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!

 

Centrenauts Update

Hello fellow classmates! Our group has been working hard on the final project. My group met today, unfortunately I had work so I could not make it, but I did some research on my own. We have made a lot of progress on the game. I have been busy mapping the game while Alex has been busy with the dialogue. We have encountered some minor setbacks in the RPG software, but Alex and I have been coming up with solutions for these bugs. We will continue to work on the game and should finish the mapping by the end of the week. In addition, we have more dialogue to put in the game which will be part of the finalization when we had the final touches.

 

In the previous meeting before today, we appointed each group member a portion of the portfolio to work on. Even though we each have an individual part of the portfolio, we will still come together to revise each others work to put in the finalized portfolio. This will ensure the portfolio flows and satisfies the group. The conclusion, on the other hand, will be a group effort so we can each have our inputs on the takeaways we got from researching and making the game. As of now, I know that each of the group members are working on their part of the portfolio. That being said, our portfolio should be done a day or two before the group presentation.

 

For my part of the portfolio, I am in charge of the historical research being undertaken for the project as a whole. We have all done a lot of research, and created a Google Doc that each group member can see and edit. From the Google Doc, I can tell that our group takes the research very seriously which I like because that means they are taking the project seriously as well. For the research done, most of it came from books provided by the library. To our surprise, there was a lot of books on World War II spies which helped with our project. I am very excited to write about our research that we have done because I have grown more interested in our topic the more I read about it.

The Decision Makers Update

On our day of no class, our team met up to work on putting information into Twine and to continue to develop our multiple storylines. Most of our storylines will be counterfactuals to what actually happened in Nazi Germany. We have been searching for picture to be able to put into our game to give it a more visual and sensual aspect giving the player are better and more realistic experience.

Our main focus for today was to try and wrap up the storylines and solidify what we wanted the player to go through. Based on the players first decision, he/she will then determine whether they will be faced with the decisions that go into the Valkyrie mission or to stay a regular Nazi solider. The most fun route will be to participate with the mission and this option gives us an opportunity to present what actually happened or interesting counterfactuals to what happened. If the player makes a harsh decision or makes a wrong move such as confronting someone about joining the mission and a Nazi loyal person hears or the person decides to rat on the mission would cause Günter to die or be taken prisoner by the Nazis. In like many of the games we have played ourselves, there are moments that make us laugh or that provide some comic relief to the game. We have added this to some of the endings that are sudden and a little over the top. If the payer chooses the wrong decision and dies randomly, we do not want the player to get upset. We want them to have a fun experience regardless of whether they succeed in the game or die abruptly.

Another aspect of the storyline that we wanted to emphasize is the thought that the player takes in contrasting what happened in the 1940s and what the game is simulating. Everyone in our group finds these ideas interesting and fun to think about and we want to give the player of the game the same experience that we received when brainstorming different endings to the game. When thinking of what could happen to Günter, we got to put ourselves in our character’s shoes and think of what would happen to ourselves if we did certain actions; what would be the effects of our decisions was very thought provoking. The answers we came up with differed and we are working on trying to incorporate the different ideas into the game to add to the complexity of the game because Twine does not allow us to make a very complex and interactive game such as the ones we play on the Playstation or Xbox. We have also realized which areas of the game we need to know more about so we can retrieve more information on those areas, like the details of Operation Valkyrie.

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.

Centrenauts Update

As of right now, we are very focused on the storyline of our game. We are currently working on all the possible outcomes that could happen. Easter Eggs are also an interesting topic we may include, but it would be like a small picture or item from actual history. There would be no steps involved in achieving such easter egg. Recently, I have been looking at other games that could potentially influence our game. Such games found so far are Pokemon Blue, Kindergarten, Wolfenstein, Call of Duty WW2, and actually a movie, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

In the Last Crusade, Indiana Jones works with a girl who appears to be his partner. As the movie progresses, she starts to turn on him. When she gets what she needs, she hands him over and reveals she’s part of the Nazi party. We may include a scenario where our character gets caught by a double crossing spy. We have also read on books of double crossing spies and are basing our main allied spy of such. The progress of storyline and portfolio are coming along. The game itself can be tedious at some points from what Jordan and Alex have showed me.

We should have our whole presentation wrapped up in time for presentation. I still have to work on our conclusion on whats worked and failed, but we are really looking forward to showing our game and getting feed back on it.

From Sea to Shining Sea: Coming together

Today was a very productive day for our team. In class, Nick continued working on the design document and started describing how we used and researched our sources. We have really pulled together some great documents to back up our storyline and he is working hard to define what that process looked like for us. Luke H. and Brenna made some great progress in the development of our game on twine, developing multiple new story lines and adding onto pre existing ones. It has been really unique to watch how as new ideas develop, we get more ideas for additional research. As for Cole and me, we continue to work on the historical aspect of our game, working on papers and finding new sources to use. The chemistry on our team works very well because everyone is engaged and respectful of everyone else, while not being afraid to speak out on how they feel on certain aspects of the game.

