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BMCAA 10th Unconference Talk: On Narrative Design

I had a great time presenting at U of T Biomedical Communications Alumni Association’s 10th annual Unconference on 2016-Nov-19! I presented a talk entitled “Designing for Narratives in VR and Visual Novels“. I talked about my modus operandi, and my method of designing from narrative-first then follow through with game mechanics, rather than the other way around. Along the way, I offered tips on how to hone in on a meaningful story, how to interview subjects to create great characters, and more.

 

Thank you for inviting me, BMCAA! 

BMCAA 10th annual unconference

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[Press] Kill Screen: Look out for Solace State

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I’ve had the honor to be interviewed by Conrad at Kill Screen. Our interview focused on how my political philosophy brought about an unusual aesthetic and game mechanics in Solace State, as well as many of my narrative designs and inspirations. It was such a fun conversation, and I’m so happy that a publication that I’ve been following for years has interviewed me!

Read about it here! 

An excerpt:

I caught up with Kan as she was returning from a talk about Solace State and the politics of affect at the Different Games Conference in Brooklyn. “The idea is that you affect others and others affect you consistently and continuously,” she said about Solace State. “There’s not one root cause of events, as is in contrast with, for example, Marxism and its modes of production. It’s much more indeterminable. What this means is that politics [are] very open and political change is bound to happen.”

 

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Solace State: New development build, press, showcases, talks

 

Both of these interviews were a lot of fun and the journalists asked some really interesting questions! They also created interviews that had completely different angles, which was really interesting.A lot of new things have happened since my last update! I have been so busy lining up new builds, collaborating with new specialists, and also organizing around travel and work-vacations.

New Build

Pushed a new build in first week of April that has a new, tighter script, with completely revamped 2D art and new camera functionality. The demo build is about 20-30 minutes long gameplay, depending on how fast you read.

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Programming

I am seeking some help in programming from Andrew Traviss (Fate Tectonics). He’s designed an isometric camera track system that replaces my previous one so that I can tween on a path. Hacking camera sequences are no longer on a linear path, which opens up so many new ways I can design the 3D world.

3D Art

I am the sole 3D artist in the foreseeable future because of the uniqueness of the hack isometric camera sequences and how I can structure the level build around that, and also putting in the ergodic text associated with my narrative. This build had more texture optimizations and some extensions on primarily the Airport scene (first scene in the game).

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2D Art

A 2D fine artist, Ian Hsu, is very happy to provide conte illustrations for character art. This includes both gestural, full-body drawings as well as character expression portraits. It finally matched the look that I had in my mind, to create a more “mockumentary” or editorial look.
I also illustrated clickable objects in the same style and medium. They are then edited from photograph by me and put into the 3D game world as sprites and buttons.

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Showcases and Talks

I talked about the influence of political theory on my game design for Solace State at two conferences: Intersections Cross-Sections Graduate Conference & Art Exhibition (henceforth ISCS, run by Ryerson and York University), and Different Games Conference in Brooklyn. The reception was very positive, and had some good playtesting feedback as well. People are excited to know more about the story and are curious about what they would find by the time they do find Rebecka, and what happened between the main characters.

ISCS Curated Showcase (Curated by Amanda Wong and Priya Rehal)

 

Showcase of Solace State chp 1 at Different Games NYU MAGNET

At ISCS in March, I had to showcase an older build that is very similar to the one shown at Canadian Video Games Awards / Bit Bazaar. At Different Games Conference, we were showing the improved art and camera mechanics for the first time.

Future talks and showcases

I will be attending IndieCade East with my talk and a show-and-tell slot for my game. For more information on my upcoming talk, please click here.

Press

I am very lucky this spring to have received coverage from two different publications:
Femhype asked me about my process and methodologies as a game dev [see part 1 and part 2].
Kill Screen conversed with me about Solace State’s theoretical influences, narrative, and why I designed the gameplay as I did [see here].

 

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Both of these interviews were a lot of fun and the journalists asked some really interesting questions! They also created interviews that had completely different angles, which was really interesting.

