using a variety of Photoshop brushes and tools to create a stylised version of the interior of a tree. For example, a Hard round brush for each tree branch to create a wooden effect, and a radial blur effect mask for the dappled effect of the leaves.

For the character of the Doves, I used tools such as the blending tool to achieve the different shades of colour on their feathers. and for the shaded effect on their beaks.

The soundtrack development I feel did not as well as the artwork, as I found out that Garageband was not easily compatible with after-effects. So I had to spend a-lot of time using sound-cloud, trying to change my music into a format that After-effects could read and allow me to edit the music into my animation.

For props I drew the character’s wings separately in Photoshop once again, so I could animate them properly in after-effects. And for the scene where the female Dove is walking on the tree, sad, I created a separate head, so I could animate it to convey the Dove’s emotions.

Task 3: Production: Using in class animation tutorials, I managed to create several compositions in after-effects importing my different character and background art. I then added a key-frame to each Dove so I could animate them movement by movement.

Scene 1: For scene 1, I imported my first background, which included a tree standing in a field, and then put in my Dove in front of the image on a different layer and positioned it as if it were flying. Then I imported each wing into a separate layer and as the Dove moved across the screen, I animated the wings alongside that by using the scale and position key-frames to make it look as though the character was flying.

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Scene 2: When animating scene 2, I used the scale key-frame option on the wings for each frame in order to make them look as though they where closing as the Dove landed. When the Dove is hopping along the branch, I utilised the walk cycle principal of animation to make the movement look more convincing and life-like.

Scene 3: During the scene where the Dove is lost in the tree, I created a separate head so I could convey the Dove’s emotion more by having the head bent down, showing the character’s sadness.

I also used each key-frame to make the characters walk in time with each-other, then when they were in front of each-other, I used rotation key-frames to rotate the male Dove and the female Dove’s head, so as to make it look as though the characters were noticing each-other.

Peer reviews & feedback:

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After development and after my animation had been uploaded, I created a survey on Google Forms so my class-mates could share their thoughts and give feedback.

A general consensus was that the animation wasn’t long enough, and that more animation techniques could have been used. I feel like if I had more time I could have corrected these mistakes, and improved on my animation’s story.

(If you want to see the full survey, click on the link below)

https://goo.gl/forms/uMfR8mc1mCFImfdz1

Assignment PT2

The 2nd part of our animation assignment was to create a stop-motion animation using whatever medium we chose based around a randomly assigned letter of the alphabet. I was set with the letter K

Here is the final film:

Task 1: planning

The planning phase was fairly easy as I came up with a good idea with the first word beginning with K I thought of, which was the word knight. I played around with some ideas in a medieval setting, for example having a Lego knight cut the letter K out of Lego bricks with his sword.

 

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K for Knight original concept

But I decided to get more creative with it by introducing a Lego dragon and having the knight have a brief fight with it, with the dragon’s fire burning the letter K into the grass.

Task 2: animating

Using a tripod and a Sony camera in a darkened green-screen room, I animated both of my characters frame-by-frame, taking 2 images for each frame for easier editing and, using a green-screen placed flat on the table I used some images for editing in the K.

 

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editing in the letter K

Task 3: editing

 

 

 

 

Written treatment: K for Knight: Animated alphabet

Title: K for Knight

Genre: Animation

Duration: 5-10 seconds

Logline: A Knight arrives at a castle and battles a dragon. The Dragon breathes fire on the ground during the fight, creating a letter K in the grass.

Story synopsis:

  1. The Knight arrives at the castle on horse-back and begins walking across the drawbridge.
  2. A Dragon arrives and startles the knight, beginning a fight, breathing fire. The Knight wins.
  3. The Knight steps across the burned patch of grass, and observes the K created in the grass, as the camera pans up, facing down, revealing the letter K.

How I am going to film it:

I will use a tripod mounted camera facing a castle background placed on a green base with my homemade character, and eventually the dragon at the forefront. Then in a stop-motion fashion with Lego, I will take a picture each time I move my character.

I will then take my footage and import it into Adobe Premiere Pro, and edit the JPEG images together to create a coherent short film, while making possible colour-correction and saturation edits, to make the footage look as good as it can.

 

 

 

 

 

A dove’s journey: development

 

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Importing Photoshop art files

Firstly, I imported my digital art that I created in Photoshop, then saved all these assets into a single file so none of my images would get corrupted. Then, dragging and dropping the image I wanted to animate into the keyframe tab, I added a keyframe to each image so it could animate in the viewing window.

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With each frame I moved the position and scale key frames for both the dove and her wings to create a convincing flying effect for the first scene as it flies towards and then into the tree.

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For the second scene, in order to create the image of the dove’s wings closing, I added a rotation and scale key frame so I could shrink and turn the wings with each frame as the dove was landing on the branch, so it looked as though the wings were closing.

 

Making the dove’s head was a bit more complicated as I had to animate a second image of the dove’s head alongside the dove’s body, to bring across the impression of the dove’s sad mood. For this, I keyframed both the head and the body and made sure that the head lined up with the body’s animation as it rotated.

 

Animation assignment 2: animated alphabet: Letter K concepts

For the second part of my animation assignment, I have been asked to create a 25 frame long animation centred around the letter K.

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Ideas:

  1. An animated lego knight could cut the letter K out of a lego wall, removing a brick with each frame until K is created in the wall.
  2. The lego knight slays a dragon appearing on the left of the screen. The Dragon’s fire leaves a K in the background.
  3. A lego kite floats across a meadow background, flying past a letter K written in the clouds in the sky.download.jpegScreen Shot 2017-05-09 at 10.13.39