What Didn’t Work
Samei has a pistol.
I wanted to avoid giving him the plasma pistol, as that has been used in multiple machinimas and explained away by being a tool or medical device. While I could have simply relied on that assumption of the medium, in the same way certain character designs are innately distrustful in certain comic books, I didn’t want something that could draw attention to itself. A spent energy sword was not useful either as it gave Samei a hunched, at-the-ready stance. Thus, Samei was given a pistol, as it was the smallest and most neutral color of the weapons. However, as Carol’s pistol ended up being The Prop of the story, having an identical item in Samei’s hand takes away some of the visual weight, even with all the camera tricks we attempted to crop out the extra weapon.
The argument and flashbacks in Episode 3 were restructured.
In post-production, I received feedback from the Mach 7 team. By placing the flashbacks in the heat of the argument, they team felt the build-up was interrupted, and so we moved things around. While I believe it works as released, I do miss the meaning behind where the flashbacks were originally placed and how the dialogue interconnected.
I simply wish we had some way to actually visualize them.
The Expression of Samei’s Motivation
I wrote Samei with the intention of having him struggling with hypocrisy. He says he doesn’t want to kill Carol, but really that’s a desire rooted deep in his heart. However, because Samei spends a good deal of time denying even that to himself, it wasn’t something he could say. The use of machinima as the medium to tell this story limited body language and facial expressions, so I tried to compensate with camera angles.
If I had the space to spread out the story, I could have given them an encounter with another individual to whom Samei could speak his mind. However, I think the most efficient manner I could have portrayed his inner turmoil was with one small scene for Episode 2 in which, as Carol sleeps, he does eye, and perhaps even reach for the pistol.
I think it important to note that such a scene would be severely hampered by the already present issue of Samei having a pistol.
What Did Work
Camera Angles and Editing
This is especially clear in Episode 1, the first part of which had to convey emotions and ideas without dialogue. Based on the problematic footage we had to work with – such as disappearing bodies from Firefight and the lack of motion tracker footage for Carol – we were able to pull off some quality scenes and gave us (and the viewers) the best glimpse we had of Samei’s internal struggle
Andrew Upton, the sound and video editor, did a magnificent job adding in smaller details to compensate for what we could not achieve in the in-game engine. These details include Carol’s motion tracker in Episode 1, the sound of comms being activated throughout the series, and Andrea’s approaching footsteps in Episode 4. These help move the story forward, explain certain actions, and provide an extra emotional punch.
The Characters and Motivations
It’s rare to see two characters get so vicious with each other while pursuing something that looks, at first, to be exceedingly altruistic. Samei wants to forgive those who wronged him (Carol), and Carol wants justice for the wrongs she’s committed (against Samei). However, these pursuits are tied up in selfish ends as well. Samei is desperately clinging to the last thing he has to define him, and Carol doesn’t want to live with the guilt of the war hanging over her. In this sense, they become their opposites – the pastor and partner – in their very attempts to flee from them.
Caiza and Andrea were created to be the personifications of the desires Samei and Carol have but want to discard: twisting faith to meet emotional ends and avoidance of consequences. Caiza twists his faith to justify his aggressions; Samei clings to one aspect of his to avoid confronting his internal struggle. Andrea tries to kill Carol in order to escape military consequences; Carol tries to make Samei kill her to avoid emotional consequences.
The characters – and the accompanying actors – all play off each other in the exact manner that I had initially envisioned.
I love how Samei and Carol get completely real and raw with each other in this. It was my favorite episode to write, my favorite to act, and my favorite to direct. Episode 1 is still the best-structured, and the issue of Samei’s pistol does rear its head again here in 3, but every emotional and plot beat I wanted to hit was hit and the acting was exactly what I hoped for.