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Artist and designer breakdown: “Maslow” project

A look behind the curtain on the art piece and game that I made entitled “Maslow”. I want to speak a little bit about my design choices on certain elements in the first “draft” of my game, Maslow. I however choose not to go into explicit detail because the thing about video games is the author is most definitely dead. The author is dead, gone, buried and moved on to another project (Barthes called it). Once I have put a game into the world, it belongs to the world. It is still my child but its living its own life and free to your interpretation. No matter how many carefully crafted decisions and ideas I have about it, my signifiers will mean something different to you and that is wonderful. I welcome you to add your own meanings to anything I do.

Maslow’s elements

The music:

Erik Satie’s Gnossienne 1

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IUAF3abGY2M

I chose this piece due to its open form and sweet brand of melancholy. It switches time signature without skipping a beat (literally). It’s structure moves like a branch drifting down a turbulent river. Satie takes the waltz and seasons it with firey rattling upbeats and gorgeous dissonance. Like Stravinsky, this composer made no concessions to the lovers of upbeat classical feel good music (gtfo Vivaldi), he made music that feels much more like the inner world; music that makes the fickle ego dance.

Consequently, my art piece is about psychology, existentialism, our needs, and their futility so Gnossienne meshed nicely with this. In my other video pieces, you will notice I use waltzes often, I am in love with ¾ and 6/8 time signature. To me they are the sound of the human experience.

Gameplay:

You run around without much instruction, sandbox style. There are gameplay elements: you can open all the doors and explore, you can collect water bottles, food items, and other resources or try to reach as far as you can to the outskirts of the level before your time runs out; you can even set a car on fire if you make it to the second floor (it’s a fiat…so you know you want to), or go worship the burning man figures if you so please; or you could even just sit in the first room and stare at the ceiling and listen to the music and poetry. I, the designer, will not tell you what to do. I just put the elements there for you, the choice is yours. This is a nod to life, being, and creator myths. When it comes to tight game play mechanics, in “Maslow” I like to play the role of an apathetic god.


G.I.V.E. UP

The give up cheat is a commentary on our relationship with money and how with it you can propel yourself through many hardships in life yet at the same time you’re not “playing the game”. Yes you get to the awards more quickly, you may get to see more, but at what cost? Maybe you enjoy that though, maybe you didn’t want to search desperately for ways to open doors to upper echelons. Maybe that’s just not your thing so go ahead G.I.V.E. up and ride your way up the pyramid 🙂

(and for people familiar with “pay to play” gaming, this will have a double meaning to you)

The poetry (opening room):

This choice is related to our relationship with the need for gods, leaders, and the strange relationship we humans have with our fathers.

Sylvia Plath’s Daddy
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6hHjctqSBwM

Daddy

BY SYLVIA PLATH

You do not do, you do not do

Any more, black shoe

In which I have lived like a foot

For thirty years, poor and white,

Barely daring to breathe or Achoo.

 

Daddy, I have had to kill you.

You died before I had time——

Marble-heavy, a bag full of God,

Ghastly statue with one gray toe

Big as a Frisco seal

 

And a head in the freakish Atlantic

Where it pours bean green over blue

In the waters off beautiful Nauset.

I used to pray to recover you.

Ach, du.

 

In the German tongue, in the Polish town

Scraped flat by the roller

Of wars, wars, wars.

But the name of the town is common.

My Polack friend

 

Says there are a dozen or two.

So I never could tell where you

Put your foot, your root,

I never could talk to you.

The tongue stuck in my jaw.

 

It stuck in a barb wire snare.

Ich, ich, ich, ich,

I could hardly speak.

I thought every German was you.

And the language obscene

 

An engine, an engine

Chuffing me off like a Jew.

A Jew to Dachau, Auschwitz, Belsen.

I began to talk like a Jew.

I think I may well be a Jew.

 

The snows of the Tyrol, the clear beer of Vienna

Are not very pure or true.

With my gipsy ancestress and my weird luck

And my Taroc pack and my Taroc pack

I may be a bit of a Jew.

 

I have always been scared of you,

With your Luftwaffe, your gobbledygoo.

And your neat mustache

And your Aryan eye, bright blue.

Panzer-man, panzer-man, O You——

 

Not God but a swastika

So black no sky could squeak through.

Every woman adores a Fascist,

The boot in the face, the brute

Brute heart of a brute like you.

 

You stand at the blackboard, daddy,

In the picture I have of you,

A cleft in your chin instead of your foot

But no less a devil for that, no not

Any less the black man who

 

Bit my pretty red heart in two.

I was ten when they buried you.

At twenty I tried to die

And get back, back, back to you.

I thought even the bones would do.

 

But they pulled me out of the sack,

And they stuck me together with glue.

And then I knew what to do.

I made a model of you,

A man in black with a Meinkampf look

 

And a love of the rack and the screw.

And I said I do, I do.

So daddy, I’m finally through.

The black telephone’s off at the root,

The voices just can’t worm through.

 

If I’ve killed one man, I’ve killed two——

The vampire who said he was you

And drank my blood for a year,

Seven years, if you want to know.

Daddy, you can lie back now.

 

There’s a stake in your fat black heart

And the villagers never liked you.

They are dancing and stamping on you.

They always knew it was you.

Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I’m through.

Oh right now that you know all this here’s the playthrough again. If the first iteration of the game magically packages (refer to my previous post on this), I will post it here:

 

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I give up.

lolol No, I’m kidding (but this is a cheat code in my game shhh lol)

So I had my game up for distribution as a proof of concept buuut there’s a serious bug in the lighting and my cloud storage severely failed me- it stopped syncing and then reconnected and started wreaking havoc on my files which broke my game completely. I can still play it but no one else can. But fortunately, this was just a sprint 0/test run so I’m going to toss this file and use everything I learned here to build up a new iteration of the level.

I gained so much ground in learning media textures, how to construct triggers and timed events, HUD UI, unreal umg,  movement coding, and sooooo much more. And of course using what I learned from having people playtest I will be able to refine my new design (which I need to do throughout every stage of the project I now fully understand!)

It’s incredible the amount you learn from just building a game, any game. Something all industry people say is if you want to get better “Make. A. Game!” and they’re soooo right. It’s fun, rewarding and so terribly frustrating as well. This iteration of Maslow was built in under two weeks (as I was also building levels on Last Flight and balancing my 16 hours of courses this semester!) and there were sleepless nights and hair pulling and crash crash crash oh look it works…CRASH, but(!) it was so worth it and I would do it again a thousand times over especially to watch people play and enjoy it again.

So the next step is to completely rebuild from scratch and I’m going to use perforce for now on so that one drive doesn’t attack my project again o.o ^.^ Perforce is a bit complicated for someone without a computer science background but it is an amazing tool for protecting your game and working on different devices seamlessly. Also the visual client is a god send!

Ok overview as I’m putting this level to bed-On this project in a span of 2 weeks I:

-designed the game play and level
-constructed static meshes with blueprints
-built static meshes in 3ds max
-built blueprints for materials, HUD timer, buttons, triggers, media textures, timer on game, pick ups, lights, and other scripted events
-performed debugging on Visual studio community 2015