Development Blog – Week 5

Week 5 brought huge steps forward for the team and project as a whole. Concepts that were merely just that became solid and crystalized for further analysis.

On the programming side, going from out introductory “chapter 0” deeper into the meat of the experience is taking shape. The team was trying to figure out some core questions about this world including what would a map of this world look like?

As we’ve been getting more into world-building, we looked at what we conceived art-wise with what we’ve written narrative-wise. Given the grounded nature of Chapter 1 (a Control Room of sorts) with the foundation of being inside a digital world within the device, we kept this framework going with the overworld map by having it resemble a mobile device’s motherboard.

With this, our Chapter 0 has a bridge to connect to any amount of chapters we choose:

By keeping the idea of this map grounded, we are aiming to have even this small aspect spark interest in STEAM. Having the phone face become transparent to reveal the circuits underneath showcases how phones actually look (which is not something many people see often) and our hope is that it prompts further questions and discussions into this particular area of STEAM.

Chapter 1 also received a weekly dose of progress, as you can see below:

While some of the art is placeholder, it goes to show how we are leveraging what Inanimate Alice excels at while pushing the levels of interactivity a bit further. We also made a big decision to forgo the use of 3rd person perspective entirely and have it entirely 1st person. The majority of the camera angles used are 1st person to begin with, and we believe the level of intimacy with the world and interactions is equally strong (if not even more).

As one could also see, the art direction was finalized after much experimentation. Our artist took the time to explore numerous visual styles before landing on the low-poly 3D one seen above. However, even more granular decisions were made in this arena.

The image on the left utilizes outlines and ample lighting to push that “2D world” feel (almost like a cartoon) while the image on the right is a similar render but with 0 outlines and different lighting. So what exactly changes?

The image on the right, which we chose as the right style for this experience, felt relatively more engaging as well as visually compelling. In some general senses, rendering out 2D images of a 3D world allows for more experimentation and freedom in lighting as well as camera angles. Furthermore, world building and visual development can be done with higher quality results and in a lower time frame than if we went with full 2D illustrations since every angle would have to be redrawn from scratch.

Experimentation with camera angles and where interactable objects can be in this chapter also happened this week:

But we weren’t done yet!

On the design and narrative fronts, Chapter 1 received some detailed attention in fleshing out some of the code block puzzles previously discussed. How this chapter ended was up for debate, since we wrestled with having it be more of a stand-alone chapter or having it hint or connect to future chapters developed or theoretical. In the end, we opted to go for the latter in order to push the narrative of this experience as far as we could take it.

Narratively, Chapter 0 received a second draft, with a third one to follow shortly. Now that it has received this level of attention, Chapter 0 can now be seen through a more fine-toothed comb especially when it comes to displaying / altering text in creative ways to amplify the moment. Chapter 1’s draft was also completed this week, with a one-on-one client meeting with Ian early next week to confirm details, word choice, and tone for the characters, and ensure the writing is aligned with Inanimate Alice.

With the camera angles and key items nailed down, we decided to make a concise map to showcase where these items and their associated moments will occur to keep everyone unified:

Sound also started to receive more attention as we get deeper and deeper into this project. We were fortunate enough to obtain the sound repository from the original Inanimate Alice sound designer to utilize. Concepts were taken from previous episodes to ensure we start composing and developing sound effects that will not only serve to amplify our own experience but also to exemplify the Inanimate Alice series.

As more and more of our first core Chapter is developed, we reached out to obtain playtesters. Getting our target audience in front of and interacting with our deliverable is crucial to ensure our designs are working as intended. While our client group, especially those on the educational side, are extremely confident in what we’ve brought to the table so far, playtesting will show our experience’s true colors.

In short, Week 5 was full of great progress on all fronts. The team remains more confident and proud than ever, and are looking forward to seeing how this experience plays out with middle schoolers.