Thursday, 23 August 2012

Vimeo Under Quarantine

     I have recently started an account on Vimeo and have uploaded the same demonstration of Rude Awakening to it! I have to admit, I really like Vimeo's interface, and I find many of its features to be superior to Youtube's. At any rate, below is the video.

     And here is the Quarantine 323 Channel

Monday, 30 July 2012

Info on Chapter 2

      I won't start working on Chapter 2 of Q323 for quite some time. Between the arrival of some very close friends and a very important exam coming up, it's unlikely I'll be able to dedicate much time to making the level. I do, however, have some core concepts down:
  • Aco, the ACO agent, will be a prevalent character, and will guide our protagonist.
  • The protagonist may be unmuted, and engage in conversation with Aco and other individuals. 
  • Chapter 2 will take place underground, in the sewers and perhaps an underground metro system. 
  • The scarcity of firearms will continue. I highly doubt I will include any other firearm besides the revolver. 
  • Details on the infection outbreak will be revealed. 

Rude Awakening

      Rude Awakening is the first level I've ever created and the first level of Quarantine 323. Its production was slow, as I spent a lot of my time looking up tutorials on how to create the desired effects. The level began in a small room, the first room you see in the level, and I remember my excitement at being able to open the first door. My first door. 

      I inserted an NPC, and configured it to react and attack only after I had seen it. This was another big step forward for me, as it would enable me to create some pretty cool effects later on. Lighting was my next ordeal. Sure, you can light up a room and call it a day, but I wanted to set a gloomy mood from the very beginning. Finding the right lighting was a bit challenging, but learning to apply it to the rest of the beginning portion was easy enough. The flickering lights were a big accomplishment for me, despite their relative ease to set up. The vision in my mind was slowly coming together, and it felt fantastic.

      The room with the infected torn in half is probably one of the level's highlights. The textures I used for the walls, floor, and ceiling are a big part of that, and the flickering along with the blood splatter all contribute. An early draft of the level had a lot more blood than the final result, but I felt adding too much would ruin its effect. The blood trail that connects the legs and infected torso is my personal favourite for this room. The idea for this room is that something has taken place here, in all likelihood, a violent conflict. The protagonist, and by extension the player, was not present for it (or maybe they were, and just don't remember). At any rate, arriving at the room is supposed to trigger the player's imagination. You see the chopped up infected, and you ask yourself: how did that happen? You see another corpse, not infected this time, and notice the gunshots on the wall. Why was she shot? The player subconsciously creates their own idea of what has transpired, and it helps enhance the dreadful atmosphere.

      Opening the door that leads to the staircase triggers the first bit of dialogue. A radio operator begins talking, saying how they can offer food and shelter. Her voice is eventually lost to silence. This was my first use of the ambient_generic entity, and again would facilitate later usage of it in key portions of the level. The dialogue, recorded by my sister, was much easier to implement than I had imagined. Simply using Audacity, and playing around with the effects, I was able to realistically replicate a static effect. I would later create a similar effect for the unnamed ACO agent, whom I'll call Aco for the rest of this blog. 

      The staircase segment originally played out very differently. The top of the stairs would be in complete darkness, and the player would be forced to walk ahead blindly. Upon reaching the top, the light would turn on and an infected would attack! Ahh! Eventually, I came to the conclusion that this tactic was much too cheap. Sure, the initial implementation meant that I could use a similar setup for other scenarios, but I just felt it was trying too hard. How would the light turn on, anyway? The player wouldn't be involved in any tangible way. I decided to scrap it, and add something that would, in my opinion, result in a more creepy moment. You can see the corpse of the infected, motionless. Once you get close, however, the infected growls and stands to its feet. The player's first encounter with the infected commences! I originally had a crowbar on the table next to the radio. The player picks it up, whacks the infected a few times, and it's dead. I realized, however, that one infected was no match for a human with a crowbar. How could I make this scene more intense, more exciting? The answer was simple: take the crowbar away. 

        So what now? The player is forced to go on the defensive, finding a way to trap the infected or otherwise escape. There are some props around the room, most notably the shovel, that you can pick up and toss at the infected. These do little damage, however. In retrospect, the shovel should be able to take him out, but alas, that is not the case. The player can run around the infected and close the door behind him. I wanted to make it so that the infected was able to break the door down, but I was never able to implement it properly, so it was scrapped. The infected would stay trapped in that room for eternity.