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[Press] Femhype: Blanket Fort Chats with Tanya Kan

I have had the honor to speak with Miss N at Femhype about my unusual game development process and especially about what drove the development for my 3D Visual Novel, Solace State. Read the two-part interview here: [part 1] [part 2]

Miss N: A lot of your work revolves around narrative-driven games.
What drew you to making those kinds of games?

Tanya: I’ve always just made sense of the world through stories for as long as I can remember, as soon as I had the language to form sentences. Undergrad especially sharpened my desire to shape narratives through the study of media forms and power in governance. I’ve always wanted interactive ways to talk about society—even if they happen to be imaginary ones. And governance itself can be seen as having a structure that has constant rules and standards of play.

And much more! I really enjoyed this interview because Miss N knows just how to ask such interesting and diverse questions! Thank you, team at Femhype!

Also received some love and coverage from Hand Eye Society’s Toronto recap in their March and February newsletters. Thank you to @gollydrat for the wonderful writing!

 

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Solace State: Reflections from Bit Bazaar and the Canadian Video Game Awards

This post has been a long time in coming! My game dev and related work have been thriving. It’s been quite an adventure in December and January: I had a great time showcasing the first build at the Canadian Video Game Awards with Bit Bazaar, and I continued working on some build ideas for Solace State. I took some time off during the winter holidays to relax with family and friends, managed to catch a cold, started writing some short stories, and began a new teaching job at university in intro to 3D game arts. I also started networking a bit more to see if there are any local collaborators who can help me with character art, localization and programming.

On Dec 5th and 6th, Solace State had its first outing with Bit Bazaar and the Canadian Video Game Awards Fanfest. Surprisingly, the vast majority people played through a 20-30 minute gameplay demo, which was beyond my expectations. I had set up the demo so that people can skip between scenes and levels if they wish, and practically no one took me up on that offer (unless they were manning a booth and had to run back to their responsibilities).

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There were many experienced devs who shared their insight and feedback to me, and is it ever so valuable! Many people enjoyed the main game mechanic, namely the “hacking-scrolling text environment”. Most people seem to enjoy that part of the gameplay more than the straight-forward visual novel mode, and have asked if that part can be longer. They also “get” it right away as long as they know which keys to press (arrows or WASD), which means that it’s only been my communication about it on devlogs and social media without gameplay input that has been the real problem.

Second, the constructive critique of primarily other gamedev community members have helped me re-scope. A lot of the times, what I see as less-than-ideal in the game are also highlighted by fellow devs. It seems that I’m not far off the mark with my own self-assessment.

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On Writing

As much as I’ve been writing in some academic or professional capacity for about 9 years, writing for a visual novel game is a different beast from all the creative writing that I’ve hitherto completed. I tend to write much more like a novelist than a typical comic book, where a lot of the key identifiers of the protagonist is clear on the first page. Of course, there can be twists and back-stories down the road, but nonetheless, key motivations are already set up in the first ten, fifteen minutes. Solace State doesn’t quite have that. That’s not necessarily game-breaking, as narrative-driven games like Gone Home and arguably Dear Esther has created a much more gradual reveal of their characters’ vivid colours and internal contradictions. But I do need to balance between what I save for later, and what I reveal in the first ten minutes of the game.

On the flip side of the coin, I also have to remind myself to keep conversations and scenes to be more organic, and less utilitarian to the greater arc of the plot. Without a doubt, there should never be “filler material”. But, I also strive to describe those moments and beats that reveal something intrinsic about the characters and how they feel to each other, what they mean to each other. It’s these little moments where relationships can be built, and can fall apart.

What’s interesting, of course, is that games are becoming more of something that doesn’t get consumed in one sitting, whereas plays and films are. The middle ground to all of this is to emulate some inspirations from television drama, which takes a more episodic approach to its narrative arc. At least, this is the way that I have framed it, and it has helped me acknowledge which scenes may have too much detail, and others not enough screen time to develop the right emotional beats.

