From Sea to Shining Sea Squad: Farewell!

Farewell, readers!

 

As of last night around 11:00 pm, the team finished up our final demo of From Sea to Shining Sea. It’s a little bittersweet to wrap up this project. We all became really invested in the development of the game, and we wish that we could have seen it through a little further. However, we are all very proud of what we have been able to accomplish in the time we had. The group really enjoyed going through the development process together and learning to navigate the different pitfalls we encountered.

The whole process has made us think about the medium of video games in an entirely new way. When we began initially planning out the concept for our game, we were not looking for an exact story that we wanted to tell. We wanted to communicate a personal experience to the player. We realized that the medium allows us to create something that goes beyond the observation of an experience. We could make the player participate directly in that experience.

Although we found this to be a challenge, we ultimately feel that we were successful, but understanding the process that goes into creating an immersive and historically engaging virtual experience was eye opening to say the least. Both the sheer volume of work that had to be done and the diversity of tasks seemed daunting. The combination of historical research and analysis combined with the creativity and literary skill needed to flesh out the game provided for some interesting challenges in how we could reconcile our creative urges while maintaining our desired degree of historical accuracy. However, perhaps this creative engagement with history in and of itself is a valid historical process. The ideas and fears that From Sea to Shining Sea interacts with were real and tangible things that people had to deal with in their daily lives. Perhaps this creative retelling and imagining of those fears is itself a compelling and useful way to tell history.

 

The past few weeks have been a blast, and I won’t forget them anytime soon. I hope that you enjoy our game, and that you find it thought provoking. The game is meant to make you think. Let it. Consider the themes that are presented and take them to heart.

 

Thank you so much! This is Luke Hussung from The Sea to Shining Sea Squad signing off.

 

P.S.

 

Other members of the team are planning to write their own goodbyes in the comments of this post. Be sure to read theirs as well!

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.

Team Centrenaut: Espionaut

 

Hello all,

Team Centrenaut presents:

Espionaut, a game set in World War II that allows the player to become a spy that has infiltrated the ranks of the Nazis. Our game takes place before the infamous D-Day invasion. In real life the WWII spies that had successfully become Nazi soldiers were given three objectives to accomplish before D-Day. To change the believed date and location of the invasion, and also, to spread rumors of larger assault that would take place after the first.  Our game is an RPG that allows the player to attempt to accomplish the same goals. The player’s success with these objectives determines the outcome of the invasion in the game. Would you be able to successfully trick the Nazis?

Here are the Members of Team Centrenaut:

Alex Wright is a First-Year at Centre college from Knoxville, TN. He enjoys all times of games, but some of this favorites are Binding of Isaac, Borderlands 2, Skyrim, and the Fallout series. With this project, Alex focused on learning how to use RPG Maker. He did some map design, but mostly put in all of the dialogue and events in the game.

Clay Hundley is a First Year Student from Louisville, KY. He enjoys playing Rocket League, Fortnite, Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege. Clay focused on the referencing part of the game. Rather it be books, movies, or videogames, he found them. He wishes he could’ve found more references for the team.

Jordan Cordoba is a First Year at Centre college. He is from Murfreesboro,Ten. He plays football at Centre as well. He enjoys playing video games and hanging out with friends. Jordan’s part in making the game included some mapping for the game and historical research.

Yue Feng is a First-Year student at Centre College. She is from mainland China. Her favorite games are all from Blizzard, including World of Warcraft, Heroes of the storm, Hearthstone. Yue mainly does the research jobs in the group, collects the historical contexts from the books.

Rachel Morgan is a First-Year student from Pikeville, KY. Every game she plays is her favorite game for about a week, but the ones that have endured are the Mafia series games, Skyrim, and the Fallout series. For this project, Rachel worked on crafting narrative and dialogue for the game.

 

Here are the sources we used for our game:

Belchem, David. Victory in Normandy. London: Chatto & Windus, 1981.

Dolski, Michael, Sam Edwards, John Buckley, and Michael Dolski. D-Day in History and Memory: The Normandy Landings in International Remembrance and Commemoration. Denton, TX: University of North Texas Press, 2014.