      The next room took a while to start, as I was busy with schoolwork. I finally got around to it, and I wasn't really sure what it would be. The layout is a little simplistic, but it was a good chance to try out some things. For example, I took Missing Person 1 & 2, by the amazing OneRepublic, and modified it using Audacity. It plays as soon as you enter the room, and I personally think it sets a very eerie mood, especially if you stick around long enough. Another infected encounter occurs here, and this is where the player now acquires the crowbar. You can use it to kill the infected, and then proceed to break down the wooden board and exit the building. Alternatively, you can hop out the window, and explore without a weapon. Either way, once outside you'll hear my second favourite audio bit of the level: an eerie and distant screeching. The screeching was performed by yours truly. The noise is something I've wanted to use in something for a long time, and I figured now was appropriate. I made some modifications in Audacity (mostly to make it sound a little more distant) and then placed it in the level. It sounds great, enhances the creepy mood, and it's an addition I am very proud of.

      The work on the outside began with some complications. After I had it all in place and began polishing up (which includes things like adding props, sound effects, scripted sequences, etc.) the level glitched and became unplayable. I would walk into the first room, with the radio, and it would crash. Furthermore, the lighting was glitched, and everything was lit. It was horribly sad, as I loved what I had done and the thought of starting over sucked. Still, I knew it had taught me a lot, and I would put it to good use. I never deleted the file out of mere hope, and I was finally able to get it working again! I began working intensively on the level. The outside is mostly exploration. There is a truck filled with infected corpses, a fallen lamp post (complete with a static effect), a car that triggers an alarm upon approximation (another highlight!), and the creepy playground. The parking lot was, in the end, not as significant as I wanted it to be. Initially, the plan was to have the door locked, and upon trying to open it, a voice would begin speaking. An insane man would scream at you, telling you it was his room and not yours. Crazy people stuff. He would end up killing himself and the door would unlock. I admit the idea that the door somehow unlocks after he commits suicide is a little strange, but the real reason I ended up not completing this was because I lacked a good enough voice actor for the job. I felt if the acting wasn't good, the segment would suffer for it. I eventually decided to scrap the idea, and simply leave the door open with the revolver next to the corpse. Suicide is definitely implied, but if it did occur, it did a while ago.

      This same room would also be the home of a hanged man. Complications arose here as well, as I wasn't able to find a way to hang a corpse from a rope, which wasn't really a rope, just a skinny block. There's an option, Motion Disabled, that might have done the trick if it wasn't for the fact that his arms didn't fall. Sadly, I had to scrap this idea as well. To make up for these two failures, I decided to allow the player to immediately kill with the revolver as soon as he/she picks it up. An infected will attack from behind. Half of an infected, anyway. This was simple enough; a scripted sequence did the segment justice. Two failures, one success. I'll take what I can get.

      The infected banging on the fence was a monumental success for me, as it was something I had wanted to include from the onset. A scripted sequence, triggered when you exit the first building, did a great job. I admit, this sequence reminds me of the first episode of The Walking Dead, in which Rick Grimes shoots a walker who's on the other side of the fence, sticking the barrel through it. Coincidentally, the revolver he uses is also a Colt Python!

      The wrecked APC to the left was supposed to be on fire, and once you approached it, a flaming infected would stumble out, screaming. This sequence worked great, and I had no problems with it. Eventually, though, I decided to go a slightly different route with this segment, and so I scrapped this sequence. The audio bit with Aco attempting to contact Hardy was left in, and I must say, it's great. The audio would end and the player would continue exploring. This was changed somewhat as this segment continue to evolve. At the suggestion of my sister, I added an effect that would control the player's POV for a few seconds, and it would focus on the enormous horde of infected that were now awake. In case you're wondering, I included forty-one infected individuals for this segment. Forty-one!

      Wye Oak's phenomenal Civilian begins playing in this segment, just as the player's POV focuses on the infected horde, Aco muttering, "We're on our own." This sequence is probably my favourite for this level, and facing the horde as Civilian plays adds a great emotional element to it. I wanted the player to feel overwhelmed, and feel like they had no choice but to run. The revolver has a maximum of six rounds, and I made sure to not place any ammunition in the level. You can try to kill them with the crowbar, but with such great numbers, that could get complicated. Placing and configuring the infected was a tedious chore, but I'd say the result was well worth it. The lighting, primarily being the red flares, enhances the gloomy mood. The infirmary, comprised of two entrances, was a little more simplistic than I'd like, but I was short on time. I was also trying to make it so that, if the player walks in through one entrance, he/she will see infected entering from the other. This sequence wasn't working, and I didn't have time to keep messing around with it, so I decided to simply move four infected inside the building.

      After the four infected are dead and all doors closed, the player enters the final room, in which they hear Aco speaking again, out of breath. The camera fades to black and the "credits" roll.

Welcome to Quarantine 323.