Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Gantt Chart and sample group

So I made the first part of my Gantt chart today... and yes... there is a lot of detail (and a lot to do... oh my word... is there a lot to do). However, this is so I realize practically everything I have to do.... Okay... there might be a little bit too much detail, but you know, it's better to be too thorough than not thorough enough... (or at least I think so).
Doing this early has helped my realized that my work placement is definitely going to interfere with one of my deadlines for this module... my time management is going to have to be something amazing to sort all of this stuff out... some of it I don't even know if it's practically possible... but I suppose that's why I'll get my tutor to discuss it with me.

So, I have my alternative tutor meeting tomorrow. I can safely say, having done quite a lot of research into the subject that the classics haven't been brought to life through new media narrative very effectively (and not at all for adults as a leisure activity) so in a way, I have a better claim to create this project than I had when I came up with this project in the first place. This does make competitor research a little difficult. NOT TO MENTION THAT A LOT OF NEW MEDIA NARRATIVES NEED TO BE BOUGHT!

But luckily... One of the lovely people from 'Dreaming Methods' got back to me the other day... and they were happy for me to speak to them... they seem very nice :D. I hope I get the chance to talk to them again soon (Andy Campbell seemed keen to know about the project... I'm so relieved that there is some outside interest).

Having spoken to a few of the people in the New Media department, they have all been scratching their heads when I've asked if any  positive new media narratives exist that they are aware of (which are good of course)... I'll have to make the first one then :D

 In other news, I have successfully got a sample group! Not only that, but they have all agreed to help me out. A few of them are based in Leeds, which means that doing focus groups will be easy. The others have agreed to help via email, phone skype etc etc. I have now completed my plots and sent them off to be checked, so at least I can start getting feedback for which plot to do soon enough.

I'm reading my last new media narrative theory book... this reminds me that my theory research is coming to an end soon, I need to formalize a lot of research now, having done it for quite a month of it now. It's exciting, but at the same time, it feels like moving a step forward towards the write up... which is a bit scary for me.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Inspiriation- Sound

I was trying to find some good examples of ebooks online and although there are many ebooks to choose from, the website 'spoken ink' seemed the most useful to me. 

It is a website where mainly short stories (some of them classics) are read by famous actors. The idea is to download the content for a small fee and then spread the word about this website by word of mouth (as oppose to buying them on CD or buying stories through I-Tunes). They read shorter stories which are more convenient for downloading. Derek Jacobi in particular, is fantastic in this reading, but many famous actors have contributed to this site reading a variety of stories, from stories to children, to stories for adults.

However, this is a stark reading, no sound effects, no other actors. I only want this kind of reading if I can find someone who can express characters through voice extremely well. The advantage of a reading like this of course is... that I only need one person to do it. This would work with a book like 'War of the Worlds' as it is mainly told from one man's point of view in the first place.

The more traditional version of a 'CD Drama' might be a little easier to manage, it would be easier to communicate character by using different actors, people are less likely to get confused. I think I will have to incorporate some sfx into my new media narrative, it would be impossible to make it truly 'immersive' without it.
Having no sfx would rely far too much on the actor's vocal presence (i.e. I would need someone like Patrick Stewart or Derek Jacobi to read it in order to keep the audience intrigued).

Although they are not massively popular in the UK, the BBC did create some CD drama's for it's Doctor Who franchised before it's revival. The problem with this approach of course is finding enough talented/ convincing voice actors and the spread of people will depend entirely on the story chosen.

My major worry with sound in particular is that the quality will not be good enough for the production, finding good recording equipment is difficult, and an interactive new media narrative really relies on sound as a major contributing factor.

Inspiration- Interaction

I have to confess one of the main inspirations for this new media narrative comes from the 'ceremony of innocence' piece. The playful interface is truly incredible for the time it was made... and the originality of the interaction is spectacular.

I also think that some of the playfulness of this interface is good, also the visual rendering for this interface is beautiful.

However, I don't think that either of these interfaces are quite explicit enough in their action. When I plan to create the interface, I hope that the characters will be able to give some form of instruction to the user without it detracting from the experience (I don't want them to think 'oh... the character is telling me what to do' I want them to to want do what the character's suggest.)

