Archive for October, 2011

Game design winner

October 28, 2011 Leave a comment

A few weeks ago I set a challenge for my games design students to create a 3-level game using Blender. The brief was quite challenging as the students have only been using Blender for about 4 weeks. However, several of the students submitted games and in today’s class I announced the winner.

William made this game, Lair of the Monkey King.

Categories: Game Design

London Trip

October 23, 2011 Leave a comment

Unfortunately the Click & Create design conference was postponed, but I made the trip to London anyway as I was unable to reschedule my train journey. I decided to take my camera for a walk around London, visit a photography exhibition at the Tate Modern, and catch up with old friends.

Arriving on the overnight sleeper I reached London before sunrise. It was an eerie experience walking through twilight London with almost deserted streets. My plan for the day was to head to the South Bank – an area I’d never explored before – and visit the Tate Modern. Afterwards I planned to meet up with an old school friend for lunch, and then have a wander around central London.

British Museum, London

British Museum, London

The early morning light gave the old buildings of London an eerie glow. I don’t think my photograph of the British Museum gave the scene justice, as the light gave the building a weird ethereal aspect.

Reaching the South Bank via Westminster Bridge I stopped for a while to take some photographs of the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben. Unfortunately the morning light wasn’t strong enough to capture the shadows that have earned Westminster Bridge the nickname ‘Penis Bridge‘.

Westminster Bridge, London

The South Bank along the Thames is home to many galleries and locations related to the creative arts, including the British Film Institute, the South Bank Centre, the Tate Modern and the Design Museum.

The area is also home to some interesting architecture and new developments, for example the OXO building and the modern arts & crafts shops of Gabriel’s Wharf.

Helicopter at Marigold Alley

It was at this point in my travels that a huge Merlin helicopter flew over and buzzed around St Paul’s Cathedral and the River Thames. It flew around for some time, and I can only guess that it was involved in some surveillance of the Occupy London Stock Exchange protest camp that has been in situ at the Cathedral for about a week.

Heading for the Tate Modern I was surprised to bump into Janet McCauslin, Assistant Principal at Carnegie College who had been visiting the House of Lords with college chancellor Lord Sandy Leitch. She was out for a morning constitutional before heading home from London later that morning.

Tate Modern

Tate Modern

At the Tate Modern I visited the photography exhibition New Documentary Forms, which presented the work of five contemporary photographers. I was particularly impressed by Luc Delahaye’s war photography that depicted war zones in epic, large format panoramas – far removed from the more typical ‘up close and personal’ style more associated with the documenting of conflict.

Although I didn’t intend to stay long at the Tate Modern, I was drawn into a number of the other exhibition rooms by the partial views of several famous images. The layout has been cleverly constructed so that it affords glimpses of famous artworks from the escalator stairwell. Seeing these glimpses made me divert into each of the galleries and take a closer look. First I was drawn to Matisse’ Snail, which I was surprised to find was a massive wall-sized piece. It was interesting to see it up close and see the brush marks and the watermarks in the paper. Around the same gallery were a number of Cubist pieces including the work of Picasso and Braque. Again, it was interesting to see these close-up and see the textures in the artwork that cannot be conveyed through photographs.

The next artwork that drew me in was Roy Lichtenstein’s pop art cartoon, Whaam! This gallery also contained some interesting abstract expressionist pieces including Jackson Pollock’s Summertime: Number 9A.

Ravensbourne College

Ravensbourne College

After visiting Tate Modern I took a trip along to Greenwich to see Ravensbourne design college and its interesting new building.

Situated next door to the O2 arena, Ravensbourne is one of London’s premier design colleges, with notable alumni including Stella McCartney, Bruce Oldfield and David Bowie.

The new college’s focus is on design and digital media, but it was the building design I was interested in – the outward facade is reminiscent of Moorish mosaics and the building has circular windows and a modern metallic interior that sets it aside from most other colleges I’ve visited. It certainly seems like an inspiring place to learn, helped in no small part by its location on the Greenwich peninsula.

