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Vestige



Vestige is a story-driven first-person thriller/puzzle game developed using the Unreal Development Kit by a core team of 9 members, with many others assisting, over a period of roughly 20 weeks. I served as one half of the two-person writing team, tasked primarily with scriptwriting and narrative design.

Set in an alternate history where Rome never fell, the story follows a heroine's journey through a labyrinth laden with deathtraps, coiling beneath the grand city of New Rome in the aftermath of a pivotal event. To escape with her life and the life of her mentor, she must use a volatile decoy device capable of tricking the living environment and its twisted operator. Her survival, however, will cost her something dear.

Click here to visit the official website.

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.

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

 


Responsibilities

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 30-page script out of it all. 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. These 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 creating and placing blood spatter decals, atmospheric scrawl/graffiti, designing the game's logo, and editing together the video trailer from footage recorded by our design lead.

 


Documentation

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 to have breathing room, and it yielded the chart shown below to caution 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 a high-level 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, we covered essential areas in 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 of 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 abridged, 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.

 

 

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