I recently decided, in earnest, to finish Switch, a project which I've grappled with on-and-off since 2011. The project was, in part at least, a result of the psychological effects of spending the 21st year of my life in limbo, without a passport or income, in debt and with an uncertain future. More importantly, it was the product of a desire to work with the computer game as a serious medium for literary experimentation. Regardless of its merits, I've since had trouble engaging with a project from that dark phase of my life. Soon after the project began to flow and I almost lived and breathed it, my isolation ended and I rushed back to university. Perhaps tellingly, that following summer, instead of working on the text, or even the visual art or programming sides of the project, I decided to write a specialised programme to help me author the complex dialogue scripts. While this was a sound idea, it also served as an escape from the daunting task of writing dialogue for something so bleak. Another year of University removed me further from the origin of the project. In the summer of 2013, after I graduated, I decided to have another go at the 3d art and programming side of it, making some progress. The dialogue only came in dribs and drabs, mainly when I felt glum enough to engage with the desolate scenario, but not too depressed to write. Perhaps I was approaching it in the wrong way.

No purgatorial chamber would be complete without real-time shadows.

Some months later, I got a job and resumed the martial arts training I'd started at university. I was busy and found other projects to do on weekends. Unsurprisingly, my decision to finish the project didn't come from a happy place. Over my short life, the few decisions I'm most proud of arose from dissatisfaction and disgust rather than glee. This is one of the reasons I'd avoid antidepressants unless I was actually unable to function, rather than keeping going, however grimly and sullenly – I think Nietzsche had a point about the value of adversity. I realised that there was nowhere to hide from the emotions, ideas and influences (Beckett, Tarkovsky, Bela Tarr ) that gave rise to this project, and that I need to put it behind me before I go back to university again and perhaps find another direction. Further, I've come to appreciate that there isn't anything innately negative about minimalistic fiction like this, it merely limits the number of creative possibilities so that one can focus on fully harnessing them.

I was introduced to Unity by one of the technical tutors at university, and, like any good geek, excitedly quizzed him about it after his presentation. I went back to my room, downloaded it and ended up making some quite odd interactive 3D artwork. This was in late 2009 and Unity 2.5 had just been released for Windows – previous versions only run on Mac. They had also just scrapped the $200 charge for the indie version, which retained most of the functionality, without the fancy graphics. It was very artist-friendly; I only started learning to code in 2011. It was at this point that I began Switch, now working in Unity 3.0, which had many more features including BEAST light-mapping, which like many others, was only available with a pro licence. This meant that I needed to come up with another method of achieving a decent standard of lighting. This piece was to take place in one bare room, and while I didn't want it to look perfect, I wasn't going to be satisfied with the realism offered by direct lighting. My answer was a feature of Blender 2.4 which had already been scrapped in the latest versions. Radiosity is an imperfect method of simulating light scatter between 3d surfaces, using each quad (polygonal face with four edges) of the model to store light energy and emit excess to other quads. This method is time consuming and limited in applicability. Fortunately, for a single room, it was adequate. I ended up baking the lighting for most of the room into one 2048 x 2048 pixel image, and put together a composite texture in GIMP.

Following the pattern that started when they made a pared down version of their software free for hobbyists, students and independent developers five odd years ago, Unity 5 Personal now has all of the graphical features of its paid equivalents, but lacks some new features that would mainly benefit the large, more established developers it's aimed at. All of my work in 2011 could be seen as futile now that the free version of Unity has global illumination as standard. As I'll be publishing this project to unity's web player, having my light map and diffuse texture mixed on the same layer will save loading time, and, personally, I feel this method required a bit more artistry. While I could justify this, I couldn't resist playing with the new real-time shadows and reflections.

Now my procedural water has a reflection probe!

Thanks to the Unity team's generous business model, which I believe has helped them expand their community and brand to a global scale in less than a decade, I now have a graphically capable free games development kit at my disposal. It may not quite compete with CryEngine or Unreal engine, but it's closer than ever. This is further motivation to finish this project quickly, so that I have time to experiment with some of my more visually lush ideas.