Varat och Intet

Workbook and blog of writer and designer Tobias Lindberg.

Thursday, 140807

Besides finishing Warhammer 40’000: Space Marine and giving Thomas Was Alone about two hours, we had a major discussion regarding Achanés as well as the future of our ”team”. It became clear rather fast that several people were dissatisfied with the situation of the game and wanted to focus on smaller games. I was partially in favor of this, but my view on it is that I want to use the material we have to finish up the two levels of Achanés that we’ve been working on for the last couple of months. This argument was met with mixed feelings since some people just seem to want to finish up the current level (swamp) and then put the project on hold, most likely indefinitely. But, since there’s been sooo much time put into the project, from the team itself as well as from external people who’ve worked nonprofit as voice actors for the project, it would truly feel like shit to abandon it all and inform the voice actors that their contributions won’t show in the game.

But, we’ll see. Everyone, including me, is very confused about the third year, not being sure about what to work on. So we’ll re-enter the discussion in a month or so to decide the future of the team and our various projects.

I was feeling rather bitter after the conversation, but later on during the afternoon, Jonatan started discussing a simple game concept which both me and Philip tugged into and the concept evolved into a rather interesting party game. And so the bad mood was blown away temporarily. Oh well, we’ll see how it goes during the months that follow. Something good, I hope.

//T.

Annonser

Wednesday, 140806

First hour of the day: Reporting on how the project’s going.

First half-hour or the afternoon: Lecture about..I don’t really know, but it was interesting!

The rest of the day: Warhammer 40’000: Space Marine 

Yep, another one of those days. Getting rather tiresome by now.

//T.

Tuesday, 140805

Forenoon:

  • Playing A Story About My Uncle (finally finished it! The ending was really ”meh”, though).
  • After the tutoring, me and the other mofos initiated an intensive search for games journalists and/or reviewers whom we can terrorize with our game teaser next week. Two hours of searching resulted in about 50 email addresses. Yay!

Afternoon:

  • Lecture with Robin from Forgotten Key about the business of being a game developer. Interesting stuff, which resulted in raging discussions for several minutes afterward!
  • Experimented with REV for about an hour..then Pro Tools crashed..thrice. And I gave up.
  • The end.

Heiyaho,

//T.

Monday, 140804

I literally haven’t done anything relevant today. Why? There’s simply not anything relevant for me to do. Sure, I could work with the sound design of the slums level, but we do not know when or if that level will ever be finished so it would most likely feel like a lot of wasted time. Hence, I spent the majority of the day playing Battleblock Theater and A Story About My Uncle (both great games, in their own ways). I’ve decided to remain in school for the remainder of the week, although I’ll, most likely, will be out of work the entire time. Mainly in order to be able to participate in the few discussions that arise as well as ”being there” and being able to answer any potential questions.

Cheerio,

//T.

Tuesday, 140729

I attended an early-morning briefing in order to bring our level designer up to pace after his absence (vacation) during last week. The other guys started working with the scenes that are to be filmed for the trailer (/teaser) later today. I participated in some of the discussions, had a quick look through the potential script, which I will have to finish at home instead due to the delay of the filming. When lunch hour approached, I went home in order to prepare for my journey ”hemhem” to Ängelholm.

Cheerio,

//T.

Monday, 140728

I was only in school for about three hours today, so didn’t really do a lot. Reason: As I mentioned last week, I was supposed to record drums for my band during the majority of this week. But, since Olof (our drummer) is like a fuuking machine, we finished up 50 minutes worth of songs in only two days! And since I had planned my ”vacation” for the entirety of this week I suddenly stood there with tons of time on my hands. So, I finished up some stuff at home and went to school after lunch. I wrote a short draft for the script of the upcoming trailer, participated in some discussions regarding the lighting of the swamp area as well as the trailer overall (nothing worth reporting here, though) and finally went to the studio for about an hour to do some quick editing and make back-ups of the drum recordings. We were initially supposed to start recording the material for the trailer today but since both of our designers had the day off (bad planning) we were simply forced to re-schedule the activity til tomorrow.

I probably wont make an update for tomorrow since I am planning to head home to Ängelholm during the earlier parts of the afternoon for a well-needed rest.

Yiaho,

//T.