Although I had another example, I am struggling to find any reference of it. It was a Leonardo Da Vinci game that was designed for the Windows 90/95 pack... I will find more details on this soon... I'm determined. Basically put, it was a puzzle solving game where you were trapped in a maze of rooms and you had to use the drawings of leonardo da vinci to help you escape e.g. the flying machine, the pulley system... etc etc. This was an excellent narrative, which sucessfully made the tasks obvious, without being overly explicit.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Plot synopsises at last!

I have recruited a two of the more difficult members of my target audience today:
55 year old male
45 year old male

I have a few more to get, but they were the 2 age groups I feared I wouldn't be able to get... and luckily, neither of them have a massive interest in new media at all, therefore, it should make for an honest uninformed opinion...


When a scholar becomes unsatisfied with his daily life and academic achievement, he turns to the dark arts in order to gain the secrets of all knowledge and power. After making a deal with the devil his wish is fulfilled, but will his new found powers bring him the happiness he sought after? and what will become of him once his contract with the devil expires?
When a jovial family dinner is interrupted by a police inspector who is investigating a working class woman's suicide, we discover that the seemingly respectful family may have more to do with this suicide than even they are aware of. How does this event link with this family? how could they not even be aware of this woman's very existence when they are apparently the cause of her death? 

A journalist notices green flashes in the sky and missiles on there way to earth, after 10 days, he hears that an astronomer, has claimed that nothing can come from space. However, shortly after this visitors from another world invade a Victorian London in order to use planet earth for their own purposes... and co-habitation is not an option.  
After a bizarre serendipitous twist of fate, a man is given an eternally youthful appearance, and an image of him ages in his place. As the man commits more sins and transgresses, the image grows twisted and horrific. The man quickly becomes haunted by the horrific image, but can he be saved from his hedonistic lifestyle? What fate lies in store for him?

After witnessing a horrific act by a truly horrible man, a lawyer is left troubled as one of his most favoured clients has a seemingly close relationship to the persecuted criminal. He worries that his client maybe being manipulated. However, the lawyer slowly uncovers the horrific truth of the mystery to find that his client and the criminal have a shared destiny that they cannot escape from.
A detective's assistant still has a taste for solving crime, even though the detective he had once worked for has died. Although he is extremely dishearted about his 'partner in crime-solving's' death, he decides to continue with his endevours so that he maybe as good as his partner once was.
He must now rely on his own skills to solve crimes. However, he finds himself reintroduced with a lost friend and the chase is on to solve the latest strange seemingly motiveless murder.

Current stage of progress and about 'the path'

So... after looking into new media narratives.This was one of the more interesting pieces that I found. I found it unusual that this game is in fact on a USB pen that you can order or a download. I think the game itself is fairly niche... it can only be ordered online and is not available in store (for good reason I might add the cover for the game is as disturbing as the content itself), so it would make sense that people who would want to play it, would be willnig to go online to get it. This game definately doesn't have mass appeal, partially because of the disturbing imaginary, because of the delivery platform and because of the style of gameplay and the pacing of the artefact itself.

The art game was developed in 2009 by 'Tale of Tales'. It is called 'The Path'. The principle of the game is simple enough. You are a red riding hood- type girl... who must get to her Grandmother's house. The two instructions that appear onscreen are
'Go Grandmother's house'
'Stay on the Path'

If you sucessfully do get to grandmother's house (by staying on the path and not exploring the surrounding forest very throughly) and do not encounter a 'wolf' along the way...

Then you've failed the game... Yes I know... I don't quite understand it either...

The point of the game is to explore the forest... encounter 'the wolf' and then go the grandmother's house, where you will 'succeed' even if this results in you being killed or traumatised when you get there.

I would argue that this is indeed more of a narrative than a game. There are several 'red riding hoods' to choose from, the game is on a fixed path, although there is a very expansive interactive environment, the only thing you can really do is walk around and interact with objects, and collect 'memories'... there is no strategy required, all actions are pre-determined, regardless of what you do, and it is definately based more around the narrative than the gameplay, the cutscenes are long and a good portion of the game isn't even interactive (Once you get into the Grandmother's house the camera changes to 1st person and you can no longer control the character).

Each one of the girl's narratives represent a point in life (one of the girls 'Robin' is very young and 'Scarlet' is the oldest). Their repsective wolves are metaphors for one thing or another (e.g. alcoholism, smoking, rape), but the game is very abstract, we can take a guess, but there is no explicit narrative.

(We assume that most of the characters have some form of unfortunate encounter with a man.. but not all of them, some are too young for that).

