Friday, 6 May 2011


We're looking for a 2D artist.
Man, it's hard work.
Each day, I sit with the company director and Ben (recently promoted to senior artist :o) to sort the good from the bad, and the good subsequently receive a brief.
The brief is to take a pre-designed zoom window and work it up to a polished asset.
Along with the brief, we also provide a couple of examples of finished zoom windows.
I have also written out a few prerequisites, simply explaining the zoom's function in the game. And there's a good deal of mood, style, and context notes included for good measure.
Essentially, there are a handful of things that must be in place, or the game is broken; beyond that, there is unbridled freedom within a certain set of boundaries.

Bearing in mind that this brief is only going out to artists who have already demonstrated in their portfolio that they have exceptional art skills, the brief is designed to test the artist's ability to work within the confines of a brief.

So far, every submission has destroyed the functionality and/or requirements clearly outlined in the brief.

It really does seem to scupper a lot of people - this idea that every creative project requires some set of boundaries, even if those boundaries are simply labelled 'no boundaries' - precisely the kind of brief that Gilbert and George might impose upon any given project.

So I've finished the first pass of the cut-scene and cinematic script, and now I'm working in a few small nuggets of backstory into the design doc. This is the stuff that will give meaning to the climax. It perhaps doesn't seem like a big job. Here's the view of my two monitors.

I also have four note/sketch books open on my desk.
(Apologies for the heavy use of redaction, but there's some key stuff there which gives too much of the bigger picture away.)

This is all the stuff I am cross-referencing to ensure that:
1) Nothing in the game breaks.
2) Maximum impact is achieved.
3) Believability is sustained.
And all this just to place a handful of lines of text into the game.

This shouldn't be unfamiliar to any creative maggoteers out there. How much research goes into a single paragraph of narrative? How much thought goes into the placement of any scene or the intonation of any line of dialogue or the stance of any character or the shape of a flower or breed of a cat?
(Ben and I were discussing the flowers he would use in the picnic garden; these flowers form the backdrop to a particularly poignant frame in a certain cut-scene. Their shape and colour will influence the emotional impact of the scene, and they will work with the focal character's skin tone and demeanour. Check out Pretty Woman for a splendid example of backdrop flowers. If memory serves, it's a scene in which Vivian and Kit are discussing Vivian's new life.)

In the top left of that image, you might recognise a page from Jonny's book which opened the CE act to M3.
Originally, the number in the bottom right-hand corner was an even one.
That's wrong, and I had it changed.
This might seem a drop in the ocean - but then consider that I'm now placing the preceding pages into M4.
Or, consider the date on the newspaper cuttings in M3.
In these cuttings, the deaths of Ed's parents are documented.
Ed's parents died in the winter. And from that one seed, a forest germinates. In the M3 flashback cut-scene, little Ed and her parents are dressed for cold weather. We hear rain and wind outside. And so forth. A tiny detail can have enormous significance.
I asked for the date to be changed to accommodate the winter deaths.
The month was changed to December, but the rest of the date was left unchanged, resulting in an impossible day.
Again, this might seem insignificant, until you see the bigger picture: now that I'm returning to that night, I have to choose between building on that unstable foundation, or pretending it never happened and correcting the date from this point onwards.

As much as possible, I document everything so that each member of the team can see the bigger picture and avoid these kind of errors. However, as Jesse Schell observes, nobody reads design documents. And, to be fair, half the time I struggle to find any given sketch or note. In reality, I am only performing damage limitation and am resigned to triple-checking everything along the way. The entire picture only exists in my head, and a small universe of dots have yet to be connected.

As promised, here's Ben's concept for one of two 'extra' scenes I requested. Functionally, I needed to place a whole bunch of stuff beyond a certain choke point, and I only had two scenes beyond that choke point and it quickly dawned on me that they were going to become cluttered. With this new scene, I was able to spread the items and clues out better. It also serves as a more pleasing transitional point between two scenes, and allowed me to use wardian cases which I was suddenly very fond of and introduce a little of the Victorian flavour earlier than anticipated, to more quickly transport the player from the derelict, overgrown town to a hidden technology humming below the surface.

And while we're juggling, I'd like to make a quick plea to everyone who has requested to be my facebook friend. I suspect most of the requests have come from people taking my name from the credits in M3 and then cross-referencing that entry with my location, but I also suspect that some requests have come through here. I am more than happy to add you, but please tell me who you are and how you know me. Also, understand that my facebook page is incredibly dull, just like me.
I've done my share of facebook stalking, making 'friends' with writers and designers and artists who I respect, but I always introduce myself in the friend request.
So if you have a request outstanding, pop me quick message on facebook and we can become life-long chums. :o)

Oh, and if you're interested in applying for the artist position, head over to, and good luck!

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