Final Thoughts

Last week concluded our 15 week production.  We presented the project to the ETC faculty, as well as to faculty and administrators on main campus.  The response on campus was exciting, and we are coordinating with our client to pilot the experience with a summer course, starting this month.  Hilman is in the process of transferring our build over to… Read more →

Week 15: 4/24-4/30 – ETC Showcase

This week, True North implemented final touches on the prototype in anticipation for ETC Showcase as well as the final touches related to our production.  We have some remaining details to hammer out, but overall we have hit the major milestones and feel confident in our ability to wrap things up before our finals presentation this coming Monday, and main campus showcase on Tuesday.  This week we also submitted our promotional materials to the archive, as well as our preliminary production documentation.  After our presentation next week, we will be revisiting the promo videos to add some nicer titles, but they are available currently at the end of this post (as well as on the Media tab).

ETC Showcase:
We had a productive showcase, talking with folks from a variety of backgrounds (ranging from educational, to multimedia and interactive narrative backgrounds).  Most expressed positively to A Fine Line, and felt that the art and the interactions worked well.  Our clients took time out of their evening to stop by, and complimented us on the project, and our progress since we had last showed them the game.

Technology Transition:
This week, Hilman and Tim met with representatives on main campus to discuss the needs and process for transferring the game to the university server.  The University has learned from their experience transferring over Decisions that Matter, and we anticipate having to make adjustments before we can fully grant them access and ownership.  We are in communication with the CMU IT team, and have begun the process this week.

Moving ahead, we are preparing for our final presentation for Monday, the main campus showcase, and wrapping up project production.

Week 14: 4/17-4/23 – Soft Opening

This week, we had our Soft Opening, a playtest and capped off our week with a client meeting during the morality play class.  We have one more week to go before our final presentation, and this week we’ll be making some final changes and wrapping things up before we hand over the project to our client.

Our softs feedback pushed us to take care of the remaining technical touches to the deliverable, and focus on polish.  For the content, they also pushed us to think about ways to make the story and decision moments more nuanced for the player.  In a follow up meeting with our instructors, we decided to implement some of these changes through dialog.  And, we need to make clear during our final presentation that the deliverable needs to be clear on academic policy, expectations and consequences for violations.

This week, we met with our clients and they expressed positive feedback on the prototype.  They suggested some minor changes, and all that remains for us to complete is adding the “results” screens to the end of the experience, and lock in our loading and introduction at the start.  We’ve begun conversations with the CMU technical support to transfer over our server before the end of the term as well.

Looking ahead, we’ll be preparing for:

  1. Making the final changes to our deliverable
  2. ETC Showcase day (this coming Wednesday)
  3. Preparing for the final presentation next Monday
  4. Assisting the Morality Play class as they present the project on CMU’s main campus showcase

Week 13: 4/10-4/16

Ryan feels good about that
Ryan feels good about our project

This week, we spent the bulk of our efforts debugging and implementing elements of our design into the current prototype.  In anticipation of Soft Opening, we created a 2-week action plan to accomplish and refine the outstanding elements of our game, for instance animations, UI and transitions.  In addition to implementing all these elements into the experience, we’ve scheduled an additional playtest, coordinated assets for post-game experience from the class, and scheduled a client meeting to make sure we have their input before presenting our final deliverable at finals.  

Things coming up:

  • Soft Opening
  • Playtest #4 – ETC concurrent with main campus
  • Client Meeting
  • Promo material shoot

Week 12: 4/3-4/9

This week, we at True North have been working hard to implement interaction, polish the experience in anticipation for Soft Opening on 4/18.  At the start, we took some time to go through playtest results from the week prior, and also attended Playtest Night at HCI.  Our priority for our remaining production time is to make sure all the elements we have ready to go are working properly, and that the experience runs smoothly.  Below features a bullet list of our workload from the week, and looking ahead we’ll continue to focus on polish, UI, and implementing the latest draft of the story.


