Game and Interactive Design
I have had the opportunity to work on various game projects and hone my skills in game design and mechanics. Through these experiences, I have gained valuable knowledge and insights into the process of creating engaging gameplay and compelling stories. While I am still on a junior level, I am passionate about game design and always eager to learn more.
In this section, you will find examples of the game projects I have worked on, including my role in each project and the mechanics I contributed. These projects range from narrative-driven games to action-packed adventures, and each one showcases my ability to think creatively and strategically when designing gameplay. I hope you enjoy exploring my work and seeing my growth as a game designer.
BrainGenix – Third person story driven game
Archetype – Mobile Multiplater FPS
Nori and the Curry Caper – 2D Platformer
Design Constraints – Turning a dice game into a digital tool
Third Person Story Driven Game
BrainGenix (BG) is a multi-departmental effort that aims to develop software for Whole Brain Emulation (WBE), which involves replicating all the important functions of a biological brain by simulating its internal dynamics with a high level of detail. The purpose of this game project is to support research in brain emulation and eventually allow interaction with brain emulations. As the primary game designer, I contributed to various departments on this project.
Archetype was a competitive FPS on IOS. The game was designed to allow multiplayer up to 5v5 over the 3G network. While I acted in many roles on this project, I also worked with the team to develop mechanics as well as refine mechanics designed by the other members of the team.
Turning a physical game into a learning tool
This program was the result of a student-funded project I was awarded by SIUE. For the project, I was to develop a teaching tool based on a dice game created by Barb Nwacha. I handled all aspects of the project from start to finish. Here I will focus on the mechanic design but if you are interested in the User Experience aspects of this you can read more about this project here.
The purpose of this application is to teach typography by limiting students’ choices and forcing them to work within their constraints to complete an assignment. This approach aligns with the design principles of Massimo Vignelli and Johannes Itten. The following outlines the process we followed to create this project.
The original concept for this game was a physical dice game. The player had a cup for shaking and tossing the dice. The dice then had a combination of typographic rules that the designer would use to develop a graphic design project. My challenge was to adapt this concept into an application that would allow teachers from around the world access to use this as a teaching tool.
• Needs to be easily distributed globally for teachers and novice users.
• Intuitive and easy-to-use controls
• Entertaining to use
• No audio – Relies on visuals
• Completed under limited time constraints
The first challenge that we needed to resolve is the distribution. Originally the client wanted this released as a mobile app. This provided some logistical challenges for them, especially with upkeep and platform dev. After exploring all the pros and cons we decided to go with a web-based application. It could be maintained locally and easily updated. Having established the platform we could then consider the control scheme for the app and how to best implement it.
Interviews and research
To create the best solution for the client, I conducted interviews with stakeholders to understand their needs and incorporated their feedback into my research. My process involved developing prototypes to explore effective and engaging interactions. Using Adobe XD, I would create initial concepts and then build working versions to test with stakeholders and gather feedback. I conducted blind usability testing with both stakeholders and testers and then provided them with a written persona that explained how to use the app. This allowed us to compare notes and assess how intuitive the controls were. Below are a series of prototypes whose sole purpose was to test and explore different ways of handling user input.
Through building prototypes, we found a widely used control scheme that could accommodate a full range of skill levels. That same control scheme could translate from a web browser to a mobile device. The solution was simply selecting an object that represents a parameter and dragging it to a designated area to confirm the selection. This motion is something anyone who had used a desktop computer or mobile device has experience with so the learning curve would be low. From my research and testing, I wrote a short design doc that would establish all the goals for the software design so that it was built for those requirements and avoided feature creep so that we met our schedule goals as well. You can view the document here.
Since this tool could not rely on audio, we needed to create a visual representation of a machine to give the impression that it was processing the user’s choices. Through animations, we could provide feedback to the user, letting them know if their actions were executed. The client wanted a machine that looked like it did something but also had a whimsical element to it. As this was a tool that taught typography, the machine’s design drew inspiration from past typesetting practices.
To make the machine’s operation clear, we labeled it with “Insert Parameter” and added a port on the top that would bob up and down to draw the user’s attention to the right place to place the parameter. In addition, we made sure that the port size matched the size of the icon designs, which were used to represent different parameters. The icons had labels to ensure that users knew their purpose, but their visual designs also made them easy to recognize at a glance.
To inspire the design of the machine, we collected visual inspirations which helped us incorporate the right elements into the final design.
In Adobe Illustrator, I designed a machine in parts that could be animated. The goal was to create a call to action that relied on the visual affordances of the machine. I wanted it to be both functional and charming, so I added a whimsical touch to the design. The gears turn, the dial moves back and forth, and the machine chugs up and down as if it is producing something. The dial and gear rest where eyes might be, and the keyboard is in the place of a mouth, giving the machine a bit of personality.
To make the interaction intuitive, I aimed to allow for user discoverability. I wanted to invoke wonder and curiosity in the experience, so I added a flashing text that says “Insert Parameter” and an empty port to indicate where something should be placed.
To ensure that the animation and interaction worked well together, the machine was implemented into Unity and tested thoroughly.
Project Completion and Key Takeaways
With the end of the URCA program, I completed the project within the timeframe. I also met all the goals we set out in the beginning to achieve. Through our research and implementation of this project, I found the idea of constraining the user’s choices to be a useful tool in application and game design. Too many choices can be overwhelming and while having limited choices might not appear optimal on the surface it can allow for more user creativity as well as allow them a more direct path to their goals. I also found the foundations of User Experience and Usability to be essential in developing digital experiences for users. You can try out the application here.