This blog post is the third on Kubrick Project. I wrote about the findings from my second visit to Stanley Kubrick Archive, and how this research effected the art style, design and development of my game. I also included some notes from my research on software toys (non-games) and toys in general. Please make sure to read Kubrick Project | W1 and W2 before reading this post.
After deciding on the player experience of my game, I visited the archive aiming to look at the pre-production documents for seeing the concept art and the post-production documents to learn about the soundtrack. I was hoping to get some inspiration for selecting colour palette and also the background music and sound effects in my game.
I looked at the space art and photography, collected by Stanley Kubrick in order to brief his team and the concept artist. Kubrick collected images by cutting pages from magazines and other publications for referencing objects, colours codes and textures that he wanted to include in the film. I looked at Chesley Bonastell’s concept art for the film and requested a few scans from the archive. When I watched the film, I was very impressed with the dramatic and impactful yet simple picture created by Kubrick in every scene. Thus I desired to learn how he balanced the use of colours, if he utilised any standard template or measure. I couldn’t find directly this specific information from the archive but I could examine the benchmarks, which were the images he collected and the concept art he used for creating the scenes.
The images Kubrick had on hand included:
Colorful, vibrant, textured planets on black space with little light sparkles as stars
Space had neon purple and neon blue shades on deep black
Orange glowing lights on dark blue-grey
Red, orange and green colours are used
Brownish or greyish images always having one single vibrant colour sticking out; i.e. bright red sun on a muddy landscape
Smooth surfaces that reflect light
Black and white or cream contrast
Landscapes; i.e. sun going down and reflecting on the sea, orange-red-black colours
I tried to use similar colour hues on a plain black background while making the final version of the game, and paid attention to the lighting and textures. The celestial objects are bright red, orange, purple, green and yellow. Surfaces of the celestial bodies are textured with rusted metal, lumpy rock, a striped pattern and marble images. The cosmic dust particles are glowing neon blue; they take different shades by code, between light neon blue and dark neon blue-purple. The orb in the game is transparent and reflects light, as does the outer-shell of the transfigured baby in the film.
The soundtrack in general was a big part of the experience of 2001: A Space Odyssey. The sleek design of the picture was substantiated by the music pieces embedded to the scenes. When I watch the film I realised that well-known classical music pieces were used in some of the space scenes, and the movement of objects were synced with the rhythm of the music piece. Moreover, as I researched for the soundtracks of the film, I came across György Ligeti who was a leading composer of avant-garde music. Ligeti’s Requiem, Atmospheres and Lux Aeterna was featured in the film. Ligeti’s music is peculiar and experimental, and it has irregularities. Considering these attributes, I searched the internet for sound for my game (Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d.).
In Encyclopaedia of Britannica it is stated, “Although Kubrick had not obtained permission to use Atmosphères (or the other three Ligeti pieces that he used in that film), he did mention Ligeti in the credits, and both the filmmaker and the composer benefited from the pairing. Kubrick got the otherworldly, gravity-free aural effect he wanted, and Ligeti gained another hearing and a new audience for his work” (Schwarm, n.d.).
I gathered the sound effects and music, which I thought would reflect my chosen aesthetic: sensory pleasure. Via music and sound effects, I also aimed to reflect the emotion that I had chosen to generate with the game, which was “feeling of lightness and contentment”. Since Ligeti was one of the first people who created electronic music, I chose an electronic music piece with percussions as background sound. Then, I chose varied sound effects for feedback. The sounds feel a bit messy when they are overlapped, but so does Ligeti’s music. My background music is irregular and peculiar as well, and it contains some peculiar noise which both resembles indigenous and extraterrestrial tunes at the same time. It is playful and rhythmic, encouraging movement and dance. It begins comparatively calm, by time it becomes rhapsodical and seductive.
Since my game did not have a goal anymore, I decided learn more about software toys (non-games). These are playful experiences which are “specifically designed not to have scorekeeping other than what is in the user’s head”. As Satoru Iwata puts it, “a form of entertainment that really doesn’t have a winner, or even a real conclusion” According to Wikipedia, “the lack of traditional goals, objectives and challenge allows the player a greater degree of self-expression through freeform play, since he can set up his own goals to achieve”. Below I list three examples of early software toys (non-games) which served as benchmarks to the final version of my game.
Alien Garden (DeKoven and Lanier, 1982)
Alien Garden was one of the first software toys and art games.