  • Playtest results from ETC day
  • Action list for prototype implementation in remaining weeks
  • Playtest night @ HCI

Story / Design

  • Story Draft 10 & 11
    • Met with Clients to confirm content & draft
  • Feedback design
  • Ending screens design


  • All characters’ animations
  • Phone interaction with new UI
  • Text alignments & correct font
  • UI animations
  • Scene transitions
  • Blur effect, work in progress


  • Landing page concepts
  • Login page & loading page
  • Additional character poses (Ryan Happy ver 2)
  • In scene characters completed
  • User feedback icon – compass
  • Ricardo’s art feedback


  • Sound mixing for ambients

Week 11: 3/27-4/2

This week, True North worked to implement new assets into our prototype, in anticipation for the ETC playtest day on 4/2/16.

At the start of the week, we held a planning meeting to decide the must have elements we wanted to include in the next big playtest of our experience.  Based on our own brainstorm session, as well on feedback from our instructors and the class, we wanted to make sure we included the following:

  1. Story changes – made some story updates based on the last playtest results, e.g. the personal integrity moment swapped out a cell phone for a wallet.
  2. Relationship decisions branching dialogs – right now we have a combined relationship meter, to get it implemented in the experience for the playtest
  3. Redesigned endings
  4. Sounds, including VO exclamations, replacing the timer
  5. More BGM – ambients and environment noises
  6. Feedback for choices made that affect relationship and integrity
  7. Character animations – We requested the purchase of Spine software to help in this process
  8. Remaining environments – Gym, professor’s office
  9. Finished in-scene characters (clickable objects)
  10. UI changes – font update, text formatting

By the time of the playtest, we were able to implement most of these changes.  There are still quite a few bugs that appeared when we integrated the range of assets this week, but we feel the project is moving in a direction that will boost the feeling of interaction and render the 2D experience more dynamic and visually interesting.

Tim during ETC Playtest Day

During the playtest, we saw 14 testers, most of which were in the range of our target demo (college aged).  We had about an equal gender split, with about half affiliated with CMU.  The majority of the playtesters felt that they enjoyed the experience, and they felt that the choices

playtester 2
ETC Playtest Day

they made were relevant to the story result.  On the character front, we had results that showed Ryan improving in likeability as well as “being my friend” from the last 2 playtests, which is encouraging.  We learned that the sound and bg noises helped ground the experience well, and building off our last playtest, all of the testers knew that the experience taught about academic integrity (or morality in some way), without specific prompting. Finally, the majority of our testers also reported that the experience was realistic and made them think about their own experience and history related to academic integrity (both questions ranked 12/14 as scoring either 4 or 5 out of 5).

For points to work on, we need to continue iterating on the ending, and making sure that the character journeys end in a more satisfying way.  In addition, cleaning up the dialog in the next few drafts to make sure that the players don’t experience undue confusion for the story (for example with the phone interactions and exposition at the start).

Moving forward, we will be implementing the details and polish of our game, which includes working on transitions, finalizing UI and adding more dimension to the animation (both character and background) on screen,  Story iteration will continue, in the remaining few weeks of the semester.

Below features a list of our work from the week.

Story / Design

  • Draft 9
  • Drafts of result screen
  • Redesigned timed choices
  • Testing what to show players when they make decisions that affect integrity or relationship decision


  • Character animations pass 1
  • Animations for choices, text boxes, speech bubbles
  • Update story to draft 9
  • Add relationships dialogue
  • Add Voiceover
  • Bug fixes…


  • Prepared Character art for animation (separating body parts, creating blink animations)
  • Finished Gym and Prof’s Office Backgrounds
  • Scene Characters for Restaurant


  • Voiceover recording
  • Character greeting SFX implemented

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)

Week 7: 2/21-2/27

This week, True North tackled more prototype integration, story iteration and design execution.  We two meetings this week to tackle our major project components.  In addition to these points, the team is working with the MP class to continue paper playtesting for the story and choices.  The first technology playtest will be on March 14th, and at that point we should see the story integrated with art and how that will affect the choice moments for the player.

