Let’s Check Out Watch Dogs’ New ‘Hack Your Friend’ Mode at Takuchat.com

by our user Daniel

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Ubisoft recently updated Watch Dogs to allow players to hack their friends, a feature which should have been added since day one. We test it out to see if it will make us want to play Watch Dogs again.

Final Fantasy Type-0 HD will release within the year. at Takuchat.com

by our user Jacob K

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In a recent interview with Kotaku Tabata pretty much revealed the release window for Final Fantasy Type-0, he did it by saying“We probably wouldn’t age another year until it’s released,”. So, expect the game before August of next year.

Now, a lot of people have been wondering why they moved the game onto the Playstation 4 and Xbox-One, and really the reason is pretty simple,in regards to that Tabata said“We really do want the PS4 and Xbox One install base to grow in Japan as well, so we do want a release as quickly as possible.”

To further drive that point it Tabata went to further say “We do hope that it becomes the first basis for Final Fantasy XV when we release that globally,”. Meaning this game is being released on those consoles as a way to prep for Final Fantasy XV, or in other words a way to get Final Fantasy fans on the next gen consoles to increase XV’s sales.

Game Art for Gamers 102: The Elements of Art at Takuchat.com

by our user DigitalWolf

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Introduction

Be sure to read last weeks post for more information on who I am, why I’m writing this series, and what you as the reader should do.

Back in High School in freshman year the very first thing I learned in art class was the Elements of Art. The Elements of Art are essentially words used to describe an image or the creation of one. Its a good simple concept to start with.

It’s in important to know that these elements can be found in any game in some way. And are a very basic way to identify what makes up the visuals in a game. These elements have been a central part of gaming since the beginning.

The Elements of Art are line, shape, space, form, value, color, and texture.

Line

discLine is the most basic form of art, it is a one-dimensional object. The best and most literal example of this is Pong. This was as core as a game could get visually.

But Line has more complexity than scribbles on paper, modern games like the classic Line Rider and Free Rider use line to create the illusion of depth and form for their levels. Free Rider being the best example, has tons of stages that give the illusion of depth to one-dimensional objects.


There were also a number of “3D” games that were entirely wire-frame, Star Wars Arcade is one of the most notable examples. It used lines to define starships, and create depth in perspective while riding along the Death Star.line2

Shape

shapeYou can easily think of shape as filled in line objects. And as the word states, these are flat objects that look like certain things.

Shape is when gaming became more complex, the objects that were formerly lines were wanting to become identifiable shapes. Take the games on the Atari 2600, where shapes were big news. Iconic titles like Combat, Asteroids or more advanced titles like ‘Pitfall!’ used various shapes to make their impression.

In the image above from Pitfall you’ll see the shapes of trees, alligators, skulls, and more.

shape 2

Modern games make wonderful use of shape too, in this example from ‘Limbo’ Silhouette or Contour might be a more proper term.  Here you can easily see the iconic shape of a boy and a spider.

shape 3

Another more recent game Donkey Kong Country on the Wii U uses silhouettes in a number of stages. This is interesting because the majority of the game is colorful and bright. You might think turning everything to shadow might hamper your experience but this is where the power of shapes really shines.

It’s not just seeing the iconic DK tie or Diddy Kongs hat and shirt as bright red shapes, but you make out gameplay elements too. You can identify the mere shape of objects you’ve seen before or even new ones as they come. Even identifying the shapes of enemies who were formerly full of color. And you make this transition completely naturally as you’ve played the game.

Shape or silhouette plays a major role in identifying an object, you could almost take any of the most iconic characters in gaming, take nothing but their shape and still easily identify them. This is good character design, this is how those characters are so well-known by any one.

Space

Space is a little harder to define when it comes to gaming. To me it’s harder to define without going into design principles. But think of it as the space surrounding what could be a focal point or focus of a scene.

For instance when a game presents you with a large space between you and your enemy. Illustrating that a direct approach might leave you exposed. Space has much relevance in gaming. I also brought this up in last weeks 1UP post.

space

An interesting example is The Unfinished Swan on PS3, this game makes an astonishing example of Positive and Negative Space. There is no shading only the identification of shapes to find your way around a once completely white world. You fill this white world with black splotches of paint as you navigate.

I won’t go too much into the idea of Positive and Negative space, but as you see in the image above you can look and understand the relation of objects by white space around them.  This game uses a literal artistic term as a sole means of game play, and that is truly impressive.

