Getting together the models

So after trying to settle on the exact story before making the scenes, I was getting so caught up that I decided to take a break from it and start building assets for one location that will definitely be present, which is the compound in which I lived in Togo for the second year I was there. I tried finding assets but unsurprisingly there aren’t many good assets to depict a contemporary small African village, and I want to be true to the story. I looked at some pictures I have from my time and began crafting the structures in Blender. As I’m new to the program it has taken longer than I had hoped, but I’m getting the hang of it and it’s going faster. Next steps are to put actual textures on these buildings and put them into Unreal so I can start playing with different storytelling techniques. Some ideas:

  • An ongoing narration as you walk around the scene
  • Using gaze or picking up items to tell short stories about the objects
  • Narration that begins through event triggers and when the user walks to a certain location

There are many unknowns which is why I want to get these buildings done ASAP and start testing. Next week’s Quick and Dirty show will hopefully offer some insight. Here are the models:

Here are a few of the reference pictures for comparison:

 

Settling on a story

This past weekend I volunteered for Versions, a VR conference hosted by NEW INC and Kill Screen and had a chance to try out more experiences, listen to a few panels, chat with people in the industry, and attend some workshops. It offered a great look at the actual landscape of the industry and while I’m not totally sure it is the industry for me, hearing Robert Yang talk about VR soberly was oddly inspirational. Though he does not necessarily see it as the future, I appreciate his view on getting into VR early to shape its culture (and make sure it’s gay) as well as his point it is easy to go between VR and game development since they use the same tools. To this point I began thinking about the difference of VR and games, especially about the openness of the audience in VR for experimental, interesting, mature pieces. I had the pleasure of helping to demo Tree, an amazing piece from an ITP alum that uses a fan, heat, and even a sparked match that left many people feeling like they had a type of spiritual experience. Though serious games do exist, they are often derided for not being “fun,” while it seems serious VR experiences are met with open arms. Perhaps this is because VR is expensive, elite in a sense, and it has the connotation of total immersion that makes it “profound.” Maybe it is just because VR is in its early stages that people are more open to new ideas.

Regardless, I think this is worth exploring. People have asked me how my Peace Corps experience was and it’s impossible to summarize it in a succinct way. I still have dreams about Togo and my village, my host mom, my dog, and about that life that feels like a dream at this point. I would love to create an experience that allows someone to walk around in my old town, Kadjalla, to talk about my life there, my friends, the culture. To have multiple stories presented probably similarly to Bear71, largely narrative with the freedom to explore and I’d like to add some minor, linear-style game mechanics (move object X to position Y to advance the story). Keeping within the scope of the class, however, I’d like to begin with a story about my dog, Filet. I don’t expect this experience to be “fun,” and I really want to create it for myself. I just need to begin recreating my house and the area around it and begin playing with the story itself. For the graphical style, I really like the low-poly look of That Dragon, Cancer or Monument Valley: simple geometry with warm, light colors.

I tried finding a low-poly dog that I liked but I think I will use this opportunity to learn some basic 3D modeling software and make my own assets. The area that I will build will be relatively small for this story so I don’t think it will be too outrageous.