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For the second project of Studio 2 – we went on an excursion to the Gallery Of Modern Art (GOMA) to examine and select an artwork which we would replicate the experience of in a game. This task gave us 1 week from seeing the work to submitting it. I chose Anish Kapoor’s Untitled 2007 piece, which was a giant torus shape protruding from a wall, but the centre receded into it, which drew in your eye. The sheer size of this work had a profound effect on me – it enveloped the space and imposed itself on me. The work was very intimidating, and it’s colour and the darkness within introduced some primal feelings of fear or passion. Its size and power was precisely the effect I wanted to reproduce in an interactive experience.

Converting Art into Game

Visually, I knew the emotional output that I wanted to express in the end product, but the challenge was ensuring that the final product achieved this as efficiently as possible. Kapoor’s original work is the most efficient it could be – a singular object in a blank room was all it needed to achieve its effect. For this piece, I knew I had to find a different but equally effective way to express Kapoor’s work. I looked into Kapoor’s other works, which tend to play with conventions of relief and space. Kapoor’s 2014 piece Descension presents the viewer with a deck with a hollowed out circle, which a whirlpool swirls below. The concept of an out-of-place “hole” in the scene was a really powerful mechanism that I took as the backbone of generating my piece. I looked into my own experiences with out-of-place phenomenon, and found that Black Holes have this same effect as objects that deceive our ideas of mass and space to virtually protrude and recede simultaneously.

Anish-Kapoor-Decension-Whirlpool
Anish Kapoor ‘Descension’ (2014)

To complete the visual component I decided on a small village-like landscape with soft and friendly appearances to create the “ordinary world” with which the extra-ordinary object would contrast. Knowing that I wanted this object to be constantly visible to the player, the sky was the best place to put it – fitting for a black hole, too. The next challenge was figuring out a way to visually represent the way in which the artwork ‘enveloped’ my attention. In my experience, the work felt like it sucked me in, and I could reasonably replicate the “spaghettification” effect that Black Holes create. To replicate the gravitational lensing effect for the black hole object, I bought a Camera Effect to fulfil that purpose, completing the intended look. Later, I wanted to include Kapoor’s use of a deep red in the scene to instigate primal feelings associated with red (danger, passion, blood), so I added a light that transitions from white to red when looking into the black hole.

Aurally, I wanted to replicate the sense of depth and clarity that an object like Kapoor’s achieved. When looking into the sculpture, it absorbed my attention – like the world around me paused. The artwork’s characteristics reminded me of the black crystals in The Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion’s The Shivering Isles DLC, where standing by the crystals dulled the audio to seem like they were absorbing your attention. I knew I wanted to do the same in Don’t Look Up, and doing so was a matter of creating two soundscapes: the ordinary and extraordinary worlds the player switches between. The ordinary world’s soundscape is a combination of chirping birds, soft breezes, and rustling foliage. I positioned the Audio Sources around the scene to allow for 3D positional audio. When the player looks into the black hole, the ordinary sound quietens and its pitch lowers dramatically to allow for the extraordinary world’s low-frequency hum to take centre stage. This sound doesn’t use positional audio, instead the sound appears to come from inside the player’s head. When looking away, the sound returns to normal.

The final results speak for themselves (wear headphones for maximum effect):

Tech Stuff:

For Don’t Look Up, I learned how to use AnimationCurves to form the backbone of the game’s effects. With the scene, lighting, and audio controlled by a single curve, Unity’s AnimationCurve system provided the best mix of features and usability for a designer. I can easily adjust the curve to ease the effects in and out, as well as tweak the speed with which the curve completes its motion. Using AnimationCurves instead of my own bespoke solution saved me a lot of time and gave me significantly better control of the function.

Project Management

With only a week to complete Don’t Look Up, I had to make sure I scoped properly to complete it on-time. Luckily, Don’t Look Up’s idea was simple and fairly easy to execute, and I could forego creating fully-fledged documentation and move straight to developing the project. I made sure to employ Unity’s Standard Assets to add an FPS controller to the scene, and using pre-made audio and visual assets to quickly develop the idea. However, adding UI functionality and menu scenes is a time-consuming process that takes far too long for very repetitive work. On my next project, I want to create an asset package that contains: Start Menu, Credits Menu, Pause Menu and an Options Menu that are configurable and easy to integrate into a game, so I spend only a fraction of the time to have a working menu system.

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