The Freedom To Fail

I haven’t really done any acting in about three and a half years.

I’ve always found that I’m more courageous, more confident, when I’m acting. It’s easy to assume that this is because of the applause, of having the director be happy with you – all very extrinsic motivation – that makes you feel confident. But I don’t believe it is.

Something that I’ve noticed, from working with good directors and bad directors, is that the best directors trust you, as an actor, to get into the head of your character. They have a vision for you, yes; they have a vision for the entire play and how it comes together. They watch from the audience and know when something looks right, and when something looks wrong. And, both good and bad directors will tell you when something looks wrong. They may both ask you why you’re doing what you’ve just tried. The difference, what makes them good or bad, is how they tell you to change what you’re doing.

ProjectMAcbeth-rehearsal
Me as one of the three Witches in Project Macbeth, 2013

A good director never, ever, makes you feel punished for trying something.

Continue reading “The Freedom To Fail”

No, I’m not dead

…I’m busy! 

It has now been just under nine months since I started as an Assistant Producer at Gameloft in Auckland. In that time, I’ve had two visits from my family, one from Baz’s, and I’ve been to GDC. Time has FLOWN by. Plus, the game I’ve been working on since I arrived is…still in development, so there’s rarely downtime from looking after the local team and communicating with remote teams! Hopefully it will be announced/released soon so that I can stop keeping secrets from all my friends and family. “No, it’s not My Little Pony. Yes, that IS one of the games my studio made and looks after.”

Meanwhile, other updates:

  • (Non game news) Despite eating badly when I arrived (and then again in America), my health is under control, but I’m still planning on visiting some new doctors/nutritionists that came highly recommended. 
  • (Game news) I am working on an entry to Public Domain Jam! I am FINALLY realising my seven-year dream of a Pride and Prejudice RPG! 
  • (Research news) There have been some amazing articles coming out recently on the effect of games on PTSD. Some I disagree violently and furiously with, others make me incredibly excited and inspired.

Look out for posts on those bottom two bulletpoints some time soon.

And why do I mention bullet point 1? Because when I’m not well, I don’t have energy for Life Outside Work. So now I am, I do. 

 

Easter Eggs after Easter

I had a bit of an “Aha! Moment,” and this is probably obvious to a lot of people, but I’m going to write about it anyway, because its quite important to me and my growth as a designer.

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about what makes the games, films and stories I’ve liked so memorable. For me (and I’m not saying this is the same for everyone), its usually the world, the characters. I don’t necessarily want to escape to there, but I enjoy visiting and spending time there. I used to re-read “The Great Gatsby” and stop before the end, because I didn’t want that world in its present form to die. I love Tragedy (if you haven’t guessed by now), but I love being in that world more.

Then, I started thinking about what elements of games, in particular, made those worlds and characters memorable, rather than just being a setting for which some story/set of game mechanics takes place. And it is almost always those little moments of surprise and delight when you figure something out naturally, where you have a little success. It might not even be anything to do with the gameplay, but its a moment when it feels like that world both exists without you, and yet entirely for you.

In “Seductive Interaction Design,” Stephen Anderson describes how the use of Easter Eggs can delight and emotionally bond the user. Well, I usually think of Easter Eggs as being something that breaks your immersion with a joke or side-reference, but I think I’ve been wrong about this, and that they work exactly the same way in games, bonding the user to the world and the characters.

Starting Georgia and the Dragon in AGS

So yesterday I finally sat down and got a good start on Georgia and the Dragon. I’m using Adventure Game Studio (AGS), which is software designed specifically to make graphical/point-and-click/2D (call them what you want) adventure games. I had started playing around with it a year or so ago, and had managed to put together a brief demo of The Illusionist’s Fate (a deconstructed narrative I was developing through a ScreenWest Digital Development Breakout grant) using existing art (map and some scenes inc characters).

For some reason, I couldn’t seem to manage to get myself to sit down and do work on GatD. Firstly, there was a whole stack of emotional/self-esteem/motivational issues that were getting in the way (which I might blog about later). But then, every time I opened up AGS, I couldn’t seem to find where to start. I followed my asset list and made all the Rooms, Characters, and Items, but beyond that I felt at a loss. Using the standin “Roger” player character animation that comes with AGS seemed to be the most glaringly annoying. 

I told my boyfriend, “I need to do the art first,” but he, a programmer, said that I just needed to “start coding.” Well, AGS is set up to be for “mid-level designers,” NOT programmers, and so a lot of the way it’s set up is that the behaviours are already there, you just need to put some art in, and then draw regions for hotspots and things. Everything is tied to rooms, regions, and characters. So basically, how am I meant to start if I don’t have anything to start WITH?

I thought back to Illusionist’s Fate, and how easy it was to “start” with that. That was easy because firstly I had a design doc (which I also have for GatD), and a lot of concept art. So I knew I needed art, at least a character sprite and backgrounds. Anyone who has known me for a while knows that I’m pretty capable of art. The problem is, I also have very high standards for myself. And then, Photoshop’s billions of colours got  in the way..

So I looked up some graphics programs recommended for use with AGS. I’ve downloaded Spriter to try, but am currently using Aseprite to do basic pixel-based sprite graphics. Because of the paint-style limitations, it became a lot easier to knock together a set of temporary backgrounds, which made it easier to start scripting movement between rooms.

Then, of course, the character sprite looked grossly undersized and not at all like a woman… so I cheated a little, found a gif of a female character whose proportions I liked, and painted over it and tweaked it until she looked more like Georgia. Extra points if anyone can guess her original form 😉

Image

 

Now, it seems like I’m spending most of my time trying to find ways to make the interaction as intuitive as possible… context-specific cursors, yes or no? 😛