Again, it’s worlds different from writing an article or novella; My usual playgrounds, where a single line can leave one breathless with its impact.

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On Art

There’s a few people who have pointed out the incongruity of the semi-cartoony character art with the rest of the universe, including the 3D environment and the tone of the writing. I happen to agree with them.

There are a few approaches that I would like to try out:

  • Realistic-styled graphite pencil or ink sketches in black & white , which I am capable of producing myself, but can take half a day for a single expression
  • A digital painting in lino-block style in black & white, which I or another artist can produce, and doesn’t take as long as the graphite pencil sketches. This would be in a similar style to what’s already produced in the mood trailer from Feb 2015
  • Collaborate with photographers and a lot of modeling talent. This requires a lot of upfront collaboration and is highly reliant on what kind of new faces and talents I can find. I’ve started making some inquiries into this. It may be the most expensive, but may also be the one that creates the nicest effect, giving the game a semi-mockumentary feel. It might also cost me less time (see prototype below)

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People seem to love wandering through the 3D environment as a purely artistic experience though, so I’m not going to change anything there. Just going to add more content!

On Design

With some feedback, I’ve decided to do a prototype of hack scenes that are more primary, cutting out the traditional dialogue format and UI typical to visual novels. There should be textual puzzles that must be solved within its bounds, as well as clickable objects to reveal more narration and dialogue. This is to ensure that the requisite narrative dialogue is met. Each scene should have an intertitle explaining Chloe’s goals, in her own words, so that the player knows what to expect in terms of narrative goals and broader trajectory.

In practical terms of the intertitles, the textual puzzles, and the clickable objects, it means that I should maintain a key plotline by consistently (re)defining where Chloe might find Rebecka with new sources of information. When we start off, we discover gradually who Rebecka’s last contacts are.

On Programming

Key stuff on the to-do list: Upgrade from 5.2.4 to 5.3.x; Create Save and Load variables; Create a history log for dialogue; Create a variable mini-encyclopedia for all characters and places as they populate in the narrative; Improve on the pause screen.

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Solace State: More scene assets

More scene assets have been added onto my Unity build since the last post. This is because I’m creating my first showcase demo build for early December! I will have a table at a fan expo with my art prints as well, and it’ll be a great opportunity to gain some valuable feedback from players and members of the dev community. As I want to retain some surprises for people who want to try out the game there, I’ll just report on the following below:

I’ve put in all of the dialogue and narrative in the first 5 scenes, with the proper pacing and click-based interactions. However not all of the 3D and 2D assets are done yet, as I have been working on each of the priorities for each scene. Here’s a screen shot of the second scene! There’s still some foreground UI animations that I’ll need for this scene for the protagonist’s passport. This scene also animates cinematically, as though from the protagonist’s first-person perspective.

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Additionally, I want to expand on the second game design that I was experimenting with. It represents when Chloe is hacking and finding out more details of a place. The camera goes into orthographic view in this mode, and you can move around using WASD keys to read snippets of text in the environment, that might disappear or appear depending on where in the environment you are. Later on, I might have some basic point-and-click puzzles. I kind of like this different way of perceiving a 3D space that isn’t first-person, to illustrate that the “hacking” Chloe is doing unnatural, and also gives her an incomplete picture into the world.

It’s also got a somewhat abrasive aesthetic that mimics a glitch image, especially when done to whole buildings.

Finally, I’ve asked a new collaborator to come on board to create some additional character art for me! My original illustration style was softer and didn’t have as many interesting postures and expressions. So we’re exploring a more graphic look for the characters that are also more visible on smaller screens. Additionally, it makes it more manageable for me to focus on 3D assets, writing, and putting the game together. (See: “Rebecka” at left.)

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Game design elements for Solace State

Solace State is in its early production stage. It is an interactive novel where you play as Chloe, a young hacker who must navigate a near-future metropolis to re-unite with her friends, and contend with both the tyranny of the great and the sectarianism of the many. For more information, please see the recent re-introduction post here!

