A young Lightcaster is called to greatness when they discover the power of Insight. With new friends in tow, the Lightcaster must travel across the realm of Vidaly to train their minds and learn the secrets of well-being.
VIDALY is a browser-based, educational fantasy adventure game designed to help kids learn how to build resilience, manage stress, and improve mental health.
Engine: Unity 3D
Game Team Size: 2 leads and 2 part-time developers
Project Length: 12 months
Game Tools: Unity, GitHub, Adobe CS, Twine, Dialogue System for Unity, Celtx, Dungeon Architect
Team Tools: Monday, Slack, Miro, Google Suite, Toggl, Loom
And the winner for "Most Hats Worn At Once" is...
In early 2021, I joined Vidaly's remote startup team as the creative director to help them develop their first educational game. The founding members were an EdTech entrepreneur, a software engineer, and a well-being education expert.
Over the course of development, we would collaborate closely with a team of three incredible part-time contributors: a UX research designer, a technical artist, and a senior game programmer.
As the project’s designated vision holder, I wore the hats of game designer, narrative designer, and art director on a daily basis to support our team's operations.
There is no doubt that Ellie cares deeply about development in the gaming space and is thoughtful when bringing together different perspectives to create robust understanding. For most of us on the team, this venture was our first into the game design world. Ellie was an indispensable guide to us all for providing perspective, context from the game world, and pushing us to go further. Ellie's ability to communicate concepts helped foster confidence in the direction we were heading as a company and helped us come together as the Vidaly brand.
Steffenie Jones, UX Designer
I worked closely with our Technical Lead to take an early 2D game prototype and transform the existing gameplay, lore, and art into an immersive 3D game to make it a marketable product for our target audience of SEL students ages 10-15.
As a small team, we were entrusted with developing an ambitious game that could compete for students’ attention against both mainstream and EdTech products while working with limited resources and a short development timeline.
Using the team’s proprietary curriculum as the underlying template, I organized each chapter of the game’s lesson roadmap to improve narrative flow beyond the scope of a single lesson.
As a key contributor for the game development pipeline, I established and documented standards and best practices used in game development and led the implementation of feedback from internal and external user testers.
As creative director, I collaborated with a cross-disciplinary team and proactively tracked, prioritized, and assigned tasks.
I was the lead responsible for writing or editing all player-facing text, including cinematics, dialogue, missions, codex entries, tutorials, UI, and flavor text. (Note: Curriculum-specific writing and input was provided by our resident SEL expert.)
In addition to creative writing, I also provided all-inclusive technical writing and documentation for the game’s design, mechanics, and encounters.
CORE GAME MISSIONS
I was responsible for each step of the narrative process:
Crafted story treatments for the critical path.
Pitched revised early drafts to the team for review and collaborative iteration.
Developed the treatments into narrative flowcharts.
Defined optional encounters and any triggers or gating through spreadsheets.
Wrote and implemented quests and dialogue using the Pixel Crushers Dialogue System.
Tested missions and iterated on gameplay for narrative cohesion, consistent voice, and game flow.
I owned the responsibility for crafting the in-depth lore for the world of Vidaly, including:
6 distinctive open-world environment settings, 1 for each of the 6 pillars of the curriculum. Each was designed with its own cultural touchstones and included level design and character design guides.
30+ NPC character profiles, including art briefs, speaking style, map location, and gameplay function.
Development of naming conventions using the Esperanto constructed language as a foundational material.
Wrote flavor text for the game’s 100+ player items and accessories.
Designed codex entries with clear gameplay goals (such as introducing game locations, player abilities, or accessible quests.)
Edited and revised gameplay copy for UI notifications and in-game updates.
Provided environmental storytelling through inventing of points-of-interest (POIs) for the Technical Artist/Level Designer to implement into game levels.
Produced game lore wikis and game design documents.
Wrote and maintained gameplay mechanics documentation.
Created instructional voiceover (VO) recording and direction guide for future outsourcing.
I was the lead designer responsible for creating the core gameplay loop, working closely with the rest of the team on to refine and iterate on each prototype.
Defined gameplay mechanics and framework for the 3D game version from the ground up.
Developed creative, satisfying alternatives to combat and melee encounters for broader educational appeal.
Designed within the limitations of a single-player WebGL product intended for Chromebooks and budget PCs.
Designed and iterated on creating a loop that was highly modular and scalable.
Crafted encounters and mini-games that offered appeal to both casual and more experienced gamers.
Reinforced curriculum themes through the player’s in-game actions and abilities.
Designed new assessment types to add variety and improve the accuracy of in-game learning measurements.
Designed level maps for open world environments and linear encounters.
Implemented Dungeon Architect into the production pipeline to optimize the workflow for building game exterior prefabs.
Supported the Technical Artist/Level Designer on the iterative development of environments and zones.
Defined puzzle mechanics and designed the framework for the game’s environmental puzzles
Drew maps and made flowcharts to track puzzle progression and player options in each encounter,
Produced spreadsheets recording what would happen or trigger in each step of the puzzle, such as cues for audio, animation, camera transitions, etc.
Assisted in coordinating the collection of anonymous playtester survey data.
Observed live playtests and conducted interviews with players.
Presented playtester data summaries and strategies addressing feedback to the rest of the team.
ECONOMY AND BALANCE
Established the foundations of the player’s flexible progression/leveling system in game balance spreadsheets, with over 70 level-up ability perks.
Defined economy systems for items and currencies, collaborating with our Technical Lead on a range of different rewards and shop structures during preproduction.
As the sole 2D/concept artist on the team, I worked with unique limitations to develop a visual style based around premade asset libraries and designed to perform in WebGL.
Built reference guides for characters and environments, focusing on respectful and inclusive representation.
Collaborated with the team on the creation of a gender-inclusive character creator.
Created extensive storyboards for gameplay, cutscenes, UI interactions, and to guide game feel/juice.
Created graphic design mockups for all UI wireframes in the final game.
Compiled premade asset libraries/packs for purchase based on cohesion to central style tenets.
Cataloged dialogue animations from Mixamo for different dialogue scenarios.
Collaborated on building an audio/music library and catalog, assigning music and ambient sound by different zone locations and interactions.
Working at an indie startup required me to take on some unique tasks that didn’t fit neatly into the categories above. Here are a few of the highlights:
Contributed on grant applications, external pitch scripts, web copy and print copy.
Headed writing, graphic design, and scheduling for the company’s social media posts.
Led design rebrand of company website and public-facing content.
Recorded early voiceover (VO) to test dialogue in cinematics.
Recorded, cut, and edited videos for pitches and promotional materials.
I had the privilege to work with some incredibly talented people at Vidaly.
Kim Counts Anderson (CEO and Founder)
David Bott (Chief of Educational Content)
Zach Mays (Chief Technical Officer and Technical Lead/Producer)
Benji Kay (Senior Game Programmer)
Blake Darrow (Technical Artist and Level Designer)
Steffenie Jones (UX Research Designer)
Austin Slade Jones (Composer - Main Theme)