Time to work with Music

So we’ve started a new project. This time the brief is to make a ‘musicvideogame’. But there’s a twist, this time we aren’t the ones with the vision, we are working for a client who is supplying the music track. The artist my team is working with is known as Jbox  and he creates mostly electronic dance, or EDM. Often his music has very beachy themes to it and it appears to be a running theme in both his album artwork and the pieces themselves.

 

To try and create a fitting musicvideogame for the tracks Jbox is asking for, it is important to research into some visual themes that occur within his style of music. So what themes does EDM have? Well for starters it is much too broad for our goals, so it would be much better to look more at the specific tracks by Jbox and look for his visual themes. The tracks he wants to be prioritised for the music video game are especially beachy and summer nightlife esc. One uses a lot of bends with with the guitar and bass line giving the feeling of rolling waves. At the start of each bar has deeper bass sounds in the on beats giving emphasis to the steady and calm flow of the song, and then on the off beats there is a sharper spike creating a pace and emphasising the upbeat nature of the song. The deeper on beats leave space for more playful use of the guitar and makes it so that the listener’s focus can be more on the small higher guitar bends then being taken back to the beat by the clap sound. To try and echo this in the video game, we could make larger but steadier colour changes based on the on beat bass and have bright sudden changes on the off beat but again being large. Then with the higher guitar bends we could make small but bright pinpoint changes that would make the player focus on the points rather than the entire screen, fully visualising the feeling of listening to the music.

 

The second track Jbox wants to be focussed on has a lot of the same themes to do with on and off beats, but often removes the crisp beat and replaces it with a focus on bass and plays a lot more with guitar bends creating an almost reggae vibe, but not quite. So with this track it’d be important to focus on the way these play and put less emphasis on the sharper beats.
Sadly I cannot give you any examples of these tracks we are working with since they are unreleased. But I am absolutely loving them and can’t wait to see where we can take this project. However, there are still good examples of his themes in Jbox’s tracks which you can find here.

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Night Spirits Post Mortem

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.

vrNightSpirits3.gif

Level

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.

 

Bad Man

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.

 

Visual effects

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:

night-spirits

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:

night-spirits2

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.

VR

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.

vrNightSpirits.gif

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.

vrNightSpirits2.gif

Round Off:

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.

Night Spirits

I have chosen to create a video game adaptation of Tracey Moffatt’s ‘Night Spirits’. Tracey Moffatt is an Australian photographer and film maker born in Queensland in 1960. Her work often is concerned with the issues that indigenous Australians face such as poverty, displacement, and racism. However, she does not wish to be categorised as an aboriginal artist, as she finds the term encourages stereotypes.

Image result for tracey moffatt night spirits

Tracey Moffatt’s ‘Night Spirits’ shows strange things floating about the landscapes pictured. These things are a representation of lives and history lost in the colonisation of Australia, and is what Moffatt was hoping to depict with the work. It creates a sense of unease and illuminates the night, showing what is normally left unseen. When Moffatt was taking these images, she spent a lot of time in the dark setting up the camera and experiencing a fear that heightened her senses and made the hairs on her neck stand up. These things combined create a peaceful but unsettling environment. I hope to try and recreate this feeling.

Image result for tracey moffatt night spirits

I want to create a feeling of being inside the picture and looking through Moffatt’s eyes during the time when she was producing the collection. But I want to create the feeling like there is more than an ethereal unseen presence in the Australian countryside. I wanted there to be a real presence that could spark a sense of fear in the player. So I created a person that teleports around the place, not entirely noticeable at first but enough to create the sense of unease. To create a visual style that was similar to the photo series, I used 3 different tools, lighting and two different visual effects. These were to make the image look as though it was coming from a camera, with an of centre flash and overexposure due to the darkness. This is to tie it to Moffatt’s work more than just creating a slender clone.

nightSpirits Demo1.gif

An important part of recreating the feeling of looking at Moffatt’s ‘Night Spirits’ is the dust motes and misty clouds that she links to lives lost due to Australia’s colonisation. These are important to making the visuals look like the work and are important to delivering the same meaning as ‘Night Spirits’. So to follow this I have made an emphasis on the particles in what I have created so far.
Its not quite there yet, I feel like I need to use different colours, other than red, to get the feeling of the whole piece rather than just one image. I also feel like there needs to be something that adds to the feeling of Australia that the images clearly had. But models are so hard to find as it is.