Friday, 140725

Since I was about to enter the studio with my band around 14:00 today, me and Jonatan went down there setting up all the microphones for the oncoming drum recording. Nothing relevant to this project, but still!

The remainder of my working hours was basically spent on the continued discussion from yesterday; discussing new water types, the trailer, etc. We also spent about two hours going through our inspirations for this project (as recommended by Johan ov Gameport) in order to be able to more thoroughly pin-point the aspects of our game that might interest people. As well as finding a ”scene” to present the game. E.g. lots of people has commented that the game seem rather Lovecraftian, which, I guess isn’t all too far-fetched since I’ve read his work actively since the age of 11. So, this work will continue next week, I guess.

Apropos next week: I will, most likely, be off recording half of the week and spending time with my family the other half of the week. So there might be no updates for the entirety of the week.

Cheerio,

//T.

Thursday, 140724

So, I purchased REV yesterday and since I forgot my iLok  at school I had to wait until today to try it out. The downloading took forever, so while waiting I joined the others attending today’s labor camp in watching trailers for about an hour in order to drain inspiration for our own trailer-work. After this, I fooled around with REV for a little over an hour before heading out on lunch. I really like the plugin thus far, but it’ll really need a couple of days in-depth attention in order for me to get the hang of it. Simple, yet complex. Good stuff!

While on lunch break I played some ”A Story About My Uncle” and I absolutely loooved the mechanics! Such a shame that I am to work in the studio all weekend, which leaves little to no room for playing..

We had planned for a public game-play-test that were to start at 15:00. Though, 20 minutes before the set time our programmers were still working hard on several aspects of the level, such as:

  1. The enemies were close to invincible.
  2. The player didn’t drown when entering the water, as it was supposed to.
  3. The player spawned in the wrong location (easily fixed though).

etc.

So the first attendees had to play an earlier build of the game that we used at the KEON-exhibition almost two months ago. Sigh.. Oh well, fortunately none of the first testers had played the game previously so it was, somewhat, okay for them to play the old build. Though, it kind of defeated the purpose since our main intention for the ”event” was to try out a bunch of mechanics that were not-yet implemented in the KEON-build. Anyhow, despite a lack of attendees we gained some highly valuable input on the product. In the gaps where no testers was playing the game we discussed various aspects of the levels, the design, and so on and so forth. And it feels like it was the first time in a really long time that everyone was on the same level, discussing topics highly relevant to the current work, instead of everyone sitting with their headphones on, working in their own, tiny sphere.

All in all; a highly inspiring and motivating day. Let’s hope that those days start to come around more often!

Cheerio,

//T.

Wednesday, 140723

Today was slow, today was boring. I had literally nothing relevant to work on today, although staying at the office all day to be able to participate in discussions, design decisions and so on, I hardly did anything.

I did another read-through of the main script (first time in almost a month, hallelujah!) in a stupid attempt of finding something relevant enough that I could produce a concept tagline from. But, of course, it was all to no avail. Sure, it was good to read it all through once again since I found a bunch of minor errors, so it feels like the script finally is, actually approaching its completion.

Aside from this, I spent the majority of the day reading game design articles, envying Ken Levine and re-reading parts of the story from ”A Machine For Pigs”. And watching cooking shows. Nom.

Heya,

//T.

Tuesday, 140722

I have revolutionized translating! Or, at least for myself. When I was translating the various chapters for the main script, I did so by hand and checking up occasional words with Google Translate. But, just for the shits of it, I tried to throw a large portion of today’s translation work into the magical machinery that is Google Translate. Lo and behold, magic was beheld on that fateful day. Religious b*s aside; I was surprised that the translation tool worked as well as it did. Sure, some parts of the grammar was straight-up shit but it did a rather solid job over all. So instead of using my old method and translate the majority of the text and then go back and fill in the words I was unsure about, I did it the opposite way and threw in the whole text (sectioned, though) into Google Translate and thereafter went back and fixed the grammar. At our morning meeting, I’d anticipated that the translation work would take almost the whole day (give or take 1-2 hours) but after using this revolutionary method (TV-shop commercial, anyone?) I was done with the entirety of the work in about an hour with the same, and even sometimes slightly better, result as when using the ”old” method. Of course I’m over-exaggerating my praises for Google Translate, but I just found it somewhat ironic that I hadn’t tried it before, it could have saved me over a days worth of work. Sigh.. Guess that my prejudice towards Google Translate got the better of me.