Character Emotions implemented in scene – Neutral Ryan pictured

For programming, Hilman, Emily and Tim met with Mike (our project instructor) and Bryan (Senior Research Programmer)  to present a code review, client and server implementation, code structure, documentation and logging information.  In addition to the review, Emily

IMG_7658 (1)
Morality Play Code Review

implemented 3 of our dramatic scenes into the prototype, with the branching structure reflected in the choices you can currently select.  Hilman worked on visual fx for the enviornments and point tracking (friendship and integrity points) and also integrated the character emotion tagging for the scenes.

For design, Tim continues to iterate on the design of the interaction, including character placement, in game phone and email interaction, and UI design.  He worked through the script to tag friendship decision points

ui ex
UI Examples

and created a spread to map tracking those moments.  In meeting with Melody and Xiaowei from the MP class, he outlined pipeline needs for the project in their UI concept designs.  In addition, Emily and Tim have brainstormed about sound in the game, specifically speech voice over (whether or not we can include elements of that) and ambient audio fx.

For the story, Sarabeth met with Chris (ETC Professor), Ralph and Mike (Project Instructors) and Sarah (MP Class) for a table read through of the current version (Draft 6.5) of the script, focusing on story arc and characters specifically.  The story met with favorable feedback, and some concrete points upon which to move forward.  As the team approaches the halves presentations, the story will need to solidify so we can make plans accommodate certain project elements, for example possible voice over elements.

On the Art front, Ross completed in scene characters (to click on as you

Art by Ross Houston, In Scene Character Clickable Objects

enter the scene), the library scene, additional character line art as well as starting on the cafe environment.  He’s also been working closely with the MP class members to integrate their character coloring and bar environment into the game.

Moving forward, the team will focus on implementing the remaining scenes into the prototype, solidifying on a UI design, playtest preparation and continuing the work on the Art assets to implement.  Below are some updates from the week:

Design / Story

  • Script Read through w/ Chris
  • Story board review – visual comp. focus
  • emotion tagging & friendship/integrity meter tagging of script
  • Phone interaction design
  • UI research w/ class


  • MP Class meetings, playtest feedback
  • 2nd Playtest planning – 3/14


  • Code review w/ Mike & Bryan
  • Multiple expression for character
  • Multiple backgrounds classroom and UC
  • Scene 1, 2, and 4 with expression
  • Save data across pages (phone picked up at scene 1, mentioned in scene 2)


  • Library environment

    Cafe Line Art
  • Cafe environment
  • in scene character objects (Ryan, Cat & Priya clickable objects in library scene eg)
  • Bar objects (beer glasses, wine glass)
  • Bar environment (MP class to complete)

    angry ryan
    Angry Ryan Line Art

Week 6: 2/14-2/20

Screen grab from Prototype #2

This week, True North integrated new assets into the prototype, continued story iteration with a new draft of the script, conducted a paper playtest and continued work on the art assets of the project.  After receiving our Quarters review feedback, we challenged ourselves on how to push our parallel work schedules to focus even more on implementation of design plans and assets.  This is necessary to get a read on what’s working and what needs to change.

Screen grab from Prototype #2

For the new prototype, we implemented the second scene of the current story draft, complete with the framework for how the underlying scoring system for integrity and friendship will play into how the story branches.  In looking at the new compositions of the prototype, we continued to brainstorm on how to make the existing character poses more dynamic, with eye contact, body direction and group layout.

For the story iteration, we’ve settled on a framework for the structure.

Storyboards, Design by Sarah Keller (Morality Play Class Team)

The story has 3 decision moments for “academic integrity”, one moment for “personal integrity” and 3 aside moments to reinforce the story and give added depth to the characters.  We’ve iterated on the ending to add the added depth of allowing all the choices to play a role in the player’s consequences.  Moving forward, we’ll be focusing on the characters a bit to orchestrate their own story arc as you play through the experience.  We also have a skeleton storyboard, courtesy of our partners from main campus, who have also helped with art assets and playtesting.

