Tuesday, May 31, 2011

On scope and engine research

For the last quarter I've had a bit of a crisis with regards to this thesis and how to go about executing the visual component. The research I've had well in hand since the beginning, and the overall process for developing nonlinear story content, I feel, I've made into something pretty straightforward. The really big issue up to this point has been more a matter of what's in scope for me to reasonably make. For the last few months up to this point, I've been trying to conceptualize a one-act play based in part on interactive cinematic games like Heavy Rain, with full emphasis on the narrative system in lieu of mechanical systems in order to more fully develop the potential that I saw in that sort of project. For a while it looked like I was going to base it on the "Kobiyashi Maru" from Star Trek, which I felt would keep the project self-contained and provide an interesting theme to explore.

Such a project is more appropriate to a cinematic designer or game animator than it is to me, my skillsets being more in game systems, technical design, content design, and writing. The vast majority of the work on my project would come down to heavy animation and cinematic directing, which I have positively no experience doing--much less for a nonlinear story. I'd have to recruit someone to do that for me while I plan the content, and I can't abide having a thesis project where the majority of actual production work is being done by someone else rather than myself. As such I had to re-think some things in order to make this project feel reasonable and underwent a few discussions about it with Professor Cookson. To sum up his advice on the matter: I'm making too big a deal out of making the presentation of it super-professional and cinematic and should just be focused on the content. He suggested it wasn't entirely necessary to make an Unreal game and that I could just as easily put this together in Flash and it would be perfectly acceptable.

In the meantime I've been doing a lot of work with Unrealscript this quarter, developing a scripting library and tutorials that will enable students to more easily develop original content and games. It's been highly successful and as such I've become confident in my ability to generate content and mechanics with it. Professor Cookson and I agreed that the work I've already done in this regard is definitely a feasible foundation for the project. As such, I'll be making this a 2.5D side-scrolling game based on my side-scrolling platformer scripts. I'll have more information on this project very soon as I've got a clear picture of what I'm trying to make. As usual scope control will be an issue, but I at least feel confident in my ability to generate gameplay-oriented content as opposed to cinematic-oriented content.

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