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The Rockefeller Library: A Treasure Trove of Information

July 14, 2012 Leave a comment

Today the family and I began our foot-tour of the Colonial Williamsburg area, starting with the Governor’s Palace and grounds. The guided tour (which we’ve been on during several visits over the years) provided a good amount of information regarding the use of the rooms, the tone set by the foyer (a “display of British power” was an important characteristic), and the reasons why the various rooms were decorated as they were. After the tour I had the opportunity to chat with our guide, and I asked him for the best sources of floor plans to the historic buildings. He clued me into the Rockefeller Library.

Later in the day, about mid-afternoon, we were rained out of our Williamsburg walkabout (being stuck in the Courthouse during a storm–but after we participated in an several trial role-play scenarios). That turned out to be a blessing, as I was able to spend some time researching the archives of the Rockefeller Library, and I came upon the Architectural Reports. These reports, apparently dating from the 1930s to the present (I haven’t seen them all, but the earliest one I’ve come across was published in 1931), divide Colonial Williamsburg into geographical blocks and provide amazing amounts of detail on the buildings, grounds, and landscaping as they were in the 18th century. This includes the color schemes, furniture, fabrics, dishware, and so on thought to have been in use by the residents.

This material is just what I wanted to find, and it will provide the foundation for the game navigation. My choice now is to decide how much to include in the first revision of the game!

Time for On-Site Research!

One of the exciting things about the Historical Williamsburg project is that Williamsburg is not only a real place, the historical part is to a large extent restored to the condition it was in back in the late 1700s. Research there can be very entertaining as well as informative. Indeed, the city is a living museum, but ever since my father started taking our family there 40 years ago on summer vacations, I’ve seen it as a fun rather than “educational” place to go. But I picked up a lot about American history despite that fact.

From July 13th-16th, I will be there (along with my family) taking photographs and measurements in order to build the map representation of the historical portions of the city within the game. I will be getting the layouts for the major structures such as the House of Burgesses and the Governor’s Palace, along with the interior information for several other buildings (the Courhouse, the Magazine, some of the taverns, homes of prominent residents, etc.). Hopefully the weather will be favorable! There is a lot of work to do on the game itself, but one of my goals of getting the photography work accomplished (in addition to proving me with reference materials for the in-game descriptions) is so that I’ll be able to put together the project’s coffee table photo book that will be one of the rewards for some of the folks that were Kickstarter backers for the project.

During the fundraising phase, I was asked whether or not I would be publishing the photo book for individual purchase, and honestly, I had not considered that. But it does seem like a good idea, so I think that’s a project element worth adding. I’d like to get the materials together, the layout of the book completed, and all the publishing details worked out by the end of the summer. With all the quality self-publishing options out there, I should be able to have the book available for sale, and we’ll see where that goes!

Being a Part of the Story. Interactively

April 4, 2012 2 comments

The above is a photograph of part of the wall graphics that greet people entering the Colonial Williamsburg* Visitor Center, very near the admissions ticket counter. I especially love this part of the image because of the “be a part of the story” quote. Quite honestly, it is easy to be a part of the story when you visit Colonial Williamsburg. The entire colonial section is like a bubble out of time (with a lot of modern visitors wandering through). When you go, you have the opportunity to see much of life as it was lived through the artisans and craftspeople there. You get to interact with historical figures: on our last visit, my family and I had the opportunity to discuss issues of the day with George Washington in the Governor’s Palace gardens, have tea with Richard Carlton, the merchant-owner of the coffeehouse just across the way from the House of Burgesses, and chat with Lady Susannah Beverly Randolph, mother** of John “The Tory” Randolph, loyalist to the British Crown.

But while my family and I are able to visit Williamsburg fairly regularly, there are many who would but cannot, and many more who are not even aware that such a slice of American history exists. The Historical Williamsburg Living Narrative is an Interactive Fiction project intended for anyone, anywhere in the world to learn about this core piece of the story of the 13 American colonies. Interactive Fiction is a type of computer game that has all the depth and subtleties that only thorough books might offer, but at the same time, it engages the reader in ways that allows them to use the full range of their imaginations and truly be a part of the story. I invite you to be a part of the story of Williamsburg’s history. Please be sure to spread the word to everyone you know that feels excitement at history and at the thought of using their imaginations playing computer games!

*Colonial Williamsburg is a registered trademark of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. There is no affiliation between the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation and the Historical Williamsburg Living Narrative project.

** An earlier version of this post incorrectly identified Susannah Randolph as the wife of John “the Tory” Randolph rather than his mother and wife of Sir John Randolph.

Status Update: Kickstarter Launch Checklist

April 3, 2012 Leave a comment

The picture above is of me standing outside of the Governor’s Palace in the nortwest section of the historical Williamsburg area. This was the home of the colony of Virginia’s Royal Governors (before Independence), and then home to famous Americans Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson. The picture is from the collection of photos and video clips I’ve gathered for the making of my Kickstarter project intro video. That’s the only thing standing between now and project launch, so I need to edit the visual content together. I’m still penning the text for voice-over narration to the video, so that will likely take me a few days. I hope to have the video complete by the end of the coming weekend so I can get the project off the ground!

I used two cameras for the photography work: my Sony NEX-7 (primarily) and my Sony DSC-HX9v (mainly as a backup). They are both excellent small cameras, and I recently picked up the NEX-7 to replace my Canon 7D. I’ve been a long-time Canon fan, but I got tired of waiting for them to come out with a mirrorless camera offering. For my money, the Sony NEX-7 represented the best bang for the buck. Well, the proof is in the pudding, and the pictures I took of all the Williamsburg sites turned out extraordinarily well.

So far, so good!