Roast-it Notes is an experience that's summed up by tossing stools around a kitchen to the score of 50 Shades quotes (yeah, really). Unsurprisingly, the project has been throwing up some interesting things to wrangle. We've had to make several large-scale pivots, script over 10 minutes of nonsense radio segments, and try our best to carve a narrative into the world without actually telling anyone what's happened.
It's been an interesting project for a number of reasons so far and throughout the whole process has been characterised by design decisions that none of us had ever been faced with.
"This isn't what the game was supposed to be about, why do people like it?"
"How the fuck do we get people to do what we want?"
"This feels like a box. How do we make it feel like not a box?
With each slight hiccup, we've had the opportunity to explore our options when it comes to solving them. Many were based on the feedback from both our peers and facilitators (who are all beasts). Others were dealt with in a way that very consciously stayed within the constraints of our initial concept, in order to not skew this vision. We made changes to the entire control scheme, we shifted the narrative several times and we altered the flow of the experience overall. We really tried to take it from a scene with "things you can do" to an environment that sets up a narrative, gives the player a clear direction and then spurs them on with specifically crafted interactions.
One of our biggest issues early on was making the space (a sharehouse kitchen) feel like it was a space that people actually live in. It sounds cliche' "oh daaaarling I want this space to feel lived in!", but removing the sterility inherent to a digital environment was something really important to us.
It didn't matter how many times we changed colour palettes or adjusted the scale of the benches, we just couldn't wipe away this veneer of fakeness. We tried to add some clutter al naturale, but it felt about as natural as the scenery in a snowglobe.
The solution (at least partially) came at the hands of a bit of a cock-up on our end. With little 3D modelling experience, it was pretty clear that we were going to make a few mistakes. Turns out these mistakes meant we had to redo the scene from what was essentially scratch. Not ideal, but as it turns out, quite beneficial.
So when we started to put the scene back together (it was actually the third time we'd had to do this) someone suggested that we needed a door. "I'm just going to cut off this corner real quick, I'll throw a door on it later".
"Oh shit. Check this out."
It turned out that, more than any other seemingly significant change we'd made, the actual shape of the room itself was the element we'd overlooked.
I've already learnt so many interesting things from this project. Sometimes it's not your initial idea that ends up as the star of the game. Maybe it's not always bad when you have to redo things?
More than anything I think it's going to change the way I problem solve on my future projects. It's often the case that I'mt trying to solve for functionality rather than feel. But what's the point of something that works if it feels like a steaming pile of shit? What's the point of having something cool if you're not drawing the player to it and giving them the utmost opportunity to explore it?
It's nice to feel like I''m finally starting to take strides as a Developer and as a Designer. I don't just feel like a "maker of things" any more. I'm trying, at least, to craft specific experiences for other people to mess around with and break and enjoy.
At the end of the day, I just want people to have the same stupid grin on their face that I had when I was making it.
More soon, Riley.