RCA Blog 


Year2 Final project

Keywords: fantasy / social environment / storytelling / retro-futuristic



Where I start​

This semester I hope to do a project base on my own story.

Because I have done different narrative projects for different groups and content before, it makes me feel that it is time to express something from my own perspective! Maybe my project can reflect the bigger picture surround me?

I  spent about a whole week thinking and looking back on the bits and pieces of my growth. Then one day I suddenly realized that maybe it's time to turn the scene I once imagined into reality?

With this idea, I began to sort out what I had imagined. Various pictures and stories came to me immediately:

I like to wave a plastic ballpoint pen to imagine it is a missile, to attack enemies that do not exist in my fantasy. 

I like to make up stories for my toys, as they will guard me against the shadows hidden under the bed.

I imagine going through time to talk to my future/past self. 


I found that many fantasies are closely related to my childhood growth experience. From the end of the last century to the present two decades, various social phenomena with the characteristics of the times have been born. Such as exam-oriented education, emphasize politically correct emotional expression and various forms of empty slogans prevail. This makes our generation face unprecedented mental pressure and live in a high-pressure environment brought by society, family, and school.


Visual inspiration


I like this step very much because I can find a feeling close to my heart from countless works of art

I browsed a lot of visual artworks and design works, and also related stories behind them. These works of art include almost any visual style I can find with a strong fantasy element combine with a real-life focus. Then I found the visual sense I wanted in an online blog post that combed the core of retro-futurism in detail, that is: show unlimited imagination under limited conditions, and nostalgia for the past in the future. This kind of spiritual core fits with the behavior that I was forced to expand my imaginary world in a depressive environment since I was young.


The design and visual inspirations are as follows:


Video games:

Bioshock Infinite, Death Stranding, Metal Gear Solid, Wolfenstein





Movies and TV series:

Ready player one, Ghost in the shell, Stranger Things

Online interactive story:

The Boat



Artists and designers:

Hajime Sorayama, Katsuyo Aoki, Luigi Colani, Carlo Bugatti, Simon Stalenhag, Evgeny Zubkov, Robert McCall, Hideo Kojima

*It is worth mentioning that the visual style I produced later is not only a visual imitation and evolution but also a product of a collection of visual aesthetics and the different design philosophies of many designers.

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From top to bottom:


the combination of the fantasy sky city in Bioshock merge with the retro technology


Katsuyo Aoki's ultra-fine detailed ceramic artwork


Luigi Colani's aircraft combined with the biodynamic design language.

Theoretical reference


Starting research about myself, I began to think about my past experiences and my memories. I read some personal records and talked with my peers and found that many people have strong memories of specific scenes or objects like me. Especially for some objects that were common decades ago but have now disappeared.

For this reason, I started to read the theoretical literature on group memory and discovered theoretical content such as involuntary memory. This is a good confirmation of some actual conditions. A certain group of people will have similar memories of a certain type of object with characteristics of the times. And this characteristic of the times is usually closely related to the social environment, group events, and experiences of the time period.

In addition, I also discussed with my tutor how objects carry stories and memories. These contents provide much help for my follow-up production of how to select and present these objects or contents.

The theoretical and literature references are as follows:

The History of Mentalities: The New Map of Cultural History (Patrick H Hutton, 1981)

Remembrance of Things Past (Marcel Proust, 1900)

Being a Character: psychoanalysis and self-experience (Christopher Bollas)

"Objet petit a" theroy from Jacques Lacan

​刻奇国里说刻奇 by Fangzhou Jiang



The theoretical references in different cultural backgrounds have provided me with different perspectives on the past


Write my story:

After browsing a large number of works and reference theories, I began to write the narrative content of the works based on the inspiration and harvest I got.

I first classify the content of the story I want to express: my experience in real life is always accompanied by pressure and dilemma, on the contrary, everything in my imagined world is determined by me. Such opposite expressions can bring content and visual contrast and impact if I can present them accordingly.

