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Time Wench Phase 2: Level Design

By the end of week 1 of our game process Shashank and I quickly realised that I wouldn’t be able to learn enough about 3D modelling in Maya to make literally anything useable for our game in the time allotted; let alone serviceable game build assets. We decided to keep with the original concept, while tweaking the story a bit to suit the 2D platformer game style. This worried me alot because so much of the organic feel to the mechanics that a 3D third person game would provide was very key to the way the story had meant to play out. 


  • A lot will be lost without AAA game feel, the subversive nature of making a feminist game with a fully dressed, stocky, not quite gender-conforming protagonist that looks and plays like a typical dude-bro shoot em up would be gone completely.
  • The melee style mechanics would be no more
  • The call and response audio cues coupled with swarm attacks from enemies would be hard to jig.
  • The freedom to wander and experience different “consequences” through varying time periods just by nature of being a woman would be pretty much gone in a restrictive side-scroll format.
  • I still won’t have learned Maya
  • Since S has done a similar game previously, I worry that we may end up using existing code for the game rather than custom mechanics, which I think are important. Example: The way she throws a dissertation should move like a book or stack of papers would, not like a disc, rock, etc.


  • I feel confident that I can actually create the assets needed and on the right timeline
  • S has done this exact style of game before, so we should be able to get one playable level going quickly then make the next one(s) more in depth
  • I am creating all of the assets myself (with tutorials) rather than pulling a bunch from the asset store as I would have if we used 3D
  • This being such a different iteration than our original concept is leaving me even more motivated to pitch the “proper” version of the game and pull together a team to work on it in future.

Level Design:

In our story, one of the levels our hero time warps to is in the neolithic era. As she lands on the scene, the Narrator’s voice says “Don’t get carried away by the cavemen!!

Here we are playing on the trope that men used to just club a woman over the head and carry her off back in the “good ol’ days” as some men still assert (jokingly?) today.

#NOTALLCAVEMEN try to carry her off, but many do once they notice her. The game play is also designed that when one notices that his cavebro is having trouble with a non-knockoutable woman, he then goes into attack mode to help his cavebro out.

I’d like to see the dinosaurs on the horizon and the Pterodactyl in the sky slightly animated as well as the tarb bubbles that can be seen below in image 2.

The move from 3D to 2D clearly also included a major style shift in terms of visuals. Once the hyper realistic gameplay and mechanics were gone, so was my interest in that style of art for the game. Instead I focussed on visual consistency and using a really complimentary colour palette. I still thing that if animated right, the gist of our jokes will still be possible. It will just look extra silly to see a cartoony horde chase a woman for being able to read in level 2 rather than provide and actual adrenaline pumping experience of that same situation that the 3D platform would have been lovely for. The above assets were created in Adobe Illustrator and by watching youtube tutorials on level and character design, largely by Mark Rice. Thanks Mark!

Digital Games: Time Wench Phase 1

My game design partner Shashank Gargeshwari and I decided to team up to create the game “Time Wench” - the working title that just won’t go away. He would handle the code in Unity and I would do the art and bulk of story writing. I hadn’t done much game making before outside of the sketches on this blog, so I was excited to be working with someone who had made game before and was really interested in doing the coding.

We decided to pursue a feminist time travel story and based on the fast paced gameplay and visual style we pictured, felt it would be best as a 3rd person shooter 3D game. I also really liked this idea because many games that tackle non commercial stories and issue tend not to use this style and high production value, often they use text based, narrative styles or are sidescrollers. This seemed like a good opportunity to learn Maya as well for our asset creation.

Here’s the breakdown of our first concept:


In a post apocalyptic future, the government has taken The Handmaid’s Tale as a how to guide. But all is not lost! Turns out Marie Curie discovered more than radium. You play as Genypher, a sassy grad student and volunteer feline midwife, who has to use Currie’s secret time machine to learn how the women of the past survived so many eras of subjugation, and save the future!

Character Bios

Genypher :

Genypher, a sassy grad student and volunteer feline midwife. While working on her thesis (“Feminism Throughout the Millennia : How the F*%K aren’t we there yet?”), she discovers a neato time machine designed by Marie Curie that she uses for “Research Purposes”. As expected, the things she finds in the past are enough to bleach her Bubblegum Blue hair grey. Will she be able to recover the PatriArtifacts and use them to finally bring down the patriarchy?

Narrator :

Narrator is like a  Reality TV Host from the future. Narrator is smart, witty, and incisively sexist. In spite of his tongue in the cheek comments, he means well, and spurs on Genypher during her trials. He secretly wears a #NotAllMen T-Shirt under his suit.

