Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Lifeforce draft #1

The date is 26th of April 2007 and Archmage of Andromeda joined forces with ASD to work on a new demo codenamed "lifeforce"! I wrote the following storyboard in our mailing list to introduce him to the concept.

It is interesting to see how much (or little) the demo has changed since then:


Lifeforce by ASD
A demo for Assembly 2007

Sequence of parts:

1) Desert part (part_desert). Introduction: pan over
dried landscape with a few artifacts scattered (the
skeleton fish from iconoclast) and maybe some ruins
(church/ancient). In the style of 'deformation of the
cranium'. It is dawn or dusk, the color of the sky is
blue/reddish with some clouds.
As the camera pans it focuses on a pillar (ruins?)
where several polaroids (from iconoclast) are pinned
(the move by the wind in sinuisoidal fashion). The
camera zooms in (or rather FOV is reduced) to one
polaroid. The next scene starts inside the polaroid.
Duration: 15-20 secs.

2) Introduction (part_introduction). The part with the
head-god from iconoclast. There will be some
worshippers there. This is essentially a continuation
from the last scene of iconoclast. The head opens, we
dive in, animations, the ASD logo and dive further
down. Duration: 64 secs.

3) Rainbow ride (part_afterintro). Camera pans to the
right, parallel scrolling, all objects rendered as
silhouettes. Trees pop-up, then the VW (?),
spits out the name of the demo. The rainbow strips
extends and camera traces it. Some other VWs are
riding it. Eventually only the red strip is left and
it is laid upon a hand in space. A knife cuts through
the strip. The camera changes to show the blood
pouring out and zooms into the red. Duration: 75

4) Air-bubbles in liquid (part_liquid). Black air
bubbles rise in a container of viscous red fluid. A
bonzai tree is also part of the scenery. The whole
part is again 2D, rendered with stylized vectors in
black and red. The bubbles reach the surface. Then a
tree "dives" in the liquid and the camera pans and
zooms into its roots (the tree is upside down). What
follows is probably some sort of fractalesque growing
of the roots and zoom into the next scene. Duration:
26-28 secs.

The following parts might be in a slightly different
sequence. Haven't made my mind yet.

5) Rendering of the "jones brahmins" statue
which will be on a plane, probably floating in
space/skybox. The rendering will be photorealistic
and it will look like it is carved out in realtime (in
2.5D), starting from a completely flat surface. Use of
bump, parallax, ambient occlusion mapping. It
should look as good as the statue in
lapsus(http://www.pouet.net/prod.php?which=130). Once
the rendering has finished the plane will rotate to
reveal something else at the back. For that I'm
thinking of something rendered with the
crystallized/refraction rendered. Probably if we could
find a model of the human heart, then I could do it as
transparent and add some blood vessels in
there. Once this is done the plane will rotate once
again. This time, instead of statue there will be a
simple merry-go round. The lights will go down and
from realistic the rendering will become two-tone
again. This is also an ambient moment for the music -
there will be some speech: the three female voices (in
different age) talking about the passage of time
(similar to the beginning of dark side of the moon by
pink floyd). As this is finished, the camera will
rotate/zoom into a feature of the merry go round which
will be a tower bell ringing. All rendered in b/w. The
ringing will be in grave rythm. This is the point of
the demo after which whatever follows is the
'catharsis' - We are beyond the midpoint. Something
like the 'blood' part in planet risk and the music box
in iconoclast. Fade out. Duration: 25 secs for the
statue, 30 secs for the heart (?), 20 secs for the
speeches and 10 secs for the bell =
85 secs.

6) Scene of the toy shop: a shop with shelves. The
shadow of a person (2?) looking into the shop is cast
upon the front glass. Camera moves past the glass,
zooms into a box which is a bathroom, all rendered
photorealistically, textures, ambient occlusion etc.
The camera goes to the floor where there is a light
bulb the goes on/off. A cable extends from the light
bulb and surrounds objects in the scene - maybe also
snakes ? The camera eventually goes into the plug-hole
of the sink/bath. The feeling here is dark - colors
are brown/ dirty.
Duration: 55-60 secs.

