We are done! While all the files are loaded on Dropbox and Google Drive for the delivery, you can check out the Playlist with all our development videos, with our newest entry: the final trailer.
We went a long way!
So, the deadline is almost upon us.
The last few weeks have been a challenge to find solutions where needed, to complete what needed completion and refine everything at the best of our possibilities. We had some hiccups, among which the decision of two of us to abandon the project.
But even if with some difficulties, we are almost ready.
After having refined the logical basics of the narrative branching system, we needed to find a way to actually represent it in the game. Since none of us are really proficient at animating, and that modelling characters that then would have needed proper animation would have been a poor use of our time, we enacted an option we had outlined at the beginning of the project in case we would have proven unable to actually animate 3D characters to “play the scenes”: a 2D semi-still cutscene system.
The characters talking will appear on the screen, with their lines on the bottom part of it. The player will skip the lines by clicking the left button of the mouse.
I am personally happy of the final outcome of this system, which allows us to showcase the beautiful drawings of Arthur Rackham, a recurrent artist in the official competition’s assets pack with an exquisite and unique style.
We also implemented some aid for the player to understand the commands of the game, and to introduce them to some poems from The Book of Fairy Poetry (readable here), an amazing illustrated book of the beginning of the 20th century containing beautiful poems about fairies and amazing pictures by an incredibly talented artist called Warwick Goble. We had the chance to see an original first edition of this book, now more than 100 years old, when we visited the British Library in London earlier this year. I hope you will all have the chance to have a look at it at the Shakespeare exhibition. If not, ask the library to look at it during your next visit there, it’s really worth it.
Finally, even if we didn’t publish updates regarding the rest of the game, especially its looks, it doesn’t absolutely mean there haven’t been any. Just check it out!
For our game, we created three main puzzle locations to add some variation towards the game and not make the pacing more interesting. We believe that having only narrative and walking would get boring over time so by adding puzzles, we could keep the plaers interested.
The first main puzzle is the temple, for the final game it will have a statue in the middle which is revealed by fully completing the puzzle. The sliders when created will have a mosaic design and the objective is co connect the pattern up so that the statue raises.
The second puzzle is audio based, it’s comparable to ‘Simon Says’ asin, you will hear an audio pattern and then it is your job to recreate it. The pattern will become more and more intricate until completion.
The final puzzle is currently using very early placeholder assets. Basically the objective is to place rocks on where the water spouts from the ground. Placing rocks on multiple spouts will cause the ones which aren’t covered to go higher. As you can tell, the objective is getting as high as possible to reach the determined goal.
Our game has gone through multiple different ideas on the approach of the art aesthetic, early on we were aiming for the most realistic style possible but we felt that going for that style was not going to seperate us from the other teams. From there on, so many ideas became reality.
Our first idea entitled the use of bold colours to create an interesting abstract world, the method behind it was that the based on distance that the player is away from the trees, the colour of the trees would represent that. This lead to the result of a very abstract world but possibly too colourful and we wanted it to suit night time more.
Although this method follows the same technology as the first one, this idea was to try and recreate a paint style aesthetic so we went for more pale colours as we felt that it would also be far more fitting in a night time light setup.
This was basically our final idea, we realised that the technology behind the trees was far too buggy to be practical and we were falling behind in time significantly constantly experimenting. Due to this, we went back to a realistic style design and decided on letting the lighting bring out the fantasy in the asset.
For this section, I made use of the post processing tool in unreal to mess around with the bloom, contrast and lighting in general to try and recreate a fantasty style atmosphere. I felt that using the bloom brought out a good bit of focal point on the olive trees while making all the other trees feel natural. Although there was no practical use towards that, I felt it worked and made the forest not feel so generic. Making use of the hue options provided in unreal, I changed the lighting to a more greeny approach to bring out the nature feeling.