It has heavy emphasis on the artistic aspects of computer-generated simulation.
It is an experimental and pioneering model.
Moondust (Lanier, 1983)
Joystick controls the astronaut and also the other game objects (moon ships).
It is considered the first art video game, and has frequently been used as an art installation piece in museum exhibitions from Corcoran Gallery of Art's 1983 "ARTcade" to the Smithsonian's 2012 "The Art of Video Games".
It is also considered to be the first interactive music publication. The sound of the game is randomly created by Commodore 64, depending on the way you turn the character.
The player zones out watching the pixel art and patterns created.
Psychedelia is an early light synthesiser, a "dynamic interactive pattern generator".
It allowed a user to generate a light show on the screen grid, using the joystick to send pulses or bursts of coloured squares.
Psychedelia does not use audio as a factor, however it is intended to be played in accompaniment to music.
"It just felt wonderfully new, and somehow primal... it was like the patterns and mandalas that have fascinated humans for millennia, but come to life, under your control..."
Some different point views on play, game as art and toys:
In Huizinga’s Homo Ludens, it is stated that “Play is free, is in fact freedom”, and “Play is mental and physical activity with no immediate purpose”.
Will Wright pointed out in Toy Fair & Engage! Expo in 2010 that the newest generation are far more emotional about the virtual than their elders. To them, what we think of as "virtual" is real; the lines are blurring. And so are the lines between physical toys and virtual play: Toys have interactivity and connectivity, and also, virtual items and characters can manifest physically, such as Spore character toys made via 3D printing. Wright also declared that "imagination is the most powerful thing we have as humans." And toys and computers are tools that can amplify our imagination (Mangins, 2010).
Ralph Rugoff - director of Hayward Gallery in London - when asked for his response to the notion of computer generated art, he pointed out that while software is good at playing games with fixed rules, such as chess, it is less obvious that computer programs can be playful in an artistic sense, where there are no such rules and where cultural knowledge plays an important role (d'Inverno and McCormack, 2014).
In the book The toy: its value, construction and use, the author Karl Hills states,
“Some parents and teachers regard play as a waste of time, something which is quite unnecessary - ‘playing around’. An adult tends only too easily to regard something which costs neither sweat nor painful effort, and which serves no obviously useful purpose and does nothing to advance a child, as useless. We are all caught up in this obsession of the ‘useful’, and we are certainly inclined to forget that not only the child, but also the adult needs leisure time; ‘play time’ in fact. Systematic effort directed to some useful purpose is not the only thing in life; there is, and must be, non-deliberate and non-systematic activity. The special position of man-kind in the natural order demands it. This non-deliberate, non-systematic, timeless quality of living is the thing which provides the real opportunities for personal development; and we see it above all in the child’s play” (Hils and Fitzgerald, 1959).
Alien Garden for Atari 8-bit family. (2012). [video] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t7km9TUfWAI [Accessed 22 Nov. 2017].
d'Inverno, M. and McCormack, J. (2014). Computers and Creativity. Springer Berlin Heidelberg, p.20.
DeKoven, B. and Lanier, J. (1982). Alien Garden. [online] YouTube Gaming. Available at: https://gaming.youtube.com/game/UCsNYwX7Wiw23UZRfi3IMbwQ [Accessed 22 Nov. 2017].
Encyclopedia Britannica. (n.d.). György Ligeti | Hungarian-born composer. [online] Available at: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Gyorgy-Ligeti [Accessed 4 Dec. 2017].
Hils, K. and Fitzgerald, E. (1959). The toy: its value, construction and use. London: Ward, p.14.
Lanier, J. (1983). Moondust. [online] YouTube Gaming. Available at: https://gaming.youtube.com/game/UC2dcwAbVO54_UNvbav5k2oA [Accessed 22 Nov. 2017].
LGR - Moondust - Commodore 64 Game Review. (2009). [video] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DTk4SqKL-PA [Accessed 22 Nov. 2017].
Mangins, C. (2010). Will Wright: Toys Are Evolving, Just As We Are. [online] PCMAG. Available at: https://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2359741,00.asp [Accessed 29 Dec. 2017].
Schwarm, B. (n.d.). Atmosphères | work by Ligeti. [online] Encyclopedia Britannica. Available at: https://www.britannica.com/topic/Atmospheres#ref1178363 [Accessed 5 Dec. 2017].