Playtest 2/17
Playtest 2/17
Playtest 2/17

During the playtest, ETC and MP class members interviewed 18 students,and focused on testing the moments of “academic integrity” decision making.  Overall, we saw that the characters did not come through as sympathetic (not a surprise given any development was cut) from these moments.  We also noticed that the “bad ending” was chosen quite frequently, due to a mix of people who were truly unknowledgeable on the code as well as people who objected to it as a rule entirely (which is another conversation).  It also led us to alter the endings a bit to make the player feel their consequence was based on more than that last integrity decision, and therefore more “fair”.

For the art, we’ve been integrating the class into the pipeline a bit, and we look forward to seeing their UI concepts next week.  We have almost all the interior environments done, and are well along for the line-art in the character emotions.

As a final note, we played an academic integrity game produced by Simcoach, and noticed that they tackled many of the same story points and issues we’re trying to in our game.  We plan to follow up with this, and see if there are any lessons there that might help us in the design and production process.

Below are some detailed updates from the week.  Looking ahead, we will be continuing to iterate on the story for character relatability, and continuing to implement assets into the prototype so design innovatio n can become more integrated with our existing work.

Design / Story

  • Draft 5 of story
  • Friendship Meter Outline
  • Integrity Meter iteration
  • Storyboards w/ SK


Playtest to Refine Composition Box
  • First “public” paper playtesting
  • Process grade meetings
  • MP class focus group concentrations established, work produced (eg. Story, playtesting, art), integration into the team pipeline
  • Playtest to Refine Workshop – player focused


  • Implemented relationship and integrity systems.  slight branching of dialogue based on relationship with characters,
  • Scene 2 is in, but not finished.  Undergoing some improvement tweaks for the transitions, image stretching, and character placement
  • Mouse hover effects on interactable objects and choices


  • library environment     prof
  • classroom environmentclass environ
  • 3 character line art
  • UI research & concepts

Week 5: 2/7-2/13 – Quarters Sit Downs

This week, True North presented our project’s progress during the ¼ walk faculty walk arounds and ¼ sit down meetings.  Faculty feedback was mostly positive, and we encountered many of the same questions as we proceeded through the eight different sessions.  Specifically, our comparison to the previous MP project – Decisions that Matter, user relatability to the material, international student “ignorance of law” and narrative engagement.  During our sit down discussions, we talked about violations from the professor’s perspective as well as how best to approach developing a transformational game.  In looking at the Schell Games Transformational field guide as a starting point, we’ll be framing our development with key elements such as identifying our “barriers”.  In addition to addressing these with our faculty during quarters, we met with the client during the class time on Thursday (2/11) to review story structure, content accuracy and experience goals.  Splitting the class into pipeline “focus” areas (Interaction, Art and Story) has allowed us to narrow in on a direction for the experience.  The class will be focused on exploring paper playtesting, environment concepts and storyboards. Looking ahead, we will be refining the current story structure, implementing design refinements into the prototype (quantifying integrity score e.g.), and continuing to produce character emotions and environments.

Design / Story

Tim’s notes on transition / “asides” between scenes
  • 4th draft of story
  • Revised story structure road map
  • Morality Play Draft 4 Structure
  • Continued iteration with Sarah G, Storyboards started
    • To do: TB with Ralph / Chris on table read
    • TB with Client on story content / violation feedback
  • Updated 1page designs for features, story, and mechanics
  • Paper playtesting with MP class (date tbd)


  • ¼ Reviews, ¼ sit down meetings
  • Thursday class progress meeting with Client
  • Tentative playtest schedule
  • Broke out into focus groups in the MP class
    • Art, Interaction, Story
  • Playtest to Refine workshop (next week)


