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Learning Between Points | Forgoing the Shadows #4

Harlan A Nagel

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Lots of work this last month for me.  I started studying data visualization and working hard on my own visual designs. I'm settling in a bit with a new life in Montreal, finally working in the game industry and getting plenty of hours at Keywords Studios; and I'm finding stronger ways to professionally develop on my own time.

After my last blog entry, I was in limbo, project-wise, at Keywords. Apparently, I graded above expectations during evaluations, and I was assigned to an exciting, upcoming project; however, in the last year, the company had switched to a new, more automated scheduling system, one to which they still seem to be adjusting. From my understanding, I was in a grey zone within this system for the first few weeks, as I was primarily assigned to the aforementioned upcoming project -- a project that, as being 'Upcoming,' had no hours yet. In the meantime, I was secondarily assigned to another project where, as an auxiliary member, I was given hours only after the primary members.

I was getting 3, sometimes 4, shifts per week, which allowed me to dedicate more time to the Forgoing the Shadows project. I began designs of a control scheme that mimicked Resident Evil 6's -- this included a visual-design layout meant to display, for all viewers, broadly the scope of what actions are possible for the player character and how to input such acts; and, for designers, specifically what contexts these actions were possible and what to code. Basically, I was creating something that could be informative to both the consumers and the developers of the project, doing so as an exercise. Then, a friend of mine -- an incredibly-competent programmer -- asked for help with the visual aspects of a game he’s working on. I said “Yes!” but soon after, as if triggered, Keywords started giving me plenty of hours: 10 shifts in a row, in fact.

It seemed the project I was assigned to upon the conclusion of my training fell through, and I was primarily assigned to something else, and a complete full-time schedule came soon after. I was forced to find time for my side projects during in-transit moments and weekends.

(“In-transit” might become a common phrase on this blog, by the way. If I use it, I am referring to times like riding the bus, walking to destinations, breaking between work periods, or grocery shopping.)

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Anyway, I have experimented, researched, and reflected on a few modes of action in the next few months, and after a few weekends of either overtime FQA testing, food poisoning, or personal progress assessment, I am at this point...

For roughly the next 30 days, I will be experimenting with Assassin's Creed Odyssey's new Story Creator Mode.

My love for video games has always been story-based. Many of my most meaningful experiences with games involved undergoing an emotional journey held up by well-designed narratives. As I strive to be a better game developer, I can’t help but feel like I also strive to be a better storyteller. So, this Story Creator tool is hard to pass up -- at least during its height of popularity -- as it looks to be a great opportunity to develop key skills and draw helpful feedback. Below outlines more reasons why this is something for me to jump on:

- Associated with Assassin’s Creed: I have played through every major Assassin's Creed title (still working on Odyssey at the time of this writing, though), and although I wish they did some things differently, I adore the series as a whole -- I am eager to contribute

- Revolves around dialogue and quest design: the former of which is a focus of mine at the moment.

- New: In accordance with Price's Law, the first creations of a toolkit are likely to get the most attention and, thus, the most feedback.

- Quick Iteration Cycle: The tool appears simple. I already created my first rough draft Story, and it only took an hour.

 

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With all the above in consideration, this will likely be an informative, timely detour of which to take advantage.

Plus, experimenting with this Story Creator tool is a great excuse to learn something into which I’ve always wanted to dive deeply: ancient Greece studies. I plan to study ancient Greek history, mythology, and philosophy while in-transit, and at home, I will be either finishing AC Odyssey's DLC or working with Story Creator Mode.

A lot has happened, so I wanted to write a blog entry to update current my progress. Thanks for reading despite my not having something more concrete to share. I could show something like the aforementioned WIP control scheme, but I have a personal guideline that I only show work that I feel is near complete, and the work this last month related to this blog has been too experimental for me to feel like any of it deserves sharing quite yet.

Next blog, I will write about my adventures in creating stories in AC Odyssey.



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