Get into Gaming

Get into gaming is happening soon!

IT is an event taking place in Leeds on the 12th June this year.

The event should be a good place for me to chat to other likeminded individuals and get some feedback on my promotional material i.e. business cards.

Full detaisl of the event are here

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Daily Script

www.dailyscript.com 

Daily Script is a website that offers movie and tv scripts from famous and well-known productions.

I first came across it after having the talk with Susan Everett who said that to learn how to write scripts you need to read them. So I came over to this site which offers them for free online.

Another good site to find scripts on is the BBC Writers room that has scripts from the BBC productions.

One Game a Month

http://www.onegameamonth.com/

One Game a Month is a website that features the challenge of making a game every month. It currently has 5519 users and 3309 games. All the guidance you get is an optional theme for the game, no pressure, no commitment, just the pure want to produce the game in the space of a month.

I have yet to look into the specifics of the site, but they do have audio files of each months theme back-dated, so this could be a good place to get some ideas for my own version of the challenge.

The site also features various resources and advice sections that could come in handy.

Personal Statement

‘My passion lies within interactive media, anything that requires a sense of immersion and connection between a viewer and an artefact. The main focus of my studies and ambitions lies within a prominent area of the interactive industry, videogames. This medium is a truly immersive experience for the player, as they encounter lavish and exciting worlds, meet interesting characters and in some cases develop experiences that relate and reflect their reality. Within this medium I am a writer, a crafter of stories, in which my focus is on all aspects of immersion within the concept. In other words it’s not just a simple task of adding dialogue and in-game text. I enjoy the creativity of videogames in terms of developing a functioning narrative that will appeal and entice and in turn adds value and player-connectivity. To bring the concept to life, collaborative work is often key, in which I work with a group of creatives to develop and test a games immersive values. The experience gained from working as a collective has allowed me to understand more in-depth about the technical specifics of games design. This knowledge allows me to adapt new projects with the confidence that they are going to involve an efficient yet still creative workflow.’

The above is my positioning statement that I wrote for the yearbook. I found the task of writing it very difficult as I have consistently struggled with where I fit in the industry. I think the statement sums up where I am and where I would like to be.

I am glad that I have done it because I have been able to utilise it on my website and other places to detail what I am about and what I do as a creative.

Social Media Presence

Throughout the year I have been slowly making my online presence known. So far I have added twitter, linkedin, tumblr, vimeo and youtube to my online empire!

Although I have not been fully attentive to some of these sites. For instance I started on vimeo and youtube paying full attention to them but as I have started specialising I have slowly left these sites as I havent had anything to put on them. I may in the future however so it is still relevant to keep the login details.

Twitter – https://twitter.com/ZoeLimbert

Linkedin – http://www.linkedin.com/pub/zoe-limbert/65/aa9/85a

Tumblr – http://zlimbert.tumblr.com/

In regards to my tumblr account, I set this up to link to my website, it offers a tumblr feed and one of the main pieces of advice was to include a blog on your website to charter current affairs.

AS part of my branding I have also got a logo and style of minimalist design that features across all my online media. The logo has been great for this as it offers consistency across all platforms. I just need to figure out how to incorporate it into my actual website!!

My next moves will be to find a media site or forum that specialises in written work!

GaMaYo

GaMaYo is a blog site that offers up a job page, general info about the industry around Yorkshire and a facebook group eclusive to published game makers. It is definately something I need to look into later down the line, that is once I have a link to a game that is live so that I can join the group.

GDD, Ipads as a format.

So, for the Game Republic event – competition and networking – I wanted a better way to show the GDD, instead of it being print based. At first my initial idea was to have it set up on a screen where you could see the GDD digitally. This was to engage the person a bit more and digital format tend to fit better alongside a video game as opposed to print. Mainly because print is perceived as more traditional and games are all about advancing technology.

After some deliberation I though it would be nice to have the GDD on an Ipad, this way the viewer can use the touch functionality to turn the pages creating a more immersive experience into the concept.

I am currently still testing the format and ability to do this, but my tests and experiments with InDesign so far are going well. It is easy to create a  document for Ipad use within the programme, so all I really need to do is transfer the content over to the indesign document. I also would like to add a background image that fits the theme of the game possibly uses the same or a similar texture to that of the game logo, just so the digital book looks more like a game info pack as opposed to a plain white background that makes the document look very formal and less interesting!

Who am I?

I am trying to figure out how I want to be perceived by other creatives and clients alike. So I have been looking back over my body of work from the past three years and also re-read my personal statement for the yearbook. From these it has become clear that I am into these areas:

  • creative writing
  • games design
  • conceptualization
  • idea creation

So after much playing with words I have decided to brand myself as:

Zoe Limbert: Creative Writer, Designer, Concept Developer.

With the idea of interactive media as an underlying theme so as not to become too specialised. Although this is mentioned within my about me statement, so it isn’t a secret!!

I’m glad I am finally content with a title for myself as this is something that I have been struggling with for a long time.

Under Construction

I am currently constructing my website using the hosting site Wix. IT is going well, as the site is easy to use and understand. I so far have been putting my research to the test and successfully made three of the pages of my site.

Here are a few images of the progress so far, sadly I cannot link the site yet as it isn’t ‘live’.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

As you can see I have taken a very minimalistic approach that follows the same colour scheme as this blog. I decided to stay minimal as I think it makes the information given more easier to digest instead of the viewer being distracted by endless images and asymmetry. Although saying this I have used some asymmetrical sections to utilise the space I had to play with.

For the font I have used the font Neou that I acquired on dafont.com, I choose this one as it is the same font used on my Business cards and it is simple, clean and crisp.

I have been trying to keep the site minimal and clean but with sufficient information about myself.

I also utilised my personal statement for the yearbook on my About me page.

My only concern with doing this all myself is that it is taking a long time due to my inexperience with web design and efficiency. Although it is very interesting and a really nice achievement to say I did it myself.

My next step with it is to get my images uploaded and in the right place. I also need to consider taking some writing excerpts and placing them online. Possibly even record the use of the iPad for game republic and promote my knowledge of that aswell.

My domain is http://www.zoelimbert.com check me out when I’m live in the next couple of weeks!!

Business Cards and Logo Designs

As I am not very good with graphic design I have asked a friend to help out with the designs for my logo and business cards. The first port of call was creating a logo that I could use across all branding fronts.

logo designs logo ideasI began with these, there are some initial designs for the original yoyo and crayons that I produced then some for my amended logo, and brand.

These started as the letters ZOE fitted into the space. After some thought this design developed as you can see into being focussed on the initials ZL. It also incorporated a lighter shade of grey for the circle so that the text stands out from it.

Below is the final design for my logo.Sticking tot he theme of minimalism.

logoFrom this I have created a variation including colour that will be used for digital purposes. Whereas the grayscale version is designed for the printed business cards.

logo for web

From this I have developed a one-off business card aswell seen here:

business card planTop image is the front, bottom image is the back of the card.

This is a simple idea of a business card that I would like to have, I am going to pass this onto my graphic designer friend who will be in charge of refining the idea and design.

Ideally what I want is to have a two-tone scheme for the business card that is very minimal. This will then be screen printed down at Vernon Street in batch on some very nice card. The card I want is similar to watercolor paper in texture so it feels slightly bumpy in your hand, and is off white in colour.

I think these screen printed cards will be used for both game republic and the end of year show as they are a more personal approach to the business card, whereas in the future, when I don’t have access to the printing studio, I will probably go for online sites that offer business card printing.

 

Some interesting opportunities I have found and am pursuing

Lionhead studios Internships – http://lionhead.com/internships/

This site offers internships every now and again, nothing for myself at the moment but it is work a look out.

Crytek internships

These offer internships to people who have finished uni, so I shall be contacting them in the next couple of months.

Sumo Digital Job page

There are a few jobs open at Sumo currently. Definitely worth an email.

Red Kite Games

This studio has an open email that you can send your CV and covering letter to. So no job posting up on the site but still it might lead to something.

Volunteer cast and crew for The Narnia Experience

Found this one on Art jobs, it is an event to be held later this year, that is looking for a variety of individuals to take part in the show. I’m definitely applying for this even though it is a voluntary project. It does look like a good experience and something memorable and unique to be involved in.

Plan for Game republic

Myself, Jade and Freddie had a talk the other day about how to display our work for the game republic graduate showcase.

We decided that we would split the space between the three of us, with the main focus on the screen in the center of the table, which will have the levels on display. The wall space is split equally. We decided to have a banner running along the top to draw people to the stall. Below this there will be Freddies environment breakdowns, Jade’s character compilation and a brief text sheet that summarises the game from myself.

