Thesis: Prototype Lessons

I’ve returned from the fall break after doing a lot of academic research and work on my prototype.

View my latest progress presentation

Gradual Transition

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Garbage can turning into an urn with a dead plant in it… how odd

I tried out gradual transitioning in my prototype, which wasn’t overly successful. It ended up looking like a hallway with a bunch of random items in it rather than a hallway where you realize 2/3rds through that you’re somewhere dramatically different. To make it clear that the character is moving between reality (the school house mid-day) and projecting themselves into a work of fiction (a novel they are reading, where the protagonist is escaping an abandoned castle in the middle of the night), here are several solutions:

-using a longer hallway

-having only 2 distinct architectural styles (this requires a lot more thought and research than I had anticipated, but this type of research can make a story world more tangible and consistent and interesting)

-showing the view from the windows at the start and end of the transition

-lighting and scale shifts

-shadows with an angle change, becoming more dramatic

-periodically changing the scene behind you to match the scene in front of you as you move forward

-a character that addresses you as the fictional character, or some other sign of the fictional character that the main character is projecting themselves into

One of the things noted during my presentation was that movement attracts attention. Having silhouettes moving past the windows may help guide the player forward, but could also distract the player from going to the end of the hallway.

Links between scenes, foreshadowing, visual storytelling

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Environmental storytelling takes a lot of thought! A lot of things that are really easy to describe in words are really hard to describe through environments. Certain stories are easier to tell through spaces than others, and I’ve chosen one that involves a lot of inner character thought and somewhat mundane/low stakes events. One of the things I wanted to do through my prototype was get the player to ask what the new setting that they were walking into was, and then have that question answered by showing them a book cover. Then they would get the idea that the main character was pretending to be in one of the fictional settings of the novel they had brought to school.

Further avenues into storytelling:

-testing the game with some text or voice-over narration

-keys with a room number, that links to a number on the mail sorter, that links to the number on their room door

-un-packed luggage

-musical themes

Tech

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The transition I used at the end of my prototype worked by changing the scene behind the player. This effect was explored in a previous tech demo, but I hadn’t tried it before with such a large scene. Grouping objects together in Unity under an empty parent, naming things consistently and using Blender-linked prefabs (3D model assets that you can still make changes to in Blender) was essential in keeping code smaller, staying organized and making later changes easier. These things can be a hassle when you’re working quickly, but are really worth the effort.

I now know how to implement a lot more elements into Unity, including location based sound and video play-back. I also taught myself a little about animation in Adobe Animate, which can be used in a future scene (eg.: showing landscape passing by train window)