My overall impression of this module hasn’t always been positive. I’ve felt very much lost for large portions of it, and the bits I enjoyed seemed all too brief. Part of that probably stems from my own desire to be more specialized. One of the goals of this project seems to have been to give us a firsthand sense of the production pipeline used in industry. And while it’s certainly been interesting to understand a little better what challenges an animator, or a level designer might face, I came onto this course already fairly clear on the role I wanted to function in; pre-production & concept art. It can be frustrating to have to devote the majority of my time to areas that don’t interest me. More so because my inexperience in those areas tends to mean they take the longest. I suppose my biggest wish for this project would have been to allow us to work in teams. It would have been a closer approximation of what happens in industry, allowed for more specialization, and given us a greater scope for what we could achieve in the time frame. I also feel like collaboration brings out a better work ethic in me.
The brief started out with us designing a character. This was something I enjoyed. I don’t do nearly enough character work in my own time and it’s something I need to practice. I enjoyed coming up with a narrative and backstory for my character as well as deciding on the visual aspects of his design.
We also used the first couple of weeks as an introduction to Unity. I feel like this was too early, by the time most of us needed to work in Unity most of us had forgotten what we learned here. What I think would have been better would have been either more design sessions, or a more intensive reintroduction to Maya. Possibly beginning to model and UV map some of our environment props as practice for our character. Unity could have waited until after half term when we had actual models to import.
I also wish the design crit had been earlier, or perhaps the hand in date later. 2 days was nowhere near enough time between the two to make any major changes in response to feedback. I also feel like the brief’s stated goal of a rigged, animated, and textured character by that date was completely unreasonable. At that point our lessons in Maya had barely advanced beyond texturing cubes. To my knowledge most people, including those with prior experience in Maya, didn’t reach that point until nearly a month later.
After reading week we started modeling in earnest. Modeling a human is a big jump from our previous work in Maya, but I found it the challenge fulfilling and progress gratifying. My final model ended up a little basic, I wish I’d taken the time to attempt to model the face. However given my experience in Maya I was fairly happy with it.
UV mapping is where everything fell apart for me. I spent more than a week trying to unwrap my model’s UVs. Mistakes I’d made in modeling caused me so many problems. This is where I feel more time modeling props in Maya would have paid off. it’s hard to understand these kind of mistakes until you’ve already made them, you might not even notice them until later down the line. It can be a domino effect, and unless you can identify and fix mistakes early they just snowball. Eventually I ended up skipping parts of UV mapping to move on to rigging. When I came back to it later I just used planar maps to finish off, which hurt my texturing.
Rigging is an area where I feel it would have benefited to have more hands on advise from Matt. Following a tutorial can teach you the basic steps, but by necessity most people had to deviate from them to some extent to incorporate their designs, often leading to mistakes. Just following rote instructions it’s easy to make a decision without understanding it’s significance.
Controls and weight painting were both intuitive enough that I felt happy enough just learning from the tutorials. I wish Matt had used a more complex demo model though, to show us the kinds of issues we might run into there. But that’s a minor gripe.
Animating is an area I know a lot of people want to specialize in, and I feel sorry that got so little time to practice it in this module. Personally I was just happy to get it out of the way. I feel my animations were somewhat rushed, and I don’t much of a sense of timing. For a first attempt though, I’m happy just to have them work.
Texturing was something I enjoyed a lot. It was just painting without the design aspect. I found it relaxing just to be able to switch to autopilot and detail mindlessly to some music. It also adds so much to the final look of the game.
Building in Unity was something I didn’t expect to enjoy as much as I did. Scene composition, lighting, color, zooming in and adding little details, it’s a lot like painting in same ways, but with a greater element of problem solving. It was also gratifying to be able to put into use some of the tricks I’ve seen used in actual games.
I think my likes and dislikes with this module all come back to my own specialization. I enjoyed the areas that related to it and disliked the areas that deviated from it. It brings up a concern I’ve had for a while that this course may be too broad. 3 years isn’t enough to become an expert in everything this course aims to teach. Looking at industry I feel pressured to be working hard at my own specialism to reach that level, and anything that distracts from that just feels like a step backwards. Having a broad skillset is definitely an advantage, but I feel my individual skills are suffering for it.