I will also be contributing some leaflets that double up as promotional material for the three of us. I briefly explained the initial idea for these in my FMP project but they have changed drastically since then. Instead of being about the actual game elements, they will solely focus on the three team members and feature each of our bios as well as a nice piece of artwork. Alongside this I will have the GDD on an Ipad.

I have been in talks with Jade who will be producing a leather-bound design portfolio that will feature character development work.

Writers Digest Article on websites.

Writer’s Digest Article: The anatomy of a writers website.

The link above will take you to a very nice article all about the ins and outs of a writers website. IT goes into detail about how relevant it is to the promotion of your work and why exactly you need to have a website in the industry.

The article features a list of essentials for a writers website, I have listed them below with a little bit of info and my view on each section.

  1. All about you – this section needs to highlight info about you on a personal and professional level.
  2. Contact Info – scream it loud and clear, in fact some of the sites that I am using as inspiration use social media icons on multiple pages as well as a separate contact page.
  3. A picture of you – this gives a person behind all the info – makes it easier for publishers and potential clients to relate to you.
  4. A press page – if you are selling a book a press page is a must.
  5. Testimonials – Testimonials offer credit to your work.
  6. Samples of your work – even clips and edits from longer pieces of work can offer an insight to clients at what your standard of work is. For this downloadable clips is best, instead of links to other sites. I reckon the best approach is using the online abode pdf reader.
  7. Buying – if your selling a book make sure there is a link to buy it on your website!
  8. Personality – make sure you let your personality show on your site.

Networking Workshop

Today we had a networking session that had a focus on the upcoming Game Republic networking event. The session featured how to make networking work for you and it had a practically led approach where we were encouraged to stand up and talk about ourselves in front of each other.

I feel like the session was helpful as I have been worrying about Game Republic and some pointers from the session really made sense; even though some of them were obvious, I’m actually shocked I didn’t think of them myself!

Here are my notes:

To get the most out of a networking event be SMART – specific, measurable,achievable, realistic, time bound.

A key-note it to always go to an event prepared. read up on the companies that will be there so that you don’t waste the opportunity of meeting the individual or company in person by asking them something you could find out on their website!

Do not openly criticise someone, as you never know who you may be working with in the future. By staying friendly with everybody, you have more options to make lasting relationships to people.

Go to an event with a few or one target that you definitely must talk to. This could be someone who you admire or otherwise simply would like a chat from. If you aim to talk to them, and achieve it you will leave the event feeling better that you didn’t waste the opportunity.

Think about the question that you want to ask the exhibitors. Plan them so that they sound professional and well thought out.

After the event, follow-up leads in days rather than weeks and keep the connections active.

 

Art Mirrors Life, Edge Article.

Found in Edge 252, April 2013, Page 18.

The Game of Life. An article exploring the reasons behind why indie developers seem to be finding creative inspiration in their personal experiences.

The article begins with an introduction to David S Gallant’s game I Get This Call Every Day. A game in which the player takes on the role of a call center assistant tasked with a snarky customer who wants to change their address.

The article confronts the idea of play and why the majority of gamers believe that a game needs to be simply fun. It states that

“Games ability to inspire empathy should make them a prime target for autobiographical scenarios…but […] the majority of players expect all games to be ‘fun’ in a rather narrow, frivolous sense.”

This shows a sense of obscurity within the games industry that subjugate’s and out rules an area that has been starkly neglected or simply not considered…yet!

Following on from my research for my dissertation, one point was clear within all games and their respective players: A player needs to feel connected to the concept of the game. They need to feel involved and a sense of understanding and focus, because this is what keeps them immersed. From looking at the comments that Gallant’s makes within this article, it has become clear that games are respective of reality to a high degree, and if we cannot explore these important albeit personal issues within the medium of games as an art form then that reflects a big gap in the industry.

The article also mentions the work of Anna Anthropy, the creator of Dys4ia, an explorative game that shares her experiences of gender reassignment. It expresses emotional and physical complexities but it does not simply tell a story, it lets the player interact and gain an understanding of Anthropy’s experience.

If anything I believe that this is what makes video games such an important medium, and I do think that they should be utilised more for issues that are often left on the backseat. Saying this Anthropy gives a good quote to summarise:

“There’ll be a day when they realise people are more interested in meaningful human stories than military-fantasies for game-literate manbros….It won’t be a victory; that’s not the goal. The goal is to empower everyone to be able to tell their stories without depending on a big publisher to fund them.”

I like this quote. It is all about taking the power and focus off of the money that comes from games and shifting it to the narratives and personality that can be inscribed into a games existence. Ultimately it is about sharing stories, which again ties into my dissertation!

As a professional hoping to get into the industry, finding this article has not only opening my eyes but it has also made me feel more content knowing that there are professionals out their that are focused on the same goals as me. It is nice to know that there are industry professionals that believe that if money rules the gaming world all it will produce are re-representations of the same thing over and over again.

I know that trying to overthrow the power of money will never ever work and challenging it at its root won’t either but as Mahatma Ghandi once said:

“It’s the action, not the fruit of the action, that’s important. You have to do the right thing. It may not be in your power, may not be in your time, that there’ll be any fruit. But that doesn’t mean you stop doing the right thing. You may never know what results come from your action. But if you do nothing, there will be no result.”

Rightly I would much rather be content in the work that I produce than conform to the orders of people controlled by money.

Writing a CV

It has come to the time where I need to sit down and begin writing my professional CV. Due to the nature of my work I am going to focus on a writers CV as that is what I do! Plus if I say writing I have the most projects and experience within this area so win, win!

To help me out I did a little google search to find some advice on the subject matter. Specifically I wanted to know what to include on the CV and how to do it professionally as a writer would.

I found this little gem on Band2Write.com: http://www.bang2write.com/2012/02/putting-together-writers-cvresume.html

It offers up info on what to put on your CV and why. So for instance a good section to have is the projects section, as even if the projects didn’t take off or get published, if you did work on it, it still exists and can display valuable information of your ability to write, either specifically or in my case quite versatile when it comes to genre!

 

Professional websites

A web presence is a very important factor in getting noticed in the creative industries. IT also offers up additional info for prospective clients and collaborators whom can easily network with you online. I guess in a way a website acts as a hub for all other social media areas that you are involved in.

I have been doing some research into what I could get out of a website, while I start planning my design for my own venture into web design. I am however in a tough place as I would like to balance a variety of creative fields on my website. Not only writing, but games design and visual work aswell. So my reasearch has been into various professionals that specialise and offer other fields aswell.

On the writing front I have found these examples:

http://www.courtneyawalsh.com/about.html

  •   This si the site of a professional writer whom offers fictional and journalism writing.
  • The site itself is very focussed on the writing and professional appearance of itself. This does put me off a bit I think I would prefer to express my personality through my website a bit more instead of it just saying I am a writer!
  • Good things about this site are the inclusion of the blog and contact info which is important for the public to see what you are up to on a more daily basis – this is also why I need to link in my twitter account and get a more personal presence on there.

http://www.isabelallende.com/

  • This is site utilises the minimalistic approach to web design
  • It has separate sections for each of the authors specialist areas.
  • A note to make is that on her contacts page she has a section of text that states what she doesn’t do. This offers the viewer the knowledge of parts of the industry and remedial tasks that she does not have time for. I don’t need one of these immediately but if the time were to come that I do have to limit my time this section would be useful.

http://www.rachael-king.com/

  • This site offers a more detailed look in which it has a scrapbook feel to it.
  • I think the design makes it seem personal but it also distracts from the actual work.
  • The scrapbook feel also is a nice way to display the conceptualization of an idea, which is a key part to my work.

On a  game design front:

http://www.jamiemartindesign.co.uk/

  • This site is sleek like the artists designs. – it reflects his art style and work.
  • It is very well-connected aswell

http://janemcgonigal.com/

  • features a simple three column design
  • it is very busy, full of info and events that the designer is part of
  • her book has a link where you can download it from amazon – definitely important for any future written work I do.

What I have learnt:

  1. I need to show my personality through my website
  2. It needs to be well-connected to my online presence
  3. For written work, it is good to have an example available for download
  4. Writing exercises are also useful, possibly just on the tumblr feed though.
  5. Having various sections of a website isn’t a bad thing but it can take a long time to put together, as it features a lot of content.

Game Republic Student Showcase

Game Republic Student Showcase is a competition and networking event supported by various game companies that are part of the Game Republic group. The student showcase is a chance for graduates to display their current work to a band of games companies some of which will judge the competition.

This year the event is to be held at our college Leeds college of Art on the 30th May. So far I do not have all the details of the event but a few companies have been outlined to be coming so I will definitely be researching them. I also need to get myself in order for business cards, and other promotional material for the networking event.