Therefore, I first divided the story into two parts, my actual growth experience (Part1) and my fantasy world (Part2). Secondly, I constructed a symbolic scene based on the most impressive objects and my stories with them. For example, in Part1 Scene 1, I used the book cave scene to show the anxiety that I experienced in my childhood. Correspondingly, in Part2, I constructed the appearance of me sitting on the throne, to use a completely different performance to show my desire and fantasy.

Then I completed the preliminary settings of the remaining parts based on this process. (graph below shows the main story structure)

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Storyboard: When the whole story frame is set, the memories of many details emerged naturally.

After having an overall scene framework, I began to place more representative objects for each scene. For example, the torn paper in Part1 scene 1 represents a very personal experience when my childhood hobbies conflicted with school studies. Some objects are more universal, such as sticky notes filled with words and wrong question sets, which are representative objects under the test-oriented education of this generation of students.

Therefore, I think the narrative method in my project is more fragmented and chapter-based. In the narrative development, individual objects carry different stories, and the relationship between each object is connected together in a relatively hidden way. 

But there is no doubt that it is the interweaving of these objects that constitute my growing up environment. The stories behind them eventually became my growing up experience, making me who I am now.


Material collecting and recording:

This is a process of retrospection and nostalgia. On Chinese National Day, I returned to my home and searched for my childhood textbooks, paintings, and toys in the dusty cabinet closed for many years. Many objects and "memories" I found became part of the final work.

I first found many doodles in my textbooks. These drawing have a certain style, like telling the story of the space age. I think this is an escape from the boring content in the textbook when I was little. In addition, there are many other small paintings with different content that can reflect my fantasy before.

Then I found piles of test papers and workbooks. I am surprised that these have been preserved. When I see them, I can even feel I went back to a different classroom or a specific exam. In addition, some of the few toys include the most iconic my little bear toy were also found. I took photos of them as records.



A series of primary school textbooks and doodles on them


Early-stage production:

I started to use 3D software very early to present the details of some ideas or the outline of the scene. Because I want my work can combine interesting narrative experiences and innovative visual styles.

I use all kinds of scattered time to consider the details and use a whole piece of time to draw some ideas from my mind on draft paper, and then transform them into the digital world. I decided first made Part1 Scene 1 and Part2 Scene 1. Because I wanted to complete these two parts first to have a basic visual and narrative presentation.



Some drafts about scene settings



The process of transforming traditional Chinese masks into future warrior-like VR mask into the digital world

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Initial scene setting: All the details and improvements later are based on these two big frameworks.


Prototype and preview feedbacks:

After having a simple framework, I made a simple web interaction mechanism and two corresponding simple scenes. And invited my friends to experience the prototype of the work and give feedback.

In the feedback, I received comments and suggestions for different parts of the work:


The work has good visual performance and is very novel.

The interaction mechanism of the work is quite fun and can provide a feeling of exploration.



During web page interaction, some content cannot be found, which will cause some content to go undiscovered because of lack of certain guidelines.

When the webpage is interactively switched, it is not smooth enough and sometimes the interruption is strong.


The correlation between the two parts can be more improved.

*The feedback received was emphasized and improved in the final stage of production.


Final production:

The final production took up a lot of time. This part contains many steps and processes. After experiencing the failure of the 3D real-time web model browsing plan, I decided to make an interactive narrative page based on static pictures. So while I was making the two parts of the narrative, I was also learning how to make an interactive web page and combined different functions to maximize the display of every detail and side of the narrative.

In the production of Part1 and Part2, I taught myself all the required techniques with all my strength. Including C4D hair simulation, dynamic simulation, Octane renderer rendering, lighting, character modeling, texture mapping, Marvelous Designer cloth-making, and other new skills.

After dozens of days of hard work, I step by step turned the fantasy world into a computer-created artwork with rich details that can be seen.


Polish every detail: This process contains many steps for final visual presentation

throne render test 2K 18_00132.jpg
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An example shows the initial draft and the final result. See process film for more visual production steps

In addition to visual presentation, I also pay attention to the use of sound in the narrative. I made a list of the sounds that might appear in the scene and marked the different emotions expressed by different objects. Later in the sound editing, I adjusted the frequency, volume, and rhythm of the soundtrack to enhance the expression of different emotions.

