07 May

Newsletter 15

The final week of production, week 15 has come, and Prisoner’s Cinema team has achieved the goal that we have been aiming for in the scope of this semester. Beta-version of the game was released and became available for playtesters and the faculty. Besides ordinary playtests, we have arranged a closed beta-test – we made a spreadsheet for students to sign-up and then them sent the link to the latest build. We have also created an online questionnaire, so that we could get feedback from our players and use it for analyzing data and preparing for an upcoming final presentation. Another advantage of playtesting this way was letting people play at their own time and their preferred environment instead of being watched in a room full of people – we felt like this is a much better way to play our game, because it is a personal experience that requires some privacy.

Finally, this Sunday we have made a new trailer for Prisoner’s Cinema project and launched our game on Steam Greenlight! If you tell your friends about us and vote, we would really appreciate it. You can watch the new trailer right here too:

It has been a very productive semester, and our team has certainly learned a lot. We are very proud of what we have achieved, especially considering the time limitations and the fact that we are a team of only four people. The game still requires a lot of polishing to be presented to the broad audience and we will do our best to improve it this summer, but we are very pleased that we were able to finish all of the content and make it fully playable.

Prisoner’s Cinema team would like to thank you very much for staying with us during this semester, and for your genuine support. Follow our Steam Greenlight Page and Facebook group for the further news.

Have a great summer! =)

Sincerely yours,

Prisoner’s Cinema

28 Apr

Newletter 14

Monday of week 14 was Soft Opening in ETC. All the projects were supposed to demonstrate the version of the game that currently exists to the faculty, receive feedback and continue the development process in the finalization stage, which means polishing, QA and small improvements.

So did Prisoner’s Cinema, and we received some great responses from the faculty – they were impressed with the progress and general quality of the work. We haven’t yet finished assembling the game though, which was one of the weaker points of our presentation, and by Wednesday of next week we will throw all our forces to make the whole experience playable.

Neighbor  vlcsnap-2014-04-20-19h46m54s124

At this point we have completed the Mid-day Quest Scene, and still need to make the transition dream, Night Scene and the Credits scene playable. It sounds like a lot of work (and it is), but at this point most of the work is about actual implementation, since the content has already been generated.

Next week after completing the beta with our full experience we have a lot of plans, including playtesting and uploading the game to Steam Greenlight. Stay with us for more updates and wish us luck in our final breakthroughs!

Prisoner’s Cinema

21 Apr

Newsletter 13

The team focused this week on restlessly preparing for our upcoming Soft Opening presentation to Entertainment Technology Center faculty, in which we will represent the breadth of what we’ve accomplished this semester and exhibit a playable section of our game. The purpose of Soft Opening, or “Softs,” as it’s abbreviated within these paraphernalia-strewn halls, is for teams to receive a comprehensive round of feedback prior to the end of the semester and the official conclusions of our projects, so that polishing and revisions can occur in the window between Softs and Finals. Due to the narrative nature of our game, and the fact that each segment of it is so context-sensitive with regard to what has come before, we’re faced with the interesting challenge of how to present just a five-minute sliver of an experience that is approximately 30 minutes and have it not only indicate that we’re satisfying our goals but also embody the tremendous amount of work we’ve put into the project this semester. We plan to maximize our time with the faculty during Softs by first delivering a brief presentation which outlines all of the content we’ve created and its narrative relationship and visual synopses of each piece of content, and then by showing an approximately five-minute demo comprised of the second half of our Introductory Scene  and the first quarter of our Mid-Day Scene. Our intention with the demo is to showcase a selection of our most polished content and to highlight the emotional and tonal diversity of the game.

