A light-speed PC game being developed in Unreal Engine for a major indie marketplace.
Role: Game designer and producer
September 2014 – present
Where the Project Is At
Particle Rush began as a very succesful prototype project at the Centre for Digital Media in the summer of 2014, attracting interest from several publishers after 12 weeks in the Advanced Game Design workshop.
Since then, the project has begun full-scale production, and a key part of that has been broadening the experience from a pure arcade racing game to one with the depth and engagement publishers and gamers expect from a larger-scale title. A big part of that is narrative, both in-game and as transmedia surrounding the project, and so in September 2014 I was asked to help conceive, design, and write a universe for Particle Rush.
This is a tricky proposition. Particle Rush is a racing game–it thrives on high-speed gameplay and lightning fast chases. We like to say it’s “Tron meets Pac-Man but way faster.” It’s critical that the arcade feel that worked so well in prototyping be retained. This isn’t a game where I’ll get a lot of space as a writer and that’s OK with me. This is a chance to craft smart story. A lot of the best games have very little spoken or conventionally written narrative. When you’re main character is a photon, what can you do? Particle Rush is straight science fiction. There are no magic swords or stern commanders here–just what the player is experiencing and a world filled with light and danger. That’s enough for me to work with. Existence is fleeting when you’re quantum-sized. One choice is all you get.
What I’ve Learned So Far
Particle Rush has been a great opportunity to work on a high-functioning production team as a writer. That means I’m finally getting to wade into the tools and techniques of my trade. It also means I get to make a whole new series of mistakes very quickly, and learn even faster with a great group of teammates.
I hadn’t ever had direct responsibility for a gameplay feature before and I had to learn not to be hesitant in owning it. I’ve been able to remain open to story suggestions and gameplay ideas, but I also have to move the story forward on my own, as everyone else has other demands. That’s meant I need to be confident in pitching internally and I’ve had to work on being as clear as possible with story communication and ideas. Production moves fast so it’s my responsibility to summarize the narrative into material that will work but which is also comprehensible by a team with varied backgrounds.
As the project has gone on I’ve done more and more production work, coordinating between game design, narrative, and the level asset pipeline. This was a role that was missing on the team and it took me awhile to remember my CDM training and bring forward some tools that helped us keep track of everything better. Given much of the game is dependent on the narrative design for direction and coherence I’m in a good position to bring everything together.
Finally, Particle Rush has been a chance to work with the amazing Confluence software for documentation. While this is a treat for keeping things organized it’s taken a lot to get used to and some good back and forth between me and the project’s tech lead to work out design documentation that we can use, improve, and eventually take live.