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!!

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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)

 

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.

The final battle has begun!

Perhaps the title sounds a bit dramatic, but certainly this week has been and is, the final battle of our video-game. After an exhaustive collection of data and images in Malton, and taking pictures of really impressive objects everywhere, the fateful week arrived.

We didn’t just talk about ideas or possible stories that could take place in our game. We had reached a point where we had to make final decisions and certainly, I was a bit stressed because of that. At the beginning of the first week everything seemed very distant, we had time, there was no need to look to the sky for ancestral inspiration that never came. So on Monday, after discussing what would be the exciting life of our characters, and after having received all the instruction we would need, we got to start on the real work.

We distributed the tasks so that everyone could do a little of everything. (Although, at the time of deciding who would take care of the Photoshop task, the room was silent and I think that I could hear my own contained breathing.) However, none of us got rid of that part of the work. The truth is that before, I  had never had to do anything with Photoshop and if I needed it, I just asked someone else. This time I would have to get into it completely, there was no escape. So I decided to choose what I thought it would be the simplest task, the starting image. However, how naive I was for  believing that something in this tricky program would be easy.

There is a wall of sticky notes.
The page of to-do tasks we had ahead on Monday (Photo: Tara Copplestone)

After an hour of trying to change the gray and cloudy sky that appeared in the original image (I think it was an hour but it seemed to me endless) I finally got a bright sky that invited to enter the Roman fortress I managed to find. But to my surprise I saw that nature was making his own trouble in the photo, spoiling it with some bare and rare branches on the top of the image. So after declaring in my heart an eternal hatred of Photoshop, I decided to look for another image. But as my “mastery” in Photoshop had improved after my infinite practice, it was shorter.

Later we decided to create in a definitive way the history that our characters would have to go through, which, I have to say, was quite interesting. So we put in the video-game everything we had ready. Although I, with my chameleonic abilities, had avoided the disaster of taking care of that part of the work as much as possible, the truth is that I was impressed with what we had achieved in one morning, it seemed like a real game. I could not help feeling in my inner self relief because everything sounded very good when we put it into words, but from there to become reality was something else.

So once the first part of the programming was done, the next day we continued doing the second part. This time I chose to make the narrator’s Photoshop that although was not as complex as that impossible sky, it seemed to want to make fun of me, as every time I put it in the game there was a little white dot that had escaped from my sight. At least we almost have it, I just hope I do not have to duel again with Photoshop.

***

Quizás el título suene un poco dramático, pero sin duda esta semana ha sido y es la batalla final de nuestro videojuego. Tras realizar una exhaustiva recolección de datos e imágenes en Malton sacando fotos por doquier de objetos realmente impresionantes, llegó la fatídica semana.

Ya no solo hablábamos de ideas o de posibles historias que podían tener lugar en nuestro juego, habíamos llegado a un punto en que debíamos tomar decisiones y ciertamente me estresaba un poco. Al empezar la primera semana todo parecía muy lejano, teníamos tiempo, no había necesidad de mirar al cielo en busca de inspiración ancestral que no llegaba nunca. Por lo que el lunes tras discutir  cual sería la emocionante vida de nuestros personajes y tras haber recibido toda la instrucción que podíamos necesitar, nos pusimos manos a la obra.

Tara Copplestone is shown in front of a white board.
Tara helping to organize our game, to make it reality. (Photo :Harald Freidheim)

Nos repartimos las tareas de modo que todo el mundo pudiera hacer un poco de todo. Aunque a la hora de decidir quién se encargaría del Photoshop, la habitación quedó en silencio, hasta creo que se podía oír mi respiración contenida. Sin embargo ninguno nos libramos de  esa parte del trabajo, la verdad nunca había tenido que hacer nada con Photoshop y si lo necesitaba se lo pedía a alguien, pero esta vez iba a tener que mojarme de lleno,no había escapatoria. Por lo que decidí escoger lo que a mi parecer era la más simple, la imagen del inicio. Sin embargo, que ilusa  fui al creer que algo en este engañoso programa sería fácil.

Tras una hora de intentar cambiar el cielo nublado y grisáceo que venía con  la imagen original( creo que fue una hora pero a mi se me hizo eterna) por fin conseguí un cielo brillante que invitaba a entrar en la fortaleza romana que había conseguido encontrar. Pero cual fue mi sorpresa al ver que la naturaleza estaba haciendo de las suyas en la foto, estropeándomela con unas ramas desnudas y raras en la parte de arriba de la imagen. Así que tras declarar en mi fuero interno odio eterno a Photoshop, decidí buscar otra imagen. Además como mi “maestría” en Photoshop había mejorado tras mi infinita práctica se hizo más corto.

Más tarde, decidimos crear de manera definitiva la historia  por la que tendrían que pasar nuestros personajes, lo cual he de decir quedaron bastante interesantes. Así que nos dispusimos a poner en el videojuego todo lo que teníamos listo. Aunque yo, con mis habilidades camaleónicas, había evitado el desastre de hacerme cargo de esa parte del trabajo en todo lo posible. Pero  la verdad es que quedé impresionada con lo que habíamos conseguido en una mañana, parecía un juego de verdad. No pude evitar sentir en mi fuero interno alivio, porque todo sonaba muy bien cuando lo exponíamos en palabras, pero de ahi a que se hiciera realidad era otra cosa.

