Thursday, April 13, 2017

Interpreting Shapes: Further Thought for the Final Project

     Considering the final project, I came across these pages of the journal, which asked you to look at the two shapes and write something that each could be. This gave me inspiration for another part of my idea: multiple interpretations. While the main objective of the project will be to highlight the things I gained and missed during my years in college, I would now like to write it in some way that is more open to interpretation and less black and white, "this was fun, this wasn't" type of a narrative. How this will be done is still being thought out, but there are several possibilities.
     For example, I could come at this addition from a literal standpoint or an emotional one. With a literal interpretation, it would simply mean that the narrative could literally be interpreted in a multitude of ways, simply based on how the pages are written. The reader would be meant to take it at face value and interpret based on text alone. On the other hand, an emotional appeal would be more satisfying to me. Instead, the way I write each section would be based on the emotion I want the reader to feel. It would still be open to interpretation, but would be more heavily influenced by the reader's own experiences with college. Either way, I feel the multiple interpretations addition would bring a beneficial addition to the final project.

Friday, April 7, 2017

For the Final: A Consideration for the Last Project

     In my college career, I have made several digital stories in a variety of different platforms. I feel as though this has given me a lot of experience in this form of storytelling. So as I was looking through the journal this week, I really wanted to challenge myself to think about my time here at UPJ. The page, "10 Things I Could've Done But Didn't" seemed to fit the bill. I could think about all of the things that freshman me had planned on doing during my college career but never got around to for one reason or another. The list was a little longer than I had hoped.

     This list inspired my idea for a final project: a "walkthrough" of unfulfilled dreams, a tour of things not finished, or a look back at unrealized potential. I could see this manifesting in several ways: a nonlinear, hypertext story where the links are comprised of words that express a "should've done more" attitude. For example, if somebody had wished that they had studied more in college, perhaps the hyperlink would be something along the lines of "when I failed that test." I plan to use examples of my past projects from other classes and remix them to fit this narrative, the only thing I'm currently unsure of is how they would tie together. This would also be partially location-based, since it would take place on the UPJ campus for the majority of the project.
     In the end, I hope to create a mixture of fiction and nonfiction that persuades the reader to achieve their fullest potential. I want to stress the idea that your college career is short-lived, and your life won't ever be the same once you leave it. I want to create a warning for the future, yet a hopeful look back on the past.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Location-Based Narrative: Welcome to Downtown Johnstown!

     For my narrative, I wanted to design an online "then-and-now" tour of Johnstown, featuring several of its famous landmarks. It is meant to resemble a feature that many museums now offer: an interactive addition to exhibits which gives small pieces of information about the display it's near. Combine that with a search for key words pertaining to another location and clickable links that take you to those locations, and Welcome to Downtown was born. Users start on a welcome page that has links to all of the pages hidden in the paragraph of text. When a user clicks on one of the words (for example, "shopping") they will be directed to the corresponding page (Glosser Brothers, which involves shopping). I kept the links only slightly lighter than the rest of the text because I wanted users to read for the information, and then notice the words they thought might stand out based on their own knowledge of the city. Each page includes a brief write-up of facts about the location, both what it was and what it is now. My hope is that users will see a glimpse of character and hope in a city plagued by drug use and economic downturns.
     This assignment was plagued by several difficulties over its development. For one, it was more difficult to find information on the locations in question than I had imagined it would be. Many of the locations don't have their own websites, and those that have one don't include much on the history of the business or service. Historical websites, such as JAHA, offer as much information as I may have included in my write-ups. This led me to want to explore the locations in person, in order to gain first hand knowledge. However, and much more unexpectedly than lack of information, I was hit with sudden serious illness near the beginning of this project. This left me bedridden and unable to concentrate or stay awake when attempting to research or put the project together. As previously mentioned, I had planned to visit at least a few of the locations in my project in order to get original photographs and firsthand knowledge, which would have made the project much longer and fleshed out in terms of information included. In the future, I would love to continue this search of my city, and put this location-based walkabout to the test.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Receipts in Location-Based Narratives

     This week, I added a receipt to my journal, detailing everything I remember from the day I went to that store. I feel like it would be interesting to see what this could become in a location-based narrative. To start the narrative, perhaps users are given a certain receipt from a local store that can only be found in a certain city, such as Press Bistro in Johnstown. From there, the user would search around in Press Bistro until they found another receipt for another restaurant. Maybe there would be a receipt for Lambcakes on a bulletin board. Then the user would go to Lambcakes, and the game would continue in this fashion, with the player searching the new business for the next receipt. This would allow the user to explore the city and learn about its culture, while possibly bringing more business to small local businesses.
     This could function with smartphones as an application. As users find the receipts, they might take a picture of them in their locations. Once the receipt has been found, the app would check it off the player's list, and set a new checkpoint on a map at the next business to continue the narrative. Players could interact with one another as they get within reach of each other by joining in group searches for new receipts. Users could even add their own receipts or businesses to the game at will by adding the business's name, the name on the receipt, and where in the business the receipt could be found. I feel as though an app like this would have a positive impact on the community in much the same way as the short-lived Pokemon Go, by getting people out and enjoying a past time together when they otherwise would not be so inclined.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Interactive Fiction Project: Harmony! (or Death)

