Friday, August 26, 2011

Inspiration: how to get it and how to use it

If you have ever seen a really well designed house, it is easy to tell that the creator had some inspiration behind their project. Not just, “Oh I think I’ll put a fireplace there, and maybe some chairs around a table. I think I’ll put my PvP trophy over by the window.” The remarkable houses are inspired creations.
Swell, but how does one get inspiration? Inspiration can come from many different sources, a book you’ve read, a commercial on television, a snippet of a song, the exhibit in your local art gallery, your great-aunt Lillian’s country home in Cape Cod, or your local park. Never dismiss anything because it sounds too wacky or random.

1. The British make some of the finest period dramas in the world, and are sticklers for historical accuracy. If you’re looking for anything from the Elizabethan era to Mid-Century Modern, try checking out some of their programs. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.
2. Science Fiction with crazy evil statues that move? Why not! I can see it: “That unicorn statue… wait. Did it just… move?! RUN!” Doctor Who.
3. Unusual, but well respected, media is a great source of inspiration because they can be a little “out there”. Yes Ringo has a wall full of vending machines. And Paul is playing an organ that rises from out of the floor, lights up, and has Super Man comics on the music stand. If I could figure out how to make that work in-game I would be SO on it! But the idea of having these defined spaces that are all open to each other is completely doable and brilliant! In fact it could even work really well in the larger houses like the Massive Fantasy Palace and the Massive Sultan’s Palace. Help.
4. The unexpected rocks. A grass rug complete with gardener, where’s the like button? Help.
5. The western style wouldn’t be complete without horses. Finding ways to incorporate mounts (and pets) into your designs is a great way to set yourself apart and it’s also great storage! Bonanza.
As you might have figured it out by now, one of my favorite sources of inspiration for housing is film. I watch a lot (and I mean a lot) of vintage film dating as far back as the 1920s, and I practically live off of 1960s television shows. When I see something I particularly like, I ask myself how that might work in Wizard101. Generally my rule of thumb is if it requires massive amounts of crafting, I let that idea go. For example: I’d love to recreate a Star Trek bridge in the Celestial Observatory. But I know that I’ll never be happy until I’ve created the whole bridge crew in mannequin form.  Yeah, not going to happen anytime soon.
 Even if the idea sounds unlikely, wait until you’ve tested it in-game to dismiss it. I built an old-west style sheriff’s office in my dorm room despite my own dismissals. Sure it’s not true to life (or even to fiction for that matter), but you can’t make things exactly true to life. You just have to create the illusion. When playing with the idea of creating the illusion of a space that is exactly what you’re trying to represent remember to focus on the details. With really excellent details it’s easier to forget that a major object is missing, like say a ten-gallon hanging on a hat stand in the corner. If you’re really stumped about what good details might be, ask yourself a few questions such as: “Who lives/lived here? What was this space used for? Could they use this space for that purpose as it is now? What might they add or remove?”
Research is your friend. Not for school or anything, but fun research! Yes there is such a thing. Oh stop looking at me like that! Looking at different examples may jog your brain into brilliance. You might see/read/hear in one example something completely new, that you hadn’t even thought of that is perfect for your house.  If you are using a theme – like a sheriff’s office – look for common items in the examples. For instance: a stove. Most offices have a little cast-iron stove in them. It makes sense; the sheriff has to be on duty for long periods of time and would probably want some creature-comforts (think mini-fridge/water cooler in a modern office). Those types of “common items” are also a great way to capture the illusion in design.
If worst comes to worst and you have to scrap your would-be design, don’t mourn it. Move on. If you still think it might have potential for the future, take some screen-shots and tuck them away for another day. Then de-construct the place and start looking for the next source of inspiration.
~ Heather Raven

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