GAMES

 

the conversation structure

A LONG GOODBYE

genre: experimental narrative game
made with: Unity 3D, Blender, Photoshop
Team: Solo
Production Length: 5 weeks
Date Released: 2020

A Long Goodbye is a narrative game centered around two old friends who have to say their final goodbye over a phone conversation, and focuses on the use of a realistic conversation structure.

A Long Goodbye is a short game I created as part of a five-week production unit at the Academy of Interactive Entertainment (AIE). You can play it for free through the above itch.io link.

The game received the Excellence in Narrative 2021 Freeplay Award, and was also nominated in the Micro-Game and Student categories.

"It’s a beautifully written little game that feels very much like a real conversation between two old friends. What movies, TV and games often gets wrong is that in real life people don’t just blurt out their feelings and that it can often be more about the things that go unsaid then said. A Long Goodbye gets it right and it makes for a much more realistic and impactful story."

- freegameplanet.com

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A Long Goodbye is played from the perspective of a man named Charlie, who sits on top of his crashed car on an empty highway and calls his old friend Barb, to tell her he won’t make it to say their final goodbye in person. With no other choice, the two are forced to say their final farewell over a short phone conversation. The conversation explores their shared history, their estrangement, and the things left unsaid.

 

The game centers around a single conversation between two characters (one of which the Player controls). The conversation aims to be more realistic, with a conversation structure which naturally switches between topics similar to a real conversation. The Player can perform two main actions: choose conversation options (by clicking the text option), and investigate the 3D scene (by orbiting the camera around the car and clicking clue icons/objects).

All writing, art and programming was done by myself within Unity 3D, the Fungus plugin, Blender, Adobe Photoshop, and the C# language.

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The main goals of the project were to deliver within scope (a complete game experience with  solo production of five weeks), create a satisfying narrative, and emulate the structure and feeling of an actual conversation.

I created this project because I wanted to write realistic branching dialogue for a game. I hadn't seen a similar structure in many games, and I was curious how I could try to emulate a real conversation. Using a goodbye for the conversation allowed me to create a strong tone and balanced the need for a conversation goal with flowing between different topics; a goodbye is a good reason to talk about nothing at all, because that itself is saying something. This structure also allows for a high replay value, with each reply moving the story in a different direction.

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I enjoyed designing and writing this style of dialogue, and can see myself using what I learnt in future projects. While I believe the investigations are an interesting way to add new story details (especially when using an omnipotent voice in an otherwise fully character dialogue game) the mechanic could have been better utilised. Instead of an impersonal environment such as a highway, using an environment more familiar to the characters would make more opportunities for relevant and interesting information reveals.

Overall, I'm very proud of A Long Goodbye for its tone and writing structure.

Below is the announcement of A Long Goodbye receiving the Excellence in Narrative Award during the 2021 Freeplay Awards Ceremony:

 

MALFUNCTION ON THE ORION EXPRESS

type: mystery game
made with: Unity 2D
Team: 6
Role: Designer, Writer, Producer
Production Length: 15 weeks
Date Released: 2020; final student project for the Academy of Interactive Entertainment's Game Design and Production Advanced Diploma course.

Malfunction on the Orion Express is hidden object text-adventure game about a flight marshal investigating the various mysterious aboard the luxury space cruiser the Orion Express.

Malfunction on the Orion Express is a game I created alongside a team of other students as part of the final fifteen-week production unit of the Academy of Interactive Entertainment. The game is available for free through the above itch.io link.

The game mixes elements from hidden object and text-adventure mechanics, and allows the Player to use any word said to uncover evidence. During conversations, the Player can select words they believe are relevant which is then stored in an inventory. Once in an investigation scene, the Player can try to find relationships between their stored words and objects in the environment to create pieces of evidence. This evidence can then be used to question and confront the suspects to unravel the mystery.

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The investigation scene

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The conversation scene

Alongside Gavin Lee, I was co-designer, co-writer and co-producer. Together we created the base structure of the game, designed mechanics, outlined story development and characters, wrote branching dialogue, UX design, and conducted testing.