What does it look like? The new screen captures from today show the game mechanics and art style which will stay consistent for most of the rest of the project.

In Solace State, you play from Chloe’s perspective. The core mechanic, as described in a previous post, remains simple and unchanged: You get to chose some of her dialogue and actions through contextual buttons, to try to develop and maintain trust or exploit a character or social group. This plays out in a branching narrative, similar to many story-driven games and interactive fiction.

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95% of what will appear on the screen are events through her eyes. This includes the room that you’re in, to the computer hologram pop-ups that greet you. This was a design decision that took a while to articulate, since I do want the protagonist’s face to show up now and then, but I also want to maintain immersion of a singular perspective.

This is a first design for the UI, where one character talks to you. The character will have expressions to match what they are saying, but will generally be static, similar in style with many Visual Novels. The self-cam shows Chloe’s face or nearby proximity as appropriate for the scene, and sometimes no image feed at all. Since this scene is early in the game, I chose to crop in on her eyes and reveal her full appearance over time.

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This UI design is still preliminary, and there will be other configurations in other scenes so that the holo-screens do not block a particular focal point in the background. The background is fully 3D in Unity 5, and takes advantage of its physical shaders, and therefore can include atmospheric effects such as shifting light rays, reflective moving surfaces, and much more.

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The second major game mechanic that I’ve been testing lately is the ability to find key information and extrapolate emotional narration from our main character without the use of flashbacks. This one is structured around Chloe’s playground – her hackspace – and lets the player scroll through an isometric space to find and read information. Another design consideration is that I have to consider how to write for something that will likely be read out of order – an interesting premise! The player also pieces together the architectural space gradually, which can give more flavour or clues as to what the narrative slices are about.

*Note: The grainy, blurry quality of the GIF above is because it was very compressed for web! Rest assured that the textures look better in Unity realtime, or as a Video file.

I’m quite excited about both of these gameplay trajectories as Solace State starts feeling much more interactive! Thanks for reading!

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Solace State: A re-introduction

A lot has changed over the past months for how Solace State looked, told its story, and played out. I had expected development to be a thoroughly transformative process, and it has not disappointed me. I read up on a number of studies that examined political resistance, as well as cyberspace as the new frontier for civil struggles, and it led to a number of broad changes both to narrative and to gameplay itself.

Here’s a new introduction to the project…

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The Premise
“Our future, our design!” In 2038, Abraxa Harbour city-state is hailed by its wealthy as the crowning jewel of thriving markets and cosmopolitan culture, at odds with the increasing number of destitute who live in the shadows of its skyscrapers. But this is the year that even students and workers see their future dwindling away, and they rally to form a society different from what the city’s strongholds have authorized. A young woman, Chloe, is in many ways an outsider, a newcomer who finds Abraxa full of forbidden and cryptic histories. But she must strike deep into the storied urban streets in order to reunite with her friends, who have embedded and braced themselves to defend their livelihoods. Can she reunite them across ideological divisions, or are some of them better off alone with their ambitions? With her machine-aided perception to see into reclusive worlds and associations, how will Chloe negotiate her hopes and fears in the midst of turbulent revolution?

Visual Novel Features

  • A unconventional story set in a sci-fi city that focuses on the human stories of negotiation and social trust
  • What dialogue and actions you chose matters to the outcome of the game and the characters around you
  • Hand-drawn characters and handcrafted 3D backgrounds
  • Unique introspective scenes where you must “hack a 3D space” to find the internal monologue

Why a game?:
Solace State is an imaginary vision of participatory citizenship and negotiation between some very differing groups of people. It makes sense that players can engage with the narrative through various menus of choices that are reflexive of their own values. The sci-fi elements of the story allow the protagonist to quickly wrest information from the world and make strategic decisions. But most simply, this is a game with a story about people who often feel like outsiders, who are overlooked, but can come together to create new emergent livelihoods. Because I want to portray both utopic and dystopic elements, I feel like a game form can give me the greatest range of affective outcomes and not just show one tone or atmosphere, given that you can chose a path in the story. Above all, the players can interpret whether the story is utopic or dystopic themselves.

