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MSc Final Project Weblog 9 : Title: Mercuria, Developing Narrative & Interaction

<01/11/21 - 18/11/21>



Changes in abstraction and narrative following further developments in artistic ideas/practices. Through practice I have improved of my understanding of Unity's Visual Effect Graph (VFX Graph), and as a result my vision for the audio-visual and narrative content has also evolved, and with it had more complex coding needs, the nuances of which will be keeping me busy until the 11th hour. However, the results are more than workable, the frame rates are healthy and the transitions are smooth. Furthermore, the AV interaction feels fluid and fun to play with, more-so than I originally anticipated.


Screenshot from a recent build.




Code Abstraction Development


Reconsidered some elements of the project in light of a new understanding of how the piece was coming together:

The notion of 'biomes' was lost, as was the tile spawning element of the exploration mode (for the time being) - when showing the project to others, the notion of generation through exploration was not made obvious or appealing, so I chose to abandon it instead of pursuing it further; instead choosing to focus on a more minimal scene composition of cynosure (central artefact) & environment. The audio-visual contents of each scene to be generated at runtime by combining decorative elements 2 randomly selected 'aesthetic profiles'. Transitions to be implemented during a fade to black - to camouflage frame rate jitters and object enabling.



Weird Unity Error Message From 3rd Party Asset


Am experiencing weird bug, get the follow error; think it is related to Aura 2 volumetric lighting 3rd party asset - reimporting fixed temporarily, but broke again quickly.

Failed to create Compute Buffer SRV, HRESULT: 0x80070057

This is a shame as the volumetric lighting was a strong aesthetic component that could really add interesting dimensions to some scenes. However, the combination of well-chosen post processing settings with the light from the visual effects graphs can achieve similarly poignant lighting effects.



Developing the Interaction


Camera Modes -

Early aim of the project was to have multiple control modes, providing different ways to experience and understand the given scene - I have developed and improved a smooth fade between exploration mode (FPS movement controls) and gallery mode (orbiting camera, TODO orbit speed control via PS4 L2/R2 triggers).


Audio Visual 'Toys' -

Continued experimenting with the visual effect graph, and began developing a technique for interesting audio-visual interaction with the point clouds - by duplicating the meshes and dividing them into sections I could make particles come from/ignore sections of a given mesh - resulting in believable diegetic audio visual interaction.



Developing the Narrative


Area Names -

Development of an idea I explored in my project Simulacra, in turn inspired by video games like Dark Souls, which use a similar approach. Scene names generated by the combination of different asset lists, aids in the process of narrative construction through suggestion, as opposed to explanation.


The title generation uses following the formula :



string _title = "The" + Environment.Adjective + " " + Cynosure.Noun;


The adjective is taken from the profile used to form the environment, whilst the noun is the taken to be the name of the sculpture in the middle of the scene (the cynosure).


Title: Mercuria -

The narrative for the project has developed alongside the technical/creative side, and now the form/character of the entities has taken shape I settled on Mercuria as the title- from mercurial - with a particular focus on the connotation of volatility.


Thermometer -

A later addition was the temperature display on camera transitions. The temperature parameter itself belongs to the 'Color Grading' post processing module that I was modulating randomly on each scene change. I felt that visual exposure of this parameter (accompanied with changing its scope to a more global role - e.g. modulating VFX turbulence/spawn rate as well as the tint on the camera post processing) was a convenient method for generating narrative intrigue from visual modulation. I also think that temperature's use in this fashion furthers the creation of a cryptic sci-fi mythos, via connotations of scientific study and intellectual mystery.



Attempting Further Audio Design


One this was developed I spent a small amount of time (not nearly enough) further working on audio assets for the project - the project had developed a long way since my last batch of audio files, but the coding needs had been too intense to devote as much time to the audio as I would like.


I wanted to create tailored atmospheric tracks for each cynosure, with different versions processed creatively with impulse responses (relevant to the chosen aesthetic profile theme to be faded in when combined) and work on intensity controls for spawn rate modulation of the visual effect graph. At the time of writing it is uncertain I will have time to do this for submission - however, the modularity of the project means updating later is a trivial matter, and it will be a feature for the project's display at UAL on ......

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