For the competition our team, consisting of myself, Freddie and Jade will be competing in all categories barring the ‘game technology’ one. It is a great opportunity for our work to get seen, get feedback, advice and general contact info for the future!

Susan Everett talk.

Susan Everett, artists talk. 25 April 2013.

  • Multi-disciplinary, writer, director, novelist, scriptwriter.
  • Along side creative work, she also teaches and has acted as a script editor.
  • Competitions allowed her to get noticed and pick up an agent for her illustration work. 
  • Big part of becoming successful in your field is to know and understand your field.
  • Started screenwriting on an MA, realised that she had found a field that allowed her to create stories that also have visuals.
  • Short story competition allowed her to find a writing agent quickly, due to positive press.
  • Script editing helped with understanding how to work with other writers.
  • In film and tv, you are brought in as a writer but often you dont know how long the project will last. Sometimes, projects get dropped without reason.
  • Find what it is that keeps you personally going because you put your heart and soul into a script or character then someone will destroy it or change things completely.
  • Use visual work, i.e. short films that you work on to showcase your work.
  • Research is important. She has researched the courts for police thriller’s. The more info you can find out, the better you write. Contact people wh know about the subject of your writing. Power of research is that you find something you don’t expect.

Script editing – aids the writer through the whole process, offers advice and sometimes makes changes.

The BIBLE exists within TV and film as well for franchises. Doctor Who for instance will have a bible that contains all characters past scenes etc. Any new writer working on it will have the bible to cross reference. Then a more experienced writer will check that the new writer is following a similar format to previous work.

JOBS WITHIN TV:

  • -Story liner
  • -Editor

Short Film – Mother, Mine.

Feature film went through 5 drafts, Short film went through 6 drafts.

  • Started as a short story, but it lacked definition.
  • Found a playwright competition, entered that and the play got made.
  • The director of the play, liked the idea of a daughter sending tapes out to their mother.
  • She got an offer from a production company for the script.
  • It fell through and sat waiting.
  • She only went back to it when she was offered to make any original film by her for the film council.

What drives stories is making the characters want different things at different times.

In short films you can have scenes that leave it up to the audience to interpret. In feature the audience leaves feeling like they have fully understood it.

As a writer you have to be aware that you take ownership of a script and then a director will take it away and create a different vision of it.

AGENTS AND FREELANCING:

  • You need both an agent and to be able to network alone. 
  • Agents know what is going on in the business, they can tailor the script into the right hands, companies etc.
  • An agent can’t assure you will get work.
  • Treat agents as a network opportunity, they will have a massive list of clients and companies.

To get better at writing scripts, read them:

BBC writers room

http://www.dailyscript.com/

What to do:

  • ENTER EVERY COMPETITION YOU CAN.
  • develop your characters to the extreme.
  • lots of thinking, and making notes before your commit to writing.
  • have iterations of characters.
  • work out your strengths.
  • make sure I understand format, as this is really important.
  • a verdict will be made on a script by the 10th page.

Branding

I have been considering what I would like to be known as within my creative field. As so far I have been under the alias of Yoyos and Crayons, a name that came as a nikname a long time ago. I do like this alias but as an individual professional, and especially within the field of writing I have found that most other professionals use their name as their brand. On further inspection this is down to the name being very personal and subconsciously it adds trust between the two parties. By knowing someones name you feel like you know them more closely than you most likely do.

So, after some though I decided to stick to my name, nice and simple.

These are some domain names I played around with:

limbert.com – which turned out to be dating website!

zlimbert.com – as seen in my tumblr name, this is a nice variation.

zoelimbert.com – this is the one I choose as I felt that it looks the nicest. It is easy to remember and it was available!

Advice on Writing

I have a rather useful list of quotes from famous writers detailing insights and tips which they believe makes you a better writer.

All of the quotes revolve around writing but what i find most interesting and useful is that they focus on not just the writing itself but the process of writing. Some offer advice about how to stay organised with notes while others state realties of draft-making; some even highlight the remedial tasks of simply setting aside a day for writing which then becomes your routine.

Here are a few insights that I found useful:

  • PDJames – “Don’t just plan to write – write.” The importance of breaking the first hurdle and actually ‘putting pen to paper is daunting but simple planning will not help you to develop your own style. I can definitely relate to this point, and I have found using some writing techniques has helped me to simply sit down and write without prior thinking, scenes from a hat is definitely good for this.
  • Zadie Smith – “Work on a computer that is disconnected from the internet.” This speaks for itself.
  • Kurt Vonnegut: On finding a subject… This quote focusses on the ability to put you own emotions into your writing. Vonnegut says that by finding a subject that you are passionate about, you can then expand on the actuality of the fiction with your own concerns.
  • Bill Wasik: On the importance of having an outline. Main point is don’t stray from your outline, which as I am now venturing into the longer more detailed narratives, this is relevant to myself. I have found on my FMP that I do stick to my outline but I did float about a bit with the actual outline. It’s nice to think that the outline is perfect before you continue on but I did float about a lot with FMP narrative, so I think I need to focus my agenda a tad more in future.
  • Another point highlighted was that writing is a profession so you should give yourself a minimum word count everyday and stick to it. I think I am on my way to this as I have started my weekly word count with the scenes from a hat task. I guess writing everyday will be something that develops over time.

The list can be found here: 25 Insights on Becoming a Better Writer by Jocelyn K. Glei

BAF Game, Part 2

Faceware Technologies – David Bennett

Overview: Bennett describes the work of Faceware, his career and work on several hollywood blockbusters.

Relevance: Personally this talk wasnt really my kind of thing, it was interesting to find out this side of the industry and how Faceware was working with the games industry. In general it was a pretty trivial talk for me.

Valve – Christine Phelan

Overview: Phelan talks about career from university to her current position at Valve.

Key notes:

  • critical thinking is key, know other disciplines
  • for the showreel: make it self-explanatory, relevant to chosen industry, short and to the point and compare to professional work
  • “any experience is good as long as it is relevant”
  • keep it simple
  • look at: gamasutra.com, gamedevmap.com and glassdoor.com

Relevance: Overall this talk was very informative and offered up some good info about the industry. Similar to Zawada’s talk Phelan compared the difference in companies and dev teams, stating that you need to research any company you apply to find out their work ethics and studio environment. This can be seen when she compared the structure at LucasArts to Valve. LucasArts  from her experience was a top-down structure, where the people at the top handled the creative processes and decisions. Whereas Valve has a more organic structure, which has no set managers or producers, everyone decides where to best spend their time and on which projects they would like to work. Valve sounds like a dream to me!  Also Phelan had some good pointers on portfolios and showreels, which she had learnt from her experiences.

Amanita Design – Jaromir Plachy and Peter Stehlik

Overview: This was a much more visual talk than the rest, the two developers gave a demo of their new game Botanicula.The game is the creative child of artist Plachy and is a point and click game.

I really enjoyed this talk, I felt that it was interesting to listen to the artist behind the concept talking about his choices, limitations and style. Here is my report on the game demo and talk.

Botanicula is a point and click game that takes place in a single tree. The player takes control of a set of 5 protagonists who need to work together and separately to restore health to the tree which has been infested with parasites.

A key point that stuck out about Botanicula is the colour palette and visual style of the game. It features washed out colours on a simple design, this works well with the point and click game, as it is easy to manipulate the characters and utilise the visuals to understand the gameplay. The game itself looks very playful and in some ways comical and lighthearted. For instance in the third level you visit a town in which the task is to visit the 17 houses and find chickens by solving various puzzles. The whole design process has taken 3 years to completion.Plachy also stated that the design was based on inspiration from traditional artists, surrealism, poetry, authors and grotesque movies – all over the place really. One important thing was Plachy’s approach to the level design as at first he focused on the aesthetics and at a later date figured out the puzzles.

TT Games – David Brown, Philip Gray and Bill Martin.

Overview: A look at TT Games the masterminds behind the LEGO movie tie-in games. The talk detailed the challenges the team faced whilst changing between silent cut scenes and scripted cut scenes.

Key Notes:

  • the cut scenes need to be concise and clear
  • the storyboards for the Lego games were loose, quick drawings that were easy to change if needed
  • “non of it is about nice drawings, just getting the point across”
  • on the latest projects they have started doing pre-vis in Maya, this is so that they hit problems as they go – this is more efficient.

I found this talk interesting but I don’t think any specifics were that relevant to myself.

Bioware – Neil Thompson

“Games are a medium, computers are just an expensive brush” – sums up the whole talk. This was a very informative talk that was very similar to the Bethesda Studios talk. It mainly was about finding inspiration from a range of sources and why this is important.

