Monthly Archives: April 2011

Lighting Design Simplified: Reading the Script

So, last week, I started my epic depiction of a lighting designer’s process with a basic introduction of the goals that a good lighting design should satisfy. Now we’re going to start in with how I proceed from Point A – the script – and end up at Point B – the finished lighting design.

And I would like to stress that this is how *I* proceed…usually. Every production is different and every designer is different. Other designers may go about this process differently, sometimes very differently. I go about it differently on some shows. This is not intended as an ironclad list of steps that I believe must be followed, but as an introduction to the craft intended for those who have little or no idea of how it’s done.

As I said in the introduction, I’ll be using a production of An Enemy of the People (by Henrik Ibsen, as adapted by Arthur Miller) that I recently worked on as an example. Reading the play isn’t necessary; I’ll be filling in necessary details as I go. So let’s go.

Allons-y!
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The Night the PCs Stole Plotmas

I’ve written a fair bit on the subject of player agency. I suspect I find it more interesting than the topic probably warrants. There is a reason for this. It has to do with a situation in which I set out to respect player agency as much as possible, and the players took advantage of that fact. As I mentioned before, I once was one of the Storytellers for a vampire LARP. This experience resulted in the third and – thus far – final time I pledged to myself that I would never ST a LARP again.

That’s not to say that it was a bad experience, or that it was a bad game. On the whole, I think it was successful. Some people seem to still hold the events of that year in high esteem. Others refuse to ever speak of it again. I suspect a lot of my fascination with player agency comes from all the times I’ve thought about how things went that year.
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Cheated or Spoiled?

About a week ago, a friend linked to a New Yorker article about George RR Martin and all of the “fans” who vilify him for the delays of A Dance with Dragons, the fifth book in his “Song of Ice and Fire” saga. While I read all of the previous books in this series and was aware of the increasing discontent with how long the new book was taking, I had no idea things were this bad.

Like a picture of Bigfoot

For those who are unfamiliar, “A Song of Ice and Fire” is a series of fantasy novels set in a low-magic, medieval world. It had drawn a lot of attention for both the intricacies of its politics, and the fact that Martin is unafraid of killing off characters, even beloved main characters. A Feast for Crows, the fourth book in the series – which had also been long delayed – came out in 2005, but only contained story about half the characters and the world. Dragons was meant to be the companion to that, detailing the adventures of the other people and places concurrent to Crows. Over the last several years, fans have gone from eager, to impatient, to angry.

As I read the article, I kept looking for a reason why people feel this way. Why they feel entitled to this book to such a great degree that some angrily and publicly begrudge any time Martin spends on any other pursuit.
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Lighting Design Simplified: An Introduction

Last week, I wrote about the difficulty of explaining theatrical lighting design to someone who has no background in theatre. Long story short, it’s hard to the point of being almost pointless. But, even as I was writing that post, I wanted to try. Maybe it was just a perverse desire to prove myself wrong. Maybe it was the desire to have my work understood. Maybe I just wanted to see if anyone would be interested in listening to me blather on about my work.

Probably, though, it’s because I can’t help but blather on about lighting design. When I go to see plays, I always try to get there early, not just so I won’t be holding up the show, but so that I can crane my head at the ceiling for 15 minutes and see what’s hung there. My fiance should frankly be canonized for all the times ze’s listened to me go on and on about this stuff.

As I said before, this is the type of thing that needs five words or five thousand, and seeing as I’m already a few hundred in, it looks like it’s going to be five thousand. In the interest of making this as readable as possible, I’m going to try to break it up into multiple posts, each post depicting a step in the process that takes me from when I first read the script, to when the show opens and I get to sleep again. And, so that I’m not simply speaking in abstract terms, I’ll be using a production of An Enemy of the People I recently worked on as an example.
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A New Feature!

As I write more and more posts, I come across more and more terms that may need to be defined for some. So, to keep from having to define these terms every time I use them, I’m starting a dictionary of terms. This All-Purpose Dictionariopede can be found either at this link, or through the one in the nav-bar above.

If there are any terms I’m missing or have defined poorly, either comment on this post, or e-mail me at BobbyArcher (dot) Zombie4Hire (at) gmail (dot) com and let me know.

Player Agency & Death, Part 2

Death, not just for PCs!

So, last week, I started talking about player agency. Again. Specifically, how the scale between railroading and complete freedom was reflected in how PC deaths are handled by the GM. As I said at the end of that post, and as the title of this post would imply, I’m continuing on in that vein today with the other kinds of death that affect and reflect the agency scale. As before, all real life examples assume the disclaimer.
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New Year’s Resolution

Yes, I know it’s April, but I didn’t have a blog back when this was fresh news, so you’ll have to hear about this now.

I’ve gone back and forth over the years with how seriously I take New Year’s Resolutions. Most years, I come up with something around 10:30pm on December 31, and have forgotten about it entirely by January 7. It’s not that I don’t think making resolutions has merit. It’s more that I’ve always had trouble coming up with concrete goals; I’d much rather keep my options open and grab onto opportunities as they come around. This has worked out for me at times, and not so much at others.
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You Do *What* Now?

Since I got my bachelor’s, I’ve been working fairly consistently as a theatrical lighting designer. Seeing as I’ve had a number of other day jobs and supplemental jobs in this time (some of which I wasn’t too happy to have), “theatrical lighting designer” was what I usually described my profession as. With anyone who didn’t have experience in the theatre, this inevitably led to the question, “So…what does that mean?”

I have come up with an answer to this over the years:

“Have you ever seen a play?”
“Yeah, I guess.”
“You know how you can see the actors?”
“Yeah.”
“That’s what I do.”

Bad jokes aside, it’s hard to explain what a lighting designer does. Basically, if someone doesn’t have enough theatre knowledge to know what an LD does, then they likely don’t have the knowledge I need to touch on to explain it. Even worse is trying to explain how I do what I do. That’s a hard question even coming from other theatre folks.
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Player Agency & Death, Part 1

Last week, I wrote about Player Agency and the social contract that it implied between the GM and the players. In case that post didn’t make it clear, I find player agency, particularly the gradient between complete player freedom and strict railroading, to be immensely interesting. This one thing effects just about every aspect of this hobby, but generally gets relegated to a terse, binary debate. I’d love to see more open discussion and exploration of how this agency scale affects the different aspects of roleplaying.

Today’s topic

I suppose that’s all just my way of saying that I’m going to keep coming back to this idea until I run out of excuses. Hopefully, I don’t bore my meager readership into non-existence before I run out of permutations.

Today, I’m gonna belabor the connection between player agency and death. Since I’ll be talking about particular games I’ve been involved in, all allowances and disclaimers apply.
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The Workshop Process

If you’re familiar with the game Minecraft, feel free to jump below the cut right now. For everyone else, a quick background: Minecraft is an indie game that’s pretty unique even among indie games. For one, its art and play styles have already gained a huge amount of notice and praise both among gamers and the gaming press despite the fact that it’s still in beta. But that’s not what I’m interested in talking about today. What’s really got me interested is its development process.

Back in May of 2009, a guy named Markus Persson started developing Minecraft. Once he got the game to a rough, but playable state (known as an alpha), he made it available to the general public for €9.95, or about half of the cost of the finished product. This served two purposes. First, it generated revenue to help continue developing the game, and second, it gave him an army of alpha and beta testers. It’s not the path that video games, even independently created games, usually take. Open alphas are rare to the point of non-existence, and charging players to take part in beta testing is also deeply rare. I can’t think of a single title, either independent or out of a studio, that has tried this before.

So, how’s it worked out for him? Read the rest of this entry