Kross, Peter. The Encyclopedia of World War II Spies. New York: Barricade, 2003.

Masterman, John Cecil. The Double-Cross System in the War of 1939 to 1945. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1972.

Mosier, John. Cross of Iron: The Rise and Fall of the German War Machine, 1918-1945. New York: Holt Paperbacks, 2007.

Persico, Joseph. Roosevelt’s Secret War. New York: Random House International, 2003.

Who’s Who in Nazi Germany. 4th ed. Central Intelligence Agency, 2001.

 

Everyone on Team Centrenaut thoroughly enjoy working on this game and this project. We all worked hard to create a game that is a window into the inter-workings of World War II. Our main goal was for the player to have fun playing our game, but also to learn something. Our group worked incredibly well together and there was never an issue. Everyone committed to a single vision and helped to ensure that we accomplished it. With that said, our group’s appreciation of both History and Video Game has been greatly increased after this class. Thank you to Dr. Harney for all of the help, and to anyone else that contributed to Espionaut.

Nazi Germany: The Survival of Günter Schmidt

Team Decision Makers

Nazi Germany: The Survival of Günter Schmidt is impacted by Operation Valkyrie which was the plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler and overthrow the Nazi Party. Take part in the events that lead up to July 20, 1944, and make your contribution to your beloved country. Each choice you make will influence the outcome of the game and the survival of Günter Schmidt. Will you be the Hero that causes Operation Valkyrie to succeed? Or will you be the cause of its downfall? Or will you choose to join the Nazis in trying to stop the plan from being successful? You control your own destiny! The importance of historical accuracy in our game attributes to the experience that each player will have. The decisions you make leading up to the finale will be based on your own perspective and the need to survive. Nazi Germany: The Survival of Günter Schmidt is a point and click adventure game that will allow the player to create their own ending to World War II. Best of luck!

 

Members:

Kaden Gervacio- Centre Freshman from Boyle Co, Kentucky. He enjoys playing sports games and shooters. He particularly likes RPG and games where you have to create your own story in that universe.

Logan Wolf- Freshman from Cincinnati, Ohio. He enjoys sports games and shooters, especially Call of Duty. Huge fan of history related games and maps that take part in famous locations especially places from World War 2.

Fisher Evans- Freshman from Boyle County Kentucky. Enjoys shooter games as well as survival games. Big fan of games that allow the story to not be obvious or upfront and need to be discovered by the player (especially Subnautica)

Will Ahrens- Freshman from Sandersville, Georgia. He is a big fan or sports games such as Madden and The Show and first-person shooter games such as Call of Duty.

Edward Lee Major- Freshman from Hopkinsville, Kentucky. Enjoys strategy games, first-person shooters, and free-roam games. He finds interest in the underlying theme of the games and the storyline they follow.

 

Important Sources to Reference:

Bartov, Omer, and Mazal Holocaust Collection. 1991. Hitler’s Army: Soldiers, Nazis, and War in the Third Reich. New York: Oxford University Press.

Fraser, David. 1993. Knight’s Cross: A Life of Field Marshal Erwin Rommel. 1St U.S. New York, NY: HarperCollins.

Grant, Bennington. “Just How Historically Accurate Was Tom Cruise’s Valkyrie?” CHARGE! May 23, 2018. https://watchcharge.com/just-how-historically-accurate-was-tom-cruises-valkyrie/.

Manvell, Roger, Heinrich Fraenkel, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, and Mazal Holocaust Collection. 1965. Himmler. First American. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons.

The History Place – World War II in Europe Timeline. http://www.historyplace.com/worldwar2/hitleryouth/hj-boy-soldiers.htm.

Weale, Adrian. 2012. The S.S.: A New History. London: Abacus.

Valkyrie. 2008. MGM.

 

In all, Team Decision Makers was able to enjoy Centre Term and still create a good game that focuses on moral dilemma throughout history. Our group met multiple times over break to discuss the plan for the week and to set short-term goals. The group’s dynamic provided a variety of perspectives throughout the game creation process. This variety attributed to the ten outcomes of Günter Schmidt’s life and the impact they have on the German state. The combination of our group members helped our group create an experience for players that will give them the opportunity to be a part of history. The Decision Makers would like to thank all of the contributors to our game and hope players enjoy their experience!

