The Centrenauts: A Farewell

Today marked the last meeting of the Centrenauts in Young 246. On January 3rd, Alex, Clay, Jordan, Yue, and I all entered the room with no connection, but today we left that room as a team of individuals who spent the last couple of weeks creating a game together. I speak for all of my team members when I say that the time we spent inside and outside of the classroom working on Espionaut were times that we greatly enjoyed.

We would like to thank Dr. Harney for leading FYS 159. This class provided us the chance to exercise our creativity and cultivate it into something that we and others could enjoy. The lessons we learned throughout the course will affect the ways that we view history (specifically that it is not so much about dates and facts alone, but rather that it is also about processes and contingency) and how we view working with others. “History and Storytelling in Video Games” opened up a creative space that allowed us to have fun during CentreTerm—again I will speak for all of us when I say that that is something we greatly appreciated and enjoyed throughout the term.

As I am currently riding in a car to Louisville and suffering from intense car-sickness, I’ll keep this post short and sweet and wrap up by saying that I personally enjoyed every part of this course and I consider myself lucky to have gotten the chance to work with and learn from the amazing people that I met in this class. The opportunities, lessons, and time spent in this class were invaluable and I will carry the things that I have learned in this room with me throughout the rest of my time at Centre.

Thanks again, Dr. Harney, and thank you to the rest of my wonderful classmates and, especially, my teammates. I hope you all enjoyed your time in class as much as I did.

The Centrenauts: “I Don’t Know” and Solving the Unsolvable

Happy Almost-Friday Everyone!

Today, The Centrenauts did what we normally do: we wrote dialogue, designed maps, worked on our portfolio, and continued research. However, today there was a certain weight over us. Earlier on in the class, Yue gave her presentation and, during the Q&A at the end, she was asked why Juan Pujol García wasn’t accepted as a spy by the British government. Yue gave the only answer she could and that any of us would have given: “I don’t know.” Dr. Harney quickly assured that that was a perfectly acceptable answer—and it most definitely is—but hearing that “I don’t know” really brought to attention all of the “I don’t know”s that comes with our project.

Our game is about a spy during World War II and Operation Bodyguard. But, what did a spy actually do during the war? Specifically, how did they collect and return information, how did they relay false information, and how did they keep their covers? I only have one answer to that question: I don’t know. There’s no way of knowing what an undercover agent did during the war, as it was and likely still is classified information. Methods, tactics, and strategy are unknown to us because there are no books that detail how exactly Juan Pujol García did what he did. The books only say that he did do it.

So, how do you make a game about the actions of a spy without knowing what exactly a spy does? With Dr. Harney’s favorite word, of course: research. While we’ll never know exactly how a spy did their job, we can get a solid idea through research. When a book says that pigeons were particularly important to a spy’s work, we can assume that these pigeons carried messages for spies. When it says that false information was relayed back to Germany, we can assume it was the spies who did the relaying. There are many assumptions that can be made if you have a good understanding of the context around a topic. So far, our group has a pretty good understanding of the contexts of Allied spies in WWII.

As we move forward, our focus shifts more to Nazi Soldiers and life in the Third Reich and that opens up even more “I don’t know”s. But, I believe our group is ready to meet the questions with no answers and give them plausible answers. With the term slowly coming to an end, we’re looking forward to keeping you updated on our progress on the game—which is directly tied to the process of solving “I don’t know” with research.

The Centrenauts: The Choices We Make

As our group progresses with our videogame and I continue working on our narrative and story, it is becoming more and more clear how important choices are in history. History isn’t simply a collection of names, dates, and places; rather, it is a series or a process that involves the subjective decisions of a human being. For example, Alexander the Great didn’t conquer Persia simply because he conquered Persia—instead, he conquered the empire because he made a series of choices within the context of the period that would lead to success in that specific conquest. The choices that this specific conqueror made were made without the knowledge of what exactly would come next; his choices were subjective to him.

This subjectivity is extremely important when thinking history, and it is especially important to our group as we craft the decision-making process within our game. As Jordan mentioned in his last blog post, our videogame will contain player choices that will change the outcome of the videogame: a series of poor choices will result in a Nazi victory during D-Day and a series of good choices will result in an Allied victory during D-Day. It is up to the player to make these decisions based on the context that they are given. Rather than letting a player make decisions based on prior knowledge of what will happen, we would rather have the player immerse themselves properly in the game and make subjective decisions.

The best example of this so far in the narrative of our game is the series choices that a player makes regarding sending stolen German information back to the Allies. For this situation, a player must take into consideration the weather, volume of ingoing and outgoing mail, and the busyness of radio channels. There is no clear answer in this prompted choice. It is up to the player to weigh their options and think ahead of what might happen if they make a certain choice, as there is no specific historical precedent for them to rely on during this encounter. The player must immerse themselves, recognize established patterns, and make a choice based entirely on context.

These subjective choices are how we plan to keep the game immersive and replayable, but it is also important for the historical authenticity of our game. We’d like the choices that players make during gameplay to matter in the course of the game’s history, so we aim to add weight to nearly everything the player does. When a player makes a choice, it will alter history (even if it’s only the history within the game) in the way that any choice in an RPG should.

As we ourselves continue to make choices during the production of our videogame, we will keep you updated and informed! For now, we are focusing on research, narrative, and map building. By the end of this week, we hope to have our plotline drafted and our game on its way to being properly produced!

Drafts of Choices

 

The Centrenauts: Introductory Thoughts and Details

To kickstart the development of our video game, our team met and had three objectives in mind: to name our team, to choose a topic, and to select our software. Naming a team is hard, but creating a game is harder, so we decided to pick a simple team name so that we could save our brainstorming for the actual project. So, our team decided to throw out name ideas until someone said, “Oh, that one sounds cool.” Thus, Jordan Cordoba, Yue Feng, Clay Hundley, Alex Wright, and I became The Centrenauts.

With our first objective met, we moved on to brainstorming a topic for our game. This step was crucial, as our overall goal for the day was to select the software to use for our game, which we couldn’t do if we didn’t know what kind of video game we wanted to create. So, our group began forming ideas. Out of the many we had (including, but not limited to, a Chernobyl survival horror game, a counter-factual Native American Revolution RPG, and a story-based Cold War espionage game), our group was really struck by one idea in particular: a role-playing game that follows a spy working for the Allied Powers in WWII-era France.

While our team discussed the possibilities of puzzles, code-breaking, multiple endings, and body counts, it became obvious that we only had one choice for software: RPG Maker. While the Twine software would have been useful for the storytelling of our game, our team wanted a game that focused on action and player-involvement just as much as the story itself. So, Alex downloaded RPG Maker and began the free trial that would carry us through the creation of our spy-thriller RPG.

Today’s objectives met, we hope to move on with the development of our storyline, creating a timeline, and familiarizing ourselves with RPG Maker. We’re very eager to begin creating our game and we all look forward to keeping everyone updated on our progress!