A procedural storytelling game about subverting the lives of dolls
Doll House was made in Unreal Engine 4 as part of a 6 week university project with 4 other students.
I was the producer, game designer, programmer, and art director, whilst everyone else was doing concept art, asset creation, texturing, and UI design. I also pitched the original idea for the game. Back in 2013 when I was still at college I'd been reading Mary Flanagans book 'CRITICAL PLAY: Radical Games Design', in which she explores the ways children of that past experimented with dolls and doll houses, subverting the expected ways of interacting, re-enacting funerals and mutilating and recreating the dolls into new creatures. The concept of subversive play was still on my mind and I wanted to see what this might look like in videogame form.
Since the rest of my team was a combination of 2D and 3d artists I designed a project that would allow everyone to create more or less what they want, and I would find a way to contextualize it within the game.
The goal of the game was to create a emergent storytelling space. Whilst the player can act on the dolls and their environment, they can not tell the dolls how they should be feeling or acting. A good story comes from desire so I gave the dolls wants and needs then limited the resources the dolls and player had at their disposal.
Introverted dolls enjoy being alone whilst extroverted dolls enjoy the company of others. This system alone creates an interesting dynamic whereby keeping all dolls happy simultaneously becomes a challenge.
The dolls also require feeding, and will try to eat eachother if underfed. This will lower the dolls morality and cause other dolls to fear it and dislike its company, even if extroverted. The is of-course only so much food in the kitchen...
There are many other variables that affect doll mood and morality as well as a few special events such as ghost hauntings and music unlocks. The prototype was also intended to feature unlockable rooms, music and items to increase replay value but we simply ran out of time.
I consider the prototype successful but too ambitious for a 6 week project. I'm happy I was able to give my whole team the opportunity to contribute a lot to the project but I should have delegated more tasks as I ended up making a fair few of the assets ontop of all my other roles. In hindsight I think a traditional doll house theming, time period and background may have suited the game better. Ideally I'd like to rid the game of the GUI too (Hidden from the screenshot). I feel they underpin the goal of the project but They were necessary for this version of the game due to a lack of visual feedback. With more time, a more diegetic (and vague) approach to the UI would have resulted in more surprising outcomes and less of a 'gamey' feel.
I still think the idea has a lot of potential and intend to develop it further down the line
Read the initial Game Design Document Below: