Story Lab – Final Reflective Blog Post

(Its a bit over 500 words, but on Wednesday you said we should write as much as we needed)

Semester is now over and our major project is submitted mostly without a hitch. Its nothing like my original vision back when we first formed our group, but the final product is still pretty great and I’m proud of my work that went into it.

Part 1: The Initial Idea 

Our initial idea was born from a lack of passion felt towards any of the other projects being “pitched” in class. They each were interesting and ambitious, but nothing particulary grabbed me and I wasnt eager to be apart of any of them. Luckily Olivia and Alex (who I just happened to be sitting next to that week) felt the same way. Prior to the pitches we were all looking over random story ideas we had throughout semester and Olivia’s was a thing involving a Psychic woman and a Cystral Ball, during the Pitches I had an idea about wanting to do something to do with a cult, preferably include some body-horror elements and a creepy/disturbing atmosphere. Back at the table, with our lack of direct interest in any of the other projects we decided to create our own, combining the ideas. Eventually the cult became an organisation fixated on ascending to the digital realm, the Psychic woman with the Crystal ball idea was repurposed as the cult leader.

Part 2: The Changening

Over the next several weeks our project kept changing and new ideas were constantly being developed. I wanted to make an interactive movie, a short film where you (the audiance member/”player”) gets to choose what the main character says and does, affecting the outcome of the narrative. I wanted the entire thing to be seamless video content, with dialouge and action options appearing on-screen when nesisary. The only way I knew how to do this was Microsoft Powerpoint, as I’d done similar things as a kid “making movies” when I had no acsess to cameras or anything else (I used animated clipart with speech bubbles and setting everything on precise timers so it would play from start to finish automatically). Meanwhile Olivia and Alex had thier own ideas, involving a physical space and lots of different media and more of an experience rather than something you sit down and watch. I think we were both a bit poor on explaining our ideas, because everyone just seemed to agree with eachother leaving the actual direction of the project unclear.

This was our first proper plan put to paper, a branching narrative told through power point supported by some physical media that followed a distinctive “Y with cross sections” shape.

Project Plan

As explained in my previous blog posts, this again changed quite a bit, right up until the morning before we presented it, but somethings remained, for example the “Prayer Position” with using your arms to make the same Y symbol is still present in the final project, even if the only other reference to it is the red markings on my chest in the same scene. In the end our project was a mish-mash of ideas, part of it followed by idea for a seamless video experience while the rest was more text based and similar to the online narrative games we played in class early in semester.


Part 3: The Final Presentation

On wednesday we presented our final version of our project, and it was very interesting (and slightly frustrating) watching Dan play it. He chose the quickest route to the end by complete accident, and missed the prompt to examine our folder full of physical media, then on a second playthrough he chose almost identical options, still missing bunch of content that I’d stayed awake for two days to finalise. I timed the longest possible route and it takes around 20 minutes, while Dan’s playthrough was a bit over 10. But I guess thats the nature of these kinds of story’s, unless you have an interest or fascination with exactly how many different ways through it there are and replay it multiple times, you’ll always miss something.

Part 4: The Group

As a group I think we worked well, everyone definitely pulled their weight and there were practically no disagreements or arguments that actually occurred. Although, I feel our communication about ideas wasnt great, which left stuff a bit ambiguous, and we seemed to support every idea that anyone had, even if we didn’t fully understand it, and went back to working on our own vision of things. Both Alex and Olivia were great to work with and everything worked out in the end. Although I think our project suffered from having basically 3 creative leads, everyone wanted to put their own vision into it, but everyone was also too polite to do it strongly. Had this been a solo project, each of ours would be very different from what we got.


Part 5: Conclusion

We made an interactive story in Power Point, had numerous discussions about the nature of multi-threaded story’s and audiance agency and tried our best to incorporate physical media into a digital experience. Our group worked well, and brainstorming idea’s was very fun, and despite some moments of uncertainty near the end it all came together.



My mind is slipping

My mind is slipping, the black pit of dispair entrenches ever closer on my soul, my brain is fuzzy with the incomprehensible complexity of the tangled web of endless permutations I have made in microsoft power point.

