Month: March 2016

Week 10: 3/20-3/26 – Halves Presentations

True North @ Halves
True North presenting at Halves! (Sarabeth is smiling on the inside).

This week, True North worked to implement changes in our prototype according to feedback from our playtests last week, and prepared / presented our progress at WK 10 for the Halves Presentations – our midterm review.

On Monday we carved out some time to meet with our faculty instructors to show them our planned presentation materials as well as discuss some issues we faced since our last meeting before the Spring Break.  Between the week off and GDC last week, we knew we had a lot on our plate to accomplish with our remaining 5 weeks of production.

Mike and Ralph challenged us to really push through and incorporate more interactivity, and pay attention to the devils we’d been neglecting – UI, polish and animations.  Since then, we made strides to bridge the gap here, and came up with an action plan before our next prototype milestone – ETC Playtest day on 4/2 (WK 11: Saturday).  These include story and script updates, minor animations (head movement, eyes movement), sound (SFX, Ambient & BGM), revised UI (We met with Shirley Yee and she gave us some great advice on our Typography and UI layout) and transitions.  Also this week we solidified our working title to the experience – UNWRITTEN CODE.  Snaps for Ross, who came up with the title.

On Tuesday, we met with our client Lucas, who outlined the change in demographic he had previously communicated to us.  Our demo for graduate students would remain the same, but we will need to adapt the story a bit to include undergraduates – as this will be used as tool with undergrads who have committed academic violations.  The experience will now be used in two main ways:  for graduate students prior to arrival on campus, and for undergrads with a history of an academic violation.  In both cases, Student Life will follow up with students, either organizing group facilitated discussion with the graduate students, or in 1-on-1 sessions with the undergraduate violators.

On Wednesday, the team presented our progress (complete with demo) to the student body and the faculty.  We had some positive feedback on what we’ve accomplished thus far, but we definitely have some work to go on our deliverable.  If we can make good progress on the interactivity before the next playtest, we will be confident in our ability to accomplish the majority of our goals.

On the asset side, Ross has been busy creating our remaining 2 environments (Gym / outdoor scene and the Prof’s office).  In addition, the class delivered a copy of the bar restaurant environment, and we’ve already implemented it into the experience.  We’ve included an updated demo to show you, and you can watch it at the bottom of this post.

For the music, Emily has been implementing concepts of the ambient bg noises as well as iterating on the SFX we have in the experience already.  We plan to incorporate voice over in a limited way, to give the characters some flavor.  We will not be recording the entire script, as it would limit our ability to react to changes after the recordings were set.

Programming side, Hilman, Tim and Emily have been busy integrating new assets, debugging and researching how to achieve our desired animation effects.

As we look ahead to next week, we’ll be implementing story changes, new art assets, more sound, and hopefully implementing our animation concepts.  The class will continue to workshop with us, and create some UI for our phone interactions.  We have compiled our results from the playtest (with much assistance from the MP class), but will take time to detail them in the following post, as this one has become quite lengthy.  Please see below points on our work for the week, as well as some examples of art progress.  At the bottom of the post, you’ll see a revised demo, showing the opening scenes of our sequence.  You will notice some UI updates, as well as sound integrated.  The UI is far from finished, but it gives an example of the direction we are heading.  Until next week.

Story / Design

  • Draft 8 – revised draft includes more complete relationship meter dialogs, prelim changes for undergrads


  • Add new dialog bubble
  • Experiment with character’s animation
  • Debugging experience – selection clicking


Restaurant BG
Restaurant Scene – completed by MP Class
  • Revised UI for speech bubbles and context boxes
  • Bar scene completed by class
  • Professor’s Office
  • Gym environment
  • In scene characters for UC, office and Bar
  • Animation slice up on Neutral ryan – (to test animation of characters)
    Prof Sweeney's Office
    Prof. Sweeney’s Office – initial work so far
    Gym BG
    Line art for Outdoor / Gym scene
    • Animation assets to be worked on next week


  • Basic ambient sounds in all environments (except cafe, office, gym)
  • Basic SFX implemented
  • Working on subtle BGM for cafe and restaurant

Week 9: 3/13-3/19

This week, True North conducted 2 playtests, received some unexpected deliverable updates from our client, and attended industry conferences – GDC & SXSW.

