Interactive Media 9: Multiple Endings & Remembering Choices & More Progress

After coding the menu for choices in-game that the players are allowed to choose, I have tried to experiment on making other characters remembering your choices or previous deeds. This means that if I choose to be a bad character with low morality, the other characters will treat you differently. For example, in the current prototype, player can choose to either betray the 3 pigs and help the Mr Wolfe or help to stop Mr Wolfe from eating the pigs. If the player choose the former, the character Red Riding Hood will appear in the later part of the game and reprimands Gretel for her actions. The same thing happens when the player chose to steal from Goldilock, which Red Riding Hood will know and speak different sentences to Gretel.

Alas, all these choices can be remembered and will lead to different endings. There are currently 6 different endings, of which there are 3 Good Endings that are only slightly different from one another, and 3 Bad Endings that are quite different. Some of the endings are premature endings which happen quite early on if the player choose very bad choices that lower their moralities by a large amount. Luckily I discovered that it is pretty easy to code this feature into the game itself to the simplification of the programming language.

Lastly, the final character to be drawn is the 3 Pigs. They have undergone pretty much changes from the original draft as they look too plain in the original. I have decided to give them shirts and trousers to wear and even some pretty cool hairstyles. Their color choices are based on the green-yellow-orange, a line of colour that is able to be mixed nicely, representing the 3 Pigs who are brothers. The three of them are their own being yet they have strong bonds with one another. The eldest pig is drawn to be more mature than the other two, with the youngest looking more child-like. Due to time constraint, I have not been able to find time to draw them separately and thus they are drawn as a single character avatar. However, due to the fact that only two of the pigs talk, it does not pose much of a problem to tell which pig is talking. I have made distinguishing the pigs easier by color coding the name, so the Eldest Pig text name and Youngest Pig text name will have different colours.

3Pigs 3PigsSmile

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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 Media 8 : In-game Choices & Exporting to Android

Today I have experimented with in-game choices, as this is what made the game having multiple choices for the players to choose to experience multiple endings. Starting up, I check the tutorial for game choices, which is available in the software itself. Using the original script, I created 2 simple menu that looks like this:

Screen Shot 2015-04-18 at 19.59.05 Screen Shot 2015-04-18 at 19.59.11

At first the menu is hard to read due to the text being white and the box is paler in colour. Luckily, I manage to solve it by going through the settings and change it with coding too as seen below:

Screen Shot 2015-04-18 at 20.04.26

The colours, font type, font size and even bold or italics can be coded to fit what I want, Python language really is incredibly easy to type and understood. It uses HTML colour code which is one of the more used system in the website. I always employ the website, http://html-color-codes.info/, to help me determine what code I need for the particular colour that I would use in-game.

I used it for giving different character’s name a different colour so as to make them more visible for reader to know who is talking.

Screen Shot 2015-04-18 at 20.14.33 Screen Shot 2015-04-18 at 20.14.40 Screen Shot 2015-04-18 at 20.14.49

Screen Shot 2015-04-18 at 20.05.59

Lastly, I have also tried to export the beta version to Android and turns out it WORKS wonderfully without any major hiccups. Thanks to the simplicity of the software itself, allowing me to export to Mac, Windows, Linux, iOS and Android easily.

Screen Shot 2015-04-18 at 19.59.24 Screen Shot 2015-04-18 at 20.08.5111160552_10205695555822554_1220378296_n

I have also added a new avatar for the bear that will be accompanying Goldilock.

3BearsThe bear is designed to look like the real bear, but still wear a pair of trousers to make it more human-like/fairytale like. I make sure not to change the appearance to differ from the original too much to keep authenticity.

Interactive Media 7 : Programming with adding effect to Image and Music & Progress

After further learning of the code process using online materials such as http://www.renpy.org/wiki/renpy/Wiki_Home_Page (Renpy wiki) and Forums http://lemmasoft.renai.us/forums/viewforum.php?f=8, I start to get the hang of how things work in this software. And through all these, I am finally able to add effects like ‘dissolve’, fade in fade out for both images and music. Scaling of images can also be done through coding, along with the colour of the menu buttons etc. Everything can be changed with just a few lines of code or editing of the original!

Renpy really makes things easier than Flash. I made use of some Royalty Free Music from youtube and convert them to .mp3 format using the website ,http://www.youtube-mp3.org/, while the images are taken from my group-mates who designed/gained them from some supposedly royalty free sources.

Much of the problem has been solved now and all that is left is for me to draw more characters as avatars for the game, along with tweaking/editing of the background picture to give a feel of morning, day or night for further realism. Characters conversations has been smoothed out and reedited from the original ones, as I felt that the latter is a bit too long or wordy. I found that a shorter and simple sentence fits the visual story as it also depends on visuals to tell the story, so I try to focus less on the words, though they are still important.

