Train2Game News: L.A. Noire production designer Simon Wood to host BAFTA masterclass

L.A. Noire Cole Phelps Train2Game blog image

L.A. Noire production designer Simon Wood is hosting a BAFTA masterclass at the end of this month, giving you the chance to learn about game design, art & animation and more from the BAFTA-nominated former Rockstar man.

He’ll also be discussing his role on projects including The Getaway and L.A. Noire in what would be a very interesting event for Train2Game students to attend.

Simon started as an Industrial designer before crossing over into films and working on The Phantom Menace, Tomorrow Never Dies and Thunderbirds. He then settled in as the Production Designer at Sony Europe (PlayStation) on The Getaway series.”

“Haven spoken extensively at conferences around the world, Simon will be describing his role on projects and then discussing ‘good art’, ‘good design’ and the creative processes as a whole.” reads the statement from BAFTA.

BAFTA Masterclass: Multiplatform Production Design with LA Noire BAFTA-Nominee Simon Wood takes place from 19:00 on Tuesday 31st July at The Hospital Club in central London. For more information, and to buy tickets, visit the BAFTA website.

There’s more about L.A. Noire and its impressive motion-captured facial animation here on The Train2Game Blog, while be sure to keep reading for the latest from BAFTA.

Will you be attending the production design masterclass?

Leave your comments here on The Train2Game Blog, or on the Train2Game forum.

BAFTA’s public events and online resources bring you closer to the creative talent behind your favourite games, films, and TV shows. Find out more at www.bafta.org/newsletter,www.facebook.com/bafta or twitter.com/baftagames

Train2Game industry experience diaries from Darren Price & William Alexander

Train2Game Game Developer Darren Price and Train2Game Artist & Animator William Alexander are on Train2Game industry experience placements at DR Studios.

In their latest industry experience diaries, Darren discusses the Alpha build of their game, while William writes about creating an art style.

Read the industry experience diaries below here on the Train2Game blog, or on the official Train2Game industry experience diaries website.

Leave your comments here on the Train2Game blog

Train2Game news: “Graphics will always matter” say Id Software

Train2Game students will have seen some huge improvements in video game Art & Animation over the last decade, with the majority of Triple A games released now featuring excellent graphics.

Id software, developers of the upcoming RAGE – which as reported by the Train2Game blog will come with modding tools – believe that despite the improvements in graphics, games with better graphics than their rivals will always have an edge.

“Coming from id – and this is Carmack’s quote – graphics will always matter. And I agree with that 100 percent.”  Id Software CEO Todd Hollenshead told VG247.

“I think that there’s a point where you get diminishing returns, obviously. You approach reality until the point that you get there. And then, once you get there – which, we never will – but the curve gets so close that the differences are imperceptible to most consumers.”

And Hollenshead believes the graphics and Art & Animation war is far from over, with more improvements to come in future.

“I don’t think we’re anywhere near there yet. We’re still making graphical trade-offs and working within system constraints. If you gave us twice the horsepower, I guarantee we’d soak up every single bit of it.

“So I don’t think we’re actually getting close to that yet. If every game you could buy was running with every single feature you could have turned on at 120 hertz, then I might say, “It’s pretty much all the same.” But it’s not. I mean, in RAGE, we decided to run it at 60 hertz and put all our elbow grease behind that when most of our competition is running at 30 hertz. And I think it’s a difference-maker.”

As reported by the Train2Game blog, ID Software said their fans ‘sometimes drive them nuts’ with their demands. With their ideas about graphics and Art & Animation in future, how the game looks shouldn’t be a complaint

So Train2Game, will graphics always give games an edge? Or can Game Design and gameplay triumph over Art & Animation?

Leave your comments here on the Train2Game blog, or on the Train2Game forum.

[Source: VG247]

Train2Game Art & Animation student David Sims speaks to Train2Game Radio

David Sims is studying to become a Game Artist & Animator with Train2Game.  Train2Game Radio caught up with him to find out why he chose to study with Train2Game, how he’s finding the course and what he wants to achieve in a career in the games industry. Listen to the interview at www.audioboo.fm/train2game Discuss it here on the Train2Game forum.

Valve ‘keeping an eye on’ L.A. Noire Art & Animation tech

L.A. Noire

By now, it’s likely that most Train2Game blog readers have seen the impressive facial Art & Animation techniques used in L.A. Noire.  (If not you can see it here on the Train2Game blog)

While Valve are impressed by the motion captured used in L.A. Noire,  they’re unsure if it’d work with the particular style of “reactive” Game Design they’ve used to create the likes of Half-Life 2 and Portal 2.

As reported by the Train2Game blog, the Art & Animation techniques of L.A. Noire are so advanced, the Xbox 360 version of the title comes on three discs.

