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Daev’s Late Night Blog

Virtual Open Studio / Halloween Game

I worked hard this year putting together new artwork for Boulder Open Studio 2017. Four weeks ago I began working part of my time on a virtual studio, for people who couldn’t be here and finished a few days ago. To download this game you can scroll to the bottom of this page for the sign up. Currently this game is only for Windows 64 & 32 systems but I will be publishing it to other formats soon.

My actual studio, as hung for Boulder Open Studio 2017

When I had the virtual studio done I thought it would be fun if I could expand it into a Halloween theme game. This is a simple one level game for anyone (or their children) to explore outside my studio.

My virtual studio, created for Open Studios 2017

I’m making it available for free, as part of my push this year to get my work out into the world, even somewhat simple Halloween diversions like this.

Step outside the studio to play. Kids may enjoy my halloween theme.

I’m hoping lots of people can enjoy my October Halloween game, and hope to make it part of my yearly Open Studio exploration should people enjoy it – if you want to play continue below to download.






Virtual Studio / Halloween Game Download

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-daev

Boulder Open Studio Prep

Prepping some images to print for Boulder Open Studio, these works will be printed on paper among others and sold. I’m selling originals and prints of the same work, some of which may be details to create a print-series that makes for hanging in a space together.

The first two here are 12″x12″ and the last is 15″x20″

MtAudubon

SpragueLakeSQ

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Painting the Colorado Rockies

I’ve been hiking the Colorado rockies a lot this summer, getting new reference and ideas. I become more familiar with the peaks from different angles, different times of day and more in tune with what appeals to me as a painter.

My goal is to look for contrast in lighting, diagonals, and foreground interest, but I don’t really know if I have anything useful until I go through my photos back in my studio. Often out of thousands of photos I will find only a couple I like.

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Sometimes my hikes don’t lead to anything useful. I can do a fake hike on google as a visual planner, but it can’t tell me whether I’ll find what I want, just roughly how long it will take to arrive.

I find that often it’s moments when I’m without my art supplies or camera when I see something just perfect, it’s probably because I tend to ride my bike at dusk along the foothills.

It’s also probably why I over-prepared for one of my hikes this past week, carrying 20lbs of art supplies on my back as I climbed up towards 12,000 feet in rough terrain. I felt every one of those big rocky steps downward on my knees and didn’t crack open my drawing pad once as I was trying to locate as many new places in one stretch as I could.

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Even though I am still looking for new views of Colorado, I still return to others like different views of Hallet’s Peak or Long’s Peak which are some of the peaks local to me. Soon I’ll head out toward Aspen though, to find new views. In some ways I’m very lucky, I live within an hour of some amazing National Parks. Even Aspen is only a little over 3 hours, when it used to take me six to drive to Sequoia when I lived in Los Angeles for similar hikes.

Spring Painting and the subtle sense that this too shall pass

I’ve spent a lot of time either in the mountains taking photos of the Rockies for my Colorado Rockies series, or painting in my studio. After weeks of prep and painting I was accepted just this week, into the Boulder Open Studio tour that happens each October here in Boulder County.

theFingersCU-RMNP

This will be a time for artists to open their studies up to the public and collectors, as well as show our work in the library gallery downtown Boulder. It’s an honor to be included in the tour.

Lately I paint mostly on wood. I like painting on MDF, which has a coat of paint to start off, but MDF is a bit fragile. If it were to drop just right it could damage part of the board. So I’ve taken to attaching wood struts on the back of my boards using a two part epoxy that is solid. I’ve also switched from MDF to thin plywoods.

I like painting on plywood because of two things. The firmness of the board allows me to lean in and draw and later to just work on the painting without the give of canvas. I also like the texture that plywood adds to my painting. Even though I sand, and put three coats of gesso on my boards, each sanded, the plywood texture comes through a little. This allows me to use that texture to get some nice results while painting. The boards have a nice tooth, and I can swipe and dry brush over these raised areas and it just adds to the painting.

I know some people have a prejudice against working on board. The traditional media for ages now has been canvas, but even during the Renaissance they worked on board, and much of that is still around. I think there is some misunderstanding that perhaps to pick the wrong board might mean your art will not be around forever, but here’s the thing, is there anything more fragile than canvas? How easily it can be ripped, bumped or destroyed. Over time it absorbs the moisture in the air and warps.

