Final Major Project

Since the start of term I have been working on not only my dissertation, but my final major project as well. When it was started I didn’t want to put too much online as it has been in a very much ‘work in progress’ state during development. Well now everything has been handed in and I have been polishing everything up for two weeks so I now feel happy to share. 🙂

The final major project at this University has been split into two different sections, the first half is focused on design and prototyping. The final submission called for a 10 page design document, in my opinion that is more of a design overview than a fully realised design outline, but working within constraints is always good practice.

For this I decided to be a little ambitious, I wanted to create a game using the Mabinogion as inspiration. Now there are several things here that need explaining, what is the Mabinoigon, and why?

Lady Charlotte Guest

The Mabinogion

What is the Mabinogion?
This is a collection of Welsh fables and stories dating back to before the 11th century, some tales in the collection chronicle peoples and kings some years BC and the most famous story in the collection is that of Merlin and King Arthur. The term Mabinogion is technically incorrect, as it was first coined by Lady Charlotte Guest who in the mid 19th Century who  translated the original documents into English, but didn’t quite get all of it right. Yet the name has stuck at is has become a treasured collection of stories that are as important to Wales as they are the rest of the country.

Created by Liz

Title Screen Mockup

Why then make a game from it?
Well other than the story of King Arthur, much of the other tales are not wildly known about, even within Wales. Over the years there have been re-translations,  other interpretations, plays, books, board games and even the odd video game with references to an aspect of the Mabinogion. Yet upon asking around in Wales and in England not many people appear to have heard of it, let alone what it’s about. Having grown up in Wales and England and studied History for all of my school life (some time ago no to be fair) I was never once told about it either, not even at the annual Eisteddfod at school in Wales. So I thought it would be nice to see if it was possible to create a game from the stories within the book not only for the challenge of creating a game design out of a very old narrative, but also to shed some light on the forgotten tales.

So I started the project: Telling the Tales of Old, there is also a accompanying blog and website for this project that has remained separate and therefore private during the course of development.

So far it has proved to be an interesting challenge, as at first I thought that it might work best on the WonderBook, the new augmented reality interface for the PS3. However without having any experience playing the titles (as it was not due to launch until November) it was really hard to design for based on just the theory of how the technology would work. I had a few designs and a high concept document all mapped out, but it was lacking something. After much debate I settled on a 2D touch screen based game, and after much iteration I really think I have something now. I would still love to work on a WonderBook version as I still think that the technology is exciting and perfectly suited to more narrative based games.

Yet this project and proposal is supposed to be aimed at creating a playable prototype during the second semester, and as it stands at the moment there is a team of just me working on it. Not the most ideal situation for an aspiring producer, but there is an interesting course dynamic at Uni, there is a class of designers and very few technically minded people and the Uni shut down out coding course. Thankfully I can outsource though, and I am looking into getting a small team together to get this touch screen version of the game up and running.

It is odd as this project has been interesting from the start, there have been times where I have questioned why I am even doing it, and times where I think that it won’t work. The end result is something I am proud of, and the reason for doing it, that the challenge to take something like this and essentially translate it into video game language, has been enjoyable. The reason for this and not something else? I am quite proud of my half Welsh side, even if I don’t admit it often, and it was a better idea than going back to the Dreamstone again. (As to be honest I would love to go back and tackle a game based on that animation with the skills I have now!)

The next step now though is of course the production, yet there is something holding me back right now, I have a nagging feeling that I should be making an ‘original’ game idea – like the rest of the class are trying to do. I fear that the class was thinking that during my proposal presentation yesterday as well, but it is not like I am unwilling or unable to create an original or personal game, it is that I don’t want to for the purposes of University. That and, as I stated, I am enjoying the challenge of the translation.

Also they way I see it is if you are going for games industry jobs at the moment you are not going to be able to make your own game idea, unless you take the huge risk and go ‘indie’, so it’s probably best to get the practice in now designing using an established idea, world and setting. Besides I can explore and play about with my own ideas when there isn’t the pressure of grades and presentations before its ready to worry about. 🙂

Anyway this post is a little scattered, as it is late and I have not slept during the crunch time of this project, so I will leave you with the suggestion of checking out the development site and if you want letting me know what you think. 🙂

(Disclaimer: Development site and blog are on Blogger and Google Sites, basically utilising the free services I know well to create something that would normally be done using paid for web space and professional website creators! So apologies if areas are difficult to navigate, I have done the best I can with the tools at hand.) 🙂

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