Throughout this piece of work my team and I have been creating a virtual reality experience based around what we believe it would feel like to have had flashbacks to ‘World War I’ while going through life on the cusp of ‘World War II’. All of the accounts we have read and the interviews we have conducted have allowed us to see that there is not always a clear way of defining the experiences had by PTSD sufferers. We cannot say for definite that this is exactly what someone living in the era between WWI and WWII would have experienced but we believe that this is an interesting way to communicate the feelings of that experience to our audience.
“Combatants of the WW1 faced extremely harsh conditions in the muddy and rat infested trenches. The soldiers suffered physical and psychological consequences of the trench war. Estimated suicides during the World War One still remain unknown. According to the Military Historians a large number of combatants committed suicide between 1914 to 1918. Depressed and physically worn-out soldiers took their lives inside the trenches. The trench suicides became common during the WW1. Some suicides occurred after the demobilization. Captain Guy Nightingale was one of the WW1 soldiers who witnessed the horrors of the war in Gallipoli. He was haunted by combat related reminiscences and in 1935 he took his own life. At the time of his death Captain Guy Nightingale was 43 years old.” – Dr. Ruwan M Jayatunge M.D. ‘Death of a Soldier‘
Trying to understand the mentality of someone who has gone through these experiences has been a huge part of our project and figuring out the best way to create a character who can accurately portray this through their responses to the scene. I wanted to keep the scripting itself simple with no dialogue and from the veteran who the audience sees through. Just having changes in their breathing or being able to hear their own heart beat to communicate their emotional response to the flashbacks could have been quite difficult but myself and my team have worked very hard to create a natural soundtrack for the character which does this very well. The expression of emotion through nonverbal features of speech is known as prosodic communication and it has been one of our more important features in the characters in our virtual reality. I am still gathering relevant sounds for this piece and trying to record our own as well but thus far we have and acceptably well developed reactive soundtrack of breathing, heartbeats, coughing and some general background chatter. Over the next week before our final hand in I still hope to record some 1930’s slang to add to our over all finished piece in order to more firmly establish our time period through vocals as well as visuals.
Visually our virtual reality is almost finished to our teams set target. We have created some beautifully smooth transitions between the train scenes and the trench scenes which help to create a stronger intensity for our flashbacks and which we have seen, from our user testing, helps our users to really empathise with someone who’s state of mind can be changed by even mundane things like flickering lights of loud sounds. Our characters are much more developed now and our script has changed slightly so that the passengers on the train will begin to move away and filter off the train, as they become alarmed by the veterans reactions to his flashbacks. We had some problems with bringing animation into Unity but we have resolved that issue and are now going to bring in more character animation to the scene.
During this last week before our hand in we just have a few finishing touches to add to our project but overall we have created something we feel we can be proud of. These last few fixes and add ins will give a feeling of fulfilment and completion to this project so that we can all be wholly satisfied with the end result. I am still working on the website we will use to showcase the visuals of this piece and the reactions of some of the users who have tried the experience themselves. This website is something I believe will give the project itself a very professional feeling once it’s over especially as I’m creating a part of it dedicated to the making of this project so that others can see a little of what went into it. The ‘Making Of’ section of the website will mainly be Dervla’s interviews of myself and the rest of the team as well as footage of users experiencing the project and their thoughts on it.