3-week Vacation from Witch's Tree

clyde's picture

Boy have I had a great time this week. I jumped into TyranoBuilder and started making stuff.
First I started making an EXO fan-game. The narrative comes from a vivid dream I had and some thoughts on how to make it more interesting. I decided to do image-searches and crop things out of the photos in order to just visualize how I wanted the eventual sprites to look. This lead me down a really interesting path. I was hanging out in the IRC and I played ghettoshamrock's game Zyphrandomora http://www.glorioustrainwrecks.com/node/9342 while chatting with them. Seeing that you could put animated .gif into TyranoBuilder was kinda inspiring so I quickly threw something together by using gifcam to capture some of a funny dog faces video on Youtube, taking a photo I had in my personal collection for a background, sampling a bark from an online file using Audacity, and using one of the place-holder sprites that I had already cropped for the Exo fan-game.
The results were very exciting for me. I don't know if I have explained this to y'all, but there is a certain something about a lot of the games on Glorious Trainwrecks that seems to emanate from this community. It's something I have a lot of respect for, but have not yet been able to achieve. I'll go ahead and call Destroy Your Home out because it is probably my favorite example of this quality.
I felt that I achieved the quality I have thus far been envious of with Duchess. That was very exciting for me. Then I decided that I didn't like how it didn't have an ending and the ending turned into a manifesto.
Appropriating images so freely was intoxicating. I fantasized about how I could do this for a while and quickly get results, some of which may be good. I like the look of Duchess. But I am vaguely aware of cultural norms and possible legal concerns in game-development. I'm not hyper aware of them, I just have noticed over the years how sometimes people get super mad and indignant about stolen assets or lack of credit. This is just not a personal concern of mine (having people steal and use my shit is something I WANT to happen). I have a hard time understanding it and to be honest, most of both the legal and taboo aspects of this massively controversial issue seem to be based on double-standards, superstition, and greatly varying amounts of enforcement. So I started a thread about it.
I'm pretty radically liberal on this issue and underestimated how many people are significantly conservative on it. I think that underestimation made my original post appear like an intentional desire to inflame. To be clear, I do feel passionate about appropriation and the constraints of intellectual property-rights (and expectations of them), but I can understand why the original post was so off-putting for some. I started to see that I want to ask people about a bunch of hypothetical situations so that I can suss out what it is that an individual bases their personal feelings on appropriation (mostly image-apropriation). But doing that would make it look like I'm just trying to set up an ad hominem fallacy by making people with opposing views look like hypocrites. Still I want to present the hypotheticals, and a game-form seems appropriate especially since people can do it in privacy and so much of this is about how one personally feels about it. I think of this appropriation-game as something that I can populate with more examples and probably make some much more subtle once I have gathered perspectives on appropriation. It's a work in progresss that will supplement the discussion.
The thread is going well, I think that people are realizing that there is a huge variance in opinion on the subject (myself included) and it is provoking valuable thoughts for me personally. The thoughts being expressed in that thread is having a formative effect on how I see myself as an artist who uses computer-games as a medium. Just this morning I realized that a big part of my emotional reactions in the discussion is the confusion between my personal ethics and the cultural norms. I'm realizing that I do care about cultural norms when I prefer to think that I only care about my personal ethics. Coming to terms with the influence of cultural norms that I don't agree with (and have problems with) on how I go about my creative-process is helpful and empowering. It is orientating to realize that there is a very real boundary that I feel the need to push. I'm not saying that all of my games are going to be about this subject, but some of them will certainly be informed by this experience. A good example of the influence this discussion is having on me is that I found out about reverse image-search and spent an hour drawing pictures just to see what similar ones on the internet would look like. It's super fun.
This morning I started going through my decade and a half of digital photos, looking for assets that I could share with the TyranoBuilder community (which is freaking out because they don't know how to create or find character-sprites that they would be satisfied with (or how to become satisfied with them)). I became excited about how my older cell-phone pictures have certain looks to them. After trying to make a sprite, I realized that the TyranoBuilder community probably wouldn't want to use it, but I would. I can't say what it is that did it exactly, but something about the appropriation-discussion has made me more excited about the images that I create. I think it's that as I'm exploring the threshold and forms of source-material-obscuration the games-culture seems to be permissive of, I'm enjoying the idea of performing those same techniques to my own photos. It's been an interesting week. I'm hoping to get back to my EXO fan-game this week. My break from my break was a great idea though because I ran into some technical problems in TyranoBuilder that I was able to send samples of to the developer, and I am more familiar with the engines idiosyncracies. I'll make the EXO fan-game a goal, but only for direction for the week. I'll probably get distracted again.


