Entertainment Technology Center: Building Virtual Worlds

Round 4 : “Story Round”
Timeline: 4 weeks
Storyboards, Story/Character Development, 2D/Texture Artist, Voiceover work (Ariadne)

Ersatz is an interactive story experience about a postcard maker living an understated, boring life  in San Francisco whose life suddenly changes when he receives a mysterious postcard from Nova Scotia.

“Story Round” is a 3-week round in which teams develop interactive ways to tell a compelling story.  Our first task was to give a pitch of two ideas, then based on feedback, make storyboards for one of the two ideas we decided to go with.  I drew storyboards for this round, which can be found here.

Our story revolves around a lonely postcard maker who discovers a connection with a mysterious stranger through postcards sent between the two.  The postcard maker befriends her and through their discussions, reveals something about himself.  We drew a lot of inspiration from Nick Bantock’s Griffin and Sabine trilogy, both artistically and through the story.  The project uses a Kinect gesture system performed by an actor at a physical writing desk.

One of my main goals for this project was to create a world that this character could live in believably and make it as visually rich as possible.  A lot of work and research went into character names, addresses, and the content created on the postcards – to play with the ideas of loneliness and helplessness, feeling lost or insignificant, and the myth of Ariadne and the Labyrinth.  The images from the postcards can be seen below.

Out of any of the projects I worked on this semester, this one went through the most changes and iterations.  We started with an idea about two characters separated by a mirror but ended up distilling it down to a mysterious relationship between the two people.  When we presented our world at the end of the project, we were met with a lot of confusion about the story and its resolution – that it was compelling but seemed to not have an ending and it wasn’t clear what we were trying to convey with our character.  We ended up taking it back to the drawing board and re-evaluating how we wanted to portray him.  A lot of it came down to sound design, in fact, which just highlights the importance of every single component in setting the right tone to tell a convincing story.  The final product, which was submitted to the BVW jury, is below.  We heard back from the jurors – who really liked the project and its gesture system and mentioned that they very nearly put it into the show!

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