At the basic level art in some way is acknowledgement not just of the endurance of nature, it is an acknowledgement that the Rocky Mountains I love to paint for instance will be gone some day too. Art acknowledges and bears witness, but the flipside is that it acknowledges the fragility and passing of this world.

So in some ways when I’m painting or even up high in the Rockies taking photos and being a witness to the Rockies there is a subtle sad mourning, for the rockies and all things that come to pass. I can sit up there, feet planted in the snow and I take an array of photos that I’ll later stitch together in my studio as panoramas with super high resolution. I use those panoramas to pick what I’ll work on next. While I’m sitting there, as the witness, I feel at some subtle atomic level I can feel that tiny shift of the Rockies receding as they are. Some day they will be gone, and already in New Mexico they have receded into the Earth again. It is sad, it is beautiful, it is part of this incredible changing world we live on and sometimes all you can do is bear witness to that one moment.

Art is just another thing that will not last forever, there is no best board or canvas I can build, it too shall pass.

Artist Dysmorphia

I’m going to just go out on a limb and admit it. I have artist dysmorphia. Yes, it’s a term I made up a few weeks ago being tongue in cheek with my wife about something that seems to be a real thing if I’m being honest.

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My artist dysmorphia is about how I see my art. While i’m up close an in the zone, I’m usually in a pretty good head space with my art. My brush is flowing, or I’m using the palette knife to get the effect I want. I’ll spend hours, sometimes the entire day and then occasionally I go across the room and sit on my tiny couch in my studio to look at what I have.

Suddenly the satisfaction I was feeling dries up. At times I’m not even sure what I’ve painted, it looks distorted suddenly. The depth or texture I was going for seems to collide into an ungodly juxtaposition of noise and I can no longer see the image. I muscle through it after a my disappointment, and start mixing colors and then up close I start to slide back into the zone, lost in the painting.

Some days I can fend off this dysmorphia until the painting is actually done. Sometimes I’m in the middle of the painting and I can’t figure out if I’ve done anything good at all. I sit and wonder at times like this. Do other artists feel this way? Do famous actors watch themselves on screen and the dysmorphia kicks in where they can’t stand to see their own face? For a writer, maybe Neil Gaiman himself, they look at their work and wonder, “what the hell did I just put on paper?”

Maybe some of the dysmorphia is about getting into the zone, giving yourself to that flow of energy and opening yourself to the muse, that drives you to create. Many artists talk about that feeling that the work, the writing, or the performance or the art comes through them. Maybe this is part of the dysmorphia?

An alternative explanation is that perhaps the dysmorphia tends from that place of perfectionism, in which nothing is ever good enough. In that position it’s an unkind voice that is always criticizing the artist, writer, performer.

Still, I do what artists do, I keep going through the dysmorphia sometimes not sure what I’ve created at all, creating not because I consider what I do good or great, but creating because the spirit needs to create period.

Painting the Rockies

I’ve spent a lot more time up in the Rockies painting hoping to get into the Boulder Open Studio this year, trying to finish up a series. Some of these are large, the largest is six feet long, the smallest 3×2 feet.

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Neverest on Steam Greenlight

I’ve released my game Neverest to Steam Greenlight today as planned. It takes a login (being part of the Steam community) to vote for a game, but you can see my release on this page if you view all releases, or search for Neverest.

https://steamcommunity.com/greenlight

neverestboxart

Neverest green light

In the midst of being a home-schooling dad, playing architect to design the barn/studio, as well as designing and building big barn doors myself, I’ve been finding time here and there to work on my video game and other art work. I fit it in almost anywhere I can, sitting in outside a class my sons are taking, or late night when we are on vacation. I also was gifted a three day weekend in a cabin retreat in the rockies to push on my game by my loving wife Sheryl.

The real trick now is getting past the self doubt that says a lone developer cannot put out a game with the goals I have, that it’s just not good enough.

Self doubt is insidious. It says no matter how hard you work at something, it’s not good enough yet. Of course there is the part that says an Indie developer can be like an author/artist and create interactive worlds the way an author writes a novel. This is more true in these times when using off the shelf game software like Unreal and Unity allow the artist to create in ways they couldn’t without huge support teams previously. To me so much of this is obeying the urge to create and following inspiration when it comes.

