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Beyond the Backyard

Beyond the Backyard is the collaborative project of FableVision’s Summer 2017 interns. The game follows a child who ventures into the wilderness in search of their Grandma’s beloved, escaped pet parrot.

The interactive adventure game lets players explore five beautiful environments filled with New England wildlife. Players solve puzzles to unlock each area and work towards reuniting Grandma with her missing pet. Learn about plants and animals by interacting with them to view your journal filled with educational information and fun facts.

When you’re a kid, the world feels limitless. Beyond the Backyard reflects our nostalgia and the sense of wonder we experienced as kids in our own backyards. There’s so much to explore—see everything there is to discover when you venture beyond what you know, into unchartered territory.

(Editorial note: the Unity web player may not work on older browsers, so please switch over to the latest version of Chrome if you're experiencing issues.)

Check out our behind-the-scenes post over on InternVision.

Learn more about FableVision's internship program (and apply!) here.

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Behind the Scenes of "Beyond the Backyard"

Since coming together towards the end of May, the FableVision Summer 2017 interns have been hard at work on an exciting joint independent project. After meeting each other and discussing our shared interests in nature, wildlife, space whales, exploration, and adventure we knew we’d love working together.

After a few brainstorming sessions, we decided to create an interactive adventure game that captures the feeling of being a child exploring your backyard. You can read our Meet the Interns post from a couple months ago to learn more about our strong memories as kids exploring the outdoors.

Beyond the Backyard has five beautifully crafted scenes for players to explore. As the player goes through the game and ventures deeper into the digital backyard, they learn about the local fauna and flora of New England. To help along the way, players are equipped with a handy journal that displays adorable animations and illustrations as well as educational information about their surroundings and tips to progress the story.

Stay tuned for the exclusive game release coming next week! In the meantime, here’s a preview of our very own adventure embarking on game development at FableVision Studios.

The game officially releases next week! What are you most excited for people to experience?
Devon: Ideally, I want players to feel like they’re finding surprising secrets that have never been uncovered; to feel like they’re finding the little places in every wilderness that have a natural magic about them, like they’re peeking into another world.

Ellie: The biggest thing we wanted to convey when making this game was that sense of nostalgia you get when thinking back on your childhood, how everything was new and exciting, and that even your backyard has something new to explore and learn. For adults playing the game, I hope that nostalgia is apparent for them. For children, I hope it makes them feel as though they are actually out there in the wild exploring, especially for those living in the city.

Dan: I hope that all the scenery and the animals enthrall players and that it encourages them to explore every bit of content we’ve created. A hidden perk of the the development process has been learning a lot about New England wildlife, and I hope players will enjoy that discovery process as much as we did. Overall, it’s been an amazing experience working with two incredibly talented artists and I’m really excited for people to start exploring the beautiful world we’ve created together!

What’s your role on the project?
Devon: I get to wear many hats; contributing to the game design, animation, and writing, though my primary role is as the illustrator for the game. I created the backgrounds and still illustrations that can be found in each scene and in the journal entries. I am presently working on a series of illustrations that will be shown during the beginning and ending of the game as a sort of story introduction and epilogue.

Ellie: I get things moving! My primary job on the project is to make animations for the game. There are little animated critters in each scene and a click from the player prompts a journal to pop up displaying another animation with a little more personality. Aside from animations, I work with Devon and Dan to develop the written journal entries, and I help choose where/what species will make an appearance.

Dan: I’m the wrangler and developer for this project! My role is to take all of the beautiful art that Devon and Ellie make, assemble it in Unity, and then write code for all the various interactions and systems of the game. I’m also leading the marketing behind the project, and helping out with game design and writing.

How has this project allowed you to shine? What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced?
Devon: The things that I’m most comfortable with are backgrounds and still illustrations. The biggest challenge I had to face was the harvestmen daddy long legs I had to animate for the lake scene. I discovered that keeping track of eight legs is not an easy task when animating. Although it was a small challenge, I think in the beginning, paring down the ideas we had for the game into a manageable and cohesive whole was an intellectual challenge in and of itself. We have a whole handful of ideas that will probably not make it into the final game.