Although I do like the idea of this game i.e. being able to explore the expansive space and a slowly revealing narrative for each girl. I can't help but feel that things often become 'darker and edgier' when they are designed for 'adults' and 'new media'.

A lot of new media narratives, because they are 'for adults' become quite dark and horrible and creepy. I'm sure that some adults wouldn't want that, in fact it may alienate a great deal of the target audience... I can only really see 16- 40 year olds playing this, unless they have a specific interest in new media narratives or folklore.

Another example of this 'darker and edgy' new media content is Dim O Gauble
Again, quite disturbing and unsettling.

Although both a feats in 'art gaming' and 'new media narrative' I still think they assume too much of the adult audience's need to be 'gritty and intense'.

Depending on the narrative that is chosen, my artefact may end up the same way, but only if it's appropriate. I can't create Faustus without a little bit of darkness, but neither does it have to be a traumatic experience for the reader/user.

By the end of today I hope to have finalised my extracts for review and have finished collecting people for my focus group. I have decided to try the target audience quite wide for now and say between 20 and 50 year olds, this may narrow, but that is my target age group for now. (I'm not saying that only this age group who can use it, I just think they are probably the age group most likely too).

Thursday, 14 October 2010

I found the jackpot on rich media and new media narratives,,,,

So, after spending what was my entire morning looking for new media narratives on the internet. I have finally achieved my mission!

Firstly, I found this fantastic article on Web 2.0 Storytelling
which I am sure will prove extremely useful in the long term (as I'm yet to read the entire thing), but one of the links on this article really stood out for me. It was about a company called 'Dreaming methods'. Dreaming Methods have produced some of the most beautiful and intuative rich media narrative spaces I have ever seen on the internet.
Here is one as an example called 'Dim O Gauble'. It's about a boy who has bad dreams, which appear to only be shared by his Grandmother.
It is a beautiful piece of work. But I can't help but feel it's really complicated... I only understand part of the narrative myself. But I've had a good look through their sites. All their projects are similar to this. Beautiful, but incomprehensible (well to me anyway).
These are for a niche audience I would say. Probably people who are already in new media narrative circles... which defeats the object of my project.
For another thing, since my narratives are already written, the workload should be somewhat easier, although I'm currently looking at design styles and the like (posts about this coming soon!)

I then tried to search around to see if anyone had revived the classic in this way....
Thankfully not... However, at one point 'penguin books' did an experiment called 'we tell stories'
in this some classic penguin narratives are given a digital makeover... Another thing I will check out soon, to see how good they are. On a first glance, I wasn't massively impressed, considering they had worked with game designers and the like...creating an lj account is hardly a mighty feat (although once I have view them all I will surely review this comment)

Other than that, I have been reading the first part of 'Computer as theatre'. It does carry some pretty good points along with it. I will write a more detailed blog entry soon. I just needed to get this all down somewhere!

Over and out for now

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Concerning copyright...

The discussion of my research plan went well with my supervisor for my project.

But it's been hi-lighted that I need to move along with this research rather swiftly. Particularly with regards to which narrative I'm going to recreate because I was worried about copyright clearance.... However, after doing some research today I found out that work is copyright free from...

70 years from the end of the calendar year in which the last remaining author of the work dies.
If the author is unknown, copyright will last for 70 years from end of the calendar year in which the work was created, although if it is made available to the public during that time, (by publication, authorised performance, broadcast, exhibition, etc.), then the duration will be 70 years from the end of the year that the work was first made available.

And it's 50 years for music. I'm massively relieved as most of the classics I'm thinking of reviving as it were are over 70 years old.

The list of works I have to whittle down are here:

The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde
Sherlock Holmes (not sure which story yet)
A Portrait of Dorian Gray
Phantom of the Opera
An Inspector Calls
Journey to the Centre of the Earth
The War of the Worlds

The ones that I think would be best suited are the ones written in purple.

Current objectives:
To find out what is currently on the market
To learn more about what users like about narratives
Computer as theatre
Make a decision on which narratives to test with audience

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Research Plan! (Warning heavy and expansive!)

This is nowhere near a final plan for this, but I thought it would be good to just have a very idea of all the things I need to research about. There are so many topics to look at. I have read some books on the subject. I'm hoping to meet up with a lecturer who specialises in New Media narratives tomorrow, hopefully she can point me in the right direction for some of my research. As for the rest... I shall be seeing Helen tomorrow (all being well) to get some advice. Other than that I shall definately asking nearly everyone I know if they know someone who doesn't read very much. I will then need to contact them (I'm not sure about a focus group... or whether I should do interviews. The way I see it, accessibilty and the reasons that people don't read might be very sensitive, I don't think it would be a good idea to have a focu group. But I'll speak to Helen and see what she says

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Hamlet on the Holodeck.....