Following my remarkable discovery, the group spent the next two hours discussing the trailer that we were supposed to start working on yesterday. Me and Viktor started with watching a bunch of trailers for various other games. After a while I came to realized that we’d been looking in the wrong places. We had mainly searched for games with the same camera view as the one that we use (top-down isometric) in order to see what could be done with the intended camera angle. But the majority of the games, perhaps with the exception of Bastion (a game which I love, who have more of a 2D art-trailer with sections displaying the in-game combat) were heavily combat-focused RPG’s, which is a really long shot from Achanés. So I started looking for games that were less mechanic-heavy, such as LIMBO and Machinarium, who are working more towards setting the mood of their game as well as displaying the miscellaneous puzzle elements (of which we have none). So we started to drag the discussion more towards a concept of displaying the visuals of the game through other mediums than the game itself, since the static camera view we’re using isn’t the sexiest one in the context of a trailer, and someone came up with the idea of using 2D drawings of places in the game world, a concept that we played around with but abandoned rather early since, as I mentioned yesterday (I believe?) would take way too much time for our graphical artists. But this time, we altered the concept so instead of making the entire trailer in 2D, we wanted to use simple, hand-drawn sketches of places in the world and then fade over to the game for a panning of the area in question. Though, not in our usual fixed top-down camera, but more in a First Person-fashion. Sure, the detail level of the props in our game is rather low due to the camera view, but we decided that it still would give a more ”living” and less static and boring view of the game. So we’re taking the shot. We voted on the places that we are to involve and then went on to discussing how we’re going to present the story/voice over in question. And right about there, we ran aground.

The discussion that followed dealt with the story, the language, the voice actor and it was all rather messy. In the end (I think) that we settled on that unless we’d find an appropriate English voice actor by Friday we’re making the trailer in Swedish. Another issue following this was that the voice actors we’d talked to are all too young to voice the protagonist of the game, and neither were they intended for the role. When we started searching for English voice actors, their intended usage was to host as just some random voice in a non-personal trailer, but since this idea got flushed we had to re-think it all. Anyhow, some of the arguments pro making the trailer in Swedish were: that it’s such a large part of our concept, that it’s one of the game’s unique selling points, that we want to keep it personal (since the potential English voice actor in question wont be able to impersonate Isak, we would be forced to write the trailer script from a totally different perspective). Me, I don’t really know where I stand in the question. I agree with the others in that I want to keep the story as personal as possible since it’s largely what the game is about, but at the same time I really think that an English trailer would be better in that it broadens our potential audience. Sure, we can make subtitles for the trailer but, let’s be honest; how many people do actually read the subtitles for a sub-sixty second long trailer? I don’t know, we’ll see how it goes.

We did start to brainstorm for a potential slogan/tagline for the game though. It would be preferable to use an extract from the script, in the vein of quotes like ”No Gods or Kings, Only Man” or ”A man chooses, a slave obeys” from Bioshock. But, the harsh reality is that I’m not Ken Levine. Sure, I can write but that guy is a God compared to me. So we’ll probably have to resort to something else.

A final quote for the day. Not by me, but by Dan Pinchbeck, the lead writer at ”The Chinese Room”. A quote from the ending of the magnificent ”Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs” (which, by the way, probably is the best name for a game ever). A quote that gives me goosebumps every time I hear it:

”I have stood knee deep in mud and bone and filled my lungs with mustard gas. I have seen two brothers fall. I have lain with holy wars and copulated with the autumnal fallout. I have dug trenches for the refugees; I have murdered dissidents where the ground never thaws and starved the masses into faith. A child’s shadow burnt into the brickwork. A house of skulls in the jungle. The innocent, the innocent, Mandus, trod and bled and gassed and starved and beaten and murdered and enslaved. This is your coming century! They will eat them Mandus, they will make pigs of you all and they will bury their snouts into your ribs and they will eat your hearts!”

(Hear the quote in context: http://youtu.be/3IrE5NBm7ok)

Ciao,

//T.