Midterm+Project Update 5
So far this semester I have been involved with two studios and one internship as a “freelancer”. First I joined Jonathan Rudder’s internship for Milhavier Chronicles, then Joe’s interactive video studio, and finally Ilir’s Journey to Blackwood studio.
Milhavier Chronicles (MCRPG)
Initially I discussed helping with the scripting and world building for the MCRPG demo. Then Rudder brought up rewriting the game’s trailer. For either task, I felt it would be helpful to first see the game’s current playable demo to get a handle on it.
Unfortunately, it was a bit of a process to get the demo running! While it is now working, it took a bit of time to coordinate getting the demo off of Plastic, and then working with Anthony (the programmer) and Keo Heng to figure out how to get it running on my machine. Keo discovered that some parts of the game were requiring 4.18.0 to compile, even though technically 4.18.3 was the current version. The project is now in 4.19 and works great as of last week.
I also thoroughly went through the Google Drive’s writing folders and chatted with Peter. I’ve learned there has been quite a disconnect between the design, writing, and art teams, and it seems the demo and trailer often have little to do with what’s in the writing folders. Ultimately I feel like it would be incredibly useful for me to perhaps work as a bridge between departments, and find a way to better find ways to incorporate more storytelling in the demo.
Joe’s interactive video project
I was brought on this project in a simple role of leading the shooting and editing of the interactive video segments. I setup workflows and trained some of the undergrads in these skills, so now the team has a dedicated shooter and editor. The shoots are pretty basic and utilitarian to get the story across, so I have mainly enjoyed training the undergrads as a team leader.
Ilir’s Journey to Blackwood
I came on pretty late to this studio due to never hearing from the existing writer. Turns out they were not checking their email, and communication is resolved now. Unfortunately, after starting this studio later in the semester, it seems like there isn’t very much for me to do. The existing writer is already adding new quests and ideas outside of what Ilir is asking for, to stay busy. I could also join him in adding new ideas, but this doesn’t feel productive to me to work on content that no one is asking for or looking at. I will be helping to edit a cut scene together, however, once the art team is done. I do like the game’s concept of assisting kids with developing coping skills, and hope to find ways to continue to incorporate that concept.
Overall studio summary
My experience has definitely been fragmented, and I feel like one issue I have been running across is that it has been a challenge figuring out the best way to translate my existing skills. As a filmmaker, I think in terms of visual environments, sound design, and writing combining together to create an experience. When I think of narrative design, I think of not just traditional writing, but of all of the various aesthetic and design choices you can make to tell a story through an interactive medium.
Jonathan Rudder has introduced me to the term “world building”, however, which I like. While I don’t have experience designing levels from scratch, as a video editor, I am used to putting together existing pieces (visuals+audio) in a way that tell a story. So the specific label of world building, vs greybox level design, is an interesting distinction.
Within the school’s studio system, though, there does not seem to be much demand for world building, so I am currently labeled as a “writer”, but that doesn’t feel quite right. I like narrative designer as a term, but I realize most people just translate that to “writer”, and ignore the design component of the term. This reminds me of the same difficulty I’d face when looking for jobs, where each company has its own definition of narrative designer as well. I'm still not quite sure how to best label myself.
I finished reading Narrative Design for Indies.
My previous post from last week contains all of the mechanics and visuals I am working with for the time being.
My two takeaways from testing basic mechanics so far- Triggering a number of unexplained sounds is interesting. Even with no explanation, a sound suddenly appearing adds intrigue.- It looks very easy to have part of the floor drop out from underneath the player. If there is time, I'd love to play with this.
For this week, I’ve been continuing to learn Unreal, and have been thinking of a structure with a realistic scope. Ideally I want a prototype by next Thursday with the following basic structure -
- Start with black screen. Hear placeholder sound (later will be subway car running with a crowd, then people screaming, crash, and then silence).
- Fade in to subway car that is empty. Doors are closed. The connecting door between trains is open. Strange sound is playing in further away to encourage you to move forward towards open door.
- You can then discover one subway door connecting to the platform area is already open, and has a phone on the ground playing something strange.
- Walking over the phone makes it disappear (you pick it up) and it plays a human voice talking to you.
- This takes you out into subway platforms where you can walk around and discover more objects. Slightly more open ended here. The further you go, the stranger the objects get.
- You discover one object that plays and makes the screen fade to white. Ambiguous ending.
The goal of this structure is to give the framework for me to figure out what the content of the audio will be. I want to have the level design and mechanics fairly fully implemented before I think too much about the content you encounter on the journey.