The Research Roadtrip: The Night Before the Morning After

Written whilst attempting to avoid sleep on the 12:00 midnight train to Brighton

Over the last few days we’ve had quite a few journeys. Journeys by train, journeys by taxi, journeys unfairly early in the morning or hideously late at night. Or, as in the current case, not actually that late at night, but it feels pretty hideous.

Sometimes these journeys have been great. I’ve talked and socialised, seen pretty stuff, gotten stuff done, written pieces I’m proud of, visited places that have memories for me. But sometimes, like now, a journey’s just a bloody inconvenient space where you’re doing nothing whilst being carried somewhere. The guy in the next seat might be having great fun reading his “Metal Hammer!” magazine (headline: “Ten Hard-Rockin’ Bands Wearing Studs And Black Fishnets That Your Mum Secretly Finds Rather Funny”), but you’re just trying to find something to do to stay awake.

And, like any writer worth his salt, I’m heading into Metaphor Country here - without a map, a compass, or a clue. Can the Machinima - or any creative - production process ever be a tedious journey without something being seriously wrong? I don’t know. I remember times when I found BloodSpell production incredibly frustrating. I remember wanting to break stuff. I remember really not wanting to go in to work because I knew that we were hitting a bit that was going to be really hard, and that the day was going to be raw pain, but I don’t remember ever sitting there being carried along and just wishing the journey would end sooner.

It’s one of the things about Machinima - the whole “real-time” bit really cuts down on the sitting around and waiting. Conventional CG is full of “hurry up and wait” - I’ve tweaked that animation, I’ve altered that specular setting, now it’s time to wait for the render. And RealFilm is infamous for it - just wait for makeup, lighting, camera setup, aargh, the sound’s not perfect, there’s an airplane overhead. But, again, I don’t know if you ever end up with the “just finish this journey so I can get on with it” feeling. I suspect you do. Certainly I recall rendering a couple of things, finding they hadn’t worked, and really not being able to face re-rendering them.

it’s odd - in some ways, Machinima people are very tolerant of frustration. Are we, perhaps, attracted to this medium because we’re equally intolerant of boredom? Or is the lack of boredom just a side effect of a medium based around doing more than anyone else can? And what exactly is the difference between the boredom of waiting for a render which you know will probably still be wrong, and the frustration of spending three hours trying to import a texture that just refuses to work?