  • Cleaned up hacky codes for 0.25
  • Implemented Flow (Simpler way to describe what is happening on scene, define animation, dialogs and choices)
  • Implemented Interactable Objects
  • Textbox supports multi-line
  • Implemented choose location interaction
new ryan- happy jpg
Art by Ross Houston, redesign of “Ryan”


  • 2 completed looks per character (e.g. Happy, Neutral)
  • 2 character redesigns – Ryan and Professor
  • 1 environment location, additional environment concepts
    • MP classstarting on the environment assistance

      sweeney-happy jpg
      Art by Ross Houston, Prof redesign

Week 4: 1/31-2/6

Story Iteration, part 1
Story Interaction Map

This week, True North focused on story iteration and our upcoming quarters presentation.  For story iteration, we’ve broken down the narrative into key plot points, and continue to revise interaction and scene interactions.  The story currently concentrates on the core violations of cheating, plagiarism and unauthorized assistance, but a core focus for the narrative is an emphasis on engaging our user through compelling story and character connection.  To do this, we must find ways to avoid falling into stereotypes and cliches.  For a topic with an educational goal in mind, this will continue to provide challenges.

For quarters preparation, we’ve developed a preliminary prototype with one of the drafted scenes.  It shows a rough outline for what the interactions will be as well as transitions between scenes.  Right now, we have our introduction scene represented, along with a couple of choice and decision interactions.  Though the art is still incomplete on it, the prototype gives a rough gauge for how we envision the experience to feel.  It also gives you a visual context in which to place the characters in the existing story draft.

Looking ahead, discussion with the “Home Team” class continues to bring up important elements to consider for the experience design.  We have made a time to meet with them outside of class so that I (Sarabeth) can discuss with them in person my process on the story creation, writing and direction.  Because I have not been able to attend the class, story iteration in partnership with the class has been slower to evolve.  We hope that interacting with them outside of the class this week will give us a better way to approach our partnership with them, and keep momentum for the experience iteration moving ahead.  Ultimately, we want to have the class partner with us on story, design and playtesting in a way that efficiently gives ownership to all parties involved.

Below are some additional updates from the week.

Design / Story

  • Iterated on story
  • Completion of draft #3, iteration for draft 4
  • Finishing one-page design documents for story outline and game systems
  • Created class and syllabus outline for “Programming and Society” (in game course)
True North Team Photo


  • Established extra mtg with “Home Team” to go over focused collaboration eg story
  • ¼’s prep
  • Team photo – pictured at right


  • Display text box
  • Merge emily’s code and tim’s code for movement and transition
  • Start work on scenes to show on 0.25


  • Finalized branding materials
  • 1 pose per character, 4 total

Week 3: 1/24-1/30

This week, True North continued work on story iteration and game design for the interactive experience.  We produced a first draft of the story script, and created a “paper prototype” for the player interactions.  We used a branching Google survey to distribute the prototype, accessible at this LINK.  The story focused on a small group of students, faced with varied situations of academic decisions.  The goal of the draft was to create an experience with appropriate content (true to life situations and academic integrity insights) and a structure that simulated branching (Officially termed “parallel structure”).  After hearing feedback from the class on main campus, we will be adjusting the next draft to focus on fleshing out the characters to add more emotional connection.  Next week, we will release another playable prototype.  In the meantime, the class will brainstorm on sample scene scenarios that incorporate the material discussed in class.

Discussion in class also prompted another important element of the experience:  Is there a way to create an experience that immerses the user enough that they will be able to forget its subject matter of academic integrity?  That’s something to consider, and as True North continues to progress, we will be iterating on this idea of how to connect both an engaging story with insightful teachings.  On another level of the interaction design, we are weighing the considerations of replayability, “winning” criteria and player objectives.

Switching gears to programming, Hilman, Emily and Tim have set up the server and elements of the player experience.  These include moving objects, interaction, transitions and dialogue system.  In addition to these elements, we have our server up and running to host the web experience.