Por lo que una vez realizado la primera parte de la programación, al día siguiente continuamos haciendo la segunda parte. Esta vez elegí hacer el photoshop del narrador que aunque no fue tan complejo como aquel cielo imposible, parecía querer burlarse de mí porque cada vez que lo poníamos en el juego había un algún puntito blanco que se me había escapado. Al menos ya casi lo tenemos, solo espero no tener que batirme en duelo otra vez con Photoshop.

STRESS STRESS STRESS

Production week has finally descended on our small group of four, and as anticipated, there have been several moments within the past two days where I have wanted to take the University owned laptop I was working on and throw it off the top of the Minster.

The reason behind this irrational thought, Photoshop. Before this week I had naively thought that our short crash course in Photoshop would be more than enough to cover the Photoshopping we would need for our game. I was wrong. So very, very, wrong.

Monday morning I had a great time working on the CSS for the game with Tara, which basically consisted of changing the colours and making the game look pretty. CSS was something I felt confident with, I knew what I was doing provided Tara was next to me the entire time in case I messed up! However, this is a group project and so my stress-free morning did not last as I took up the new task of using Photoshop to edit one of the images we needed for the game.

After I had opened up the image in Photoshop, something I did with great ease, I

A image of the Twine software, and mechanics of our game.
A screenshot of the mechanics of the game in Twine.

knew I had misjudged what I was getting myself into. It was in that moment as I stared blankly at the screen before me, I had no idea what I was doing. What followed was what I can confidently say one of the most frustrating and painful experiences of my life. Whenever I stopped to look at how Hayden was managing to do everything that I couldn’t, I imagined running away from King’s Manor very quickly and never returning. Somehow though, I managed to remain in my seat and through what can only be described as a miracle I managed to muddle my way through and edit the image to something we could actually use.

Tuesday morning dawned and all I could think was that if I had to use Photoshop ever again I might actually just break down on the spot. My first job was indeed to use Photoshop again. Tuesday was off to a great start.

However, to my surprise and probably the surprise of everyone else, I quickly managed to crop my image and resize it to the correct dimensions. In hindsight, it’s no surprise I managed it as it was probably one of the simplest jobs I could possibly need to do. The next image though was definitely going to test my meager abilities, but thankfully Tom from the University’s IT department was in and managed to explain to me exactly what I needed to do in order to sort out my image.

Ironically, this afternoon I cruised through the rest of my Photoshop work, and to my immense disbelief even managed to enjoy myself. This was an unexpected turn of events, and I’m convinced I must have hit my head at some point, either that or Photoshop isn’t as bad as I thought, but I’m not convinced.

Photography Voodoo

With minimal computer skills, not usually branching beyond opening Netflix or a Pages document, I was surprised to find that when faced with the programming code for Twine I was able to do more than create a steaming hard drive and a black screen of death. This may have lulled me into a false sense of security however, when the next day we were to take on Photoshop and photo editing. With the common phrase used for photography “oh it can’t be that hard” and “anyone can do that” it became very, very apparent that no not anyone can open Photoshop for the first time and create work on par with Ansel Adams.

As we were asked by the university graphic design, photography and website expert what experience we had with photography, I proudly dropped in that I had borrowed my fathers camera and had a dabble; moreover as the £2000 camera and additional £500 lenses were produced my comfort zone quickly disappeared. Various techniques were covered including lighting, the importance of angles and the positioning of what you were photographing — with insight divulged that could only come from a true professional and enthusiast.

I became lost in the photographic jargon that was not only going over my head but taking a running jump to gain as much height as possible. Moreover, the importance of these terrifying-to-achieve prospects became clear for our upcoming data collection day as the comparison between amateur photos and those with depth and accuracy were presented. Unless we wanted our work to look like well, probably what the amateur photos I had already taken looked like, we need to become photography voodoo masters in 5 weeks. As this session drew to a close we found ourselves on a break, sat in a slumped rather depressed looking circle googling the meme “when the lecturer asks you if you have any questions but you sit there in silence because you don’t even know what you don’t know.” The giant safety net comprised of our incredible supervisors and all those experts dedicating their time to this project could not have been felt more than in this moment.

Nothing could prepare me for the next session though, as my abominable IT skills flourished into a horrendously edited photo. Although very enjoyable this session left me staring at the screen thinking some kind of wizardry must be occurring to allow my peers to not make their image go an unappealing shade of off-pink like mine were. The enthusiasm and outstandingly patient persona given off by our lecturer allowed me to keep my cool and fully appreciate what we would be able to produce for our project with more than a little bit of practise.  

Come the end of the day I felt both mortified and excited at the prospect of the task ahead of us, urged on by what I can only assume is sheer insanity.

A computer screen with photoshop loaded displaying an autumn scene mid editing with the editing panel at the side.
Working on Photoshop (Photos: Marionna Sandin)