Virtual Landscapes: The Transition Era

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Umran Ali, Sep 19, 2012 - Computers
The magical essence of natural landscapes since the dawn of man have been a source of intrigue, wonder and inspiration in art, philosophy and literature. With each new era in civilisation, new methods of creative expression have been used by artists, designers and writers to capture the rich natural landscapes, and with the 21st century and the emergence of new interactive technologies, this innate desire is being expressed through the digital domain. 

From the giant mushroom forests of Morrowind, the Archipelago islands of Zelda: Wind Waker, to the tropical underground caves of Phantasy Star Online, Virtual landscapes have enthralled, captured and engaged player imaginations for over 30 years. Virtual Landscapes is a three part series attempting to, for the first time, visually illustrate, share and critically reflect upon the unique, virtual natural landscapes within Computer & Video Games.

Virtual Landscapes: The Transition Era visually illustrates the period from 1990 to 1999 that marked the decline of 2D natural landscapes from the 'Embryonic Era' and by the emergence of true 3D technologies which would radically shape virtual landscapes in the years to come. From the intricate, picturesque landscapes of Kings Quest 5, the isometric forests of Landstalker, through to the beautiful mysterious lands of Kyrandia, and finally the magical forests of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Virtual Landscapes presents these virtual spaces for the first time, in stunning unseen digitally enhanced, high resolution and panoramic forms.

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About the author (2012)

 Umran Ali, BSc, M.A, PGCHE, FHEA, was born in 1978 in Manchester, England. After graduating (BSc in 2004, and later  with an M.A in 2005) Umran worked as a freelance 3D artist & creative designer, and then as a visiting lecturer and private tutor teaching across Art & Design, 3D, CGI and Animation. Umran later joined the School of Media, Music & Performance  at the University of Salford as a lecturer in creative media, and taught across a variety of areas from design, production, & project management for video games, specifically around creative design and production of virtual environments.

From 2006 to 2012 Umran acted as Programme Leader for the BSc (Hons) Computer & Video Games programme at the University and was responsible for curriculum design, programme management and developing the programme's partnerships with a variety of major industry partners. Many of Umran's students since, have gone on to work in the creative industries including the videogame industry 

Umran's freelance work included several large projects ranging from PlastiCity; a Will Alsop driven project visualising the regeneration of Bradford city centre in a fully interactive form, the Virtual Jean Claude virtual knowledge space project recreating the French composer Jean Claude Risset, into a 3D avatar, to working on projects in partnership with UK based organisations such as the DarkHorse organisation, BT and the Foundation for Art & Creative Technology (FACT). 

Umran currently works as a senior lecturer in creative media, at the University of Salford. and continues to explore virtual natural environment design through his teaching and research, maintaining a deep interest in the meaning, impact, and design of natural spaces.

In his spare time, Umran is a keen videogames player, and landscape photographer. 

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