We are pretty much in the eye of the storm of the project right now. The purpose of these updates is not to always show the pretty side of development but to be transparent and right now it is hectic, busy and a bit tense. If it's difficult, and challenging, but that's not a bad sign at this stage. The challenge keeps us engaged, and help us make a better game.
Last week in Montreal, the Metropolitan Orchestra paid tribute to Montreal made games during a video game symphony. It was beautiful and our previous game Contrast was part of the show along with many other local games, like all 137 Assassin’s Creeds.
As we approach content complete (now three weeks away), we’ve been looking at the full game and making the last major adjustments to content that we can.
One of the challenges in game design is that it’s rarely ever “done”. The artistic nature of it means that there are always improvements; always parts of the game that you want to put more into. However, you also need to ship the game, and that often conflicts with wanting to make changes (as I’ve mentioned before, finishing a game involves locking down parts of the game, allowing us to do things like bug fix, optimization and polish). Balancing production realities with creative desires is most difficult at the end of the project, and not always an easy task. But, we’re getting there!
This week sees the last major changes (eg Adam’s work below, structural changes to the final island, structural changes to the stories, etc) coming in, as we prepare for a playtest of Arthur’s full story next week. This is being done by Gearbox’s user research team, and it’s exciting to get independent verification of whether we have improved on the issues raised by the previous report (and also on all the issues raised by the community!). Hopefully once that information is available, I’ll be able to share some of it with you all.
Design Team - David, Hayden, Antoine, Adam, Ben, Eric, Roxanne and Benji
Surprise surprise, we’re all working on story stuff, BUT some exciting news. I’m redoing the first level of Character 3’s story to give it a boatload more action. What else… a lot more VO has been recorded and imported, so.. that’s me for the next 3 weeks.
I have been working on fixing some blocker bugs and lots of VO integration. Most importantly, I just started helping on balancing weapons. We will do massive tweaks to them, so they stop feeling all the same and are actually interesting to acquire. More on that soon! ;)
Engineering Team - Matt, Serge, Michael, Lionel, Rob, Evan, Maarten, Céline, Neil and Guillaume (sometimes)
Narrative Team - Alex and Lisa
Then there is the unplanned list. After Agincourt, Shakespeare has King Henry V read a herald’s note detailing the dead among his enemies, the French:
King Henry: This note doth tell me of ten thousand French
That in the field lie slain. [...]
The names of those their nobles that lie dead:
Charles Delabreth, high constable of France;
Jaques of Chatillon, admiral of France;
The Master of the Crossbows, Lord Rambures;
Great Master of France, the brave Sir Guichard Dauphin;
John, duke of Alençon; Anthony, duke of Brabant,
The brother of the duke of Burgundy,
And Edward, duke of Bar. Of lusty earls:
Grandpré and Roussi, Faulconbridge and Foix,
Beaumont and Marle, Vaudemont and Lestrale.
Here was a royal fellowship of death.
When most actors get a list, they tend to read it like a grocery list. They know they’re reading a list. Each word they speak is part of a list. It becomes singsong. If you perform Henry’s speech like that, it has little power.
Take a moment, and read the above like a list.
Now, read the list, but each time you come to a name, pause for a moment, and imagine someone you know. Now imagine them dead. Only then move on to the next name.
Seriously, do that.
See what that does?
It becomes an unplanned list. Short planned lists have power. Long planned lists are tedious. Long, unplanned lists have power.
It is a challenge to get actors to perform unplanned lists, because they can see the damn list right in front of their eyes. They know how many names are coming up. Yet you have to knock them off that, derail that train, or it sounds like a planned list. You have to remind them that their character doesn’t know what they’re about to say until a fraction of a second before they say it.
(In Meisner technique we were taught to practice lines at the highest possible speed, without affect: “Whatapieceofworkisman hownobleinreasonhowexcellentinfaculty etc.“. That way the words would be there when I needed to say them, but wouldn’t be associated with an emotion. So the emotion would come fresh and surprising, even though the line was memorized.)
(The ability to let go of what you know is critical to many artists. An editor has to be able to say, “Who the hell is this character that just showed up?” even though in the 22 previous cuts of the film, that character was properly introduced, so of course she knows who it is. Same thing for a writer.)
One of our characters in We Happy Few has a problem:
“Beatrice says she loves me. But she loves everything! Me... long walks... sunsets and rainbows of course. Simon Says… big wristwatches on a man… wrapping paper… dandelions… a good night’s sleep… ribbons… Uncle Jack’s bedtime stories… six o’clock … commemorative spoons. I have to know if it’s real!”
