Author Archives: Danny Jung

Nonlinear Design: A Musician’s Quest, Post-Mortem

music note

  My game is about the story of a struggling musician going on an adventure to play a show at the end. Throughout the way, he collects musical notes to improve his ability to play and must have a minimum score to rock the world at the end. He also runs into events that would trigger “encounters”, or problems that would befall that of an artist in the music industry, such as paparazzi slowing him down as he aims to reach his destination, or groupies that negatively impact his musical talent. He must go through all these events while staying on his path to stardom and to rock out. I did not manage to finish the game but I was able to complete the paper game and see a physical representation of how the game would play out if it was finished. When I first started out in the planning process, I did not want to venture into the mentality of making my game memorable by any means. I wanted it to be relatable to the average, everyday musician. It was drawing from my experiences learning and performing music in my lifetime as I grew up playing the piano and now studying the drums and music more intensively as it is something I am deeply passionate about. I would like to explore this possibly as a job option in my lifetime if I can achieve it.

As I am not a talented artist I wanted the game to look simple but in doing so I found that my art ended up being very abstract which was not what I expected but I took that on to the fullest. It also fit with my idea that I wanted my game to be relatable. I ended up using the stick figure form as I thought that would be the best way to communicate the sense of relating to the player. Just like Borges in his story The Garden of the Forking Paths, I created a sense of nonlinearity while still being linear in my game design. In my world in the paper game, I created diverging paths to give the player a sense of choice. While there are not infinite paths as Borges suggests in his short story, I thought that multiple paths to the end goal in my game would be able to replicate the decisions that we must make as humans going about our every day lives. This also combined with the fact that our decisions and therefore actions have consequences, and that combines with the backward loop for my game. The backward loop in this game are the events that trigger as you go along your path, such as the paparazzi triggering slower movement for the player character if he takes a certain route or the groupies that were brought up earlier, making the character lose a certain amount of music notes, which is the score for the game. The forward loops are also the same, but they have a positive effect on the player, helping push him towards his goal, such as our character stumbling through his path and finding the event that has him being signed to have a record deal. This is just one example of the feedback loops that can happen throughout the game. Also, the McGuffin or the driving object that helps to advance the plot are the music notes that the player must collect throughout his journey. There are a bunch of events that can occur but the primary objective is to keep collecting the music notes and get the score required to get access to the ending. I fell in love with the fact that the minimalism of the game is also what can make it relatable. From the stick figure characters to the fact that there are not a lot of side objectives or that you must collect the music notes to progress, I thought that the minimalism does not detract from the experience that you have going through the game. The forward and backward loops are basically one and the same and they join together well because the events are connected to the player, also because of the branching paths.

The aesthetic of the game was designed to be escapist because as seen, it is not supposed to be seen as realistic nor reality, but simply to be relatable to people and the human condition. The stick figure aesthetic fits well for this mechanic as they can be relatively shrouded in mystery about the identity while still providing a basis for a being that everyone can relate to.

I believe that the player can see what is important because even with the nonlinear paths, the player automatically from the start can see where they have to go, which is basically to platform and collect all the music notes they can.


The interactions between the player and the loops were also fun to think of from a musical standpoint as I got to expand my knowledge of the music industry as well as expand my creativity when it came to creating ideas for the game and definitely helped me think outside the box and to think more abstractly. I believe that the feedback loops are an integral part of this game, just as much as the world and the goal.


Game Studio: The Protagonist

My characters were limited by my artistic ability, but this led to a much more simpler and abstract design that I was influenced from watching the stick figure animations in my childhood. A lot of the design for the main character was influenced by a game called Fancy Pants Adventure. A lot of the design elements for the protagonist ended up being the same, such as the hairstyle for the protagonist. However, I wanted to put a unique spin on this style and blend it with music, which is something that has influenced me throughout my life. I thought the hair was very “punkish” which is something that I was aiming for as a design element. A lot of the bands in the 2000’s that I grew up listening to would have those kinds of edgy rocker hairstyles, the colored mohawks and the like. However, with stick figures, I thought that the character would be someone any aspiring musician could relate to in a way.

Reference Image: David Beckham

I enjoyed just how animated and expressive you could make stick figures, even with how simple they are. You could have a character doing all sorts of things and make the action even more exaggerated. All the characters had elements of the music scene or an alternative look to them, which I certainly enjoyed giving and designing. A lot of stick figures are designed to be “bland” and not set apart from each other in an animation for example, but I liked giving them an air of distinction. For example, the roadie NPC was designed with long hair and always smoking a cigarette, which is a common trope/stereotype of the rock roadie scene that I thought I could play on. roadie NPC The cigarette automatically tells me that the character lives a rough lifestyle and is out on the road a lot. As for the villainess, she was designed as an opposite for the protagonist. The term “opposite ends attract” was a core principle for me in designing the character. So as the protagonist is leading a lifestyle of rock and roll and on his quest in the game, the villainess is an opposite, offering a life of peace and stepping away from his dreams. girlfriend villain NPC I chose the split hair colors as a sly reference to the choice she offers in being the villain of the game. The roses and the drumsticks also are a nod to that. The two worlds colliding was an interesting dynamic for me to explore. It is either the rock life or the life of settling down and building another life together. This reference image I found was the basis of the hair color. As per the protagonist, heavily based off the Fancy Pants Adventure game, I found that I would put the protagonist in my shoes, as a drummer just like me. I thought his story would be interesting as well as funny for any musician, putting on the best show of all time, playing the best gig that he can. game protag   With the hair in mind, it ended up looking like a mix of the “mohawk” from the main character in Fancy Pants Adventure, as well as elements of Sonic the Hedgehog’s head mixed with a Super Saiyan in the Dragon Ball anime series. I liked the idea of hair being the distinctive item in all these characters, as I felt that looks would be important in distinguishing between all these characters. I liked being able to design one element that would stand apart from the others that would make them unique from each other. So I thought that hair would be the way to go as it is in some ways, a lot of people’s form of expression.

Reference Image: Dragon Ball Z

Reference: Sonic the Hedgehog