This week Rich and I are doing site visits to the 5 cities where our new app work If You Go Away will launch this September, plotting potential routes and where different parts of the experience will be triggered. You will find us this week in Southampton, Leeds, London, Coventry and next week Middlesbrough.
My job this week is mainly working out how many of the buildings we will recreate in the work. We are creating a fictional version of each place and layering it over the real world, much like augmented reality, but instead of using video – we not interested in any sense of realism, we are creating 3d models and animations that reflect the buildings in each city – with a sort of my city but not my city feel. I have been working on this mammoth task, 5 cities, hundreds of buildings, for about a month now and as I started to make more and more of Leeds city centre and tested it in location on a phone, I have changed tack.
Perhaps instead of trying to get as much of the city built as possible I should be looking at removing buildings in our version, deconstructing what’s there to allow views that our actual cities would never offer us. Looking at the sparse version of Leeds that we placed into a scene in unity (the town hall, some scaffold structures, and a tower block) the skyline is given room to breath and the horizon always remains in sight, not blocked with building after building, you the player not surrounded and hemmed in by towering concrete, the ability to be able to see through the geometry to the edge feels really important.
This also made me think back to a moment I had when play testing the multiplayer in Berlin with Catherine. During the play test we lost each other separated by a biggish park, in reality in the dark I could not see her, but I could see her avatar on the screen. The real world barrier of the park blocked my vision of Catherine but the game did not as I was able to find her again. I like that the game makes you renegotiate the physical city and what is in it, and question was is there and not there, that in removing buildings we open up cinematic vistas albeit to a virtual sunset.