On the source of the sound, I recorded part of the sound myself, and combined some sound files that can be found on the Internet to improve the atmosphere of different scenes. In addition, in several later scenes, I will add the sound of past TV or radio programs found from the sound archive online.

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Soundtrack list and matching mood signs (left), soundtrack editing

In the production of interactive webpages, I combined some of the functions provided by the webpage to design an interactive mechanism that can provide exploration experience. I use a big perspective as the beginning of a scene interaction. When the user moves the mouse to the vicinity of different objects, interactive dots will appear. When the audience clicks on the interactive dot, the corresponding object details, text information, and sound will be displayed.

At the beginning of the interactive page, I added a chapter page like a picture book or a novel to distinguish different parts. In addition, it also contains an introduction and on boarding text.

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The structure of the web page is base on the story board (left), interactive buttons (right)

Ethics and concerns:

During the production and testing of the entire project, ethics has always been my consideration. No matter how personal the starting point of this project is, I still think that its interaction with the audience and the feedback the audience gives me will touch people's personal feelings. Therefore, I made two ethics statements in Chinese and English for different test subjects. And before each feedback session, I make a statement and prompt on the ethics and concerns of the project.

In addition, I also erased the labels and brands of some items that appeared in the project. Only keep the original intention of the appeared items without circumventing the copyright issues that may be involved.


Feedback session (final):

The final stage of the project feedback was conducted on WeChat and Zoom respectively. I invited 10 friends of the same age from China and two friends from Western cultural backgrounds to conduct online testing and feedback sessions.

Because I believe that people from different cultural backgrounds will have different views and feelings about this project, except for the users specified by this work. These different voices will better promote me to perfect my work from all aspects.

The feedback session went very smoothly and I also received a lot of positive feedback. And people shared a lot of their stories about specific objects in this session, and I think this project is meaningful and can indirectly encourage people to share their unique experiences, whether it is happy or sad. It's like using small fragmented stories as an introduction to stimulate people to look back and think about their own experiences and feelings. 

The following are some more constructive comments that I have selected based on feedback, which prompted me to further polish my project in the last two week:


Adding corresponding Chinese subtitles may further expand the acceptance of Chinese audiences. Perhaps more Chinese audiences (especially elders who do not understand English) can read this story based on Chinese background straightforwardly and easily.  [Leo]

Can it be made into a fixed-point VR, so that you can surround yourself and look closely at every detail? This way does not require a particularly powerful web 3D engine, but a few sets of static panoramic photos. It can be a more eclectic way of immersive experience.  [Ana, Florrie]

You can consider bolder interactions. For example, adding some flashback effects, quickly switching between imagination and reality to enhancing the sense of conflict between two different worlds. Which can make the story more impactful.[Yichun]

You can add a comment section under different objects. This way readers may be able to leave their own stories so that this interactive experience will be more integrated with the overall story of this generation. [Zheng]



Few collected sharing stories based on the objects in the work during feedback session


It is hard to imagine that this is my last project at the Royal Academy of Art. I cherish the process of studying in this school, and I am very happy to learn more wonderful stories and ways of telling stories here. The story is a wonderful way to communicate with others and it is also a great way to carry memories and share feelings.

In this project, I try my best to balance the relationship between the visual and the storytelling and strive to innovate in the narrative method. In the final feedback session, I was very touched to see people willing to further discuss the topics raised by my project.

This project has many shortcomings: the storyline is relatively weak, the presentation method still has a lot of room for improvement, and the form of interaction with people needs to be further improved...but in the process of making it, what I have experienced is the retrospective thinking and self-reflection, as well as my cognition of the environment and others. This made me sometimes stopped my work and immersed myself in the sparkling imagination.

Beyond reality but based on reality. This is the feeling beyond language that I have experienced from this project. I will continue to perfect this work until the exhibition in February. Hope it can be more complete at that time.


Thank you for your willingness to witness the fantasy I see.