Excluding Soft Opening preparation, this week was similar to last in that it extended our focus on content generation and the molding of that raw content into a series of working builds. Alex continued over the duration of the week his shaping the logic of our Mid-Day Scene in Unity into its increasingly final form, and implementing the UI iterations and dramatically improved key environment models and textures, which Casey has been creating with a singular ferocity. Further, Alex heroically assembled our Softs-specific build, and Casey infused our Softs presentation with his patented typographic magic. Nathan completed the dialogue script for the Night Scene, our final major piece of content, at the beginning of the week, and he and Arseniy filmed our actress, Laura Gray, and recorded the protagonist’s voiceover for that scene, the full implementation and polishing of which will occur next week. Arseniy also edited together our second ETC-mandated promotional video, which we plan to use to promote our game on Steam Greenlight.

Our actress invoking the Method process in her portrayal of suspicion of our character’s motives: she is also suspicious of our motives.

The past two weeks have been among the busiest of the semester for the team, and we anticipate the project’s final weeks to be comparably frenzied. We have lofty goals for a four-person team, given our starkly limited resources, but we’ve attempted to mitigate risk and superfluousness wherever possible in the development of Prisoner’s Cinema, and we’re on the cusp of realizing the precise amount of content that we’d scoped very early in the semester. This is very gratifying. We look forward to the feedback we’ll receive during Softs, and to concluding the project victoriously.

21 Apr

Newsletter 12

Very little time is left before the next ETC milestone – Soft Opening. The goal of it is to finish a beta-version of the product and after that just polish the game without adding new content. Week 12 in Prisoner’s Cinema schedule was dedicated to the completion of “Mid-day Quest”. It is the scene of the game that takes place after the intro, this time in a real environment in our protagonist’s apartment.

In this scene we will introduce the “Insomnia System” that is designed to better convey the feelings that this disorder brings to people, and help evoking empathetic response from the player. As a result of that gameplay and player’s choices will be affected, and hopefully create the atmosphere of disempowerment of the character – one of the cornerstones of our design.

By the end of this week the scene will be finished, although we most likely won’t have enough time to polish it to the shippable condition – to do that we will use a couple of weeks that separates Softs from the Final presentation of the project.

Next week we will start working on the ending scene of our game episode, production of which will (spoiler alert!) include filming of Laura Gray, the actress who plays fiancé of our protagonist.

Thank you for being with us, keep tuned for the next week’s news!

20 Apr

Newsletter 10-11

Week 10 was the week of famous Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, and the team (with an exception for Casey – he had to go to another conference the week after GDC, and therefore stayed in Pittsburgh working on assets) dived right in the middle of these exciting events.

Simultaneously we have launched the page of the project on Steam Greenlight Concepts to promote the project and see the gut reaction of the audience to our idea. And we have been very satisfied by results! By the moment when I am writing these words, we have received many comments that show excitement and general interest to the game. Some people have already expressed an interest in buying it, and 87% of voted Steam users would like this game to be Greenlit. Our next step is to submit the game to the main section of Steam Greenlight with a purpose of getting it to the store, which we are planning to do by Soft Opening in the end of April.


We have made many connections at GDC, and met a lot of people who have inspired us on making our project. We had a chance to discuss our game with the developers of Gone Home and The Novelist, got some feedback from Tale of Tales and had a chat with the creators of The Stanley Parable. We were very happy to get to know them, and now we have these connections to receive more valuable feedback further in the development.

After a week at the conference, which was as fruitful, as it was exhausting, Prisoner’s Cinema team immediately started to prepare for their halves presentation which was on Friday of the week 11 of the project. Most of the week went in preparations and it paid off – the presentation went very well, and we generally received a very good feedback. The biggest question from the faculty was about the gameplay and how exactly is the game played, since it was very hard to convey many details about it in 15 minutes along with the rest of the materials (which we had plenty of), but we hope to solve this problem during Soft Opening where everybody will be able to play the game in our cozy project room.

After all the craziness of past 2 weeks we began to work on our next development sprint. We have started with the scene with an inside nickname “Mid-day Quest”, and there will be more details about that in the next Newsletter, so please stay tuned.

14 Mar

Newsletter 9

This week for Prisoner’s Cinema was full of events. We have finished the rough version of the intro scene last Sunday and from the game perspective were mostly working on fixing bugs, but despite that, we had a very large amount of tasks to accomplish.