Ellie: When I first started my internship, I didn’t really know what to expect from the experience as a whole, let alone what to expect from my fellow interns. What I didn’t expect was for us all to become this totally rad three-man studio dream team.

I really got a chance to improve on my time management skills. One day I’m animating some Bambi-esque deer doing their beautiful nature pose, the next, I’m animating a raccoon eating garbage. Through this process, I learned how long certain things are actually going to take me – and luckily, we gave ourselves a little wiggle room so I didn’t get too far behind schedule. Making sure everything works with Unity has also been a challenge, but those problems are always solved pretty quickly and flawlessly – and usually not by me. (Thanks, Dan!)

Dan: I think this project has allowed me to show off my ability to collaborate effectively with others and use my programming/writing skills to supplement and enhance the fantastic work of my teammates. I’ve always felt that I shine brightest when my job is to do whatever I can to support others and allow them to showcase their strengths while covering for any of the team’s weaknesses. The biggest challenge for me has been incorporating all the incredible art into the game while keeping the file size low, which isn’t something I had done much of before coming to the studio.

What would you consider a lasting takeaway from this experience?
Devon:
You can do amazing things when you’re working with amazing people! The best part of this game comes from the combination of all three of our collective skills and interests. Ellie and Dan have been lovely to work with and all the support and advice from the team at FableVision has been very influential.

Ellie: We’ve all been completely invested in the project, worked really hard, and maybe most importantly, we all genuinely like each other. This experience has given me insight on what it means to be a team, and the incredible things you can achieve when you work with other people.

Dan: Working on this project has helped to reassure me that making games is definitely what I want to do and that it’s something I actually can do. Working as part of this team has been so much fun and I’m learning a ton about their creative processes and how I can best support them. The most important thing that I’ll take away from this is that collaborating can lead to results that are far beyond what any one person can do individually. I’ve really loved working with Devon and Ellie and I hope to persuade them to work with me again in the future! [Editor’s note: In fact, we love working together so much that Dan and Ellie already collaborated on a game jam featuring a space whale!]

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The Adventures of FableVision's Summer 2017 Interns

Escape the ordinary and prepare for a grand adventure with FableVision’s summer 2017 interns. Each with their own vastly different skills, this season’s cohort has something extraordinary to offer.  Together, they’re hoping to create something truly special with an exciting independent project that’s in the works. In the meantime, grab some granola and your backpack to learn more about each intern’s path to FableVision, and how adventure fuels their creativity!

Curious about interning with FableVision? Art/animation and marketing positions are available during summer, spring, and fall! Check out the internships page for details.


Name: Ellie Liota
Hometown: New York, NY
School: Lesley University
Area of Study: Animation

Tell us a little about yourself and how you ended up at FableVision.
After spending four years in college “finding myself” and two more years after graduation “finding myself” some more, I was living in Portland, ME as a dishwasher at a bakery. My friend was leaving for her Masters in Art Therapy at Lesley University in Boston, and asked me if I wanted to tag along. I had wanted to try my hand at animation, so this was my chance at trying something new! I found an apartment, applied to Lesley, and found myself in Boston a few months later as a fresh new student (but actually old and not very fresh).

After my first two semesters as a part time student, I really wanted to get some real hands-on experience. My teacher told me about FableVision and as soon as I saw the work that came out of the studio I knew I wanted to get in on the action!

What do you hope to gain from working with FableVision?
I’m excited to experience what it’s like to work on a team—until now I’ve only worked on projects independently, and haven’t worked in a professional studio environment. There’s so much I don’t know, and I’m looking forward to learning everything that I can at FableVision.

What do you do during your free time? Any interesting hobbies?
A few months ago, I purchased a mini skeleton at CVS and my favorite thing to do is hide it somewhere in the house for my roommate to discover. It has become somewhat of an art. I also like trying to sew stuffed creatures (I say try because they often end in disaster), and I’m currently working on an octopus pillow!