     This project was based on a combination of the Space Quest games from the 1980s and '90s, and the "Letter to the Aliens" page from Steal Like an Artist. Space Quest is a short-burst, text-based animated adventure game that is known for it's random, misleading deaths when you make a single wrong move. I attempted to emulate this in a "choose your own adventure" type format by incorporating brief passages of text before every life or death choice. I attempted to make each "game over" death humorous, as in the example photo at the right from Space Quest 5. In addition to these deaths, I included four different possible endings to achieve, plus two "joke endings", depending on the choices you make (or if you survive, of course). This enhances replayability in an otherwise short experience, keeping the player thinking and engaged throughout.
     In Harmony! (or Death), you are tasked with heading the greeting party for a recently discovered alien race, known as the Estrons. Your choices will lead to peace with both of your races, or a war for domination. The story is full of B.S. deaths (13 at my last count, which was totally unintentional), humor, and a surprise ending. My biggest challenge was honestly just following all the strings to make sure I had a decent body and an ending for every pathway. I knew the story I wanted to tell, but each pathway started to blend together with the others after working on the bigger picture for so long. It would've been much harder to track if Inklewriter didn't highlight loose ends in red! I had a blast working with this story and interactive fiction in general, and feel like this project allowed me to create a "game" even though I have no background in game design.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

10 Questions I Have

     This week, I completed another piece of the Journal, and decided on my Interactive Narrative topic.
     The pages I completed relate to questions I think about. I got a little comical with them towards the end, and probably went into slight meme territory with the Chef Boyardee and Dr. Pepper questions. These pages immediately made me think of a Magic 8 Ball. I often asked stupid questions like these to my Yoda Magic 8 Ball when I was younger, and the toy would respond back with "Later, you must ask," or another similar Yoda-like phrase. Although it's probably already been done, some sort of interactive narrative centered around asking questions to a Magic 8 Ball could be interesting. Perhaps your questions or its answers could unlock new areas of the narrative.
     Speaking of interactive narratives, I've decided to use a previous journal entry as the topic of my project: writing a letter to an alien. The story will be a mix between Zork and Space Quest, and will make you the ambassador to incoming alien visitors. You will start the adventure with several items, which you may use throughout the story. Much like Space Quest, the game will focus on a variety of stupidly punishing deaths and "wrong place at the wrong time" mechanics. Bad endings will lead to your death or the aliens leaving, while one good ending will make the aliens live in peace with humans.
     I will more than likely be using Inklewriter for this project, due to the easily developed branching path system. I haven't yet determined the total amount of possible endings, but it will be at least five (four bad and one good). I hope to create an entertaining and challenging puzzle-solving quest by the time users are able to play around with the story.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Remix Project: Bat-Cage!

     My remix was born out of a comedic love for Nicolas Cage quotes. I had originally planned to take a cartoon and a Cage movie, and have Nic and a cartoon character have a "conversation" with only lines they had spoken in the show and movie. Unfortunately, my already tight schedule didn't give me enough time to download, search through, and edit multiple different videos together, and so I had to rethink my plan. I obviously still wanted to use funny Cage quotes, but how? One day it metaphorically hit me in class: Batman/Cage memes! Partially inspired by Cage's character in the film Kick-Ass, I would take Batman comic pages, erase the words in thought or speech bubbles, and replace them with well-known Nicolas Cage lines to change the meaning of the artwork.
     The most difficult part of the process was finding short enough quotes that would fit the tiny speech bubbles, yet still carry a laugh. Many of Cage's famous lines are long, and, taken out of context, don't convey the same comedic gold, in my opinion. To get around this limitation, I often had to make the font size very small, which may be a hindrance to the project as a whole for anyone with poor eyesight. Another setback was the cohesion of each comic page. Would these bizarre and insane movie quotes possibly work together in a single plot? I think my final product assembles a plot nicely in each individual photo, but it may require a certain amount of "turn off your brain and laugh" appeal to fully enjoy the work. These Bat-Cage pages work like memes, so on one hand there has to be cohesion, but on the other hand, a certain sense of stupidity can abound in the words.
     "Bat-Cage" taught me a lot about the puzzle piece nature of creativity, and not just in the "taking someone else's work and reworking it in your own style" way. The puzzle pieces didn't always fit together for me, so while I may have thought a certain line worked best with a certain picture, I often had to sacrifice that laugh in order to make the rules I had set forth in my project work out. For instance, in the comic page with the armed robber (top-right photo at the bottom of the post), there were MANY Cage-worthy lines I wanted to use from his film, Ghost Rider. In the end, however, the lines were too long, and didn't flow well to make the punchline.There's a lot of sacrifice that goes into remixing pre-made content, sometimes meaning a change in your original idea altogether.
     I honestly wish I had even more time to continue this project. I had a blast sifting through quotes and matching them to panels, and had some pretty good laughs out of many possible combinations I toyed around with. This is definitely one project I would consider expanding upon in the coming final project.

To view a larger version of each Bat-Cage image, please click on the image.