I didn’t “make” these images. In fact, no one did. They were generated using artificial intelligence. It’s like searching something in Google Images, but instead of using text to find an image, you’re using text to make the image. It’s mind blowing to put it mildly.
These were literally generated in seconds, and in multiple variations. Something not quite right with a result? Refresh it and instantly see another 4 completely unique variations, in any art style, from illustrative to photorealistic. And again, and again, and again. Simply put, there is no designer in the world capable of working this quickly or efficiently.
You can imagine how thoughts about my future job security quickly and wildly spiraled out of control. The more I thought about it though, and the more I played with it, I started to understand and accept it as one more tool in the toolbox. As a practical example, I generated these images to help me visualize and concept some environments that have been living almost exclusively in my mind for my indie game project. The speed this tool allowed me to iterate and test concepts, as well as simultaneously be inspired by the generated visuals themselves, is just unbelievable. It’s as if I suddenly have an army of designers working for me, ready and waiting for my art direction. Truly transformative. Not something to fear, but something to embrace.
This video does a good job of explaining how it all works. In a lot of ways, and especially after watching that video, I feel like this technology strengthens the thought that nothing is original. That everything is inspired by something. I’m sure my thoughts and feelings about it all will continue to evolve, as will the technology. It’s a new frontier with some very clear pitfalls and I’m sure ones yet to be revealed, but for now I’m just enjoying playing with this thing, staying up way, way later than I should be in doing so.
I know, a years end reflection post shared halfway through January isn’t exactly timely, but it takes more time to make the internet than to consume it I guess. In any case, 2021 is over and I’m still here, which means I survived my second annual long list of resolutions and monthly challenges. My main goal was to have no zero percent game development days. This meant doing something every single day to get closer to the dream of developing and publishing my own game. Even if there was only a few minutes to spare some days, and even if I didn’t have access to my computer. I set this goal because game development is still so new to me and it’s been hard to gauge how much time and effort is really required to create what I’m envisioning. Figured a year straight of dedication would give me a better idea. To answer whether or not the dream is even possible. I stayed pretty true to the goal, and I do have my answer now. The answer is yes, I can do this, but it’s going to take a really, really long time. Years. It’s clearly an amount of work that isn’t meant for a single person, especially when it’s not a full-time job. It’s all really tough, and all really time consuming. Thing is, I have so much fun doing it. So long as that stays true, and I hope it does, then I’m going to keep at it. This goal has shown me that it’s okay if it takes a really, really long time to see this through, because clearly it’s supposed to.
Another goal I had was to read more books. I aimed to read at least every other day. Somedays I missed the mark while plenty others I read back to back to back. So a bit of a wash. I read four books, nothing short of a miracle given my reading track record. Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikalsen, recommended by my wife Alexis. Let’s Talk About Hard Things by Anna Sale. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. I enjoyed them all. Those last two were also recommends from my friend Kelsie. Glad I made reading a priority for the year and plan to keep the goal alive. I got a lot more back from it than what I put in, and that shouldn’t be ignored.
My last stretch goal for the year was to eat vegetarian at least two days a week. Inspired by a challenge I had in 2020 to eat vegetarian for a month straight. Making it a part of my year long resolutions was meant to be a small, painless step towards changing a personal habit, where the cement has already been dried a long, long time. For the most part I made good on what I set out for. Some weeks I slipped up, but others I exceeded my modest goal of 2 days a week. I have every intention of keeping this one going with more effort, more nuance and more intention along the way.
For my monthly challenges, I did everything I set out to do at the start of the year. You can read my rambling thoughts about those experiences here. I left December open for any ideas that I might’ve come up with along the way. What I ended up doing for the month was… well, nothing at all. Innovative, I know. More specifically, I committed to not commit to anything. It was an everything in moderation, even moderation itself, kind of month. Capping off a year of discipline with a little rest and indulgence. I stayed up late, slept in, skipped workouts, ate the bad things, you name it. A good change of pace for me, but one that had me ready to get back on the rails by the end of it.
Looking back on the year, I’d say I learned a lot. Formed some better habits along the way too. Glad I took it all on. Out of everything though, the one thing I still can’t understand, a true mystery for the ages, is just what in God’s name I was thinking when I decided to take 60 second showers for an entire month.
Meet Roy. I think that’s his name, still working it out. He’s an aging Repair Technician for the Greenfield Power Company. I think he has a more interesting story to tell than the boy with the umbrella, so I’m gonna give him the lead. Really feels like I’m never gonna be able to complete this project, but even still, I’m having fun imagining the world and all its inhabitants.
The thing about working alone on a project that would normally be done by a team of people, is you’re going to end up wearing a lot of different hats. Somedays you’re an artist, somedays a programer, and other days a graphic designer making a pause menu and control system that’s bound to confuse even the brightest among us. Keeps things interesting to say the least, and if any of those hats ever start to feel a little too tight, you just put a new one on.