What’s something that you’ve worked on that you’re particularly proud of?
Last semester I created my own animated short! It’s completely ridiculous. It was pretty cool to be able to produce something that is completely my own.  It was also an incredible learning experience and it definitely gave me a newfound respect for animators.

What’s your favorite childhood memory of outdoor adventures?
I don’t know if I have one favorite memory but I did spend my weekends in upstate New York where I loved catching frogs, turtles, and turning over rocks to find bugs.  I also started something I called “The Deer Club” (I was the first and only member). I would go around eating different plants I found. Unfortunately the club was disbanded shortly after it was created when my mother found me feasting like a little gremlin on the flowers in her garden and promptly put an end to it. I also spent a decent amount of time behind my swing tending to my bug cemetery.

How do you think your love of adventure translates to your creative work?
Adventure is probably the most important part of my creative work. A huge part of being an artist is the emphasis on practice—keeping a sketchbook at your side at all times, drawing constantly, and challenging yourself to make new things. But it’s just as important to put everything down and explore—whether that’s experiencing another culture in a different country, going for a hike in the woods, or walking to your neighborhood farmer’s market and petting every dog you can find (I highly suggest the latter). I think the greatest ideas and inspiration for creative work come from experiencing the people and world around us, and you never know what you’re going to learn when you start an adventure, no matter how big or small.

Favorite Animal: Pitbull (Mr. Worldwide)
Favorite Biome: Temperate Deciduous Forest
Fun Fact: My front right tooth is fake because when I was younger I was pretending to be a whale and I dove into my bathtub, but bathtubs are not very deep.

 

 


Name: Devon George
Hometown: Nashua, NH
School: Montserrat College of Art
Area of Study: Illustration and Creative Writing

Tell us a little about yourself and how you ended up at FableVision.
I’m currently a senior at Montserrat College of Art this coming fall and I’m an illustration concentration who loves depicting nature, fantasy, science fiction, birds, bugs, etc. I learned about FableVision when a professor at my school mentioned their program to me. FableVision combined my interest in animation, animation preproduction, and visual development so I took a chance, applied, and was accepted!
 

What do you hope to gain from working with FableVision?
I wanted to learn more about animation, the process behind it, and how a studio functions. Now, with our intern project clarified, I’m adding game design and the integration of animation into the games themselves to my list. I’ve already begun to learn so much and I look forward to what the rest of this summer brings!

What do you do during your free time? Any interesting hobbies?
Apart from my art, I also play tabletop games such as Dungeons & Dragons. I’m currently running a D&D game that started back in 2014. It’s a great test of my abilities as a storyteller and world builder. I’ve also created a few micro systems of my own and plan on creating one based around the construction of an observatory for my senior show.

What’s something that you’ve worked on that you’re particularly proud of?
I participated in the 2017 Global Game Jam, creating the art for a game called Escape the Tide Pool. I’m very happy with the art I created during the three days that I had to produce it.

What’s your favorite childhood memory of outdoor adventures?
I lived in a rural neighborhood in NH when I was around six or seven. We had two acres of forest to explore and I remember tromping up the little stream near the back of my house. I had leaky water boots that slipped on the red roots on the sides of the creek. It was so magical and I secretly believed that fairies lived beside that stream.

How do you think your love of adventure translates to your creative work?
I like to try new things, whether that be a new medium, game, style of working, or creative project. Because of this, I have a broad range of things that I draw, write, create, and do. I want to go where no one has gone before!

Favorite Animal: Dragons
Favorite Biome: Taiga
Fun Fact: I had five wisdom teeth!

 


Name: Dan Schumacher
Hometown: Normal, IL
School: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Area of Study: Sport and Recreation Management

Tell us a little about yourself and how you ended up at FableVision.
Up until a few weeks ago I had lived in Central Illinois my entire life. I really loved it there and I think it was the perfect place for me growing up but I knew that I wanted to explore a different part of the country after college. About a year ago as I was considering my career options I made two pretty substantial decisions. First, I decided I wanted to eventually become a game developer and in order to accomplish that as soon as possible I decided to graduate a year early. So to cap off my degree I began searching for internships all over the country at park districts, sports teams, and game developers.