7) Infinite zoom with stylized vector graphics in
animation, some combination of 'infite zoom with
pixelled graphics'. The camera zooms in, pans, moves.
There is alot of energy here. Some simplified 3D in
here, all rendered with minimal colors (4-5 shades of
b/w). Eventually zoom out and next scene.
Duration 60 secs.

8) A scene similar to the first one, only now it is
water and it is night. We get out of the polaroid and
look at the distance. It is idyllic, very big moon on
the sky. From a distance a giant hand comes out of the
water and grabs the moon, pulls it down, and then a
nuclear explosion (like in second reality) happens in
the distance. All this happens within 5-6 seconds. The
heatwave/debris hits us after 4-5 seconds. Fadeout.
Duration: 15-20 secs.

9) Credits. A cross section of the floor of the sea
with rigid-body stones (with our names carved) that
sink slowly and interact with the sand (and each
other). The end.

Duration: 20 secs.

wow what a ride. Lets see how much time all this will
take: About 430 seconds, which is 7.10 mins.
Iconoclast was 8.00, so I think we are ok. There are a
couple of effects that can be interchanged, especially
in the bathroom/merry-go-round/heart scene. Now, some
will say that this is all silly. OK this is only a
demo remember. There is a common element which I'll
try to explain:

The demo is about the passage of time. How is time
affecting the living/organic things and their
constructions. I want to give it a dark/futile edge:
So, for example, while you have a rainbow with lovely
bright colors, it all ends with a knife and blood.
Several other scenes are also dark: The statue with
the humans in a philosophical pose - Not living any
more (cast in stone!) as opposed to the heart which
beats (the other side of the plane). The fact that it
starts and ends very similarly also helps the
narrative. Lets say that this is all a big nightmare,
and we want the viewer to feel numb - excited for the
spectacle (graphics + music) but numb about the

Anyway this is a first draft. I'm working on almost
all parts at the same time but trying to finish them
in sequence. Part 6 and 7 must be done with lots of
gusto and will need some help from our graphicians.

Pls reply with your thoughts



  1. Seeing as the storyboard here is written about 3 months before deadline, by this time, were you already working on (and having a general idea about) many of the parts/effects, and kind of wrote a lot of the storyboard based on the work you had done on the demo up to that point?

    As you noted yourself, the script is very close to the final product. As a demo that's clearly driven by ideas/story and not by effects it's probably gonna be easier to do a detailed storyboard as you most likely already had alot of the technology and knowhow already. I guess effects driven demos are harder to script as the coder comes up with cool new effects and techniques (which are hard to predict in pre-prod) that in a larger degree dictates the flow of the demo.

    Some months ago while going through boxes of old stuff i found some storyboards i did for two demos in the mid 90's. These were sketches with notes and comments (yes, there were some handdrawn cubes in there :)). But where Lifeforce exceeded the storyboard, these were either not made or just distilled into a few transitions. But i guess that's how it was gonna be since i only knew graphics, and the coder lived far away (and neither had internet).

    Not demorelated, but nowadays i tend to do a much more planned pre-prod, making sure the fundamentals are solid before moving on. Using a simple excel sheet works great for macro designing levels, mechanics, models etc.

    Anyways, some fun reading there. Interesting to see how you planed it out.

  2. That makes fascinating reading. It actually sounds... well, bad. If you'd sent this to me and I didn't know who you were, I'd honestly just bin it :D

    But of course lifeforce turned out great, and is one of my favourite demos, so there's something amiss. I think it must come down to a couple of things most likely.

    First, I guess you had a very clear vision of how these scenes would look. But putting that into words is hard, and the words always seem to be insufficient. At least that's how it seems for me - I can picture exactly what I want, and know it works.. but describing it, it loses so much that it ends up sounding like a bad idea. Maybe this is why a lot of demos end up quite unimaginative? The ideas are passed back and forth, lose their vitality as they get communicated and get rejected as they don't sound good.. then at the end somebody says "fuck it, lets do cubes again".

    The other side to it is that lifeforce doesn't have a lot of coherency. There's a common idea, and links between the scenes, but the scenes don't have major connections between them - like you said, it's like a dream. Dreams also sound a bit crazy when you write them down usually :)