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Cache 22


Cache 22  is an interactive non-linear narrative set in a retro-futuristic noir universe that explores the concepts of duty and morality.

Narrative & World Design, Sound Design

Jan - March 2017

Master of Digital Media project
(Visual Story module)


You are Nina, an undercover agent for the Organized Crime Intelligence Division, on a mission to gather further intelligence on Orion, the leader of NOVA, through examining memories within his brain. You may just find some dark and familiar truths within.

World building inspirations

World concepts that we were inspired by include the game ‘Guild Wars: Factions’, the historic Kowloon Walled City of Hong Kong and the Pneumatic trains in the early days of New York City. We thought of the world for this game as a sprawling, cyperpunk stacked city that is futuristic, but also somewhat retro.


The World



An endlessly stacking slum that exists under the utopian Uppercity. Infamous for its crime and anarchy, it is constantly monitored by flying-drone pods by Uppercity military personnel. The drones observe but do not intervene. At the center of this chaos is a gang called NOVA, infamous for smuggling a drug known as ‘Combo’.

Game Mechanics



Cache 22 follows a simple core game loop. The player begins the experience with a memory presented to them, it is up to the player to then carefully examine these memories and search through them to find triggers (tags) that will unlock other memories, recent and past.
Memories take the form of images, videos and audio files. Players can search these memories by using their cursor as a marquee tool and dragging over a portion of the screen they choose and press the analyze button. The system will process the player's selection and let them know if they have unlocked any further memories, where the player repeats this cycle.




Database Narratives


Breaking the story down on the whiteboard





The entire story is broken down into five segments. Each segment has one to two memories that are integral for the narrative to continue and the player must discover them to continue the narrative. Around each one of these integral memories, are other memories that help build the story and world, however, these are not necessary to be seen in order for the game to make sense. They are rewards for the inquisitive players. For the purposes of this prototype we have built all major story points and several other memories around these story points to test the experience.

Every time a player completes a module and moves on to the next, a part of the brain is damaged, this creates the illusion of limited choice in the player and is also a sign of progression in the game. The game ends with the entire brain being damaged and the player is unable to unlock any further memories. The player is however allowed to go back and review all found memories to help further understand the story and piece together the mystery.


The entire game was initially designed on place cards and then digitally on Excel. A very clinical approach was taken to the production and design of this narrative to be able to best link story points, tags and events. This also helped with task management and priority listings.


Learnings

Due to my biases as a filmmaker, I wrote the synopsis for this game within a long-form traditional screenplay framework. However, when presented to the team, it was hard for them to make sense of how a linear story could fit a modular database structure. It was imperative that my narrative fit within the context of the game as a modular non-linear framework. In order to achieve this, we broke the story down into a database structure by cutting it into smaller scenes and snippets, and identifying triggers that could move the player along.

Even though our playtests revealed that the story was rather compelling, It would have certainly been helpful to explore more ways of prototyping and testing stories in a low-fidelity. In my next narrative design venture, I aim to do exactly that. A key difference between narrative game design and traditional screenwriting is that the screenwriter writes in silos. In game narrative design, you are both a screenwriter and a designer, and have to empathize with users who need to comprehend how the story evolves along with the choices they make inside the game.

With the advent of Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality, it is likely that more games will try to play around with conventional narrative structures. It was certainly interesting to break the structural rules I learned as a filmmaker and integrate my writing into a game design structure.