Thanks to Google, I came across FableVision’s internship program and immediately saw that this was a great opportunity to learn about all aspects of the studio development process as well as how to effectively market digital media. 1,000 miles, 17 hours, and 4 tanks of gas later, here I am at FableVision!

What do you hope to gain from working with FableVision?
First and foremost I want to learn how to effectively market digital media and online services. Throughout my research into independent game development one of the most consistent pieces of advice I’ve seen is that marketing is just as important as actually making the game. With FableVision, I hope to learn their process behind informing the public, engaging with them, and directing them towards specific projects .

The other piece that I really hope to gain from working with FableVision is a better understanding of how designers, developers, artists, producers, marketers, and executives all come together to create something cohesive that resonates with clients and consumers. So far in my brief time making games I’ve only worked independently so I’m loving the opportunity to see how work flows amongst each department and how everyone contributes in their own way to the end product.

What do you do during your free time? Any interesting hobbies?
I’m very competitive by nature so I love doing anything that lets me flex that muscle, so to speak. I absolutely love watching and playing sports of pretty much any kind, but soccer and basketball are my favorites. I’m a pretty avid gamer and when I can get some friends together, board games are another great avenue for competition. When I’m not in a competitive mood I love sitting down and developing my own games and prototypes.

What’s something that you’ve worked on that you’re particularly proud of?
Although it isn’t anywhere remotely close to being finished I think I’m most proud of the game I’m making right now. All of my previous projects have been built strictly for my own educational purposes but now that I have a basic understanding of how to approach game development I’m thrilled to be working on the first game I actually plan on releasing. So far I’m really excited about how quickly I’ve made progress spending just a couple of hours each day on it. I definitely feel that my progress is a reflection of everything that I’ve learned from all of my previous projects and that’s why I’m so proud of this one.

What’s your favorite childhood memory of outdoor adventures?
One of my favorite activities as a kid was getting together with my friends and camping out in the woods of Central Illinois. Most of where we grew up really is just corn and soybean fields so camping in the woods always felt like a real adventure. From whipping up s’mores, hiking, kayaking, swimming, telling stories, playing games we made up, and visiting Starved Rock there are just too many great memories to single out a favorite one.

How do you think your love of adventure translates to your creative work?
Part of adventuring is that you have an idea of what you want to accomplish but you never know the path you’ll take. I like to apply that thought to my creative process by having a goal in mind but making up the details as I go. I also think it’s important to understand that every adventure isn’t always going to end in success. I would love it if everything I created was “successful” but I know that it takes hard work (and some luck) to reach that point. I look at each failure as an opportunity for me to learn from my mistakes and understand how to approach my next challenge differently to ensure that I continue improving and learning.

Favorite Animal: American Bison AKA our National Mammal (thanks Obama!)
Favorite Biome:  Temperate Forest
Fun Fact: I’m a 3-time (defending) University of Illinois Intramural Dodgeball Champion

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Behind the Scenes of "She: the Warrior"

The FableVision spring internship is coming to a close. As a final parting gift, we’d like to share what we learned with you.

FableVision interns are given the opportunity to create and develop an optional independent project during their time at the studio, with the option of working separately or collectively as a group. I joined FableVision as a marketing intern, and Christine and Mollie as art/animation interns with very different focuses. We arrived at FableVision with distinct talents, goals, and perspectives. We couldn't have imagined how this collective skillset was going to blend and evolve over the course of a few months.

When Christine, Mollie, and I first met, it was clear that we were very different people who wanted different things out of this experience. However, the more that we talked, the more obvious it became that we did have something in common: to create a piece of art that showcased our talents and delivered a positive message to the world.

We’re happy to end this semester with the animated comic, “She: The Warrior” as our pièce de résistance. Working on this project taught us a lot about storytelling, teamwork, and ourselves.


