Big Excitement About Little Things
For many of the games I make – perhaps especially lately – I often worry a bit about how excited I am about kind of unexciting aspects or design decisions. This has felt particularly true with v r 1 and now v r 2 I think, which are getting pretty deep into referencing and working with very non-game references and worlds in sort of oblique ways. So I wonder sometimes about whether I’m charging off down this particular path more or less alone. But then I read a tweet of recognition of Marfa, or my parents, who I visited Marfa with, “get it”, and all is well again of course. You really only need a couple of real humans to sympathise with a project to plow ahead, after all.
And I really have taken a lot of pleasure it some of the more pedantic or “boring” elements of v r 2 while making it. See especially the quiet joy I’ve taken in designing the informative placard that is positioned at the entrances of the two buildings in the game (pictured above in a prototype state, hence all the As). I guess I can say I’ve spent a lot of time in galleries and museums, and I’ve seen a bunch of these kinds of placards. There’s something so pleasing about them, how certainly they point out what’s what, often in the context of deeply confusing and inaccessible contemporary artworks. So you know which one is which, but perhaps nothing at all about why or how, for example. I like to think I’m carrying on that tradition in v r 2.
Similarly, trying to evoke a visual sense of the Judd sculptural installation 100 works in mill aluminum at Marfa, Texas in this very flat-coloured, simply-modelled environment has been lovely too. There’s really something to be said for poring over reference photographs, tweaking colours, finding ways to communicate a much more complex space with a simple one. It doesn’t hurt, of course, that Judd’s installation (and work in general) is almost obnoxiously formalist, and translates well to the cubes and planes of Blender and Unity.
So there’s a lot of very genuine joy in small, kind of boring or even “invisible” elements in this project. Whether it’s realising that Unity’s “Default Material” is a great substitute for “mill aluminum” or that that camera hidden inside a cube is invisible to the player, but can actually see the player moving around because the reverse sides of the walls of a cube have no texture and are effectively transparent.
I do still not-so-secretly hope that this game has an audience broader than my parents and a couple of people I know who are also just into this kind of stuff. I think it has a lot to say about the ontology/epistemology of our experiences in virtual spaces. But if not, so be it. I’ll focus on the little things.