Wednesday, April 16, 2008

End of the Group Project

I think it's time to write about my experience with the group project. I was hesistant about accepting a leader position as I knew it would probably involve stress and consantly wondering why I had bitten off more than I could chew, but I decided to go for it anyway. I was quite interested in being a leader purely on the organisation side, and I do seem to find myself in positions of responsibility outside of uni reasonably often. In my house I seem to organise pretty much everything money related - I don't do this because I want to boss people about but simply because I feel like if I didn't do it, nobody would.

I'm going to attempt to go through things chronologically with the aid of my Pig folder, where I basically documented every Team Pig and every Leader meeting there was. It might be interesting to type the leader meeting one up to chronicle our gradual descent into madness.

I did worry quite a bit initially for several reasons.
One: nobody really knew what they were doing. As soon as one leader had an idea, the rest of us rushed to copy them because it seemed like something we should be doing. We all had a meeting as soon as the brief was given out, we all set our blogs up and we all toured the Queen's building looking for inspiration. It took a little while to properly settle into the project and have our own ways of doing things
Two: I don't know very much. I freely admit that I am not the strongest in pretty much any discipline out there, and being faced with such a strong team was daunting. Would anyone respect my suggestions when I don't know as much as they do? Fortunately it because quickly apparent that all the leads were more than happy to explain things, and even go back to square one if necessary. It was easy to ask people for advice or explanations.
Three: As I have mentioned previously, I worry about things anyway, it tends to give me motivation to work.

Luckily for us, pretty much the first idea we thought of we decided to stick with. Our first idea was people holed up in the Queen's building, using it as a fort. Some kind of terrible circumstance had occurred, forcing people out of situations they usually controlled, and being penned into small areas, allowing nature to take over the outside world. Flooding compounds the problems faced by people in the building.
We started by researching, and producing concept art. A lot of our immediate ideas can be found in the final level. The idea of people trying to keep the trees at bay is reflected in Tom's graffiti. Jesus's idea of having the player on the walkway so they could look up and down but access neither direction is the core feature of the final level. It seems like the start of the project was years ago, and it's a nice surprise to check back and know that so many ideas were realised. Sadly though, Tom's bat people were never fully explored, maybe the world is just not ready for them.
I think researching things was one of our strong points. We chose a very accessible theme - flooding, plant life and abandoned buildings. Scott and Alex provided photos of abandoned buildings, the canal is just around the corner for things relating to slow moving water and the Bradgate park trip gave people lots of plant information. My significant other being an engineer helped no end, allowing me to provide accurate information on what would actually happen to the building should it flood, and to design a drawbridge for the inhabitants that would theoretically work.

We sat down and planned out the entire level once we had a clear idea of what we wanted. It would have been great to have made the whole thing, because it would just have expanded what we have now, but sadly we didn't have the manpower. Kitto used the plan to create a fantastic art style guide for each area, which was then used to produce concept art. Each person was assigned an area or two to concept and we starting producing asset lists based on these. I think having only a small amount of concept art really helped us, because each area had one solid vision behind it. Having too much might have made things too complicated.

I think it was around this stage in the project that I started to worry about my abilities as a leader. In my mind I didn't seem to actually be doing anything. Other leaders were managing conflicts, giving other team members a kick up the arse and generally keeping a tight grip on things. I wasn't doing any of that, the project just seemed to flow, mostly driven by the team leads, with me picking up the pieces and generally being administrative. Eventually I realised that this was what I wanted to be happening. I wasn't having to manage conflicts because there weren't any. I wasn't kicking people up the arse because everybody was getting on with it. I was quite happy to join in discussions, have everyone come up with ideas and then me write it all down and do the boring things like produce charts. This was what I'd had in mind as being leader's duties anyway, the stuff that no one really wants to do but someone has to.

With all the initial planning done, we set people test assets to check modelling skills. Once they were Ok'd, the hard bit began - the production line. For the next few weeks I felt like I had assets coming out of my ears. Everything seemed to take me far longer than it should have done and things would seem to be almost finished for ages. I think I got a bit hung up on texturing things perfectly, but I gradually got over it and got faster at producing assets. My prime time for asset production seemed to be late on Sunday nights, when my self-inflicted deadline of 'The End of the Week' loomed. As things started to appear in the blockout though, the project became more inspiring.

As Easter approched and another asset list came out, I decided to set myself the lecture theatre. It was another of those 'this will probably cause me stress and frustration, but if it works it'll be worth it' moments. Because it was so intrinsically linked to the shape of the blockout, I had to consult with Jesus in the labs a lot more. It was nice to have such communication, I could see how the level was progressing and also check that my asset fitted correctly. If we did this all again I'd encourage far more team use of the lab, as it allows everyone to give help and suggestions far more quickly and easily.