 

Today specifically, I started thinking about how to write the historical context challenges paper. At first glance, I thought the paper would be easy, but I then realized the promt was asking not just for basic challenges, but real moral and social challenges that our team has faced. As a team we discussed what some of these challenges might be, and Luke H. said something very interesting that I think will be a great topic to discuss in our paper. He told me about how when Brenna and he were developing the game, they weren’t sure how defined they wanted to make the character. We didn’t want to give a race, age, or any other details so that we could leave this aspect to the players imagination, giving the game a more immersive presence. However, everyone in the group did refer to the character as “he” during the process of making it, which seemed normal until Luke pointed something out: the majority of teachers are female. This then caused me to pause and wonder why we had associated the player with a male identity, but Luke had the answer to that too. Because the character was being sent to war, and we very rarely associate war with female soldiers, everyone automatically started saying he. This then caused me to realize how historically, this created a challenge for our game. A big part of our game is the fact that our teacher is being punished with a tour of war, which as I said earlier, is largely associated with men. The 1960’s was also a more traditional time, so the likelyhood of women being sentenced to war would have been extremely absurd, even to the amped up McCarthy society we created. The challenge for us now we have a situation in which a good amount of players will associate the character as a male, even though we never defined his identity to the player.

 

In future class periods, my team will discuss this issue and decide how we want to adress it. The game is coming along suprisingly well, as well as the time left in this class is falling suprisingly fast. Well folks, thats all the writing I have for this week, I look forward to writing to you again soon.

Team Decision Makers: One Step From Living Or Dying

Hello everyone,

 

In today and a little bit of yesterday’s class time, we as a team have put in more work than ever into our storyline, creating even more pathways into our game to show the reality that one simple mistake in Nazi Germany could change your fate quickly. Also, we have figured out Twine quite well and at least know how to plug in our text and make the story flow and spread out. However, there are some things we need to figure out within these next few days to maximize the benefit of using Twine.

 

Over the past few days, we gradually noticed that although we are not judged on how long our game is, nor are we required to make an hour long production, our game does not take very long to play through. We still desire as a group to make little bit lengthier of a game, so we doubled down on our effort to the storyline. At this point, there is at least five separate endings, but we have 3 or more in the works that could result in victory or death based on one simple decision. Due to our production taking place in such a radical place and time in history, it is accurate that one misstep could result in life or death. People were killed frequently in Germany during World War II for misspeaking and accidently disrespecting leaders. In fascist countries, a citizens were heavily punished for showing dislike toward their leaders. As mentioned today in class, this still happens with Kim Jong-Un in North Korea today.

 

As said before, our focus has been on expanding the story with more decisions and details, and this affects Twine directly. Adding more detail does not change much except putting more text into the box, but adding more decisions changes a lot. More choices equals more text boxes, therefore more text and details, but most of all, more decisions makes for a really confusing “tree” on Twine. There are lot of branches running all over the place, making it challenging to keep your focus on the correct one. Some decisions make the player come back to the same place after a couple of turns, which looks very confusing to us on Twine. As we add more, these paths may run together even more and present even more visual challenges to us.

 

Twine’s one weakness is the lack of visual for the player, so we are continuing to investigate how we can improve upon that through pictures, sounds, and text changes. We have been looking up how to do these things but it seems pretty challenging. We are going to meet up as a group these next few nights and figure them out. Adding pictures adds the direct aspect of a visual, which is appealing to the player. I’m not sure if sounds are even possible, but if they are, sounds can provide the recognizable noise of military parades or doors opening, which once again can help make the player feel like they are in the game. Changing the text design can force a certain mood shift in scenes that are more intense, causing the consumer to feel the attitude of the game more. In the coming days, we have a lot of work to do with the storyline and plugging that into Twine. I’m confident we will figure out the additions to Twine to make our game even better. Until next time!

 

From Sea to Shining Sea: Morality in Video Games

Hello everyone!

A lot of people think of video games as button mashing, violent nonsense but there are so many games that are more thought-provoking than what we typically think video games can be. A lot of creators today are attempting to add elements into their games to help the player get more out of it than just a fun experience. When a player is extremely immersed in a game, it allows them to put themselves in the shoes of the protagonist and input their moral ideals into their gameplay. Games such as The Walking Dead: Season One through Season Four, Fable, and Detroit: Becoming Human, choose to tackle the idea of morality in different ways.

