Project Silicon Notes #3: What You Hear, What You See, What You Feel

Coalescing a little better. Just laying the groundwork for this project involves taming an errant muse that grows a little more powerful the harder I struggle with her. She doesn’t want to make this easy for me. I think it really shouldn’t be easy. The process of creating something truly satisfying involves sweat, tears and a little blood. Your commitment level is as strong a signifier as any – perhaps the strongest – of how much you truly care about something.

And this is one of the few occasions when, for me, my ambition’s taking a second place to my interest in simply creating something significant. …which is not to say that my ambition isn’t there at all. Er, no – this is me we’re talking about. I’m defined by my ambitions, even if I often lack the discipline or character or resources to see them through.

This project, though, is entirely hedonistic. For my own pleasure. A selfish indulgence tempered with a desire to “get it right.” The only reason I’m nuancing it as much as I am is because “getting it right,” for me, doesn’t imply any form of a slapdash approach – it isn’t enough for me to just cough up some rough semblance of narrative, splash crude emotionality, and call it a day. I want to create something that resonates with a level of truth in it – that to read it from the start is to be immersed in its world until the end.

…see, even when I’m merely doing it for my own satisfaction, I’m still an ambitious son of a bitch. I don’t mean to be lofty. I just aim to be satisfied. But I’m never really satisfied, you know? Mostly because I’m not dead yet.

How do you create a world?

Existence, it seems, cannot be separated from the act of observation. Now, formally, this actually means that even the briefest, lightest form of “observation” possible, such as passing a photon past something, must necessarily define a value upon the object being observed, meaning that the only reality one can be aware of is a reality that we’ve been forced to “affect.” At least, that’s the best I can understand it from talking with people that actually study the esoteric workings of the universe, and I think I’m not too far off-base there. All the mystical hogwash about quantum mechanics “proving” that sentience and human observation is somehow special misses the point – mostly starting from the initial confusion of what “observation” means in formal context.

However, that’s not the concern here. The “reality” of a tale spun is limited by some degree by the medium on which it is expressed. …kind of. The truest mark of talent in any medium is the ability to transcend those limitations and communicate the missing dimensions in such a way that they’re perceived to exist anyhow – an act of illusory magic and psychology.

What makes a “complete” experience? Sight, sound, touch, taste, scent, and emotions.  More importantly, the interplay between them. The best way to describe an apple isn’t solely by its shape and coloration – though subtle, the nuances of its scent and flavor, and the memories associated with it, creates a far more immersive “reality” of the apple than rote descriptors of its crimson hue and mildly heartlike shape can encompass.

But this is about a city and its inhabitants.

How do you represent the visual reality of a city that time sped up? Taking photos alone isn’t enough. Gauge the fashion trends, note the demographic developments, note the various visual flavors of its districts. The City near the University is a wholly different beast than one near the Banks. Further out, and the whole thing seems to flatten – small, dinghy houses that’ve been there for gods knows how many years, divided by crude wire fences.

How do you express the sights and sounds of a city? Strangely, parking a recorder in the middle of town for a while probably isn’t ideal. The hard facts of it are there, but just that alone won’t get you the blood-beat of its cultural fabric. The “sound” of a city isn’t the cars and pedestrians alone – the nuances of its cultural facets, and the form of its conversations is far more fundamental to its “reality.” Fortunately, music is adequate here, providing the emotional substrate that would be absent or merely and crudely rendered by flat ambience.

How do you express the feel of a city? Its scents and blowing winds, the flat tang of sterile concrete, the acrid smoke of cigarettes, the smell of coffee and Mexican food, the glistening sweat and rancid alcohol of two or three hundred bodies packed into a nightclub at 2 AM in the morning…

Interface is important. That singular medium between the author’s intentions and the reader’s immersion must be well-crafted. The content must make good use of it. Conversely, the medium must fit the author’s intentions, or at least be sufficiently flexible to encompass it. Studios and artists that fail this necessary fact simply fail to make good content. Note the general crappiness of supposedly “cinematic” video games for an example of when intention and medium fail to mesh.

I’m pretty sure this’ll end up being a software project. Friend of mine’s volunteered to do the coding. Another friend of mine’s balked a bit at the idea, as he’s working on presentation UI himself, and is rather involved in the theories behind it – but note the significant difference between something required for academic work and a general visual novel interface.

It needs to be simple. It needs to be intuitive. I might decide to go with a Sound Novel interface instead of a full-blown VN system, as was with Umineko. The key factor here is that the only delay between a reader and the next sequence is a press of an obvious button, a slide across a capacitor-based screen, or a click of a mouse. The important factor here is that anybody, familiar or not with visual novel UI tropes, can immediately immerse themselves.

Not so important, but just as necessary, is that the interface works for the reader, not against. Some level of customizability, perhaps… screen size, at the least…

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~ by Gonzo Mehum on August 22, 2010.

One Response to “Project Silicon Notes #3: What You Hear, What You See, What You Feel”

  1. Could always go the easy modo route and use ren’py

    It’s quite customizable from what I hear, and at least saves you the trouble of getting someone to make a visual novel program for you.

    You’ll still need someone fluent in Python though

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