2 ghosts I – Creative Resolve article

May 15, 2015   in category: Blog  ,

Check out this great analysis of “2 Ghosts I” back from 2011 by David Edwards of Creative Resolve. It may be interesting read, if You liked the video. Some of the things he described I wouldn’t be able to put together better myself :).

 

2 ghosts I

Despite the growing prominence of video gaming in popular culture, a large percentage of the general population continues to view the medium as little more than a breeding ground for future Norman Bates’. While I personally have no problem with this view, it is a shame that this borderline-archaic misconception has led to the work of so many talented individuals to be immediately dismissed, purely due to their choice of format and tools.

 

For proof of this talent, you need to look no further than the creator of this idtech4 powered music video to Nine Inch Nails “2 Ghosts I”: Matthew ‘Vehtam’ Malocha. Full time student of Journalism and Social Communication, Vehtam gives unique insight into his initial footsteps into the world of machinima, and the inspiration behind this haunting piece.

 

2 Ghosts I – Creative Resolve Interview 1 – Of Secrets – Maciej Małocha

Tentative Steps

Like many of us, Vehtam’s adventure in videogame development came through the technology of FPS innovators, id Software:

­I played Quake III a lot and in my home country of Poland it was released during the rise of fast and stable internet connections, so I spent a lot of time in multiplayer with my friends.

An interest in gaming gradually become an obsession for creating his own content, with Quake 3 extensive community and accessible toolset providing an introducion to the vast world of modding.

­I started by creating simple skins of me and my friends for LAN parties, then I made perfectly accurate map of my school, and I found so much fun in creating it I stayed close to idtech3 engine. But then, the Doom 3 was announced and after first teaser I was blown away. From what I saw it was almost everything I knew from Q3A, but visually so ground breaking that I was sure once it was released, I’d be editing with it straight away. Obviously it was much harder because of normal mapping techniques, scripts and completely new entities in editor, but the more I learned about possibilities of idTech4 the more I was addicted to digging deeper and deeper into it.

The transition from one technology to the other was helped significantly by id software’s approach to evolving technology, making bold steps forward with every engine while never truly abandoning their roots, thus continually supporting their ever-creative fanbase. What really caught the attention of Vehtam and thus broadened his interest of modding into machinima, was the release of Joe Goss’ ‘Quad God’, an action-packed short movie based within the Quake 3 universe.

­Tritin Multimedia (Joe Goss’ production company) was releasing amazing stuff. I watched as a kid his ‘Quad God’ machinima made entirely in Q3ATest multiplayer demo and I was like “Holy shit, that was amazing, I want to do things like this too!”

Though proud of all his work, Vehtam feels that the overly violent and rough nature of his early films attracted alot of strong but good criticism, indirectly encouraging him to adopt a more thoughtful and subtle approach to his later creations.

 

2 Ghosts I – Creative Resolve Interview 2 – Of Secrets – Maciej Małocha

2 Ghosts I

This approach is clearly expressed in his latest work. Though certainley visceral in it’s aesthetics, 2 Ghosts I represents a significant milestone in Vehtam’s ongoing development as a competent filmmaker, largely due to his careful manipulation of both frailty and outright brutality in equal measure.

­When Ghosts was released I was absolutely in love with the track. This ambience, calm and weirdness was a perfect fit for my taste – they always reminded me of the empty, cold void of space. I thought maybe I will do something with the tracks, but never actually planned anything or connected it in any way to assets I was creating for community gathered around Doom3World.org website.”

His love for the track and desire to explore the concepts it evoked only grew over time, with the emotion he first felt when listening to it forming the core principle of the film. From the lonely, cold interiors of the facility interior to the warm, embracing beauty of the colourful nebula, which the films subject experiences his final moments in – every aspect of its movement and presentation symbolises the extremes of loneliness and the need for companionship in a single space.

­The main theme of the video is the fact that no matter where or who we are, who we love and who we are missing, we will always die alone. Setting it in some distinct space station helped me to establish that feeling, because the main character is basically cut off from anyone. Some people asked me, why he is murdering his co-worker at the beginning. I don’t think there’s actual single explanation, but I always envisioned it as a need to be alone, maybe result of being emotionally or/and mentally damaged. All he really cares about is the person in the picture, which he will probably never see again. He knows he will die, but when he gets ejected into space, he is no longer alone – the photo is still with him. But there’s never a happy ending of course.