Thats a bit of an exageration, but also partly true. Putting this project together has consumed me, I pulled an all-nighter Monday and by all estimates I’m going to do the same tonight, and I still have my doubts whether it will be done. Its too big, the amount of connections and duplicate slides is too much to keep track of, for every choice you make a new steam has to be built that connects back to the original if you change your mind later, but also has to be sure not to refer to something you never did. Optional dialouge creates its own new streams because you can ask it at multiple times. Also there is no end, no segway into the ending’s (which also still arnt finished, but thankfully not my job).

Consessions will have to be made, streamlining it is the only way its not going to turn out a broken mess.

Sadly this means some slides will only have one option to progress to the next slide, something I dearly wanted to avoid. In a story with choice and player agency having no choice when logically you should is very poor, I believe that taking away someone’s choice can be very impactful in the right circumstances, such as one of our endings where failure to make correct choices in a previous segment (the one thats still half made) results in only having one option because you failed to qualify for the other one. I’m rather disapointed, but at least it will work.

Also, after watching each over 20 times the poor acting, inconsistant accent and awkward body movements of my video-scenes is burned into my brain and I loathe it. Hopefully its flaws are less apperent for a first-time viewer, and apart from the lack of wet hair and body (It was way too cold), the costume design is still very good in my opinion, almost exactly the same as my concept art.

Story Lab – Week 12

As the due date for our project fast-approaches final desiscions have to be made that try to find a compromise between high quality and actually achievable.

As I said in my last post, the structure of our project changed dramatically and I was not totally onboard with the change, but over the past week further restructures have occured and I’m am feeling more excited about our project.

Our original idea (up until last week) was to have two major paths, “Cult” (where the player joins the cult and works towards ascension) and “Anti-Cult” (where the player joins the counter organisation and works to take down the cult) with the player choosing at the beginning and having the ability to swap sides as they learned more. With the radical changes it became a single stream with very limited agency (my  biggest gripe), everyone would start in the cult and then join the anti-cult, take down the Cult and the anti-cult would reveal their true intentions. It was basically a straight line with most choices being 100% superficial.

But over the past week we have been re-formatting the story once again to a hybrid of the other two. Now we have everyone start in the cult, get CONTACTED by the anti-cult and told to spy on cult. But the player can now choose to never report back and can (if they choose) be totally devout to the cult and perform the ascension.

Most of the agency comes from my video segments which were partially done when the structure was changed the first time, and I recorded footage that allowed the player to be role-play wanting to ascend as well as not wanting to, as well as cooperate with the cults request for a confession or choosing to refuse if they wish.

Its not done yet, but my task for the next week is to turn these videos into a series of connected slides with various outcomes that will lead to our 4 endings (back up from the planned 2 after last weeks change).

This is probably the best of both worlds, I’d still MUCH prefer two full-fledged streams, but with the time thats left having one stream that splinters into many possible ways through the final third is a good alternative, and most importantly there are no longer desicions being made about your character anymore, EG you are not assumed to be sympathetic to the anti-cult anymore.

Story Lab – Week 11

Our project has undergone a rather significant change in the past few days, and one which I am not entirely happy with.

The decision was made to restructure the story of our project to be far more linear. The reasons for which were to make sure everyone who plays it will get an interesting and satisfying narrative experience.

Story Map (original)

The original layout

Story Map (New, Part 1)

Story Map (New, Part 2)

The New layout.

As you can see, its far more streamlined and linear, instead of experiencing one of 2 major paths (that each had multiple mini paths/choices inside them, as well as numerous chances to “cross over”) and 4 endings, there is now one path with some minor choices and 2 endings.

I understand the reasoning, and our “cult” path was fairly boring and straightforward, but that being said I still dont totally agree with the change. The loss of player agency is quite extreme, and our project idea was born from the concept of symmetry. The fact that you now MUST side with the anti-cult organisation is something that doesn’t sit well with me, as I really liked the concept of being able to choose whether or not you were invested in the cult or wanted to work with the anti-cult. I dont have a problem with certain paths in choose-your-own-adventure stories being more boring or straightforward, especially in something that is going to take a short amount of time to finish, and mutliple playthoughs are easy to do. The fun for me in these types of narratives is seeing how all the options play out, and getting a “bad ending” just encourages me to see what the other options do.

I’m also kind of annoyed that all my work on the Power Point hyperlink structure is basically redundant now, and I have to build it all again.