Form

If you thought shape and form were the same thing you are mistaken. While line is one-dimensional, shape is two-dimensional, then form is three-dimensional. With form, shading between light and dark give the impression of depth to an object. The easiest examples are 3D games.

shade

Here in Metal Gear Solid on the PS1 shading is added to the Cyborg Ninja to give the impression of a complex form around his chest. Shading is a powerful way to make normally flat surfaces seem more compelling.

shade 2This was a big tool in games as old as ones for the NES and SNES to make their environments and characters more interesting and iconic.

Here in the original ‘Super Mario Bros.’ you see form in the blocks, the clouds, and the pipe. Sadly the only shading that could be afforded to Mario at the time was the mustache to bring out his nose.

Form and shading can be very complex to implement. In a realistic setting, it takes into account lighting, shadows and reflected light the latter only making into video games in the last few years. We’ll go more into this in a later article.

But not properly handling shading can leave a scene feeling awkwardly flat. For instance what if you jumped off a ledge and couldn’t see your shadow as your approached the ground. You’d likely get the impression you were going to fall forever, before you unexpectedly hit ground completely unaware how close you were.

Obviously this is important for games. better shading means better depth perception. simple as that. Theres many nuances to depth perception in form you might never casually think about.

shade 3

The Uncharted Series for instance has always had superb shading, but the most recent title on the PS4 is of course pushing the envelope. If i’m not mistaken, you can see the green of the forest reflecting to his face! It’s worth mentioning that with a strong enough light source (like a flash light) you’ll find reflected light in The Last of Us back on the PS3.

Value

Value is the relation between light and dark, this applies to colors too. Value and form are very closely related, after all proper shading is given with proper values. This can also be applied to differentiating objects, or bringing objects into focus. A good way to check the value of an image is to see it in gray scale, usually if an image looks bad in gray scale it likely has problems in color.

Since I don’t believe there’s much benefit explaining this further; here’s something nifty. Below is a LCD test, it’s something you can use to test what kind of color range you can get on your display.

value
Source

You can click the images above, each block on those images is an individual shade. The reality is if your display isn’t showing all the blocks individually you’re potentially missing out on detail you would see otherwise. It’s possible that an object that’s supposed to be easily visible could be washed out.

This is why all artist find it important to color calibrate their screens so they always see the most optimal image and color ranges.

Artists will also do studies a lot like this where they will mix colors with black and white to create a value scale; training teach themselves to shade between colors. Value is important for an artist to learn, and also important to you as a gamer that your TV display that value they create.

In fact I recommend looking up calibrating your monitor right now.

Color

FFT-WotL_artWhy mention color when I just mentioned value? Because it’s a completely different beast. The colors artists choose evoke emotions. The hue, value, and intensity of a color can mean many different things to many different people. This is a topic too big to cover in this article, but its one of the most powerful things to learn, recognize, and talk about.

The developers Square-Enix and a lot of Japanese companies, are really good at using colors to define characters in meaningful ways. Even the most curious of outfit appearances can pack so much meaning into a character. Yet it’s incredibly easy to overlook these details. Most of us just go with a natural impression.

But whether you examine these characters as you meet them or look at them much later. Understanding why they look the way they do can bring a whole new level understanding to a characters personality, goals, and even fate.

These meanings are entirely subjective though, and you benefit more by getting different viewpoints. After all no single person reacts to a character the same way, and one person might see something you don’t. This could be due to cultural differences, or lifestyle differences.

Texture

Texture is where it all comes home, texture is surface differences. Or to put it very simply, the difference between a rough or smooth surface. Texture is that final major touch to add realism or detail to what’s being presented.

textureKojima Productions has already announced their intense focus on textures for Metal Gear Solid 5, and it shows.

Here the difference in texture of the blood and scars on his face, the roughness of his hair, smooth shininess of his suit, matte straps, and the shiny metal surrounding him makes an overall interesting visual impression.

And while texture mainly applies to surface quality, in games it can apply to shading, lighting, and far more. It depends on how much detail the developers want to “Bake” in or let the engine handle. This is another idea best suited for another article.

1UP

The one up for this week is finding or thinking up examples of games that have demonstrated these elements. I’m expecting this to be a little challenging to identify but I’m hoping you’ll get the point once you’re looking for them.

For instance, what games used line not just because of the times, but as part of the experience?

How does shape effect iconic characters in games like DOTA or League of Legends? As illustrated in these guidelines for DOTA character creation released on steam.

What are some impressive examples of form in the games you’ve played?

What games used shading in a weak way that it hurt the experience?

Being aware of these ideas is the first step, finding them is easy in comparison.

Be sure to post what you’ve found in the comments! I’ll be making a post later this week further discussing your selections like I did last week. So look forward to that!

