10/24/19 Project update
This week I spoke with Professor Ulm about potentially switching to her studio in a dedicated role next semester. Her studio is working on a psychological narrative based VR game where I could work as a designer in a broader scope on the project. Not only does the project look like a good fit for my interests, but my role is a much better fit than the traditional writer filmmaker labels I've had this semester in the studios. This came about after taking her VR class this semester, where I have been greatly enjoying writing out VR design concepts.
Prototype is not complete, but I have been making much more progress this week, and feel positively about keeping that momentum this week. As discussed, I have been minimizing my time on my studio work and really focusing on getting a handle on Unreal. Here is what I have so far -
- Start with black screen. A (placeholder) sound plays. Will be sounds of screaming and crashing on subway. Fade in to -
You hear a strange noise in the distance.
You walk to the end of the train car, and notice the doors are open. You can walk through. The noise is getting louder. (No idea why text is showing up on the walls! Need to fix that - unless it works as something strange intentionally?)
You arrive to one door open on the right. The noise is very close.
The sound is coming from a phone! (Using square box placeholder for now) The idea will be you can pick it up by walking into it. When you do, a voice speaks to you on the phone.
You can now exit the train and walk through the subway. This is as far as I have gotten for now. A few things I'm thinking about for this week
- I like the bright stylized look inside the train at the beginning as shown in the screenshots, but am thinking of maybe saving this bright, almost heavenly look for the ending. Then the train is more normal looking in the beginning, and over time, you build up to the 'heavenly' look, and then fade to white, as if the bright white train is transporting you away.
For reference, this is how the train car look could look at the beginning if I turn off all the outside lights -
- Scope of the project. What absolutely needs to get done for this to be effective? As mentioned above, I think ending on an almost heavenly bright train could be an interesting way to transport us out of the experience. Not sure how to build up to that, though.
I do see a few ways to add audio through the subway areas. There are help intercoms, where voices could speak to you through, and of course there speaks inside the trains themselves. I want to focus on building the level first before I commit to the audio too closely, but I'm thinking about two ideas
- Voices from your everyday life are speaking to you. Your boss is angrily calling that you are late for work, others are scolding you for not paying attention to the real world/having your head in the clouds - having all of the audio center around a theme of disconnection. Not being present in the same world as others. The idea is that then both the voices and the level feel increasingly strange and unrecognizable as you progress.
- Different voices are telling you different stories. Some voices are telling you that you're in a coma! You need to wake up - it's all an illusion. Others are telling you that the subway train crashed, and the other survivors are further up ahead! You need to find them and join them! Another says you're actually dead, and you're in hell. The game ends with this ambiguity never resolved over which story is correct. I like the idea of playing with a 'twist' ending to a story. I find they can often be anticlimactic, so I like the idea of teasing the player with multiple twists, but ultimately focusing on an ambiguous (hopefully) engaging experience that is more surreal and mysterious. Perhaps they might decide for themselves what the experience means.
But what does this all mean for benchmarks for next week? Not sure. I'm still building out the basics from my outline, so hoping to have enough built where next week I can start more seriously look at writing the audio. I'm still keeping the idea simple, where you wander around and hear audio play. The trick is what interactivity is required to bring about an ending. I've been thinking about fetch quests, grabbing keys, etc, but I haven't thought of anything that enhances the experience yet.
PS - here are some screenshots of things I found interesting that I might use later on as things get stranger -
The "Time" character standing ominously watching you. Since I can't animate him, this is an easy thing to do at least. I have other ideas, but he's not the priority right now.
Turning off the overhead lights makes things spooky. Thinking of having a 'hell'ish part of the subway as you go further on.
Bright spotlight on pig screaming in darkness = fabulous.
I have an animated fire that I can move around. More for hell area idea. (No idea how it fits in yet, it just is creepy and neat)