Panic@theWake Post Mortem

Razor:
Experience a panic attack during a wake. It’s in the title.

 

Artist’s Statement:

Panic@theWake is a game about the time I had a panic attack at my great grandmother’s wake. I created the game to try and come to terms with and share the feelings I was having during the panic attack. Feelings like being trapped, sensory overload, and an irrational feeling of expectation from the people around me. Please play with caution as I do not wish to spark another panic attack in someone else by describing mine.

 

Intentions:

I aimed to make the game replicate my feelings as well as possible. So I wanted the player to feel trapped and overwhelmed. But I wanted to make the player feel trapped by making them continue to travel through the same space. This was done with a botch PT room loop.

I didn’t plan much beyond that other than knowing I wanted the visual and audio elements to escalate. This came back to bite me in the end, as the final result was not thought out well enough.

 

Construction:

Staring

The staring went through stages. Initially it was all the people doing instantaneous glances that would flash on and off. This was incredibly jarring but it worked for temporary implementation. I eventually changed its implementation so that the people would slerp a random collection based on a percentage chance, the movement was still quick but it was more noticeable and less jarring.

The decisions surrounding the progression were very improvised as I implemented them. I didn’t want anyone to be looking initially, but I wanted people to start glancing at the player as they progress in an attempt to convey the feeling of expectation. From what I could tell it didn’t convey it as well as it could have because the progression was not exponential but went up and down instead.

 

Lighting changes

The lighting changes weren’t much as the game went on. There is a few lights that turn off, but most visual things were done through the visual effects rather than simple lighting. The only two sets of lights that were changed were one room light that turns off in a room filled with people looking at you, and the outdoor sunlight being continually cycled. The outdoor lights cycled so that the it appeared to be the same room each time. The internal light that turns off was used to try and emphasise the feeling of expectation. Like interrupting a cults ritual.

 

Visual effects

The visual effects were an absolute mess, but they turned out alright in the end. The original idea was not very thought out when the game was concepted. The original idea was to build up chaotic visual effects as the game progressively built up the sense of anxiety. But I didn’t know what effects were available. So I just added a few and played around with them initially, and then once I had decided what values I wanted them to advance to, I implemented them. They advance to a set level when they are triggered, and then once the final stage is triggered they are advanced continually, and a fisheye is started. However, the fisheye was being calculated with a sine wave, so when it was turned on, it jumped to an midwave point and was a little jarring.

 

Audio effects

The audio effects were more thought out than most parts of this game, since I knew more about what I could and couldn’t do with them earlier on. I wanted to have a crowd noise that would be consistent through each instance of the room. I also took this sound and made an echo version of it to play at the end. While I was making the game, I thought of the idea of making a sound source that circles the player, this became my shimmer source, which I used to try and disorientate the player. I also made the outdoors play calm bird noises in an attempt to contrast the feeling of the crowd inside.

 

Calm outdoors

The outdoors was built so it could tease the player as they continued through the loops. Showing them the calm space but making it always unobtainable. But when the player is outside, they are welcomed by the nice bird sounds that only play outdoors and the garden that is pleasant to be in compared to the indoors. This was done to let the player feel the calm before and after the panic attack, like I did.