Next week

Next week we touch on the Principles of Design, these are concepts for arranging the elements of art in a compelling way. The composition of lines, shapes, form, value, color and texture is an art in and of itself.


And I’ll have many interesting images to show.

(Retro images Source)

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SpeakOut About: Your games with the ‘Best Visuals’ at Takuchat.com

by our user DigitalWolf

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Last week I said I would make a post about your picks for best visuals, and I’m doing that! I’ll try to keep my explanations simple on why these games are so amazing, as they all have very unique reasons for great achievements.

These games come from posts by the TakuChat community in the Game Art for Gamers 101: Introduction post, where as a first 1UP I asked you to tell me about your most visually appealing games. You guys got the point and gave some fantastic suggestions so thank you for that!

So lets begin.

User KingKellog suggested Final Fantasy 8

FF8_T-Rexaur “Think you leveled up enough to defeat me? Ha, I leveled up too…”

“…the amount of love and care put into it shows.

Beyond that the artistic style and subtle details are amazingly handled. Just to top it off the atypical and odd world/character design is wonderful and it all blends to together well without any degree of things not matching. It was amazing.”

Completely agreed! Final Fantasy 8 was a visual achievement on so many levels, cinematography, animation, and great character design. It’s a game that can still be captivating to this day or any time for that matter.

I think the game shined most in its use of ‘shading and texture’ which I’ll get into in the series soon. Despite the characters having texture maps of maybe 64 square pixels all the character models properly represent their character designs. Various complex details like Squalls belts, or many of the character hair styles make strong representations to their CG counter parts.

In battles the characters look even better but what really shines is the monsters and battle arena’s. The monsters were teeming with creativity and color like many of the games before. But they also strongly displayed detail even to the point of being intimidating on sight. The battle arenas in some areas attempted to represent the CG areas you saw out of stages often times succeeding in displaying things like the brightness and translucency of lava or ice, or a deep Forrest.

Many of the textures used in this game are still considered top quality by today’s standards when it comes to hand painted models.

User GUN® suggested many games…

Dat feel when you realize its real-time... Dat feel when you realize its real-time…

“Journey’s visuals were top notch, especially the way the sand glistened.
Then there is MGS4‘s which still impress me to this day though I’ve found every MGS game to be visually striking and easily identifiable as a MGS game. [inFamous: Second Son] is probably the most stunning visually for me so far, just the particle effects and attention to detail in both the characters (and life like facial movements) and the environments is mind blowing.”

While all three of these are great examples, I only needed one and I’m picking MGS4 out of these because it represents the solution to a problem I commonly see in games. MGS4 is a visual achievement but by today’s standards it’s not a technical one.

There’s no real dynamic lighting in use, and no complex shadow rendering. What you have is damn good art direction.

The game instead uses simple shading methods and attention to detail to make a strong impression. Attention to detail is a very difficult artistic skill to build and can make up for a lack of technique or technology (this is why their P.T. demo with ‘downgraded visuals’ still looked so good). Spending time honing attention to detail can make even the simplest visuals bream with life.

Above all though, MGS4 is a perfect example of knowing your limits. This is a game that pushes the envelope and makes a strong impression without over stepping its bounds through its development. What I mean by this is many games push ambition and fall flat on delivery, when they could make just as good of a visual impression by scaling back their ideas.

I’m in no way dissing the developers that have games where visual fidelity and technology are part of the experience; But when the game suffers either due to performance or functionality that’s a game displaying a lack of guidance or too much ambition. MGS4 is a game that was built with excellent art direction and focus. This is the games biggest achievement for me.

User Prof. Bananas Goldsteinberg suggested MadWorld

“That’s kind of tough. Off hand I’d probably have to go with MadWorld on the Wii as one of the most visually striking games I’ve ever played. It refused to let the Wii’s under powered hardware be a crutch and instead used it as inspiration to deliver a visual experience that truly looked like a graphic novel or manga come to life. The black and white line work contrasted by the harsh reds of arterial spray looked great in motion. Screenshots don’t do the game justice. Not to mention that trademark Platinum Games over-the-top action. One game I’ve always wanted to see get the HD treatment.”

I totally forgot about this game and I need to give it some justice in Game art for Gamers, this is another perfect example of knowing your limits. They worked with the Wii’s hardware to make an amazing compelling game. There is basically no hardware shading here, it’s almost entirely un-lit.

You could run this game on ANYTHING and it would still look amazing.  This isn’t under achieving either, this game is full of style, great animation, and quality. This game took the hardware limits like it was a joke and made an awesome looking game anyway. THAT is true creativity.

