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Narrative Designer

Sept. 2012 - Nov. 2013

Spooky Vault

Tools: ZeroEngine, Adobe Photoshop, Garageband


High Concept: Flicker is a two-player sidescrolling puzzle game that centers around cooperation in an eerie, post-apocalyptic world.

Design Goals: 

  • Develop the bond between the players by using mechanics that drive them together

  • Use the dichotomy between darkness and dim lighting to evoke uneasiness

As Spooky Vault is a two-man team, both of us were heavily involved in all aspects of the project. I focused on narrative design, art, and the role of producer. I was responsible for: writing weekly status reports; scheduling; prototyping and scripting; level design; producing art and sound assets; and playtesting.

What begins as the innocent, wondrous adventure of two children collecting fireflies turns into a struggle for survival in a dark wasteland. The gameplay centers around a fuel collection mechanic, manifested in the form of fireflies, which the players collect in a lantern and use to light their way. Players must work together to solve a variety of puzzles and navigate through the darkness.

Postmortem: This was by far the most comprehensive project that I have worked on at DigiPen. A lot of the difficulties that we faced had to do with the team itself; as it was just the two of us, we had difficulty meeting our vision for the game. The project would have benefited greatly if we'd had a dedicated artist or two, and another person who wanted to focus on the technical side. I was the lead artist and composer for the project, so I didn't have as much time as I needed to devote to narrative and level design. Having a few more pairs of hands would have helped greatly.

We faced a few difficulties in dealing with the engine itself as well. The ZeroEngine was in the process of being developed, which came with a unique set of problems - for example, the engine's lighting system doesn't work on 2D sprites. We had to work with sprite opacity and particle systems to mimic lighting in some instances. The game's ending leaves something to be desired, but the overall journey/theme seemed to resonate with players. We took this game to PAX Prime [2013], and the overall reception was positive. Although the game was incomplete at that point, several players asked us if the game was available for purchase, and enjoyed playing through either with a stranger, friend, or family member. There were a few cases where players didn't enjoy the game as much; some of this seemed to be due to the game type, as a number of the unsatisfied players wanted something more action-oriented. Others didn't enjoy the game when there was a large skill gap between themselves and their companion (ie. one player has difficulty platforming while the other does not). 

Working on this game proved to be an invaluable learning experience. As with most projects, we didn't feel that the game was truly "finished" at the end of the project's lifecycle, but it was finally time to put Flicker to rest. There are things we did well, and things we could have done better, but the experience working on the project made it an important piece of my education at DigiPen. We would both like to revisit this concept someday and remake the game.

This game requires two gamepads to play. It is available for download through the DigiPen website.

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