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Locus Solus

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A work of interactive fiction, AKA a text adventure is not the kind of thing you’d expect to see in a level design portfolio and its modern application is limited at best – but Locus Solus occupies a very special place in my heart and, despite its many shortcomings, is a project I am still immensely proud of.

SPECIFICATIONS:
School Project ; 8 weeks – half-speed
Team size: 1 Level designer, 3 Programmers, 3 Artists

My Contributions:
Project lead, Level & Puzzle design, Writer, AD

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There are several reasons I am so disporportionately proud of Locus Solus, most of them are entirely personal – for one it was the first project I worked on, and the first project of which I took charge. Having been bred on Lucasarts adventure games, I also relished working on an adventure title myself and being responsible for the entirety of the game world, puzzle design and (most importantly!) dialogue while working on the project. I wrote some 70 pages of dialogue and room description during the 8 weeks in which we worked on Locus Solus, and, aside from being a handful, it rekindled my passion for writing.

 

Locus In Game (1)

 

 

 

For a text game, the scope was ambitious – we wanted not only a traditional mystery game, but one in which the player would have to assemble the pieces himself and come to his own conclusion. Thus the story was designed in a branching-reconverging sort of way with bottlenecks that forced decisions from the player and several non-essential paths that would simply divulge additional information to help the player put the pieces together the right way.

 

 

 

 

Locus In Game (8)

 

 

 

 

But what if he didn’t put them together the right way?
The story of private eye Jacob Kane was built non-linear with three separate endings entirely dependant on what spin the player put on the background story. The extra information to be gleaned from, say, careful questioning of NPC’s, might imply one thing or the other, but was ultimately coloured by the NPC’s own relationship with the suspects and might lead Kane off chasing shadows. There were no ’wrong’ decisions, just different consequences.

 

 

 

Locus In Game (7)

 

 

 

 

 

Most important of all, for me, was the chance to write dialogue for a non-linear game.We didn’t have any fancy graphics, we didn’t have voice-over cutscenes or a well-known IP, and so the story of the world had to be told through the way you interacted with NPC’s.

 

 

 

 

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Locus In Game (11)

 The tools we used were extremely crude, and the product we produced was niched, bug-ridden and unpolished – but it was not a game completely without merits. It was something on which we worked extraordinarily hard, with our ambitions set way too high, and despite the odds we managed to achieve what we set out to do: Make the player part of a dark, psychological story, non-linear and husky-voiced – we managed to craft art and programming and design and writing into an experience.

And, ultimately, isn’t that what level design is all about?
Thus, I am disproportionately proud.

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