Playtests: (Data to be discussed next week)Playtest monday

We conducted 2 playtests between Monday and Tuesday.  Monday consisted mostly of main campus and ETC testing.  The MP class and our team came through to corral friends (undergrads and grads) into our room in the UC to playtest the current prototype.  We playtested 12 people, and have some new information to sift through.  On Tuesday we welcomed our clients Lucas and Joanna to playtest where we received…

New deliverable parameters!playtest etc
While we received some positive feedback on our progress, we also got clarification on the news that our game must be tailored to undergraduates instead of graduates (we got word of this possibility over the break, but clarification this past week).  This changes the stakes quite a bit.  First, our story was targeting graduate students, and the characters and interactions reflect this (e.g. there are a couple of bar scenes, which will need to be changed to reflect the 18-22 yo market instead of late 20s crowd).  Second, the undergrad experience varies in a tremendous way – things that resonate with CS students might not resonate in the same way with Drama folks.  We’ve received word from Lucas that they are thinking of incorporating this tool to use as a reflective exercise with students who have been found in violation of the academic code.  So, not all freshmen during orientation.  That helps a bit in our alteration, but we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us to make this pivot.


True North @ GDC
GDC True North Reunion! (Missing Emily :*( )

The team took a hiatus from work (not good timing considering we have our Halves’ presentation this Wednesday!) to attend industry conferences SXSW and GDC.  We had a mini-True North reunion at a mobile games networking event (not pictured is Emily, who was hiding in Austin, TX).  There


were some great talks about the power of games to achieve different transformational goals, and we saw quite a few graphic 2-D interactive adventures / RPG persona style referenced as speaker projects.  Looks like “The Unwritten Code” (Our current working title) could be part of a web-based 2D narrative wave.

Below are some bullet points of what else we accomplished this week.  Next week we’ll go through our Halves’ presentation, our “pivot” to target undergrads and our playtest results.  See you next week.

  • Prototype Playtests – 12 testers (including 4 additional on Tuesday – client playtesting)
  • Halves’ Review – practice and deck creation (More on this next week!)
  • SFX implemented, ambient BGM to be implemented, FX lookahead
  • Friendship meter re-design (to make this consistent with the Integrity points system)

Spring Break! 3/6-3/12

True North team photo, filter by instagram

We’re trying to get some work in over the break, before SXSW and GDC.  Staring down the barrel of Halves Presentations, GDC/SXSW and our playtests…

Week 8: 2/28-3/5

questions lineup
Cast of Characters, Art by Ross Houston

This week, True North worked to update and implement our assets into the prototype, in anticipation for our upcoming playtest and Halves’ presentation.  We now have the important elements incorporated within the prototype – the latest story draft, updated art assets (most environments, most characters), basic transitions and an integrity scoring system.  For this upcoming Spring Break, we will focus on:

Programming: UI implementation (from concepts and design), phone interaction, back end data collection (for choice tracking – playtest purposes)

Art – Character expressions complete, characters in scene

Design / Story – Ways increase player engagement in the climax scene, ways to wrap up the story for each character (using friendship score), ways to show emotional changes in characters outside of new art asset creation (simple animations eg).

Sound – recording ambient noises for the environments as well as general SFX

Production – Playtest preparation, Half Presentation preparation, demo filming

Below lists out some additional details from our production this past week.  In our faculty meeting this Friday, we discussed our upcoming presentation, playtest and the prototype so far.  At this point, areas of concern relate to increasing user interaction, cleaning up “annoyances” in the visual presentation (UI concepts, for example), as well as story impact in the important scenes.  In addition, we touched on the transmedia additions that could help bring more impact for our users.  Examples of these would be email or texts generated from the play to break through the “4th wall”.  Looking ahead, we will have to work hard to balance accomplishing our goals stated above despite the tough convergence of Spring Break, GDC/SXSW Conferences and Halves.

Design / Story

  • Working on visual cues, effects for timed choices,
  • UI mockups for dialogue and phone
  • animation mock ups for character conversation
  • Working on Climax storyboard and interactions to be impactful and a strong moment.
  • Draft 7 written from Script table read feedback, with emotion tagging and preliminary point system tagged


  • Playtests being conducted on March 14th and 15th
  • Halves preparation – deck
  • Spring break production plan


  • All scenes are implemented
  • Started working on phone interaction
  • Limit camera movement
  • Prevent user click on interactable objects when in dialogue
  • Continued asset implementation


  • Cafe environment
  • Ryan Sad
  • Ryan Thoughtful
  • Cat Happy
  • Environment characters – classroom
  • Line Art – Bar scene (MP Class)