Treasure Map 2

I am exhibiting a virtual world called Treasure Map 2 for Unsound Krakow. This is now in production and it’s time to go behind the scenes and see what’s coming your way late October.

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Come on in!

The first Treasure Map was part of the Rhine album – it includes 5 video ‘beacons’, a world map and a set of lyrical clues. I’m not surprised that the meanings are still hidden – life was never meant to be easy. In creating the new Treasure Map I’ve made things much more immediate – it should take you a few minutes to find your first milk bottle and start dying.

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That was some party. A real killer.

If you played HH which came with Adelaide Festival 2013, you’d recall there was an underground bunker, and a back story about a ‘princess’ trapped in there, exploited in a dream like manufacturing process. You can get the whole back story here. TM2 is a riff on this story – a side show. Let’s say much much later people started to dig up these bunkers for the explosive energy they contained. Let’s say they piped out this ‘witches milk’, put it in silos, put it in bottles to power things. And of course there’s trouble when you do that sort of thing.They desperately tried to seal it up again, left signs and barriers and scarecrows.

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A perfect place for a picnic.

But any place where there’s trouble, there’s treasure. People still come for the ‘milk bottles’, people like you who have no idea what they were once for. You can wander around the island as much as you like, see the sights. Eventually you’re going to find a milk bottle. Drink it, you may as well. Or you might find where the milk comes from. That’ll kill you too. Some things will heal you and if you’re careful you might get to drink all the milk.

It’s essentially a music album, fuelled by toxic ‘witches milk’. You drink to hear the music, then try heal yourself enough for the next batch.

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Maybe you could – but it would take you a long time to get there.

Two months out from launch the island is built, the wind blows and the water ripples. There are structures, warning signs, signs of previous visitors, who have left you some warning information. Milk vats and bottles are spread around the place, only a few have milk in them. I just scripted the effects of drinking one – impaired vision, music, a big drop in health. Once tested on a single bottle it gets copied to the rest. The healing places are not yet built. Underground corridors are in their early stages. The ‘witch house’ is made but needs much more detail, although you won’t live long enough to see much of it.

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We use only natural wind power to pump our toxic sludge.

Very likely it’ll be a version 1.0 that gets out in October, with additions later on. For one person to get this going is hard work and there’ll be bugs. But anything that gets away from playing music from 30 years ago is worth all the late nights.

Imagineering H3H

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To a large extent the game HH was an obligation to twelve years spent talking about it and to the festival that provided a cathartic deadline. Not badly done, but a realisation of designs that came out of the mid 1990s – having said I would do this, I did this. Specifications met.

Was it a success? No, probably not. It’s disappointing that I spent more man hours in making this thing than seemed to come out of it. I’ve heard no report that anyone has understood the more subtle parts of it; no one has ever wondered what became of Sunday March or why she had that name, why there were coffins laid out near an underground replica of Denver airport and so on. I did write a few pages of explanation but eventually decided against it. Doesn’t matter.

Maybe it takes another 12 years before anyone wonders. After spending most of 2013 in a flurry of new work the only request I’ve had recently is to re-issue music from 30 years ago. Again. On vinyl. Still, creativity goes on because the birds demand it, and I’ve come to trust them far more than the indifference of people.

So having met the promise to people, now to meet the promise to birds.

I have two directions in mind. One is a prequel, H. It’s entirely words, based on a MUSH engine. Young people might wonder how that works – there are rooms described in words, they are formed into a map. I am the principal author of the rooms but eventually other players start to write their own rooms, and the map grows as multiple narratives start to develop like cancers. I ran a test MUSH back in 2007 for a literature class I was taking at UTS and it worked but I’m not ready to define the politics of how it would work in a wider audience. If done badly it becomes a series of GO NORTH and DRINK INK, done well and you would wonder if another player was writing you.

The other end is the sequel H3H, which addresses my problem that you can’t build dreams from straight lines, and that’s all I can do in 3D.

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It became obvious a while back that photo manipulation is the royal road to the gaming uncanny. But photos are flat, sound is round. How do you spatialise sound on a flat photo? This leads to panoramic photography, which bends the image to suit the audible. I’ve been trying out different game engines that produce Myst style panoramic tours. Most venerable is Adventure Maker but it’s still a solo effort locked to PCs, no web support and with bugs that no one had time to solve with me. Paid the fee, moved on. Ended up with Kolor’s AutoTour which in itself isn’t interesting but that it writes XML that can be interpreted by krpano. That in turn is a complex, nuggety little player than can execute code in the XML to do things like hide and reveal hot spots, play sounds and so on – enough for what I’m planning: an online experience.

Instead of moving through a 3D space you’ll jump from vantage point to vantage point which is a step back in freedom but means I can make the game out of still photographs and complex non-real time 3D renders. Where HH was made out of straight lines and grids, H3H will be fuzzy and messy and more like being inside a painting. The way that the rabbits were painted – that kind of organic look is possible.

That’s appropriate for a story line where a ‘golem’ is harvested that can create contained realities – the ‘castles’ in HH. In that game the ‘princess’ had just started her rampage. What I want now is to show the scenery much later – with Sunday March’s ultimate fate made explicit. I can imagine what hundreds of years of omnipotent insanity could wreak – but I don’t think I can model it as 3d objects.

Problems right now are mostly that the sound is not actually spatial but panned. To make a mix means setting up arrays of speakers to form stereo pairs. In Flash you get a decent sound space, in HTML 5 you get nothing, because HTML 5 is a bad joke promoted by that idiot Steve Jobs a work in progress.

Deter Human Intrusion

Good reading for ancient bunker sound design

You start in the same control bunker as HH. But a considerable time has passed, in which the mayhem has had a long time to fester. The bunker is torn up and the only door that was previously locked is now open.

SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS
If you have played HH you probably guessed that’s the food locker and where they put the bodies before evacuating. Well, this level is going to be called Walking In A Winter Wonderland or Once Company, Freezer Crowd.
END SPOILERS

If you’ve followed the meandering history of this project you may have noticed that this mix of great antiquity and an intrusion into confined madness is coming back to the plot of Aerodrom. I am slow, but by god I am very tenacious.