c.e. taillefer

October 6, 2016

Words words words: sharing ideas as a non-artist in a visual world

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Here’s my terrible secret. I can’t draw.

oh right, this was never a secret

oh right, this was never a secret

So how does someone who can’t do art communicate ideas in a clear, brief, visual way? Enter the Pixar Pitch: Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.

Let’s try it with Dragon Age 2:

Once upon a time, the Hawke family escaped a plague known as the Blight, leaving their homeland to find refuge across the sea.  Every day, they struggled to gain entrance into the city of Kirkwall, along with hundreds of other refugees from the Blight. One day, Hawke accepted an offer of work from a smuggler in exchange for getting her family into the city. Because of that, Hawke joins a treasure-hunting expedition to fund her family’s rise from the slums, where she finds an idol made of strange material. Because of that, Hawke, along with her companions, gains power in Kirkwall, despite increasing instability in the leader of the templar and mage forces, caused by the mysterious idol. Until finally, Hawke’s companion blows up the Chantry to force a war between the mages and templars that will require people to choose sides.

Not very elegant, but hopefully hits the major beats of the game. It’s complicated by the fact that unlike a Pixar film, Dragon Age 2 features a number of branching pathways a player can take. There are a few other major plot points the player must achieve not covered by this framework: the death/loss of Hawke’s family members, one by one; the Qunari invasion and defeat by Hawke. But all of these relate back either to Hawke’s rise in influence and power due to the sucessful expedition, or the insanity plaguing the leaders of the city, due to the idol, also from the expedition.

But it still doesn’t tell us much about the look and feel of the game, does it?  Someone reading this could surmise that it’s fairly dark in terms of material, between a world ending plague and terrorists blowing up buildings full of innocent people, or that there are narrative elements that can’t be avoided no matter which path the player chooses for Hawke. But is it realistic? Semi-abstract? What’s the music like? How do people play it?  The Pixar pitch is good for brainstorming, but there’s not enough information in it to fully realize a games vision.

Thoughts? How do you explain stuff to people when you don’t do art?

November 22, 2015

Officially For Real – The BGNLab is Launched!

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Laurier Brantford professor Scott Nicholson wants to help his students change the world — one game at a time.

Nicholson is leading the university’s innovative Game Design and Development program, unique to the province, which debuted this year at the campus.

Friday marked the official opening of new Brantford Games Network Lab, known as the BGNlab, located on the main floor of the university’s Grand River Hall on Colborne Street.

The former credit union building has been transformed into a gamers’ paradise.

Students wearing white lab coats welcomed dozens of guests into the lab outfitted with computers, white boards, screens, game tables and a huge collection of board games. It’s here that students will work on their gaming projects.

A lounge area, equipped with plug-and-play screens, will be used by students to test games. In an area called the Zone, students will mostly have fun with various gaming consoles and high-end PCs.

The goal of the lab, said Nicholson, is to spark engagement and collaboration between Laurier students, community organizations and local game enthusiasts to develop “made-in-Brantford” solutions to improve lives through games and play.

Read the whole article at the Expositor here.

As you can surmise, the past four months has been something of a blur with starting a new program, full-time work, raising a puppy (yes, he’s still here. More on that later!), house work and frivolous stuff like sleeping and eating.  It also occurred to me at the Friday launch event that as a part-time student, I’ll be part of four or five different cohorts of students, which is a shame because I really like the ones I’m with now.  I know I’m in the right place though, because half of my insomnia lately has been on account of having Too Many Ideas, which is a good problem for a creative type person to have.  It was the same when I was starting Paucity, and we all know how well that’s been going.  That’s not even sarcasm, it’s been going pretty well!

I also want to re-iterate again what a friendly program GDD is to mature students; because it’s not solely about programming, or AAA games, I genuinely feel anyone, of any age, with an interest in games and social change, would do very well here.  Hint, hint, pretty much all of my twitter friends.