Prototype 2: Who are We

The narrative, contents of this prototype as well as the order and medium in which they appear can be accessed through link:

For this prototype, we tried to design not just the physical game and story-line, but also incorporate how we would deliver our game. As a physical game, it would be impossible for the consumer to receive it online and play it, in which case, we thought it would be interesting if the protagonist of the game addressed the player as opposed to us, the creators, addressing the player.

This meant that the game had to fit into a box, a decent parcel-sized one, that could be delivered via mail to the player along with a letter from the protagonist, asking the players to take care of the box and to keep it safely. Upon opening the box, players would be presented with the evidence that the character knew they would open it, which sets the stage for the rest of the narrative. To a certain extent, this became our unique selling point.

Looking back on the feedback we received, we decided to incorporate ciphers and puzzles and change how the game looked and felt. Instead going with our previous idea of having cards of the same size and look, we decided to write our protagonist's letters on papers of different sizes and colours .  We wanted to enforce the idea that the different personalities communicated differently through the various media. For this prototype, we reduced the number of personalities from 8 (based on our initial plan) to 4. Each personality was fleshed out, given distinct roles and triggers and different media that they were comfortable with expressing themselves through. We also ensured that the personalities appeared to be of different age groups, had different handwriting and had their own interests and comfort zones.

With all this done, we began work on the kind of ciphers, codes and objects we wanted to incorporate in the box. If the character we had created was encoding all her letters, would that not mean she would be interested in puzzles and puzzle boxes? The more we went along this line of thought, the more we fleshed it out, the more we realized that by focusing on our presentation, we had forgotten about and delayed our narrative.

We backtracked and began work on our narrative and the personalities' roles in said narrative. As we wrote, we pieced together the narrative, bit by bit, discarding some work, filling in the gaps and embellishing some of the pieces. Once we were done with this, we began to divide the narrative once more based on the different ciphers we planned to use and the medium each piece was going to be communicated through. We settled on our own versions of - Caesar Shift, Morse Code, Number Alphabet Cipher. Date Shift, Pigpen and Pig Latin- for our written elements. 

The problem that arose then was how we could convincingly, and in accordance with our narrative setting, bring the digital media into the game. Our solution was simple. Since what we were essentially creating was a box of memories, we could have a standard smartphone in the box. This phone would have all the audio and video logs and maybe even some photographs on it that a player could access and learn about the protagonist through. We could bring in the puzzle- solving mechanic by locking the phone and some of the files on it such that they would be accessible only by inputting the correct passwords, which the player would be able to find after carefully studying the letters and some of the unprotected files.  

//This would be a good point to take a look at the link we've shared above as it is imperative in order to understand our thoughts that follow. Thank you.//

JuliaShiban: At this point, my only goal was to put the entire narrative down on paper in the ciphers they were meant to be in. My partner MishaMari however exclaimed doubt on what the player was doing because at this point based on how we were going, there were only going to be letters and a password protected mobile. The player could only solve the ciphers, unlock the phone and piece together the narrative. It wasn't really enough of a game. She had a very good point, one that I wasn't able to understand however, because I thought that we could simply "add on" interactive elements as in digital games. 

Nonetheless, despite warnings, we proceeded down this road to see it to completion. We stopped only after encoding a complete letter in morse shift cipher code and looked back on everything we had. At this point, we came to mutually agree that this wasn't working the way we had hoped it would. We had some elements that the players would have to put together to reveal a clue to the end, but the more we looked at our game, the more it looked like just a "box of memories" or a story that played out differently from a book than a game with a gripping narrative and mysteriously confusing character. 

//Our prototype tests and user feedback as well as plans for the next prototype will follow in the next post.//

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