We’re quick approaching remembrance day on the 11th of November – however this year, the celebratory occasions will be of specific significance. 2018 marks 100 years given that completion of the First World War, and to honour the centenary, Aardman (in addition to DigixArt) has actually done something a little uncommon.
11: 11 Memories Retold launches today on PC, Xbox One and PS4, and informs the story of 2 males who venture to the cutting edge to eliminate in WWI. One is British, the other German, and both have completely different factors for registering. It’s a war drama that wishes to provide a more human viewpoint on a historic occasion typically kept in mind for its commercial levels of killing – and it’s doing so with an extremely striking art design.
Aardman, naturally, is the animation studio understood for producing Wallace and Gromit and Shawn the Sheep – making it an uncommon competitor for a video game designer. The studio has actually produced one smaller sized video game previously, however this is the very first time it’s handled a bigger advancement job. I spoke with the video game’s imaginative director from Aardman, Dan Efergan, about the difficulties of the video game’s art design, and how the developers managed the complex subject.
To begin – how are you feeling about the video game’s release?
Absolutely frightened. It feels so mentally huge to all of us, and after that personally too, having the ability to launch something of this scale. I’m attempting to not fret about all the evaluations coming out, however you still can’t assist it, it’s like exposing your child.
From when I take a look at it, I simply see whatever that’s incorrect with it, and I believe it’s like that for a great deal of the group. It’s rather great enjoying other individuals discuss it and play it, and you begin persevering other individuals’s’ eyes, and it begins looking various to what you see it as.
So has feedback been excellent up until now?
Yes, up until now actually excellent. I constantly feels a bit cumbersome round the edges, however when individuals are playing it, they lock into the story and lock into the feelings. I believe it’s there – it feels to me that it’s a bit chalk and cheese, some individuals simply dislike it and some individuals like it, however that I value and rather like.
There was a Booker reward distributed for Michel Houellebecq, the person who composed Atomised, and when he was revealed as the winner, half the audience stood and began booing, and half the audience stood and began cheering. I keep in mind seeing that and going “that’s it, that’s what I wish to do”. Something that a minimum of shifts individuals.
The video game’s art design is most likely the most striking thing when you initially take a look at Memories Retold, I was questioning what influenced making use of the “painterly” design?
The story of the entire video game begins with a coworker of mine, Jake Manion, being over in Games for Change, where he began talking to Yoan [Fanise, creative director]. The 2 understood they had really comparable views about the world and the power of video games and what they can be utilized for. This resulted in Yoan coming by and checking out a couple of weeks later on (to the Aardman studios) to take a look around.
When he came by we collected whatever we might that we believed pertained to reveal him, and among the pieces was a video called Flight of the Stories, which was a piece we had actually provided for the Imperial War Museum to assist promote their First World War exhibit for the start of the centenary. And that piece was influenced by the paintings of the millenium, the type of impressionistic paintings which were taking place at the time. That was the seed that kicked it off, however then Bram [Ttwheam, art director] continued to ransack from millenium all the method approximately the wars. A little impressionism, however other painters, and a great deal of Turner.
The strategies we utilized for this video were actually extensive, a few of the frames took 10 to 15 minutes to render, so it was not going to operate in the exact same method if we were getting a real-time engine doing it. So we began taking a look at a somewhat comparable strategy, which is oil-on-paints: an animation strategy where somebody keeps painting oil onto a single sheet of glass, and after that just alters the bits that require to alter, and prior to it’s dry, keeps moving and altering it and taking images in-between.
There were a couple of enthusiastic concepts where we wished to have fun with more of the art work that came out of the Great War, a few of the cubist and brutalist motions – and futurism – and we actually liked the concept of battling with those too. There was this wonderful idea we had which if you were shell shocked that the whole world would collapse down in dimensions the way cubist paintings are, and you’d be trying to rebuild it again. But it was pointed out very politely by our producer that we were going to have enough trouble getting one art movement to work, so trying to re-build a whole system (particularly when Cubism doesn’t respect the rules of physics) and underneath we still have a 3D physics engine controlling it all.
The impressionist art style is quite unusual in video games, where borders are normally quite defined – would you say you were able to create this shimmery and dreamy effect because the game isn’t combat-focused?
It was driven by a belief and idea in what we were doing, and there’s a sense of things being foretold. There’s two techniques that both the individuals – Kurt and Harry – are using to communicate with you, the player, via this narration. One is letters home to communicate with his wife and daughter, while Harry is retelling his tale. Ultimately memories are quite subjective, and this underlies the whole game itself. We fought with the theme of it – because it shifted and changed as things do – but it took on its own life and we realised it’s a lot to do with subjectiveness. The narrative doesn’t give you a sense of right and wrong, it doesn’t tell you who the goodies and the baddies are, it allows you to be subjective.