 

The Decision Makers: Contrasting Our Game with Subnautica

Hey everyone,

Our game is based in Twine so it is a completely text based game with (potentially) some minor visual elements incorporated. There are many games like this out there and they have some advantages to them, like being able clearly state what is happening in the game and give the player certain paths that you want them to take. This allows for a streamlined story that can have multiple endings, but it also limits the player’s experience to the one you want them to have. In this post I would like to delve into a different game that I personally am a big fan of that has major contrasts with our game. I really enjoy survival games, especially one in particular called Subnautica. Unlike our game, Subnautica is not historically based (at least not based on real history), text based, or streamlined in its story line. Instead, it gives a terrific futuristic story driven almost entirely by the actions of the player. This can allow for the player to believe that they are the hero of the story but since there is not always clear options of what to do (or too many options at times) like in text based games, the progression of the player can be halted because they aren’t sure of what they should do.

Subnautica’s story starts with the player frantically trying to launch an escape pod from a ship in orbit above a planet that is only designated by a serial number (4546B). After both crash down onto the ocean world’s surface and after you puts out the fire in your life pod, it is up to you how to progress and survive. All that you have in the life pod is a PDA (tablet that tells you important information that has been collected), a fire extinguisher, two small bottles of water, two nutrient bars, and two flares. You have to manage your hunger and thirst throughout the game as they are always decreasing so these starting goods are only good for a pretty short amount of time. Your life pod crashed a kilometer or two away from the ship and the pod landed in a shallow area similar to a coral reef. Also in your life pod there is a fabricator and a damaged radio, both mounted on the wall of the pod. The reef is abundant with alien life, both plant and animal and it is up to you to figure out how to use items you are able to pick up. As you find materials and use the fabricator to make useful tools to perform a variety of tasks, you learn more about the world you are stranded on. One of the easiest and most necessary tools you can make is the scanner that can scan nearly anything and upload the data to your PDA so you can learn more about your environment to survive. You can make a repair tool as well and once you repair the radio you start to receive distress calls from other life pods and eventually from a ship that says they picked up the distress call and are on the way to help. The ship fails to rescue you for a completely unexpected reason (spoilers for those who haven’t played so I won’t go into detail) and the story gets a new twist. All the time you are exploring and crafting new items to go deeper and learn more you have more aggressive creatures and areas to deal with

This is all just in the first two or three hours of game play and it usually takes the average player roughly 35 or so hours to finish the story line because of how the game is designed to be led by the exploration of the player. While both Subnautica and our game are driven by story, our game, even if we were to turn it into a full fledged game with all of the details that we could want to incorporate to be included, it would not come close to the 35 hours to be completed. This is simply because text based games are usually not terribly lengthy games because it would be hard to keep the player invested and intrigued in the game for that long without an absolutely stellar story and way of presenting it. While both types of games are driven by story and are able to deliver fantastic stories, the way that they are able to do so are very different. Each style of game is better suited for a different kind of story. For example, being a soldier in Nazi Germany may be able to be a survival game but not in the way we are presenting it, being a game in which one character cooperates with others to achieve their goals in wartime. A text based game is much more suitable for this situation since dialogue is a major factor in the game we wanted to design. Likewise, the setting and goals of Subnautica would be difficult to make into a text based game because of the elements that it tries to give the player. Exploring and gathering materials and all of the other key aspects of a survival game are just not that well suited for text based games, like how our game is not as well suited for the ability for the player to sort of choose every action they may want to take in a game. However, both types of games can and have given great experiences to their players.

Centrenauts: The Beauty and struggle of RPG Maker

Hello everyone!

The main goal of The Centrenauts, was to make video game and to do that we need software that could help us. RPG Maker was what we picked, and it has been one of the most frustrating but also rewarding learning processes. For all of the limitation of RPG Maker, there are so many cool things that can be done with the program. From the small victories such as learning how to add a new map, to the huge victories of having intricate dialogue, it’s been a step by step process.

