Author Archives: Jules Parker

House H(a)unters – Post-Mortem

HHScreenshot  IMG_4995

  My game is about a pair of ghost hunting twins named Becca and Casper Radley. Their producer has informed them that they must raise the funds for their next season on their own. Becca hatches a plot to convince rich couple Nigel and Mira Blackwood that their house is haunted so that they will sell it for an affordable price. Once Becca has purchased the house, she intends to “debunk” the haunting and resell it for the full cost. For unknown reasons, the Blackwoods must move out in exactly one week, and so the twins have seven days to scare them into belief.

  This game plays in two different sections. At night, Casper places scary traps and triggers them at the correct intervals to scare the Blackwoods before he is discovered by them. During the day, Becca talks to the residents of the town, performing tasks (mini-games and puzzles) to convince them to tell her more about the history of the Blackwood Mansion.

In the portion of the game which I programmed this term, Becca speaks with the residents of the mansion in order to establish her cover as a ghost hunter. In order to investigate the house fully she must gain access to the basement, and to do so she distracts the maid Emily with a leaking pipe. She can also gain Emily’s assistance by admitting that she is running a con scheme. These actions introduce the player to the fact that they will need to solve puzzles in order to convince people to work with them, as well as the fact that the tone of their interaction will have consequences.

At the beginning of night sections, the player (as Becca) will be able to tell Casper what facts about the “ghost” she has learned during the day, and he can use these bits of information to craft a more believable haunting.

Ideally, the dialogue in the game would have basic choices and question trees, so that the player can pursue the lines of inquiry that are relevant to the approach they are taking to the haunting. In this build of the game that is not developed, so I’ve tried to distill the dialogue down to what is important for completing the level.

  The McGuffin in the game is probably the house. The house has a worth to it for the Radleys – in that it will allow them to achieve their end goal of continuing their show. Additionally, it is uncovered over the course of the game that the house is a centerpiece for several occult happenings in the town – a demon summoning, a murder, and a bank robber being killed to name a few. Not only is the mansion the pursued item, it is also in the end the cause of all the weirdness which Becca is channeling as she creates her ghost.


  Primarily, the abstraction was on the artistic front. The characters have simplified design so that they can be drawn easily. Most of the expressiveness is seen in the dialogue sprites, which also have a few poses and rely primarily on facial expression to convey opinion.

I also abstracted the backgrounds, and the relationship between characters and backgrounds. The scenery has a smudged look, all of the colors blending in to each other. All of the characters who are a part of the town also have this appearance to them to a certain degree, aside from the Radleys. This – along with the fact that the Radleys use different sections of the color palette I composed for the scene than the other characters do – showcases that they are intruding onto the small town space.

The blending also created a sense of otherworldliness. This mansion is supposed to be “haunted”, and by blurring the lines it becomes more difficult to distinguish reality in the house. By creating this atmosphere, and throwing in some strange happenings, the player begins to wonder if they are the only ghost in the mansion.

Truthfully, a lot of the design choices I made were due to the limitations of my own artistic ability. In a way, though, not being able to do detailed lineart helped me.


  The positive feedback loop is in the “belief” system of the game. Unlocking levels of belief unlocks dialogue options which can add effects to Casper’s hauntings. These would make it easier to win the game.

The negative feedback loop is also based around the belief system of the game. As the player builds up belief with The Blackwoods, they also build up belief with the priest Father Jacobson. While The Blackwoods are more talkative the more they become convinced of the haunting, Jacobson becomes more wary. As being caught results in a game over, this means that though successes become more rewarding as the game goes on mistakes are more costly as well.

Because of the loops of belief, a player can unlock different facets of the haunting at different points in the main storyline. If they focus on making Father Jacobson believe (which is required to get the most positive ending, in addition to being something which increases the difficulty of the game), but not on The Blackwoods then the game becomes more difficult but also reveals things about his story earlier on. This gives that player, who knows about his story on say day 4, a different perspective on the things he does than someone who focuses on The Blackwoods and never learns his motives.

Through these mechanics a player defines their own experiences. They can make the story more of a challenge for themselves by picking less beneficial dialogue options and creating a more hostile haunting environment, which will teach them different and perhaps enlightening things. Or, they can make the story easier, which also unlocks facets of the story.

  I drew a bit from Garden of the Forking Paths with my ideas for the order of events things could occur in. In Garden, the protagonist muses on multiple realities where the characters had developed different relationships. Because of this, I wanted to experiment with how Becca’s relationships with characters interacted her relationships with other characters. In real life, a person’s current relationships affect their development of new relationships, and so I want to play with the idea that developing her interactions with for example The Blackwoods would also affect her relationship with the other townspeople.  