Game Engine:
Built in Unity 5, so that I can take advantage of the asset store for visual novel tools, as well as full 3D engine and realtime lighting capabilities.

Pt 2: History of Development:

I started ruminating on the idea of a game about a futuristic student-led society since early 2013, when I had just completed a game arts & VFX internship in Hong Kong. I was traveling in East Asia and was having conversations with friends and artists there about our histories and civil identities. In Nov-Dec 2013, a group of friends and I put together a 5-minute playable level in Unity as a proof-of-concept. Back then, the game was called Babel. It featured point-and-click puzzles and voice-over narration in a 3D environment built for first-person exploration.

Something didn’t quite grasp the agency and atmosphere that I wanted to convey in the first playable demo. The puzzles weren’t very good, and each of us in the team were considering longer-term job opportunities at the time. We put the project on indeterminable hold. In Fall 2014, outside of a couple of short-term freelance engagements, I returned to developing this game.

After some consultation with programming and design friends, I realized that I really needed to hone in the script first for it to be a narrative-driven game, and that my gameplay will be informed by the key characteristics of the narrative. This may seem counter-intuitive for a lot of general how-to-dev guides that demand focus on gameplay first, but for me, interaction cannot be divorced from narrative action in a text-heavy game. Finally, it did not seem like I was fighting with gameplay ideas that could barely move past the prototype stage because the narrative seemed like flavor, not a key feature, and that was not necessarily something I wanted to produce for this particular game.

Thus, through the remaining months of 2014 and early 2015, I drafted a cyberpunk story with an outline for the general arches of narrative action. I had a much better grasp of what I was going for, and Solace State as a name reflects both sci-fi and political overtures. I created a trailer in Feb 2015 to solidify the atmosphere and tone. I knew clearly what I want to highlight for Solace State: Conversations and building relationships and trust between characters. Which brings us to now: As a solo developer, I currently balance my time between design, game engine work, writing, and artwork.

Art style (a continued odyssey):

In Dec 2013, the game was a 3D exploration puzzler, and the models were realistically proportioned but had a very painterly texture to them.

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By Feb 2015, I have found a simpler style: Banksy-like graphical style with painterly 2D backgrounds.

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Now, I’m finding an in-between: 2D illustrated characters that will have more diverse facial expressions and a hand-drawn look. I am experimenting with 2.5D backgrounds and 3D scenes.

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Shown above: A Ren’Py prototype from Aug 2015. The art got a bit too convoluted, and I want a separation between characters and backdrop (kind of like Disney’s different styles between character and background art).

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This is a realtime prototype in Unity, created Sept 13, 2015. I want to see how I can push this with 2D flatty character art.

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From Babel to Solace State: A concept trailer

Solace State is the new name for Babel. With this change also comes a new mockup concept trailer, with a new illustration art style that I believe is more distinct and carries consistently through. It’s created right in time for GDC 2015.

After consultation and a lot of thought, I came to the conclusion that Solace State is a much more descriptive title for an interactive novel video game. The story remains the bedrock even though my prototype game designs have changed.

Solace State is a coming-of-age story about a young woman’s reunions across a troubled hotbed of ideological dissent. She will come across challenges that bend the very fount of many people’s hopes, dreams, and fears. The city which she knows and does not know may censor secrets, or share too much.

Please watch the trailer in full screen, with sound on. Enjoy!

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Exploring Babel

Babel has been an interesting process lately because I am going back to the drawing board for a number of design considerations, in order to better create a match between storytelling and immersion. Script writing continues to be an iterative process, which helps articulate the scope of the game, since it is narrative-driven. There will continue to be more prototyping to see what works best!

I’ve been looking at different interfaces, but also find myself enjoying some of the beautiful rendering and shader tools available in Unreal 4!

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New Years and looking back to 2013: Being lost, finding my way, and the hope of Babel

2013 was a year of growth for me. Painful growth, thorny and weedy and out-of-place.

