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MA Game Design: Project Start


So first off, there's no part 2 for the game mechanics this week. Due to some unexpected events, I was unable to attend classes this week and have not finished catching up on the material yet. Once I have gone through the material, I might make a part 2 post, but there is also a chance I may end up not doing it to focus on the project instead. Which is where we are starting today!


"Apart and Together" Game Concept

Having written up 4 proposals to match the theme of "Apart and Together", I got feedback from both professors on the different ideas. 2 ideas seem to stand out from the others, one of which could be used as the dissertation project that I'll be starting in January / February, but for this one the idea is going to be...

The detective and dog co-operative visual novel game! (which still lacks a name)

This was an idea I had when walking my dog and coming across a lost dog poster. The gist is there are 2 characters, a rookie detective and a trainee police dog, who will work together to solve different crimes. Some crimes might lean more heavily into being animal-related cases, like dognapping, but you'll always have both human and animal characters to interact with in each case. During a case, the characters will start together but will become separated part-way through before being reunited near the end. This was part of the original plan where it was a single-player game, although will need adjusting to accommodate the co-operative element.

The co-op idea was part of feedback to try and elevate the idea a bit more, although I am still trying to determine how to handle the game flow with 2 players playing the game at different speeds. There's also the issue of determining what happens when one player leaves or is no longer playing, and unfortunately it seems there aren't any visual novel games that have included a co-op component to get some ideas from. I have some ideas for how the players can interact with each other, but these problems are going to be the main challenge to overcome for this project.

Regarding the characters, both will have similar but different skills that can be used to help find clues or piece together the backstory for what has happened. Typically, the detective will find clues whilst the dog will gain backstory. The detective will, however, be unable to secure the decisive piece of evidence to complete the cases, which is where the dog companion comes in. The dog will find the decisive evidence towards the tail-end of the case (pun intended) and will show the detective where it is before completing the case.


The Main Characters

As mentioned, there are 2 main characters which players can choose to control for each case: the rookie detective and the trainee police dog.

For the sake of illustration, I'll be using Benedict Cumberbatch's depiction of Sherlock Holmes for the detective. The setting will be modern day, however I don't want the detective to look too policeman-like. A police uniform would not match the detective appearance I am after, so something that looks like the outfit in the image might be a better fit.

I am still exploring names, but I am currently thinking of going with Allan Veritas. The name is from 2 sources, with the first name coming from Edgar Allan Poe. Supposedly, he was the first person to really introduce the word "detective" in literature, thanks to his book "Murders in the Rue Morgue". As this is a detective game, I thought it was a nice homage to the author!

For the surname, I did some digging into mythology to see if there were gods or goddesses associated with justice or truth. I came across a deity named Pugu, a sun god from Siberia that is linked with justice and law, but wasn't sold on the name. I later came across a Roman goddess, Veritas, which in classical Latin means "truth" and, ergo, is primarily associated as the goddess of truth. The name also sounded a bit nicer (at least to me!) so I'm thinking of sticking with this, at least for now.

My pet cocker spaniel, Oliver

For the trainee police dog, I'll use my pet cocker spaniel - Ollie. Since cocker spaniels are already used within police and security work because of their highly sensitive sense of smell, it would make sense to have him as the canine partner. I might give his character a new name, something like Ace perhaps, but for now I'll just stick with Ollie!

The art style I'm thinking of going with is a cartoonish one. Since the game is a visual novel, it made sense to explore this route. Comic books and manga are very popular forms of visual novels, with the latter's art style being the more popular medium for visual novel video games. Below are the same images but edited to have a more cartoony appearance. Its still a work in progress, but so far this is the nicest appearance I have been able to create!

More characters will be added later on. I have in mind a pair of characters that can be introduced at the beginning as part of the tutorial stage, although I'll need to think of a way to explain the mechanics of both characters to both players before they proceed onto the first main case.


The Locations

As is standard for visual novels, the players will be able to 'move' between locations to look for clues, interact with characters, and piece together what took place. The movement will just be a transition after pressing a button, so nothing overly fancy. There will be a mix of indoor and outdoor locations and I have already started experimenting with the above art style to see how these look, since the players will be seeing them on screen the most.

The style might need adjusting depending on the image so that all parts of the photo are clear to the players, but for now its not a terrible start.


Character Skills

Each character will have their own skills and means of keeping track of anything they discover, as well as ways of communicating with their partner. Currently, this is what I have in mind for the unique skills:


Clue Storage

Storage Info


Skill Info

Allan Veritas


A standard notebook that will contain info on character bios, clues, etc.


Used to determine whether everything that is currently discoverable in the current location has been found or not.



A memory bank of various smells discovered in the world, including the identities of other animals, clues, and backstory


Activating this will bring up "smells" (clues) on the screen that have not yet been "sniffed" (found).

For "Intuition", some inner dialogue will appear on screen for Allan that will give cues to the player. This can be in the form of what to do next or whether they have found everything in the current location. The cues will not be explicit, they will be written along the lines of "I feel like I haven't checked everything here yet..." so that there isn't too much hand-holding during the playthrough.

For "Instinct", this will create an overlay on the screen and highlight some wisps of "smells" that are in the scene. The idea is to help prompt the player controlling the dog on where to look, and to engross them more into that mindset that they are controlling an animal with a strong sense of smell.

Both the notebook and sniffdex will have the same functionality, the only difference will be how they look. The sniffdex is a combination of sniff and index, I thought about smelldex but wasn't entirely happy with how that sounded!


Closing Thoughts

So, most of the idea is already getting fleshed out, but there are still several challenges ahead. Designing the UI, additional characters, and the early cases are some that come to mind. I have some notion of how to approach each problem, but nothing concrete yet.

First and foremost is an elevator pitch that I need to present on Wednesday, which needs to be done within one minute...oh boy. I'm sure it will be fine, I just can't talk for too long like I normally might!

I think that more or less covers everything for this week, so thanks for reading and see you next week! Buh bye :)

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