 

Imagery

Finally the Imagery, there was a lot of mid development decisions when it came to the imagery. For example, the table with the candles and the picture on it was originally up against a different wall and the picture was much smaller. I changed it so that the player could immediately see the table when they entered the room, no matter what door they entered through (though it did favour the first door because it needed to introduce the table to the player). With the window to the outdoors, I positioned it so that it was slightly higher up, making the player feel restricted and walled off. The player can see out but they don’t feel like they can get out. Later on, to emphasise the feeling of being trapped, bars appear across the window, creating more of a physical barrier and blocking off some of the view to the outside. Another thing that was unintentional but worked nonetheless was the height of the other people in the room. When I was actually at the wake, most people were either the same height or shorter than me, but with the people being taller in the game, it emphasises the feeling of expectation and panic when they stare down at you. At the end of the game, the player is teleported to see a view that they see when the look out the window. I did this so that they can immediately realise that they have reached what was teased for the duration of the game.
So I learnt a lot from making this game. I learnt about visual effects and did new things with the standard unity fps controller. But, I made a lot of mistakes, but that’s to be expected, I’m not superhuman. The level is a bit pieced together thanks to my poor prefab use and the progression of the stages was a bit awkward because I did not get people to playtest it. But nevertheless, it’s done and it’s published. So I have to deal with it whatever it is.

Time to check in

So basically, I’m borrowing heavily from PT to create this game. This is because it’s heavily reliant on the repeating rooms. I built it initially with just the room and the loop continuing around, but I did not feel it was disorienting enough since it simply felt like I was going into a new room each time. So what I tried to do to combat this was to create an introduction section, similar to the starting room in PT. I took the opportunity to orient the player with this introduction by theming it around a church and giving the player a taste of the outside before they are trapped inside. This introduction would lead the player into the room that is repeated, initially by entering through an exit door, the player then can spend as long as they’d like in the room, but once they leave, the looping begins and the player cannot get out of the room until the end.

Another part of the game that I want to and have been emphasising is a feeling of sensory overload. During the panic attack I had, i felt like I was hearing everything and also not hearing anything, like an overwhelming murmur. I felt like people’s movement was too much for my eyes to consume, and the noise deafening and I just needed to leave. So to try and recreate this, I have added a few audio elements and hope to add visual noise effects if I can overcome some hurdles. One of the audio effects i have used is a ‘shimmer source’ which circles the player and plays one of two different sounds to try to disorient the player (depending on where in the game the player is).

Another thing I have done is I have played with the sound of the crowd, at some points the crowd will be silent, and at others the crowd will be loud, and at the pinnacle of panic attack the crowd is echoing and getting louder repetitively, then it’s silent and the player is outside. I hope to add 3 visual effects that increase in intensity as the game progresses if I can. These being Noise and Scratches, Motion Blur, and Bloom. All three combined can convey a good idea of my feeling of sensory overload. But I am yet to figure out how to take unity’s premade visual effects and add them to the camera in runtime without breaking the y look axis. But I can dream.

Studio 2 Goals

So what do I aim to get out of studio 2? Well, surprisingly and almost too conveniently, studio 2 is about creating the types of games that I want to create in my future. These games being more heavily focused on emotion more than actually being games (if you want to look at it that way). So, I hope to get the skills and knowledge that will be critical to my hopes for my future career. I want to learn how to add emotional meaning to my design because I, being a budding artist, want to learn how to add intentional and directed meaning and emotion to a game. But what I feel as though I only know how to add emotion that I want to a game, but I want to learn how to add emotion that I didn’t think of myself. This is because it will not be likely that I will be leading anything large going straight into the industry, so I need to learn how to take my desire to create emotion and apply it to someone else’s plan. Another important thing that I will get from studio 2 is an opportunity to work on games that aren’t simply copies or combinations of other games. I will get to create games that will stand on their own rather than being shadowed by similar, but better funded, games. This is important because games like these have a better chance of being recognised by a wider audience and have much more credibility when it comes to viewing my entire portfolio of work. So, in short, what can I get out of studio 2? A lot. A better understanding of my career goals, a more individual portfolio, and a few more games under my belt. (wow that was cheesy)

Desperation in That Dragon, Cancer

So I’ve been thinking about my new project based on my experiences at a wake. That experience being a panic attack. One of the many things I’ve been thinking about is how I can convey my feelings in this moment. So, I have been looking at what other games have done before me because I don’t want to have to think of it all myself. One game that comes to mind when considering my panic attack is That Dragon, Cancer. But for those who don’t know what that is, I should probably give a brief description.