clyde's picture

Week #2 of my three-week

Week #2 of my three-week break from The Witch's Tree I found myself working with a three-person team for a WizardJam entry. Simbiotik is doing the art, my wife is doing the sound, and I am writing the narrative and implimenting the assets into TyranoBuilder. Here is the dev-log page, I haven't been updating it much because it is largely humor-based and I don't want to spoil the jokes.
This is the first time I've worked on a game as a team and it's interesting. I'm aware that I can bottle-neck the efforts of other members so that has a big impact on how I view my priorities. For instance, Simbiotik needs to know what to draw and Capt. Haistings needs to have an idea of how and where the sound will be used. Right now things are going pretty well because we all seem to feel like we have things we know we need to do. I'm trying to write more of the first-draft every chance I get. I'd say I'm about a third of the way through because the last scene will require substantially more writing and whatever you call programming in TyranoBuilder.
One thing that I didn't realize is how nice it is to have someone else do the art. It's so nice to have someone else do the art. I think of myself as a visual artist, but I get really bogged down with making art assets and have a hard time balancing it out with writing narrative. When Simbiotik is making all the art, I can focus on writing the story directly into TyranoBuilder and implimenting whatever gets sent my way. Some times I even make requests. Typically though, the way it has been working is I make a place-holder asset, send a build to Simbiotik, tell them what the specs are and they send me something to replace the place-holder with. On my end, this is working great.
Capt Haistings has had some experience with recording in Audacity before, but having a purpose like this in mind and working on art as a team that includes more people than just me is a new experience for her. She's currently lining up resources and listing all the things she will need sounds of and what for.

I want to do a great job so that my team will be happy to have worked with me. It's taking all my game-making effort for this 2-week jam. It's nice to have them as a motivation and as resources so that I can finish a mid-sized project in TyranoBuilder. I'm a fan of finished projects because it helps me scope future projects. I think tbis game will be pretty good too. I think it's funny and I'm going to try and address some issues that are interesting to me that I don't see games addressing.

clyde's picture

Week #3

I had to read the dev-log for the WizardJam game to remember what I did this week. It's so weird how after initial stages, you pour time and effort into a game and it just absorbs it. There's no question that *I Know You Are Having Fun (but I'm still working)* has drastically improved this week, but it's really hard to recognize distinct examples of how it has improved. I've been writing dialogue and branching dialogue for most of the week. I got the bulk of that done on Thursday and Friday. Then on the weekend, Capt Hastings started sending me audio to put into the game and I tested it with her. Within two days she reached a point where she has a distinct sensibility from my own and having that knowledge and understsnding on the team for the game is awesome. The process was pretty interesting, we ran into problems I've never had to deal with. One of the more interesting ones was that a song sounded right for a scene when played alone, but not when playing through the game. After s few hours of trying other songs out, we realized that the problem was caused by starting one song immediately after another. This wasn't an engine-problem. It was an sound arrangement problem and I didn't even know that could be such an issue. After that experience, we both know that considering silences is a viable solution for some problems.
Capt Hastings needed me to actually put the sounds in for testing all day Saturday and Sunday so I couldn't write. Simbiotik sent me more art and character-expressions so I spent some of the time in between animating the characters a bit, fixing typos, re-adjusting positions of art-assets and dialogue pacing, that kind of thing. I also played a lot of Titanfall. I could usually get a match or two in before Capt. Hastings had something to put in or something she wanted me to do into the mic.
The major confrontation in the game has tone-problems and it's taking a lot of conceptual work. There's no way I'll get to the point that I'm satisfied with it, but there is so much opportunity for improvement. Capt Hastings is straight up offended by the second draft of the confrontation scene. We've argued about it two nights in a row. This is good because it is ultimately making the confrontation much more substantial, but it's draining to passionately argue over confusing concepts that society hasn't even solved, but which we feel a need to provide a possible solution for. And it's a two-week jam so there is a time-constraint. It'll get done, and it's interesting, but it takes a lot more effort than one would think from just playing the game once for 15-20 minutes.
I'm enjoying how politically charged the narrative has become. I was thinking that by this time I would be making the branching choices more distinct in their results, but instead I'm trying to write four perspectives on a confusing issue in such a way that they all appear valid and respectable. This is very difficult when some of the perspectives are mutually exclusive. *I Know You Are Having Fun (but I'm still working)* is becoming a prompt for me to have to commit to some perspectives on noise-pollution and attitude towards shared workspace enough to write them. It's a good thing we have a deadline, because I'll never be satisfied.

There is no way I'm jumping back into *Witch's Tree* right now. The jam finishes on Friday, I work Saturday and Sunday, I'll probably want to help some other teams finish their games next week. Even after that, I don't think I'll want to jump right back into a lengthy visual-novel project. Working on *I Know You Are Having Fun (but I'm still working)* is showing some of the cracks in TyranoBuilder and I want to wait for atleast a significant update to the engine before using it for another project of this length. I discovered last night that the browser builds have been broken in FireFox ever since I implimented sound. That sucks. I still love the engine for its export features and the work-flow it enables with the drag&drop interface, but I should only use it for very short games until the exports are more reliable. I think what I will probably do is focus on making very small vignettes in the *Witch's Tree* world which are not necessarily chronological. Having Simbiotik's character art available for the wizardJam entry shows me how much that helps the writing process, so I will probably get some character art I'm somewhat happy with to play with on *Witch's Tree*, I may need to lower expectations.
All that said, I was very inspired by a game Sergio is working on and I want to experiment in Unity a bit soon. *Witch's Tree* is far from dead, but I'm not going to consider it as my major production effort for a while. But I'll very likely work on assets and small stories in its world in the coming months.