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Game Demo (2016)

Gameplay video: Nightscape

During my BA in game development, in my fourth year interactive media practicum, I worked for the whole school year and the following summer on our project, Nightscape. Nightscape is an isometric mystery game demo made with Unity focusing on Danielle, a private investigator tasked with unraveling the mystery surrounding the small town of Brighton.

My Role

  • Lead Game Designer

  • Lead Level Designer

    • Unity Engine​

  • Lead Programmer

    • C#​

  • MoCap Actor

Project Summary

Our team of 13 consisted of university students the vast majority were interested in 2D art, 3D modelling, and animation. Two of us actively worked in the game engine, and by the project's conclusion I was the main person working in-engine- coding and implementing art assets from our talented team. This was a highly stressful and difficult project, but the end result is something I, and our team, are truly proud of.

woman standing in front of poster at a student showcase for a video game university project

As lead game and level designer I ensured that our small team created content and aligned with our vision and tone throughout all stages of development. With so many artistically talented people, our goal was to play to the strengths of our team by producing something atmospheric and moody. We ended up generating completely original 3D assets & textures, soundtracks, 2D art, and MoCap animations- which I had the incredible opportunity to act out myself in full MoCap gear.

As game designer, I implemented our concept and assets in the Unity 3D engine, designed game levels, created design documentation, supervised playtesting, and assumed the role of lead programmer during development. I also represented our prototype at two professional conventions and interacted with judges and game devs to showcase our project. 

Game Outline

Nightscape was a fully fleshed out game on paper. But, personnel issues and a limited time frame had us drastically cut our content into a short demo. This product included an opening cinematic, an overworld level, and one simplistic tutorial level- the Inn.  

Core Mechanics

  • Player must investigate crime scenes and talk to NPCs in the overworld to gather information to uncover more of the story.

  • Full investigation & exploration is rewarded with more ways to enter crime scenes and access to additional clues.

  • Players must uncover Clues in the physical world and "Psychic Impressions" in the astral world (see astral projection below).


  • Police officers roam levels (i.e. crime scenes) with flashlights and listen for any noise the player makes.

  • Getting caught by police forces the player to exit the level, and blocks an entrance to the level.

  • Police detect noises made by the player and walk towards the source

  • FOV is represented by flashlight beam

    • if player enters flashlight beam, they are caught after a short delay and must exit the level.

Astral Projection

  • Player leaves their physical body behind, and a duplicate is spawned.

    • Re-colliding with the physical body exits astral projection.​

  • In astral projection, the physical body remains interactable, so it must be hidden from police

  • in the Astral form, moving too far away from the physical body will result in gradually reduced vision

  • Entering astral projection reveals a mysterious enemy, "NULL" after a short delay.

  • NULL always heads towards the player's physical body 

    • If the player's physical body is touched by NULL:

      • They are "caught" and must exit the level

      • NULL gains movement speed & is permanently in the astral world for that level.

    • Re-entering the physical body removes any threat from NULL.

  • Psychic impressions are a form of clue that are only accessible through Astral Projection.

  • Each level has a number of psychic impressions that must be gathered to progress.

Post Mortem

As a first major project for many on my team, myself included, this project was a bit rough around the edges. Looking back, some mechanics seem a bit contrived and overly complicated, but I think the base of the game is a solid concept that could be fine tuned into something truly special. 

Especially now as a game UX designer, many things about our concept were not UX-oriented and could have been improved. In brief, here are some examples:

  • In-Game Menu

    • The concept of a phone with various apps was interesting, but essential information such as progression tracking and acquired "keys" for locked doors are not easy to determine quickly.

    • There is also so much screen space taken up by the phone, when none of that space is utilized. 

    • If remade today, I could see a "smart watch" concept working well for space & keeping with the semi-casual PI vibe of the protagonist.

  • Abstract in-game cues

    • Using lights flickering to show where NULL is located in the astral world is abstract and depends a lot on where assets are placed in the level. We would need a fleshed out tutorial to make sure this mechanic is explained well, and need to be especially careful of the quantity and quality of lights in each level to make the most of this mechanic.

    • Using sound cues to convey information (i.e. player saying "I think I found everything I'm looking for" when they found all clues) is problematic especially when dealing with critical information. Players are highly likely to miss these cues, and this is unacceptable from an accessibility standpoint.

Despite its flaws, I learned valuable lessons about teamwork, professionalism, and pride in my work from this experience.  I also learned about the intricacies of a development environment, and how to fulfill multiple roles and think on my feet by learning new skills in a short period of time.

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