THE GAME CAN BE PLAYED HERE: https://thsieh123.itch.io/cs-377g
ANSWERS AT BOTTOM OF POST
The Company is an interactive fiction based around capitalism and how money drives a lot of action in our lives. You are a software engineer at a large cooperation when you suddenly come into contact with a USB that contains insider information. You are then tasked with unlocking the USB but as you do you learn more information that may change you view on the company.
Ultimately I wanted a story about how we are all part of a larger system but is up to us how we want to navigate it. I drew a lot of inspiration from Mr.Robot which also talks more broadly about society’s issues and how large cooperations play a role in it.
Setting and Characters
The setting mainly takes place inside a computer where you are trying to solve puzzles to decrypt the USB (denoted as green text within the game). Otherwise there are some situations where you are actually in the office meeting your boss and coworker but they aren’t critical to the story.
I’m not a good writer either, so I wanted to keep my characters relatively simple. Each character isn’t that fleshed out but they do represent something for the player. As the player I wanted it to be as casual as possible similar to how I might talk to myself as the events are developing. Charlie the co-worker represents one path that goes against The Company and serves as an example to deter the player from doing against The Company as well. The boss would be the more physical manifestation of what The Company or what the system represents.
The first iteration was a minimal game that didn’t include any puzzles. It just had the main premise of getting something that was encrypted that you had to unlock, you learn something bad about the company, and finally you were tasked with a decision. I ran the story idea with folks within 377G and others. I could have made it fantasy and said that the cooperate overlord were aliens or something, but I ended up moving forward that was more realistic to what current society is facing especially in the tech industry. I also gathered some feedback on what kind of puzzles could be used especially since there was a hacker theme to the project, and I ended up going with a lot of cipher puzzles. They fit the theme and had a varied range of levels, but in the future, I would love to create more puzzles that may feel more “hackery” since the player is working on a computer.
I added the puzzles in this iteration that included a wordle, Ceaser Cipher, and a Vigenere Square Cipher. The story was also more flushed out with some descriptions and choices that the user could make. I had my partner and dorm residents try out the game and for the most received good feedback. The story wasn’t as exciting as I hoped it to be since I didn’t develop the characters as much and the plot may have been too predicble. But the puzzles themselves were pretty challenging and it helped me write better hints for them as well.
Final Twine Map
Overall, I thought this project was fun but very difficult. I wouldn’t call myself a writer and I have not genuinely written (outside of classwork) in forever, so a lot of my time was just trying to ideate and figure out the plot as well. I even substituted a good chunk of the playthrough to be puzzles so that I wouldn’t have to worry about awkward dialogue between characters. Even now I think the story/plot is mediocre and doesn’t necessarily compel the user to feel a certain thing, but I thought I learned a lot throughout the process. In the end I was still able to create a finished storyline that included several puzzles so I am glad I was able to do it.
In terms of the story, I wish I was able to go more in-depth with the nuances of capitalism and how it impacts people differently. I thought I wrote the story in a pretty black or white perspective (capitalism = bad), but I think it would be easier for folks to relate and understand the message if it came from multiple perspectives. I also learned that it can be difficult to write a character you want folks to emphasize or relate to. There needs to be some sort of connection between the character and the player, so I tried to write as if I was the character myself dealing with these issues, but it definitely could’ve been fleshed out with some finer details. I also wished I gave the user some real choices since the only one I had was at the end with how they decide what to do with their newfound information. I underestimated how complicated each branch of the story could become, and in the future would love to explore more possible paths.
In terms of the medium, I learned how to use Twine and how certain mechanics can really make or break the game experience. Simple things like using color to indicate whether you are on the computer or not help users understand which setting they were in. I will also say that there is a learning curve to the program, especially you when want certain mechanics (password checking) but overall I thought the platform was really useful! Seeing my flows being built out also reminded me of how quickly the game could become too large and complex when you give users decisions. It makes me respect games that follow this kind of platform even more especially when they are offering so many more decision choices.
Ultimately this project taught me that having a cohesive story/game takes a lot of planning and iterating both of which I wish that I had done more. I also came to appreciate the group projects that we had before since I would usually be able to rely on my teammates when it comes to my weaknesses (writing/storytelling). Lastly this project reinforced that game design is super hard especially when you are trying to send a message
ANSWER KEYS FOR PUZZLES (THE ANSWERS ARE IN WHITE HIGHLIGHT TEXT TOO SEE IDK HOW TO HIDE TEXT)