Now it’s your turn…

The wait is finally over! We can reveal that despite many Photoshop breakdowns, countless gladiatorial debates, and CSS crises; the game is live!

After weeks of design and production, and despite many set-backs right up until the very end, the game we have poured so much time and effort into it is complete. We’d love to hear any and all feedback on what we’ve created – leave us a comment below.

Roman Malton awaits, if you love the game visit Malton Museum, in Malton, North Yorkshire!!

Click the Image to Play
An image of the opening page of our game showing the entrance to a Roman fort with the text "How long would you survive in Roman Malton".
The opening page of our game. (Photo credit: Isobel Christian)

 

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Being more than archaeologists

After our short tour of the village of Malton and our meeting with the volunteers  of the museum, we found an avalanche of ideas that had emerged from our brainstorming. All of this was overwhelming, due to the fact that we actually have to put all those ideas in a video game. It may seem attractive to design a videogame that will be played by real people, but taking into account that none of us has any experience in this, the prospect was no longer so appealing. So in our first seminar on Thursday, our faces of confusion and perplexity seemed to had been recorded in our professors’ retinas, since at the end of the session they looked really concerned about us. This was not surprising because the ideas that came out were so different from each other that practically were impossible to put all of them together. Between our antagonistic ideas we went from a time traveler, to a soldier who had to survive in the “Roman jungle”.

Trying to made up our minds with Twine
Working on Twine ( Screen capture: Isobel Christian)

After a little break, we found ourselves heavily deep into an intensive course to learn game programming with a program called Twine. At the beginning, feeling confident after a week on the “battlefield”, we said to ourselves “this can’t be so difficult”, but the reality was quite different. As we progressed I realized that all my experience playing with Flappy Birds or any other game was useless, and my sketch started to seem like an incomprehensible tangle of hieroglyphics. However my brain and my heart beats returned to normality when I realized that in the notes that they had given to us were all the keys that could prevent the disaster in our video game. But we will have to wait until the end to see what results from our “computer mastery”.

Preparing for the First Meeting

Our main task in this year’s heritage programme is to create a videogame for Malton Museum. Naturally, we needed to first meet with the museum staff to discuss exactly what they wanted, so a meeting was prepared for Tuesday afternoon.

If it were left to me, I would have turned up with a biro and hoped for the best, looking like a lesser known Chuckle Brother, although we fortunately decided to prepare a list of questions.

Harald then whipped out his post-it notes. I presumed he was going to write a small shopping list, but we were shown how to use them to organise notes. All of these good organisational skills terrified me a little, but I went with the flow and we ended the session feeling confident.

On Tuesday, we’d allowed a little time to explore and assess the presentation of the Roman fort site. Inquisitive visitors can wallow in education provided by four information boards, yet we were distraught when we found the third board to be completely absent. Seeing a crude rope swing hanging from a tree branch, we deduced that the local youths must be responsible.

Meghan and Sara observing an information panel
Analysing the first sign (Photo: Isobel Christian)

Thankfully, these vandals clearly had some sense of decency, as they respectfully left their ill-gotten gains resting against the fourth information board. We revelled at the opportunity of learning more about the history of the Roman fort, though the only thing we learned from the latter half of the boards was that lichen clings to plastic panels rather well.

Cursing the shenanigans of the sign-spoiling hooligans, we then paid a visit to our pals on the excavation site. Unsurprisingly, mine didn’t seem too pleased when I turned up in my Chelsea boots, after I seemingly blagged myself an early exit from the excavation.

Hayden analysing a lichen covered information panel
Deciphering the lichen (Photo: Emily Pearson)

Matters didn’t improve when one friend laid out her jacket for me to sit on whilst I ate my Nutrigrains, since I refused to sit on the soil. After receiving a complete roasting over my degree choice (and general nambypamby-ness), I made a slightly smug retreat and headed off to meet my appointment at the museum.

I don’t remember Tony Robinson ever being subjected to such grief when he checked up on the man with the colourful jumpers and the bloke with the hat.

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!