The program is extremely overwhelming at first, and honestly, it still is even after sinking hour after hour into it. The first step was to learn how to create a map and design it. I remember getting excited when I randomly right clicked on something, and the “new map” option appeared. It seems almost laughable now that I struggled with that, but I still find issues with the most trivial things. Tilesets for example are still a pain. Tilesets are the sets of blocks and design options for the maps. There are hundreds and hundreds of “tiles,” but you must assign the sets to a map when you start it, meaning that you cannot just pick and choose any tile you want to use. It took me a while to figure out that you can mix and match the sets to fit your needs, which was a major victory. With this, map design finally felt more manageable. Jordan did most of the map design and did a great job. He quickly learned how to take advantage of what the program offers and exceeded my expectation of what we could do. Now with map design down, we had to learn how to add events.

Adding events to our game has proven to be the most difficult learning curve for us. Once again it took randomly right clicking something for the magical word “insert” to pop up. With this we could now get our character to teleport somewhere, have dialogue, and a ton of other things. The problem is to correctly order all the events, making sure they flow together, and to not crash the game. Recently, after a couple hours of frustrating trial and error, I learned how to get an NPC to lead our character somewhere. The problem is, I cannot get the NPC to stop! Every time our character talks to the NPC, he exclaims “Follow me!!” and then leads us right into a wall, making the game freeze. I’m positive that it is an easy fix, but like everything else in RPG Maker, you have to figure it out. This has been frustrating, but when I do finally figure out that small thing that’s been oh so annoying, its incredibly rewarding.

Looking back now at everything that’s been a pain and struggle in RPG Maker, it makes me more appreciative of the game that we have made. The game is not even close to being a full game, but every time I move our character and play what we’ve created, I’m proud of it. I know what went into every aspect of its creation. Through all of the struggle, I am proud to say that we made a video game.

 

Alex Wright

From Sea to Shining Sea Squad: A general update and some thoughts on Twine

Greetings all!

 

The From Sea To Shining Sea Squad is buckling down for the sprint to the finish. We have been hard at work on elements of our portfolio for several days now and grappling with Twine to create as best of an experience that we can in time for presentation. However, it is proving difficult to set things in stone in either part of the project, because we keep having new ideas and concerns popping up all of the time.

 

Our strategies for tackling the portfolio have changed from day to day, but by collaborating and exchanging ideas for the essays we have all become more engaged in the process of world building and our historical understanding of our setting. An element of the portfolio that we appreciate is our ability to explore and explain ideas that did not quite make it into the final game or did not make it in fully. This allows us to better communicate our influences from other games, difficult choices we had to make and why we made them, and how exactly our counterfactual world all ties itself together.

 

Our development of actual gameplay in Twine, while being quite enjoyable at times, has presented challenges in creating the atmosphere we seek. In order to create engrossing, vibrant script to immerse the player, a lot of effort has to be put into the writing of different scenes and chapters of the game. Although we already have a very solid sequence of events in place for the player to navigate through, we want to make as best use of our medium as we can. The team views the text-based RPG as a genre with extremely high potential but also being easy to totally miss the mark unless we devote significant energy towards perfected the atmosphere and immersion of the player through interesting characters and delivery.

 

A fascinating element of our engine, is heavily tied to a concept that Daniel Reynolds describes in his essay What is Old in Video Games? Reynolds explores the effect that the technological aspect of videogames has on the experience they give as a medium. In the case of games made with Twine, this is quite important. The story that we are creating could be told with text in a physical book with tags attached to the players’ options directing them to a certain page that contains the output of the decision they have chosen. There is a great difference in experience between flipping to a page with text already printed on it and a screen, which must read code to manifest the text on a display. One feels like it has already been played out and that there is nothing new being created, and the other gives the player a greater feeling of agency, because their display has changed before their eyes according to their decision. This creates a cool feeling as developers that our story could not have been made in our vision without the existence of this technology, even if the only thing that separates us from literature is purely the medium of viewing the text.

