Writing and Narrative Design
Writer and Editor
Sunless Skies is a story-led video game of exploration, corruption and jeopardy. The player is captain of a spacefaring locomotive; travelling between the stars they behold wonders and battle cosmic abominations.
My writing appears in all areas of the game. My work ranges from encounter rewards with branching choices to the design, building and writing of whole ports and related quests. Ports are the discreet areas at which a player docks to explore, engage in trade, and unlock and follow major quest lines. In addition, I was the editor and go-between for the studio’s freelancers, ensuring that their writing voices fitted with that of the game, without being subsumed entirely. My work as an editor at Failbetter Games, but particularly on Sunless Skies, led to my being recognised with a BAFTA Breakthrough Brit Award.
Cheaper Than Therapy
Writer, Designer and Developer
Sub-Q Magazine commissioned a piece on the theme of love for their February 2019 issue. There were only two constraints – it must suit the theme, and use fewer than 1000 words.
‘They say that somewhere in the city there’s a witch who’ll help you numb the pain.’
The piece is swift to play, and looks at what comes after heartbreak: recovery, sometimes enabled by the kindness of strangers.
Where the Water Tastes Like Wine
Where the Water Tastes Like Wine is a bleak American folk tale about travelling, sharing stories, and surviving manifest destiny.
The game revolves around collecting and evolving stories, in the form of short narrative vignettes that the player experiences along their journey. I wrote a wide range of these vignettes, capturing a variety of moods and categories. My work involved creating memorable incidents that contained meaningful player choice and fitted with the Depression era setting.
Writer and Editor
Fallen London is a free, browser-based, literary RPG. In this dark and hilarious Victorian-Gothic underworld, every choice has a consequence – from the style of your hat to the price of your soul.
I have written and designed several ‘Exceptional Stories’ – the premium stories for Fallen London subscribers. These have all been popular, particularly ‘All Things Must End’, which added a new area to the game. In addition, I have created free seasonal content, including an entirely new ‘Hallowmas’ (Halloween) festival, which involved both social and solo gameplay. Since my arrival at Failbetter, I have been the editor on Fallen London – ensuring that the writing, whether in-house or freelance, is consistent in both style and standard.
The Mystery of Kalkomey Isle
Design Consultant and Editor
The Mystery of Kalkomey Isle is a boat education adventure game combining interactive fiction with boating safety lessons. It is currently in production, with an expected launch date in 2018.
I consulted on the nature of meaningful player choice and how to balance the task of giving information to the player with providing entertaining writing and game play. I provided additional writing and editing to give an example from which the company could work, to inform the rest of their design.
Writer and Designer
Lethophobia is a mystery-horror adventure built in the StoryNexus engine, exploring the nature of trauma, memories and how you reconcile yourself to a past you cannot change.
With Jessica Mersky, I designed, built and wrote Lethophobia. We each created and developed discrete sections and then passed them between us, ensuring that both of us touched and evolved every part of the game.
Image by Melissa Trender.
Other work for Failbetter Games:
Sunless Sea – Writer, Narrative Designer and Editor
Sunless Sea is a game of discovery, loneliness and frequent death, set in the award-winning Victorian Gothic universe of Fallen London.
Sunless Sea: Zubmariner – Writer, Narrative Designer and Editor
Zubmariner brought a new layer to Sunless Sea, including new ports to explore, and was packed with agonising choices presented in beautiful prose.
On both these, writing and design included multiple quest lines touching several ports, work impacting the game economy, encounter rewards with branching choices and filling any gaps identified during play-testing of others’ writing.