Now, as the new year starts, I feel my game is in a good place to submit to Steam Greenlight. So that’s my goal this week, to cast my lot and see if I can make some traction with Steam, (aside from my goal of hanging four massive and heavy barn doors), both tasks are daunting in their own ways.

All the parts are ready for my steam upload, it’s just a matter of uploading and committing myself to hitting that button. Some images below, but the world of course is much larger than these images can capture, and so many things I just want to keep secret and will not reveal.

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Neverest sketches and render update

It was a year ago that I jumpstarted this game idea having shelved it. I partly lost momentum in game development when I switched to Unreal 4, trying to keep up the momentum now. Some of these ships will appear in game, but not everything I design or even build does.

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No, not all these sketches are good, the point is that as an indie developer there really isn’t time for me to sit down and just design for months, but rather it’s sketch, design, test, model, texture, light, game program, test, repeat.

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Dyslexic confessions of a Dad

I have a confession to make, it’s time that i told a little bit more of my story, which is really our story and what I’m tinkering with in my art studio this past year. Almost a year ago I dropped everything I was doing in my studio, the paintings, the children’s books and focused on one thing, a game I’m making to help my son (and others like him) with his dyslexia.

This is not a super easy subject to talk about, although dyslexia is somewhat common there is still a lot of judgement of both the child who has dyslexia and even the parents. The child is often judged as not being smart at all, unteachable is a word used, and the parents are judged as neglectful.

What people often fail to realize with dyslexia is that we have people who have brains that clearly work differently than others, and dyslexia is just one example of this. This doesn’t mean dyslexics are not smart, often they have ways of contributing beyond what others can because of a unique way of thinking.

One example is Jack Horner, the noted Paleontologist who has been the inspiration for the paleontologist in Jurassic Park, he graduated high school he says, with a D–. You may not be able to see that correctly, that is a D-minus-minus. In his words his teacher said that he “Failed, but I never want to see you again.”

Alongside the dyslexia is the fact that my wife and I homeschool our sons. We left Los Angeles, now almost ten years past, so that I wouldn’t spend countless hours working on film visual effects and have no relationship with my family. Over the years we have learned to juggle and share family life, and work life.

I moved from putting all my time in the entertainment industry and more time with my sons exploring museums and doing art with them. This is when I began to see the way we educate our children in museums differently, and started to come up with creative ideas for educating them visually, and interactively. I began sketching out ideas of how to use my visual effects skills in this way.

Like my son, I’m a very visual thinker and a tinkerer. Right now I like to think of more dynamic ways to get information across to people, especially when a museum display or some other form is failing to make people see it, and as a visual thinker I do think people have a failure of imagination when it comes to visualization what the world, and universe around us looks like. Listen to this veritasium video to get an idea of how the education system can fail to really inform us about just how vast our universe is for instance.

My family started out on a sometimes frustrating journey with my son’s dyslexia, which makes his own interaction with the world sometimes difficult, and can make even the smartest kids, feel like failures. It can lead to loving family members or friends being shaming and judgmental. It can lead to parents pushing their kids and asking why they “aren’t trying?”

Dyslexia is not related to the intelligence of a person, as we see with many very prominent dyslexics like Jack Horner and Richard Branson. Branson talks about his Dyslexia in the video below, and he like many see it as a positive, not a negative. I want to make it clear, I see my son as gifted, super creative, and his dyslexia as the most obvious unfortunate label that often gifted and creative people receive, making them feel unteachable and like they aren’t smart. Labels like this can undermine a person and make them give up. This is because we live in a world that only has one metric for determining intelligence (generic tests that squash creativity).

As an artist, I am well aware that the world has one metric for judging intelligence, and leaves out wide swathes of others whose brain works vastly differently.

Imagine for a second an alternate universe where instead of children being tested in school for math, memorization, and punctuation, they are encouraged to be creative, open, explore and be funny. They get to do art, build things, play music, and play and there is no test because you can’t test the best way to bring an individual’s gifts out. When you graduate you have to show your gift, a demonstration or sharing without judgement.