Next I’m going to try exporting the app to Android for testing of the platform, however, I run into some weird problem that prevents me from doing so. It could be something to do with the coding it seems. Gonna check out the forums again for better understanding of the code error.

Meanwhile, Goldilock’s Avatars are finished, but I must admit I’m starting to run out of ideas on how to make her stand out. As she is a performer in this story, I tried to give her a more funky looks, with glasses, and star tattoo on her cheek, together with purple hair. I felt that this character still lacks something essential to have it at the same level as Gretel or the Witch, so gonna ask the group to hear their opinions in this!

GoldelockNormal GoldelockSad

Day, Night, Morning changes to background

Screen Shot 2015-04-17 at 01.13.35 Screen Shot 2015-04-17 at 01.14.06 Screen Shot 2015-04-17 at 01.14.29

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 Media 6: New Software for Programming

After today’s tutorial, I am so glad that we do not have to use Flash to create our app. From my past experiences, Flash has always given me headache and makes things much more complicated. I have tried several times creating just a single menu screen with button and it took me two days just for that. The coding, ActionScript 3.0, is hard to understand and requires certain knowledge of programming, making it less user friendly.

Luckily, I have been searching online for alternative software that specialises in Visual Storytelling and finally found a free one, that is available for Windows and Mac, while being able to export to iOS and Android for the final product. That software is called Ren’py.

Screen Shot 2015-04-14 at 23.02.13

Ren’Py allows the user to easily create interactive storytelling using images, sound and text. It’s program employs Python as the programming language. This is one of the easiest language to learn and understand. I have tried my hands at learning it and is able to grasp everything much faster than ActionScript 3. There are fewer lines typed for the same functions, allowing me to dedicate most of my time on the art, music and story. This software simplifies many of the processes and there is even a built-in tutorial explaining what I EXACTLY needed to know to start creating interactive media storytelling, which saves me time from randomly searching online only to find answers that I don’t really need for my situation or usages.

Today, within 3.5 hours, I have already set up and created first few dialogues exchange between characters and also include some music. Normally, this would have taken me much longer to do in Flash, and doing it here makes it less error-prone, due to the simplicity of the programming language and the software. I will be doing more research on the Python language to ensure I am able to create our app on time.

Screen Shot 2015-04-14 at 23.09.04

Script to Film 10: Starting of Post Production and Issues

Easter ends and we show our first edit to Dom for review. And…as I thought and suspect, some of the shots are really bad, worse than I thought. I guess this happens when a group mate does not know very well about his own camera ability. Too many of the shots are placed in weird positions and some even cut off the actors’ face! Furthermore, he cuts the video almost immediately when the action ends, preventing a smooth edit as almost every scenes are cut very abruptly. However, I am glad that there are also some very good scenes that display the atmosphere and symbolism which we have planned in the script.

Overall, it is bad enough that we may have to reshoot some of the stuff. However, there is something weird going on. The director is also doing his own editing, completely separate from the editor’s. I feel that this is quite unnecessary; rather than doing it together, we have now two separate editors that are working on two different versions. If the submission time is still months away, it maybe fine, but it is now left only 4 weeks. If this still continues, I have decided to tell him straight. We are working as a team, so it’s better that we do not do things separately, especially regarding editing.

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 Media 5 : More Designs

For the past few days, it’s mostly spent on character redesigns, giving them modern twists; a modern fairytale. It is a world filled with dread yet colourful.

For Gretel case, she is completely redesigned from the original draft. I feel that the main heroine has to stand out more and unique personality and look. The original draft is too generic and plain. I gives her the blonde hair, which is same as Hansel, but in addition, she is made to have dyed her hair blue at her ends. This colour is quite often seen nowadays and is relatable to the modern world.

I cut her hair short, from the long one in the original, to make her seem more independent and a stronger girl. ‘Candy’ eyepatch is added at almost the last stage, just make her stand out even more. Her clothing of brown and striped cloth underneath is made to contrast with her hair colour, so as to not take too much attention away from the face.

For the witch, she has been 100% redesigned, using one of the pictures drawn by a group mate, which I used as reference. She is now more traditional looking, but with a rainbow hair to give contrast to her villain roles, and that since her house is made of candies, the hairstyle is designed to resemble similar stuff. Her shirt is toned down so as not to be too colourful that it distracts people away from the face.

Mr Wolfe is still the same, just that I give him darker colours to symbolise evilness and cunningness.

Original Reference for the Witch11041882_10153250051124448_5123938376153059616_o

GretelAngry GretelNormal GretelSad GretelSmile WitchesNormal WitchesSad

MrWolfe