I was playing the game Inside last night, I'd completed it a couple of times and really enjoyed it, but for some reason I found particular moments stunning that I hadn't considered before. I think the materials of the objects are very simple, but the lighting looks realistic.
It reminded me of pixar movies, in the way objects are cartoonish and very smooth, but the lighting is totally real.
But aside from the shading, I was taken aback by the sense of scale in this game. I don't think the images do it justice, but there's moments in this game where the space just feels collosal. Its a similar feeling to being at the foot of or on top of a mountain. The scale just triggers some weird animal switch in my head that completely amazes me.
I started thinking that this is a really powerful device that I feel digital media rarely utilises well. Virtual environments are not limited by the laws of physics. In Unity I have unlimited material, and I can build it larger than I can imagine. I think it would be interesting to bring this into my project. I huge expanse, possibly at the end?
Anyway, I began blocking out the scene within the mountain. I am currently just trying to feel out a possible structure for it. I think it would be interesting to bring the walls in close the audience, make them claustrophobic and then expand outwards into a strange scene. Perhaps it's a wedding in a cathedral? I don't know yet.
I continued the work from yesterday. This part of the experience began to take the shape of a cathedral, and the audience walk down an extremely long aisle.
I spent today updating the shaders. I realised that my shader can only calculate one light source. This was fine when the scene was outdoors, but it is going to cause trouble in enclosed scenes.
The first thing I did was a adjust the banding of light on the shader. I thought there were too many bands and the shadow was too dark, but thankfully I could just open the light ramp in photoshop and each time I saved I could see it update live in Unity.
I then followed a portion of this official unity tutorial. It pretty much just includes the code for getting additional lighting data. The diffuse and specular data from the main light and the additional lights is then added together and produces a shader that can recieve multiple sources.
I was starting to find the plain toon shader a bit boring. I thought it would be interesting to give the shading a bit of texture. I had no idea what to search to find this kind of shader so I had to just play about until I found something that worked.
In the end, I discovered that if I took some kind of procedural noise, and limited the high and low ranges so it would only affect transitional light on the shader, I would get quite a nice effect.
Today I added some extra touches to the layout of the experience. I fixed issues with the started animation, connected the the start of the tunnel with the beginning of the cathedral area. I also added a trigger that creates an opening at the end of the cathedral to progress to the next stage.
I'm hoping to have an entire start-to-finish narrative blocked out by the end of the week, and then I can start work at a higher level of detail.
I have been thinking more about how the environment relates to reification. And it is is a bit flimsy. I do however find the work I have done so far helpful in working things out, but I should probably begin to mould it into something better.
The first area, was intended to be a representation of infancy. I used the the symbol of water to represent birth and christening. The currents as the lack of agency and control over one's life. However, the environment doesn't feel like it is necessary, the river and the mountain are just an easy natural environment.
I had a look into maternal symbols and symbols of birth. I have referenced it a couple of times, but I think I may need to associate myself with the work even more closely, but Freud's Interpretation of Dreams contains references to this sort of thing. Birth is often represented by being in water, or being rescued from water. Parents are often represented by powerful beings, authoritative figures.
I started looking into commodities that prey upon maternal comfort. I came up with two areas that rely on this: Childrens TV programming and food- particularly sweets.
Cereal is (for the most part) marketed towards children. It is also heavily advertised and branded with many familiar mascots. I am thinking that perhaps I can adapt the river scene to be a bowl of cereal.
The audience are christened in a bowl of cereal. The mascot guides the audience to a place of safety and takes on the motherly role of feeding, educating and protecting the subject. The audience are then guided out of the serial bowl by washing up on to a desert spoon, which leads them into the next area.
I am just going to carry out the bowl of ceral idea. It makes more sense with my theory, it is more interesting, and provides a more meaningful and dynamic experience. I made a quick sketch in Unity...
I am thinking the player can row along a path in the cereal. Maybe they are floating on a piece of cereal, or maybe they are floating on the brand mascot. The mascot directs the player, maybe audibly? or maybe its just through subtitles.
There can be dynamic pieces of cereal that interact with the raft as it passes. I may as well just get to work on it.
I realised I still had old code running where I tried to make the cereal scale randomly. I preffered manually placing the cereal so I went back in and placed in prefabs of three different sizes. All of which have an animation where they bob up and down in the milk.