Perhaps in an extreme version of this alternate universe if you can’t draw, or play an instrument, make an invention out of a pile of stuff, or do an improv play then you fail. In this universe math, punctuation and memorization are not used as the metric to determine your intelligence, there is a celebration of many kinds of intelligence over memorization of facts.

Perhaps in some way in education we squash that internal education that may have been passed down over many generations. What if we are going against the very nature of a child and family that specializes in something over generations. The family of musicians, or the family that loves to study nature by scuba-diving. What if for every graduate we suppress another Mozart, another Cousteau. This isn’t about saying that we have a “genius” among us, or putting people who think differently on that specialty pedestal, but honoring something deeper in them, a specialty that their brain and spirit are working towards.

My point is that we often test people and give them the feeling that they are less than others based on tests that favor a particular brain type, a particular calling.

Before someone jumps in to suggest the many teaching approaches to “resolve” dyslexia let me say that we have tried several different approaches with professional tutoring that are very involved and take a lot of dedication from all of us, as well as mind/body exercises that are supposed to help balance the brain etc. I’m not saying that all these techniques shouldn’t be used, but so far for us, some have resulted in more frustration, and others in tears being shed. That isn’t to say that there isn’t a lot of great information out there, and a lot of good techniques that have resulted in very good results for children with dyslexia, or that we have stopped trying. I however am very skeptical when I hear that someone thinks they have the cure for dyslexia.

While trying these tutoring programs for my son, I began to tinker in my studio with a video game idea to help kids who struggle. This wouldn’t be a game like “reader rabbit” but a game more like Myst, that i hoped would be something a child would just want to play, and that in a way I could hack their brain by just getting their interest.

I dummied up a test of the game, in software I was just learning (Unreal 4) and showed it to my wife and son. I didn’t show too much, and although I felt I was on to something, I dropped it and returned to writing, while we tried yet another approach for the dyslexia.

After another round that was frustrating for all, my wife asked me one day, what about that game idea I had. I dusted off the game and dove into it fully putting all my energy into learning the software, and trying to bring my visual effects skills up to speed in this new arena.

I’ve worked hard on this game, and I test it with both of my sons, who enjoy playing it. There is still much I’m not saying about my approach except to say this, the idea is that I want my son to have an experience that is fun, that is enjoyable.

I am trying to build an entire world in support of his struggle, but also to celebrate him and other dyslexics like him.

I personally see my son. I see him as smart, I see him as gifted, amazingly creative. If I have problems thinking through programming problems sometimes I talk to him about it to get his insight into other ways of thinking. My son is endlessly creating, he is always learning, he is not afraid to try new things, I see his intelligence each day, and I know there is no way this is going to hold him back in life.

I don’t see my game as an end all to approaches for dyslexia, i’m hoping it can be used as another tool, hopefully a fun one, to engage a child’s brain and creativity rather than pushing them to memorize and work through frustration. I’m not even judging the various approaches to working with dyslexia, but like the variation in personalities and brains, they don’t work for everyone and I just want to tinker with this a little.

There is a lot I’m not saying in this opening confession, what else I’m doing in the game, what some of the goals are. I’m hoping to make something that is artistic, and helpful, but it’s a long slog, especially when you are creating alone. I work daily with sometimes self imposed goals, like how can i make this beautiful, but also have it playable even on not very good computers? How can I make this enjoyable and keep drawing the child in for the ride?

I still have much work to do, but I realize at this point it might be the time to begin talking about this game, and how a visual thinker is trying to work with something I perceive as a visual thinker problem.

Moss on a Rolling Stone

We are all familiar with the saying, that moss won’t grow on a rolling stone. It’s a saying I took to heart a long time ago, taking in the idea that I would keep growing and changing. This is a tough thing in life, because although moss won’t grow on a rolling stone, no one mentioned that the stone will continue to accrue miles, need oil changes, different warning lights are going on the dashboard of that rolling stone. The stone is still rolling, with signs that it’s slowing down but bearing some polish, bumps and cracks from the years rolling.

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I think about these things as I head towards my fiftieth birthday because I’m always trying to consider how to use my time wisely when I come down to my studio each day. I think short term, making short lists, exercising more as I approach that fifty mark, and meditating more. I also plan more long term, with a stack of books I’m writing/illustrating, games I’m developing, a series of landscapes I’m working on and furniture I’m building.

