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Vestige is a story-driven first-person puzzle game developed in the Unreal Development Kit by a core team of 9 good-natured, hard-working, talented humans, with many others assisting over a period of roughly 20 weeks. The unfolding narrative follows a heroine's journey through a labyrinth ridden with deathtraps beneath the grand city of New Rome in the aftermath of a pivotal event. To escape with her mentor and their lives, she must use an unstable decoy device capable of tricking the living environment and its twisted operator.

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For our game, we were honored with 2 awards at GDX Entelechy 2011:

  • Best Digital Game Prototype
  • Best Environment Art

Vestige was featured in c't, a computer technology publication in Germany, in its November issue of 2011 (vol. 24). In addition to a review, the game was included in a DVD published with the magazine.



During development, all things narrative were the primary charge given to the two-person writing team of myself and my co-writer, Margaret Cogswell. We set down a storyline with three main characters at play, structured the beats of the story around the level's flow, and wrote a script of over 30 pages. All these were subject to frequent revisions, as iteration is the nature of both games and writing.

The characters were kept as voice-only to stay within scope, but we developed this disconnect into an atmosphere of isolation and distrust. We made sure the voices were distinct by overwriting their biographies, including physical, sociological, psychological, and historical facts. This can be found in the story bible below.

To implement the story, which included playable flashbacks and multiple endings, we worked closely with both the design and art teams. (Note: much of this involved just being in awe of my teammates' wondrous abilities.)

After script-lock and the recording sessions, I took on additional responsibilities. These included blood spatter decals, atmospheric scrawl/graffiti, and the game's logo and video trailer.

Full credits and team member responsibilities can be found in the game and on the Vestige website. Look under links for the portfolios of the other members of Team A.P.



This was the final script for Vestige. Because recording sessions and audio mastering were dependent tasks, crunch time for the narrative team came early during production. Expedience was paramount. In the end, we managed to get three editing passes through the script, and the final version became something of which we were quite proud.



In the early stages of development, I spent some time playtesting and mapping out the level progression, paying special attention to the areas in which puzzles appeared. This was to find the best places for story events, and it yielded the chart shown below. This functioned as a precaution against story interfering with the play experience. I used it to match the narrative's rising tension to the level's increasing difficulty.


Vestige (chart)


Long before any work was done on the main plot, we fabricated the progression of history from the moment that the game's timeline diverges from ours. Some historical research led us to base our deviation on succession: a different heir survives and takes his father's throne. Here, the New Roman Empire was born. From politics to technology to the methods through which narrative would be deployed, all of it went into the story bible section of the design document. Details such as the Luminary, a precursor to the decoy device and main mechanic of the game, arose from this process.

With a game roughly 30 minutes in length, our initial goals proved ambitious in terms of how much information we could communicate to the player. As a result, when the main plotline was finally laid down, some of the world narrative had to be changed while other parts were done away with entirely. It was important that we didn't love anything too much; the cutting room floor is never unsated.

In the following doc, some of the descriptions are no longer valid, but it stands as an artifact of nostalgia from a time when our project was still called "Romahedron."




Roma Transmedia

As a supplement to the game, I composed a series of short sidestories expanding upon the world we created in Vestige. They are written in blog post form and they explore everything from the world history to specific areas in the Underground and why they are the way they are.

Every life is a story, and many are those who were condemned to die in agony and obscurity by the Empire. Their fleeting act of defiance was to carve their last words on the walls of the labyrinth.

Welcome to the dark truths of New Rome, and the even darker heart of the Voice.