What’s funny about this list, I hope, is that it is (a) unexpectedly long (b) terribly specific (c) weirdly diverse. “Unexpectedly long” is only funny if the actor performs the list as if he does not know how long the list is. If the list becomes sing-song, it’s not funny. He has to perform it as if he is searching his memory for everything Beatrice loves. It’s funnier if it sounds like he’s done, and then he thinks of some more things. Ideally, to make it more comically upsetting, the actor should do homework: create a different imaginary circumstance in which Beatrice liked each distinct item on the list. Then each item comes with its own distinct emotion, and it will come out of his creative instrument sounding distinctly different.
By the way, giving the actor a distinct imaginary circumstance is almost always helpful, not just with lists. With good actors -- and this deep into development we’ve got an amazing repertory of voice actors -- if you simply tell them something about their imaginary circumstance, the line comes out more distinctly. Even if they’ve said the line the way I intended it the first time, I’ll still tell them something about it sometimes, to see how that informs their delivery. They usually deliver the line sharper. Remember this is in a voice session where we’re doing a new line, on average, every 30 seconds. Our guys are Teslas: they go from 0 to 60 at ludicrous speed. Their ability to interpolate the imaginary circumstance I just gave them and deliver the line fresh is what makes us bring them back.
With the content-lock deadline looming, I finished the last few locations that still needed environmental narrative. People in Wellington Wells didn’t always take Joy. This week I wrote letters and diaries that show you what certain townspeople were like in the days before pharmaceutical pick-me-ups. Get ready for some dishy dark secrets!
For fun, I also wrote a couple of Halloween limericks about Foggy Jack, who most definitely does not exist. (And because the muse does not adhere to the calendar, I also wrote a little Valentine’s Day ditty that I'll share with you in February.) Most important, I started planning my WHF cosplay for Halloween. Have you?
Animation - JR, Remi, Vincent, Mike P, Jules and Raph
Hey everybody! So this week I will talk you about combat animation! We continued our work on it this week. We edited the animation I showed you last week, to change how the NPCs will hit you. The biggest change is that now the NPCs step towards you to hit you. They will no longer move in front of you, wait, and then hit you. This brings our combat system to another level. The immersion is more intense and less repetitive. So now my challenge is to adapt my animation so it fits with this new process. It’s really exciting! Seriously when I started this task, I never would have imagined that we’d able to upgrade our combat to that level.
Hello people, it’s been a while! Sorry for not keeping everyone up to date on what I’ve been working on in the past few weeks, but the truth is we’ve been working really hard on cinematics and story assets. I did some rigging and exploded a few more objects as well, but the main focus remains to deliver our best animation work for you all to enjoy. Have a good week and hopefully we’ll soon have some special things to share with you!
Mike (not so dangerous anymore)
Heeeeyyyyy! So this week I worked on some custom animations for our level designers to try and make all of our encounters as special and unique as possible. Then I burned the midnight oil making a cutscene to transition you guys from the first island to the second, and help set the mood for the rest of your playing experience. I know it doesn’t sound like much, however I tried to put a lot of love and effort into it for you guys. So that’s it for me folks, tune in next week, same Bat Time, same Bat channel!
Art Team - Whitney, Emmanuel, Tito, Marc-André, Sarah, Guillaume, Cary and PH
I did a new character this week! I call him my little monster, because he is made of many other characters. Unfortunately he is story related so I can’t show him. After him, I did a bunch of different things, I destroyed a location, worked on one of the bridges, a house, and created some variations of textures for some characters. It has been a really busy week, and probably next week will be busier, but we are getting there!
Hey folks! Sarah and I are busting our butts to finish the 2d assets that support the environmental narrative in the game. All secret, juicy stuff for the release. I can show you something, though. Here's the Doctor rendered in a classic painting style.
Wow! This week I worked on a lot of assets, but mostly small ones. I did variations and I retextured various works. No time to be bored, I switched from environmental assets to character assets. Also, do you remember all the parachute stuff I made last week? I finally finished the parachute’s bag itself.
This week was a rollercoaster of disciplines, from bug fixing to arting up secret story levels, to rain FX, World Map visual FX or planning one massive section of the game! Good thing is it all ended up being pretty amazing, above all expectations! Here is a wallpaper of an “ideal” look for our country roads!
Publishing – Steve, Jeff, Mike C, Mike R, Austin, Meredith, Elisa, Kat, Kelly, Nicole, Sean, Brad, and Erick (and more)
We're super excited about what's in the final game, and we can't wait to make it available to the world!
Have a great long weekend everyone! (It’s Canadian Thanksgiving)
Discuss this post here