Final Project Report

The project has come to a close and we have attached our final report below, which includes our goals, process, lessons learned, next steps and some thoughts from our museum partners. Please do get in touch with us if you would like to ask questions or share any thoughts!

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Tackling Photoshop

Now that the actually quite pleasant tasks of discussions and excursions are coming to a close, this week will consist of nothing but production. Instead of adopting a Chamberlain-esque method of simply starting and winging our way through it, it became immediately apparent that the dreaded old ‘organisation’ thing would be at play again. The sticky notes even made a comeback.

One of the main tasks in the production process would be editing the photographs of the museum’s objects that we would be including in the game. Unfortunately, this meant that we’d have to try and get our heads around Photoshop. Indeed, we did have a lengthy Photoshop session last week, which I confidently nodded through. However, my blank expression when I opened up the software afterwards suggested that I wasn’t following it all as much as I thought.

When the group was asked to identify who was most confident with Photoshop, we all sank back deep into our chairs, resulting in us all sharing the burden. Consequently, the others weren’t pleased when I admitted that I used Photoshop for two years in Interactive Media. In my defence, those days were mostly spent placing my friends’ heads on the bodies of dictators (and the occasional phallus). Since Malton Museum didn’t at any point make requests for that sort of material, I think I was justified in concealing my experience.

In fact, what was required was background removal and general tidying-up of images of the museums objects. Perhaps I should have paid more attention in my school days, as my incompetence shone through when I started hacking off chunks of the objects instead of the background.

As punishment for my earlier deceit, I was next allocated a particularly tricky image of a comb on a similar coloured background. Rather than doing the sensible thing and finding the most appropriate tool, I opted for the tedious method of changing the colour of individual pixels one by one. Needless to say, my dishonesty and stupidity meant that I fully deserved the subsequent migraine.

An image of a bone weaving comb
An image of a bone comb that caused a lot of grief (Photo: Isobel)

One major issue I have with the editing process is the fact that nobody will understand the time and effort we put in when they see the final product, yet they would have noticed if we hadn’t. I’m beginning to think that I may have to stand with the game and verbally inform people of what I did to the images.

All in all, the photo editing went pretty well considering I can barely even take a photograph, never mind ‘adjust its colour saturation’- whatever that is. Another bonus is by concentrating on the image side of things, I avoided any ‘CSS work’. I won’t explain what that is, as I’ve been only pretending to know myself for the past two weeks.

How long would you survive in Roman Malton?

Friday saw the birth day for our game, consisting of painfully intense conversations about narratives and object choices. Despite our discussions bordering on gladiatorial combat, we can finally reveal the premise of our game!

How long would you survive in Roman Malton?

You are thrown into Roman Malton, where you must use your historical knowledge, creativity and intuition to survive for as long as possible. Guide our siblings, Lucius and Claudia, to thrive or suffer an early demise based on your decision making! The game follows them through their three main life stages of early life, middle age and old age exploring what it was like to be a real live Roman in Malton. Answer the questions correctly and progress  through the life stages, or get it wrong and start again. Set in and around the Roman fort and town of Malton and inspired by the objects recovered at the site from various excavations, from military to marriage and farming to weaving the game leads you through many aspects of Roman society. See Roman artefacts which have been out of the public eye, in the museum stores, brought back into the spotlight once again.

You’ll need your wits about you to survive..!

Today we leave you with our fantastic game panels. Tune in next week for the launch of the game!

Mission Malton

On the day of the meeting, the museum had been thoughtfully closed so that we would have the opportunity to have a full, in depth discussion with the volunteers at the museum. Myself and Emily strolled down, what seemed to be a busy road in the heart of Malton, in our search for the museum itself, which was identified by the two banners hanging on the outside proclaiming the word ‘Exhibition’. Our time keeping skills were slightly lacking and we were the last to arrive for the meeting, entering the building with slight trepidation hoping we had definitely got the correct building.

The first part of our meeting at the museum, introduced everyone and allowed the museum volunteers to give us an overview of the museum as a whole. The four volunteers who were present at the meeting were Anne, Margaret, Jenny and Roy who represented both the education side of the museum and the collections side. It was then I began to fully understand both the history of the museum, and also the issues and problems which it is currently facing, with funding and visitor numbers. It was hearing this history that instilled in me a great want to put all of my capabilities into making sure the game we develop will meet all of their hopes and expectations; and in an ideal world provide the museum with a longevity that a greater use of technology might provide.

Following a whistle stop tour around both the museum itself and the stores, it was time to get down to business and get to the heart of what the purpose of our visit was. To question the volunteers on what their hopes and aspirations were for the video game and to collect a solid basis of information in order to head back and develop our pitch. A tool we used in order to help with this was using post it notes to create a visual representation of their priorities.

Board which depicts the ideas we came up with at the meeting in Malton
The final product, from our meeting at Malton Museum. (Photo: Sara Perry)

Already I can feel my abilities being pushed by this course, and I hopefully am rising to meet them with the best I can give. All I can say is that our first time at Malton felt like a success, and I am excited for the journey ahead of us.

By Isobel

New Year, New Project

Last summer, halfway through my first year as a PhD candidate, I was asked to help tutor on the University of York’s Digital Heritage Field School, offered through the Department of Archaeology and led by Dr. Sara Perry, my supervisor. The result of the summer term’s work was the Hidden Dale project. It was an incredibly rewarding experience working with undergraduates on their first large-scale heritage interpretation project, and so when I was asked to help out again this year, I didn’t hesitate in saying yes.

This year’s project is quite different — different stakeholders, different institutional partners, different product, different skill set to emphasize in teaching the students. We’re working with Malton Museum, an entirely volunteer-run community museum, and we’re building a video-game to help highlight the museum’s extensive Roman collection. In the course of this project, the students will learn photography and photo editing, audio recording and editing, game design, graphic design, exhibition skills, and will get lots and lots of experience in heritage practice.

For my part, what I’m bringing to the project is help in teaching (alongside my fellow PhD candidate Harald Fredheim) and a background in game design. I worked for several years as a content creator and team leader at a small, independent game studio, and being able to share the lessons I learned in that part of my life with my students, in a practical and implementable way, is something I never expected would happen in the course of my PhD.

Today, after an initial meeting and a lot of back and forth planning, the students will present the pitch for their Twine game idea to the museum. I can’t wait to see how it goes!