I didn’t say anything to the group because I was clearly in the minority and I hadn’t compiled my thoughts enough to have anything to say except “no”. I’m sure our project will still be good, but Im slightly unhappy with its new form.

Hopefully my group doesn’t read this……

Story Lab – Week 10

Over the past week I have began conceptionalising and planning the content for the interactions the audiance/player has with members of the cult for our Project.

I wanted it be intially fairly innoucencous to begin with, with regular looking people acting a bit odd, but as you move through the ranks it gets creepier and more sinister. I wanted the final person you talk to to be creepy and unsettling, someone who a player invested in the cults goals can invest in and admire, but will give people who are unsure about the cult a cold realisation that the people inside it are deranged and unhealthy.

Cult Chartacter Concept

This is a picture I drew, outlining what I want to do. The cross-legged poistion with arms in a “Y” formation is our cults meditation/prayer pose (the backwards elbows are because its me). I wanted to reinforce the idea that “the body is a prison”, and adorne the character in prisoner type motiffs, such as chaings draped around the arms and body.

The bandages around the eyes are another way to make it look sinister and scary, not being able to see someones eyes can be disconcerting, and it also could possibly be interpreted as gouged out in a destructive gesture of disgust at the mediocrity of the physical realm.

The Headcage idea is something I really want to do, as cross-bars covering the face while in the prayer postion will make the person into the exact shape of our Cult logo, and having the brain be a prisoner is also super relevent. I admit its not a totally original idea, and its probably not feasible with our resources and timeframe, but I still really want to wear a cage on my head.


Story Lab – Week 9

For our project we have each been given tasks to complete over the next week and beyond. Meeting back up in class to show our work to group and make sure its all coherent and everyone knows whats going on.

Screen Shot 2016-05-10 at 1.49.48 pm

I have been given the tasks of fixing my computer (already done), producing a outline or “vision” of what I want to do for the various Skypecall-like interactions and videos with various members of the cult. As well as building a “shell” version of the Power Point, making all the hyperlinks and slides so we can begin adding actual content to our slides.

I already have a few ideas of what to for the cult videos, and over the next week I will work out these ideas and write out these concepts and do some drawings or stuff. The Power Point is a more tedious task, and it will take some time to make sure it all works properly. But the template of all the connections is already completed, so it shouldn’t be too hard.

Story Lab – Week 8

Reflecting on our presentation.

This week we “pitched” our idea to a panel including Dan, Ben Mckenzie from last weeks lecture and another women involved in media/games who’s name I sadly forgot.

I think our presentation went quite well, and we definitely received a great reaction to our trailer. The feedback we were given was interesting and helpful, for example taking care to treat loaded words/concepts with care and recognising that they have large amounts of baggage associated with them.

I cant speak for Olivia or Alex, but my upbringing was almost entirely un-religious and my entire knowledge of Christianity (and all religion really) comes from Pop-Culture. So the pre-established weight and baggage associated with words such “sin” is lost on me.

Although, I think we are still going to have that as a concept and core part of our Cult’s ideology, but we will make sure we carefully outline what our “sin” is, so confusion is less likely to occur.

We also got to watch other people’s presentations, which was fascinating and all of the group’s ideas were very diverse and interesting, the “Old-timey murder one” (again, I sadly forgot the name) particulry, because I love the athestic and “feel” of that era in fiction, and the stuff they are doing with fake newspapers was really cool.

Story Lab – Major Project 500 Blog Post

My major project for Story Lab is a group project with Alex and Olivia contracting an interactive narrative that is a cross between a movie and a choose your own adventure story that will also be accompanied with some real life elements.

Its working title is “ProjYct e-VOLOLUTION” and follows the same formula used by games and “choose-your-own-adventure” books, in which the audiance assumes the role of a nameless, backstoryless character that represents them, throughout the story the audiance is asked to make many desiscions as if they were in the world of the narrative, which affects how the story plays out. In addition to the main story, which is told through Power Point, the narrative will be supported by several real-world elements such as pamphlets (which act as the starting point of the story, and hold more information that the audiance will need later on) and other objects, such as posters, documents etc… that will flesh out the world of our story and even tell other stories that may be running in tangent with the “player” character.

