Created, starring, and voiced by Ayla Pants, “Down to Earth” has funny dialog, crisp pacing, and stylish cyberpunk atmospherics. Just as impressive, the machinima was largely improvised on the spot in the SL roleplay game Cocoon. Ayla roleplayed with the game's NPCs and fellow players, recorded the action, and then in post-production, dubbed in her own dialog for each character, using different voices for each-- a really fun and clever technique I’ve not seen before.
“[T]he style of roleplay I prefer is one with no goal in mind,” she explains to me. “Just people knocking their characters together and enjoying the interaction that plays out. The role of bartender had played into this perfectly, as it gave people a chance to exercise their character’s personality a bit without the lag of a big event weighing everything down; both with the number of people waiting to contribute to the dialogue and trying to push a narrative forward, and the literal SL lag that comes with too many avatars in one place.”
The most pre-planning she did was finding a time for another player to log into SL so they could roleplay a scene. She also worked NPCs into the machinima:
“I should mention that anytime you saw a character standing perfectly stock still, it was not a person roleplaying that I was playing against, but an NPC character with maybe one line of dialogue it would say if you clicked on them. I would take it from there and write out my own dialogue for both characters to fit the story. I even asked the sim creator what she had imagined their different personalities and accents to be so I could be somewhat in the ballpark as far as tone.”
The overall story, as it turned out, was spun off from a disaster scenario the people who run Cocoon had already launched as an in-game event:
“I [originally] had a very different story arc in mind, and when I teleported in for my first day of filming, it turned out the debris disaster event had just happened the night before. I was taken aback. What do I do now? My story totally doesn’t work anymore. Do I wait for the destruction to be cleaned up? Try to film anyway? But filming that didn’t acknowledge the destruction seemed tone deaf and off putting.
“It then struck me that this was the very story I could tell! A selfish character trying to push through and do just what she wanted to do, without realizing her place in larger events and how it was affecting the people around her. From there the subsequent RP events, like the scrap collecting and Fight Night have taken care of the story for me. It’s just a matter of figuring out how this character Ash would I created react to these events.”
Much more about Cocoon here -- and more about SL roleplay from Ms. Pants soon!