The way I often express my mixed emotions about where to spend my time, is saying “I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up”. I feel though that Emilie Wapnick who gave a Ted Talk on this subject captures the idea succinctly, she self identifies as a multipotential person. A term I like because it respects the idea that some of us feel drawn to more than one field.

https://www.ted.com/talks/emilie_wapnick_why_some_of_us_don_t_have_one_true_calling?language=en

One of the problems I run into is that probably like many of my art friends out there, I have a lot of interests – and no short comings of ways to spend my time, from sculpting to painting, to writing.

I have also left the beaten path. I have left behind the safety of having a career in visual effects and a title that ranged from Look Development artist to Digital artist etc. I have to somehow define myself without the safety of a bi-weekly paycheck, movie credits, and an office. This sort of thing undermines some of my self identity because in our culture, perhaps especially for men, we find self identity in our careers.

Although I check things off my life’s bucket list, things keep popping up on the list. I want to play a 12 string guitar I remember from a vivid dream I had last night playing a Taylor dreadnaught that I played in Los Angeles maybe 15 years ago every time I visited McCabe’s Guitars on Pico. It’s a dream that seems to pop up into my consciousness because I always think of guitar playing as a sort of soul toy. Until last night I didn’t even remember the Taylor Dreadnaught and waking from my dream I picked up an iPad and looked it up, there it was that crisp Taylor Dreadnaught.

Worst website ever, best guitar shop.
http://www.mccabes.com

My list keeps growing, partly inspired by my sons who have loads of interests too, and push me to keep my skills up. I want to learn how to weld this year, run a CNC machine, solder electronics better. I want to tackle some great mysteries of life, like WTF those electronic diagrams are all about? I want all these things and yet that stone keeps rolling picking up miles.

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I know I’m a fortunate man who can use my free time to think about what projects I want to put my time into, but I’m also saying I struggle with that urge to do too many things too. I keep beating myself up, asking why I can’t choose just one thing and wondering if there is something wrong with me. Why did I feel the need to open a jewelry page on Shapeways this month? The urge to take some of the many digital objects I create and make them real overtook me. To me sculpting jewelry is like part of sketching. I make sketches in my art pad while out drawing with my youngest son, and then turn those real in Zbrush. It is one of the most direct paths to creating something and putting it into the real world that I have, sometimes only a matter of hours between design to sculpt as my experience with all the software and drawing over the years has made these things faster for me.

https://www.shapeways.com/shops/daevsdiversion

I think what I’m also talking about is listening to what’s inside. There was a time in my life when I was so unhappy and depressed that I stopped creating artwork. I put away my supplies and thought that my diversions and interests were responsible for my fragmented time and mindset. The problem is I became more unhappy, I became unsure of myself. Locking that creativity away only caused it to swell inside me, like something about to explode.

It came out playfully, and I followed it and since then the demand for me to listen and create has grown. Which is a blessing and a curse as many artists know, but I also think you may know that you don’t have a choice but to listen and follow.

This is not to say that in some field of dreams way, if you follow that dream great things will happen, and you need to build it and yadda-yadda. I think though that building for ourselves is the first step, and we can’t really know if it will be received out in the world, and that too is part of the struggle for artists/writers/musicians and other creatives.

I don’t have any great words of wisdom to comfort people whose work doesn’t get received. Just that i know we need to keep creating, and follow and if we don’t we only suffer all the more.

Daev's Diversion

A little over a year ago I got back into creating jewelry, specifically for my wife Sheryl’s birthday. With her blessing, I have altered this original pendant I made for her, and created a couple different sizes that I am currently offering for sale on Shapeways in my modest little store front. I call this a diversion because I sculpt things all the time for video games and even as props for book work, but here I am working to bring some of my work to the life in the real world on the side.

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I say I’m currently offering it, because I’m not sure how long I’ll keep it up for sale, as I develop other pieces to add to my little store front I may take this one out.

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It can be printed in other materials than what I have currently available, such as solid gold for instance which I have not made available yet. The one I made with gold plating did not last very long, less than a year before the brass underneath was all that remained from daily wear, after the gold came off.