“It’s impressive technically, for sure,” said 3D graphics man Jason Mitchell told Develop in an extensive feature on Valve

“And I think it’s an important inflection point in the continuum of ever-increasing fidelity in game characters… There are pros and cons to that LA Noire approach, and we’re keeping our eyes on that piece of tech, but it’s not clear how we would integrate it.”

“I guess I’m not really familiar with the performance characteristics of that technology, on the playback side. One of my first impressions was the incredible high-fidelity of it… But the system is based on a playback of a performance, which can go against how we like to think about characters interacting with our players.”

“We like our performances to be far more reactive to what the player does, and not to something pre-acted on a sound stage. It’s not completely obvious how this tech would integrate into our work.

“But since I haven’t played that game, I’m not incredibly familiar with that technology. It’s super interesting, regardless. I’m sure it’s something people will be referring to for years to come on the history of interactive facial tech.”

Train2Game students can read a hugely in-depth feature that goes behind the scenes at Valve at Develop Online.

Last week, the Train2Game blog reported that Rockstar believe the structure of L.A. Noire as a whole will be revolutionary for the games industry.

On the other hand, Quantic Dreams David Cage believes that L.A. Noire’s Art & Animation provides an ‘interesting dead end’ as reported by the Train2Game blog last month.

L.A. Noire is released here in the UK on Friday.

Where do you stand on L.A. Noire? Could it used to produce the “reactive” games Valve do? Is it the future of the industry? Or do you agree with David Cage in that it’s a dead end?

Leave your comments here on the Train2Game blog, or on the Train2Game forum.

[Source: CVG via Develop Online]

Interesting research into game facial animations

Emotions in games: More sophisticated than this.

Research by the University of Abertay into facial expressions could hold the key to making computer game characters with more realistic facial animations and emotions.

Robin Sloan, a PhD student and lecturer based in the University’s Institute of Arts, Media and Computer Games, has devised a set of rules that could help portray a more convincing facial animations and emotions. These rules will no doubt be very useful to Train2Game students, especially the Artist & Animators!

(Game Designers and Game Developers: you can read on, or watch the impressive F1 2010 Developer Diary that was pointed out yesterday)

The study involved a series of experiments examining how the upper and lower regions of the face move during expressions including happiness, surprise and anger.

The aim was to make every stage of the choreography as believable as possible. Actors were used in order to study realistic expressions induced by genuine emotions.

It was found that for sadness to look real, it needs to lead from the upper face with, the furrowing of the brow and lowering of the eyes should occurring before the mouth corners turn downward. If this expression unfolds the other way round, the study found it looked childlike or faked. (I’ve found the latter often occurs during Dragon Age: Origins, though the rest of the game is excellent!)

Similarly, for anger, initiating the expression with the upper face works best in practice with the lower face following thereafter – rather than gritting one’s teeth alone.

Choreography can also affect how clear the emotions are when observed by audiences, such as the gamer. For instance, disgust animations may look fairly authentic when the upper face leads, but the lowering of the brow can result in the expression being confusable with anger. In this case, leading with the lower face creates a more distinct disgust expression.

The team also studied emotional expression transitions, for example from happiness into sadness, or sadness into anger. Robin Sloan explains the findings:

“What we found in this second stage of the study was, for example with surprise into happiness, if the upper face moved before the lower face, this could result in an insincere happy expression which could be viewed as an exaggeration or, indeed, fake. This could be useful if animators deliberately wanted to create a fake smile, but would otherwise be unhelpful.

“On the other hand, when the lower face led the movement in this transition, the overall animation appeared much more believable. Likewise, for happiness into sadness, upper face leading seemed clear and credible, whereas leading with the lower face seemed childish or sarcastic, as if displaying an interpretation of sadness rather than genuinely portraying the emotion.”

He continued: “While much is known about the appearance and perception of emotional facial expressions, researchers and professionals still struggle to create perceptually believable animated characters. For example, films such as Polar Express and Beowulf are ‘performance-captured’ where the performance of human actors is transferred onto computer animated characters.

“However, the aesthetic results of this technique have not been fully embraced by the public, as it appears that audiences view the characters as fake and unrealistic. Indeed, we are often more likely to believe in characters from more traditional animation films such as Toy Story or Shrek – animations which are carefully crafted by teams of animators.

“While the computer animation research community is quite rightly interested in the technical possibilities of performance capture, we wanted to highlight the fact that traditional animation can still play an important role in research, and to show that an artistic approach to animation can yield tangible research findings. We feel that our research could, for instance, have implications for the development of believable computer game characters, as an understanding of what makes for believable facial expression animation can boost their credibility.”

Mr Sloan hopes that the results could be useful for Games Designers, Game Developers and Games Animators – like Train2Game students – seeking to create more believable and, more interactive characters.

The research was published in the Journal of Computer Animation and Virtual Worlds.

So, Train2Game universe,  what do you think of the study? How much have you thought about how animation works in your games? And what research do you do before animating characters?

As usual, leave your comments here or on the Train2Game forum.