After my meeting with my supervisor, I thought I would read up on the subject of narrative in order to see what I have to cover, to see how much ground there is. I am planning to write my research plan this weekend (later on today in fact...)
Well after reading just two books, 'Hamlet on the Holodeck' and 'The interactive book'. I have realized that there are so many issues with new media narratives that must be addressed. To name the big two agency and immersion.
Due to the massive field this has opened up. I'm planning on attending a lecture on Monday about theatre and game immersion.

But very basically, I have to consider how immersive the narrative should be. Sometimes if they narrative is too real, people can be disengaged by it's realism, and feel 'wronged'. As if they have received a little more than what they bargained for, they willing suspend their disbelief, because they know it isn't real. With this in mind I want to recreate a fantastical story for the pilot novel, that cannot have any basis in reality. So my audience cannot feel 'betrayed' in any way.

Before  I decided this I thought I would go and watch my housemates play games (they are the closest thing to new media narratives in our house) and see how immersed they became within the narrative.
It was surprising just how immersed they got, regardless of how complicated or simple the plot was. From the boys playing Halo Reach to the girls playing Mario Kart... (one of the two girls has never really played video games in her life it seemed she quite liked winning) they all seemed completely immersed, even though the narrative of Mario Kart is simply 'win the race'.

Despite the fact that we are intelligent academic students, we can be so easily sucked into these narratives. This is probably because of the level of 'agency' a person has in games. They control the destiny of the avatars they are playing as. They are in affect 'puppeteers'. They can control the destiny of their characters, and this is appealing. They can save an imaginary world of Halo from evil, or give Yoshi the cute green dinosaur appreciation he so rightly deserves and get him first place in the race.

This presents me with a problem. In my project, the end of the story is already decided, it is a classic narrative, some people will already know the ending of the narrative, before they have even started. What incentive do they have to play it?

The answer to this.... 'the journey that they will take in order to get to the end'. Or put in another way 'the narrative experience'.

I bought a new game for my PSP on Thursday, it was a prequel to a game I have already played called 'Kingdom Hearts'. 
As a female game player, the 'Kingdom Hearts' franchise marries two franchises I already love, Disney and Square Enix (makers of Final Fantasy) into one game.

The new game is called 'Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep'.
It is a one player game for the most part, this makes it even more immersive than playing with a friend (there is a multiplayer option, but it has nothing to do with the narrative).

I already know what will happen at the end of the game, because I have played the sequels (Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts 2), yet the journey is a mystery to me... just how will this game progress? How will the events of this game connect me to the story of Kingdom Hearts that I already enjoy?
This is the reason I am playing it.

I have already played the game for a good hour, and there has only been about 20 minutes of gameplay. There are so many cutscenes in this game. Again, makes the game immersive, it's almost as if gameplay breaks up the narrative a bit (However, I am at the beginning of the game... I'm sure this will change soon).

So... I have a lot to think about when creating this new media narrative... but here are just a few things I've been thinking about reccently, there will be more to follow.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Thinking about project stuff


Anyway... I met up with my supervisor of my project today. The meeting went well, though I have quite a lot to think about. Aside from research methods and the audience (aside from snowballing, I have to think of an appropriate audience and the right method). I also need to think about how accessible I will make the new media narrative... without it become a cumbersome and involving too much text. Trying to cater for so many accessibility issues will be quite a challenge...

Also, I've been thinking about when I would actually launch this new media project into the world (if it was real). I came to the conclusion that there would be two key periods to advertise the new media narratives I'm planning to make.
World book day seems to make sense. There doesn't seem to be that much aimed at adults. A few trailers... and a few sections of books read aloud, but that's really all that there is. I think that they need something a bit more interactive, something more interesting... so I feel that my project would fit in perfectly with this. This event is in March (Despite me thinking it was in November).
Another less known writing/ narrative event in the year is 'National Novel Writing Month'. Now I chose this period too because... well I think that people who like to write stories may also enjoying experiencing them in less conventional ways. So I think it could be worth a shot! (This is in November... it's a shame they are so far apart).

So that's todays research done... NOW OFF TO PARTY :D