During Easter there was some drama. Alex's walkway had not fitted the blockout, so Tom had, at the request of the team as a whole, produced another one. Alex took offence and a feud broke out, which was thankfully resolved by Jesus. I felt pretty guilty that as team leader I wasn't there to deal with the issue, although I think the fact that the only real problem we had happened at a time when we had the least communication between the entire team is a testament to how well we managed generally.

And so we're almost at the current point. After Easter was the most pleasant time for me, everything was essentially finished, it just needed to be collected and polished. I could texture my infernal lecture theatre with relatively little stress, and also produce any odd assets that might be needed.

So, have I been a good leader? I'm putting myself on not sure bordering on yes. To be honest I think the group would probably have worked fine without a leader at all. We made all the big decisions together and the process flowed very nicely with input from everyone. It has been nice to be able to say 'we are doing it this way' when it comes to some things and know I'll get my way, but I definitely feel like I would describe my role as more team secretary than team leader. I tell everyone what they're doing, when they're doing it and shuffle papers afterwards, but they make the decisions about the how, why and what next. I think I've been able to adapt well to what my team needed from me, and at the end of the day we've got something to show, so I guess I must have done something right.

As a final note, a bit thank you to everyone in Team Pig for all the hard work you've put in over the last few weeks. It's been fun.
Matt: Your assets are really nice, and you were fantastic and did everything asked of you. You just need to speak up a bit more!
Scott: You weren't around all the time, but I knew you were still getting on with stuff. Your early ideas were great, and your random singing is always entertaining!
Alex: We had problems with the walkway, but you got a new lease of determination from the competition, and managed to get it to completion.
Caz: You are an asset making machine! You've improved tons and I hope you feel a lot more confident with max after all this, even if it does still misbehave.
Tom: You made a great 3d lead, you were happy to explain things and you were a fair critic, pointing out both the good and the bad in everyone's stuff.
Kitto: Your happy enthusiasm made the tough times a lot easier, and you really know your stuff when it comes to art. You were a great 2D lead.
Jesus: You have worked incredibly hard for this team. I certainly appreciate it, and I'm sure the rest of the team does too. We couldn't have done it without you.

Boss Hogg out.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Digital Masterpiece

Woohoo! Finished. This was quite fun to do, apart from the wheat, which was a pain.

Wheatfield with Cypresses, by Van Gogh.


Saturday, April 05, 2008

God this task is hard

I stated earlier that art is successful if it provokes a reaction in people. But what if you have a piece of tat that simply provokes a reaction of horror at its complete lack of skill, instead of evoking the emotion it was supposed to? Look at this... thing, dredged up from the wonderful place that is deviantart.

It's clearly trying to portray some kind of melancholy, but instead all you see is the flaws. The background perspective is strange to say the least. There seems to be some kind of vanishing point going on with the trees but the water just spreads up the page instead of vanishing anywhere. There is no interaction between the character and the water she is standing in - the character herself seems to have a spine like a poker and only possesses one finger. I could go on. But is my distaste the same as that against works of modern art?

I think the severe backlash against work such as Hirst and Emin's is because people are feeling the emotions they are meant to be feeling when they experience the work, and they don't like what they feel. A lot of modern art does not adhere to typical 'right and wrong' rules like perspective because they may be exploring a different area, so they cannot be assessed on the same criteria.

The criteria for good and bad art needs to depend on what the work was trying to achieve. If it achieves the mood and evokes the feeling it was meant to, then it is a success. You can then go on to examine other points such as following rules of perspective and colour theory. Judging art by set rules is impossible, both because art constantly challenges rules themselves and because criteria that apply to one piece will not apply to another. How can you mark a sculpture to the same set of rules as a 2D sketch? They require completely different levels of viewer interaction.

It is at this point where the 'it' factor comes in again, as mentioned previously. So I suppose a lot of things come into play when assessing whether something is good or bad.

Does it achieve the mood/ portray the thing it was meant to?

Does it adhere to rules of art?

Does it have the 'it' factor?

Do I like it?

All these things must contribute, but it is hard to say how much emphasis should be put on each point. "Do I like it?" is perhaps the least important point for neutrally judging a piece of art, but it is a diffcult question to avoid. The 'it' factor should perhaps not come into play, but inevitably does in giving a piece impact. The implementation of the rules of art and the achievement of the mood the piece was supposed to portray are probably the most important factors. They also intertwine with each other. A piece like the one above can have a mood it is trying to convey, but may be let down its adherance to artistic rules. On the other hand, a piece may be technically very good, but lack any particular mood direction.

Ultimately a piece needs to do what it's supposed to, which is where yet another problem comes in, because who gets to decide that?