Image result for dragon cancer

What is it about?

Well, That Dragon, Cancer is about a mother and father and their journey with one of their four sons, Joel, being diagnosed with cancer at age 1. The game describes many moments of difficulty and joy for the family, such as, trying to explain what was happening with Joel to the two eldest boys, Caleb and Isaac, or experiencing the good memories with Joel.Moments like these are explained through the game, using a range of audio and standard video game elements. For example, the moment when Ryan and Amy Green explain that Joel has Cancer to Caleb and Isaac, the player experiences this by going through a 2d sidescrolling platformer that changes as a voice over of the family’s conversation plays. However, connecting more to my targeted feeling, I don’t really want to be looking at these group moments or moments of joy. I want to look at how the game conveys Ryan Green’s desperation.
There is one particular moment in That Dragon, Cancer that left an impact on me, and is a great example of Ryan Green’s desperation during his difficult journey. This scene being the moment in the hospital with Joel where he is feeling pain and the player cannot do anything about it. But Joel’s screams keep going, getting louder and louder to the point where there is no more moisture in his voice but just dry throat screaming and coughing. This moment made me feel so much pain and sadness, because there is nothing you can do to help. This kind of feeling of growing intensity and panic is what I want from my game.  However I need to consider how to deliver it without the contrast of audio, since I don’t want a narration in my game. But It is definitely something to build off of.

Learning from DONTNOD

So I just watched this GDC talk today, and I learnt a very important process that I’ll need if I continue down the path of game development that I hope to follow. 

the talk was about the process that DONTNOD took when using real world issues in their game Life is Strange. They went into great detail about how they did not want to trivialise the events that happened  or cheapen the issues that they portrayed in the game, but instead wanted to portray the issues as neutral and genuine as possible. They did this so they could spark serious thought about the issues that could very well arise in the player’s life.They did this by speaking with professionals who cared for people dealing with these issues and researching people’s journeys experiencing the issues. One example they used to demonstrate how they did this was the case of (Here be spoilers) Chloe’s request in the alternate timeline. There was a mountain load of things that added together to let them deliver this situation without cheapening the result. First of all they knew that the player needed to spend time in the environment to fully understand the situation the Chloe is experiencing, and that the player would need to see a lot of the details. So by needing to see the details, the people at DONTNOD needed to make the details accurate for Chloe’s depicted situation, hence the research. They decided to take a very similar place to the player and to refit it for the new situation.Screenshot (17).png The rooms were set to depict the environment as best as they could based off blogs and stories from those who have been through this experience. There was also a lot of stuff that they altered while ending this scene to better deliver the scene. For example they removed a lot of the ui or game elements after the player makes the final decision of the scene, this was done to let the decision sink in with the player and to leave them alone with their decision. Another thing that the people in from DONTNOD spoke about was that this was the first time they give the player the option to not make a decision, having three options, to fulfill Chloe’s request, to refuse, or to not do anything.349707066.jpg This was done to let the player know that it’s ok to not know what to do in this situation, but you will need to make a decision, as the game then gives the option again if you choose to not act, but this time, with only two options.

I need to keep this process of careful and thoughtful research when I make games that are representing people who have experiences that I haven’t. For example with my running project “Shared house” I want to represent people with a lot of different backgrounds and experiences that I have and have not had. So this process will be very important in the design of these characters as well as the environments and stories I tell with them.