There are currently two sizes available.

https://www.shapeways.com/shops/daevsdiversion

Image Only

This is an image only update of my game, while I try to debug frame rate issues.

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Unreal 4 : Save Game & Peer Support

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Having prototyped my “edutainment” game a couple months ago, I had to pull back and make sure it was still running at a good speed, it wasn’t so this had me reconsider how much of the game I was streaming at one time as well as remodeling whole buildings and reducing textures. After that I had to work on my Save Game system.

A save game system is a very key part of the making a video game. To me it’s a big part of what breathes life into a video game. I like to think of ways to breathe life into a game, like the floating lanterns above, the subtle sounds and movement that adds to a game.

However, there is something magical that happens that most don’t think of when you can return to this virtual world and find things where you last left them. More importantly though, no one wants to play a game that they can’t save out if it takes more than an hour to play.

Unfortunately with all the tutorials and documentation about making video games, it is somewhat neglected and confusing area. Because I think the save game system can influence how the game is made (and how much time it takes to make it) I feel it is something that shouldn’t be neglected. If i had my way it would be the first thing that works right out of the package.

While at places like Rhythm and Hues I enjoyed manipulating lists of objects in ways on the computer, and over many years I got very comfortable doing this.

I found very quickly that as I generated lists of objects in my game that can be moved, that I had issues to surmount and that it is not quite as straight forward as at R&H. In particular, and as far as I can tell, to save out the positional information of objects they need to be classes. So a chair for instance would be it’s own class. I have a game that uses the alphabet, in several different iterations, so I had many classes that I had to identify and save out. That means if there are thirty of the same class of chair, one function will save all thirty but I need another function to find the other classes, like the boxes, the letters, the doors etc so I can save their states. My still somewhat clumsy skills in scripting in UE4’s Blueprint package, means that I had to laboriously put together smaller functions that scan my game for the different classes. I had to do this many many times, and I’m sure in the future I will learn quicker ways to put this together, but for now its’ about moving forward with what works as long as it doesn’t impact game play.

Not working in the industry with lots of people around me to pepper with questions about something that i know should be an easy data manipulation can feel daunting with new software. It took a great deal of digging on the web and lots of experimenting. I would probably still be struggling if not for the video above by Joel George who responded to my request to him to help me with a save game function for object positions. Here’s Joel’s response when peppered with questions by me a few weeks ago.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MLqypbTyZG8

Much of what I find on the web is more about saving high scores, and what level the player is on, which are simple variables. Often what people demonstrate is very specific to their game play, and often may take a lot of wrestling with to get to work with what you need. What i’m doing is more like an adventure game, where I want to know where the player is, what she has moved and what puzzles they have solved. Joel demonstrated something though that many people demonstrate on the Unreal forums and on youtube and other places, a willingness to grapple with the issues others have, and offer their help in resolving them.

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So often we hear about the people who snipe on the web, and those who bully people, but Joel and others abound on the web. The community that shares in these videos help to create a sort of virtual game company, that shares information making a small team feel robust.

Of course it is no small thing what Epic Games has done with UE4, so that the might of the Epic team is behind little indie games.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCo0SuStzZSPoti7STK4JWCg
https://www.youtube.com/user/TeslaUE4/videos
http://romeroblueprints.blogspot.com/2015/01/save-and-load-in-blueprints.html

https://www.unrealengine.com

So I’m grateful to this community, Joel, Tracey, Tesla and others who give me loads of information or sometimes one small clue that makes me crack something bigger that I’m working on.

Gaming Around in Edutainment, er um... Edugamement?

Studio time for me is always limited for a stay at home dad who home schools, so I always have to pick my battles. For the last couple years some of that battle has been chosen for me by nature, due to Colorado Floods and lately the threat of more floods. Right now I am just finishing up my barn designs (in Sketchup, actually my blueprints should be ready to pick up today), that means part of my brain and time are freeing up to return to other personal projects like my video games.

A view from my currently untitled edutainment adventure.

A view from my currently untitled edutainment adventure.

Untitled Edutainment game by Daev.  In progress using Unreal 4.

Untitled Edutainment game by Daev. In progress using Unreal 4.

