Interactive Media Research : Art-style

During the process of discussing our own version of mixed fairytales in the group meeting, we have gone through several revisions to try to change the characters to fit our own story world. The world we made is comprised of several fairytales like Red Riding Hood, 3 Little Pigs, Goldelocks and 3 Bears and Hansel & Gretel. We want to make a story that is dark and corrupted, filled with drugs etc to contrast with the original version.

However, we plan to make it modern, similar to Shrek but more of a fairytale in reality. I use my surrounding in UK, or Bristol as reference for this. Some characteristics such as piercing, dyed hairs and even eyepatches. However, the amount of details has to be controlled so as to not make everyone looks the same in style. Thus, I separate them into three categories, the younger generation and the older and animals. The former refer to teenagers or kids in the original fairy tales, like Gretel, Goldelock etc, the second refers to the Witches and Red Riding Hood who is of older age. The last one refers to humanoid animals that act like humans like the Bear, Wolf and 3 Pigs.

Gretel, Hansel and Goldelock is given pretty modern styles, with jackets, piercing and dye hairs or flashy accessories put on them. They are meant to be rebellious group age, which is similar to the real world. These characters will stand out more for what they look like, to give our players, who are mostly teenagers or young adult to relate better to them. I try to refer to them back and forth while drawing to ensure I do not make them look too similar in fashion style or hairstyle or colour usages.

For the Witch and Red Riding Hood, being an older character in age, I restrict myself from adding too much bright colours (except her hair), she wears a plain green colour shirt, for more conservative colour usage. As this is the only character that I infer from one of my groupmate’s drawing, the style is slightly different from the rest of the characters. Overall, it does not differ too much to look like it’s not from the same story world. Red Riding Hood is changed to be more mature and older in our version to create her as nemesis for the Witch, thus she is also kept as plain as possible even though the original source of Red Riding Hood is a young girl of similar age as Gretel and Hansel.

Lastly, for the animal characters, with the exception of Mr Wolfe, I minimise as much clothing or accessories as I could to retain their animal appearance. Their natural features such as nose, ears and furs are retained and in some case enhanced. Mr Wolfe is an exception to most of these because I believe that he is a more major character for the story and thus need to be different to stand out from his other animal peers. He is given a cigar and black hair and shirt, to symbolise his dealing in the darkness and also his cunningness that makes him fit to work for the likes of the evil Witch.

Background wise, we decide to use pictures that we have taken ourselves, as I do not have enough time to draw a good background. So rather than drawing a rushed yet bad backgrounds, I figure a good photography will do the trick. The same backgrounds will be edited to show the difference of timing, like morning, afternoon and evening. This allows us to make the game seems to have a sense of time and varied backgrounds even though some of them are of the same places.

Interactive Media Research : Programming Languages

Post [ONLINE] Available from : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Python_(programming_language) %5BAccessed on 18/4/2015]

Due to the kind of work associated with interactive media, programming languages are what we will use at some point in time to create a project. There are many kinds of programming languages, from the very old C language, to it’s more popular evolution of C++, with others that appear which is very different in syntax (the way it’s typed) and difficulty(readability).

For the past few years, I have tried to learn some of them because I was quite interested in making video games, which makes programming languages very essential in this area. Especially for my previous course, which I have decided to specialise in video game creation, the time spent on learning these languages increase even more. I started with the basic language that the school taught me, ActionScript, a Flash language that used to be very common in the web due to its ease to export and play media online. This language, though called basic, is actually pretty tough to learn. The syntax is not very readable with plain English, it’s not as bad as C or C++ which is essentially much harder to read as it’s closer to pure computer language.

ActionScript, now in it’s 3rd version, still presents me with challenges when I’m using it to create game or any online media. Though there are many tutorials available both offline and online, I still could not get my head to master it completely. It gives me lots of headache with weird errors that is never explained well enough, forcing me to go online to search for help or answer.

Then, a year later, I got to learn a newer language, JavaScript, for the game engine Unity. This time, it is easier to read, to me, much easier to code. The readability is more similar to plain English and I could do many functions with lesser lines of code, unlike ActionScript. After researching more on this new language, turns out there are a division on the type of programming languages. One is the pure programming language like C++ and ActionScript, the other one is Scripting Language, which nowadays serve almost similar purpose. The latter is termed to be easier to read and type than the former due to them being newer and thus the compiler is more advanced in understanding what the programmer wants using fewer lines of code.

Later on, I get to know Python, which is one of the most simple scripting language I have ever encountered. Almost anyone can read it and understand it. The amount of line used to set up a function is reduced dramatically from the likes of ActionScript and even from JavaScript. This makes me really interested in Python and have experimented with it multiple times. It is almost as simple as HTML, a marked up language for creating webpages, but have recently been used in making simple game using HTML5.

