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.

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

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: New progress

Greetings to FYS159 friends:

 

Today is like the transpoint for our game projects. Yes, we are still doing the research, however, we are going to put more time on the game development at this stage. The members of Centrenauts met on Sunday night to work on the profolio and the game itself. Yesterday we talked about assigning the portfolio part to each group member, the problems about the RPGmaker, and the plan for the next couple of days. We also helped to put the texts in the actual games. (Which proved it is working later.)

 

Today in class, we were trying to figure out how to create the intro cutscenes in our game. Watching couple of Youtube tutorial videos, Alex figured out how to make the intro cutscenes. We tested the game, and it worked perfectly fine. According to our planned storyline, there should be an secondary location called pas de calais to be seen on the map. We managed to make a cutscene which there will be a plane flying pass this beach to give the players some “hints”. That means we have to work on designing the “ocean map” at this point. Also, we encountering the several bugs in the game. When our spy is out of the general’s office, he immediately walked “under” the map. We found it, we laughed at it, and we definitely are going to fix this problem as soon as possible.

 

As and addition, we are still writing about the dialogues that will appear in the gameplay. The script should be come out soon since everything is on right track at this point. Plotting these conversations in the actual gameplay is one of our huge tasks right now.  Every member of the group will join the writing of portfolio and will finish their own part on time.

The Value of Absurdity

Happy Friday everyone,

Yesterday and today in class, we discussed some sections from Playing With The Past, a book that dissects the relationship between history and video games. Within these sections, the idea of counter-factual history in video games was presented. Specifically, it mentioned the Assassin’s Creed series and DLC that was for the third installment. Assassin’s Creed III is based in the American Revolution and follows the Native American character Connor as his involvement in the war increases. The DLC was called The Tyranny of King Washington, and yes, it calls Washington “King.”

In this DLC, George Washington sets up a monarchy in “The United Kingdom of American” and declares himself the king. I remember when I first saw this DLC’s trailer back in 2012, my mind was blown. What an insane idea, I just played this game where I help the 13 Colonies overthrow the British, and now I had to fight George Washington! My 12-year-old mind exploded a little, but why?

This DLC is the definition of counter-factual. In reality, a democracy was put in place, and a monarchy would have gone against everything the founders believed in. This part of history had been crammed into my mind over and over again by teachers reading out of a textbook with Washington’s face on the cover. The idea of Washington being the enemy was different and exciting, subconsciously I started running through the history I knew to be true and then asking, “what if?”. A part of history that had previously been just another section in a textbook was now revitalized.

That is the power of video games. They allow one to “play” with history and to engage with it, instead of just reading facts. The question of “why?” is extremely power in history, as we have learned in this class. With this DLC in mind, why even do something like this? Granted, it is mostly for monetary value, but I think that it also has educational value. It helped little 12-year-old me to consider how a different system of government would affect America and then to visualize that difference in the game. This is undeniably valuable, even if the concept of the DLC is absurd.

Image result for assassin's creed 3 washington's tyranny

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

 

Centrenauts and game progress

Today in class, the centrenauts discussed how we wanted to format the game and how we were going to the narrative. We ultimately came to the conclusion to add different options for the player to pick when in a discussion with a NPC in the game. We also started doing more research on the game Wolfenstein which has some points that we would like to put in our game. Each choice has a different outcome and can affect how the finale of the game turns out. Rachel came up with a really cool idea that we hope we can implement in the game. The idea is to give each choice a color to the font to give it a significant value. For example if the choice is a bad one it would be in red, if it was a good choice to pick the color of the font would be blue, and finally if the choice was a neutral choice meaning it isn’t good or bad then it would be green.

The Centrenauts are also researching much more about our topic the more we find out about it. When we first went to the library to find books about spies in World War 2, we were expecting to struggle to find any. It was the opposite, we found many books about it and we actually found the books very interesting. I know myself and a couple other group members have checked out more books to do research on.

Today in class our group also started the mapping for our game. We finally understood how to map on rpg maker after watching many tutorials on online. It was a struggle to finally get comfortable with the software but I think it will be well worth it, and even then we still haven’t learned everything about rpg maker just the basic things to make a game. The reason we decided to choose Wolfenstein as the game we would research to help us with our game was that Wolfenstein has the dark and moody architecture that our game will use. Wolfenstein also is based in a post world war 2 era were the nazis come out as champions. We want to research more about this to give us a idea on how to make the choices we make impact the game in the end.

The Centrenauts: Women as spies during WWII

As recently discussed by past group members, the whole idea of our video game’s content is centered around a spy. Spies during World War 2 played major roles by deceiving and manipulating others for information. This information usually would result in one army getting an advantage over the opponent. But how did women play roles in WW2?

In the book, Spies and Traitors of World War 2, a german admiral named Frau Canaris used women for spies as he believed they were less suspicious. What Canaris did though can be seen as necessary or not, depending on your approval of his tactics. His first spy was Margarete Gertrude Zelle. Her stage name was “Mata Hari”. Basically Frau fell in love with and sent her to Paris to dance for, fascinate, and learn information from French Generals. She did this quite well and as her absence from Frau lengthened, his love for her was suppressed. She eventually came back and their love was re-ignited once more, but what Frau did next is debatable. He sent her on one last trip to Paris for task. However, this time when she arrived she was arrested for being a spy. How she was caught is the catch. Frau informed the French that she is a spy and planned a trip that would end in her arrest. The whole idea of “no loose ends” is very interesting in war as it can be seen as unethical or crucial, depending on the oppressor’s beliefs.

Frau did this tactic numerous times as he prioritized his country’s victory in the war over a person’s life. Women were used as pawns by this man. I found this very interesting in relating to our progress as this could be a potential outcome to a path taken in our game.

The Centrenauts: Background setup

Greetings to all,

 

Today, the Centrenuts members has a conversation about the detailed background for the game. First we discussed what to do for tomorrow’s speech. Who is going to go, what to talk about, etc. We decide to make the slide shows to help us presenting. Alex is going to talk about the basic, central idea/core of the game and the reason for choosing RPGmaker to make our own game.

Then we started setting up the roles that the players could choose. There are going to be three spies from allied countries with their own talents. Thinking about the dialogues and the multi-endings we planned for the gameplay, we decide to let the player’s choice be influenceable. Each choice/reaction the player chooses will be somehow leading to a bad or good ending. Considering famous wars/events during the WW2, we finally decides the Normandy landings (also known as the “D-Day”) will be the backstory of the game. Because we found one book contains detailed informations about the policies the spies used before the Normandy Landings happened, and D-Day is also a famous event happened during the WW2 times. Started researching on the related materials, this is the direction where our group will go. Meanwhile, we also attributed different tasks to focus on. Designing the dialogues and choices, making game map, collecting the related historical informations and so on. It will require a lot of time but the group members are willing to do anything to make the game looks great.

The books we borrowed from the library really contribute huge help towards our decisions and future plans. More research will be going on in the next few days, as we are ready to focus on the normandy landings and some related stories and informations. We are also getting to work on the portfolio pages. Because the group members are sharing one Google doc page, which we can put whatever informations we read found useful in it. It will greatly help us to push the progress faster in general.