BAF Game, Part 1

So it turned out that BAF game was really good this year, it had a wide range of speakers with a diverse topic range. For myself personally I think that it was very useful but some of the content was aimed at a younger audience that was interested in the games industry but possibly not practicing it. These sections for myself were simply reiterating knowledge that I have already discovered, but the positive is that professionals in the industry follow a similar process to what I am doing.

BAF Game festival took place over two days, the first being Tuesday 13th November 2012. Following are my notes on several speakers at the event.

Oddworld Inhabitants – Stewart Gilray

General info: described how JAW(Just Add Water), were resurrecting the Oddworld brand. How they needed to bring the game into the digital sales world and present technology.

Key relevance for me: The main part that came out of this talk was the idea that games are moving into a more digital world. Gilray predicted that the industry will eventually move fully into the digital sales region and only triple A games will stay as retail. How this will affect the future games industry is yet to be certified but for myself I guess that I need to be aware of this possible shift and tailor my skills around it.

CD Projekt Red – Tomek Zawada, lead animator.

General: A comparative look between the film industry and the games industry, specifically looking at an animators role. The talk was very informative and gave a lot of advice on which industry suits which type of animator, but I feel that it was quite vague information and so I didn’t actually get that much out of it.

Key relevance to me: One thing that does stick in my mind from Zawada is that he pointed out that one of the most important things is to find a company that suits your style of work. To outline this he described the difference between the type of animation work you would get working on a FPS to a RPG. For instance on a FPs the animation are restricted to be realistic renditions of combat whereas on an RPG that has a more fantasy role, you will find probably more creatures like orcs, ogres etc that need to be animated. Also the defining difference between these are that an RPG features a lot more character based animations, mannerisms etc as the RPG often has an open-world environment. I know this advice doesn’t directly apply to my line of practice but it is something to consider. How would my workflow be affected by differing companies and/or genres?

Overall Zawada was flying the RPG flag, as he was quite biased to the film industry and other genres in the games world. His reason for this choice was due to his experience in the industry and he was favouring RPG’s as he described them as being more creative and less restrictive. Another key note was that Zawada states that you don’t need to work in a specific department to have roles in it. He mentioned that as an animator he has some connection to the story of a game as the characters mannerisms effect the narrative.

Nyamyam – Jennifer Schneidereit and Philip Tossell.

General: This talk focused on Nyamyam as an independent developer dedicated to creating beautifully crafted games. The two talkers went into detail about how they decided to set up their own indie company as a self-funded project to allow themselves to create self-expressive games. Tengami was the featured game from Nyamyam, which in total will have 2 and half years from start to completion.

Key notes:

  • Tengami is a an adventure game where the pc is a character in a pop up book.
  • Japanese aesthetics were a personal choice, but they embraced this and decided to stick to a traditional style.
  • colour semiotics were extremely important.

Relevance to me: The main thing that has come out of this talk is the fact that the indie game scene allows for self-expression. Both talkers spoke about how the move from the bigger games companies to the indie dev team had allowed them to become more in control of the game’s development and how it would play. I think for my aspirations this is something that I need to consider as currently I have control over my brief and can be self-expressive, but if I moved into the industry would I be ok designing someones elses idea?

Sony Entertainment – Joel Smith

General: Smith goes through the process of creating Wonderbook: Book of Spells, with insight into the collaboration with JK Rowling and how to achieve creative goals.

Key notes:

  • The teams creative goals were: to be authentic, to achieve a magical book i.e. it comes to life, a full experience between the player/character and that everything on-screen comes from the book.
  • bringing the book to life theme fitted the player centralised gameplay.
  • the main design feature was that the environments were realistic but they all had a slightly distorted nature.
  • maintain the design throughout the game, the spell soundsheets contained the colour palettes aswell.

Relevance: Smith ended the speech with what he considered the key parts of conceptualising a game:

  1. Research
  2. Establish visual style as early as possible and stick to it
  3. Communicate style
  4. Always keep original goals in mind

Bethesda Game Studios – Lucas Hardi

General: Hardi talked about how to create visual style within a game. He went through a few general pointers that all artists should abide by, like finding inspiration from the outside world, looking towards other medias instead of just games for inspiration and utilising what these other mediums have to offer.

Key notes:

  • style helps to create immersion
  • gameplay ans art style need to coexist

In term of inspiration:

  • film and photography are good for cinematography and replicating the real world
  • 3D animation is good to take note of rendering issues
  • Illustration allows you to understand composition and the players viewpoints, alongside understanding the playable space

Relevance to me: I feel like I didn’t take much away from this talk as it was simply looking at where an artist should find inspiration which I have continually practiced since I was taught it during A Level. I guess it reiterated some base values of art style for me which was useful for my practice.

Games Designer Job info

To get an insight into the average salary in the games industry currently I have done an extensive search over the internet to try to find some useful information.

What I finally found was the game careers guide websites annual salary survey results from 2012. The survey is very thorough and gives details of annual wage based on how many years spent in the industry, average wage for each gender, percentage of any benefits and added income. So, some things that I have found, for an entry-level game designer the annual wage is $60, 240 in Canada and $38, 281 in Europe with an overall average of $50, 375. The survey also has a section focusing on layoffs in the industry, which is on the decline. Also it features a section at the end that has direct comments from the survey, these are split into good and bad points made by current industry workers. Some of the comments are really informative, as they offer up a personal anonymous view of the industry and the lifestyle that it creates.

The survey can be viewed here.

Ofcourse the above info is useful to some degree but for my personal future plans I don’t see myself moving abroad straight after finishing this degree so what is the current salary in the UK like? On creativepool.co.uk it states that the salary ranges from £19000 to £55000 anually, the top end of this being a lead designer.

Ok so I have found some useful info on how much money is on offer in the game designer route, but getting into that route is going to be tricky. Most advice sites such as skillset, creativepool and blitz all state that industry experience is essential alongside a developed portfolio that includes completed games and examples of design documents. So, logic states that I need to find either an internship or apprenticeship and crack on with my practical development in uni.

Creative Skillset Website

Creative Skillset website offers up general info, skills, training, industry accredited courses, news, and career advice for a variety of creative industries. Why it is useful to me is that it has a vast amount of info on the Games Industry.

It has an archive of media that offers up useful help and guidance to anyone looking to find a career in the Games industry, it also has a blog that gives up to date news on the progression of the industry.

One of the other things that is useful is that it gives info on industry accredited courses, which although I am near the completion of the Ba here it is always useful looking at a Masters course.

Another interesting find off of this site is this little image:

This shows a percentage of where the games industry is centered in the UK. Yorkshire and the Humber 3% not bad considering I know that gamerepublic which is just for Yorkshire/Northern England has over 30 companies. So the UK isn’t looking bad for game development teams at the moment.

The site also offers up a lengthy job description of Game Designer which I can cross reference with the one I found on Blitz Academy to get a cohesive outlook on what I need to do etc.

It also offers info on how to find a job within Games and where you fit in the bigger picture. So generally this site is a good point of reference for me. As it goes into a lot of detail and explains things clearly as well.

Leeds Writers Circle

Leeds Writers Circle is a local organisation that meets up regularly around every 2 weeks on a Monday evening to showcase local writers work and general creative criticism.

A few good things that they offer are:

  • feedback on work
  • professional manuscript evenings
  • story competitions
  • workshops with professional writers

To join the circle it is a subscription fee of just £12 for the year, and then just £2 for any session/meeting. To be fair this ain’t bad, if I was to go to one session a month over the 12 months it would be costing £3 a session….pretty good. I guess I need to head over to one and see if it worth the time and money.

The group meets at the Carraigeworks which also is the home to a few other leeds societies. These include:

  • Leeds Art Centre
  • Leeds Amateur Operatic Society
  • Leeds Art Theatre

It would be interesting to find out if there are any crossover between these societies, as this could offer up some good creative feedback, or even opportunities.

The services that the Leeds Writers Circle offers is relevant to my ongoing interest in narrative, it would offer up a source of feedback for any writing work that I do and it would be good to see how broad a knowledge and feedback I would get from the other attendees.

How to kick-start your career in university.

Found this on the Guardian’s career blog. It has some useful info on how to start-up your career whilst you are still at university.

One thing that has appeared from this site is that any student who is looking to go straight into work after they graduate, they need to be applying as soon as possible. In some cases they even recommend applying in October for the following year. This of course depends on the type of company you are applying to. If it is a company that is offering a big scheme in which they will need more staff over the course f a long period or with a specific start date in the future then you need to apply early. If the position that you are applying for is a one-off job in which the company is replacing someone who has left or they are looking for more staff in general. Then in this case they will probably want someone who can start asap.