 

All in all, morale is high. The From Sea To Shining Sea Squad is hard at work to bring you all enjoyable gameplay next week, and we are confident that we are on track to reach our goals of creating an immersive and enjoyable perspective for our players to explore

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 Decision Makers: The Final Stretch

Today, our main focus was to shape our plan of action and put some definitive dates on our essays and presentation. Our script is completely in Twine and our game is finally coming together. We met over the past few days to discuss our progress and determine if the outcome of our storyline and the player experience that Twine provides is what we wanted. Twine brought our game to life in the way we had first discussed in the beginning and provides the player with more options to control their own destiny. After watching Valkyrie, our initial idea was to find how we could use the operation and the people involved to expand our game. We developed several alternate outcomes using Operation Valkyrie and how the outcome could have affected the war. In our counterfactual endings where the operation succeeds, the player has the opportunity to take over the German government and guide it towards a more democratic state. The varying outcomes enhance our games playability and provide the player with a new experience each time they play. Twine does a good job of taking these simple decisions and creating so many avenues of play.

 

The historical accuracy in our game revolves around dates, locations, and some of the characters that we focused on. From the first time we decided to make a game surrounding World War II, we wanted to create the most accurate storyline as possible by focusing on the actual dates and locations that things were occurring during this troubling time in Germany. In one playthrough, the player can go to Africa and be involved in a mission that is led by General Erwin Rommel. Our focus to accuracy continued into character selection when we chose General Erwin Rommel and Officer Heinrich Muller. Rommel is discussed in every pathway of our game and is part of several important dialogues discussing Operation Valkyrie. Muller was an SS officer that supported Adolf Hitler and his views so he is only present in the pathway when Gunter stays loyal to Hitler and tries to stop the plot against him. Both of these characters were present during World War II and fulfil their same roles in our game. The presence of historical accuracy in our game attributes to the playability and inclusive experience of the player. We believe that by providing players with plausible scenarios even when counterfactual, the player may find interest in our topics and do further research on Nazi Germany.

 

An idea that we discussed earlier in the creation of our game was the possibility to include pictures of the current scenario Günter is in. After working with Twine we decided that adding pictures is something that is very complicated and may negatively affect the commands and the storyline. We want to put our focus more on the script to enhance the effect that imagery will have on the player’s experience. Over the next few days, we are going to play through our game several times to review the pathways we created and the information provided.

 

We finished our plan of action today so now we just need to complete the tasks we have discussed. The development of our game has occurred mostly on schedule and we believe it embodies the majority of the ideas that we wanted to incorporate in our game. Our current goal is to have our portfolio finished by Monday so that we leave time for revision and can begin on our final presentation. We look forward to sharing our game on Wednesday!

 

From Sea To Shining Sea Squad

Over the course of the week, some of us have been working on some parts on the portfolio as well as continuing to work on the game. I have been working on the design document where I am describing our process and goals in completing our work. Cole Frazier is working on the historical document along with the help of Luke D. Along with that, Luke D. is also helping me my design document so that I don’t get off track when continuing to add to it. I go to him for clearance on what to include in the document, as of right now I am making immense progress in the Design Document as well as the rest of the group. I am a little over one thousand words in and constantly revisiting to adjust and add in our progress and our next goals as the days pass. In the historical document that Cole Frazier and Luke D is working on, they are adding basically all of the research we have done and all of the research we are going to do into it. It involves the primary sources and the secondary sources we have been studying individually including many different sources on the Cold War, Cuban Missile Crisis, and Cruel and Unusual punishment. Luke H. is working on the video game reference document. In it, he will discuss the various games we have used as a reference in our video game process. Those games include Star Craft, Call of Duty: Black Ops and Fallout. Each have their own individual implications into the process of the video game. We are using star craft to get insight on how prisoners being forced into war would play out. Call of Duty: Black Ops is being used as a reference for a soldier’s perspective and how life was for soldiers during the Cold War. For the game Fallout, it is being used as an example of how a post-apocalyptic America can play out in the mid twentieth century. Brenna and Luke H. have been working on the video game while inputting the groups ideas. I am not sure how far they are in the process, but we have a substantial amount of the video game done. Our goal is to have multiple pathways the player can take, almost like a Bandersnatch type vibe but without having re-dos because the goal is for the player to create their own history within the guidelines of our design.