Our story is about a cult, which shares its name with our assessment title, that is dedicated to ascending humanity to the next form of evoloution: a purely digital existence. There also exists an organisation dedicated to stopping the cult from achieving these goals, believing them to be nothing but delusional idiots on a crash course to accidental mass suicide. The person “playing” our story must choose which side to ally with, which hugely impacts the conflict between these two factions, as well as having agency over how the main-character goes about and reacts to the various scenarios encountered throughout the story.

This story idea has had a strange development process, it was born out of none of us being truly gripped with the idea of any of the other options available so we mashed together some of our existing “half-idea’s” and started our own group. Since then it underwent numerous changes and now shares very little with our original idea. Our project is VERY different to how I initally envisioned it, but I am very happy with where we are now, and each group member has had a large impact in developing the idea’s.

One of the biggest challenges of making this project (and one of the things I’m most looking forward to) is the branching narrative paths, planning them all out has been a tough process as a group, and actually making them is going to be even harder, and it seems like making the hyperlink “skeleton” has become my task due to it being my idea to use powerpoint and assuring the group I knew how to do it.

The actual content that goes on these slides is going to be a group effort from all of us, and each of us will likely end up writing the exact narrative and acting as characters in the story, as well as producing all the media (digital and physical) for the Project, but exact tasks for each of us haven’t been decided yet.

I feel this project is quite ambitious in the amount of content we are aiming to create, but most certainly doable, and I am very excited to see where it goes.


Here is the trailer for our project, which offers an insight into the cult.

Story Lab – Week 7

This week we had a guest Lecturer, Ben Mckenzie, who was from “Pop Up Playground” and a creator of real-life games with a focus on emmergent narrative. He talked extensively about how to construct these types of stories, which I found fascinating.

The issues such as making sure its easily accessible and doesn’t demand too much of an audience were interesting to think about, and dealing with the uniqueness of the audiance being given large amounts of agency and nothing to stop them from doing things not originally considered part of the story and adapting to it on the fly.

The planning stage of “True Romans All” was very similar to our own Story Lab project, with the branchng paths and multiple endings. Except that there’s allowed for much more audiance freedom to break away from the pre-structured story and do their own thing, while ours is contrained to the paths we create. I think the idea of every descion being a group vote was a very clever way of giving ageency to a large participatory audiance while also being simple and easy to understand, and staying relevent to the story.

Another issue that I thought of was that differed between Pop Up Playground’s stories and our own, was that despite the apprent similarities there is a fundemental difference in that ours can be preserved. The file containing the “choose your own adventure” will be reuseable forever, and anyone can be given the physical documents to examine, wheras something like “True Romans All” or the upcoming  “$mall time Criminal$” can only exist as long as Pop Up Playground runs the event can never be experienced again.

This is an interesting concept for me, as I have always admired and appricated art/stories that have no experiation date and disliked things that will one-day become unuseable (for example Video Games with an arbitary always-online connection that will one day be turned off, rendering it useless). This philosphy partially influenced my imput into designing our Story Lab project. But the things Ben Mckenzie talked about were unique story experiences which can ONLY work as one-time things. It didnt change my opinion on peices of media that will one-day become defunct (especially if there is no reason other than publisher control), but it did make me appreciate that “one time only” story’s can be appealing and utilise the advanatages of relying on contiued involvment from the creators, and audiance, to exist.

It was a very interesting lecture, and I would love to experience one of there things for myself.

Story Lab – Week 6

This week we looked at a variety of webseries including High Maintaince, The Guild and Starting from Now, and thought up hyperthetical transmedia stories that could be told expanding on these stories.

I found it quite difficult to think of any that were not contrived at best, or shameless marketing/tie-ins at worst, since the webseries were not really suited for expansion into a multi-thread story across different platforms. Ideas that we came up with included:

  • A feature length film about the Weed Guy from High Maintenance, that follows his adventures as he pops in and out of other stories in progress and without proper context, the opposite of the show.
  • Flesh out the Cult from the episode of High Maintainance and fully construct the website, perhaps using discussion forums to expand on the story of the guy from that episode.

These idea’s wernt terrible and might be interesting to engage with, but the problem was that they felt contrived and unnecessary, and showing too much backstory can indeed tarnish the original stories. I think this exercise goes to show the importance of planning for transmedia, expanding on something that was never intended to be expanded upon is very difficult, whereas if a story is planned to have multiple platforms and narrative threads at its inception (for example the MCU) then it can work very well.