Uni Games Post-mortem (Part 2/3 - Second Year)
Part two of my reflections on the games I made over university. I've been very busy travelling for birthdays and graduating and going to events, so it's good to sit down and finally finish this.
Smitten at the Dashing Dalmatian
My course specialisation was narrative design, and in the first term I chose to make an interactive comedy about the struggles of asking someone out when 1) they are highly attractive and 2) you are a nervous wreck. I have a vested interest in exploring anxiety, social anxiety in particular, and this was a nice way to explore something like that in a lighthearted fashion.
I'd decided to go for a twist - that being visibly flawed and embarrassing, yet sincere would get the player the Best Ending, as opposed to getting all of your 'moves' right. As it turned out, it was pretty challenging to writing a scenario where a character only responds positively to the player if they are honest, while allowing for nuance in either's actions and responses, while also trying to make the dialogue as convincing as possible. I think I did okay. Love is hard, and so is writing for games!
My first venture into UI and UX design. I've since learnt that UX is way more than just "making things smooth and ergonomic", but I remember there being a spark about it that I immediately took a liking to.
We never got the AR working though. Maybe I should sort that out.
Waterdeep - 'Bridge'
This was the final assignment for my Level Design module, and it spanned most of my second year. The idea was to practise designing and developing gameplay scenarios, and to start making sense of how to make these happen within purposeful three-dimensional spaces.
There was also the additional purpose of making something based off an existing IP, which I'm really glad I got to do while at uni. The IP of choice was Waterdeep, a city from the DnD Forgotten Realms campaign. The long step-by-step process of this whole assignment went something like: pick an existing tabletop prompt from the list, create a rough three-act campaign with three-levels per act, and choose one of those levels to flesh out into 10-15 minutes of game.
My campaign was a big, touching redemption story about a has-been, jaded bard, who ventures into Waterdeep's sewers with unlikely companions to restore her lost glory, and capture a magician...or something. I had this whole cool idea of song-based combat and naming each level like the sections of a song, which is why this one was called 'Bridge' - it marks the halfway point in the story where our has-been, jaded bard begins to have a tough change of heart.
This was definitely the most commercial thing I've ever designed, and such a big campaign, too. I've never put mission design high up on 'types of game design I love doing', but looking back, I do wonder why I don't try it out more. It's kind of fun to build scenarios and connect the dots from level to level, moment to moment.
I joke that one of my go-to story themes is "grief-ridden protagonist searching for catharsis" (I've watched Inception at least five times), but it really does keep happening, and Faith has it in spades. It also has a wolf, and it takes place in a forest, ticking two more Classic Nic Narrative boxes.
Faith is a wolf whose home is dying thanks to mysterious, deadly red plot-fog, and she's reeling from the loss of her cubs and mate when she runs into a strange human woman who asks her to find some golden lilies that will save the land. Humans aren't meant to be trusted or interacted with blah blah blah, but Faith goes for it anyway, desperate to hold on to home. There's lot of sad dialogue and platforming sections, it's coherent but a lot happens for the sake of getting you from A to B.
I really, really want to rewrite this story and make a better game. This feels like one of those ideas that came out still rough and the bits don't quite fit together, but still possesses a strong core, so I'd love to come back to it someday.