Its effectiveness is only compounded by the absolute precision of its timing, and the careful way in which the visuals flow seamlessly alongside the motion and pace of the music. As we glide along the distorted pulse of the opening segment through desolate corridors, lifeless objects float before us continually portraying a mood of cold isolation, of which the true magnitude is saved for the moment we come face to face with the film’s protagonist.

Yet, just as the mood meets it’s most bleak and oppressive, our view changes to reveal an expansive nebula, which floods the scene with colour and beauty.

As fitting as it is that the introduction of such life be accented with the first note of the songs melody, the true nature of this symbolism only becomes clear as time goes on. Each melodic note designates a key event in the build up to a beautiful but tragic finale, as if the promise of redemption exists no further than within the protagonists own mind, a harsh reminder that in the cold reality of space and time, such loneliness is as absolute as it is inevitable.

 

2 Ghosts I – Creative Resolve Interview 3 – Of Secrets – Maciej Małocha

From concept to final product

While the artistic direction is distinctly sci-fi and that signature ‘idTech4 vibe’ remains present on every frame, there’s no single inspiration in this respect which stands out the most.

­There weren’t really any other movies or videogames which inspired the style, although there’s one very notciable inspiration on the suit – it’s very “gigerish”. I’m huge fan of H.R. Giger art and during creation of the suit I tried to make it look slightly biomechanical. If You compare the suit to original ’79 Alien design, you’ll probably see that influence.

But more important was the actual technology I chose to employ. I was familiar with so many things inside the idTech4 thanks to Quake III, that I never even thought about using any other engine.

The only difficulty was realising ideas midway into development, such as “hmm I need a lamp here” or “this page is not rotating the way it should, looks clunky”. About 60%, of the process was touching up all the animations to make it look good and fitting throughout the whole video, especially since first minute is one, continous shot. At the beginning I was planning to make all the static objects as separate entities reacting to physics, however I found it hard to control and make them work and collide the way I wanted, so I went back to 3DSMax and did all the animations in there. Only this way I could be sure they will act the way I want and the timing, when mixed with music, will be ok.

It doesn’t necessarily take a genius to develop a videogame mod or machinima, but it does take a great deal of planning and dedication. As anyone, who developed a finished product in this community will tell you, the vast majority of the work involved is hard and time consuming, with a great many ‘wannabes’ crumbling once this reality check comes crashing down on them. Although only a short film, Vehtam’s 2 Ghosts I is no different. Building every prop, animation, and material shader from the ground up, while also incorporating some of the latest graphics enhancements into an engine over six years old is not easy feat (and that’s not even taking a developers ‘real life’ into account).

­Knee surgery didn’t help development at all, as when I was starting to get all the assets together and build complete scenes, 10 months of rehabilitation after post surgery complications successfully stopped the whole process. If I sum up few weeks before surgery and after when I came back to this little project, I think it took about 2, maybe 2 and a half months to complete the short.

As proud as he is of the final work, like all good artists Vehtam is refusing to indulge himself for too long on his achievement, and following the video’s release quickly identified a number of elements that in hindsight, he would’ve spent more time developing.

­It would’ve been really helpful if ambient occlusion and higher resolution buffer of soft shadows had been included in the graphics mod I used, but the author was still working on that features, so I couldn’t really delay development for it. Other than that I think the animations of characters at the beginning are a little stiff, I tried to recreate specific kind of movement in space suit and it just turned out to feel artificial, but I hope its ok.”

If 2 Ghosts I is any indication, Vehtams next project will once again seamlessly combine concept, technology and execution into an admirable technical achievement, built on a strong foundation of expertly crafted content and skilled timing.

As much as I enjoy fully fleged total conversion modifications and ambitious machinimas, it’s work such as this which really helps to keep the community alive and inspire people to get involved and build creations of their own. These relatively small, modest projects embody such a dense mixture of skill and passion that it’s impossible for any creative developer not to feel some desire to get involved themselves after viewing.

Thanks to Vehtam for taking the time to complete this interview, for this great piece of work and of course his contribution to keeping the idTech4 community alive.

 

David Edwards
Creative Resolve

 

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