Residence 59

“Residence 59” is a first person narrative adventure game currently in development.

Hollow Lantern dev group’s second project, the game takes place in a retro sci-fi setting where players can explore and interact with the mysterious “Residence” building which is under the control of an all seeing AI. Telling the story of 59, one of the 60 people that was born 170 years after a devastating incident that pushed humanity at the brink of extinction, the player’s goal is to find out what’s going on behind the scenes inside this building and survive.

The game introduces a unique gameplay hook: stress.

Each and every interaction the player does during the game, from simply walking around and interacting to looking at certain objects, increases or reduces our main character’s stress level. Based on this value certain paths are either blocked or unblocked, new puzzles or ways to escape tricky situations are introduced or hidden, and the player is encouraged to adapt to what the situation requires. Enabling a non-linear narrative, the game’s goal is to introduce replayability through different possible paths while delivering a strong story through key events.

Genre: First Person Narrative Adventure
Engine: Unreal Engine 4.27
Team Size: 7
Duration: December 2019 – January 2021
Platform: PC
Current Stage: On Hold

Below you can see the teaser trailer, followed by the walkthrough of our first demo and a breakdown of my role in the project.

Current Team Composition:

Lead Design: Mehmet Ekmekci
Programming and Technical design: Anil Polatoz and Aydin Atay
Sound Design and Voice Overs: Ian Macbeth
2D/3D Design: Ertug Guner and Bogachan Durmaz
Supporting Narrative Design: Cathall McCall
Music: The one and only… Stellardrone

Roles and responsibilities: ​

Narrative Design:
Writing the original short story that inspired the game, Apartment 9, my role was to write and implement all the narrative content inside the game;

  • Creating flowcharts of key events, dialogs and the different paths the players can take.
  • Preparing scene synopsis documents to help the environment design and fleshing out narrative moments.
  • Writing for all the in game narrative objects with the help of a supporting narrative designer.
  • Dialog writing and implementation using spreadsheets and Unreal blueprints.
  • Voice-over direction.
  • Writing and implementation of the in-game mini cut-scenes.
  • Non-verbal narrative design through sound cues, lighting, and environment design.

There are never enough documents when you’re designing a game. Just a tiny fraction of what’s currently being used for the development:

Level & Environment Design:

  • The design of the room 59 and the hallway in cooperation with 3D designers using pen&paper design, block meshes, Maya and Substance Painter
  • Intractable object placement and layout
  • Setting up player paths and pacing
  • Placement of key events and the narrative content
  • Placement of sound effects and music
  • Level streaming and transition
  • Lighting

You can see the evolution of the levels over time below:

And to show how I set up the level pacing for the demo (deducting the key events to prevent spoilers):

Gameplay Design & Animations

In cooperation with 2 other developers, using Unreal blueprints and C++ components;

  • Inheritable two trigger interaction system. Entering the first trigger shows the player that the object can be interacted with from a certain distance, while the second one shows the kind of the interaction the player can do. The interaction itself can do an object specific action, or trigger multiple events.
  • Focus interactions, where the camera pans in towards the object and reveals information.
  • Readable objects for narrative content, using widgets and sub-widgets.
  • Designing and implementing the stress mechanic. All interactions and movement inside the game can potentially increase or reduce the character’s stress. The player can check the watch for the changes on the stress level.
  • Actions and progression can be blocked or unblocked based on the stress level. High level of stress leads the player towards a more aggressive path, where a lower level of stress reduces the challenge and leads for a more subtle approach.
  • Splitting the skeletal mesh from the neck, layered animations using Unreal’s blend space animations and animation blue prints.