Game Design

"Games have the capacity to create a personal experience and illicit a strong emotional response, which gives them such potential to affect real change"

Overview

Game Type:

Traditional style point-and-click adventure came combined with modern meditation app. The game also borrows from ‘postmodern’ type approaches to gaming where the players’ expectations are subverted.



Graphics:

2D Pixel art with a spiritual and ‘deep night’ aesthetic. Similar to ‘Monkey Island’ in feel, but drawing from great works of sublime art for inspiration. Game colour spectrum cross-references with device’s clock and alters the visual effect accordingly.



Audio:

Music Style: Ambient & atmospheric with occasional high-intensity synth-orchestral movements.

The game will be made in collaboration with sound therapists, ensuring the auditory experience is healing and de-stressing.



Financial Model:

Freemium, subscription-based, with periodically released episodic content, unlocking further worlds to explore.

The player is able to progress through the initial part of the game for free, getting access to a few integrated guided meditations. Then the game plot hits a cliffhanger, beyond which the player must purchase a subscription to play further.


Graphics:

The game art, like this website, uses a palette of black and white, as well as shades of deep blue and fiery orange. This reflects the core philosophy of opposing and complementary binaries. In certain cases other colours will enter in but very subtly.

It takes its’ inspiration from the beautiful artwork by Mark Ferrari in early Lucasarts games such as LOOM and Monkey island.

See below a selection of his artwork. This resonant feeling is what we wish to capture in the world of Hark!

A selection of Mark Ferrari’s Work:

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See more of Mark’s colour-shifting artworks here.

A selection of other inspiring pixel art:

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Gameplay

Interface

Hark! will have a point-and-click, interactive interface, as well as a dialogue system similar to that of traditional point-and-click adventure games such as the Lucasarts games (Monkey Island, Loom etc.), Deponia and Wadjet Eye games. This interface will occasionally transform a little allowing for alternative methods of input, especially during the musical puzzles (discussed below). During meditative phases, they will fade away altogether.

Game World

Each of the eight lands that the player journeys to represent a part of the human psyche: 

For example the land of the Delvers represents pure logic and reason, and as a result most of the challenges in that realm will be logical puzzles, often revolving around music theory.

However the land of the Weavers, creatures of feeling and serenity, is quite unlike that of the Delvers. Here the player will be able to undertake guided meditations with the characters. In this way the game reaches beyond simply a narrative, and engages with the player’s awareness directly. 

Integrated Guided Meditations

As the player interacts with characters in each of these worlds, opportunities to sit back and engage in guided meditation will be offered, whereby the dialogue with the creature will seamlessly turn into a guided meditation. 

Each world accesses a part of the player’s psyche in a different way, correspondent with the nature of the creature teaching them. 

The player can simply close their eyes and follow the voice of the creature. Some worlds will have highly focused warrior like and ascetic meditations, based on warrior traditions such as bushido, and others will be far more magical, creative and sensory. For example, angels tend to teach a more austere and focused form of meditation, while daimons teach a more ‘body aware’ and physical form of meditation.

 

Music and Gameplay

Music is at the core of the ‘magic’ system that is a key way the player communicates and interacts with the game.

As the player explores the different worlds, they are able to intuitively learn musical theory and improvise and contribute to the game world’s musical ambiance by playing music as they cast ‘spells’ and interact with the world via combinations of notes.

 

Musical Puzzles

Meditative sections will be counterposed with more mathematical-based musical theory based puzzles, reflecting the overall yin/yang philosophy of the game.
These will take place predominantly in the ‘yang’ (white) side of the universe.

We hope these will help to enhance player’s musical appreciation, as well as subtly teaching essential musical theory to the player.

Notably, stimulating the auditory cortex in this way can be beneficial to young minds, providing a very different experience of playing a computer game than the usual highly compulsive and stimulating games. In this way the game intends to help equip the player with capacities that will extend into their lives beyond the playing of the game itself.

