Email: timothysd@hotmail.com

A Fine Line

A Fine Line is an online graphic adventure game.  I designed the in-game relationship and integrity systems, designed core-gameplay experience, led direction of the visual effects, and assisted with programming of gameplay and effects.  This is the 1st game I've developed with a full narrative story and decision trees which I assisted in scripting.  An important focus of mine was to ensure player's choices felt meaningful and to make player's care about the other characters.  

Dev. Date: January 2016 - May 2016

Role: Lead Game Designer, Programmer

Genre: Graphic Adventure; Story-driven gameplay  

Client: Carnegie Mellon University

Platform: PC/Web  

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A Fine Line is a graphic adventure game that takes players through a story where their choices affect affect their friendships and ultimately the outcome of the experience. Player's play in a first-person perspective as they navigate their final semester of college with the goal finishing school successfully while keeping their friendships.
Take a look at the True North Project Blog for more details about the game.

Design Thoughts

Key Design Pillars

  • Impact the player
  • Comic-book style & visually interesting
  • Emphasis on player choice
  • Relatable characters and locations

    Teach Players:
  • Understanding of how violations harm
  • How to recognize situations and take action
  • Understand of standards of integrity

Some of these design points came from learning objectives defined by the client for the game, CMU. Their main goal was for players to learn about academic integrity and be able to think under pressure in situations that relate to academic integrity.

Design Gameplay & Mechanics

I created the two main gameplay systems: The Relationship System and the Integrity System.
These were created to replicate the real life pressures of the situations that we placed players in during the game. In addition, they makes players think about how to balance their relationships with their personal integrity during play.

Story Structure + Integrity System - Multibranch story affected by integrity system

Relationship System - Determines each character's friendliness to the player.

Initial Prototyping

For the initial prototype of the game my goal was to implement the main elements of the gameplay, that being the characters, backgrounds, dialogue, and dialogue choices. The main focus during this part was to set-up a system for adding dialogue for characters and adding dialogue choices for players. At this point, the dialogue choices did not cause any branching in the story, but we were preparing for it.

 

Determine Dialogue & Choice Style - One of the most important parts of the game is dialogue and decision making. That is the player's main method of interaction in the game! Before designing the style for showing dialogue and choices, I researched other ways games have implemented dialogue choices. I referenced games like Dragon Age, Mass Effect, TellTale Games series, Persona 4, and even visual novels. I analyzed the pros and cons of each of these methods and try to determine if any would be an appropriate style to use for our game.

 

game references

prototype ver. 2

I decided to make the dialogue style a mixture between TellTale Games' style, comic books, and visual novels. In this version there is a text box along the bottom of the screen that shows dialogue from a character or the player. It also will display dialogue choices from top to bottom like an adventure game or traditional visual novel. The text boxes are hand drawn to feel more like a comic book.

Further Improvements

There were a few problems with this dialogue design. 1st, except for color it did not distinguish the player's dialogue from the character's dialogue well. 2nd, It felt more like a visual novel and less like a comic styled graphic adventure. 3rd, players were confused about when they could make dialogue choices. I decided to move the dialogue box to the middle of the screen and the box would have a different position based upon which character was talking and that character's position. I also added tails that extended from the box to the character to stylize the dialogue more like a comic book. The player's dialogue/choice box are along the bottom of the screen with tails coming from the edge. (signifies that the dialogue is coming from the player.)

Here is the FINAL DESIGN of the Dialogue (left) & Choices (right)

 

Character dialogue

Player choices

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