Although our project is currently over half way through development, we still spent a few of the early weeks deciding a lot of our choices for this game. The main topic of concern early on was not the narrative theme of the game; we all instantly agreed upon the use of Midsummer’s night dream. The issue was what we will actually have the player do in the game. Surprisingly, our idea stayed somewhat on-track for a good portion of the concept phase with the knowledge that the puzzles would be used to support the environment and the narrative. The image above was from our early concept phase of the environment planning with what we believe could be really effective scenes for the game but also within our current skill limits.
At one point throughout the current planning focus, we had an idea that when the user rotated a statue, it would change the time of day so that the player could jump from daytime to night time and visa versa. The issue with that idea was we didn’t really know what practical benefit that could offer towards our game. Granted, it would be a nice aesthetic choice but more than likely it would confuse the player into thinking that he has to do something with that feature. So in the end, we decided to stay with the lighting being set more at night time where the forest could really come to life with the use of lighting and other elements such as glowworms etc to illuminate the environment nicely.
Finally, our game shows promise with the aesthetic side of things and could really lead to something with great potential. There will be an update post to show our in-engine art progression to keep you all updated.
William Shakespeare was the ultimate storyteller of his time in Britain. Since then, storytelling had hundreds of years to continue its evolution and create new art forms, all of which at a certain point dealt with the masters of the past, including obviously the Bard himself. In the last few decades videogames widely established themselves as the newest of these art forms. To make a game about Shakespeare, we simply couldn’t not take in consideration storytelling and narrative.
Our game will hopefully entertain and engage you with its mechanics and puzzles, but we needed it also to tell a story. And writing a story based on the work of Shakespeare is a big deal.
Of course, we are no Shakespeares ourselves, and the game won’t be in iambic pentameters or (entirely) in poetry. Given the focus on creative industries of our University campus it could have been possible. But times changed since Shakespeare, and even with the utmost respect for him, we need to appeal to the audience we are given: the 21st century.
Give someone a book they don’t understand immediately, they might try to work it out. Give them a videogame with courtly words and poetry speech, and they’ll probably turn it off. The reasons for this are many: hearing a line on a computer, or reading text on a screen, is a different experience than reading a book. The words on the book don’t go anywhere, and you have all the time you want to figure them out, while the words on the speakers once they are gone, they are gone. The other thing to consider is that the book is asking nothing of you, while by its own nature a videogame is interactive and needs the player to do something. If the player has troubles understanding what the game says, or wants, playing it will be a frustrating experience, if even possible.
BUT, our story, even if immediately comprehensible, needs to feel Shakespearean in some way. And we needed to find some ways to communicate that feeling. Hopefully our decisions will pay out.
The first thing we could do is match up the very videogame concept of “level” with the concept of “scene”. The player experience will be actually be considered a 3 level game, or a 3 scenes act. It is in this correlation that I feel the videoludic experience can enhance the storytelling possibilities: even if the overall plot of the game will not change much, the player experience will be different depending on the order with which the player solves the levels, or “plays the scenes”. We felt that if possible our game should be a different experience for different people.
This decision obviously gave us a lot of script-writing to do. Having 3 scenes that change depending on the order they are played means that we need to write the script for way more than 3 scenes. But we’ll prove ourselves worthy!
But then, how should the script look like? Should it use old English? Should it be in rhyme? Well, yes and no. Using old English was not an option, for the reasons explained before, but there must be something that sounds “old” or at least “classy”. Well, we took the Shakespearean style and tried to bring it in prose. So we use a lot of words, probably way more than necessary (and as you might have noticed I tend to write, and speak, a lot) but not “strange” ones, or at least not too strange. Pair this with lots of figurative speech, some wordplay, and an overuse of comparisons, and voilà! 21st century Shakespeare-like scripts. We also have some poetry and rhymes here and there, which will mostly act as riddles that the player will need to understand and “solve” to gain hints to solve the puzzles.
Of course, the challenge is to keep the length of the script in check. Asking the players to stay in front of the screen doing nothing while hearing and/or reading for 10 minutes something on a screen when they could be playing is not a good design choice.
Then, last but not least, a script is not a script without proper actors to play it. Therefore we are in contact with other students from the drama courses to record the audio for the game. We’ll post here an example when we have one!