At lunchtime I headed into the city centre to meet with my old school pal, Mike. We hadn’t seen each other for nearly 12 years, so we compressed that time into an hour-long lunch in a tiny Korean restaurant that was like something out of Bladerunner. Mike is an architect and has suffered a recent redundancy, but has managed to find another job in the last few weeks at another architect practice which is working on the redesign of an exclusive boutique shopping mall in Chelsea.

Occupy London Stock Exchange


Mike’s recent redundancy was a timely reminder of the economic crisis brought upon by the careless banking community, so I took the opportunity to visit the Occupy London Stock Exchange camp outside St Paul’s Cathedral. The camp was much bigger than I expected and there was a jovial mood, quite unlike the tension that had been portrayed by the media earlier in the week. There were several protesters giving interviews to the press and there was also a discussion circle debating ways of bringing about real and systemic change to capitalist economics. During my visit some more military helicopters circled overhead, suggesting that there may be trouble expected, however the impression I got from the camp was of quiet, dignified and determined protest.

After visiting the protest camp I had a little time left in London to sight-see before heading off to stay the night with friends. Please take a look through my photograph album…

Categories: Conference, CPD, Photography

2D Animation – the importance of planning

October 13, 2011 Leave a comment

Today’s class started with a short introduction to planning. I explained that planning was ALWAYS necessary, and even if a plan isn’t committed to paper, the plan is still carried around in someone’s head.

Planning becomes more important when working in a team. It makes it easier to divide labour and keep everyone on track. When making an animation the script and storyboard are essential parts of the planning process.

Creative Commons Licence image by 3:19 on

Another good reason for planning is financial. If a client is spending a lot of money on a project, they want results and want to be able to track the progress of the project – a clear plan will help with this. Generally speaking, the more costly a project is, the more detailed the plan.

So, this week’s animation project was to tell a joke using animation. The students had to pick a simple joke such as a ‘knock knock’ joke and animate the person telling it and the listener. Before animation commenced the students had to draw a storyboard and write a short script. These were  swapped with classmates and each student then animated someone else’s work. This emphasised the need for clear planning. Many of the students couldn’t understand their colleague’s plans, so had to ask lots of questions before they could start animating.

If you are doing any animation yourself or with students I recommend the following sites for ideas, resources and information.

Categories: Animation, teaching

Games Design 13 & 14 – game development challenge

October 10, 2011 1 comment

game design sketchThis week I gave my students a challenge to create a game with 3 levels. The students were given designs for the first two levels, but left to come up with their own design for level 3. Students have two sessions to complete the game (3 hours). A small prize will be awarded after the October break for the best game which will be judged by staff and students.

Video clips of the games will be posted on the blog in due course.


A 3D ‘escape the room’ style game. Each level comprises a room that must be escaped by working out how to find or open the door. This may require logical or physical problems to solve.

Level 1

The player starts in a room with 4 crates in the middle. The crates can be pushed. Moving the crates reveals a hole in the floor which the player can drop through. Pass through the hole to proceed to level 2.

Level 2

A large door is visible in the wall. A key is suspended in the air, just out of reach of the player. A crate lies in the room and there is a coloured tile on the floor. Pushing the crate onto the coloured tile causes a hidden elevator to rise, allowing the player to grab the key. Once the key has been picked up the door in the wall can be opened. Proceed through the door to reach level 3.

Level 3

Your own design.

Categories: Game Design, teaching

Games Design 11 &12

October 4, 2011 Leave a comment

This week we worked on making a 3D platform game. We also looked at simple animation techniques in Blender and programming more complex logic with Blender’s Logic Bricks.

The students are coping very well with the complexities of making games with Blender. Considering that they have been working with Blender for only 4 weeks their games are quite complex and they’re experimenting with combining the techniques they’ve learned so far.

Categories: Game Design, teaching