Well over a day had passed before I even realized I got a very, very small feature on the Unreal Engine Twitter account this weekend. I was pretty surprised. It means this image hit the eyes of somewhere in the neighborhood of half a million people. Don’t really know what that equates to, if anything at all, but I know it felt good to be acknowledged even if in the smallest way by the very people connected to the software I’ve been trying my hardest to learn.
Building out some environmental puzzles while I continue developing the art direction for Greenfield. Feeling momentum now. Making an image in your mind’s eye visible to anyone, takes time and takes effort. When you can get it right though, and seen just the way you see it, it’s really something.
Revisiting and refining the design of the protagonist in Greenfield. I like the idea of keeping the face featureless, so players might project their own emotions onto the character based on their own experience in the game. Or to sound less full of it, I just like the way it looks.
More adventures in game dev. This tool I built takes a square tessellated plane and manipulates its scale to make something that resembles a terrain. I can then map other objects to it, like grass, weeds, rocks, bushes or anything else I’d like. I can get even more granular and control different properties of those objects too. I can connect that piece of terrain to any other as if they were legos and quickly build out an entire environment in just a few seconds, with just a few clicks.
I wrote the logic for this once, and that took time, but I can reuse it over and over again, able to create an infinite number of variations. It’s a essential concept in Unreal that I’m still wrapping my head around to be honest. I can tell you with certainty though, using tools to make new tools is pretty satisfying.
2020 was a mess on a lot of fronts, but a bright spot for me personally was following through on my resolutions. My biggest and toughest resolution was to learn Unreal Engine. A year later, it’s honestly still a work in progress. I’ve been simultaneously learning the interface, art pipeline, animation pipeline, visual scripting logic, and performance optimization among other things. Somedays feel like I haven’t come very far at all, but others feel pretty good, considering less than a year ago the program wasn’t even installed on my computer yet. Hopefully it’s upwards and onwards from here, but it’s hard to say. As much fun as it is, it still feels incredibly daunting. Here’s a small peek at a game I’ve been developing with what I’ve learned so far:
My second resolution was to exercise at least every other day. Above all else, this one made sure a missed day or two didn’t snowball into a completely derailed week or month. Seemed like a cycle I’d been stuck in the past few years, but this simple rule got me out of it. I made exceptions to let my body bounce back from injury or for a long weekend getaway here and there, but for the most part I nailed it. It’s formed into a habit at this point, and hoping to keep it that way.
My third resolution was to avoid hangovers. I know, I know, the depth of my shame is bottomless. I wasn’t exactly swearing off alcohol, but I’ve long been ready to swear off hangovers. I drink socially, so the pandemic really dropped my consumption this year, and in turn lowered any chance of being hungover to begin with. Even so, I still fell short on a few occasions. At least three I can think of. It wasn’t perfect, but it was more wins than losses, and if I can keep it in the front of my mind, the record should be an undefeated one soon enough.
Lastly, I took a shot at some monthly challenges throughout the year and reflected on my experiences with them month by month. In short, I ended up satisfying some curiosities, kickstarted some better habits, and knocked back a few bad ones.
All in all, it was a win in a challenging year. I’d never done anything like it and ended up having a lot of fun with it. So much so, that it feels weird to just stop down at this point. So I think I’ll keep on. More on that later.
One of my resolutions this year was to learn Unreal Engine. We’re in October now and I feel like I’m getting somewhere with it. Over the past few months I’ve been using the software to make a game, but really making a game to learn the software.
This screenshot is from a game I’ve been working on. It’s a long ways from being shippable, but it marks real progress that took a lot of time and effort to arrive at. So much so, that it limits what I can do on Six Foot Giraffe. I don’t want to stop posting here, but don’t want to slow my progress any more than I have to either. Truthfully at this moment, I’m not even interested in doing anything else anyways.
I’ve worked in the field of design, particularly for motion graphics and advertising for over 13 years now. Enough time to have gotten very good at it, and well paid for it. I still like the work, but for the most part it’s not as thrilling as it once was. Back when I was just a Junior Designer and still coming up in my career, it was more pleasure than it was work. Where 10 hour days still weren’t enough to get my fill. Everyday I was learning something new and becoming a stronger designer than I was the day before. It was thrilling, and it was addicting.
These past few months of learning and exploring Unreal Engine has me feeling that long lost excitement again. Even in the those moments where it’s not going smoothly, I still find it so exciting to learn something I wasn’t able to do the day before. That’s the gist of why I really don’t want to do anything else right now. Like I said though, I don’t want to stop posting here either. So the obvious thing to do is to keep posting, but for the most part only about development. Never really done anything like that on Six Foot Giraffe, but I’m giving it a shot and seeing if it takes.