According to Python’s creator, Guido van Rossum, his philosophy in creating this language is

  • Beautiful is better than ugly
  • Explicit is better than implicit
  • Simple is better than complex
  • Complex is better than complicated
  • Readability counts

He believes that programming should be made as simple as possible so people could focus more on other areas like the visuals or sound. In the past, programming languages deter a lot of people from taking it up, but now with the likes of Python, almost anyone can script or program a language easily, allowing many creative minds to unleash and more interactive contents to be produced in a shorter, less headache inducing method.

Thus, when I learn that I may have to use Flash for this module, I was quite a in a bit of disappointment. True, ActionScript is still used in the majority of the web, but now there are many more better alternatives, especially for producing Interactive Media Visual Storytelling that my group planned to do. For the first few weeks I tried my hands again on Flash, tinkering with the options and learning from the workshop, which actually uses HTML5 to code. Sadly, there are still some weird errors that could not be explained happening almost everyday, leading me to delay my drawings just to focus on programming. This makes me terribly inefficient as time is spent on programming. Worse, I might not be able to get a good prototype out in time because of these.

I look online for alternative, there are some older ones like Game Creator etc but what I’m looking for is one that employs the likes of Python as it’s main programming language. Finally, I came across Renpy, a Python Visual Novel game engine, that is quite popular and has been used for some time to create 2D interactive visual story. I check the documentations and am relieved at it’s simplicity. Normally, I would have to type something like ‘ define g = Gretel, type Gretel “dialogues”, end’ for dialogues but here, it only requires one line ‘ Gretel “Dialogue”‘. It’s so much simplified than Flash, though for Flash, it is multipurpose thus it’s complexity is warranted. This Renpy is used only for this purpose, which I think is much more suitable to be used for our project as we don’t plan to create anything complicated aside from simple story with dialogues and character drawings. True enough, after the tutorial which I told the lecturers that I would like to switch to a new software for the better interest and purpose, my time spent on coding reduced drastically and I can now focus more on the arts and sounds. Even simple effects such as screen shake, inputting in-game choices are available and can be coded easily to make our story interesting.

I do not regret switching from Flash to Renpy for this project. The latter serves the primary purpose of what we want, that is creating interactive Fairytale story, with as minimum fuss as possible compared to the all-in-one Flash that could do anything but is terribly inefficient at giving us what we need in a reasonable time.

Interactive Annotated Bibliography : Difficulty Level of Modern Games

Salmon, C (2013) Are modern games easier or simply designed better?. VB [ONLINE] 13 June. Available from http://venturebeat.com/community/2013/06/13/difficulty-vs-design-are-games-now-easier-or-simply-designed-better/[Accessed on 15/4/2015]

Today’s games are very different from games of decades ago in regards to graphics, mechanics and more importantly the difficulty level. Since my project is more or less can be considered a game, I am interested to discover what kind of games will capture the modern audience of current time. Disregarding the mechanics and graphics and focusing on difficulty level, I want to take a look at whether modern games is actually purposefully made easier or simply it’s a new type of game designs. This will help a lot in designing our game with it’s pacing and of course, it’s difficulty level.

According to the article, current games are made easier due to “extreme competition between titles has created the need for games to be immediately entertaining as soon as you press the start button”. This is true as more games have turn mobiles and many current gamers have shorter attention span to spend time on a single games. Often, it’s more likely that we have multiple games to play at our disposal. This is such a huge contrast to the time where we could only have one or two choices and we would “poured countless hours into a single game in a desperate struggle to witness the ending”. I realised that it’s this abundance of choices that made us less willing to play a game through to the end. What makes it worse is if the game is hard to complete, further deteriorating the chances of many player to play through.

Our intended project is more of a visual story game that employs only clicking as main action input. This should be able to fit with current gamers who are used to clicking either on computer or on mobile devices, making our game technically ‘easier’ to play rather than having them input multiple buttons or special gestures. Also, I will put “offer some manner of hint” on how mechanics work, which is such a staple in current games like Angry Birds etc. If possible and I do not have time constraint, I would love to make our game ” take the time to make sure you understand as much as necessary before thrusting you into the main experience”. It is only with the good balance of these that will prevent us from “sacrificing the sense of achievement” that the player wants to achieve by playing such games in the first place.

If the current gamer has the tendency to rely on hints or in-game helps, we will need to add these features to make our game more appealing. I could start with, perhaps, an easier opening sequence where the game will explain the mechanics to the player, but the difficulty level will go up as the game progress to keep that ‘risk-or-reward’ feelings of  achievement in-check to encourage the player to continue the game till the endings. Furthermore, as we have planned to have multiple endings, it might even encourage them to replay the game to get all different endings as sense of achievement of discovering new stuff for each play through.