First of all, it was our playtesting week. We had three days dedicated to testing different aspects of our game, such as emotion, UI and general experience and had 10 players who shared their feedback with us. As always, getting outside opinion was extremely helpful, from both design and QA perspective.

We also have been preparing for GDC. Since Prisoner’s Cinema is going to the biggest game dev conference, we decided to make a trailer for our game and start working on our web presence. This is our trailer, by the way, we hope you’ll like it!

We are also launching our social media accounts, and will soon upload our game to a Concept section of Steam Greenlight. We will publish the link afterwards, and will be looking forward for your feedback.

Besides this preparation, we have already started to think about best ways to present on Halves (which will be the week next to the conference), and about the next scene we will be implementing in the next sprint.

Thank you very much for tuning in once again, and hope to see you at GDC!

07 Mar

Newsletter 8

Week 8 for Prisoner’s Cinema was incredibly busy. Not only it is the last week of the Intro scene development sprint, but there was a lot of work done as a result of the experimenting nature of our technology.

As for our regular process, Nathan’s primary task outside of filming process was working on the script and applying feedback he has received from the team and our outside sources. Also, we are still looking for an actor for our protagonist, but for now as a placeholder we decided to use Nathan’s voice, which they recorded with Arseniy in the sound booth.

Casey was finishing up the models of the environment and texturing it in a highly pleasing way, and you can see some of the results of his work on the screenshots from this newsletter.

a more casual screen shot

But besides our usual duties, this week our primary focus was on filming. As we mentioned in the last newsletter, in order to match our art-style the best and save time on modelling and animations, we decided to try a very daring approach of including characters in our game – to use footages of live actors inside the 3d environment.

 best screenshot

1 2

Although that potentially saves us an incredible amount of time, this was our first experience with implementing such an idea – a lot of lessons were learned and in future we are expecting to improve the process significantly. But on Tuesday we had a successful filming session with an actress (Laura Gray), after which the whole team was swamped with making this footage become a playable interactive experience. Alex and Arseniy were very busy with editing video and the sound, trying to find an optimal way to make this work, look and sound interesting and natural.

It was a very busy and productive time, and next week we are planning on concentrating on playtesting and preparation for GDC.

07 Mar

Newsletter 7

The 7th week of the development was fruitful for us in terms of the deliverable and iteration on our high-level plan. We are still in the middle of developing the intro dream sequence, and so far we are making good progress.
The intro turned out to be an incredibly important part of our game for multiple reasons:

•It is an introduction to our narrative-driven game
•It serves as a tutorial
•Since insomnia will affect our protagonist’s feelings and reactions a lot along the game, we need to demonstrate that he is actually a good person, and this dream sequence has to show him in a likable way.

As you can see, we have a lot to accomplish during this sprint, which we will try to achieve by carefully revising the content and playtesting.

After completing the beat sheet for the scene, Nathan wrote the first draft on the script, and right now is working on revisions based on feedback from advisors and faculty.

Clock Interaction

Casey is continuing to work on the environment for the dream making key objects and important small details which will help to convey the mood and the story, and Alex has implemented the first draft of the object interaction system, which already looks pretty amazing.

Arseniy, after a conversation with the team and Nathan specifically, has created a Conversation UI design document, and soon the conversation system we have right now will be significantly improved.

Next week will be mostly dedicated to recording voice-overs and shooting videos for the in-game dialogue with our lead actress Laura Gray.

In the end of this newsletter, we wanted to mention that this week we sent out a survey to ETC members with some important questions we wanted to get opinions on, and received very valuable feedback. Thank you very much for your initiative, ETC community! We greatly appreciate your help.

28 Feb

Newsletter 6

Week 6 of our development was the one after Quarters. We demonstrated a prototype of our game with one playable quest during this first milestone, which was incredibly helpful – we received a lot of feedback from the faculty and got a much better understanding of the direction we should move in.