And this wasn’t easy to do either, this game is completely black and white except for the blood. Meaning they had to put special attention to visual spacing to help the player focus on important objects and not lose sight of their character. The idea of this “spacing” I’ll introduce when we get to”Principals of Design” a week from this post. Introducing it here would be confusing.

User Supsharoo. & KingKellogg The Waffle Haggler suggested Zelda

“I really like the art in zelda games. For the next article you should talk about like those visual things that games do to show you to go places. you know like miscolored areas or random objects” - Supsharoo.

Another game that blew me away was Legend of Zelda:TP. It took some visual things from SOTC and improved/adapted them to make it look so dang good it hurt. - KingKellogg The Waffle Haggler

To respond to ‘Susharoo.’ yes I will be going over some initial concepts that are related to guiding the viewer in a scene. This will be brought up in “Principals of Design” coming next week.

Zelda and honestly Nintendo over all are really good at delivering great visuals regardless of hardware. If it means the game can go where it needs to the visuals seem to follow suit. Unfortunately I haven’t personally played through entire Zelda  games, though I did get pretty far in Skyward Sword (Before I lost my Wii which I bought specifically for that game).

zelda-twilight-princess-screen-4

That said Twilight Princess is a very interesting game visually. Compared to other Nintendo games I’ve played I think it experimented the most with different effects rather than being consistent. This can be called contrast and its used in this game to throw you off.

The visual presentation when Link is a wolf is completely different from when he’s human, it’s almost surreal in a sense. There are lots of glowing objects, symbols, and a sense of tension in this form. Where the game when he’s human is normal and realistic in presentation. This isn’t just the game emulating wolf vision or something, it’s creating a visual separation of the two elements. Now not having completely played the game its hard for me to asses why. But the intent is clear if anything.

That reminds me, I own this game and no Wii to play it…

Thanks for your submissions!

Although I didn’t get to every game I appreciate the submissions and I hope to see more for today’s Game Art for Gamers!

Look forward to it!

If I stated something that didn’t make sense, expect me to explain it later or just ask in the comments! Also if you missed last weeks article to talk about your game with the ‘best visuals’ you can still do so in the comments below!

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Metal Gear Solid 5 Map Analysis Shows One Map is HUGE at Takuchat.com

by our user DigitalWolf

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It turns out the “Sky layer” of the map Kojima showed us contains height and building map data! Here is the original image.

Phantom-Pain-Map

A user on reddit took this image and did what i can only describe as “Lots of Photoshop” and was able to pull out the images details. Getting the results below and posting his analysis of them.

You can see there is a TON of map here, and its worth nothing this is only one of the multiple maps we’re aware of, this one being Afghanistan, the others being Africa, and some more unknown (like the hospital in the initial trailers). If this map is any indication of the others, we’re in for either a lot of game and exploring.

Here’s the original imgur gallery below.

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Game Art for Gamers 101: Introduction at Takuchat.com

by our user DigitalWolf

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Hello, and welcome to Game Art for Gamers, a weekly series that will challenge you to see past the “graphics” and see the details.

One of the long-standing problems I see among gamers, news media, and the general public is a lack of understanding to what makes games so much of an art. In fact it seems the concept of games as art is very vague for people.

What makes good art, and how does that apply to games? What elements or principles do artists see and use everyday that applies to gaming and makes some games so much more compelling than others?

Because for many gamers “good graphics” are what make a game interesting, pretty, or unique; but no one is asking “Why”?

About Me / Purpose

Sora01 I remember the article pointing out the meaning of Sora’s black hood and big yellow shoes.

So before I go further let me introduce myself; my name is Isiac DaGraca. I’m not in the game industry (yet), but I am an artist, and you can see some of my work at iadagraca.com. I aspire to be a game artist, and part of this project is re-learning art concepts, and learning about what makes some of the amazing work out there so amazing.

I’ve had an interest in games as art for a long time, but I didn’t realize how deep it went until the concepts were introduced to me. I don’t remember where I originally read it, but I had read an article that focused on colors on game characters. Not just what those colors mean, but how those choices seemed to affect the game, its sales, and peoples’ impressions of the character.

Reading that article helped me appreciate games so much more. Later as a Visual Art Major in high school, I learned that the same principles that make Visual Art what it is can be very close to what we see in gaming everyday.

I have no question about games as art.

And I believe ideas such as this need a broader reach, and that everyone can benefit from learning about what makes this medium tick. There’s so much more you could take away from every experience if you slow down, and look closely at the world these designers have created, and how they’ve presented it to you.

