Design Prompt: “To develop a game where the player switches between 3 player-states to solve & traverse vertically-designed puzzles that create emotional moments of loneliness and companionship.”

Developed by five designers over the course of eight months.

Keeping Ideas Fresh

Before beginning the build of the game, our team ensured to do extensive research on existing IPs to draw inspiration for different aspects of the game. With my role as narrative designer, I created the inspiration board on the right using other games and animes that achieved a similar mood to our goals for our own game. I researched this by looking at these projects and seeing what they did to convey those emotions. Then, once everyone completed inspiration boards for their main aspects of the game, we compiled an opportunity chart to see how our game would compare to others when looking at puzzle complexity and emotional impact.

Organizing Narrative

We decided the narrative would be non-linear, however, accompanied by a linear journey, in which the player goes through the same gameplay but the ending changes based on the actions taken by the player. In order to visualize it, I created a flow chart which depicts how the narrative outcome would be shaped. The mini-puzzles, which we called "narrative collectibles" would determine which endings would unlock for the player at the end of the journey. The player could then choose which ending they wanted to pursue based on which ones they unlocked. If no collectibles were found, they would be forced into the default ending, in which the player dies alone. The other endings coincided with the core mechanics of the game, as they can choose to rest in sand state or stone state and end their journey as so.

Once the levels were greyboxed, I used a chart to communicate with the team on the details of the narrative beats. I organized each collectible in order, stating which 3D asset it might be connected to, what is happening in the narrative at that moment, and the text that would appear. I colour coded the text in game in order to signify whether the player was speaking, the mask was speaking, or if it was a tutorial message. I also used left and right alignment in order to better organize the dialogue. We decided to have the text display in world-space as it was simple and allowed the player to continue playing if they wished. It also allowed for a cleaner UI appearance which only displayed the state being used by the player.

Keeping the Vision

As the game progressed, it became harder to remember what our original vision for our project was. In order to keep all the members on the same page, we created a vision chart, which detailed the setting, the player's goal in that level, the emotions we were striving for with the narrative and art, and what the narrative beat would be at the end of the level. We also put the endings here and had a few descriptors of how the player should feel for those endings.

You can play through our journey here.

© 2020 by Emily Bendevis