It was the first time co-writing for both Gavin and myself, and we worked well together as a team. We split writing by scene (character conversations), with myself writing scenes 3 (Knapp), 4 (Jerick), 7 (Knapp), and 8 (epilogue). We would then edit and give suggestions on each other's work for consistency. The final script was just under seventeen-thousand words across eight in-game conversations. The writing was implemented into Unity using a custom dialogue system created by our programmer Jim Phimphravichith

Overall, Malfunction on the Orion Express was a learning experience. A post-mortem created by the team can be watched below:

This game was created alongside:

Gavin Lee: co-designer, co-writer, co-producer (LinkedIn)

Jim Phimphravichith: programmer (LinkedIn)

Frances Adams: background and UI artist (artstation)

Nguyen Pham: Character artist (artstation)

Breanna Fox: Character artist (artstation)

FREELANCE

project: various
date: 2020-2021

 

I have worked for clients assisting with the early design stages of game development. This includes working with a client and another designer to design the core loop, progression, combat and monetization of a mobile game alongside a full game design document. I have worked with another team to organise the scheduling and task management of a game prototype using agile practices.

 

 
 

PLANET UNKNOWN

type: casual puzzle platformer (prototype)
made with: Unity 2D
Team: 9
Role: Designer, Producer
Production Length: 15 weeks
Date Released: 2020; final student project for the Academy of Interactive Entertainment's Game Design and Production Advanced Diploma course.

Planet Unknown is a casual puzzle platformer about using special multi-purposed abilities to explore an exotic alien planet and complete combat and puzzles in interesting, interconnected ways.

Planet Unknown is a game prototype I created alongside a team of other students as part of a five week proof of concept unit of the Academy of Interactive Entertainment. The project was greenlit by an industry panel and a full version of the game was created by a mix of old and new team members - I moved on to solely work on Malfunction on the Orion Express. The above video is the pitch reviewed by the panel, and the completed version of the game can be played through the itch.io link above.

Planet Unknown is a casual puzzle platformer revolving around the use of power ups to fight enemies, solve puzzles and traverse the world. We designed the prototype around the gameplay pillars of 'creative combat', 'alien exploration', and 'puzzle platforming', with each power-up having a use for all three.

For the prototype we created a small level with two power ups that were pick ups within the environment. The first power-up was the 'ice gun', which allowed the Player to freeze enemies into blocks of ice, disabling the enemy for a short time. These blocks could also be jumped on as a platform to reach otherwise inaccessible areas. The second was the 'explosive round', which could be used to deal high damage to enemies or destroy destructible blocks within the environment.

The trailer for the completed game can be viewed here:

This game prototype was made alongside:

Tristan Duggan: designer (website)

Matt Solle: designer (LinkedIn)

Sian Sallway: programmer (website)

David Flintoft: programmer (website)

Frances Adams: artist (artstation)

Sebastian Tuckwell: artist (artstation)

Angela Stevens: artist (artstation)

Breanna Fox: artist (artstation)

 

UNANNOUNCED

type: game

company: TechTree Interactive

Unannounced game title from TechTree Interactive.

You can visit the company site here.

As part of an internship I worked at TechTree Interactive as a narrative designer on their unannounced game. I was responsible for developing and implementing narrative for the first area of the game, as well as assisting with creating documentation and outlining main story beats and characters. This included writing scripts, systemic dialogue, and environmental storytelling which I would then implement in engine.

 

THE EDEN BUILDING

type: level blockout
made with: Unity 3D
Team: Solo
Role: Designer, Producer
Production Length: 15 weeks
Date Released: 2019; level blockout for level design, programming fundamentals and narrative design units at Academy of Interactive Entertainment.

The Eden Building is a playable level blockout of an art-nouveau inspired conservatory created as an exercise in level design, narrative design, and basic programming.

The Eden Building is a blockout for a theoretical first-person stealth game set in an alternate 1920s art deco inspired world. The Player's goal in the level would be to reach the safe, find the key and combination required to open it, and steal its contents while avoiding or escaping the detection of the guards patrolling the building. The Player would be unable to kill or knockout guards, and have the ability to stop time for a short period (the Player's health would drain while time is stopped). This would make the gameplay focused around avoiding confrontation and the Player to create their own opportunities with the time stop ability.

I chose this level type and design because of my love for the Dishonored franchise and other games with multiple paths within open levels. Due to my late entrance into the course, I was required to design and create my blockout in a week. I chose to create quite a small level to help with this time constraint.

Exterior of the building

Interior of main conservatory

The Player takes the role of the thief Gable, who is tasked with stealing a series of important objects from an upper class of scientists and artists when he is caught in a city-wide conspiracy. In this level, his aim is to steal a composition from the renowned botanist Dr. Sinclair. The personality of the characters and world are shown through environmental storytelling, systemic dialogue and art.

 

The full narrative document can be read here.

The systemic dialogue (barks) can be read here.

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Basic functionality was added into the level, including locked doors that required keys, a randomised safe code that needed to be entered by the Player to open the safe, and an enemy AI who would patrol and could detect the Player within a cone of sight.

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