J O U R N A L / B L O G


Saturday, March 13, 2021

Game Development Update

 It has been three years since I finished a traditional painting-- what have I been doing then?

Many times I do have a strong desire to throw everything out and get back to oil and pigment and gesso and canvas. It would be celebrating a thing I built for myself and out of myself with the most consequential years of my life (by which I mean the investment of full-time focus for 3 years which would be extremely expensive to re-create). But other days I am actually quite happy with where my practices have taken me.

My first figurative sculpture, the "Alizarin Man", or rather, its face. The face of one of the playable characters in the game project (this is an in-game screenshot from Unity).

Of course, I have been working on a game development project for several years now. But really it has been a series of ideas, newly learned disciplines, re-thinking and refinements. What is encouraging is that the fundamental part of it-- digital sculpting-- is a practice that has not shifted or degraded over time. The sculptures I made in the first couple years of digital sculpting may well find their way into my current work eventually. Many of the things I've worked on will not, and that is the natural result of learning an entirely different medium and artistic context. Just describing game development as a medium comparable to painting is not really accurate at all. It is a whole different kind of circumstance in which and for which art is made.

This is a stitched screenshot of all my commits to my project in Github. Swear words warning. Game development is hard.

A few years ago, I discovered a method of coloring digital sculptures that suits my practice as a digital sculptor perfectly. Since then, I have been learning and discovering through countless trials how to solve other problems related to game development in ways that suit my practice as well: specifically, things like how to create landscapes of large scale in relationship to a character. There are so many technical challenges with the attempted translation of abstract expressionist painting into three dimensions and player agency with free movement being the mode of the final experience. Composition is completely different, and what you need to focus on and not focus on is extremely consequential to having any chance of completing something ambitious.

This is "Blue Voice", my second figurative sculpture for the project that will be a fully rigged humanoid character.

And unfortunately my project is ambitious. I have consoled myself in recent weeks by quickly setting up a roughed out version of what a more reasonable take on my current project would be. And by doing this, I confirmed that I could indeed do that instead, and get it done much sooner than I will finish my project the other way. But doing that would mean throwing out (or at least throwing out the intentionality behind the sculptures in terms of how the player is supposed to relate to them) a good deal of work. And I like building more than anything-- for me it is critical that my process be one of organically building something deeper and higher and with more intrigue as I go. 

I color my sculptures in Substance Painter with countless layers of 'cast light' that catch the details in the high detail version of the sculpture from different angles, and of course a little bit of direct digital painting of areas. Like all of my sculptures, my figures are completely asymmetrical.

So instead of flattening out a tumultuous landscape, I have instead committed to building a suitable barrier within it to create a reasonable final limit to my project. 

In my mind, a 'suitable barrier' is a string of sculptures that are interesting enough to be a destination-- so that the fact that they block you will not be (as) disappointing. 

A new sculpture with no color that is the beginning of the boundary wall I am sculpting. Another such un-colored sculpture can be seen in the model preview window.

I want to finish this current project either on my own, or in collaboration with my partner in order to feature her writing and music. Given that, a huge consideration has always been audio. That is another thing I have been doing-- I started off 2021 by learning how to create my own music via an intensive month long class. Specifically, Andrew Huang's music production course on Monthly. It went well for me, and the first thing I've spent money on in a long time is some audio gear and software.

Making my own music has been immensely satisfying and exciting. For the game project, of course I will aim to make some music, but more important perhaps for that is making ambient soundscapes and the sounds of various objects and interactions. Learning to make sounds like this has been a lot of fun. I bought a H5 Zoom and the shotgun mic capsule and have recorded Canadian geese, an elephant seal at Point Reyes National Seashore, and countless other sounds that present atmospheric possibilities for my game project.

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