For my honours project at University I created Rose, a mobile game built in Unreal Engine 4. Rose is an exploration based tablet game following the narrative of a brother and sister. Accompanying a research project focusing on the application of situational awareness in gameplay animations, the characters in Rose elicit reactions to their changing surroundings whilst expressing mood and personality.
Apart from the character rigs (Michael Jarberg), environment rigs (Bryan Noter) and audio (William McCarter), I created and programmed the entirety of Rose.
Rose centers around Mica Endsley’s (Chief Scientist for the United States Airforce) model of Situational Awareness, detailed below:
Endsley, M.R. 2000. Theoretical underpinnings of situation awareness: A critical review. In: M.R Endsley and D.J. Garland, eds. Situation Awareness Analysis and Measurement. Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. 2000, pp. 3–32.
Level 1: Perception
Without basic perception of important information, the odds of forming an incorrect picture of the situation increase dramatically.
Level 2: Comprehension
A person with Level 2 SA has been able for derive operationally relevant meaning and significance from the Level 1 data perceived.
Level 3: Projection
At the highest level of SA, the ability to forecast future situation events and dynamics (Level 3 SA) marks operators who have the highest level of understanding of the situation.
Using the three core elements of Perception, Comprehension and Projection, SA can be used to visualise the stimuli the avatar is experiencing. Thus, alongside stimuli the player can directly receive – visual, audio and haptic – the player can indirectly experience smell, taste, balance, heat etc through the reactions of the avatar.
For this project, the stimuli the avatar can react to were defined as:
The Environment (such as thunder and lightning)
Other Characters (in this case the appearance of her brother)
Player Agency (reacting to player input)
Narrative Events (moments which changed the emotional state of the avatar)
SA also offers the opportunity for the avatar to demonstrate their personality as it incorperates their abilities, experience, training, goals, and pre-conceptions into the decision making process.
Rose’s artistic development was greatly inspired by John Singer Sargents, ‘Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose’. I loved the bright colours of the piece and the young girls in the dress fed into the design of my avatar – Rose.
As I was building the entire world from scratch in seven weeks, I knew I would have to keep my designs stylized to be able to complete the project in time. This early art test set the direction for bright colours and simple well defined textures.
As Rose undergoes a journey of emotions, I built a colour key to support the transitions. Pink and white were the ‘safe’ colours, appearing in areas connected with her brother, in the flowers around the house, on the rose winding up the pagoda, and in the blossom and sky at his grave.
Dark blues and purples were to signify ‘loss’, and accentuated times when Rose was going through emotional turmoil.
The environment design also drew inspiration from architectural processes. From the beginning point on the windmill, you can always see the grave in the background so there’s a sense of destination and foreshadowing. The open environment becomes dense and closed off as Rose becomes more upset, until the end when you walk up through a valley framing your destination and the world opens up again.
If you are interested in further research and the creation of Rose, please head over to my dedicated blog.