OK so we got straight back into production it felt like, which is definitely a good thing, but I found myself suddenly stressed and almost overwhelmed by the idea of needing to come up with a project with an appropriate scope that I would be willing to devote the next 12 weeks to. If I hadn’t had my experience in Studio 1 I would have found this much harder.
For my final project in Studio 1, which I spent half a semester working on, I spent two-to-three weeks developing a concept. Initially my curiosity directed me to the Big Day Out music festival and an Australian music television channel called Channel [V]. I threw myself into these topics and only rarely would attempt to understand how they could relate to a game concept. Then I just started building a 3D map to explore in Unity and with a bit of magic I ended up having a concept that excited me, a 3D open world game set during a folk music festival that is organised by the US military stationed in Tasmania, Seaforth Folk Festival.
The best part about this game from my perspective was the narrative. MAGI has taught me many techniques for developing interesting stories, which was a skillset I really had trouble developing in my 20s when I worked as a filmmaker, and it is probably the element of gamemaking/ filmmaking that I want to explore the most, and therefore what I want to develop further in Studio 2.
So. What stories do I want to tell? I decided a good place to start was simply with the things that are currently interesting me. Over the break I’ve read several books about war and global conflicts: China’s Grand Strategy and Australia’s Future in the New Global Order by Geoff Raby, The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson, Propaganda and Public Relations in Military Recruitment: Promoting Military Service in the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries which was edited by Brendan Maartens and Thomas Bivins, and a personal diary of life in the Royal Air Force during World War 2 and beyond written by my grandfather. I also watched the film Full Metal Jacket by Stanley Kubrick which is set during the Vietnam War. To be honest I don’t think I’ve ever given much thought to war, the army, being a soldier or anything like that. My whole life has been blessed by mostly peaceful international relations and I have never been forced to do anything I don’t want to do (apart from paying rent!). A lot of The Splendid and the Vile, a historical account of life in England during the beginning of the Second World War, is made up of personal diaristic accounts from people who were actually being bombed by German planes almost every night, sometimes killing hundreds of people daily. Their casual writing style really made their plight relatable which got me interested in how my friends, family and myself might fare in a similar situation.
Of course we are also living through a situation that is the closest to a world war that I have ever experienced: our daily movements and actions are heavily controlled and scrutinised, we are unable to travel internationally with ease, we are separated from loved ones, unemployment is high and we are constantly barraged with heartbreaking local and international news that is becoming harder and harder to process and accept.
I think this has all contributed to me wanting to tell a story about regular people (which from my perspective is ‘people who live in Melbourne’) being forced into the army because of some global conflict. What would it actually be like? Is it possible for me to create a narrative that is engaging and absorbing enough for people like me to really start to think about how our lives could change if one of the many possible nightmare scenarios did occur?
This all sounds pretty dark I know, and the last thing I’m interested in doing is making people scared or anxious. I’m told most of my work has a sort of dark sense of humour so hopefully I will be able to bring that to this project, while still being able to discuss a complex and unsettling subject.
Though most of my Unity games have been made as 3D world explorers with fairly basic controls, I am now interested to develop a new style of game, possibly a dialogue selector/ visual novel style. There are a few games that I am aware of in this field but I don’t actually think I’ve played any of them, so I have a bit of research to do. I think making something like this will allow me to focus on visuals and on narrative, the two areas I want to explore the most.
Anyway, considering how quickly my Big Day Out project evolved and became Seaforth Folk Festival, I am fully open to this project changing dramatically, maybe by next week! Until then I’m going to continue researching and conceptualising, with an eye on the scope that is possible within 12 weeks.