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  • Student Postmortem: Fate by Numbers

    - Paul van der Meer
  •  Fate by Numbers is a full motion video (FMV) adventure game made as a graduation project for the Dutch Communication and Multimedia Design academy at Avans University. The main team consisted of Rudi Nagelhout (cameraman, programmer), Roy Heijdra (lighting, costumes, compositing), Winne Willems (producer, audio, editing) and me, Paul van der Meer (writer, director, 3D designer). All the graphics consisted of real actors filmed in front of a green screen, composited with a 3D background.

    In our third year at school we started to think about our graduation project. Rudi, Roy, and I are big fans of adventure games. We have fond memories of playing them, including the ones with video material that were published in the 1990s. We started to wonder if the big budget FMV-titles from yesteryear were now within our reach. HD was coming to the consumer market and Flash was able to run video with an impressive quality.

    We came up with a plan to make a short game with an episodic structure set in the future, but with a film noir style. Hopefully it would attract adventure game players who enjoyed those games, as we did, and at the same time show new players a FMV experience. By combining our forces, we formed a tiny development team. But we still needed someone who could help create the content and oversee the production -- enter Winne.

    We set up our production like a movie company would. We had pre-production where we did our research, wrote the script and game design, contacted our actors, talked with our musician, built the props, found the costumes, and set up the green screen studio. All this had to be done the cheap way, since we only had a shoestring budget of 1,200 euro of our own money. The actual filming took a month, where we captured more than 400 shots. We worked with about a dozen actors, some professional, some amateur, with everyone working for free.

    Then we had to convert all the material into a game. This took the most time. We originally had one trimester to pull it off, but we started the previous trimester on pre-production and still knew that we would need more time. Luckily, we also knew that we could show the game in a later trimester, giving us enough time to get the game in good shape.

    During the end presentation at school we weren’t nervous at all. We were just anxious to show what we had. 

    When we were done with the game, the school closed for the summer holiday. We uploaded the 1.2GB game with torrents and offered it for free. If the number of downloads reached 1,000 we were going to hold a party. Within one month we reached 25,000 downloads, thanks to sites like Gamespot and Gamershell, which hosted the game. At the time of this writing, we’ve reached 40,000 downloads, and the game is included in several gaming magazines across the globe with an audience of 300,000 readers. We suspect some of them might even like the game.


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