Gameplay Description

Levels are mostly “Get From A to B” with fighting and interaction along the way.
The Player can walk, run and jump. She can also interact with Pre-Scripted items in the environment.
She can attack and perform various combos against enemies. Enemies themselves react to different parameters like position and state of player, environment, and weapons.
She can use a variety of weapons, each with their own unique effect, both positive and negative.
The game plays on queer and third wave feminism tropes, in a satirical manner, that might be seen as a little “inside baseball” but so is the phrase inside baseball itself. If we do it well, odds are that if you don’t get the joke, it’s not for you. 

Artistic Style Outline

  • AAA Game Style
  • Feminist “Grand Theft Auto”, influenced by style of Psychonauts
  • Future versions will have a variety of female identified characters
  • Think Lara Croft and Chun-Li had a baby, but with more clothes on.

Aim is to look like typical high end third person shooter/fighter but with subversive themes, plot, gameplay.


D’arci Stern – Urban Chaos, Jade - Beyond Good and Evil

Studies of typical female game characters:

Systematic Breakdown of Components:

Player Controller - Receives inputs from the player and translate them into the game world.

Enemy Controller - Controls an individual enemy in the level

Enemy Group Controller - Drives group behavior of Enemies

Interactable Object Controller - Manages object interaction in the level

Narration Controller - Controls the Narrator in the game

Level Controller - Controls the level progression

UI/Menu Controller - Controls the UI of the game and screen navigation.

Art Assets:

  • Player
  • Weapons
  • Enemies
  • Level Layout
  • Level items and Props
  • UI Panels.
  • Include auxiliary interaction assets (like sparks from the sword) where necessary.

Text Assets:

  • Menu Items
  • Narrative and Progression Text
  • Item Descriptions
  • Interaction Text
  • Dynamically presented dialogue

Sound Assets:

  • In-Game Sounds [Actions, Interactions and Ambient]
  • UI Sounds
  • BackGround Music [Menu/In Game]
  • Narrative
  • Dialogue

Suggested Game Flow Diagram

  • Start  
  • Level BackStory Cutscene
  • Start Level
  • Core Loop
  • Interaction One [CheckPoint]
  • Core Loop
  • Interaction Two[Checkpoint]
  • Core Loop
  • Level End
  • Ending Cutscene

Core Loop involves navigation and combat.

A death at any time takes the player back to the previous “Interaction” phase.


Narrative Game Sketch with Twine Engine

 I have a friend, Jennifer Weller who writes incredible stories and I’ve always wanted to collaborate with her on illustrating one of her shorter ones. We’ve toyed with the idea of creating a traditional style kid’s book or even telling a story via a parallax scroller meant for a tablet. She’s had the words done for years, it’s always been an issue of me having other projects on the go and not setting aside enough time to get the visuals done, regardless of format. Cue the Twine Game engine.

Twin allows people to tell interactive stories and simple narrative games with little to no coding, though it does take quite a bit to make it pretty and if you’re not a person who thinks well in flow charts, this still may not be the tool for you. For the digital games class I’m taking with Dr.Emma Westecott, we’ve been asked to develop several different game sketches using different creation platforms and topics. For this particular assignment she wanted us to work with built in Unity assets and focus on game mechanics or use a narrative based game engine like Twine or RenPy for more of a story focus. The catch? The story game/interactive experience had to be based on someone we know.

Jennifer my writer friend and I grew up together in Northern Ontario. I was a bit wild and very fun forward, (and pretty much raised by wolves) and she was a spectacled bookworm, and voice of reason. To this day, the two of us are pretty much the same, except she now worries about me going to Zimbabwe without health insurance and has three girls, though she ends up looking better with each pregnancy; they’ve turned her into a motherhood version of Dorian Grey. I swear, there’s a portrait of her hidden under a stack of Pampers in Thunder Bay somewhere…

All that is to say that a beloved rapscallion (my words) character very similar to me has shown up in a few of her earlier works, including the one I’ve chosen for my Twine game sketch, The Red Button. I actually like to think of this story as the two of our childhood id’s in fictional boy form. So far the narrative game doesn’t do much other than control the metering and pacing of how the text is presented, while the reader controls when to go back or read the next passage. I don’t love how you have to manually input each image in each flow chart box per page, as it is incredible cumbersome if you have 50 pages and simply want to swap a neutral boy’s face for example, with that same image but with raised eyebrows and then go back for the next set of lines.

Given the amount of text I was working with and that I had figured out long term Twine wasn’t for me, I decided not to do much in the way of visuals, which upon researching, I’ve found is a very common way of delivering Twine experiences. It did however, prove to be a useful tool in terms of helping me iterate how I should be breaking up the text and very quickly giving me a feel for just how many pages this would be and the large amount of visual assets I will need to create to flush out this project visually; regardless of whether we go with an online or analogue book experience.

Link to The Red Button narrative “game”:

Screenshot of part of the structure

Custom made avatars of Boy One and Two

Using Format