Music and Sound

 

Sound Therapy

The soundtrack and general sound effects will be created in collaboration with specialist sound therapists, similarly to the method that ‘Marconi Union’ used when creating their powerful album ‘Weightless’, which has been proven to significantly reduce stress hormones to the listener.

This supports the game’s overall ethos of being restorative to the player, providing support to the guided meditation aspects of the game.


 

Musical Soundtrack

The game will also have a full soundtrack, that becomes energetic and exciting during corresponding parts of the game, with a musical style similar to Cristobal Tapia de Veer’s ‘Utopia’ soundtrack. During quieter moments it will be mixed with meditative type rhythms similar to Jon Hopkins’ and Vangelis’s work.

Here is an example of a key piece by Cristobal that inspired the game:

Development Plan

Development Platform

The game will be produced within the industry standard platform ‘Unity’, allowing the game to be flexibly worked on by multiple developers, and deployed on all key platforms, including iOS, Android, PC, and Apple.
With more than 10 years of experience in working in the top levels of the computer gaming industry, our lead programmer has produced many games independently and is highly conversant with Unity.

Development Timeline

 
Stage One: Prototype

Proof of concept: the most basic parts of the narrative, it will simply show the eight game worlds, laid out in a diagram, six of which are greyed out.

The player can tap on one of the two active worlds: 

At this point a representative from the respective world will appear on screen. The player can have a brief discourse with that will then lead to an example guided meditation.

This will be used for testing, feedback and demonstration purposes.

 

 

Stage Two: Demo

Here we will integrate the very first chapter of the game that whereby the player character (a fire angel) first becomes ejected from its own world, and forced to explore the other territories.

 

 

Stage Three: Launch Product

A fully functional version of the game, including the initial two worlds. 

 

 

Stage Four: Ongoing Episodes

We will then release the game as episodic content, allowing our following to increase iteratively, and create a sense of anticipation for each future chapter.

Planned Chapters

 

Hark! I: Heaven and Forest (Stages 1 to 3)

Hark! II: Mysteries of the Mines

Hark! III: The Music of the Spheres

Hark! IV: Thunder and Release

Hark! V: Perils of the Deep

Narrative Style 

 

 

Non-Linear

Hark! has a fairly high level of player agency to determine the narrative, including several endings based on player decisions, each with a strong meaning to them, that will emerge directly from the consequence of the players’ decisions.

For example, it has several ‘apocalyptic’ endings, for example one where the Angels ‘win’, by killing the heart of the Daemons, and thereby depriving themselves of the source of fruit that they depend on to live.

This approach has been pioneered by several other games before, notably 2016’s ‘Tyranny’, by Obsidian Entertainment.

Rich History

The game takes a similar approach that the greatest fantasy stories have taken – notably ‘Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien and ‘Dune’ by Frank Herbert. Much material that does not directly appear in the game has nonetheless been thought through, creating a sense of a fully realised world – Hark! has a deep back history and universe, with a timeline reaching far into the past. As the player explores the universe, the full scope of the various creatures’ and worlds histories with each other becomes clear. This all serves as a metaphor for how human psychology often manifests itself, as noted by psychologists such as R.D. Laing, Jung and many others.

 

 

Game Ending

The player’s primary role is to help the various different creatures in the world to reconnect with each other, and come back into harmonious and productive relationships.

This serves as an experiential metaphor for any of us to reintegrate repressed parts of our own psyche.

As the player journeys through each world, helping to bring dialogue and integration between the various groups of creatures, piece by piece, an ancient city, known as the Cosmopolis, where the creatures all used to live together, is reconstructed.

Following this, the player can return at any time to conduct meditations that they have unlocked. 

At this point the primary interface will be visualised from within the Cosmopolis, rather than, as before, from within each of the separated worlds. 

A final set of meditations will also be unlocked, giving the player a sense of accomplishment.