Another interesting pointer is that you don’t always need to think that you are going out to get a job straight after you graduate. It is an appealing thought but it is not necessarily the correct thought process. Some people prefer to go with the flow, grasp at any opportunities that arise and see what happens. I think this is definitely my approach to things. Even though it would be nice to have the security of a job at the end of this course, it isn’t necessary I can always work part-time and continue developing my portfolio as I go, and taking any opportunities that arise or even entering competitions etc.

A good thing that has come out of this blog post and something that I am doing right according to it, is staying up to date with my chosen area. I literally live out of the EDGE journal and online site, plus I use my google reader account purely for game/industry related feeds that I check as a morning procrastination session before I begin working.

Some other useful info that i should follow-up:

  • get on linkedin
  • follow the followers on twitter, find people who post useful info and if you post useful info yourself,a follower of you may be a potential employer.

Internships in the Creative Industries

Got pointed in the direction of a careers blog on the Gaurdian website that offers up a few useful posts. One of those being the subject of my current post – What graduates need to know about internships in the creative industries.

LINK: http://careers.guardian.co.uk/careers-blog/internships-work-experience-creative-industries

Key points:

  • outline of what an internship is
  • paid/unpaid internships
  • Bectu’s creative toolkit

“Internships should be enjoyable, particularly if you decide to follow a career for reasons of enjoyment and a genuine desire to work in the arts.”

Overall the blog post gives useful information on the subject of internships.

What are the differences between paid and unpaid internships?

  • Both unpaid and paid internships have advantages and disadvantages. Unpaid internships should be no longer than 4 weeks, with sufficient training from the employer. There should also be flexible hours and cover for travel expenses. It is an opportunity designed to give the participant valuable experience in duties that are relevant and that they are happy to undertake.
  • Paid internships on the other hand, generally are 4 weeks or more, and they involve specific working hours, or specific working duties. The participant should be paid minimum wage at least.

Some useful resources from the blog are:

  • Prospects is a website that has a section that focusses on the different types of work experience. These include internships, work experience, vacation work, part-time and casual work, work shadowing and volunteering.
  • Pay and Work Rights Helpline this offers info on national minimum wage laws.
  • National Minimum Wage this site tells you if you are entitled to minimum wage.

Hints and Tips section:

The main thing that has come out of this hints section is that you need to be careful when looking for an internship. Be claer on what you want the internship for and what you are going to get out of it. Find out as much info as you can about the industry position you want to get.

 

Blitz Academy

Blitz Academy is a careers guidance website tailored to the video games industry. It offers up advice, information and support on the industry within a wide range of specialist areas. This is one of its defining features as it offers information on a varying range of the specialist areas within video games; ranging from Art to Management, this website has in depth info on all the types of job roles imaginable in the industry. This is interesting for me as it will give me a better understanding of where I would fit within a games dev team.

Some of the services that Blitz Academy provide are:

  • Information on how to get your desired job
  • Careers advice
  • Information on game related courses
  • Open days for said courses
  • insights to resourceful books, websites, industry news, game dev sites and journals.

Simply for the information that i will receive from this I think that I need to spend a day simply looking over all the info collated on blitz Academy and figure out exactly how to get into the industry.

Ref – Church Wales

Some more photos that have come in handy for the brief. This selection is of photos of a church  near Beaumaris, Anglesey, Wales.

These have come in handy for the area around the shrine within my concept.

Defining the project

AS I have been cracking on with my project I have found that now I have begun my visual practical work that I have hit a brick wall. What type of storyboard am I producing? This is something that I did not outline within my statement of intent and now I am struggling because of it.

SB rough gameplay asylum startOne thing that I have found interesting but too difficult to string a decent concise story out of is Gameplay storyboards. I enjoyed the process of developing these tests like the one to the left and playing around with the idea of how the gameplay would begin. One of the limiting parts of this was the idea of everything being seen through the player characters eyes in first person. For me this was the most challenging part as I struggled with the shot progression, and a lot of the time composition was ignored as you had to take into account that the player could see everything and move about everywhere, looking at things from different angles. A part that I did like was the creation of level progression, and the consideration of how you could lead the player through an environment.

Overall my negative and positive points were too extreme so I tried out a different type of SB Asylum startstoryboard, cut scenes. I enjoyed this style of storyboard but I also found it similar to the gameplay one that it was limiting and hard to put a concise story together. This is simply because you miss big sections where it cuts off to gameplay, which for my concept of an interactive narrative a hell of a lot happens in the gameplay. So this didn’t really work out either.

I then turned my attention to conceptual storyboard like the one on the right hand side. These were extremely fun to do and very creative, as I was always thinking  about composition and player progression. Plus I didn’t feel restrained by shot limitations, whereas on the other two I had to conform to the HD 1920×1080 resolution. On the conceptual storyboard I drew whatever size I wanted it and didn’t really think about the consequences.

So By this point I have dabbled in three different styles of storyboard and found pro’s and con’s for each. My next move has been developed and decided due to the consideration of these pro’s and con’s. So to progress I will concentrate on a narrative storyboard that maintains a fixed frame size to support my animatic work. The bulk of the storyboard will charter the story progression through the level and focus on how and why Parker explores the terrain. The main body of the storyboard will showcase a conceptual take of the narrative, with consideration to cut scenes within the game and possible gameplay sections. Overall the storyboard should express visually how the story is an interactive form and how this transcribes to the narrative.

Character Ref – Michael Myers

Michael Myers is the main character and antagonist from Halloween, a horror film series spanning 34 years. The franchise contains 10 feature films all focusing on Micheal’s story.

Key refs:

  • The mask – it’s meaning, and the man behind it.
  • Slasher – to do or not to do?
  • Psychological background and upbringing of a serial killer.

“If a character has no face, his face is that mask.” – Rob Zombie

One of the key points of the inspiration for my indie practice from the halloween franchise is the use of the main character Micheal Myers. His mask and the idea of hidding his face is key to the horror/psychological side of his character. I found a documentary that describes the many masks of Myers, which offers up some useful info from the actors, director etc:

A key thing that popped up from this video is that the actor and director wanted to emphasise some form of character behind the mask. The initial utilisation of a mask in all mediums is effectively to create a barricade that shows no emotion, or a fixed set emotion. This theory could be linked back to Commedia dell’art. Within Halloween they effectively have allowed the character of Myers to become more than the initial concept of a ‘shape’. This is done through the use of shot composition and the actor’s ability to express emotions through simply his eyes. On a side note this technique of showing emotive values through simply the actor’s eyes reflects back to Les yeux sans visage(Eyes Without a Face).

Another intersting part is the section with the clown mask. I especially like the shot where the mask is slightly offset on the face, so that Myer’s eyes look jagged. I think this tiny offset to what we know as a typical, usual human face makes this even more scarier. This is one of the main reasons why on my design for Bubbles we have this distorted and unmirrored face. Especially to heighten the reasons as to why he may have wanted a mask in the first place; similar to Myers near the beggining of the film when he states that he wants the mask to ‘hide his uglyness’, to hide his face. The other key part about this lack of symettry is that when the mask is ofset it is harder to see the person’s eyes. This being a key point of my struggle with Bubbles’ development. I think that it is more beneficial to have the mask offset so that the player can hardly see his eyes, as this invokes a sense of unease and confucion within the viewer. Eyes are the key to human emotion, and if we can’t see someone’s eyes we find it harder to read them, and understand what is going on in their head. This relates to horror perfectly and it is showcased in loads of films. Imagine that you are beign chased by a villain, they corner you and you manage to grab a piece of scrap iron to use as a weapon. You can’t see their eyes, only a half illuminated mask, that is expressionless, is visible. What option would you choose: Fight for your life, Plead with them or Run? The lack of understanding of the villain makes it immpossible for the viewer to know what is the best option. By knowing more about them for instance we could say that the look in their eyes has some form of compassion, it isn’t just a ruthless killer, this means that the best option would be to plead with them.

A really good example of this is shown in Hostel 3 HERE. Warning extreme violence. On a complete side note, this is actually quite intersting to see how similar this is to the scene in Les yeux sans visage.Completely different in approach and style of horror; Hostel chose to show the gore, whereas Les yeux sans visage opted to hide the gore and allow the viewer to imagine what was happening.

Asylum Beach Inspiration/Reference

 

After settling on the beach as the start of my concept for the Asylum level design I looked back over some reference photos that I took during the summer break. I visited Anglesey, which has some really amazing coastlines and beaches. These photographs and even just my memories and jotted down notes of the holiday and its rugged unusual terrain really inspired the development of the coastal start to the level. I utilised the internet as well to refresh my memory on some of the unusual places that I visited one of which was Ynys Llanddwyn. It is an island that houses a very strange lava rock formation and two lighthouses. It is also situated on the coast of the massive forest; Newborough Forest that spans the entire coastline of a white sand beach.