The Call to Adventure

Before we came up with the initial concept, we agreed to work on a project we could each identify with. The concept for “She” was born when we realized that as an all-female intern team of similar age, we shared common coming-of-age experiences. Upon further discussion, we talked a bit about: what did we wish someone had said to us as children, and what do we wish we could say to girls now?

“She” is a story for all ages, but our primary goal was to inspire elementary-age girls in the hopes that they would take courage from the comic in the face of everyday challenges. We want people of all ages and genders to see it and recognize the challenges they’ve also faced—and draw strength from that.

So, we had the team, and we had the concept. Next, we needed a character. We wanted someone spunky and courageous, someone who never let their fears keep them from achieving their goals. This character would represent the best parts of us, an unstoppable force who never took no for an answer.

And so “She” was born.

 
 

The Quest

When it came to developing the project, we each had a part to play. First, we needed a story with a narrative arc. I came up with the idea to take quotes that had inspired each of us and weaved them into a singular narrative. Inspired by quotes and children’s books, I started forming a story for “She.”

Next, we needed visuals. Christine took the script and created storyboards along with initial character designs. Before anything was finalized, we ran the concept past our supervisors, Hannah, Mitul, and Sarah. Once we got approval (and some very helpful suggestions), Mollie and Christine worked together to develop the layout and finalize the character design.

Originally, we intended “She” to be a short film, but ultimately chose a format that was both fun and simplistic, and that stood out as a unique option. Having “She” in the form of an animated comic allowed us to be more creative within that medium, and worked with our schedules, which differed at times.  

There were a lot of firsts during this project. It was Mollie’s first time working so closely with another artist, but that didn’t slow her down at all. She designed, illustrated, and animated the backgrounds as well as the text.

It was Christine’s first time working on an animated comic. In addition to designing the characters, which, alongside our heroine, included a host of ghostly figures and a dragon, Christine also took part animating them.

As for me, I’d never done intensive social media before. As the marketing intern, I drafted posts for several social media platforms including InternVision (the FableVision intern blog), Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Linkedin. It was my job to spread the story of “She” across the internet.

 
 

The Trial

As exciting as this project was, there is no such thing as a quest devoid of challenges. Our animated comic is built out a series of gifs which have a larger file size than a static image. We uploaded animated scene after scene onto the website, waiting for the inevitable crash, and celebrating with brownies and hot chocolate when it didn’t.

Having two artists on one project also posed its own challenges. Mollie and Christine had to work together to ensure that Christine's character designs and animation and Mollie’s illustration and text animation held a cohesive look and feel. One shot even ended up with twelve "final" versions! In the same breath, working as a team allowed both artists to play off one another’s strengths. Mollie even remarked that she felt like an equal partner in a team for the first time.

I had to think strategically about social media. How could I tell the story of “She” without giving away the narrative? What images best portrayed the message we were trying to send? Luckily, working as a mini-production studio meant my intern team was always there to help. Christine drew up art for our social media posts that inspired me to reach new creative heights. I took advice from my supervisors, Sarah and Mitul, and ultimately developed blog posts and tweets that I’m proud of. Now, I look back at them and think, “Wow, I did that!”

 
 

Seizing the Sword

Working on this project allowed us to learn a lot about each other and what we were each capable of. As we learned from our supervisors, we passed that knowledge on to each other. I got to learn about character design, and Mollie and Christine gained insight on social media strategy, planning, and execution. Christine got to delve into different animation and compositing techniques in Flash and Photoshop, and Mollie was excited to use new techniques and brushes for Photoshop. I learned more about social media than I’d known existed, and will never underestimate a tweet again.

“She: The Warrior” is the story of a young girl who never lets doubt or fear stand in her way. She is everything that Christine, Mollie, and I saw in each other and learned to see in ourselves. In a way, creating this comic traced the same journey that “She” makes. We experienced doubts and creative triumphs, fears and victories. We learned many lessons during our time at FableVision, but the greatest one was that “She” is all of us: fierce, brave, and unstoppable.

Looking to join this team of FableVisionaries? Learn more about FableVision internships here!

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