The easy way
Notes on week 872
- 872 5 oktober 2015 EN
With these weeknotes I track and archive whatever it is I spend my time on. They’re public so you can keep me in check.
Last week I visited day 1 of the Control Conference here in Utrecht, which was all about world building for movies and games, and I went to the Indigo games showcase after that. I had a fun and possibly fruitful chat with Dylan Nagel and ran into many other friends and colleagues. Here are some notes on each talk I attended, as proof that I paid attention:
- Jan Roelfs is a Dutch production designer doing big Hollywood movies. He was interviewed about his work, which he says has changed as movie executives now want to see everything of a movie before it’s shot. Ergo lots of work for ‘concept people’. Money quote: “The creative process is like containing liquid, it wants to flow everywhere.” I would’ve liked to hear more about his choices instead of just the process, though. From 47 Ronin he showed the example of two Japanese feudal lords and their homesteads, one dark/edgy, the other organic/colorful; I’d have liked to ask him whether such high-level contrasts are always appropriate. But I didn’t.
- Richard Boeser works at Sparpweed, where he made the co-op puzzle platformer ibb & obb. He talked about his game’s hidden backstory, which was somewhat revelatory. Levels that I’d never even considered as cityscapes suddenly looked like Rotterdam to me. The story’s ecological theme and non-verbal communication reminded me a lot of Toki Tori 2, by the way. Afterwards I asked Richard why he never talked about the story before; he said he wasn’t all that sure about its merits and that fans would pick up on some of it anyway. I replied that it just became one part of the attention to detail that makes each level unique.
- Romke Faber is a production designer working in The Netherlands, with experience in and insights from Hollywood. He had some interesting slides from the World Building Institute that I should look up, and showed work by Alex McDowell, founder of the institute and the production designer of Minority Report. The brainstorm with futurologists that McDowell and Spielberg held is quite legendary; that movie is one example of world building that goes above and beyond the strictly necessary, enabling unexpected cross-pollination between world and story. Finally, Faber showed how the same ideas can be applied to smaller Dutch projects, such as a short film about the Bijlmer disaster he worked on.
- Remco Vlaanderen works on Submarine’s kinetic graphic novel Ascent from Akeron, which is being made in the Panoply plugin with author William Maher and artist Gustavo Garcia. The comic looks like it could become pretty slick, and the talk was OK. The promo of the De Pont multimedia contest, sneaked in at the end, was pretty embarrassing though.
- Lennart Sas is one of the founders of Triumph Studios, and in his talk basically gave the CEO’s version of the creative process. A nice look at how this studio mixed and matched popular existing properties to finetune or at least explain its game franchises Age of Wonders and Overlord.
- Jean van der Velde, a Dutch movie director and clearly an experienced speaker, started with two thoughts from a French film critic whose name I didn’t catch: ‘every setup needs a mental setup’ and ‘style is the attitude to your idea’. He talked about creating contrasts, including false facades and conceptual reversals, and urged creators to constantly analyze their motives for instinctive creative decisions. He also had a suggestion for game developers: in games you can do everything, but you need boundaries to be creative. “Inspiration goes the easy way,” he said.
- Dan Hassler-Forest is an academic whom I follow on Twitter, but hadn’t seen talk yet. This turned out to be a lot of fun. He discussed different phases in and forms of world building / transmedia, from The Lord of the Rings to Janelle Monáe. And he made an interesting distinction between centralized, authorial transmedia (such as The Matrix with its sequels, The Animatrix, games and comics) and the decentralized patchwork transmedia that’s much more common (such as the Marvel universe). This reminded me of the idea of open-source franchises. Hassler-Forest also referenced a great-sounding talk by Philip K. Dick that I’m looking up as I type this.
- Remco de Rooij of Triangle Studios had a painfully honest talk about the development of Cross of the Dutchman, an action-adventure game that’s finally finished, after six years and two reboots. Hope it’ll work out for him.
- Finally Justin van der Lek, a visual effects guy from Utrecht who worked for ILM, Digital Domain and WETA, was interviewed about how he landed all those amazing jobs and even became “a digital gypsy”, as he put it. He also showed some cool reels that included some of his work.
What else happened last week? I…
- Visited my editor Sander Blom at Uitgeverij Atlas Contact. He’d read the first two chapters of Geometry Girl and seemed to like it. It was nice to discuss its overall direction; I worked on my app novel for a while after that.
- Got acquainted with Niek Karsmakers and his team at Weblit; they’re working on an idea for serial literature, which sounds interesting.
- Visited Two Tribes, discussing shooter/platformer RIVE and working on it quite a bit this week. My writing is slowly landing in the game: the first mission (out of 12) is now in draft state.
- #hobbydevved with Hessel, making some progress on my current game idea by stripping out unnecessary features from a previous prototype.
- Went to Rotterdam to attend a private screening of Simon Scheibers’s short clay-animation film The Lighthouse. It was beautiful.
Average step count per day: 12.132
Average staircase count per day: 18
Average sleep per night: 7:13
Average weight: 88,9 kg