Capture

My memory of this place is one of isolation, you are completely separated off from the rest of the world. On one side you have the ocean and on the other you have an intimidating forest. Especially because of the expanse and stretch of the beach at Newborough, even as you are walking along it you hardly see anybody else. It is a completely isolated place. This got me thinking about the layout of the beach and the idea that a forest backs on to the beach. If this is the case then as I said before the player only has one of two options, they either run along the coastline hoping to find something or they head inland through the forest. The instigation of the surrounding has already set the player on a certain path to follow, without any need of additional characters showing them the way. Plus the idea of isolation that is found on this particular shoreline is another interesting area to explore as the concept I am dealing with is interested in the horror genre and this feeds off of the idea of isolation.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ynys_Llanddwyn

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jasper

Narration Research

http://www.brocku.ca/english/courses/2F55/pt_of_view.php
The above link is a website that I found that started my research into narration. It offers up a useful insight into the various sections that need to be considered when constructing any form of narrative.

Form this I continued on my research with the book, Game Writing: Narrative Skills for Videogames.
Harvard reference: Batman, C, (2007), Game Writing: Narrative Skills for Videogames. Massachusetts, USA; Charles River Media.

Some useful things were found here
to get my narrative development started. One main section being the 3 main parts of game narrative, these are: immersion, reward and identification. If these are the key things to consider then I need a narrative that will incorporate these aspects. Another key theme is the idea of narrative experience, this is how the writer understands that the nature of a videogame allows the player to choose their own path. This experience is also contained by the writer as they strive to guide the player through the game world.
I think that my method so far has been incorporating these aspects subconsciously. Now I think about it the idea of narrative experience within my concept has been informed by my dissertation research in interactive stories. This has added to my development of the game narrative as one of the key parts of the genre of horror is how to invoke a sense of fear into the player. After my research into horror theory I found out that this happened within all moving image media by the use of set script pieces. For example within Dead Space, we see challenges that the player faces falling into this, as you walk upto a door, you see a person stood down the corridor, before you know it they walk away never to be seen again. This type of technique invokes fear because it makes the player question the reality of the game world.
Another key area within the book highlights the idea of narrative and techniques that games use to make the player stay aware of what is required of them. This is done through various ways, one of which is the use of internal monologue. In which the player character will remind themselves of what it is that needs to be done. Considering me narrative arc so far I am interested in utilizing this element of internal monologue and possibly showcasing it in my comic book version of the storyboard’s. This will allow me to fulfill the element of scriptwriting that accompanies the narrative.

Sound Consideration: The Last of Us

http://www.1up.com/previews/last-of-us-restraint-create-tension

Simply written up notes from the 1up.com cover story: The Last of Us Employs Phenomenal Restraint to Create Tension.

The Last of Us is an upcoming third-person survival action-adventure game set to be released in 2013. The setting of the game is a post-apocalyptic world, where the player character traverses a dilapidated city overrun with greenery. The overall soundtrack of the game was developed by Gustavo Santaolalla, an oscar winning composer, who is known for his emotional work. In terms of the game this is an important factor as the basis of the story is about a father-daughter like relationship between the two main characters.

Within the article it focusses on the sound design of The Last of Us, as it takes the familiar approach to a lack of sound, much used in the horror genre.

First off the article credits NAughty Dog’s previous endeavors: the Unchartered series, stating that the score for it was undoubtedly fitting the concept of an adventure game. Within The Last of Us they have used the technique much seen in the horror genre, lack of sound.

It delivers “a post-apocalyptic world that is nearly completely devoid of music altogether”.

This adds to the atmosphere of the environment, making the concept of a city devoid of life believable. Within the horror genre I have found out that this is used a lot, and it is often combated with a swell of music that signs the start of a fight. Within The Last of Us, they have stepped away from this cliché;

“Even when the action kicks in and Joel is forced to viciously murder an oncoming attacker, the game abstains from queuing a cliché “fight for your life” tune.”

The lack of music makes the minor sounds stand out, this invokes tension and describes the daily life that the characters face.

“That silence helped solidify the feeling of being completely alone in a strange, forgotten world.”

The game utilises sound design to make the player believe in the world. they are faced with a city devoid of life, so why would there be sound? I guess in away this could be compared to the sound design in the Fallout trilogy. Something to note is that it used general, obvious sounds to heighten the tension of the dramatic conflict scenes. i.e. Laboured breathing, creaking floorboards etc.

Another interesting thing from the article is the game’s depiction of violence.

“It’s far more difficult to listen to the game’s brutal violence than it is to watch. The sounds of Joel beating a man to death with a pipe are able to hauntingly replicate reality much stronger than modern technology visually represents the murder.”

This depiction is often shown with a sense of the morality, how would you react to having to  take another man’s life? Which refers back to one of the development teams inspirational references, The Road. I find the depiction of violence interesting, as not only does it inject morality but also it takes away the general game progression of: to get to the goal, we need to kill everyone in our way!!!!

Game Analysis: F.E.A.R.

F.E.A.R. is a psychological horror game series best known for it child antagonist Alma Wade. Here are my key notes: Game Analysis F.E.A.R

One of the main things that has informed me from looking at F.E.A.R. is how to pace the narrative. For instance the first game features a twist in which the primary threat turns out to be a family relation to the player character. The method of storytelling within F.E.A.R. looks very similar to that of Bioshock, in which the player is given little or no information at the start and then is dripped a little at a time. I think this method maintains interest in the story and keeps the player guessing.

The video below sums up pretty much how the scare tactics within F.E.A.R. work. Something that I find interesting is the use of combat-less enemies and projections. These are the enemies that appear briefly but require no weapon use from the player character; or even the player characters weapons are often useless against these. The idea for this type of enemy is to infect the player with the idea that even though they have the upper hand as they have a weapon, that not everything is affected by weaponry. It adds the aspect of caution to the player as they are aware that they are not invisible or in fact immortal.

Character creation – Parker, protagonist

“Characters need to be created with the needs of the narrative in mind.” – Chris Bateman.
When creating my character of Parker, I constantly kept in mind the fact that he was our protagonist and such he needed to be a character that the player would want to inhabit throughout the story. To achieve this I refined Parker’s character so that he would be more accessible and interesting to a wider audience. This happened after I had developed my first draft of his character sheet. In which I outlined some elements of his character. The main feedback that I received about him, was the occupation, background and his persona. I received feedback on these after handing out the character sheet to a mixture of people that I work with. Some of the participants are affluent gamers and some detest the subject so I managed to get a wide degree of feedback. Plus the age range within the group spans 40 years. Generally the main issues with Parker were his general persona, the fact that he is a rich, handsome business man that has very nationalist views. This degree of his personality had put off the majority of the viewers as they found that they couldn’t relate to him. To combat this, I altered the character sheet so that Parker was more of an average Joe, instead of being a super hero style of character. This allowed me to develop his character to fit with the protagonist in the horror genre. In this genre we see a protagonist that has some faults that they need to overcome to achieve a positive outcome in the story. Although I kept his occupation and sense of morality as it helped push the type of guy he was, I added in a lot of friendlier aspects to him. I.e the dependency on his family, his discontent at work and general dislike at the spending habits of the rich. He knows he is from a rich background and he has maintained his business formal occupation to appease his father but at the same time he does not believe that wealth is superior.
Another aspect of Parker that is quite important is the flaws in his personality. Without these it would not have been believable for him to repress his childhood and live out the events of the narrative. So, in a way he needed to be portrayed as unstable and unhappy yet at the same time have some strong personality aspects so that the player believes that it is possible for him to overcome his demons and suceed as this is what we strive for within a game.

The power of cutscenes

http://www.gameinformer.com/b/features/archive/2012/11/01/surprise-protagonists-a-new-perspective.aspx

I’m having a bit of a game informer obsession at the moment but it does have a lot of really useful articles on currently. Just found this one that goes into detail about how cut scenes can give a new perspective to a narrative. They allow the player to see the story through another characters eyes, sometimes not that of the protagonist.

This shifting perspective is a two-headed beast. While in one instance it may give us valuable insight into the mind of a villain or compatriot, another might make us miss the former character all the more. The line between dynamic storyline and critical misstep is a thin one. However, good writing can widen that line, and the games that have are hard to forget.

I guess if I decide on doing a cut scene storyboard I will need to consider which characters will be portrayed and doe the game allow for other playable characters to be introduced within a cut scene.

A tad random…

http://www.computerarts.co.uk/blog/gs2012-christian-schmeer-do-not-look-inside-123394

This post is a bit random but it has some relevance.

I found this rather interesting little piece of art work on computer arts online. It is an installation and book by Christian Schmeer, called Do Not Look Inside.

One of the things that drew me to it was the use of negative suggestion to invoke a sense of intrigue within the viewer. This to me is quite interesting, especially if you apply it to game design.

