Vaguely Spectacular is a creative collective of student game designers and developers. Most of us are associated with the University of Southern California's Interactive Media Division, either as graduate or undergraduate students. We like experimenting with narrative and storytelling in games. Some of us are associated with the Odd Gentlemen and the Peanut Gallery, but Spectre is the first game that we've made together.
Game Design, Level Design, Sound and Music, Writing
I remember the basement lab of Montgomery Blair High School, with its rows of grey CRT monitors and piles of empty Diet Coke bottles... the lair of the coders. Jon Lane, Chris Baily and I had come down in response to a flyer... "game team looking for concept." We had dressed up for the occasion... button-down shirts, a black binder with notes on our design. Our game was called Squirrels Under Seige... Military Action in Backyard Suburbia. We were convinced that it would change the Squirrel RTS genre forever.
I remember waking up in a strange city. A ceiling fan turned in lazy circles overhead, barely stirring the thick tropical air. The room smelled of fried bananas and antifreeze. Somewhere in the distance, a Mynabird cried out in mournful, spastic song. Dawn was nearly here.
There was a dirty mirror propped up in one corner of the room, keeping vigil over a trombone case and a carton of Virginia Slims. I examined myself in the tarnished silver. There was an oven mitt on one of my hands. My hair was electric blue. And someone, a devil or angel, had drawn a crude caricature of the 2000 Chinese Olympic Men's Volleyball team on the back of my neck.
How had this happened? To this day, I don't know. I took the change in my pocket, $59.50, and caught the next bus back to Los Angeles.
Game Design, Web Design
I remember strapping on rollerskates and taking my dog for a walk around the block. He was a big, healthy golden retriever who always pulled at the leash, and it didn't take long for him to realize that he could go as fast as he liked when he pulled me along. We tore down the pavement at breakneck speed, and when I sensed that I was about to completely lose control, it was all I could do to aim myself toward the patch of grass at the side of the road. When we came home, I was scraped and covered in mud and grass stains, but we were both exhausted and happy and eager to do it all again.
I remember drawing the 2000 Chinese Olympic Men's Volleyball Team on some drunk guy's neck. It's hard to really get all the details right on a surface that small, but I tried my best. I always try my best, especially where volleyball is concerned.
Art, Level Design
I remember a last stand (or a meditation on FF).
Sergeant Baliston knew that the BC's had surrounded him. Having returned to his deep crater in the field, he squatted, the ravaged earth extending outward from his entrenchment. The desolate vastness Baliston found himself in was as carved and misshapen as the moon's surface. The gray mist of dust and debris hadn't settled since the strafing a few days back. Who would've guessed this was farmland only a year ago?
Soon Baliston could make out the many looming silhouettes of his approaching enemies. He gathered his legs, his wits, and his courage and he sprang from the ground, pistol blazing. But then he noticed, snapping out of his rage, that these supposed killers were actually his allies. He thought, Same team. Same side. Don't shoot. Friendly fire.
Sound and Music
I remember filmmaking in Madison, Wisconsin. A ragtag bunch of amateurs with big dreams, we pushed what we had as far as it could take us. We slept little, showered less, and survived on donated pizza from the supportive local shops. Nine days later, The Strange Tale of the Crystal Penguin was in the can. But, post production proved more difficult even than filming-- our big dreams included techniques none of us knew. Now, with every skill I learn, I know that The Crystal Penguin is one step closer to completion, a growing keepsake of a simpler time when the world was ours.
I remember 6 years ago when I woke up to go to school, and it was freezing cold. I didn't have time to properly get ready as I was extremely late. It was one of those days where I was in such a rush to get out the door I knew that I would forget something. My brain wanted my body to rush as fast as possible out the door, but my body was still in sleep mode. Fumbling out the door I felt a piercing cold especially on my lower half, but I said to myself "its too late I have to get to school." I managed to catch the bus on time, and as I reached into my pocket to get my wallet I realized that I had no pockets, in fact it turned out I had no pants on so I stood there on the bus pant less and in shock that I actually rushed out of the house in just my boxers. With absolutely no dignity remaining I ran home to put on some pants.
I remember being at a beach. Everybody had matching towels. Someone looked under a dock, and there they found a rock. It wasn't a rock. It was a rock lobster. Or possibly a crayfish. I never could tell the difference between a lobster and a crayfish, but as far as I'm concerned they're both delicious, and they're both part of a secret plot to invade North America from the ocean.
I remember tears running down my face. They were streaming uncontrollably from my eyes, like twin waterfalls of Sad. My fish, Sergeant O'Snorkle, was floating in the bowl, belly just above sea level. He would never swim again. Had I overfed him? Had I forgotten to change the filter? My thirteen-year-old mind searched for a reason, but couldn't settle on one.
"These things happen," my father told me. He grabbed the fish out of the bowl, unceremoniously flung him into the toilet, and flushed. Now, whenever I hear the flush of a toilet, I think of Sarge, circling the drain.