The Walking Dead series chooses to tackle morality with a post-apocalyptic world infested with zombies. This game forces the player to make timed decisions with dialogue and actions that inevitably changes the course of their gameplay which leads to different endings that continue on later in the series. As the player becomes more and more immersed in the game and involved with the characters, they begin to make moral decisions that they would make in real life, if they were in that situation. For example in Season One, you find two characters in trouble and you can only save one. One character is the child of a friend of the main character and the other is the son of the family’s house you are staying in. No matter which you chose, tensions rise among characters causing the game to change to your moral ideals. The game challenges the player’s morality and ultimately sets up who the player wants to have with them at the end of the game.

Another game that brings in the idea of morality is the Fable series. This game allows the player to be “good” or “bad” either which will bring about different options and different ways of playing the game. Being good allows for its perks but so does being bad. This idea of being good or bad, though it overly simplifies the idea of morality, allows the player to explore different moral choices while playing a game that they wouldn’t necessarily agree with or choose to do in their own lives.

Another game that deals with morality, despite its mixed reviews, is Detroit: Becoming Human. This game’s idea is heavily influenced by racism featuring the idea of AI becoming deviant and rising up against humans. The game revolves around three different main characters story that, depending on how you play, their stories eventually intertwine. This game is heavily decision based which allows for many moments of deeper moral decisions. The player has the option of remaining loyal to the humans, becoming deviant, making friends and leaving them to die. With the hundreds of combinations of decisions, there are so many endings that could potentially reflect the player’s moral ideals. For example, in the game, one of the characters is posed with the dilemma of shooting an AI in exchange for information. The moral dilemma that the player faces is would you shoot the AI because it isn’t really alive or would you not keeping in mind its potential to become deviant. The game, overall, poses a lot of interesting moral dilemmas.

We, as a group, think adding a moral component into our game is really something worth considering. We think that because we’re using Twine, we may be able to set up moral dilemmas throughout our games within our text adventure. A lot of questions, however, can be presented from this subject in video games; Should video games tackle morality?; Do video game creators have agency over a player’s choice or are they truly being able to tackle these concepts of morality themselves?; How best can the From Sea to Shining Sea Squad add that element of morality in their game about the Cold War gone wrong?

The Decision Makers: Defining Barbarianism

Hey everyone,

In today’s class we focused quite a bit about barbarians and what it really means to be barbaric. We came to the conclusion that a barbarian was somebody who appeared to not have a culture and were essentially simpleminded and violent. When examples were given of past barbaric groups, it was shown that the definition we gave barbarians may not have actually fit them. The examples given were the Mongols and the Vikings. While both are known for their vast military strength and desire to conquer, their other actions are oftentimes overlooked. While the Mongols did take over vast regions of land and were viewed by many as barbaric due to their apparent lack of culture, there actually was a culture there, it just was not the same as those calling them barbarians. They were just more focused on a more oral history than written and had different religious views from some, so some had no issue calling them barbaric after looking at their actions and beliefs. The Vikings have a similar story. They shared many qualities with the Mongols so it comes as no surprise that they are still oftentimes referred to as a barbaric society. However, like the Mongols, their society was simply based on different premises than those judging from a distance. While I’m not trying to defend their actions, some of which were brutal, there is little doubt that they would not call themselves barbarians and would likely see themselves as doing either the right thing or at least be easily justified.

Barbarians is a term that nobody really identifies with and for good reason. The term does not really have any good attributes tied to it besides brute strength, so it’s not surprising that it is a term that is only ever used to describe a group that is viewed as a lesser society. This plays pretty well in our game and how it will play out. Since it is centered around Nazi Germany, which was brutal and has been called barbaric, our group has to be able to show this in game in a kind of delicate way. We have to show it in a way that is both not horribly offensive and also in a way that is at least somewhat accurate to the actual culture in place during the time period. We worked on the story of our game today and this was one of the issues that came up (again). After today’s discussion however we have a bit of a different view on how to approach showing the culture of Nazi Germany. We can look into the reasons people have called the nation barbaric more and see how we can implement those aspects of the nation’s culture in a way that is both accurate and not too graphic in certain parts. Since we are using Twine for our game, the graphic imagery will be easy to leave out since it is a text based game, so we are looking more into setting through description than through imagery to combat this potential problem. While images are still going to be implemented (we are getting very close to putting them in Twine) the majority of the game will be text oriented. The story is getting close to completion with certain ending already being completed so after the remaining  paths are created, imagery can be prioritized and it will look like a more completed game. We agreed that the game should definitely be finished (or at least story completed and images gathered) within the coming days and then we can move to other tasks. For now though, we are looking at how to show the culture of Nazi Germany in our game in the right way.