Say for instance you tell the player not to do something they will automatically want to do it, unless they are the type of person that analyses it and thinks that it will be a trap. I know that what Schmeer has produced isn’t necessarily dealing with the same type of design as myself but it is all revolving around interactivity and suggestive thought. This notion of negative suggestion could be a way to confuse the player into what is actually the intended outcome. Telling somebody not to do something inspires intrigue and intrigue creates obsession. This is a theme that I need to consider for my concept, and pretty much my practice in general.

Primary Research – Temple Newsam: Grounds/Colour Palette/Inspiration

This is my first post as part of my Temple Newsam primary research visit. I chose to visit the historic house to gain some inspiration for the childhood home/estate level of my concept. The visit was particularly fruitful as you will see in my next couple of posts.

So we begin with the overall feel of the Estate, the grounds, outhouses, and general autumnal colour scheme displayed on a brisk winter morning.

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The overall feel of the grounds at Temple Newsam was quite tranquil. I went on a Monday morning and it was really quiet, I think I only met around 10 other people. This lack of contact with others led to a general feeling of isolation; which was intensified by the stillness in the air. The grounds are made up of a mixture of open grassed areas and a large woodland section intermingled with buildings and visitor attractions. This mixture is quite nice, I especially like the run up to the house and the general layout of the grounds. The mixture of sloping hills accompanied by the grandeur of the house compositionally is lovely.

Straight road leading to the house.

A great thing about Temple Newsam is the lead up to the house. A long straight-ish road leads you up through the gate houses and around the back of the house.

This long walk/drive is very scenic, but it kind of builds tension. As I was walking along I realised that a long driveway up to a centralised house can be quite daunting. It gives the player time to think as they approach this old abandoned house. Plus the symmetry used on this lead up with the trees either side, is a really nice composition. It feels quite imposing, and I can just imagine it within a game where the point of interest on the radar would be straight ahead, willing the player to traverse the long stretch to the house.

Temple Newsam Gate Houses

The gate houses were also very inspirational. I have been to Temple Newsam loads of times before, but never have I noticed that there are two gatehouse’s. Upon closer inspection I realised that they have different plaques next to the doors; one is the East Lodge, the other the West Lodge. My initial thoughts for the gatehouse, is a possible start for the level. One of the things i do like about them, is the fact that there are two of them, I think a lot of the structures and walkways around Temple Newsam relies heavily on symmetry. This links back to the above note about the corridors of trees dotted around the Estate, as in it is very grand but also daunting and imposing.

Dirt path, runs alongside the road leading to the Mansion.

My general feeling of isolation, and lack of pretty much any living organism was broken when I came across a Magpie. This section of my exploration of Temple Newsam was highlighted with a video recording I did to monitor the sound of the environment. I came to the conclusion that the player character would likely by traversing a dirt path as opposed to a road around the general grounds of this level, so I set about a very shaky recording of my walk along this dirt path. The sounds that I got are actually really useful, you can hear my footsteps, crunching of leaves below my feet, shuffling leaves, a slight wind and a random encounter I had with a passerby.

The actual recording plays out quite well, I shall describe it below:

A car passes by, heavy footsteps, and a slight noise that sounds like my breathing can be heard. The wind is quite loud, plus there are parts in which I am sniffling, evidence of the cold weather. A playing field is to my right, the road to my left, as i continue i notice a Magpie walking along near a tree to my right. I zoom in to observe it, this makes me think about the type of animals that would be present in the level, I jot down “Wildlife, -birds, blackbirds, magpies -small birds, – squirrels – flies, buzzing around face”. I watch the Magpie as the sound of children begins to appear, along with a really faint humming. This is from a group consisting of two adult men and two children passing by. I turn the camera back round as one of the men shouts for the children to catch up with them. I continue along the path, crunching leaves as I go.

Key things from the video:

  • a bird of some sort could grab the viewers attention, which distracts them from another entity appearing down the road; hence the man shouting at his kids.
  • wildlife, could include birds, flies etc.
  • the general sound scape is fairly silent, this links to the research i have been doing into horror games, the soundtrack is silent to add tot he isolation. The player seeks any noise aside from the normal, which could link to the man humming and shouting???

Right onwards, another thing that stood out in the general grounds was the other buildings. Now I wasn’t going to include any other building in my level but I think they add to the grandeur of the Estate. plus they invoke a feeling of history, especially stables, because in the olden days stables will have been needed, now not so much. The link to history is very important in horror as it allows the viewer to assume that it is haunted. I have found also that within horror games this happens a lot, in the sense of abandoned areas.

In terms of the colour palette for my level, I am looking at a similar, washed out version of my photographs. It is very autumnal, a mixture of reds, yellows, greens and oranges. I think maybe it is a little bit too bright for a horror game scenario but I do like the eccentric flashes of bright colours within the photos. So I will maybe have to find a middle ground, possibly have a dull washed out general palette with random trees being overly bright. this would add to the illusion of the dream-like state our player character is in.

A corridor of trees leads tot he house.

Research: Silent Hill Environment/Characters

Silent Hill is a staple of the survival horror genre. It is a series that has spanned 13 years, with 9 video games, various printed media and 2 feature films.

An important part of Silent Hill’s make up is the characters, they are portrayed as ‘everyday’ men, instead of combat-trained protagonists. This is one of the reason’s that I have chosen to use this as reference for character/environment design over Resident Evil.

Another key reason that this is a good game to reference is due to the initial production of it. At first it was proposed by Konami to be a game that appealed to the United States for financial reasons, but after the development team realised the scope they wanted, they abandoned the limits of Konami’s initial plan and decided to make a game that would appeal to the emotions of the player.

So shall we start with the environments…

The Silent Hill game worlds mostly consist of the foggy American rural town of Silent Hill. This town is completely fictitious and a dark alternative dimension called the Otherworld. The Otherworld resides half between reality and the alternate dimension, which is why the player character often see shifts between the two worlds. All of the environments are loosely based on general locations that a town would have i.e. school, church, subway station etc. The horror aspect comes from the player characters unconscious minds, mental state and innermost thoughts, as these projections appear as if they were real in the Otherworld.

A lot of the games scare factor comes from the lighting within the levels, a torch is often needed to navigate your way around the locations. This is a great way to induce fear in the player, the fact that you can only light up a certain amount of the screen, and the rest is left unseen to the human eye. This adds to the tension created by other visual effects and the soundtrack. A good example of how Silent Hill utilises the torch can be seen here:

I think the torch is a good factor in the horror as it is linked to light and in semoitics light is positive, it leads the way. I also think that the torch radius offers up a sense of isolation to the player character.

The other main thing about the environments within the Silent Hill games is that they have a very dark palette. Even the exterior of the town is misted with thick fog, rendering any sunlight practically non-existent. These settings allow for a believable torch scenario, but also it shows the kind of colour palette that I need to consider. A lot of the environments are typical horror, blood stained rooms, corpses dotted around, any thing that takes all of the safety away. I guess the main thing is the fact that it is designed to be an alternate world, so the law of physics can be denied.

Also, final point on the environments, they are often quite claustrophobic, very confined areas that are clogged up with random debris etc. Does this add to the tension, when you try to escape, you have to battle with labyrinthine levels that repeat textures to confuse the player?

Sounds and Gameplay…

Another highlight of Silent Hill is the soundtrack, and the use of sounds to scare the player. Within  the first 3 games this method/scare tactic was used a lot, which can be seen in this top 10 scariest moments video:

The above video is a user video from youtube, the amount of likes to dislikes suggests that the overall public agrees with the list. A lot of the scares in the video are produced by sounds. For example, a locker door banging against itself, highlights to the player that something is there, something is telling them to go over tp the locker and investigate. The player does so, approaching slowly as the locker clatters against itself, building up the tension. As the player builds up the courage they open the door, only to see an empty blood covered locker, the tension subsides. Then the player heads towards the exit, as they do so a loud bang occurs as a dead body falls from a locker. This makes up of building tension for a fake scare, then introducing a new horror, is key to most horror media, as seen in the Film, horror reader.

A good thing about the Silent Hill gameplay is the use of the interactive movie side of things, they offer up the scare during mini cutsene’s this allows control over the composition and what the player can see etc. I have noted this as an important factor for the horror genre during my film theory reading, I guess Silent Hill is an example of how this can be achieved within a game.

Now for the protagonist….

Two main recurring factors about the player character exist within the Silent Hill series of video games:

  • they are depicted as an ‘everyday’ man
  • they are searching for their lost loved one

What I find interesting about the protagonist across the games is that only one of them is female. I wonder why this is? Is it down to the target audience primarily being male? Or is it down to the journey that the player character takes? A male character fits highly into the stereotype of a journey to protect, and to save.