The start of 2013: I was still coming into my own, still ill at ease with my sense of personal and cultural identity, feeling at odds and far away from home. This was despite that I had found work and rent in my place of birth: Hong Kong.

And then I fell in love with the city, despite my own fresh heartbreak, plus the feeling of hopeless inadequacy without the perception of my grandparents’ generation to guide me through its labyrinthine sociopolitical heritages (unlike them, I have a myopia for war and conflict). I was barely making rent, but my want for independence still played to fit the colourful, liminal spaces. I was breathing in the smog, but also the omniscient lights and the throngs of people from all walks of life. I dared myself to persevere, and by consequence I saw that each neighborhood has a life-beat of its own.

I threw myself into work, of twisting vertices and bones, and setting them to an animation track. Stress tests. I walked out of the office at 9pm for fast food congee and walked back in on a sudden Eureka moment because I lived 5 minutes away, in one of the most condensed metropolitan centres in the world. And, somewhere along the way, the colour palette shifted, like a filter under the cinematographer’s technique. An orange warmth of the hues as I scraped up the Mid-Levels escalator with new friends, local and cosmopolitan, and felt like I could touch that sky that had never seen snow.

Dichotomies exist in all cities. The old and the new. Hong Kong's captured me.

Dichotomies exist in all cities. The old and the new. Hong Kong’s captured me.

I knew, then, that this was what I was meant to do: Observe, fall in love, and tell a story through art and language.

It was a new kind of disquiet when I came back to Toronto in March 2013, five months after I’ve left for Hong Kong. There would still be frost on the ground for another two months. But what was once familiar had a kind of emptiness in gestures, because the person I thought I would always share them with had left me behind. I lost also the kind of crowds and colors that I thought I could hide in as a personally demarcated “foreigner”.

It brought to the forefront of how I am so compelled to re-examine my identity. I have never been more hyper-aware of the ambiguity of my Westernized personality and socialization. It wasn’t a question posed within the walls of academia for once, but in everyday perceptions and conversations. Those missed opportunities for grasping something meaningful about one’s social roles and beliefs, especially. In the case of those who have had their foundations in mainland China, there was such a gap of shared cultural experiences with me as to be a chasm.

Babel is that project about identity. It was born from staring at a mirror shining with naiveté and idealism, and wondering how they’d be lost. It was losing track of language, signs, faces and realities, and gaining it again. Babel is the understanding that many people in a city state goes through this transformation in various ways.

In Hong Kong, I was taking photographs for the express purposes of documenting memory and being able to reproduce it in 3D. For an interactive experience.

In Hong Kong, I was taking photographs for the express purposes of documenting memory and being able to reproduce it in 3D. For an interactive experience.

It’s a work of fiction that aspires to be art. It’s primarily inspired by the many contemporary concerns of an advanced capitalist state where demarcations of East and West are rarely clear. There were many times when I am writing Babel as a script that I had rewritten again, so that the core themes have a deep presence that can be read across multiple tonalities. It’s not until I’d become more embedded in the local game development community and met so many diverse talents in the latter part of 2013 that I have a true confidence that storied experiences can have local flavours can also be universally approachable. I had always known this in theory, but it was different to put into practice as a content producer.

Loss and rediscovery of identities and culture?
That’s lingua franca to everyone.

Where-ever you are, where-ever you’re thinking of: There’s something to be said about loving a place so full of pastiche. A localized cinematic examination, I’ve found, can give such homage to a place as to add to its breathing structures. With the demarcations of light and movement, the artistic compression of a city onto film patch a unique intentionality. And an unspoken intimacy, even if we don’t understand a single line of dialogue.

It’s never going to get easier. In 2014, and in the years to come, the stories I want to create as well as those foisted upon me will only become more textured. The plot will be convoluted. But that’s part of the challenge. That’s part of the hope.

 

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Babel at Bit Bazaar: Write-up of our experiences!