What I will be covering in this series

What is it about Kojima's P.T. That despite the "Downgraded" graphics the game still makes an amazing impression? What is it about Kojima’s P.T. that despite the “Downgraded” graphics the game still makes an amazing impression?

Each week I will release a different subject starting with topics around the principles of art and design and how they relate to games, eventually working towards analysis of specific games, characters, and artists.

This will be a somewhat slow process, to start I want to build awareness that these ideas exist. Once I feel I’ve written enough to help you identify these concepts, we’ll go into more complex analysis of these ideas.

This series will focus primarily on visual aspects — not elements such as writing or cinematic techniques. Although writing and cinematography do play a major role in the overall presentation and surely contribute to the games as art, they are not aspects I’m studying thoroughly. I want to be able to express these ideas in a clear meaningful way, and I can only do that by understanding them thoroughly myself.

That said, this series isn’t going to go too far into technical aspects either. While I will eventually get into effects like SSAO, anti-aliasing, and other words that might seem new to you despite hearing it before. You don’t need to know how the technology works to understand why it’s there. Instead I’ll spend more time explaining what the effect means, and how it relates to the real world or your impression of it.

What you the reader should do

First off, I need you to understand that a lot of what I will say is opinion, and much of this series will be subjective by nature. I’ll outline examples and reasons for my opinions on a given game or whatnot, but it’s in the interest of promoting discussion.

Throughout this series I may have a negative/positive opinion of one thing or another, and I’ll make my case for that opinion. I’d love nothing more than to talk with other artists, gamers, and other readers about the implications of whatever subject I may have brought up in a meaningful manner.

So much of art is speculation, and appreciating how that impression affects a person. Characters might rub you the wrong way, colors might throw you off, something might look bland; But understanding why something is that way and explaining why is the discussion that gamers are missing.

So I want you as the reader to open your mind not just to other views, but to finding purpose in everything you see. To take the time to understand what you are seeing, and why you have such an impression. And most importantly, why the artist might have done things that way. The assessment of art in so many ways, is an act of empathy.

1up

The 1up portion will challenge readers to discuss a particular or number subjects in the comments. Perhaps with a specific constraint. For example, I might ask that readers describe a character by their colors and the meaning of those colors, and ask other commenters to guess the character. Fun stuff like that (and I probably will do that but not in this post so please be patient).

The 1up for this week will be simple:

Tell me about a game that had the best visuals for you. And understand that great visuals aren’t just ‘Realistic’ and ‘Artistic’ but can do something special for the viewer to appreciate.

For me a game series that sits near and dear to my heart is the .Hack// series. It shines for me due to its phenomenal environment, enemy and character design. The enemies in particular often seem to tell a story, The worlds seem to be brimming with culture and history, and the characters not only match their personalities but their fates as well. .Hack// to me is an incredibly well designed game.

So tell me about yours in the comments and I’ll make an article this week including your picks.

Next week

Next week we’ll begin with the basics of the Elements of Art and how they apply to games before moving on to more advanced topics. The Elements of Art are the most basic way to describe an image or the creation of one, and will be central to understanding what we do in the future.

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The Gaming Agenda Podcast Episode 9: Tomb Raider-gate, Gamescom, Silent Hills, Until Dawn & More! at Takuchat.com

by our user Daniel

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John slacks off and plays DayZ while Dan tries to get the good word (Gamescom news) out to the people while live on Twitch.

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Destiny Venus gameplay trailer at Takuchat.com

by our user Jacob K

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Bungie released a new trailer for Destiny, this one shows off Venus.

“Venus was once the site of a great discovery – a paradise. Now, it is a monument to all that we have lost. “

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Destiny Venus gameplay trailer at Takuchat.com

by our user Jacob K

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Bungie released a new trailer for Destiny, this one shows off Venus.

“Venus was once the site of a great discovery – a paradise. Now, it is a monument to all that we have lost. “

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Shenmue is getting a HD Remaster made by fans at Takuchat.com

by our user Jacob K

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Since the 2001 release of Shenmue 2 gamers have been desperately pleading for Sega to create a sequel in the series, with Sega’s constant refusal many fans of the series have even resorted to asking for a simple HD-remaster, but yet again Sega refused.

Now, it seems the fans have taken this into their own hands. Over in Korea a group of fans have started to remaster the game themselves. So far they have already done a pretty great job at creating the Gamecenter. To see their work in motion, view the videos below; do note they said the character model will see work as well(S1).

Overview Video of Shenmue HD

Here you can see some of the more small details all up close and personal-

Screenshots

You can find the original post on this korean website.

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