Are Single Player Games Going Extinct?

I’ve been a gamer for most of my life. I live, breathe, and even work, games. There’s nothing I like more than coming home from work, firing up my console, and playing a great game to relax. Years ago, one game could last me about a week. Now, one game lasts me two days, tops. Why is this happening?

A lot of studios are starting to turn away from the concept of a single player game and opening up to the possibilities that the Internet provides: online multiplayer and social or mobile games. Sure, it’s the wave of the future, but why do single player games deserve to die because of it? I, personally, don’t think they will completely disappear, but I am worried that less and less attention will be given to the production of them. Already less time is being spent on single player games and more time is being spent on creating content and communities for the multiplayer aspect. With this trend we’re also seeing a reduction in quality and length; single player games rarely top 7 hours nowadays, some of them are buggy, and others aren’t living up to their potential.

I’ve been quiet about my discontent for some time, until I played Warhammer 40K: Space Marines, that is. The game was incredible, but only about 8 hours, tops. This is nothing compared to the RTS versions of the game, (which has also gotten shorter thanks to Dawn of War II). That being said, the game could have been so much longer! Instead, it’s getting a sequel—which is another terrible trend. If you have enough content for two games, why not just make one incredible game and make your fans happy?

When we were first shown teasers a few years back, Warhammer fans around the world were promised a revolutionary game with breathtaking environments, awesome characters, and the ability to shoot or cut up orks at close range. It was going to be completely different than the RTS, and insanely better than the action games that came before it. In a lot of ways, it did live up to it’s promises, but by offering an online mode, did Relic/Games Workshop/THQ truly give us something different? I don’t think so; online multiplayer has always been a feature of the RTS games, and I guess they couldn’t just stick to an offline game. I guess they were afraid that their countless fans would somehow be disappointed without this option. It’s not Black Ops; I didn’t expect it, nor want it.

I think what’s most damaging about this trend is that a lot of players aren’t even touching the single player campaigns if there’s a multiplayer option. I know a lot of people that haven’t even glanced at the single player campaign in Black Ops, for instance. And this is a terrible shame; a lot of work goes into making the story and narrative great and entertaining, and the levels fun and challenging! At the same time, a lot of players are avoiding games because they have multiplayer. Personally, I stopped playing Assassin’s Creed after 2, and I loved those games so very much. But I hardly wanted to continue playing the franchise after so much attention was put into its oh-so-amazing multiplayer mode.

There was a time when the core of a game was its story, but now it seems the core of any game is: how can we make this multiplayer? The bottom line is that single player and multiplayer games are two different games. I think that if a studio wants to create both, they should create them as two separate products, as they’re intended. I also think studios need to realize that not everyone can, or wants to, play online. Not everyone has incredible internet connections, or the courage to face the raucous community, or the patience to respawn endless times when you first get started. There is still a huge audience for single player games, and I sincerely hope studios in the future will realize there’s a potential there to make their games great again—and to justify the $70 price tags. I also hope that  Hitman: Absolution never gets multiplayer, else I will lose all faith in humanity.

-Vanessa

Normal Maps and nDo

by Vanessa Trepanier 

 

There are a few ways to make normal maps: Maya, zBrush, and programs like Crazy Bump for instance. While you can always let these programs do their stuff, adjusting a few settings here and there, you can always paint your very own normal maps from scratch with Photoshop and the nDo plug-in.

The nDo plug-in (which can be found here: http://cgted.com/) is an Action in Photoshop that can convert your texture map into a normal map, using nDoexample2the information you’ve painted in to create bumps, scratches, and hard surfaces. If you have a layer that’s full of a rocky texture for example, nDo will quickly turn that into a bumpy surface for your model at the click of a button. It also allows you to adjust a number of settings, from the depth of the cracks in the rock, to beveling and embossing, and the smoothness of it. It gives you a lot of control, allowing you to create the exact look you’re going for. And of course it’s entirely adjustable, allowing you to continue to refine once you’ve already started.

Now if you have a flat texture, something like metal or plastic, and you want to add some lines for detail, nDo has you covered there too. You can activate nDo on a blank layer and paint symbols or lines, then convert that into normal map information. It’s a very advanced tool that even a novice can use.

nos tanks with a stone textured normal map

 

What’s especially great about nDo is that it’s  completely free, which is very useful for students, indie companies, or even portfolio work. I used it myself on personal models for my portfolio. In the example image, I converted a stone texture into a normal map with nDo for a few NOS tanks on a sci-fi gun I designed. The texture gave a rusty metal band a worn, weathered look. The painted bolt above the tanks was given detail with nDo as well.

 

So if you want to give nDo a try, go ahead and download it from http://cgted.com/. There are also a number of useful tutorials for nDo out there, especially this one here.

Making Modular Models

by Vanessa Trepanier

Have you ever wondered how to make your own Skydome in UDK? Or how to make custom light maps that will really give your level its own, unique touch? Or what about learning a new take on modular building?

There are a few great video tutorial websites out there and today I’m going to be talking about one that I fell in love with a few months ago: 3Dmotive.com. 3Dmotive has a variety of tutorial video packages for free and for sale that can show you new techniques for UDK, 3Ds Max, Photoshop, and eventually Maya. While currently the amount of tutorials available is small, 3Dmotive is actively making new tutorials to share with the 3D community.

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I first heard about 3Dmotive in November 2010 in a texturing class. We had been practicing modular building sets when my teacher mentioned he found a great tutorial with tips on how to do approach sets. I soon discovered that ‘great’ is an understatement; after watching their video on Modular Building, my mind was utterly blown. Before seeing that video I had a far different approach to modular building that sometimes left me with reams of useless reference images and frustration whenever I realized I forgot a certain useful part, or thought of something cooler. It was a little time consuming and while my models looked good in the end, if I had known about any other method to create modular sets, I wouldn’t have wasted my time.

The tutorial that the fine folks at 3Dmotive have created is incredible and I never considered approaching modeling the way they did. It made life easier for me to create assets for projects and even for my own portfolio. Basically, their approach saves time by getting you into the habit of building an atlas ahead of time, rather than just collect reference images you may or may not be using. It also encourages you to go out and start making your own texture library so you can customize your atlases and models.
Let’s say you want to make a basic warehouse. Instead of making a list of all the things you’ll need, finding references, building planes, and modeling individual pieces, all you need to do is find your favourite image for each part of the building: a door, a sign, a cement slab, a brick wall, a broken window.

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If you arrange these properly on a grid in a Photoshop file, all you need to do is create a square in your modeling program of choice that matches the size of your atlas file, apply the atlas to your model as a texture, then start chopping it up.

Now what have you gained from this? A nearly fully assembled, already textured set of assets! After this step, all you need to do is add some detail (extrude window sills, ledges, frames, etc), remap the sides of your individual pieces and you’re done! You’ll have an entire modular set that you can use to create a number of different building styles, already textured for you and ready to go. And even if you don’t use UDK or Max or Maya, the tips in the video can be applied to any program of choice!

So why not go give 3Dmotive.com a look! You might find something helpful like I did.