Sunday, 8 February 2015

Alice in Wonderland

This next project is actually an external competition, the ‘Off the Map’ project made my Gamecity in conjunction with the British Library to create ‘exciting interactive digital media’. Our source material is Lewis Carrols’ classic Alice in Wonderland. Now, Alice and Wonderland is riddled with potential and creative opportunities, perhaps the only limit was our anchor to Oxford and the original text- which is very different to the popular retelling of the story. Loosely, our game had to be based in a fundamental world we recognize in the context of the story. But this is fine, Alice is a fantastic subject matter and I couldn't be happier to be making a game on it. I’m also very relieved to break away from my sci-fi streak, time to do some natural form! It really has been too long since I've modeled a bush...

This week was actually pretty controversial in terms of our years unrest, the first offender was our groups were set for us. While I’m not opposed to this in the slightest (I think it resembles industry working conditions more accurately) it was jarring. In our two years at DMU there’s never been a project where we’ve been set groups. I think the real problem is this project is by far our longest project of the year, almost tripling the length of our previous ‘longest’ time allowed for a project. It’s also our final project and an external completion so the stakes are fundamentally higher- it matters far more than any other group project that we are able to work well with our group. I think it would have made more logical sense to have randomized groups in every project but this one. Either way, I’m at lest somewhat familiar with the members of my group and am looking forward to working with them more closely- time to build some bridges.

The second aforementioned controversy was that during our introduction lecture to this project, it was mentioned that our projects would have to be a side scroller. I think I went through a very brief but dramatic roller coaster of emotions in the following two minutes; at first I was alarmed, then annoyed, then interested, then finally- excited. It was different and new and there are some fantastic 2d side scroller games I adore. Some people didn't have the same reaction and student battled staff for a day or so, before our staff relented and decided we could do anything, including the much desired 1st person 3d world that most of us are accustomed to. Thing is though- by this time most groups (and I’m relieved to include mine in that statistic) had already warmed to the idea of a side scroller. If I had to guess, I’d say around two thirds of the year decided to do a side scroller.

Our groups weren’t entirely random though, the week prior to this we were asked to fill in a form where we chose our primary and secondary specializations. I was quite uncertain filling this o ut because I’m really not sure what I want to do, or be shoe horned into a job for this project. I think it was a defining moment where I had to choose between what I should and could do, verses what I wanted to do. I chose environmental artist, with a back up as an engine person. I think these are m,y strongest comparative suits and it would be unfair to any group I might have been put in to not sign up as mmy strongest roles. Ironically however I needn’t have worried so much, our group in particular (I can’t speak for other groups,) was terribly imbalanced. Out of five os us, we had three character artist, no concept artists and no engine person. This has knock on negative effects because then during job distribution we felt obligated to adhere to everyone’s jobs, which means we doled out three character jobs instead of an ideal one character- Alice. It also meant myself and Jake (who both had engine as our secondary preference) to do engine work, instead of any dedicated single person.

Right, so after deciding on a side scroller, we talked as a group about what category we wanted to go into out of the provided ones: Oxford, Garden and Underground. We decided that while we more more inclined towards the Garden and Underground which both had a written place in the book, we would read the source material before making any decisions. As I read the book I made a detailed document on all events and how they could potentially translate into game mechanics, like the dog, or chasing the rabbit, or chasing the animals to get dry. When we reconvened we decided instead of basing a game around a single one of these areas, we would just recreate certain sections of the book that would make worthy gameplay areas, and retell the story based on the events that happened in the book. We also made the conscious decision to try and align ourselves as closely with the book as possible, partially to please the British Library but also to make a streamline game experience. In regards to the inclusion of Oxford we decided to scatter referenced abstractly into the scenes, or include it in any architecture on the basis that because the world that Alice explores is her dream, that what she finds would be familiar. So all trees and fauna and anything else would be based on things you find strictly in Britain. The rest of this week was spent concepting and making stylistic decisions which I’ll go into more detail with next week. 

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