So I just released Night Spirits, you can find it HERE. The game was made to try and take Tracey Moffatt’s Night Spirits collection and turn it into a game. To do this I wanted to recreate the feeling that Moffatt described having while taking the photo’s as well as depict the images in a 3 dimensional space. I wanted to use audio as the main source of the fear that Moffatt described feeling during the time when she took the shots. She also wanted to deliver a sense of unseen presence with the photo collection, I wanted to take this a step further and use a physical presence that would be more subconsciously noticed than directly seen. I also had a hope to take the game to VR after getting the initial game down. There wasn’t much planned for the VR version until later because I wasn’t sure I would get the opportunity. I did, so the ideas mostly came in the moment, but the plan, when it came, was to make the player look through Tracey Moffatt’s eyes by holding a camera that shows what the standard game sees, and then being surrounded by mostly blackness except for a little light to not disorient people.
To begin the construction I built a level space that primitively replicated the visuals in 1 of the images
I then spent time with the visual effects and getting them looking right, but I will talk about that in the appropriate section. After the visual effects were fitting, I went on to make the “badMan”, the guy who acted as my subconsciously seen presence, work. But I will talk about that in it’s section. Finally, after that was done I refined the primitive layout and created two more sections in the same area to be used as the three final sections.The level worked quite well for how long I spent on it, I needed to adjust the textures of some models to fit with the photos, but it was quite clear in the end that I was recreating the images after they were done. The most disappointing thing about the level was the lack of more sections. I would have loved to recreate the river shot if I had more time to create the shape. Also the models I was able to use were lacking, but there is only so much you can do with free unity assets.
The Bad Man was what I used as my unseen presence. He is always somewhere in the level, and is always looking at the player, but when he is in the view of the player, he disappears after .5 seconds. This took a lot of tweaking to get right, and there were many points where I broke his code because of a missing tag or an incorrectly layered collision box. He initially started out as a capsule, but I quickly changed his model to a human shaped prefab from my last game because I needed to have the shape to help the mind recognise him quickly. When this change came in I decided to make the whites of his eyes emit light to try and make them stand out. This didn’t do much until I implemented VR, when it stood out really well and gave a great sense of seeing eyes in the distance. Before the standard version was done the BadMan model was updated to a proper human looking man, rather than a boxy minecraft one. I made this man hunch slightly forward to give him a more menacing look and made his eyes also emit light.
The visual effects were integral to visually recreating the photos. So I spent a lot of time early on getting this right. First up I needed to have a light working and angled correctly so that it looked like the flash of a camera so I placed the light slightly above the camera. The next thing was to add a noise and grain filter to the camera to create the photo vibe. I also needed there to be a sort of bloom or contrast to make the whiter spaces fully white and the black parts fully black, making less space for the red to show up like this image:
To do this I used a tonemap filter that made the image look like this. After the camera was working correctly I needed to make the dust motes and fog that appear in the photo’s. To do this I took the standard unity dust storm particle effect and adjusted it until I had two types of dust. One that looked more cloudy that acted as my fog visual equivalent and another that acted as the dust motes floating in the air. Looking like this:
I also improved the monochrome look by taking a lot of the textures and turning them into greyscale so the colours didn’t clash. These effects took a bit to convert to VR, but that’s mostly because I was not applying them to the right camera.
Finally, the move to VR. This was an idea that came to me early on in the development of the game, but it was not fleshed out at all when I had it. So I put the idea to the side until I knew I had time to actually work on it. Then, when the time finally came, I was suddenly left with no ideas. It wasn’t great. So I started by just throwing in the VR camera and making the Bad Man work with the head camera instead of the first person controller. I then also got the teleporting working, so that the whole vr room track rig moved. But it wasn’t quite feeling right, so I took a break and thought about what I was doing. Then I had the idea of shoving a camera in the player’s hand, and making them look through that. Great! An Idea!! But how on earth was I going to do it? Well, my first step was to create a second version of the map, and move it over 500 units so that I could light the two differently, creating the contrast between the camera’s view and the players. Then I needed to make the camera that the player would hold, to do this I made a primitive camera shape and had then added a camera and a render texture on a plane. The render texture was receiving its image from a camera in the second level space.
Then I made the camera and its duplicate keep the same relative position and rotation, so that the player could see through the render texture into the space on the other side. I used this same script to make the new Bad Man keep the same relative position. Then came adding the visual effects to the new render texture camera, moving the lights from the player to the camera in the second level, and moving the particle effects over to that side. Finally, the place where the player was actually standing was pitch black, so I added a small point light the camera rig to light up the area lightly, so that the player didn’t lose the ground. When that was done there was plenty of issues to deal with, but it eventually worked really well. I feel like the audio and the light emitting eyes really brought out the feeling I was going from at the start, and considering the time I had to create it, it was still a decent end result.
This project ended really well, and I think I used the time I had to create a pretty decent product. I would have loved to find/ create some better models that could have better recreated the feeling of Australia if I could, but the result was still alright.