The Interpretation of Dreams Notes
"However strange the dream may seem, it can never detach itself from reality". I will assume reality to be the lucid experience of the subject, rather than objective reality. It is interesting to consider the dream does not conjure up any concepts that do not already exist in the subject's mind.
It is often the case that dream content can not be recognised in a lucid state. However, the source of the content is in the mind, it may just not be obvious to the dreamer.
"stress is laid not only on the most significant, but also on the most indifferent and superficial reminiscences." Important life events rarely appear in the dream content, instead minute details from experience tend to appear frequently.
I started today with a 1:1 tutorial with Gillian. Things seem to be going well, but I need to find a better way to represent my ideas. The ceral idea makes sense when I explain it, but there is something off with it. I think it may be that it is surreal without context, so it just appears nonsensical. However, Gillian encouraged me to keep going with it, and it may spur on ideas that work better. I think this is a good idea, as I have felt so rigid working before this, and I think this is a good way to loosen my work.
Gillian also suggested that I may find inspiration in slighly surreal films. I think this would make a good approach, it just may take me a little while to find a film that fits the tone I am going for.
I decided to keep going with the cereal bowl and just see how things go. I started to work on the movement of the raft floating on the milk. I decided I would use a rigidbody and apply a force in the forward direction. The 'a' and 'd' keys apply a torque clockwise and anti-clockwise so the player can move freely.
I wanted to make the movement feel like you were rowing a boat, so the player would have to hold down a button to perform one row, and then let the paddles return to the starting point before they can row again sort of like this clip from Assassin's Creed 2:
However, I am beginning to think the such a drastic change in controls from moving and looking around before may be a bit unsettling for the audience. It may be best to keep the movement to a WASD/ analog stick but make it more 'floaty'.
I spent Thursday and Friday last week on DHT as I have a deadline for 5000 words coming up and I'm trying to get around 1000 words/ week to meet it. I also took the weekend off after that but I think it made me far more productive today.
I had been thinking about my project and I realised it may be a good idea to have a sort of central hub where the player begins and returns to at the end of each section. This could act as a glue to hold the narrative together, and give each of the objects a bit of context.
Central hubs used to be very common in old games. Mario 64 uses the castle as a recurring area from which the player can move to other levels. This provides the areas with context and makes the transition between such different themes less unsettling.
I don't want my central hub to be as obvious as this but it effectively fills the same need.
I want to have a wake, where there is an empty room with a coffin. The coffin is covered in flowers, maybe some cards and images. But three objects sit on top of the coffin. Interacting with these objects reveals a doorway behind the player. Walking through this doorway takes the player into the environment that explores the aura of the objects.
For example, a cuddly toy sits on top of the wake, an object from the protagonists youth. The aura is explored and it is revealed that the object is a toy from a cereal box. In its aura, the toy contains the relation between the protagonist and their mother and the environment is a reflection of maternal comfort. There are no direct references to any real relationship, however.
The player would then return to the central hub, the first object is greyed out and the next one is selectable. There are some slight differences to the wake scene.
I jumped in to developing this scene in Unity. I ran into very few problems and after a days work I have a decent mock up of a how the wake scene will work. Below is a timelapse, some sketchbook work and a playthrough.
I spent most of the past few days cleaning up parts of my code. I spent a lot of time trying to configurate my own scene manager. I set it up so it keeps control of how many scenes are in the build and stores them in an array. This means it will save me a lot of bother when it comes to handling changes in scene.
I was speaking to my flatmate this morning who studies Computing at Glasgow University. He was telling me about GitHub, and how you can use it to store your versions of Unity. Currently, I am manually backing up my versions of Unity on an external harddrive but it is probably a good idea to have some cloud back-up too. However, I think GitHub might be a bit complex so I'm going to spend part of this evening working that out.
I also read Mark Fisher's Capitalist Realism. I was just reading this for my personal enjoyment but there were many relevant themes to this project and my dissertation.
This morning I had another show and tell. I found the conversations very useful, particularly when discussing what degree of agency the audience should have. I hadn't really considered this for a while and I do think it may be worth restricting the amount of agency even further as the controls may scare people away.
I also need to give reason to my choice in shaders. The shader cropped up as a product of just playing around with features and seeing what looked good. However, I am trying to create a dream-like scene, and the shaders don't really have a justification for looking the way they do.
Another student suggested that my piece may appear more meaningful if I relate the themes to my individual experience instead of the general approach I have been taking. I didn't get the chance to express my opinion on the matter as it wouldn't have been the appropriate time to do so, but I thought it would be interesting to explore my attitude towards experssionism in my journal.