Research: Derren Brown Apocalypse

Derren Brown’s Apocalypse aired last Friday, it is a 2 part tv show that documents an experiment to change a mans life. Within the programme Derren Brown and his team set up a staged scenario in which one man is made to believe that the world has ended.

Whilst I was watching this programme, I realised that the reactions of the victim Steven could help my independent practice. The whole experiment is set up to make him believe that the world has ended, this is done through various small set that he is confined to; plus the help of a lot of actors. The main relevance of this is that the victim is experiencing these events within his reality, he believes that this is actually happening to him. For my psychological horror game some of his reactions, expressions and motivations may be relevant to my protagonist. Within the games I have been using as reference a lot of ‘fear’ is shown through the characters reaction to things, which as a viewer these immerse within the experience. I guess that I should take a few pointers from the victim of Apocalypse to help me get into the mindset of someone who resides in a horror game world.

Research – Silent Hill 4:The Room

This piece of research was another gem that was mentioned by Jade during one of our character development chats at the beginning of the project. I have only just found the time to start researching around it.

Silent Hill 4:The Room is the fourth installment in the Silent Hill series. It revolves around protagonist Henry’s apartment which has holes dotted around it that lead into the games levels. The main relevance of this game to my concept is the interpretation of alternative dream worlds. As described above the protagonist is suffering from nightmares and at the start of the game has been locked in his apartment for five days. He then notices a hole in the bathroom wall, which of course he travels through into subsequent silent-hill-styled worlds.

I have not player this game before so I have been resorting to youtube to find walk-throughs of some of the games key parts, below is my analysis:

Part 1 – Locked in an apartment.

So we begin by waking up on the apartment floor as our protagonist Henry, this is done with a first person camera so intially it makes the player feel disorientated; you can see the fan spinning above you but this is the first thing you see, so it is not clear as to what has happened so far, why are we on the floor? The player is then forced to get a first person look at the nightmares as to which Henry has been having, this nightmare switches between first person and other camera angles. This makes it feel like a cut scene but also heightens the tension, choppy changes between different angles.

An initial key part of the opening scenes of this game is that it highlights lots of basic things to make the player grasp the idea of isolation. Henry, checks the phone, looks outside, checks the lock on the door, all of these added up make the player begin to become intrigue, why are we locked in here?

As a starter level it paces itself slowly, minimal scares, a lot of information to intrigue the player, and minimal sounds apart from when key progress is made by the player.

Part 2 – Through the bathroom rabbit hole

the player begins to navigate the narrow pipe aiming for the light at the end of the tunnel. This crawling is laced with a horribly repetitive shuffling sound. The first person camera takes up the style of an old film camera, with flickering lines appearing on it, it also starts jumping in places ever so slightly. Is this referring to the idea that it is a dream? Or is it simply to make the player aware that they are watching these events?

Upon entering the light, Henry is then seen traveling down an escalator into a subway station. He runs along the corridor to find his first companion, Cynthia. It turns out that Cynthia is dreaming as well. Seconds later she stops the player progression as she runs into the toilet saying she is going to throw up. Unwillingly the player is forced into a cut scene that means that they have to wait for her instead of trusting their gut feeling and running off. In my opinion this is how I would react, this set up is conspicuous and I think that the designer have made it into a cut scene to force you to stay put. Not surprisingly 3 rabid dogs emerge from the mens toilet, allowing the player their first taste of combat.

After this point the player is allowed to forget about Cynthia and progress by themselves. The soundtrack thus far is mainly silent; the only sound as you explore is the echoing footsteps of Henry and added sound effects increase when combat arises.

Once you wonder about and kill a few more rabid dogs you can enter the bathroom in which Cynthia went and upon entering a hole in the wall you are teleported back to the apartment.

Part 3 – Skip to our first lose as a player character.

This section of the game involves Cynthia’s death, it is the first tragedy that has struck our protagonist and the setup of it is quite interesting.

The whole motivation of the previous levels is to inspire the player to care about Cynthia and want to save her. She continually will call out to Henry as he travels around asking for help, and subsequently telling him to hurry. This method makes the player feel a need to progress quickly to save her in time. I haven’t considered this as a motivation method before but it is one that can be used interestingly. In Silent Hill 4, we see Henry’s hopes and dreams of saving Cynthia crushed as he finds her dead, this impacts the player in one of two ways. They will either get the intended outcome and be affected as Henry is, this makes them inspired to ‘try harder next time’ and not let anyone else die. On the other hand, they will have no attachment to the character of Cynthia and merely consider the attempt to save her a waste of time and then simply get on with the game. Why is this?

I have gained a lot of good information from looking at this game but the more I look at it the more frustrated I get. Simple things, that should have been added into it, to make it more believable, don’t exist. For example, when you are in the apartment, you can walk up to the door, look through the peep hole and see a passerby. If this happened in real life, surely the person locked in the room would shout, bang on the door, do something…anything!!! Henry merely looks out at the person and then walks away, at no point in the footage I have seen does he even attempt to escape. For me this is really jarring, it doesn’t make any sense at all.

In retrospect a very good thing about this game is the idea of the Otherworlds, these are the dreamlike worlds that Henry enters as he travels through the hole in the bathroom.

There are seven Otherworlds all of which link to the antagonist Walter, for a list of these visit here: http://silenthill.wikia.com/wiki/Walter%27s_Otherworlds

This idea of the Otherworlds relating to the antagonist and representing ghosts of his past is quite interesting and bares a resemblance to what I am trying to achieve. I guess if anything Silent Hill 4:The Room is a good reference for this.

Inspiration – The Little Fears

Near the beginning of my brief I was pointed in the direction of The Little Fears  by my peer/collaborator Jade. She informed me of the youtube channel that held a mass of short stories all themed around horror.

The Little Fears Youtube Channel

I have been listening to the variety of short stories that they offer over the past couple of weeks. Sometimes simply listening to them to whilst I work or even analysing them for tips. Overall I don’t think it has played a massive role in my brief but it does have a nice insight into the subtlety of sound. Each video possesses little sound clips of what the narrator is describing. For instance in One In The Oven, where the story revolves around old video footage, there is a slight sense of white noise in the background. These little hints at the narrative add to the tension built up by the viewer.

A good start for my sound consideration!

Protagonist Ideas

I have been considering the protagonist of my tale and decided upon a specific thing.

At first the idea was a little vague and the protagonist was no set being. I had thought that it would have been a good idea to have a customisable protagonist to allow the player, from the offset, to gain a bond with them. As with many modern RPG’s this aspect allows the player to choose what they would like there character to look like. This in my opinion does heighten the player experience as it is easier for them to believe that they are the character, it is an avatar of themselves and not another person.  For this I had discussed with Jade to have a male/female character design for the protagonist, plus a child version of them.

As time progressed I ran into a few problems with this idea. The main one being that as a player you have more control but as a designer it limits certain things. For example if we have a vague character you lose some of the character background design. I wanted my protagonist’s back story to be laced with horrors from his past that would now be influencing his current affairs. The main issue with this is that if we have a fairly hard hitting narrative that is describing how an individual relives his childhood, then you don’t necessarily want it to relate to the player. For this you need a separate being from the player, this is seen within Dead Space, where the player takes up control of Isaac Clarke, the protagonist set on escaping the living hell abroad the space-station USG Ishimura and hoping to find his girlfriend along the way. Clarke has his own agenda and path to follow, all that is up to the player is to progress him along this path.

Another downside to having a player centered protagonist within my current concept is that I am focusing on a lot of disturbing media/visuals. If we are saying that the character is the player then you have to limit down the actual psychological side of it. For instance my narrative is depicting a man having a mid-life crisis, eventually breaking down and committing a crime. Due to the nature of the narrative, it would be better to have a separated protagonist, one like Isaac Clarke, where the player can sit back and experience the horror at the same pace as the character but they can always retreat and say, “it is happening to a character and not to me!”. I think this style of protagonist is the best choice as the narrative deals with a lot of psychological issues for the protagonist, the whole game is centered in his mind, his thoughts and I think that even though this means there isn’t a big bond between the player and the character, that it is for the best. I think the subject matter of the game dictates that the character needs to be a separate being from the player. In no way shape or form do I want it to instigate that the player is losing their mind, it has to be depicting as the character is the one going insane and the player is a bystander watching the events unfold.

Well, I am glad I have cleared that up! A few questions do still remain though, a bit of food for thought if you will:

  • Does this mean that the game is more like an interactive movie than an immersive experience? I guess so but this may need to be a necessary sacrifice  that I will have to overcome.
  • How far should the experience be pushed, i.e. how psychological are we talking?
  • What are the more in depth pro’s/con’s of immersive characters?