This Time Around
This Time Around
'This Time Around' is the latest and largest finished project of Night Light Visuals. It was developed as part of a MSc's final project. It is an exploration/interactive story game based on the themes of forgiveness and memories. Players adopt the role of Rachel Daniels and begins the journey of learning the Daniels' family story with Alden Nowlan's quote "The day the child realizes that all adults are imperfect, he becomes an adolescent; the day he forgives them, he becomes an adult; the day he forgives himself, he becomes wise." making up the spine of the narrative. However that's information you'll find on This Time Around's social media sites. You're here for more than that so here's the scoop. Do people still say scoop? Probably not, but here it is anyway. This Time Around has gone through more iterations than I can count since the initial idea for the digital game. So let's begin.
Why 'This Time Around'?
This Time Around was originally inspired by a non-digital game I had designed called Anything But Small Talk!. It was an unfinished project that I loved and wanted to develop further. Since I was in the beginning stages of designing a game for my final project, the idea of taking certain aspects from ABST! and applying it to a digital game was appealing. As development went on however, the core ideas from ABST! became secondary or even tertiary factors of This Time Around as translating the mechanics into a one player digital game became difficult. Slowly, it took on a more of a Gone Home type experience and became what it is today.

As for the inspiration for the premise and story of This Time Around, it's a more personal one. Wanting to keep the idea of memories within the game, I was reminded of my own memory problems. As someone who has trouble remembering their childhood, if I can remember anything at all, the idea of discovering it all again (essentially, for the first time) was fascinating to me. I wanted to pursue the idea that by revisiting your past you can learn and see things in a new perspective that you may have never considered before. As a player, you adopt the characters you play. Often times, players don't know the charcters' history or background. You discover these things on your own and in your own time. Much like if I were to delve into my own childhood, most of which I don't remember.

The idea behind This Time Around is that players will (re)discover these memories along with Rachel, (re)learning things you may have forgotten or have never examined before. As This Time Around's social media will say: So often we forget to look at things from someone else's perspective, and we forget that everyone that comes and goes in our lives leaves behind a part of them within us. Good or bad, we learn from them. This Time Around aims to be that reminder.

Project Role
This Time Around was a year long solo project. I designed the mechanics of the game and wrote the story that would become the backbone of the game. Along with this, I built and programmed the game in Unity. The models and audio used in the game however, are not mine. They are sourced from archive3d and freesound. The interface and menu design within the game was designed by myself. Other roles in the project included recruiting testers and testing, reviewing results, making adjustments, promotion work on social media sites as well as writing up the accompanying document for the game.

The story of This Time Around begins on Rachel's 18th birthday where we see parts of Rachel's rocky relationship with her father. We also learn that her mother has left her a birthday present that contains letters and photos from Rachel's childhood that she has collected over the years. Through these items, Rachel will be able to travel through her memories and learn about her past. She'll get to explore and revisit these locations from her memory and rediscover all the moments she has forgotten over time. As she comes across these items and locations, she will be able to read the words of her mother and re-experience these memories as each letter is accompanied with a soundscape. It is through these memories and this exploration that Rachel will begin to see things from a different light and learn how to forgive.

Results and Experience
This Time Around took almost a year from initial idea to the finished product. It was a long and tedious process that took many, many iterations and testing to complete. It was, by far, the largest and in certain aspects the most difficult project that I have ever taken on but it was a true learning experience that I am grateful for. For a solo project, it was a lot of work and though at times extremely stressful, to see the finished project, how it all came together and to read the document accompanying it, is worth it for the experience and all that I learned.

The project taught me more than I could have in any class. Not only did I learn the endless ways of solving issues within a game and how to code in a practical sense, with endless hours of researching and experimenting; I learned how to develop game design ideas into fully completed games with testing and iterations. I worked on the project in a design-build-test cycle and that was the biggest learning experience of all. The cycle allowed me to understand user needs and the importance of testing and refining. It was clear that testing and the results from testing can often come before personal choice and decisions. In order to create a game for the target audience, testing and adjusting according to the results and user needs is vital.

Not only was the project a huge learning experience, it also introduced me to the gamedev community when I was searching for testers and receiving feedback from fellow game developers. Communicating and getting feedback from testing sessions was also more valuable than any class. In addition to all this, I learned how to document all sorts of results and the development process, This is useful and important not only for the ongoing project but also for any future projects that I will take on. Documentation means that I can then look back and learn from my mistakes and from what works and what doesn't work. Overall, This Time Around has taught me an endless amount and there's no doubt that I will carry many, many things learned from this project to the next.

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