Notes on Expression
So for example, instead of trying to find a generic item with maternal values like cereal, I should use objects that are unique to me and carry specific meaning to me, and others will be able to relate.
There are a few reasons I deliberately don't do this. The first is that I think pure personal expression is rarely interesting. I think we currently see society around us in such an atomised view, that everything relates back to the individual. This can be seen through the narcissism in social media, neoliberal politics and the responsibility of the individual.
The second is that I think that good personal expression is extremely difficult now, if not impossible. With the advance of postmodernism, art and even thought has been recycled so many times that it is difficult to express oneself without unintentionally epressing the ideas of somebody else.
I think it is important to stress that I am aware that what I am doing is still a form of expression, as all creation takes on part of the character of the creator. But I think that this form of expression is my view on the system that we live in, and shapes us, so it is important for me to take a broad approach that can be interpreted broadly.
I also do not expect to rise above the recurring nature of postmodernism, but instead I am embracing the appropriation of established ideas and mashing them together in a new way- that's at least what I am trying to do.
This is not an angry response to that comment, it just led to me to question why I have an aversion to expressionism in my work, and I am glad it gave me the opportunity to articulate it.
I didn't get much studio work done this week due to a DHT hand-in but I will make up for the time I lost this week coming.
I have been thinking about how vital the agency is for the player experience after my meeting on Monday. I have been concerned about following the conventional first person controller that is used for video games as it isn't friendly to complete beginners and the association with the game controller will put people off.
I am thinking about having the camera just run on a track and the player makes selections along the way. This would allow me to completely simplify the controls to just a mouse or analog stick for looking around0 this could also be used for making selections.
Lambert sent me a link to a piece he found called Heracle555. The audience is carted around a digital scene and they can control certain properties of the 3D objects with an array of synthesisers. This is a far more interesting way to interact with a scene, and with this piece in mind, I may reconsider my work.
I think I have trouble working out a project of this scale in my head or even on paper, so I think I am going to have to keep this idea of moving away from the traditional first person controller in my head whilst I carry on with the project as is.
I think I am going to dedicate a certain amount of time everyday to theoretical research and finding inspirational pieces.
Whilst researching for my dissertation, I found a handy book that has a short summary of all of Jean Baudrillard's work. I discovered that many of the concepts I was looking for are actually in his book The Consumer Society which is also one of his most readable books. I am going to try and read this book over the next week or two as I think it contains many ideas relevant to this project.
This morning I read a passage about Baudrillard's analysis of sex and death. Disappointingly, I did not find his analysis of sex in this book particularly useful. I know that he has at least spoken about things like pornography but I am yet to find anything that directly considers it.
I did however find the passage about death interesting. Baudrillard talks about how in the west death is abstracted from life. It is an entirely different entity. Whereas in other cultures death is part of life. I may find the original text in "The Symbolic Exchange".
I am also considering the love scene in my Unity project. With Duchamp's The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even in mind, I am considering placing the audience on a production line. The player is pushed along a complex piece of machinery in pursuit of a perfect desired sexual object. Along the line, they are paired up with many other temporary sexual objects but eventually split from them.
I was thinking about a section of Mark Fisher's Capitalist Realism, where he talks about the youth impulsively seeking instant gratification in their studies. This is paraphrasing but he says something along the lines of "students want to consume Nietschze the same way they consume a big mac". It all sounds a bit like he's an out-of-touch old man but I think there is some truth to it. I definitely had a moment when I started reading philosophy where I just wanted to consume as much of it as possible and gain as much as possible from it. I am definitely not free from this way of thinking but I am aware of it now, and I can see how this attitude to consumption leads to other things.
Anyway, Mark Fisher (possibly somebody else) mentions pairs this type of consumption with dating. Many people expect relationships to easy and permanently pleasureable, they just need to find the right partner. This kind of consumption of partners has been accelerated by dating apps like Tinder. This consumption works both ways, where either partner wants an the other as an object to improve their life.
I think this kind of thinking is reinforced in pornography, where women become objects for drug-like pleasure and nothing more. Baudrillard has surely written about pornography somewher but I will also need to look into this.
There is also the sign-value attached to a partner typically women. A man with many sexual partners may use women as a sign for success.
I think it would be interesting to create a scene that shows the production of this extremely temporary love. I think its difficult to avoid falling into cliches here but hopefully I can build something that gives the idea justice.