Recent work

I haven’t posted anything for over a week because I’ve been pretty flat-out with work and preparing to move. I’ve already written a bit about moving, so I figured that I’d write something about work. Hopefully, this will encourage others to do so, because I’m keen to know what people are working on!

I’ve mostly been working on two projects. I won’t write too much about the characteristics of each, because I want to focus more on the process and tools.

Project 1: Booklet design using Scribus

The first project isn’t games related at all. I’ve been doing some graphic design work for a sale booklet for a technology company. The “industry standard” tools for this kind of work are probably Photoshop and InDesign, but I can’t justify spending thousands of dollars on software, and I’m not going to pirate them (which unfortunately also seems to be “industry standard” practice).

So I’ve been using free and open-source software instead: Inkscape (for vector graphics), GIMP (for photo editing), and Scribus (for print layout). I hadn’t used Scribus or done much design-intended-for-print before, so there was a bit of a learning curve. The major things that I’ve learnt are:

  1. Use smaller font sizes than you would use for display on a computer screen (think 8pt and 10pt rather than 12pt)
  2. Maintain fairly substantial page margins and make liberal use of empty space
  3. Design for two-page compositions rather than single pages (adjacent pages need to “fit” together)
  4. Take time to set-up a colour palette, master pages, and font styles
  5. Focus on the typography as least as much as everything else

Also be sure to save frequently. Scribus crashed on me three to four times over the last week. I wonder if that happens much with InDesign.

Project 2: Game development in Unity3D

The other project I’ve been working on is straight-up game development. I’m working with a group of artists (mostly 3D modellers and animators) to create a casual game (for web or iPhone… probably web) with high-quality 3D graphics. I’ve noticed that a lot of indie developers go for a 2D “retro” look due to a combination of personal aesthetic preference (8-bit nostalgia) and available skill-set (programmer art). I wanted to undertake something different.

It’s been interesting getting the team together and getting a feel for how the team can work (we’re spread out between three different locations, and all have other work commitments), but it feels like things are on track now. Not necessarily for guaranteed commercial success, but definitely enough for completing a prototype to see if our development model can produce good results.

As indicated by the heading above, we’re using Unity3D. It’s inexpensive for very small teams, but I’m concerned about costs when the team grows and also about the lack of support for real version control (although it’s coming apparently). The 30-day trial is great and the interface seems to be very accessible for artists. Importantly, it’s been very easy to get something up and running quickly. 🙂

Here are some things I’ve learnt so far:

  1. I look fantastic in a mocap suit, but I seem to have an asymmetrical walk cycle. (This is probably due to movement through a small space, and we will experiment with using a treadmill).
  2. When using Unity3D, it’s best to break out your animations into separate .fbx files and you should delete meshes and blend shapes from the animation-only files. (Thanks to Matt for the original tip)
  3. A lot of game design involves listing things (documentation), but these lists make everything else a lot easier!

And here are some questions I still have (anyone able to answer these?):

  1. What’s the best way to define a fixed path in Unity3D and have an object follow it?
  2. Anyone know of decent online resources for place-holder sound assets?

So there you have it – this summary actually took longer to write than I expected! How’s everyone else going with their respective projects?