Babel’s team had a great time in its first outing at Bit Bazaar’s Arcade. Bit Bazaar is a Toronto celebration of comics, arts and crafts, and the local game development community, brought to life at Bento Miso by Jennie Faber and her team of awesome volunteers. For the short amount of time that I was able to peel myself away from Babel’s station, I was able to get to know some really diverse and engaging talents from Toronto’s comics and game development scene.

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Although we are really only one month into crucial development time, and even less if we count that towards building our showcase level, it was a great way for us to really come to face how to develop as part of a community rather than in isolation. It was also a great milestone for us to aim for. Some might say a little prematurely, given that we were rubbing shoulders with game devs with over a year in development for the games that they are showcasing. At the same time, we already share a common understanding that, regardless of the game, the development process comes not only great design and focused themes, but a lot of consistent hard work. We learned a lot from these experienced developers and how they connected with their audience at the Bit Bazaar Market.

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We generally got great critiques and feedback from people who engaged with our niche game, and we really want to thank people who tried out our game to give us such thoughtful feedback! We heard back that the atmosphere clicked with a lot of people who tried our game. Some found that the pacing and melancholy was different from the norm but was an interesting vision that usually isn’t articulated in video games. Some really got it, that it was meant to be an artistic interactive experience in the same vein as games like Dear Esther and Cat and the Coup, or even closer to arthouse cinema, from which it gained its inspiration (Chungking Express and other Wong Kar-Wai films). Personally, I am delighted by the interest from academics, who see potential of Babel as a way to describe and contextualize difficult narratives of political and personal identity within the format of interactive puzzles.

At the same time, we want to push the boundaries a bit further to blur the categories of artistic and emergent gameplay experiences, so we will look to redesign better puzzles, both relying on logical and lateral puzzle-solving. We know that we can push the emotional emphasis to the game a lot better, while more gradually revealing themes and conflict of the narrative. We will keep honing the script, level design, art, and game logic to that end!

Thank you Bento Miso and the Bit Bazaar organizational team for such a great experience.
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Alexander Martin (@Droqen of Starseed Pilgrim fame) checking out our game! Thanks for the feedback! Looking forward to incorporating the changes.

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Yasin really liked our game! Thank you for all the fantastic feedback!

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Thank you team! From L to R: Me (Tanya), Blake Withers, Mikki Benaglia, and Rob Richard.

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For the video walkthrough of the prototype level, click here!

 

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Video Playthrough: Babel First Prototype

Just newly built on Dec 7th, 2013!

Here is the artwork from Babel’s first prototype, built in Unity and 3DS Max. Story and art driven, Babel was a challenging one month build because I had to ensure that the first chapter’s script was comprehensible to the world that I had to level design for, while keeping the authenticity of East Asian urbanity. I had over 75% of all model assets to complete for a six-minute puzzle game.

It is an experimentation with a painterly acrylic look to the art assets. The rest of the models – including the NPC – are created by Mikki Benaglia and Blake Withers. Rob Richard was the lead for programming, real-time deployment and optimization.

Gameplay: You throw a projectile to hack into electronics, in order to reveal game dialogue. We are going to continue to develop this gameplay mechanic further so that there’s more iterative puzzle solving.

Our timeline for this build:
2 weeks of preproduction: Script writing, script editing, level design, asset list, concept art, core systems
2 weeks of production: Voiceover recording, promotional printing materials, modelling assets, building the level, coding scripts, lighting, video editing

In engine (Unity):

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Screenshot_Rooftop

Screenshot_Stoves
In Max:

 

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Babel_Preview_TopDown_02

Babel_Preview_TightCorners_02

Babel_Preview_TightCorners_01

Babel_Preview_FavoriteElectronicsSome of my favorite electronics.

 

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Concept Art: Babel – Wan Chai in Colour

This is the first concept art that I did for Babel. It was at first just a vague idea in my head that I wanted to do something about Eastern Asia and mass consumption. I started the drawing in Hong Kong, specifically in the Wan Chai neighborhood. I finished it in Toronto.

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