Project: Blackbox is an experimental blend of narrative, puzzle, horror and visual novel game genres that takes place completely within a web browser.
The game started with a series of strange, "What if?" questions. What if we didn't use a game engine, what if we make it feel more like a mystery novel than a video game, what if we push the limits of what we are allowed or supposed to be doing for student projects, and the list goes on. We set out to determine the answers to these questions, both because the potential answers could result in a really interesting narrative experience and also because the project would allow us to exercise design skills that we don't typically get to use on student projects.
Project: Blackbox slowly took shape as a mix of puzzles and narrative threads. We developed a tool that would allow us to handcraft emails which would be triggered and sent to the player upon visiting pre-set URLs. The idea was to lead them down a strange path, leaving a breadcrumb trail of clues from one puzzle to the next. Utilizing images, coded text, hidden links, broken code, and other one-off tricks, we were able to build non-conventional puzzles that required a little bit of out-of-the-box thinking to discover and solve. The reward for solving puzzles was usually a breadcrumb to a new puzzle as well as an additional piece of the overall narrative. We tried to apply a bit of traditional RPG quest design knowledge where we could, in order to make things more compelling and to help lead the player along.
The project was never finished, but resulted in a wealth of new design knowledge and an interesting proof-of-concept piece should we ever wish to revisit it.
Platform: Web Browser
Genre: Narrative, Visual Novel, Puzzle, Horror
Team: Chris Morris (Design, Narrative, Scripting, Art), Joseph Erskine (Design, Narrative, Scripting, Art), Nikkolas Golesh (Tools, Code)
Development Time: Approximately 14 Weeks