Since our presentation most of our time was dedicated to processing faculty’s comments and suggestions, and planning of the new sprint took a little longer than we expected, so it officially started on Wednesday. In return we were able to plan it in much more detail and to know very specifically what kind of emotions we want to evoke during the new scene how to achieve that.

We decided that before halves we will put have focus mostly on the beginning and the ending scene of the game. This week we started to work on the intro which happens in a dream environment and simultaneously introduces the player to the story of the game and serves as a tutorial.

One of the ideas that we decided to incorporate from the visual point of view is to use real videos of our actress instead of making a model and animations. Not only it saves a large amount time for our artist, but looks pretty:

Next week we will have our introduction ready for playtesting and we will look forward to hear from people about what they think and which emotions do they feel while playing.

16 Feb

Newsletter 5

This week was dominated by preparing for, surviving, and digesting Quarters walk-arounds, which are, for readers unfamiliar with the Entertainment Technology Center and its project-semester rigors, involves the entirety of the faculty visiting, in pairs, each team’s room in 15-minute intervals and deploying whatever feedback is possible based on each team’s independent offerings. As a process, it’s not altogether dissimilar from the hazing rite for collegiates who wish to be granted acceptance into a fraternity or sorority, or the initiation rituals of Freemason-esque secret societies, but rather than enduring a gauntlet of physical harm and psychological humiliation, each ETC team must withstand a cross-examination from an ever-rotating panel of assessors. The insight the faculty receives from this ceremony will color their perceptions and expectations of each project for the remainder of the semester, and we students are granted a barrage of raw perspective, some transformative, some provocative, and some outright bizarre. For all involved it is an ordeal, but one that is warranted.

On our part, toward the close of our second sprint, we decided, in collaboration with Dave, to strive for an ambitious showing at Quarters and assemble a playable prototype of our game featuring a quest, the foundation of our key environment (with a few somewhat-final textures implemented), rudimentary versions of our exploration and conversations systems, fully voiced and branching dialogue, insomnia visual effects, ambient sound effects, and a detailed soundscape. By utilizing the developmental infrastructure we’d been instituting from the second week of the semester, and by augmenting and finalizing it in targeted areas (such as in our modeling and sound pipelines), we were able to conceptualize, plan, and execute this prototype within approximately five days, which was a massive (and massively encouraging) win for the team.

Due to the fact that we weren’t able to spend much time conceptualizing, planning, and executing the prototype, however, the Quarters response we received was both disconcerting and enlightening. For instance, because of the freshness of the prototype’s completion in comparison to when we showed it (i.e. about an hour), it occurred to none of us that, messaging-wise, we were exhibiting what appeared to be a relationship simulator as opposed to a game about life with insomnia, as a branching (and heated) conversation between our protagonist and his fiancee comprised the nucleus of our offering, and the relationship between how the protagonist’s insomnia could influence this conversation–or any conversation in our ultimate product–was unfortunately underrepresented. Similarly, because the relationship-dynamics were unintentionally at the forefront of our prototype, we received a surfeit of commentary concerning gender issues, and how responsible we’ll have to be when dealing with subjects like domesticity, and how to best avoid portraying men or women in lights which reinforce negative cultural stereotypes. The faculty also asserted that it’s crucial that we devise a protagonist who is, chiefly, sympathetic, so that when the player is forced to behave in abjectly disagreeable ways due to the character’s insomnia, he or she will not outrightly, viscerally loathe the digital skin in which we’ve enveloped them, but will instead be compelled to understand distasteful actions when they occur in-game.

In the days following Quarters, we convened to determine how to best respond to the most pertinent of Quarters-raised concerns, and to plan for our next sprint. There was some confusion amid our viewership as to whether the prototype was the beginning of our game or whether it was a moment out of context, and it was very much the latter, so we’re now developing the introductory coda of our project, which will introduce our central characters, depict them at their happiest, and inaugurate players to the core systems of the experience. Over the next two weeks, we hope to fashion the emotional heart of our game, and to instill in players the desire to care about our characters.