Submission Accomplished!

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Perception: The Key is a 2D story driven game for the PC that follows a man, known only as ‘The Protagonist’, over a short period in his life. The player joins him and his ever changing perception as he searches for what is lost in an attempt to prevent the inevitable.

Above you’ll find a spoiler free overview of Perception: The Key. I say spoiler free as the game has a big twist that I’m trying to keep under wraps should I ever try to bring it to production. I have told a select and trustworthy few and their reactions have helped me believe the idea is a good one. Below I’ve done a bit of post-mortem of the process and how I’m feeling now the game is submitted.

Over the weekend I submitted Perception to Freeplay! I’m very happy with how it turned out in the end though I got pretty stressed as the deadline began to loom. I say stressed because I started the doc not having really figured out how the game would play (I don’t recommend doing that ever by the way – just not good practice) so spent a lot of time on sections that I either didn’t need to focus so heavily on or that would inevitably change once I decided exactly what I was doing gameplay wise. It also didn’t help that the kitchen was getting remodelled at home so for a good few weeks of trying I couldn’t get into a rhythm to get any decent progress made.

This image became a concept for the game as a whole as well as my struggle to get the doc done in time.

So essentially a week or two until the deadline I decided to start fresh and moved to a new (dauntingly blank) word doc along with the levels I had figured out. In the end it took me about a week to put together the final doc I submitted with most of this time spent writing the game. I did go back to the first doc (of which I had spent probably an additional three weeks on) eventually and poked through the wreckage to find that a lot was still usable; I just need to finesse it a little. That said, there were many sleepless nights worrying about getting it done in time and a very OCD system of saving to a billion places to prevent losing work. However once Thursday evening arrived and my doc was ready for proof reading I was very relieved, though no more so once that proof reading was complete and I was assured everything made sense.

Overall I’m really happy with the game. There are certainly areas where the game can improve (a few levels could use a re-design but the inspiration/epiphany through which to do so didn’t fall inside the time frame) but I’m hoping the judges appreciate the broader goals I’m trying to achieve. It has certainly changed a lot from the initial ‘game a day’ idea but it is all for the better. Definitely an idea I’ll be pursuing further regardless of Freeplay outcome.

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Perception – The First Level

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So as I predicted I got a little excited and have decided to share a snippet of my Perception doc. Hopefully it still makes sense out of context but it is a breakdown of the first level of the game. Enjoy (hopefully)

Level 1 – Late for an important date

Premise – The first level setups the story for the rest of the game. It starts as soon as the game does; The Protagonist, standing out the front of his house, must get to work on time. Unbeknownst to the player this task is impossible and will result in him losing his job.

This level will use many of the mechanics more commonly seen in games or levels focused on vehicles (see Image 2 for an example). As the player gains control a timer will appear on the HUD along with an arrow. The player will need to reach a series of points on the map within a time frame, using the arrow and their map to reach them in time.

Image 2: Screenshot from Midtown Madness

In a familiar fashion these points act as checkpoints; reaching one adds time to the timer and readjusts the arrow toward the next. The checkpoints will lead the player around the over world until they reach the train station.

Once at the train station a scripted sequence will commence. The Protagonist enters the line to the ticket booth. The timer will continue counting down, this time coinciding with the moment The Protagonist’s train is due to leave. Eventually The Protagonist reaches the counter where the player is met with two dialogue choices:

  • Option 1: One ticket please
  • Option 2: One ticket, I’m in a big hurry!

Choosing Option 1 results in the salesmen giving you the ticket free of charge proclaiming: “You’re the first person to say ‘please’ today! Here it’s on me. Have a great day.”

Choosing Option 2 results in a grumble from the salesmen and requires The Protagonist to hand over the full fare.

The scripted sequence continues as The Protagonist, ticket in hand, proceeds through the gates and waits on the platform. He has made it just in time.

A moment passes.

The Protagonist checks his watch. The timer enters negative numbers and begins to flash red.

An announcement sounds over the loud speaker: “Attentions passengers on platform 1, the 8:34 train is delayed by approximately 10 minutes.”

The timer negates further.

The Protagonist slumps his shoulders; all he can do is wait. The screen fades to black.

We return. The Protagonist is in his boss’ office. A dialogue sequence begins:

Boss: “Why were you late?”

Protagonist: “The train [cut off].”

Boss: “Let me guess: The train was delayed. The baby wouldn’t sleep.  I got here as fast as I could Boss. “

Protagonist:

Boss: “Well, I’m sick of your excuses. I told you this wasn’t on but you don’t seem to care.”

Protagonist: “Wait! I promise I’ll [cut off]”

Boss: “No way it’s done. You’re fired. Take your things and leave.”

The Protagonist stands and exits the office. Fade to black.

The screen slowly fades back to reveal The Protagonist standing out the front of his building, looking identical to before. The game returns full control to the player and this level is complete.

A Remedy for Frustration

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So It’s been about a week since I declared my intentions to get out of my rut and I’m happy to say that it appears to have worked rather nicely. I was able to make some nice progress on the High design doc including somewhat of an epiphany as to how I will go about implementing my ideas come prototyping.

Perhaps the most effective of my four goals was to “come up with a new game idea everyday”. This proved a great way to spark creativity giving me enough of a confidence boost to really get into the nitty gritty on High. Not only this, if I ever had a disappointing day where I mightn’t have got as much done as I hoped, I would always end the day happy knowing that I had something new down on paper (I’ve now got a dedicated notebook to hold them). This is definitely something I’m going to maintain!

Stepping away from my work has also proved very useful as more often than not my idea for the day would come at that moment. While tuning out from the Internet (most importantly social media) and setting up with a cup of tea has started me on the road to consistent work, at least getting me into the mindset to do so.

Overall I’m pretty chuffed with how it all worked out and would recommend anyone have a go at doing the same!