11/18/20 End of semester summary
Updated: Nov 19
Summary of project at this point -
- Adding new team members next semester to help.
- Baseline goals for semester are achieved or almost done.
- Deciding on+Setting up VR system (VR Expansion) with essential custom functions (done)
- Creating interactable blocks system (close to done)
- Setup system to easily enable/disable large number of actors in different groups in map to control map/lighting/VFX/etc (done)
- Setup workflow for audio implementation (done)
- Created collision based interactable fog (done)
- More sophisticated interactable VFX and dialogue system for this semester shifted to be figured out over break/Spring.
In flux to be worked out over break
- Story, level design, and big picture unifying concept that ties together everything.
I started the semester with a clear concept. It was going to be a personal story based on my life experience, dealing with the ambiguity of a relationship between two people who are unclear where they stand with each other. Both are living apart separately, and only communicate via cell phone calls. The story's protagonist just moved out into a new home, with their most personal possessions gathered together. As the story progresses, they find themselves trapped in their home, with a fog force appears that transports the player and their possessions into the fog world. The longer they are in the fog world, the more distant they become from the other person in their life, and struggle to resolve the increasing distance occurring between the two. They perform increasingly nonsensical actions, such as combining blocks together, as ways to try to find new ways to communicate, and also use blocks to find ways to modify their home, so they can escape the locked doors of their trapped home.
However, people in my life told me they were uncomfortable with the story/concept, and felt it was too obvious that I was referencing them, even though the story was fictional with many details changed. My general feedback was that if I used multiple characters with different stories that borrowed elements of different people, they would feel more comfortable if it felt less obvious I was referencing any singular person.
Unfortunately, working out a potential solution to this problem led to creative paralysis and a loss of confidence. Recently my blog posts have detailed my attempts at writing new treatments, but so far I've mainly resulted in coming up with a larger pool of potential ideas, instead of coming much closer to feeling focused on a unifying concept.
I'm looking to veer towards one of two directions
1. A simpler project with not much dialogue that focuses on my existing strengths using level design, sound design, and video (i.e. projecting some of my experimental video work onto meshes in game) to create an experience where you mainly embody a character through experience, with bits of story to uncover at times. Could also be a sandbox type experience where there is a deeper story to uncover if you explore enough of the world. Intentionally abstract Dear Esther type world where there is an internal logic if you look for it.
Your character does not speak in this version.
This could work, but I have a hard time imagining something that doesn't feel like a repeat of my previous work currently. I have wanted to incorporate more character development in my work, and each time I find a reason not to. I feel concerned this again takes me away from developing skills as a Narrative Designer. I have gotten some feedback my strength is moreso in Level Design than Narrative Design, but I am interested in developing this skill further, and this idea feels like a slippery slope to repeating myself.
2. A larger concept with more elements. Have received negative feedback that this is too unfocused and less likely to be finished.
Your character does speak in this version.
- The concept is you play as a character in their 40s who has been traveling from home to home their entire lives, keeping their distance from others. They find meaning in life through creating paintings. When they start to get close to others, they push them away, finding others too demanding/controlling, and seeing them as threats from taking time away from their painting.
This nomadic lifestyle of independence is challenged one day when they start to show the beginning signs of developing a terminal illness. They are unable to move as quickly, and then struggle to move at all at times. Eventually they become confined to a wheelchair. They start to lose control of their hands, and are no longer able to paint very effectively, and start to lose control and drop their paint brush repeatedly while painting.
They eventually fully process that they will not recover, and will never be able to create the work they were spending their life building to. They instead are left with a home of unfinished paintings, and mementos of broken relationships with people the character has not spoken to in many years.
The character starts calling and trying to reach out to those he previously pushed away, but no one wants to talk to him, due to feeling he treated them poorly previously. He does not tell them he is sick, as he is in some ways in denial, and also too proud. (This idea is inspired by Trump pretending he's fine while he was struggling to breathe from COVID)
Eventually, in desperation, he calls his ex fiancee, and tells her he is sick. Like the others, she doesn't want to talk to him, but he repeatedly tries to reach out to her. She feels some degree of sympathy.
Elemental forces inside the apartment start to appear, and transport him into a world where he has full control over his body again. He can fly! As he continues to visit this fog world, and his physical health deteriorates in his wheelchair at home, he gains increasing amount of control over himself in the fog world.
Inside this world he can revisit old memories with people in his life, but see them from multiple Rashomon-esque perspectives. He can sometimes piece together abstract blocks as ways to break through and communicate with his ex fiancee.
Piecing together different blocks can lead to different responses in conversations.
He can use blocks to also unlock new rooms in his home to uncover more objects that relate to him understanding his past.
The experience is timed, with a countdown to his passing away. The experience ends with him flying through the fog world with complete control, flying at high speeds into new abstract dimensions.
Ultimately both ideas do still feel more like fragments than something unified, and I think I have been sitting with it long enough that I'm losing objectivity and need to be finding other avenues for feedback.
Also - very pleased with my artist's progress. Giving final feedback now for final.