On the art side, True North has preliminary branding concepts, including branding concepta poster, half sheet and logo.  You can see examples of this branding in the media tab, and throughout the website.  The concept behind the branding imagery is to capture the metaphor of our team name “True North” as a moral direction.  Since the project deals with academic integrity and moral decision-making, Ross created an image that reflects the difficult path of moral integrity towards the ultimate light of what is right, the north star.  The image also plays off of the idea of a moral compass.  After some feedback, Ross added a figure at the center, pointing to the sky’s north star, allowing us to underscore the importance of following a morally focused journey.

Below are some additional notes on True North’s progress for the week.  Next week we will continue to iterate on story, and begin the process of creating assets to integrate into the interaction system.


  • Contacted clients regarding story direction, awaiting feedback
  • submitted website desc and logo to ETC web page
  • communicated with Janice on room theming
  • attended class, discussed project iteration, scenarios and psychological motivations more in depth


  • Production server is running
  • Able to detect click on an object
  • Looking into ways to implement page transition
  • Setting up scene management for the experience

Game Design / Story

  • First draft of story completed
  • second draft to be completed for next week
  • first playtest / paper prototype distributed and discussed with the class
  • Updated design mock-ups
  • Incorporating research and learning goals into story/game elements


  • Branding Materials
  • Environment Concept
  • UI Research
  • Assets cataloged

enviroment concept ryan-happy jpg

Week 1: 1/10-1/16

Welcome to the first blog post of team True North!  Our project for this semester is Morality Play.  We work closely during the semester with a philosophy class taught by Andy Norman to explore the topic of academic integrity and its implications beyond the university setting.  Together with our partners on main campus, we will work to create an interactive experience that informs and engages with incoming graduate students about these standards.  Our academic advisors on the project are Ralph Vituccio and Mike Christel.  Our clients are Amy Burket, Carnegie Mellon’s Vice Provost of Education, Gina Casalegno, Dean of Student Affairs.  Through them, our primary contacts on the project are Lucas Christian, Associate Director of Student Life, and Joanna Dickert, Assistant Director of Undergraduate Research and National Scholarships of the Academic Integrity Initiative Program.

To add some context to the project, CMU noticed an increase in reported cases of cheating, plagiarism and unauthorized assistance from graduate students on campus, primarily from the pool of master’s degree candidates.  In the words of our advisors, “They feel strongly that something needs to be created to address these concerns and help impress on students what ethical integrity means in both academia and their future professional lives.”  Our challenge as the ETC project team will be to create a true-to-life interactive experience that captures the nuanced decisions that we need in today’s digital world.

Meet the team: Muhammad Hilman Beyri (Programmer), Sarabeth Boak (Co-Producer, Writer), Ross Houston (Artist), Timothy Staton-Davis (Co-Producer, Game Designer) Emily Zhang (Programmer, Sound Designer)

Below are some updates from our work this week:


  • Settled on team name, True North

    This is the team's composition box, used for brainstorming and ideating
    This is the team’s composition box, used for brainstorming and ideating
  • determined team core hours, advisor meeting times and main campus attendees
  • Met with faculty advisors to discuss project scope, past project takeaways
  • Met with Kirsten and Stephanie from last year’s Morality Play project, Decisions that Matter, to ask questions and discuss project best practices
  • Attended the Playtest to Explore workshop, where we learned about best practices on playtesting, ideation and general brainstorming through creation of a composition box


  • Set up a central code repository for the programmers
  • Able to run code from last year’s morality play project

Art / Sound:

  • Settled on 2D, still ideating on style
    • Bannerman, new Archie comics as inspirations

Game Design:

  • ideating on repeating the “graphic novel” approach from DTM or perhaps using a different structure for the design
  • interested in branching structure, with true to life choices
  • emotionally impactful story, with more bite and humor

Next week we will be using our research to narrow down the scope of the project, story needs and art style.  In addition to these goals, we will explore preliminary playtesting and continued research with the morality play class.