Game Art f/x & Design
Author: Luke Ahearn
- RRP US$49.99
Reviewed: 13th October 2001
the outset this looks to be an interesting book
- it's well presented and has a CD with lots on
it. It is also part of a comprehensive and rather
large series of books from Coriolis
- Generally they're creative
books range, and more specifically it's part
of their "f/x & Design" series.
In the catalogue alone lists 46 books for the
general series, with probably many more to come
in the near future. The other obvious point to
make here is that none of them are about programming,
or anything programming related; it may now seem
strange that I would be reviewing these books.
But bare with me...
main reason I am covering these books is that
they are applicable to the general development
process - every game and every multimedia program
is likely to need some artwork, maybe some music,
and probably some sound effects. You may well
be the most amazing programmer on the planet,
but can you hold your own in a paint program?
There's the counter argument to this as well -
"Thats what Artists/sound engineers/musicians
are for!", well if you are part of a small
team (or even working solo), then you're going
to need to be at least capable with the relevent
programs. Which is where this series comes in
all of the books in this series are relevent to
game/multimedia development - the books on "QuarkXPress"
and "Dreamweaver" are hardly going to
be of any direct use to a game designer (unless
you want to make manuals, or a webpage that is...);
however, the series covers several of the staple
programs for game development. Where would many
people be without good old Photoshop? (or it's
cheaper rival Paint Shop Pro), what about 3D Studio
Max? If you keep an eye on the commercial game
development industry and read the articles on
GamaSutra.com you will probably be aware that
the programs just mentioned are the de-facto standard
for creating game art.
Now, onto the review.
book that I have lined up for review today is
title "3D Game Art f/x & Design".
This book aims to give a broard overview of the
tasks involved in creating 3D graphics and resources.
A lot of the book hinges around the creation of
textures for 3D environments, which, as many people
will be aware, can make-or-break a good game/multimedia
application. The rest of the book focuses on world
creation - design, lighting, texturing etc...
of the most interesting aspects of this book,
particularly from the programming point of view,
is how they (the artists) go about making or acquiring
textures for game media. I wont lie and say I'm
a good artist, but I was fairly aware of how they
went about their work; and whilst this book doesn't
intentionally give an overview for dummies like
myself, you can (and do) pick up a lot about the
techniques of an artist just from reading it.
I would fairly safely say that you could, after
reading this book, go about collecting and processing
game-quality graphics for yourself.
book itself is very easy to read - the text content
is broken up by headings and sub-headings such
that it doesn't feel like you're reading page-after-page
of dense boring text. There are also plenty of
images to explain what the author is talking about
(including a section of glossy colour plate prints
in the middle of the book), one good example of
this is at the beginning of chapter 2. Here he
goes about explaining how to convert a picture
of a real-world location into a virtual 3D-World
(it only discusses textures at this point though).
The text describes the finer details, and then
there is a double page showing the original photo
of the real-world location, the base-textures
generated from that picture, the basic simple
3D world (geometry only), and then the same scene
again but using all of the proper generated textures;
perfectly illustrating what was said in the text.
of the later chapters in the first section discusses
menus and the user interface; this makes for interesting
reading - artist or not. So many times have I
seen good games have ugly and difficult interfaces,
whilst this book doesn't offer the perfect solution,
I would be more than pleased if some developers
took at least a few of his ideas onboard. It offers
many little gems - such as the initial "Ten
Usability Principles". The author uses "Unreal
Tournament" (A game many will be familiar
with) as a continuous case study of user interfaces,
which is understandable as it does have a very
good user-interface system. Whilst you may think
of the user-interface as being a primarily programmer-related
task, it would actually be much better suited
to the artist/designer, as is shown in this particular
chapter. Towards the end of this chapter the author
goes about a unique example of his own - which
again, is very interesting to read through - showing
someone elses work is one thing, but explaining
the process from start to finish is sometimes
a much better approach.
included CD is a bit of a treat as well; with
most computer books I've reviewed and/or own you
tend to get a CD with 10 or so folders with 100's
of files dumped in them. If you're lucky you get
a readme file, if you're very lucky you get a
little browser program to look through. Not with
this CD though, it has a browser a readme file,
a bonus chapter from "Photoshop 6.0 in depth"
(all 142 pages of chapter 3), and a large image
library of textures and base-textures for you
to experiment with (and all the work-in-progress
files for relevent chapters). The CD also contains
a full version of the Genesis engine/library which
is important, as the entire second section of
the book is based upon it's usage (it would of
been pretty stupid of them not to include it on
the CD!). This CD isn't just something tacked
on at the end of the book, it could be considered
to be part of the book even - as it makes working
through the book so much easier.
Does it Fall Down?
book is going to be perfect, although some will
be better than others. The only limitation to
this book is it's audience really. Being a programming
website I am assuming that I am mostly talking
to programmers, or programming related persons
- therefore, not necessarily interested in becoming
a 3D games artist. Having said that, the book
isn't really aimed at programmers - it's aimed
at artists, and for them, it is a very good book.
Even if you aren't a dedicated artist as such,
and just dabble with art/graphics when you need
them you will get a lot of information from this
other thing that disappointed me was the required
basic skills. As I've said, I'm not an artist
- and for that very reason, I found it quite hard
to follow what was going on at times. One example
that stuck out to me was when he went over converting
a photo of a sign (taken with a digital camera)
into a usable texture. It may not seem too hard,
but I would not of been able to repeat it. The
sign was taken at an angle, and it had a slight
light-flare on it, so the author says (as captions
to 4 pictures), "Straighten out the image",
"Remove the light flare", "Done".
Now those two major steps of straightening out
the perspective on the image and removing the
light flare aren't explained - and I dont know
how to do that!
last negative point I can think of for this book
is about the software - As I already said, Photoshop
is pretty much the de-facto standard software
to use for digitial media creation these days.
This whole book uses photoshop, the effects that
are explained, are explained with direct relation
to photoshop - so if you dont own photoshop (it's
quite expensive) you're a little stuck. I've found
the cheaper "Paintshop Pro" to be more
than a match for some areas of photoshop, and
it will probably perform the same effects, but
you'll be improvising. On top of that, even if
you own photoshop, you'll need to be fairly competent
when using it - Whilst I prefer the book as it
is without 'newbie' help, if he says "Turn
the layer tiling filter on" you need to know
how to do that, he doesn't always explain things
such that a complete newbie to the program will
understand them. My only solution to this would
be to buy a book on photoshop - should you really
want to get into game art.
said pretty much all that I have to say about
this book. I enjoyed reading it, and I'm sure
you'll enjoy reading it - it's whether you actually
NEED this book (for the generally curious individuals
it may be worthwhile hiring it from a library
rather than buying it). Take a look at the following
breakdown of key points, and make your own decision.
Well written, very easy to read
Aimed at artists with a little experience
already under their belt.
Most points are clearly illustrated with
Assumes knowledge that not many beginners
will be in possession of (it is aimed at
intermediate-advanced readers though)
The accompanying CD is well done.
Requires that you have certain software,
and at least some minimal experience/knowledge
of that software.
Will almost certainly give you new insight
into making game art.