The music itself was based on these ideals, and Olivier [Deriviere, composer] always talked about these impressionistic composers like Debussy, and that was all based on the art style. The art style is an artistic impression – so you have to work, as well, to infer what that could be. All of those things seem to fit neatly together.
But yes, it can create some real nightmares when you say “please go and find me that thing,” and that thing happens to be a small smudge of paint in the background. So gameplay and the technique were sometimes at loggerheads with each other, and one of the lengthy juggles we did was working out how to control those and still make it useful for a gamer to understand and interpret their world around them.
If you were trying to swing around and shoot something, you would probably need to know where it started and ended, and where it was coming from. At least because there isn’t much agility needed in it, we can be more forgiving.
I noticed that animals play quite an integral part in the story (such as a cat and a pigeon). What’s the thinking behind this?
They play a very specific purpose, as they are the spiritual representatives of each of the characters. It was also interesting to consider an animal’s point of view of the war. War is a very human construct, and with the First World War you realise how non-ideological the conflict was – it was a bit confused, and a lot of people didn’t really know why they were there. Unlike the narrative that has come out of WWII (although it was probably messy at the time), there was a sense of “this is an ideology I believe in or don’t believe in, and therefore I am going to fight for this”. A lot of people in WWI were there to fight for their country but didn’t quite know what was going on.
So you’ve got this big political human constructed-weirdness that is forcing people to stand opposite each other trying to kill, but for an animal, those concepts of borders and structures and politics and war are abstract, and we liked being able to put the player in that point of view.
There were a lot of cats on the battlefront because there were lots of rats and mice, and they would walk from one side of the battlefield to the other and be fed by both British/Canadian and German soldiers, and again that was a Yoan thing of little unusual moments of humanness or “animalness” and therefore a point of view that was abstracted from the war.
How did the music, art style and story combine? The characters have their own musical themes and colour palettes, so was there a great deal of discussion in coordinating the characterisation?
It wasn’t so much a top-down thing – I think there were just a lot of individuals who cared about emotion and character, so their drive was very similar. Bram desired this sense of colour theory and was surprised that games didn’t use it more. He believed we should be provoking emotions with colour, particularly because it’s “painting-like”. Therefore one of the techniques will be the colour of each of the characters, which will mix together when they meet and then drain out when they reach the front.
Olivier came on board, and although he’d already talked about characterisation quite a lot, I think that was reinforced by talking to Bram. For him, the music and the story and the art have to align, otherwise they’re fighting against each other. A story the writers talk about quite a lot, which they find quite funny, is they got phone calls from Olivier talking about a particular story scene, and he would say “oh it’s not actually working with my music, can you change that story please” – so he was coming in and asking how he could make it work. Everyone was giving and taking to make sure everything pushed in the right direction for a particular emotion.
Something that convinced us Yoan was the right person was his approach to game design and the method he would try to base a particular scene on an emotion. He’d ask “how do you construct this emotion?” in the middle of a level or section of the game, and then at least you had something for everyone to hold on to – the puzzle designers, the pacing, the art. This game is driven by constructing the right emotions in people at the right time.
What kind of new perspective does the game bring to First World War art?
It felt like a very important story to tell – we’re a hundred years on, the living survivors of the war are no longer around to directly tell their stories, and therefore the art and the work around these stories are important if we want to continue to pass down a story. Not just telling a grandesque Hollywood story, but quite an honest one with integrity that feels relatively truthful to the feeling of that war. It is a fictional story, but it’s a fictional story that’s been built with a backdrop of true historical places and facts. The nuances of the things that happened to the characters are inspired by all of these little moments from bits of documentation and historical artifacts, and pictures and postcards, and then the writers taking all of this and constructing their own worth within it – their own journey through that.
Yoan had a personal connection – he found a load of information on his grandfather and his great uncle, and it got him interested in the subject. He found the First World War a hugely inspirational event because it’s about very normal people pushed into extraordinary events. The example he gave is that on one battlefield there was only one source of water, and there was this unsigned truce that no-one would shoot if you were going to get water. And so you ended up in this situation where people who were attempting to kill each other 50m to the left or right were standing in a queue waiting to get water.
Ultimately, humans are humans, but we’re so exposed to glorious Hollywood-esque battles that don’t really portray reality. Probably the only people who would actually be like that are psychopaths – to want to kill that much – whereas humans tend not to want to. There are interesting facts about how many people in the war, and still in war, actually shoot their weapon. When they do aim at another human being, many just shoot into the air or the ground. Because we don’t really want to kill each other, it’s a natural thing.
I’ve got a slightly more politicised view. When I look around now at the world, it feels like we’re becoming quite fragmented. There’s a lot going on that seems to be isolating countries and cultures – Brexit is an obvious example here, there’s walls being built between countries in other places, nationalism on the right. It feels really similar to the kind of environment that was starting to built before the First World War.
So it’s really a video game about humans and peace, just our tiny little offering amongst all this as a reminder of what we do not wish to get back to.