Extrospect Post Mortem

This is a post mortem for my interactive-experience based game, Extrospect. Extrospect was inspired by the art installation ‘Writing the unspoken” by lee Mingwei which is an anonymous writing installation at Brisbane's GOMA. this short game was created in a week and was made possible by anonymous responses with the public.

Firstly I would like to express how much this game means to me emotionally, mentally and spiritually. This small project has shown me just how similar each and every person is on a mental and spiritual level, regardless of religious or personal experiences. Extrospect has opened my heart and mind to the struggles and joys people carry with them each and every day and has deeply humbled me to be more understanding and empathetic towards the struggles of others I would have previously dismissed.

I originally went into this project to create a small world with 10–20 letters written by me that just expressed my thoughts and beliefs, but soon after felt that this approach would not hold true to the spirit and experience I felt Lee’s installation represented. So I decided to make a tweet asking for people to write me something so I can add it to the game I was creating, although it did get a few Retweets, it failed to garner any response form the public.

After consulting my lecturer, he offered a solution that would be the stepping stone I needed to create a game I am proud to call mine. I created this google forms sheet that would allow users to anonymously post their response without fear of being identified by me or anyone else. I realised that my original twitter response was not the way to go in order to get people to post responses for me.

After posting this form on Twitter, Facebook and Reddit, it generated 100+ responses! Each message containing a unique and polarising emotion sifferent than the last. Success! It was truly beginning to feel like my game was creating the experience I felt when interacting at GOMA. I was beyond surprised by the amount of responses and the contents within them. A new sense of urgency and determination overcame me, I needed to finish this game asap and share these thoughts the community had entrusted in me.

I quickly opened up Unity and began my process. Firstly I created a few 3D spheres that would represent the “mind” or “appearance” of an anonymous thought. I then created a giant booth that encapsulated the player inside a large enough space to make then feel as though they were in an infinite plane, were they could just be free to walk and read however and whenever they wanted.

After creating the orbs and space to move in ,I was slightly annoyed by how my walls, even after being covered in black material, could still be visually read as being confined in a room, rather than being in an infinite plane. So i removed the mesh renderer and darkened the directional light to cast a pitch black lighting effect. Voila I had created my infinite space while also confining the player at the same time. (So that they didn't run off the plane and fall endlessly into the void.)

Next was the hard part. I needed to create a function that called upon all the responses and display them on the screen once the player had collided with an orb. I went about this by creating a script that called upon the GUI system to display the text on the screen when the player is in range of the spheres collider. It worked… but it was not pretty. the text was small and the GUI system came with a transparent background image that cluttered up the scene.

After a few failed attempts messing with the GUI component, I reached out to the programmers in my course. With their help and expertise, they were able to find a solution to my problem. By creating a Text database, I was able to create an array that would hold the 100+ responses which could then be called upon by a script that would be able to identify when the player has collided with a sphere, call upon the database, pull a response form there and display it on a Canvas that would be in front of the player at all times but only be displayed when called upon.

A programmer helped me created a “library” that contains unopened responses and a bin that would file away all opened responses. This way, each orb is now able to hold its own response and retain it. Once that was complete, I was then left to polish the look by adding in a particle system to create fog and a another system to emulate snow. I wanted these particle effects to create a sense of safety and awe inspiring emotion within the player.

I originally planned to have an ambient track play throughout the game but was unable to track down the specific audio I was looking for. however, I did find a royalty free song tack on YouTube that played a tranquil beat that I found could be used in an uplifting sense as well as a solemn one. I felt this audio track was perfect for the type of feeling I wanted to create.

All in all this project created a new sense of purpose within me. It gave me the confidence boost I’ve been looking for and opened my mind up to the feelings and thoughts of others. Its given me a drive to strive to make more experience and emotional based games, and i’m looking forward to what comes next.