I hit a technical wall with Unreal 4 previously, having decided to use this instead of UDK which was littered with unresolvable issues related to save game, shadowing large scenes that included landscapes and foliage and other problems related to streaming levels (and shadows). When I took up Unreal 4, the word was that it was far easier to make games than UDK, but the problem is the learning curve is much higher to digest much of the new ways to do this, and I just didn’t have the time to devote to it.

It was really my visit to Los Angeles that gave me the inspiration to dive back in again, having spent time with friend Michael Conelly at Black Thorn Media. http://blackthorn-media.com

I found keen minds to discuss video games, game engines and new tech like the Oculus. The enthusiasm of Michael in particular left me with that desire to dust off my games.

Some of the reasons I wanted to dive back in surround the interest I have always had in using games in education, or maybe closer to Edutainment, ( boy I hate that term, can we think of something better?). This desire came about in the wake of leaving the VFX industry and Hollywood, to spend more of my time as a dad instead of someone doing overtime crunching on films, or time on L.A. freeways commuting ( a part time job in itself).

Splitting work time/family time with my wife, I tend to visit a lot of museums with my sons on my days out with them. I can’t help but look at museums and my visual thinking mind kicks in and wants to come up with improvements in giving information to the people visiting. My visual effects mind kicks in and starts dissecting what would be a better way to produce the graphics, and my latent scientist kicks in and wants to simply make this stuff more interesting to kids rather than reading a dry placard packed with facts. I want to see their imagination kick in, and get them to use their hands to interact.

denverScience

Part of the ongoing issue I have with the museums we love so much, is that so little of the tech changes. Aside from being expensive investments, the main reason for this is that museum displays are often built by people who build entire displays that are resilient to lots of abuse, but the software to me is not overly impressive, it is typically far less interesting than anything you could possibly do in video games, and this is important considering most children play sophisticated video games, that often look far more engaging than museum work. (Excluding Planetarium work here which is another subject entirely). Here’s an example; to give my sons an idea of what ancient Italy looked like I took them into Assassin’s Creed just to climb around the city and explore. To them it’s like going back in time. Aside from all the killing involved in titles like these (which I do none of with my sons), they have the potential to be great edutainment portals instead of games of mayhem and death.

assassCREED_2

My sons asked me recently what happens to the environments for games like Assassin’s Creed and I told them that they all go into a digital land fill, like Atari’s ET went into a real landfill. Sensitive souls, they mourn this loss like me, because to me these would just be great places to explore minus the killing and adventure. This is not a commentary on the video games themselves, or their value, but that there is another intrinsic value beneath this, that I don’t think is getting tapped. That sounds lofty I know, but consider how Google uses satellite imagery and models from Sketchup to make a very full experience in Google Earth. The possibility expanded when they allowed us to view cities back in time, albeit in a limited blurry Sketchup quality way.

googleCREED

Part of the problem with software at museums is that I don’t feel that it gives a real sense of grandeur and inspiration that can come from visuals, so in effect it feels like so much of this software is being developed by people who are technical, but not necessarily visual. Children are very visual, and since I have child like brain dammit, I think I can take some of that child-like expertise into this realm.

Progress is picking up for me in my studio again, but I’m still digesting some of the new ways that Unreal is using blueprints in their engine to create things. It is NOT entirely logical to a visual thinker. The engine is more impressive than ever, the visuals are stunning and I see the potential speedup after I get through some technical hurdles. There are freebies such as calculating large areas for A.I. to navigate about which was a huge time strain in UDK. Reflections and other subtle effects are improved and not for the first time Unreal’s Render reminds me of my Alma mater in visual effects, Rhythm & Hues who had a stunning renderer that I often miss.

Untitled Edutainment or um, Edugament.. by Daev. In progress using Unreal 4

Untitled Edutainment or um, Edugamement.. by Daev. In progress using Unreal 4

I’m hoping to have my test game level dummied up in the next few weeks. Dummied for me of course means that I try to get pretty far with the models, textures and lighting. I’m not trying to take this to Assassin’s Creed levels visually, but there definitely is that possibility, although it’s a lot to put on a sole Indie developer and I have other edugamement game to work on, okay, I can’t think of a better word, edutainment ideas in my notebooks that I’d like to get to as well, sorting through NASA imagery right now for some of those.