Nonlinear Narrative: The Protagonist

Becca Radley Concept   The protagonist for my game design project is Becca Radley. She is a 24 year-old professional ghost hunter with a predisposition for off-the-wall plans. When her producers demand that she and her brother/co-host Casper provide the funds for their next season themselves, Becca uses her money to purchase lottery tickets. One of them wins, but it is not enough to meet their goal. So, when Becca sees a massive old mansion for sale she hatches a plot to convince the owners the house is haunted and then convince them to sell their house for a lower price. Once it’s bought, she reasons, she can suddenly “resolve the haunting”, and sell it at a higher rate. Becca is the “face” of the Radley ghost hunting duo, with a showmanship that made their show – Ghost Quest – somewhat of a cult hit. Her ideas are not always good, or morally stable, but things have a way of resolving themselves in her favor. The top image is an example of Becca in the artistic style I’ll be using for conversations. I wanted to draw my inspiration for conversational sprites from dating sims and hidden object games. I also wanted my over world sprites to be fairly simple, so as not to crowd the viewer with detail. The rest of the images are over world sprites, as I assumed that it would be easier to find a face that looked aesthetically pleasing in the simpler style then develop a face in the complex style, rather than developing a face in the complex style and then trying to make it read well in the over world sprite style. I considered what props/special physical traits I might give Becca, but after some thought I decided that a more utilitarian design would function best for her. She’s a bit out-there as a person, but I wanted the townspeople NPCs to be bizarre with her as a grounding point, so I wanted her to look a bit “ordinary”. To that end, I decided I’d make her (and her brother to a lesser extent) stand out from the rest of the characters and the background by I started with a free-sketching style in the first image. I liked the proportions in that image, but felt like it would make keeping on-model difficult. I gave her some earrings and an eyebrow ring to showcase that she was more rebellious, and gave her white hair so she would contrast with the background. In the second image, I tried giving her a jacket. When we brought our three characters into class, a few people thought Casper was the main character due to the number of accessories he had, so I thought I might give Becca a hoodie in a different color. It ended up covering up much of the design on her shirt, however, so I removed it in the next sketch. Ghost Quest is her personal project, so I wanted her to display the shirt openly. This created the problem of how to properly display the logo. It was difficult to make one that read properly in the sprite style. In the next attempt, I simplified the logo under the logic that I could do the more detailed logo in the conversation sprites, but I ultimately didn’t like that. In sketch #4, I added a little ghost decal to the shirt to make it more clear that ghost hunting was what she’s about. I also simplified her shoes, as I was having difficulty making the white rubber section of her sneakers read well. In the next sketch, I decided to make the design more shape-oriented, and also to try outlining Becca with black rather than a similar color to the actual part of her body it was next to. Making her blockier ended up making drawing her easier, but I didn’t like the black lining so I abandoned that in design 6. Design 6 and 7 were both attempts to decide what those shapes were, and improve on the Ghost Quest shirt design. I also made her eyebrows black, to call attention to the fact that Becca is bleaching her hair rather than just having her hair naturally white. In design 6-8, I also played with the color of her shirt and skin to have a higher outline contrast, and tried to figure out what shape of eyes i wanted her to have. I ended up fairly happy with the shape of design 8, though when I put her in the background image her color scheme contrasted poorly with the background. So in image 9, I used photoshop’s Kuler wheel to give Becca a shirt color that fit into the scheme. Using the yellowish green in image 9, I ended up with a color that was different from any of the colors in the mansion’s scheme, but still fitting in with them. As this was happening, I started sketching the backgrounds for the game. This ended up fueling my decision to give the rest of the characters color schemes which were either black and white or closer to the background color schemes. In this way, it will emphasize the way everyone else is a part of the town they live in, while Becca is an interloper. I’ll also be tweaking Casper’s design so that it compliments Becca’s more. The backgrounds ended up becoming more abstract/fauvistic. Becca has a fairly solid design contrasting the background, while the backgrounds and the other characters are a bit smudged and indistinct to give them an air of mystery. I’m fairly certain that Becca’s design is still a bit incomplete, as it feels a bit too divergent from the background design at the moment. I want to work on sketching the backgrounds and other characters a bit more, so that I can be more aware of what I’m trying to contrast. Beccaspritetry1 beccaspritetry2 beccaspritetry3 becccaspritetry4 beccaspritetry5 beccaspritetry6 beccaspritetry7 beccaspritetry8 beccaspritetry9