Interactive Annotated Bibliography : Reusing old formats for modern audiences

Peplow, N (2015) Repurposing old formats for modern audiences: risks and rewards (Blog). The Guardian [ONLINE] Available from http://www.theguardian.com/media-network/2015/apr/07/risk-reward-remake-old-content-new-audience [Accessed on 10/4/2015]

Remakes based on popular old movies or tv shows are a common sight in today’s industries. This is due to “less risky investment that promises high returns and plenty of free PR to boot,” Since the previous film already sets the audience, all the producers need to do is recapture them again for the new show through the PR generated. As we are also kind of recreating a few well-known fairytales world and characters to fit our new story world, it is important to plan how to format them for modern audience.

Certainly, the original tales still have plenty of charms that draw people to them, evidenced by their popularity even till today. Story wise, we tried to make sure that the original antagonist still exists and is unchanged. These are the characters that many people remember from such fairytales and are considered essential to appear as the antagonist instead of suddenly changing them to new nemesis. Just like how “many TV shows and films were dependent on their main star”, fairytales depend on their main characters and main antagonist. In a way, it is nostalgia that brings in the audience. So, if we are trying to attract audience using our own version of fairytale world, we are actually also indirectly employing nostalgia to make people play our game.

I will keep intact the original protagonists and antagonists. However, there will be changes to their character designs to fit modern taste. Firstly, the clothing they are wearing will be similar to what we today, jacket or t-shirt instead of the older fashion. The protagonists, Hansel and Gretel will be more mature and rebellious, in contrast to the original version. They will have piercings or even dyed hair, reflecting common traits of current youth, especially in the UK. These changes are meant to keep the story fresh. The audience we are aiming for are both the fans of original fairytales and current audience who maybe attracted more to our modernised and dark version of fairytale. We need to “focus on the essence of the idea and ensure that the underlying story is still compelling enough to resonate with them.” The plot is still the antagonist kidnapping the protagonist’s family, just that this time we reverse it to make Gretel saving Hansel instead, going against the normal notion of the guy saving the girl.

Aside from that, as we are combining 3 fairytales into one, there are many new story branch outs to explore. We plan to have the Wolf from 3 Little Pigs to work for the Witch and have Red Riding Hood as a rebellion leader against the Witch. The story is more complicated and seems more suitable for today’s audience which is more mature. Adding on the fact we will add in some drugs reference, we are definitely not targeting anyone below 13 year old. Ultimately, what we aim to achieve is make it”relevant enough to today’s audience that even if the original built-in audience doesn’t have any interest in it, it still resonates with the new”.

Interactive Annotated Bibliography : Researching How People Make Choices

Wax, D , How to Make the Right Choice, (Blog)[ONLINE] Available from http://www.lifehack.org/articles/featured/how-to-make-the-right-choice.html) [Accessed 7/4/2015]

The moment we decided that we would make a short game where the player will be able to choose their own choices in-game, which will change the endings, I began to do some research on how exactly a person make their choices. I believe that this is vital for our game, as we have to ensure that it fits the mentality, which is stated in the referenced post as “analysing outcomes”, something similar to risk-and-reward. Humans’ mind are fixed on this rule of thought when making a decision on just about anything. Often, what makes us decide on a decision is when it seems to benefit more, and it can be either in short term or long term.

According to the post, some people just use a point or list system, writing down both pros and cons on each choice, and simply choose the one with the most pros point. Weirdly, sometimes people just follow their instinct and it turns out after some research, that these people are more satisfied with their choices than those who use their logic. This is attributed to the “lower level of stress the decision created”, where they just trust their unconscious mind and not “relying on their conscious mind’s much more limited ability to deal with complex situations.

This made me think that our games choices have to be kept simple, or people will actually stress out from choosing two difficult choices. Though, I may still add in one or two of such choices in order to facilitate the risk-and-reward mindset that is so engraved in each of our mind.The game should be filled with 80% easy choices, with the other 20% consisting of difficult choices. This is where I hope the player can have the chance to “go with their gut”, instead of pondering over the choices logically. I believe this occasional changes in choices will make the game more varied and fun. The genre of our game is similar to visual novel, a genre that is not supposed to give stress to the player unlike fighting games or shooting games etc. But, an appropriate tense moment does make it more memorable and thought provoking.

As the player is guiding the main character’s destiny in the game, I wish that they can connect to her and imagining themselves as her. Making decisions for her should provoke the same feeling as making choices for yourself. There are certain risk and reward involved, especially with the addition of magic beans which acts as the currency in game versus the backfire of choices which leads to other characters behaving differently towards you. Ultimately, the ending will change depending on the choices you have made. I just want the players to choose them with their own feelings, as “your satisfaction with your decision will depend largely on whether you claim ownership of your choices”. It is to let them understand that “taking full responsibility for your choices can make even failure feel like a success”. Sometimes you may choose bad decisions, but you know it’s what you want and go with it.  This is the kind of thought I want to place into the game.