11/11 Actually thinking about the project
Updated: Nov 12
For most of the semester I have been focusing on acting as a Producer for my team, focusing on logistics, but this week as I looked at designing a dialogue system, I realized I need to have a much clearer idea of my project's bigger picture. I knew I wanted characters that spoke, but I had various mechanics in mind that felt a bit too cluttered and unfocused when thinking of the cumulative result.
As a result, I spent the week writing out treatments summarizing the project.
I looked into an NYU Vertical slice VR experience where you play a veteran experiencing PTSD flashbacks by looking at photos. It was very simple, but it immediately conveyed the idea that you are playing a character with PTSD. Experiencing the flashbacks first person in VR helps us quickly embody the character and feel as the character, without exposition.
Similarly, I looked at the Silent "P.T" demo, and observed how it kept the plot very simple. You do hear characters speaking, but sparsely, with a simple plot - one man killed his family, and you are stuck inside the haunted apartment of the dead family. Not inherently very interesting, but the interest stems instead from the personality of the haunted apartment. The house is actively trapping you, then letting you move forward, and the behavior is erratic and unpredictable. The real main character is the apartment, and your character's conflict is in trying to escape it and understand it.
Both of these examples led me to think about in shorter form content, the most effective examples I can think of are simply not very plot heavy. I had this concept of a branching dialogue system with 2+ characters, but it felt increasingly hard to justify as I thought about the focus of the project being environment exploration, surreal visuals, and sound design.
While I don't have a finalized idea of what the concept and story are for the project yet, I do feel confident that any use of audio will be simple. If I lean further into a more advanced dialogue system, that ends up becoming the focus of the project, in a way that sacrifices the core ideas of the project.
The challenge that remains is to figure out how to satisfy my desire for a project that tells a deeply personal story. I've made projects with abstract concepts that focus on certain themes, but I want this project to feel unique in telling a human story that ties in experiences that tie into my own life. So far, any attempt feels too "Everything and the kitchen sink" given the scope and length of what I can realistically create.
I do know that I am deeply inspired by indie projects with unique voices such as Cibele and Beginner's Guide where the creator is using the game to share something personal about their lives that could not be shared as intimately in another non interactive medium. The problem is, both of those experiences have a slow build that lasts for roughly an hour to 90 minutes.